The Rev'd Ian Paisley retires at the General Election.
of those who stood against assassins, but we will forget the awfulness
of the days that we have come through. As we move forward, we shall see
prosperity in our land. A working people live at peace. When there is
no work, Satan finds plenty for idle hands to do… I want to see a real dedication from all our people, no matter
what their politics or religion, as hard-working people and parents to
make their family life a thing of blessing and sunshine, not a thing of
tears and regret."
"This will be my last contribution to debates in this Chamber. My hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) has just spoken about making his last speech on Northern Ireland, but I wish to remind myself that the reason that these Benches are not packed to capacity today is that things are moving in the right direction. If they were going in the wrong direction, many of these vacant places would be filled.
I made my maiden speech in this House sitting as near the door as I could, because I thought that I might be kicked out. I made some terrible mistakes, according to many people. For example, I spoke for too long and I was called to account by the Speaker for making attacks on certain elements in the IRA. But I learned as I went on so that I could come here and carry the flag that I believed I had to carry. I was grateful that people started to think that we must have an end to this matter and that we could not go on with part of the United Kingdom torn by such violence.
South Down has been mentioned, and I spent all my holidays as a boy in that area. But then the IRA burned down my father's house and I no longer had the privilege of spending my holidays there. I have been back many times since, however, and at the first meeting I attended there I mentioned that incident. I said to the people, "I'm sorry you burned down my home, otherwise you'd have seen more of me." A little old lady at the back shouted out, "It's a terrible shame." I thanked her and agreed with her.
The day has come when Northern Ireland must boldly face the simple facts. There are people in Northern Ireland who have diverse religious and political convictions, but they can live together as neighbours. When I was a boy, there was more neighbourliness than we have seen for many years. Something entered the hearts of the people that destroyed the reverence for neighbourliness and kindliness. The Ulster people are not a hard people: they are a loving and caring people. I am glad that there is no disturbance in the House today. We are meeting here in calm and peace, because that calm and peace is slowly but surely being established in Northern Ireland. We are making progress in the right direction.
Of course, there will be times when both sides of the political spectrum might feel that they are being pushed, but they need to keep their hands in their pockets and remember that it is our hearts that should drive us in trying to win the best outcome for our people. I am confident that, with the good friendship in this House towards Northern Ireland, we will come to a day-although I may not live to see it-when these troubles will be forgotten. We will not forget, of course, the price that was paid or the loyalty of those who stood against assassins, but we will forget the awfulness of the days that we have come through. As we move forward, we shall see prosperity in our land. A working people live at peace. When there is no work, Satan finds plenty for idle hands to do. I want to see more and more employment coming to Northern Ireland. I want to see the young people having every chance educationally to prepare themselves for the future. I want to see a real dedication from all our people, no matter what their politics or religion, as hard-working people and parents to make their family life a thing of blessing and sunshine, not a thing of tears and regret. I hope that that is what will happen.
On the matters of policing and marching, we need level heads. We need a calm appreciation of the facts and we need to do our best to ensure that our contribution will be one that will assist the people of Northern Ireland in making progress. I would like to see in Northern Ireland the same situation as in other parts of the United Kingdom, so that when there is a march those who are legally entitled to walk-and who do not want to cause trouble but only to declare their principles-will be able to walk in peace. I refer to both sides when I say that.
I mentioned the holidays I spent in South Down. I played with the boys in Killowen, who were strong republicans and strong Roman Catholics, and I was just as strong a Unionist and a Protestant. However, they came with me to the 12 July demonstration, and I went with them to the Warrenpoint Hibernian demonstration. In fact, the Hibernian people got into trouble just before their demonstration. On the night before, one of their drums gave way. They had no drum, so they came down to the Orange hall and got an Orange drum on loan. They also got a sheet, which they covered up and on which they roughly painted their Hibernian slogan. However, as they were going through Warrenpoint the next day, the sheet came off, and all that could be seen was "To the immortal memory of King William III" and "No surrender!" Everybody laughed; nobody got up and said, "This can't be." There was a general mood of good will.
That good will is going to be hard to build, because there are people with very deep wounds-I think of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) sitting here, whose family I have known for years. I know what they suffered, and many others have suffered, and it is the same on the other side, but this I can say to the House. Northern Ireland is moving in the right direction, and this House needs to see that it encourages it to go forward at this time. We welcome the help of the Select Committee on Northern Ireland, chaired by the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack). We also welcome the good work of the various Secretaries of State. Some of them we disagreed with and some of them we would have liked to punch at times, but we neither punched them nor disagreed with them in a muscular fashion, and today we are here in the quiet of this House.
I do not think that there will be a Division in the House tonight; I think that we will all feel that we are moving the right way. That does not mean that we have reached the end of the journey-far from it-but we are moving the right way. For those from this House who continue to take up their duties in Northern Ireland, I trust that these will become happier and happier as the days go by. Thank you very much."