HC Deb 13 May 1998 vol 312 cc366-7
Q1. Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

When he last met the Taoiseach to discuss matters relating to the referendums being conducted in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair)

The Taoiseach and I last met on 2 May. Obviously, we speak regularly on the phone. We fully agree that the Good Friday agreement represents new hope and, indeed, the only way forward for the people of Northern Ireland.

Dr. Godman

May I offer my sincere compliments to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and to the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) for their remarkably successful visit to Northern Ireland last Wednesday in support of the yes campaign? I am confident that my right hon. Friend will continue to support the courageous stance of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble). Will he give an assurance that the suffering and pain of all the victims of the troubles will be acknowledged and addressed by the Government? He will know of the moving testimonies that we heard this morning in response to the Bloomfield report. Northern Ireland needs a resounding yes vote next week, but the victims of the suffering need an assurance from the Prime Minister this afternoon, and that is what I seek from my right hon. Friend.

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for all his work over a long period. I am happy to join him in thanking the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) for coming with me to Northern Ireland last week. I also thank the other political parties for their support and help. I warmly welcome Sir Kenneth Bloomfield's report and his 20 recommendations on acknowledging the suffering of victims of violence. We have already made it clear that Government funding of some £5 million is available to take effective action on the report. The victims of violence have suffered enormously. We do not forget their suffering. I believe that the peace agreement provides the best way forward to ensure that there are not more victims in future.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

The Prime Minister will know that the recent behaviour of Sinn Fein-IRA has increased concern in Northern Ireland that it will take the benefit of inclusion in the assembly and prisoner release without accepting the matching obligations to show by its actions, including decommissioning, that there is a genuine peace. Will he make it clear that those obligations, which are clearly set out in the agreement, will be made effective and reflected in forthcoming legislation?

The Prime Minister

Yes—I intend to make it clear that the commitment and the obligations in the agreement must all be fulfilled and that no one can choose to fulfil some parts of the agreement and not others. Especially after the events at the weekend, it must be clear and demonstrated, as the right hon. Gentleman has pressed me on many occasions to make clear, that if people are to take their places on the Northern Ireland Executive and participate in the provisions on prisoner release, we must be sure that violence is given up for good. We must demonstrate that clearly.

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks)

I echo the words of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble). Like the Prime Minister, we are anxious to achieve a substantial yes vote in the referendum next week and we continue to join him in doing everything possible to bring that about. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that is not made easier by the release of hardened IRA murderers to strut around at the Sinn Fein conference at the weekend? Will he ensure that there will no further episodes of that kind?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has already made that clear. I entirely agree with the comments that have been made by many people, not least the Irish Taoiseach, who said that he totally condemned the triumphalism that we saw on our television screens. However, I still believe that the agreement is the right way forward, and I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's support. Let me make it clear that the agreement must be taken as a whole; it is one package—it cannot be divided up—and all the provisions must be met in full.

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