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Dodds leads DUP in call to fight terrorists as SDLP opts to reject war

By Rebecca Black

Published 03/12/2015

DUP MP Nigel Dodds
DUP MP Nigel Dodds
Colum Eastwood

Terrorism must be faced down, DUP MP Nigel Dodds said yesterday before leading his party colleagues at Westminster in supporting air strikes against Islamic State in Syria.

Eight DUP MPs, the two UUP MPs and independent Lady Sylvia Hermon all voted with the government for military action against IS terrorists yesterday.

The three SDLP MPs were the only representatives from Northern Ireland to vote against.

Mr Dodds told a packed House of Commons that the tribulations of Northern Ireland showed that "no other approach" can be taken when faced with terrorists.

"Our experience in Northern Ireland has taught us that no other approach can be brought to bear when you are facing terrorism," he said.

"It must be fought and must be fought with all the means realistically at our disposal.

"We have not sought this conflict. Terrorists have inflicted it upon us, but we must now respond.

"We know on these benches only too well the consequences of terrorism being appeased and indulged. Terrorism must be faced up to. It isn't a choice between political initiatives and fighting terrorism. Both go hand in hand."

Ulster Unionist MPs, Tom Elliott and Danny Kinahan, said in a joint statement: "We have a collective duty to unite behind our brave service men and women who will be flying sorties over Syria, potentially within hours. Commanding our men and women to intervene where they could potentially be killed or injured is one of the gravest decisions that Parliament can take. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and all our Armed Forces.

"We ask everyone to remember we did not seek this fight, but we cannot walk away from taking a stand against the slaughter of the innocent that is the tactic of those who attack us and despise our way of life."

Independent North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon revealed that Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn's "brilliant" speech had swayed her to vote yes.

"Hilary Benn 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 said. "As IS poses a direct and real threat to us in the UK, I'm persuaded that we must take air strikes against these ruthless terrorists in Syria".

Meanwhile the SDLP MPs Margaret Ritchie criticised Prime Minister David Cameron for failing to apologise for calling opponents of air strikes in Syria "terrorist sympathisers".

"David Cameron refused to apologise. I feel it would have been better for him to do so because none of us are terrorists who will be going tonight against military strikes," she said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, said his party's three MPs would "proudly walk through the voting lobbies with our colleagues in Labour, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and other parties to oppose military action".

Earlier, protesters gathered at the War Memorial in Londonderry expressing their opposition to air strikes in Syria.

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