Clause 1

Part of Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 16th January 2007.

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Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party 5:15 pm, 16th January 2007

That could be so. In fact, in many parts of Northern Ireland the word “friend” is used to mean a relative. To say that somebody is your friend indicates that they are a cousin or that there is some family connection. I doubt whether Ministers were aware of that subtlety of dialect in parts of Northern Ireland.

The clause and other provisions in the Bill will mean that people affected by the list in subsection (10) will not know on what grounds they have been given a non-jury trial, and they will not be able to say anything. I can imagine that a defendant might well be puzzled and stressed and want clarification of what has been said about him.

Many people in Northern Ireland are related to those who have been members of proscribed organisations, but have themselves never given those organisations any support and have views diametrically opposed to theirs. There may also be many people in senior positions with such relatives. So although I have a lot of sympathy with the attempt to restrict the list, the problem is that it does not go far enough, because I do not think that we should be making the provision for non-jury trials at all. That is why I would not strongly oppose the amendments. However, because of my reservations about continuity Diplock courts, I will not support them.