HC Deb 08 February 1973 vol 850 cc636-8
16. Mr. Rose

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will now take action to outlaw the Ulster Defence Association, following its sanction of sectarian murder in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Whitelaw

I keep under constant review the advantages and disadvantages of proscribing particular organisations.

Mr. Rose

As the UDA is virtually the mirror image of the IRA, and as each organisation provides the pretext for the violent actions of the other, does the right hon. Gentleman realise that only an even-handed policy against both of them will have fruitful results?

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that so long as an organisation exists which claims 80,000 men ready to march and a large number of firearms, which challenges his authority, and which can sanction or stop sectarian murders, it will be impossible to prevent other sections of the community from falling into the equally abhorrent hands of the IRA? Does he realise that these organisations have to be dealt with at one and the same time?

Mr. Whitelaw

Neither the hon. Gentleman nor the House would wish me to get involved in these arguments at this time, for obvious reasons. I think that I made it clear this week—although I think that I am entitled to make it clear again to the House and to everyone concerned—that the basic principle that must exist in that no man, in no position, no matter how loud he may shout, or anything else, can be above the law.

Mr. McMaster

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there was no UDA in Northern Ireland before the political initiative in March of this year? Is he also aware that the IRA, both Official and Provisional, ever since the State came into existence, has on its own admission—it has stated this repeatedly—pursued a deliberate campaign designed to overthrow the State by undemocratic means, by violence, and that in the last three years this campaign of bombing and shooting has led to over 700 deaths and very much physical injury, mutilation and damage to property?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not wish to get involved in all these arguments about the past. I think that I have made my position on them abundantly clear on many occasions. My hon. Friend will recognise that the UVF, a very extreme Protestant organisation, has been a proscribed organisation for a very long time. That is interesting, for the House will know that particular person who proscribed that organisation.

Mr. Duffy

As the sectarian death toll and violence has jumped up since last week, since the Deputy Commander of the UDA announced that he could no longer restrain Protestant extremism, has the Secretary of State invited that gentleman, Mr. Thomas Herron, to explain what restraints he is no longer prepared to exercise in February that he and his colleagues in the UDA were prepared to uphold in January?

Mr. Whitelaw

All these matters have to be carefully considered and all these wild statements considered in the context in which they are made. Unfortunately I have to listen to them, read them and judge their value, and, at the same time, keep my own calm counsels throughout.

Mr. Maginnis

Does the Secretary of State agree that if there were no IRA there would be no UDA or kindred organisations in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Whitelaw

It would be a matter of universal agreement by a vast number of people in Northern Ireland, and, indeed, throughout the country. If there were no IRA, UDA, UVF or any other such bodies, including all the various "Fs", it would be a very much better place.