HC Deb 05 June 1986 vol 98 cc1075-7
6. Mr. Proctor

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

10. Mr. Portillo

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

Mr. Tom King

Since I last answered questions in the House on 1 May there have been 10 deaths in incidents arising from the security situation in the Province. Six of those killed were civilians, two were police officers, one was an Army major, and one was a corporal in the UDR. I am sure that the whole House will join me in condemning those murders. The security forces have continued their efforts to prevent terrorist activity and to bring to justice those responsible for terrorist crimes. So far this year 264 people have been charged with serious offences, including one with murder and 17 with attempted murder. In the same period, 96 weapons, 10,600 rounds of ammunition and 1,200 lb of explosives have been recovered.

Mr. Proctor

Is it not clear that, despite the Anglo-Irish agreement, the murderous campaign of the IRA continues, particularly in the frontier areas? Is it not also clear that, despite the concessions made by the United Kingdom in the agreement, there has not been a single effective and practical quid pro quo from the Dublin Government regarding security?

Mr. King

If my hon. Friend had heard my answer earlier, he would know that that is not true. Co-operation is increasing. There is no doubt that the IRA sees the agreement as a serious threat. There is no doubt also that it will seek, if it can, to maintain a level of violence and to try to get people such as my hon. Friend to ask such questions.

Mr. Portillo

My right hon. Friend has already expressed the view that the IRA has more to fear from the Anglo-Irish agreement than has anyone else. When does he expect the crossover to come, when the IRA activity to undermine the agreement will diminish and some benefits will be seen from the agreement?

Mr. King

I have never understated the seriousness of the threat and the capability that the IRA maintains. That is why anyone wishing to address the issue seriously and who cares about lives in Northern Ireland does not try to turn it into an argument about the Anglo-Irish agreement, but recognises the reality of the terrorist threat, which is international in scope, and realises that we must tackle it by every weapon at our disposal, and makes quite clear our commitment to do so. I hope that I shall have the full support of hon. Members in that respect.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Has the Secretary of State been reading the items in the provincial press about the involvement of the CIA in the political situation in Northern Ireland? If not, will he ask his officials to show them to him?

Mr. King

I have to say that I have missed those items. If the right hon. Gentleman cares to send them to me, I shall read them with fascination.

Mr. Winnick

In denouncing the IRA's crimes—I have never hesitated in so doing, and there is no reason why I should—is it not necessary to bear in mind the murders committed by paramilitaries on the other side? Is the Secretary of State aware that a Protestant women was murdered in her bed by such a gang because she had recently married a Catholic? How can those who carry out such foul murders claim that they are Unionists and part and parcel of the United Kingdom? Should they not be denounced for what they are—murderous scum?

Mr. King

I have no hesitation in denouncing those who are guilty of sectarian murders. I believe that I speak for every Member in the House, whatever views he or she may hold about the Union in any respect, and whatever arguments we may have, when I say that sectarian killings are utterly contemptible and have nothing to do with the honourable tradition of Unionism. Equally, the violence and murders committed by the IRA have nothing to do with the responsible constitutional tradition of Nationalism. Violent extremists are enemies of all who seek the constitutional approach.

Mr. Hayes

Does my right hon. Friend regret the fact that the newly installed lord mayor of Belfast, Mr. Sammy Wilson. has pledged himself and, sadly, his office, to opposing the Anglo-Irish agreement? Does he not believe that all those who are opposed to the Anglo-Irish agreement are dancing to the terrorists' tune, whether advertently or inadvertently?

Mr. King

The position of the lord mayor is one that should rise above political issues of that sort. The first citizen of Belfast, above all, should genuinely give a lead towards reconciliation and better relations. I hope very much that the new incumbent will, on reflection, feel that that is the course for which he would wish to be remembered.

Mr. Bell

I say at the outset that Her Majesty's Opposition fully associate themselves with the Secretary of State's remarks in the condemnation of violence, death and destruction in Northern Ireland, whether it comes from one side or the other of the sectarian divide. We are somewhat appalled at some of the supplementary questions that the right hon. Gentleman has had to answer from Conservative Back Benchers.

Is it not a fact that there has been a steady number of meetings between the RUC and the Garda, that quiet and steady work is continuing on cross-border security, and that that must be to the benefit of everyone who lives in the island of Ireland?

Mr. King

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making those points. The House knows that I can never give facts about security to the House. So much of the work and the effective development that is taking place cannot be made public and cannot be claimed as political achievements, which might be done in other areas of political life. However, I can say that this work is going forward and that I am encouraged by the progress that is being made.