The House of Commons will vote on sanctions on Sinn Fein in the next two weeks.
The motion should pass as it is Government-backed, but it will be interesting to see how the Liberal Democrats vote. I spoke to a Brent Labour councillor the other day who thought their decision could have a significant impact on Irish voters in Brent East.
Here’s what Lib Dem spokesman Lembit Opik had to say on the matter in the debate last Tuesday.
Given the gravity of today’s statement, will the Secretary of State share evidence that shows that the IRA carried out the Northern bank robbery, at least with my party leader, the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy), on Privy Council terms? I do not understand why that would not be possible.
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Irish Government, Lord Alderdice, the IMC, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Government share the view that the IRA was responsible for the Northern bank robbery? Does he have evidence to suggest that paramilitaries, specifically the IRA, have been involved in other serious breaches of law and order in the Province, for example, by protecting the killers of Mr. Robert McCartney from justice, and that they are responsible for a catalogue of other criminal activities in previous months? If he can prove and connect those breaches with the IRA, we will consider the sanctions sympathetically. However, I personally feel sad that it has come to that, given the unquestionable contribution that Sinn Fein has made to the peace process on many occasions.
Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said he would look at briefing Charles Kennedy, but the Lib Dem stance didn’t go down well with DUP leader Ian Paisley:
The time has come for stern, straight action to deal with this matter, and until it is dealt with, there cannot be proper, democratic rule in Northern Ireland. I am disgusted with the attitude of the Liberal Democrats here—