Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland Act 1974

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:15 pm on 26th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea 11:15 pm, 26th June 1985

It is utterly clear that Ministers will have no dealings with Sinn Fein unless and until it renounces violence. The present balance is obviously kept under review; it is a matter which could change as circumstances change. Certainly it is rock firm that so long as Sinn Fein advocates violence Ministers will have no dealings with it.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North spoke about police stations. I know that the position in many of the small police stations by the border is unsatisfactory, but it is unfair of him to castigate the police authority or the Government for not giving a firm commitment to improving those conditions as rapidly as possible. The size of the RUC has trebled during the past 10 years. It would be surprising if that had not created some accommodation problems, but we are determined to provide the resources in coming years to ensure that in all the police stations we have both the right living accommodation and the proper protection for the policemen who must work there.

As I said at the beginning, direct rule has brought many advances to Northern Ireland. In many ways, as a result of direct rule, Northern Ireland is more efficient, stable and fair now than when direct rule was introduced. Successive Governments have sought to be even-handed and to serve the whole community, despite some of the strictures uttered by the hon. Member for Foyle. However, there is still more to do if we are to live up to our target to ensure that the people of both traditions see that their tradition is fully respected. Direct rule is a fallback situation. We cannot be complacent, and we shall certainly continue to be committed in our search for a better way.

We shall seek to persuade the parties in Northern Ireland to put aside the old ways and to seek to co-operate together. There is potentially a new situation in Northern Ireland. There are new opportunities there for internal progress. I urge local parties to take them.