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Lord Goodhart: That is a fair question. In principle, I would not wish members of either diaspora to be able to contribute. The problem is that a ban on donations from the Irish diaspora could be achieved only by making any contributions from the Republic of Ireland impermissible. As well as being difficult to achieve in practice, that would be wrong.
There is no equivalent problem with the Scottish diaspora. Perhaps that is the misfortune of the Scottish National Party. I accept that the SNP may well feel aggrieved that a party that has been as closely linked
There is no perfect solution. We thought that the most important issue was that the parties in Northern Ireland should not be cut off from funding in the Republic. If that meant that it became difficult, or even virtually impossible, to block funding from outside the Republic, then that consequence, although profoundly undesirable, would be unavoidable.
Lord Howie of Troon: Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may say that I am very much enjoying watching him wriggling on this hook. It is a fine sight and he is wriggling extremely well. However, I should like to put one simple question to him. Why should we go out of our way to make life easier for Sinn Fein in the, I believe forlorn, hope that it might give us something in return, which it shows very little sign of doing?
Lord Goodhart: I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his intervention. However, this is a perfectly fair question to ask. First, from the debate that we have had this evening, it sounds as though Sinn Fein is the only party which represents those in Northern Ireland who seek reunification. Of course, as we all know, that is untrue. It is not even the largest party. Throughout, the SDLP has renounced violence but it depends, perhaps not to the extent that Sinn Fein does but to a considerable extent, on funding from the Republic. I believe that, again, it is a perfectly legitimate point that what has been yielded so far by Sinn Fein is inadequate and there is not a very encouraging prospect that it will yield more.
Nevertheless, we are looking at what will happen in the longer term and I do not believe that it would be right to ban the funding of political parties in Northern Ireland by citizens in the South simply on the basis that one of the two main parties seeking reunification has been guilty of extremely serious acts of violence for many years.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: I wish to make two points. First, a cardinal part of the Belfast agreement is that the country chose by a majority to stay in the United Kingdom. Therefore, I find it difficult to understand why it should be treated differently from any other part of the United Kingdom. That sends a message that we already accept that it is floating off into the sea, and I suspect that some people would like to give it a hearty push.
Secondly, I do not understand why we cannot insist that foreign donors' names will be made public. I take the point that it is perfectly possible for them to give money through the Republic. However, there is no reason why donors in the Republic should not be named. They are not at risk and Mr Galvin in New York is not at risk. I am wholly unimpressed by the idea that those poor creatures who give money might be at risk because they have done so.
Surely we should be considering the following broad points: first, that we are talking about a part of the United Kingdom; secondly, that we are undoubtedly giving comfort to the enemies of that part of the United Kingdom; and, thirdly, that there is absolutely no reason that I can see why the identity of foreign donors should be kept secret. It is very interesting that we seem to be so concerned about protecting them. Let us suppose that Mr Galvin--that splendid character who appeared in Dundalk the day after Omagh with money for the Real IRA--sends money to the Republic. Surely the identity of the person to whom he sends it will give us--and not only us but the world at large--a clue as to where the money came from.
Therefore, I accept the fact that the Republic is in a particular situation and in a particular relationship to Nationalists. However, I do not accept that there is any reason whatever to protect the identity of major foreign donors from abroad; nor do I accept that we should make special rules for a part of the United Kingdom which North and South accepted would be so.
I struggle to see that we can make progress with this other than in the way which the Government have set out. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, said that we should think very seriously about the position that we have set out in relation to Northern Ireland. I thought about it very seriously before 11th May and have been doing so ever since. As I believe I made plain then--and perhaps this was part of my discomfort--no one says that this is a perfect solution to the problems which undoubtedly remain with politics in Northern Ireland.
There is one allegation which I must answer and refute; that is, that somehow the arrangements that we have set out in these amendments are a form of concession to Sinn Fein. They are not. That is not the intention behind what the Government are attempting to achieve.
We are trying to deal in a practical way with a very difficult set of problems. The close relationship in politics between Northern Ireland and the Republic has been fairly acknowledged and admitted on all sides of the Committee. That situation was acknowledged in the Neill report to the point that it was accepted that it seemed reasonable, or at least not unreasonable, that people living in the Republic of Ireland should be able to donate to political parties that operate across the boundary and which operate within Northern Ireland itself.
That is, perhaps, the kernel of the problem. That is why it is so difficult for us somehow hermetically to seal the whole situation and prevent donations coming into Northern Ireland from other parts of the world. I believe that that is an insurmountable problem in the current situation. It is for that reason that we have adopted the course we have.
The other point which is extremely important is that, of all of the parties which are concerned in the politics of that part of the United Kingdom, the only party which says that it favours disclosure is Sinn Fein. All the other parties have said that disclosure would place them, their members, the donors and potential donors in a position of considerable risk. That places a very large question mark over our ability to apply to Northern Ireland the rigorous regime which we intend to have in place for the rest of the United Kingdom. That is an extremely important issue. That is why I went as carefully over the testimonies as I did.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, asked me whether there is a sunset clause; there is not. If no order is in force under Clause 65, there would still be a separate register for Northern Ireland but Northern Ireland parties would be subject to the totality of the controls on donations. The changes to the register will work whether or not an order is in force.
I hope that I made plain in my comments in opening this debate that we continue, and will continue, to review matters in relation to Northern Ireland. We shall certainly want to review them within four years. I listened very carefully to the extremely constructive contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. I shall give very careful consideration to the points that he made. They were very constructive indeed.
I do not want to see us in government rewarding acts of violence in any way, shape or form. I do not see, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, does, that somehow, we have come up with a set of arrangements which supports, as it were, the approach adopted by Sinn Fein in the past. That is not what we are intending to do.
This is a difficult problem, not an easy one to solve. If there were easy solutions to hand, I am confident we would have found them thus far. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, acknowledged, I have tried to set out the position in some length. I believe that that position is the best we can do in the circumstances. It is workable, and we shall have constantly to review it. Obviously, we shall continue to listen to other points of view so that we get it right. I hope that our amendments will be accepted by the Committee.
The Minister said that this was a better tempered debate. Perhaps I may say that that is because he has come clean at the start and has not had to have things dragged out, like the dentists whom your Lordships discussed during the dinner break. He has admitted what this is about. I do not believe that the Minister finds it in the least surprising that Sinn Fein does not favour disclosure, whereas all the other parties do. There is a self-evident truth there which, if the Minister does not understand it, makes me even more depressed about the Government's reading of the situation in Northern Ireland.