HC Deb 09 July 1997 vol 297 cc919-20
1. Mr. Rowe

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will make a statement on the current relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA. [5890]

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Paul Murphy)

In my opinion, which is clearly the opinion of many others, they are inextricably linked.

Mr. Rowe

Given that, on almost every occasion that the IRA is shown to be pursuing its undemocratic objectives by violence, Mr. Gerry Adams not only refuses to have any words with it, but frequently gives the impression that he has no control over it, is there any benefit to the peace process in continuing to behave as if they were genuinely linked?

Mr. Murphy

The British Government have never been of the view that they are not linked, as I said earlier. It is important to continue to seek genuine peace and reconciliation in terms of the problems of Northern Ireland. This week, we all saw the great difficulties that occurred in the Province, and I believe that there is still a case for the aide-memoire and all that accompanied it to remain on the table. Sinn Fein knows exactly what to do if it wants to join the talks process. It must renounce violence and go back to the situation of an unequivocal restoration of the 1994 ceasefire.

Mr. Barnes

Is the link recognised by the Irish Government? Taoiseach Bruton said that there was such a link, and that it was a myth to believe otherwise. Does the Minister think that the new Irish Government will adopt that position in line with us?

Mr. Murphy

It is hardly for me to speak on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Ireland, but I have no doubt that the public statements by the Taoiseach—and, indeed, the previous Taoiseach—are very much in line with this Government's policies.

Mr. Maginnis

It is encouraging to hear the Minister express his awareness of the inextricable bond between Sinn Fein and the IRA, and his belief that they are the same organisation. Does he recognise that that organisation has a strategy, the core element of which is violence, and that it is unable to be persuaded, either through the good offices of the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister or anyone else, to make the transformation, to engage in the metamorphosis from violence to the democratic process? Will the Secretary of State ensure that the political process in Northern Ireland is given a chance, and is not hamstrung by constant consideration of the IRA's position within that process?

Mr. Murphy

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland both accept that the only way forward is to pursue peaceful democratic means—that is, to renounce violence. Sinn Fein knows exactly what it has to do. If it renounces violence, it can join the train that the Prime Minister spoke about when he went to Belfast. That is absolutely the case. It seems to me that the transformation that the hon. Gentleman refers to must come within Sinn Fein's own hearts and minds. When it realises that the only way forward is through democracy and peace, it can join that train.

Rev. Ian Paisley

If the Minister is convinced that the IRA and Sinn Fein are united, is he convinced that the IRA and Sinn Fein have infiltrated and orchestrated the residents groups, as was made clear by the deputation that I took yesterday to the Minister with responsibility for security, the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, who is sitting beside him? If that is so, does he agree that the Government should in no way give the IRA and Sinn Fein accreditation by negotiating with them, when Mr. Adams has made it clear that he is not for accommodation on this issue, that he organised the issue, worked hard on it for years and is now going to exploit it?

Mr. Murphy

The hon. Gentleman is partly right, in that some of the awful events that we have witnessed in the past few days in Northern Ireland have been partly orchestrated. I do not think that that is the full story or that we should under-estimate the anger and frustration in the nationalist community. I think that everyone believes that the only way ahead lies in a proper accommodation between both sides of the community. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has worked tirelessly for that accommodation in the past few weeks.

Mr. Robert McCartney

Is the Minister aware that the alleged peace process has brought about the most bitter and violent confrontation that I have experienced in 60 years, and that the twin objectives of the peace process—conflict resolution with the IRA and a stable, negotiated settlement—are impossible, because the inducements necessary for the first make the latter an impossibility?

Mr. Murphy

It is our view that the talks should be inclusive. If we cannot make them inclusive, of course we shall have to consider other methods, but I do not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that the events of the past few days result from the talks process. They result from the inability of both sides of the community to come to an accommodation on those important matters.

Mr. MacKay

Does the Minister agree that the orchestrated violence of the past few days has all the hallmarks of IRA-Sinn Fein? Is it not a premeditated attempt to deflect attention from the peace process and, more important, to hide the fact that they are not prepared to enter a ceasefire, which is what is wanted by the overwhelming number of people in Northern Ireland, including the great majority of nationalists?

Mr. Murphy

As I said earlier, there is evidence that there has been some orchestration, but I think that all hon. Members realise that, if Sinn Fein does not renounce violence and restore the 1994 ceasefire, in September we shall go ahead with the talks process. I believe that the country will be with us on that.

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