Unionist MPs speak out in support of military air strikes

The Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster

Unionist MPs speaking in the House of Commons last night expressed clear support for airstrikes against IS in Syria.

DUP MP Ian Paisley said his party drew on its experience of terrorism in Northern Ireland in supporting the military action.

“The Prime Minister will know how members of my party feel when it comes to fighting and dealing with terrorism, and for that there will always be support, no matter where terrorism raises its head,” he said.

He sought assurances from David Cameron that if it became necessary to deploy UK troops in ground combat operations that he would seek approval for the action from MPs.

The Prime Minister replied that he did not want such a course of action, which he thought would be “a mistake”.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said the test for his party was one of realism.

“Our experience in Northern Ireland has taught us that no other approach can be brought to bear when facing terrorism. Terrorism must be fought, and fought with all means realistically at our disposal.

“We have not sought this conflict; terrorists have inflicted it on us, and we must now respond. We know only too well the consequences of terrorism being appeased and indulged.

“Terrorism must be faced up to. This is not a choice between political initiatives and fighting terrorism, because both go hand in hand. That is why it is important that the motion is about action now.”

His party required a number of tests to be met before they would support the airstrikes, he said – that IS would be the target; that they represent “a clear and present danger” to the UK; and that British action would make “a real and practical difference”.

It should not be forgotten, he added, that the UK is the second highest donor of aid to those fleeing conflict in Syria.

His Strangford party colleague Jim Shannon said the decision was taken to protect UK citizens.

The decision must be taken to go to Raqqa and ensure that those involved in the campaign to organise attacks in France, Belgium and elsewhere are stopped, he added.

UUP MP Tom Elliott said: “None of us want to believe that going into Syria or bombing in Syria is a good decision, but let us be clear that we are not planning to bomb Syria.

“My understanding is that we are planning to bomb the terrorist regime of IS in Syria. My goodness, coming from Northern Ireland, we know what it is like to fight terrorism and to experience people trying scrupulously to assess every movement we make.”

He said he would like to be able to negotiate with the Syrian government and others genuinely interested in a peaceful outcome, but did not think that that would be realistic on its own.

Independent North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon said she decided to support airstrikes after hearing “a brilliant speech” by Hilary Benn.

“He and other senior Labour MPs like Margaret Beckett have been hugely persuasive for me with their emphasis on the unanimous UN Security Council Resolution calling for all necessary measures to eradicate IS in both Iraq and Syria,” she told the News Letter.

Ulster-born Labour MP Kate Hoey, however voted against airstrikes. Twelve years before, she felt military action in Iraq was wrong after “a very eloquent and emotional speech” from Tony Blair.

She felt “that same instinct” last night, she added.