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PC16: Cross-Party Agreement Breakdown
The Government acted decisively to add the Ulster Defense Association to the list of proscribed terrorist organizations, ensuring that for the first time in our country's history these terrorists will be subjected to the full force of the British criminal justice system. That speaks far louder than any sets of words on a piece of paper ever could, and shows the British people exactly what I and the whole of the Government think of the evil perpetrated at the hands of the UDA.
Then condemn the UDA alongside the IRA in the agreement as you initially agreed to do. 
The Home Secretary did not have to put these talks on. The Labour Party did not have to turn up. That they both did, despite years of bitterness, is in its own right an achievement. My party will always be keen on facilitating discussion. Compromise can often be met with scorn, but it is how we build real, lasting change. From my perspective, we were not far from that - and I believe we could be on the verge of something big for the people of Northern Ireland, if not much had been done differently. I hope that the role of leadership and compromise that the Liberal Democrats played here is something that we can be proud of. Both Labour and the Conservatives entered cross-party talks in good faith, I believe. And these talks - till this breakdown - were a rare insight into what politics based on common ground and compromise could look like, putting the punch and judy show aside.

I believe that some real progress was made, too. The Conservatives proscribed the UDA, something unthinkable under Mrs Thatcher, and Labour too were brought around the table with a genuine interest in finding a deal. I am as anti-establishment and sceptical of our politics as they come a lot of the time, but I do really believe that with a little more flexibility on the sides of the other parties, we could have made some lasting change. The Tories will blame Labour and vice versa, but the reality is that we are talking about a very complex situation, that required nuance - we nearly got there. I am proud that Liberal Democrats took a leading role in calling for compromise, to put the decommissioning of weapons on the agenda, and that our proposed wording was - for a moment, all too brief - agreed on all sides, regarding the IRA and UDA.

I would like to invite both parties to new discussions, after this year's election, and as the party of the centre, I think the Liberal Democrats are placed well to facilitate. Seeing as we have not come to an agreement this time, I think that putting our ideas to the ballot box, and seeing how they are received, is worth doing. It is an issue that is quite literally a matter of life and death for some, and of opportunity or poverty for others. If the other leaders accept, then I think we can do this in a democratic, fair-minded manner, and make lasting change.
I agree with Mr Cardigan here. The situation is complex. If it were easy to broker a peace, we wouldn't still be discussing this. The fact that UDA proscription is such a big step that Labour had to ask is very revealing of the problem here. There are communities up and down Northern Ireland who do not trust the British government, who believe the hesitation in naming the UDA as the terror group it is shows a double standard. That trust gap has to be bridged. Proscription is a big step, but it can only ever be the first of making our desire for peace credible. That is why we cannot stop now. It is time to silence the sirens call of these organisations to young men and women in both communities. The battle on the ground against terrorism must be relentless. The battle for hearts and minds is no different. We have an opportunity to denounce violence on both sides and reassure those who have lost faith in our will to a solution. Let's come together once more and do so.
the Rt Hon. Ruan Preston MP
Labour MP for Midlothian (1983-present)
Shadow Home Secretary (1990-present)
Progressive | Biography | 2 XP | Safe Pair of Hands

"The true purpose of democratic socialism and, therefore, the true aim of the Labour Party, is the creation of a genuinely free society, in which the fundamental objective of government is the protection and extension of individual liberty."
- Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley, Democratic Socialist Aims & Values
Good faith is an essential ingredient for successful cross-party negotiations. I wasn't at the table for the negotiations and I have no more information on what went wrong than any of you do; but i can say with certainty that I am disappointed, bitterly, that the talks have broken down. I am sure that, with time, the relevant details on the breakdown will come to light. But what is the cost in the interim? How many more Irish families need to be torn apart? How many more children killed in the streets before we, as an entire country, take our responsibility seriously and attempt to resolve this barbaric battle once and for all? Good faith is needed, and that it has been lacking is a tragedy. We will find a peaceful resolution to the conflict, but how long, and at what cost, will we be made to wait by political game playing?
When the cross party talks fell apart, I promised the British people that the Government would commit to honoring the five actions we were prepared to sign onto. Today we have taken the first meaningful step to do just that, by introducing legislation to Parliament that significantly increases criminal penalties for members and supporters of all terrorist organizations. 

The Prevention of Terrorism Act 1992 imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for individuals convicted of being a member of, or providing material support to, any proscribed terrorist organization. This makes it crystal clear to all would-be terrorist sympathizers that if you act on your sympathies, you will be put behind bars. The legislation also increases the maximum possible penalty for the same crimes to life behind bars, solidifying the Government's commitment to ensuring that there is absolutely zero tolerance for terrorists and those that support them. 

It is my genuine hope that MPs in all parties will join together in supporting this legislation, acting as one in the face of an escalating terrorist threat.
I was very pleased to appear on TV-AM at breakfast this morning, and speak to Lorraine about the Liberal Democrat position on negotiations. Our politics and two-party system is a dreadful two-party show too often, and these talks were a rare break from that. We nearly achieved a lot, and the proscription of the UDA is a major success. Labour didn't have to attend, and the Home Secretary didn't have to host, we have to acknowledge that progress has been made here. What we need now, though, is to put our views to the public in a democratic election, and reconvene, this time with the Irish Government on the end of the phone, and a view to consulting the Northern Irish parties. Westminster needs to get its own house in order before we can build peace, and that's why I want the other party leaders to join me in new talks after the election. As the party of the centre, the Liberal Democrats are well placed to host and facilitate these talks. I really believe that we can work together and get a compromise, here. We just need to, to use an old Christian phrase, have a real commitment from the main parties to turn swords into ploughshares.
The Government's new legislation on proscribed terrorist organisations shows just how seriously we are taking the issue of domestic terror. Membership of a proscribed organisation will now see someone in prison for 5 years minimum with no maximum tariff, that means that a member of the IRA or UDA could face life in prison should their membership of said organisation be sufficiently serious. Labour challenged the Government to treat the IRA and UDA the same way, this Bill shows that when it comes to domestic terror the Government do not play favourites and treats every despicable murderer equally, now let's get that deal (backed by the Government, Liberal Democrats, and Labour backbenchers) signed and delivered for the good of everyone in the British Isles.

I am pleased to welcome the Government's new Prevention of Terrorism Bill, a Bill which makes membership of a proscribed organisation such as the IRA or the UDA a criminal offence with a toughened up punishment of 5yrs in jail at a minimum. Keeping terrorists off the streets of Britain and Ireland is this Government's top priority and we are committed to ensuring that peace is able to be restored to Ulster and the whole of the British Isles. I urge Labour to sign the cross-party deal with support from the Lib Dems, Government, and Labour backbenches.
Working toward peace in Northern Ireland is an extremely serious matter that requires bringing nationalist communities together with unionist communities in a common dialogue. Labour are clearly not afraid to unilaterally condemn the IRA as a violent organisation just as our Leader, our Shadow Home Secretary, our Shadow Foreign Minister have done and indeed as I am doing now. However, the point of the document that was being negotiated was to advance the cause of peace and Labour - being a party seriously committed to the peace process - understands that if the British Government is to do so with any semblance of credibility it must be ready to acknowledge groups that have cause pain on both sides of the conflict, acting as fair arbiters without alienating communities that have experienced immense pain, just because that pain hasn't been in the news lately. Another important facet of forging peace is willingness to accommodate other parties when they bring up reasonable points - even if you don't believe they are necessary - especially when they don't cause any harm and can get you closer to a settlement. The fact that the Tory negotiators were so unwilling to accommodate Labour's more than reasonable request to condemn the UDA death squads by name in the document that they walked out of the talks concerns me immensely about their ability to handle the much more contentious, high stakes talks that would be necessary to bring nationalist and unionist communities together in Northern Ireland. Labour remains committed to returning to talks with the Government, but I certainly hope that this time Will Croft leaves his bombastic, take it or leave it style at the door when it comes to such a contentious and serious matter
Tommy Dawson
MP for Sheffield Brightside (1979-Present)
Deputy Leader of Labour (1990-Present), Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer (1990-Present)
Socialist Campaign Group. 8 XP. Media Darling, Campaign Guru
It is painfully ironic to hear Tommy Dawson pretend that Labour treats Northern Ireland as a, "serious matter," when it was the Labour Party that undermined cross-party negotiations by leaking details to the press. If Labour is looking to restart cross party talks, if they are looking to be treated seriously by the British people, I have a great recommendation for them. Give James McCrimmon a pen and tell him to sign onto the Joint Declaration that both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have promised to honor. The declaration is finished, the ink has dried, and if Labour is serious about working together then all they have to is their leader sign onto what has already been written. The Conservatives are already busy getting to work on making good on the commitments outlined in the joint declaration, I would love if the Labour Party would finally join us.

If Labour had wanted to treat the negotiations as a "serious matter," they would have brought their concerns to us in good faith rather than rely on leaking information to the press. They can show the country they're concerned about more than scoring political points by signing on to the joint declaration.

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