HC Deb 12 March 1981 vol 1000 cc988-90
4. Mr. McCusker

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on border security.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins

Parts of the border areas continue to present particular problems of law and order. Since 12 February, when I last answered questions in the House, six explosive devices have been found in border areas. No one has been seriously injured by terrorist activity around the border, but considerable damage was caused by a car bomb that exploded outside Clogher RUC station on 25 February.

Both the police and the Army are devoting a large amount of effort, manpower and other resources to the maintenance of law and order in these border regions. These efforts will be steadfastly maintained, with the close co-operation of the authorities in the Republic, for so long as the threat to law and order persists.

Mr. McCusker

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it does not matter what he does—and there is still much to be done in the border area—if his actions are not reciprocated on the other side of the border where a safe haven still exists for terrorists? Was that not best exemplified by a recent High Court case in Dublin where Mr. Martin O'Hanlon successfully challenged an extradition warrant to the North on the basis that he was waging war against British Government forces and the RUC?

Mr. Atkins

The co-operation of the security forces in the Republic is improving and that is something of which we can be glad. It is no secret that the Government believe that extradition would be a great help in the apprehension of criminals, but, in default of the agreement of the Republic to the sort of extradition procedures that we should like, it is gratifying to note that it is using the extra-territorial jurisdiction Acts. Four people have been tried under those Acts recently and one case is currently under consideration in the Republic. Of course, I cannot comment on that.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Do we not remember today with gratitude Sir Maurice Oldfield, who greatly helped to improve security co-operation on the border and throughout the Province?

Mr. Atkins

I knew the late Sir Maurice Oldfield only in the latter part of his life when, having retired from a lifetime of service to this country, he came out of retirement to help us in Northern Ireland. He made a most notable contribution to the effectiveness of the security effort in Northern Ireland and he will be very greatly missed by all his colleagues and by the many friends that be made.

Mr. Flannery

Does not the Secretary of State realise that, although many of us wish that reciprocal arrangements could be arranged with the Republic, the pressures from the people in the Republic, because of the dreadful history of violence during occupation throughout the centuries, are so great that, whoever leads in the Republic does not believe that these arrangements can be undertaken at this stage no matter what we think—as was pointed out in The Observer last weekend?

Mr. Atkins

This is precisely why the Government are glad that the extra-territorial jurisdiction arrangements made between the United Kingdom and the Republic are being operated by both parties at the moment.

Mr. Dickens

Now that trade has increased between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, is the Secretary of State satisfied about the safety of the millions of pounds worth of goods that are transported across the border?

Mr. Atkins

No Secretary of State can ever be satisfied if any kind of crime takes place. There is a great deal of traffic across the border between North and South, in both directions, which largely goes unchallenged and without difficulty. Where there are thefts or raids upon goods and traffic, this is a matter to which the security forces in Northern Ireland, as in any other country, pay particular attention and try to stop.