HC Deb 17 December 1975 vol 902 cc1380-1
11. Mr. Townsend

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Anglo-Irish relations.

Mr. Hattersley

Anglo-Irish relations have stood up well to the strains imposed by recent terrorist activities on both sides of the Irish Sea. We are continuing to develop our already close co-operation with the Irish Government on matters of mutual interest.

Mr. Townsend

Accepting that cross-border co-operation has improved in recent years, and bearing in mind that the border lies between two friendly countries, both members of the EEC and both dedicated to the destruction of the IRA, is it not nevertheless true that the level of co-operation is far from satisfactory, particularly in military matters? Will the right hon. Gentleman, after consultation with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, continue vigorously to press the Dublin Government on this matter?

Mr. Hattersley

On military co-operation and the effects on the Northern Ireland situation, the hon. Member must put down Questions to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. But I have no doubt that the Government of the Republic of Ireland share our desire to stamp out terrorism on both sides of the border and are co-operating to the best of their ability to bring that about.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Will my right hon. Friend resist with every fibre of his being the hysterical attempts by some people to drive a wedge between the Irish people and the British people and to castigate and put into a third-class category Irish citizens, of whom the vast majority have nothing to do with terrorism?

Mr. Hattersley

Perhaps before I answer I should declare an interest, in that I represent thousands of Irish citizens in the constituency of Birmingham, Sparkbrook, and am very proud to do so. I confirm what my hon. Friend said. Most citizens of Ireland who have come to Britain to live and work deplore the outrages of the recent past as strongly as we do. That cannot be said too often.

Mr. Kilfedder

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the Eire Government could make a sensible contribution to Anglo-Irish relations by withdrawing its case against the United Kingdom at the International Court of Justice?

Mr. Hattersley

We have always taken the view that the Irish State case, as it is called, is appropriate for a friendly settlement rather than its pursuit to the last iota of legal examination—but I understand some of the pressures exerted on the Irish Government in this matter. I disagree with the position that they have taken up, but it should not prejudice our general view of the desirability and the hopes that that Government have of co-operating with us in all these matters.