HL Deb 22 February 2005 vol 669 cc1116-27

4.2 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos)

My Lords, I would like to repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, I should like to make a Statement on Northern Ireland.

"I came to the House on 11 January to make a Statement relating to the Northern Bank robbery on 20 December. To recall the background: a highly organised and brutal gang kidnapped the families of two staff from the bank's headquarters in Belfast, threatening them with death unless the individuals co-operated in the execution of the largest robbery ever seen in these islands.

"Since then a major police investigation has been under way. As the House is aware the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland made his conclusion clear that the Provisional IRA was responsible for the robbery. The Prime Minister and I have indicated that we accept the Chief Constable's judgment, which is also shared by the Irish Government and their security advisers. The Chief Constable's statement, seen in the context of other subsequent events, serves to reinforce the extent of the challenge that we all face in working towards peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

"Earlier this month, on 10 February, I laid before the House a copy of a report presented to the British and Irish Governments by the Independent Monitoring Commission. That report, which the commission had elected to produce in addition to its normal twice-yearly reports to the two Governments, concluded that the Northern Bank robbery was planned and undertaken by the Provisional IRA and that this organisation was also responsible for three other major robberies during the course of 2004.

"I am very grateful to the members of the commission for their quick response to the very grave situation created by the robbery and its attribution.

"The IMC concluded, on the basis of its own careful scrutiny, that Sinn Fein must bear its share of the responsibility for these incidents. It indicated that, had the Northern Ireland Assembly been sitting, it would have recommended that the full range of measures referred to in the relevant legislation be applied to Sinn Fein, including the exclusion of its Members from holding ministerial office. In the context of suspension, it recommended that I should consider exercising the powers I have to apply financial penalties to Sinn Fein.

"The House will recall that following the 1MC's first report in April last year, I issued a direction removing, for a period of 12 months, the block financial assistance paid to Assembly parties in respect of both Sinn Fein and the Progressive Unionist Party.

"Having reflected on the IMC's latest report, I have concluded that it would be appropriate for me to issue a further direction removing Sinn Fein's entitlement to this block financial assistance for a further 12-month period, the maximum period permitted under the legislation.

"I am, therefore, minded to make a further direction to come into effect on 29 April—the day after the existing direction expires. Before reaching a final decision, however, I will take into account any representations made to me by Sinn Fein by next Tuesday.

"I will make a decision on whether to extend the financial penalties imposed on the PUP last April when I receive the next IMC report covering all paramilitary groups, which is expected in April.

"The commission's report also refers to other public money which Sinn Fein receives, although recommendations on this are outside its remit. In this context, I am conscious that honourable Members on both sides of the House have raised concerns in the past about the payment of financial allowances to the four Sinn Fein Members who decline to take up their seats here.

"I hope that the House will welcome the opportunity to debate, in the near future, a government Motion proposing that these allowances be suspended on a timescale in parallel with the arrangements at Stormont, in recognition of recent events. The debate on that Motion is for another day, but I should emphasise to the House, lest anyone accuse us of denying the extent of Sinn Fein's electoral support, that the measures we are proposing are designed to express the disapproval of all those who are committed to purely democratic politics at the actions of the Provisional IRA. All in this House recognise the degree of support for Sinn Fein, but we also believe that the actions of the republican movement are letting down everyone in Northern Ireland, including Sinn Fein voters.

"There are those who will argue that these financial sanctions are insufficient as a signal of the Government's and Parliament's condemnation of recent events. They may well argue that I should take steps to exclude Sinn Fein from the political process, or from the Assembly, now. I want to deal with those arguments directly, because they are sincerely made and with a strength of feeling that I well understand.

"The Government's ultimate goal remains the achievement of an inclusive power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland. I need not remind the House that the robbery has set back the timescale for achieving that. But the reality remains that long-term stability in Northern Ireland will not come about if we focus on exclusion. That objective requires inclusion: dialogue with Sinn Fein must continue in order to see how that long-term goal can be achieved. But I am clear that this must be inclusion on the basis of a complete and demonstrable commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means, that fundamental principle of the Good Friday agreement, enshrined in the pledge of office.

"Had the robbery occurred while the Assembly was in operation, however, the decision about exclusion would have been very different. It is inconceivable, in my view, that members of Sinn Fein could again hold ministerial office while the issue of paramilitary activity and criminality on the part of the Provisional IRA remained unresolved.

"The suggestion is made in some quarters that I should restore the Assembly and then, if the Assembly failed to take action to exclude Sinn Fein, that I should take action myself using the powers available to me to exclude it. That would be very difficult in the absence of a clear plan which would see the parties in the Assembly come together on a cross-community basis to form a government for Northern Ireland. However, as I said to the House on 11 January, I have not ruled anything in or out, as we continue to assess possible ways forward for achieving greater local political accountability.

"As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said, if we cannot achieve a comprehensive settlement in the short term, we will need to consider other ways forward.

"In the mean time, our focus will remain strongly on dealing with the underlying issue of ongoing criminal activity in all its forms. The police investigation into the Northern Bank robbery is the largest undertaken by the PSNI, who are continuing to follow up every lead. This is inevitably an intense and time-consuming process. In parallel with this, I am taking the opportunity to ensure that our arrangements for tackling organised crime remain fit for purpose, and have asked my honourable friend the Member for Dudley South to review the Organised Crime Task Force to see whether, and how, it might be strengthened.

"We continue to have excellent co-operation at both a political and operational level with colleagues from the Republic of Ireland. I met yesterday with Michael McDowell for a regular bilateral, along with the police chiefs from both jurisdictions. At that meeting, I was pleased to see this co-operation further strengthened by the signing, by the Chief Constable and Garda Commissioner, of protocols that facilitate the movement of officers between both forces in terms of personnel exchanges and secondments with policing powers. This development can only serve to strengthen the existing co-operation between the two police services in tackling terrorism and other crime. "Whatever our success in tackling criminality and paramilitary activity, however, the fact of the matter is that the commitment to peaceful and democratic means is not one the Government need to make. As we said in the joint declaration of April 2003, 'ongoing paramilitary activity, sectarian violence and criminality masquerading as a political cause are all corrosive of the trust and confidence that are necessary to sustain a durable political process'. In the present context, as the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach have both indicated, it is for Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA to do that. They need to step forward and tell us how they will demonstrate their full commitment to the all the principles of the Good Friday agreement, and how they intend to demonstrate to all the parties in the political process, as well as to the people of Northern Ireland, that the kind of behaviour identified in the IMC report is in the past. Financial penalties of the kind I have described today may signify our strong disapproval of what has happened, but they do not of themselves rebuild the trust that is necessary if confidence is to be restored. That is a matter for the republican movement in general, and for Sinn Fein in particular".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.13 p.m.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, I thank the Lord President of the Council for repeating the Statement made by the Secretary of State in the other place. I begin by recognising the tremendously good work that both the PSNI and the Garda Siochana have done in recent days in getting so quickly on to the trail of the Northern Bank robbery and other heists.

Does the noble Baroness agree that the recent acts of murder and bank robbery blamed on Sinn Fein/IRA by the IMC and the British and Irish Governments have significantly changed the ball park for what has euphemistically become known as the Northern Ireland peace process? Furthermore, do Her Majesty's Government share the Irish Government's assessment of Sinn Fein/IRA? Does her right honourable friend the Secretary of State endorse the IMC's judgment that leaders of Sinn Fein were personally responsible for these crimes? Does he agree with the defence Minister of the Irish Republic, who said at the weekend: We are no longer prepared to accept the farce that Sinn Fein and the IRA are separate. They are indivisible"?

Does the noble Baroness agree that Messrs Adams and McGuinness will never be trusted again by anyone involved in the democratic processes of government, and that a different method of achieving inclusivity within the devolved process must be found to allow progress without these untrustworthy individuals? If so, what now? The Government have had plenty of time to think about this. I have asked that question on a number of occasions, and even made tentative suggestions from this Dispatch Box. It is time a plan B was unveiled.

I congratulate Her Majesty's Government, albeit on a "better late than never" basis, on the removal of Sinn Fein's block financial assistance from Stormont. Many of us felt they should have had it removed long ago. We will also welcome the Government's proposal to suspend all Westminster allowances, which means some £500,000 from Sinn Fein's coffers. Again, many of us felt that awarding them was wrong in the first place, and we said so.

Does the government proposal mean, however, that Sinn Fein Members of Parliament will still get offices at Westminster and be able to give House of Commons passes to their staff, even if staff salaries have to be met from Sinn Fein's other sources of funding?

Regarding the question of the expulsion of Sinn Fein from the political process, we on this side also want to see the achievement of an inclusive power-sharing devolved government in Northern Ireland, but we will not tolerate it being hijacked by one party, especially one that is transparently linked to criminal activities of the worst type.

We welcome the closer co-operation and excellent co-ordination between the two national police forces, and the signing of the protocols allowing freedom of movement of those forces across national borders.

Can the noble Baroness give us an absolute guarantee that the police and all other agencies will have the Government's unreserved support in their efforts to root out paramilitary crime, and that there will be no holding back, wherever or to whomever those investigations might lead? "Whomever" is perhaps the most important category.

Today's Statement is another sad one. I am delighted that the Government are taking serious and positive action in the light of the situation. I am afraid we cannot expect to see much progress until after the general election, but we on this side expect to see new thinking, fresh planning and some progress.

4.18 p.m.

Lord Smith of Clifton

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement. I also thank the Secretary of State for making the Statement available to us earlier in the day and for meeting us to explain his reasons.

We on these Benches agree with the measures outlined in the Statement, but of course regret the circumstances that have made them necessary. As the Statement says, Sinn Fein, by its contamination with illegal and violent activity, is putting itself beyond the pale of democratic participation. The party cannot pick and mix. Sinn Fein must decide once and for all whether it will fully sign up to pursuing its aims solely by democratic methods. If it does not do so, it is denying its constituents their rightful voice in the democratic process, as the Statement makes clear.

Sinn Fein has a legitimate mandate, but that is confined to lawful political participation. It is most definitely not a mandate to participate in crime and violence as it wishes. The party is wholly responsible for creating the present "High Noon" situation, and the crisis it has engendered.

For some time now, the political situation in Northern Ireland has been akin to a children's boating pool with the parties circling endlessly around in their pedal boats. That rather pointless activity may possibly be coming to an end by the import of this Statement, which is saying, "Come in, number two, your time is up". That is also the message coming very clearly from the Irish Government.

I have to say further that, more recently than the bank heist, the murder of Robert McCartney and the subsequent allegations that Republicans have been intimidating witnesses and protecting those who carried out this heinous crime have also caused a great deal of concern in Northern Ireland. We must hope that Sinn Fein will genuinely reform itself and totally eschew violence and criminality so that the devolutionary process can be resumed.

I conclude by asking the Minister: where do we go from here? How will momentum be resumed in Northern Ireland and, in the mean time, what firm proposals will be made to enable the Westminster Parliament to scrutinise adequately Northern Ireland legislation? While it obtains, direct rule must be better scrutinised than it has been since the suspension of the devolved institutions.

4.21 p.m.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, some general themes have threaded through the comments of the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Smith of Clifton. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, in regretting the circumstances that have made today's Statement necessary.

Turning to the specific questions raised, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, referred to the comments made in the IMC report regarding Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said in another place, there is no reason to deny the IMC report. We have been consistent in saying that Sinn Fein and the IRA are inextricably linked.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that trust has broken down, but I should also say in response to his question "What next?"—a question also put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton—that our goal remains the same. We seek an inclusive, power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland. Clearly there are huge challenges and difficulties associated with how to get there, but because it is our strong view that the process has to remain inclusive, we are sure that at this point we must continue to talk to Sinn Fein—although we have made it clear that inclusion in the Northern Ireland political process must be on the basis of a complete and demonstrable commitment to non violence.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, asked whether the police and the agencies have our unreserved support. I can assure him that that is the case. They have our total support. Indeed, the noble Lord will know that the agencies have been reconfigured to give them greater strength, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has asked Ian Pearson to look again at one of the agencies.

The noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, is right to point out that there is no mandate in Northern Ireland politics for parties to participate in crime and criminality. We are absolutely clear about that. He also asked about the scrutiny of Northern Ireland business, in particular Northern Ireland legislation. A number of suggestions and proposals have been made and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is looking at them. We are well aware that issues of accountability, transparency and consultation become even more important in the context of direct rule and we will do all we can to try to ensure that scrutiny takes place in a way that parliamentarians would wish to see.

4.24 p.m.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, I wish to put a few questions to the Minister. First, accepting that the Government of this country have access to exactly the same information and evidence as that of the Republic, can the Minister confirm that our Government agree with the public statement of the Irish Minister of Justice that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were members of the Provisional IRA ruling army council? I have often heard the noble Baroness accept that the IRA and Sinn Fein are two sides of one coin, inextricably linked, and the same business. However, I should like to know whether she agrees with the statement of the Irish Minister. Secondly, is she comfortable with the fact that such people—we know how the Irish Government view them—may wander around this Palace, free to enter and leave it as they wish—confirmed terrorists?

Thirdly, can the Minister tell me whether any members of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland—that is, what we accept as the Sinn Fein Members of Parliament for Northern Ireland, and members of councils—might have been arrested if in this country we had admissibility of evidence gained by intercept?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the noble Viscount's second question about access to Parliament gives me an opportunity to answer a question which was raised earlier. With respect to what form any further sanctions against Sinn Fein might take, that is a matter to be debated in another place in the coming weeks. The decision is for the other place.

The noble Viscount asked a specific question about individuals. I hope that he will forgive me if I say that, in accordance with longstanding government practice, I do not want to comment on individual cases. However, I will repeat what I said before: we have no reason to deny the IMC report and we have been consistent in saying that the IRA and Sinn Fein are inextricably linked.

I hope that the noble Viscount will also forgive me when I say to him that he really cannot expect me to answer his third question.

Baroness Boothroyd

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that, as Speaker in 1999, I refused Sinn Fein admission to the House of Commons? The decision I took at the time was not based on the politics of Northern Ireland or Sinn Fein, rather it was based on the rule of law. Sinn Fein Members refused to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown. That oath is underpinned by the Parliamentary Oaths Act 1866 and I would neither bend nor break it for anyone.

Failing admission to the Commons, Sinn Fein took my ruling to court in Northern Ireland, which upheld it. Sinn Fein then took my ruling to the European Court of Human Rights, where all seven judges upheld the decision I had taken, stating that the Parliamentary Oaths Act was the only written constitution that this country has.

Is the noble Baroness further aware that in December 2001, if my memory serves me, after I left the Speakership, a Motion was placed on the Order Paper to grant all the facilities, pay, salaries and demands which had been made of me by Sinn Fein? I do not think that the noble Baroness has yet responded to the following question and I shall understand if she is not able to do so. What will be the position regarding offices in this place for Sinn Fein Members, along with salaries for their staff? Lastly, will the Motion that is now being considered by the Government and which is to be placed on the Order Paper be amendable?

Baroness Amos

My Lords. I am well aware of the history that the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, has just outlined. On the question of possible sanctions, that is a matter for the other place. It will be debated in the coming weeks and the nature of the Motion to be tabled by the Government is currently being determined. Once it is agreed it will be printed on the Order Paper, but I shall be happy to draw it to the attention of the noble Baroness when it is ready.

Lord King of Bridgwater

My Lords, the Minister said that she regretted the events she had described. Is there not one sense in which. to those who believed that Sinn Fein/IRA were not yet totally committed to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means, what happened as a result of this robbery is quite valuable? The facts are as they have been reported, and the guilt is as attributed by the British and Irish Governments, revealing that Sinn Fein/IRA have not moved as the Government had hoped they had moved.

The interesting reference in the Minister's Statement, repeating the IMC report, is that this is the fourth bank robbery to be attributed to the IRA, but this one was so big that nobody could ignore it. It does give the impression that people were prepared to ignore the previous ones because it would be inappropriate or inconvenient for the process of achieving the comprehensive settlement. Is it not also clear that this has been a serious wake-up call in Dublin, as well as London, where, in the determination to achieve this settlement, there had previously seemed to be a certain tolerance of some of the activities of Sinn Fein/IRA?

The Minister has referred to the need to consider other ways forward, and her right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made that clear. Is it not clear, given the gravity of the situation, the allegations that have now been made and the serious bad faith, that we had better move forward pretty quickly with that consideration, or other people will fill the vacuum in what may be very unattractive ways?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, we all recognise that we are at a crucial stage. Action taken now will determine what happens in the future. But the Government's commitments remain absolutely clear: first, to work towards an inclusive, power sharing agreement for Northern Ireland; secondly, absolute clarity that crime and criminality cannot he a part of that process.

If the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, looks carefully at the previous IMC report, with respect to the other incidents that the noble Lord has referred to, he will find that it made reference to those incidents, but made it clear that it did not have sufficient information at that time. But in paragraph 9 of this report the IMC states: Since completing work on that report we have been able to consider in depth the significant further material which has become available about some of these incidents. It goes on to set out the incidents where it thinks there has been paramilitary involvement, particularly by the IRA. So the noble Lord's statement that these incidents have been ignored is not actually true. The whole purpose of establishing the IMC was precisely to have a commission investigating these incidents and making recommendations to government.

Baroness Harris of Richmond

My Lords, my question will, rather predictably, be on policing. In replying to a question about reviewing the Northern Ireland Organised Crime Taskforce, the noble Baroness said that she would look at one of the agencies of PSNI. There are other officers who will be involved in the investigation, and parts of Northern Ireland have very severe problems of criminality. In order to ensure that the PSNI has the resources it needs to tackle these matters, will she seek to extend the review of the Northern Ireland Organised Crime Taskforce to include the entire Police Service of Northern Ireland?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the proposed review is of the Organised Crime Taskforce, as the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, has outlined. With respect to extending the review and looking at the issue of resources—the noble Baroness has raised the issue of resources on other occasions—she will be aware that we consult with the PSNI and the chief constable on a regular basis. The issue of resourcing is a key element of those discussions. We have been assured that the resources currently available are appropriate to the task, but this is obviously something we will keep under constant review. I shall ensure that the comments of the noble Baroness are referred to my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, the murder of Mr McCartney—incidentally, a father of two—has already been referred to. Is the Minister aware that we were very lucky not to lose a second life, after a very serious assault? Has there been progress in these cases? Have there been any arrests? Can the Minister confirm or deny that there has also been intimidation of witnesses?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, will understand that I cannot comment on the specifics of a live investigation. However, the chief constable has publicly said that, at this stage, PSNI does not believe that the Provisional IRA, as an organisation, was responsible for the murder of Mr McCartney—even if it turns out that those who committed the murder were members of the Provisional IRA. A distinction is clearly being made between individuals and the organisation.

The important point to note is that, whether or not members of a paramilitary group were involved in this or any other crime, PSNI will follow the evidence where it leads, making every possible effort to bring to justice those who are responsible, whoever they happen to be.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, will the Minister add a further word about witnesses?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I am not aware of the point being made by the noble Lord, but I shall, of course, write.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, I suggest that we now need to raise some issues on which Sinn Fein can, or cannot, show good faith. One would be to ensure that people who were exiled from their communities in Northern Ireland by the IRA paramilitaries over the past several years should be allowed to return. I seem to remember that that issue was raised with Mr McGuinness about 18 months ago. He said that he did not think that it would be for the good of the community. Could that perhaps be one of the tests we apply to whether they wish to reform their ways in terms of restricting and abolishing the powers of the paramilitaries to run communities?

The second point is about Omagh. About two years ago, Gerry Adams was asked whether—since he had said it was not a Provisional IRA crime, but that of some horrible dissident group of which he knew nothing—he would encourage witnesses in the nationalist community to come forward. He was asked that by the people of Omagh. He refused because he said that he did not recognise British justice. I have recently asked him that question again, and he has repeated that answer. He says that British justice is an oxymoron. Are we now going to say to them, "Do what you can to bring witnesses forward, even at this late date"?

Lastly, will Her Majesty's Government produce some money for the people of Omagh? I know they have produced some in the past. I should just like to be reassured that it is enough to enable them to bring a case to court, particularly if the witnesses can at last be allowed to come forward.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I recognise the strength of feeling of the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, on this matter. She has suggested two tests. In complicated discussions and negotiations, like the ones in which we are currently engaged, it would not necessarily be helpful to set out the detail of the issues which are being discussed. However. I note the noble Baroness's points.

I understand that some funds have been provided for the court case. I do not have a figure in front of me but will write to the noble Baroness setting out exactly how much it is and over what period of time.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, the forthright and absolute condemnation which has emanated from the Government and the financial penalties which are being imposed on Sinn Fein/IRA are welcome to many who have not trusted the IRA over a very long period. Does that mean that the period of appeasement is now over and that Northern Ireland can get back to real politics so that there can be proper devolution? That, of course, means proper elections to the Assembly, and the people who attain a majority will govern, either by themselves or in co-operation with others. I say that advisedly, because it really is clear now that power-sharing is unattainable in the short term and even the long term. It is only right that Northern Ireland should get back to having devolution to decide most policies in the north of that island.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, we are trying to achieve the restoration of devolution but let me repeat what I said in the Statement. It is very difficult, given the state of the parties in the Assembly. and in the absence of a clear plan which would see those parties come together on a cross-community basis, to form a government of Northern Ireland. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, that there have been elections and that part of the process was to try to find a way to restore devolution. That has not been possible in the current political climate.

Lord Fitt

My Lords, there cannot be anyone in your Lordships' House or in the House of Commons who can feel any degree of optimism about the present situation in Northern Ireland. Let us analyse what has brought this about. It was the enormity of the money stolen from the Northern Bank coinciding with the brutal murder of the young IRA man.

We have been here before. That was one murder of a young IRA man, but one must think of the scores of IRA men and others whose bodies were found just on the border area of Armagh over many years carried out by the IRA. There was not the same talk about governments wielding sanctions against it.

As for the hank robbery, if one were to accumulate the amount of money that was stolen over a period of time from lots of banks, it might amount to the total that was taken from the Northern Bank.

The last time I spoke in this House, someone told me later that I was expressing the view that I did not see any hope for Northern Ireland. I have no intention of changing my opinion of what has happened over the past two or three weeks. I hear from the government in the Republic and from the Government here that the only way we can have a restored devolved government in Northern Ireland is by inclusivity. If you insist on inclusivity, meaning bringing the IRA and Sinn Fein back into Northern Ireland, you are bringing about a further exclusion of the majority of people in Northern Ireland. I cannot see the members of the Unionist Party, at any time in the future, under any circumstances, in any year. being willing to sit down with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, who have been quite aptly described as members of the army council of the IRA.

If the Government insist on bringing Sinn Fein back into the fold, as it appears from what the noble Baroness has said, they will be excluding at least two of the major parties in Northern Ireland. To insist on such a development will ensure that there will not be restored devolution in Northern Ireland.

I put it to the Government that now is the time to take a stand against Sinn Fein and to say that under no circumstances will it be permitted to take part in a devolved government if that means the exclusion of the other political parties. The Government will have to live with the realities of the situation as it presently exists.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I say briefly to the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, that even if you take out Sinn Fein, the other parties in Northern Ireland have not worked out a basis on which they might work together.