HC Deb 30 November 1964 vol 703 cc24-5
31. Captain Orr

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the circumstances in which H.M.S. "Relentless" was fired upon in Cork Harbour on Saturday 21st November.

Mr. Mayhew

H.M.S. "Relentless" was leaving Cork Harbour and was one mile upstream from Passage West when, at 8.35 a.m., at least two men opened fire on her from a range of about 400 yards using 0.303 or similar calibre rifles. About 10 rounds were fired but, I am glad to say, there were no casualties. The damage sustained amounted to one bullet hole and one dent.

Captain Orr

What have the Eire Government to say about this? Who were the men?

Mr. Mayhew

We have mentioned this to the Eire Government but I think that it is too minor an incident to expect a protest. [HON. MEMBERS: "oh."] A police cordon was set up to try to capture the two men but failed to do so, and we therefore do not know their names. Nevertheless, we should keep this in perspective. The action was outrageous but the Navy has faced more difficult engagements than this.

Mr. Hay

Can the hon. Gentleman confirm or deny that there is no connection between this act and the 15 per cent. surcharge?

Mr. Shinwell

Has my hon. Friend considered that it might be useful to have a declaration of war on Eire in order to satisfy Ulster?

Mr. Mayhew

We must hope that the shooting would be better than missing a ship at 400 yards eight times out of ten.