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Mr. McNamara: You said that you would.

Mr. McCartney: I said that I would, in due time, and I have not yet finished my point.

Several hon. Members have spoken about the victims. There have been victims in Northern Ireland since 1969, and there are now more than 3,000, but until it became necessary to secure their agreement to, or at least acquiescence in, the release of convicted criminals, their feelings were not even considered.

The victims were ignored for the best part of 30 years, but, when it became necessary to assuage their rightful indignation and anger and that of their relatives, suddenly Sir Kenneth Bloomfield was called into operation, and a physical memorial in Londonderry was proposed. Victims became the focus of Government attention only when their good will--and the good will of the community that supported them--was needed to allow convicted criminals and terrorists to be set free.

There has been a great deal of talk about those gentlemen being released and how money should be spent on reintegrating them into the community, and we have heard at length about what NIACRO and others have to say about them. When the Secretary of State went to persuade those people that they should support the ceasefire, the television cameras followed her into the so-called loyalist compound, and some of them were filmed against graffiti and murals. Michael Stone, who is about to be released even though he murdered five people and injured many others, was filmed against a mural that said, "Yabbadabbadoo, any Fenian will do" and, "Kill them all, let God sort them out".

I am speaking about so-called loyalist terrorists, because I want to make it abundantly clear that I despise, loathe and detest terrorists of any kind, serving any claimed cause, be they green, orange or multi-coloured. They are loathsome, despicable people, who should be dealt with regardless of whom they claim to represent.

We are told that, if those people are to be released back into society, they will be required to give up associations with the organisations that spawned them. When the Balcombe street murderers were released from prisons in the Republic to attend the Ard Feis, they arrived as absolute heroes and were given an enormous welcome, because they were seen as violent terrorists, exercising the military strategy of Sinn Fein, which is inextricably linked with them, as they are the cutting edge of its organisation.

Mr. Mallon: I agree with the Prime Minister about new preconditions. A press release on the Bill said:

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    "As the Prime Minister said during the Referendum campaign, the following factors will be taken into account. They are not new preconditions but are essential to help us to reach an overall judgement".

My party opposed the Washington 3 precondition. We oppose it now. We are going to insist that everyone abides by the agreement that we have reached.

On our two sets of literature, there was only one set during the referendum. One person became a little urgent about fighting the assembly election, and that is why our election manifesto went out on the last Sunday. I am not sure that that is a hanging offence.

Mr. McCartney: I never suggested that it was a hanging offence. The two sets of election literature were clearly aimed at two different sets of people, and had two different purposes.

On the release of convicted criminals, the term "prisoner" has overtones of prisoners of war or people fighting according to the rules of the Geneva convention. Let me say something about the connection between these freedom fighters, these released prisoners and what they actually do.

Sinn Fein has 38 candidates for the assembly elections, of whom more than half have criminal convictions of a fairly serious nature. The Sinn Fein candidate in East Londonderry killed three soldiers. Mr. Paul Butler, the Sinn Fein candidate for Lagan Valley, shot a 50-year-old RUC reserve constable in the back of the head. Joe Cahill, aged 78, was once sentenced to death for murder. Gerry Kelly, its representative in Belfast, North, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the Old Bailey bomb, as a result of which one person was killed and 250 injured. In his escape from the Maze, he shot a prison warder in the head.

When I hear hon. Members talk of all the democracy, benefits and peace that the agreement is going to pour forth upon the people of Northern Ireland, I am reminded of a single instance that sums it all up.

My party's candidate in the election in Belfast, North served in the Ulster Defence Regiment for seven years. He have will have among his opponents the following: John White of the Ulster Democratic party, who hacked to death Senator Paddy Wilson and his girl friend, stabbing each of them 54 times; the aforesaid Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein, who injured 250 people and killed one at the Old Bailey; and another loyalist, Mr. Billy Hutchinson, one of these Progressive Unionists, the radical politicians we heard about earlier. He was involved in the casual killing from a car of two Catholics.

That is the democracy that results from the agreement--three candidates who between them have murdered six people. Is that what democracy and this agreement are about? Is that the true basis upon which there will be lasting peace in Northern Ireland? Those who believe that should buy a few volumes of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.

8.33 pm

Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry): I have one slight correction for the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney). The Sinn Fein member who is standing in East Londonderry, or at least one of

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them, Mr. O'Kane, is a fairly near neighbour of mine. He did not kill three soldiers, but three RAF mechanics. At his trial, he said that, if he got the chance, he would do it all over again. That puts the matter in clear context.

As time is moving on and several hon. Members wish to speak, I shall try to be briefer than usual.

There have been several claims about the number of persons who will be released early under this legislation. The standard excuse, which has been made by many, including some members of my party, is that many of those prisoners would be out in two years in any case. That is true, but it is also a fact that the prisoners are already the beneficiaries of a generous shortening of their sentences. That said, 79 of those who will be out in two years would have had very long periods of imprisonment ahead of them but for the Bill.

I will not weary the House with the details this evening, but they are set out in Hansard in response to questions that I have tabled in recent weeks. There is one person whose release date in Great Britain was 2019. Several others would have served nine or 10 years into the next century. They will all be out in a couple of years. Those who are to be transferred to the Irish Republic will no doubt be even more generously treated, unless they happen to have shot a Garda officer in the Republic, in which case they will do their 40 years.

Such people will be released only if the organisation to which they belong is committed to purely peaceful and democratic action. We suffer from a barrage of voices telling us that that is the case with regard to the IRA and the other terrorist groups. In fact, there is a scarcely a day, or more accurately a night, on which acts of violence are not committed by members of those organisations or by their subcontractors to ensure their continuing dominance in some areas of Northern Ireland. That violence has been calmly ignored by the Government and all those who laud the agreement. Given that that is the case, I have no confidence that this Secretary of State will specify any of those organisations as terrorist.

The Bill will impact on existing legislation. My hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) considered in some depth which organisations are terrorist. It seems to me that, if the terrorist organisations simply say the correct soothing words, they will no longer be illegal bodies, and there will be no prosecutions for membership.

That leads to the question of extraditions from the Irish Republic and elsewhere of people sought by the RUC in connection with terrorist acts. I am pleased that the Secretary of State is here, because one example is Rita O'Hare, one of the wanted terrorists with whom she is on speaking terms. I admit that the relationship appears to reach the huggy-feely stage only when they are in the Irish Republic, because the woman concerned is a bail absconder in Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State no doubt knows that the woman went on the run after recovering from her bullet wounds sufficiently to travel. The wounds were sustained while she was attempting to murder soldiers in Northern Ireland. She did not repent of her activities. Indeed, she continued with them, because she later served three years in the Republic for trying to smuggle explosives inside her body into Portlaoise prison.

Rita O'Hare's defence against extradition to Northern Ireland was upheld by the Irish courts on the ground that the attempted murder charge was a political offence,

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thereby illustrating the great difficulty of getting an extradition from the Irish Republic. Her very defence goes a long way to proving that she was guilty of the charge brought against her. Clearly she is ideally qualified to advise the Secretary of State on extradition matters, and will not, I am sure, be slow to offer such advice.

However, I remind the right hon. Lady of section 18 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989, which states:

I should be interested to hear whether the Secretary of State has complied with that section with regard to her contacts with the loathsome woman with whom she seems to find so much in common. The Secretary of State should also look up the penalties, which I think she will find of interest.

Of course, what applies to the case of Rita O'Hare also applies to the other assorted thugs and murderers who will be released under the provisions of the Bill. We can also expect reoffenders to leave the United Kingdom jurisdiction, and they will never be extradited for trial for any offences.

The Bill also raises concerns about the position of those awaiting trial and sentence, and those who may yet be charged with murders or other crimes committed long ago. Some other neighbours of mine are in the courts in Belfast this week for attempted murder of members of the RUC in Dungiven.

When all has been said and done--a lot has been said today--the bottom line is that a large number of persons who have been found guilty and sentenced for very terrible acts will be out of prison early, long before their sentences would normally be completed. That is nothing short of a blatant corruption and interference with the judicial process, the concept of punishment for crime and the rehabilitation and reform of prisoners.

The passing and application of the Bill will confirm the IRA's claim, certainly in the minds of its members and supporters, that it is engaged in a just war, and that those convicted are not only prisoners of war but political prisoners rather than murderers and thugs. That is a psychological thing with the IRA, its supporters and other terrorist organisations, which so few people in this place seem to understand.

I believe that the consequences of accepting the IRA view of its terrorist campaign are vast, and can only intensify the deep and real contempt felt by many of the law-abiding citizens for those who have conceived and are carrying into effect this policy of abject surrender to the diktats of murderers. That is what the Bill is really about. It is an abject surrender to the diktats of murderers, and we had better realise exactly what we are putting our hand and our votes to.

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