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Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996 (Amendment) Order 1997

4.7 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs) rose to move, That the order laid before the House on 3rd June be approved [2nd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships may already be aware of the news from Northern Ireland today of the murder of two police officers. I condemn unreservedly the cold-blooded and brutal murder of two police officers in Lurgan and express my sympathy to their families. Full details of the incident are not yet available, but the RUC is investigating the matter. However, the Provisional IRA has claimed responsibility for these murders. No effort will be spared to bring those responsible to justice. At this stage, I would appeal for calm on all sides and for anyone with any information on the murders to contact the police as soon as possible.

I return now to the specific details of the order. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State made this order proscribing the Loyalist Volunteer Force (the LVF) and the Continuity Army Council (the CAC) on 3rd June. It came into effect on 4th June and is subject to approval within 40 sitting days.

The Loyalist Volunteer Force is a breakaway group of the Ulster Volunteer Force. The Continuity Army Council is a name generally used to describe the military wing of Republican Sinn Fein.

We do not take decisions concerning the proscription of any organisation lightly. It might be helpful if I put the proscription of these two organisations in the context of a number of appalling acts of terrorism for which they have claimed responsibility. First, in March this year the LVF set fire to the tourist information centres in Banbridge and Newcastle. It is also responsible for arson attacks on the Irish Heritage Centre in Donaghmore, a school in Newry and Sinn Fein offices in Dungannon. It also in the same month claimed responsibility for planting a bomb in Dundalk town centre. In April the LVF claimed responsibility for an arson attack on a public house in Aghalee and in May it claimed responsibility for the murder of 62 year-old Sean Brown, from Bellaghy, a respected member of the community who was active in the local Gaelic Athletic Association club.

With regard to the CAC, in July 1996 it claimed responsibility for a car bomb left outside the Killyhevlin Hotel in Enniskillen which destroyed much of the building. In September it claimed responsibility for a bomb abandoned in a stolen car in Belfast city centre. In May the CAC was believed to be responsible for a car bomb in Belfast which detonated prematurely injuring an occupant of the car.

Taking into account such heinous crimes as these, and judging carefully all the available information against our criterion for proscription, my right honourable friend concluded that in both cases the criterion of being

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concerned in terrorism or in promoting or encouraging it, had been fully met. Once this judgment had been made, my right honourable friend decided to take immediate action since any organisations which are constituted for the primary purpose of carrying out criminal terrorist acts can have no legitimate place in our society. As a result of this order, it is an offence to be a member of the LVF or CAC from the time they became proscribed organisations. It is also an offence to solicit or invite any person to become a member of these organisations or to assist in the holding of a meeting to support or further their activities.

Our message is clear and unambiguous. We will not tolerate violence from whatever quarter it comes in Northern Ireland. Violence will not win. Its use is futile and unacceptable. The LVF and CAC have joined the IRA, INLA, UVF and UDA and others on the list of proscribed organisations in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland's hope lies with those who are committed to creating a just, peaceful and prosperous society; something which all of us in your Lordships' House support. The Government regard this order as a fully warranted response to the activities of the LVF and CAC. I therefore have no hesitation in commending it unreservedly to the House.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 3rd June be approved [2nd Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Dubs.)

4.12 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I fully support the measure now before us. I wish only to sound a note of warning to the Minister and to the Government he represents. As a result of the recent elections in the Republic of Ireland it has been reported that the new Taoiseach intends to nominate Albert Reynolds as his special representative to and link with the nationalists in the North, and has committed himself to defending the interest of the Nationalists. Given the part that Mr. Reynolds himself has publicly claimed that he played in using Sinn Fein/IRA drafts as the basis of the Dublin version of the Framework Document, and in effect allowing them to dictate the then Dublin Government's policy in what was supposed to be the work of the two Governments, this move is bound to cause both anxiety and anger among Unionists in the North. This is a critical time for them.

The former Taoiseach, John Bruton, had gone far to reassure Unionist opinion by making it clear that he and his Government joined us in holding Sinn Fein/IRA at arm's length while they refused to abandon violence, and had said specifically that his Government did not share the IRA all-Nationalist agenda. Now there is a new Government in Dublin with a long tradition of sympathy with Sinn Fein/IRA. It will be extremely important, therefore, to reassure the Unionists, who have good reason to feel anxious. The marching season is upon us, when tempers run high and Sinn Fein/IRA are as adept at provoking clashes as some of the Orange Order are, I fear, at acting intemperately. The callous murder of two RUC officers today is an example. I was immensely reassured but not at all surprised to hear the

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firm words uttered by the Minister. Sinn Fein is very good at provoking crises. I hope I may therefore urge the Government most strongly to step warily with Mr. Reynolds, and to require Mr. Adams and Mr. Reynolds to say clearly what they think of the unnecessary murders.

In a "Dispatches" programme last year Mr. Reynolds was happy both to state unequivocally that Dublin's drafts of the Framework Document were written by Sinn Fein/IRA, and to show on television actual exchanges of correspondence between himself and the then British Prime Minister, John Major. I urge, therefore, that Ministers should recognise that confidentiality will fly out of the window as Mr. Reynolds comes in. I do not suggest that the new Taoiseach, who is perfectly open in his political stance, seeing himself as the champion of nationalists in Northern Ireland, will not be ready to respect confidentiality himself--of course he will--but there has been plenty of proof that Mr. Reynolds does not operate by those rules, and that he is likely to be little more than a willing and voluble voice of Sinn Fein/IRA.

The Unionists, whether Dublin and Sinn Fein like it or not, are the majority in Northern Ireland, and they and a large number of nationalists who did not and would not vote for Sinn Fein are indispensable to the peace process. They need every reassurance the Government can give them that the Government, who have so far most honourably followed a bipartisan policy in Northern Ireland, will take account of the strengthened position of Sinn Fein/IRA in the South and their capacity not only to influence but to form Dublin policy. At this critical time that is important.

This might be no bad moment to ask Dublin where it now stands on the one tentative possible concession it offered in the Framework Document: the commitment to consider the abolition of Articles 2 and 3 of the constitution. I still believe that practical, pragmatic, step-by-step agreement to work out various cross-border conventions in the areas of trade, transport, public utilities and so on, and the devolution of much more responsibility within Northern Ireland to district councils where people can work together, coupled with talks, however slow the progress, could produce real results.

Meanwhile, however, we must not be blown off course by the Unionist reaction to Mr. Reynolds's re-entry on the stage, which we must expect to be wary, if not hostile. He will be bent on high visibility; what is needed are patience and a low key approach, some small practical gestures, and above all the trust of the majority. The loyalist paramilitaries as a whole have behaved with admirable restraint. I think they will recognise that their efforts must not be destroyed by the small group who are being discussed today.

Perhaps I may add one last word. I hope that, whatever the Government's intentions on the issue of marches, special efforts will be made to show the RUC that the extreme pressures to which it is subjected in its efforts to keep the Queen's peace are valued and respected; that it will be supported; and that we all share its grief and anger over the hateful and inexcusable

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murders that have been reported today, and claimed so blithely by the IRA. Nothing could more clearly justify the need for the measure before us today. I fully recognise that extremists--whichever side of the barrier they are--need to be restrained. However, I hope very much that we shall nevertheless remember that the vast majority of Protestants in Northern Ireland, and a large number of Catholics, believe in the peace process and are exercising great restraint.

4.17 p.m.

Lord Fitt: My Lords, I rise for a few moments to associate myself with the sympathy that has been expressed in relation to the terrible murders of two policemen that took place today in Lurgan. This order before the House today should make it unnecessary to have any prolonged debate as, in view of the terrible murders that have occurred, no one in his right mind could object to an order such as this.

In 1973 I was a Member of another place when this emergency provisions order first came on to the statute book. Since then I have seen a succession of Secretaries of State introducing orders to ban certain organisations. All I can say is that they do not appear to have been particularly successful. I had intended to ask my noble friend Lord Dubs today, in the event that there was a credible ceasefire--up to this morning I believed that there was the possibility of a ceasefire, as many reports in the national newspapers in particular suggested that--by word and deed, to use the words of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, how long it would be before we could take legislation such as this off the statute book. It now appears that that moment will be a long time in the future.

In a recent debate in this House, the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, drew the attention of the House to the fact that, while the loyalist paramilitaries claimed that they supported a ceasefire, many things were happening behind the scenes which associated them with some awful acts of terrorism. We cannot come down on one side and say that one section of the paramilitaries is admirable and the other side comprises murderers. They are all engaged in murderous intent.

I say this to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. I believe that the murders today have taken place with malice aforethought. They took place in Armagh; and everyone in Northern Ireland knows that Armagh is a tinder keg at present. We shall run into Drumcree in July. The so-called tenants associations have indicated that in July they will bring American television crews, American congressmen, American senators, civil rights organisations and Amnesty International to the Drumcree geographical area. They will not bring them to stand and watch; their intent is to bring about a confrontation between the police, the Army and the Catholic population in Garvaghy Road. The Catholic population will be put in a position where there is likely to be serious rioting and American television will be watching it. Pictures will be beamed to America to show the American people how brutal the security forces are in Northern Ireland.

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The terrible act of depravity this morning, the murder of two innocent community policemen in Northern Ireland, is part of an IRA-Sinn Fein ploy to create the maximum amount of trouble in Drumcree this year. I hope that my noble friend Lord Dubs has taken that into consideration. What is to happen in July of this year is, I believe, ominous.

4.21 p.m.

Lord Alderdice: My Lords, on a day like today when two policemen have been murdered in Lurgan in County Armagh, it would be easy to be taken up with a deep sense of anger and frustration at what has happened. It is an anger that I share not only as someone who comes from Northern Ireland but as someone born in Lurgan.

Many of the other events that have taken place are not far removed from any of us. I refer to Harryville where the LVF and its associates have been distinguishing themselves by blocking ordinary Catholics from going to worship. That has been happening for some 39 weeks, with increasing violence over recent weeks. The violence is not lessening. On such an amendment as we debate today which permits us to add two more organisations, one on the Loyalist side and one on the Republican side, to the list of proscribed organisations, it would be easy simply to say yes and to pass on to the next business. However, the very event of proscription of the two organisations demands a little more thought.

My noble friend Lord Fitt referred to the fact that the emergency provisions legislation first came on the statute book in 1973. In the not too distant future when we review its continuation, we shall do so in respect of emergency legislation which will be going into its 25th year. The very word "emergency" scarcely conjures up the notion of a quarter of a century. The provisional IRA which has claimed responsibility for the murder of the two policemen today was one of the organisations put on that list of proscribed organisations from the very beginning.

One can simply say that it is a political problem which will be solved in that kind of way. Indeed, we know that there is no purely security solution. However, I find the requirement to add these two organisations to the list of proscribed organisations disturbing for a political reason. Why did the two organisations come into being? The Loyalist Volunteer Force came into being because it was perceived in that paramilitary community that the paramilitary organisations and their political representatives were moving towards democracy, or perhaps a mixture of politics and violence. There were those within the community who said "No, we simply want to stick with the violence". They were referred to by one of the representatives of the Progressive Unionist Party, which politically represents the Ulster Volunteer Force, as renegades in the paramilitary organisations. What a curious term, my Lords. Yet it represents a disturbing way of thinking.

Some of the political representatives of the Loyalist paramilitary organisations are guilty of the most foul and despicable crimes. On the Republican side one sees Sinn Fein prepared quite unapologetically to represent

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the views of a long proscribed organisation, the Provisional IRA. One of the disturbing features of recent times is that with the seductive suggestion that those organisations, both political and paramilitary, were prepared to move into democracy, and democracy alone, a cloak of respectability has been cast upon them, without either side committing itself to democracy. On the Loyalist side, we are told that the CLMC ceasefire is still intact. The CLMC is not still intact. There is barely any kind of ceasefire between the component organisations, never mind from that set up to the community as a whole. It is a charade and the people in Northern Ireland know it to be so.

Yet those who stand as the apologists for those organisations are welcomed with open arms and given not only publicity but a place that I think is out of kilter with their proper standing in any democratic society. That is so on the Republican side too where there are representatives, and, indeed, representatives who have been elected to the other place. I fear that we may be crossing, if we had not done so already, a line between politics and violence over which we may find it difficult to cross back. I greatly fear that the use of violence has now become such an entrenched component of politics in Northern Ireland--not only by those who have been involved and their elected mandate but also in the way they find themselves being treated by representatives of proper sovereign governments--that even where there is a supposed ceasefire, we shall not find those atrocities disappearing.

In a recent edition of the Economist, in an interview with a respected journalist, it was made clear by a leading Republican that, yes, even if there were another IRA ceasefire such atrocities as we have seen today in Lurgan would continue because the so-called Loyalist ceasefire has seen atrocities continue and their representatives have not been banned from the talks.

So while we may with all propriety, and perhaps with a degree of self satisfaction, add those two organisations to the list of proscribed organisations, I fear that at the same time we are allowing a degree of respectability to gather round those longer-standing paramilitary organisations and their political apologists which may not serve anyone well either in my home place or on this side of the water.

4.28 p.m.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: My Lords, everyone on these Benches joins in the condemnation by the Minister of the acts of violence today in the killing of two, I understand, community policemen who were going about their job. They were mown down in a most terrible way. We extend our sympathies to their families and share their heartbreak. Perhaps we could also praise the members of the RUC who at this precise moment, despite these incidents, continue to do their duty maintaining law and order in Northern Ireland.

We also support the Government in all their efforts to defeat terrorism in every form and at all levels, and therefore are supportive of the order brought forward today.

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Although I do not agree with all the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, I do agree that proscription will not provide a cure to violence. That must come from within the community, whatever the dedication of those at all levels in all organisations who work towards peace. I take this opportunity to put on record that in my view that includes the Northern Ireland Civil Service. The fact that they do many jobs which local politicians should do does not raise a question as to the way they do them or their desire to find peaceful solutions.

Real help will come when there is no support out in the community for terrorists and when there are no hiding places. Those who connive at terrorism or turn a blind eye to terrorist activities are participants in violence. The Minister rightly appeals for information about today's killings and the many other incidents that the people of Northern Ireland suffer. Everyone must play his or her part against violence. This order deserves the support of the many people in Northern Ireland who desire and deserve peace. We wish the Government every success in their fight against these terrible crimes.

4.31 p.m.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness on the Opposition Front Bench for her words of support. She was a Minister in Northern Ireland for a long period of time and is well aware of the situation on the ground there. Her words therefore carry additional weight.

Perhaps I may deal briefly with the points made by other Members of the House in the course of the debate. To turn to the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Park, the Government value enormously the work of the RUC, their bravery and their willingness to put up with enormous dangers in the course of their day-to-day work. It is very much upon them and other members of the security forces that so many people in Northern Ireland depend for the safety of their day-to-day existence. That in itself adds further risks to being a member of the RUC, as we saw so tragically earlier today.

As regards the new government in Dublin, the Government, as did the previous British Government, will co-operate with any government in Dublin. We are confident that whoever becomes Taoiseach on 26th June will stand fully behind the Anglo-Irish communique of 28th February last year, in which both governments agreed that their Ministers would not meet Sinn Fein until there was an unequivocal restoration of the IRA cease-fire. Mr. Ahern has affirmed in recent days his support for this position. I do not want to go into the details of particular appointments made by the government in Dublin; it would not be appropriate for me to do so, except to reiterate that we expect to co-operate fully with the new government in Dublin. We are confident that they will be as opposed to terrorism as the previous government in Dublin were.

My noble friend Lord Fitt speaks with the authority of having lived for many years in Northern Ireland and has a great deal of knowledge of the situation on

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the ground there. He will understand that I am not able to give an undertaking about the future of the emergency legislation today, except to say that it will stay in place for as long as it is needed. We will not lessen the power of the security forces, the police and others by taking away from any legislation that protects them. We will keep that legislation firmly in place.

The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, at times struck a pessimistic note. Last week, the Secretary of State made a speech from which perhaps I may quote a small section. She said:

    "The Government will do all it can to deal with terrorism from whatever source. I fully share the concern expressed by many about recent terrorist attacks that have been attributed to loyalist extremists. The ceasefire announcement by the so-called Combined Loyalist Military Command is still formally in place and, as the Prime Minister has said, that sign of restraint--so far

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    as it goes--is welcome. But the words of any ceasefire declaration are meaningless unless reflected in deeds on the ground".

I thank all Members of the House for the support that they have given the Government in relation to this order. I commend it to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

4.34 p.m.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure for five minutes.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 4.34 to 4.39 p.m.]

        House adjourned at twenty minutes before five o'clock.

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