Northern Ireland

October 1, 2000

In 1938 a British Prime Minister spoke of "Peace in our time". A year later we were at War.

In 1998 a British Prime Minister said that the "Good Friday Peace Agreement" was the "best hope for peace". Tony Blair went on to say "I feel the hand of destiny on my shoulder." We saw that in the bloody tragedy of Omagh the hand still had the stench of Semtex and the odour of the armalite on it. Let there be no more appeasement by a British Prime Minister.

The Conservative Party is rightly proud of the stand it has taken in the fight against terrorism and has often paid the highest price for that stand. Airey Neave, Ian Gow, and the victims of the Brighton Hotel paid with their lives.

Under the "Good Friday" agreement terrorists that committed various crimes have been released from prison before their sentences were completed. The Shankhill Road bomber has only served eight months for each of the 10 deaths he caused – and has been awarded more money for resettlement than the daughter of two of his victims received in compensation. All terrorist prisoners receive £3,500 resettlement grant. Once you start to bend justice for political purposes you undermine all justice.

Has the agreement provided peace? We were promised decommissioning:

Before talks,

In parallel with talks,

At the end of talks,

After the signing of the "Good Friday" agreement,

When the Assembly was set up,

but it has not happened.

In the two years since the "Peace Agreement" was signed 49 people have been killed by terrorists in Northern Ireland and 2,422 maimed or injured.

In the year since the "Peace Agreement" was signed there were 140 bomb attacks in Northern Ireland – double the number in the year before the "Agreement" was signed.

In the six months after signing there were:

69 Terrorist punishment beatings

31 Terrorist punishment shootings

98 Other Terrorist shootings

On Election night last year over 100 petrol bombs were thrown at the police as they escorted the ballot boxes to the count in Belfast.

The one thing the "Peace Agreement" has not done is to bring peace. There will only be Peace when it is demonstrated clearly and unequivocally that violence has no part to play in the politics of Northern Ireland.

Can the "Peace Agreement" work? The clear and unequivocal answer is NO. There are democratic fault lines in the Agreement.

The Assembly institutionalises sectarianism, dividing members into Unionist and Nationalist blocs, but in order to influence the outcome of any vote a member can change blocs – and back again – by giving one week’s notice.

The Assembly has a set life of five years with no by-elections. If a member dies or resigns the vacancy is filled by a nominee from the same party.

The Assembly is designed to provide an All-Party Coalition – in effect a One Party Government – with no official Opposition to form an alternative administration.

Once the Cross Border Bodies are up and running the Secretary of State can dissolve the Assembly and allow the Cross Border Bodies to take over the functions of government. In effect Joint Authority.

20% of those elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly were unemployed when elected. The reason for this is that it contains a significant number of ex para militaries and yet these are the people that under power sharing will govern Northern Ireland. Is it any wonder that one of the first things the Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly did was to vote themselves a 30% pay rise to £38,036 per annum?

The Labour Party’s official policy until recently was for a United Ireland. Their hidden agenda still is for a United Ireland. If you live in Northern Ireland you cannot join the Labour Party although it continues to collect £124,000 per annum from affiliated trade unions in Northern Ireland. You can join the Labour Party if you live in Bangkok but not if you live in Belfast.

Freedom is the ability of a people to govern themselves, balanced by the protection of the rights of minorities. When people cannot change the way they are governed then they no longer live in a free society. In more ways than one the "Peace Agreement" has taken freedom away. When people find that democracy is distorted and their views are no longer represented they will take to the streets. The "Peace Agreement" is fatally flawed.

The Sinn Fein member Martin Mcguinness was Minister for Education in the Northern Ireland Executive. When the people of Northern Ireland realise that this is just one thing amongst many that cannot be changed they will realise that they no longer live in a democracy. Ministers cannot be held to account by voting them out of office.

So is there an alternative?

In 1920 when the Irish Free State left the United Kingdom, Sir Edward Carson asked the British Prime Minister to govern Northern Ireland in the same manner as the rest of the United Kingdom.

His request was rejected and for 70 years a devolved political solution has been imposed on Northern Ireland and has clearly failed.

From Whitelaw’s Power Sharing Executive in 1973 through the Sunningdale Agreement to Merlyn Rees’ Constitutional Convention in 1975, Humphrey Atkins’ Stormont Conference of 1979, Jim Prior’s Devolution Bill of 1982 and the Anglo Irish Agreement of 1985 – every single one has ended in ignominious failure.

It is time that Northern Ireland was governed like other parts of the United Kingdom. The following steps should be taken: -

The present arrangements for the Assembly should be scrapped.

Legislation covering Northern Ireland should be enacted by Parliament at Westminster and not by Order in Council.

Local Government should be built up in Northern Ireland with the same responsibilities as local authorities on the mainland. This means that they should cover housing, education, highways, planning, recreation and social services. Democracy can be built from the ground up rather than imposed top down. Already the different parties work with each other at a local level. At present they have few responsibilities but these can and should be increased. Let us build on this.

We should work on the basis of one community. This means sweeping away legislation, which entrenches sectarianism, i.e. the "Fair Employer" legislation: this type of legislation is divisive.

Finally we want to develop the maximum administrative, economic and political co-operation between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic, but there is no good reason why Irish citizens should have any more rights in United Kingdom elections than other European nationals. Their right to vote in U.K. Parliamentary Elections should be abolished.

By adopting the above proposals we can create constitutional certainty, build democracy and restore freedom to the people of Northern Ireland. This should be Conservative policy.

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