HC Deb 09 March 1978 vol 945 cc1600-1
16. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on frontier incidents in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Mason

There have been no incidents between British and Irish forces, although there have, in the course of the past eight years, been a number of occasions on which our forces, or those of the Irish Republic, have accidentally crossed the border. So far as terrorism is concerned, as I told the House on 6th March, co-operation between the two police forces is good, but the border remains an ingredient in much of the terrorist violence in both North and South.

Mr. Marten

In view of the incredibly fine spirit of the great majority of United Kingdom citizens in Ulster in defiance of the IRA, is the right hon. Gentleman really satisfied that we are getting full and genuine co-operation between the Army and the Republic in the fight against the IRA?

Mr. Mason

During the time that I have been Secretary of State for Northern Ireland the Army of the South has been giving greater co-operation than previously. Although there is good RUC-Garda co-operation, it is not easy to have British Army-Irish Army co-operation in respect of some of the frontier incidents.

Mr. Litterick

Has my right hon. Friend's Department given any serious thought to the possibility that shifting the border might diminish cross-border violence?

Mr. Mason

I would hate to have the task of shifting 300 miles of border.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Has the Secretary of State any further information on how the M60 machine gun was introduced into the Province? Can he tell us on which side of the border or where training in the use of this weapon is taking place?

Mr. Mason

I cannot give any further information to the House. As I said earlier, there is no reason why this matter should not be discussed officially. One man has been charged and is being held in connection with the M60 machine gun during the exhibition in January.

Mr. McCusker

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that despite what he said on Monday evening and again this afternoon, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic said yesterday that there was not a shred of evidence to support the assertion that he is making? What will he do to convince the authorities in Dublin of what is happening along the border?

Mr. Mason

It is quite clear that 2 per cent. of border incidents are consistently mentioned. That represents only those incidents which are indisputably cross-border because commanding officers or eye witnesses have seen attacks being carried out from over the border in the Republic. That is the definition of the 2 per cent.