HC Deb 26 July 1984 vol 64 cc1222-3
4. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if, in order to assess the current wishes of those who live in Northern Ireland about their consitutional status, he will consider holding a further referendum.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. James Prior)

I have no plans to do so.

Mr. Adley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that while every Member of the House understands, though may not like, the constitutional position, many people overseas —particularly in the United States—and, indeed, many young voters in this country, do not understand that a majority view has frequently been expressed through the ballot box? Would it not help to promote Her Majesty's Government's policies and to counter hostile propaganda if, say, once a decade that exercise were carried out?

Mr. Prior

I take my hon. Friend's point. On the other hand, I am well aware of the impact that too many elections can have in Northern Ireland. Nearly every election in Northern Ireland in recent years has been fought as if it were a referendum about the constitution. Therefore, I do not want to get involved in a further argument at this stage. We take every opportunity to explain the position, in the United States and in other countries.

Mr. Flannery

Is it not a fact that we know what the outcome of any referendum would be? Let us be quite clear — [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]. Because the minority community was deliberately made a minority community by drawing a line round an area in which there was an inbuilt Protestant majority. That was done by force of arms a long time ago. Is it perhaps that the hon. Gentleman who asked the question is trying to be provocative and cause further trouble?

Mr. Prior

No. My hon. Friend would have a tremendous job to be as provocative as the hon. Gentleman.

Dr. Mawhinney

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the constitutional position of Northern Ireland is not in question, that such a referendum would simply inflame passions that are best left uninflamed, and that the people should be allowed to devote their attention to finding ways and means of working and living together?

Mr. Prior

I have absolutely no doubt that that is correct. I also appreciate the point raised by my hon. Friend about the need to try to show other countries what the position is.

Mr. Canavan

Instead of holding a rigged referendum confined to the gerrymandered Six Counties of Ireland, why do we not consult the Government of the Republic of Ireland about the possibility of holding a referendum throughout the whole of Ireland, so that all the people of Ireland can be consulted about, for example, a united Ireland?

Mr. Prior

The simple answer to that question is that the Republic of Ireland is not part of the United Kingdom.

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