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I welcome the opportunity to initiate this debate on the security situation in Northern Ireland. Not least against the background of recent events, it is absolutely right that we should be having the debate today. I welcome the fact that right hon. and hon. Members from the Province will be participating. This matter is of great concern to the people of the Province and it is therefore right that it should be debated in Parliament. We know that strong views are held on this issue and that there will be strong disagreements on many of its aspects. That makes it all the more important that it should be discussed in the House of Commons.
In putting before the House the issues involved, it is my duty first to put the facts before the House and to help the House to reach a balanced and objective view of the security situation and of the progress that has been made in these difficult matters. Against the background of horror at one outrage or another — sadly, Northern Ireland has seen far too many outrages — it is understandable that emotions will dominate the debate. We owe it to all those who have suffered and all those in the security forces who have striven to serve their community, to look at the issues as clearly and fairly as we can. All of us who are familiar with the Province know that a series of successes by the security forces can lead to a sense of over-confidence about the early prospect of defeating terrorism. However, while it is a mistake to get too elated by a success, it is also wrong to get too downhearted by setbacks. We have a duty to examine the situation and to base our decisions on the fairest possible assessment.
In no sense do my remarks imply in any way that there is any such thing as an acceptable level of violence. Any murder is one too many, with all the human tragedy that it involves. I make it absolutely clear that our determination is to pursue our efforts until such time as terrorism is destroyed and real peace is restored to Northern Ireland and to the whole island of Ireland.
I begin by reminding the House of the background—the developments in the security situation and the tragic statistics — against which this debate takes place. To enable us to see just what have been the achievements of the security forces, of the steadfastness and resilience of the community and of the direction of security policy, we must consider the progress that has been achieved. Any hon. Member who studies the casualty figures will be struck immediately by the situation in 1972, the gravest year of all, when 467 people were killed—146 members of the security forces and 321 civilians. Last year, there were 24 deaths among the security forces. That is 24 too many, but by any standards it is a vast improvement on the situation some years earlier. The period to the end of March this year was the lowest first quarter for casualties in the security forces in any recent year, although I am the first to inform the House, as it well knows, that since then, sadly, there has been a serious deterioration, a serious level of casualties and clear evidence of a new ruthlessness in the campaign of violence that we face, including certain changes of tactics which we need to assess and to meet as effectively and speedily as we can.
It is right to set those achievements against the horrific level of violence in earlier years and to recognise how much the Province and, indeed, the whole country owe to the unstinting efforts, courage and determination of the security forces to whom we all owe the greatest debt. The problems and challenges that we face should not be considered only against the background of the terrible statistics of violence. We should also assess the progress and developments that have taken place as we sought to resist the campaign of terror launched principally by the IRA and the achievements of that organisation in pursuit of its objectives and the cause that it has sought to promote.
When the campaign was embarked on with all its evil intent, the IRA must have had certain objectives, and it is worth reflecting on the progress or otherwise that has been made towards those objectives. The most elementary initial objective was surely to undermine the morale of the RUC, to spread disaffection among the Army and to create reluctance and unwillingness to serve in Northern Ireland. Another objective was surely to attract ever-increasing support from the nationalist community as well as wider international support, particularly from the Government of the Irish Republic. Twenty years on in that evil campaign, we can see that in each if those objectives the IRA has completely failed.
The RUC undoubtedly faced problems and difficulties at the start of the campaign, but one can have only the greatest admiration for the way in which it has come through that time of trial to be recognised as an outstandingly competent, highly trained, well-motivated police force with high morale, widely respected for the stand that it has taken against terrorism and for its courage and professionalism—a force for which there is substantial support across the community and which has not the slightest difficulty in attracting more recruits to serve the community.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, as I am sure is every member of the RUC, for his tribute to that force. His words, which I am sure are sincere, would carry more weight if his office would occasionally listen to the views of members of the RUC who do the dying for us. He should also realise that he does not help RUC morale, which I know he wishes to maintain, if, as he will be doing later today, he fastens on the RUC discriminatory action which would not be acceptable to the police in England and Wales.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend put his intervention in that way. He will forgive me if I do not go into the second matter as it will be the subject of a second debate. I recall that the last time I discussed these matters with my hon. Friend was in the presence of deputation from the Police Federation which I was more than ready and willing to meet. Members and officers of the Police Federation know that I am always ready to meet them and to discuss problems of concern. Of course I am willing to meet people on issues of importance and of course I respect the role played by the RUC. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks in that respect. My support and commitment to the RUC are absolute—I wish to make that completely clear—and I am fully aware of the crucial role that it plays in the front line against terrorism.
The IRA's second objective was to develop a reluctance to serve in Northern Ireland — the "troops out" movement perhaps — and to create disaffection in the British Army. Anyone who has the slightest contact with the Regular Army and with the Ulster Defence Regiment knows, however, of the commitment and support that exists and of the high morale and enthusiastic response of the Army to the soldiering tasks that it so readily takes on in the province. One of the most encouraging developments has been the increasing professionalism as well as the notable courage shown by the UDR in its extremely tough role.
Thirdly, how well has the IRA done in seeking to spread disaffection among the nationalist community, to isolate the security forces from any support in that community and to have itself increasingly recognised as the voice of that community? Whatever levels of support it may have had in the past, I have the clearest impression that that support has diminished very greatly in the nationalist community. More and more people now see the IRA as offering just one guarantee to the people whose support it seeks — the guarantee of misery and continuing high unemployment. People are more and more aware of the unholy mismatch of a Mafia-type organisation operating rackets in drinking and gaming clubs and bogus protection firms with a Marxist terrorist group determined to impose its narrow views on people throughout the island of Ireland with complete indifference to the views of the majority.
It is worth remembering, when the IRA says that it has some right to speak for the people of Ireland, just how tiny a majority it represents not only in Northern Ireland but in the Irish Republic where it polled only 1.8 per cent. of the vote. To its humiliation, its total number of votes in the last elections in Northern Ireland — the district council elections — and in the vote for the Dail amounted to only 3 per cent. of the vote. The conceit, as the Irish Press said, of publishing a document called, "Scenario for Peace", which the Irish Press described correctly as an ultimatum for peace! The attitude of the IRA and Sinn Fein, is, "We do not care what you think; we will tell you what you should think and we will kill you until you think it." That is the proposition that it has the gall to put before the people, and that is why it will not succeed.
If we look at the background against which it has sought to enlist increasing international support, the reality is that the perception of it as an international Marxist revolutionary group is now, thank God, increasingly prevalent around the world. It may possibly have support from President Gaddafi; it may have associations with other groups around the world; but it does not enjoy the support of any decent, civilised country in the world.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement marks the complete repudiation of the IRA by the United Kingdom and the Government of the Irish Republic, and that has been underlined firmly by the new Government in the Irish Republic in recent weeks. It is a measure of that repudiation by the international community that the House will have noticed the increasing success that we have had in international co-operation. I am not referring just to the supplementary extradition treaty which was passed through the United States Senate with such an overwhelming majority. I am not referring to the new extraditions which have been achieved from the United States and Holland. The House will be aware of the support that we have had from police forces in the United States, France, Germany and Holland.
The Secretary of State will be aware that one of the Government's objectives for the Anglo-Irish Agreement is an improvement in co-operation between security forces on both sides of the border. Can he point to any great improvement in that? Anecdotal evidence from members of the British security forces would suggest that, if anything, the situation has become worse rather than better.
My hon. Friend takes a close interest in this matter, but to suggest that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was to be a wand that would have an immediate impact of a major, significant early change — [Interruption.] There have been successes. I can point to a steady, growing, and encouraging list of Garda seizures of explosives and mortars which undoubtedly have resulted from increased co-operation. I rely on and respect the advice of the Chief Constable. He says—he is uniquely placed to make this judgment—that the present opportunity is the best that there has ever been for developing close co-operation, which is one of the ingredients which will help in the fight against terrorism.
Some hon. Members raise the issue of cross-border terrorism as though it was the sole source of terrorism and as though terrorism was not originating from within the Province. Anyone who is taking part in this debate knows only too well the problems that are faced in countering the skill, determination and fanaticism of the terrorists in routing them out, even from within the Province where we have complete responsibility in those respects.
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has made that suggestion, because it is not true. We believe that a significant amount of explosives come from across the border, but we also believe—the hon. Gentleman must be aware of this—that a significant amount are also produced in the Province. We and the RUC are determined to prevent that, but it is a mistake to believe that everything originates from across the border. It is more complicated than that.
I shall make some progress and then I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman.
In reviewing the present situation I have sought to assess the progress that the terrorists have made in pursuit of what must have been their original objective. I hope that the House will accept that their progress has been nil. Far from making progress, they have lost some of the ground that originally they might conceivably have held. In terms of political progress and inciting greater support in the South, it is difficult to see how much lower they could go than 1·8 per cent. of the vote, and that is assuming that all the people who voted for them supported the more violent ambitions of Sinn Fein. Trapped in the failure of its political initiatives and efforts, it has now reverted to what it knows best — violence and terrorism. The House should not under-estimate its evil cunning and skill. That is a clear warning, and something that many hon. Members appreciate.
What makes it such an evil and difficult enemy to fight is that it lacks any principles or scruples about how its violence might cause horrific casualties and tragedies. One can think of the complete lack of compunction that it showed that one of its mortar bombs might have hit the supermarket in Newry instead of the police station next door. Many will recall the quite horrific injuries that were caused to the small girl who was shopping there. We have seen the most recent confirmation that it has no such inhibitions as the charming and kind president of the Irish Girl Guides was murdered beside her husband, Lord Justice Gibson, at Killeen.
Faced with the humiliation that it has recently suffered in the Irish election campaign and the split in Sinn Fein between Provisional Sinn Fein and Republican Sinn Fein it is quite clear that it has embarked on a heightened level of violence. It is true to say that the level of incidents was rising quite significantly towards the end of last year, but the determined and courageous efforts of the security forces prevented a number of those incidents leading to casualties. Sadly, as we all know, there have been a number of attacks recently and some have led to serious casualties. The House will be very familiar with those attacks.
Against that background I want to explain to the House how we should respond to the present situation. First, I want to refer to security policy. The security policy followed by successive Governments has been to fight terrorism with all the appropriate resources under the rule of law. One of the terrorists' objectives has always been to destroy the courts and exploit the grievances that can arise in such a situation. Part of the reason for the strong international support for our fight against terrorism has been the recognition of our determination to maintain the highest possible standards of British justice when dealing with terrorist crime.
Of course that is not easy. Of course that poses tremendous problems for the security forces and the courts in which, if I may say so, the Northern Ireland judiciary has played such a courageous part. The background to this debate is the clearest reminder of the courage shown by the Northern Ireland judiciary. Of course there are always attractions to try to find some different route outside of the present law. However, we have a very heavy responsibility before we make changes, to be sure that what looks like a quick or more effective approach does not create bigger problems for the future.
An effective response is essential to adapt to the new situation. However, the wrong reaction could all too easily be counter-productive and play into the hands of the terrorist. That is why we are continuing to consider ways in which the work of the security forces can be helped to bring terrorists before the courts. While maintaining fair treatment under the law, we will ensure that if terrorists are found guilty, they are subject to the full rigour of the law. I do not propose to comment any further on those matters now. However, I hope that the House has listened carefully to what I have said and will be under no illusions about the seriousness with which I regard that aspect of the problem.
The right hon. Gentleman has now been speaking for almost half an hour. Will he now get away from his exercise of rewriting history and making excuses for doing nothing about terrorism? Will he start from the premise that no deaths were caused by terrorism in Ulster before the Westminster Government took over full control of security and that the large death toll in 1972 to which he referred related to the fact that Westminster took over the entire administration of Northern Ireland? Will he stop hiding behind his compliments to the security forces, the judiciary and the various other people in Northern Ireland, who certainly deserve his compliments but who know that what he is saying is simply an excuse for doing nothing?
We came here to hear whether the right hon. Gentleman had any concrete proposals to deal with terrorism. He has said that terrorists will be brought before the courts. One hundred and forty-two out of 156 deaths in my constituency are still unsolved. That is a measure of the power of the courts at the moment. Will the right hon. Gentleman give the courts more power?
I understand that the hon. Gentleman is particularly interested in this matter. It is a pity that he did not listen to my comments. I do not honestly believe that the House will accept his version of history that this all started when this Parliament became involved.
I have listened with great care to the Secretary of State's comments. However, he will understand that there have been repeated reports, not least emanating from Mr. Colin Wallace and Mr. Fred Holroyd, that on odd occasions our security forces did not operate within the law. In particular, I refer the Secretary of State to The Sunday Times of 26 April. I would like to have the attention of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. I. Paisley) because I will refer to him. That article refers to the fact that there was a forged bank account relating to the hon. Member for Antrim, North. That information has come into the possesion of some hon. Members. I cannot make a judgment one way or another and neither can other hon. Members. It is up to the Secretary of State to assure all of us today that the allegations made by Fred Holroyd, Colin Wallace and others—[Interruption.] It is all very well for some hon. Members to sneer. The allegations have been made and I am asking a question. If a public inquiry is not to be set up, can the Government assure the House on these matters during this debate, not least with regard to the forged bank account belonging to the hon. Member for Antrim, North?
The House is aware of the hon. Gentleman's tenacity on these matters. I would prefer to deal with the issues before the House. My hon. Friend the Minister of State may make an appropriate comment in his concluding remarks, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I want to consider the background to certain other steps that we are taking. The fight against terrorism depends on sustaining pressure on a number of different fronts. One of the crucial areas is the interdiction of weapons and the inhibition of weapons supply. As I have said, we are very grateful for the international co-operation that has successfully obstructed shipments of arms from the United States, Holland and France. I am also very grateful for the efforts and co-operation of the Irish Government and the work of the Garda and the significant number of recoveries of weapons, arms and primed mortars that the Garda have identified. I can announce to the House that I was speaking only today again to the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Lenihan, and we discussed security matters. The security heads will meet again very shortly to carry their work further forward.
One of the key issues that we are also anxious to tackle relates to financial resources. Financial resources are the life blood of terrorism and we are taking a number of measures to reduce the funds that are reaching terrorists in various ways. The House will be aware of the recent successes of the racket busting squad set up by the RUC and the recent successful prosecutions of the tax exemption certificates fraud. That is an illustration of a route to funds that we have been anxious to obstruct. We have already introduced new controls on gaming machines. The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill, which is in another place at the moment, will seek to bring in new arrangements to control bogus security firms, and we have published proposals for dealing with unlicensed drinking clubs. Everyone familiar with Northern Ireland will be aware of the ways in which paramilitary organisations have sought to use those different devices as ways of increasing funds.
I want to consider certain matters that have arisen after discussions that. I have held with the Chief Constable and the GOC. I want to refer to a specific measure requested by my security advisers after my visit to inspect the A1 road at the scene of the appalling outrage of the murder of Lord Justice Sir Maurice Gibson. This morning I signed a vehicle control zone order for the road between the border and the checkpoint and that has come into effect forthwith. It is now not permitted to stop anywhere along that stretch and I am considering urgently whether such orders might be made in similar situations on border roads.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Will he tell the House how many members of the security forces accompanied him on his personal visit into no man's land, between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, following the horrific murders?
I thought that it was important to go and hope that the House thinks that it was right for me to go and to see properly for myself. Sadly, on every possible occasion, some hon. Members will seek—I can think of them now and have read their comments for long enough to know this—to score a political point, no matter how poor it may be. I would much prefer, and I think that the people of the Province would much prefer, that we deal with security issues seriously and that we do not always seek to score political points, but consider them objectively. I hope that I have the support of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis)—
I hope that I have the hon. Gentleman's support because although it is only one item, it is a sensible measure to take. It is taken al: the request of the security forces and I believe that it was the right action to take over one aspect that was concerning them.
Turning now to resources, the House will be aware that, following a period of reduction in the number of battalions in Northern Ireland, two additional battalions were deployed to the Provice early in 1986. Force levels are kept constantly under review, but in view of the interest in this matter I can confirm that that level of Army support will remain for as long as it is needed.
I turn now to the UDR. In recent months we have increased the permanent cadre by 150 posts, increasing the number of soldiers available for operational duties. A new permanent cadre rifle company is already being formed. In addition, yesterday the GOC called part-time members of the UDR on to voluntary permanent duty for the next few weeks. That will provide a valuable immediate increase in the force levels in support of the RUC. The effect is that part-time soldiers, who are available only for a limited eight hours a day, will be available for operations at all times. That will give much greater flexibility for operations in support of the RUC.
The Chief Constable has requested a further significant recruitment of RUC full-time reservists. The police authority for Northern Ireland informed me earlier this afternoon that, in its view, there is a case for a significant increase in the number of the RUC full-time reserve. It has yet to reach a final view on the precise number, but has recommended to me that immediate steps should be taken to start recruitment of those additional policemen. I have given immediate approval for that and recruitment will start now.
In addition, I have had discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence in respect of certain additional support that he has readily agreed to provide, as requested, that will help to combat more directly the present terrorist campaign. In addition, he will be making available additional helicopter resources to improve the deployment and mobility of the security forces.
These specific items are the clearest confirmation of the Government's determination to give all possible support to security forces and to the law-abiding people of the Province in their determined resistance to the evil of terrorism.
The hon. Gentleman knows that recruitment will start immediately. However, their appearance will depend on the speed at which the recruitment is carried through and on the length of training. It depends in part also on whether some of the recruits have already served, whether they need complete training or whether they are available at an earlier date. It is our concern to make sure that those extra resources are available at the earliest possible date. I give that confirmation to the hon. Gentleman.
Recruitment starts immediately and I believe that the training period lasts eight weeks for the full-time reserve. Therefore, with effect from an early date, additional resources will be forthcoming.
I have given details of certain additional resources and support that the Government will give to the security forces, and to all the people of the Province in their resistance against the evil campaign of terrorism. Everybody in the Province, and in the United Kingdom, can play their part in this. At present, when it is clearly the determination of the terrorists to provoke the maximum reaction, I look to everybody, in any prominent position, and especially to those in the security forces, to take the fullest care and to be as vigilant as possible about their own personal security. Everyone can make that contribution.
This is also a time when everybody must recognise that the security forces serve the interests of the community as a whole. I look to everyone, to all parties, to give the fullest support, without equivocation or qualification, to the security forces in the vital work that they do on behalf of the community. There is no law-abiding person in Northern Ireland who, in the past year, has not seen for himself the way in which the RUC and the security forces have sought to provide protection, without fear or favour, to people of all communities in Northern Ireland. They deserve, and are entitled to expect, the support of all in the work that they do.
Of course, there is another way in which everybody can help. When the RUC faces the security and terrorist threats that it does, it is entitled to look for maximum support, and for the avoidance of additional problems in the area of public order. Every additional policeman, who has to become involved in public order duties, is one less policeman able to stand in the fight against terrorism. It is clear that one thing that terrorists will seek to do is to provoke public disorder, and it is the responsibility of us all to ensure that we do not give in to such provocation.
The Province has shown its ability to rise above the threats and the misery that the terrorists offer. The economic progress that has been made, in spite of the terrorists' attempts and attacks, is an inspiration to people in the Province. However, this is a time when the terrorists seek to frustrate the progress that has been made and to sow uncertainty, distrust and hatred. It is a time for steadfastness and for all responsible leaders to avoid the vacuum of creating an opportunity for doubt.
I repeat that in the current position it is important that we see not only resources coming forward, with the full support of the United Kingdom in the fight against terrorism, but we need constructive political dialogue at present so that people can see that there is a way forward, which is not the bullet and the bomb, but which is through discussion and dialogue.
This issue of security is of as great concern in this Parliament as it is in the Province of Northern Ireland, which has suffered so grievously. The duty that we owe this Parliament and our country is to discuss these issues constructively and effectively to see the best ways in which we may bring peace and prosperity to the Province.
This debate is a response by the House to a series of tragic events—the deaths in recent weeks of two members of the RUC and a member of the UDR, whose offence was carrying out the duties which we entrusted to them; the death of a distinguished judge and his wife, known to some of us for many years, who paid the price of their determination to live normal lives so far as possible in abnormal circumstances; and the deaths of and injuries to civilians who were not even part of the quarrel in which they were caught up.
One purpose of the debate is to enable the House to express unanimously its horror at those events and its sympathy with the families of the victims. There are times when it is important to demonstrate that our whole community is at one in its compassion for those who suffer and its condemnation of those who inflict the suffering. That is one reason, among others, why I welcome the return to the Chamber of right hon. and hon. Members of the Unionist parties. The debate will no doubt reveal differences among us, and that is what debates are for, but that should not mislead anybody into believing that those differences extend to our reactions to indiscriminate murder.
It is important that we use the occasion, not only to record our horror, but to discuss constructively how we can most effectively protect the people of Northern Ireland from what could be an endless trail of misery and death extending far into the future. It is right that we should express our emotions, and we make no apology for that, but we should not be forgiven if we did not also apply our minds.
We should look to see what lessons there are to learn about improving security. It is easy and tempting to make superficial allegations, to find someone to blame, to dig out the scapegoats and to do what we rightly condemn others for doing—to use the loss of human life as a peg on which to hang a propaganda sheet. We need to study at greater leisure some of the matters which the Secretary of State raised today. I add my tribute to what he said of the members of the RUC and security forces who have maintained their morale in difficult circumstances over a long period.
The police establishment may need to be increased, but that is largely a technical matter which some of us may be able to judge only when we have more detailed information. I hope that the Secretary of State will find it possible to broaden the potential recruiting base and that he will address his mind to how we can make it possible, to use an oft-repeated phrase, for a young nationalist to join the police force without being any less a nationalist.
Clearly, one matter which requires to be discussed is the obsession of the authorities North and South with the precise location of the border. No one who has taken the trouble to look at the record can doubt the commitment both of the political authorities and of the security forces in Northern Ireland and the Republic to protect all the people of Ireland from political violence. The new Taoiseach and Mr. Lenihan have made clear their position, and anyone who seeks to sow dissension and recrimination between the two Governments and between the two police forces is doing no service to the cause of security.
But there have been sensitivities about the exact position of the border which are not shared by the paramilitaries. The maintenance of a no man's land is perhaps not a model for international co-operation in the last two decades of the 20th century. I hoped to hear more from the Secretary of State about the arrangements made by the two police forces for their mutual co-operation. We have still not been told why someone known to be at risk was left by the Gardai escort on the border with no arrangements for him to be met by an RUC escort until he had travelled three quarters of a mile unescorted. There may be a reason, but that necessarily raises the question whether the demarcation procedures may not have assumed excessive importance in two forces engaged together in the same purpose.
Perhaps we should explore whether the operational units engaged in security work may be made responsible to a single directorate. I am not suggesting an all-Ireland police force, although that idea does not shock me; I am asking whether it is not possible for the two forces to work as one for a specific purpose on which the two Governments are at one.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that it is, if not conventional, at least frequently the case, that a car bringing a distinguished person from the South into no-man's land is met by another car coming from the North, that radio contact is established between the two before either car moves into the no-man's land and that the two cars line up alongside each other so that the distinguished person can step from one to the other in a split second? The pertinent question is why that did not happen for Judge Gibson.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that is a relevant question and one to which I hope we shall in due course have an answer.
That seems a more effective kind of question and perhaps a more effective proposal than one for directing more troops into Northern Ireland. The latter is an easy suggestion to make for anyone who wants to demonstrate concern, but I doubt whether it will commend itself to those who are at the sharp end of responsibility for law enforcement in Northern Ireland. For some years, there has been agreement that policing duties are best carried out by the police and that members of the armed forces should normally he held back in barracks unless they are needed for back-up. No one who has proposed sending more troops to Northern Ireland has said what they would do or what purpose would be served by having them simply waiting around in barracks.
There is another reason why that suggestion is not likely to be effective. British troops are not popular in many districts of Northern Ireland. We may argue about the reasons for that and the mistakes that may have been made in the past, but increasing the presence of military vehicles or adding to the areas where people looking out of their windows see a barracks is not likely to encourage public support for law enforcement.
Indeed, I had it put to me last weekend that, if the proper concern of members of the Unionist parties is to protect Protestant people from nationalist paramilitaries, no contribution is made to that objective by flooding nationalist areas with military vehicles.
I should like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to understand that we are here as Unionists to ensure that security is improved for all people. We are not protesting about bad security to get better security for Protestants than for nationalists, but to improve security for all the people of Ulster.
I would not seek to dispute what the hon. Gentleman has said. I was only pointing out that if the purpose is to protect the people of one area, who, usually, unhappily, in many parts of Northern Ireland are of one community, from paramilitaries in the other community, no great purpose is served by flooding a different area with military vehicles. That was my point.
We should be exploring how more effectively we can improve security. Perhaps a degree of light in that respect is worth a great deal of heat.
The debate can serve a further purpose. It should not simply be a technical discussion about how to tighten security, still less a competition for nominating scapegoats. However we improve security, no-one will win. However many paramilitaries are detected, and convicted and imprisoned, quite properly, there will always be a reserve of young potential recruits, until we transform the world into which they are born, resolve the quarrels on which they are nurtured and deal with the grievances of the communities in which they live. If we are serious about ending the violence and offering families in Northern Ireland a secure existence, we cannot avoid addressing those wider questions.
I make no excuse for those who murder, and no one who knows me could believe that I would. I simply point out that they believe and seek to persuade those who are receptive that they are taking part in a war. If we respond with an analysis which accepts that what is happening is simply a physical struggle, we play directly into their hands. It is also a battle for hearts and minds, and we do not win hearts and minds by shouting slogans.
Last week the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), in a wise and thoughtful intervention, pointed out that one important aim of the paramilitaries is to provoke the authorities into the sort of punitive reaction that would enable them to complain and to evoke a response among the communities on whose support they depend. What I believe was in the mind of the hon. Gentleman was that the security forces have to be told that there are certain measures which they cannot carry out with impunity because one cannot defend the rule of law by risking exceeding the fringes of the rule of law. I believe he is right.
This is not the occasion to develop that theme in detail. We discussed it in our debates on the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill. If we are to win the battle for hearts and minds, we have to persuade people, particularly young people, in Northern Ireland that it is possible to build without destroying. A simplistic analysis in terms of winning a war is not enough.
Some months ago I talked with some Protestant teenagers in Belfast, who told me three things. First, they said that they hated Catholics. When I asked on what experiences they based their antagonism, it transpired that not one of them had ever met a Catholic. They were segregated where they lived. They were segregated at school.
The hon. Gentleman says, "Nonsense." I met them; he did not. If he does not believe that there are areas where that happens, he does not know Belfast, let alone the rest of Northern Ireland. I am not talking about just one side of the sectarian divide. I have had similar experiences on the other side. They were segregated where they lived; they were segregated at school; they were segregated in their leisure activities. They did not meet Catholics where they worked because they did not have any work. The word "Catholic" was simply a label.
Then, they told me that they were attracted to armed violence. When I asked them what they thought they had to gain by taking up the gun, they asked me what they had to lose. They said that they had no jobs, no future, that they were just hanging around in that dump and why should they not take up the gun. Anyone who does not believe that there are teenagers in Northern Ireland who take that view is simply not living in the real world.
I would like to try to answer their question, and I hope that it will go out as not just my answer but as the unanimous answer of this House. It is intended not just for those Protestant teenagers because, as I said, I have heard similar reactions from those on the other side of the divide. I say two things to those young people. First, if we have a dream to fight for, a dream of anything that is worthwhile, it must be of a future where neighbour can live alongside neighbour, where people build together for the good of everyone and where people's energies are directed to creating prosperity in which everyone will have a share. No other dream is worth having, still less fighting for.
There is no way in which that sort of future can be created by terrorising people, by destroying what others are trying to build, by driving away investment or by perpetuating quarrels. Exchanging grudge for grudge, or reprisal for revenge, into eternity cannot lead to the realisation of a dream; only to a nightmare. We do not create freedom by shooting those who disagree with us and we do not bring about justice by arrogating to ourselves the right to decide who should live and who should die.
With no right of appeal, as my right hon. Friend said. I am sure that anyone who knows Northern Ireland understands why the folk heroes of 50 years ago were prepared to take up the gun. But their guns have not created a dream world. Even in the Republic the feuds and the politics of the past still distort the politics of the present and frustrate the politics of the future. That is my first answer to those teenagers.
Secondly, I say to them that they do not have to resort to murder. It is possible to realise a dream through constitutional, democratic politics. Our generation may not have set a very encouraging example, but there is hope within the system. Simon Bolivar and Roger Debret may be romantic figures to some of the younger generation, though even they would tell us that there is nothing romantic about blood when we see it leaking out. But in Ireland in the 1980s there is more constructive work to be done by less romantic heroes and heroines working to build bridges, to heal wounds and to improve the quality of life in local communities, sometimes at great risk to themselves, and with little recognition.
I appeal to those who distribute the news. There is a feeling that if people give their time and energy to a resource centre or a community association no one notices, but if they lead a team of bombers their names are in the headlines. We all help to create the folklore which influences those hearts and minds that we have to win. We need to say that there are ways of redressing grievances within the system of constitutional politics. But if we are to say that with any persuasiveness, we need to demonstrate that grievances can be redressed through the democratic process.
We have to make it clear that massive, chronic unemployment is not built into the fabric of the universe. It can be changed. Life on the dole does not have to be dominated by massive electricity bills and the Payment for Debt Act. We may all need to make changes to the style and content of what we have said in the past. If there is to be new hope, we all have to contribute to a new style of politics. In particular, we can encourage the activities which have sprung from the needs and initiatives of local communities.
In the last few months I have visited a number of communities where people from the local area, who do not think of themselves as engaging in politics, give their time and energy to improving life and particularly to giving young people a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging. We should listen to those people. I do not suggest that we agree with every suggestion they make, but in some cases we can encourage what they are doing at very little cost. Some of them have had their funding withdrawn without being told what is alleged against them and they feel that they have been excluded from the consultative process. I have met some of them and I am sure that they genuinely do not know why that has happened.
If the Northern Ireland Office believes that it has reasons to cut funding, it could at least discuss them with those groups. I suggest that the Northern Ireland Office even consider visiting them to see what they are doing. I visited them and I do not believe that they deceived me as to their real purpose. I stopped and talked to people on doorsteps. I do not think that they had any political axes to grind. They wanted to show me the houses where they lived, in some cases because they were proud of them and in other cases because they had problems. They told me about the schools that their children attended, about provisions for the elderly and the handicapped, and about provisions for youth clubs.
The Secretary of State was right when he said that those people have no sympathy for the paramilitaries. There is no base of sympathy there at present, but some of those people were worried about the young. They felt that nobody who was in a position to take an effective decision wanted to listen to them. That is not the way to persuade people that constitutional politics works.
We can help those who are building bridges. We can consult them at all levels. If this debate is about how to combat what is evil, it should also be about how to encourage what is good. There are officials in the NIO who go out and meet people. They are on first-name terms with people in the resource centres and the youth clubs. But we must work at it if we do not want to add to the "us and them" of the sectarian divide an "us and them" of the communities and the Government. I am not arguing for work like that as a substitute for security measures because we require both, each reinforcing the other.
There are paramilitaries who may well enjoy the violence. They revel in the power to make decisions about life and death and bask in the importance that is denied to them in any lawful way of life. They have a vested interest in perpetuating the troubles, and their hearts and minds may be beyond our power to redeem. But they will be isolated if the genuine grievances on which they feed are removed, and if the sectarian quarrels that form their vocabulary are no longer the mainstay of political currency.
We are all part of that problem and we have to share in finding the solution. If we fail to achieve a solution, the blood of future victims will be on our hands too.
We have been asked to be brief and I shall be, but I wish to say two or three things. First, many people will agree that this debate has a depressingly familiar ring. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is absolutely right to draw to our attention the fact that terrorist activity and its consequences in the Province are infinitely less than they were 50 years ago. However, they are still much too common. During the steady decline in the activities of terrorists over many years, there are periods when, for one reason or another, there is an upsurge. On such occasions we have general debates like this in the House.
I am certain that we shall hear from hon. Members representing the Province fearful tales of what is happening in their constituencies. They will tell us about the murder, the explosions and the mayhem and misery that is affecting their constituents. I do not blame them for that, because we cannot blame them. If that sort of thing were happening in my constituency I would do exactly the same. We shall hear about those things again in this debate and we shall pay attention to what those hon. Members say. Every hon. Member wants to try to find the sensible and best way forward, and it is about this that I want to speak.
I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State talking about the levels of the security forces. It is the easiest thing in the world to say that there are problems in Northern Ireland, that terrorist activity is increasing and that more troops are needed. Some people say that. The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) does not agree with that approach and I do not agree with it either.
I was pleased to hear my right hon. Friend say that he has the support of the Ministry of Defence for selective reinforcements. I note that he is to get more helicopters and specialised troops. That is good. It is no good just having a lot more soldiers about in Northern Ireland, for the reasons given by the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West. That is because law and order and the defeat of criminals—which is what terrorists are—is a matter for the police. It is upon the police that we rely for maintaining law and order, for deterring criminals and for catching them.
I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that the strength of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is being increased. It has been increased steadily over many years from the very low and unhappy period 15 years ago when it was almost disbanded. Any of us who know anything about the problems in Northern Ireland know that the RUC is a highly professional force and that no force in the world is more able and better skilled to deal with those problems. I have the highest possible admiration for the RUC. To hear that it is getting and will continue to get the moral and financial backing that it requested from my right hon. Friend is extremely good news.
Every policeman whom I have ever met, and I have met quite a few, tells me the same thing—that he can do his job efficiently and well only if he has the support of the public. The community hires men to put on uniforms and maintain the law, but unless we actively support them they cannot do the job properly. Every policeman knows that. In that area more could be done and more is being done.
I think that at least 99 per cent. of the people in Northern Ireland want nothing better than to live in peace and quiet and to feel safe and secure. Many people may say that I am exaggerating, but I do not think so. About 1·5 million people live in the Province and 1 per cent. of that is 15,000.
That is what I am talking about and I do not believe that there are. There is a small number of active terrorists, a lot less than 15,000. Somebody with more knowledge than I have may be able to give a more accurate figure, but I do not think so.
The people who desire to get their way by shooting, causing explosions and killing, and who are trying to do that all the time form a small number. I have said that 99 per cent. of Northern Ireland's people want to live in peace, and any hon. Member who wants to may correct me on that. Anything that anybody can do to harness their good will and desires to the support, principally of the police but of course of any other security force, should do it. The more we or anybody attempts to do that, the better. Who can do that? I suspect that the people who can do it most effectively are the community leaders in Northern Ireland.
My right hon. Friend and his Ministers are not leaders of the community any more than I was when I was there. He is, as I was, the authority, the man with the power to say that this shall be done and that shall not be done. But neither he nor I nor any of our Ministers are community leaders because we are not of the community. As I said when I was there, that was one of the unhappy things about the way the Province was run. As hon. Members know, one of my dearest ambitions was to get rid of that responsibility.
Given that my right hon. Friend is not a leader of the community, who is? A number of people are. Perhaps one thinks instantly of church leaders. After all, almost everybody in Northern Ireland is a Christian, although the people practise their Christianity in different ways. Therefore, the leaders of Christianity are the leaders of the community. From what I now observe in all branches of the Christian religion, the leaders are now moving from the positions that some of them occupied to a position of great support and encouragement. In that context I think particularly of two Roman Catholic bishops that I know, both of whom are giving every good lead. They are to be encouraged in everything they do, and other church leaders must also be encouraged.
The House is principally concerned with Northern Ireland's political leaders who are here now. Therein lies the difficulty, because as everybody knows, in Northern Ireland there is one political question that stands miles above any other. Here in the House we argue about all manner of things all the time — about Government priorities, how money should be spent, what should be done here, there, and everywhere; but the political question that is supreme in Northern Ireland has nothing to do with such matters. It is about whether the Province should continue to belong to the United Kingdom or become part of the Republic—that is the dominating issue.
I suggest that the political leaders of the Province might consider putting that question on one side, for a moment. They should not abandon it, because it cannot be abandoned, but they should put it aside temporarily. Some hon. Members may disagree with me, but a change in the status of Northern Ireland — from being part of the United Kingdom to being part of the Republic — will not happen.
There are two reasons why such a change will not occur.
If it had been, there would have been; but it has not.
There are two reasons why the change will not happen. First, it impresses me that all members of the Government have, for eight years now—including myself when I was a member of it—been firm in their belief that such a change would not happen. I still believe that; so does my right hon. Friend; and so do all Members of the Government. Some people may doubt that, so let us consider what the change would entail.
Even if the Government abandoned everything that they had said, there is no way in which the Republic of Ireland would welcome the Province as a part of it. Why? Because the Republic would acquire, as citizens, Members such as the hon. Members for Mid-Ulster (Rev. W. McCrea) and for Antrim, North (Rev. I. Paisley), who are dedicated opponents of it. I do not for one second believe that any Government of the Republic would want to add to the three million people that they already rule 1·5 million people, of whom one million do not want anything to do with it. So, it will not happen.
If the political leaders of the Province — from whatever side—could find it in their hearts to leave that issue on one side for the moment and address themselves to the matter that I am discussing, it would be possible to bring everyone together, to have a campaign against violence and in support of the security forces and to seek a better form of government, if that is what the people want. The terrorist cannot survive, let alone do damage, if he does not have the support of more than 1 per cent. of the population. That, to me, seems a possible way forward, if only people would agree to do it.
There might be something to be said for the point made by the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins)—that we might examine the possibility of setting aside the contentious issue in Northern Ireland: that of which nation we want to belong to. As the right hon. Gentleman used the words "set aside", I hope that he will support me in suggesting that the most effective way of setting the issue aside would be to set aside the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which perpetuates it.
I am sure that most right hon. and hon. Members know by now that it is not in my nature to make bitter personal attacks on right hon. and hon. Members; but I have a duty to the House, to the Government and to the people whom we represent in Northern Ireland to be forthright and honest, in an attempt to ensure that the debate is somehow put on rails if it is to achieve anything in the way of safeguarding the lives of those who might yet be murdered in Northern Ireland.
That is why I must say, with great respect to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, that it would have been wiser for him not to have made his opening speech. It reflected all the confusion and contradictions of his Department — contradictions and confusion that have bedevilled the Northern Ireland Office since 1972. Since that time, the Department has blundered from one gross miscalculation to another. It has spawned one initiative after another, oblivious of reasoned advice to the contrary and to the inevitability of failure.
The real significance of the speech made by the Secretary of State is that his Department has perhaps finally realised that the latest and most disastrous of all the initiatives—the Anglo-Irish Agreement—is now coming apart at the seams. That should be seen in the context of the assertion made by Mr. Lenihan, the Irish Foreign Minister, when he returned to Dublin from his visit to Stormont and gave a press conference in which he said some interesting things. He said that a task force was going to be established to look at security co-operation because nothing had been done so far. Those were his horrifying words; and that is what many of us in the House suspected, but we did not expect confirmation from that quarter. However, that is what was meant by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland.
If the debate achieves nothing else, it may stimulate fresh and more realistic thinking, not only in the Northern Ireland office but in some other Departments of State that have intervened with utterly disastrous results in the affairs of Northern Ireland during the past 17 or 18 years. I hope and expect that those Departments will, after calm reflection, decide to wipe the slate clean and at long last be relieved of all those dreary clichés that were rehearsed by the Secretary of State, as they have been by practically all his predecessors during the past 15 years.
In the debate on the Anglo-Irish Agreement on 26 November, 1985, some ten days after the signing of the agreement in my constituency, I explained that my colleagues and I were opposed to the so-called accord. That was a strange name for the agreement, because it will destroy any possibility of peace, stability and reconciliation—three words that I thought at that time had found their way by accident into the preamble of the accord. As an ex-printer, I assumed that their inclusion resulted from a printer's error, because it seemed incredible that any rational person could ever imagine for one moment that the Anglo-Irish accord, as drafted, would produce anything but the opposite of peace, stability and reconciliation — because the three are interdependent. There can be no reconciliation without stability and peace.
I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) gave what was, perhaps, unintentionally, a completely distorted picture of Northern Ireland and of young people there. I think that with hindsight he would have to admit that he would have to search diligently in Northern Ireland to find a group of people that would express themselves in the way in which the young people that he mentioned put their views to him. I admit that they could be found in tiny pockets, but they are by no means typical of the young people in Northern Ireland, of either community.
The reconciliation, political or private, between those who wish to belong to this nation and those who want to belong to another would be difficult enough in normal times, but reconciliation and political co-operation are utter impossibilities when the very status of those most involved has been altered without their consent.
In the debate on 26 November 1985, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition quoted the then Prime Minister of the Irish Republic, Dr. FitzGerald, as saying:
No sane person would wish to change the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority of its people. That would be a recipe for disaster and could, I believe, lead only to a civil war that would be destructive of the life of people throughout our island."—[Official Report, 26 November 1985; Vol. 87, c. 753.]
The Leader of the Opposition agreed with those words, which were said in the Dail, and so did I. I agreed also with the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) who, when he gave evidence to the Grand Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly, expressed the view that the status of the people of Northern Ireland had been changed by the agreement. I am not using that argument against the hon. Gentleman, because there is widespread agreement now that that is the position.
Believe it or not, after about 18 months, there is agreement in Northern Ireland on that issue. Nationalists claim and Unionists complain that the status of the people has been changed and that it is disingenuous to argue that in a fine technical sense the actual territory has not yet changed hands. The diktat, the accord, was designed to apply pressure, not to the territory, but to the population and its leaders, who were referred to by the right hon. Member for Spelthorne. The designers reckoned and reasoned that, as the thumb screws were tightened, the victims would give in. The designers should not derive too much comfort from the odd screech from the torture chamber. They must be told quietly but firmly—I am not speaking only for myself now — that those who really count in our community in Northern Ireland have not the slightest intention of giving in now or ever.
I mean those who are charged with the awful responsibility of leadership. I mean those in whom the people of Northern Ireland, rightly or wrongly, have reposed their confidence. I am assuring those people through the medium of the House of Commons that those of us who have been given that responsibility will never betray the trust that has been placed in us.
It is not our determined opposition to it but the change in status that has made stability the second casualty of the agreement. So do not, please, blame the natives for the uncertainty. The same doubts exist in the minds of potential industrial investors from Great Britain and further afield. They listen politely to good reasons why their new factories should be built in Northern Ireland, then invariably pose the question, "To whom will the territory itself belong in five years time?"
Such has been the obliteration of reconciliation and stability, but uppermost in our minds is the often promised product of the agreement, that of peace. We have had 18 months of the agreement, but we have not peace but the sword. Was it not the promise of peace that persuaded 473 hon. Members to approve the agreement, or at least, to use that blessed phrase that was used so often by so many of them, to give it a try? That phrase has been applied so often to one initiative after another.
Perhaps it is because I am an older hand than my colleagues that I do not share all their views and am not downcast by the result of the vote that followed the signing of the agreement. Being older than any of my colleagues, I can remember the autumn of 1938, when there was a vote that showed that the House can sometimes get it slightly wrong. The first Viscount Simon describes in his memoirs the scene when Chamberlain went to the Commons with a message from Hitler inviting him to a third summit—they were having summits even then. He wrote:
There followed a demonstration, the like of which I have never seen in the House of Commons…From all sides there was impetuous cheering, in which few failed to join, and we adjourned almost at once by general consent.
Later, Viscount Simon records that at the end of the debate following Chamberlain's return with the peace-in-our-time scrap of paper, the Munich agreement was approved by 369 votes to 150. Viscount Simon breaks down the 150 votes—the Opposition will be glad to hear this—and states that they consisted of 149 Labour votes plus the vote of Lloyd George.
Fleet street enthusiastically supported the decision, as did the dominions, and there was even a letter from the President of the United States of America. It is not clear whether he enclosed any dollars as a reward to the Czechs for being so positive, so constructive and so flexible and for saying yes when they might have said no.
The 149 Labour Members who opposed the Munich agreement, plus Lloyd George, were probably lectured on their duty to obey the sovereign will of Parliament, but they did not give in. They preserved their integrity, thus saving themselves the humiliation of the 369 men of Munich who, within six months, decided that the sovereign will of the same Parliament required them to stand on their heads. The lesson of all that would appear to be that if peace is to be established it will have to rest on something less fickle than a mere expression of parliamentary opinion.
Some hon. Members who represent constituencies in Great Britain can, if they wish, continue to regard Northern Ireland as a faraway province of which they know little and care even less. They may find it tempting to rush to the tape machine to check the latest cricket scores and to ignore the paragraph reporting the murder of two Ulster policemen. Nothing that I can say will alter their priorities. However, perhaps I might venture to remind them that they have a twofold duty to their constituents. First, they have a duty to all who reside within their constituency boundaries to ensure that their safety is not put at risk by hon. Members appearing to condone the appeasement of terrorists, whose spokesmen have stated their conclusion that one bomb in England is worth 100 in Ulster. Terrorists are far more likely to put their theory to the test if Governments and those who sustain them have a track record of conceding their demands, even when they are loud in their empty protestations and futile condemnations.
Terrorists ignore these condemnations or treat them with contempt, secure in the knowledge that their violence achieved, for example, the abolition of Stormont. The then Prime Minister explained that the step had been taken to end the violence. Terrorists know also that the Anglo-Irish Agreement would not have been signed had it not been for the "do something" mood which prevailed after the Brighton bombing. They have not missed the significance of the words of the Prime Minister at the signing ceremony:
I entered into this agreement because I was not prepared to tolerate the situation of continuing violence.
The recent limited spate of letter bombs was nothing more than a reminder that another concession is overdue.
The second duty of a Member of Parliament is to a rather more limited segment of his constituents, and by that I mean those who serve in the forces in Northern Ireland. Hon. Members are entitled to remind us of the sacrifices of those men, who share the same dangers as their comrades in our indigenous security forces, but every Member has an obligation to ensure that risks are not incurred and sacrifices not made in vain.
The wives, mothers and fathers of soldiers sent to Northern Ireland would be incensed if they knew that the lives of their loved ones are daily put at risk through endless restrictions and instructions which, translated into practice, always allow terrorists to fire the first shot and make the first kill. I wonder whether relatives know that even opening fire in self-defence will be branded as a shoot-to-kill policy. If a soldier who is trained at great expense to shoot with success does just that in Northern Ireland, he is likely to end up in the dock after a protracted investigation by pen pushers behind a desk in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, but in any other theatre of war he would earn a medal.
We all have a duty to the members of security forces to put an end to the scandalous practice of allowing them to be used as targets, deprived of the freedom to hit hard against killers on the rampage. Those feelings were recently expressed to me by a young English officer who said: "I don't want to go back. We are exported to Northern Ireland and used as tethered goats." Those are horrifying words. I hope that, whatever views hon. Members may have, they will at least agree that those men deserve better.
As we meet here today, there is speculation about an event which is of secondary importance to the people of Northern Ireland: some kind of general election. The see-saws of opinion polls seem irrelevant to Ulster, where the only figures which count are the number of citizens who will be murdered by terrorists before the new Parliament meets.
The Secretary of State today has given no indicaton of the real determination of the Government who will be in charge of affairs in Northern Ireland and responsible for our protection even after the dissolution of Parliament. From then until the new Parliament meets, a dozen people may be murdered, just as 13 people have been murdered since I wrote to the Prime Minister on 24 March asking her, on humanitarian grounds, to review and recast the Government's political and security strategies and to indicate how much longer she is—to use her words at the signing of the agreement—
prepared to tolerate the situation of continuing violence.
Any limited increase in personnel or resources resulting from consultations between the Secretary of State and the security chiefs will be valueless unless the Government demonstrate the will to win. The Government must cancel that fatal signal transmitted by the Anglo-Irish Agreement. As long as that agreement is perceived by all sections of the community to be designed to lead to the embodiment of Northern Ireland in some form of an all-Ireland state, the terrorist organisations whose object that has always been will be encouraged to maintain and even redouble their efforts. We need concrete evidence that such a design has been set aside, before further lives are needlessly sacrificed.
The Protestant population of Northern Ireland do not really count with this House. I decided to open my speech with that sentence after listening to the disgraceful, deplorable, despicable and downright insulting speech of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who said that the IRA's success had been nil. If he thinks that the people of Northern Ireland will listen to such insults from the Secretary of State in this House or elsewhere, he has another think coming. I invite him to come with me—not with 300 troops at his side, refusing to bring journalists with him, but taking a television crew to see his bold escapade on the road where the judge was murdered — to see the people who are suffering tonight. I would like to take him to the home in Pomeroy of the man whom he did not even have the decency to mention in his speech last Monday.
I would like to take him to meet that man's wife and I would like him to tell her that the success of the IRA is nil. His speech will put a cold shiver up the spine of every Protestant. They will know that what I have been saying to them in the last months is true—that they will look in vain to the Government and the House for any defence or rescue from their appalling situation.
Hon. Members do not want to hear me say some things, but I will say them today. It is 18 months since I made a speech from this very place. We were told on that occasion by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) that this was the only road. Let us examine that road. The road is crimsoned and bloodied by the lives of our people. It has to mark it not milestones but tombstones. It is a road where the elementary pieces of democracy and democratic principles have been trampled on and it is a road of confusion, confrontation, conflict and war. That is what has happened in the Province.
The hon. Member for Foyle said that this was the only road, but I say to the Government, "Don't try to push the majority any further down that road, for there is an end to the patience and tolerance of those who want to uphold the principles of democracy when those democratic principles are taken from them and they are told that they do not really apply to them."
Let us get a sense of realism into this debate. The Ministers at the Northern Ireland Office call in the media and tell them what the Unionists are thinking and what the Unionists really want. I speak in this House as a representative of the Unionists. I can claim that more than any other Member because I submitted myself to the whole of the people of Northern Ireland and got the largest vote ever recorded for any British politician. I know what those people are thinking. When I submitted myself to the electorate in the referendum by-election, I had the honour of achieving the largest vote of any Unionist who stood, so I can speak for the people who have voted for me and have given me a mandate to speak. Today I will speak for those people — an agonised, broken and bereaved people whose hearts and innermost souls are torn.
The Northern Ireland Office Ministers will say, "We have heard it all before. That is only Ian Paisley or Jim Molyneaux, the Unionists." I will tell the Secretary of State what a prominent clergyman has said. We heard about prominent clergymen from the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins). He did not tell us some of the other things said by prominent clergymen. I want to tell him what was said by a former moderator of the largest Protestant church in Northern Ireland, the Irish Presbyterian Church. According to a newspaper report of the funeral of Mr. Graham, the UDR man so savagely murdered in front of his wife and child by the IRA on his little farm at Pomeroy:
Dr. Dickinson told mourners in the Tyrone village's Presbyterian church, including Mr. Graham's widow Yvonne, that the fact that many members of the congregation live in constant danger made the courage of men like Mr. Graham all the more impressive. 'It also makes the more odious the political conspiracy and moral bankruptcy of those who neither respect the blood of their brave sacrifices or the cries of their brokenhearted wives and children,' he said.
Let the Secretary of State and the House take heed of that. That was said not by a politician but by an honoured ex-moderator of the largest Protestant church in Northern Ireland. He also said:
The Government at Westminster and their newfound friends in Dublin are as guilty of these crimes as those who actually do the deed.
What makes a minister speak such language? He does so because he knows exactly what is happening. If a leader of, say, the United Reformed Church, which is the nearest thing in this country to Presbyterianism, were to make such remarks at a funeral, what a furore there would be in the House. These remarks are made because ministers are moving among their congregations and know exactly what is happening.
Dr. Dickinson continued:
And yet again it makes a nonsense of the call of Government Ministers for the support of the whole community for the security forces.
We have heard that today. What more can the Protestant community do to help the security forces? They supply the
security forces with the vast majority of their recruits; they carry the coffins and bury their dead. The Secretary of State ought to know that.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths), a member of the Government party who, although not a Unionist, probably has Unionist sympathies, was reported in the press today as saying that many RUC officers have a lack of confidence in Ministers and in their own Chief Constable. That too, is a fact, as anyone who moves about in Northern Ireland knows. Apparently hon. Members do not want to listen to the Unionist representatives — it is a disadvantage if one speaks for people through the ballot box—but perhaps they will listen to others who come and go in Northern Ireland and who know exactly what is happening.
The sad fact is that in Northern Ireland today the majority of the people, the Protestant population, have no faith in the Government. They do not trust them because they have found them out in deceptions over and over again. When the people find out that they have continually been deceived, they will turn and utterly reject the Government.
On the question of deception, has the hon. Gentleman any comment on what was widely reported in the British press about a forged bank account relating to himself? I am certain that it was not he who was responsible. Has he any comment on that worrying matter?
I shall comment on that later because it comes into what I intend to say.
We were told in the House by the Secretary of State even before the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed that there would be great co-operation between the Garda and the RUC. I think that colleagues on these Benches thought that that was what the Anglo-Irish Agreement would deliver; they thought that at long last there would be a complete coming together of the security forces on both sides of the border, that the fight against terrorism would enter a new phase and that there would be a glimmer of light at the end of a long and terrible road.
I have a confidential document of 3 June 1986, and I shall tell the House how I know that it is authentic. The Chief Constable and his divisional commanders had a special meeting. The commander of N division reported:
There are many on-the-run Terrorists in county Donegal, but no real assistance from the Garda at all.
This was a divisional officer reporting to his commander, the man in whom the Secretary of State puts all his faith, Sir John Hermon. The assistant chief constable for rural W division said:
There is a shortage of manpower in some divisions; a shortage of cameras is hindering work also. The Garda promised much but delivered little. Border reclosures after illegal reopenings are much too slow in being processed.
The document also says:
In the north-west of the Province, on-the-run terrorists are training and there are explosives but the Garda is feeding nothing back at all. The Chief Constable stated that it was evident that their capcity and contribution was small.
We are told that there is a great link between the two forces and that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has settled this matter.
The first reaction of the authorities was to deny it—I had just sat down and written the document and it was not authentic, like some of the other documents we hear so much about. The RUC office of the Chief Constable issued a statement that the document was fabricated, that there was not any truth in it and that it was just a figment of my imagination. Then two senior police officers arrived at my house and said, "We have evidence that you have committed a crime. You have a document that you ought not to have." I said, "Let me bring the newspaper to you and read out what your office said about this document, that it is a fabrication." The police officers demanded the document. I gave them a copy, but I held on to the document.
If the Secretary of State does not already know this, he had better learn quickly that he cannot go on deceiving the people of Northern Ireland by issuing statements that are false and misrepresent the true position. All this has caught up with the Government. It is not healthy for hon. Members to say things like that. Pressures will be put on them. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) said things about the Government. Why did they get at him? I find it repulsive for the Secretary of State to say today that the police will protect everybody. My hon. Friend said and did things that the Government did not like. The police went to his home and dismantled every bit of security in it. They even cut off the television system that enabled his wife to see who knocked on the door. Then they decided that he would no longer have any protection whatsoever, so they took it from him. They did that for three reasons: to embarrass him, to worry him, and to put an unbearable burden upon him.
The Achilles heel of any politician in Northern Ireland is his family. All of us in Northern Ireland worry about our families, no matter on what side of the House we sit. We do not worry about ourselves, we know what we can expect. It would be easier for certain undercover officers of MI5 to wipe out my hon. Friend when he had no police protection. I shall come to one or two conclusions.
Leaving aside the total fabrication at the end of the hon. Member's remarks, there is not a word of truth in the serious allegation that he has chosen to make. I hope that he will accept from me that at no time have I made any comment about seeking to remove personal protection from any hon. Member or any other person who is in need of personal protection. The hon. Gentleman has made a serious allegation. There is not a word of truth in it. I hope that he will have the decency to withdraw it.
It is all right for the Secretary of State to stand at the Dispatch Box and pass the buck. He is responsible. My evidence is that his deputy, the Minister of State, who is sitting beside him, was involved in this matter.
If the Secretary of State wants to take me down this road, let me go a bit further. Do not let him tell me that Secretaries of State do not deal with the private security of individual hon. Members. I sat with a previous Secretary of State who made a decision concerning the security of a past leader of the Unionist party, Mr. Harry West, a former hon. Member. Let the right hon. Gentleman not say to the House today, by washing his hands in a Pilate-like fashion, that he has nothing to do with it. He has a responsibility to see that an hon. Member is protected. When his security is taken away, that hon. Member is entitled to know why. He does not know why even today.
The hon. Member does not improve the standing that he has in the House by making a totally untrue allegation and by refusing to accept my absolute assertion — obviously, I am concerned about my good name in the House—that at no stage did I make any comment about or proposal for the withdrawal of protection for the hon. Member. He does not improve his position by seeking then to transfer the allegation to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, about whom it is equally untrue. Of course, a Secretary of State, if matters came to him, would be concerned to ensure that hon. Members had proper protection, but the charge that he made, which he is now trying to dodge—he is not withdrawing—is that I sought the withdrawal of protection from his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson). I tell the hon. Member categorically that his allegation is quite untrue. I hope that he will have the decency to withdraw it.
The Secretary of State should read Hansard tomorrow to see exactly what I said. I repeat that it is dangerous—[Interruption.] I do not care whether hon. Members are flittering. We in Northern Ireland walk a tightrope every day. We are not afraid of a few hecklers; we might be in our coffins tomorrow. We are not worried about that. We have made our decision on the matter. I have made a statement to the House. I am not dodging. I never dodge any statement. The Secretary of State knows that I stand by what I say in the House.
I shall go further. What about the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. W. McCrea)? Do hon. Members think that, after an IRA man has broken into his house, it is an appropriate time to withdraw security from him? Do hon. Members really think that it is appropriate for police to say to an hon. Member, who had a majority of only 70 over the Sinn Fein candidate, and who was a likely target for the IRA to shoot, "You will not get into a police car. You will walk the road from the place where you parked your car, almost a mile, to your home" when renovations were being done to his home for security purposes? The Secretary of State cannot get away from that responsibility. He can say what he likes about it.
Will my hon. Friend tell the House why it happened only to two Members of the Democratic Unionist party that immediate steps were taken to remove their security and that it was said that it would take two minutes to tell them that they were on their own, facing the IRA conspiracy throughout our constituencies?
All I can say is that truth will out. I made statements in the House some years ago. They were challenged by a Labour Front-Bench spokesman at the time. Hon. Members can read Hansard. The truth is now coming out. The Government and other Governments will be faced with their responsibilities. They are the risks that hon. Members have to take and are taking.
I find it strange that the secretariat at Maryfield has police escorts when hon. Members who are on the danger line are refused them. Is it not time that the Secretary of State investigated why that has happened and at least give us an answer? Why are members of the Civil Service in Dublin given police escorts when hon. Members whose lives are threatened and who have always had protection have had their protection removed or partly removed? The Secretary of State must face up to that and give hon. Members an answer. I repeat that it makes it a lot easier for certain people to commit murder when an hon. Member is not under protection.
It has been said to me that if I do not do what the authorities want me to do, and if I do not please the police authorities, they will take security from me. They can take it. I told them that. They can take the whole lot; they are welcome to take it. They do not think that I should have protection. I never asked for it, it was given to me, and if they want to take it away, they can. None of us is pleading for this. We are exposing the hypocrisy of the whole business.
I find it amazing that a former Secretary of State should tell us that the southern Government had no intention of taking over our territory. The other day, speaking in Washington, Brian Lenihan—he is co-chairman with the Secretary of State of the new condominium, to which the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) referred—said:
In the last analysis, there is no real solution to the Northern Ireland problem except in an all-Ireland context.
Unity was the sole aim of the Dublin deal. The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not understand the language, but that he was learning to translate; let him translate that.
Mr. Haughey, when he was opening the forum that the hon. Member for Foyle was involved in getting under way, said that the new Ireland could be achieved only by agreement and consent. That is very interesting. He made it clear, however, that Unionists would not be allowed to dissent.
We who come from Ulster know exactly what Republicanism is, but the House is ignorant of Irish Republicanism.
It would have been very helpful if those pearls of wisdom had been dropped to us on a regular basis over the past 18 months. In the event of the hon. Gentleman's re-election, will he give an undertaking that he will bring his troops here on a regular basis to discuss the question of the Province, and of the kingdom as a whole?
It is very easy to say that. But if the hon. Gentleman's constituents were being murdered, as mine are—if he were following coffin after coffin, and if he had to lay his hand on the curly heads of children who will never have their father back — he might think differently if' the House overwhelmingly rejected the views of Ulster Unionists on the agreement.
I have come to the House since I was elected. I have been as regular an attender as any hon. Member, and have taken part in all the debates on security. This is not the first time that I have spoken on the subject. I worked the Stormont Assembly. Some of my Unionist friends did not work it so hard, but I did. Even the Secretary of State could not deny that. I took part in the process, and what did I find? I found that our people — the Unionist majority — were thrown to one side, and behind their backs this condominium was spawned. Over us are now set the very men who spawned the Provisional IRA.
The Secretary of State should read the Hansard of the Dail. He should read what Neil Blaney said about Charlie Haughey and his cohorts. He admitted that they were in on the day that the Provisional IRA was spawned. Now my people and I are being asked to be ruled by an Anglo-Irish conference. The Secretary of State shakes his head, but I tell the House that the Police Order flows from that Anglo-Irish conference, as does that on public order.
How do I know that?—because we have been told over and over again that it is part of the process. We are moving in that direction, as have the Dublin authorities. We have enough sense to know that that is true, and it is no use the Secretary of State denying it.
What do people do when the Secretary of State and his hon. Friend the Minister say that they know the result of elections, and they tell us nothing? What do they do when they petition Her Majesty and it is dismissed as a useless exercise? What do they do when they ask for a reasonable way forward?
The right hon. Member for Spelthorne, who has now left the Chamber, asked whether we could put aside the question. It can be put aside when the Anglo-Irish Agreement is put aside. Let that be set aside; let Maryfield he closed. The police have enough to do without escorting around civil servants from Dublin. Let the Secretary of State call a round table conference of the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland to find a replacement for this obnoxious agreement. That is the only way forward. If the Secretary of State is not prepared to do that, we shall have a very serious confrontation.
The people of Northern Ireland are in a sad and sorry state. There is a sense of depression abroad in the Province; a sense of frustration; a sense of doom and gloom. That percolates into the funerals, many of which I have attended. I see a different mood in Northern Ireland today from the mood that I saw five or six years ago. People are saying that the democratic process does not work, and that all their voting is not heeded. Anywhere else, the majority would be consulted. It should be remembered that we were not even consulted about the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I said in the House that I hoped that the House would ensure that fair play was given to those who used democratic principles, but fair play has not been given.
In the Ulster hall on 10 November last year, 2,000 well-heeled men met from across the Province. They came to the conclusion that the Government and the House had not the will to win the war, and that they would sell us down the river. I must tell the House today, whether the House likes to hear it or not, that I have come to the same conclusion, and I believe it more strongly after listening to the Secretary of State's speech today. If the right hon. Gentleman pushes us on down that crimson road, marked with tombstones instead of milestones and littered with democratic principles that should have been upheld, he will find that the Ulster people will not stand for it. There will be resistance unto the death.
If those are the only words that I ever have to speak again in the House, I will have delivered my soul of what the ordinary people of Northern Ireland are saying and thinking tonight. It is not a pleasant thing to say, but it has to be said. I trust that perhaps at this late hour the Government will have second thoughts, and that, instead of choosing confrontation, they will go for consultation and set aside this so-called accord. I hope that they will let us get round the table to try to find a way forward in the proper democratic manner rather than rejecting the largest section of the community and saying that those people will have no say in their future.
One of the problems in speaking about security in the North of Ireland is that there is always the temptation to become very emotional. I shall try to resist that temptation, because emotionalism can become mawkish and, indeed, embarrassing when indulged in to that extent. I shall try to avoid detailed assessments of security, because, as a lay person, I am not competent to make them. However, I should like briefly to examine five of what I believe to be misconceptions about the security position, and to ask whether we can ever solve the problem, in the short or the long term, unless we get rid of those misconceptions.
The first misconception is that there is a security solution to the problem per se. I do not believe that there is any absolute security solution. If we do believe it, it poses certain questions. First, why has that solution not been found during the past 16 years? If it exists, it should have been found in that time. If it has not, we must come to certain conclusions, the first being that every Secretary of State since 1972 has been derelict in his duty; the second being that every GOC commanding troops in the North of Ireland has been incompetent; the third being that every chief constable of the police in the North of Ireland has been unable to make the proper decisions; and the fourth being that the House has not provided the proper legislation.
Those are the components that are singly, variably, and collectively necessary if we are to propose the theory that there is a solution based simply and solely on security. I do not believe that one can answer yes to any of those questions. Furthermore, there has been no dereliction of duty by any Secretary of State, or GOC, or RUC Chief Constable, or the House. However, the nature of the problem does not lend itself to a security solution. Security is part of the solution, but it cannot solve the problem.
In so far as there may be dereliction of duty, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it was a dereliction of duty for elected representatives deliberately to have abstained from coming to this House when important matters were discussed over and over again?
I shall leave hon. Members to draw their own conclusions about that.
The theory that there is a security solution to this problem must be put into its proper context. What has been the context of the last 16 years? There has been a very heavily armed Army presence throughout Northern Ireland — the biggest outside the NATO forces in Europe. There has also been a preponderance of Army bases, lookout posts and fortifications. In my constituency alone there is one for every 1,000 people. The SAS, MI5 and MI6 have also been used in Northern Ireland. A very much expanded police force has been backed up by a police reserve that is also expanding, and it is costing £1 million a day to service. Furthermore, there is the Ulster Defence Regiment. Does anybody seriously suggest that the resources to deal with the security problem have not been provided?
Against that background and in that context, it would be a great mistake to suggest that the Northern Ireland Office, the Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary or this House has failed. The failure has been not properly to identify a political problem or to seek a political solution to it. We should not confuse a security solution with what is essentially a political problem.
Another misconception is that if one makes the law harsher and more punitive, the result will be to put an end to violence and to the commitment of violence. Put in context, the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 is a substantial derogation from the normal practice throughout western Europe. There is also the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984. Courts decided cases without juries. Supergrass trials have been held. Interrogation techniques, at the request of this House, were examined by Lord Justice Bennett and condemned by him. There has been internment without trial. Certain areas have also been saturated, the main example being a curfew in the Falls road many years ago. When one examines the problem in that context, the legislation is there to deal with it. Indeed, it is much too harsh. One does not cure a commitment to violence by introducing more punitive legal remedies.
I listened very carefully to the Secretary of State's speech and to the words that he used. He should not tamper with the present laws or with the present court arrangements. Furthermore, he should not be tempted to tamper with the remission of sentences.
Is the hon. Gentleman saying to the Secretary of State, "Be sure that you do not do anything about the legal process in Northern Ireland that would lead to the conviction of 142 out of the 156 unsolved murders in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, because it would not be in the interests of the SDLP that that should happen"?
The hon. Gentleman knows what was said during the protracted discussions in the Standing Committee on the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. He should not interpret my remarks in that way. To do so is to cheapen a very serious point.
We must have learnt some lessons in the last 16 years. One lesson is that those who are involved in paramilitary activities and who have committed themselves to violence can live with repression. They will also try to promote repression because it is their biggest single propaganda weapon. They cannot do without it, because they cannot live without that type of repression. In both propaganda and political terms, repression is their lifeblood. It would be a tragic mistake to provide them with that lifeblood.
The hon. Gentleman says that punitive measures would encourage the IRA and ensure that it continued its battle, but its success depends to a great extent on the support that it receives in the border area and in many other areas. If that support were not forthcoming, many of the measures to which the hon. Gentleman has referred would be unnecessary. If, wholeheartedly, unequivocally and without any qualification, people gave their support to the RUC and the Army, they could deal with the terrorists, isolate them and put them in prison.
The hon. Gentleman knows that I am suggesting that the IRA and the other paramilitary groupings, which are more numerous than the IRA, need repression. There are certain things that they cannot live with. They cannot live with justice. When they have to live with justice, their own basic injustice is shown up very clearly. They cannot live with equality. When they have to live with equality, their attempts to make other people unequal are shown up very clearly. Above all, they cannot live with the concept of reconciliation. That is their greatest single enemy. The Provisional IRA, the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force fear reconciliation most of all, because it goes to the root of their support in the community. Reconciliation tackles their theories about political development, and ultimately reconciliation will defeat them.
A security solution cannot be pursued absolutely and exclusively. To use what has become a glossary of terms in Northern Ireland, we can root out the terrorist. That phrase is used very glibly. We should try to find out exactly what it means. To root out the terrorist means to dispense with the proper regulations and the law and to lean on one section of the community, whichever section it may be in which paramilitary groupings are to be found.
Others would give the security forces a free hand. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) appeared to hint at that when he said that those in the Army felt like tethered goats. Translated, that means that we should dispense with the proper process of justice and involve ourselves in that which is outside the law, even to the extent of summary execution.
Again, some will say that we should strengthen legislation. Properly translated in Northern Ireland terms, that means that one either bends the law to get results, or acts outside it. Surely, given the long period for which we have been dealing with the problem, we know how counter-productive that can be.
If we—and by "we", I mean everyone in the North of Ireland, in the Republic and here—wish to see a solution to this problem that will bring peace, a peace that will bring stability and a peace and stability that will last, the last thing that we must do is start to play the terrorist game. We should never try to play by the law of the jungle. If we do that we shall destroy our chance of achieving the only real solution, which is a political solution. We shall destroy confidence and respect for law and the process of law in Northern Ireland. I have no doubt that if we do that we shall create circumstances in which repartition is almost inevitable.
I am grateful for the opportunity to explain what I meant, and I think that the hon. Gentleman knows what I meant. I was not suggesting that the law should be bent to allow soldiers and policemen to go on the rampage. I was simply saying that they should be put on at least an equal footing with terrorists under the law, They should not be required by yellow cards or by any other device to wait until at least one them has been shot dead before they can act in self-defence.
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that there should be no regulations and no yellow card—ineffective though it is ? Is he saying that the security forces should not be constrained by the strict regulations that ought to apply to every person who is legally carrying arms?
I am talking about restrictions imposed in the form of cautionary briefings. When soldiers—this applies to the RUC, too—go out on a task they are told, "Do your job. Go through the motions. But for God's sake don't be successful, or you will find yourself before a police inquiry."
I do not want to prolong this duologue, but is the right hon. Gentleman saying that when a soldier goes out on a task he should be given carte blanche to do what he likes and to use his weapon in any way he likes? As I see it, that is the only explanation of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. But if he has a clearer explanation, I shall give way again.
I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I do indeed have a clearer explanation. Time and again we have seen examples. When successful action has been taken by the Army against terrorists caught in the very act of terrorism — when the Army has acted effectively — soldiers have been brought back to Northern Ireland, after the Director of Public Prosecutions has tossed the papers around for a considerable time, arid branded as common criminals. That is not British justice.
I think that we have succeeded only in adding another weasel word to the list: "acting effectively" is shorthand for killing someone.
Another popular misconception that we should examine is that held by those who say that if only the people of Northern Ireland had control or charge of security the problem would come to an end. That is complete and utter nonsense. We saw what happened before 1972. Indeed, the people of Northern Ireland were in charge of security until March of that year, by which time 167 people were dead. I am loth to draw any conclusions from that statistic, but it must tell us something. The argument that the problem would be solved if the people in Northern Ireland were in charge of security is based on a faulty premise—and, I believe, a very dangerous premise indeed.
Almost as dangerous is the misconception that devolution would somehow end the violence in Northern Ireland; it would not. Indeed, it would add to the violence for a time, because devolution could be achieved only by reconciliation and those who are most afraid of reconciliation would attack it, as they have in the past, to ensure that devolution on a partnership basis simply could not work.
That brings us to the crunch for all of us, and particularly for the British Government. In those circumstances, would a British Government do what they did in 1974 and renege on a properly constituted Administration in the North of Ireland? Would they run away from the problem or would they see it through? We have had a bitter experience in the past. Some pontificate to us, implying that if only we would agree to devolution, we could start to solve the problem.
Irrespective of our political persuasions, we should all expect an answer to the question: if devolution comes and there are problems of violence and security, will the Government here renege as they did before, or will they have the courage to stand up and do what is right? That question can be answered only on the Floor of the House. That question should be addressed, too, to the political parties in the North of Ireland, because it poses a further question. Have we the will and the nerve to embark on a process of reconciliation and to see it through?
That is the challenge for us, the people of Northern Ireland. That challenge exists for both communities—Nationalist and Unionist, Catholic and Protestant, call them what you will. Will they embark on the long hard road to peace? Only by taking that long hard road will we find peace or an answer to the security problems. Will they work together for a new future, or will they stagnate, as they are doing now, in the bloody past? Those are the challenges. Every one of us here has to face that problem. There are no easy answers to those questions, but we shall not answer them unless we face up to them.
Another misconception is that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was a fiendish plot, hatched behind people's backs, to wean Unionists away from the Union with Britain. It is implied, too, that the SDLP—the party to which I am proud to belong, and which has two members present out of this great grouping—somehow hijacked two Governments and made them sign the agreement, perhaps against their will. I thank all concerned for the compliment and for the confidence that has been placed in us, but I assure them that it is not true.
It is time that the House faced up to the fact that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed not because the British Government have any great love for the Irish Government or for the nationalist community in the North of Ireland. Pragmatism lies at the root of almost everything that is done in politics. There is little generosity in politics. The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed by two sovereign Governments because they were concerned about their own interests, which demanded that they take the only course whereby a solution to the problem could be found.
It is not just a Northern Ireland problem but an all-Ireland problem, and it is not just an Irish problem but one with British connotations. It was therefore logical that a solution should be based on agreements between two sovereign Governments because the problem affects both of them. The two Governments belatedly realised that if they were to solve the problem in political and security terms and eventually in socio-economic terms, they had to approach it in that way. That is why the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, and it is a very good reason because it is the only way in which a lasting solution can be found. If we are to deal honestly with the political concepts and with the concepts of security, we must get rid of the nonsense and misconceptions and look the problems straight in the face.
A final misconception goes to the root of the Irish problem. It has a historical dimension and it is still with us today. I refer to the fallacy that violence can ever solve anything in Ireland. In 1933, Eamon de Valera said:
There is no use in pretending we can solve it with mere words; we can not; nor can we ever solve it by force.
That was the realisation of a man who had engaged in force — a man who became Prime Minister and eventually President of the Republic of Ireland—and one who had the courage to say so. I ask the present Government and future Governments to reciprocate and to commit themselves to the view that the problem cannot
be solved by repression or by force, by strengthening repressive legislation or by increasing the police or the Army. It will be solved only when we win the battle for the hearts and minds of the people in a political way.
This debate arises partly from the request of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and his colleagues and partly, I suspect, from the killing of Lord Justice Gibson. I regret his death very much indeed, although on the basis of the evidence to hand it may be that by his own carelessness the judge was almost an accessory to his own death. Be that as it may, it is extraordinary that the death of one distinguished judge should have played such a large part in bringing about this debate when the deaths of scores of Northern Ireland police officers have not brought about a debate.
I find the timing of the debate ironic. Today and tomorrow are the very days when a judicial review is taking place in Northern Ireland to see whether the Chief Constable is entitled to gag the chairman of the Police Federation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was good enough, rightly, to pay tribute to the men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and he knows, as the House knows, the great importance of maintaining their morale, yet very few things have done so much damage to their morale as the attempt by the Chief Constable to gag the chairman of the statutory body set up by this House to represent the views of the men and women of the force.
The timing is odd for another reason. Following this debate, the only legislative action to be taken by the House today in respect of Northern Ireland will be a police order—I hope to speak in that debate in due course—part of which is designed to place on the men and women of the RUC discriminatory discipline arrangements which the House threw out when they were proposed for police forces in England and Wales.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will understand that, although I and, I am sure, all members of the RUC are grateful to Ministers for their assurances and words of confidence and support, it is by their actions that Ministers will be judged by the men and women who die on our behalf. It is the actions which have led Ministers in no way to seek to prevent the gagging of the chairman of the Police Federation and their actions tonight in discriminating against the RUC on discipline, that Ministers will be judged, not by all their fine words.
I did not interrupt the hon. Gentleman earlier as he was making an important point with which I entirely agree, but I believe that he will have annoyed a great number of people in suggesting that the deaths of Lord Justice Gibson and Lady Gibson were due to carelessness on the part of Lord Justice Gibson. I must stoutly defend Lord Justice Gibson. He had police protection and he would have been told time and again that the level of co-operation at the frontier made it a safer area now than it was 18 months ago, although many of us know that that is not true. It is absolutely wrong to suggest that the learned judge, who had served Ulster well, was a primary contributor to his own death and that of his wife. Many people will resent that suggestion.
I think that the House will prefer to leave the investigation to arrive at its own conclusion. I expressed an opinion based on the evidence that we have so far, but the evidence is incomplete and partial.
With regard to the substance of the debate, any English Member must feel very humble in saying anything about the security situation in Northern Ireland in the presence of colleagues in the House who, with their families, live with that situation daily. My remarks will therefore be directed to the only subject in Northern Ireland on which I can claim perhaps some small knowledge — the position of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It must be said plainly from this House that the present security policies in Northern Ireland are not working, or at least not working effectively enough. They do not give protection to the citizens of our own country there. The Queen's peace is not being upheld.
The security policies that we have pursued rest on two main planks. One, I suppose, is the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the belief that it would lead to better co-operation between the two sides of the border. I supported that agreement. I continue to do so. But so far, the Irish Republic has not delivered its part of the bargain.
The second arm of our security policy is Ulsterisation—the belief that the Army could reduce its profile and that the primacy of the police, which I support, would be sufficient for the threat to security to be contained. I do not believe that the policy of Ulsterisation has worked.
Against this background of the failure of the Irish Republic to deliver the goods and the failure of Ulsterisation, the Royal Ulster Constabulary is placed in an all but impossible professional position. It is being asked and required to undertake not one job but four.
The first task of the RUC is ordinary policing. There is nothing unique about Northern Ireland; it has its share of crime, traffic problems and burglary, although perhaps a little less than many of our communities. Nevertheless, the RUC is faced with the basic task of policing, which should he its primary concern.
The second task that the RUC has been asked to undertake over the past year or so is to contain massive threats to public order. I do not want to go into the background of those threats, but I know from some personal observation that scenes not far removed from those that we saw during the miners' strike in this country have had to be faced by the RUC in Northern Ireland. During those threats to the Queen's peace, its members were placed in some terrible professional and personal dilemmas. For example, it is no good talking about policing by consent or community policing when the police do not have the consent of the majority community, as happened at particular times and places. Policemen also confronted some terrible personal dilemmas, including the fact that their homes were firebombed.
One of the greatest achievements of the RUC is that it has come through that period, with all its terrible personal and professional dilemmas, with the greatest credit. Its officers behaved, without leaning to the majority or minority constituencies, as truly professional British policemen, and I am proud of them; but let it never be forgotten that the continuing massive threat to public order strains the RUC's resources.
The third task that the RUC is asked to undertake is unlike that of any other British police force—to fight Europe's most difficult and prolonged counter-insurgency war. It is not in the Basque region of Spain or in Greece that the casualties of terrorism are at their highest; it is in the United Kingdom. The RUC is overstretched in dealing with that insurgency. The time has come for us to lighten its load.
The fourth task that the RUC uniquely is being required to perform is to guard an international frontier. In the tangled history of Northern Ireland, the RUC, to some extent, came into being as an armed force precisely because there was a frontier 10 guard. But the time has come when the RUC should not be expected to maintain the frontier between two countries. That function should rest primarily with the Army. One reason for that is that the RUC, when engaged in frontier duties, is confined to virtual fortresses, festooned with wire, from which it is often difficult for the police to move to and fro. They are prevented from doing their ordinary policing duties such as serving warrants and preventing crime. So in many of the border posts the RUC is not being used efficiently. Therefore, the time has come to raise the profile of the Army and to expect it to take on the primary task of policing the frontier. This would release some of the resources of the RUC to engage in counter-insurgency and its many other policing duties.
I turn from this analysis of the excessive load on the RUC to one or two suggestions about what we need to do about it.
First, as I said, we must lighten the load. In the first instance, that should be done by requiring the Army to take over primary responsibility for the border. Secondly, the RUC and its reserve need more resources and better equipment. I was glad to hear what the Secretary of State had to say, although he was pretty vague, about improving the manpower of the RUC. I hope that we will see more well-trained men in uniform on the streets before very long.
I have the benefit of the advice of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which has given a lot of thought to the issue of security. On 24 April 1987, it made a number of suggestions. To my surprise, this morning I discovered from the Minister of State that the Northern Ireland Office had no knowledge of these proposals. That would be par for the course since rarely is the Police Federation consulted by the Northern Ireland Office on anything except officials' own proposals.
The federation suggests a number of matters in the operational policing sector, one or two in the legal sector and one that deals with policy. As to operations, the federation suggests, first, that there needs to be
a complete review of the role of the Divisional Mobile Support Units.
I do not think that I need to develop that point because I think that the hon. Members who represent Ulster constituencies understand perfectly well what I mean. There is unease about the way in which the divisional mobile support units are deployed.
Secondly, the federation points out the difficulties that are experienced, particularly in the south Armagh area, with regard to helicopter flying hours. Imagine that—difficulties in Northern Ireland about the number of hours that helicopters may be flown! The federation proposes that the RUC should be authorised to purchase its own helicopters. I believe that that is right. I do not think that the police should have to depend on whether Army helicopters are available. The Metropolitan police has helicopters here; the RUC should have helicopters in Northern Ireland.
The next proposal of the federation also relates to the operations. It says:
In view of the technology available to terrorist groups, members of the police service should be provided with their own ECM equipment"—
that is, electronic counter-measures. It is essential that the police have available the means of detecting some of the advanced mines and other dreadful devices that the IRA have available.
The federation goes on to say:
In an effort to improve the security of personnel on and off duty,
there should be an immediate issue of concealed body armour. I believe that this CBA should be made available to all ranks of the RUC. There has been a good deal of testing of this by the Metropolitan police and many forces in the United States. It can and does save lives, and it is high time that it was made available to officers of the RUC.
I now want to consider the federation's proposals in the legal area. They say the Secretary of State should now consider removing the right of silence under our antiterrorist legislation. That matter was debated widely during the passage of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and numerous other Acts. I now make this point to the Secretary of State as a straight proposal from the federation. I have not finally made up my mind about it; however, I certainly believe that it should be considered.
The federation also believes, as many hon. Members believe, that the prosecution should be allowed to appeal against excessively lenient sentences. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be aware that this matter, too, is being considered in another place. It has been debated here, too, and the Home Secretary has by no means closed his mind to further action along those lines. However, within the particular circumstances in Northern Ireland, perhaps my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should run a little faster than Home Office Ministers.
Of the 14 proposals made by the federation, I want to refer to a difficult point, the belief of some federation members—not all—that the time has come for selective internment. I am well aware of the many objections to selective internment. We have had it before. There is the risk that it could alienate many people in the nationalist community. However, it cannot be doubted that men are now walking the streets of Belfast and Dublin who have killed, who will kill again, and who have been released. The police know that and the community knows it. There must be a better way of preventing some of those evil men from being prematurely released to kill again.
In addition to providing resources and lightening the RUC's load, it is vital to underpin the morale of the RUC. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was not in the Chamber when I made one or two observations on that point. However, I am sure that he will be good enough to read Hansard The men and women of the RUC who have suffered so many casualties, who take so many risks and who have received so many compliments badly need very much more sensitive leadership and a better dialogue with the Northern Ireland Office and Ministers.
My instinct throughout my political life has always been to back the man on the job, particularly when we can hear the sound of gunfire. I want to say nothing today that would undermine the position of the Chief Constable. However, I believe that a time comes in the career of all senior police officers when perhaps that officer should contemplate retirement. There has been a series of actions within the force — arbitrary transfers, a refusal to employ women in the RUC reserve which led to vast expenditures of public money on abortive legal actions, the attempted gagging of Mr. Wright, squabbles with the previous commissioner in the Irish Republic, Mr. Wren—all of which add up to a worrying position.
Together with the Secretary of State, I pay tribute to the courage and leadership of Sir John Hermon. I wish him well in his job. However, following the next election there will be a time for new men and new measures. I hope that the Secretary of State, if he remains in his office, will not shrink from taking what may be for him a difficult decision.
I end with a request. We badly need an improved dialogue between the police — particularly the Police Federation—and the Northern Ireland Office. We shall have an opportunity later to debate the draft police order which, in my view, is an absolute model of how not to conduct a dialogue between a statutory body and the Northern Ireland Office.
Over the many years—the House may feel too many years—during which I have been associated with the police forces of this country, I have had the pleasure of dealing with nine Home Secretaries, from both the Labour and Conservative parties. I have been able to agree with some of them on police matters and I have disagreed with others. However, there has always been an opportunity for the statutory body set up by the House to enter discussions and achieve occasional changes to proposed legislation in the common interest. By contrast, during my negotiations over the past two or three years on virtually every subject that concerned the Police Federation with the Northern Ireland Office, there has been no give whatsoever. The Northern Ireland Office has always known best. However,
By their fruits ye shall know them".
The evidence on the ground does not suggest to me that the Northern Ireland Office always knows best about policing and security. It would be wise to be more attentive and more conceding to the views of the Police Federation. That is the way to underpin the morale of what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State quite rightly described as the best counter-terrorist police force in the world.
Right hon. and hon. Members should be aware that at the present time in Northern Ireland there is a great state of crisis. We have a daily round of death and destruction. It is a matter of the gravest concern that the IRA has been able to carry out its current murder campaign as easily as it has. However, the long-suffering people of the Province, although they are completely disillusioned, will not panic. They have endured such campaigns of terror for the past 15 years, 15 years of inefficient colonial rule. During that time, they have suffered about 2,500 deaths and another 29,000 injured in the process.
If such diabolical acts were carried out in any other part of the United Kingdom, the population would rise against the Government. However, over in Northern Ireland there is a belief that we are now considered to be second-class citizens. Nevertheless, those second-class citizens have the right to object to the continuing campaign of foul murder being perpetrated against them. They have earned that right through their sacrifice in the defence of their country which has now apparently deserted them. They — the ordinary people of Northern Ireland—no longer have any faith in repeated pledges from those in authority to tackle terrorism. Too often in the past those pledges have turned out to he empty gestures.
Those people interpret the platitudes from our Northern Ireland Ministers as expounding the need to shore up a tottering Anglo-Irish Agreement by attempting to portray that iniquitous imposition on them as contributing positively towards the creation of a near-normal situation in the Province. The people of Northern Ireland know that such normality does not exist.
I am here today to tell this House that the hypocritical statements that we have endured over the past week only further demonstrate the fundamental weakness in the present security policy — the absence of the political commitment required to defeat terrorism. The vast majority of the people in the Province are now convinced that the absence of any form of dedication permits what is now known as an acceptable level of violence. There now appears to be a policy of holding the ring in the hope that by some miracle the IRA will be encouraged to lay down its arms and fade into oblivion.
That optimism is not shared by the people who are holding the ring. They know that the IRA is a political terrorist group that seeks to have Northern Ireland expelled from the United Kingdom, against the wishes of the vast majority of its citizens. Its ability to wage war against the security forces and civilians in Northern Ireland and to recruit volunteers depends on the relative progress that is made towards the goal of a united Ireland.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement and the diminution of British sovereignty that is implicit within it is clearly seen by the terrorists as proof of their ability to wring concessions from the Government towards that end. While they can do that, they will continue with their campaign with renewed vigour, and with new recruits.
Not until the political will is found to govern Northern Ireland as any other region of the United Kingdom, with the same rights and privileges, will the IRA cease to believe in its ability to achieve the ultimate victory over the citizens of Northern Ireland, and the British Government. In the meantime, responsibility for the appalling security must be laid at the door of our Secretary of State, who has failed in his duty to ensure that citizens are protected from the actions of terrorism.
It is sickening to listen to the sanctimonious utterings of Ministers, vainly trying to support a security policy that the IRA can appear to destroy with impunity. The Ulster people see evidence every clay in the attacks by the IRA that there has been no improvement whatsoever in security in the Province. We were told that everything was being done to deny the IRA safe havens in the Republic. However, that is clearly not the case. The IRA does not kill Gardai officers, and the Gardai consequently have no great persona] interest in security. It is not their friends, relatives or neighbours who are killed or maimed.
We hear again about more proposals to establish special groups to improve security co-operation, when we were told over a year ago that security was excellent. We are now to have more working committees and a so-called task force. However, in the light of experience, I am sure that I shall be forgiven if I say that such meetings between the Secretary of State and his advisers on this are seen in Northern Ireland to be only cosmetic exercises. It is a sad reflection on that that the community has lost confidence in promises of meaningful security measures. It is also sad that that impinges on those responsible for their formulation. Is it any wonder that people are now saying, "What do you expect when our Secretary of State is not accountable for what happens in Northern Ireland?" Unlike his colleagues in Scotland and Wales he does not come to the region where he exercises supreme power. His competence, or the lack of it, is unlikely to win or lose him any votes in the next election.
It is time for a reappraisal and, more importantly, for a complete commitment by the Government to defeat terrorism. Our police force is ready to make sacrifices, but a complete Ulsterisation policy which leaves primary responsibility for security with the RUC, is to be condemned. Ulsterisation has meant that people living in border areas have been asked to defend themselves. It has left part-time UDR and RUC personnel as soft targets as they go about their daily civilian tasks. It has certainly not weaned nationalist support away from the IRA. The antiterrorist role that is carried out by the RUC is completely inappropriate to it. Only the fully trained and equipped British Army—our Army—can be expected properly to counter terrorism, especially on the border.
The existence of the Anglo-Irish Conference, enshrining as it does the Republic's refusal to recognise the legitimacy of the British Army in Northern Ireland, is a major obstacle to the full deployment of our Army in that role. That was evidenced earlier this week when the Republic's Defence Minister, Mr. Michael Noonan, while on a publicity tour on the frontier, deliberately snubbed a British Army officer in charge of his patrol. He said that there were certain procedures to go through before there could be informalities on both sides.
It is time to grasp the nettle and time that the Government realised that this shabby Dublin deal cannot possibly bring peace, order and good government to Northern Ireland. It should now be put aside as a costly experiment, which has not, and never will, work. Meaningful dialogue can then be entered into to put forward acceptable alternatives for the benefit of all the long-suffering people of the Province.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak in this House, bearing in mind that my constituents continue to grieve because of the continuing murders performed by the murderous hands of the IRA. At the commencement of my remarks, I should say that I am somewhat disappointed that the British public do not have the privilege of seeing this House televised because this is an important and major debate, especially when one considers the number of murders in Northern Ireland—a part of Her Majesty's domain. I have counted the hon. Members on the Government Benches, and they mustered 17 at the height of their presence. The Labour party could muster five——
If the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene, I shall certainly he glad to give way.
The alliance has been able to muster only one spokesman for the occasion. Yet hon. Members lecture us and tell us how much we are listened to in this House and how often we should come. — [Interruption]. It is interesting to hear so many protests coming from Labour Members. I suppose that the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) is getting in his speech before a general election may remove him and would like to continue to speak for as long as possible.
However, I found it most telling to hear a conversation in a Corridor outside the Chamber. Two hon. Members were in discussion and were laughing together about why the House was so sparsely attended today. They said that there was "a difficult decision of priorities". They had to decide between Rolls-Royce shares and attending this debate. I quote those remarks made by two hon. Members in a Corridor of this House today because it typifies what many of my colleagues feel, that there is little interest among hon. Members across the water in the suffering and anguish of the people in Northern Ireland.
I listened with interest also to the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) when he said that this debate had "a familiar ring". How true those words are. I suppose that for some 18 years security debates have been held in this House, and what a duplicity of words has been uttered. It is true that faces will have changed on the Front Bench and that Ministers answering at the Dispatch Box will have changed. However, something has not changed. We have listened to a repeat of the same waffle and to the usual expressions of sympathy and the usual condemnations that are now a course that is taken by right hon. and hon. Members of this House. They took the usual course of using the phrase that they are sorry, they sympathise and understand the feelings of the people who are suffering the murder and destruction.
How do right hon. and hon. Members expect to understand? I should be interested to know from Front Bench Members how many widows they have visited, how many homes of the suffering they have attended and how many orphaned children they have spoken to in the past 18 years in order to understand how the people of Ulster feel. I shall gladly give way if any Front Bench Member wants to tell me. It is interesting to talk to other groups and the Front Benchers lecture us about what others are saying, but surely the people who are suffering in our Province have a right to be heard.
The Secretary of State said that it was the Government's
determination to pursue the campaign to eliminate the scourge of terrorism." — [Official Report, 16 December 1986; Vol. 107, c. 1084.]
In past debates the Minister of State has used the words "the eradication of terrorism." When the debate has finished and the words have died on the air, Ministers will congratulate themselves that the debate is over; but Ulster will be back to violence, murder and the destruction of my constituents. The feeling of frustration that few people care or want to care about the plight of our community will prevail.
I resent the much publicised reason from the Northern Ireland Office for this debate. It has linked the debate to the death of Lord Justice Gibson and his wife, and I resent that. I equally resent the fact that the Secretary of State should make a trip along the border surrounded by great numbers of security guards and the Army and then stand before a television camera and say, "This is to prove that this is not a no-go area." How ridiculous can one get? The only time members of the security forces can enter many areas of the Province is when they are speeding through in armoured cars. That is disgraceful, but it is factual.
If hon. Members do not believe that, I gladly invite them to come to my constituency and see the parts where there are no checkpoints and where members of the security forces are not permitted to patrol the roads—where, indeed, they cannot because of the continuing spiral of IRA violence threatening their safety.
I thank my hon. Friend for that information. Indeed, when the Secretary of State slipped into my constituency to visit the RUC station at Newtownstewart after the IRA bombing during which a man took a heart attack and died, he could have visited the man's home — it was only 500 yards from the station, where the gentleman was lying in a coffin—to sympathise with the family, but he turned and went home. As a senior police officer pointed out to me, for the Secretary of State to make his jaunt into my constituency the security forces had to send RUC men at the dead of night to clear the roads. They resented that greatly because, to use their words, they were left to the wolves and the bombs under the roads. I resent that sort of so-called security policy, but we are supposed to live with that in the Province.
The Secretary of State well knows that Northern Ireland Members have been warned about wasting police time. I remind the House that when the Minister with responsibility for education, the hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) visited Omagh he was surrounded by about 200 policemen and security men. The western educational board had contacted the Northern Ireland Office and advised the Minister not to come. The chief officer of the board told me that the Minister was asked not to come as his visit would not be helpful, yet he forced himself on the people, wasted RUC time and put the lives of RUC men at risk. I know it is hard for such facts to be accepted, but facts are stubborn and I shall certainly make them plain.
Rev. William McCrae:
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the advice from the spokesman of the western educational board was appropriate; the Minister was not welcome. Nevertheless, the Minister forced himself on the board and he was chased out of Omagh. It is disgraceful when a Minister is told that his visit is unhelpful and would waste police time, that he continues with it for petty personal reasons and Northern Ireland propaganda reasons, especially when that same constituency cannot get the forces to attack the IRA or to provide the appropriate security to ensure that the people there have the right to live. That is indeed deplorable.
The decision of Unionist Members to request an emergency debate was taken at the funeral of Mr. Harry Henry at the commencement of that week of terrible carnage and before the death of Lord Justice Gibson. We were not in any way forced to come to the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. I. Paisley) and the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) decided that the Unionists should make their views on security heard in the House.
The debate has been purposeful. Surely people will have heard from the statements of the Secretary of State and the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) that they are still devoid of any meaningful measures which will counter terrorism and bring it to an end. The debate has ensured that the general public in Northern Ireland will know that the Government have neither the will nor the determination to eradicate or crush the terrorist uprisings in our Province. That is a tragedy.
Last week my hon. Friends came to the House and submitted applications under Standing Order No. 20 to the Speaker's Office. The Secretary of State rushed to the House to make a statement to stop any debate, but we are delighted to have this opportunity to put certain matters on the record and we are certainly laying the facts clearly on the line for the House and the nation to see.
On 15 November 1986 an agreement was signed and we were told that its objective was threefold — peace, stability and reconciliation. The agreement cannot and never will achieve those three objectives. Lest I be accused of scaremongering, of not examining the facts or of dismissing achievements, perhaps it is appropriate for me to consider the achievements of the Anglo-Irish agreement.
The first achievement of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was the removal from the south of Garret FitzGerald, who had promised the Government of the United Kingdom a divorce Bill. He promised that the divorce Bill would liberalise society in the south of Ireland and attract Unionists to the South and to Dublin, who might find that it was not such a bad place after all. There was a referendum on the divorce Bill but there was also an election at which Garret FitzGerald was humiliated. He is now out of office. The Anglo-Irish Agreement resulted in what is termed in Northern Ireland a former gunman at the helm instead of Garret FitzGerald. Who would not want a former gunman or so-called terrorist at the helm of a democratic Government because that is a step forward? We should all agree that that is an achievement.
The second achievement was that the Anglo-Irish Agreement admitted that the South of Ireland is not able to provide adequate money to provide security forces to tackle the problem of terrorists even if it wanted to. It is a bankrupt society. One of the leading members of the Dail expected Her Majesty's Government to put up the money to pay for security along the border. He expected that this House should send funds to a foreign state that has harboured terrorists all these years. Our eyes are being opened by these revelations.
The third achievement of the Irish-Anglo Agreement was the isolation of the Unionist majority community by the Government. Where else in the United Kingdom do we have minority rule? At present it is not minority participation, it is minority rule. Today, wheii the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) was speaking, I saw the nods of approval from Ministers on the Front Bench because they thought that he was a new-found friend for the Conservative and Unionist party.
The Government have to look to the SDLP and Dublin for their friends, but they do so at the expense of the majority of the community because the whole reason behind the Anglo-Irish Agreement was to save the bacon of the SDLP. The SDLP could not face Sinn Fein on its own; it needed the electoral support of the Government of the United Kingdom. The principle of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) was "United Ireland or nothing". Today, members of the SDLP are relying on British Ministers to ensure that they are re-elected. The SDLP is relying on concessions given to it.
We have seen a terrible abuse of innocent, long-suffering, hard-working Ulster Unionists who are British through and through, who are proud to be British and who have gladly given their sons and daughters in the defence of Her Majesty's domain, unlike the nationalists and the Republicans, who used every opportunity they could to stab Her Majesty's loyal subjects and this House in the back whenever it suited them. I assure Ministers that if it suits the SDLP to stab them in the back in the future, it will be happy to do that. The leopard has not changed its spots. It has covered them to suit the occasion, but the time will come when the spots will be shown again. The mask will come off and the Government will realise that they should not have begged and courted the friendship of the SDLP.
The fourth achievement of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was the continuation and intensification of a bloodcurdling murder campaign by the IRA. The NIO seeks to tell us that the IRA campaign is in response to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, because the Sinn Feiners are afraid that the agreement will work. That is the most diabolical falsehood that could he ever thought up. We know why the agreement came about. Her Majesty's chief Minister, the Prime Minister, told us why it came about. She said that she made the agreement because she was not willing to allow the murders to continue. It was the murders that brought about the Anglo-Irish Agreement. But whose murders? It was the continuing murders by the IRA that brought about the agreement. I am sure that the Secretary of State does not doubt the wisdom of the learned words of the Prime Minister about how this agreement came about.
It is interesting that it is said that the Sinn Fein was ready to accept that agreement, because its members said that without their bombs there would never have been an agreement, that more violence and more murders means more concessions. That is the reality. The lives and blood of a long-suffering Ulster people is a high price to pay. They are paying the penalty. The police, the UDR, the reserves and our British Army are paying the price for this awful unholy mess that the Government have got into and which, because of their pride, they are unwilling to acknowledge and correct.
The measures we have heard today will mean—make no mistake—that those murders will continue. Nothing that the Secretary of State said today will stop the murders in the Province. What he said today reminds me very much of the young child who went to its wealthy mother and said, "I want to speak to you, I want you to listen"" but the mother put her hand in her purse and threw a £10 note at her child and said, "I have not got the time, take the money and spend it." We are not looking for money to solve the problem. We are not even looking for additional men.
At one of the funerals a week ago a senior member of the RUC said to me, "My voice will not be heard. You go to the House of Commons and tell the Secretary of State that he can put 20,000 more troops into Northern Ireland, but if he does not change their orders he will only be setting them up as ducks to be shot down by the IRA." More troops are not the answer; it is how those troops are deployed. It is how effectively the troops and the RUC are allowed to deal with the problem. That is the cry of the men on the ground.
I was given further information by another senior member of the security forces. I cannot reveal his name because the Chief Constable would quickly move him on somewhere else. The Chief Constable would deal with him in the same way that he is dealing with the representative of the Police Federation—he would silence him instead of listening to his views. The senior officer said that the hands of the security forces are still tied. He asked me to tell the Secretary of State that, instead of lecturing Unionist politicians and those who support the security forces, it was about time the Government supported the security forces, listened to them and supported them, not just with weaponry, but with orders that would allow them to do their jobs.
Hon. Members do not realise that if a UDR patrol stops a well-known Sinn Fein finger man in our community, a man whom the security forces have identified as the godfather of the IRA, they will be insulted by that person until they call a police patrol because they are not even allowed to open the boot or the door of his car. They are hardly able to speak to him in case he claims that he has been assaulted, which would lead to them being reprimanded.
That well-known Provisional Sinn Fein person who has pinpointed members of the security forces in my constituency and in the constituency of the hon. Member for Londonderry, East sits there and makes a mockery of the whole of the law and the whole security situation in our Province. When a police car comes up, naturally he opens the door, because he has humiliated the rest of the security forces. These are what are called effective measures.
I was on the verge of the Secretary of State's constituency last night and this morning. When I spoke to folk there about the situation, I found that quite clearly there are people in that constituency who are not happy about what is termed security. They say that every time they listen to the news about an atrocity they hear that security is to be tightened. They said that I must have listened to that statement so often that by now the Province is nearly choked. The Government say that they will tighten and tighten security, but nothing is more false. There is no tightening of security in the Province. It is ridiculous that the murdering IRA scum can snub their noses at the security forces, because unless the security forces can bring a charge that will stick in court they have to take the insults as members of the IRA go past them.
The Government had better start supporting the security forces in the most effective way by allowing them to take effective measures which, in the words of the security forces, means to eliminate. I can assure the House that if a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, the Royal Ulster Constabulary or the British Army were to eradicate an IRA terrorist he would find himself up on some charge, even though he had been effective in his duty. I say that because a sergeant in 6 Company of the UDR was promoted and recommended for his service, yet at the end of the month found himself in the unemployment list. Others were brought in to his place when he was removed. He was commended for his efficiency and then dumped. That seems to be an unusual way to carry out security policy.
On behalf of my constituents I have a right to ask that this nightmare is brought to an end. We want to live in peace but there are so many double standards and so much double-talk that no one can believe Ministers. We are told to sit back and remain calm, and are lectured about what we should do, but the Government will not listen to the wishes of the elected representatives of the people. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) speaks about inquiries into MI5. Bearing in mind the wealth of evidence, surely it is time that we demanded an inquiry into the way the Northern Ireland Office deals with the lives of Northern Ireland people. The Northern Ireland Office is selling a loyal part of Her Majesty's domain into the hands of her avowed enemies.
It might please the Secretary of State to stand with Mr. Lenihan and to be introduced to Charles Haughey. It would do him more good if he listened to the will of the people inside the Province instead of giving a major and substantial role in the day-to-day running of the affairs of Northern Ireland to a foreign Government. The Secretary of State shakes his head. Talk about a substantial and major role in the day-to-day running of the affairs of Northern Ireland was not some trumped-up charge by some twisted-minded Ulster Unionist. It was a statement by the former Justice Minister of the Irish Republic. That was the claim that he made when he went back to the South of Ireland.
Hon. Members are told that the Anglo-Irish Agreement is for the defence of the Union. The Dail is told that because of that agreement it has a major and substantial role to play in the day-to-day affairs of Northern Ireland. Whom do we believe? When will the Government stop this forked-tongue approach to Northern Ireland? It is our people that are dying, people that very few hon. Members, including the Secretary of State, come to Northern Ireland to see. My constituent Mr. Graham was only a UDR man and Mr. Henry was only a foreman in a job. The Secretary of State certainly did not attend Mr. Henry's funeral. Why was that? It was because he happened to be only an ordinary Ulsterman, fodder for the gunmen, a man who was left in the front line.
As elected representatives, we are supposed to take all this. We are supposed to follow the coffins, bury the dead, say nothing about it and act as nice little parliamentarians. I was elected to this House as a simple Ulsterman to speak in ordinary Ulster language about the realities of what is happening in Ulster. Even at this late hour, I appeal to the Government on behalf of the widows and orphans left and forgotten in our country finally to do what they promised to do—eradicate terrorism.
I accept what my hon. Friend says, that I am wasting my time, but let it not be said that I did not try, even though there are those that sneer and think that there is something funny.
I should like to quote from a speech by the ex-moderator of the Irish Presbyterian Church, Dr. Dickinson. My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North also spoke about this. This is not a speech by a politician or by some hothead who makes his point with a sweep of the hand. Dr. Dickinson said:
It would appear from the fact that these scandalous deeds have been allowed to go on for so long that Mrs. Thatcher, and those who, with her, are responsible for security in Northern Ireland, have neither concern nor compassion for you Mrs. Graham or for the many others who have suffered as you have done.
Dr. Dickinson said that the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have neither concern nor compassion for Mrs. Graham and he looked down at the widow when he said that. That is true, because the only way to prove Dr. Dickinson wrong is to take effective security measures to stop this murder, mayhem and destruction that has cursed our country.
Instead of making an agreement that was a concession to the murderers, the Government should not allow the murders to continue. Effective measures need to be taken to bring terrorism to an end. The blood of Ulster's innocents lies not only on the hands of those perpetrators of the violence, cursed, depraved, wicked and hellish though they are, but also at the door of those who have it in their power to stop the murder and the mayhem.
The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) must not assume that any hon. Member sneers at him or at any of the Ulster Members when they talk about the carnage in Northern Ireland. Nor can he claim a monopoly on compassion for those who experience the effects of murder and maiming, though he lives with it day by day and some of us do not. That is the difference between hon. Members, but it is not a lack of compassion and the hon. Gentleman is entitled to be heard. At the same time, he must accept that, if he tries to lay unfair motives at the doors of other hon. Members, he will lose the respect of the House and the patience of the British people.
If the television cameras to which the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster referred were here, they would do him and his case more harm than if they were not. The way in which the hon. Gentleman presented his arguments did nothing to win over people who might be concerned about some of the serious security issues that he raised tonight. I should have liked to hear more about the need for reconciliation, about his preparedness to listen to other points of view and about the need for justice in Northern Ireland rather than the claims that he made for recrimination and for taking an eye for an eye.
Sometimes, some deep soul-searching is needed by the hon. Members who speak for the constituencies of Northern Ireland. They must ask themselves whether they do not bear some of the responsibility for events there. Perhaps that takes the form of their failure to provide leadership in the House over the past 18 months.
I join the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) in welcoming back the hon. Members from Ulster today, and I hope that they will continue to put positive points to the House. The way to win arguments is not through abuse but by trying to take people with one.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) made a number of points with which I wish to deal. He suggested that the Chief Constable of the RUC should take early retirement, but that he did not intend to undermine the Chief Constable's position. In saying that, that is precisely what he did. I met Sir John Hermon two years ago and I was extremely impressed by him, and by his impartiality and determination to deal with terrorism. He told me and my colleagues on the delegation that in Northern Ireland there are Protestants, Catholics and the RUC.
The last 18 months have been a difficult period. It was bound to be one; anything that is likely to defeat terrorism will cause difficulties and, probably, an escalation of violence in the short term. During that period, the RUC has been caught in the crossfire. It has performed bravely and well, independently and objectively. Contrary to the call by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds for the Chief Constable's early retirement, he is entitled to our wholehearted support.
The RUC is also entitled to the wholehearted support of the Catholic community in Northern Ireland. That is why I have consistently said—for example, in the debate on the Anglo-Irish Agreement—to the hon. Members for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and for Newry and Armagh (M r. Mallon) that they must encourage people of the Catholic tradition to join the RUC and work with it. It is entitled to the full support of all Catholics in Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds also said that he favoured the return of internment in Northern Ireland, at least on a partial basis. That would be a foolish move. We saw the effects of internment in Northern Ireland once before. It led to hunger strikes, more violence and greater alienation. That is not the way to proceed.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds also said that, although he voted for the Anglo-Irish Agreement, it has not delivered. The hon. Gentleman is not present now—having put his points on behalf of the RUC, he left the Chamber. He must ask himself what he expected the agreement to deliver in the first place. I refer him to the Belfast Telegraph of Thursday 23 April, in which Mr. Lenihan said that he envisaged
that under the new arrangement there would be a better exchange of information in regard to techniques and intelligence, and a dovetailing of operations, with greater liaison between policemen on both sides of the border. 'We believe there is substantial room for improvement of that kind and the thrust should be for achieving that sort of practical co-operation on the ground' ".
The agreement was never going to bring a miracle cure, but if it brings statements such as that from the Republic, it is all to the good, and we should build upon it.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), refuting something that was said by the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), said that Protestants do talk to Catholics in Northern Ireland. I agree. When I was last there, four weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to meet a group of people in Limavady. They came from Protestant and Catholic homes, and they talked about the need for reconciliation, and the need to support the RUC and to make something of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
I went to Derry and stayed in Columba house, where I met Father Neil Carlin and Neil McClosky. The latter went on hunger strike for 55 days and virtually came back from the dead. He has renounced violence, has seen its futility, and is working for reconciliation. Surely we should be supporting people such as him and organisations such as the Belfast Trust, which is working for integration in the schools. I was impressed by what I saw of the trust's work. The trust and groups such as the Corrymeela community and Maranatha are doing what is needed to bring the different traditions together. There is one community, not two.
The right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) mentioned the role of the churches, and in that context I listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. I. Paisley). Northern Ireland is a scandal for Christianity. It needs moral leadership. If only the hon. Member for Antrim, North, who speaks with such passion and vigour and has such oratory at his disposal, would use his words to try to effect reconciliation in the island of Ireland, what a great contribution that would make. He must ask himself not only about the role of the British Government but about his own role.
If Protestants must talk to Catholics, Northern Ireland must talk to the people of Great Britain, too. This House is the place for such debates. I am glad to see the Unionists Members in their places, as the Belfast Telegraph and Presbyterian leaders urged them to be. Loyalty is a characteristic of the people of Northern Ireland. The greatest danger to the Union is the absence of Unionist Members from their places here. That would break the allegiance of ordinary British people to the Ulster community and would result in further tragedy. That is why I am glad to see them in their places tonight.
I agree. The right hon. Member for Spelthorne and others should have stayed for the debate, in which I should have liked to see more hon. Members take part.
I also agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. M. Smyth), who has said on previous occasions that it would be better, instead of having Orders in Council, to return to the ordinary procedure with Bills. We could then fully debate issues in the way in which we debated the emergency provisions, and about which there was a great deal of agreement on both sides of the House. In that debate the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West and his party, the Unionist party, the SDLP and the Conservative party were able to make common cause. After the election we should find ways in which to provide more time and better procedures to deal with Northern Ireland matters in a more rational way. I want the establishment of a Committee like the Welsh and Scottish Grand Committees or a Select Committee to examine the issues rather than deal with them in the combative atmosphere that prevails far too often in our debates.
Eighteen months ago the House decided overwhelmingly to support the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Many of us believed at the time that it was merely a step forward and would not be a panacea or universal remedy, but a way of recognising that there was an Irish dimension to the problem of Northern Ireland. We had to bring in the alienated nationalist community and detach it from the IRA. The agreement is beginning to do that and we must persevere with it. The House must demonstrate that it will do so and not put the agreement to one side.
There might be an indeterminate majority after the next general election and my right hon. and hon. Friends would certainly stand four square behind the agreement. To do otherwise would be to offer the IRA the opportunity to undermine yet further the democratic process and to drive Republican opinion back into the hands of Sinn Fein. That would be very much against the interests of all people in Northern Ireland. We must build on the agreement, and that is why we are advocating the need for a permanent joint security commission. We want to see joint antiterrorism legislation enacted simultaneously in the Dail and at Westminster.
One of the reasons for the debate this evening is the tragic events that led to the murder of Lord Justice Gibson and his wife. They were murdered, or assassinated, by the IRA. I ask the Secretary of State to say when he replies whether he will consider other ways in which those who travel from North to South or South to North can make the journey. They should not be asked to leave their vehicles in no man's land and to transfer to another vehicle. Instead, they should be able to make the journey to their destination with the protection of the RUC or that of the Garda. I had the extraordinary experience only four weeks ago of transferring vehicles at a border point in the middle of nowhere, and that process cannot be a very sensible way of going about matters. It could lead to further tragedies of the sort that we have seen in Northern Ireland so recently.
Lord Justice Gibson's assassination is the latest in a long series of tragic deaths in Northern Ireland. The RUC has said, quite properly, that there are times when perhaps we do not place as much significance on the deaths of members of the security forces as on spectacular events such as Lord Justice Gibson's assassination. It is right that we should be spending time today discussing the deaths of all people in Northern Ireland and recognising the serious situation there. We should be trying to devise other ways of ensuring that the long process of normalisation continues in the North. That is why I welcome the publication of the UDA document entitled "Common Sense" a few weeks ago. The ideas set out within it—for example, the need for a responsibility-sharing devolved assembly—were good ones. That assembly idea is also one to which we should return after the general election.
I do not have time to raise a number of the other issues that I wished to put before the House, so instead, I shall ponder for a moment on some of the options if we do not persevere with the agreement. Sinn Fein recently published a document which in some ways is obscenely entitled "The Scenario for Peace". In that document Mr. Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein's president, claimed, according to the Irish News, that if one of the mainline British political parties decided to fight the next general election on disengagement from Northern Ireland, that party would form the next Government. Mr. Adams is obviously trying to lure political parties which are represented in this place to support the arguments that he has long advanced. I do not believe that there is any support for that view in most quarters of the House. However, I think that Unionist Members should be aware that the more they oppose an agreement that the overwhelming majority of hon. Members have supported, the more likely it is that the British public will support the views that Mr. Adams has been advancing.
Secondly, Mr. Adams has talked about resettlement grants. That suggestion is as obscene as the others that he has expounded. It is an example of the sort of argument that creates further friction and division in Northern Ireland. It is the sort of suggestion that one expects to hear from people in South Africa rather than from those claiming to represent the republican tradition in Northern Ireland. I am pleased to hear that Dr. Joe Hendron of the SDLP vigorously spoke out against the proposal.
The third possibility is that the agreement might be abandoned. If that were to happen, it would, as I have already said, set back the cause of reconciliation. It would mean that the nationalist tradition in Northern Ireland would be further alienated. In abandoning the agreement, we would be playing into Sinn Fein's hands.
Fourthly, there is the possibility of sending in further troops and reintroducing internment. That, too, would be playing into Sinn Fein's hands.
The hon. Gentleman is uttering the sort of claptrap that supporters of terrorism and the IRA continue to use. They do not want more British troops in Ulster, and that message has not got through yet. It is their way of blackmailing this Parliament to prevent the troops from being sent in and a proper job being done.
Surely the hon. Gentleman realises, 18 years after the troops were first sent into Northern Ireland, that the continued sending of troops will not solve the problems of Northern Ireland.
The troops should be allowed to do their job in Northern Ireland, but the sooner that they are put back into barracks and there is a normalisation of Northern Ireland's affairs, with the RUC dealing with everyday issues of law and order, the better it will be for everybody. I should have thought that that proposition would gain support from both sides of the House. Surely no hon. Member wants to see troops in the streets doing the job that the police should be doing. The best security that Northern Ireland can achieve is a strengthening of co-operation and a laying aside of old prejudices, bigotry and fears. Without a willingness to do that, the murders will continue.
I take exception to what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) said about Northern Ireland people. He said that Northern Ireland is a scandal to Christianity. The majority of people in the Province, regardless of their religion—Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Church of Ireland and so on—are charitable and deeply religious and could show a great deal to people in other parts of the United Kingdom. The people of Northern Ireland will be shocked when they learn what the hon. Gentleman has said about them. In youth organisations children are brought up to certain standards of life that should prevail in England. If similar standards applied in this country it would be the better for it.
The hon. Gentleman said that the troops should be withdrawn to barracks. That has been said by the IRA time after time. To say that is an open invitation to the IRA to redouble its efforts. I have a great regard for the hon. Gentleman but the two statements to which I have referred will cause great anger in Northern Ireland.
No, I shall not give way. I am timing myself because I know that there are others who wish to contribute to the debate.
When I last spoke in the Chamber, which was before Easter. I anticipated that more people would be killed in Northern Ireland. I was proved right. The only thing that can be said about this debate is that anyone who says that more deaths will follow it will make a true statement. That may be the only true statement in the entire debate.
When I last addressed the House I took the opportunity—I wish to take it again—to pay tribute to the gallant members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the UDR and of the Regular Army. They deserve the full, unequivocal and unqualified support of everyone in Northern Ireland, but sadly that support is not given by everyone. The opportunity to do so was missed by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). Instead of saying that the police and the Army should be supported by the communities that he and his SDLP colleagues represent, he launched an attack on all measures taken by the security forces to defeat the Provisional IRA.
Anyone with any sense knows that the enemy of all decent people in Northern Ireland is the IRA or any other terrorist organisation. The enemy is not the police. The police and every other member of the security forces face death every day that they are on duty. They are dedicated men and deserve our unqualified and grateful thanks.
The atrocity at the border last week, and all the other incidents that have taken place along it, confirm the need for what I described many years ago in the House as a cordon sanitaire along the border. The Army would then be fully engaged in meeting, dealing with and defeating the Provisional IRA. It is not the duty of the police, which is a civil organisation, to engage in war with the IRA. What my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) said was absolutely right: the Army, not the police, should be used in such areas.
The murders of Lord Justice and Lady Gibson over a week ago were horrific offences. They were a kind, gentle and compassionate couple whose lives enriched the community which they served with great distinction. Lady Gibson was president of the Girl Guides Association. The fact that Lord Justice Gibson was the second most senior member of the Ulster judiciary created the tremendous publicity that his killing was given in the media. Had it been a policeman or a soldier, I regret to say that neither the Secretary of State nor any other Minister in the Northern Ireland Office would have made a statement in the House, yet there have been IRA killings time after time. It seems that there is art acceptable level of violence, no matter what the Government may say.
When I listened to the speech of the Secretary of State in opening this debate I wondered why we were all here today discussing security in Northern Ireland because, according to the Secretary of State, the Provisional IRA has only a few members and it has no support in either the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland. If the IRA has only a few members and is shunned and isolated, how can it operate with impunity and cause such devastation in much of Northern Ireland, particularly along the border?
The Secretary of State does not fully comprehend the situation in Northern Ireland. I am surprised that this is the first occasion since the present IRA terrorist campaign began 18 years ago that the Government have not responded with a massive show of strength to meet the horrendous IRA atrocities and satisfy the anger and frustration of the Ulster people.
The Prime Minister brought the Anglo-Eire Agreement back to the House, and most hon. Members from England, Scotland and Wales regarded it as a miracle cure for the problems of Northern Ireland. The House gave her a tremendous reception and every English Member believed the statement that the London-Dublin accord would bring peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
I make an exception for the hon. Gentleman, but I was right in saying that most English Members believed that, with honourable exceptions such as the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne). I believe that the Prime Minister was misled by officials in the Foreign Office. There has been no peace and reconciliation; the opposite has happened. The number of killings this year is more than the number of killings in the first four months of 1986 and Northern Ireland is divided more than ever.
The Secretary of State declared today that the members of the IRA would, when caught, be subject to the full rigour of the law. In the first instance, they have to be caught. Many terrible atrocities have been committed for which no one has been brought to justice. My hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) intervened in the Secretary of State's speech to make that point. The murderers of my cousin on the border of Northern Ireland are free to roam around because the full rigour of the law has not been brought against them. There is no reason why those people should not be put out of circulation. Therefore, much against my better judgment, I agree with what my hon. Friend said: there should be some selective detention, since otherwise those people will be free to urge young people to commit murders.
Not only do they have to be caught but, once they are caught, they can make an admission which can be contested in court. They can say that they have been ill-treated while in custody. Almost as a matter of routine, those statements are thrown out by the judge. When they are convicted — only a few people are convicted, compared with the number who have been involved in terrorist crimes—they can obtain a special remission, which means that many IRA members who have been convicted of heinous offences are back on the streets training a new generation of young people to become involved in IRA terrorism.
The Secretary of State said, after the weekend killings, that the terrorists were showing themselves to be increasingly desperate. I do not know where the Secretary of State has been for the past 18 years, or indeed for the past two years. Does he not know that the doctrine of terrorism is to terrorise? The terrorists are not desperate; they are out to create the maximum havoc, to spread fear, to demoralise not only the security forces in Northern Ireland but members of the Government, and to make members of the English press feel that the Government should get out of Northern Ireland, clean their hands of the problem and leave it to others to deal with. We cannot get away from the fact that a war is being waged in Northern Ireland. The Provisional IRA's bombs and bullets kill, destroy and mutilate, but it seems to many people in Northern Ireland that the Secretary of State uses soft words and press statements issued from his redoubt at Stormont castle to slap the wrists of the IRA.
The decent people of Ulster, who are the potential victims of the Provisional IRA's largely sectarian campaign of slaughter, have been urged by the Secretary of State to show steadiness and remain quiet in the face of death. That really is the language of the abattoir—all right, be quiet, go on in, never mind the noise or the smell of blood, just stay quiet. But the Ulster people have had 18 years of that. They cannot see any determination by the Government to bring it to an end, as the citizens of any other part of the United Kingdom would expect. The will does not seem to be there and the IRA realises that. That is why the Government now, belated though it may be, must show that they are determined, by the use of troops and every sophisticated weapon, to search out and destroy the IRA.
I conclude on a political note with regard to the Anglo-Eire Agreement. I had never thought that it would be possible for the Conservative Government to alienate the Loyalist majority of Northern Ireland. They have achieved that, but at what cost? They do not realise even now the deep hurt that the Ulster Loyalist community, which includes Roman Catholics as well as Protestants, feel at the betrayal by the British Government entering into an Anglo-Eire Agreement without consulting—that is all we wish to emphasise—the elected representatives of the Unionist majority. That was done after we had heard in this Chamber time after time from successive Governments that no action would be taken in Northern Ireland to create an Assembly with devolved power without having support across the religious divide. That assurance has been shamelessly broken.
There is still a will among many decent people in Northern Ireland, irrespective of their religion, to make political progress. It is almost impossible to have political progress when there is an awful campaign of terrorism resulting in slaughter, mutilation and destruction. We must not give up hope. I do not rely too much on the British Government helping to achieve political progress. The elected representatives of the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland must see whether there is a way forward. The Ulster people are resilient. They will never be subservient or capitulate to terror. They are determined to survive this war. In my judgment they will win through in the end.
When I was preparing for the debate I acquired a large mass of facts and statistics. When I looked at them I realised that I had the perfect material for making the sort of speech that the Prime Minister used to make in the House. I assure my right hon. and hon. Friends that I rapidly went back to the drawing board.
Today we were confronted by the Secretary of State, who stood at the Dispatch Box and told us that he was there to put forward the facts. I have no objection to hard, cold facts, but I object to the wrong conclusions being drawn time after time and being presented as if they had come from the mouth of God himself, if I may put it that way in the presence of so many reverend gentlemen.
Getting the truth out of the available information may be difficult for the Secretary of State. He may not take time to do it himself but may rely on his officials to do it for him. One foolish suggestion that he put forward this afternoon was that Sinn Fein had been humiliated at the recent election in the Irish Republic because it got only 1·8 per cent. of the total vote. That is nonsense. The truth is that Sinn Fein fought only 60 per cent. of the constituencies; if it had fought them all its percentage of the vote would have been considerably higher.
The Secretary of State also forgot that in the Irish Republic the single transferable vote system of proportional representation is used in elections. What matters in that system is the quota, not the overall majority in any constituency. If the right hon. Gentleman looked at the figures, he would see that in Donegal, North-East, Sinn Fein got 32 per cent. of the quota. That is not a small proportion. When one considers that that is the constituency represented by Neil Blaney in the Dail, we must remember that Mr. Blaney was getting most of the IRA vote in that constituency.
In Donegal, South-West, Sinn Fein got only 16 per cent. of the quota, but the Workers party, to whom Sinn Fein electors freely transferred votes, got 31 per cent., so that is a total of 47 per cent. of the quota. In the Cavan-Monaghan constituency, between them they got 41·5 per cent. of the quota, in Cork, North Central they got 46 per cent. between them and in Dublin, Central between them they got 50 per cent. of the quota.
My hon. Friend was hasty; I am coming to that.
Another aspect of proportional representation is that votes are transferred within the political family or within the political segment to which electors perceive themselves as belonging. When Workers party and Sinn Fein electors finished transferring to each other, which they did freely, they then transferred to the party led by Mr. Haughey. Therefore, they consider themselves, as we would say brutally in Ulster, as being of one sow's litter. The House should take careful note of that simple fact of political life in Ireland.
The Secretary of State also talked about the security position in Northern Ireland. He gave us many selective statistics. If the right hon. Gentleman and the Minister of State were to go to Waterside in Londonderry, to the Protestant part of the city, they would see a large police station which has not had a brick laid on it for two years because the contractors were terrorised by the IRA to the point where they walked off the site and dare not come back. If they go to Strabane, they will see a place where there should be a police station, but it is not even started yet. That should tell the House and the country more about the strength and capability of the IRA than the statistics that are thrown across the House year after year.
The IRA has demonstrated its strength and its capability in every part of the Province. It killed two members of the RUC in Portrush in my constituency. It killed two more members of the RUC who were on duty in the constituency of Foyle but who lived in my constituency. It has killed at will throughout the length and breadth of Northern Ireland in the last few weeks. The IRA has a policy of murder which it is carrying through with ruthless and merciless efficiency.
The right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) laughed when we talked about 100,000 votes for Sinn Fein. He said that it would be impossible to have 15,000 on the streets. It does not matter whether it is possible. The IRA does not need 15,000 gunmen. Grivas said that he never had more than 150 in Cyprus at any one time, yet he drove out the British. We should come down to the fact of what an IRA terrorist campaign is. It is a small number of murderers being active at any time. That is all that it takes.
There may be talk of police success, but let us consider where the police have not been successful. The so-called supergrass trials have almost collapsed. Quigley and Gilmore got immunity; 66 people went back on the streets. The case of Whoriskey was not proceeded with; 21 had been charged. That is a total of over 80 who went free. That is not counting those who came back from Donegal, never mind those who did not go on the run. So there are well over 100 terrorists or perhaps nearly 200 terrorists in the Londonderry city area alone.
When the Minister of State replies, perhaps he will not tell us about the police successes and about all the people who have been arrested; perhaps he will be able to tell me and the rest of the country how many Provisional IRA murders have been cleared in the constituency of Foyle, which I represented until 1983, and in Londonderry, East, which I now represent, since this Administration came to power. He should tell me and the people I represent how many people have been murdered by Republican terrorists in that area, how many have been made amenable, and how many of those crimes are still unsolved. I think the position is no better in Fermanagh and south Tyrone.
The IRA runs interrogation schools. Its members can stand up to interrogation and the police are in severe difficulty. Perhaps the Minister will also tell us how many people are on bail for hijacking, for petrol bombing and for membership of the IRA. for which 269 are serving sentences in the Irish Republic on the word of a Garcia superintendent under a law which we do not have.
The Secretary of State told us that there is evidence that much of the explosive is manufactured in Northern Ireland. Perhaps the Minister will be more precise and will tell us exactly what proportion of the explosive captured and the explosive used in the last 18 months, or for as long a period as he cares to take us back, came from the Irish Republic. He should tell us how much came from Northern Ireland and what the police have done to stop its manufacture in Northern Ireland. We would all be interested in that information.
I have directed the attention of the, sadly, sparsely attended House to what I believe is the strength of the IRA. If the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister will inquire about it, no doubt they will be able to lay their hands on a transcript of the speech made in Londonderry on Easter Sunday by Martin McGuinness, who is well known for his IRA and Sinn Fein activity in Northern Ireland. They will find that that speech is a tremendous call to arms. He praised the women for their vital role in the active service units of the IRA. He said that he took pride in today's IRA volunteers. He said:
Irish freedom could only be achieved through the armed offensive of the IRA who were the guarantors of an achievable peace in Ireland. We are going to win. We will never be suppressed.
That was not the speech of a man who faced defeat or the slightest fear. It was the speech of a man who was sure of victory—a man who saw the winning post ahead, and he was out in front and racing for it. We have to change that attitude before we can talk about defeating the
IRA and getting back peace. This situation has not come about through anything other than Government policy or perhaps the policy the Government have carried through. It has been carried through because of pressure from murder. There was the murder of Airey Neave in the precincts of the House some years ago. The Government turned and ran from their 1979 election manifesto.
On 12 February this year, in answer to the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), the Secretary of State said that the present Home Secretary had as his first ambition the 1979 manifesto, but was unable to proceed. I remind the House that the present Home Secretary went to Northern Ireland on 11 September 1984. A bomb went off in Brighton on 12 October of that year. If it were not that which changed the Government's mind in 1984, perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us who the Government consulted and who advised them so that they were not able to proceed with the 1979 manifesto statement. To the people of Ulster—and I point out that they can also read Hansard, just in case people here think that they cannot—it seems that the Government broke and ran when Airey Neave was murdered in the car park of the House of Commons. They broke and ran again when the bomb went off in Brighton. That does not sit very well with people who have been bombed, shot or murdered for more years than most of us care to remember.
I could say more, but I should like to hear what other hon. Members have to say in the debate. I believe that only a total, fundamental change of Government policy will solve the problems of Ulster. I believe that we have fruitlessly and needlessly expended treasure and lives for many years. We hear a tremendous shout every time that the IRA goes through its sequence of one murder after another—that steady haemorrhage of ordinary people—that builds up to a peak when the IRA kills a prominent individual, and then stops, as it has done for the past week, and then starts again. There is a steady death after death, drip after drip, to try to wear us down. It has not managed to do so yet.
Every time that the IRA builds up to a peak there is a tremendous flurry. More troops are brought in, more changes are made in the RUC, all sorts of things are promised, but all that happens is that we temporarilly disturb the bloody froth on top of the evil brew that is spawned by the IRA under the Government's policy. The policy that the Government have pursued has given the IRA hope of ultimate victory. It lies behind Martin McGuinness's speech and behind all the evil that we have suffered.
I should not want my hon. Friend to think that I was equating him with the gentleman in Londonderry. I know that he and the other fellow are poles apart.
I note that the Government also apply a strange standard of democracy to Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State—strangely enough, it appears on the same page of Hansard of 12 February; it has not been changed, even in the fortnightly volume—said:
Democracy is not about the rule of the majority. It is about the position of and proper respect for the interests of the minority."—[Official Report, 12 February 1987, Vol. 108, c. 446.]
The Government have proceeded on that standard. It is no wonder that the minority have every right to believe that their interests, and theirs alone, are paramount and that, therefore, the Government are promoting a system of minority rule that found its fullest expression in the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Until the fundamental root and branch change of policy that I have called for takes place, there can be no hope of peace or progress towards stability or reconciliation in Ulster. Quite honestly, as long as the present Government Front Bench is responsible for Northern Ireland, there is no hope for us.
Several hon. Members have spoken of the position and importance of religious leaders in the Province. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), who spoke from the Liberal Benches, and who also is a Roman Catholic, will agree that there have been times when we have been distressed at what appears to be Roman Catholic ambivalence towards terrorism in Northern Ireland. However, those who know a little about the Province know of the shining courage of a number of Catholic priests who have stood against the Provisionals and against other private armies. I can think of one who went to the rescue of a man who was being kneecapped. He found himself looking down the barrel of a gun, but managed to outface the terrorist behind it. On the other hand, there have been some who, led astray by a spurious liberation theology, perhaps, have even appeared to implicate themselves in support of the Provisionals.
I welcome—I believe the House welcomes it also—the statement made recently by the two Bishops Daly. I have a soft spot in my heart for Father Denis Faul of Dungannon. He went on the record as saying that if the British were to hold a secret referendum of Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland, only 20 per cent. would vote for a united Ireland. After the recent murder of Lord Justice Gibson and his wife, Father Faul said that it was
a mortal sin to be an active member of an organisation like the Provisional IRA.
He uttered those words on Radio Ulster. He went onto say:
I hope the parents do say to their sons: 'It is a mortal sin to be an active participant in the Provisional IRA, and you must get out of it, not only for the good of the community, but for the good of your immortal soul'.
Father Faul said that the Roman Catholic Church had continually said that. Perhaps he was speaking of the earlier troubles of 1956–62 when a powerful influence was exerted by the archibishops and bishops of Ireland who, in the course of a statement, said:
a civil war between the people of one nation causes greatest injury, and is most to be avoided … we declare that it is a mortal sin for a Catholic to become or remain a member of an organisation or society which arrogates to itself the right to bear arms and use them against its own or another State; that it is also sinful for a Catholic to co-operate with, express approval of, or otherwise assist, any such organisation or society, and that, if the co-operation or assistance be notable, the sin committed is mortal. With paternal insistence we warn young men to be on their guard against any such organisation or society, and not to be induced by false notions of patriotism to become members of it.
I also welcome certain statements that have come from the SDLP concerning the RUC. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) is not present, but I understand that he now favours permission to be given to the RUC and the Garda Siochana to operate on both sides
of the border. I have asked myself what kind of Anglo-Irish Agreement it is when indignation is expressed by the United Kingdom because an Irish Air Corps helicopter—presumably looking for terrorists; I hope so—crosses into United Kingdom air space, or when protests and amends have to be made because, for the protection of human life, a listening device is placed by British soldiers just across the border.
I wonder whether we would carry the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh with us if we were to propose, say a three-mile frontier zone on both sides of the line where joint forces or forces including personnel seconded from the other country could operate freely. A number of hon. Gentleman have referred to the capability, equipment and training of the Garda Siochana. If there is any help that we can give and that is required, I ask my hon. Friend the Minister, when he replies, to assure us that it will be given.
How long can we continue in this way? Either we make the border secure—and the place of the Army seems to me to be on the frontier, not in the streets—or the frontier should be sealed.
Soon after Lord Justice Gibson and his wife were killed by explosives, Terence Finbar McKenna blew himself up with explosives intended for others. He had been released from prison after serving 10 years out of 17 to which he had been sentenced for explosives and firearms offences. I think that it was the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) who drew attention to the absurdity of those who are fighting against us in what are warlike conditions—although it is not a war—being freed to rejoin the ranks of the Provisional IRA, INLA or any private army that disgraces the title Loyalist.
As the House knows, all sentenced prisoners are granted remission of 50 per cent. of their sentences automatically, subject to certain conditions of behaviour. I have queried that with my hon. Friend the Minister of State by question and by letter. My hon. Friend argues against any type of parole on the ground that it is impracticable, but I seize upon certain words that he wrote to me:
The present arrangements are not set in concrete, but there arc some major difficulties that would have to be overcome.
I would say that the sooner those difficulties are overcome the better; otherwise — and perhaps in any case — we should examine the new case for preventive detention put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths), by the hon. Member for North Down and by other hon. Members who have spoken.
Of course, the instrument of internment was discredited because of the indiscriminate manner in which it was practised by the Northern Ireland Government of the time. However, the case seems to be there. It was always considered in the South to be a legitimate expedient in fighting terrorism. Indeed, it was decisive in earlier troubles. If it is to be considered, I believe that it should be considered jointly with Dublin.
Some of my constituents, and those of other hon. Members, were not born when the troubles began; now, they are voting. From time to time, they ask us when the troubles will end. The terrorists are encouraged to cling to a false hope that we may give up and give in by the repeated spectacle of British Ministers moving from one failed political initiative to another. The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), in an impressive speech, said that it had been a repeated mistake for the Government to seek to be doing something for the sake of being seen to be doing something. As he said, the Anglo-Irish Agreement is the latest and the worst in a series of initiatives which have proved not only futile but lethal. They have substituted for the alienation of a minority—an alienation that has been exaggerated by Republican propaganda — the estrangement of the majority of the population. They have aroused new fears of a wave of sectarian murder. There have been recent terrible sectarian murders in the Province—I am glad to see that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds has returned—and, at times, the RUC has been placed between two fires.
The agreement is a triumph of Irish diplomacy—I nearly added, "over British stupidity". But triumphs can be mistakes in diplomacy, and this is the second time that an Irish Government have made the mistake of asking too much and getting too much. That is why Sunningdale failed. Her Majesty's Government are impaled on the agreement. I suppose that they will say that it cannot be repudiated, but there is provision for review.
I should like to be constructive, rather than merely denouncing the agreement. My views on it are known. I feel that it could give way to a larger treaty—an equal treaty, based on reciprocity and co-operation.
It is said that the reaction of the Unionists, and of the overwhelming majority of people in the Province, has been unreasonable: they should not have behaved like that. But it was predictable, and predicted, that they would do so. It is no good saying that they should not have behaved like that, and that they should have seen it differently. We must deal with the state of the Province as it is. The Unionists believe that the Union has been endangered by the agreement. Although my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) said that I was wrong, they believe it to be a form of condominium or joint authority which was rejected out of hand by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the time of the New Ireland Forum. That was the view of Dr. Garret FitzGerald when justifying the agreement to the Dail Eireann.
How, then, do we remove the Unionists' fear that the Union is in danger? There is one sovereign way to do so. That is to govern Northern Ireland as though it were as much a part of the United Kingdom as is England, Wales or Scotland. Then the Unionists would feel free and safe to stretch out the hand of friendship to nationalist neighbours, and to the neighbour in the south.
It is always an honour in a debate on Northern Ireland to be called immediately after the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison), with his unbroken record of fidelity to the interests and rights of the people of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom. The speech that he has just delivered would bear careful examination by the Government, both for its points of detail on the matter of security, and for the observations that he made on the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement 18 months ago was welcomed and approved by an overwhelming majority in the House. They were not, however, left without intimations of what its consequences would he. I quote from only one expression at the time about what those consequences would be:
the continued sequence of terrorism, murder and death in Northern Ireland which this agreement will not prevent but will maintain and foment."—[Official Report, 27 November 1985; Vol. 87, c. 955.]
This debate is therefore an important opportunity for hon. Members representing seats in other parts of the United Kingdom to understand the relationship of cause and effect between the Anglo-Irish Agreement that they approved 18 months ago and security in Northern Ireland that is being debated this evening. It is not a matter on which it is necessary, in order that hon. Members may exercise their judgment, to have a detailed knowledge of the circumstances in Ireland or in Northern Ireland, or a detailed knowledge of every element in that remarkable document, the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Simple facts that are within the reach and verification of every hon. Member will bear out the proposition that I have just stated, that there is a relationship of cause and effect between that agreement and the escalation of murder and terrorism in the Provinces, which is the subject that concerns the House today.
I shall describe that agreement in minimal terms, unique though it is. It is an international agreement that accords to another country an institutionalised voice in the internal affairs of a part of the United Kingdom. Whether or not one cares to call that a condominium, whether or not one cares to describe under that title the Anglo-Irish Conference that operates within the terms of that agreement, is a matter of taste or of emphasis; but the facts about it are not open to dispute. It was to this House that in 1982 the Prime Minister said:
no commitment exists for Her Majesty's Government to consult the Irish Government on matters affecting Northern Ireland. That has always been our position. We reiterate and emphasise it, so that everyone is clear about it."—[Official Report, 29 July 1982; Vol. 28, c. 1226.]
After the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Prime Minister could no longer have used those words.
The external country with which this unique arrangement was made was not just any country. It was not an agreement with Taiwan or with Outer Mongolia. It was an agreement with a neighbouring state that claims as its own the territory of that part of the United Kingdom to which alone the Anglo-Irish Agreement relates. That claim is and remains enshrined in the constitution of the state that was the other party to this treaty. It is not a claim that is taken lightly or overlooked by the political representatives of the people of that country. Indeed, they were careful, when signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement, to sign a version that did not accord to this country its full title as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
There is another important fact about the Irish Republic. Upon the Republic's territory is based a terrorist organisation whose purpose is to bring all Ireland within a single state and thus detach Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom to which it still belongs.
No one — friend or foe, British or Irish — could contemplate This unique arrangement into which Her Majesty's Government have entered without coming to the conclusion that the British Government had lent themselves to the proposition that the purpose which the IRA sets before itself, the purpose which is embodied in the constitution of the Irish Republic, is on its way to being attained. Furthermore, no one could fail to regard that agreement and its working as part of a progress towards the attainment of that end.
Let hon. Members consider the effects of such an act upon the terrorist organisation with which we are concerned. When a terrorist organisation perceives—it is merely necessary for this purpose that there should be perception—that it is moving towards the achievement of its objective, it comes under two kinds of pressure. It is immensely encouraged to step up its activity so that the achievement may redound to its own credit. Part of the creed of the Irish Republican Army, a creed that it has entertained throughout its existence, is that the object is not worth attaining unless it is attained by means of bloodshed and violence. I say that as a simple matter of fact which anyone can verify: the attainment of its aim by violence is part of the creed and faith of the IRA.
So the first consequence upon a terrorist organisation's being presented with the prospect of success and the attainment of its objective is to spur it to increased efforts. The second is this: that organisation must make sure that when the result is attained, it is attained by its own agency. The all-Ireland state which is the objective of the IRA has to be the sort of all-Ireland state at which that organisation is aiming. Thus, the IRA has not only to be in on the act; it has to get ahead of the rate at which the act is moving: The IRA must be "there on the night".
Nothing could therefore be more guaranteed to stimulate and ensure the continuance and escalation of IRA violence than an act of state such as the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which held out to the IRA the likelihood that two Governments, and possibly a third — the United States is not disinterested in the matter—look forward to the attainment of that which has always been the IRA's objective.
The agreement has another effect which is relevant to terrorism — the effect upon those on whom terrorism battens. As has been repeatedly stated in the debate, there is a large section of the Northern Ireland population who could be classified as Catholic, Republican or anti-Unionist but who have no wish whatever to subserve the purposes or the methods of the IRA. Yet the IRA depends for its ability to operate upon at any rate the passive acquiescence of a considerable section of that part of the population. Consider the effect upon that part of the population when it is told, more graphically than words can tell it, that the British Government, as well as the Government of the Irish Republic, believe events are developing towards the attainment of the purpose of the IRA—an all-Ireland state into which Northern Ireland will be embodied.
It is perfectly easy to understand the reaction of those people. "Why," they say, "should we expose ourselves to danger, why should we take risks, in order to sustain a state that is despaired of even by the Government of the country to which it belongs?" Nothing can better promote the circumstances that terrorists need to operate than to give an assurance to those who would otherwise oppose them that in doing so they are opposing an event that has been decreed and will be brought to maturity by the very Government of the country to which they belong. Thus, it is not only the IRA but also those on whom it depends who are materially affected by what has been done. It was perfectly predictable that the action which the House approved 18 months ago would have the effects that we see developing, by which the House and the country are dismayed.
However, hon. Members faced with the assertion that a direct relationship of cause and effect exists between the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the growth of terror, may say, "But surely the IRA was operating before the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Surely there is no novelty in the terrible events that we are asked to contemplate. Surely the 16 years since 1971 have been studded in Northern Ireland by deeds of terror and murder? How, then, can you say that there is a clear and definite causal connection between the Anglo-Irish Agreement of November 1985 and the problem with which the House and the United Kingdom are now confronted?"
To that objection, there is a simple and complete answer. The Anglo-Irish Agreement was, and was seen to be, only the culmination of a political process which—with intervals and with pauses — has been pressed forward by Her Majesty's Government ever since the end of the 1960s. There has been no time since 1969 when the observer watching the Government's policies towards Northern Ireland would not say, when the IRA would not say, when those among whom the IRA live would not say, "The British Government are engaged on a course of action designed to take us in the direction the IRA wish to travel."
That condition has been present since 1969. What we are seeing and debating now is but an intensification of its consequences, because of the peculiar clarity with which the unique event of the Anglo-Irish Agreement has emphasised and brought into the open the policy on which the British Government have been engaged for the past 16 or 17 years. So there is no contradiction.
In that observation lies the answer that we seek. This is a debate about security, and much of it has naturally been taken up with specific propositions as to the manner in which security could be increased, the security forces strengthened and the IRA more surely dealt with. Yet no measures of that kind—although such measures are no doubt necessary — can be of avail if they are being counteracted by the visible fact that there all the time is the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the settled policy of Her Majesty's Government, in collusion with other Governments, bent on bringing about exactly that which is the objective of the IRA.
There will be no answer to the agony of Northern Ireland unless and until the United Kingdom is seen decisively to have abandoned a course designed to lead to the separation of Ulster from the United Kingdom and its embodiment in some kind of all-Ireland state. Until it is seen that that course of events—which, through all its varieties, has flowed on since 1969 down to the present — has been deliberately broken off by the will of Government, Parliament and people, our soldiers will fight and die in vain, the RUC will make its sacrifices in vain, and the people of that part of the United Kingdom will despair and say, "We are betrayed by the country to which it is said that we belong."
The Government have it in their power to do so. We are not completely determined by whatever were the reasons—be their fears of terrorism or political reasons of a more esoteric character — which led the Government to sign that unique and unprecedented instrument in November 1985. We are still free agents. The Government of this country are still free to make or unmake the Anglo-Irish Agreement when it comes to be reviewed. They are still free to say that they will not have an agreement that is so one-sided and seen to be usable as a means for detaching a part of the United Kingdom and embodying it in another state.
There would be no mistaking that message, or the reaction, if the Government would only give it. There was a period — it did not last many weeks — early in 1985 when there seemed to be signs that the Prime Minister did intend to go no further along the path that was to lead to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Those of us who represent Northern Ireland seats can testify what an incredible change in the general atmosphere was produced by the Prime Minister's "Out, out, out" declaration, when people in Northern Ireland of all parties and all policies, of all expectations and all aspirations, could say, "At last, after so many years, we know where we stand. We know where our future is to be. Our future is to be within the United Kingdom, enjoying, we hope, all the rights that the rest of the United Kingdom enjoy. In any case, we know where we stand. We know where, with whom and in what country we must live and work together."
The people of Northern Ireland, despite all the calumnies against them, will live and work together if they are enabled so to do and not continually prevented by the Government giving to their terrorist enemies the assurance, "Carry on in the same way; you need fear nothing; you will attain your end; it is pre-determined." The people of Northern Ireland are pastmasters at living together. Despite all their differences of religion, perception and background, they have done so with skill and success over the centuries. They ask this House arid the United Kingdom to enable them to do so again in peace.
At the commencement of his speech the Secretary of State laid out a history which started with the casualty figures of 1972, 1973 and 1974. He pointed out that, with sufficiently gross averaging, one can say that there has been a gradual diminution since that time. So indeed there has, particularly in periods such as the later 1970s, when it seemed that the continual constitutional experimentation with Northern Ireland was about to be abandoned and that the change for which we call this evening had in fact come about. But the Secretary of State should have gone back before 1972. He should have gone back to the 1960s when an IRA campaign, which was virtually restricted to the border, was successfully dealt with between 1957 and 1962. He should have gone back to the years of peace which Northern Ireland enjoyed from the middle 1920s once the secession of the Irish Free State was accepted as part of political geography. Northern Ireland was a place of peace and security over those years. It was a country in which a single murder was an event of horror and astonishment.
We have it within our power to restore that condition to our fellow countrymen in Northern Ireland. The Government have it in their power, resting on this House, to say, "We will set aside and turn our backs upon anything which could give the IRA or anyone else the conviction that ahead lies the achievement of its purpose." That is the appeal addressed tonight through this House to the Government and the Prime Minister.
I tell the Government that at least one Unionist Member will return to Northern Ireland tomorrow who has not been disappointed by the Secretary of State's speech. I never expected the Secretary of State for one moment to have the guts to take on the Provisional IRA. I never expected the Government to be prepared to take the necessary steps to defeat terrorism in Northern Ireland. I never thought for one moment that they would be prepared to grapple with the IRA in the only way that it can be defeated—by having the resolve and a resolute security policy against terrorism in Northern Ireland. As one would require an expectation before one could be disappointed, I will not be disappointed tonight.
I listened to the pathetic utterances of the Secretary of State as he told us, "The IRA has demonstrated a new ruthlessness." Clearly the Secretary of State is unaware of the events of the past decade or more. The ruthlessness of the IRA has been seen in shapes and forms in the past 17 years that the Secretary of State obviously has allowed to pass him by. There is nothing new in the IRA's ruthlessness. No event that the IRA has carried out over the past days or weeks has caused me the least shock about its tactics or the kind of campaign that it is prepared to carry out.
In the absence of the Secretary of State, I tell the Minister of State that the Government's present policy is a failed policy. No tinkering with that policy will ever produce success with regard to security. A root and branch change is required. There must be a new security policy and above that there must be a will to win and a will to defeat terrorism, which is sadly lacking in the Government at the moment. When the will to win exists and the right policy on defeating terrorism is present, the tactics, the deployment and the number of troops will all fall into place. I suspect that if the Secretary of State continues to adopt the present security policy, he will continue to watch the obituary columns in our newspapers as more Ulster people and, sadly, more people from this side of the water die as a result of his failure and incompetence.
It is about 18 months—526 days—since I last spoke in the House. I spoke as the result of an agreement that was signed to produce peace, stability and reconciliation. It has produced the opposite. Those of us who live in Northern Ireland have seen the increased violence. Twice as many people died in the first four months of this year as died in the first four months last year, and that figure was an increase on the previous year. Those of us who have witnessed the economic and political instability and the greater division in our community recognise, even if the Government have not yet recognised, that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has not worked and will never work in Northern Ireland.
I am as angry and bitter 526 days after the signing of the agreement as I was when I first heard about it. I will never accept the Anglo-Irish Agreement, no matter what propaganda the Minister of State or his office might try to pour out. If the Government have the remotest concern or care for the lives of the people in Northern Ireland who are their responsibility, they should face up to the reality that their policy is not working, will not work and cannot stick in Northern Ireland. Once they realise that, Unionists in Northern Ireland will be prepared to work with the Government. There are Unionists in Northern Ireland who want a reasonable alternative to the agreement and there are Unionists in Northern Ireland who are prepared to work towards a replacement of that agreement. We will be willing to work with the Government and other parties to achieve that reasonable alternative replacement to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
I will conclude because I know that the Front Bench spokesmen want to reply. We were told that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was meant to be a balance. For the intrusion into the affairs of the United Kingdom, the Government were to receive a quid pro quo in the shape of extradition, cross-border security and the recognition of Northern Ireland status. Surely the Government must now realise that they have been conned. Surely, even if the Government do not want to admit it openly, they must recognise that they gave all and got nothing. Surely they must now be prepared to face that fact and prepare themselves for a new initiative in Northern Ireland which has the vital ingredient for success—the consent of the Unionist community.
There must bethat consent, which unfortunately the Liberal party spokesman, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), was not prepared to consider. He concerned himself with the fact that the nationalist community might be alienated if the Anglo-lrish Agreement was done away with. He was not in the least concerned that the vast majority of the community in Northern Ireland are alienated. If the Government accept that that alienation will never be removed without an alternative to the agreement, perhaps we have moved one short step. However, I doubt it.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Everyone called by the Chair on the Opposition Benches had a better right to speak than I and I have no complaints about that. My point is that some of us would not like it to be thought in Northern Ireland that we are not interested. I want it registered for the record that we tried to speak and are concerned with these matters.
The hon. Gentleman knows full well that Labour Members have warmly welcomed him back and have consistently said over a period of time that the proper place for those hon. Members is in this Chamber, in the forum of the nation, and that their cause would be better heard within our islands if they were here to make it. The variety of interventions that we have heard tonight will assist the Unionists in their cause.
If the Unionists have such a belief in their cause that they should be, and are, part of the United Kingdom, they would have no hesitation in entering into competition with the nationalists in Northern Ireland who seek an Irish nationalism and an Irish dimension.
If I can begin again, we welcome back those hon. Members. We welcome the intervention of the hon. Member for Belfast, East. The peace, stability and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, to which he referred, remains not only the dream, the hope and the aspiration of the Opposition, but the reality that we shall seek during the months ahead. Whatever the Prime Minister decides elsewhere on Monday, we are confident that, as a future Government, we shall govern Northern Ireland with competence, confidence and with possibly a better equilibrium than have the present Government.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. I. Paisley) made a lengthy speech earlier, in which there was one phrase that especially caught my attention, and that probably moved the House. He said that many of us have not put our hands on curly heads who would never see their fathers hack. He was referring to those who had been assassinated by the IRA and by the other paramilitary organisations that have brought death and destruction to Northern Ireland. That phrase puts this debate into context. While we are able to discuss the issues of security and of the Anglo-Irish Agreement here, out there in the real world of Northern Ireland, people are losing their lives. The IRA was responsible not only for the assassination of Lord Justice Gibson, Lady Gibson and the police officers to whom the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) referred earlier, but regularly takes justice into its own hands in a series of knee cappings and in the rough justice that is odious to the House of Commons and to the British people.
My hon. Friends and I give a modest welcome to the proposals that the Secretary of State announced earlier. [SEVERAL HON. MEMBERS; "What proposals?"] As I understood those proposals—I shall repeat them for the benefit of some hon. Members on the Benches behind me—the Secretary of State said that the Ulster Defence Regiment will be increased by 150 posts, that there will be new dispositions in relation to part-time members of the UDR and that there will be further recruitment to the RUC. As I understood it, the Secretary of State did not give a figure for that recruitment. There will also be additional support, as requested, which will help combat, more directly, the present terrorist campaign, and there will be additional helicopter resources—[Interruption.] If I can refer again to the sedentary interventions made by hon. Members on the Benches behind me, I can well imagine the frustration of the hon. Members who have not been able to speak in the debate.
The Secretary of State referred to a new zonal order in the border area which, I imagine, is a first step in making that place safer for those who pass it. We hope that the creation of a control zone, to which the Secretary of State referred, will he extended to other areas, as he suggested, and that it will be part of the general tightening up of border security. However, in our view that cannot be enough. We shall look to see how co-operation develops with the Republic of Ireland during the next few weeks and months, to see whether it will result in better security on the border.
I apologise to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds for any discourtesy to him in my not being able to hear his full speech. However, I heard the salient points relating to the role of the RUC in ordinary policing, public order, counter-insurgency and the border. He referred to some acts in Northern Ireland which are as much a disgrace to our Northern Irish society as the acts of the IRA. According to the Chief Constable's report for 1986, there have been pernicious acts of intimidation, physical abuse, petrol bomb attacks on dwellings, criminal damage, arson attacks at places of religious worship and other turbulent acts of aggression directed against the nationalist community. The intimidation that we have seen can no more be the coinage of the realm than can the shootings and bombings of the IRA.
The hon. Gentleman referred to police families who were subjected to physical and verbal abuse and to the dilemma in which such families find themselves when their homes are attacked. The figure he did not give the House, but which I shall, is that there were a staggering 500 cases of such intimidation of police men and women and their families. That is not a credit to the Unionist community; however it may wish to express itself, and however it may wish to express its desire to remain part of the United Kingdom, intimidation is not of any great assistance.
While we accept the marching season as part of the democratic right of people in Northern Ireland to express themselves and their desires, a severe strain is placed on the RUC as a consequence. That must hinder its attempts to limit the more serious difficulties in Northern Ireland which are caused by the IRA.
I cannot give way. Limited time is available to me and it will not help if I give way now.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North and others referred to the attitude of the Government of the Republic of Ireland. That Government are as concerned about the activities of the IRA as are the people of the United Kingdom. They have every reason to be disturbed and perturbed by its activities since it is clear that the IRA stikes at the heart of the Republic and of democracy arid is as anxious to overturn the Government of the Republic as it is to overturn the Government of Northern Ireland. Therefore, there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the new Government of the Republic are as anxious as the Government of the United Kingdom to curtail violence in all its forms in Northern Ireland.
In his statement on the assassination of Lord Justice and Lady Gibson, the Taoiseach referred to cruelty, brutality and stupidity. It may be as well to place on record that the cost to the Irish Exchequer directly attributable to security in Northern Ireland was about IR£157 million in 1985. That represents more than 28 per cent. of security expenditure and is about four times per head of the population more than the equivalent cost to Britain.
The blarney is left to the hon. Gentleman speaking from a sedentary position.
In recent months the Garda in the Republic have made several arrests and major arms finds. In January we saw a large haul of rockets, bomb-making equipment and explosives, and we saw two arrests in County Meath. In December we saw a large haul of explosives and bomb-making equipment in County Cavan. We are as anxious as anyone for border co-operation to be improved and enhanced and so long as the Government remain we shall continue to urge enhancement and the making of full statements to the House.
The hon. Member for Mossley Hill referred to the document which Sinn Fein issued recently called "A Scenario for Peace". We do not think that the document is a scenario for peace, but rather a scenario for war. In an article on 3 May, The Sunday Tribune called the document "rhetorical junk" and "anti-democratic claptrap". We associate ourselves with those views and say again, as we have said often in the past, that we do not propose to have any truck with Sinn Fein. We do not believe in the principle of the ballot paper in the one hand and the Armalite in the other. We again express to the House, to the country and to those who have ears to hear, our total and outright condemnation of the Sinn Fein and the IRA.
The hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneax), in a closely reasoned speech earlier this evening that was a pleasure to listen to, in contrast to the rhetoric we heard from other Unionist Members, referred to the speech I made to the Northern Ireland Assembly some 18 months ago relating to the status of the people of Northern Ireland. It might be as well to refer to the precise words I used in the debate on the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I said:
The status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom is not affected. But there is an obvious ambiguity in the status of the governance of its people."—[Official Report, 27 November 1985; Vol 87, c. 960.]
The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) and the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) referred to a condominium over the affairs of Northern Ireland. I have often referred to the possibility of a consultative condominium through the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Anglo-Irish intergovernmental conference. I said at the time that the Government probably ought to have made that ambiguity clearer to the people of Northern Ireland and sold harder the concept behind the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The first Anglo-Irish intergovernmental conference on 22 April 1987 between the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Mr. Brian Lenihan, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic, shows that the Anglo-Irish Agreement remains actively in force notwithstanding the 18 months' boycott of this House by the right hon. and hon. Members from Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East referred to peace, stability and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Those words were used by the Prime Minister when she introduced the Anglo-Irish Agreement and those words are as important today as they were at the time. We have heard a great deal about the Anglo-Irish Agreement and about security. While the Unionists are back in the House, it may well be that they will equally turn their attention to devolution. The future of Northern Ireland remains in their hands, as it always has over the past 18 months. The Anglo-Irish Agreement makes it clear that devolution is an avenue for them. They can return to their own Assembly if that is what they wish. They can return to systems of local government in Northern Ireland and they can return to systems——
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman giving way. At times he does seem to have the wrong end of the stick. For example, on the media this morning he said that in Northern Ireland last year there were 2,000 parades against the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Tonight he is misleading either himself or the House by suggesting that, with the Anglo-Irish Agreement in place, we can return to a devolved Government if we want. He knows that it is circumscribed and that even if there was a devolved Government, the Anglo-Irish Conference would still continue, with a greater input into the affairs of Northern Ireland than this House.
The hon. Gentleman did not deny that there were 2,000 marches against the Anglo-Irish Agreement and that there were additional marches in the marching season, most of which went off peacefully. Devolution goes to the heart of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I addressed the Northern Ireland Assembly 18 months ago and I made it very clear that the future of Northern Ireland was in the hands of its representatives. They could have had devolution and it is still available to them. the fact that they are back in the House for this important debate is an important step for democracy in Northern Ireland. That democracy can be further strengthened as time goes by and as they put their minds to forms of devolution that will give back to them the power to look after their own Northern Ireland in the way that they seek.
Sooner or later they must come to terms with the Anglo-Irish Agreement. That agreement has the support not only of the Government who brought it about but of the opposition parties which in this debate have repeated their support for the agreement. The Anglo-Irish Agreement will be as intact after the next election as it is now. We hope that the presence of the Unionists in this debate is an indication of a little more forward thinking and a more positive approach in the interests of the 1·5 million people who live in Northern Ireland. They look to their leaders for leadership that will meet their aspirations and they look to them to defend their corner in relation to the United Kingdom in a way that meets those aspirations. We welcome this debate and the hon. Members who have taken part. As I said earlier, we give a modest welcome to the Government's proposals on security in Northern Ireland.
We meet for this debate because of an upsurge in violence in Northern Ireland that has cost the lives of civilians, policemen, soldiers — including members of the UDR—and Northern Ireland's second most senior judge and his wife.
In expressing sympathy to those who have been bereaved and to those who have been injured in this upsurge in violence, I also clearly reiterate the determination and the will of the Government that those who are guilty of these outrages shall not succeed in their campaign.
In a not untypical contribution to the debates in this House, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. I. Paisley) made a particularly disgraceful reference to my
right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman accused my right hon. Friend of making no reference at all in his statement of 27 April to the death of an Ulster Defence Regiment soldier during this upsurge in violence. I refer the House to Hansard for that date. My right hon. Friend said:
The House will be aware of the recent serious increase in the number of casualties which have been caused by terrorist actions. In the last week in particular, two members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, one Ulster Defence Regiment soldier and three civilians have been murdered. The civilian deaths were of the foreman of a building company, and most recently the murder of Lord Justice Gibson and Lady Gibson."—[Official Report, 27 April, 1987; Vol. 115, c. 21.]Interruption.] I hope that the hon. Member for Antrim, North will have the good grace to withdraw the allegation that he made about my right hon. Friend.
The record of Hansard is a direct contradiction of what was said by the hon. Gentleman for Antrim, North and I am saddened but not surprised that he should have behaved in this fashion.
If the hon. Gentleman checks Hansard for himself, he will see that what I have said is absolutely accurate and I hope that in due course he will withdraw.
I shall now turn to the questions that were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton). They asked about the circumstances that led to the murder of the Gibson family. Inquiries are still proceeding into the precise circumstances, and I am sure that the House will understand if I do not go into the security arrangements that are made for the reception and transfer of people at border areas, especially when such people are under great threat.
The experience described to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) may occur on occasion but it is certainly not an established pattern.
It may have happened to my hon. Friend, but I hope that he will understand that the security forces on both sides of the border are at pains to ensure that a particular pattern is not allowed to develop — for the protection of the security forces themselves and for those within their charge. There has been much loose talk——
Will the Minister clarify for the House, once and for all, the statement that he has just made to the effect that he has not yet completed investigations into the murder of Lord Justice and Lady Gibson? Will he then tell us why the Northern Ireland Office has allowed — indeed, encouraged—the idea that Lord Justice Gibson was somehow, through his own carelessness, responsible for his own death? Will the Minister please clarify that, and stop adding insult to injury on that matter, which was a tragedy to that family and to all the people of Ulster?
I have said nothing about that and nor has the Northern Ireland Office. The investigations into the murder of Sir Maurice and Lady Gibson are being conducted by the RUC, and when it has completed its investigation it will inform us of the outcome. Of course, in the aftermath of an incident such as this, the Chief Constable has instituted an inquiry into security procedures for all VIPs who are escorted in the Province, particularly for those crossing the border, and especially for judges. A detailed inquiry is being carried out into the circumstances of that brutal murder. When it has been completed, any lessons that may need to be learned will, of course, be applied by the RUC. I would hesitate to leap to the sort of judgment that others have made until that time.
The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) made a point that my hon. Friends and I have not infrequently made. In Northern Ireland, there is an interaction between the three elements of the economic, the security and the political positions. By definition, it is almost impossible to act on one of those elements, or to fail to act on one of them, without having an impact on the other two. I take that for granted. That means that there can be no purely security solution to the position in Northern Ireland—because we have to act on all three aspects that confront us.
I was interested and depressed to hear from the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West about his conversations with young people in Northern Ireland. In this instance, I agreed with the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) that those to whom the right hon. and learned Member spoke were not typical of young people in Northern Ireland today. Many of them spend a great deal of their time and energy on bridging the divides in Northern Ireland, and on seeking to find ways—through leisure and academic activities, and so on—to co-operate with one another, in the hope that they will build a better future.
I was anxious that the impression should riot go out that the people to whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke were typical of young people in Northern Ireland. He also said that, Ministers in Northern Ireland should listen to those in the local community. When I first became a Minister there, the tradition of open ministerial doors was borne in on me—of people being able to come in to see Ministers. I see that a former Minister in Stormont —the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor)—is in his place tonight. There is a tradition of Ministers being ready to receive deputations about matters that would never be raised with a Minister by members of the public here. Ministers in this Administration and in previous ones have sought to keep that tradition going in Northern Ireland. We are always ready to listen and I am sad only that there are some in the Province who have been unwilling to come to put their views to us in recent months.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) made what conceivably could be his last speech in this place. I shall be sad if it turns out to be so. I have no knowledge of impending events other than that which is possessed by everyone else. My right hon. Friend has served in this place with great distinction for 33 years, including service on the Front Bench, in the Whips Office and as a member of the Cabinet. If he does not make another speech in this Chamber, I say as someone who is much his junior, that he can be proud of the contribution that he made to this debate, which was wise, statesmanlike and serious in tone. I am sure that we all wish my right hon. Friend well if it turns out to be his final speech. I hope especially that the appeal with which he ended it to the leaders of the Church and politics in Northern Ireland to play a constructive part in the future of Northern Ireland will not fall on deaf ears.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley spoke of the Anglo-Irish Agreement coming apart at the seams. Let me disappoint him by saying that nothing could be further from the truth. His description of the design and workings of the agreement bears no relation to reality. He and his hon. Friends have opted out of contact with the Government in Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I know that solid progress has been made within the terms of the agreement, not least in the area of cross-border security co-operation, and we intend to contribute to it.
With respect, I shall not give way. I have given way a number of times already and the House knows that I always give way. I shall not do so on this occasion, however, because I have restricted my reply so as to allow other hon. Members to participate in the debate.
I have dealt already with one of the matters raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, North. He referred to remarks made by the Rev. Robert Dickinson, a former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland. It was clear from the meeting which my right hon. Friend had with the present leader of the Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland earlier this week and from their remarks afterwards on television that they take a much more constructive view of affairs in Northern Ireland than does Dr. Dickinson. I find it especially offensive that Dr. Dickinson should have accused my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of being in some sort of conspiracy, and just as guilty as IRA members, when she was a victim of the IRA in the attack on the Grand hotel at Brighton. I hope that Dr. Dickinson will reconsider his remarks.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North found, of course, another confidential document to read out. He had a confidential document released to him after the last meeting of the Anglo-Irish intergovernmental conference, and I read it with great care. I think that there were seven points in it, and in not one of them was there a scintilla of truth that reflected the reality of what happened at that conference. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was seeking deliberately to mislead, but I cannot believe that that would be true. On the other hand, he may have been sold a pup by someone outside and he decided to repeat the words that had been given to him.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) referred in an intervention to the allegations that again are current, and which were made by Messrs Wallace and Holroyd, about the conduct of the security forces in Northern Ireland. These are matters for the Defence Ministers. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces has already given a substantive reply on these matters. Defence Ministers assure us that these allegations have been fully and carefully investigated and that there is not a shred of evidence to substantiate any of them. I am satisfied.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds outlined the tasks that fall to the RUC these days. It carries out ordinary policing and responds to public order threats which, in my view, places an additional and unnecessary burden on it in the fight against terrorism. I know that the whole House pays tribute to the RUC for the work that it does in that area. My hon. Friend mentioned also—this was taken up by the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder)—the guarding, as he put it, of an international border, and suggested that it is a task that would be better carried out by the Army.
Not infrequently, the RUC will ask the Army to operate on the border. Those who cross the border regularly will find quite often that the first security force presence that they encounter is that of a member of the Army. This is under the control of the RUC and it is for it to judge the best use of resources that are available to it, whether members of the RUC or members of the Army, in the tasks that have to be undertaken. It would be bad if as a matter of principle rather than a flexible practice the RUC were seen to be driven away from the border of the United Kingdom. That would be playing into the IRA's hands. The flexible response used by the RUC is very much better.
I thought my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds was a little unfair in accusing my right hon. Friend and me of not being willing to consult members of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland. He knows that if they wish to talk to me, he has just to pick up the telephone. I am prepared to talk to them, as is my right hon. Friend, if he is available, and to discuss proposals for legislation or any other matters. There is a distinction between us listening to them about general security matters, about which any deputation can talk to Ministers, and them seeking to involve Ministers in operational judgments and decisions, which must be made properly through the Royal Ulster Constabulary command to the Chief Constable and the normal management structures that exist for that purpose.
The hon. Gentleman for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) referred to the Waterside RUC station. There is no doubt—I have made it public on many occasions—that the IRA's campaign of intimidation against public contractors has had a significant effect on the police building programme, but most contracts are going ahead. With the assistance of the Royal Engineers, we are making substantial progress, and we are determined that this tactic will not succeed.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) referred to what I would call border sensitivity. Where security forces in both jurisdictions must operate right up against the border in pursuit of the common enemy, we must be understanding and not overly sensitive about incursions. Deliberate incursions and invasions of the sovereignty of a country are another matter. We must he sensitive to the needs of the security forces in seeking to defeat the common enemy, if there are incursions from one side of the border to the other.
Let us come hack to the fundamentals. Not for the first time are we experiencing a resurgence of violence in Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne said that he had experienced that during his time as Secretary of State. I understand the frustration and anger of those who suffer, but the danger is that this House is driven into an emotional response and into taking action that it would not otherwise take. As the right hon. Member for Warley, West said, confronted with this situation we must apply our minds to the problem. The IRA is a dedicated, ruthless and cynical terrorist organisation, operating with no standards or rules. We must be equally professional, but we must not abandon the standards appropriate for a liberal democracy to protect itself against an onslaught by a terrorist organisation.
It is easy and understandable, but wrong, when things go well to imagine that we are on a winning streak that will last for ever. It is equally wrong, when things go badly, to imagine that the IRA is winning. I do not believe for one moment that it is. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his opening speech that, measured against any of the targets which a terrorist organisation sets, the judgment must be that the IRA is not winning the campaign. It is able to sustain it for the moment, but it is not undermining the RUC, defeating the British Army or breaking the will of the House or the people of this country. I believe that our security strategy is right and should be pursued but, of course, we and the security forces will be anxious to consider any new tactics employed by the IRA and will be ready to take the steps necessary to defeat it.
|Division No. 157]||[10 pm|
|Beggs, Roy||Robinson, P. (Belfast E)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Taylor, Rt Hon John David|
|Kilfedder, James A.||Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Maginnis, Ken||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Mr. William Ross and Rev. William McCrea.|
|Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Powell, Rt Hon J. E.|
|Alexander, Richard||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Alton, David||Maclennan, Robert|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Baldry, Tony||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosemary||Major, John|
|Batiste, Spencer||Malone, Gerald|
|Beith, A. J.||Marland, Paul|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Mather, Sir Carol|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Needham, Richard|
|Cash, William||Nelson, Anthony|
|Cockeram, Eric||Neubert, Michael|
|Coombs, Simon||Newton, Tony|
|Cope, John||Ottaway, Richard|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Durant, Tony||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Favell, Anthony||Portillo, Michael|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Powley, John|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Forth, Eric||Rowe, Andrew|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Ryder, Richard|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Sackville, Hon Thomas|
|Galley, Roy||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Scott, Nicholas|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Ground, Patrick||Shersby, Michael|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Harris, David||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Harvey, Robert||Stern, Michael|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Heddle, John||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Hicks, Robert||Taylor, Matthew|
|Hirst, Michael||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Howard, Michael||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Howells, Geraint||Viggers, Peter|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Kennedy, Charles||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Key, Robert||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Wallace, James|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Waller, Gary|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Knox, David||Watts, John|
|Lang, Ian||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Wheeler, John|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Lester, Jim||Wolfson, Mark|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Wood, Timothy|
|Livsey, Richard||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd and Mr. David Lightbown.|