HC Deb 16 June 1994 vol 244 cc741-2
4. Mr. Alton

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what response he has received from Sinn Fein-IRA following their request for clarification of the Downing Street declaration.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

None. The people of Northern Ireland demand that they desist, permanently, from violence within our democracy; yet, to the revulsion of the people, they continue to murder people and to condone and justify such murder.

Mr. Alton

Does the Secretary of State agree that the biggest single factor now impeding the peace process in Northern Ireland is the massive amount of money which is made by racketeers and godfathers working within paramilitary organisations? If Gerry Adams and the political leaders of Sinn Fein wanted to deliver a peace deal, there would remain a major task in rooting out those who have a clear and vested interest in continuing the violence in Northern Ireland. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that we must renew and redouble our energies and efforts in stopping those mafia-style activities?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I agree that there is a great deal of racketeering to be found on both sides of the paramilitary spectrum. I do not agree that it is the biggest obstacle to the establishment of peace. The biggest obstacle is the refusal of those who resort to violence for political purposes to give it up in this democracy. We take the greatest pains to counter paramilitary racketeering, but I do not agree that our efforts need to be redoubled. We are at the moment doing all that we consider practicable, and we keep that very much under review.

Mr. Bellingham

Can my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that, after the clarification which has taken place, there will be no further dealings at all with Sinn Fein and the IRA? Surely they now have a chance and an opportunity, and surely now the process must go on without them.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

The process will certainly go on, with or without them. It will only go on with them if they make it plain that they have renounced violence permanently and that they are committed to democratic politics. There is no question of any dealings with Sinn Fein until that has been delivered—none at all. There has been widespread approval all around the world for the comments that the British Government made on the questions which were submitted by Sinn Fein a mere four and a half months from the signing of the declaration. It is now for it to answer a question—when will it give up violence?

Mr. Hume

I express my appreciation to the Secretary of State for the written clarification which he gave in keeping with his wish to leave no stone unturned and to bring a total end to violence in our streets. May I repeat my view that the recent democratic expression of the people was a strong expression of support for the peace process, which is about a total cessation of violence followed by an agreement among our divided people which threatens no section of our people? May I repeat my request and hope that the response of Sinn Fein and the IRA will respect the self-determination of the people of Ireland, north and south, on the methods used?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman said at both the beginning and the end of his question. The interpretation of election results in Northern Ireland is a specialist activity. It seems reasonable to remark that, in the recent election—to the extent that electors might have had the joint declaration in mind when electing people to the European Parliament—a margin of 20 per cent. more people voted for candidates supportive of, or acquiescent in, the joint declaration than for candidates opposed to it.

Mr. McNamara

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Opposition welcomed the replies that he gave to Sinn Fein's questions? We particularly welcomed his recognition of its electoral mandate and the fact that the Government of Ireland Act 1920 should be on the table, that no party should have a veto over discussions and that the only condition for going to the conference table is a demonstrable total denunciation of violence. In view of the strong mandate given in the European election to those parties seeking peace in Northern Ireland, particularly that given to my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), does the Secretary of State accept that there is every reason for Sinn Fein to heed the voice of the people of Northern Ireland and the whole island of Ireland, renounce violence and take its place at the negotiating table?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I very much agree that Sinn Fein should heed the voice of the people. In the south it got 3 per cent. of the vote, while in the north it got under 10 per cent. There is no excuse in this democracy for proceeding to use violence for any political purpose whatever. That message is well understood by the people of Northern Ireland, who demand that violence must end. For Sinn Fein to continue to use violence, claiming to act in some way in the name of the people of Ireland, is not only fanciful but fraudulent.

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