There was a debate in the House of Lords a day before Parliament closed for Easter under the headline of “Windsor Framework (Democratic Scrutiny) Regulations 2023 – Motion to Approve“ and one of the members of the House of Lords who took part was Martin Thomas who is the Liberal Democrat member and known as Lord Thomas of Gresford. He explained that he had been involved in the trial of the attack that took place in Brighton in 1984 by the IRA and he refers to the trial in 1986 and he also goes on to state that “I am led to the conclusion that the Belfast/Good Friday agreement was something of a miracle, wrought by many across the political divide. Surely today’s politicians on all sides can emulate Paisley and McGuinness and sit together, to co-operate in government and to resolve issues by discussion and compromise.” His speech is much longer than listed below but his speech and indeed all of the correspondents can be obtained from here but the starting point he raised is as follows.
The noble Lord, Lord Robathan, referred to his experience in the forces in Northern Ireland. It reminded me that when I was defending in the Brighton bomb trial in 1986, I was surprised to discover that Daniel O’Connell, the leader in the 19th century of the fight for Catholic emancipation and the scrapping of the Act of Union 1800, was, despite his nickname of “The Liberator”, dismissed as a traitor. The inspiration of the IRA was the rebellion of 1798, when Wolfe Tone and Emmet sought full independence for Ireland, with French republican support. That rebellion was a horrific episode, characterised by the dragooning of Ulster and other atrocities. I was appalled to discover that the Ancient Britons, a Welsh regiment of fencibles who were foremost in that savagery, had been raised in my neighbourhood in north Wales.
I therefore have some understanding of the deep and historic roots of the divide between the Catholic and Presbyterian communities, although not of course the lived experience of the noble Lords who are speaking in this debate. The more I come to understand the issues as a member of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland Sub-Committee, the more I am led to the conclusion that the Belfast/Good Friday agreement was something of a miracle, wrought by many across the political divide. Surely today’s politicians on all sides can emulate Paisley and McGuinness and sit together, to co-operate in government and to resolve issues by discussion and compromise.