Security Forces

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st February 1990.

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Photo of Thomas McAvoy Thomas McAvoy , Glasgow Rutherglen 12:00 am, 1st February 1990

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his plans to promote public confidence in the security forces.

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Northavon

We attach great importance to encouraging widespread public support for, and confidence in, the police and Army in Northern Ireland as they perform their difficult and dangerous tasks. Careful and constant attention is given to ways of improving relations between them and all parts of the community.

Photo of Thomas McAvoy Thomas McAvoy , Glasgow Rutherglen

The Minister will be aware that in the past both communities in Northern Ireland have complained about the activities of some RUC officers. Does he accept that Sir John Hermon, by failing to resign, successfully blackmailed the previous Secretary of State for Northern Ireland into not prosecuting RUC officers after the shoot-to-kill investigations? Will the Minister give an assurance that no one in Northern Ireland is above the law and that he will not give in to similar blackmail?

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Northavon

I happily give the assurance that the hon. Gentleman seeks, but I do not accept the premise of the earlier part of his question.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

Does the Minister agree that confidence in the security forces would be helped forward if certain unsolved murders were solved? Will he assure me that instead of leaving the Enniskillen massacre in the hands of the local police he will ensure that a special branch unit will work in Enniskillen until that terrible massacre is solved and the people responsible for it are brought to justice?

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Northavon

I absolutely agree about the necessity to solve as many of these terrible unsolved murders in Northern Ireland as we possibly can. The hon. Gentleman's particular request is an operational matter for the Chief Constable, but I will certainly pass it on to him. Both the Chief Constable and I would like nothing better than to see that murder in particular solved.

Photo of Mr Seamus Mallon Mr Seamus Mallon , Newry and Armagh

Does the Minister agree that the surest way of increasing confidence in the security forces is for the community to see that they act within the law at all times? Does he further agree that that applies not just to the behaviour of the security forces but to all involved in Government in the north of Ireland, who should remember the Lord Denning dictat that be you ever so high, the law is above you?

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Northavon

It is, of course, important that all members of the security forces and, indeed, everybody else concerned with government and so on, and the public, should remain within the rule of law, and that is what we support entirely.