The Rev'd Ian Paisley retires at the General Election.
"This will be my last contribution to debates in this Chamber. My hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) has just spoken about making his last speech on Northern Ireland, but I wish to remind myself that the reason that these Benches are not packed to capacity today is that things are moving in the right direction. If they were going in the wrong direction, many of these vacant places would be filled.
I made my maiden speech in this House sitting as near the door as I could, because I thought that I might be kicked out. I made some terrible mistakes, according to many people. For example, I spoke for too long and I was called to account by the Speaker for making attacks on certain elements in the IRA. But I learned as I went on so that I could come here and carry the flag that I believed I had to carry. I was grateful that people started to think that we must have an end to this matter and that we could not go on with part of the United Kingdom torn by such violence.
South Down has been mentioned, and I spent all my holidays as a boy in that area. But then the IRA burned down my father's house and I no longer had the privilege of spending my holidays there. I have been back many times since, however, and at the first meeting I attended there I mentioned that incident. I said to the people, "I'm sorry you burned down my home, otherwise you'd have seen more of me." A little old lady at the back shouted out, "It's a terrible shame." I thanked her and agreed with her.
The day has come when Northern Ireland must boldly face the simple facts. There are people in Northern Ireland who have diverse religious and political convictions, but they can live together as neighbours. When I was a boy, there was more neighbourliness than we have seen for many years. Something entered the hearts of the people that destroyed the reverence for neighbourliness and kindliness. The Ulster people are not a hard people: they are a loving and caring people. I am glad that there is no disturbance in the House today. We are meeting here in calm and peace, because that calm and peace is slowly but surely being established in Northern Ireland. We are making progress in the right direction.
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