HC Deb 07 December 1978 vol 959 cc1595-7
1. Mr. McCusker

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list the number of terrorist incidents recorded each month during 1978 at Bess-brook, Forkhill, Crossmaglen and New-tonhamilton Royal Ulster Constabulary stations.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Roy Mason)

A total of 46 incidents has been recorded. I shall, with permission, publish the details in the Official Report.

Mr. McCusker

Does the Secretary of State recognise that the violence in South Armagh presents a very serious situation, and that the statistics he has given us today include the deaths of 10 innocent people, soldiers, UDR men, policemen and civilians? Will he have another look at the action which his right hon Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) took in 1976 to combat the growth of terrorism in South Armagh and perhaps reintroduce those measures?

Mr. Mason

I suppose that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the operations of the SAS. As he well knows, the SAS is now operating Province-wide, and I can assure him that it is not neglecting his constituency. Though there have been 46 incidents—every one of which is one too many—in his area this year, that represents a big improvement on the whole of 1977.

Following are the details:

Terrorist incidents recorded at RUC stations Bessbrook, Newtownhamilton, Crossmaglen and Forkhill, Co. Armagh: 1st January to 30th November 1978.

January 10
February 5
March 5
April 3
May 2
June 5
July 5
August 5
September 3
October 2
November 1
Total 46

These figures cover murders, shootings, explosions, hijackings and mortar attacks.

3. Mr. Wm. Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many incidents of a terrorist nature occurred in Northern Ireland during the month of November 1978.

Mr. Mason

There was a total of 260 terrorist incidents in November, compared with 245 in the same month last year. These figures cover shootings, bombings, incendiary attacks, hijackings and armed robberies.

Mr. Ross

Is the Secretary of State aware that this increase in the month of November indicates that the IRA is trying to raise the level of violence? Is he aware that it is vital that the IRA does not succeed in its objective of provoking a reaction from other sections of the community? Will he give an assurance that the security forces will not be driven back to fencing in the law-abiding town centres and will he say what further measures were introduced in November to contain the threat and reassure the populace?

Mr. Mason

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recognises that the local commanders in the towns of Northern Ireland work with the local security committees. Local politicians, members of the local populace, business men and traders are on those local security committees, and they themselves in spite of the bombing attacks by the Provisional IRA in recent weeks, have taken the decision not to erect the barriers and not to allow the PIRA to defeat them.

Mr. Farr

We recognise that the Secretary of State had to postpone yesterday's visit to London by the Irish Foreign Minister, but will he take urgent steps to resuscitate that arrangement, and will he call the attention of the Irish Government to the fact that supplies, money and explosives are drifting up to the North from the South? Moreover, will he ask the Minister to correct the wrong impression which was given recently in the Dail, where statements were made to the effect that there would be dead prisoners in the Maze before Christmas?

Mr. Mason

Yes, Sir. I am not aware that there will be dead prisoners in the Maze before Christmas. The situation there is well in hand. The prison officers are doing a remarkably good job, and they are cleaning and disinfecting all those cells every three weeks. They are not allowing that situation to get out of hand.

On the other matter, yes, of course, I shall see the Foreign Minister of the Republic as soon as possible. I am sorry that the visit was postponed, first, because of a change of parliamentary business, and second, because he would have been dashing back from the EMS conference. But I must tell the hon. Gentleman, on the security plane, that we discuss the situation every time we meet, and there is increasing co-operation between the North and the South. In fact, the Garda Commissioner came to Belfast in September this year to discuss the improvements with the Chief Constable.