Lisburn Killings: Expressions of Sympathy.

It is with regret that I rise this morning to express a vote of sympathy to the families of those who were brutally murdered in Lisburn last night. Unfortunately, we in this House extend these expressions of sympathy on a regular basis and unfortunately the murder and carnage continue. All we can do is to continue to express our abhorrence at these events and extend our sympathy to the families of those who are killed.

On another note, I congratulate the Irish team on their endeavours last evening and I wish them well in their next match on Saturday.

Last evening, as we were celebrating life and taking pride in the exploits of our national football team, at the very same time six young soldiers who were helping in a charity event in an Irish town were wiped out by the Godfathers of Death in as dastardly an act as we have seen over the past 19 years of horror. It is an act which brings shame to the name of Irishmen and to our island. One can only express revulsion and horror and give the comfort of one's sympathy to the families of those who suffered so grieviously last evening. Those who carried out this deed do not know the meaning of the word "decency". Civilisation is not part of their make-up or creed. While I, as a politician, have always believed in dialogue and in talking, I wonder now if there is any point in talking to these people. I wonder if the well-intentioned attempt to establish a bridgehead, to talk to these people, by constitutional politicians in Northern Ireland over the past few months have any place or purpose. On behalf of my party I want to extend sympathy and to express revulsion.

May I point to the irony that just as the Dáil was focussing attention last evening on the plight of the Birmingham Six and others in British jails, attempting to reason, to create a climate in which their cases could be revised and, hopefully, that they could be given clemency, the Godfathers of Death were ensuring that whatever efforts were made from these Houses would be set at nought and a climate that might help them was, in one stroke, completely destroyed.

I support the expressions of condemnation and sympathy voiced by both the Leader of the House and by Senator Manning. As I said before on similar occasions, to utter words of condemnation may seem futile and easy, but it would be infinitely worse to remain silent. It is proper that the second House of the Oireachtas should go on record in expressing its detestation of what occured last night.

Senator Lanigan said that all we can do is to express our sympathy and condemnation. Is this not an occasion for wondering whether those of us who prattle glibly and hypocrically about and subscribe to the objectives of an all-Ireland constitutional conference, phased British withdrawal and ultimate Irish unity are not unwillingly supporting IRA morale, encouraging them in their "one last push against the Brits" strategy, of which last night's event was such an evil expression. Last night's atrocity puts in proper perspective our nit picking and pussyfooting attitudes towards extradition.

Senator Fennell rose.

I will call Senator Fennell, but the ruling is that we have one speaker from each party. Senator Michael Ferris.

I join with the Leader of the House and the other speakers in their condemnation of last night's dreadful, unlawful and cowardly killing of unsuspecting British soldiers when they were participating in a charity run in Lisburn. It brings home to us, and certainly to those of us in the Labour Party, that, instead of passing votes of sympathy to the families of those who were murdered, there is a responsibility on all of us to act positively and do something other than passing votes of sympathy. It is becoming a ritual for all of us in the South to be identified only with votes of sympathy but — and Senator Murphy touched on this — we have a major responsibility in this area.

I echo Senator Manning's comment that what happened last night immediately after, or even simultaneously with the all-party agreement of the other House to seek clemency from the British dashed any hope of clemency from the other side because some people continue to flout ordinary human behaviour. We are now beginning to quantify things — if it happened three minutes later 100 children could have been killed. Thankfully only six people were killed. This is a desperate situation. It needs a supreme effort on the part of the Government and all Members of the Oireachtas to consider further the whole concept of constitutional politics so that these people, both North and South, can be rooted from our society.

As a mother and a Member of this House I would like to send my deep sympathy and deep regret to the mothers of these young soldiers. I believe what I say reflects what many mothers in Ireland feel. I know they regard this as a callous and premeditated murder by a group of people who constantly question other people's standards of justice.

On a point of order, I want to put on the record of the House the unfortunate interjection from the Fianna Fáil side about "occupying forces". It is most unwarranted in these circumstances and I hope the Fianna Fáil Senator who made that remark will withdraw it.

I did not hear it, and I am not just saying I did not hear it.

It happened.

I should like to join with other speakers in expressing sympathy to the families of those who were killed in last night's bomb attack in Lisburn. With the exception of Senator Robb, I believe I meet more British soldiers than any other Member of the House. Most of them are teenagers who are not in the North of Ireland by choice. Their deaths will not achieve anything. County Donegal, which is a beautiful county, is now ringed by a number of bases unequalled anywhere else on this side of Beirut. This is a tragedy, it achieves nothing and I believe it is condemned by any reasonable person. I call on the Members of this House and all responsible people in the South to support those who are trying to take the gun out of politics in Northern Ireland.

On a further point of order, that reference came from Senator Don Lydon and I ask him to withdraw it. It came at a very solemn moment when Senator Fennell was making a very moving reference in her vote of sympathy to the mothers of those who had died. Senator Lydon interjected with the phrase "occupying forces" and I ask him to withdraw that remark and to apologise to the House.

I am caught because I did not hear the remark.

If the Senator has any decency he will withdraw it.

I cannot rule on something I did not hear.

His silence is eloquent.

I have no intention of withdrawing it.

It is not the first time the Senator has disgraced the House.

On a point of order, now that we have confirmation that the remark was made, I think the Cathaoirleach should insist that the remark be withdrawn.

He is a fellow-traveller and nothing better.


This is terribly sad because this is a vote of sympathy to the families of those who were killed. I would like to be associated with the vote of sympathy.

Members rose in their places.

I propose that we have an immediate meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to deal with this matter. It is disgraceful and we should have an immediate meeting.