HC Deb 04 April 1974 vol 871 cc1418-9
1. Mr. James

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he is satisfied with the assurances given by the Government of the Republic of Ireland over the status of the Province of Ulster.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Merlyn Rees)

The status of Northern Ireland is set out in Section 1 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. In the Sunningdale communiqué the Irish Government fully accepted and solemnly declared that there could be no change in the status of Northern Ireland until a majority of the people of Northern Ireland desired a change in that status. Mr. Cosgrave has since made it clear that the Irish Government accept as a fact the status of Northern Ireland as set out in the Constitution Act. I am satisfied therefore that the Irish Government accept unequivocally that it is for the people of Northern Ireland themselves to decide their position, now and in the future.

Mr. James

I share the Secretary of State's satisfaction with the forthright statement by the Taoiseach. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the one remaining bone of contention between North and South is the question of extradition? Will he try to ensure that the Law Enforcement Commission reports as soon as possible to get this matter settled before the Council of Ireland is set up?

Mr. Rees

The question of the report of the Law Enforcement Commission is not in my command, as it were, but everybody is aware of the need to have the report as soon as possible.

Mr. West

Will the Secretary of State tell the House how he reconciles his assurance on the status of Northern Ireland with the fact that the Dublin Government claim sovereignty over the whole of Ireland, which includes part of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Rees

That is the state of play as far as the constitution is concerned, but the important thing in Ireland is to deal not with matters of that kind but with the facts of today. The more people face up to the facts of today instead of the facts of yesterday, the more progress we shall make.

Mr. Kilfedder

Surely the facts of today are quite clear. The High Court and the Supreme Court in Dublin were presented with arguments by the Dublin Government in a recent court case. Does the Secretary of State agree that evidence was presented to the two courts on behalf of the Eire Government which supported the argument that Northern Ireland lay within the jurisdiction of the Irish Republic and that it is because of that that there will be no extradition of terrorists from Southern Ireland to Northern Ireland?

Mr. Rees

The second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question about extradition must wait. Aspiration is one thing; whatever is said on a bit of paper is not worth anything unless it faces up to the facts. The fact is that if everybody in the House said that the North must go into the South it would not happen, because it cannot happen. It is facts such as that which matter to me.

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