The UK government should legislate to outlaw the glorification of terrorism in Northern Ireland, a Commons committee has been told.
DUP MP Carla Lockhart raised concerns about the attendance this week of senior Sinn Féin members at the funeral of republican activist Rita O’Hare.
In response, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said that the authority which should be dealing with glorification of terrorism was the Stormont executive.
Mr Heaton-Harris was appearing at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee which is investigating the impact of paramilitary activity.
Referring to Sinn Féin, Ms Lockhart said that there was a party which would take the First Minister position if Stormont was returned, which was involved in the “continual glorification of terrorism”.
The DUP MP referred to comments made by Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader, Michelle O’Neill, last year when she said there had been no alternative to IRA violence during the Troubles.
She also referenced the funeral of Ms O’Hare, who fled Northern Ireland in 1972 having been arrested and bailed in connection with the attempted murder of a soldier the previous year and was later jailed for three years in the Republic of Ireland for involvement in an IRA arms smuggling bid.
Ms Lockhart said: “You only have to think when Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill carried the coffin of an on-the-run, someone who was wanted in Northern Ireland for the attempted murder of an Army warrant officer, who had convictions down south as well.
“Can the Secretary of State outline if he has any intention of outlawing glorification of terrorism? Because the terrorism in 1983 is no different to terrorism today.
“I would like to know what the Government intend to do on this because it is encouraging young people to take up arms, get involved in criminality.
“You only have to look at the age of people who are singing ‘oh ah, up the Ra’.
“What more can we do, and what more will the Government do?”
Mr Heaton-Harris said there had never been any justification for paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland, and there is none today.
He added: “I do understand that commemoration is an unbelievably complex issue and I have had representations personally from both communities on issues to do with this.
“But it is something that the (Stormont) executive leads on. We should not allow a culture to emerge which glorifies violence in the past, but this is something which sits in the devolved space.
“So maybe the government should get involved but the government which should get involved is the executive.”
The powersharing institutions are currently not operating in Northern Ireland due to a DUP protest over the terms of post-Brexit trading arrangements.
Ms Lockhart responded: “With due respect, the individuals that are glorifying the terrorism are part of that executive and are not likely to take action against themselves.
“I believe it would be fitting for the UK Government, who are sovereign in these matters, to take action and to actually introduce legislation.
“We, as a party, sought to bring forward an amendment which would outlaw glorification of terrorism and it was written off by the government.
“It is the Home Office, in my mind, which needs to deal with terrorism and the glorification of it.”
The Northern Ireland Secretary said the Home Office played that role in Great Britain.
He added: “I hear exactly what you say about the people you have mentioned but I do recall that 25 years ago there were people equally who had been involved in things we would not have tolerated who then changed into being some of the people who brought peace and stability to Northern Ireland.
“I think it is important to note the united condemnation from all the political parties in the shooting of DCI (John) Caldwell.
“The clear message of opposition that has been sent by all the political leaders in Northern Ireland back to those who seek to drag us back to the dark, horrible days of the past.
“I understand the point and I think the government could do more, but the government which could do more is the executive.”