HC Deb 09 November 1987 vol 122 cc19-35 3.30 pm
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tom King)

I will, with permission, Mr. Speaker, make a statement on yesterday's terrorist attack at the war memorial in Enniskillen.

This occurred shortly before the parade arrived for the formal wreath-laying ceremony. I should explain to the House that the normal procedure in Enniskillen is that the parade forms up and marches to the war memorial where the act of remembrance takes place and then marches to the cathedral for the Remembrance day service.

At 10 45 am, as spectators were gathering near the war memorial, a bomb exploded in the St. Michael's reading room, outside which a number of people were taking up their normal vantage point. No warning whatsoever had been given. The explosion demolished the gable wall, which fell, crushing the waiting spectators. Eleven people were killed and more than 60 injured. Of the injured, 21 were detained in hospital overnight, of whom five are very seriously injured. Among those killed are three elderly couples, a young nurse, and an off-duty policeman.

I know that I speak on behalf of the whole House in expressing our deepest sympathy to those bereaved and injured, and to all their relatives and friends, at this appalling outrage. I also pay tribute to the absolutely outstanding way in which all the emergency services responded to their terrible task.

It is clear from the location chosen for the bomb and the absence of any warning that those responsible for this monstrous act set out deliberately to kill and maim ordinary members of the public: people from both communities who had come together on a sunday morning, young and old, like thousands upon thousands of others throughout the United Kingdom, to honour the memories of those who had died in two world wars and since. In all the tragedy of the terrorist campaign, this outrage stands out in its awfulness. To perpetrate such an outrage against people, for many of whom the occasion was already one of sorrow and remembrance, betrays a total lack of human feeling. Nor could there have been a more deliberately provocative act, more calculated to stir up sectarian hatred, than this outrage on this special and solemn day.

There is a deep sense of anger and outrage felt throughout Northern Ireland today. I know that many will call for retaliation. I say to them most urgently that they most not be provoked. Further acts of violence will only play into the hands of the terrorists and make more difficult the task of the security forces. What we must do instead is to determine that every possible assistance is given to the RUC and the security forces in their continuing fight against terrorism and in particular to bring those responsible for this atrocious crime to justice, wherever they may be. There must be some who have in the past given tacit support to the terrorists, or who have preferred too often to look the other way, who must be horrified at yesterday's outrage. If they or anybody else have any information at all to identify the culprits, and if their revulsion at this terrible crime is genuine, they must ensure that they give the RUC any help they can, whether by using the confidential telephone or by whatever means they choose.

Since my visit yesterday afternoon to Enniskillen, I have had initial meetings with the Chief Constable and also the General Officer Commanding and the Commander Land Forces. I shall be meeting them on my return to Northern Ireland. In addition, in the light of the serious recent events in security both north and south of the border, and the successful seizure of the major arms shipment and the implications that flow from that, I shall be having further urgent talks with Irish Ministers abut security. In this connection I appreciate the strong message of support and co-operation that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has received from the Taoiseach.

There are those who believe that this latest, most foul attack is a measure of the frustration of the terrorists in the light of the considerable recent successes of the security forces. Whatever their motive, the courage and resourcefulness of the security forces, backed up by the same courage and steadfastness of the community, and aided significantly by international co-operation, have inflicted severe blows on the terrorists. None the less, yesterday's outrage shows the evil threat that they still pose and the vital need for the whole community to continue to stand steadfastly against them.

There are two messages that I wish the House to send today. The first is to the people of Northern Ireland of our resolve to stand firmly with them in the fight against terrorism and to assure them of our full support. The second is to make it clear to the men of violence that no threat or outrage destroys our resolve, but makes us all the more determined to rid the Province of the evil of terrorism.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

The whole nation shares the feeling of revulsion caused by this horrible and obscene act. In the past, even the most barbaric have accepted that people should be allowed to honour their dead in peace. It is particularly horrific when we recall that hon. Members were yesterday before their local cenotaphs, not just honouring the dead but, more particularly, welcoming the reconciliation that there has been since two world wars.

Our sympathy, as expressed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and our prayers go out to the families and the relatives of the bereaved and injured. Those who heard Mr. Wilson, the father of the nurse who died, on the radio this morning could not have had a better or a more moving insight into the personal tragedies that have resulted from this dreadful deed, nor a finer example of Christian charity.

Equally, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is correct to urge that the best method of defeating these men of violence is not by taking retaliatory action or by overreacting, no matter how understandable that may be. We must react with a cold anger, with a determination to support the forces of law and order, and the RUC in particular in its efforts to bring these criminals to justice. In this way we can ensure that the rule of law for which those whom we were all honouring at cenotaphs yesterday, and in particular at Enniskillen, died, is upheld.

We join in the tribute that the Secretary of State paid to the emergency services, in especially tragic circumstances, and to the courage, resolution and determination of the ordinary citizens of Enniskillen, who were faced with tremendous tragedy. Their immediate reaction was to help those who were sick, injured or dead.

There is a particular message that comes from this tragedy. It gives the lie to any suggestion that any Democrat can flirt with those who support the policy of the bomb and the ballot box. For Democrats, it is the ballot box that matters.

The people of Enniskillen have the knowledge of our sympathy and of the resolute determination of the House that they should be able to live their lives secure and in peace. It is our duty to ensure that that is achieved.

Mr. King

I know that the House will appreciate what the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) has said on behalf of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, on his own behalf and on behalf of his right hon. and hon. Friends generally. I am sure that the House will appreciate especially his comment that no Democrat can flirt with anybody who espouses the cause of terrorism.

Anyone who heard Mr. Wilson this morning—it was one of the most moving broadcasts that I can remember—gained some insight into the amazing courage and wonderful quality of the people of Fermanagh. That came across so clearly in that most moving broadcast.

I think that we in this place can appreciate the horror of this outrage as well as anyone anywhere in the country. Those of us who were involved in Remembrance Day ceremonies in our constituencies saw the sorts of people who were killed in the outrage; for example, parents, old servicemen and others with memories who have regularly attended Remembrance Day occasions. We find that targets for terror are the parents of those with children in the Girl Guides or the Boys' Brigade who go to watch their children take part in a traditional ceremony. I am sure that many right hon. and hon. Members will understand all too keenly the appalling nature of this outrage.

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

I add my words of congratulation to those that have already been uttered to the emergency services for the way in which they worked in Enniskillen yesterday to bring comfort to the injured and for the way in which they have rallied round the bereaved. I thank right hon. and hon. Members of both sides of the House who this morning offered support to me as well as to my constituents.

I was devastated yesterday by the death of another 11 of my constituents, bringing the total death roll in Fermanagh and South Tyrone to 194, but I was doubly devastated to hear the Secretary of State's statement this afternoon. It is an insult to the House yet again to be offered platitudes. It is a let-down for my suffering people.

All that we have been offered is a further abdication of the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Office and of the Government to the Government of a foreign state. We who live close to the frontier in Northern Ireland realise that if we get any co-operation on security matters from the Irish Republic that is a bonus and is not the basis of proper security for our people. Instead, the basis of proper security lies in the Government's hands. In other words, it is the Government's responsibility.

I remind the Secretary of State that the death toll of 47 in the year before the Anglo-Irish Agreement has now risen by 70 per cent. to 80 this year. We would do better to tell everyone in Northern Ireland, including the SDLP, that they can no longer get away with simple condemnations of violence and that they must accept responsibility for the welfare of the community in which they live. Will the Secretary of State consider how tragic it is that 169 deaths at the hands of the IRA have resulted in only 14 convictions through the due process of law—a miserable 8 per cent.? Will he therefore not simply encourage, but demand of the SDLP that it turns its words of sympathy into action to protect the people of Northern Ireland?

Mr. King

I know that the whole House will understand the great emotion with which the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) speaks at this moment. We all know the tragic history and the scale of casualties that his constituents have suffered over the years of the terrorist campaign, and this has been a further appalling blow for them. We understand that entirely. Nevertheless, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will fairly recognise the very determined efforts that have been made, and the successes in recent months, in bringing a number of people to justice and in preventing other terrorist incidents—most recently in preventing an attack on the police station at Loughgall, quite close to the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

The hon. Gentleman will have noted that I said in my statement that it was time for everybody to give full support to the RUC and the security forces. I say that very clearly indeed, and look to every party in the House to play its full part. This is a time when there can be no halfway house. There can be no chance of deciding whether to sit on the fence. In the fight against terrorists of such depravity and viciousness, those who are not for us are against us. We need the fullest support of every Democrat in the country and of every Democrat in Northern Ireland, to defeat the terrorists.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

Without apology, Mr. Speaker, I rise with deep anguish of heart and deep anger at the massacre that took place in Enniskillen yesterday. As the elected representative of the area in Europe I can also speak in a representative capacity.

I am sure that the Secretary of State will agree with me on one thing, if we agree on nothing else. Someone who has seen a founding member of his own party so brutally murdered, as John Megaw was, and who has visited in hospital members of his congregation who have been barbarously mutilated, must speak with the deepest possible feeling and conviction if there is a spark of manhood in him. If hon. Members wish to condemn the strength of emotion of Northern Ireland representatives, I remind them that I have seen their emotions stirred on other occasions. We feel the same as they would feel. If the House has to receive from Northern Ireland Members some contributions with which it may not agree, it must recognise that as elected representatives we are bound to put to the House the feelings of our constituents.

Is the Secretary of State aware that no amount of condemnation or sympathy from him or the Government whom he represents will allay the real fears of the people in Ulster about the increasing number of IRA terrorist murders in Northern Ireland? The people in Northern Ireland do not want sympathy from the Government or condemnation of this violence. They want action to put this violence down, so that they may live in peace and get on with the ordinary aspects of everyday living.

Does the Secretary of State appreciate the deep anguish of an exasperated population who have seen murder piled upon murder, and massacre piled upon massacre—all carried out without effective action to stop it? This is not the first time that the Houe has heard a similar statement and similar words of condemnation, yet the violence has increased. Does the Secretary of State not now realise that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has not brought peace, stability and reconcilation, but, rather, has brought polarisation, war and increasing bloodshed and violence?

Will the right hon. Gentleman now consider that the signal failure of the Garda recently to deal with the gang of the so-called "border fox" means that the Garda is likely to give him little assistance when he turns to it at this time for help to put down the IRA? Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that it is an insult, as the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) said, even to mention in the House the help of Mr. Haughey, who helped to spawn the IRA? Anyone who doubts that should read the debates that took place in the Dail in Dublin.

I should like the Secretary of State to explain why the reading room was not searched and why the police were not permitted to search it when they went into the area. Last night, when I was in Enniskillen and visited the hospital, the police put it to me that if they had dared to go into that convent property and put in a sniffer dog they would have been at the receiving end of stiff Nationalist opposition and downright condemnation. The police should have had that building searched, because it was a vital place in which a bomb could be laid. I should like an explanation on behalf of the people of Enniskillen.

Mr. King

No hon. Member will resent the hon. Gentleman expressing his feelings and those of his constituents, however emotionally, in the face of the scale of the tragedy and horror that we are reviewing. It is his duty to put those feelings as clearly as he can. I hope he accepts that it is our duty, as elected representatives and as people in positions of responsibility, to ensure that those emotions that inevitably are aroused by an occasion of this kind are channelled into ways that are genuinely helpful and will not lead to further disillusionment, bitterness and hatred.

Since I prepared this statement—I have not yet had further information about this—I have been informed that a member of the minority community in Belfast was murdered this afternoon. I hope that there is no connection, but, as we all know, it is a clear warning of the tragic and destructive way in which emotions can be aroused.

I have no knowledge that anyone in any sense refused permission to search the reading room. It is the practice, I understand, of the security forces to clear the route and perhaps to examine those buildings that might present a real threat to the security forces. The recent terrorist campaign has been targeted directly against the security forces. To anyone who knew the normal arrangements for the parade at Enniskillen, this building was a place from which ordinary members of the public watched the parade, so there was not much risk to the security forces. I think that that may have been part of the thinking. Awfully, that truth proved correct and it was ordinary members of the public who were killed. Certainly there was no question of a search being forbidden.

In dealing with the challenge of terrorism, one must remember that the parade marches for a mile or more from the assembly point to the war memorial and the cathedral. Moreover, there is a whole range of Remembrance Day parades in Northern Ireland, so the challenge to the security forces in terms of what is realistically possible is very great. I know that all possible precautions were taken. Indeed, I have spoken to the Army officers concerned, who played a major role in clearing the route before the parade took place.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Will the Secretary of State convey to the relatives of the murdered and the injured the condolences, prayers and sympathy of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself? Does he agree that the most lasting memorial to the innocent victims of the Enniskillen atrocity will be redoubled determination and resolve to strengthen co-operation between the British and Irish Governments?

To that end, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that on 1 December, in the Dail, progress must be made on a full extradition agreement? Does he further agree that there needs to be simultaneous enactment by the Dail and by Westminster of joint anti-terrorist legislation and the establishment of joint courts? Does he also accept that there can be no room for ambiguity about Catholic support for the security services, and that Catholics in Northern Ireland who wish to see an end to violence must desist and support the RUC?

Mr. King

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks on behalf of his right hon. and hon. Friends and himself. He referred to co-operation. What I believe will come out of the outrage is a better chance of much closer co-operation within Northern Ireland. I believe that many people who perhaps felt that they could somehow stand aside now realise the awfulness of the menace that threatens every decent person in the Province. The universality of condemnation that has come from right across communities leads me to hope that that will be reflected in the strongest support.

I apologise to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) for not replying to his point about co-operation with the Irish Government. Although it is within Northern Ireland that these matters have first to be tackled, the security forces who have had to cope with the challenge of terrorism over the years operate to a highly sophisticated and professional standard and we are, of course, keen to find ways for co-operation with the Garda. If any hon. Member who knows the geography of the island of Ireland seriously suggests that we will make the best progress in fighting terrorism by somehow doing it in separation from, rather than in co-operation with, the Government of the Republic, I must make it very plain that I could not disagree more.

On the need for there to be no hiding place within the island of Ireland, I have made my views very clear as to what I hope will happen. The Irish Government are well aware of our views and it is vital that we stand together.

As we are talking about a European convention, I pay tribute to the international co-operation that we have had, and I believe that it is the countries of Europe in particular that must stand together in the fight against terrorism.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)

I wish that the distraught and hard-pressed people of Ulster could have heard the warm and supportive words of sympathy from hon. Members from all parties that greeted me when I arrived at Westminster this morning. It would give them hope for the future.

I preface my question to the Secretary of State by repeating what I have said before—that I hope that there will be no retaliation in Northern Ireland as a result of this obscene act. However, it should be remembered by all hon. Members—and I hope that the Secretary of State will pay the appropriate tribute—that the people of Northern Ireland have for 17 years suffered grievously at the hands of the Provisional IRA, whose systematic, ruthless campaign of murdering Protestant men, women and children has been going on for far too long.

Instead of a war of words from the Despatch Box and press releases from Stormont Castle, will the right hon. Gentleman now wage all-out war against the Provisional IRA? It will not be beaten by any other means, and certainly not by concessions, weaknesses or the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I believe, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman agrees, that in Northern Ireland there must now be a proclamation of martial law, the introduction of identity cards for every person—with fingerprints and photographs stored in a central computer, and anyone moving from an address must notify the authorities—the abolition of the 50 per cent. remission for terrorists who have been sentenced to prison, the restoration of the ordinary remission terms that apply to the remainder of the United Kingdom and the introduction of internment — something with which I disagree, but which is necessary.

The Secretary of State said that there should be no hiding place, but there is a hiding place in the Irish Republic, and there is a hiding place in Northern Ireland. I have been told by police and Army officers that they can identify the IRA men wandering around, but they cannot arrest them because they do not have sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction in court. Those men are planning operations and training youngsters to carry out atrocities, but they can defy the law while walking past police and UDR officers.

Perhaps I have become cynical after 17 years of violence in Northern Ireland, but there is no sign of its coming to an end. The Government, unfortunately, show weakness to the IRA in many ways. May I give the House a prediction? I hope that I am proved wrong, but I believe that within a few weeks — yes, even a few weeks — representatives of Republicans, both north and south of the border, will be engaging in bogus criticism of the police, Army and UDR if they kill or capture some IRA terrorist. Let us ensure that if they make such a criticism, this House will give them its answer.

Mr. King

I very much appreciate the hon. Gentleman's support for the call for no retaliation, which was very well put. He mentioned a number of specific items that he wants to see pursued further. We keep a number of matters regularly under review. I do not propose to comment on any of them today, but I have taken note of the hon. Gentleman's comments.

I was struck by the hon. Gentleman's opening comment about the warmth of welcome and words of sympathy that greeted him when he arrived at the House today. Other hon. Members, especially the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, had a similar experience. The awfulness of this outrage is how counter-productive and stupid it is. The incident has, in fact, drawn together all those for whom Remembrance Day is a very special day, and the outcome of the incident is that it will enlist substantial support for hon. Members, their constituents and those who have to face the horror of terrorism. In that respect, the whole country has drawn together in its feeling of outrage.

Mr. John Hume (Foyle)

I join other hon. Members in expressing abhorrence at the appalling atrocity yesterday, which was an act of sheer savagery. The choice of the occasion yesterday, when people were commemorating the dead of two world wars, who came from every section of every community of both islands, was cold and calculated and designed to stir and hit the deepest emotions of the Unionist and British people. It was the deepest act of provocation against the Unionist people that has taken place in my lifetime. I sincerely hope that no one will fall into the trap that has been laid by retaliating, because the doctrine of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.

This House can do no more today than endorse the Prime Minister's statement yesterday that there should be no hiding place anywhere in these islands for those who committed the atrocity. We should also endorse the Irish Prime Minister's statement that every step should be taken by his Government, together with the British Government, to ensure that those who committed the atrocity are brought to justice.

There is a lesson to be learnt by the representatives of Northern Ireland. It is clear to me, as it must be clear to anyone, that it is the past attitudes in Northern Ireland that have brought us to where we are today. Unless we are prepared to re-examine those attitudes, we will stay the way that we are. If we are to live together, the first lesson that we must learn is that we need each other. We will discover how much we need each other, and how we are to live together, only when we sit down and talk about it.

Mr. King

The whole House will have listened to the hon. Gentleman with great interest. He obviously has an important role to play in the process. If, out of all the misery and tragedy, one benefit might flow, if it brings forward closer co-operation, a united determination to fight against evil men and the commitment of men of good will to work together, that, at least, will be some not entirely tragic epitaph to this awful incident.

Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

Were not the word of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) a welcome lead? However, when he said that the atrocity was deeply provocative to the Unionist people, should he not also have said that it was deeply provocative to Irish people as a whole? At remembrance time at our war memorials, do we not commemorate the many Nationalists who fought and died with our forces?

Mr. King

Of course, I accept what my hon. Friend said. Many from both communities have served and died in two world wars and since, as I said in my statement. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point absolutely clear.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

Will the Secretary of State accept from my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself our sympathy for the bereaved and injured and our revulsion, shared with people throughout the length and breadth of the realm, at such a cowardly attack upon those gathered to commemorate those who lost their lives in defence of freedom? We note with satisfaction the right hon. Gentleman's expression of determination to bring to justice those who perpetrated this atrocious deed, wherever they may be.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that there is practical and effective co-operation on the ground between the security forces in the border areas — especially in the light of the report this afternoon of the discovery by the Garda of a battery and command wire connected to an unexploded bomb in Donegal? Does he believe that such co-operative activities can play a more effective role in preventing such a tragedy? We are convinced that terrorism and such acts serve only to strengthen the determination of our people to sustain, or to secure, by democratic means, the peace and government of Northern Ireland.

Mr. King

I make absolutely clear our determination to bring to justice the perpetrators not merely of these crimes but of the other awful crimes that have been committed. I hope that the sheer awfulness of this outrage will assist that process. There will be many for whom it is so intolerable that they may at last, as I said in my statement, abandon what one might see as an ambivalent view and understand the importance of supporting the security forces. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. The cross-border incident is still under investigation. It appears as though it was an attempt to commit another attack at the same time as the attack yesterday. It will be the subject of close co-operation between the Garda and the RUC.

Mr. Alistair Burt (Bury, North)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whatever other motives may have lain behind yesterday's tragedy and outrage, two victories were sought by the perpetrators? The first was an undermining of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and the second was the return of capital punishment for terrorist murders. Will my right hon. Friend set his face against the undermining of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and, from his great office, do his best to urge the House to resist the second, which would give terrorists the propaganda victories which their outrages so deservedly refuse them?

Mr. King

I certainly accept—all my information confirms it—that the people who most fear the Anglo-Irish Agreement are those in the IRA. They will do everything that they can to smash it. They perceive that truth which the House endorsed a few moments ago. I made the point that the greatest threat to them lies in closer co-operation between the two Governments. There may be those critics who do not believe that such co-operation can be achieved, but I trust that nobody will say that co-operation is not a prize well worth striving for.

On the second point, I recall that when my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spoke on the subject of capital punishment he quoted the views of the Chief Constable of the RUC. The Chief Constable made it clear to my right hon. Friend, my predecessor in the office that I now hold, that, in his view and in those of his senior officers, it would make the RUC's task of fighting terrorism more difficult. My right hon. Friend asked me whether that was still the view of the Chief Constable and senior officers, and I confirmed that it was.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)

Does the Secretary of State accept that the time for the platitudes of the past 18 years has now expired? Does he also accept that hon. Members have a duty to bring forward, debate and implement political decisions? Is it not our first duty to deprive terrorists of the hope and expectation that they will achieve their objectives? They were given such hope and expectation exactly two years ago. In response to what the Secretary of State said—if I did not misinterpret the words that he used in a broadcast this morning—can we not now get together within the United Kingdom to reverse the disastrous and fatal message of 1985?

Mr. King

I have tried to make it clear to the House already that, with the responsibility that I hold, I should not think it the least bit wise somehow in isolation to seek to pursue the interests of security and to make a real improvement in security in Northern Ireland. From my experience since the Agreement was signed, I strongly believe in the progress that has been made and in the relationships that are being established. In the long term, they can prove to be of great benefit to the people of Northern Ireland and, indeed, of great benefit to the people on both sides of the border in the island of Ireland.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

Will the Secretary of State allow me to record my appreciation of the multiplicity of expressions of condemenation and sympathy from hon. Members during the course of the day about the events that occurred in Enniskillen? It would be difficult for any Northern Ireland hon. Member to go back to the Province unable to carry such messages with him, but will the Secretary of State accept from me that it will be equally difficult to go back to the Province without a message from him that demonstrates a new initiative or a new resolve on the part of the Government to defeat terrorism?

Will the right hon. Gentleman also accept from me that there is a widely held view in Northern Ireland that the doctrine upon which the British Government's security policy is based is that if we take tougher action we might drive Nationalists further towards the IRA? Rather than take tougher action, the Government choose to make concessions to what they describe as constitutional Nationalists, in the hope of winning the Nationalist community away from the IRA.

After Enniskillen, does the Secretary of State accept that that policy does not work? It causes the IRA to step up its campaign of violence and to believe, as it has some justification to do, that more violence brings more concessions. Will he tell us that he is prepared to have a resolute policy against the Provisional IRA which hunts and harries its members, which corners and captures them, and, when they are caught, makes sure that they are sentenced to sentences that fit the crime that they have committed?

Mr. King

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks about the expressions of sympathy that have been given to him. It widely reflects feelings right across the United Kingdom.

On the second point, the hon. Gentleman's criticisms fly totally in the face of the reality of the situation. If he examines the facts he will find that, in terms of losses and casualties, this has been the most serious year for the IRA, certainly in recent times, and that the number of terrorists lost is substantial indeed. We must look at the incidents and the successes of the security forces. In terms of recovered weapons and explosives, prevented attacks and arrests—including one last night in Belfast in connection with a bomb which, arguably, was destined for the centre of Balfast — the hon. Gentleman will note that the activities of the security forces have been extremely energetic. I certainly give him a clear pledge. We shall not rest until we carry forward the fight. We can point to some successes, but, as I warned the House, we still fight a dangerous, evil adversary. Of our resolution let there be no doubt.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)

Last night I called on the elderly widowed mother of a former RUC member who was murdered at Enniskillen. She said: They got him this time. He has previously been shot and ambushed.

I ask the Secretary of State, on reflecting upon Warrenpoint, Birmingham, Ballykelly and Enniskillen, to undertake to resign if another such incident occurs in Northern Ireland and he fails to take advice from Ulster Unionists. We have been ignored. Our advice is of no account in the House. What do we find? We find that death, murder and maiming continue. In fact, it is escalating. There were two extraditions in the two years prior to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. No persons have been extradited in the two years since it was signed.

We live on promises. I and my constituents in the east of the Province, and people across the Province, accept the sincere expressions of sympathy and the condemnations of violence and the retaliatory action that we have heard about. I shall be pleased to convey them to those with whom I make contact, but we cannot go on endlessly ignoring the views expressed in the House on behalf of Unionists, who are being selectively butchered and murdered. It is genocide. It is war. The Government have failed miserably to use their power with their own security forces. This summer I visited Cyprus, where I saw an attempt to create a border that appeared to be working. I have travelled almost to Dublin and along many of the byways across the Province, from north to south, but there is no evidence of security. Until attitudes change in the House, and especially that attitude of the Secretary of State and his Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office, regrettably we can look forward to yet another similar incident in the not too distant future.

Mr. King

I would welcome the hon. Gentleman's co-operation, the opportunity to listen to his views on the security situation and to hear any ideas from him. I confirm that my door is open, as are those of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Northern Ireland Office. We are ready to work in any way that we can and to consult Unionists who would like to put forward their views. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that my complaint has been the lack of that advice and the lack of Unionists who are willing to put forward their views. It would be overwhelmingly in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, including those whom the hon. Gentleman represents, if we could work more closely together.

Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)

I join many other hon. Members from Northern Ireland in expressing my appreciation to those who genuinely feel for the deep hurt and anguish of the people of Northern Ireland. I speak as a member of a family that has been savagely hurt during the troubles by the murder gangs of the IRA. I pay tribute to the excellent services of those who assisted and helped in Enniskillen during the great crisis about which my lion. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) spoke.

Many of the people of Northern Ireland find that much of the sympathy rings hollow when they consider that the troubles have been going on for 19 years. We have listened to expressions of sympathy for 19 years and have been told continually that the resolve to defeat terrorism is there. Surely, after 19 years the Secretary of State must believe that if a policy has not succeeded in destroying the curse of the IRA that policy has failed and needs to be changed. There is nothing wrong in a person admitting that a policy has failed and in realising that life is at stake and that British citizens are suffering. Coffins will be carried out, and when I return to Northern Ireland my constituents along the border will ask not how many expressed sympathy but what the Government are going to do to stop it.

How many more coffins containing the cream of Ulster will have to be carried out before the Government wake up to the fact that one cannot negotiate away terrorism? One cannot defeat terrorism by sitting politicians around a little conference table, as I have heard some hon. Members suggest. It can be defeated only by military means. As is known, we were commemorating previous wars yesterday. The enemy of freedom and liberty was destroyed, not by a little conference, but by military might. Therefore, I ask the Secretary of State what measures he believes will defeat the murderers and bring an end to this tragedy in our Province. When will the Government have the courage to act on the Prime Minister's conviction that the death penalty should be restored in the United Kingdom? With the greatest respect to certain hon. Members who represent seats far away from the murder gangs, I would rather have a dead terrorist any day than a dead British subject who wanted simply to live in peace in the Province.

Is it not interesting that certain hon. Members are missing from their places today? Last week in the Central Lobby of this House those hon. Members greeted with open arms a member of Sinn Fein and his deputation. Is it not hypocrisy that hon. Members on the Labour Front Bench should tell the people of Ulster how sorry they are, when other hon. Members of Her Majesty's Opposition flirt with that terrorist organisation of Sinn Fein? Instead of giving such people the respectability of holding positions in local government, is it not time that Sinn Fein was turfed out? It is time that the House realised that many members of Sinn Fein hold high positions and office in district councils in Northern Ireland with the support of the Social Democratic and Labour party. I name Magherafelt district council and Omagh district council. With the support of the SDLP a member of Sinn Fein was elected to the key position of the chairmanship of the latter council. Let us have a bit of honesty, because the people of Ulster have had the reality of murder and destruction for 19 years.

Mr. King

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have made my views on those who support terrorist organisations absolutely clear. I have made clear also my concern about the present unsatisfactory situation in the council chambers, which we are not prepared to tolerate. Appropriate action needs to be taken.

With the resources and the scale of the involvement of the RUC, the regular Army and the UDR, nobody can doubt the Government's commitment to providing the resources necessary to the fight against terrorism. Yes, we shall face terrorism with the security forces in every way that we can. However, we should also undermine and wean away those who might be inclined to allow terrorism to continue. That means the greatest effort by all those in Northern Ireland who are in any responsible position to try to show some understanding of and respect for the other community and the two traditions. In that way, they can back up the policing activities of the security forces and give them the support that they deserve.

Mr. Harold McCusker (Upper Bann)

Is the Secretary of State aware that, if the truth were told, in the aftermath of this latest tragedy the people of Northern Ireland are just as cynical as the House and officials in the Northern Ireland Office, because one tragedy is piled on another, and perhaps therein lies our greatest danger?

On the basis that hope is perhaps one of the ways in which we can avoid retaliation, and that the responsibility for giving that hope must lie with the Secretary of State, what hope can he offer people in the Province this afternoon? What hope can he offer to the people who have said to me, "You are wasting your time going over there. They are not going to listen to you"? When this ritual is over and the dead are buried, it will simply be a matter of my colleagues and I waiting for the next time.

Mr. King

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman's first point. I do not think that people in the Province are cynical about what happened yesterday or about what will happen in the future; nor are hon. Members or people in this country cynical in any sense. I agree with Bishop Hannon, the Bishop of Clugher, whom I heard speaking this morning. When asked about the scale of the outrage and the difference that it made he said that every death is a tragedy for the family and relations. Northern Ireland has had to face too many such tragedies. As I said in my statement, I believe that there is something about this incident and its awfulness that will prove hugely counter-productive for the terrorists who perpetrated it. That is my first hope.

Secondly, we are determined, and we are slowly and steadily getting results. It is easy to disparage every success of the security forces, say that it is merely a flash in the pan and point to another murder or atrocity that has been committed, but, considering the figures over the past few years, we can see that there has been an overall improvement. With ever-closer international co-operation, and with a growing and widening realisaton of the evil of terrorism, we can at last see the platform from which the final assault can be made against that evil.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that all hon. Members on this side want to associate themselves with his opening statement and hope that no one masquerading under the title of Loyalist will resort to terrorist methods which that person would be the first to condemn when employed by the IRA? Does my right hon. Friend accept that the Anglo-Irish Agreement would never have been signed unless it had been preceded by a prolonged campaign of terrorist violence? As a consequence of that agreement, predictable and predicted, has been still greater terrorist violence, will my right hon. Friend now consider activating article 11 of the agreement?

Is it still my right hon. Friend's belief that it is only by giving the Irish Government the right to put forward views and proposals about the government of Northern Ireland that we can obtain greater co-operation from the Republic for the defeat of terrorism? If that is the continuing belief of my right hon. Friend, would it not be strengthened if the Irish Government had not connived at the payment of ransom money to terrorists, if they had acceded to the European convention on the suppression of terrorism, and if there were greater signs of competence and security on the part of the Garda?

Mr. King

I have no detailed information on that kidnapping, and my hon. Friend will understand why it is not possible for me to comment. I have made my views on the European convention, some would say, abundantly clear. I propose to leave it at that, because I have made my views absolutely clear.

I respect the sincerity with which my hon. Friend holds his view on the Anglo-Irish Agreement, but I believe that the agreement can be of benefit to the people of Northern Ireland. Because it addresses the concerns of the minority, some Unionists think that it is somehow to the disadvantage of the majority. If ever there was a clear illustration of the importance of addressing minority community concerns, this is it. Those who will gain the greatest possible benefit from a minority community that feels that its issues are fairly addressed are the majority community.

I would not consider it appropriate to accelerate the review period for the conference, which will come at the end of three years.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

On behalf of my hon. Friends in the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru, may I also extend our sympathy to the families and friends of the maimed, dead and injured in Enniskillen? As constitutional Nationalists, we have always believed that constitutional change can come only through the ballot box and democratic negotiations. We have always said categorically that violence, far from advancing a cause, devalues the principles of freedom and democracy. Therefore, we shall support all steps that will bring this problem to the negotiating table, both cross-boundary and internationally.

Mr. King

I am grateful to the hon. Lady, speaking with her particular insight and from her particular viewpoint, for her clear endorsement of the constitutional path for any Nationalist politics. The House will have listened with respect to what she said.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Important though the matter is, I must bear in mind that we have another debate ahead of us. I shall allow two further questions from each side.

Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

May I ask my right hon. Friend, whose personal agony the House will understand, some questions which I know to be in the minds of those to whom we are now looking—the men and women of the RUC—not only to catch the butchers of Enniskillen, but to prevent a bloody backlash from the majority community.

First, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the professional and technical support from the Garda are sufficient? If not, will he take what steps he can to improve them? Secondly, will he seek to ensure that more Army support, particularly in the form of helicopters is available to the RUC? Thirdly, will he re-examine the Prevention of Terrorism Act to see whether it is right to include some form of preventive detention so that men who have killed and whom the police know will kill again are not free to walk the streets of Belfast and plan further attrocities? Finally, will my right hon. Friend consider publishing through British posts abroad a brochure setting out the true horror of Enniskillen, with photographs, so that those who misguidedly provide money and arms to support terrorists will recognise the full horror of what they are doing?

Mr. King

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. He referred to a potential backlash, but I am sure that there is no question of that. The Unionist community is most courageous and resilient and I have absolute confidence in the steadfastness of a people who have shown such courage in the face of such provocation. Nevertheless, a few on the margin could cause serious damage.

My hon. Friend will understand that I cannot comment on the technical support and back-up from the Garda, but I take careful note of what he said. He will understand that we, particularly my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, take a particularly close interest in his view. We have increased the number of helicopter hours, and we shall certainly keep that under review. I am grateful for the support of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on that.

My hon. Friend raised the fundamental issue of preventive detention. That is something that we keep under review, and we have always made it clear that we shall keep it under review. The House knows of its difficult history, but the power remains in certain circumstances for the Government to invoke it if they thought it right to do so.

My hon. Friend referred to increasing international understanding of the real awfulness of the terrorist threat. The House will have seen the message to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister from the President of the United States, showing clearly American understanding of this matter, and I shall certainly take up my hon. Friend's helpful suggestion.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

May I support one of the points made by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths), namely, the need for British missions to do more in European countries and the United States to publicise the horror of what occurred yesterday? Is it not encouraging that the Soviet Union has made the response that it has done, bearing in mind that until now it has painted a somewhat distorted picture of what has been happening in Northern Ireland?

Mr. King

I believe that I am right in saying—hon. Members may correct me if I am wrong—that this is the first occasion on which the Soviet Union has made such a comment. It is significant and, clearly, did not happen by accident.

A most significant step, to which I attach importance and in which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is closely involved, is European co-operation in the fight against terrorism. The development of this co-operative approach is of enormous importance. Anybody who studies recent events and issues, such as arms availability and procurement, knows the international nature of the challenge of terrorism and the need for international co-operation between democratic states to fight it.

Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, at our Remembrance service yesterday in Cambridge, we also honoured and remembered the tens of thousands of young men of all Ireland who served and suffered in the British armed forces in two world wars—with my father in the first and my brothers in the second? They fought together for the cause of democracy. Is he also aware that the agony of the people of Enniskillen is our agony, and that their cause is our cause? Has not this barbarous act demonstrated that we are at war together again against another tyranny, that of terrorism?

Is it not time that all the British people and Irish people realised the mortal peril to both nations—a peril that must be fought and defeated? Surely, in the exigencies of war, some of the constraints that we have in times of peace must be reviewed.

Mr. King

The House will appreciate the eloquent way in which my hon. Friend put his very personal feelings about Remembrance day and the people from both our islands who fought and lost their lives in the cause of freedom.

I also take note of my hon. Friend's other comments. We shall take all the necessary and possible steps that we believe could be helpful in the fight against terrorism. I choose my words carefully, and the House will understand why. Let no country doubt our resolution in this matter.

Mr. Clifford Forsythe (Antrim, South)

When I was elected to this House I was proud, for two reasons. First, I was proud to have been elected to the mother of Parliaments; and, secondly, I was proud to represent my 60,000 constituents. I came here with high hopes to listen to the mother of Parliaments, but unfortunately, since I was elected in 1983, and through all the tragedies, murders and bombings that have taken place in Northern Ireland in that time, I have found the House wanting. I have found that it is not capable of restoring their British citizenship to the British citizens in Northern Ireland. The House does not seem capable — with all the power that it has throughout the world—to restore peace and security to the people of Northern Ireland.

It is said that politicians merely talk, and I have heard politicians talking here again today. The people of Northern Ireland do not want talk. They want action to restore the peace and stability that have been promised them by this House. I reliase that those who exercise power have a tremendous responsibility. However, sometimes when I look at Conservative Members a certain amount of time after the beginning of questions or a debate, I see them seeming to relax and saying to themselves that that little bit is over and they can look forward to getting back to normal business.

The real tragedy is that 11 people will be buried, and a greater tragedy is that others will follow them. What message will the Secretary of State give to my constituents, who phoned me continually for two hours yesterday evening, about the action that will be taken to resolve the position?

Mr. King

I have tried to give the House those messages today as clearly as I can. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will study what I have said and see that the path we must follow is that of co-operation in Northern Ireland and internationally, and of determination together in the face of terrorism. That offers us the best prospect of the improvement that the hon. Gentleman longs for.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I must tell hon. Members whom I have not been able to include in the questions on the statement that I shall bear in mind their position when we come to Thursday's questions on Northern Ireland.