15. Mr. Dixon
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has received any representations concerning the possibility of repartitioning Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement.
§ 6. Mr. David James
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will consider negotiating with the Republic of Ireland a border that is shorter, more in line with demographic considerations and easier for all concerned to patrol.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
There are problems about the border, but it would be a mistake to suppose that Northern Ireland's troubles could be resolved or even made significantly easier by redrawing the boundary. I have received no representations for this from any political party in Northern Ireland.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that if there were repartition it would by implication also involve a transfer of population, and that although that would undoubtedly cause considerable economic and social stress, the danger to life and the economic prosperity of the Province would be considerably smaller than the sort of dangers that would arise if nothing were done about the present situation?
§ Mr. Rees
This is the sort of exercise that looks good in the weekend papers but bears little relationship to reality. It might be different if it were just the question of the mixed population on the border, but the Catholic population of Belfast are proud of being citizens of Belfast. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has told me, on many issues concerning Belfast, that Belfast matters to him and to his people. To suggest that because it is a difficult question that has exercised our minds without any solution for a long period— 1716 as I am often reminded—one should tell 500,000 people that they should live somewhere where they do not want to live, is the wrong way to approach the matter.
§ Mr. Fitt
Will the right hon. Gentleman take if from me that both communities in Northern Ireland will bitterly resent the form in which the Question has been put which implies that people in Northern Ireland would agree to a further repartition of the country? Both communities in Northern Ireland resent any Englishman telling them where they shall and shall not live in the island of Ireland.