Security

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th March 1991.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Ronald Brown Mr Ronald Brown , Edinburgh Leith 12:00 am, 14th March 1991

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the security of civilians in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

Since I last answered questions, on 14 February, there have been six civilian deaths and two security force deaths arising from the security position. I am sure that the House will endorse the Government's condemnation of the brutal mortar attack outside Armagh on 1 March, which sadly resulted in the deaths of two young UDR soldiers and the maiming of two others; and of the vile attack at Cappagh on 3 March, in which four civilians died.

For the most part, Northern Ireland is a safe place. Sectarian violence—including violence aimed at persons believed to be connected with the security forces—persists, although not at the levels experienced in the 1970s. We are not complacent; we are determined to create the conditions in which all the people of Northern Ireland can live without the threat of terrorist violence.

Photo of Mr Ronald Brown Mr Ronald Brown , Edinburgh Leith

Does the Minister of State understand that, just as Labour Members have condemned the killing of innocent civilians in the Gulf, we also condemn the unnecessary killing of innocent civilians in Northern Ireland? However, to condemn is not enough; we need some sort of political initiative, which we hope will be taken soon and will be successful. In the meantime, do not the working-class communities in the Province deserve better? They deserve protection. I believe that the only way to achieve that—and this may be controversial—is to set up defence squads based on the trade unions—[Laughter.]

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Gentleman has every right to put his point of view.

Photo of Mr Ronald Brown Mr Ronald Brown , Edinburgh Leith

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I was saying before I was interrupted, should not defence squads be set up, based on the trade unions, with the participation of both Catholic and Protestant workers? Would that not make more sense than more and more people being killed unnecessarily? It may be no panacea, but does the Minister of State agree that at least it should be considered?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

Probably those who would find that suggestion the most controversial are the trade unions.

I wish to pick up the hon. Gentleman on the use of the words "innocent civilians". Everyone involved within the law in Northern Ireland is innocent—not only the civilians, but the security forces, the UDR and the police. The use of the word "innocent" as an adjective linked with "civilian" does a great disservice to the people of Northern Ireland and to the security forces.

Photo of Mr Antony Buck Mr Antony Buck , Colchester North

Does my hon. Friend agree that the security of civilians in Northern Ireland is remarkably good in the circumstances? Will he pay tribute, in that context, to the work of the RUC, the UDR and our armed forces who have operated under great burdens for many years?

Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

I agree very much with my hon. and learned Friend. I am sure that the security forces and the RUC will take great heart not only from his comments but from the wide endorsement that those comments were given on both sides of the House.