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PC16: Cross-Party Agreement Breakdown
#11
As the child of Irish immigrants as many of us in Liverpool are, I understand the importance of peace in Ireland. Sectarianism - both unionist and nationalist - has taken the lives not just in Ireland, but in Liverpool too. For the bloodshed to end, we must unite communities and condemn all violence, and put party politics second.

I was therefore disappointed to hear in Shadow Cabinet the government had unilaterally changed a finalised agreement, without consulting any of those they had negotiated with in good faith. I made that frustration clear over lunch with my friend, who was a journalist. No confidential documents were leaked, nor the contents of any negotiations. I simply criticised the government's bad faith attitude through the negotiations. A leak of those documents were not made until the Home Secretary made them public in a fit of rage. 

The important thing, though, is to not begrudge the government. Because for there to be peace in Northern Ireland, there has to be forgiveness exchanged on all sides. The government chose to walk out, and the Labour Party's doors are open. It is crucial, if we want to advance the cause of peace, that the government walk back in.
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#12
Mr. Preston is right; as I said in my statement to the press, a previous draft of the joint declaration included language committing to add the UDA to the list of proscribed terrorist organizations. That language was not removed as a result of some great Government-backed conspiracy, but because just yesterday I ordered the Ulster Defense Association added to the list of proscribed organizations. That language was removed because it no longer made sense; the document was a forward-looking list of commitments on matters we are going to do. That's why the language was amended, because that proposed action had already been taken. 

And if the Labour Party is worried about us being heavy handed towards the IRA, I would simply say to them this: I will take every opportunity afforded to me to publicly condemn the IRA, and so should they.
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#13
Labour requested that the confidentiality of the privy council be lifted for the purposes of leaking those negotiations to the press, in the process the Shadow Foreign Secretary and the Official Opposition showed a callous disregard for the lives of people across the UK but especially those in Ulster and Ireland. These talks were aimed at bringing unity between the political parties on the issue of Northern Ireland, they were about proscribing the UDA and condemning the IRA, Labour and the Shadow Foreign Secretary decided to take a wrecking ball to the whole situation. How can anyone sit at the negotiating table with people who will throw anyone, even innocent civilians, under the bus to score a cheap party political point? I welcome the historic agreement in principle between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats and I urge Labour to sign up to it as is, but I condemn their leaking wholeheartedly.
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#14
For all this nonsense talk about going back on agreements, let’s remember the Government actually delivered on the cross-party commitment to proscribe the UDA and tackle domestic terrorism. Rather than wait for a starry press conference, the Home Secretary took the necessary action to keep people safe based on our agreement. The Government delivered what Labour agreed with as soon as possible, and Labour responded by refusing to sign the agreement that unequivocally condemned the IRA. They refused to condemn the IRA because the Government actually condemned - and outlawed - the UDA.
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#15
The security situation in Northern Ireland is not a political game fit for Westminster politics. It has been the unwavering iron law of politics for half a century that violence and terrorism are condemned but that British political parties do not score cheap points on Northern Ireland. This bickering back and forth in the press is a disservice, not only to those who have died as a result of this conflict, but to the communities on both sides in Northern Ireland who are relying on politicians of all coats to get to grips with the situation and find agreement.

The Government were absolutely right to proscribe the UDA, and I welcome that the Labour Party pushed for that and supported it. It is also absolutely right that the violence and terrorism of the IRA be condemned wholeheartedly. These are the unifying aspects that we should celebrate.

I was not involved in the negotiations or discussions but one thing must be made clear; my own party were wrong to refuse to sign the agreement, which is a reasonable document. I would have signed it. The Tories, however, were deeply wrong to exclude the UDA from the statement, which was a reasonable expectation, and to walk away from the talks, which is wholly irresponsible of any credible government.

Neither party have moral high-ground here and the only ones suffering as a result are the communities in Northern Ireland who had hoped at long-last for a lasting agreement.
Gruffydd Rhys Morrison MP
Labour and Cooperative
Member for Easington
Formerly Shadow Foreign Secretary
Biography  | XP: 5| Traits: Safe pair of hands
Issue Champion: Britain’s place in the world
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#16
I have enormous respect for the former Shadow Foreign Secretary, the last remaining moderate on the Labour frontbenches for the last two years, as I said in the House the Commons are all the worse for his absence on the opposition front benches. The fact that Griff feels he has to break cover and condemn his own party for their failure to sign up to the cross-party agreement on Northern Ireland speaks volumes to the situation at hand. I join Mr Rhys Morrison in calling on Labour to sign up to the agreement and create genuine cross-party consensus on the issue of Northern Ireland. The fact that the Government were willing to listen to Labour and take on board their constructive ideas about proscription of the UDA, but Labour were unwilling to explicitly condemn the IRA for their part in the deaths of countless British citizens across the UK in the same document shows that there is more to be done on this topic.
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#17
To defeat terrorism and advance the cause of peace in Northern Ireland, we need a government that understands we must unite all communities - nationalist and unionist - against terror. We cannot allow political grudges to get in the way peace, as it has done for many years. The sad truth is we cannot expect mainstream Northern Irish parties to come together on this issue if mainstream parties in Westminster will refuse to themselves.

The Labour Party has taken the first step and made clear we want to continue negotiating with the Conservatives on this matter. I continue to hope they will reciprocate.
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#18
What Ruth conveniently forgets is that there is a deal, a deal the Lib Dems have agreed to in principle and a deal that moderate heavyweight, and her predecessor, Griff Rhys Morrison described as a "reasonable document". Labour need to stop finding excuses to delay signing and follow their own former Shadow Foreign Secretary's advice, sign the deal, bring stability to Northern Ireland and peace to two nations.
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#19
While I appreciate the vote of confidence from the Foreign Secretary, whom I also respect in turn, I must say his response to my comments only really serve to highlight my point further. I did criticise the decision not to sign the agreement, but I also criticised the Government for their conduct, something Mr Macmillan brushed over. Both major parties made, in my view, errors, and now we should set aside the petty in favour of the purpose, get back to the business at hand; crafting a meaningful, lasting peace. 
Gruffydd Rhys Morrison MP
Labour and Cooperative
Member for Easington
Formerly Shadow Foreign Secretary
Biography  | XP: 5| Traits: Safe pair of hands
Issue Champion: Britain’s place in the world
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#20
If William Croft wants to know why I was so incensed by his alleged attitude during negotiations and made the hostile quote to the press, here it is: Paddy Wilson was a husband, father and high ranking Northern Irish Senator. He was a founding member of Labour's sister party, the SDLP. He wasn't just respected, but beloved by unionists and nationalists alike here in Britain, in Ireland and even abroad in places such as the United States. 

The UDA slit his throat and stabbed him 32 times. His death was so brutal it was described as a 'frenzied outburst' by the judge overseeing the trial.

His life mattered much more than comments I made to the press, and he left a huge hole behind in Northern Irish politics. His death reminds us that terrorism in all its forms is despicable and must be clamped down on with an iron fist, no matter what side it comes on. It reminds us the Troubles has two sides to it: two communities, mostly filled with good people who want to do right by their country despite differing beliefs. And two paramilitary forces, as vile as each other and needing to be defeated by peace and the unity of these communities. To see William Croft sweep the UDA aside as irrelevant or as lesser first made me angry. But to see him do it again shamelessly and come up with excuse after excuse to not compromise now hurts. 

But it reminds us of the good we have in and for each other. That we can reach out to other communities and build peace. In Paddy's spirit, Labour will continue to ensure the door is open for the government to get back to the table, to condemn the IRA, UDA and all forms of terrorism and to build peace in Northern Ireland. 
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