§ 3. Mr. O'Halloran
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his recent meeting with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland.
§ 10. Mr. van Straubenzee
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement on his visit to Dublin on 24th January.
§ 13. Mr. Sandelson
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about his discussions in Dublin on 24th January with the Government of the Irish Republic.
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Roy Mason)
In my first visit to Dublin as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on 24th January, I had full and wide-ranging discussions with Dr. FitzGerald, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and other Irish Ministers. I paid a courtesy call on the Taoiseach.
The visit allowed me to establish a direct relationship with the Government of the Republic of Ireland and to discuss areas of mutual interest in a friendly and constructive manner.
§ Mr. O'Halloran
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. However, will he reassure the House that all the rumours that we have been hearing from time to time about diplomatic relations between the British Government and the Eire Government are totally false?
§ Mr. Mason
I found during my visit, having met five Ministers and the Taoiseach, that they were very cooperative in all the fields for which they have ministerial responsibilities. In retrospect, I think that there has been a noticeable improvement in relations between Her Majesty's Government and that of the Republic.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
Did the "direct relationship" of which the Secretary of State speaks include his expressing any views about the craven failure of the Government of the Republic to sign the European convention on terrorism? Did he say to them that within civilised States it is not acceptable to have constitutional excuses for harbouring known criminals, murderers and thugs, who ought to be returned to the North for trial, let alone to the rest of the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. McCusker
Did the right hon. Gentleman take the opportunity to tell the Prime Minister of the Republic that his Government were being at least hypocritical in pursuing the British Government through the courts in Europe while they were inflicting similar torture on my constituents in Port Laoise Gaol?
§ Mr. Mason
I do not think that I would be as blunt as that to the Taoiseach. However, the Republic knows, as the House knows, that our views concerning the Irish State case have been placed on record. The more that they are publicised at the European Court, the more they serve only the cause of the Provisional IRA. However, some years ago we recognised, as a House and Parliament, that we had been guilty of ill treatment and that 14 prisoners had been ill treated. We admitted that, and we have now paid compensation to all 1636 14. I thought that that was a first-class example of a mature democracy. Only the Provisional IRA can gain as a result of pursuing this cause.