HC Deb 14 November 1968 vol 773 cc606-7
Q1. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the conversations he has held with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I have nothing to add to the Answer which I gave on 5th November in reply to Questions by my hon. Friends the Members for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd), Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker) and Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara).—[Vol. 772, c. 688–693.]

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Does the Prime Minister realise that those of us who are genuinely concerned about the future of Ireland regard Captain O'Neill as Ulster's best hope for constitutional progress? Will he support and encourage him in fulfilling his policies of moderate social and political reform?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will have heard me on many occasions speaking in very similar terms. I did so in answer to Questions following my last meeting with Captain O'Neill. It is certainly very important to encourage what has been done in the matter of moderate social and political reform, but what many of us are concerned about is that it has been a bit moderate so far, and we should like to see it go a bit faster in certain of the aspects with which I dealt the last time we discussed the matter.

Mr. Ogden

Will my right hon. Friend consider what use it is for the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland to come to this country breathing sweetness, light and reasonableness and then discover that his Minister of Home Affairs back in Ulster has banned peaceful demonstrations in peaceful circumstances? Who is the master in Ulster?

The Prime Minister

This is a matter which under law and convention is the responsibility of the Government of Northern Ireland. In the meeting which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I had with Captain O'Neill, Mr. Craig and Mr. Faulkner, we made very clear our views on this matter. We undertook that both sides would report to our colleagues, and that there will be further exchanges between the two Governments.

Captain Orr

Is the Prime Minister aware that one of the worst methods of negotiating with any Ulsterman is to seek to intimidate him? As there will be a further meeting, would not it be best if everyone refrained from threatening in the meantime?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir—threatening language and action. It was the problem of intimidation with which we were dealing in those talks.

Mr. McNamara

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best way Captain O'Neill could demonstrate that he believed in the policy of moderate reform and peaceful co-operation between the communities in Northern Ireland would be to call off the ban on demonstrations in Derry, starting this Saturday? After there was an Orange demonstration last Saturday, the first demonstration after the month's ban will be another Orange demonstration. A degree of impartiality by the Minister of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland would be appreciated.

The Prime Minister

My ability to follow coincidence is almost unlimited. I agree that such coincidences are drawn to my attention by my hon. Friends. The whole question of Derry was very much one of the central themes of our discussions with the Northern Ireland Ministers, and we must consider further what will have to be done in this direction. It is a responsibility for the Northern Ireland Government. It is the view of the United Kingdom Ministers that there is the strongest case for an inquiry into what happened on the last occasion.