Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Francois: I understand how passionately the hon. Gentleman feels about these matters. Is it not bizarre that, because of the IRA's involvement with FARC and the US Administration's determination to fight a war against terror around the world, the US Administration are now taking a tougher line against Sinn Fein-IRA than the British Government?

David Burnside: I agree completely. Earlier this week, Mr. Haas, the member of the Administration responsible for Northern Ireland matters, stated that further action must be taken against the Provisional IRA, and I hope that that action will be taken, including re-establishing the ban on members of Sinn Fein visiting the United States.

I was giving examples of the farce of this ceasefire, which includes dealing in drugs and importing arms from Florida and continental Europe. Decommissioning has become a joke: it has been turned upside down. Decommissioning made sense only when it had a short deadline and could be credible and verifiable in ensuring that republican and paramilitary terrorists put guns and arms behind them. When the Government extended the deadline to 2008, they made a joke of the process. It is now used as a tactical ploy to the advantage of those in Sinn Fein-IRA, who say, "We will undertake a little bit of token decommissioning, so give us more concessions."

What disillusioned me, the people who elected me last June and the people of Northern Ireland who no longer give their consent to the institutions of this process—the next election will prove it—was the destruction of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. How, after 30 years, can the finest police force in Europe be destroyed as part of a peace process? Its royal title was ripped away. Chris Patten was sent to Hong Kong, where he had to constitutionally take away one of only three police forces in the world with the royal title, the Royal Hong Kong police, the other two being the Royal Canadian mounted police and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The RUC had

24 May 2002 : Column 520

its royal title stripped away, while the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) recommended to the Crown that it should receive the George Cross. The RUC has been humiliated and thrown into the dustbin of history. That is disgraceful and has contributed to the total disillusionment of the Unionist people. The force now has the worst sickness record of any force in the United Kingdom; it had the finest record. It has been demoralised and humiliated. A peace process that does that is not worth considering.

Let us consider loyalist ceasefires. There has been a little token decommissioning by loyalist paramilitaries. There has been no deadline; they got their prisoners out and all the concessions, and gave nothing in return. The way in which the peace process has been managed is farcical.

I wish that the Government would realise that those in Sinn Fein-IRA were trained in old-fashioned Marxist socialism. They therefore have no moral or ethical problem with lying in public. Those who carry out such crimes are Machiavellian; they lie. We have an uneducated Minister of Education in Northern Ireland—Martin McGuinness. He is an elected Member of the House who will not take the Oath. McGuinness, Adams, Keenan, Ferris and Slab Murphy are members of the Army Council of the Provisional IRA. One is Minister of Education in Northern Ireland. The Government of the Irish Republic will not accept Sinn Fein in the Administration because of its illegal army. As the recently re-elected Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said, nowhere else in Europe would allow members of a terrorist organisation that had not moved to full democracy to participate in government. Yet Martin McGuinness is in charge of education in Northern Ireland.

People, especially those who are paid to be in Stormont, tell me about the benefits of devolution. The current Minister of Education is about to destroy one of our most valuable assets—the grammar school system. There are two grammar schools in my constituency, Antrim grammar and Ballyclare high. McGuinness, the uneducated Minister of Education and old-fashioned socialist claptrap, is embarking on a course of action, supported by the badly written, badly prepared Burns report. He is attempting to destroy our grammar schools. If someone said that we could have the show in Stormont or retain the grammar schools in Northern Ireland, I would be tempted to safeguard the schools because they contribute a great deal more to society than much of what happens at Stormont.

I began on a lighthearted and optimistic note by mentioning the England team and I want to end more optimistically. I do not want to be depressed about the future in Northern Ireland, but I raised the subject today because it will not go away. The Secretary of State's refusal to answer questions from elected Members or delay in replying will not make it go away. The Government must come clean.

The Prime Minister must come to the House and admit that if he, like the majority of law-abiding people, both Protestant and Catholic, wants democracy and accountable institutions in Northern Ireland, and people to work together for a more peaceful and better future, he must recognise and accept that consent for the current peace process has gone. The bulk of the Catholic community—70 per cent.—and just over half the Protestant community voted for the peace process, but the

24 May 2002 : Column 521

consent no longer exists. The contract with the people must be re-established, and based on democracy and accountable institutions. The Secretary of State and the Prime Minister must act on the phoney ceasefire by the Provisional IRA.

Northern Ireland questions will take place on the first Wednesday after we return from the recess. The Secretary of State will have to tell the House the truth. The ceasefire does not exist and if the Government, like the majority of people in Northern Ireland, want accountable government and a forum for local administration in Stormont, it cannot be based on the hypocrisy and farce of the current institutions. It is not acceptable to have Martin McGuinness as Minister of Education; it is not acceptable to have a member of the Army Council of the Provisional IRA in charge of our children's education.

If Martin McGuinness was invited to a state school, how could a child of any age stand up and ask, "Minister of Education, have you ever been involved in murder or terrorism?" McGuinness is not even big enough to apologise and express remorse or regret for what he has done; he believes that all his actions were justified.

We cannot have credible institutions, a peaceful society and a prosperous future when the process has been bastardised by the Government's hypocrisy. They allow such things to happen without putting pressure or sanctions on Sinn Fein-IRA. The process does not have the support of my constituents or the majority of law-abiding people in Northern Ireland. It cannot be fudged any longer. I hope that the Government will listen to the democrats in Northern Ireland and stop responding to pressure and influence from terrorist organisations that have not yet embarked on truly accountable democratic methods.

11.15 am

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): As a fellow Ulsterman, I thank the hon. Member for South Antrim (David Burnside) for his good wishes to the England team and his timely reminder that Northern Ireland retains the domestic international championship. His call for the renewal of that championship is also timely; I have supported it for some time. I accept that it used to mean a lot more in the past, but it is a good competition and it should be reinstated. That could be done in conjunction with forming a United Kingdom team. That might not find favour in Scotland, but for some unknown reason, it has support in Ulster.

While on the subject of obscure sporting facts, it is worth remembering that the French are still the Olympic cricket champions. As they say, not many people know that. The French would probably retain that title if cricket were reinstated as part of the Olympic games. England remains the Olympic tug-of-war champion. I shall not turn my speech into a pub quiz, but the hon. Member for South Antrim set off the nerd in me.

The hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) was perceptive when he said that he thought I would mention the World cup. One would have to come from outer space, let alone Castle Point, to miss the fact that the World cup begins next Friday. It is on the front and back pages of our newspapers today. I have a lot of time for the hon. Member for Castle Point, but I was surprised by his

24 May 2002 : Column 522

support for Senegal. I think that his constituents should know about that. I hoped that he would explain why he is supporting Senegal. Football and politics are strange worlds and the hon. Gentleman managed to make them even stranger this morning.

The papers are full of the fact that Roy Keane has walked out of the Republic of Ireland squad. I deeply regret that, because with him he took the guts of the midfield from my World cup fantasy team. I had linked him with Paul Scholes. I hope that Roy Keane thought about that before deciding to flounce out. Clearly, it did not stop him though. The Daily Telegraph's cartoon conveyed that at least he could walk out, which is more than several England players could do.

Bob Spink: I thank the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to explain about Senegal. It is a wonderful, democratic, free African country with a free press. It recently held free elections, which changed the Government without a blow being exchanged. That is more than can be said about our election, when the Deputy Prime Minister was involved in an incident. It is a wonderful nation in the north-west of Africa—a nation that believes in doing away with the begging bowl and in trading internationally to get development. Senegal is a beacon for the rest of Africa, which is why I support its team.

Next Section

IndexHome Page