Northern Ireland: Industrial Action

Debate between Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee and Lord Caine
Wednesday 17th January 2024

(6 months ago)

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Lord Caine Portrait Lord Caine (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, for her question. She is aware, and I have stated this a number of times from this Dispatch Box, that since April 1998 I have always been a strong supporter of the Belfast agreement and the institutions that it established. I entirely agree with her that the right thing to do is to restore the Northern Ireland Executive with immediate effect.

Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee Portrait Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, it is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This is not the first time that His Majesty’s Government have used this sort of tactic to try to push people who have a mandate in Northern Ireland to do something that it would go against their mandate to do. I am sure that my former colleagues in the DUP will not be bullied into making a decision that they believe is the wrong one. I am sorry to say that I disagree with what my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Swire, had to say on this matter as well. Bullying and blackmail do not work in Northern Ireland, and it is insanity to think they will. I therefore say to the Minister, who I know has Northern Ireland’s place very close to his heart, to please press on the Secretary of State that we need a different way forward for our public sector workers.

Lord Caine Portrait Lord Caine (Con)
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I am grateful to my friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Foster, for her question. She referred to the mandate of the Democratic Unionist Party. Of course everybody respects every party’s mandate in Northern Ireland. I repeat that bullying and blackmail are not the approach of His Majesty’s Government. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the whole ministerial team have spent a lot of time in recent months engaging with the DUP to try to work through the outstanding issues that are preventing the establishment of an Executive. The substantive negotiations on those issues came to an end in December but, as we have made clear, we are happy to clarify where clarification is needed. I repeat that the imperative in respect of public sector pay and resolving these issues is to get the institutions back.

Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland: Supreme Court Judgment

Debate between Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee and Lord Caine
Thursday 9th February 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Caine Portrait Lord Caine (Con)
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I will resist the attempt to turn the House of Lords into another branch of the Supreme Court and relitigate the case on which judgment was reached yesterday. All I will say to my noble friend is that we are well aware of the defects in the protocol, which have become apparent. Some might say that they were apparent at the time, but they are very apparent today. We are determined to remedy what does not work, while preserving what does.

Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee Portrait Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, as one of the applicants to the Supreme Court yesterday, I welcome the clarity the Supreme Court has given to the legal position. I also welcome the Minister’s comment that there needs to now be a political solution to this problem for Northern Ireland, which has been ongoing since 2021. Paragraph 67 of the Supreme Court judgment yesterday, as my noble friend Lord Dodds has just referred to, says:

“The Acts of Union and article VI remain on the statute book but are modified to the extent and for the period during which the Protocol applies.”


At the time of the withdrawal agreement, we were told that the Acts of Union had not been changed and that the union was safe. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Acts of Union have been modified as long as the protocol is in existence. What plans do His Majesty’s Government have to reinstate Article VI of the Act of Union?

Lord Caine Portrait Lord Caine (Con)
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I am grateful to the former First Minister of Northern Ireland for her comments. We will of course continue to study the judgment very carefully, because, as I indicated to my noble friend Lord Dodds, I do not plan to get into a legal rehearsal of all the arguments that we were played out in the Supreme Court. As her former right honourable friend, the current leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, made clear yesterday, this issue was never going to be solved in the courts; it requires a political solution, and that is what the Government are striving to achieve.

There have been modifications to the Acts of Union in the past; if there had not been, 100 Irish representative Peers would still be sitting in your Lordships’ House and the Church of Ireland would not have been disestablished.

Lord Caine Portrait Lord Caine (Con)
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I note that the former First Minister is a proud Anglican. While there have been modifications, I take on board the noble Baroness’s comments. As I said in answer to an earlier question, the Government’s intention is to ensure that Northern Ireland’s position within the UK internal market is fully respected, along with its constitutional position as part of the United Kingdom.

Omagh Bombing

Debate between Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee and Lord Caine
Thursday 9th February 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Caine Portrait Lord Caine (Con)
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I am grateful, as always, to my noble friend for his kind words. He makes his case with customary force and eloquence. Of course, we have yet to complete Committee on the legacy Bill in your Lordships’ House, there is still a further amending stage to come after that, and I remain committed to fulfilling the pledge that I have made on a number of occasions, from this Dispatch Box and elsewhere, to do whatever I can to improve the legislation and to send it back to the House of Commons in a much better state than when the House of Commons sent it to us. I will, of course, continue to have discussions with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State towards that end.

Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee Portrait Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, first, I send my best wishes and support to all the families impacted by the Omagh bomb, many of whom I know very well. They will never forget who it was that planned, prepared and executed the bomb in Omagh on that fateful day. Indeed, the Real IRA planned and prepared for the bomb in the Republic of Ireland and then executed its dastardly actions in Omagh.

In the Statement, mention was made of the fact that Mr Justice Horner hoped that the Irish Government would also undertake an Article 2 investigation into what happened in the run-up to the execution of the Omagh bomb. I am afraid to say that the Irish Government’s record on dealing with legacy in Northern Ireland is at best patchy and at worst non-existent. I have had the great honour and privilege to attend, with many victims’ groups, meetings in the Dáil and in Dublin Castle with various Governments of various different hues. We did receive tea and sympathy; I have to say that we received little else. Will His Majesty’s Government now put pressure on the Irish Government to hold a similar inquiry in the Republic of Ireland? The bomb was planned and prepared in a different jurisdiction, and if we are to get totality of answers for the people of Omagh, then that needs to happen as well.

Lord Caine Portrait Lord Caine (Con)
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I am most grateful to my noble friend for her comments and question. She will be aware that, in the course of meeting many victims’ groups in Northern Ireland, I have had similar points put to me, not least by the South East Fermanagh Foundation in the constituency the noble Baroness used to represent in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Others have made the similar points over the years also. My noble friend is right to point out that Justice Horner did express a desire that a simultaneous Article 2-compliant investigation should occur in Ireland. He recognised it was not within the court’s power to order a cross-border investigation, and nor is it in the power of His Majesty’s Government to compel the Irish Government to do so. However, it is an issue which I take seriously, as do many others, and I will raise this again, including when I next see Irish Ministers to discuss legacy matters in Dublin or elsewhere, which I hope to do very soon.