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
Security co-operation on the ground between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Garda is already good, but I am confident that as a result of the Anglo-Irish agreement we shall see an enhancement in the co-ordination of security at all levels. At the next meeting of the conference we shall be considering a progress report from the Chief Constable and the Commissioner of the Garda Soichana on the programme of work referred to in article 9(a) of the agreement.
Cross border security appears to have improved since the signing of the agreement, most notably resulting in the two arms finds in the Republic recently. Therefore, is it not surprising that the Unionists, who have been demanding closer co-operation in security matters with the Dublin Government for so many years, appear not to be happy about that aspect of the agreement and are still trying to undermine it?
I have repeated my disappointment too many times from the Dispatch Box. I understand the concern of Unionists about certain aspects of the agreement. They undermine the quality of their opposition by refusing to recognise the merits and benefits that there could be. Any objective observer knows perfectly well that if we are to make an impact on terrorism the problems of the border have to be met. That is not the sole reason for terrorism, but it is one of the resources that the terrorists use and that is where we can get real benefit for every law-abiding person in the Province.
Does my hon. Friend agree that Monday's madness will not do anything to help cross border security? Will he make it clear to those who are seen to be setting themselves up as some form of Afrikaaners of Ulster that he and this House will not be bullied into suspending or scrapping the Anglo-Irish agreement?
It is quite clear that if the action on Monday takes place in the form envisaged it will put a great strain on the resources of the security forces. Obviously, in that respect it may put others at risk, particularly if there were to be problems with terrorism. That must be recognised and understood. I do not approach the problems arising from, and the criticism of, the agreement in an atmosphere of hostility towards the Unionists. The atmosphere at 10 Downing street two days ago was entirely constructive in trying to find a way in which we could seek to meet legitimate concerns in a constructive and profitable way. I regret very much that for the moment those approaches appear to have been totally rebuffed.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that there are Unionists in Northern Ireland who are not in favour of the so-called strike, who are in favour of the Anglo-Irish agreement and who are not prepared to follow in the footsteps of the abominable no-men on Monday? Will the Secretary of State also confirm that there is a sizeable section of the population in the north of Ireland which is not Unionist and is firmly in favour of the proposals contained in the Anglo-Irish agreement?
It is true that there is significant support, certainly in the minority community, for the Anglo-Irish agreement. There are many more, I think an increasing number of responsible Unionists who are now beginning to recognise some of the benefits that can flow, not least from the fact that there is a movement of votes from the party which advocates violence to the constitutional nationalist approach. I continue to emphasise that point, and the hon. Gentleman is in a position to know, it better than anybody. That is something of long-lasting benefit to everybody in the Province.
Has my right hon. Friend seen a special supplement in Police Review dated 31 January called
The Grim Statistics—A tribute to the RUC",
which gives details of many cases where members of the IRA have crossed the border and killed members of the RUC? Can my right hon. Friend confirm that all border controls will be strengthened, especially in relation to the Monday problem, and will he give them the additional protection that is demanded?
I have not seen that article, but the point arose earlier today about the increase in Army resources, which is precisely to deal with some of the problems of terrorism, not least on the border.