HC Deb 05 June 1986 vol 98 cc1077-9
7. Mr. Flannery

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent representations he has received front the Unionist parties in Northern Ireland about the Anglo-Irish agreement; and if he will make a statement.

9. Mr. Parry

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent representations he has received from the Unionist parties in Northern Ireland about the Anglo-Irish agreement; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Tom King

Unionist elected representatives have regrettably not been communicating with Ministers at the Northern Ireland Office. I have, however, attended meetings with Unionist leaders in company with the Prime Minister, when they put forward their views on the agreement.

Mr. Flannery

Does the Secretary of State remember that it was in 1969, against the background of a march for rights by Nationalist groupings, that the violence broke out? Is he aware that for about 50 years there has been a complete lack of democracy in Northern Ireland, where the Unionist party has tyrannised, no matter what he says about the honourable tradition of Unionism, the Nationalist groupings? Is it not time that something was done to try to ascertain whether there is any division between the Official Unionists and the hardliners of the DUP? Unless that becomes clear, it will be obvious to everyone that the Unionists want only to go back to the old Stormont and once again tyrannise the Nationalist groupings.

Mr. King

I reject the hon. Gentleman's comments, especially those about the tradition of Unionism. I recall the efforts of Lord O'Neill and the late Mr. Brian Faulkner to accommodate and recognise the rights of the minority as well in seeking to find a way in which there could be widespread acceptance of an Administration in Northern Ireland. I shall not comment on the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question. Relations between political parties are matters for them.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

If my right hon. Friend was persuaded that the Anglo-Irish agreement was not only an affront to the Unionist parties but a roadblock in the way of any round table talks between all the political parties in Northern Ireland, may I hope that he will show flexibility in putting the treaty to one side, as being of less importance than the setting up of an effective local administration in Northern Ireland?

Mr. King

My hon. Friend leads me into the terrible temptations of hypothetical questions. There is a growing recognition, shared by the leaders of all the churches in Northern Ireland, that we need talks, without preconditions, and that we must sit down and find a way forward. That is something that my hon. Friend and the House will know I have been urging for some time. I think there is a growing feeling in Northern Ireland that that is the way forward. Despite the frustrations, I hope that, at last, we will see some development in that respect.

Mr. Cormack

Is not an unhappy aspect of the boycott—I use the word deliberately—the fact that the Unionist Members are absenting themselves from this place—[interruption.] Almost all of them. Would it not help immeasurably if they came to the House for Northern Ireland Questions?

Mr. King

We must except the presence of the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell), who is recognised as a most assiduous attender in the House, but his presence is the exception that proves the rule. I understand that a campaign is running to try to win over hearts and minds to the Unionist cause in opposition to the Anglo-Irish agreement, but it is the only campaign I know that seems to think it will succeed by silence and abstinence.

Ms. Clare Short

Does the Secretary of State admit that we are seeing a new version of the Unionist veto, in that all their intransigent opposition to the Anglo-Irish agreement is blocking the progress that was promised by the agreement in real reforms to benefit the Nationalist community of the North? The Government do not dare to move down that road, because they are misbehaving so grossly about the agreement, and in that way they are achieving exactly what they wanted in the first place.

Mr. King

The hon. Lady knows from my earlier answers that that is incorrect. The work goes on and will continue. We have made that clear, and I reaffirm it now.

Mr. Budgen

After my right hon. Friend directly interfered in the domestic politics of the United States, did he quietly reflect upon the effectiveness and usefulness of politicians in one nation state interfering in the domestic politics of another, especially in relation to the Anglo-Irish agreement?

Mr. King

My hon. Friends seem to have a rather liverish attitude to certain of these issues today. Although that may be my hon. Friend's view, such a comment was not made to me by any Members of the Senate or the House of Representatives, who were extremely welcoming and very grateful for the opportunity to discuss the issue.

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