HC Deb 26 January 1984 vol 52 cc1043-5
7. Mr. Flannery

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied with the present level of co-operation with the Government of the Republic of Ireland; and if he will make a statement.

11. Mr. Parry

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he next expects to meet the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland.

Mr. Prior

I have at present no plans to meet Dr. FitzGerald, but I met the Irish Minister for Justice, Mr. Noonan, on 10 January. I expect to meet Irish Ministers from time to time within the framework of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council to review matters of common concern. I am satisfied with the present level of co-operation in economic, social, cultural and security matters between the two countries.

Mr. Flannery

Is it not a fact that in any discussions the right hon. Gentleman's mind must be in possession of the knowledge that there is an Assembly in Northern Ireland which can hardly be called an Assembly — because it does not work in that it is incomplete because some of the Unionists do not attend and because the representatives of the minority community do not attend—and that in Southern Ireland there is a so-called All-Ireland Forum which is in the same parlous position, where representatives from the North do not attend? Is it not possible for us somehow, without going the whole hog, to try to think along the lines mentioned by Churchill when he said, Jaw-jaw is better than war-war", and try to bring together the leaders of the North, who are sitting behind me here, and the leaders of the South, the Government, to discuss the parlous economic position of the whole of Ireland and the politics of the situation? At some time they will have to talk together, and the British people are getting weary—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] — of the whole business, and it is time — [HON. MEMBERS: "TOO long."]—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member's question is already over-long.

Mr. Prior

I am all for jaw-jaw and I have spent a great deal of time jaw-jawing in Northern Ireland and shall continue to do so. Good relations with the Republic of Northern Ireland are an important part of that.

Dr. Mawhinney

Does my right hon. Friend agree that co-operation present and future, after the Forum report, will be largely determined by the realistic acceptance of the Government in the Republic of the present constitutional position of Northern Ireland — that it is part of the United Kingdom for as long as a majority of its citizens wish it to be so?

Mr. Prior

If that could be accepted, there would be open to us a range of measures which would enable the minority to exercise their identity and traditions in a way completely acceptable to the peoples of Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Mr. Stephen Ross

Will the Secretary of State be more forthcoming about his discussions with Mr. Noonan when he met him in Dublin? Did they talk about the taking of hostages in the South and about greater co-operation between the British and Irish Governments to arraign the people who carry out such villainous deeds?

Mr. Prior

The talks were private and were about security and common interests. They did not relate to any issue of the sort mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. I assure him that we had a wide-ranging review of all that we can do to co-operate better to defeat terrorism and to stop kidnapping and similar activities.

Mr. Hordern

Does my right hon. Friend accept that, although a closer relationship between the North and South in Ireland would create a considerable financial burden for the North and would have to be acceptable to the people of Northern Ireland, there is a case for the formation of an Anglo-Irish Council? Would my right hon. Friend give that proposal a fair wind in Parliament?

Mr. Prior

That is a matter for the House and Parliament, not for me. Provided that the council sought to bring about a closer understanding of the problems of the North and the South, it could do nothing but good.

Mr. McCusker

Further to the reply which the Secretary of State gave to the hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney), if he meets Dr. Garret FitzGerald will he remind him of the constitutional crusade that he launched three years ago? It sought to delete the offensive articles 2 and 3 from the Irish Republic's constitution. Does he agree that, had they been deleted, it would have led to a new relationship between the two parts of Ireland, which might have bred good neighbourliness, to the advantage of everyone living on the island?

Mr. Prior

Dr. FitzGerald knows only too well that those two articles are regarded as the stumbling block to the sort of relationship which the hon. Gentleman and I wish to see.

Mr. Peter Robinson

Was the Secretary of State co-operating with the Government of the Irish Republic when he approved the change in the name of the city of Londonderry's council? Will he proceed by statutory rule, or by Order in Council?

Mr. Prior

That has nothing to do with the question on the Order Paper, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall proceed in the correct way. I shall let him know as soon as I can which way I shall proceed.

Mr. Archer

I do not ask the Secretary of State to commit himself in advance of the Forum report, but may I ask him to consider seriously whether any proposals that emerge can be made the subject of discussions between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic and of any party in the North that can be persuaded to respond? Will he at least announce his recognition that there are some interests which all the people of these islands have in common and consider, for example, the recent report by Co-operation North on industrial development?

Mr. Prior

The people of these islands have many interests in common. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, the Government will keep an open mind about the Forum report and try to respond to it, if it is in a form to which we can respond. We await the report with anxiety and hope.

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