HC Deb 15 January 1987 vol 108 cc396-7
6. Mr. Dubs

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on meetings he has had with Ministers in the Government of the Republic of Ireland on co-operation on security matters.

Mr. Scott

A special meeting of the intergovernmental conference was held on 31 October last year to discuss cross-border security co-operation. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I frequently discuss this subject with members of the Irish Government at regular meetings of the intergovernmental conference. My right hon. Friend also met the Taoiseach on 28 November. It would not be appropriate to disclose details of those discussions, but both Governments are determined to press ahead in further developing security co-operation.

Mr. Dubs

Will the Minister confirm that there is now excellent co-operation from the Republic on security and that those Unionist politicians who say otherwise are deliberately and mischievously misleading their supporters?

Mr. Scott

All I can say is that there is improved security co-operation. The foundations have been laid for further improvements, but it will be the implementation of the reports which have now been agreed between the RUC and the Garda and which have been discussed by Ministers, that will lead to that further improvement that we all wish to see.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

If there is this improvement—and any improvement in security co-operation is welcome—why is it that even the smallest infringement of the border by our forces in pursuit of those whom the Taoiseach has called the common enemy is built up into an international incident in Dublin?

Mr. Scott

There is another question on the Order Paper on that subject, so I imagine that it would not be proper for me to go into great detail now. Our troops are warned about incursions into the Republic of Ireland and genuinely do their best to avoid such incursions. However, when they are in pursuit of terrorists there are occasionally incursions. We regret those and I can understand the sensitivity of the Irish Government about other troops being on their territory.

Mr. McNamara

If Her Majesty's subjects in Northern Ireland conspire to make incursions into the Republic of Ireland and plead guilty to unlawful assembly, are they guilty of an offence within Northern Irish law for committing a conspiracy to invade a foreign country?

Mr. Scott

That would be a matter for the courts to decide.

Sir John Farr

While everyone welcomes the cooperation north and south of the border, has my hon. Friend analysed the situation that may arise shortly with a change of Government in the Republic?

Mr. Scott

We have signed an agreement with the Government of the Republic of Ireland and embarked on the work of an international conference in which cross-border security co-operation is an important aspect. It is not for me to speculate about the possible results of a change of Administration. However, I hope that the co-operation which benefits everyone within the island of Ireland will be continued.