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Ireland (Tripartite Conference)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th December 1973.

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Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley 12:00 am, 10th December 1973

I must strongly repudiate everything which my hon. and gallant Friend has said. I cannot accept that there is any element of deception. For the first time an Irish Government have declared their position on the status of Northern Ireland. The agreement is to be registered as an international agreement at the United Nations. This is a major step forward of the utmost importance to everyone in Northern Ireland. I met no one at the conference during the long hours when we were working together who believed that a united Ireland was round the corner. Far from it. It was acknowledged that at present the majority of people in Northern Ireland wish to remain in the United Kingdom. Her Majesty's Government have accepted that if at any time the people of Northern Ireland change their view their wishes will be respected. That is absolutely right. There is no element of deception.

There is not, as my hon. and gallant Friend suggested, an enormous structure. All parties at the conference wished to ensure that the secretariat should be small and limited to the requirements of the work of the Council. It is, after all, a small council consisting of only 14 members. It was felt that the assembly should have all such services as are necessary to enable it to debate and advise when required. It is a consultative assembly and, therefore, it is out to achieve the purpose of enabling both parts of Ireland to work together more effectively in the common good.