HC Deb 05 August 1971 vol 822 cc1871-900

Motion made, and Question proposed. That this House at its rising this day do adjourn till Monday, 18th October.—[Mr. Whitelaw.]

12.52 p.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

We do not oppose the Adjournment of the House, but there is a feeling among hon. Members on both sides that it should not rise until there has been some statement from the Government about the situation in Northern Ireland. I tell the Leader of the House, in passing, that I very much regret that it has not been possible for him to arrange the business in a different way. We do not wish to raise these serious matters on this occasion because we can do so only at the expense of squeezing out those Members who traditionally raise matters which are of great importance to their constituents and others, but there is no alternative if this serious situation is to be discussed. I shall be as brief as I can.

I do not think that I have ever approached the Irish situation with as deep a sense of foreboding and impending tragedy as I do today. I say that without wishing in any way to be a Cassandra. I recognise only too well the intractable nature of the situation with which the Government are confronted, but it is clear—I do not say this in terms of reproach—that the Government have so far failed either to reconcile the minority or to reassure the majority.

It is because of this that the instrument for which we are primarily responsible, namely, the Army in Northern Ireland, is faced with a worsening of its own position. It is being asked to carry responsibility for a situation which the politicians have failed to resolve. The nature of its task has certainly changed during the last two years. It went in in order to keep the peace between the communities. That may still prove to be necessary—although I trust it will not—but the immediate task that it went in to do has long since gone, especially with the declaration of war by the I.R.A. The I.R.A. having declared war, the Army is bound to find itself increasingly engaged in hunting down individual I.R.A. members—men who are misguided and who are willing to murder and to die for their belief in a united Ireland. The power of an idea of that sort is something that must be recognised and felt. It is almost tangible in the existing situation.

The Army is having to carry the responsibility of dealing with a political idea as powerful and emotive as this because we have failed to find any political solution to what is a long, deep and intractable problem.

I have had many letters on all aspects of the Irish problem. Indeed, I sometimes think that I should receive a double salary and should be the Member for Ulster as well as for Cardiff. I want to put on record that in spite of the number of letters that I get complaining about the actions of the Army it is my deep belief that no other Army faced with such provocation and the burden of handling a political problem that we have failed to solve would conduct itself with the restraint and in the way that the British Army has, overall.

Of course there are individual excesses, and cases where the Army does not behave in a way that we would all want it to behave. I am sure that the Minister accepts that. But that does not detract in any way from the action of the Army on the whole, when it is told to carry a political burden and handle it as it is doing. I say that in case anything that I say later may appear to contradict it.

I want to refer to the hardening of the majority's position and the failure of the Government to reassure it. Any one of us can understand how a member of a majority feels when he sees, on the television screen, the Army being pelted by children or, alternatively, so-called political leaders of the I.R.A., openly giving interviews to The Times and other newspapers and in every way behaving as though they were part of the normal democratic process. That must be a most aggravating situation for anyone in Northern Ireland who sees what is going on.

I ask the Home Secretary why it is not possible, with the powers at the disposal of the authorities, to take legal action against some of these so-called spokesmen. I am not a lawyer—perhaps some lawyers who are present may wish to comment on the matter—but I have been advised that it is possible to take such action. It may be difficult to get a conviction from a jury; I do not know. But it is the responsibility of authorities to take action if they believe that a case lies. I ask the Home Secretary whether a case lies against some of these men and, if so, why action has not been taken, irrespective of whether a conviction would be secured.

I next want to refer to what I regard as the legitimate exasperation of the majority—not forgetting that intimidation of the minority is being carried out by a number of members of the majority. We cannot escape that fact, either. The instances that I have been given are too well documented for me to arrive at any other conclusion. I suppose that it is inevitable, as the situation becomes worse, that the minority will feel itself more and more persecuted. I say that only to illustrate the intractability of the problem.

I realise that the Home Secretary is surrounded by a multitude of counsellors with diametrically opposed advice. We know that there is at least one solution which is expected to clear up the situation in 30 days. I must say, I should be very interested to see it. There are other solutions which will point in an entirely different direction. I would say to those who believe that it is possible to clear up the situation in 30 days that the right hon. Gentleman would have to wade through a great deal of bloodshed to do it. That is not a matter of policy which will commend itself to anyone on this side of the water.

Nor should he feel that he can rely on British soldiers in order to pursue such a policy. I support what the Home Secretary has said in the past, that this is a long haul—and we cannot escape from that when we have 300 years of history behind us which is, alas, only too well remembered by the people of Ireland. I recognise the Home Secretary's difficulties, but whatever he is doing behind the scenes, he does not give the public appearance of activity.

The right hon. Gentleman has a massive and practical common sense, but I wish that, on this subject, he had rather less common sense and was using his psychology a little more. Aneurin Bevan said of the Labour Party that leading it was like riding a bicycle: if one stopped pedalling, one fell off. The same is true of the Home Secretary in relation to Northern Ireland. I do not know whether he is pedalling or not—I see no signs of it—but it is essential when handling Northern Ireland that there should be a continual attempt to keep open the channels of communication, to ensure that political initiatives are being taken which will keep people on the move.

At the moment, we seem to be frozen into immobility, with a deeper sense of impending doom than I have ever known. We are one week ahead of the Apprentice Boys' march. I well remember the 12th August, 1969. Last year, the Boys' march was cancelled—although it took place. What is the Home Secretary's view this year? I think that the House has a right to ask, because we could be faced with a disaster after 12th August.

What advice is the Home Secretary getting from the Army and the police? Normally, I would not ask this question, except that, in relation to internment, Ministers have relied on the fact, openly stated, that they are not using it because they are not being advised by the Army to intern the I.R.A. If they are willing to give us the benefit of and to rely on the Army's advice in a matter such as that, we are equally entitled, on a matter such as this march, to ask what is the Army's view.

It is my understanding—only through a reading of the Press, I hasten to add—that the advice of the Army is that this march should be cancelled. If that is their advice—we are entitled to ask it—what is the right hon. Gentleman's view? It may be cancelled but still go on—I understand that that was what happened last year—but nevertheless I believe that the Government should have a view about this.

With respect to Mr. Faulkner, it is not sufficient for him to say that because this is a traditional march it must go on. That will not do as an argument, strong though the feelings are. For my own part, I would think it wise to cancel it. This would be my own advice, that I would give and stand by in the light of other things that I have to say today.

So this is the background to the situation. The I.R.A. are getting bolder. They in turn are intimidating some of the Catholics. We should not shrink from that either. Again, if I am to judge from my correspondence, many members of the minority have no desire to assist the I.R.A. or to see it playing the rôle and taking the part that it is playing. They are frightened to say so except to me or to someone who they think is not in a position to divulge it.

But if one is living in that kind of street, in that kind of situation, how in-possible it is to speak out—whether one is, as in this case, a member of the minority who is unwilling and fearful to speak out against the I.R.A., or, as in other cases, a member of the minority which is being persecuted by the Protestants. All these things are true. Everyone knows it in his heart, whether or not he is willing to admit it openly.

One other factor comes into the situation. My other fear is that this disease will spread to the South and involve the Republic. The Prime Minister of the Republic, who has conducted himself very coolly in this situation, must be aware of this fearful prospect of it spreading. I have come more and more to believe that, not just on security matters alone but on general matters—this is a development of my thinking over the last few years—the South must be brought into the picture much more than hitherto. It is on this basis that I want to put some views to the Home Secretary.

I would very much like to suggest that, instead of leaving the visit of Mr. Lynch to this country until October, when I understand he is to talk about the Common Market, he should be invited to come here straight away—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and not only Mr. Lynch, but Mr. Faulkner, that they should both be asked here when we are facing the kind of situation which may fall upon us within a week or a little longer.

I have no doubt that Mr. Lynch would want to put some of his own items on the agenda if he responded—I have no reason to believe that he would not respond—but there are two things that the Government themselves might put on such an agenda. I am here advancing thoughts and not attempting to dictate policy in any way. This is too serious a situation for anyone to be utterly dogmatic about it.

What I am going to say will not find much favour among the majority in the North. However, let it be said. I would propose on the agenda to put to Mr. Lynch the suggestion that a Council of All Ireland should be formed, that, although it should have and could have at this moment no legislative or indeed administrative responsibility, it should, because of the possible spread of this disease, be formed from members of both Stormont and the Dail, with a view to discussing problems of mutual concern to both North and South.

This again is a development of thinking that I used when I was in Ireland in the South last March, because I have become increasingly conscious of the need for co-operation between the South and the North on matters of regional and industrial development. I made a speech in the South along these lines as well as in Ulster. I believe that there is now both a psychological need as well as a rational case for saying that it is time that the two Parliaments met to discuss problems of mutual concern.

There is nothing novel about this suggestion. It was proposed 50 years ago, and at that time Ulster was willing and the South was unwilling. My own guess is that now Ulster would be unwilling and the South would be agreeable. Such are the queer quirks of Irish history. I do not know whether they would or not, but we need some political initiative. There may be many better ideas—I am willing to withdraw this suggestion in favour of anything better that anyone has to propose—but I am convinced that there must be some closer working together.

My own views on the border are too well known for me to detain the House by restating them. To abolish the border now would be to transfer the violence from Belfast to Dublin. Instead of the I.R.A. fighting it out in Belfast, the Protestants would be fighting it out in Dublin. There is no solution in abolishing the border in present circumstances. The constitutional arrangement must stand. The border is there. I do not develop the argument, but I want hon. Members to see my case in its context.

It is against that background that I say that the Government might well raise with Mr. Lynch and Mr. Faulkner the possibility of their coming together in this way for mutual discussions on matters of common concern.

I have not mentioned the question of security in this context, though it is essential that there should be talks on this, too. There is, after all, a joint border. I assume that the British Army is patrolling one side of it. I do not know what is happening on the other side, but it is necessary to patrol both sides because it is not only the Ulster Unionist Government to which the I.R.A. is opposed. It is equally and bitterly opposed to the Government of Mr. Lynch, to Fine Gael and to the Irish Labour Party in the South.

There is no sense in which the I.R.A. is willing to co-operate with Mr. Lynch, any more than it is willing to co-operate with Mr. Faulkner. This is a group of men whom I have described as desperate in their beliefs, though profound and sincere. They would wreck Ireland if they were to gain control. I fear that they have already gained too much control, and this is why the question of security—this includes the patrolling of the border and legal action against these men who are concerned; indeed, any action, because I do not rule anything out in this context—must be open for discussion between Mr. Lynch, Mr. Faulkner and the British Government.

I emphasise that it cannot only be action against the I.R.A. There are far too many guns in other hands in Northern Ireland. Those who tell people to hang on to their guns are not doing any service to peace in Northern Ireland. They are most certainly not. As I say, there are too many guns there, and private armies will not solve this problem.

I therefore repeat what I know has been the policy of the Government and what was the policy when I was Home Secretary, which is the need to put the other point of view—the belief that guns in any hands, held legally or not, should be handed over to the authorities, and in the circumstances of Northern Ireland it is irresponsible to suggest anything different.

I am putting a package approach. I am not suggesting and I have never suggested that one should rely either on repression, which may put the lid on the pot for a few months or years only to burst open again a little later, or on yielding to force when one will not yield to reason.

I do not take either view, and any hon. Member who has been in this House watching the post-Imperial history of Britain in the last 25 years has seen how, when we have failed to concede what reason could legitimately demand and expect, after only a few years we have often had to yield to force. The North and South must work together and this must be our starting point.

I have one more request to make to the Home Secretary. Please do not try to extract any individual item from what I have said. The question of the security of the people of Ireland and the question of constitutional advance for them must go together. I would not be in favour of repression without the taking of a political initiative. Nor do I believe that one can make any progress without trying to give the people of Ireland the feeling that they can live assured in their own homes.

Whatever may be said about what, I hope, are the constructive ideas I have put forward—I have put them forward not to embarrass but to help—I hope that these ideas will be seen as an attempt to construct something as a whole and as an attempt to look at the situation in a way that may command success.

If we are faced, as I fear we may well be, with a serious deterioration in the situation, and if the British Army is called on to bear a political burden that is not rightly theirs to carry—if, for example, it is necessary to suspend Stormont, or whatever action may be necessary—I am sure that I shall get support in saying that the House of Commons should be recalled at once to discuss the situation. I hope that the Leader of the House and the Home Secretary will give that assurance.

I hope that my Cassandra-like fears will prove to be unfounded. I profoundly hope that the situation will prove to be better than I have described, though I am bound to say that there is little cause for hope at the moment.

1.15 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

I listened with the closest attention to everything which the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said and I thank him for the constructive way in which he phrased his speech. He will not expect me to comment on it directly. I will study his remarks closely and carefully. I am indebted to him for the way in which he adduced his remarks.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me about making a statement. I have not made one and I did not say I would make one, primarily because there is no new announcement to make. I did not think it helpful, and I did not believe that it would be seen to be helpful, if I were to make a statement when there was nothing new to announce.

On the last occasion, a fortnight ago, when the Home Office was at the top for Questions in the House, there was only one Question on Northern Ireland, and that was deliberately not asked. Thus, I do not believe that I can be blamed for not volunteering a statement, particularly when I had nothing to say.

At this stage, therefore, all I can say in reply to the right hon. Gentleman is that I listened closely to what he said and that I will listen equally closely to other speeches that will undoubtedly be made on this Motion, which is, of course, about the Adjournment of the House for the Summer Recess and not about Northern Ireland.

I agreed very much with the right hon. Gentleman when he emphasised that the I.R.A. had declared war on the British Government. That is absolutely true. It is equally true to say that the I.R.A. is not the Catholic community but only a small part of it, and the whole House will join with him in the tribute he paid to the work of the British Army in what are extremely difficult circumstances.

The right hon. Gentleman asked why no legal action had been taken against people who were reputedly spokesmen for the I.R.A. I asure him that if it is possible to bring before the courts, to prosecute and to convict anyone responsible for any of the outrages of the I.R.A., there will be no hesitation in doing so. This is one of the objectives of the policy. We want to get these men, but we can get them only when the law and the position makes it possible for us to do so.

As I say, I listened carefully to his remarks. I have no statement to make at present and I do not think that I could usefully make one at the moment.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

Surely we can expect a statement about 12th August and the Derry Boys' march? As one who was in Bog-side in 1969—and it is from August, 1969, when the Government took over and when 450 Catholic homes were burnt out in Belfast that the real deterioration started—may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he intends to allow the 12th August Derry march to continue? We are entitled to an answer to this question.

Mr. Maudling

I am well aware of the considerations involved in this issue, but I believe that it is for the Northern Ireland Government and not for the British Govment to take the decision. [Interruption.] As far as views of the military are concerned, I ask him not to believe all he reads in the newspapers.

I repeat that I listened carefully to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East and that I will listen closely to what is said in this debate. We all have one clear objective in common, and that is to establish peace and order in Northern Ireland, for it is on that alone that progress can be made in the interests of all the communities in that country.

1.19 p.m.

Mr. Frank McManus (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

I am grateful for this opportunity to speak today, because the House should not adjourn in view of the serious nature of the problem in Northern Ireland. I appreciate that a number of hon. Members wish to speak, so I will be brief.

The British Government's often repeated assurances about the constitution only make the seeking of a political solution to the Irish problem more difficult. The crisis in Northern Ireland stems not only from the fact that there has been a Right-wing take-over of Unionism, but also, and primarily, from the basic instability of the Northern Ireland State. This instability is due to the built-in violence in the systems in Northern Ireland—the social, economic, political and judicial systems in that part of Ireland.

This built-in instability exists because those systems can work only through violence. They work and depend on the inbuilt violence of discrimination, of repressive laws—they are more repressive than they have been at any time since the Penal Code—and of the violence of the judiciary, which operates a dual standard of justice. They also depend on the violence which inflicts poverty, unemployment and bad housing conditions on the people. They depend on the violence of internment with trial at the moment and the imminent prospect of internment without trial in the immediate future.

The Unionist system is inherently violent. It was born out of violence and is maintained through violence. That is an accepted fact. Bombs and bullets are an obvious form of violence but the systematic destruction of human beings through unemployment and through the degradation of human dignity is a much more sophisticated and deadly form of violence. Those who so loudly condemn violence would show a little imagination, if not intelligence, if they first condemned the cause of that violence—the inbuilt violence of the Unionist system.

The Government must seek a political solution to the crisis in the North. That crisis is due to the utter failure of the partition solution. The Unionists think that they have the solution in their present constitutional advantage, backed up by the guns and tanks of the British Army, but 50 years' history has shown that solution to have been an abysmal failure and the constantly repeated reassurances from the Government on the situation only mean that in future more guns, more bombs and more tanks will be needed to maintain the State.

The British Government must confront the basic issue—the failure of partition. There are three options, as I see it, open to them. First, they can maintain the present system, thus abdicating their responsibility; secondly, they can suspend Stormont or they can suspend the Government of Ireland—that is, to assume responsibility at Westminster; thirdly, they can do what they should do, and that is to review the entire situation.

The solution must give stability and justice. No solution that is not acceptable to 1 million Protestants can ever work; everyone agrees on that. Equally, no solution that is not acceptable to the 3½ million Catholics can ever work; everyone should also agree on that. The present reckless course of Government policy can lead only to further death and destruction in Northern Ireland. The British Army has embarked on a campaign of terror against the minority in Northern Ireland. Who can describe the full horrors of an occupying army? I shall not delay the House with the all-too-familiar tale of horror that comes from any community which is suffering an occupying army. Derry and Belfast have endured martial law for a long time. Everyone in Derry and Belfast knows and realises that. Only the British Government will not own up to the fact.

The British Army went into Northern Ireland to defend the minority. At that time, the minority in Northern Ireland would have welcomed the Red Army or any other army in the position in which they found themselves. But the people who burnt out over 450 houses are still at large; the guns that were used to shoot young children in their beds are still in the hands of those who used them; none of the people who stockpiled the petrol bombs to burn out the Catholic houses have been brought to book.

The Unionist Members from Northern Ireland come here with their nauseating declarations of loyalty—the sort of loyalty demonstrated at Dungiven, a loyalty which should not fool anyone in this House. These people belong to the same sinister secret society and the same party who egged on their half-demented followers into the pogroms in Belfast in 1969, yet they come here and talk sweet reason and loudly condemn violence.

Brian Faulkner and the Unionists are encouraging their followers to be patient, to be good boys and not show them up as they did in 1969, and to take the law into their own hands. In other words, they are encouraging the emergence in Northern Ireland of private armies to move in if the British Army should happen to move out.

We hear a lot about the Protestant backlash. Much play has been made by the British Government about it. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) mentioned it. It was no I.R.A. campaign which produced the Protestant backlash which resulted in the ambush of the young marchers to Derry. Nor was it an I.R.A. campaign which produced the Protestant backlash which brought about the invasion of Bog-side or Falls Road in 1969. No provocation is needed to produce a Protestant backlash, because the Northern Ireland State itself is a Protestant backlash. It is the greatest blackmail of the century. It is the backlash which the British Government have never attempted to confront or defeat. That is the real reason why Northern Ireland is in such a shocking state.

The Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence consistently refuse to admit the evidence and testimony of civilian observers on the conduct of the Army, just as their predecessors consistently defended the reputation of the Black and Tans in the 1920s. History has passed its verdict on the Black and Tans. History will record its verdict also on the present Army of occupation. It will then be too late for the Government to say, "We have not enough information or knowledge." It is the Government's Army which is terrorising the minority in Northern Ireland. It is the British Army which is terrorising and killing innocent civilians in Northern Ireland. It is your Army, and you are answerable.

If there is sense left in this House, the 12th August march in Derry will be cancelled. If there is any regard left in this House for the rights of man, internment will not be introduced, because it is a hateful and despicable thing. I warn the Government that if it is introduced, it will not be tolerated lightly by the minority. All the minority will resist it to the uttermost of their power. If there is any justice and honour left in this House, the British Government will face their responsibilities and confront the real problem in Northern Ireland, which is the failure of partition, and they will attempt to hasten the emergence of a united Ireland. If there is justice left in this House, the Government will call off their bloodhounds and take the British Army out of its present murderous rôle.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

On a point of order. Is it in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the hon. Member to refer to members of the British Army as bloodhounds?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Strictly speaking, I should say that hon. Members of the British Parliament are not bloodhounds, but I do not think that that is a point of order. I do not think that the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) was trying to be offensive.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member referred not to Members of this House, but to members of the British Army.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Mr. McManus

These are my last words in this House perhaps for ever, perhaps for a very long time. The British and the British Army have terrorised and murdered enough for far too long in Ireland. I tell them now to take their bloody hands off our country. When I say that, I speak for all Irishmen. Before God Almighty, I mean every word of what I have just said.

1.29 p.m.

Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)

I shall not refer particularly to the speech of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) save to say that I hope that all hon. Members, especially those who are not present, will study it with care. It is the authentic voice behind the gunman. It is the authentic voice of those who wish to destroy parliamentary democracy and the parliamentary process by force of arms.

I infinitely prefer the approach of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who opened the debate. I must say that I deeply share his forebodings. I think that it would be almost impossible to explain at home in Ulster why the House of Commons should now be proposing to go into Recess until 18th October without some comfort or some word given to those who feel themselves in a position of almost impending disaster—that we should be proposing to go away without some comfort given to those people, whether they be Protestant or Catholic, law-abiding people, not animated by the spirit of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Here are two or three figures which demonstrates how serious the escalation of the situation has been during the past five or six weeks. In July, there were no fewer than 94 explosions, some of them exceedingly serious. Translated into Great Britain terms, that would be about 4,500 explosions. There are people in the streets of Belfast who can never pass one night without hearing an explosion or the sound of gunfire or riot.

The Belfast Corporation announced a few days ago that every vehicle in its transport fleet has suffered damage, and very many have been destroyed. The claims which the Corporation has received to date for criminal damage as a result of what has happened amount to £16½ million. This is a British city. If it were the Greater London Council, on a pro-rata basis, the figure would be about £3,200 million worth of damage.

I remind the House of the nature of some of the damage, of, for example, the destruction of the Daily Mirror building, with £1 million worth of damage done. One thinks of the type of department store which has been damaged and destroyed the equivalent of something not unlike Selfridges destroyed in Oxford Street and large office blocks blown up in Regent Street.

Against that, can anyone wonder that we are reluctant to support a Motion that the House should go into recess until 18th October, without some kind of reassurance coming from Her Majesty's Government or from the House?

The situation was well summed up by yesterday's Belfast News Letter when it said, referring to the law-abiding community in Ulster, For three years without end they have been told that the best brains available in London and Belfast have been grappling with their problem. Never once at any stage over that period have they heard an admission of error by statesman or high-ranking soldier. Yet the situation in Ulster today is as dangerous as ever before. To say that fear stalks the land may sound trite, but it is true. And, on that score, it is also probably fair to say that there are more Roman Catholics pinned down by fear and terror and intimidation than Protestants. This the right hon. Gentleman himself said, and I agree with him.

What kind of comfort ought we to try to give to our people at home, Protestant and Roman Catholic, before we rise? I think that there are several things which my right hon. Friend can do. I am sorry that he had to say that he had no statement to make. It may well be—I would accept it—that there is a lot of constructive thinking about the situation going on, but at least we should be told what kind of subjects are being examined; and perhaps my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House may tell us of some of the various lines of thought.

The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said—I accept that it was intended to be constructive and helpful—that he would suggest a certain type of package. He suggested, for example, that one should resurrect the concept of the old Council of Ireland. He is right about the history of it. What happened was that the Council of Ireland was an arrangement enshrined in the original 1920 Act. But it was based upon there being a Parliament in Dublin similar to the Parliament at Stormont, and it was based upon the concept of both Parliaments being within the United Kingdom. However one might think it desirable, it is impossible to sell to the Ulsterman, the man who considers himself part of the United Kingdom, that a part of the United Kingdom should enter into a council, be it consultative or otherwise, with a State which is not part of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Callaghan

What about the E.E.C.?

Captain Orr

I happen to share the right hon. Gentleman's view on the E.E.C., curiously enough, for different reasons.

If there is to be a council—I accept that some kind of consultation may take place—it should be on the basis of the United Kingdom. What one wants to see in our relationship with our neighbour South of the Border is a recognition of each other's integrity. What we want to see is simply a recognition that we have a common interest in the prevention and destruction of violence. We want to see a more constructive attitude on the part of politicians in the South. We wish to see progress being made in economic matters, in the things which are of mutual concern, but we feel that, in return, what is recognised and supposed to be a friendly State should not allow its territory to be used for the training and the refuge of people who do not believe in the Parliamentary process at all.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Deny march on 12th August. I shall not go into the merits or the history of it. All I say to him is that experience has shown that it is much more dangerous to impose a ban upon a perfectly legitimate operation which has gone on for many years than it is to allow it to proceed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] It requires much more exercise of the security forces, and, indeed, it would be a concession to threats of violence. I for one would oppose such a ban and I would say to my right hon. Friend that if he wants to bring down the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland that would be the best way of doing it. I say that in all sincerity to him. Before we pass——

Mr. R. Chichester-Clark (Londonderry)

Before my hon. and gallant Friend leaves this question of the Londonderry Parade, would he put something right for the record? I did not want to interrupt the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) when he was making an extremely important speech because in a sense this is a comparatively minor matter. Would he make it clear that when the ban was imposed last year it was broken only by a tiny majority of people led by evilly-motivated men?

Captain Orr

Yes, I accept that. One other important subject touched on by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East was the fact that there are far too many arms in Ulster. There is far too much talk of the formation of private armies. It is an exceedingly dangerous development although a very understandable one. Where law-abiding people in a village or part of a town in Ulster feel themselves threatened by this escalation of violence it is a very natural reaction for them to say, "We will defend ourselves, we will start patrols to look after our own places, we will see that this horror and terror does not come to our village".

It is exceedingly dangerous if that happens. I have found the great demand among the people in Ulster—and these are not people categorised as extremists but moderate sensible people—to be "For heaven's sake, let us have more say in our own defence". This is why I have said to the Home Secretary and others that there must be further thinking about how this can be done. It is not for a back bench Member to say exactly how a principle should be implemented. I have thrown out as a suggestion the possibility that we do what we did during the war—and we are at war now, the Home Secretary has said so—and form the Ulster Home Guard. The Home Guard was a highly efficient operation during the war. It was military, under the control of the Ministry of Defence, but it operated in what I believe to be the proper way, as a gendarmerie, very close to the police.

This is only one suggestion, but whatever it be, some means has to be found and the only way private armies will be prevented is if the community are allowed to become involved, with proper control, in their own defence. May I quote one more small piece from the leading article of yesterday's Belfast News Letter: If the Army and the police cannot win the war alone, let them trust in the people more—and by this time they should know the people they can trust—and, with their cooperation, seek some entirely new initiative to help free us all from a scourge that is at present so mercilessly demoralising our society. This is not a call for the recruitment of private armies, which everyone knows would be the most tragic of blunders, but a case to be examined seriously, for thousands of responsible citizens, Protestant and Catholic alike, being given some part to play in saving their families, their property and their whole way of life, from degredation, if not ultimately disaster. Before we approve this Motion to adjourn I ask my right hon. Friend to say, on the question of recall, that there will be no hesitation whatever if the situation appears to deteriorate, in recalling the House as soon as possible. Secondly, will he please say that the principle I have enunciated, that the Ulster people should play a greater part in their own defence, may be conceded and that some kind of constructive thought is taking place on this subject—whether it be a permanent battalion of the Ulster Defence Regiment, whether the Ulster Defence Regiment in a different form, and doing a different job—[Interruption.] Of course the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) does not want that; he does not want the safety of the State to be maintained. He is not interested in the democratic process and we expect that from him. What I say is that decent, responsible, law-abiding people who believe in democracy, whose homes are in danger, will welcome the tone of the speech made by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East although they may not agree with everything he says. They will reject the tone of the speeches of some hon. Gentlemen opposite. I appeal to my right hon. Friend not to let Parliament go into recess without some words of comfort and reassurance for our people.

1.46 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) gave us an account of the extent of violence and damage in Northern Ireland. This is something with which we have all been living for some time now. I wake up each morning—as I expect a good many hon. Members do—a little before 7 o'clock and I turn on the radio. What has it been, morning after morning, for weeks and months? A record of the wounding or killing of some young British soldier, English, Scots or Welsh or of the wounding or killing of some Irish civilian, man, woman or child. These appalling accounts are supplemented by television pictures of young children, encouraged to perform acts of violence. I have no doubt that people who do that believe that they are training children to fight in a good cause. I hope they will remember that it is much easier to teach children to be violent than to "unteach" them afterwards.

Part of the tragedy of the whole thing is that men have entered on a course of what must be called terror, violence and lawbreaking from honourable motives, deeply believing they are serving the right cause. It is one of the defects of human nature that after men on either side have done that beyond a certain time they become more in love with violence than with the original cause which inspired them. It is to this situation that we are drifting in Northern Ireland and I believe that before long the public in this country will say that this cannot go on any longer. The Home Secretary said that the decision over the Derry march was one for the Government of Northern Ireland. If that decision, made one way or the other, results in increased violence it will be Englishmen, Scotsmen and Welshmen, our Armed Forces, who will pay for it.

It is on this point that we who are not Irish have the right to speak for our country as the Irishmen have the right to speak for their country. I believe that increasingly the public will say, "We will not have the lives of our young men placed at risk any longer." I have no doubt at all, and I do not think that anyone else has, that the soldiers will do courageously everything lawfully required of them but the time will come when the public will say that this cannot go on because the public will believe that it is going on to no purpose. Even the harshest critics of the British people have never said that they were lacking in courage and resolution. We have always been prepared even to go through ugly periods of history if we felt that there was some absolutely vital purpose to be served, some good result to be achieved.

We seem now to be going down a road of blood that leads nowhere and it is this which cannot go on much longer. I was a member of the Government which in 1969 took the decision that the British Armed Forces should take over the responsibility for law and order and security in Northern Ireland. I am sure that that was the right decision to take then. Indeed, it was almost universally welcomed because no one at that time could see any way forward except through that help. But we all knew that this could be only a holding operation. The hope in all our minds was that it would give the Government at Stormont an opportunity to carry through policies which would lead to reconciliation. We must now face the fact that reconciliation has not occurred. The time has passed when it was any use in trying to argue whose fault that was.

It is fair to say that the Government at Stormont have gone further on the road of reform than they have often been given credit for. As to the part played by others, I go a long way with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said about the behaviour of our troops and in his condemnation of I.R.A. activities and of private armies. We all may have our own assessments as to who is more or less to blame, but we have passed the time when that matters. The historians will argue about that much later. The plain fact is that reconciliation has not been achieved.

Therefore—and I do not say this lightly—I have come very deeply to the conclusion that there can be no solution of this problem except in the context of a united Ireland. Here I go further than my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East went. What struck me as tragic and what confirmed me in my view was the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South. He praised the tone of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East, as we all should, but the one major constructive suggestion which my right hon. Friend made was turned down flat. That is why I think we must think of everything in a newer and larger dimension, which will make great demands on all the paries concerned.

I know that the attitude to what I have said of those who form the majority in the north is bound to be one of immediate repugnance. But they must face the alternative. We can talk in terms of more diligent police action to hunt down the terrorists or a gendarmerie, a defence regiment, or whatever we like to call it, to enforce the process of law. All the history of Anglo-Irish relations shows that it cannot be done in that way. Never mind whose fault it is that we are in the present situation: I do not believe that it can be done in that way.

We must also say to those in the north that if they believe that the situation can be restored by firm enforcement of the law the people in this island will very shortly say, "You do not do it at the risk of our people".

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

The right hon. Gentleman must have heard his right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and other Members refer to the fact that a large number of the Catholic population is being intimidated and terrorised. The fact is—and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept this—that not only the Protestant majority but the great majority of the Catholics are content with the present state of affairs. Only a very small minority are out to overthrow the Constitution. To give in to them would be totally unacceptable.

Mr. Stewart

I cannot agree with that. I go thus far with the hon. Gentleman: I know that it is not as simple as to say that all Protestants want to maintain the union with Britain and all Catholics want to unite with the Republic. But if the hon. Gentleman suggests that the great majority of both faiths are perfectly content with the present constitutional situation, the facts simply do not bear out that suggestion. The hon. Gentleman is echoing what has been said so often in Irish affairs—that one can get on without a major constitutional change when one has reached the point at which it is necessary.

Mr. H. J. Delargy (Thurrock)

I may be of some assistance here. My right hon. Friend began by saying—and I was very pleased to hear it—that he was speaking, not for the people of Ireland, whether Catholics or Protestants, but on behalf of the people of England. Therefore, his argument has nothing to do with the intervention of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster).

Mr. Stewart

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I hope that I shall not be pressed to give way again, because many hon. Members wish to speak.

I know that the concept of a united Ireland calls for a great effort of imagination, faith and good will on the part of those who are now the majority in the north. It will also make a great demand on the good faith and imagination of the Republic of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is now a State whose people are, in the vast majority, of the Roman Catholic faith. Its constitution and laws pay special regard to that faith. In the event of a united Ireland, it would be a State which contained a very large Protestant minority.

I realise—and the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) has often reminded us of this—that this is not just a religious conflict. On the other hand, I am sure that unless the fears and anxieties of Protestants throughout Ireland are assuaged a solution will not be achieved. This is the part which the Republic of Ireland will have to play. It will have to recognise that the concept of a united Ireland is so great a prize that it must go as far in devolution or Home Rule, or whatever it may be called, as is consistent with being one country. There must be a great willingness to give international guarantees and to have international observers. An honourable country need not think it any derogation of its sovereignty to be willing to do that for the sake of the constructive thing which could be achieved on this basis.

It should be a little easier for the Republic to do that, because it is pretty well what de Valera offered the United Kingdom in 1922. When the settlement, commonly called the Treaty, was established, he put forward a document, known as Document No. 2, which was a proposal for a united Ireland with the kind of measure of guarantees for the people in the north that I have been describing, such a united Ireland to be in permanent military association with the United Kingdom, recognising the Sovereign of this country, not as Sovereign of Ireland, but as head of the military association, foreshadowing almost the arrangement we now have in the Commonwealth.

Looking back, we all know that if matters had been settled on that basis the situation would have been infinitely better all round and many lives would have been saved. I doubt whether that offer is available to us now, but I take that part of it which contains the most massive pledges to the Protestants in the north. This is what the Republic of Ireland, if it genuinely wants a united Ireland, would have to do and be prepared to prove to the world that it is doing.

It is a lesson of Irish history that if we are to make any big step forward it is not only the political arrangements and the constitution-making which matter. There must be something which will stir the hearts and imagination of human beings. Clearly there is a responsibility on religious leaders. Since in a united Ireland the majority would be Catholic, an exceptional responsibility would rest on the leaders of that Church and His Holiness to say that if we can begin to think in terms of a united Ireland it would be the most earnest counsel of the Catholic Church to all the faithful in that country to behave in every way towards their Protestant fellow citizens as Christians are supposed to behave to each other and not as they alas so often do.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East said that there was no possibility of abolishing the Border now. If that means this week or this month, we accept that. But I do not believe that till the parties concerned admit to themselves and each other that this is the context in which it can be solved—the context of a united Ireland—we will get anywhere. I recognise the enormous difficulty of anyone on the Front Bench on either side, and the practical impossibility of a member of a Government, saying that at present, but I think that sooner or later it has got to be said, and that the idea is bound to spread.

I shall be told—I shall, no doubt, be told emphatically during the rest of this debate—that this will not work now. My answer to that is that in the end nothing else will work. How long will it be in months, years or lives before that is realised?

2.1 p.m.

Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)

I think there is a danger that the air of reason and logic which the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) deployed in his speech may come close to the impracticability and unreason of his conclusion. He tells us that the only solution of this appalling problem is a united Ireland. I would not for a moment be such a fool as to suggest that at no time ever in the future will there be any hope of a solution, whether it be a federation or association between the two parts of Ireland, if we are talking over half a century or whatever; but to tell us that because he believes that no other solution will work we must consider this as a practical proposition in the near or immediate future is unreason carried to the point of folly, because to try to enforce such an idea at this moment is a prescription for civil war compared with which what is happening now would be a minor incident.

Apart from that, the right hon. Gentleman does not seem even to have recognised or to have read what the leaders of both wings of the I.R.A. are saying at this moment. He seems to imagine that what is happening in Northern Ireland is no more than a nationalist crusade for a united Ireland. It is nothing of the sort, because one wing of the I.R.A. is at this moment an international revolutionary organisation which is dedicated to the destruction of the Southern Irish régime at least to the extent that it is dedicated to the destruction of the United Kingdom constitution and the régime in Northern Ireland. All he is doing is to make it easier for the Republic—as I believe it will soon anyway—to be subject to precisely the kind of violent insurrection as is now happening in Ulster. If he thinks this will make a solution easier he should reconsider what at the moment the I.R.A. stands for and what it is saying.

While I am on that subject I should like to make an answer to the hon. Member opposite who gave us that horrifying story of the civilian population under an army of occupation régime. He might consider the conclusion of an article in The Times last Friday from a reporter who had been interviewing various I.R.A. chiefs. I would say that The Times is not generally considered to be a mouthpiece of Protestant reaction. After interviews with all these people he concludes at the end of his article: It is impossible not to be struck both by the extent to which the Army and the police are forced to fight the I.R.A. with their hands tied tightly behind their backs and by how well aware the I.R.A. are of the advantages this confers on them. This is, of course, the point, and why we on this side of the House and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) are anxious that there should be some message of appreciation of the situation to go to the people of Northern Ireland who are suffering at this moment.

It is all very well for the right hon. Member for Fulham to say that the people of England, Scotland and Wales will not allow this situation, this loss of blood of British soldiers, to continue any longer. Does he not realise that it is precisely what he forecast—that there would come a time when the people on the mainland will echo that "no longer"—which is the objective of the I.R.A. leaders at this moment? The whole purpose of this campaign is to keep it going long enough for the people over here to say that it is not worth while going on pouring out the blood of British soldiers any longer.

Because this has happened in Cyprus, in Aden, in Palestine, and we have got used to it in the context of the colonial situation, it is only too easy—as he did—to draw a parallel and say that this is a similar situation. This is not a similar situation. This is not a case of occupying a colony with the Army in the midst of a hostile population, or even of a hostile majority.

There is another difference. It may have escaped the attention of the right hon. Gentleman that this is part of the United Kingdom in which there is armed rebellion against the Crown going on at this moment. It is no good saying—I am a little surprised to hear a Privy Councillor saying—that in the United Kingdom a situation could arise in which we would not be prepared to try to maintain law and order any longer. Does he think that if we abrogate responsibility in Belfast and Londonderry we shall not have exactly the same thing happening in Glasgow and Liverpool? And even from what we have heard in this House today there will be no lack of people to encourage that.

This is the United Kingdom, and it is the job of this House of Parliament to accept the responsibility for maintaining law and order and protecting the lives and property of United Kingdom citizens, particularly when in a province of the United Kingdom the overwhelming majority—the overwhelming majority—of the inhabitants not only want but demand that this responsibility should be carried out. It is the job of the United Kingdom Government here at Westminster and in Whitehall to do this.

If their hands, as an unprejudiced observer, indeed, an observer who, from what one can gather from The Times report, leans slightly in sympathy towards the I.R.A., is prepared to say at the end of the day that the Army and police are fighting an armed rebellion with their hands tied behind their backs, we are entitled, as the people of Ulster are entiled, to ask, who tied the hands of the Army and police behind their backs? Are they still tied? Is anybody going to untie them?

Is anybody going to tell us before we adjourn what change there is in the situation? Are we simply going to be told that this is a situation of containment and that it can and will go on for ever? A policy simply of containment, where violence is growing and the number of arms in private hands or in those of para-military organisations has grown, is not enough and will not work. We cannot, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) said, leave the majority to believe that if the United Kingdom Government and the Stormont Government are incapable of providing protection for their lives and property there is no alternative for them but to protect themselves. As he said, that is a most dangerous situation that we face.

I agree with what the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said. I view this situation with the gravest forebodings. If things go on as they are, the risk of a civil war, the fall of the present Government in Northern Ireland and the emergence of a far more dangerous Administration under extremist leaders is very real. Ulster is perhaps not so far from civil war at this moment, a civil war which, as I said, might spread to the streets of Glasgow, Liverpool and other cities on this side of the water. We have a right to be reassured, and the people of Ulster have a right to reassurance, before we adjourn for the Summer Recess. In addition, we should have an absolute undertaking that, if the situation gets any worse, the House will be recalled so that it can bring further pressure on the Government to do something about this ghastly situation.

2.10 p.m.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

I do not intend to speak for long, because many other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. With my hon. Friends the Members for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), I welcome the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), and the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart).

My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West was in Derry when the British troops came in 1969, and I was there at the start. We went to my right hon. Friend at the time and said, "For goodness sake, do not let the march go forward. Our impression is that if the march goes on there will be trouble." We give this same message to the Home Secretary today. The situation now is far worse than it was in 1969; it is potentially more explosive. Not only should the march on 12th August be banned, but the services of thanksgiving to be held in the Diamond should also be banned. There should be a complete block in Derry of any celebration by either side because the situation there is so dangerous. Recent events in that city have caused the feelings of the people to rise considerably.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East spoke about gunmen, and the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) spoke of the need for a militia and an army. His was the voice of the gunman. Although we have words about "law and order, democracy, progressive people on all sides, good feeling and majority opinion", what he was advocating was the return of the B Specials under a different guise.

If Her Majesty's Government were to think in terms of a Home Guard of the type described by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South, a full-time battalion of the Ulster Defence Regiment which went outside the present remit of the U.D.R. of guarding frontier posts and installations, there would be real fear among the minority in Northern Ireland that they were seeing a return of the B Specials, and this we could not countenance.

Captain Orr

They would be lawful.

Mr. McNamara

What was more lawful than the B Specials when they were in Belfast? What was more lawful than the guns they were using in August, 1969 in Belfast—B Special guns? There was no I.R.A. then, no I.R.A. in Belfast, no I.R.A. in Derry. No, these were the Orange Lodgers, the Paisleyites and the like.

The right hon. Gentleman must understand that if there were a return to the policies advocated by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, there would be a real fear among the minority. Far from isolating the gunman, far from pushing him to one side to allow reason to prevail and to try the counsels which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East was talking about, the gunmen will find a welcome and a refuge with the minority. This will be because of the policies advocated by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South. It little behoves him, or any of his hon. Friends, to talk about democracy, the sanctity of the United Kingdom and the majority verdict when it was his party that first started the rebellion against the British Crown over the independence of Northern Ireland. It was his forbears and his friend Galloper Smith and others who caused it before the First World War. People say, "Ah, that was 50 years ago." The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) said that we must not think for another 50 years of solving the Irish problem and trying to bring peace and decency there——

Mr. Maude

The hon. Gentleman must not misquote me. I did not say that we must not think for 50 years of trying to solve the Irish problem. I said that any hope before a longish period of trying to impose a united Ireland was doomed to disappointment. I said that if we were thinking of 50 years, I was not prepared to rule out some kind of association if it could be by agreement.

Mr. McNamara

I was under the impression that the hon. Gentleman used the phrase "50 years", but the record will show it. I think I have the general tenor of his idea. We have had 50 years of union with this country, and it has been one long story of repression turning the screw, leaving it off, turning the screw and leaving it off until the civil rights movement started in 1968, when we had an opportunity for a break-through. Our fear, whether conscious or unconscious, and whether or not because of their association with hon. Members representing Northern Irish constituencies, is that the Government, far from holding the ring, have moved strongly and forcefully in favour of the Ulster Unionist Party and the Orange Lodgers. It is remarkable that in debate after debate in the House mention is rarely made of the strongest organisation in the place, namely, the Orange Lodge.

There are certain things which we should like to see. First, no policy of internment should be adopted by the Government. If in trying to defend the rule of law, the rule of law is suspended, this is a paradox and a contradiction which can never succeed. Further sullen-ness will be created, further fears of repression and further opportunities for injustice in a society which has already far too many.

Secondly, we want positive action to bring in all the guns, legal and illegal, whether they are held by Catholics or Protestants and including those which are held by farmers to shoot foxes. We want them all in.

Thirdly, we want a clear and unmistakable undertaking that there will be no militia, no Home Guard, no full-time defence battalion to undertake anything other than defending the frontiers.

Fourthly, we should like to see some of the initiatives advocated by my right hon. Friend taken seriously to heart. We should like proper consultations about the future of Ireland with the people who are concerned with it, with the people of the North and the people of the South, sitting down together. The moment that is achieved by this Government or any Government we shall perhaps be bringing back to the land of our fathers an opportunity for peaceful progress which they have not had for a long time.

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