HC Deb 08 March 1979 vol 963 cc1470-3
6. Mr. Gow

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement about the recent discussions with the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic.

8. Mr. van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his meeting on 14 February with the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic.

Mr. Mason

On 14 February I met the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Ireland in London.

Our discussions were wide-ranging and constructive and followed in the series of regular contacts which our two Governments have established. They covered political developments, security co-operation and economic questions.

Mr. Gow

In what areas are the Republic of Ireland Government not taking measures of cross-border security which he would like them to take?

Mr. Mason

I cannot honestly and frankly give a list to the House. We have progressively developed our co-operation across the border. We now have as good a co-operation as we could wish between the RUC and the Garda. When the bombings occurred last November, the Garda successfully stopped a car and arrested five of its occupants who were fleeing from a raid in Londonderry back to Donegal. Contacts by telephone have been made right along the border between the RUC and the Garda. There is a regular exchange between the RUC Chief Constable and the Garda Commissioner. Between us we are doing our utmost to ensure that the border is lessened in importance for the Provos.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Would it be a correct inference from the Secretary of State's original answer that relations between the Republic of Ireland and this country have improved? Has the Secretary of State been able to put over the argument that, in countering terrorism in the whole of Ireland, we must look at that island as one area and that no one part of it can contract out of the operation?

Mr. Mason

Yes, it is true that relations between the British Government and the Republic are good. The Irish Government have recognised and said publicly, as we have, that the Provisional IRA in the whole of Ireland is our common enemy. I must give credit to the Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, for the sterling effort that he has made in the United States of America to explain the truth about the Provisional IRA's main goal and objective, and this has cut back the flow of funds to its cause.

Mr. Fitt

In that part of the discussion which related to security, did the participants recognise that it is not only the IRA which is the common enemy of the Irish people? The Shankill butchers, for example, are also the common enemy of the Irish people. Did they, at any time, discuss the derisory and insulting compensation which is given to people who have succeeded in bringing before the courts people like the Shankill butchers? Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate that he regards this whole question of compensation in such circumstances as being so ludicrous that his Department will look at it again?

Mr. Mason

Yes, we recognise that there is more than one paramilitary organisation in Northern Ireland. The IRA is not the only one. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) must also recognise that the RUC has proved that it was active against the Ulster Defence Association and others involved with it. The RUC found a cache of arms and bomb-making equipment in its headquarters in Belfast recently. This has been highlighted in the Province, and the Foreign Secretary of the Republic and I are fully aware of it.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend is exploiting the case of Mr. McLaverty in the way that he is. An offer of £750 was made to Mr. McLaverty nearly a year ago, but as soon as the court case began the negotiations were held up. It has become evident during the court case that the man is suffering mentally more than people imagined a year ago. The negotiations between the parties have begun, and that is now sub judice until an agreement on the final offer is made.

Mr. McCusker

What exactly is cross-border security when 22 Provisional IRA men can gather arms in the Republic and take three vehicles into my constituency? Luckily they were chased back by the soldiers but a few days later they were able to hijack a lorry in the Republic, drive it to Keady in County Armagh and murder two innocent Roman Catholic boys. If such things can happen, how good is cross-border security?

Mr. Mason

It is not an easy matter when there are 280 miles of border. There is no doubt that this fact has been exploited, particularly by the Provisional IRA. We can only hope that the growing co-operation between the RUC and the Garda will lessen that sort of operation.

Mr. Thorne

In view of the fact that there is little difference of opinion between the two Front Benches in this House, judging by the exchanges so far today, will the Secretary of State indicate how he is operating in order to prevent the Leader of the Oppostion from taking his position after the next election? Is he aware that such a development would result in a considerable worsening of the situation in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Mason

I do not take the position that the Conservatives will succeed. I shall go into battle and I intend to win. However, we have an agreement that on security, economic progress and political advancement in Northern Ireland there is a bipartisan policy. I think that we are making progress on all three fronts—none of them is static.

Mr. Goodhart

I fully appreciate that Mr. Lynch's Government are as anxious as anyone else to see an end to terrorism in Ireland. However, is it not sad that the law which allows the courts in the South to try people accused of acts of terrorism in the North has not functioned nearly as well as we had hoped?

Mr. Mason

The Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1976 is in operation. There have been three convictions in the North under our Act, and one conviction in the South under their comparable Act.

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