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Lord Dunleath: My Lords, I would like to thank the Minister for the clarity with which he has explained the purposes of the first two orders before us tonight. I was not present last week when the prevention of terrorism Act (continuance) order was debated, but would agree with those who say that the Act is often mistakenly seen as a Northern Ireland measure when it is not.
In that connection, I welcome Her Majesty's Government's proposals to introduce permanent United Kingdom-wide counter-terrorism legislation. The measures before us this evening are, of course, specifically Northern Ireland matters and the dreadful events of last week only served to emphasise how necessary these are. The cowardly and brutal murder of Rosemary Nelson has been claimed by the Red Hand Defenders, whose proscription, which we are asked to approve tonight, appears to have been almost uncannily foretold when it was announced, along with that of the Orange Volunteers on 3rd March. Two days after the murder of Mrs. Nelson, Mr. Frankie Curry, an alleged member of the first of the two organisations, the Red Hand Defenders, was slain. That, it was alleged, was carried out by other Loyalist paramilitaries.
The Province is currently awash with rumour and counter-rumour about his death and also the circumstances surrounding that of Mrs. Nelson in that it is claimed that the Red Hand Defenders did not have the expertise to manufacture and plant the lethal device in Mrs. Nelson's car. Ipso facto, it is claimed that they may have been assisted by the UVF, the UFF or the UDA.
The question then is whether Mr. Curry's death is the result of an internal feud or a demonstration by some of the mainstream Loyalist paramilitaries to their opposite numbers in the IRA that Mrs Nelson's murder was not approved by them. Out of these dreadful events it is perhaps--and I say this diffidently--slightly encouraging and I earnestly hope not premature to note that there has not been any knee-jerk tit-for-tat killing by the IRA. Would that this were the case and that they might now start to decommission.
Inevitably there have been claims from the usual quarters that Mrs. Nelson's murder was carried out with the collusion of the security forces and in particular that of the RUC. This kind of claim, I am sure, is totally without foundation and is inevitably yet a further attempt to discredit the RUC, no more and no less. I too applaud the chief constable of the RUC in his decision to bring in the chief constable of the Kent Constabulary and also the FBI to assist in the investigations into Mrs. Nelson's murder.
In view of the events that have occurred, there is no alternative but wholeheartedly to support these two orders. I have but one question for the Minister tonight. The sentences Act and the emergency provisions Act are both security related. Would I be right in thinking that they and the associated orders will remain as Westminster matters if and when power is devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly? If that is correct, I look forward to the day when your Lordships' House no longer needs to debate such matters and, indeed, to when these two uncomfortable Acts may be repealed.
The Minister highlighted the comparatively buoyant state of the Northern Ireland economy and employment prospects when introducing the appropriation orders at the beginning of this month. I congratulate the Government on this. It highlights the benefits of a peace dividend. How cruel if all this progress is now dashed. Therefore, I wish the Secretary of State good fortune in the difficult days that lie ahead, especially those leading up to Good Friday next week.
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I wish to make a few brief points but before doing so I wish to do two things. First, I associate myself with the words of my noble friend Lord Attlee concerning Mrs. Nelson's death. Secondly, I wish to make it quite clear that, whatever I may say tonight or may have said in previous debates, I still strongly support the bipartisan approach within Parliament.
It is worth reflecting--perhaps in my rather cynical way--that the Government face serious difficulty in the fragmentation of these various bodies. For 50 years or more it has been the objective of the Republican movement to maintain a united front. Mr. Adams and Mr. McGuiness say that they are unable to deliver disarmament and so on, but they will put that before losing a united Republican front.
I believe that what is happening as we speak is that individuals move between one organisation and another. It has been more difficult for the RUC without military support to have on-the-street cover and close surveillance of the various terrorist areas. Organised crime involving drugs and other forms of smuggling has increased. The difficulty that approaches, and probably exists now, is how to be sure that objectively one is assessing where terrorism drifts down the horrible murky line and gets lost in what we may know in this country as ordinary organised crime. As we know can happen here and elsewhere in the world, organised crime is capable of moving further so that the funds from that activity go into registered public companies and show a totally clean front. That has been the situation in Northern Ireland for many years. The road
Since the murder of Mrs. Nelson I have had in mind--I know for certain that this occurred in the 1970s--the question of collusion between the bottom of the republican IRA terrorist movement and those in the loyalist movements who have the same objectives and are equally determined to destroy anything that looks as if it may restore a civilised and peaceful community and government. It is quite possible that through the murkiness that I have just outlined the idea arose, perhaps after a drink or drug or two, and perhaps the device was given or sold to a loyalist. It is also possible that somewhere down that murky line the republican movement engineered and organised that devious and horrible crime. That is the real world with which we are dealing in Northern Ireland. I support the orders before us tonight. I also support and admire the Ministers who are working in Northern Ireland.
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, I join with other noble Lords who have condemned recent atrocities. I equally condemn the activities of these groups. I hesitate to call them "splinter groups". As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, has just said, there seems to be no end to the fragmentation, some of which is very carefully orchestrated. As to the very valid point he makes about the possibility of collusion, to my certain knowledge that existed even in the 1970s when the same firearm was used by a so-called loyalist terrorist group to commit murder and within a week was used by an equivalent IRA group for the same purpose. We should not discount entirely the possibility that that still goes on and, unfortunately, may continue to mushroom as splintering continues.
Your Lordships will be aware of the importance of sensitivity in Northern Ireland during the remaining crucial 10 days of the month of March. It is distinctly unhelpful to have the sentencing order on the agenda--the most obscene item of legislation imaginable. I understand that it has to go through the fast track system. I am glad that we have the fast track system of adding organisations, given the freedom with which they splinter, regroup and come back wearing a different colour.
The concession required of law-abiding citizens was in a sense horrific in the concept of the release of prisoners. But as the release of convicted triumphalist murderers proceeds, unfortunately so the support of the Belfast agreement diminishes in like proportion. But what support remained, I am afraid, has been seriously eroded following the conviction last week of the deadly sniper gang of four which included Bernard McGinn who made the bombs used at Canary Wharf, the Baltic Exchange, and Hammersmith Bridge.
The murderer himself admitted without qualification or reluctance that he specialised in making bombs north and south of the Irish border on a daily basis. To use his own words, he said that it was like a day's work. He received three life sentences for the callous murder at different times of three soldiers during a 20-year reign of terror in County Armagh. The other three terrorists were each given 20-year sentences; and as they were all leaving the dock the four murderers laughed and shouted, "See you next year". That is not too difficult to work out. Sixteen months in prison and then they, too, will be released. That boast was not directed at their IRA sympathisers in the court. It was a threat against the law abiding citizens in the United Kingdom. In 16 months they will be retrained and re-equipped, and back at the work they have claimed they know best and which the said gentleman stated was just like a day's work.
For that revolting situation the two governments have only themselves to blame. It would be interesting to supervise and scrutinise the activities of the Irish Government in carrying out their equivalent legislation. I believe that they are displaying a little more toughness in the criteria that they establish as to who will be released and who will be kept inside. I know that Her Majesty's Government will say that the release of prisoners is the price we have to pay for peace. But unfortunately terrorists have not yet given peace, only a scaling down of their campaign in which a balance of terror had been achieved by the time they were forced to have their first ceasefire. If they intend to grant a permanent peace, why do they feel the need to insist on retention of the weapons of war?
It is against that background of anger and frustration that crucial questions will now confront those in positions of responsibility in Northern Ireland. During the past 10 days the most dangerous contributors to destabilisation and further confrontation and anger will come from the unthinking demands of those who are sometimes termed the great and the good. Some of them, even in the past 48 hours, have already demanded compromise between the leaders mistakenly regarded as equals. But there has been no question of equality of sacrifice on the part of those leaders.
Over the past three years, Mr. Trimble, the leader of my party, has been forced, of necessity, to make concessions to keep the show on the road, and many other concessions to violence have been made by the British and Irish Governments, concessions, I am afraid, made always at the expense of the Unionist population which has, in addition to all that, been subjected to a mind-boggling campaign of distortion and deception.
In the other corner stands one Mr. Adams who has conceded absolutely nothing but pocketed all the concessions made by others and then always comes back for more. So well-meaning but naive people must understand that there is no equation between Mr. Trimble and Mr. Adams.
So my final words and my plea to the great and the good is a word of polite caution, asking them please to recognise that Mr. Trimble has nothing left to give while Mr. Adams has not even started to give.
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