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Viscount Brookeborough: After all those speeches, I merely wish to make one or two points. First, it is an inopportune moment to take this action, not only for the reasons we have heard but also because of the risk of terrorism. That is a threat to the peace process. That is quite the wrong signal to send.
It is true that internment failed when it was used previously. It is true also that the Irish Republic retains it. I am quite sure that there are many in the Government there who would prefer not to have it. That is a common feeling among all normal people. However, they do have it.
The circumstances which exist now are very different from when internment was used before, when it amounted to mass arrests. The intelligence was extremely difficult. It was amazing that the whole operation took place as calmly as it did, even though it may not have seemed that way. However, it was a very difficult operation to undertake, even if the information had been correct.
However, the fact is that internment could be used to give a breathing space at this important time. Everybody agrees that if the talks come to a conclusion that is what is required--a breathing space. But the threat to that is no longer mass terrorism. It is the LVF (the Loyalist Volunteer Force), which probably committed the two murders perpetrated yesterday or the day before, Continuity IRA or the Continuity Army Council (CAC), which seems to have two names and is a splinter group, and INLA. Those are sections of terrorist movements. They are break-away factions. Those movements are a threat to the process.
It is interesting also that Gerry Adams talks about them being a threat. Therefore, that is not only my point of view, which may be thought to be a Unionist point of view, or an SDLP point of view. It happens to be Gerry Adams' point of view and a PUP point of view that those factions are setting out to destroy the process. That is why the leaders of those groups have appealed to those factions to stop and for everybody else to stay in the talks. If the talks succeed, we want that breathing space. This is the one occasion where internment of a relatively small number of people, requiring less intensive intelligence, would work. Indeed, it would work if it was used. I am not advocating its immediate use. If the intelligence were correct, and if the time were deemed correct to do so, it would be possible to take these people out of circulation for a limited space of time. It would work, if you had the right people.
However, even if you did not get all the right people, there would be so much disruption and much confusion with people not knowing who was talking about what or who gave the information in the first place, that you could almost guarantee that a breathing space would be given. I believe that to deprive ourselves of that power at present would be a very great folly.
I believe that I am right in saying that the Labour Government opposed, or did not support, the emergency provisions for so many years in the Commons, while we rarely had a vote here. They did not support it and they used internment as a basis for that lack of support. I sincerely hope that they are not proposing to take internment out purely on the basis that, for so many years, they used it as an excuse not to support the provisions. That would be folly for us in Northern Ireland.
Lord Alderdice: This is a serious debate at a crucial time in Northern Ireland. I almost hesitate to rise to my feet when we have already heard from speakers like the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, and the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, whose party was the one which shouldered the burden of internment in 1971. We have also heard from the noble Lord, Lord Cope, who of course was a Security Minister in Northern Ireland for a period of time and not least from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, whose position and work in Northern Ireland remains one of profound respect and admiration from the community at large and, as he well knows, from me as an individual.
We must look carefully at some of the arguments that have been adduced. First, it has been suggested that the threat of internment is something that terrorists fear greatly. For those of us who are law-abiding citizens, so it may appear to be. But the threat of internment was available during the time not only of the current Secretary of State and the current Government but also during the time of the previous Secretary of State--the much admired noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew--and his predecessor; and, indeed his predecessor's predecessor, and before that.
All through those years, since there have been Secretaries of State, the power of internment has been available. I have to say that I have not noticed that that threat has in any way intimidated the terrorists. They have carried on with their nefarious business entirely setting to the side the threat that internment might be introduced. Therefore, while we as law-abiding citizens might regard the threat of internment as a serious intimidation, it has not been so in fact for terrorists for the past quarter of a century.
The question has been raised as to whether, in the current climate, it is foolhardy to set the matter aside. I should tell noble Lords--and some will know me as something of a cautious pessimist over the past few years about the prospects for political settlement--that I believe that there is now a real possibility that, not within years or months but within weeks, possibly even before Easter, we may be in a situation where the major
In that context, as other noble Lords have said, might it not be possible that internment might be necessary? It is suggested that while the parties of the broad centre--the Ulster Unionists, the Alliance, the SDLP and perhaps even some others--and the two governments might agree, surely it is the case that those on the extremes will not agree. I am sure that that is true. I very much doubt that we shall find Dr. Ian Paisley and his colleagues saying yes. After all, they have never said yes to anything, not even sometimes to things that they have proposed themselves.
As regards whether the Republican movement will say yes, I have to say that I doubt it; indeed, I doubt it very much. The very best that we can hope for is a degree of acquiesence by Mr. Adams and his colleagues because perhaps it is the case that they would like to move into democratic politics. But I entirely subscribe to the view expressed by other noble Lords that on the republican side--whether it is the Continuity Army Council, or others--and on the loyalist side, there will be those so infected by the virus of terrorism that they will not give up.
There is then the question of how that may be dealt with. But surely we have learnt after all these years that it is not merely a matter of security operations; it is a matter of hearts and minds. If we can get a settlement that incorporates the overwhelming majority of people on both sides of the community and in the centre, that will be a tremendous weapon against those who wish to win the hearts and minds of people to the extremes.
It is said that what will be crucial is that suddenly and with surgical skill it will be possible to move in and deal with the command and control mechanisms of the terrorist organisations. Let me remind the House of what actually happened in 1971. When the Ulster Unionist Party was governing Northern Ireland and had full control of the security operation, there was no surgical strike. Those of us who recall even more recent events in respect of the Gulf only a few years ago and all the talk of high technology surgical strikes will be aware of how ineffectual that was. But let us go back to 1971.
I can recall that at the conference of my own party, the Alliance Party, in April 1971 my predecessor, Sir Oliver Napier, warned that the government of the day--the Ulster Unionist Party government--should not move to internment. Was he speaking about this because there was a total unawareness of what might arise? Of course not. It was the talk of everyone in the streets. By July, some three or four months later, he was consulting the Secretary of State, the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, and advising him not just privately but publicly not to move to internment.
Why? There were two reasons. First, because there was a real issue of human rights. That could not easily be tossed aside. But, secondly, because in the context of Northern Ireland it would have been utterly counterproductive. Those noble Lords in the House who know Northern Ireland well and come from Northern Ireland may appreciate when I say that there is a degree
We must be extraordinarily careful that we learn the lesson of that. It is rather different in the Republic, and so when noble Lords refer to the situation in the Republic and to the fact that the government there have retained the power of internment, we know of the situation there. We know that the IRA regards the Dublin Government somewhat differently from how it regards the British Government, not altogether in unflattering terms, it has to be said, but nevertheless in different terms. If we look at the situation we have, I suggest it is crucial that we try to win hearts and minds. If we set to the side the power of internment at this point, we are saying to the people of Northern Ireland and to the world at large, "We are not trying to impose something on anyone". If it is the case that there is a settlement and there are those, as other noble Lords have said, who insist on resorting to violence, there will not be a question in any case of a sudden overnight administrative action of internment. Everyone will know in advance that it will happen. That is reality.
Her Majesty's Government--I submit, in this context there would be a powerful silence and no criticism from the Irish Government--will move through this Parliament to put in place the possibility of this or another administrative action which would deal with the problem. That would be a warning and a clear marker. Then, if it is necessary to move in some robust way to insist that the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland and of the island as a whole be respected, that matter will need to be faced when the time comes.
But we must appreciate the fact that here we are not simply discussing retaining a security power. We need to win the hearts and minds of those in Northern Ireland who are not unionists, not even pro-union people, but who also want to see peace and who do not in their hearts support violence. We are in the business of winning as many of those hearts and minds as is possible and not colluding inadvertently with any "recruiting sergeant" operation for the IRA or indeed for loyalists.
I plead with noble Lords to reject this provision, not because I believe it comes from malign motives and not because it comes from people who have no experience of the matter, but because I believe that like the internment of 1971 it is misconceived, ill advised,
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