Northern Ireland Assembly
Wednesday 6 March 2002
The Assembly met at 10.30 am (Mr Speaker in the Chair).
Members observed two minutes’ silence.
I wish to advise Members that the Business Committee has allocated two hours for this debate. The proposer of the motion will be given 20 minutes to speak, and 10 minutes has been allocated for the winding-up speech. All other Members who wish to speak — and who get the opportunity to do so — will be allowed up to 10 minutes. Apart from the proposer of the motion, Members may speak only once. I remind Members that, given the number who wish to speak, they do not have to take their full 10 minutes. If some Members speak for less than 10 minutes, then more Members can be facilitated.
Rev Dr Ian Paisley:
I beg to move
That, in consequence of:
the Provisional IRA’s retention of its illegal weaponry;
its continuing threat, and pursuit, of terrorist outrages to secure its aims;
its maintenance of an active terrorist organisation;
its continuing engagement in murder and other acts of violence; and
the fact that it is inextricably linked to Sinn Féin,
this Assembly resolves that Sinn Féin does not enjoy its confidence because it is not committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful means and further resolves that, in accordance with Section 30 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, this Assembly determines that members of Sinn Féin shall be excluded from holding office as Ministers for a period of twelve months from the date of this resolution.
I remind the House that the last time a motion like this was before us, there were two motions saying the same thing. It was no stunt then, because there was an election. The Official Unionist Party was happy to have the benefits and to propose that particular motion.
It is the policy of fascism to boycott an elected Assembly and then endeavour to gain influence in that Assembly to keep free debate from taking place. Surely debate on the subject should take place in this House.
The spokesman of those that are absent from the Benches today was not prepared to say in public that he was calling for the abandonment of the IRA. How can he reconcile that position with the so-called Mitchell principles and the so-called peace policy that we are supposed to be pursuing? Those are the facts of the case. People who refuse to face up to, or vote on, the issue are showing that they faithfully want to keep the IRA in place. Anyone who does not vote for the motion is saying that Sinn Féin/IRA should be in the Government of Northern Ireland and should not be ejected from that Government.
I welcome the debate. Once again it is clear that the Official Unionist Party and its friends in the SDLP, alongside IRA/Sinn Féin, have tried to stop the debate. It is clear from Mr David Trimble’s attitude that he does not want the spotlight to fall on decommissioning. He wants to keep his party in union with IRA/Sinn Féin and carry on the charade that exists in Northern Ireland today.
I listened with interest to the accusations he made in the House on 4 March when he said that there was an abuse of procedure in calling for this debate. What a cheek. The greatest abuse of procedure took place in the House on the day he relied on the Alliance Party and the Women’s Coalition for his election as First Minister, claiming that a majority of Unionists supported him. Those so-called Unionists backslid seconds later and went back to their old stands as Nationalists, or fellow travellers with Nationalists and Republicans.
The majority of Unionists in the House do not support the stand that Mr Trimble is taking. On 8 October 2001, Mr Trimble claimed that the debate then was taking place before his party’s annual meeting. We are not interested in his annual meeting, because it will not change the position. He must be very scared of his party’s annual meeting if he thinks that a debate in the House will change the number of votes that he will receive.
His party’s anti-agreement members are joining my party every day. What is more, people in his party are more interested in saving the party than saving the country, and he meets those difficulties by lining up with IRA/ Sinn Féin.
This debate will take place. This is not a DUP motion only; other Unionists signed the petition. My party and other Unionists who are associating themselves with the motion — including Official Unionist Party Members — form a majority. Therefore, the Unionist majority supports the debate, and it must take place.
There is only one way for us to register opposition to IRA/Sinn Féin’s remaining in Government, and that is to vote for the motion. The only way to get proper decommissioning is to throw IRA/Sinn Féin out of the Executive. People will then wake up to the fact that we really mean business. We will hear spokesmen from the Official Unionist Party say that the debate is ridiculous, and it can do nothing. They can do something. They can put IRA/Sinn Féin out of the Executive, and the case for decommissioning will be established beyond doubt. There will be a complete change in attitudes across the water. That is the only way it can be done.
There has never been a clearer choice to be made between terrorism and democracy than that which must be made today. It is no good supporting a quest against international terrorism while failing to stand up against one of the most ruthless killing machines in Western Europe.
According to press reports, world terrorist organisations, including the IRA, met recently at global terrorist conclaves. If the IRA is part of that conclave, it is one of the terrorist organisations with which the Assembly should be at war. However, instead of being at war with such organisations, the Assembly wants the IRA to sit in partnership as its blood brothers in the Government of this part of Her Majesty’s kingdom. Do Unionists want to go on sharing power with an organisation that retains its capability for terror and is directly engaged in terrorism at present?
On Thursday 21 February 2002, Matthew Burns was shot dead in Castlewellan, County Down. He had previously been targeted by an IRA punishment squad but had fought it off. He was a kick-boxer and had made fools of the six-man squad. However, the IRA returned to shoot him at point-blank range. Are those the actions of a group that is committed to peace and democracy? The House must answer that question.
In order to cover those actions, IRA/Sinn Féin claims that they are the actions of dissident Republicans. That cannot cover the fact that, in the period between the signing of the Belfast Agreement and the end of 2001, there were over 180 paramilitary-style assaults and over 150 casualties from paramilitary-style shootings — all emanated from IRA/Sinn Féin and its associates. Many other incidents never reach the press. During the all-party talks, the former Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring said that Sinn Féin/IRA could not be in Government by day and in terrorism by night. However, at present Sinn Féin/IRA is in Government by day — because of the votes of the Official Unionists in the House — and it is in terrorism by night.
The SDLP and its leader, the Deputy First Minister, have an obligation in today’s debate. If they believe that no terrorist should take part in the democratic system without repudiating terrorism, they should vote for the expulsion of Sinn Féin from Government. The DUP has consistently maintained that IRA/Sinn Féin must disarm fully and credibly.
The current talk, which I heard from the Unionist Minister Mr McGimpsey, is that there has been decommissioning — that is a joke. Does anyone who is in his or her right senses really believe that there has been decommissioning? No one knows where or when that decommissioning took place. No one knows what sort of weapons were taken and destroyed. No one knows where the weapons were destroyed. No one knows whether they could be examined after they were destroyed. The theory is that the weapons were thrown over the side of a boat. I do not know whether Gen de Chastelain put on a diver’s attire, went down to the seabed, pulled up those weapons, brought them to the surface, examined them and declared that they were out of order. I do not think that to dip a rifle or a machine gun in saltwater would transform it. Such weapons could be reusable, yet the House is told that that process constitutes decommissioning.
An election is coming up in the Irish Republic. IRA/Sinn Féin would like to sit in coalition with the ruling parties there. That will create for them another symbolic lie with which to cod the people. Well, that might fool the people of the Irish Republic who need to be fooled, and it might fool the people up here who, for political reasons, want to keep them in power to save their own bacon, but it will not fool the people who really know the situation, and it will not fool the people in this Province whose relatives were murdered — and people are still being murdered — by IRA guns.
On 26 May 1998, Mr Trimble said
"democracy dictates that before we will sit in an Executive with Sinn Féin we require a declaration that the ‘war’ is over, the standing down of ‘active service units’, the handing over of the remains of the ‘disappeared’, full co-operation with the Decommissioning Commission, an end to targeting and punishment beatings and actual disarmament itself."
That statement could not be clearer, and I challenge the Official Unionist Party leaders to table that. If that is what they believe and what they say they were elected on, they should table a motion to that effect in this House and see how many votes they get. If any of those Unionists dared to say in their constituencies what their votes will say in this House today, they would get very short shrift indeed.
The time has come for us to recognise that there are IRA/Sinn Féin gunmen abroad who are prepared to shoot their fellow Roman Catholics or anyone else who stands in their way. It is happening now in our Province, and it is important to say that that can cease if a majority of Unionists come together, stand together and vote together today. That would be the end of IRA/Sinn Féin in this House — everybody knows that — but they have to be preserved.
There is no doubt that the IRA continues its crimes, as I have said. Its members, known as the "Colombian three", presently await trial in that country for their terror-training activities. When they were arrested, we were told that they had nothing to do with the IRA. At the beginning, it was said, they were on holiday and completely isolated. We were told that one of them had nothing to do with Cuba. Now, it has been admitted that they had everything to do with Cuba and with all the charges that have been laid against them. And yet, people in this Chamber are still in cahoots with them. After the happenings in Colombia, there was a certain amount of evidence that they had been teaching the terrorists there how to use certain weapons.
Today, we must decide if we are to perpetuate the lie that Sinn Féin/IRA members are just like the rest of us when, in reality, they are still terrorists. Those absent from those Benches today are no different from what they were before the Anglo-Irish Agreement or before they supposedly agreed the Mitchell principles. They have not changed one iota, and every decent person in this Province recognises that — and when certain politicians are questioned by their constituents, they recognise and admit it too.
Is that not precisely why politicians and leaders of parties in the Irish Republic are saying that they would not tolerate Sinn Féin in the Government in the South? Yet, parties here — Ulster Unionist, SDLP and others — lecture us and tell us that we should tolerate them in Northern Ireland. Is that not the greatest hypocrisy of all?
Rev Dr Ian Paisley:
Yes, it is the greatest hypocrisy of all. However, it is also the greatest lie of all, because I do not believe a word of what they say in Dublin. If they had to have IRA/Sinn Féin in the Government in Dublin, they would take them in. Mr Ahern would kiss them on the cheek and try to make the same excuses that are made for them by Unionists in the North of Ireland, and I think that my hon Friend would agree with me.
Rev Dr Ian Paisley:
We are told that the IRA has decommissioned, yet people like Matthew Burns are shot dead and top IRA men are found with rocket launchers in mid-Ulster. According to the ‘News Letter’ one of them was released as part of this iniquitous agreement. Those are the facts of the situation.
Were I to think for one moment that my Colleagues and I could remove these IRA/Sinn Féin Members by walking out of this Assembly, we would not be in it. We know perfectly well that they want rid of any voice of opposition. They do not want to hear — they do not even want a debate like this one. In this part of the United Kingdom armed terrorists control an arsenal of guns, and their elected representatives stand up and defend that. Another party — supposedly defending traditional Unionism — agrees that those terrorists should be in Government and tells us that this is a farce. It is not a farce when it puts down a similar motion, or when it goes to the country. That party’s manifesto says that they want the people of Northern Ireland to understand the answers to these questions.
"Will paramilitaries be allowed to sit in the Northern Ireland Government? No. The Ulster Unionist Party will not serve with any party which refuses to commit itself by word and deed to exclusively peaceful and non-violent means. The agreement says that only those who have renounced violence will be allowed to exercise power in any future Ulster Government. We will hold Tony Blair and other parties to their obligations on this issue."
We are doing exactly that — holding Unionists to their obligations. Mr Nesbitt, the new Minister, can smile and laugh, but the time will come when he cannot laugh in County Down and must face the issues before the people.
He will have his ministerial salary in the bank.
Rev Dr Ian Paisley:
Yes, and under the rules of the Assembly he will also have a very tidy pension. We must keep that in mind.
Flying in the face of those pledges, however, the IRA is in Government in Northern Ireland. I challenge the Ulster Unionists to come clean on the matter and tell us in this debate that they will continue to support the IRA in Government, for that is their policy, and that they now regret all the things they said because they have changed their minds. That is the decent thing to do. People can change their minds, and they should let us know that they have done that. On the one hand to say that they have not changed their minds and on the other to do what they are doing is a disgrace.
"The Ulster Unionist Party will not serve with any party which refuses to commit itself by word and deed to exclusively peaceful and non-violent means ... We will hold Tony Blair and other parties to their obligations...".
Our motion today does exactly that. We hold them, their toadies, their fellow travellers in terrorism, Mr Blair and Mr Bush to that declaration of war against terrorism while terrorism is blessed, patronised, supported and defended by them.
In the context of this motion, had the IRA by now completed decommissioning there would have been no excuse for this debate. In saying that, neither do I excuse Loyalists. Why do I use the word "excuse"? I do so because the DUP only pretends to oppose Sinn Féin. In reality, it does not.
The purpose of the DUP’s motion is to target Unionists in the week before the annual general meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council, and to ask the House to endorse its tactics for confronting the Republican movement.
Let us take a few moments to examine how the DUP has dealt with the Republican movement. Mr Paisley said that the time has come for us to recognise that gunmen are abroad. The time has come? I have heard such words from him before. He also said that the DUP really means business. We have often heard such words from the DUP. Where have the DUP been, and where are they trying to take us? Members of the DUP will remember its European election advert in May 1979. It stated — [Interruption].
What was the result?
I will come to that. It stated:
"the Unionist candidate, who can devastate the Republican challenge".
Where is that devastation from the DUP? Dr Paisley went on to say:
"I can top the poll and go on to demand and get what is rightly ours: total security and a proper Parliament and Government for Northern Ireland."
Of course, as his Colleagues chided a moment ago, he was right, because Dr Paisley did top the poll. On 12 June 1979 he said — [Interruption].
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am delighted that the newly installed Minister is taking so much time to recall, and to remind the House of, the Democratic Unionist Party victories chalked up by Dr Paisley. I hope that he will continue in that vein by mentioning other European election results and the results of the recent Westminster elections.
The motion deals with Sinn Féin’s being in Government, and although I am delighted that the Minister is taking time to remind Members of the DUP’s election successes, I would like a ruling on the relevance of some of his comments.
I hear what the Member says, but I will act with customary generosity in approaching such questions.
I said at the outset that the purpose of the motion is to persuade other parties to adopt DUP tactics. I am trying to show how unsuccessful those tactics have been. On 12 June 1979, Dr Paisley said:
"The mantle of leadership democratically has been given to me. It is a twentieth century miracle."
Twenty-two years later he is still demanding it — and without much success. Remember also — [Interruption].
I thank the Member for giving way. Would he confirm that he is speaking about the same DUP that canvassed with him in 1997 when he was seeking election to Westminster? Is he talking about the same Dr Paisley who canvassed for him then?
It is a pity that Members cannot listen to the truth, and show manners by listening in silence. In 1979, there was also a Westminster election. The DUP said then that
"the Province must be put on a war footing, and the IRA must be dealt with once and for all."
We have heard those same words today — but where have the DUP’s tactics got us?
I remember — and I am sure that others do — that in 1980 there was "Smash the IRA". In 1981 there was the "Carson Trail". In 1986 there was Ulster Resistance, and, of course, the Third Force.
I regret that Mr Robinson is not here, because at an Ulster Resistance rally in November 1986, he said:
"The organisation will only be stood down when its task is completely done."
Mr Paisley wore a red beret then. He has delivered a great deal since 1986. A couple of days later, the same Mr Robinson was in Kilkeel to speak at an Ulster Resistance rally. He said:
"It stands to reason that Ulstermen, capable and prepared to defeat the IRA, will do so, and we will."
They have gone a long way towards doing that.
To return to the present, on the television programme, ‘Insight’, in June 1998, Mr Robinson was asked what he would do if there were a Government comprising Sinn Féin. He said:
"Under those circumstances, very clearly we will be a peaceful, constitutional, legitimate, democratic opposition."
The DUP Ministers cannot be in opposition, because they have taken the Pledge of Office. Their position is hypocritical.
The concept of rotating ministerial posts was another of the DUP’s tactics. Let us look carefully at the words of the press release, which announced that there would be
"a series of short-term ministerial appointments, replacing resigning Ministers with others at regular intervals."
That was supposed to occur until the next election. It never happened.
Finally, Mr Speaker — [Interruption].
I am sorry that the DUP’s pain is long-standing, but this is the last time I am going to say anything about it.
Let me remind the DUP — [Interruption].
Order. I ask the House to give the Member a hearing. It seems only reasonable and fair that all Members should receive a hearing, and that certain Members should restrain themselves.
Let me remind the DUP, who often remind us, that its 1998 election manifesto promised that it would
"refuse to give credit or legitimacy to Sinn Féin."
On ‘Hearts and Minds’ in May 2001, Noel Thompson questioned Peter Robinson. Noel Thompson quoted Dr Paisley, from the minutes of an Agriculture and Rural Development Committee meeting. Dr Paisley said:
" I am trying to give every party an opportunity."
Of course, that includes Sinn Féin, despite the fact that he will not recognise Sinn Féin as legitimate. When Peter Robinson was challenged by Noel Thompson on that matter, he said:
"Of course the Chairman has to allow anyone on that committee. to ask a question. It is a legal responsibility that you have to allow it, and if he didn’t he would be the first person to find himself in the courts".
He defended what Dr Paisley was doing. When has the DUP ever worried about law and legalities? The answer is never. Again, the DUP is just slightly hypocritical.
Let us recall some DUP proposals that were made a few years ago: there should be an elected convention; there should be discussions, and then, if there were a final proposal from those discussions, it should be put to a referendum. The proposals asserted that
"it is only by a referendum that a constitution can be made to stick."
Finally, the proposals stated that
"all politicians who want to stay in politics would be compelled to work such a constitution, accepted by the electorate through referendum."
That is precisely what the Ulster Unionist Party is trying to do. We had our convention, our talks and our referendum, and we are here, making sure, by process, that all elements of the referendum are implemented through the Belfast Agreement. The UUP is doing that. Today’s motion will not achieve that.
Who wrote those proposals? Those proposals for a convention and a referendum and to compel people to listen to what was said through a referendum can to be found in an article in the ‘News Letter’ of 24 November 1979. They were proposed by the DUP. The Ulster Unionist Party has delivered; the DUP has not. The DUP talks tough, but acts weak.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer to your earlier ruling about flexibility and generosity, and Members are aware of your attitude with regard to these debates. However, is it not startling that throughout the entire 10-minute diatribe that we have just heard, there was not one mention of IRA/Sinn Féin or its culpability? Yet, from beginning to end, that diatribe attacked other Unionists, the very thing that the DUP was berated for on the radio today by a ministerial Colleague of the Member. In a debate such as this, is it in order for the Member, the apologist for IRA/Sinn Féin in the Ulster Unionist ranks, to contribute to the debate by spending 99% of his time recalling previous radio interviews and documents, and so on, but not addressing the issue of IRA/Sinn Féin in Government? The Member may be embarrassed by that; I know that he has little defence for it. Mr Speaker, surely it is your duty to the House to at least call him to order on those issues.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
I will give a ruling on the first point of order. Other Members may raise points of order if they wish. I listened carefully, and as well as I could, to Mr Nesbitt’s comments. It is my understanding that he was attacking, not the subjects of the motion, but the process by which the motion was tabled. Therefore, I have not ruled him out of order.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it correct for Mr Dodds to mislead the House? If I am correct, his initial comments were that I made no reference to the IRA. The record will show that my very first words were in reference to complete decommissioning.
I did not take Mr Dodds’s comments to be an attempt to mislead the House. I took them as a point of order, and I have responded to them as such. I hope that the House will understand that.
Rev Dr Ian Paisley:
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. When you read this debate in Hansard tomorrow, I would like you to look out for Mr Nesbitt’s comments that accused every member of the DUP of never keeping the law. Will you examine those comments? As you well know, such comments, when made in the House, are dealt with very seriously under ‘Erskine May’.
The Member will be aware that I have previously ruled — as is ruled in the House of Commons — that when a Member refers to a body of people, that has a different meaning to a Member referring to an individual. I have made such rulings in respect of previous references to Sinn Féin Members, for example. In parliamentary language, a reference to a body as a whole means something different to a reference to an individual.
Rev Dr Ian Paisley:
Will you look at the comments?
I will read tomorrow’s Hansard avidly to check that it accurately reflects what I have heard in the debate.
It is significant that the Assembly is debating the issue of decommissioning for the simple reason that when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister of the Republic published the so-called implementation plan after the Weston Park talks, the obvious intention was to bury the issue of decommissioning, to restore the operation of the institutions established under the Belfast Agreement and to dispose entirely of any requirement to decommission. That implementation plan contained a mere reference to the idea of decommissioning, although at the same time it included a detailed list of concessions to IRA/Sinn Féin, including an amnesty that individually, and therefore collectively, amounted not merely to the appeasement of terrorism but to the legitimisation of terrorism itself.
In his statement on 1 August, Mr Reid was entirely confident that Mr Trimble, as the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, would comply with the requirements of the implementation plan, and in putting himself forward for re-election as First Minister on 6 November, Mr Trimble did indeed comply. That shows that Mr Trimble is perceived to be and, in fact, is a mere puppet in the hands of these so-called two Governments.
The amazing thing is that in the debate on the amnesty for terrorism Mr Trimble conceded that he does not know exactly what was agreed at Weston Park. Nevertheless, he was prepared to comply with the core requirement of Weston Park and put himself forward for re- election as First Minister in circumstances that in themselves should have been sufficient for him to refuse. He was re-elected in the context of a so-called putting of arms beyond use, which effectively amounted to a recognition by the two Governments of the right of the IRA to hold its arms and dispose of them at will. In other words, there was a recognition of the legitimacy of the holding of arms by this terrorist organisation — that is what that non-event really amounted to.
As well as that, he allowed himself to be reinstated as First Minister on the basis of a vote that was an insult to the integrity of Unionism in the Assembly. That vote was based on cynical labelling and the use of the term "Unionist" to put those who were actually opposed to the Union and committed to terror into the Executive, and that was done with the support of parties whose entire significance lies in the fact that they are simply lackeys and bootlickers of terrorism.
The interesting and significant thing on 6 November is that there was an international context which meant that Mr Trimble was under no political imperative to restore the working of the Executive and restore the leaders of Sinn Féin/IRA to the Government of Northern Ireland — there was no political imperative whatsoever to do that because of the events of 11 September 2001 in the United States and the quite proper reaction of the Bush Administration to those events. The reaction of the Bush Administration to the events of 11 September 2001 was to draw a clear line between democracy and terror, and at the very time that Mr Bush was drawing that line, the IRA was demonstrating beyond the possibility of refutation that it was on the side of terror. It was actually demonstrating what everybody had known for decades — that it was at the very heart of international terrorism. Mr Trimble allowed himself to be reinstated as First Minister and the representatives of a terrorist organisation to be put back into the Government in an international context in which he could have done the exact opposite. He was under no imperative to do what he did.
In the context of this debate it is important to ask a simple question: why should members of IRA/Sinn Féin never — and this is the position of my party — ever be in the Government of Northern Ireland? The answer is very simple: IRA/Sinn Féin is literally a murder machine. In the recent debate on the amnesty, numerous Members tried to equate the IRA with the security forces. There are a number of ways of making the distinction, and the one that I want to make now is this: the IRA exists to murder — that is why it exists — and the security forces, representing the legitimate monopoly of force by the state, exist to protect people from organisations such as the IRA. That is the distinction, and members of an organisation whose prime and only purpose is to murder should never be part of a Government — and certainly never part of a Government in the country where the murders were carried out. The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous and quite beyond belief.
I should like to develop that point in more detail, but I feel, Mr Speaker, that I have to be careful about how I go about it. I see that you are nodding. I have to be careful, but I will say that there are reputable authors and investigative journalists who, outside of this House, can make detailed claims about the activities of Members, without any fear of legal recourse by the named Members. The authors of the books and articles that name those Members as being involved in murder and the organisation of IRA terrorism know that in a civil action — the outcome of which depends on the balance of probability — those people could never swing the balance of probability in their favour because of the weight of the evidence. That is why they have never attempted to defend their names in a court of law.
On the one occasion when they did — the "Slab" Murphy case — it was thrown out of court in a libel action.
I thank the Member for that significant point. Let me indicate, without naming the individuals involved, the type of claim that has been made. A Member of the Assembly has been named, by two reputable journalists, as being among the planners of Bloody Friday. I do not need to say that Bloody Friday was one of the most appalling atrocities that ever took place either in Northern Ireland or elsewhere.
Another Member has been named as being responsible for three atrocities — and many others, but I will mention three. First, in one of the most recent books on the IRA, he is named as having authorised the Enniskillen bomb. Secondly, in a recent newspaper article, he was linked to the Claudy bomb. Most of us have probably forgotten about the Claudy bomb, but it was one of the most tragic events in the history of the troubles, because it involved the death of a child.
The same individual was named in a recent book, published approximately two years ago, as having introduced the human bomb into the arsenal of IRA terror. It might be worthwhile to explain what the human bomb is. One of the most lethal weapons in the terrorist conflict that is taking place in Israel is the suicide bomb. If the members of an organisation are committed to murder and terror, but have not got the bottle to commit suicide, they take an innocent member of the community, and, under threat of murdering his family, tie 1,000 lb of explosives to him and tell him to go to a checkpoint. When he reaches the checkpoint, the people who are monitoring his movements press the button and the whole thing explodes. That is the human bomb.
The first human bomb was a man called Patsy Gillespie. It was a most appalling atrocity. The mind that can conceive that and put it into effect is something that normal, decent people — [Interruption].
Mrs I Robinson:
— exactly — could not even begin to understand.
However, those people are in the Assembly. In fact, they are in the Government. I am not here, Mr Speaker, to criticise any ruling that you have ever made as Speaker, but it appears to be an anomaly that those people can be named outside of the House but cannot be named inside it.
Order. I fear that the Member is going be unhappy about the further ruling that his time is up, but it is.
Two weeks ago the Republic’s Attorney General described Sinn Féin as
"a dagger at the throat of social justice".
In fact, he went on to say:
"Any person or party who owes a loyalty to the IRA and its Army Council, to its acclaimed right to inflict murder and torture, simply has no business in the Dáil".
How right his comments are, and who could fault him for his opinions but for the fact of their blatant double standards and the staggering contrast when compared with the South’s policy on IRA/Sinn Féin’s participating in Government here in Northern Ireland? It seems that the parties in the Republic can unite in their opposition to Sinn Féin/IRA. The Attorney General’s thoughts are shared by the leaders of all the main political parties in the South. Indeed, each has raced to declare publicly how unsuitable IRA/Sinn Féin members are as potential Government Ministers and, more importantly, why.
The Irish Prime Minister said recently on BBC’s ‘Breakfast with Frost’:
"I’ve made our position very, very clear. In our constitution there can only be adherence to one police force, one army, and until Sinn Féin makes their position unambiguous and clear [.], then that’s not possible and that’s not going to be possible for some time."
He also said:
"Even if the IRA were disbanded, all weapons put beyond use and there were a complete end to vigilantism and punishment North and South, and full support given to the Police Service of Northern Ireland" — [Interruption].
Order. I ask that the Member be given a proper hearing.
As I was saying:
".there would be insufficient time to establish confidence for Government participation to be realistic."
The bleatings of politicians in the Republic suggest that private armies and the activities of shadowy vigilante groups cannot be permitted there, yet they are justified in Northern Ireland. Politicians in Dublin also cite IRA/Sinn Féin’s call for the early release of the murderers of Garda McCabe to back up their own exclusion case. It would appear that sauce for the political goose in the North is unbefitting for its Southern gander. Just as IRA/Sinn Féin is unpalatable to Nationalists and Republicans — in the true sense — in the South, so they are equally distasteful to the majority of Unionists in the North.
Although IRA/Sinn Féin has had the time and opportunity in Northern Ireland to prove itself worthy of holding office, it has repeatedly failed to do so. Contrary to all the promises that it has given through the media, and despite its having been given more than one chance in the House, the frequency of punishment attacks is now higher than it has been since records began, and there were only two fewer shooting incidents last year than in 1975. Furthermore, it should be noted that the only reason that the number of shootings did not overtake that for 1975 is that the Republicans called an abrupt halt to such activity after 11 September to avoid putting Sinn Féin in an awkward situation as regards its backers in the United States.
Let there be no doubt that violence is still Sinn Féin’s bargaining tool, and, more worryingly, as Unionism has witnessed, particularly since the signing of the Belfast Agreement, it can be turned on and off according to its political needs to gain additional concessions.
The parties in the South believe that the concept of sharing collective responsibility with IRA/Sinn Féin is a non-starter. With no blushes at their astonishing hypocrisy, they state that issues of justice, the army, the police and — wait for it — the defence of the state are among its main reasons for that. The irony is that although Sinn Féin is deeply unwelcome to its Nationalist bedfellows and agreement-supporting acts in the South, it is deemed worthy of ministerial portfolios by a minority of Unionists, together with constitutional Nationalists in the North. Those Unionists who advocate the presence of two Sinn Féin Ministers in Northern Ireland need to consider whether politicians in the South, who are reluctant to give Sinn Féin/IRA houseroom, have a point. The fundamental question of whether IRA/Sinn Féin is fit to hold office must be considered.
The harsh reality is that Sinn Féin remains tied by an umbilical cord to the IRA, and despite all its talk of freedom and freedom fighters, it is resolutely preoccupied with control. Internally it maintains a virtually military discipline, while externally it seeks to control those communities in which it has a presence. The party has a fundamental problem with the concept of freedom. It has not yet come to terms with the rights of others to disagree and to dissent, so violence becomes the end result.
That is highlighted by the recent attack on an SDLP worker in Castlewellan, after which the SDLP Member for South Down eloquently stated that the attack might have been carried out by
".some element of Republicanism that couldn’t tolerate his criticism and tried to terrorise him into silence."
I do not apologise for reminding the House of the awkward subject of exiles and beatings, not to mention the murders since the start of 2001 to which the Provisional IRA have been linked. Although Sinn Féin/IRA might point out that Loyalists are now responsible for more attacks than the IRA — make no mistake, I remain unambiguous in my criticism of all paramilitary violence — the difference is that Loyalists have no hope of achieving a mere sniff of political power, this year or in the foreseeable future.
Furthermore, the umbilical cord that links Sinn Féin with the IRA also feeds other terrorist organisations like FARC, ETA and the PLO, even to the point of embarrassing the political hierarchy in front of its American supporters. Nevertheless, it rallies dutifully to the defence of those apprehended. Through its links with international terror, IRA/Sinn Féin has proven to be lacking in its commitment to the fundamentals of democracy and to the bottom line of law and order.
Members should remember when voting in these Lobbies that even while claiming to recognise the legitimacy of the gardaí — something which the RUC or the new Police Service will never achieve in the eyes of Republicans — IRA/Sinn Féin has never fully assisted officers investigating the Omagh bomb to bring the perpetrators to justice. Do such people and their policies merit authority over two of the most important Departments in the Executive?
Guns and government do not mix. Nevertheless, IRA/ Sinn Féin is brutally aware that political power comes through the barrel of a gun, and the terrorist leopard has no intention of changing its spots. Let there be no doubt that if Sinn Féin gets its way, it will soon be wielding executive power on both sides of the border — literally in two separate countries. That will give it an influence that is unattainable to any other political party or Government.
I want to be clear to those of my Unionist family: there will be little sympathy in future elections for those who make their own beds and later complain about the lumps in the mattress, or who sup with the devil and complain that their spoon was shorter than a 40 ft pole when it is too late. It is said that
"by their deeds ye shall know them."
By its actions IRA/Sinn Féin has made plain what it is and what it stands for.
As Members consider this exclusion motion — not for the first time — they must be under no illusions as to the objectives of IRA/Sinn Féin. They must take notice of the consequences of sharing power with those people who oppose this state to their very core.
Last year a magazine for young Republicans eloquently put forward the Republican agenda beyond a shadow of a doubt. It said:
"Sinn Féin Ministers are not in Stormont to run the health service or the schools as part of some permanent settlement.They are there to pursue our revolutionary objectives."
Unionists and constitutional Nationalist representatives in this Chamber have sought the decommissioning of weapons and the disbanding of terrorist organisations long before the Belfast Agreement was signed, and now can be the time to say that enough is enough. We are still entitled to ask "Is the war over?". Those were the words of our First Minister, Mr Trimble, in November 1998. In this debate we are still entitled to ask "Is the war over?".
I support the motion, and, on the basis of my argument, I urge others to do likewise.