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Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his remarks. I have to say that the water companies themselves asked me to table these amendments. Although the Minister said that he feels sure that if the water companies thought about it they would not think it such a good idea, I believe that they have thought about it time and again. They are very much concerned about the position, for example, of public houses, as I mentioned. However, I note what the Minister said. I thank him for his comments and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 13th May be approved [19th Report from the Joint Committee].
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think it would be useful if I gave some background to the issue that we are debating this evening. The United Kingdom's counter-terrorism legislation is under review at present. Your Lordships will be aware that the Government published a consultation paper last December containing
With the implementation of the Belfast agreement, the Government's firm hope is that when the new counter- terrorism provisions are enacted we will be able to treat Northern Ireland like any other part of the United Kingdom under the proposed new Act; that is, there will be no need for any additional measures specific to Northern Ireland. Of course, the Government will need to make a final judgment about this nearer the time the legislation is introduced.
However, our approach is a clear reflection of the Government's commitment to repeal the emergency legislation in Northern Ireland as soon as it is safe to do so. Moreover, it is in line with our aim steadily to transform the security environment, as appropriate, as part of the process of achieving complete normalisation of all aspects of Northern Ireland society.
The Good Friday agreement sets out the basis for a lasting peace and political accommodation in Northern Ireland. The past year has been characterised by strenuous efforts across the spectrum to implement the agreement in full. There can be no question that political progress has been slower than we would have hoped. But the Government continue to be optimistic about the prospects for Northern Ireland's future. It is not a false or misguided optimism but is based on a hard assessment of what is actually happening on the ground. Parties linked to the main paramilitary groups support the agreement.
Our assessment is that the main groups' ceasefires remain intact, although continued activity, like the outrageous paramilitary assaults, remain a matter for concern. The past years have seen major changes in the paramilitary landscape of Northern Ireland. But, regrettably, the Good Friday agreement has not yet brought an end to the terrorist threat.
On both Republican and Loyalist sides, new groupings have emerged determined to destroy the agreement and cheat the people of Northern Ireland out of their hopes for peace. These groups remain small but sadly their capability is still considerable. The past year has seen a series of brutal terrorist attacks reminiscent of the worst days of the Troubles.
I must refer to Omagh. Just a few months after the agreement Northern Ireland suffered its worst single atrocity, with 29 people tragically cut down in a savage attack directed at a busy market town on a Saturday afternoon. There have been other attacks too, including the murder of Lurgan solicitor Rosemary Nelson by an under-car booby trap. And of course we had the tragic murder of Mrs. Elizabeth O'Neill in Portadown at the weekend. Our thoughts are with Mrs. O'Neill's family at this time.
The RUC will do everything in its power to bring those who carry out these vile acts to justice. But to be successful it needs the maximum co-operation of those who may have information about these events. I call again for anyone who has such information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, to notify the police immediately.
I pay tribute to the continued courage and commitment of the men and women of the RUC and to the Armed Forces acting in their support. Both the Government and the people of Northern Ireland know only too well the difficulties faced by the RUC. Unlike any other police force in the UK, the RUC has had to perform a dual role of combating terrorism and maintaining public order, while at the same time investigating every-day crime and upholding the standards of a civilised society, and it has had to pay a high price in doing so. All of us hope that the security forces never have to lose another life as a result of terrorism. Sadly, that has not been the case during the past year.
I pay tribute to the memory of Constable Frankie O'Reilly, murdered last September at Drumcree. Constable O'Reilly, a community police officer, represented all that is good about policing and the many positive aspects of the ongoing, but often unrecognised, work of the RUC. Our thoughts remain with his wife and family and with the families of the other 301 RUC officers who have so tragically lost their lives over the past 30 years.
Despite the difficult environment in which they have to operate, the RUC and the Armed Forces have carried out their duties with consummate professionalism. During 1998, 391 persons were charged with scheduled offences, and in the first quarter of 1999, 63 persons were charged with scheduled offences. The security forces also continue to recover significant amounts of weaponry and explosives--38 firearms alone in the first quarter of this year. Recent significant finds have included pipe bombs and related materials in the County Antrim area. These have resulted in three persons being charged with a range of related offences.
Even given this background, we are determined to move towards a more normal security environment as quickly as we can. Much has already been achieved, including, since the Good Friday agreement, a reduction by two thirds in the amount of Army patrolling in support of the RUC, with the lowest number of Army personnel now on operational duties since 1970. Military installations have also been closed--seven in Fermanagh--and others have been demolished, including the largest military base at Whiterock in West Belfast. But we must ensure that our security policy is always governed by the threat level. I want to make it clear that while the threat remains the Government will not leave the people of Northern Ireland without the protections which the anti-terrorism legislation provides.
I now turn to those protections and the specific legislation that we are considering today. The EPA provides the security forces with powers over and above those in the ordinary law--powers, for example, to deter and detect terrorist crime and protect the whole community. It also provides for a range of protections, including codes of practice governing the detention and treatment of persons arrested under the terrorism provisions, and silent video recording and audio recording of the interviews which the police conduct with suspects. There is also a requirement, and a safeguard, that for the provisions to remain in force they must be reviewed and renewed annually by Parliament. That is the business of your Lordships' House today.
The draft order would continue in force for 12 months from 16th June 1999 the temporary provisions of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996; that is, most of its provisions. It would also continue in force Section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998 as it applies to Northern Ireland; and Parts III and V of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 in so far as they have effect in Northern Ireland and relate to organisations proscribed under the EPA.
In particular, the EPA provides for a schedule of offences deemed to be terrorist related unless certified otherwise by the Attorney-General and for the Diplock court system of non-jury trial with associated safeguards; for additional police and Army stop, question, search, seizure and arrest powers; for road closure powers; for offences against public security and public order; for the regulation of the provision of private security services; and for the regime and protections that operate in the police holding centres. The Act also provides for the independent scrutiny of Army complaints procedures.
Since the Act was last renewed, the provisions relating to membership of proscribed organisations have been amended by the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998 to provide for new police evidence and court inference provisions and forfeiture of property powers.
Informing today's debate is the recent report of Mr. John Rowe, QC, the independent reviewer, on the operation of the Act in 1998. This report was published on 13th May. This year Mr. Rowe's review has included the temporary provisions of the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998 in so far as they relate to Northern Ireland. Mr. Rowe's remit is to examine the use of the provisions and to consider whether they are still needed and whether they have been used fairly and properly. The Government are grateful to Mr. Rowe for the time and effort he has put into producing his report.
We note that he records that the measures contained in the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998 have not been used and that it is his view that the new evidence and inference provisions are likely to
Despite his comments on this aspect of the relevant legislation, Mr. Rowe has concluded that the temporary provisions of the EPA should be renewed in their entirety. The Government share that view. Mr. Rowe adds further--I hope that your Lordships' House will be reassured by this--that although some people have said to him that the powers have been used to harass and oppress, his research has led him to conclude that the powers have been used properly.
It is of particular value also that today's debate is further informed by other independent observers. I am happy to say that the recently published reports of the independent commissioners for the holding centres, Sir Louis Blom-Cooper and Dr. Bill Norris, and of the Independent Assessor of Military Complaints Procedures, Mr. Jim McDonald, have again provided reassurances that the security forces are using their powers properly. The Government are grateful to Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, Dr. Bill Norris and Mr. Jim McDonald for the admirable work they do, for their considered views and for the reassurances they provide.
The Government recognise and are encouraged that the threat of terrorism in Northern Ireland has diminished significantly. Following the Belfast agreement, overwhelmingly supported by the people of Ireland, north and south, we hope and expect the threat to diminish to the point where no special Northern Ireland powers will be necessary. In the meantime, we will not leave the people of Northern Ireland without the provisions that are necessary to deter and detect terrorist crime and to protect the community. That is why the Government are seeking the renewal of the temporary provisions contained within the EPA.
Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I welcome the fact that Northern Ireland will, in the not too far distant future, be treated like the rest of the United Kingdom and that we will all be covered by the same Act in the prevention of terrorism.
I thank the Minister for his explanation of the order. I support its continuance. We have had debates recently dealing with many aspects of terrorism in the Province. I do not intend to take time going back over them in detail. We have covered: prisoner releases; intimidation; beatings and mutilations; the decommissioning of weapons; the search for the bodies of the disappeared, and many other aspects--most of which show only too clearly that this order is required.
Owing to the ever more horrifying news headlines from Kosovo, the continued beatings and mutilations have not been so frequently reported on this side of the Irish Sea. However, they continue at the same pace and are just as horrific as they ever were. Recently, attention was drawn to them in an excellent debate in the Commons. They featured more highly than they do at present.
The recent Northern Ireland (Location of Victims' Remains) Act, passed in order to facilitate the recovery of the bodies of "the disappeared", has so far produced little success--only one body. Most of us objected to the Act and doubted that it would work. It looks as though we were right, except in this one case. Every newspaper in the Province reports daily on the negative results of the searches. Virtually every television news report shows the locations and the mechanical diggers at work. Worst of all, the reports show the increased agony and anguish of the families of the disappeared. This issue, and the lack of success, are casting a terrible gloom and despondency over the Province.
For the IRA to set out the terms and conditions for immunity from prosecution in these cases, and for the Government to produce an Act fulfilling the IRA's requirements without the delivery of eight out of the nine bodies is a most cruel blow to the families concerned. I cannot describe what an appalling situation this is producing in the Province and in Ireland as a whole. It affects virtually everybody.
We now come round yet again to the Drumcree-Portadown situation. I condemn what is happening there. The loyalist terrorist groupings have been murdering both Catholics and Protestants. The latest person to be killed, Mrs. Elizabeth O'Neill, was buried yesterday. Everyone will agree that we should send sympathy to the family. The loyalist terrorists continue to attempt to murder others with bombs almost nightly. I fear that worse is yet to come if their political wings have no sanction levelled against them in the near future. Will the Minister tell the House when their political wings will be expelled from the Assembly? How soon will the RUC have the evidence to do so? Fourteen pipe bombs similar to those used at Drumcree last year were found by the Security Forces today in Lurgan. How much more misery do we have to sustain in the Province before the Government take action against the political wings of terrorist organisations on both sides of the religious divide? We, the inhabitants of Northern Ireland, will pay the price for the appeasement of terrorism if nothing is done sooner rather than later.
To add insult to injury, the very people who gave such service to our nation, not only in Northern Ireland but in other theatres, are not to be given anonymity in the Saville inquiry. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, believes that the soldiers do not warrant anonymity. Yet he is more used to trials involving fraud and financial affairs, and may not have much experience
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I thank the Minister most warmly for his thoughtful and full introduction. He has given us some reassurance on the Government's determination to support the security services. However, I remain deeply concerned that it is still far too early to proceed to normalisation because it is only too likely to prove IRA-speak for neutralising the RUC. I beg the Government not to go too far for cosmetic political reasons.
Life in Northern Ireland is not normal and it is a long way from being so. I very much support the renewal of this order because it is both necessary and right to review the legislation. I cannot but note, however, that since the 1998 Act was rushed through both Houses after the tragedy of Omagh, when we were told how tough the Government intended to be on terrorism, no one seems yet to have been prosecuted, although, I am sure, serious inquiries are being pursued. I realise that these things cannot be done just like that. Nevertheless, there is that Act. We have not seen much in the way of results, except that I was reassured to hear the Minister tell us about the number of successful searches and other acts that the RUC has been able to carry out.
However, the major object, the capture of serious terrorists, has not happened. The only further legislation we have had to pass has been designed to ensure that the murderers of the disappeared are to be protected for their acts rather than indicted. It has been a terrorists' charter. I look forward to the report which the 1998 Act requires the Government to lay before us at least once in every 12 months.
The marching season is upon us and a loyalist faction at least as hateful as the IRA, though far less powerful, has foully murdered a woman whose only crime was to be part of a Catholic family in a Protestant enclave. It is in the interests of the IRA, and indeed of the extremists among loyalists, to foment trouble and then blame any breakdown of the executive on David Trimble, and thus to obscure the real issue: that of Sinn Fein/IRA's determination to enter government still with their guns beneath the table.
The RUC cannot but feel threatened. It might be worth remembering that the IRA is responsible for killing, according to statistics collected by INCORE (the Initiative on Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity), in the years 1969 to 1998 no less than 610 people under 25 and 73 over 25 compared with 29 under 25 and six over 25 by the RUC. The loyalist groups killed 132. It is worth noting, too, that the IRA was responsible for the largest number of deaths among both the under-18s and the under-25s and are responsible for 58.8 per cent of all deaths. Civilians represented 45.6 per cent of those under 25 and 79 per cent of those under 18. The IRA makes war on women and children.
A substantial number of Catholics were killed by republican paramilitaries, their own people. Today the punishment beatings and shootings continue, to which the Minister rightly alluded, and which have run into thousands over the years, as does the exiling of whole families. Imagine that happening in the UK, nobody even noticing it and no one daring to complain or seek redress from the law of the land.
The recent brave revelations by the families of the disappeared are an example of what has gone on all these years but can never be said. We cannot abandon people who are already terrorised within their communities to the tender mercies of authorised paramilitary policing, thinly disguised as community policing, in the name of normalisation.
I hope that the Government can, if possible, somehow use this legislation to make more examples and to demonstrate both to the law-abiding general public and to the forces of law and order, and not least to the terrorists, that they support the security forces and believe in their value and commitment.
To give one example, at a time when we are blithely sending the Parachute Regiment to Kosovo, it seems hardly the moment to throw some of their comrades, who only did their duty, to the IRA wolves in the Bloody Sunday inquiry for the sake of that mantra "transparency", when we well know, if the judge does not, the consequences--death for them and their families. The same is true of witnesses from that admirable and courageous force, the RUC, and the RUC reservists. Some of the latter are now tetraplegic and paraplegic because they did their duty.
To sum up, I urge that we retain and renew any powers that we have to bring terrorism, if not to book, under control. I hope that the intention to bring it under a general UK law does not result in weakening it, because so many of the provisions that are needed in Northern Ireland in the present circumstances would not even be considered likely or possible in this country; otherwise, the ordinary man and woman in the streets of Northern Ireland will believe that the terrorists always win.
The present black comedy that the IRA is conducting at the expense of poor, unfortunate members of their own community, those whom they claim to be there to protect, is, thank God, doing them little good. It does not enhance the reputation of the two governments either, since they are seen to have been cynically and successfully manipulated. We must not allow that to happen at the Bloody Sunday inquiry.
I support this legislation but I hope we shall endeavour to make sure that anything which succeeds it can be equally effective in the special circumstances of Northern Ireland, where normalisation, I fear, is a long way off.
Lord Dunleath: My Lords, I apologise for speaking in the gap. It is due entirely to my ignorance of the fact that a Speakers' List was formed for this evening. However, I think that the Minister and the Table are aware that I am going to speak this evening.
I thank the Minister for his usual clear and careful explanation behind the reasons for this continuance of the order. He has highlighted the ongoing catalogue of terrorist outrages that are still continuing in Northern Ireland. In particular, I wish to associate myself with the generous tribute that he has paid to the courage and dedication of the officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
It is with regret that I can but support the Motion that is to be adopted for yet another year. I say "with regret" because Northern Ireland is far from being at true peace. A little over two weeks ago, the Northern Ireland (Location of Victims' Remains) Bill was passed. Since then, one body has been returned by the IRA. We have seen the distressing sight of the Gardai trying to locate other victims on a beach car park in County Louth, in County Monaghan and elsewhere. We have seen distraught relatives at these locations, waiting and hoping that the remains of their loved ones will be found. Ten or more days later, nothing has yet been found, despite all the diligence of the Gardai.
One must ask whether the IRA has given deliberate misinformation to the commission or whether they really do not care or cannot remember where the bodies of eight people were dumped by them. This must be set against earlier comments from the IRA that some bodies, including that of Captain Robert Nairac, would never be found.
This callousness of the IRA and their treatment of the disappeared 25 or so years ago has finally hit home and there is a wave of revulsion throughout Ireland today. For once, even Mr. Adams may be discomfited. I hope that Sinn Fein will feel the depth of this anger at the ballot box on Thursday.
Last week, Mrs. Elizabeth O'Neill was murdered in Northern Ireland by loyalist thugs. It would appear that her only crime was to be the Protestant half of a mixed marriage. Mixed marriages are taken for granted in this country. In parts of Northern Ireland, love crosses the religious divide at extreme peril.
Yesterday, a pipe bomb was discovered at a Roman Catholic primary school in Ballymena. My noble friend Lord Brookeborough referred to further pipe bomb discoveries today. The marching season is now almost upon us, with the Drumcree situation from last year still not resolved and no signs as yet of any compromise on contentious marches this year. Finally, and most significantly, no more has been seen from Sinn Fein/IRA on the decommissioning of weapons.
The Secretary of State yet again urges David Trimble and the Unionist Party on the one hand and Sinn Fein/IRA on the other to be flexible and to go that extra yard for peace. As my noble friend Lord Molyneaux has said before, David Trimble has gone the distance--he has been flexible, he has compromised, he has made concessions, he can go no further. Sinn Fein/IRA, on the other hand, have not moved an inch.
"David Trimble has the unenviable task of managing political defeat as the options for Unionism draw ever tighter. By persuasion, guile and ultimatum the British Government has determined on a course to force the Unionists into a political accommodation with their fellow Irishmen. And it is now too late ... for Tony Blair to draw back.
Power in Ulster is trickling from the Crown towards nationalist Ireland and the future Irish Taoiseach, Gerry Adams".
On the face of the order, which I support, there appears the word "Continuance" and in the Explanatory Note the word "continues" appears twice. Those expressions are, of course, accurate because this is an annual parliamentary exercise. We are continuing the emergency and prevention of terrorism orders for another 12 months, as we have been doing for decades. On such occasions, both Government and Opposition spokesmen have expressed the hope that continuance will not be required at the end of the period. Previously, hope could not be entirely discounted. But this year hope is very much a pipedream--for, as has already been explained by my noble friends, terrorism in all its sordid forms is on the increase. It is mostly conducted by bodies which support the agreement. There is a message of sorts there for some people. Mr. Adams asserts that the political vacuum is the cause, ignoring the fact that he alone can honour the spirit of the Good Friday agreement and start the whole mechanism.
However, as my noble friends have said, two weeks of shame on the IRA has transformed the constitutional future of Northern Ireland. The world now sees that Sinn Fein/IRA deceived the two governments into thinking that they could and would locate the bodies of the disappeared. They lied to persuade Her Majesty's Government and Parliament to produce legislation to grant immunity to murderers and now, most unforgivably, they callously inflict untold suffering on the nationalist families of those they had tortured and murdered.
The shattering lesson of this sordid episode is that Sinn Fein/IRA can never be trusted again. The Prime Minister must remain true to his promises of a year ago and reject demands from all who would have him apply pressure on David Trimble to trigger a Northern Ireland executive on the basis, and solely on the basis, of Sinn Fein/IRA undertakings, which the world knows will be dishonoured once they have their feet under the Cabinet table.
Lord Fitt: My Lords, in a debate such as this it is inevitable that there will be a certain amount of repetition. I was a Member of another place in 1973 when the first Act of this kind was placed on the statute book. It has been soul-destroying to live in Northern Ireland while this catalogue of tragedies has continued and to see this legislation amended, added to and subtracted from every year. To many people it seems that this measure and the Prevention of Terrorism Act has not had any real effect.
My reason for entering into this debate this evening is to try to tell the House something of the horror that has engulfed Northern Ireland since the passing of the Northern Ireland (Location of Victims' Remains) Bill by this House. I have been in Northern Ireland in the past eight days. Irrespective of our opposition to the measure, we and the Government had hoped that the IRA would designate where these bodies lay and that they would be identified at the earliest possible opportunity.
I believe that the Government first began to give consideration to this legislation on the recommendation of intermediaries from the Government of the Irish Republic. They acted through intermediaries. Evidently, the Government of the Republic had been told that the IRA was now prepared to designate where these bodies lay. I accepted the bona fides of the Minister, even though I opposed this measure. He honestly believed that by this time those bodies would be located and identified.
On the morning of the Saturday before last I was in Belfast and listened to what I regarded, and will continue to regard, as one of the most horrible, poignant, sad interviews that I had ever heard in my life. It was an interview conducted by David Dunseith five years ago with Helen McKendry whose mother Jean McConville was taken away in 1972 and murdered by the IRA. I only hope some means can be found by which that recording can be played on every radio station
Having heard the story, one began to question what had happened. All of these people were murdered in the Republic of Ireland, not in Northern Ireland. That gives credence to the unionist case that the IRA had a bolt hole to run to which was not available to the loyalist murderers. I then began to talk to people. I wondered whether when Jean McConville was taken over the border she was sitting in a car looking into the eyes of her murderer or she was already dead. The same applies to the others because they were all murdered in the Republic. That broadcast caused a convulsion of sympathy throughout Northern Ireland right across the religious and political divide.
In Northern Ireland I have lived through some of the most terrible tragedies: the La Mon killings, Bloody Sunday and Enniskillen. I can keep going. However, I have never felt such a wave of revulsion sweep over the Northern Ireland community at what has happened since the passing of this legislation, and no bodies have been forthcoming. Can the Government put pressure on the intermediaries who first gave them the information? The amendment which was very nearly carried in this House provided that if those bodies were not returned by 30th June the amnesty which was being granted to the perpetrators of these murders should be rescinded. If the Government had again to consider the legislation they might look with some sympathy on that amendment.
The noble Lord will know that every newspaper, unionist, nationalist, columnist and contributor in Northern Ireland has expressed with varying degrees of sadness what has been happening. The people of England have not had to sit night after night, as has been illustrated by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, watching diggers trying to dig up a car park with the nine sons and daughters of the murder victim present hoping that their mother's bones would be dredged up. That is still going on and will continue to go on because I do not believe that the IRA will be in a position to detail where those graves are. I believe that it knows where the graves are. The people who carried out those murders must still be living. The people who took those individuals across the border to be murdered must still be living. They have already been granted anonymity. They have already been told there will be an amnesty. The murderers of those people could go to the various sites which have been spoken about and could say, "There it is", without fear of prosecution.
If members of the IRA have any compassion or sympathy in their souls for what they have done to Northern Ireland, they should avail themselves of this opportunity to identify those bodies once and for all. The hurt that exists in Northern Ireland at present is hard to describe.
The measure which was passed is now embodied in this legislation, after the Omagh tragedy. In pushing through the amnesty Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said that there would be a partial amnesty granted to those members of the republican movement who would detail where the graves were, but that if the Government were to find out from other sources where those graves were, they would be able to prosecute the murderers. I should like the Government to tell us that this legislation, which I support, will be used to hunt down the people who carried out these atrocious murders all those years ago.
I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, that one is terribly frightened at the number of pipe bombs which have been found in Northern Ireland over the past few days. A pipe bomb was found in a Catholic primary school in Ballymena. Had that bomb gone off it could have killed more than the number of children murdered in Dunblane some years ago. It shows the length to which extremists will go to defeat what they regard as their opponents and to attain their own political ends.
This legislation, and any other that is necessary, should be used within the next week because we are coming to the dangerous time in Northern Ireland's political history; the Drumcree march. Every effort should be made and every weapon given to the RUC to ensure that both sets of murderers, and particularly the people who are in control of pipe bombs, do not cause the carnage which they will undoubtedly cause if they are not taken off our streets.
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