HC Deb 12 March 1987 vol 112 cc450-1
5. Mr. Silvester

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to meet the new Taoiseach to discuss the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

6. Mr. Flannery

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has any plans to meet the new Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland to discuss Anglo-Irish relations.

Mr. Tom King

I know that the House will join me in congratulating Mr. Haughey on his election as Taoiseach. Although I have no plans at present to meet Mr. Haughey, I look forward to doing so before long.

Mr. Silvester

If Her Majesty's Government are to sustain their policy on the Anglo-Irish Agreement, is it not of great importance that we have urgent talks with the Taoiseach to see whether the continuity of the Republic's policy is sustained?

Mr. King

I accept that. The reality which is reflected in the Anglo-Irish Agreement is still valid. All the evidence of the damage that is being done by terrorism in Northern Ireland, in terms of physical outrage and terror and in terms of economic damage to the Republic, make it clearly of mutual interest to both our countries that there is the most vigorous possible attack against terrorism.

Mr. Flannery

Is it not right that when Mr. Haughey was leader of the Opposition in the Republic he had grave reservations about the Anglo-Irish Agreement and made them obvious in the Dail? Does the Secretary of State remember that in particular he had reservations about what is called the veto of the majority of Northern Ireland? When he sees Mr. Haughey, will he explore this issue?

Mr. King

No. I make it clear that I note the comments that Mr. Haughey made to the political editor of The Irish Times, in which he accepted that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was an accord, and therefore had to be accepted as binding because it had been entered into by an Irish Government. I also note that he said: We will endeavour to contribute to the restoration of peace and stability in Northern Ireland in any way which may appear possible and feasible. If that is correctly reported, I welcome that statement, and I hope that we can have an encouraging and productive working relationship.

Viscount Cranborne

How many items typically did the last Irish premier put on the agenda of the conference? Does my right hon. Friend intend to raise this question with the new Prime Minister and does he expect that number to increase?

Mr. King

I do not know whether I fully grasp the point of my hon. Friend's question. The items that we have discussed are in the communiqués and I expect that programme of work to continue.

Mr. Alton

Is it not the case that the one thing that unites extreme opinion on both sides of the Irish sea is opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and that anything that is done to dilute the commitment of the House or the Dail to the agreement would be playing into the hands of extremist opinion? Is not one of the best things that could happen for progress to be made on the creation of an Anglo-Irish parliamentary tier, which was envisaged in the signing of the original Hillsborough report?

Mr. King

The hon. Member knows that that matter is more for hon. Members and the House than for me. I see the merits in it. There is no question but that the most violent opposition of all to the Anglo-Irish Agreement comes from the IRA.

Mr. Gow

When it becomes clear to my right hon. Friend that the Anglo-Irish Agreement cannot achieve its declared purpose of peace, stability and reconciliation, will my right hon. Friend propose to the Irish Government a renegotiation of that agreement?

Mr. King

I hope that I have made clear to the House my commitment to the agreement and my belief that it offers the best prospect for a way forward in the difficult problems of Northern Ireland. I do not seek a renegotiation of it.