HC Deb 27 June 1974 vol 875 cc1701-2
1. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will discuss with appropriate persons and bodies in Northern Ireland the acceptability of an international force for the protection of citizens in Ulster which would, over a period of time, substantially replace the British Forces now operating there.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Stanley Orme)

No, Sir. The protection of the people of Northern Ireland is the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, and, given the nature of the security threat, in the absence of normal policing in certain areas an international force would provide a poor method of protection.

Mr. Hooley

Has my right hon. Friend noted that the Government of Southern Ireland are now taking extraordinary measures relating to security by the creation of a national militia? Does he agree that the British Army cannot and will not indefinitely maintain the peace in Ulster? Is it not time that we moved out of the present stalemate towards some new concept of maintaining law and order in that area?

Mr. Orme

I recognise my hon. Friend's concern in these matters. The key to the whole situation is policing. The Government do not see how a United Nations force could help. There is increasing co-operation between the Irish and the British Governments. We believe that is the best way to resolve the matter.

Mr. Kilfedder

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one way of saving lives and protecting property would be for the British Government to persuade the Eire Government to control the sale and to keep a close watch on the distribution of fertilisers and weedkillers which still cross the border in large quantities and are used in those horrendous proxy bombs which cause widespread devastation in Northern Ireland? Will he take steps to deal with that situation?

Mr. Orme

The Government are particularly concerned about the recent wave of explosions and proxy bombing. The Irish Government have been extremely co-operative and are stepping up their cooperation. Recent statements by the Taoiseach and the Foreign Secretary in the Republic have been more than helpful.

Mr. Lee

I hope that my right hon. Friend's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) is not intended to be the final answer. Is he aware that many of us are becoming increasingly impatient with the open-ended character of the commitment in Northern Ireland, having regard to all the circumstances and knowing, as I do, my right hon. Friend's difficulties in this matter?

Mr. Orme

We must keep an open mind. We want to create a situation in which the Army can withdraw from certain duties which could be undertaken in normal policing. We do not believe that an international force would be of help in this matter.

Captain Orr

Now that the Irish Republican Government appear to be setting up their own B Specials, would it not be sensible, instead of thinking about international forces, to think about employing the indigenous population more for their own security?

Mr. Orme

Such emotive phrases will not help to achieve the co-operation that we want from the Irish Republic.

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