Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:40 am on 26th June 1985.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , South Down 12:40 am, 26th June 1985

I wish to use the opportunity given by this debate to refute a common assumption which has serious consequences for security in Northern Ireland and has been one of the causes of the perversion of Government policy in dealing with it. It featured in the speech with which the Secretary of State opened the debate. I refer to the assumption that for the successful combating of the Provisional IRA the co-operation of the Government of the Irish Republic is a sine qua non.

I understand how this might appear to be reasonable and even axiomatic to those who are unacquainted with the circumstances in Northern Ireland. People might well say that it is not attractive, that the explosives used in Northern Ireland predominantly come from the territory of the Republic, that those who perpetrate murders increasingly in the areas adjacent to the frontier have been training, waiting, planning in the territory of the Irish Republic. They might ask whether it is true that the territory of the Irish Republic affords them a ready and nearby refuge after their deeds have been carried out. How then—such a person might inquire — can one dispute that it is essential for combating the provisional IRA to gain the co-operation of the Government of the Irish Republic? There are two distinct and separate reasons.

The first is that there is no such thing as co-operation by the Government of the Irish Republic in combating the Provisional IRA. No Government of the Irish Republic could, for political reasons, be seen to be or be perceived to co-operate successfully in the extinction of the Provisional IRA.

We are told that the IRA is as much the enemy of the Irish Government as it is of Her Majesty's Government. I have no doubt that the IRA is distasteful to the Government of the Irish Republic. I have no doubt that they fear the IRA for historic as well as for contemporary reasons, but there is no contradiction. There is no contradiction between that mutual hostility between conventional politics in the Irish Republic and the fact that no conventional politician dare to be seen, or would expect to survive being seen, as having co-operated with the British in putting down a Provisional IRA campaign. It is not available. They cannot deliver.

The other reason is that the Provisional IRA, and its operations, is a weapon—perhaps the most effective weapon—for securing the political purposes pursued by the Government of the Irish Republic. At this stage, lest I be misheard or misunderstood, I want to say that at no time have I spoken in terms of hostility, contempt or disrespect of either the people or the Government of that sovereign, independent state, the Irish Republic. Nor am I saying that the members of the Government of that state are consciously, knowingly or avoidably in league in murderous activity with the members of the Provisional IRA. I am saying that the activities of the Provisional IRA have been and still are the means whereby the Irish Republic and its politicians have made in the past 15 years inroads into the constitutional status of Northern Ireland such as they could not have imagined making in the absence of the IRA campaign.

The premier of the Irish Republic, against whom I have no complaint and no criticism, cannot be so unobservant as not to have perceived that it was successive acts of terrorism which opened the way to the successive stages by which the Government have been drawn into courses of action which visibly were intended first to prejudice and then to dispense with the status of Northern Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom. Most signally, in 1979 it was the call for co-operation from the Irish Republic following the murder of Lord Mountbatten which led to the meeting of 5 October 1979, when the plans for the political operation that has since been carried out were laid down. That led to the first of the series of meetings between the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the premier of the Irish Republic, which stage by stage have erected the structure which was designed to be the means of cozening Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom into the embrace of an all-Ireland state.

At each stage Ministers were told—no doubt by their advisers, civil servants and members of the security forces—"You must get the co-operation of the Irish Republic. That is the only key to combating the terrorism of the Provisional IRA. You must ascertain on what terms you will be able to obtain that co-operation." We have explored that in successive terms. We have been building a tower of Babylon in the past four years out of the terms which were successively exacted or sought by the Government of the Irish Republic in return for affording that which they could not deliver and that which was providing them at that very moment with the means of making what, in the terminology of this affair, is described as political progress.

Without the Provisional IRA there would have been no possibility of bringing things to such a pass. Even now the Government are discussing with the Government of the Irish Republic steps and provisions every one of which is a direct and visible derogation of the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.

It will perhaps be asked, "In the absence of the co-operation of the Government of the Irish Republic, how are we to defeat the Provisional IRA?" It will be noticed that at each stage of my remarks I have emphasised the words "the Government of the Irish Republic". I am not referring to the Garda itself, though the Garda is a political police force in a sense of which we have no comprehension in Great Britain of such a force. The relationship of that force with the politicians in the Government of the Irish Republic is one that we would not for a moment tolerate existing in Great Britain between the Government and politicians and the police forces. However, I accept that between policemen there is comradeship and that a certain degree, so far as it is permissible within what at the time happens to be the intentions of the political management in Dublin, of useful information is made available by the RUC to the Garda and by the Garda to the RUC. Nothing will prevent that—it is the very nature of the adjacent forces seeking success in their operations, often against the same people. When we talk about securing the co-operation of the Government of the Irish Republic, we are talking about something quite different. We are talking about something to which has been attached a fatal price tag—a price tag that has been paid in practice by the lives and property of citizens in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Consider, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if it is not too severe an imposition upon the imagination, what would be your outlook if you were a member of the Provisional IRA, watching the relationships between Her Majesty's Government and the Irish Republic, as our Government go about the attempt to secure the co-operation of the Government of the Irish Republic. You would say, as the IRA says, "Ah, we understand very well what is happening. They are going the same way as we intend to go. Let them go on along that course because, before they reach that ultimate role, we shall take over from them and we shall be in the saddle."

It has been a continuing encouragement to the IRA, and a continuing discouragement to their victims, to have been able to read all too clearly in the past five years the price that we have paid for that unattainable article—the co-operation of the Government of the Irish Republic in putting down the Provisional IRA.

From the fact that my right hon. and hon. Friends and I will support this motion, it is sometimes wrongly supposed that we like the emergency provisions, that we like provisions of law in our part of the United Kingdom that are different from the corresponding provisions in the rest of the United Kingdom. We do not. We desire before others to see the law in our part of the United Kingdom in line with the law in the rest of the United Kingdom, but we know that that can come about only if the Government lay aside the illusion that has caused them relations with the Government of the Irish Republic — I am not considering other factors and motives that have entered into that—that are all too manifestly an encouragement and a sign of success for the terrorist, and a discouragement and abasement for those who oppose it.

The shortest way to end the campaign of terrorism is for it to be seen that the Government have no political intentions, propositions, negotiations or undertakings with other Governments that would be incompatible with the maintenance of the present status of Northern Ireland. Strike down that vision which, if it is not clear to us is clear to the rest of the world, and the Government will have taken the most decisive step towards defeating the IRA and being able to take this Act off our statute book.