HC Deb 22 November 1979 vol 974 cc544-7
8. Mr. van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has any plans to meet the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic in the near future.

15. Mr. Goodlad

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects to have further discussions with the authorities in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins

I have no present plans to meet the Irish Prime Minister, but I shall continue to have discussions with other Irish Ministers as approproiate. Dates for further meetings have not yet been decided between us.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Did my right hon. Friend notice the words used by the Taoiseach on his recent visit to the United States, when he described the activities of the Provisional IRA as "brutal and horrific gangsterism"? Will my right hon. Friend, by a meeting or otherwise, convey respectfully to the Taoiseach that this robust attitude towards the activities of the Provisional IRA, directed as much against his country as against Northern Ireland, is very welcome in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Atkins

I did, indeed, note those words, and I agree with my hon. Friend. I shall certainly convey his sentiments to the Prime Minister of the Republic. All of us welcome the reminder of the threat posed by the Provisional IRA to the security of the Republic as well as to the security of the North and the growing common interest between us in eliminating terrorism wherever it occurs.

Mr. Goodlad

Will my right hon. Friend urge the Government of the Republic to sign, ratify and implement the European convention on the suppression of terrorism? Does he agree that that is vital to the restoration of peace?

Mr. Atkins

As my hon. Friend knows, this country signed that convention without reservation some years ago. It is my belief that all countries should sign it, in an effort to eradicate the evil of terrorism throughout the world.

Mr. Stephen Ross

In view of the apparent refusal of the SDLP to join in the talks, could not the good services of the Prime Minister of the Republic be used to encourage them to do so?

Mr. Atkins

I do not think that that is my business. I do not know, as yet, of such a refusal. I am still waiting for an official answer to my invitation. I repeat my belief that it is in the interest of the SDLP, as it is in the interest of everyone else in the Province, to come together with the other parties under my chairmanship and talk about how we can better govern the Province.

Mr. McCusker

When the Secretary of State meets Mr. Lynch, will he remind him once again that so long as he and his Government share the aspirations of the terrorists all his fine words will have little effect?

Mr. Atkins

I do not think that it is fair to say that the Prime Minister of the Republic shares the views of the terrorists about how they should advance. Nor do I think that he shares their aspirations. The hon. Gentleman will not have failed to read the article written by Gerry Adams in Time magazine, which made it clear that the aspiration of the terrorists is to bring down not only the Government of Northern Ireland but that of the Republic as well.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Will my right hon. Friend make clear to Mr. Lynch that we view security co-operation across the border as a two-way activity, and that the Irish security forces would be welcome to enter United Kingdom territory and air space in pursuit of those whom the Taoiseach has publicly recognised to be the common enemy?

Mr. Atkins

Yes. In my discussions with Ministers of the Republic about improving cross-border co-operation it has been made perfectly clear that any arrangement suggested by either side should be reciprocal.

Mr. Fitt

Does the Secretary of State accept that security is not only a border problem, but that these problems arise all over the Province, and particularly in the city of Belfast? Does he know that on the Cavehill Road in North Belfast this morning a Catholic church was blown almost to smithereens by extremists, who certainly would not be members of the IRA? Can the Secretary of State say what kind of security he is providing for the Catholic population in that area?

Mr. Atkins

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that security is a matter not only of the border but of our own internal arrangements. I was dealing with the border question because of the nature of the original question. There is a later question on the Order Paper about security in general, to which we shall come in a few moments.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the right hon. Gentleman take it from me that the incident referred to by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) will be unreservedly condemned by all right-thinking people in the community? Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that when Mr. Lynch went to America his visit was littered with denials about the security policies that he had agreed with the right hon. Gentleman? Will the Secretary of State now tell us what agreements he made with Mr. Lynch at that conference?

Mr. Atkins

I am glad to hear the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question. Everybody deplores violence and terrorism, from whatever source. With regard to the second part of his question, it was decided between Ministers of the Republic and ourselves that the details of the arrangements that we agreed upon would be kept secret. I think that the House will understand the obvious reasons for that. As I have said before, the Provisional IRA reads Hansard just as much as anyone else does.