Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th January 1991.

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Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , East Londonderry 12:00 am, 17th January 1991

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement on the performance of the security forces in the fight against terrorism.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

The RUC, supported by the armed forces, continues to make progress towards the defeat of terrorism through the even-handed and energetic enforcement of the criminal law. Up to 31 October 1990, 322 people were charged with, and 348 convicted of, terrorist-related offences, including 65 and 28 for murder and attempted murder respectively. In the same period, the security forces recovered 197 weapons, almost 21,000 rounds of ammunition and more than 4,3001b of explosives.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , East Londonderry

Allthough regiments that have an Irish connection do not normally serve in Northern Ireland, is the Minister aware of the intense pride of the people of Northern Ireland that some of those regiments are engaged in a far larger fight against state terrorism in the middle east? We wish our young men and women and all the forces of the United Kingdom well.

Does the Minister understand that we also applaud the efforts and performance of individual members of the security forces in Northern Ireland, but are sadly aware that, despite the high quality of their performance, they have not yet managed to defeat the IRA? As the Minister said that their high performance is all that can be expected of them, where does he think that the failure to defeat the IRA lies, other than at political level? When does he expect his performance to match that of the security forces and lead to the defeat of those elements?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

The whole House will want to associate itself with the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks. On this day in particular, it is appropriate to recognise the skill, courage and professionalism of not only our security forces in the Gulf, whom we wish well, but those who serve in Northern Ireland, whom we also wish well. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government are committed to a rigorous security policy, which sits alongside political, economic and social policies and policies on cross-community contact and community relations, the sum total of which will have the effect that he and I desire.

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

In recognising that the House, and the people of Northern Ireland especially, owe a great debt to the security forces for their courage and resolution and for the great sacrifices that they have made in Northern Ireland, may I ask the Minister to explain why, when a deputation from my party visited the Chief Constable more than a month ago, he said that he was short of supplies and men? What supplies and men has the Chief Constable requested, and when will his requests go through the usual process to see whether they can be granted?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

The Police Authority received from the Chief Constable a bid for additional manpower for the RUC. After careful consideration, the authority agreed to support his bid and recently asked the Secretary of State to approve additional manpower for the RUC. The authority's proposals are being carefully considered by my right hon. Friend.

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

Is the Minister aware of the deep concern and anger in my constituency about the fatal shooting at Cullyhanna on the last Sunday of last year? Is he aware that tension is dangerously high as a result of that and other incidents? Will he explain why the Secretary of State refused to initiate a completely independent investigation into that incident and does he realise what damage has been done by that refusal?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

I recognise the substance of the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question which he has reflected to me privately and on other occasions. I cannot accept, however, the latter part of his question. There have been conflicting reports of what happened. All the circumstances are being fully and independently investigated by senior detectives of the RUC. It would be wrong for me to comment on what happened. The police investigation will establish the facts impartially and objectively and a full report will be made to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

Is the Minister aware that, if a report goes to the Director of Public Prosecutions and he decides not to prosecute, the fears of members of the community in Northern Ireland will still exist and will be enhanced when, eventually, many years later, the case goes to a coroner's court, where the people involved can make unsworn statements and cannot be examined on their recollections of what happened? Therefore, is not it necessary to have some form of independent perusal and arrangments to allay public anxiety about what happens on these occasions, and should not the basis of the DPP's decisions be made public, to gain confidence in the administration of the law and the actions of the security forces?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

The investigation by senior detectives of the RUC will be full and independent. The facts will be determined and a report will be made to the DPP, who, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is an independent officer and is not subject to the decisions of Ministers.