HC Deb 23 February 1984 vol 54 cc964-6
8. Rev. Ian Paisley

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

10. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

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

Mr. Prior

Since I last answered questions on 26 January, two members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, one soldier and six civilians have died as a result of incidents connected with the security situation in Northern Ireland. As always, the police and Army commanders continue to pay particular regard to the security of the border areas and I am convinced that the positive and flexible tactics that they employ in this region are the best way to thwart terrorist crime. In the pursuit of border security, I continue to attach importance to the closest co-operation with the security authorities in the Republic.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the right hon. Gentleman take it from me that my right-thinking constituents in Dunloy would like me to pay tribute to a gallant sergeant of the British Army who was killed while giving protection to law-abiding citizens of the Dunloy area? We hope that his colleague will speedily recover from the injuries that he received. Will the right hon. Gentleman also take it from me that my constituents are delighted that the right men were brought under the fire power of the British Army, especially when one thinks of the list of murders and attacks that were carried out by those who used the weapons that were recovered? Will the right hon. Gentleman convey to the security forces the thanks of my constituents for the action that they took?

Mr. Prior

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman has said. I hope that everyone in Northern Ireland and in the House will pay tribute, as the hon. Gentleman has done, to the work of the security forces, and recognise the difficulties that all those connected with the security forces have to contend with in Northern Ireland. Although we do not always see eye to eye about the best methods of securing security, we are all doing our best to overcome the very serious problem.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

Will my right hon. Friend try to overcome the objections in the South to direct links between the armies on the two sides of the border? Secondly, has not the time come to set up a security commission involving the authorities on both sides to review all aspects of border security? After many years, the situation remains very unsatisfactory.

Mr. Prior

I agree with my hon. Friend that the situation remains very unsatisfactory, and I am interested that he should make that suggestion about greater cooperation. I am convinced that if we are to overcome the problems of terrorism we must consider them in the context of the island of Ireland as a whole.

Mr. Beggs

In view of the murderous attack by the IRA in Dunloy, will the Secretary of State assure us that additional personnel will be drafted into north Antrim to ensure that we do not see the developments there that have taken place in County Armagh?

Mr. Prior

Those are matters for the security forces to assess for themselves. I do not believe that additional personnel are necessarily required, but if the GOC or the Chief Constable believe that it is necessary, numbers will be increased.

Mr. Kilfedder

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that a bomb was exploded under a car belonging to a prison officer in my constituency in the early hours of this morning. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this follows two other occasions when cars belonging to two prison officers were destroyed by fire two weeks ago? Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the Northern Ireland Office discusses the protection of prison officers with the Prison Officers' Association?

Mr. Prior

Yes, Sir. We have had a number of incidents recently in which the cars or homes of prison officers have been attacked in one way or another. That demonstrates some of the difficulties under which the prison service operates in Northern Ireland. We are doing all that we can to prevent such incidents. The attacks are thought to have been by Loyalists, not by Provisionals. They show the difficulty of trying to get on top of the problem.

Mr. Archer

I recognise the real problems confronting those responsible for law enforcement, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is deep and widespread disquiet in both communities that, in the course of some recent supergrass trials, innocent people have been at risk as well as the guilty? That makes difficulties for those within the communities who urge that redress for grievances should be sought by lawful and constitutional means.

When George Baker's report be available, and when will the House have an opportunity to debate these matters?

Mr. Prior

I am sorry to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that. There is a right of appeal. The judges have acted with enormous care in assessing the cases that have come before them. I do not think that anything should be said that will in any way make it more difficult to convict terrorists. I hope that the House will remain firm in supporting the necessity of using supergrasses in Northern Ireland, as in other parts of the country. where there is reasonable cause for doing so. The Baker report should be available within four or five weeks at the most.

Forward to