Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland (Foyle Fisheries) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd December 1951.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields 12:00 am, 3rd December 1951

I welcome this Bill, with the preliminary negotiations for which I had the responsibility while I held office, and I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on being able to present to the House this further Measure towards Home Rule for Ireland. It is not a very much larger concession, but it steadily takes us along the road where in the end Irishmen, by agreement among Irishmen, will be responsible for Irish affairs.

This Bill has a very interesting history, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said. It originates in the arrangements made by the City of London for turning the City of Derry in Northern Ireland into Londonderry, and for arranging for some of the necessary work which had to be done in that connection. I would say at once how pleasing it is to find that even on the national sport of salmon poaching these two countries, which quarrel about so much, can be agreed in taking some action which might almost be supposed to be against the Irish temperament altogether. It does show the extent to which they have managed to get together.

There has, of course, been some litigation in recent years about this matter, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not allude. I do not think I am called on to make any comment on it except perhaps to say that there is a claim by some people. in the Republic of Ireland that only the land in Northern Ireland is Northern Ireland; that the territorial waters around are part of the Irish Republic, and that the tidal waters are all part of the Irish Republic. I do not think that has been put forward by the Government of the Republic, but it is put forward by certain people living in the Republic. What I wish to say on behalf of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House is that we do not recognise it and have never recognised it as a legitimate claim. It is so fantastic that nowhere, except in Ireland, could one expect to have such a claim put forward, and I wish to make it quite clear that we do not share, and never have shared, that particular view of the situation.

What this Bill does do, and it does it very cleverly, is to leave undecided where in the tidal waters of the Foyle the boundary really is between Northern Ireland and the Republic. That is very important. In point of fact that boundary has never been agreed. Only the Irish could have found a way of dealing with the situation so that they can get their own way without raising in this Bill that particularly awkward area. It does not matter whether the man is found on either side of this very ill-defined boundary, because he is to be tried in the country where he resides. So it does not matter very much whether he is a few yards on one side or the other of what either Government imagines is the boundary line. That is a typical Irish way of dealing practically with a problem that would be insoluble to the minds of the more practical English, or the more dogmatic Scots. There again I think we must congratulate them, and ourselves, on the final decision which has been taken.

These fisheries are very valuable and this charity of the Irish Society is a very important charity. It is unfortunate that the disputes in recent years regarding this matter have deprived the charity of a substantial part if not the whole of its income. I am quite certain that this arrangement by which they get £100,000 capital sum, £50,000 from each side, represents a reasonable arrangement and one about which the society need have no qualms. It will enable this whole matter to be dealt with in the future by bodies fully capable of enforcing the laws and the byelaws which are to be made in respect of the fisheries.

I think everyone is to be congratulated on this result of the negotiations. There may of course be a few other people who have some rights in these fisheries. I do not think there can be very many, in fact, some authorities think there is none. But there may be a few people with small rights, and I understand the arrangement is that if anyone can prove his right he also will be compensated, and that the compensation will be paid equally to both sides. I rather imagine that that is so, and that, if any claims are admitted, they will be of equal number from both Northern Ireland and the Republic. I cannot see their agreeing very easily unless it is reciprocal, otherwise I suspect there will not be any claim worth recognising.

This Bill does give us proof of the way in which, on practical issues that concern both good government and reasonable relationships, these two countries, or rather this province and this self-governing State, can work together. It is to be welcomed, especially by all of us in this House, for that if for no other reason, I am certain that, no matter what our views may be on the ancient controversies and deplorable happenings in history with regard to this country, we do desire to see concord and prosperity in this small island. I am quite certain that the more they can get back to practical affairs and prove that, when it comes to managing affairs that are their joint responsibility, the more they can succeed, the better it will be for the world, and the better it will be for Ireland, without distinction between the six and the twenty-six counties.

In the hope that, today, we are making a further contribution towards promoting understanding between Irishmen themselves, I have very much pleasure, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself, in assuring the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary of our complete support for this Measure.