§ 2.54 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD ELWYN-JONES)
My Lords, I beg to move, That this House takes note of the situation in Northern Ireland. I have little doubt that many differing expressions of opinion will be ventilated in the course of this debate. That is inevitable in discussing a problem which has vexed the course of history for seven hundred years, and in respect of which there is no prospect of a simple solution and no room for dogmatism. But I apprehend that there will be unanimity in your Lordships' House about the rightness of the Government's decision to recall Parliament to discuss the present crisis. This is very much an occasion when Parliament as the Grand Inquest of the Nation can play a vital role, and the Government will of course give the closest attention to the views that are expressed here and in another place.
The present crisis was brought to a head by the break-up on May 28 of the Northern Ireland Executive, which had held office under the Constitution Act since January 1 of this year. The combined forces of I.R.A. terrorism and the 9 organised economic disruption of the Province achieved the Executive's downfall. In the result the Executive machinery, so patiently and carefully evolved by the previous Administration with the support of all Parties in Parliament, has foundered. The Assembly has been prorogued. Before I explain the Government's actions, I should like on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to express our appreciation of the courage shown by those Northern Ireland politicians who formed the Executive. They showed a willingness to abandon traditional fears and suspicions and to come together in the interests of the community as a whole, which deserves the highest possible praise. It is tragic that their efforts did not succeed.
It may be helpful if I recapitulate briefly the events which led up to the present crisis. The House will recall that, following the introduction of Direct Rule in March, 1972, the most extensive consultations were held by the previous Government with the Leaders of the political Parties and representatives of various interests in Northern Ireland, in the hope of remedying the deep divide which for over half-a-century had developed in Northern Ireland between the two communities: the one always in Government; the other never in Government. In September, 1972, a conference was held in Darlington, and a month later the then Government published a Green Paper containing many new proposals as the basis for further discussion.
In due course the Government made their own proposals known in the White Paper published in March, 1973, and those proposals were debated in Parliament and received full support from all sides. The basic principle was that the minority in Northern Ireland should be enabled to take part in Government. The proposals were designed to achieve for Northern Ireland a new form of Government enabled to secure government by consent. On June 28, 1973, the first elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly were held. The Northern Ireland Constitution Bill implementing the proposals in the White Paper was passed by both Houses of Parliament and received the Royal Assent on July 18, 1973.
Talks then took place between the then Secretary of State, Mr. Whitelaw, and representatives of those Parties who 10 were prepared in principle to form an Executive in accordance with the principles of the Constitution Act. An agreement was reached. Some aspects of the original White Paper—known collectively as the Irish Dimension—involved the Government in the South, and to reach agreement on those matters the members of the Executive-designate met with the then Prime Minister, Mr. Heath, the Taoiseach and some of the respective Ministers of the Governments at Sunningdale in December last year. The agreement reached there was set out in the communiqué issued after the Conference. It was an agreement which demanded concessions, but it contained ample safeguards. The Council of Ministers was to act by unanimity, so that any one Member from Northern Ireland would have a power of veto.
On January 1, 1974, power was devolved to the new Executive in Northern Ireland and Direct Rule ceased. But the United Kingdom Government retained their responsibility for law and order in the Province.
The way seemed set fair at last for political harmony and stability in Northern Ireland and the question which must be anxiously asked to-day is, what went wrong? Your Lordships will remember that the Executive had agreed on May 22 the basis upon which it was prepared to proceed in relation to the Council of Ireland. Their agreement was welcomed by Her Majesty's Government as a realistic and sensible basis on which the North and South could work together. That agreement carefully protected the interests of both sections of the community in Northern Ireland, and was consistent with the requirement which is enshrined in Section 1 of the Constitution Act that Northern Ireland remained part of Her Majesty's Dominions and of the United Kingdom and that in no event would Northern Ireland or any part of it cease to be part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. That position had, of course, been accepted as a fact by the Government in the South, and in all these circumstances the Executive's future might well then have seemed secure.
The calling of the General Election in February, after the Executive had been in existence for a mere five weeks, in 11 the result added significantly to the strains on the Executive and was indeed in its outcome a disastrous blow to its authority. Then in March there was a vicious campaign of proxy bombing by the Provisionals. The extent to which those terrorists were prepared to go was revealed by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister when he disclosed the Provisionals' relentless, murderous, "scorched earth" plan. The Provisionals wrecked Sunningdale. But, my Lords, it was the recent widespread disruption of industry, public services and private business in Northern Ireland which was the immediate cause of the collapse of the Executive.
On May 14 a total strike was called in Northern Ireland by a group calling itself the Ulster Workers' Council. This group is a body of men that has not been elected and that has attempted to apply pressure on Her Majesty's Government to make changes in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland, a position that has been determined by the wish of this Parliament and, indeed, by the wish of Parliament expressed through the support of all Parties in Parliament. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State made it clear that he could not negotiate on constitutional matters with the Ulster Workers' Council, although he was at all times willing to meet the elected representatives, and both he and the other Northern Ireland Ministers had indeed done so on a number of occasions.
The strike was not a strike as we normally use the term in this country. People were intimidated; roads were barricaded; people were murdered. The extent to which pressure was applied was illustrated by what took place on the first Friday evening of the strike. Protestant extremists from North Belfast went on the rampage in Ballymena. They wrecked three public houses and a fish-and-chip shop that remained open against so-called "orders". On, their return to Belfast they went to a Catholic public house South of Ballymena and murdered at point blank range the Catholic owner and his brother. The R.U.C. reacted swiftly and thirty-five suspects were arrested. My Lords, the strike continued. As essential services began to deteriorate, additional British troops. including technicians, were flown into Northern Ireland 12 and a decision had to be taken as to whether these troops were to be used to man essential services.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister invited Mr. Faulkner, Mr. Fitt and Mr. Napier to Chequers on May 24 to discuss the situation. The leaders of the Northern Ireland Parties asked for a limited operation by the Army, but no commitment was entered into. The request was, however, considered by the Cabinet and authority was given for a limited operation for the Army to operate 21 petrol stations, two oil storage depots, the supply of petrol and oil to essential users and the supply of chemicals to the Londonderry gas works. That decision was taken in the light of the facts in Northern Ireland and after the hearing of the views of the Northern Ireland Executive, but it did not result from any pressure applied by individual politicians in Northern Ireland. The timing of the operation was determined by the need for precise planning by the Army, the changing situation on the ground and the developing situation in the essential service industries. The Army acted at 5 o'clock in the morning of Monday, May 27. The operation was carried out most efficiently, surprise was achieved, and the Army deserve our highest praise for their handling of this delicate matter.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Nevertheless, my Lords, the electricity situation deteriorated and by Tuesday, May 28, there was disagreement within the Executive following the political strains put upon it during the strike. Mr. Faulkner considered that to maintain the unity of the Executive a mediator should be appointed to negotiate with the Ulster Workers' Council, but the S.D.L.P. members disagreed. In these circumstances, Mr. Faulkner and his supporters resigned, and the basis of the Executive ceased therefore to exist.
Your Lordships may ask what were the motives of the strikers and those who supported them. It would seem that they were extremely varied. Some, there is no doubt, were intimidated into not going to work, not opening their shops, not delivering bread and milk. Others feared for the loss of the old system which ensured a monopoly of power for "their" section of the community. But I do not 13 believe that those explanations account for the great majority. Most of them, I feel sure, feel that they have had enough—enough of year after year of violence, of bombing, of arson, of mindless assassination, of fear and insecurity in their daily lives. What has also emerged, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has expressed it, is a new form of nationalism in Northern Ireland, bringing together many strands of Unionist opinion and founded in part on a simple fear that the status of Northern Ireland will not be respected and in part on a feeling that the Ulster man must himself make a significant contribution to his own future.
What, then, are the Government doing? In the first place, it was necessary to ensure the continuing government of Northern Ireland. Using the provisions which exist in the Constitution Act, the Northern Ireland Assembly has been prorogued for four months by Order of the Queen in Council under Section 27(6) of the Constitution Act. Before this provision is exercised, it must appear to Her Majesty that the composition of the Assembly is such that it is not possible for the Secretary of State to make appointments in the Executive from the Assembly which conform to the power-sharing provisions of Section 2(1)(b) and that it is in the public interest that the Assembly should be prorogued. The resignation of Mr. Faulkner and his supporters and the attitude taken by the other Protestant groupings within the Assembly satisfied my right honourable friend that it would not be possible immediately to make new appointments to the Executive conforming with these provisions. There is little doubt that in the circumstances obtaining it was in the public interest that the Assembly should be prorogued.
Section 27(10) of the Constitution Act provides that an Order proroguing the Assembly shall specify the period of prorogation. The Order specified that the Assembly should be prorogued for four months. The Assembly is required to meet at the expiration of this period, but Her Majesty may recall it earlier, may prorogue it for a further period, or dissolve it during the time of prorogation. Although an Executive no longer existed, it was clearly necessary for the machinery of Government in Northern Ireland to continue.
14 Section 8(6) of the Constitution Act provides for the Secretary of State to appoint persons to the Executive for not more than six months if he does not find it possible to make appointments complying with power-sharing provisions of the Act. Accordingly, my right honourable friend proposes to appoint Ministers from the Northern Ireland Office to take charge of the various Departments in Northern Ireland so that the Executive Government in the Province can be carried on, and will do so—until more permanent solutions are found. Responsibility for legislation for Northern Ireland will rest during the period of prorogation of the Assembly with this Parliament.
These arrangements provide a short time, a breathing space, in which all those concerned with the government of Northern Ireland may re-appraise the situation. Her Majesty's Government must and will use the time to find a further way forward, but others must make their re-appraisals as well. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has already begun the process of exploring the views of the leaders of the political Parties. He will encourage all those to whom he talks to think hard about the future of Northern Ireland and their part in it. It is no good people believing that, either by killing and bombing, or by paralysing economic and social life, they can secure the political arrangements that they want. There is no future on that road. The various parties in Northern Ireland will have to decide whether they are prepared to work together.
My Lords, no devolved system of Government like that set up by the Constitution Act can work for long without the consent of the great majority of the people governed by it. Equally, in Northern Ireland. such consent cannot be expected unless the two main sections of the community each have a proper share in the exercise of Governmental power. The purpose of Her Majesty's Government will continue to be, as was the purpose of their predecessors, one of trying to find ways in which those basic principles can be reconciled. The bleak fact remains that the Executive built up by the previous Administration had ended despite the efforts of Her Majesty's Government in the past three months to 15 sustain it and to work with the Constitution Act of 1973.
We now have to move forward and we must move forward expeditiously. Prorogation is for four months only and the Executive in the form that I have described will only exist for six months. Future policy must recognise certain hard, if unpalatable, facts: first, in the past the conflict was between Republicans and Unionists. We must now recognise that a new dimension has emerged in the shape of Ulster Protestant nationalism. Secondly, the human and economic cost of what has been and is taking place must be weighed and recognised. Over the last five years more than 1,000 people have been killed. This includes 257 of our own soldiers, 50 members of the R.U.C., including reservists, and 696 civilians, most of them wholly innocent. 1,553 soldiers have also been seriously wounded. To our Servicemen too high a tribute cannot be paid.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, as to the economic cost, £63 million has been paid out in compensation for damage to buildings and to property, and compensation for cases still pending is likely to cost a further £51 million. Apart from the bombings and murders, often carried out alas! by children on behalf of the I.R.A., there are sectarian murders, most of them murders by Protestants of Catholics.
Thirdly, the situation has meant that it has not proved possible to use the normal methods of the rule of law and procedures of the courts to deal with those who bomb and kill on the scale I have mentioned, although the Government think it right now for a review of the working of the Emergency Provisions Act to take place, and my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner has been good enough to undertake the chairmanship of a committee to carry out that study. For the protection of the public my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has had to sign two main groups of interim custody orders since February—orders made for the protection of the public. On May 24, 1974, 234 persons were held under interim custody orders and 399 persons under detention orders.
It must be recognised that unhappily para-military forces continue to operate 16 in the Province in both communities. They cannot be dealt with by the R.U.C. alone. Despite the constant searches and frequent successes of the Security Forces, large supplies of weapons still come into the Province. Sectarian hatreds are intense, the risk of widespread murders and even civil war remains. The fact must be faced that without the presence of the British Army the forces of law and order just could not cope in the immediate future. The Government are firmly against the view that the Army should pull out quickly and let the communities fight it out while we look on.
Next I turn to the economic and financial burden that Northern Ireland involves. Northern Ireland is heavily dependent on the rest of the United Kingdom for Government financial support, to the extent in 1973/74 of about £310 million. This was in addition to its full share of taxation raised in the United Kingdom and does not include borrowing from the National Loan Fund of about £66 million. The economic difficulties of the Province were severely aggravated by the strikes. The Protestant backlash took the form of crippling industrial action.
The next set of facts that must be faced is the position of the Catholic community. They form an important part of the community in Northern Ireland They cannot be overlooked in the new situation, nor their fears, and the fact must be faced that most of them still aspire to a united Ireland. It is an aspiration which at any rate cannot he ignored. It was the clash between this and Unionism in the past which was the basis of the bitter divide. The clash is now with Ulster Protestant nationalism. In the past two years the previous Government pursued a policy of conciliation and power sharing. All parties rightly supported it. It has collapsed, and a new way has to be found.
My Lords, I have endeavoured to set the situation before the House as objectively as I can. Her Majesty's Government will proceed, during this breathing space, to take soundings with leaders of all political Parties in Northern Ireland. As I have said, they will weigh carefully the opinions that will be expressed in Parliament, particularly, if I may say so, by those who have so 17 recently tried to grapple with this problem. The Government must, of course, find their own way forward, but we shall hope that their decisions will meet with the support of the whole House.
In conclusion, I should like to emphasise that the restoration of law and order on behalf of the community is the sole object and purpose of the Security Forces—the Army and the R.U.C.—in Northern Ireland. But ultimately law and order can be maintained only by the community itself. They can be restored only if all—and I repeat all—the people of Northern Ireland wish it and cooperate. There is no other way. I beg to move.
Moved, That this House takes note of the situation in Northern Ireland.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ LORD HAILSHAM OF SAINT MARYLEBONE
My Lords, I know the whole House will be grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for the calm and informative way in which he has summarised the melancholy situation which we now have to discuss. Whatever differences of opinion may fall from different quarters of the House during the period of the debate, I feel certain the whole House will also have no fault to find with the decision of the Government and of the noble and learned Lord to recall Parliament for this brief discussion, and that the House would wish to be associated with the renewed but none the less necessary and sincere tribute to Her Majesty's Forces which the noble and learned Lord made during the course of his speech.
My Lords, I suppose it is the duty of all of us to be as constructive and as optimistic as possible. I wish that I could find it possible to see many redeeming features about the present situation. At the end of what I have to say, I will be as constructive and as optimistic as I can, but I am conscious that even then I may be deluding myself and thereby deceiving the House. The fact is that quite dispassionately I see few redeeming features about the present situation, or about the facts which have taken place in the last three weeks. The first fact that I should like to emphasise—and I will come back to it in the course of what I have to say—is that we are not talking only about affairs in 18 Northern Ireland; we are talking about the constitutional position of the United Kingdom and the sovereignty of the Queen in Parliament.
I said in the first speech that I made from the Woolsack on my recall to this House that the last Parliament—the Parliament of 1970—might turn out to be the last chance this country would have to preserve its traditional Parliamentary Constitution and its way of life. Those words, I fear, were thought somewhat extravagant at the time, and got me into a certain amount of trouble. I have never had cause to qualify or retract them in any way. I wonder whether they sound quite so extravagant to-day. I was referring to the centrifugal forces at work in our society at the present time, the fissiparous tendencies which are almost literally tearing us apart: individual interests, geographical, economic, cultural, even personal; unilateral action by men and women, ruthlessly attacking the interests of the nation of which they are part in order to gain concessions which they could not gain by discussion or under the law. But, my Lords, civilised society can exist only by discussion and by constitutional methods. I make little distinction, except one of degree, between one kind of unilateral action and another, nor always a distinction, except one of degree, between violent and so-called non-violent methods.
My Lords, it has been my experience that illegal non-violence always escalates into violence. At any rate in my view, stranglehold by economic boycott is every bit as violent as the bullet and the bomb. It is simply the difference between the garotter and the knife man, the blackmailer and the thug. What is wrong with society in my view is the failure of the will to put the interest of the whole of society first, and the failure of the nation to impose its will with sufficient strength of mind on those who take illegal action.
What we happen to have seen in the past three weeks is a political strike. It is not the first political strike we have seen in the history of the nation in recent times. It is not even the first to have had a measure of political success. None the less, a political strike, at least in my judgment, is a felon blow against Parliamentary government. If it fails, it inflicts harm without purpose; but it is worse still if it succeeds, for it means the power is 19 removed from Parliament and rests in the hands of those who control the strike. The political strike in Ulster was not merely a threat to Ulster; it was, I believe, a threat to the United Kingdom as a whole.
Now, my Lords, I know that the alleged justification of the strikers was that there was in existence a covert attempt on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and possibly also of the leadership of the Party of which I am a member, to thrust Ulster out of the United Kingdom against the will of the majority of its citizens. I think it right to say unequivocally and categorically that I know nothing of such an attempt, except by the I.R.A. to whose activities the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor paid a right degree of attention for their responsibility for the frame of mind in which such a strike became possible. And if I did know of such a covert agreement, I should be against it. Such an attempt to thrust Ulster from the United Kingdom against the will of the majority of its inhabitants, if made, would be against the law. It would be against the Constitution Act and it would be against the terms of the Act of 1949.
I find no evidence whatever that Her Majesty's Government intend to break or to amend the Act and its provisions. Until there is evidence that the Government intended to break the law or the Constitution, I can find no justification whatever for defying the Government or Parliament. My Lords, speaking personally now and not as a representative of a Party, I would go even further than that. I know there are people in this country, I know there are people in this House—because I have heard them—who would wish to see the dismemberment of the United Kingdom and a so-called United Ireland, although they would add, honourably and properly, by the agreement of the majority and not otherwise. I know there are such, but I am not among them. I would vote against them on any occasion when the matter came up for discussion.
I am against the dismemberment of the United Kingdom, whether by force or otherwise. I believe that the dismemberment of the United Kingdom by the severence of the Six Counties would be against the interests of the whole British nation, and indeed of the whole 20 group of people of whatever nationality who inhabit what, for geographical reasons, I still persist in calling the British Isles. I believe that with unity in diversity and diversity in unity the interests of these people are, for most practical purposes, one. I believe that we have an obligation to one another to get on with one another. I believe that we have an obligation to one another to support one another in difficulty, and to set up arrangements to settle any differences that there may be without outside interference. And I am against any further partitioning in the British islands, whether by agreement or otherwise.
But even if I were not of this opinion, I must also express the personal view that, if it had not been established before—and I think it has been established again and again; and I have felt it my duty in one part of the House or another to say so earlier—in the predictable future it has been established that the Protestant majority in the Six Counties would never agree to a United Ireland, and that any attempt to persuade them to do so would lead only to the kind of disorder which we have seen in the past few weeks and which, to my certain knowledge, has broken out from time to time ever since 1859. The ultimate tragedy of the past three weeks, at least in my judgment, is that it has made this dismemberment more and not less likely. It has not thrust it further away. The ultimate betrayal by the Ulster Workers' Council is not merely of Parliament but, I believe, of the interests of the Protestant community itself. The effect of the strike on British public opinion has not been to strengthen the Union; the effect on British public opinion has been to weaken the Union.
If the Ulster Workers' Council think, as some of them apparently do, that they can set up a separate State of six, or perhaps four or possibly three, separate counties with the majority community dominating the minority community, without power sharing, I believe that they are suffering from an illusion. Even if such a State could be established and could survive—and I do not believe that it could either be established or, if established, would survive—I believe that it would be a step towards a United Ireland of precisely the kind that the Protestants do not want, imposed by force from 21 Dublin, and it would not be a guarantee of Protestant ascendancy even if that were wished. That is the real measure of my disagreement with Mr. Craig and his friends. I speak as one whose family, at any rate, remembers and will never forget its Irish connections.
I want to say a word in support of what the noble and learned Lord said about those who formed the Executive—about Mr. Faulkner and Mr. Fitt, in particular. I know both men. Of course members of the S.D.L.P., like many members of the community of which they are part, believe in what I do not believe in. They call themselves Republicans, and they do not wish to see the Six Counties remaining for long members of the United Kingdom. And for that reason I regard them as my political opponents, exactly as I regard many Members of this House as my political opponents. My aims are not their aims, nor are my hopes their hopes. But one must start by recognition, in this painful scene, that in Northern Ireland there are two communities with divergent aims and incompatible loyalties. There is nothing immoral about having a loyalty which is incompatible with the status quo. What can be immoral are the methods one uses to give effect to those feelings. There are two communities with incompatible loyalties, as there are Turk and Greek in Cyprus, as there are Moslem and Hindu in parts of the Indian sub-Continent, as there are Jew and Arab in parts of the Middle East. But I would say this. Although their ultimate loyalties may be divergent, it is my passionate belief that their present interest is the same.
There are, after all, only three possible courses in this Province. The first two consist in domination of one community by the other, of Protestants by Catholics—if one may label the two tribes in this unhappy situation by religious denominations—or Catholics by Protestants. The third is power sharing in some form. Power sharing is, of course, not a solution, but it is modus vivendi. I put forward to the House the view that much of the trouble in Ireland is caused by those who want solutions, and that there are too few people who realise that what we really need is a modus vivendi. After all a modus vivendi corresponds to the justice of the case, and I believe it remains in the interests of both communities, whatever their ultimate loyalties, 22 to embrace it unless they are determined on domination, and I believe that domination of either by the other means continued civil war, possibly on a scale compared with which what has passed will turn out to have been only a terrible prelude.
But to return to the Executive and its members, in support of what the noble and learned Lord has said, I share his view that they have kept their side of the bargain. Whether they were S.D.L.P. and therefore my political opponents, or Mr. Faulkner and therefore my political ally—I think both deserve praise for what they have done. They have done what they did with considerable courage, with complete integrity and with extraordinarily steadfast loyalty to one another, which is something new in the history of Northern Ireland. I think this House must say a word not only of sympathy but of commendation to them. There is one thing that I must say to the Government—and I say it with delicacy, because I do not wish to make a Party point about it. I think that the Prime Minister's first broadcast was a total disaster—this talk about "sponging", this inability to understand or enter into the Protestant mind. I beg the Government to realise that that broadcast by itself would have made Mr. Faulkner's position untenable, and I beg them to determine that in future nothing like that will be allowed to happen again.
That leads me to the talk that there has been on this side of the Channel of demand that our troops should be withdrawn. I was glad to hear the noble and learned Lord reject that by implication. I fully understand the growth of feeling in favour of withdrawal. Nobody who can enter into the feelings of parents, for instance, at the present time, who can hardly hear the telephone ring without thoughts crossing their minds, can fail to appreciate the strength of feeling behind such a demand. Therefore, it is no lack of sympathy which leads me to think that such a demand is wholly misguided.
Think first of the position of the troops and whether the knowledge of immediate withdrawal or of withdrawal at a predetermined date would make their position easier of more difficult, safer or more dangerous. If one runs away from one's responsibilities, they have a tendency to 23 run after one and to chase one back on to one's home ground. There are some people, I suppose, to whom it would be no good to point out the possibility of a blood-bath across the Channel. They would say, "Let them fight it out among themselves." Nevertheless, I think it right to tell the House that, according to the best opinion I can form, there would be such a blood-bath. I do not think that there is the smallest value to be attached to the promises we hear to Spare the other side. They are not sparing the other side at the moment, and a single act of provocation could let loose violence compared with which that of 1969, the result of which I was able to see for myself, would be a small thing. Once violence on that scale, in the absence of military forces, had taken place, I tremble to think of the consequences to Ireland, both North and South.
But, my Lords, is it not really short-sighted to think that we are not involved in this ourselves? Let no man think that we can withdraw from this problem. We are not an island unto ourselves. Britain is not an island unto itself. In this matter we are all part of the main. So let them not send to know for whom the bell tolls. Unless we see this thing through, it tolls for us; it tolls for England, it tolls for Scotland, it tolls for Wales, as well as for Ireland. both North and South. Unless we wish to see this beloved island, which has played so great a part in the world's history and for which so many better men and women than we have fought and died, founder at last in a welter of recrimination for want of vision, we must even at this late hour awake to our total involvement in what goes on on the other side of the St. George's Channel.
My Lords, I have only two further short points to make. The noble and learned Lord did not mention the Price sisters. I shall not do so either, but I should just like to say this: when I was last in the House of Commons, it fell to my lot to be opposed to Mr. Roy Jenkins, who was then, as he is now, the Home Secretary. I was then the spokesman with the duty of opposing him on Home Affairs. We had some agreement and perhaps rather more disagreement about home policy, but no-one 24 who read his statement yesterday, and no one who has known him as I have known him across the Floor of another place, can fail to realise that here and in matters such as this we have a humane and conscientious man who has tried to do his duty, and the bloodcurdling threats which are being made against him at the moment will arouse just as much resentment among his political opponents as among his political friends.
My Lords, I only wish to add this: the noble and learned Lord spoke, and I think rightly, of a need for a space of time in which to recover our cool before we take up unbreakable attitudes. I should like to echo that. The only advice that I can give to the House and to my compatriots is not to cease to involve themselves in this problem, but to soldier on, conscious that we are doing our duty as God has given us the light to see our duty.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, the House will be deeply indebted to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack for the terms and the tone in which he introduced the debate. Equally, we are indebted to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, for the way in which he followed. I should like to endorse every word he said about Mr. Jenkins and the difficult decision he has had to take.
I confess that I find it difficult to see the light at the end of the Ulster tunnel. When one visits the Province, one finds so much goodwill and understanding and desire to work together on the part of so many Protestants and Catholics. One finds so many people who are heartily sick of the violence and senseless behaviour of the extremists and those who are not so extreme. Viewed from here in Westminster, it is easy to curse the whole population of Northern Ireland as a people who seem to have imposed upon themselves a death wish and a refusal to help themselves. Nevertheless, I do not believe that we can possibly abdicate our responsibility towards the thousands of decent, innocent citizens of both religions whose only desire is to live in peace. If there is any ultimate solution to the problems of two communities living together in harmony, it must surely be by some form of shared power which will create a new 25 entity to which Catholics and Protestants can both be loyal. The difficulty at the moment is to achieve an entity to which both sectarian sides can feel genuine loyalty. In my view, we must undertake another attempt to make power sharing work.
I think that the first requisite is to examine what has happened to the system over the last few months and to recognise that power sharing has not been given the chance of succeeding which it deserved to have. I am not concerned to apportion blame because it is very easy to be right a long time after the event. However, I think it is worth while examining a number of decisions and events, if only to see whether there would have been some hope of power sharing succeeding if these events had not, for one reason or another, taken place.
I think that the first decision which affected the power sharing system was probably the withdrawal of Mr. Whitelaw as Secretary of State, at the very moment when he was in the process of establishing great confidence in the minds of moderate Protestants and Catholics. As I say, I am not criticising the decision but I think that, historically, it will be shown to have been important. The reasons for the decision are well-known and I believe that the industrial action of the miners must have tipped the balance in Mr. Heath's mind when he was assessing the political priorities at that moment.
The next event—with hindsight—was probably even more important. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has referred to it: it was the timing of the General Election. Everything seems to happen on the 28th of each month: the Assembly was elected on the 28th; various other things have happened on the 28th, and I think that the Executive resigned on the 28th. February 28 was too soon after the setting-up of the Executive for power sharing to have a chance. It not only unsettled Ulster but, by using the normal British electoral system in the 12 Ulster seats, it produced a travesty of representation when compared with the results of the election only a few months earlier for the Assembly, which was carried out among the same electorate using the method of proportional representation. In the Assembly election on June 28, 1973, the 12 United Kingdom Parliamentary con- 26 stituencies each returned from five to eight Members to the Assembly, using the single transferable vote. Seven hundred and twenty-two thousand people voted. Of those, 87.6 per cent. elected the 78 Members and only 12.4 per cent. voted for defeated candidates and were therefore not represented. This gave a majority in favour of power sharing.
In the United Kingdom General Election, under the system we use here, with 717,000 voting, practically the same number of people (51.4 per cent.) elected the 12 Northern Ireland Members of Parliament, 48.6 per cent. were not represented at all in the British Parliament, and Brian Faulkner, with 37 per cent. of the total votes, secured no representation at all. This totally undemocratic result, in my view, dealt a body blow to power sharing, and it shows how vital it is for us to consider the necessity for democracy to be based on a system of representation which is in proportion to the votes cast by the electorate.
This result played straight into the hands of the so-called Loyalists, and renewed their confidence in their ability to win their political ends by use of a political strike to undermine the Constitution. I shall not comment on the way in which Mr. Paisley and others exploited the situation. I can only say that the protocol by which Members of this House do not criticise Members of another place is getting to straining point, if not breaking point.
I now turn to the future. I believe that our clear objective is to make one more attempt to get power sharing adopted as a viable system. But to do this I believe that we must secure a firm military grip before any real political solution becomes possible. I say that because I do not believe that people will come forward to operate any form of power sharing while the I.R.A., the Provisionals, or the Protestant extremists are vying with one another to dominate the scene. I believe that the Security Forces, and particularly the Army, must be given the fullest power, and the fullest support, in establishing a firm grip on law and order—a phrase I hate, but nevertheless I think it is probably accurate to describe it in that way. There must be a clear objective, and an uncompromising method of tackling terrorism and rooting out quite ruthlessly all terrorists and 27 their collaborators. No tributes are too high for the way in which the Army and Security Forces have behaved in the last few years. But I get the impression when I go to Northern Ireland that they are really fighting with one hand behind their backs most of the time. When the Security Forces are known to have full political backing to root out terrorism I believe that the public will begin to come to terms with the situation and fall in behind the re-establishment of the rule of law. This calls for determination and resolution such as I regret we have not had in the last few weeks.
The noble Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, referred to the Prime Minister's broadcast. I do not think that it was the "sponging" reference that really worried most people, but rather that nothing came over which indicated that the Government had a real policy to deal with the situation in Ulster. This surely is a time when what matters is resolute leadership to re-establish the rule of law and to say so loud and clear. This is why I personally deprecate any talk of withdrawing our troops or abdicating our responsibilities. I understand the sincere sentiments, held by people in good faith, that it would be better to get out, that it would be better to set a definite date for withdrawal, and so on. These views are sincerely held, and I would say to these people, many of them in my own Party, and in other Parties, that they should think carefully of the effect of such opinions and such advocacy. I shall not reiterate what the noble Lord, Lord Hailsham, said about the troops, but any of us who served in the war knows what this kind of thing means, particularly to those who have to give the orders and to those who have to obey them.
We have to be clear as to the enemy we are fighting. We are not fighting our kith and kin, or our comrades. The enemy consists of those who would wreck the constitutional authority for their own sectarian, political, or simply their own selfish ends. These people are much more akin to the Mafia. They are bent on the destruction of society. If society is to be protected, then these organisations have to be eliminated or neutralised as one has to do in war. There is no half-way house in protecting the foundations of a free society from anarchists whose 28 aim is to destroy. I do not believe that we can build a new political framework while the foundations of society are under constant attack. I do not believe that this is a time for kid-glove treatment. It is no time for the slogan that I heard when I was in Ulster a few weeks ago, of "taking a terrorist home to tea", or for going soft on internment or detention.
The firmer our resolution to secure the rule of law, and the firmer our determination to support the Security Forces in establishing it, the shorter will be the period before we can make headway with a political solution. I hope that there will be an end to talk about withdrawal, because that only gives new hope of success to the extremists. Certainly the Provisionals would claim it as a success and would strengthen their grip and their intimidation on their own Catholics, and the extreme Protestants would see it as an opportunity to settle the question of sectarian domination once and for all. It frightens me, because I believe that is getting too close to the blood bath that I believe would take place.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY of STATE, NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE (LORD DONALDSON OF KiNGSBRIDGE)
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves the point he is on, I should like to deny absolutely categorically the suggestion that the Security Forces are fighting with one hand behind their backs. I have denied this every time I have got up in this House, which is not very often, and I should like to do it again.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, I can only tell the noble Lord that I base my remarks on one evening when I was there, one of the bad evenings in Belfast. You can say that this is hearsay if you like, but a number of people told me that there were five soldiers, fully armed, in sight while a bus was being hi-jacked, but they did not move. I know the British Army. British troops do move in those circumstances unless there is some good reason holding them back. I make this point not as a Party political point, but to make quite sure that the fullest support is always available to the Security Forces. I think that it is worth checking to see that that is in fact the situation.
29 I think that the Government are quite right to undertake some form of direct rule, and I think that the proposals that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has made to-day are welcome, but there should also be a series of conferences with all parties (not just political Parties), with individuals outside the Parties, and with anybody who has a contribution to make. This could take some considerable time. I am not going to suggest that we want an Ulster Kissinger, but there must be a great deal of consultation and toing and froing if we are to try to establish, as I should like, some understanding that will lead to a viable system of power sharing. If there were such talks aimed at getting Ulstermen of all opinions to come together to try to find a common solution—and it must be Ulstermen, it cannot be done from here—even if it is a compromise solution, I believe that that process of negotiation, consultation, discussion, might throw up some new leaders, who are wanted very badly in Ulster.
I think that it is important to recognise that there is no quick solution to Northern Ireland. Nor is there a chance of settling the Northern Ireland problem once and for all. You cannot do that. You have to go step by step and we are going to have reversals, but I believe that there is hope in getting people to talk, and to talk about power sharing. People believe that the Ulster Workers' Council strike was against power sharing. My information from Northern Ireland is that it was not anything of the kind. It was a strike against Sunningdale, as it had been presented, by the forces who wanted to upset Sunningdale. We must undertake at least one more operation to make power sharing work. If we can succeed, we shall not be talking of withdrawing troops, we shall be talking of handing over the security of Northern Ireland to the people of Northern Ireland. When we can get to that stage, then I think we are on the way to some success.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTER-BURY
My Lords, we are discussing a tragedy but, having listened to the three speeches so far, I should like to say that I have never been more proud to be a Member of your Lordships' House than I have been in the last hour or so, listening to the courage, modera 30 tion, patience, and wisdom with which statesmen have been discussing this tragedy for Ireland and for our country. The tragedy is that what seemed to be the near success of a policy advocated by two successive British Governments has run down in failure. I think that again and again in Irish affairs there is for all of us this problem. We are so used to discussing the affairs of mankind in terms of reason and logic, but, again and again, we have to rediscover the fact that the affairs of this particular human area are not for reason and logic but are for feeling and intuition. We think we have discovered that, and then it is proved to us that we have not discovered it and we start all over again. That has been our experience in the last fortnight. I referred to "feeling" as a guide. I have had many feelings on this subject and one of my feelings, as I am sure noble Lords realise, is my own disappointment that, whereas during my years in office I have been devoting myself in this country and in other parts of the world to the good relations of Protestants and Catholics—and not without a good deal of fruit in many places—there is this one tragic spot where it does not happen, because there are people who do not want it to happen. I feel that acutely.
On my visits to Ireland in the last two or three years, I have always felt admiration for the British soldiers. Again and again I have felt acutely that the Catholic minority in Ulster really has had a grievance for years. But, more recently, the feeling which I have had, more overwhelmingly than anything else, is the feeling with and for the people who just cannot take more in the way of bombardment and murder. That is the acute feeling that one gets, and I believe it is the existence of that feeling in Northern Ireland which caused it to be that the foolish political strike had an emotional and unthinking degree of support from masses of the population which took some of us by surprise. We now have a pause and no one quite knows what will happen next.
I want to say a few words about what seems to me to be requisite if the pause is to be used fruitfully. First, I am sure that there must be an end of talk about withdrawing the British Army. The talk about it still goes on in a good many 31 places, and the most foolish form for that kind of talk to take is that which says, "Look here, if you do not behave we will withdraw the troops". That is about as foolish a negation of statesmanship as anything can be. A part of the United Kingdom has no right to say to any other part of the United Kingdom, "If you do not behave better, the protection of law and order will be withdrawn".
A second requisite, I believe, in the pause or cooling-off period—call it what you will—is this. We should avoid, so far as possible, the unwitting use of words which stir emotion. Words, which for a month or two are good words, can quickly become emotive and explosive. One such word is "Sunningdale". It may be that a fair power-sharing plan not unlike Sunningdale. may emerge, but the word "Sunningdale" is surely out, because it has become an emotive word, like "Pope", or "Rome", or "hell" or words of that kind. We must avoid the use of terms which rekindle emotion. It is a pity that we have to do this, but there it is.
There is a third consideration for the period of pause. It seems to me to be desirable beyond words that the production of any new policy concerning Northern Ireland should, so far as possible, be bipartisan. By that I do not mean that the Front Benches here or in another place cease to criticise one another, when, in fact, there is a good deal to criticise. But I believe it may require greater wisdom and unity than one Party of itself can produce to ensure that the problem really gets its best from Parliament and from the United Kingdom generally. Fortunately for the prospects of bipartisanship in the future, each Government has had its successes and its blunders. As has been said already today, it did not help when the former Prime Minister called an Election in February, and it certainly did not help when the present Prime Minister made his "spongers" speech. I firmly agree with the view that that is just not the way to talk about Irish affairs, and talk of that sort really must stop. But just because each Party has had its successes and its blunders, it is surely not impossible for whatever new approach emerges from the pause to be bipartisan.
32 My final point is that, in the future, whatever moderate conciliatory opinion there is in Northern Ireland should have its chance of being noted and reported. In the previous phase there was a good deal of talk about the silent majority, about the concept that it was only a minority of extremists who were stirring up trouble and the vast majority of people were out for a peaceful solution, and so on. I believe that the last fortnight has tragically shown that that picture is not true. None the less, there are moderate people in Northern Ireland; there are people longing for conciliatory policies; there are Protestants and Catholics ready to work together and to pray together.
In the former phase, I felt it was unfortunate that, while the media, again and again, reported every calamity, it did not give enough publicity to the very courageous conciliatory efforts that go on. I think, for instance, of the Corrymeela Institute, with which some noble Lords may be familiar. Let moderate opinion in Northern Ireland have its chance for expression, because that moderate opinion, whatever its quantity may be, is certainly there and is ready to be evoked, and the tide of fortune sometimes turns.
But like other noble Lords who have spoken, I can say nothing whatever to mitigate the sense of tragedy. I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsharn, that we, as a United Kingdom are all in this and we must all persevere with the task that God has given to us. None of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the most reverend Primate said that he felt proud to be a Member of this House after listening to the first three speakers, and I feel even more proud having listened to them and then to the most reverend Primate. On this occasion a Back-Bencher must not attempt a far-reaching analysis of the situation, and unless he has—as I have not—some esoteric nostrum to propound he does better to support one of the main lines of action which are before us. In fact, I want in the clearest possible way to support the line that the present Government, and their predecessors, have taken. In broad terms that is where I stand this afternoon, and after hearing the speeches 33 so far I have every reason to suppose that as they have begun so they will continue In the light of after-knowledge, that does not mean that every word that has fallen from the Government—or for that matter from the Opposition—has been inspired. That would be too much to expect.
There was a certain criticism, in quite an affable way, by the noble Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, and by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, in relation to the broadcast of the Prime Minister, I will say only that the Prime Minister was faced with an extraordinarily tough situation. To quote The Times correspondent in Belfast this morning:What happened was not just a General Strike, the inevitable protest of an angry majority; it was, in effect, a coup d'etat."I heard the noble Lord speaking on the radio the other day to great effect, as he did to-day, saying that it was utterly unconstitutional. It was inevitable, therefore, that the Prime Minister should speak with extreme severity. On balance, I feel that he spoke in the right way. Whether every word was exactly perfect, we can leave to others to decide.
The difficulties facing the Prime Minister and his colleagues—and indeed facing all of us—were mirrored in what the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said, in that we are all in this together. There is no doubt about that, and the difficulties are enormous. But I hope that the Government, supported by the Opposition, will pursue indomitably their decision to make a success of the Constitution Act which, as we know, contains this essential feature of power sharing; and I am much encouraged by what has been said by the Leaders this afternoon. Having myself—for what that is worth—supported power sharing under various names for the last five years, I am not likely to desert it now, nor, I believe, are the Government, although we must recognise that everything has become harder as a result of recent events.
It is not difficult—although it is so far impossible in this House—to find people who are in favour of pulling out and letting Ulster stew in its own juice, of making arrangements for independence and letting them get on as best they can. We have not heard that line of nonsense peddled this afternoon and 34 I hope that we do not have it during this two-day debate. But we should be deceiving ourselves if we did not admit that there are large numbers of people holding such opinions, although I think their numbers may be exaggerated. Such a policy is, in my eyes, not only imprudent—as has already been explained more than once—but morally contemptible. With a great nation like ours there are vital interests, not least our national honour.
Sir Winston Churchill once wrote that integral communities, like human beings, are dominated by the instinct of self-preservation. But that was not by any means the whole of his doctrine. Why he became leader of the whole free world was because during the war he elevated our cause of national self-preservation into one identical with universal freedom. If one goes back to Sir Edward Grey—I suppose that not many people here saw him and I never did—and refers to his speech which persuaded us to enter the war in 1914, one finds that he stressed, on the one hand, our vital interests, and, on the other hand, our honour. I wi11 not say more about the vital interests involved, or the vital damage that would be done in the near future if we tried to come out of Northern Ireland, but if we think of it in terms of honour we will see that it would be a tremendous betrayal.
My Lords, again and again, spokesmen on behalf of various Governments have said that Ulster is part of the United Kingdom and that its citizens are entitled to the full protection of the law. In his slightly controversial broadcast which I mentioned earlier, Mr. Wilson said that the Government are standing by those who support the Constitution and I remain confident that that pledge will be honoured. I hope that no one will think I am referring only to the Catholic minority, though for obvious reasons they come first to mind. Obviously, our obligation extends equally to each individual Ulsterman whatever his religion, or lack of it.
The majority of Ulstermen, at any rate for the time being, seem actually to want Independence, and the Protestant community as a whole might also come to want it. But I do not think we should assume for a moment that that situation has been, or will be, reached. In that case, one could argue that the majority 35 could look after themselves. But in such a situation, which is far from arising but is, never the less, something which is under consideration, the position of the Catholic minority would be fraught with grave peril. When we talk about the "blood bath", we do not mean a nice sort of battle for the heavyweight championship of the world fought on equal terms; we mean a minority liquidated by the majority. I do not think that we want any mistake made about that.
In an article to-day in The Times—the same one that I quoted from—by an excellent correspondent in Belfast, there is the heading:Is Ulster heading towards a Protestant dictatorship?It is the central article in the middle left-hand page of The Times. While we hope that that possibility does not come about, it is something that is bound to come under discussion if one is talking in realities. No one can say for certain whether that position would occur if Britain pulled out, but the likelihood, with or without the "blood bath", is something that is so unspeakable that we must not even consider a course that would have such a dire result. In such a situation—and I am sure that we have to look at it in this way—who would be leading the Protestants? For 50 years the Catholics suffered discrimination, which I will not dwell on now—I have referred to it often enough in this House. But during the last five years strong efforts were made, first by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, who I am glad to think will follow me to-day, and later by the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, and later still by Mr. Faulkner, who tried to undo the mischief or the disparities of the previous 50 years.
For the moment in the Ulster scene. Lord O'Neill has been swept away; Lord Moyola has been swept away and Mr. Faulkner has been swept away. Why have they been swept away? It is because they were trying to do justice to the Catholics. Whether or not that remark is tactful, there is no doubt about its accuracy. Therefore we have to assume that those gentlemen who were running the strike with certain politicians, to whom I do not desire to give any special publicity but whose names will readily occur, will be the people who would be 36 the leaders if we handed over matters to the Protestant community at this precise moment.
My Lords, I am not saying that events are quite as bad as all that, because I still have great confidence in the political sagacity of Mr. Faulkner and his colleagues. I join in all the tributes which have been paid to him, to Mr. Fitt and to the other brave men there, as well as the brave men who have gone over from this country, including Members of this House sitting in the Chamber this afternoon, who have also joined in the efforts—and I must not neglect the contributions made by the Leaders of Southern Ireland. To take Mr. Faulkner's assessment, it is clear that he misjudged the strike, an action which took even him by surprise, and it is no good offering my thoughts about Protestant opinion.
So I think we must assume that the best hope is that Mr. Faulkner and those who think like him on the Protestant side will once again come to represent the Protestant community. Whether that will turn out to be so we cannot tell, but whatever happens we must not have any kind of election now; that would be suicidal. To have an election at this moment, when opinion is much inflamed and when the worst possible Protestant leaders are likely to emerge, would be throwing away both our interests and our honour. So I entirely support the general approach taken by the Government, which is to remain firm. If I may use the expression to them, I hope they will "faint not, nor fear"; and I have no supposition whatever that they will involve themselves in any act of betrayal.
Now it would be agreeable to me to sit down at that point, not having won any enormous ovation but at any rate without any visible signs of disapproval. But as the question of the Price sisters has come up—it has been touched on by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, though he did not pursue it very far, and it has been touched on indirectly by at least one other speaker—I, too, must say a few words about these young women; I cannot in conscience avoid doing so. I refer to these two particular hunger strikers because they are at the centre of the present anguished controversy. I have not visited them. although I know at least one Member of the House, the noble Lord, Lord 37 Brockway, has visited them several times. I have visited two of the other hunger strikers, if only because, as they refused to wear prison clothes, they were not allowed any other visits; but I have not visited the Price sisters.
Now in this House—and there are quite a few Members who have had to listen to me on the subject of Ireland quite often—I have never said a good word about the I.R.A. I have never done that either here or elsewhere, and I doubt if I ever will. Mr. Cosgrave rightly called attention—and this point was well made by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor—to the grave damage which the I.R.A. have done to the Sunningdale agreement by their recent activities. Over the last 30 years they have done a great deal of harm whenever there has been a promising initiative, but I should think that they have never done more harm in a short space of time than in the last few months. Their crimes and follies are in the minds of many of us who have followed Irish affairs, and are certainly in mine. The Home Secretary, for reasons which he has explained very candidly, was faced with an immensely difficult decision. Personally—and this is not a point that can be made elsewhere, and I say it, I hope, inoffensively—I do not know why this particular decision is still regarded as a kind of personal matter for the Home Secretary. It seems to me a kind of hangover from the days of capital punishment, when it was assumed that the prerogative of mercy lay in the decision of the Home Secretary. But here is a matter which can affect the relations between this country and Ireland for years to come, and I do not see at all why one particular Minister should bear the whole responsibility—and in this particular case I think the point is not unimportant.
The Home Secretary has explained in his statement that he would expect that most of the long sentences of these young women would be served near their homes in Northern Ireland. So the intention is that they will go back there; and from any rumours that have reached me, I think the suggestion has actually been made to them that they will be able to go back by the end of the year. That, I believe, has actually been suggested; but, at any rate, most of their sentence will be served in Northern Ireland. If they are going back there eventually, 38 why not now? What is the reason for not sending them back now? Are people going to die because of the difference between June and December? You may say that they are very unreasonable. That is true; they are very unreasonable—very sincere, but very unreasonable. But does that mean that the Home Secretary or the Government have got to be very unreasonable too? The special reason given by the Home Secretary is that he cannot give way to intimidation. I think one has to look very carefully at that argument. What does it mean, that you cannot give way to intimidation? It means that because of the I.R.A., through these deplorable threats, these girls must die. Because somebody else does something, they must die. I think the more you look at it, the more inhumane it appears. However, that is the argument that is made out, at least to me.
Now I know the Home Secretary. I cannot say for certain, but I should think that I know him at least as well as anybody who has spoken so far in this debate, and as well as most people who are to speak on this subject. I have known him since he was a young man, and I have the highest regard for his courage and his integrity; so do not let us have any differences on that matter. But I feel that, faced with this difficult decision, he has up till now provided the wrong answer, and I hope and pray that the Home Secretary will find a way—I implore him to do so—to put matters right before it is too late.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD HARRIS OF GREENWICH)
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I ask him a question? There are, as I think he indicated, more than these two women undergoing hunger strike at the moment. Is he aware that one of the people who was on hunger strike has now said that, as a result of the Home Secretary's statement, he will stop his hunger strike? He has now done so, and is taking food in the normal way. May I also ask the noble Earl whether he would join others in appealing to these young women, and in asking their supporters outside to appeal to them, to stop destroying their own lives?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the last point is easily disposed of. I have already recommended that both to the young men I saw in prison and to others; so although the noble Lord won some applause for that remark, may I say that my answer to it is extremely easy.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, may I, too, ask the noble Earl a question? He has said that if the girls die there are several people whom he would have to blame. What about the girls themselves? Does he not apportion any blame to them? How does he justify their attitude?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am in the hands of the House. I could be cross-examined, I suppose, for many hours over this, but I think that perhaps one more answer is all that the House would wish me to deliver in this situation. The answer is that I do not justify the action of the girls. I say that they are being unreasonable. They are very sincere, but they are doing the wrong thing; and if the noble Baroness knew me at all well she would know that that was my attitude without even bothering to ask me.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, I hope the noble Earl will forgive me if I do not follow him on the subject which we have just been discussing but rather just say how delighted I was that he should have said that he hoped the troops will stay in Northern Ireland. Up till last week, my Lords, I always regarded August, 1969, as the watershed in Northern Ireland's aiffairs. That was the day when the troops marched in in aid of the civil power, and that was the day when direct rule should have been imposed, not two and a half years later. The story might have been very different had there not been that dual control for some two and a half years. However, I fear that that watershed has now been passed. The recent political strike has produced, as the Americans would say, "a whole new ball game", and we do not quite know at this moment where it is going to lead us.
My Lords, when I was jotting down some words this morning I was tempted 40 to read some extracts from the speech I made on March 13 in the debate on the humble Address, but I decided not to weary the House with my suggestions. Had it been possible to defer appointing the Council of Ireland we might have saved the frail vessel of power sharing. We might have; but we could not for various reasons, and so that frail vessel sank. To return for one second to the troops, on May 15 Mr. Dalyell, in his wisdom wrote a letter to The Times asking that the troops in Northern Ireland (if I remember his words) "should be withdrawn in a matter of days". Days, my Lords! This was just before the Protestant strike. Heaven knows what would have happened if his words had been followed! That caused me to write a reply on the following day which the Editor of The Times was kind enough to publish. I pointed out, among other things, the great risk that that small pocket of Catholics in East Belfast, next door to the shipyard, would be in if the Army were withdrawn. Historians, who look at these things from a long-term point of view, may be surprised when the Republic of Ireland has been agitating for a united Ireland for the last 50 years, that when that moment appears almost to be reached, they beg the British to keep the British Army in Northern Ireland. I merely mention that en passant, but it is rather extraordinary.
We all must be willing to believe that we are wrong, and I am willing to believe that I am wrong. It is just possible, when middle-class moderates have failed, that extremists could get together and settle their differences, and it could be that in certain circumstances this situation could pass over without there being a bloody civil war. That is not my view, my Lords. That is not the course I am advocating; but I am willing to believe that I could be wrong, though in my view it would be a terrible risk to take and I fully support everything the Lord Chancellor and my noble friend Lord Hailsham have said on this subject. But, right or wrong, it would be regarded as yet another case of perfidious Albion. We had the Hunt Report—and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is sitting over there—at the time when Mr. Callaghan was dealing with these appallingly difficult problems. That in turn was followed by Mr. Callaghan's White Paper; and his 41 appeal in that White Paper, to the people of Northern Ireland in general and to the Protestants in particular, was "We are making these changes. We know that you are angry with us for abolishing the B men, but you can rely on the British Army in future". Well, the Labour Party are back in power again. I do not know whether they are yet willing—obviously they are not—to tear up Mr. Callaghan's White Paper. It would be a gross betrayal of what was said at that time if all that were to be buried and forgotten.
I now move on to another subject. I do so with some delicacy, because I do not want to be accused of getting into the same sort of trouble as the Prime Minister did the other night, so I will put it on a slightly different line. When Mr. Heath visited Northern Ireland he explained that if the Protestants broke away from Britain they would not get a penny. That was direct talk, was it not? No one believed a word of it. In December 1968, when things were apparently very serious—of course they were but a tea-party compared with what has happened since—I went on television and broadcast to the nation, explaining that we were at that time getting subsidies from Britain of approximately £100 million. To-day, that figure seems ludicrously small.
Everybody was furious, and nobody believed a word of it. The Ulster M.P.s down the corridor attacked me in private for giving away how much Ulster was subsidised by Westminster, and, as I say, the main tragedy was that absolutely nobody was willing to believe it.
Shortly afterwards I had a talk with a Methodist clergyman. I have related this story before, but I have actually written it down and if your Lordships could bear with me since, it is quite short, it will demonstrate the Ulster mentality on this subject of help from London. "Clergyman: 'Prime Minister, I have a solution for our problems'. Self: 'Please tell me.' Clergyman: We should become a province of Scotland where our problems would be understood.'" That was before the days of Mr. Tam Dalyell. "Self: 'We are talking in an agricultural constituency. Who, for instance, would pay our agricultural subsidies?' Clergyman: 'Surely the farmers get paid by Stormont?' Self: 42 'Yes, but the money comes from London.'Clergyman: (incredulously) 'But I know a farmer who gets his payments from Stormont.' Self: 'Yes, but Stormont can only pay because we are financed by London. This is why the South of Ireland cannot afford our agricultural subsidies.' Clergyman: (astonished) 'Well, so many of our Protestants are Presbyterians; perhaps the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland would support us financially?'".
One of the extraordinary facts, my Lords, is that in the old days so many Protestants said to me, "Of one thing we can be sure. We don't trust the English hut, by God, we can depend on the Scotch!" I mention my next point with some hesitation because he is a great personal friend of mine, but there was Mr. David Steele, a son of the manse, advocating the withdrawal of British troops. That must have been a terrible shock to the Protestants of Ulster. They have seen him compering those hymns on Sunday night from Scotland, Songs of Praise. He is very highly regarded in Northern Ireland and yet he has come out and asked that the troops should be withdrawn—or rather that a date should be set for the troops to be withdrawn. This must, as I say, have been quite a shock to noble Lords.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
I make my next suggestion to my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge with the greatest amount of caution, but it is just a vague suggestion. Could there be a referendum later this year containing proposals for consideration? I mention two proposals as a possibility: first, are the people of Northern Ireland in favour of continued union with Britain on certain defined principles? Or, secondly, would they like independence without assistance? I put this forward very tentatively and, of course, for much later this year. I fear that what the month of May has shown is that any proposal made by anybody in London is subject to a Protestant veto and that is something which we cannot ignore in the future. They are prepared to exercise this veto even to the extent of wrecking their own economy.
43 It may not be generally known that despite the appalling difficulties through which we lived last year, the Ministry of Commerce had their best year ever in attracting new industry to Northern Ireland because, despite the bombs and the bullets, productivity in Northern Ireland factories was so much higher than it was in Britain that international industrialists were willing to come to Northern Ireland. At the height of the strike, I had lunch with an international industrialist in London. He has a large factory in Northern Ireland. He had—and I must put it in the past tense—plans for a large extension to his factory. I regret that the effect that this strike will have on international industrialists will be severe, but I regret also that there are people in Northern Ireland who were responsible for the strike who just do not care, and that is something that must be borne in mind. None of those people has ever faced the problem of trying to attract new industry to Northern Ireland. They have not had to go to America twice a year for 15 years, as I have done, or have this terrible battle against unemployment. They did not realise what they were doing, but they have done it and they would do it again. This is something which must be borne in mind.
May I add that there is in fact nothing new about Ulster Nationalism—this "new" phrase coined by Mr. Rees. It has always been there in the background, and I had to part company from Mr. Craig many years ago because he became more and more wedded to the idea of U.D.I.—to such an extent that he clambered on to an Ulster platform (and this had nothing at all to do with Northern Ireland) and supported Mr. Ian Smith when he declared U.D.I. So we must not think there is anything new about this idea of Protestant Nationalism. It has always been there underground: it has merely come to the top recently.
Your Lordships may have recently noticed on your television screens the Ulster flag instead of the Union Jack; and again there is nothing actually new about that. As so often happens in Northern Ireland, there is a rather strange story behind this. A rather liberal Minister in the Ulster Cabinet some 12 or 15 years ago, in order to show that Northern 44 Ireland was a country, as it were, slightly different from the rest of the United Kingdom, decided to fly the Ulster flag on top of Parliament Buildings at Stormont and outside the Ulster Office in London. That Ulster flag in London is still flying there to-day, but there was such a storm of Protestant protest about the Ulster flag flying over Stormont—because they regarded the Union Jack as the Ulster flag in those days—that it had to be hauled down and replaced by the Union Jack. To-day, 15 years later, those same people are now rejecting the Union Jack and wish instead to adopt the Ulster flag. I tell that story merely to show how impossible it is for any Englishman to understand the Northern Irish mind.
The position to-day, as I see it, is as follows: I failed, my successors failed, the Conservative and Labour Administrations failed. What should happen now? What would the Americans do about it to-day? They would send Dr. Kissinger to Northern Ireland. What should we do? I suggest that we have an "anglicised version" of Dr. Kissinger in the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. Before your Lordships laugh this suggestion out of court, what are the advantages of it? The noble Lord is not a Catholic, a Protestant, a Conservative or a Socialist. He would bring a fresh mind into an appallingly difficult situation. I am glad that every speaker so far this afternoon has agreed with the suggestion that there should now be a period of calm in Northern Ireland before anything new is announced. This period could well be filled by the noble Lord's ample frame. Do I hear it said that there is no comparison here with the Middle East?—and here I am back on the Kissinger tack. But there is. Not only are we dealing with two peoples who dislike each other, unfortunately, just as much as do the Arabs and the Jews, but there are even Catholic and Protestant prisoners in Long Kesh, so that the Protestants want the Protestants out and the Catholics want the Catholics out. Therefore, in a situation of appalling difficulty—one which the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has described as tragic, when for the first time Protestant and Catholic ministers were sitting together round the same table—nothing should be ruled out of account as a possibility. I would ask the noble Lord, 45 Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, to pass on to his right honourable friend Mr. Rees the plea that he would consider the possibility of bringing on to the scene some fresh person such as the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and report back to London on the possibility of bringing about some new project which might have greater success than the ones previously tried.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, first of all I should like to apologise to your Lordships' House because I shall not be able to stay to the end of the debate since I have to attend an early sitting tomorrow morning of the Lands Tribunal in North Devon.
Listening to the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, I have been reminded of one of the earliest stories to come out of one of the no-go areas. A man held up at one of the I.R.A. stop-points was asked, "Are you a Catholic or a Protestant?" He replied, "I am neither: I am a Jew." The first fellow said, "No, no messing around—are you a Catholic or Protestant?" Again, the man said that he was a Jew. The first man then said. "Now this is your last chance before I bump you off. Are you a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew?"
Every speaker so far has seemed to indicate that a person holding views like mine on this situation is obviously one of the lowest things which has crawled out from under the stones. We have been debating this subject in your Lordships' House for four and half years and I have inflicted on your Lordships about half a dozen speeches and probably twice that number of Questions. In addition, I have asked every year a Question for Written Answer, asking the Government how much has been spent by the Treasury on Northern Ireland during the previous year.
I have been attacked by both tribal factions and my opinions have not changed, though I recognise that those opinions could be wrong. All I know is that a couple of Members in another place have now subscribed to a course which I advocated to your Lordships over four years ago. I said then that I did not think that we in this country understood the Irish and that probably we never would. I repeat now what I said then. Speaking as an English Catholic, I am 46 quite certain that if at the Reformation this country had remained Catholic, the Fenians—for such is their antipathy to this country—would have gone Protestant. During the course of its history, this country has absorbed Huguenots, Jutes, Picts, Angles—the lot. But across the water (it must be something in the air) the Orange tribe and the Fenian tribe do not seem to want the other tribe to exist. Surely that is the lesson we have failed to learn over 300 years. You cannot tell extremists of one side that people on the other side are human beings; and the cost of the consequences of this is being borne by the unfortunate taxpayer in this Island.
Apart from that background, I have also become critical of the way in which our well-wishing politicans have treated our soldiers. In the first place they were sent in, on the face of it and as I understand it, to save the Fenians from the Orangemen. I think I am right in saying that the first casualty was inflicted on a soldier defending the Catholic unity flats against the elements in the Lower Shankhill Road.
But, quite apart from that, of course the I.R.A. propaganda has made our soldiers out to be more brutal than the Russians in Hungary. Recently I received from an American Irish priest in Baltimore a cyclostyled diatribe of lies which takes a lot of beating. I admit I opposed the sending in of the Army to begin with. I said then—and I still believe—that it could have been a job for riot police, but once there the soldiers should have been allowed to do the job properly. To those who have seen their sons spat at and vilified by both sides over there, and not being allowed to hit back, it has seemed a little unfair, to put it mildly. That is only one side, the action on the streets. I have reason to believe that more Army discontent has been caused by the so-called legal proceedings against, for example, Second Lieutenant Willoughby and Corporal Foxglove. Those things rankle far more than I think the majority of people in either House realise.
The Marxist I.R.A. and Fascist Orangemen have a lot in common—and here I am following on what the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, said. It was only last week that the Provisional spokesman in Dublin put out "feelers", as the 47 B.B.C. quoted it, to reach an agreement with the Ulster Workers' Council. There is the possibility raised by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, of what you might call a Paisley/Provo Axis. Many people would find that hard to believe, but just remember what happened at the beginning of the last war. Nobody thought that Germany and Communist Russia would reach the agreement that they did. As has already been mentioned, Mr. Cosgrave never spoke a truer word than when he reiterated that it was the I.R.A.'s fault that caused all the trouble that we have had in the past fortnight—that is, the Protestant reaction to the violence of the Provisionals. But the Dublin Government could have done much more to help earlier. Your Lordships will remember that about three years ago Parliament was recalled in September. I had an old schoolfriend of mine over here (he was then a Member of the Dail) and at tea in this House he said, "The Dail are mad, only Connor and I are not for marching on the Border". The Dail could have started to learn a good deal earlier the lessons which we think it has learned now. It has taken too long to come to the position it is in at the moment.
On the other side, we know that for years my co-religionists in the North have been treated like serfs. My noble friend Lord Cromarty told me that when serving there in the Seaforths he reckoned that in 1927 they had one to one and a half per cent. Catholics. Because an officer or N.C.O. had the temerity to criticise the way the majority were treating the minority, the locals referred to the Seaforths as the "Pope's Bodyguard". No one of course can see a certain Northern Ireland politician performing on the "Box" without understanding how repulsive that particular crowd of thugs is to anyone brought up in the liberal English tradition.
When I went to stay with the then G.O.C. Northern Ireland in the early days of the present troubles, I was amazed to find how pro-the-minority the feeling in the Army was. I soon learned the reason. But of course the Provisionals by their murders and brutality, in places like the Creagan, the Bogside and parts of Ulster, swung the feeling the other way, as they intended. They provoke the Army Ito the maximum, get a reaction 48 and then come forward and pose as the protectors to the Catholic population.
All this is "old hat"—300 years old. My only point is to say again that I do not think we will ever understand either of the factions. I feel that the longer we stay there the more both sides will make use of us. Why worry about blowing up a building, a pub, a factory or a shop, if you know that the British taxpayer is going to underwrite your loss and provide compensation? When it comes to compensation, another of the main criticisms or worries in the Army to-day, especially among the officers who are fighting the cases of their men who have been wounded—and some to such an extent that they are cabbages—is the inadequacy of the compensation they get when compared to the thousands of pounds (£80,000 was the headline a couple of days ago) awarded to someone injured in a motor accident in this country. I should like to think that, now we are having this difficult time where everything depends so much on what the Army can do in Northern Ireland, that facet of compensation should be looked into again. Let us remember another thing—often the wounded soldier has to go back to a court in Northern Ireland to assess such compensation. What happens then? If is becomes known that he was in a certain action and that certain things took place. he or his family in this country are marked for the Provos to get hold of. The Provos have threatened a lot of people that way.
After one of my speeches several years ago, the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Main, said that I took the line I did only because I wanted to get my son out of serving in Northern Ireland which he was doing then for the second or third time. With great respect. I took that rather as an insult. I would remind your Lordships that some soldiers are now on their sixth tour of duty in Northern Ireland. After a supplementary question, in which I suggested that not all the soldiers were happy in the relationship they had with our politicians, I was given a dressing down outside the Chamber by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, for even suggesting that such a thing could exist. As it happened, not long afterwards a Captain Cecil of the Grenadier Guards resigned (according to the Press) mainly to be able to say 49 out loud what many of us had been hearing for a long time. Some three and a half years ago I suggested that we should let the Irish fix their own business, and it was heard in silence and a certain amount of enmity. But the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, kindly came up to me afterwards and said that a lot of groundswell where he came from agreed with what I had put forward. Now, some three and a half years later, I see that two Members of his Party in another place have produced a lot of signatures in that direction. I hope that the noble Lord will not mind my being a bit suspicious and cynical, because I feel that some of the Marxist wing of his Party, which reduced our defences so dangerously last time they were in power, might use the withdrawal of our troops from Ulster as an excuse to do even more and irreparable damage.
We know from experience what we started when we gave in to strikes called for political ends. Since that method of blackmail has received the blessing of a certain section of the country, the lesson has not been lost elsewhere. I do not think it matters a damn how the leaders arise or are elected. The lesson they have learned is that a comparatively small section of the public organised as a union can bring down Government. I personally agreed with the Prime Minister in practically everything he said recently about the people in Northern Ireland. One has only to see you-know-who ranting on television to know the truth of the old saying that the Devil can quote scriptures, no matter what the shape of his collar.
If I can read between the lines of the Answers to my annual Questions on the cost of Northern Ireland to the Treasury, this current set of troubles has put us back £1,600 million: enough to have paid for population changes, changes in the boundary, the moving of people from areas where they cannot get on; but that suggestion does not seem ever to have been considered. Hundreds of our boys have been killed, over 1,000 wounded, many of them, as I have said, badly and for life. There are those of us who think they should not have been put there in the first place, but, once in, we should have let them deal with the job properly. Why have not they had tanks? The Russians 50 fixed Budapest in double quick time that way. A Member of Parliament last week suggested that we should have sent the tanks in in this last strike. I wish he had said so during the "No-go" period and then I should have felt there was no prejudice. When will we learn? The majority of that island dislike us intensely; so do the extremists on both sides. Yet we subsidise them, more than any other country his subsidised another, so far as I can see, in the history of the world.
We let them come and go in this country without even a passport—a privilege not allowed to me, an Australian born. You let them parade in London in their uniforms. It was because of a report of a Question which I asked a couple of weeks ago on that subject that I received the diatribe I have referred to from an American priest in Baltimore. Of course he brought up the subject, which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, brought up, of the Price sisters. I could not help writing back to this person, in defence of the British soldier, upon whom mainly it was an attack, asking him whether, if a Frenchman had set off bombs, maimed and killed people, in Washington, he would have sent him back to France to serve his prison term.
I do not think we can expect, ever, any gratitude for either sending our troops over there or paying all this money out of our Exchequer. I do not think that they will ever do anything to settle their differences so long as they have us to fall back on. I think that the Government—this Government and the previous Government—have sacrificed too much. They have turned the other cheek too often, in both directions. Enough is enough, and we should not spend another penny. There is a large feeling in the country—I know it has been denigrated here so far this afternoon—that we should let them, "Do their own thing", or whatever the expression is. I do not think there would be a blood bath. It is not in the game. But, then, I may be wrong. We have tried to settle the dispute for 300 years and we have failed.
Many stories come out of Northern Ireland from our soldiers, and most of them of course are not repeatable in your Lordships' House. But if I might finish on a lighter note, I would repeat one that was brought back about the Cockney who was touring in County Cork. He 51 went into a garage and said: "Fill her up, will you, mate?" The attendant said: "I will not." The Cockney said: "Well, let's have some oil." The attendant said: "We serve no British here. We are an I.R.A. garage." So the Cockney looked up and said: "It's like that, is it? Well, blow up my tyres then."
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ BARONESS STOCKS
My Lords, I believe there is a Standing Order which prohibits the reading of speeches in this House. I do not know whether there is a Standing Order which prohibits one from making the same speech twice. If there were not, I should be tempted to make now a speech which I made on March 29, 1972, when the proposed Administration was brought into being. I prophesied that it would fail. I do not think I realised with what disastrous consequences it would fail. But in fact it has failed. I propounded a scheme for the settlement of the question of Northern Ireland, which, broadly, was that Northern Ireland should be given home rule as a self-governing Dominion within the Commonwealth and with allegiance to the Crown. I think the Crown has always mattered in Northern Ireland, although not in Southern Ireland for pretty obvious reasons. In broad outline, that proposal would be relevant to-day. Admittedly, at the time it would have involved problems as between a Dominion of Northern Ireland and England concerning passports, defence, overseas representation and much else. But at the time I thought that those problems were more soluble than the problems presented by the proposed Administration. I still think that that plan is relevant. I still think it might achieve a permanent settlement of the question of Ulster. I still think that the problems it would present are less intractable than the problems it would solve.
At the time I repudiated the thought that Mr. Wilson would refuse to consider my scheme because it might damage the Irish vote in Glasgow and Liverpool. I thought that that thought was unjust. I do not think it unjust to-day. I do not see any prospect that Mr. Wilson and the present Government would consider the possibility of the plan I have outlined. But I continue to think it a good plan. Nobody would take any 52 notice of my proposal, or of the letter I subsequently wrote to The Times. The only reference made to it in this House was made by the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, who said that my views merited attention on account of my long service or long experience in the Civil Service. My Lords, I have never been in the Civil Service, but it was kindly meant.
I therefore again make that proposal, with the absolute certainty now that the present Government will not carry it out. That leads me to the thought that I may not be permanently, or for a very long time, sitting on these Benches, but in another part of the House. However, that is another question. In conclusion, I would mention one thought that strikes me. If my plan for a Dominion of Ulster—self-governing and responsible for its own security—were adopted, I have a strong feeling that the Price sisters would prefer to remain at Brixton.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD GREY OF NAUNTON
My Lords, I speak in this discussion in your Lordships' House this afternoon in order if I may, to make three points. These are based upon nearly five years' observation from the position of Governor of Northern Ireland. That is admittedly a position of privilege and a non-political one, but there are occasions perhaps, even in politics, when the onlooker sees most of the game.
The first point is this. It is commonly agreed—and the story retailed by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, gives the point to it—that it is difficult for an outsider to understand Ulster and the Ulster folk. It is difficult to do so on the spot, but it is impossible to do it from afar and although the sea that divides us is narrow there is no doubt that we here are "afar". There is a great distance between Westminster-with-Whitehall on the one part and Stormont-with-Belfast on the other part, and there is perhaps an even greater difference between suburban Britain and rural Ulster. Yet in these past troubled years voices have been heard up and down the land, day in and day out, advocating courses, recommending decisions, even though the Ulster folk know very well that the owners of those voices have rarely been seen there. Some, indeed, have been content to take far-reaching 53 decisions or to advocate decisions by others without ever having set foot in the place. I think that perhaps it is that, rather than any sudden upsurge of Ulster nationalism, that has made some of the Ulster politicians demand that the decisions about their future should be taken without intervention by the English. But in the nature of things it is obviously certain that many great matters will have to be decided by, among others, some who have no great knowledge of Ulster and its people. In that event, however, may they always caution themselves that things and people there are very seldom just what they seem, and may they also take what action they can to ensure that Ulster people know that in their minds is the knowledge that people and things in Ulster are not just what they seem.
The second point is allied. Too much that is said and done in Northern Ireland by its own people is the result not of reason but of emotion. It is not facts that determine events in Northern Ireland. It is what people think about facts and what people think about the myths that they have themselves invented about the facts. We must be careful that we do not follow the same course, that we do not fall into the error of which we accuse the Northern Irish people. We must base our decisions not just upon emotion. Although we must not, as the most reverend Primate advised us so sincerely not to, abjure emotion, the emotion must be long-suffering, patient sympathy, and a determination on our part to find the facts that lie behind the seemingly irrational decisions that people in Northern Ireland take. I hope that my Irish friends, including those Members of your Lordships' House who have come from Northern Ireland and have listened to me this afternoon, will forgive me if I say that, endearing as most of them are, too often they are infuriating as well. But that does not excuse us from our duty, which is patient, long-suffering, earnest, reasoned consideration of the problems that afflict them and afflict us, too.
Thirdly. I would suggest that we shall not be rid of our Irish problems simply by shrugging them off. We shall not escape them. If I may venture to disagree with the noble Lord, my fellow 54 Antipodean, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, who preceded me, we shall not escape them by saying to Northern Ireland: "We have tried hard enough and long enough; now we shall leave and you can get on with it yourselves." We shall not solve our problems by saying, "We shall pull out the troops and let the local people sort it out." I do not intend to speak, my Lords, about the arguments of duty, the arguments of morality mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that lead to that conclusion. Others have spoken eloquently of those. I would content myself with saying that there are purely selfish reasons why we must not leave the Northern Ireland problem until it has been honourably and acceptably dealt with.
I agree that there is no immediate solution; that we shall not solve it once and for all. However, we must persist. For our own selfish sakes, if for no better reason, we must carry on until some acceptable and honourable solution is reached. If we merely give up we shall he giving a triumph to the men of violence. Whether rightly or wrongly, it will be said that we left not of our own free will but because we were forced out. Even to talk of it is to encourage the men of violence to intensify their violence at home and to spread it further over here. And that is not all. If we are seen to abandon Northern Ireland, or to set now a date when we shall remove our troops from it, then, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, has said, we shall be giving comfort to the men of violence everywhere. Evil men—we do not lack them in these islands—will say, "What a small body of resolute men can do for some Trish cause or causes"—it matters not what they might be—"a small band of resolute men can do here", and we shall rue the day if we let violence triumph in that way.
§ LORD GREY OF NAUNTON
My Lords, it is not sufficient to talk about the rule of law. It is good to talk about it and to remind people of its benefits. But talk is not enough. It must be served and sustained, no matter how painful and how prolonged that service is. We must 55 indeed, my Lords, take note of the situation in Northern Ireland and we must resolve steadfastly to pursue resolutely, patiently, sympathetically, but with utter determination attempts to improve that situation.
§ 5.20 p.m.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I take part in this afternoon's debate with more than usual diffidence since what I shall have to say runs contrary to virtually everything that has been said by previous speakers so far this afternoon. Without exception those speakers are men with greater knowledge, greater intellect and greater responsibility than I have myself. I make no bones about it that in listening to the debate so far the views I hold have been shaken. I think they are still intact but I would ask your Lordships—although I fear many of you will disagree with what I have to say, or with parts of it—to be forbearing and accept my undertaking that my views have been reached only after much careful and long thought, and in my mind they represent what is both honourable and right when facing up to the ever intractable problem of Ulster.
The events of the last two to three weeks must have been bitter indeed for all those men and women who have worked so tirelessly for the past five years and more to bring a reasonable settlement to Ulster. To all those who have shown wisdom and patience beyond endurance in bringing about Sunningdale, the strike and the collapse of the Executive must have been bitter indeed, and they would be less than human if they did not say to themselves, "What more do these people want? How can they be helped if they refuse to help themselves?" I do not take a totally despairing view of the events of the last few weeks. They have represented a major setback and they have been cruel in the breaking of the hopes and the structure that has taken so much collective time and wisdom to put together, but I believe that the labours of those who worked to construct the Sunningdale Agreement will be shown by history not to have been in vain.
As all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate so far have said, the next four months will give us a breathing space, and I should like to look 56 briefly at the choices that face Britain and Ulster in their search for a final solution. My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham put forward the view that there were three possible solutions: with great diffidence I venture to suggest that in theory there are five possible solutions. First, there is a return to old Stormont rule. I feel pretty sure that every Member of this House will agree with me when I say that such a retrograde step would be totally unacceptable to any Government in this country, formed by whichever Party. That such a return is the devout wish of a considerable number of those who live in Ulster is not to be doubted. Indeed it is loyalty to old Stormont rule that gives its supporters their singularly inappropriate and inept name of "Loyalists". That is all they are loyal to, but as a solution I think it can be dismissed out of hand.
Next as a solution is that Ulster should become part of a United Ireland. This has been the dream of romantics and revolutionaries for centuries, but it has not been the dream only of romantics and revolutionaries. It has had other more sober and more dependable adherents than that. I cannot count myself a romantic and I am certainly not a revolutionary, but I must confess that I would dearly like to live to see a United Ireland. But I shall not do so. For those who cherish such an aim in their hearts the best advice I can give them—and give to myself—is to put any thought of Ireland being a united country out of our minds for the foreseeable future. Indeed to press its claims in any way whatsoever is only doing the cause further harm. If any further evidence is needed that this is so, the strike of the last two weeks has shown overwhelmingly and with the utmost clarity that any hint of any move in any direction not only to a united Ireland but to the two parts of Ireland drawing closer together, is foredoomed and damned.
Thirdly, I come to the full integration of Ulster with the United Kingdom. To my mind this is a solution which should not be discarded as quickly and as abruptly as the previous two theoretical possibilities. There is much to be said in its favour, the chief of which being that once Ulster became fully integrated 57 into the United Kingdom it would be plain for all to see that any form of discrimination against Roman Catholics had ceased to exist. Those living in Ulster would be subject to precisely the same laws and rules of conduct as the rest of us living in the United Kingdom and justice would be seen to be done to the people of all faiths. But on consideration, I think noble Lords will agree that the objections to such a solution are overwhelming. To begin with, it runs directly counter to the present strong current of opinion that power from the centre should be devolved to the constituent parts of the United Kingdom; and in particular such a solution would fly in the face of the storm of resurgent Ulster nationalism of which the past two weeks have given such overwhelming evidence.
Finally—and this may appear contrary to what I have just said—it would for ever slam the door on the Irish dimension of the Ulster problem. As I have said, it is best to banish all thought of a United Ireland for the foreseeable future, but none of us is sufficiently prescient to be able to foretell the unforeseeable future and there might at some distant date be an occasion when a united Ireland could be a possibility but for the fact that in the latter part of the twentieth century Ulster became a fully integrated part of the United Kingdom. It would surely be a mistake to slam the door for ever on what at some very distant point might be a future option. So that, too, I disregard as a possible solution.
There remain two other possible solutions, the first of which is a return to a power-sharing Executive backed by a fully representative Ulster Assembly and maintaining the close ties with the United Kingdom that have existed for so long. The fifth and last possibility is the setting up of an independent Ulster. Before discussing the merits and demerits of those two possibilities, I should like briefly to turn to the problem of Ulster as it affects the rest of the United Kingdom. The problem of Ulster as it affects the rest of us largely, almost entirely, revolves around the stationing of large numbers of British soldiers in the Province in a peacekeeping role.
This is where I part company with so many noble Lords. I am far from convinced that the withdrawal of our soldiers at some date in the future would be 58 detrimental to achieving a lasting settlement in Ulster. I see grave dangers in the continuation of such a large force as we have there to-day. There is a danger in the same way as I understand those who have the misfortune to spend long periods in hospital or, indeed, in prison, after a certain time on release are unable to cope with the problems of ordinary day-to-day living; it is beyond them. They have been for so long institutionalised that they cannot cope with the stresses and strains of daily life. I fear this is what may happen to the men and women who live in Ulster. The troops have been there for five years now, and if they are to remain there much longer, is there not a danger that the people of Ulster will come to regard them as part of the daily scene, as something quite normal and to be expected? Is it not possible that the extraordinary fact that part of the United Kingdom is not only to be policed but is to have no less than 16,500 troops stationed there, will be not even remarkable, quite un-noteworthy, and that the people of Ulster will feel that without the troops there they are not secure enough to go about their daily life?
It is the duty of everyone who concerns himself in any way with the problems of Ulster to see to it that the people of Ulster demand and obtain the same conditions of life that prevail in the rest of the United Kingdom. They must not be fobbed off with living a life of semi-imprisonment, but must live full and free lives, as do the rest of us. It is one of our obligations to do all we can to help the people of Ulster to achieve this. While as a temporary measure the troops certainly have played a vital role, there is danger in them staying there too long. In a way, this problem has been caused by the success of the peace-keeping mission of the troops. Murder, mutilation, violence, destruction have continued, alas! for the past five years. but the presence of the troops has succeeded in containing that violence to an extent that has become largely acceptable to the people of Ulster.
My Lords, it is a dreadful comment on the state of affairs reached in Ulster, but the fact remains that until the strike brought the Province to a halt, life of a kind was being lived by the inhabitants of Ulster which, although uncomfortable, dangerous and vile, was tolerable, and it is the very success of the troops, at 59 enormous loss of life and limb to themselves, that has caused this particular problem.
I would argue that next in the dangers of maintaining troops there and the possible advantages of their withdrawal, is that it seems to me there is increasing evidence that nothing except a shock of realisation that one day in the future there will be no British Army to protect the people will compel the people of Ulster to resolve their differences. The argument I am putting forward is the same as that put forward by Dr. Johnson, that the prospect of being hanged in a fortnight wonderfully concentrates a man's mind. I am increasingly worried at the thought that until the people of Ulster are faced with the necessity to resolve their differences, no solution imposed from outside will have a hope of success. We outside can do a great deal, but at the end of the day it is the people of Ulster—Protestant and Catholic alike—who can solve their problems; they and only they can find a solution and make it stick. Those of us outside can help, but only the people of Ulster can achieve this result. Events over the past five years have shown that all too clearly. It is quite the reverse of the attitude of, "Well, to the devil with Ulster and all who live there. Let them stew in their own juice." I would assure the most reverend primate that that is not the attitude I am adopting. Withdrawal at a date in the future may well be a constructive, positive step towards achieving the elusive settlement that we are all so desirous of finding.
May I turn now to the two remaining solutions open to us. Of them, of course, a renewed attempt to establish a power-sharing Executive with an Ulster Assembly and close connections with the United Kingdom is by far the most preferable. But as I have said, this will not be achieved without the active will and support of the leaders of the people of Ulster. Her Majesty's Government can, and should, be to Ulster guide, philosopher and friend, but they can he no more. They can do a great deal in preparing the ground. In these four months, Her Majesty's Government must utilise every hour of every day to see that the truth of the choices facing the people of Ulster is brought home to those 60 people; that demagogues must not be allowed to confuse the issue and to mislead honourable men and women.
The actual final breakdown of Sunning-dale largely came from the setting up of a Council of Ireland. The creation of that Council of Ireland was never a threat to the integrity of Ulster; it never posed the remotest danger to Ulster becoming part of the united Ireland without the overwhelming support of the people in Ulster. But evil men, demagogues, put forward to those who misguidedly trusted them that this was a real danger. In the months that lie ahead, that must not be allowed to happen. The Government must use all the powers of communication that they command to see that the truth is spelt out, so that in the humblest home of the Province people will know the choice they have at their disposal. Thus, when in due course there are elections, as there must be, the people will be able to vote for men who are putting forward policies in which the voters believe, and of which the people can understand the full implications. To my mind, this is the most important role to be played by Her Majesty's Government—the establishment of the facts, and the decision as to what can and what cannot be done for Ulster. The rest must come from the leaders of Ulster, and from the people of Ulster.
My Lords, one thing the strike has shown beyond any shadow of doubt is that the collective will of the silent majority can achieve virtually anything in Ulster. Rather than have a display of the strength that the strike has shown in a disruptive manner, in tearing down an edifice built on hope and one that promised so much, let us see the people of Ulster, and particularly their leaders, making a comparable show of strength towards the forces of reason, the forces of tolerance and of understanding. Let them show their power not destructively but constructively. Let them unite their people, as the strike did, not to bring things down but to create a stable, peaceful, happy, prosperous Ulster. They have shown they have the will. There can be no excuse now; if they turn their minds to it, they can do it. They have people who are prepared to be led, who believe in them. Let them use their ability, let them use their power to be constructive and to achieve something rather than in petty destruction and the continuation of misery.
61 As I have said already, at the end of the day it is their problem and their responsibility. We have heard much over the years, and indeed much in the debate this afternoon of our—meaning the rest of the United Kingdom—responsibility to Ulster, but the Ulster peoples have responsibilities to the rest of the United Kingdom. There are many deaths, many soldiers' deaths, many civilians' deaths which lie at Ulster's door. They owe us a debt. They are heavily in our debt. They owe us a responsibility to behave like civilised human beings and not savages. It is not a one-way traffic. Do not let us sit here, with the best will in the world, and say, "We must do this for Ulster, it is our responsibility". Let them show some leadership and let them show some responsibility. If they do not, if they fail, if the collective will of Ulster fails, if their nerve fails, if there is no determination and no resolve to bring about a peaceful settlement, then we will be left with the last and final solution, an independent Ulster.
In the past I have argued in favour of such a solution. I have been told afterwards, by men of distinction and knowledge, that I was wrongheaded to do so, and I am prepared to say that arguing for independence earlier was probably mistaken. I only put it forward now as the final possible solution. The noble Lord who spoke before me spoke with great eloquence, and he said we must not give up the struggle, we must be patient, results cannot be found quickly or easily. I would agree with him, but we have been trying for five long years, and a solution must be found. The cancer of Ulster must be rooted out before it spreads to the rest of the United Kingdom. So if all else fails there is the solution of an independent Ulster.
All of us are proud—and in particular may I address my remarks to my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham because I, like him, am proud—of the United Kingdom; I wish to see no diminishing of its area and no divisions among its peoples. But Ulster has proved intractable. If they will not play their part in the bargain, if they will not meet their friends across the Irish Sea, the rest of the British people, who have gone more than half way, three-quarters, four-fifths of the way to meet them, then they 62 must face up to the fact that they will be alone. It would be constitutionally an enormous step, a veritable crossing of the Rubicon. Centuries of close ties of sentiment and affection would cease to be. And economically their fate would be appalling. The noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack gave the figures of the cost; over £300 million a year is the net benefit that Ulster receives from her fellow citizens in the United Kingdom. So to all the other debts that Ulster owes to the rest of Britain there is this enormous financial debt they owe us, too.
Without those subsidies, without that £300 million, they would be economically a totally unviable State. This must be spelled out to them in the months that lie ahead. If many may wish, in the present wave of Ulster nationalism, to be an independent State, well, it is not for us to stop them if that is their considered collective view. But it is our duty to spell out in detail exactly what it means, and if, having fully understood it the forces of intolerance have triumphed and there is no collective will to find a settlement on the lines that Sunningdale proposed, well then, so be it.
The Leaders of Ulster will bear the responsibility. If the result of an independent Ulster is catastrophic, then the Leaders must bear the blame, and the leaders of the majority Party will have to bear the majority of the blame. It is possible it might come off, but the odds are formidable. But it will be their responsibility; there will be no scapegoats, not in this House, or in another place, or anywhere in the country. They have had the choice. All that we will be left with is the House of Ulster divided against itself and fallen, and the crisis that may follow that fall can be laid and must be laid at the door of the Leaders of the Ulster people for failing to live up to their responsibilities.
§ 5.45 p.m.
My Lords, I follow the noble Duke, who opened a most remarkable speech, which I followed with very close attention, by saying that he spoke with diffidence. I share the diffidence expressed by the noble Duke, and I share it all the more having listened to the preceding speaker, Lord Grey of Naunton, with his five years of continued 63 service in Ulster. Unlike the noble Duke, I propose to be quite brief. As was only to be expected at this stage of the debate, nearly everything has been said, if in different words, probably better by other speakers than myself. I speak with diffidence because, despite a long Irish connection and an intensive but brief intervention in the affairs of Ulster, I am conscious of the number of Members of your Lordships' House present—my noble friend Lord Brookeborough opposite, Lord Enniskillen, Lord Moyola and others—who know so much more about this matter than myself. If I say things that have been said, I say them because I am deeply convinced that certain things need to be said not by one speaker but by as many as possible who really believe in the words that I hope to express to your Lordships.
I am not one, like the noble Lord, Lord of Chudleigh, who says that enough is now enough. I am not one who feels that there is no further hope for peaceful progress in Northern Ireland. I do not believe that it can be right to abandon many people, some of them intimidated, many of them misguided, and most of them sincerely desiring for peace, to have their fate sorted out for them by some evil people in the traditional Irish way. We have no moral right to do this. If we were to do it, I believe that the dire warnings that we have had, for more than a year now, of civil war could become true. This is, after all, as has been said, what the extremists want, and we must not give them what they want on a plate.
The danger of this line of thinking which I would call defeatist and immoral—and it has been expressed in the other place and outside Parliament by people from the other place—is that it may cumulatively defeat the efforts of the Government in this brief spell to try to find a fresh and fair start. It may cancel out prematurely such hopes as now remain. For this reason alone there can be, surely, no question of a decision, indeed an ultimatum, to pull out the troops, even at long advance notice.
So long as these efforts are being made, we cannot add yet one further fear to the fears entertained by both communities in Northern Ireland. I say, "Not so long as further efforts are being made". 64 because, like the noble Duke, I recognise that it is possible to envisage a situation in which a substantial majority in Northern Ireland could vote themselves out of the club of the United Kingdom, because they were not prepared to accept the basic will of Westminster and the basic conditions. And, surely, the basic conditions must be that there can be no question, while remaining under the protection of the Crown, of going back to the situation of dominance by one community, and discrimination against and disadvantage to the other community, which persisted up to the end of 1969.
I suppose it is possible to envisage that a substantial majority could take a nationalist view and, not being prepared to accept those conditions, vote itself out of the club, and in those circumstances the withdrawal of troops from that section of the community is a possibility. However, there would still remain a constitutional duty on the part of the British Government to protect those who did not wish to be out of the United Kingdom. It is no good the noble Duke speaking of Ulster becoming independent because that is the will of the majority; we have to consider the considerable majority who want to accept the conditions and to remain in the United Kingdom. Of course, the other condition, to which we are surely all looking forward, is that the situation should have improved enough to let the troops go back to their normal duties, and to allow law and order to become the proper and capable responsibility of the police forces. I am one of those who, having conducted a review of the role, the strength, the armament and the general functions of the police forces in Northern Ireland over four years ago, would be most insistent that among the things to be done in the immediate future is a further review of the role of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment, in order to speed up, if possible, the time when they can come to the fore and the troops can be pulled back, at any rate to some extent.
The noble Duke spoke with great emphasis—and I entirely agreed with him—of the degree to which people can become institutionalised in a certain situation, and with the shield of the British Army. It is equally true—and I have this as an admission from the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary himself—that the continued primary 65 responsibility for law and order in the hands of the Army has placed the police in a situation to which they are becoming all to accustomed. It is most important that this aspect should be looked at again, and that everything possible should be done to strengthen the police forces in to-day's altered situation.
My Lords, having said all this, I should like to think—and I think that this has emerged from the debate—that the attitude of your Lordships' House, and of Parliament generally, towards the problems of Northern Ireland despite the disappointments and the difficulties, will continue to be one of hope and not one of hopelessness. That tone has been magnificently set by Mr. Brian Faulkner in all his utterances since resigning his post as Chief Executive, and, with others, I say that no praise is too high for him and his colleagues for their faith and courage in recent months.
Let us not assume that the support for and acceptance of sharing of power and responsibility between the communities has dwindled to negligible proportions in Northern Ireland. After all, that question has still to be put to the test and decided by a poll, whether it be an electoral poll or a referendum. Above all—and here I heartily agree with the noble Duke—let us make sure that, when the time conies to put the people's will and choice to the test, their judgment is based upon the whole truth and is not vitiated by intimidation, and that the real, genuine fears which we know both communities entertain are not fed on fallacies carefully fostered by a few people who have thereby forfeited their claim to be responsible politicians. Let any further guarantees that can be devised and any further assurances from Westminster and Dublin be given, before the people make their choice.
To ask the Army to continue to do its dangerous, frustrating and distasteful task for some time yet is hard enough. But the Army has never failed to do its duty anywhere in the world, whatever it has been asked to do, and no-one doubts that it will continue to do its duty magnificently in Ulster. To ask everybody else on this side of the Irish Sea for yet more patience is to ask a very great deal, but patience depends on a full understanding and, while I heartily agree 66 with the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, that it may not be possible for anyone who does not happen to live in the Irish situation or who has not been deeply involved in it fully to understand that situation, I do not believe—and again I agree with the noble Duke—that most people over here are sufficiently aware of what is really at stake. I venture to hope that much more effort will be made in this intervening period—and I am supporting the noble Duke here—to enlighten the public of Britain. I hope that as part of this communication Mr. Faulkner and his colleagues can be persuaded and encouraged to do the explaining and the asking in Britain, for I feel confident that they will be listened to over here with respect, sympathy and understanding.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I should like to begin by expressing my great appreciation to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack for his lucid and objective exposition of the Northern. Ireland problem as the Government see it, and I hope that I can bring to my brief remarks a small measure of the calm, objective and reasonable attitude that he displayed. I should like to concentrate for a very few moments on one aspect of the problem only; that is, the role of the Armed Forces. The political problems have been rehearsed again and again in your Lordships' House to-day and on previous occasions, and they need no reiteration from me. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said, new solutions are now needed and the old policies have for the moment failed. Whether the solutions can be found in any of the ways which have been referred to in your Lordships' House to-day, I do not know. Nor do I know whether we shall look to the redrawing of frontiers, to an independent nation State of Ulster or to integration with the rest of Ireland. These are matters for long, hard negotiations, and for long and thoughtful deliberations on the part of the Government and the people of Ireland. I believe that more than ever there is now a need for patient and resolute statesmanship—patient, above all.
The important point, it seems to me, is that until these political solutions have been found, and however long that may take, until one or another solution 67 emerges, the Province of Ulster is as much a part of the United Kingdom as are Wales, Scotland or the Home Counties. It is all very well for people to talk of shock treatment for the people of Ulster, or of the withdrawal of troops or of economic support as a way of bringing what is sometimes characterised as an irresponsible people to its senses. But the United Kingdom Government is responsible for the rule of law in Ulster, and this is a responsibility which cannot be abdicated in a fit of pique or disenchantment or even in the search for some dramatic solution to the problem. The British troops were originally sent to Northern Ireland—at least, sent there in their present numbers—to sustain the rule of law against a campaign of terrorism by the I.R.A. This, to a quite remarkable extent, they have succeeded in doing. As has been said before to-day in your Lordships' House, had it not been for the presence of the Army in Ulster terrorism could not have been contained to the extent even that it has been contained in these last few years.
We hear—and have heard again to-day—of people talking about the possibility of withdrawing troops for various reasons, and one of the reasons that has been put forward, or at least implied, is that the soldiers themselves do not like serving there. Of course the soldiers do not like serving in Northern Ireland; no soldier likes being shot at at any time, particularly from behind. But even though these soldiers have now been shot at in Northern Ireland over many years, and some of them have carried out more than one tour of duty there, the morale of those troops remains extraordinarily and remarkably high. They have done their job in Northern Ireland and they will continue to do it, provided that they are given the resources to do it, the equipment to do it, and, perhaps most important, the full-hearted support of the civil power in carrying out the tasks that they have been given to do. If they are given that, if they are not required to operate in any way or at any time with one hand tied behind their backs, the Army in Northern Ireland can contain terrorism to what might be seen, in political terms, as at least a tolerable level.
Of course, no violence of this kind is really tolerable and we can always, I am 68 afraid, look forward, in the circumstances that obtain in Northern Ireland at the moment, to the terrorism of the isolated gunman or the isolated bomber. No police force, no armed force, can overcome that possibility. There will always be the man who can perform an isolated act of terrorism, and very often get away with it. But the Army can, if it is properly supported and if it can continue to have the confidence of all political Parties and all the people of this country, contain terrorism to a level that is at least politically acceptable.
But I believe—and I am not the first to say this in your Lordships' House to-day—that that ability will be eroded if we continue this talk of withdrawal of the troops from Northern Ireland. To withdraw the troops immediately would, of course, be an act of gross moral irresponsibility. It would leave the people of Ulster in the hands of the men of violence of both sides. But even this suggestion of a fixed date for withdrawal at some time in the future carries with it the most appalling implications. It has been suggested that to do so, to announce some date ahead at which we were going to withdraw our troops from Northern Ireland, would provide some kind of shock treatment for the people of Ulster. This seems to me to go against all the lessons of experience. The lessons of experience are that in a situation of that kind, as soon as a date for withdrawal is announced the level of terrorism increases. The struggle for power inside Ulster would intensify, and the men of evil and the men of violence would see to it that, in the interval between the announcement and the withdrawal of the troops, they made their presence felt by increasing the level of their violence and by making their struggle for power more and more intense. There would be—and I doubt whether many people would deny this—bloodshed on a scale which even Ulster has not seen before.
Just as talk about the withdrawal of the Armed Forces seems to me to be dangerous, so, too, am I disturbed when I hear people talking of some kind of massive military action to solve this problem. One hears people talk of tanks being sent out into the streets of Ulster; one hears people talking of the setting up of a military Government to rule by martial law over the Province of Ulster. The talk 69 of tanks being sent on to the streets of Ulster in the present situation seems to me to be an astonishing and remarkable suggestion. Perhaps in certain totalitarian régimes this kind of military action is acceptable, and even routine. Indeed, I believe that one noble Lord this afternoon actually put this idea forward, because, as he pointed out, the Russians had managed to solve some of their problems in that way. I very much hope—indeed, I pray to God—that it will never he the way of this country to carry out its military action in aid of the civil power in that way.
Those who talk of massive military action, and even of military Government in Northern Ireland, seem to miss one fact; even if these things were desirable they would nowadays scarcely be possible. Successive Governments of this country, on pretexts or for reasons which may haw seemed good and proper to them at the time, have progressively reduced the strength and capability of the Armed Forces of this country. We now have, whatever else we may have, no military reserves in this country worthy of the name. The logistics and administrative support of our Armed Forces have been reduced to a minimum level. We now have the spectacle of the Armed Forces of this country—and this is no fault of the Armed Forces, but of a series of political decisions made by Governments of both parties—reduced to a level at which they are unable to make their full, proper, and agreed contribution to the allied defence of Western Europe, and to a level at which it is now seriously suggested that we should abandon the Province of Ulster to chaos, because our Armed Forces, at the level at which they now exist in that territory, are unable to maintain the rule of law.
If we do that, if we succumb to the arguments of those who believe and suggest that we should now withdraw our troops, I believe that we shall be laying up some terrible dangers for ourselves in the future. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, was right to remind us, in the words of John Donne, that if we carry out this kind of abdication of responsibility in Ulster it will be no good sending to know for whom the bell tolls. He may recall—I am sure that he will—that the lines preceding the ones he quoted are: 70Whosoever diminishes me, Diminishes the whole of mankind.If we diminish the dignity, individual status and integrity of the people of Northern Ireland by an act of moral irresponsibility of this kind, I believe that we shall be doing a damage not only to them but perhaps to future generations elsewhere. The Ulster of to-day might be the South Wales or the Scotland of to-morrow.
I believe, therefore, that we should now stop talking of withdrawal, stop saying, "Enough is enough", stop saying, "After five years we cannot bear the burden any longer." What we should instead be doing, in my view, while we seek for political solutions which will be very hard to find, is giving to the courageous men and women who bear the burden of security and of the rule of law in Northern Ireland all our support on all sides of the House and in all parts of the country.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ LORD MOYOLA
My Lords, I hope I shall not be regarded as being too repetitive, but I think I am probably the only person who has spoken so far in this debate who lives his entire time in Northern Ireland. Also, being a farmer—a somewhat earthy existence—I take a somewhat different view of this situation from those who are rather further removed, so I hope I shall be forgiven if I touch once again on some of the ground which has already been covered. Both in your Lordships' House to-day and in the Press, the cause of this strike has been blamed on the Sunningdale Agreement. Quite frankly, in my opinion that is a wrong assessment of the situation. The Sunning-dale Agreement was, of course, a factor because it was a nice political stick which could be exploited. But the real causes are two: the first is that we have got our priorities wrong. Our priorities are wrong because we have got to win the security battle before we get the political solution. The political solution is essential but you will find it hard to get until the security battle is won.
The second reason for the strike is that the situation in Northern Ireland now is that no one believes a single word in political terms except the very worst possible interpretation that can be put on any matter. My Lords, the plain fact of the matter has been that in Ulster over 71 the last few years—and I am not trying to blame anyone in particular for this—there have been far too many broken promises; far too many cases where politicans have said this they will not do, and then immediately have found a hundred good reasons for doing it. Hundreds of times the people of Northern Ireland have been promised tougher action against terrorism and that tougher action did not come. There have been all the totally different glosses that were put on the Sunningdale Agreement on the Council of Ireland and all that by the S.D.L.P., by the Dublin Government, by the Government here, by the Faulkner Unionists and so on. They were all different, and the result is simply that only the extremists are listened to (and even they now with a certain amount of scepticism) and the truth of the matter is that they think their politicians have failed them. That is why they decided to act on their own and, in effect, take the law into their own hands.
My Lords, if I may get back to my first point, this has really all happened because, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said earlier, people are sick and tired of the bombing, the wrecking and all the rest of it. Security is the nub of the problem, and surely it must now be obvious to everyone that the I.R.A. are not looking for the sort of political solution that has been proposed up to now. They have said quite plainly—or I read it quite plainly—that what they are asking for is unconditional surrender. It does not matter what way you look at it, no new form of Government is going to satisfy them. So, my Lords, my view is that when the terrorist is defeated it is not going to be all that difficult to find a political answer. If power sharing can produce peace, then there would have been none of what we have seen. I believe that if peace had come with power sharing, if Sunningdale had perhaps been taken a little more Slowly, even Sunningdale might have been acceptable. Certainly if there had been peace there would have been nothing for the more extreme people to work upon and we should not be in the tangle we are now in.
I have rushed as quickly as I can over the handling of the strike. I want to be constructive, I want to be helpful, and 72 I do not think recrimination of any sort or kind is of value. I must say that the lack of tact which has been displayed by the various people who played a part was absolutely disastrous. Of course, being a political animal, I understand that the Secretary of State could not go and meet the strikers, but I doubt if even now the strikers understand why he could not do so. It was never, to my knowledge, spelt out to them in words of one syllable. They simply thought, "Well, his predecessor could go and meet the I.R.A.; why could he not come and meet us?" Of course, as I said earlier, the strike came about simply because ordinary people did not know which way to turn, and as a result of the abuse and invective which was poured upon them their attitude hardened and, indeed, I think there is no doubt that it pushed very many moderate people who were in no way behind the strike suddenly into the position of being behind the strikers. I do not think anyone can deny that it started as quite a small thing but by the time it ended it had massive support, and I am quite certain it came from some of the things that were said and done.
§ LORD DONALDSON oF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one minute? He speaks of the massive abuse poured on the strikers. He did not mention the vicious intimidation used in the Harland and Wolff Works and in many other places, ending up with murder in a pub. Surely the two should go together.
§ LORD MOYOLA
My Lords, I in no way condone intimidation; I deplore intimidation very strongly, but equally it must be recognised that not all the strikers were rushing round carrying out threats and intimidation. They, as I said, had been pushed too far by what they regarded as broken promises and being quite unable to get their voice heard. I think, as an Ulsterman, that I can claim a little insight into their character if nothing else. There is absolutely no one who can be more defiant when he gets violent and he will carry that defiance to the extent that he will hurt himself and hurt himself very badly. Unfortunately, all that the handling or the invective did was to produce that spirit of defiance and that spirit of obstinacy which Ulster people have in full measure.
73 My Lords, having said that, the question is, what now? I was immensely relieved to hear that nearly all noble Lords who have spoken have said, "Do not remove the troops". I could not endorse that view more strongly. No one can be sure what would happen, but at the very least—and I emphasise at the very least—there would inevitably be some very nasty reprisals. There is no doubt that the I.R.A. and the Mafia gangs—and there are plenty of those—would find cause for greater activity and be able to justify their efforts by saying that they were protecting their own area and their own particular community. It is no good thinking that the R.U.C. could cope with a situation like that and I think if the Army were withdrawn we would see a mass of local Al Capones setting themselves up and virtually all form of normal life would finally come to an end. I hope that after discussion that this argument over whether to withdraw or not to withdraw will be finally stopped. I said earlier that no one in Northern Ireland knows what to believe. The uncertainty this sort of thing engenders is making this very delicate situation a great deal worse. It probably also is having a bad effect on the Army.
Then my Lords, I must also say that the next step is to end what certainly appears to us in Northern Ireland to be until now a policy of containment which the Army has followed. Do not think for one minute that I am trying to condone the events that happened during the strike, but one lesson that seems plain is that during the strike the terrorist activity was pretty slight. If one asked oneself why this was so the reason was because of the illegal barricades which went up all over the place and which put the terrorist in the position that he could not move without knowing when he would run into one. A second reason was that as petrol subsequently became short he stuck out like a sore thumb if he started to appear on the roads. But it does suggest, I think, the need for what many of us have always advocated; namely, that regardless of the inconvenience which it causes there is a constant need for road checks to prevent the bomber running around with bombs in his car. Then, my Lords, I would mention one subject in a sentence: the question of nationalism which was touched on to-day. I said that I was a 74 pretty earthy individual at the moment and all I can say about that subject is that all the people I talk to show no desire for any kind of independence, nor are there any kind of national aspirations. They want to keep the union, and although some of the politicians may shout about it, I do not think that the ordinary person in Northern Ireland wants the union broken or weakened in any way.
Now I turn to the political side of the problem. To me, of course, the most attractive answer is the continuance of direct rule. I think that to many people in Northern Ireland it is the answer they would like. I remember the days when direct rule was first imposed and politicians all over the place thundered against it. They are not thundering now. Anyone who thinks about it recognises that their lives continued largely unaltered when direct rule was in existence. I appreciate that there are many major problems at Westminster and it may equally well be felt that the minority population in Northern Ireland would find direct rule unwelcome. if one accepts that point—and I do—power sharing is, to me, the only eventual answer. It broke down because some of the Assembly groupings would not take part. Once the strike was on the Assembly could not avoid dealing in security matters so that the various political loyalties became too strong and, so to speak, the in-fighting began. But it did work and was beginning to be accepted, albeit reluctantly.
The only suggestion I have to make is that the power sharing concept should not be rushed. If one is to improve the Executive perhaps it should be along the lines that all Parties which accept the Constitution and want to take part in the Government should have one seat on the Executive in proportion to about six seats in the Assembly. It should be on a type of proportionate basis so that all the Parties will have a right to take part in the Executive and a right to take part in the running of the country; then they could not make much capital on the grounds that they were being excluded. It will be extremely difficult to get back to that kind of solution, but I am absolutely certain it can be done and must be done.
There is one important point—I underline its importance—and it is that there 75 should be no deadlines. At the moment we have four months in which to do it, but I think I am right in saying that that period can be extended. It should be made clear forthwith that it will be extended if necessary because deadlines will only help keep up an air of crisis and when the deadline is reached and the objective that is required has not arrived many hopes will be dashed. I hope it will be made plain that this deadline of four months is not fixed, that it can and will be extended as necessary. Secondly, I do not think we can expect—I will probably fall out with many of my friends—to rebuild the future Executive with the old ingredients. They have been tried and failed and I regret we have now to find some new leaders to make it work. As many people have said, we need a cooling-off period. I am not in collusion with the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, but my thoughts run along much the same lines as his. It does seem to me that if we are to get that cooling-off period we must get Northern Ireland so far as possible out of politics for the time being.
I wonder whether it is not beyond hope that, during this interim period of cooling-off while new answers are found, we might find someone outside politics, a person of ability who could advise and who would be known to be fair and acceptable to all communities, to come in and administer the Province. I know immediately that people will say this is fairyland and that such a person would have to be answerable to Parliament. They will also say that he would have to be such a paragon of skill and virtue that he cannot be found, but I personally think he could be found and, having been in politics for some time, I know that provided parties are agreeable the solutions to all these problems can always be achieved. But I do believe something of this kind for a period of time while new solutions are found is quite possibly the answer to our problems.
My Lords, my last point is what I call the incidentals, the Council of Ireland and all that. All I can say at the moment, and probably it is not necessary to say it, is for goodness' sake! for the time being, let them be. It has to be realised that the Council of Ireland—and here I am eating my words because I 76 supported it when the White Paper came out originally—has no selling point to a Protestant in Northern Ireland. It could have done if the Executive and other propositions had brought peace, but unfortunately they did not and it does not look as though they will. There is nothing to recommend these propositions to the Protestant community. All I would say on that is "Don't go on trying to push them down anyone's throat, because you might just as well ask Wales and Scotland to join up with some foreign organisation against their will." As we certainly would not do that, let us not try to do it in Northern Ireland. There are just three things to be done, if I may sum it up: let the Army get on with the job without inhibitions and, of course, above all keep them there; secondly, cut out any deadlines for political solutions and, thirdly, try to cool it and give a little trust to the ordinary people and give them somebody whom they can trust. I am absolutely certain that a solution can be found. I certainly in no way despair about the position because there is still a vast majority who want peace and a just society.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, sits down may I ask him one question about the interesting part of his speech earlier on about security? Is he speaking of, as it were, a technical operation? Is he saying that if the Armed Forces and the police could improve their security operations so as to deal effectively with the I.R.A. and extreme Protestant organisations that that would be acceptable all round?
§ LORD MOYOLA
My Lords, absolutely. The Province is crying out for, and will always accept anything that is fair to both sides.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ LORD MONSON
My Lords, I am delighted to be lucky enough to be able to speak after the excellent speech of the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, as I realise that I shall not be quite so isolated as I thought I might be. Nobody who saw on television the dignified, poignant and extremely moving speech of Mr. Brian Faulkner after his resignation from the Executive, and who heard the subsequent speeches of Mr. Fitt and 77 Mr. Bradford, can take pleasure in saying, "I told you so". But, in retrospect, is it not blindingly obvious that if you lean over backwards and make every effort to accommodate the wishes and the aspirations of one minority, by which I mean not the Roman Catholic minority, but the smaller, Republican minority, who form between 24 per cent. and 27 per cent. of the population of Northern Ireland, and at the same time ignore and deride the fears and aspirations of a much larger majority, which I estimated when we debated this subject last September at 35 per cent., which turned out to be an under-estimation and which now turns out to be over 50 per cent.—and if you take these people for granted and think that they will swallow anything that is handed out to them, then surely it must be accepted that you are heading for trouble.
A former editor of the New Statesman has said on two separate occasions in the last week that any politician who opposes the Sunningdale Agreement ought to be deported to a remote and insalubrious Pacific island without trial for an indefinite period—how long I do not know; for 10 or 20 years or whatever. If any of his political associates supporting him in this view are in positions of power, I shall be in trouble because I have always had very grave doubts about the Sunnningdale Agreement, and in particular about the Council of Ireland aspects of it. I am not alone in this. Significantly enough, the Northern Ireland correspondent of the New Statesman under its present editorship has conceded that the strikers had very much of a case so far as the Council of Ireland is concerned; and many commentators who are not normally sympathetic in any way to a Unionist or Loyalist point of view have written similarly.
My Lords, I cannot set very much store by the supposed safeguards said to be provided by the unanimity rule. After all, there are such things as 'flu epidemics; there are such things as fog, which ground aeroplanes at airports several hundred miles from one's destination; there is such a thing as legislation which goes through late at night, when the legislators' attention is wandering and people want to get home. The most notorious example 78 of this, of course, is the Labouchére Amendment introduced at the end of the last century, which ruined Oscar Wilde. I remember specifically when we were debating the Abortion Bill in Committee in your Lordships' House. An Amendment was introduced at about 11.30 at night, when everybody was yawning and wanting to go home. I do not believe that the mover of the Amendment realised the implications of what he was doing. It vastly liberalised the Bill by allowing almost any doctor to sign the certificates which allow a woman to have an abortion. I had not at that point made my maiden speech, so I could not intervene, and it was too late to do anything about it. I went to see the sponsors of the Bill but it was too late and it went back to the Commons. The sponsors admitted that they had not intended that the legislation should be so liberally drawn.
Apart from that, how permanent is the guarantee that the unanimity rule will persist? Nine days ago Mr. Wilson, in his broadcast, cited the Downing Street Agreement of 1969, when he was in the process of scorning the fears of the Loyalist workers as to their future status as being totally unnecessary. He quite forgot to say that the Downing Street Declaration of 1969 also equally affirmed thatresponsibility for affairs in Northern Ireland is entirely a matter for domestic jurisdiction. The United Kingdom Government will assert this principle in all international relationships.Yet, my Lords, the Council of Ireland proposals, with their very strong implications of dual sovereignty, effectively make nonsense of this guarantee. As the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, has said, there have been, to be fair, not so many broken promises as broken assurances, time and time again. Successive Stormont Governments have been told that provided they introduce yet one more reform everything will be all right; Stormont will be secure and the violence will cease. Time and time again this has happened, and we know how it has ended up. To support me in this claim, I want to cite a source which your Lordships may find rather surprising. On December 11 last year, the Irish Times, which is a paper noted, I think it is fair to say, for its hostility to Unionism, in discussing impending Westminster legislation—
§ LORD MONSON
Hostility to Unionism, yes, in the North, and its preference, simply, for eventual union with the South. In discussing this impending legislation they wrote:If the Unionists and Loyalists need any proof of the impermanency"—note the word "impermanency", my Lords—of the vaunted guarantees of their constitutional position, they will get it once again".My Lords, though, as I have said, I doubt the wisdom and even the morality of the Council of Ireland with anything more than purely advisory powers—at least until the Republic formally amends its Constitution—I think that even then it is just conceivable that the package might have been "sold" to the unionist (with a small "u") majority if it had been done with more tact and sensitivity.
First, there is power sharing. Unfortunately, this was presented to Unionists as a moral issue instead of as a purely pragmatic one. If the Unionist man in the street had been told, "We understand why you object to your elected representatives sharing power with those whose loyalties lie with the Republic of Ireland rather than with the Crown, but look at it in this way. Power sharing will, if all goes well, cut down the violence, the bombing, the arson and the murders, and with any luck (although this is perhaps a little less certain) it may induce a few waivering Republicans to think that the Union is not such a bad thing after all and thereby help to ensure your constitutional position", that would have made good sense. Instead of that, it was presented as a sort of moral issue: "You wicked people. You should have been sharing power with these people"—the Republicans, not the Catholics. I entirely agree that the Unionists should have been sharing power with the Catholics decades ago, but unionist Catholics. But to present the view that they should have shared power with the Republicans as a moral issue, saying that people should support this on moral grounds, is equally to say that the Czech Government in the mid-'thirties should have taken Sudetens aspiring to pan-German solutions into 80 their Cabinet and that Mrs. Meir should take anti-Zionist Arabs into the Israeli Cabinet. I cannot see that there is any moral as opposed to pragmatic justification for it: but, of course, the pragmatic case is a strong one.
Then we come to general attitudes which have been publicly expressed and which are well-known on the other side of the water: specifically, certain Left-wing attitudes which create suspicion of this country. First, there are those who have for years aspired to a United Ireland. I personally cannot understand why they find Irish nationalism more noble and inspiring and virtuous than United Kingdom nationalism, but I accept that they are perfectly sincere in this, and I respect their point of view. The only quibble I have is that the pressure for a United Ireland started many decades before the Republic made any tentative moves towards a more liberal and secular society, so to that extent I think it is a little bit tarnished. Then there are those with whom I have a little less sympathy—they are not to be found in your Lordships' House, I think, but there are several Members in the other place; and also particularly in the media.
Then there are people who, on this side of the water, favour anything to do with what might loosely be called the permissive society—easy abortion, free contraception, easy divorce, a total absence of censorship, and so forth. (I am not necessarily objecting to these things but am pointing out the paradox in their arguments.) So many of these same people want to impose a solution on Northern Ireland which would deny the people across the water the right to divorce, contraception and so on and impose censorship upon them. Those double standards are recognised by people who quite rightly object to them.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, it seems very odd that all these people who are so keen on divorce, abortion, and all the rest of it, should he taking the same side as the Roman Catholics. I can think of one or two people.
§ LORD MONSON
My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl. Lord Longford—it puzzles me, too. But they basically favour a United Ireland and favoured it long before there was any question of 81 safeguards or amending the Irish Constitution—which, after all, the people in the Republic may not want to do. Why should they? If they wish to ban contraception, it is their perfect right to do so and one has no right to tell them to, amend their customs. But, none the less, it is a fact that although these people have not specifically pressed for the abolition of divorce in the North, the indirect consequences of the action they propose would be just that.
A lady Member of another place, a member of the Tribune group—and I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, brought up this subject—the other day made the extraordinary suggestion that tanks should be used against the strikers in Belfast. Shades of Walther Ulbricht and the Red Army tanks in East Berlin 20 years ago! It was an extraordinary suggestion. Then there is Mr. Merlyn Rees—for whom I have always had a great respect, and considered to be a moderate, and impartial in his attitude between the communities. But the scales are dashed from my eyes, because it was revealed the other day that he wrote a letter to a lady in Dundalk saying that the British wanted to get out as soon as possible. Conceivably he may have meant the British Army, which is one thing, but he did not specify that, and it is taken by people in both North and South (as he was Opposition spokesman on Northern Ireland affairs) that Labour wanted to pull out entirely from the North. He may not have meant that but it was a gaffe on his part to put it in a letter.
Then, Mr. Wilson is reported to have said on Wednesay—and this is most significant and interesting—that the strike of the loyalist workers was not over anything important like money, but over an unimportant matter; that of nationality. That was a most extraordinary Freudian slip. Whether or not it was intentional, I do not know. I fear that it shows the attitude of people on the Left and I am surprised. It is worrying if Mr. Wilson has the attitude that money is more important than nationality; although, to be frank, there are people on the Left who can understand Tanzanian nationalism, North Vietnamese or Irish nationalism, whatever you like, but what they cannot 82 tolerate is somebody waving the Union Jack.
Having said that, the Left has no monopoly of insensitivity and tactlessness. Mr. Heath, some months ago, might have put his words the other way round, and said, "If the majority in Northern Ireland do not wish to remain a part of the United Kingdom, then their wish will be regretfully accepted." I do not want to be maudlin about this, but after all, these people have contributed so much to British life one way or another. They contributed a great number of distinguished Generals to the British Army. In the first two days of the Battle of the Somme the Ulster Division suffered 5,500 casualties, which is equivalent to something like 270,000 from England, Scotland and Wales.
During the Second World War Ulster's loyal support of the United Kingdom almost certainly saved England from Nazi domination—according to the testimony of Winston Churchill, who was certainly in a position to know. And for Mr. Heath, an ex-soldier, to have said to them in the rather testy tones of a man who is reluctantly sanctioning some bizarre eccentricity, "If the Northern Irish majority wish to remain in the United Kingdom, their wish will be respected"—what a hurtful thing to say! He would never under any circumstances, whatever the provocation, have spoken the same way to the people of Kent, Cornwall, Pembrokeshire or the Orkneys had there been a problem there. That is what, understandably, galls people.
The media must bear a great part of the blame. One expects the well-known American news magazines to make the usual glib, half-baked comparisons, as they always do, between situations almost anywhere in the world, and Mississipi and Alabama: such as the claim that school segregation by religion in Northern Ireland is the fault of the Unionists. In fact the exact opposite is the case. We have a book which is lavishly and fulsomely over-praised, so much so that its entire text was read into the United States Congressional Record. It is a book, published by an English newspaper, which actually implied by an extremely dishonest juxtaposition of sentences, in speaking of the two years following the emergence of the Northern 83 Irish State, that the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the "B" Specials had very little compunction about using arms and that nearly 300 people had died in the first two years, thereby implying that the police went about shooting people at random. To any man in the street, it would appear that way if he did not study the subject carefully. They were shocking libels, my Lords.
Last Friday on television we had the extraordinary spectacle of a very civilised and interesting, courteous argument between Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien and representatives of the Ulster Protestant workers. There were also two English commentators present. During the course of the conversation one of the Protestants, a footballer of some renown, revealed that in his boyhood in a street of terraced houses in East Belfast all the houses had pictures of Winston Churchill on one wall and King George VI on the other. The snorts of contempt and derision which emanated from the trendy media men—television commentator and editor—at the idea that it is contemptible to have pictures of Royalty or Winston Churchill on one's walls, were quite nauseating to behold.
But enough of analyses of the past. What of the future? What are the options? Independence?—perhaps if it is achieved on terms of good will all round, with security for minorities and adequate financial support for the new State. It is not an ideal solution but it cannot be ruled out of court. But independence in circumstances of bitterness, distrust and cutting off all aid, even leaving aside the moral aspects, would have only the very worst implications for this country.
"Hell hath no fury like a people scorned", one might say, and it is possible for a people to be driven to all sorts of desperate expedients to overcome what they feel to be great unfairness. The Russians now have a toehold in the South of Ireland, much to the worry of friends of mine there with whom I have discussed the matter. One thinks of the Chinese now working in Malta. Could they, too, be interested in a toehold in the British Isles? It may seem fanciful to make these suggestions, but we have to remember that seven years ago many things which have since happened in Ulster would have seemed equally fanciful. Might not 84 these people feel driven to desperate expedients by a feeling, whether it is right or wrong, that they have been sold down the river?
Perhaps I might mention integration. It is often said that integration would arouse the fears and dash the hopes of the Roman Catholic minority. I could not disagree more with that view, because for Catholics, qua Catholics, it must do quite the opposite, as the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, said, though perhaps from a different standpoint. Once both communities were absorbed into a wider community of about 60 million people, they could sink their various differences within a wider United Kingdom context. I agree that from the point of devolution, and so on, it is not the best solution, but in many ways it is a very humane one and for that reason it ought to be kept in mind.
I believe that the people whose hopes and aspirations would be dashed are the hard-line Republicans—those Republicans who put the absorption of Northern Ireland into the South above everything else. Of course they have never been very strong in Northern Ireland—and I am not even referring necessarily to the I.R.A. In the 1959 General Election, they contested every seat and received 11 per cent. of the votes, and in a survey which was carried out seven or eight years later they numbered 11½ per cent. of the entire population. A good many of them, although not all, are concentrated in the border areas, such as the South Armagh salient, including Crossmaglen. Here the majority of the people, if they do not support the I.R.A., certainly tolerate them; and the border posts and the Customs posts have had to be moved several miles back. Local policemen and Customs men will not venture there and far too many members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. British soldiers. U.D.R. men and others have been killed there. I do not think this particular salient is worth the life of one more soldier. It probably is not practicable, but I should like to see an effort made to initiate exploratory talks about the possible ceding of parts of this area to the Republic.
If, for one reason or another, both independence and integration are ruled out and there has to be some form of power sharing, I am not so pessimistic 85 as many of your Lordships are on this subject. Certainly, it seems that many members of the Ulster Workers' Council do not entirely mind the idea of power sharing, now that they see that without minority co-operation they might commit acts of sabotage or hinder the smooth running of the country in some way or other. But if eventually we revert to power sharing, two compromises might be made which could bring the majority round to acceptance of it, and possibly even to the acceptance of a Council of Ireland.
The first is that the Labour Government, quite rightly in my view, have promised the British people a referendum on E.E.C. membership, if and when the terms are renegotiated. The British people will be asked whether they wish to surrender some of their soverignty in certain matters—for example, the size of the juggernauts to be driven across their roads, the sort of hops to be put into their beer and the content of their loaf, together with the professional qualifications of their doctors and lawyers—in return for potential economic benefits. The countries concerned are, of course, friendly—or, at least, they have been so since 1945—and have not made any territorial claims on Britain. Therefore, if we are to have a referendum on such matters as these, how much more right it would be for the people of Northern Ireland to be asked to pronounce on their own future status and on what form a Council of Ireland, if desired, should take. Such a referendum might go a long way to defuse the situation.
Finally, there is another safeguard, of which your Lordships may have heard ad nauseam. I venture to mention this matter again because Sir Fred Catherwood raised it only the other day. His views are rather similar to my own. Some years ago he published a study of conflict—that is, that changes in the constitutional status of a country should be made only if there is a two-thirds majority in favour. However, all in all, the best course for the future has as much to do with attitudes as with actions. If the people of the North are not constantly being told that they are disloyal or that they are to be urged into a United Ireland against their will, and if their past efforts are given due weight and attention, then I think there will be a great leap forward; and with luck, 86 people on the other side of the water may respond.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and the House generally will forgive me if I do not follow the noble Lord in detail. He will find that in my speech I shall be mentioning many of the matters which he has raised, and so I ask him not to think of it as any discourtesy to him that I am not following what he has said.
All of us in this debate must have a sense of reserve and even of humility —because none of us has the answer to the present problem in Northern Ireland; it bewilders and confounds us all. Yet at the same time it is our duty to try to find an easing of the way to a solution. That should not be impossible. Northern Ireland is not the only place where there has been abominable slaughter and hatred between communities: one thinks of Bangladesh and the conflict between the Pakistanis and the Bengalis. Now that has moved far towards a solution. We think more closely of the Middle East, where the Arab/Jewish antagonism was as great as the antagonism which there has been in Northern Ireland; and yet there events are now moving to the promise of settlement.
May I commend the idea which was put to the House by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, when he suggested that we should find a Dr. Kissinger to seek a way to a settlement in Northern Ireland. I never felt that Dr. Kissinger was worth the Nobel Peace Prize for what he did in Vietnam. I think emphatically that he is worth it for what he has done in the Middle East. If during the next four months' period, when we are seeking to cool animosities, someone could be found to fulfill in Northern Ireland what he did in the Middle East, it would be a great advance. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will consider not only the general proposal which the noble Lord made, but the nomination of someone, a particular person, to fulfill that role.
I was one of those who welcomed power sharing in Northern Ireland. I welcomed the Sunningdale Agreement. I thought the fact that Protestant and Catholic leaders had come together and, 87 with tolerance, had co-operated was a great hope for the future, and that the proposal for a Council of Ireland, which should seek to bring co-operation between North and South, would again open the way to reduce animosities. That has been destroyed. Perhaps the word "destroyed" is too strong, because it may be a precedent for the future. It was ended from both sides. The I.R.A. had great responsibility for its escalation of the campaign of bombing and shooting which followed power sharing inauguration. I accept the view which has been expressed by speakers with knowledge of Ulster that the strike of the Ulster Workers' Council was not only in opposition to the Sunningdale Agreement, but was due to frustration. There has been this power-sharing Executive for months and yet no reduction of the bombing and atrocities that were occurring in Belfast.
My Lords, to-night I shall be expressing opinions which will be unpalatable to both Front Benches in this House. That may not be unusual, but what I say will be a little strange even to some of my friends. In my view there should have been negotiations with the Ulster Workers' Council when its power was proved. I deplore its views, but it demonstrated clearly that it had the support of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. When it is said that it was a revolt against democracy, democracy is not only a matter of institutions and constitutions. It is also a matter of the spirit and the will of the people, and though I differ entirely from the attitude of the U.W.C., it would have been better had there been negotiations because it reflected the majority. May I just remind the members of the Opposition that that was the view of their allies in Ulster; it was the view of Mr. Faulkner; it was the view of the majority in the Executive of the Assembly. I must in fairness add—because I want to be completely sincere—that I also think that the Prime Minister's broadcast on that occasion was very unfortunate. I think it is the only occasion when I have appreciated the political broadcast of the Opposition more than the broadcast for the Labour Party.
We must now recognise that there has been a profound change in Northern Ireland—a political and a psychological change. The political change is this: 88 Northern Ireland used to be dominated by the great landlord class; they controlled Stormont. But they were swept aside. Northern Ireland was then dominated by the great capitalist business class; they were the authority in Stormont. They were swept aside. Now we have had the change that the working class in Northern Ireland has become the dominant influence. Among the Protestants it is the United Workers' Council; among the Catholics, the Social Democratic and Labour Party. From that political change I take great hope because, even though they have different views about Ulster politically, they have an identical social and economic programme. What we have to do is encourage the opportunity for unity in that sphere.
The second great change in Northern Ireland, and one which we have not yet fully recognised, is psychological. Northern Ireland used to be divided between those who were loyal to Britain and loyal to Ireland. It is now becoming divided between those who are loyal to Ulster and those who are loyal to a united Ireland. The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, referred to the fact that in the recent great processions in Belfast the Union Jack had disappeared, and instead of it the Red and White Flag of Ulster was to be seen. The story which he related tells against him. He said that years ago the Red and White Flag of Ulster was lifted on Stormont and by the opposition of the Protestants it was pulled down and the Union Jack was used instead. But now among the Protestant majority the mood is one of loyalty to Ulster rather than to Britain; it is to the Red and White Flag of Ulster rather than the Union Jack. Those two changes in Northern Ireland are tremendously significant.
During the strike undoubtedly there was scandalous intimidation of the Catholic workers by the Protestants—undoubtedly. But there were some Catholic workers, particularly in Londonderry, who joined the strike on their own initiative because they felt it would be action against the British presence. The Catholics have accepted the view that there should be no union of the whole of Ireland without the consent of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland. I would plead with them to go 89 further than that. If one accepts the view that Ulster should not join Southern Ireland except with the consent of the majority, the implication is that one should meanwhile co-operate with the majority in Ulster. I believe that if a basis can be found on which Catholic workers in Ulster can take common action with Protestant workers, and take that action in a positive way in the interest of Ulster as a whole, leaving for the time the idea of the unity of the whole of Ireland, by that action the Catholic workers would be doing a great service to bring about the ultimate cooperation of North and South. They should do that rather than intensify division on the Republican issue. The opportunity for that co-operation between Catholic and Protestant workers in Northern Ireland is increasing. I have been deeply impressed by what the leaders of the Ulster Workers' Council have said of their desire for good will towards the Catholics, and of their identification with the Catholics in their denunciation of internment and of other wrongs. The whole of our policy in this country should be concentrated upon seeking to secure the co-operation of the Protestant and Catholic workers.
I want to make two constructive suggestions. I recognise that the future pattern of Northern Ireland must be decided by the people of Northern Ireland itself, with our co-operation and agreement. I should like to suggest that during these four months of a cooling period the proposal which Professor Richard Rose, of Strathclyde, has made in his book and in the remarkable article which appeared in the Sunday Times of yesterday, should be considered. Professor Rose suggested that plans should be put through for calling a Northern Ireland constitutional convention, elected by proportional representation, and that we should ask the people of Northern Ireland themselves to decide what the future pattern of their Province should be. Under proportional representation the Catholics would have their true minority representation, and I believe that there would be among the Protestants sufficient co-operation to ensure that in the pattern they recommended a charter of civil rights guaranteeing the liberties of the Catholics would be secured.
90 The second constructive proposal I want to make is this. There has been discussion about the withdrawal of British troops. I do not want the British troops withdrawn in a situation which will lead to a bloodbath. I too keenly remember what happened in India and Pakistan: half a million died. But I do not think we can indefinitely keep our British boys in Northern Ireland under the conditions they are in now. It is too much to demand from anyone. I would suggest to the Government that they should set a target date when British troops should be withdrawn. It may be a year. I believe that if they did that it would encourage the people of Ulster, Catholic and Protestant, to seek an agreement knowing that at the end of that period they would have the responsibility for Ulster itself.
I had intended to make one other proposal, which I will now only mention. I discussed it with President de Valera years ago—we were friends because we were in prison together. It was a proposal for a confederation: Britain, Northern Ireland, Ireland as a whole. As we think of this problem we might begin to ask ourselves whether an ultimate solution might be found in that way.
My Lords, I want to conclude by saying that there is great danger that we shall not be allowed to enter the period of quiet and consideration which is in the mind of the Government. There is the great danger that a violence greater than we have seen in recent months may break out in Northern Ireland and that in Southern Ireland there will be an alienation from Britain which we have not experienced for many years. It seems strange to say, but emotions are of that character, that this depends upon the lives of two girls, the Price sisters. As the Home Office knows, I have done my utmost to get those two girls to give up their hunger strike. I went to them with the letter which the Home Secretary sent to me offering consideration of their return to Northern Ireland. They said, "Consideration is not enough". Then I asked the Home Secretary if, instead of consideration, he would give an assurance that they might return to Northern Ireland when conditions allowed. The Home Secretary got near to accepting that in his statement on Saturday. He indicated 91 the expectation that before the girls finish their sentences they will be transferred to Northern Ireland.
I hope that the Minister will listen carefully to what I am now going to say, because I believe that it gives the promise of some solution to this difficulty. The Home Secretary said, "Consideration". It was rejected. The Home Secretary has now said, "Expectation". I am urging on the girls acceptance, but I am doubtful whether it will be given. What the girls would accept—after consideration and expectation—is assurance. The difference is small. It is foolish on their part to insist. But it will be equally foolish on the part of our Government if, appreciating what may happen in Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, they do not bridge that marginal difference. I hope that the Government's representative on the Front Bench will put that point to the Home Secretary and that before the end of this debate in another place he may be able to extend what he has proposed to cover that very small difference which might make all that we fear unnecessary.
My Lords, I hope you will forgive me if I have spoken at some length. I have tried to speak objectively and I have tried to speak constructively. I hope that during this coming period, despite the fears which I have indicated, we may take a great step forward towards bringing harmony to Northern Ireland.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ LORD HYLTON
My Lords, I start with an apology because I find myself unable to be present to-morrow for the second half of the debate and to hear the reply of the Government. It is always a delight to follow the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and I share his humility because, like so many others, I have no solutions to offer.
I should like to look at the question of consent, however, and I would go part of the way with my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire in that I believe that the consent and participation of the people of Ulster is absolutely necessary in the search for a modus vivendi. I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in stressing the importance 92 of the article by Professor Rose of the University of Strathclyde. He is no stranger to the Northern Irish scene. In a nutshell, he was suggesting a constitutional convention at which there would be valid representatives of all sections of Ulster opinion, including, perhaps, the demagogues and including all who are prepared to negotiate and discuss in the hope of reaching a modus vivendi. It may be important that there should be some kind of institutional framework within which this search can be conducted. We have heard some serious warnings about the dangers of deadlines and we should heed them; but perhaps we should not disregard the case for having a formal gathering in which possible solutions can be discussed—perhaps even an elected gathering.
I want to touch on only two other matters. The first is courage and the second is patience. I join in the tributes that have been expressed from all sides of the House to the courage, the morale, the patience of the Army and the Security Forces and the families of both. Yet on this question of security I should like to ask the Government why it is that I.R.A. funerals with firing parties and so on are tolerated and why is it, on the other hand, that paramilitary marches to Stormont are permitted. To an outside observer these things seem to be a provocation and an intimidation of all non-violent people. There may, perhaps, be some good reason for allowing these things because they have been allowed by several Administrations, but we have not really heard—at least, I have not heard—the reason why.
On the question of patience, I follow very much in the footsteps of the noble Lord, Lord Grey, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the warning on the question of security given by the noble Lord, Lord Moyola. Patience seems to be particularly necessary at this point when siren voices are suggesting withdrawal or even re-partition. I believe that probably at this moment there are no instant solutions, no ultimate solutions. I trust that a degree of bipartisan approach can be maintained here, at least to the extent that English electoral considerations will not cast unfortunate shadows on the search for a modus vivendi in Ulster.
It has been pointed out time and again that there are in Ulster two tribes, two 93 communities, two nationalisms. Well, this is a state of affairs which is not unique to Ulster. One can look at Switzerland, or the Lebanon, or Canada and find situations in varying degrees parallel. In these countries, sometimes after several civil wars, ways and means have been found in which power might be shared between two or more communities. With patience I trust the same will be true in the future of Ulster.
§ 7.30 p.m.
My Lords, it is with profound but qualified sadness that I rise to address your Lordships' House this evening, because what looked like the new dawn in Northern Ireland has, on the face of it, turned out to appear like a false dawn. So much that had been carefully constructed, that had been carefully conceived, the tender plant that had begun to take root, all seems to have collapsed round about us and to have been destroyed. I said that I was qualified in my sadness and I will amplify that a little later. In the meantime my sadness itself, quite apart from other points that noble Lords have made, is because to a large extent I was fortunate enough to be able to see the power-sharing Executive operating, being as I am an elected Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. I was able to witness the fact that the power-sharing Executive which came into office at the beginning of this year was an administrative body of higher calibre than we have ever previously enjoyed in Northern Ireland.
I was delighted to witness those who would not previously have had an opportunity of participating in government in Northern Ireland, so doing, and doing so with great distinction. I refer of course to the members of the Social Democratic and Labour Party who previously would always have been in a minority. They were able to go to the Dispatch Box, they were commanding Departments, and they did it most impressively as indeed did their colleagues. In this connection, I think I should pay a special tribute to Mr. Paddy Devlin, whom your Lordships may have seen on television from time to time, who actually managed to present the Estimates of the Department of Health and Social Services from start to finish without once using his favourite word!
94 But for all that there was one thing missing; a yawning gap was left in the Assembly and in the Executive by the absence of those Parties who have now come under the umbrella of the United Ulster Unionist Council—the U.U.U.C.—who by and large have declined to participate in the affairs of the Assembly and have declined to participate either in the Executive or in the Consultative Committees which were set up. I only wish that they had been able to find in themselves the magnanimity and the generosity to be able to adjust their position (as did the S.D.L.P. in fact) so that they could have participated. Let us make no mistake about it, they have within their ranks people of ability and dedication and I believe they could have made a good contribution. I am only very sorry indeed that they could not bring themselves so to do.
Noble Lords this afternoon have commented on why this visionary, adventurous, idealistic and, to my mind, entirely sensible experiment in power sharing should appear to have collapsed. There are many factors in it, but the most inronic one is that the fear in regard to the Council of Ireland was so generated that this rather than power sharing was perhaps the main factor of the sad turn of events that has taken place. The fears were sown by so-called Loyalists, members of the Assembly and their supporters who, while they were not in the Assembly, were busy in their constituencies and making statements to the Press and television media. They sowed the seeds of fear which were then fertilised by falsehood and began to grow. Let us he fair about it: it was not only the Loyalists who did this. There was one unimportant Social Democratic and Labour Party Assembly man who, addressing an audience in Dublin, decided to play for an easy round of applause, and said that the Council of Ireland was the vehicle that would eventually trundle us into a United Ireland. This supported exactly what the Loyalists were saying. People such as myself and my colleagues in the Assembly Party have on the whole regarded the Council of Ireland—I am speaking for myself now; I should not have included the Alliance Party—to be incidental whereas I consider power sharing to be fundamental.
95 The fact that the Council of Ireland should have been used for this purpose is to my mind most deplorable. But it was so used and unfortunately the results were all too apparent for everyone to see. Of course also there was the fact that violence continued, and this was deliberate. The I.R.A. were scared that perhaps a viable solution was in sight; that perhaps power sharing was going to work and so therefore they pulled out every available stop to keep the violence going, to keep the disruption and the terrorism going; and I am afraid one must admit that they were successful in their efforts, because if only peace had broken out when the Executive got under way at the beginning of this year it would have been much easier for the general public in Northern Ireland to have accepted and appreciated the very real advances that were being made.
The movement to pull the troops out of Northern Ireland has been one of my greatest worries. But I feel much happier this evening. I feel much happier after having heard one noble Lord after another saying that this is a dangerous statement and that there is no question of pulling out. As the noble Lord, Lord Grey of Naunton, said, even if we discard the moral issue it would be strategically wrong so to do, and from the point of view of self interest in Northern Ireland it would be bad policy to pull out the troops.
I would say that the main danger is that if the I.R.A., or indeed the thugs of Protestant extremists on the other side, think that Britain is in this sort of mood, that will be tantamount to saying to them, "O.K., just one more big heave and you will get what you are looking for". That is why I was so delighted to hear those expressions of view on the part of noble Lords, and in this connection I must say how profoundly grateful thinking people in Northern Ireland are to Britain and to the Armed Forces and the Services in Great Britain who have backed up Northern Ireland over these last few years. We feel it every bit as deeply, perhaps even more deeply when we read or hear in a broadcast that a young British soldier has been killed or seriously wounded. We feel this perhaps even more deeply than when one of our own is killed, because 96 why should they be killed? Why should they be involved in this appalling situation? I sympathise with the wives, mothers and families who ask, "Why should our soldiers be involved in this?". I would say, 'Thank you, Britain. Thank you for what you have done for Northern Ireland". I thank the people of Britain for their patience and their endurance over this period. One of these days it will become apparent that the majority of people in Northern Ireland will express this thanks by words and deeds, and will continue to back Britain in the way they did during the last war.
However, the strike took place; the Executive fell. The strike started without very widespread support. Its launching was much dependent upon intimidation. But, unfortunately, as it progressed it gathered support; and public anger, which was there because people were suffering much inconvenience and deprivation, unfortunately began to become more directed at Her Majesty's Government than at the strikers themselves. But having expressed my thanks to the British people, here I am afraid I must express a criticism of what I consider to have been an error on the part of Her Majesty's Government. That was that while they took no action concerning the blocking of roads or intimidation, at the same time they presented a facade of intransigence so far as entering into talks with the strikers was concerned. I heard it put very well by someone speaking to me the other day who said that whereas the Government ought to have presented an attitude of flexible steel, what in fact they presented was an attitude of inflexible jelly. This had a poor effect on public morale.
I do not know how many of your Lordships have been in a country when law and order has completely broken down. But when one sees people blocking the roads, stopping traffic, hi-jacking vehicles, with no sign of the security forces in sight, it undermines public confidence almost completely. This was most regrettable, although it is my own opinion that the Armed Forces could not have broken the strike. But even so, the fact that this blatant flouting of the law was allowed to take place while no negotiations were going on I think was most unfortunate. The result was that the 97 Executive was put into an impossible position. The Executive had responsibility for providing electricity, gas, fuel, food and so on, but they were not able to carry out that responsibility by physical means because they could not get the supplies through. Perhaps this ought to make Her Majesty's Government take a new look at the division of responsibility. If the Executive is responsible for administration in the Province, should it not also he responsible for security?—all right, not the British Army, but at least the police and the police reserve. This was one of the matters that most embarrassed the Executive.
My Lords, what is the position now? The Ulster Workers' Council are triumphant. They have pulled it off once. Why should they not be able to pull it off again? The I.R.A. (although I have not spoken to them personally) are delighted, I am sure, because, after all, their biggest stumbling block in the past was the restraint of the Protestant working class. Here they were able to sit back, without danger or effort on their part, and see being done in a fortnight what they had not been able to do in not just five years, but what they had not been able to do in 50 years. This is a dangerous situation indeed. Of course, Britain is sickened, and not surprisingly. That is why I have found it so encouraging to hear the expressions of support and consistency made by so many noble Lords this afternoon. In so far as the Republic of Ireland is concerned, I think they are saddened. I think their aspiration for a united Ireland has receded considerably. Certainly if I lived in the South I should not want the Northern Ireland problem put on my plate at this moment.
The other element in the situation is what has been called the silent majority. I would stress this comes from all sections of the community—Roman Catholics, Protestants, weekly paid workers, professional men, managers and property owners. They are not militant Loyalists or militant Republicans. What they really want to do is to be allowed to get on with the job and live in peace. These are the people who, over the last few years, have set the best record in the United Kingdom for industrial production and for industrial relations. Let us not forget that. That is the way they want to let matters go on; that is what they want 98 to see continuing. Is their voice never heard? They are the silent majority. It is often said they are not heard. But then, how much have your Lordships who live in this country heard about all the people behind the scenes in Northern Ireland who have worked hard and put themselves at risk to maintain peace?
What about the clergy and the social workers, and the leaders of opinion in the community, who have been out on the streets trying to conciliate, trying to cool things down? Have you heard about them yet? They are the people who have averted the civil war which so often has been predicted, and despite the flash points that have so often been there to set off a civil war. Have your Lordships heard about them? Indeed, have your Lordships heard anything much about the Alliance Party which I represent, and which has been working very hard for the last four years or so to get reconciliation and understanding in the community? I would guess that probably your Lordships have heard little about this side of the matter, unless you have had occasion to go to Northern Ireland, because it is only if one is in Northern Ireland that it is possible to hear the voice of the silent majority, and to realise that the majority of people are looking for peace and reconciliation. Those people do not want to be bulldozed either into a united Ireland or into an independent Ulster. I would demand that their perfectly legal interests should not be sacrificed on the altar of two extreme minorities who are prepared to use violence, intimidation, and indeed industrial action to impose their will on others.
The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, stated that the concept of an independent Ulster, summed up in the phrase "Ulster nationalism", was not new. I am sure he is right. But it has been canvassed very much more just recently, by so-called Loyalists. "To whom are the Loyalists loyal?" is a question I have often asked myself. One thing is for sure, and has become apparent recently. They are not loyal to Britain. And if the British way of life means fair shares for all and a fair crack of the whip, they are not loyal to the British way of life. What seems to be the fact is that they are loyal to a reincarnation of Protestant ascendency with 99 the Roman Catholics as second-class citizens.
They also seem to be loyal to a recipe for total disaster, an independent Ulster. A Member in another place who is also a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, stated the other day that Northern Ireland could go it alone; no problem—"We do not want help from Britain". Perhaps it is not surprising that that Member is not so well known as an economist as he is as a farmer, because I would be interested to hear from him—but he does not turn up in the Assembly so I have not had an opportunity to ask him—what he thinks, if Ulster goes independent, will happen to the shipyard, or Short Brothers, the aircraft factory, which would be closed down now if it were not for the support the British Government have put in to the tune of tens of millions of pounds. How does he think the confidence of international corporations and companies such as British Enkalon, Viyella and Dupont, would be maintained? My view is that there would be massive unemployment. Some people can take unemployment in their stride for a while, the way things are at the moment, but if the unemployed turned up at the Labour Exchange and found that the money had run out, and therefore there was no unemployment benefit payable, that would be a very different situation indeed. What about the farmers who turned out to demonstrate their support for the strike, with their tractors and trailers blocking the roads? If Ulster were independent and if there were tens of thousands unemployed in Belfast, do they think that they could continue to live a quiet, peaceful life in the country? If they do not agree with me that hoards of starving workers would move out of Belfast and begin to requisition assets in the county, I should like to know what their forecast of the events would be.
One argument that has been put up—and I hardly think it can have been very carefully researched—is that, "Britain is not the only source of finance; there are other countries in the world who would be prepared to help us." I agree that this is right, and the first country I can think of is Russia. They have helped Egypt when Egypt was in trouble. They have helped the underdeveloped countries 100 in Africa. And they have very kindly and thoughtfully moved in massive numbers of advisers and technicians at the same time, who have given pretty strong advice, too. Would, I wonder, the people of Northern Ireland welcome this? Would indeed, I wonder, the people of Great Britain welcome having a potential Cuba on her doorstep? I very much doubt it. And simultaneously, while this was going on, the bloody civil war which has been referred to earlier would probably break out and the I.R.A. would be laughing all the way to the cemetery. The idea of an independent Ulster is madness. The Party which the noble Viscount, Lord Brookborough, represents, together with my own Party, the Alliance Party, stand absolutely firm on the maintenance of our link with Great Britain. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and that is the way it has got to stay. That is our policy.
But how can we find language clear enough and simple enough to convince the "thickies" and the honest hardworking people whom they have misled that the establishment of a power-sharing Government in Northern Ireland has done more to underpin our link with the United Kingdom, with Great Britain, than anything else for the last 54 years, since the Government of Ireland Act? And how can we find language to convince them that the collapse of the Executive which has been brought about has done more to put that link in jeopardy than anything else in the last 54 years? I wish people could understand this. I wish that we in Northern Ireland could stop fooling ourselves and see facts as they are, as the noble Lord, Lord Grey, said, instead of imagining things about facts and then believing those.
My Lords, what to do? What is the next step? I think that a cooling-off period has much to be said for it. One thing that the noble Lord. Lord O'Neill, said annoyed me particularly, and that was when he suggested that there should be a referendum. I was particularly aggrieved by this because I was about to suggest the same thing myself. I think that it is possibly one of the answers—maybe not the answer but one of the answers. I do not like suggesting referenda because government by referendum is a dangerous thing; it should not be necessary in an ordinary democracy. But that 101 is not the situation, unfortunately, with which we are faced. So I would suggest, like the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, that there should be a referendum asking whether people in Northern Ireland want to remain in the United Kingdom with the continuance of the present economic arrangements and a power-sharing developed Government. The second question is: "Do you wish Northern Ireland to become independent from the United Kingdom without political ties or economic support?" I think this might do something to clear up what is at the moment a smouldering, clouded and dangerous issue, and at least would get it out of the way, because, as other noble Lords said, the result of the recent general imperial election is such that a lot of people are reaching unjustifiable conclusions out of it.
There is one other question, which I do not think it is necessary to ask at this stage because it was asked last year: "Do you wish to remain part of the United Kingdom or do you wish to go into a united Ireland?" The answer was clearly given just over a year ago, and the Constitution Act pledges that the question will not be reopened for another 10 years, until 1983. Therefore, I think this question can be left; but the other question which has become more prominent recently should be cleared up. I am certain that the answer to that referendum would clearly show—as Mr. Faulkner would say, "make it crystal clear"—that the majority want nothing to do with it. I think that a referendum would be a cleaner and clearer way of dealing with it than would be an election, where many other elements would enter in.
Then I think that Her Majesty's Government must address themselves to this very difficult and thorny question of ending internment. My Party have from the start opposed internment. We realise the security difficulties that there are, but at the same time I still feel that this is something that ought to be done. So far as the others are concerned, it is amazing how the politicians who were more or less wrapped up in flags, who shouted that no one but themselves were loyal, who missed no opportunity to sing "God Save the Queen", however out of tune, have now done a complete about turn. They are suggesting severance of the link with the United Kingdom, and this, 102 after all, was the rock on which Unionism was founded; this was the fundamental by which Unionism has existed. Yet, having denied both these cardinal points, they still call themselves Unionists, whether they are Vanguard Unionists, Democratic Unionists or ordinary Unionists. I should be interested to know how they would be able to explain that because, if anyone else had suggested it, we should have been deafened by shouts of "traitor", "Lundy" and all the rest of it. Their credibility has been stretched to the breaking point, I feel.
As for us, we shall stand firm and shall continue to fight for that in which we believe and over which I think it fair to say we have been consistent. In so doing, what better could we do than use those good old slogans which are so well known? Those slogans were shouted by the Loyalist politicians and still are though, in their language to-day, their meaning has become slightly different. Our meaning when we shout, "No surrender", is that we shall not surrender to those who will try to pitch us into a united Ireland or into an independent Ulster. When we cry, "This we will maintain", we mean that we shall maintain the link with Great Britain and shall remain part of the United Kingdom. When we cry, "Not an inch", this means that we shall not give an inch in yielding to the terrorists and bullyboys who, by violence, intimidation or, indeed, industrial action, will try to impose their will on the majority.
Finally, I should like to make a plea rather similar to that made by Abraham when he was negotiating the future of Sodom and Gomorrah but, with respect to the Patriarch, I think I have a much stronger case and one which is perhaps less complicated. The majority of people in Northern Ireland are not terrorist Republicans or thuggish Loyalist militants; they are, as I said before, ordinary people who want to go about their business, who want peace and who, I believe, want to remain part of the United Kingdom. They are constructive people. Can we not take their interests and their view into account? Could not their view be allowed to be expressed through the referendum which I have suggested?
In approaching that matter, I would ask Her Majesty's Government not to 103 underestimate the significance of what has been achieved. We have had power sharing in Northern Ireland for the first time and it got off to an extremely good start. For a short period, it worked extremely well. That was not apparent to the man in the street, but to those in the Assembly, to the civil servants and to those involved in Government Departments, it was apparent. Let us not forget that. The structure may seem to have fallen to pieces, but the pieces can still be picked up and put together again, and that, my Lords, is what the Party which I represent intends to do all it can to encourage. To bring about this situation, "Alliance will fight and Alliance will be right".
§ 8.4 p.m.
LORD DE CLIFFORD
My Lords, I am only going to intervene in this debate for a few minutes. I have once again to say that I do not know Northern Ireland particularly well. I have not been there in the last five years, and I have really only come to your Lordships' House to ask the Government to realise that they have a problem with regard to Northern Ireland quite apart from that of solving the difficulties there. They have to convince the millions of people in this country who, like myself, do not know what the situation is and if what is being done is right.
The Government have a number of problems to face. It appears to many people that there is a tendency among certain sections of the community, not only in Ireland but in this country also, to ignore and flout legislation passed by Parliament. It also appears at the moment, following this latest strike, that the Government do not control the running of Northern Ireland. Direct rule, it appears to many people, could be overturned tomorrow if a decision were made by the Government which the militants who called the last strike did not like. They could call another strike and, after the exhibition which was put up during the last strike, is there any guarantee that this would not happen again or that it will not go on every time? Many people will require considerable persuasion by the Government to make them believe that the ploy will not work in future.
104 This is an outlook which has caused a number of people to call for the recall of the Army from Ireland. Personally, I am not one who holds with this. I do not feel that one should just drop everything and leave. I think that would be most dangerous, but I feel that it will require considerable persuasion for people in this country if they cannot see some end to the use of British soldiers in Northern Ireland. They have the impression at the moment—and this must be dispelled somehow or another—that, irrespective of the rights or wrongs of a case, whether political, financial or whatever, the big battalions with the strength and with the aid of a little intimidation and threats of brutality and violence, can ultimately be almost guaranteed to bring any Government to their knees and to force them to agree with their demands. Somebody must convince the people of this country that that will be stopped. I think that we probably had the first indication of it in the by-election which has recently been held at which the total turnout for a seat in the Mother of Parliaments could not raise as high a percentage as would have been expected at a rather poor municipal election. It is a disastrous situation when the electorate reach such a state of mind.
My Lords, it is a rather hackneyed and commonplace thing to say, but it is leadership which is wanted—leadership, drive and purpose. People in this country will always do anything if they have leadership and purpose; they will provide the drive. At the moment, we have no real signs of leadership. One of the most deflating events which has occurred in relation to the Northern Ireland situation was, greatly as I regret to say it, the announcement of a Prime Ministerial broadcast. Everybody was teed up for some not necessarily dramatic but positive statement, and at the end everybody was left as flat as a pricked balloon. All interest, and nearly everything else, stopped at that moment.
The people are definitely saying, "You must withdraw our Army unless you can give us some idea that there will be a solution to this in the end." I do not believe that they will mind if the Government, either themselves, or through some other person (as the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, suggested), 105 negotiated with anybody and everybody in Northern Ireland, and went to talk to them and produced a thin centrepiece of agreement. I would make an appeal to this Government and to my noble friends; everybody has to convince the people that we are right in staying there and finding a solution, but we must tell our own people in this country that that is what we are going to do.
§ 8.12 p.m.
THE EARL OF ENNISKILLEN
My Lords, how much I endorse the words of the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, who has just sat down. We in this country have an immense responsibility to the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Too often the people over here who talk about the situation in Northern Ireland are inclined to talk about it as if it were what some newspapers have written of it "an English Vietnam", which of course bears absolutely no comparison to it whatsoever. Our Army is engaged in the defence of the civil power of the realm, and our present Government, and their predecessors, have failed to put this across to the British people and to the majority in Northern Ireland, and from this stems more trouble than one would suppose.
I do not think that to-day's debate has been anything but good. Basically we must examine the past, not from the point of view of recrimination but from the point of view of going forward from where we have got, and we must not repeat the mistakes that so obviously we have already made. In the United Kingdom the word "democracy" means a great deal. It means a great deal to that part of the United Kingdom which is Northern Ireland. But with all the will in the world I cannot see how an appointed Executive, unelected, can really be described as democracy. If it loses the support of the majority of the population in the country, it cannot be removed. This is not democratic.
I could not more strongly stress that during this period—which I feel must be a cooling off period, for we have got to the very edge of the precipice—we must get back to democratic issues. Democracy in fact means the rule of the majority, and within that sphere in the United Kingdom comes all our liberalism towards the minority element. But I do not think that your Lordships, or any 106 of us in the United Kingdom, really mean by that that we should sit down in Cabinet with members of a foreign State; yet this is the situation with which we are asked to deal in Northern Ireland.
You may well say, and with some justification, that these people are not the enemies of the State. To my mind it is extraordinarily difficult to represent a Royalist majority with a Republican minority, and this is what we are trying to do. I personally believe that the majority of opinion in Northern Ireland wishes to remain part of that liberal United Kingdom of which we are so proud to be members. I am convinced of this. I am equally convinced that the same applies to those of different religious faiths who live in Northern Ireland, but who have really no chance of expressing this opinion in a democratic fashion if the ballot box is to be ignored. We have already had imposed upon us a form of election with which this country, England, will have nothing to do, yet it is right that we in Northern Ireland should have to do with it. If the coloured minority in England are to appeal for proportional representation, which they may well do, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to say that this is right and this we should do, or are the majority, in endeavouring to extend rights to that minority, merely to say, "Well, we will have proportional representation"?
My Lords, would the noble Earl kindly give way? Is the noble Earl suggesting that the coloured minority of Great Britain should not have a voice in Parliament, and that they should be denied representation because proportional representation should also be denied to them?
THE EARL OF ENNISKILLEN
My Lords, that is an extraordinary stretch of imagination concerning what I was saying. I was saying that the minorities within this country do have a voice in government; they have an equal voice with anybody in government, but they do not have an extraordinary voice in government. Every single person entitled to a vote in this country may exercise his vote. What I am saying is simply that if they are the minority they cannot expect suddenly to be involved in Cabinet executive power. Equally, those who have the 107 Cabinet executive power cannot, and must not, abuse that power towards the minority. That is what I am saying.
In the case of Northern Ireland there has been constantly quoted the term"misunderstanding". Well, noble Lords know that in marriages, for example, the one word that is common to both sides is "he" or "she did not understand me", and all their friends upon both sides endeavour to get a more mutual understanding. This is what is happening in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland does not understand the attitude sometimes adopted, or apparently adopted, by the British Government. Equally, those at home in England do not understand why the people in Northern Ireland cannot understand their motives. But on the political aspect what fundamentally we must get back to is the fact that if you want stability of minorities, if you want stability in a country, it is not achievable by constantly pacifying a minority at the expense or by the disturbance of a majority. You must, by leadership, by example, by publicity, by expounding your thesis, secure the wholehearted support of the majority upon which to seat your policy.
This has been lamentably lacking in the last five years. The majority in Northern Ireland have felt that they were gradually becoming less and less wanted in this partnership which it has been stated will last for ten years, and the security factor is the one pointer which has undermined their confidence in this respect. No one has greater admiration for the Army than I and, as the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, has already stated, those of us in Northern Ireland feel most concerned for our troops, for our people. They are all part of us. To listen every day to the broadcasts about Northern Ireland, and to hear that one of our soldiers has been shot in the street is almost more painful than to hear that your neighbour, with whom you were doing a cattle deal in the market a day earlier, was shot dead, or that a person who was doing all he could to support Unionism, to support the British way of life, to support liberal thinking, was shot dead teaching the children in the local school.
Yet, my Lords, while the country that harbours these people—and I emphasise "harbours"—is suing us for maltreat- 108 ment, for abusive tactics, we are bending over backwards to supply them with every argument that they can have. Is that supporting the British way of life? Is that supporting Northern Ireland which is supposed to be sacrosanct for the next 10 years? Will this not undermine the confidence of every man in the street? It is bound to do so. I beg that we will not make this mistake again. We must talk, talk and talk again. It cannot be easily done; it cannot be done tomorrow. Confidence has to be restored, to be built up. The one thing which I hope will come out of the power-sharing experiment is that we will have taught the Roman Catholic element in our midst that there is a role for them to play in government. We have beseeched them to do this in many instances, but the difficulty has been to persuade them and the extremists on the other side. But if the Roman Catholics will realise that there is an element to play in local government and in central government by means of the ballot box and will get their representatives there, then we shall have progressed some way. But the leaders with whom you are to talk in the future must be elected. It is not possible to state that an Executive is to be appointed and claim that the ballot box has a sway, because it does not have a sway.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl? I am at a loss to understand his argument. The working of democracy in Northern Ireland has produced a dominant government of the majority, with no representation of the minority, over a long period. This is why the whole trouble started. In 1969, the Party opposite said, "This cannot go on", and they set up arrangements for a power-sharing Executive. They never pretended that it was democratic; they said that that form of democracy had worked so unfairly that something else had to be brought in, so they brought in an elected Assembly but an appointed Executive. That is what we mean by power-sharing. It is no good the noble Earl saying that he is in favour of power-sharing if he is not in favour of that, because that is what it is.
THE EARL OF ENNISKILLEN
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord has 109 misunderstood me slightly. If you reversed political thought and produced a new Assembly by new elections, by new selection and so on, and used the proportional aspect of the returns and regarded the Assembly as an electoral college to produce the leader from the majority Party, you might be able to assimilate within the Executive people thrown up by an elected Assembly. This is really what I am getting at. They would not be simply appointed personnel, who were not subject to the ordinary pressures of the Floor.
The point made by the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, about giving publicity to our intentions is I think very fundamental. What are our intentions? They must be, first and foremost, to restore peace, to deal with the law-breaker wherever he may be. This must be seen to be done. When talking about that we think immediately of the British Army. I think of some other things. I think of the men who join the Ulster Defence Regiment and who are on duty day and night in their houses. They are never off duty. They are shot because they have joined up. I think of the British Army patrolling the streets, and I think of the Royal Ulster Constabulary endeavouring to do their share. We must get it right, because the Army cannot and will not for ever be able to hold first base for them. Our police force, our local militia force and our own people must be pushed forward and the Army brought back. This, I believe, is the right and fundamental policy.
Any question of withdrawing anybody or letting up on the wrong-doers—the terrorist, the bomber, the destroyer—must be fatal. We shall hear no cry of leaving the Union if that security is put into full practice and the majority regain the confidence that Her Majesty's Government mean what they say and that the mistakes and past misunderstandings do not leave us with people in power who in fact have no power to share because their power has fallen away from them and in the ordinary process they could not survive as a Government. This must not happen. We must use the whole period now, while we take over control, to talk, to have discussions and to work out the political steps. Unless the Security Forces can defeat the bomber, can hold the Borders and the 110 whole exercise is not undertaken, as is misunderstood by people, in an endeavour to get rid of that part of the United Kingdom which at the moment in many eyes, by bad publicity, is regarded as more trouble than it is worth we shall not succeed. It is worth a very great deal to this Kingdom to see that that does not happen.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, forgive me for intervening at this late hour but I cannot be here to-morrow and I should like to support the proposal for a referendum made by the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath. I suggest that the facts are, first, that after five years the I.R.A. have not acheived their object; secondly, that after the General Strike the Protestant Loyalists have destroyed Sunningdale and must now be listened to by the majority; thirdly, that the British Army has not yet restored the country to law and order. I suggest it is no good the British Government continuing to follow the same policy which they have followed for the last five years, but that a referendum with the two questions, complete integration and independence for Northern Ireland, ought to be held in the fairly near future, In the meantime—
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, I do not think that either of the noble Lords suggested complete integration as the first alternative. The first alternative was always power sharing, which is something quite different.
My Lords, if the noble Lord would wish me to clarify my remarks, the first alternative was that Northern Ireland would continue to be part of the United Kingdom as under existing arrangements, with the political and financial arrangements continuing, which includes power sharing.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, just for the Record, that is not the same as complete integration.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, I entirely accept the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath. In the meantime, there 111 ought to be direct rule by the Government. The Royal Ulster Constabulary ought to be reinforced and the British Army should not be withdrawn. As to the date, I am not a politician and I do not suggest that I am, but I would suggest next spring.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.