HC Deb 05 March 1970 vol 797 cc617-8
Q4. Mr. Arthur Davidson

asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to meet the Prime Minister of Eire.

The Prime Minister

I have no plans to do so at present, Sir.

Mr. Davidson

While accepting the impracticability of the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), would my right hon. Friend, if he does meet the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic, assure him that we on this side of the House regard the proposals as divisive, inhumane and an insult to the many people of Irish extraction who have made such a notable contribution to the life of this country?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I deeply disagree with my hon. Friend. When we have important meetings between Heads of Government, between the Head of Government of the United Kingdom and the Head of Government of the Irish Republic, we deal with real issues. We do not waste our time dealing with claptrap from the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Irish Republican embassies abroad and their staffs have been engaging in party political attacks on Northern Ireland? Is he aware that this is unhelpful in restoring normality, and will he arrange for British embassies to watch this activity carefully?

The Prime Minister

If it were not for the party political activities of hon. Gentlemen opposite for the last 50 years we would not have this trouble in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Simon Mahon

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those of us who are descendants of Irish people take the strongest objection to being regarded as foreigners? Is he aware that we feel we have made just as great a contribution to the greatness of our nation as any Scot, Englishman or Welshman?

The Prime Minister

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. His last few words will not have been lost on the House. We regard ourselves in this country as one nation, with equality for all people, whatever their origin or whatever the origin of their parents or grandparents. I would suggest that it is not necessary to get into a tizzy about the remarks of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West because he speaks only for himself as far as I can see—and we are not always sure whether he is doing that.

Mr. Heath

Will the Prime Minister agree that one of the most regrettable consequences of the outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland was that the efforts of the then Prime Minister, Captain O'Neill, to achieve better relationships north and south of the border were disrupted and that it has not yet been possible to resume those efforts? Can he give an assurance that he and other members of the Government will do their utmost in their diplomatic contacts with Eire to try to achieve acceptance of Northern Ireland and then this progress can be resumed?

The Prime Minister

Yes, unreservedly. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the encouragement we gave both to Mr. Lynch and earlier Mr. Lemass and Captain O'Neill in this kind of approach. The right hon. Gentleman, together with other hon. Members, will have been encouraged by the very helpful speech made by Mr. Lynch in Dublin on 17th January when he drew attention to the fact that the majority of people in Northern Ireland genuinely wanted to be associated with the United Kingdom. He went on to say that it was totally unrealistic for anyone to imagine that partition could be ended by force, as the outcome could only be an imposed rule on a new minority. That was a very courageous thing for Mr. Lynch to say and it is that kind of statement and some of the actions now being taken by the Northern Ireland Government that could make possible a resumption of the helpful talks to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.