HC Deb 25 July 1973 vol 860 cc1586-7
1. Mr. McMaster

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic of Ireland relating to the setting up of a new Executive and Assembly in Northern Ireland, the future administration of the Province and any proposed joint action to improve the security position in the face of the threat to law and order caused by the continuing Provisional IRA terrorist campaign; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland had a meeting with Dr. FitzGerald on 9th June at which he was able to discuss matters of general interest and also to clarify certain points in the Northern Ireland Constitution Bill. My right hon Friend the Prime Minister met Mr. Cosgrave on 2nd July, and I would refer my hon. Friend to the replies he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) on 3rd July and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) on 5th July.—[Vol. 859, c. 716–18 and c. 81.]

Mr. McMaster

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and remind him that the results of the two recent elections in Northern Ireland show that it is the overwhelming will of the people of Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, and that the South of Ireland has, by her own choice, adopted independent Republican status. Therefore, was any internal constitutional matter discussed during these talks or were they restricted to matters of security, trade and tourism—which can be well discussed with officials of the South of Ireland?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

On many occasions, pledges have been given that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom unless the majority of the people of Northern Ireland decide otherwise. I cannot go into details of our talks, which must be confidential, but security was discussed. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was able to point out some improvement on the border in terms of our co-operation in this respect. On constitutional matters, it is our desire to see the Assembly and the Executive formed, first of all, and then we shall have an opportunity of working out how the Council of Ireland will work.

Mr. Orme

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the recent statements by Mr. Cosgrave—especially when he spoke to the 1900 Club in London—and by Dr. FitzGerald have been helpful to the improvement of relationships and of working towards a settlement in Northern Ireland?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We have no control over speeches made by other people. It is quite often desirable to keep quiet.

Mr. Orme

The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood my supplementary question.

Mr. Kilfedder

Will my right hon. Friend confirm or deny the statement which Mr. Cosgrave made immediately after seeing my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that one of the matters discussed was the lack of confidence by the minority in the Royal Ulster Constabulary? Has my right hon. Friend seen the report in yesterday's Irish Press stating that along the border the Eire Army does not take police with it and therefore cannot take any immediate action against those engaged in terrorist activities on its side of the border?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I cannot give details of the talks between the two Prime Ministers, but there has been an improvement of security on the ground and we hope that it will be carried further by co-operation between British forces and forces in the South.