HC Deb 04 May 1972 vol 836 cc570-2
9. Captain Orr

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what has been the total number of explosions in Northern Ireland in the four weeks following 24th March compared with the four weeks following the introduction of internment.

Mr. Whitelaw

There were 112 explosions in the four weeks following 24th March compared with 142 in the four weeks following 9th August, 1971.

Captain Orr

What conclusion does my right hon. Friend draw from the small difference between the figures? Does he agree that the fact that there appears to have been a continuation of violence on practically the same scale makes hollow the assertion that internment caused the main resentment and resurgence of the IRA? Does he appreciate that this continuation of violence is causing considerable insecurity among the majority of peace-loving people in Ulster, and what steps is he taking to restore their confidence?

Mr. Whitelaw

I draw the simple conclusion that there are far too many totally senseless explosions and that we must do all we can to put a stop to them as quickly as possible.

I take this opportunity to salute the restraint that has been shown by the majority in the community. They have been subjected over a considerable period of time to a great deal of provocation and I trust they will retain the considerable restraint they have shown. For my part, I will do everything I can through measures, some of which are very difficult for the people concerned—like restricting parking in Belfast and in other ways that I have planned—to seek to minimise the possibility of explosions, and anything we can do to that end would be welcomed.

Mr. Molloy

Will the right hon. Gentleman pursue the policy which he has adopted and which is doing a great deal to eradicate the hatred engendered by internment? Is he aware of the vulgarities that followed the introduction of the policy of internment and the fact that the only people who could be guaranteed to be innocent were those who were interned? May I assure the right hon. Gentleman that his present policy is making a great contribution towards erasing that sort of vulgarity?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am determined not to live in the past. I have many discussions, much of them concerned with the past, but I am determined to live in the future. I will do everything I can to promote the unity of this divided and very troubled community. That is my purpose and I will continue with it. There are bound to be disappointments and I warn the House that there will be disappointments and setbacks. Nevertheless, I will not be deterred from what I believe to be the only course in the end which will bring a sensible peace to the community.

Mr. Kilfedder

Is there any evidence to show the number of cases in which explosives have come from the Republic of Eire? What talks have taken place with the Eire Government to put an end to the gelignite trail and how far have the Eire Government been successful in doing this?

Mr. Whitelaw

It is difficult to be certain. These bombs are all too easily made and one cannot prove conclusively exactly from where all their components come. I can only tell my hon. Friend that every effort is being made to reduce the number, and I note what he said about what might be done in this matter from the point of view of Eire.