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Lord Redesdale: During his speech the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, made an assertion that those who are opposed to this amendment and for the Bill are in some way appeasing terrorism or acting on behalf of a terrorist organisation. I am sure that that was not the noble Lord's intention, but that is the way that his words could be read in Hansard.
Many of us agree with the Government and support them. We actually believe the Government when they say that they are putting this forward as a humanitarian Bill. Indeed, the victims' bodies will not be found without it. However, I should like to challenge the idea of appeasement. Last Wednesday there was a meeting in the Committee corridor of Friends of Ireland, which Mr. Gerry Adams and Mr. Martin McGuinness attended. After the meeting I went and asked Mr. McGuinness when he thought that the IRA would actually give back the bodies. I did this not in any great expectation that he would come forward with any definite details, but to prove a point; namely, that questions will be asked of these organisations. People have accused the Government of falling into a naive trap and have warned that games will be played--
Viscount Cranborne: I am most grateful to the noble Lord. As he was kind enough to favour Members of the Committee with an account of the question that he asked of Mr. McGuinness, it would be extremely interesting to many of us to know how it was answered.
Lord Redesdale: Laughter may greet that reply, but, if games are played, it will be very difficult for Sinn Fein to answer the question that will be asked by its own communities. If a brown envelope is not given to the commission containing the names and the details of where the bodies are buried, what will be the reaction of noble Lords? Moreover, what will the communities in Northern Ireland think? It is a very dangerous game. It will be a public relations disaster for the terrorists if they do not come forward with this information.
The first amendment, which, I believe, the noble Viscount said he would vote on, stipulates the date of 30th June. I find that an unsettling date because there will be so much pressure on all the parties in Northern Ireland on that day that, if the amendment were to be carried, it would add just one more difficulty to those which already exist. On Second Reading, the Minister gave some of the reasons why a time limit is inappropriate for this Bill; indeed, such reasons were also given in another place. We on these Benches do not like the detail of the Bill, but we will support this Bill because the victims' families need to get these bodies back.
The Bill has been welcomed in many areas of Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Memorial Fund made a full statement in this respect. Professor George Bain of Queens University, lawyers and representatives of the various clerical groups--and, indeed, a host of others--have said that the Northern Ireland victims' Act meets the situation. A grant of £4,000 out of the memorial fund has already been given to some of the persons involved. So it meets the approval of the vast majority of people who undertake community work and who know all about the suffering that is going on. In no way do those people help to support terrorism either by voice or by way of written material.
There is one other point that I should like to make. I should like to know how many noble Lords from this Chamber took part in the march yesterday in which something like 100,000 people marched to cemeteries to reiterate the need for a memorial for the dead in this respect. Indeed, one report in the Irish News this morning states that around 30,000 people turned out to attend a church service on a cold and wintry day at Miltown cemetery. Those people support this legislation, and the report says that the spokesmen of several of those organisations have said so. The people of Northern Ireland are those who have suffered. Many of them support this particular aspect of the Bill.
Perhaps I may explain where I support the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, in this respect. I think that a time limit should be stipulated. We should know in some way when this commission will be established. The machinery is already there. The Bill is about a commission and how it should operate. I feel that we ought to have some information about when the commission will be established. Under the terms, it is supposed to be set up within 12 months, but I think that an interim report should be made within six months as regards what has happened in that time.
This Bill is not intended to solve the terrorism and the problems of Northern Ireland; indeed, as far as I am aware it will take about 50 years to do so. I am someone of 85 years of age and I know all about the suffering that has gone on in this community. In no way will it be over in three or six months. It will take the people of Northern Ireland, and those who have been elected to represent them, a long time to get down to the business of looking after those who have suffered. I have in mind such matters as unemployment, medical and mental healthcare, and so on. The issue is certainly about the concern that justice should be done and that mercy should be shown to those who want to mourn their dead, just as people did yesterday. Let us look at the Bill in a sensible way and let it pass through its various stages, even if we do stipulate a timescale.
Baroness Strange: I should like briefly to express my support for my noble kinsman Lord Cranborne. I should also like to apologise to Members of the Committee for the fact that I did not speak on Second
Some years ago an associate member told me, "I would give anything to know where the IRA has buried my son." Last week I asked, "Would you pay the terrorists to reveal your son's grave and return the remains to you?" She said, "Do you not think it is bad enough I have to run the risk of meeting the four released terrorists walking this small town every day of my life? I do not wish to have them paid bounty money for giving information about the whereabouts of the last resting place of sons and husbands."
It takes two to make a quarrel; it takes two to make a peace also. I should perhaps add that everyone I asked said that they would go along with anything the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said. Well, so would I, and so I do.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: It is worth reminding ourselves what this amendment--which I for my part support--will achieve. The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, described it as very moderate. I believe that we must all agree with that because it says in effect that the Bill shall cease to have effect unless before 30th June,
"information as to the whereabouts of the remains of a victim". Therefore this amendment asks only for information as to the remains of a single victim which will lead to its discovery to be made available to the commission. That is a moderate imposition upon the IRA and upon any other terrorist organisation to whom it may apply.
I speak as someone who listened to all but the closing stages of the Second Reading debate. I did not feel it proper to intervene in that debate because I was not able to be present for the reply to the debate. But had I done so, I would have supported the Government on the principle of this Bill. I would have done so with as heavy a heart as those of many who spoke from the
As to the amendment, what is being asked to be provided? The organisations concerned are being asked to come forward with information in respect only of one victim. We know that the IRA has acknowledged that it knows the whereabouts of nine victims, possibly more. What is the practical difficulty? On the other hand, if the amendment takes effect and is not complied with, what will be the consequence? The consequence must be that reasonable and right thinking people everywhere throughout the world will say, "They are not genuine and they made this offer only for cynical, self-seeking reasons." Therefore notwithstanding that I continue to support the principle of the Bill, I believe that confidence-building measures may properly be called for from each side and that they should operate in each direction. It is therefore entirely consistent with support for the principle of the Bill that I also support the amendment.
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