‘Transfer thousands of Trident jobs to Ulster’

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks in the House of Commons in London during a debate on whether to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent. Photo: PA Wire
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks in the House of Commons in London during a debate on whether to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent. Photo: PA Wire

Unionist MPs have invited the UK Government to transfer the country’s nuclear deterrent to Northern Ireland if Scottish nationalists insist on its removal.

Speaking yesterday during a Commons debate on the renewal of the Trident weapons system, both the DUP’s Ian Paisley and Danny Kinahan of the UUP said the Province would welcome the jobs that go along with the naval base.

Some estimates put the number of people directly employed by the nuclear submarine fleet – operating out of Faslane north of Glasgow – at 30,000.

On Monday night, MPs voted 472 to 117 to press ahead with the multi-billion pound project.

North Antrim MP Mr Paisley said he stands “proudly behind the Government” in supporting renewed investment in Trident. He told his fellow MPs that Prime Minister Theresa May was to be congratulated for allowing Parliament to have the final say on the nuclear deterrent.

Mr Paisley said: “Could I encourage her to encourage the Scottish nationalists, that if they don’t want Trident jobs in Scotland, they will be happily taken in Northern Ireland.”

They are not a luxury, they safeguard our nation and ensure that we play our part as a leading global peacekeeper

Danny Kinahan MP

Mr Kinahan, the Ulster Unionist MP for South Antrim, said replacing the UK’s nuclear arsenal was “not a luxury” – and added: “I’m sure we will be more than happy to house the Trident programme and all of the thousands of jobs that go with it in our Province.”

Mr Kinahan said: “Members of Parliament have been asked once again to decide how best to defend our nation and the role we play in avoiding the total warfare we saw in the last century.

“My colleague Tom Elliott MP and I will vote this evening to renew the Trident nuclear weapons programme. This is a decision that the Ulster Unionist Party has never taken lightly and one that we have always been confident in making.”

Mr Kinahan added: “Tom and I both served our country in the Armed Forces and know what it is like to be on the ground during conflict. I strongly believe that our nuclear deterrent has and will continue to prevent many conflicts that would place our service personnel in mortal danger.

“Those who oppose our nuclear capabilities often argue against their cost as if they were a luxury that we could do without. They are not a luxury, they safeguard our nation and ensure that we play our part as a leading global peacekeeper.”

Opening Monday’s debate, the prime minister said the UK has approximately one per cent of the world’s 17,000 nuclear weapons.

Mrs May told a packed chamber of MPs: “For us to disarm unilaterally would not significantly change the calculations of other nuclear states nor those seeking to acquire such weapons.”

She also said Britain would be taking a “reckless gamble” if it relied on other nations for its nuclear deterrent,

Mrs May also launched a veiled attack on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who faced criticism from his backbench MPs, by claiming some Opposition frontbenchers appear to be the first to “defend the country’s enemies” and the last to accept what the UK needs to protect itself.

She added she was sure many Labour MPs, who will have a free vote on the motion, would join the Government in backing renewal, which is estimated to cost £31 billion with a £10 billion contingency fund also set aside.

In a noisy chamber, Mr Corbyn questioned if the “weapons of mass destruction” act as a credible deterrent to the threats faced by the UK.

He also warned the costs of renewal were “ballooning ever upwards” and noted that each warhead has the capacity to kill one million people.

Mr Corbyn told MPs he would not take a decision that “kills millions of innocent people” - a nod to his stance that he would not authorise the use of such nuclear weapons.

Speaking ahead of the Commons vote, Margaret Ritchie of the SDLP said the renewal of Trident was “about status, not security”.

The MP for South Down said: “The elephant in the room today is that Trident only exists to further the image of the UK as a first-tier world power, not to make citizens safer. Leaving aside the party political timing of the vote today, the Government’s commitment to nuclear weapons betrays a deep insecurity over the UK’s role in the 21st century.

“I fear renewing Trident will make the world less secure by increasing tensions and by increasing the risk of potentially catastrophic mechanical and human error.”

Mr Ritchie added: “Trident also puts Northern Ireland at greater risk by making both the north and the Irish Sea potential targets in future conflicts.

“That is why I and the other SDLP MPs will be voting against renewal this evening.”