HC Deb 23 October 1986 vol 102 cc1282-3
7. Mr. Peter Bruinvels

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the policing of marches in the Province during the summer months.

Mr. Scott

I am sure the whole House will recognise that the Royal Ulster Constabulary's skilful and highly professional handling of the very large number of marches during what was undoubtedly a tense period in the Province proved very successful. I am sure the House would wish to congratulate it on its efforts, which, coupled with the restraint and good sense of the overwhelming majority of the community, ensured that almost all parades passed off without serious incident.

Mr. Bruinvels

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his new position. Although I recognise that there is a need for a large number of these marches, I am sure my hon. Friend would agree that there has been a tremendous strain on the police forces throughout the summer. They have not been helped by the "Troops out of Northern Ireland" group campaigning in this country, and Sinn Fein councillors, both in Northern Ireland and in some areas of Britain, doing their best to undermine what is happening.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the police need everyone's support? There should be far better cooperation over the arrangements for future marches. The number of marches should he limited to ensure that the Province is adequately policed throughout the summer and in other months.

Mr. Scott

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. I agree very much with the thrust of his questions. We ought to bear in mind that rather more than 2,000 parades took place in Northern Ireland during the marching season, and that only 70 resulted in any sort of disorder. I very much agree that the need to police these parades, especially when there is a threat of violence, diverts police resources from their main task of maintaining law and order and their continuing battle against terrorism. I urge everyone to co-operate as fully as possible with the police in these matters.

Mr. Duffy

Does the Minister agree that the job of policing such sensitively and provocatively routed marches into Catholic areas as took place in Portadown in July would be eased if the RUC's responsible approach to the parade had been matched by that of the organisers? Some of the Unionist Members who normally sit on the Bench to my left, notably the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) publicly endorsed at that time a well-known troublemaker, Mr. Seawright, who believes that all Catholics should be incinerated, even though the RUC felt obliged to ban him from that parade.

Mr. Scott

It is incumbent upon everyone in Northern Ireland involved in these types of parades to co-operate fully with the police. I hope that we can move towards a situation in Northern Ireland where it is accepted that people do not march in areas where they are not welcome. That is a principle we should seek to establish. It would also be helpful to the police if those who organise Republican marches in Northern Ireland would give proper notice of them and co-operate with the police.

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