HC Deb 12 November 1987 vol 122 cc538-41
3. Mr. Bellingham

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the present security situation.

4. Mr. William Ross

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied with progress in the fight against terrorism.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tom King)

Since I last answered questions in the House on 23 July, 29 people have been killed in incidents arising from the security situation. These include a number of believed terrorists killed by their own devices. Against that serious background, the security forces have achieved some significant results. So far this year 394 people have been charged with serious offences, including 25 with murder. A total of 230 weapons and approximately 13,000 rounds of ammunition and 12,725 lb of explosives have been recovered.

In addition, the Garda Siochana has recovered 118 weapons, 10,000 rounds of ammunition and some 4,000 lb of explosives. In addition, the House will be aware of the substantial arms seizure on the Eksund, for which we are most grateful to the French authorities.

As I informed the House, I am having further urgent discussions with my security advisers in the light of the recent outrages. I shall also be having early discussion with Irish Ministers about security matters. The House will also be aware of the universal condemnation that Sunday's outrage in Enniskillen has received. It is vital that that condemnation is backed by the fullest help and support from all sides of the community to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the security forces in their vital fight against terrorism.

Mr. Bellingham

Does my right hon. Friend agree that after the ghastly and horrific events of the past few days there can be no doubt that those evil terrorists are the sworn enemies of all the people of Ireland, North and South? In the light of that, are we not entitled to expect, and likely to see, a renewed determination and total commitment by the Southern Irish Government to combat terrorism and impede it at every possible turn? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is more important than ever that the two Irish Governments should work together?

Mr. King

There is no question but that recent events have made a profound impression south of the border as well as north. I note reports in The Irish Times of the formation of a new security committee headed by the Taoiseach. There is no question but that the kidnapping had a serious and proper impact on thought. Enniskillen has rightly shocked everybody throughout the island of Ireland and the arms shipments are a serious matter, which every person in the island of Ireland needs to take seriously.

Mr. William Ross

I asked the Secretary of State whether he was satisfied with the progress in the fight against terrorism and I am not clear from his answer whether he is. If he is satisfied, he must be the lone voice in the House today. If he is not satisfied with the progress in the fight against terrorism, when does he expect his level of confidence to match the requirements of the situation?

Mr. King

Of course I am not satisfied. I should make it clear to the hon. Gentleman that I do not believe that any hon. Member could be satisfied with the progress on security after the events of recent days. There is no question of that at all. We are fighting hard. The hon. Gentleman does no credit to his knowledge of the situation to pretend that it lies in my hands or in the hands of the Government to wave a wand. There is a role for the security forces and for the leaders of all the communities in Northern Ireland. We owe it to all the people who have died in the tragedy of Northern Ireland not to seek to open old wounds. I believe that there is a new spirit flowing under the leadership of many of the people who have suffered most in Enniskillen. They want to see how they can build new bridges and make a new start. I plead with hon. Members who represent the Province not to open old wounds but to try to build on the spirit of what I believe is calling to them from these people and to give a new lead.

Mr. Kilfedder

In order to further the new spirit to which the Secretary of State has referred, do all the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland now fully and unequivocally support the members of the security forces? Does the right hon. Gentleman now expect appeals to be made for the minority to join the security forces in greater numbers, so that we can present a united front irrespective or religion or politics against the men of terror?

Mr. King

As I made clear in my answer, I look to all the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland to give the fullest support to the security forces, and I should dearly like to see enhanced recruitment of members of the minority community. The evidence in recent years of the contribution made by the security forces in upholding the law impartially, protecting Nationalists as well as Unionists in the face of intimidation and terror, entitles them to the fullest support of both communities in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Alton

Will the Secretary of State confirm that we need not only the co-operation of the Catholic part of the community, important though that is, but co-operation from Dublin as well? In that context, will the right hon. Gentleman reiterate his hope that the extradition agreement will be enacted on 1 December? Will he also tell us why the Prime Minister ruled out a joint security commission before discussions with the Irish Government had even taken place?

Mr. King

I am not sure that I picked up what the hon. Gentleman said about the joint security commission. However, I have made no secret of my concern about the extradition treaty. I have no hesitation in making it clear where I stand on that.

I believe that. strong — overwhelming, some might have said—as the arguments were before the events of the past week, there is now no doubt that we must have the very closest co-operation and joint activity between both Governments in the fight against terrorism. There is such an identity of interest, manifest to everyone in the island of Ireland, that it has become a compelling priority.

Mr. Hayes

Is my right hon. Friend not appalled that this morning the IRA placed a nail bomb outside a primary school in Belfast, which, mercifully, was defused by the security forces? Does he not agree that the "sympathy" expressed by Sinn Fein is nothing more than an obscenity?

Mr. King

As the House will know, within hours of the issue of that contemptible statement of regret, a further bomb was identified. It had been placed at a Remembrance Day parade in Tullyhommon, near Pettigo. The overwhelming casualties that would have resulted if the bomb had gone off—thankfully, the IRA failed to detonate it—would have been civilians : young members of the Boys Brigade and the Girls Brigade, their parents and other spectators. It ultimately and totally reveals the contemptible nature of the IRA campaign.

Mr. Mallon

Does the Secretary of State agree that the bomb that exploded in Enniskillen was a very political bomb? Does he agree that its aim was to damage the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and that the people who stand to suffer most from that agreement are the Provisional IRA, who fear the two communities coming together as the Secretary of State has recommended?

Does the right hon. Gentleman also agree that the only way in which the Provisional IRA and those dedicated to violence can ultimately be defeated is through the united efforts of all those living on the island, and the help of the two Governments acting together?

Mr. King

Certainly I agree. It would be difficult to conceive of an attack more villainously designed to stir up sectarian hatred than that outrage—in its conception and in the location and target of the bomb. I make no secret of the fact that I know that the IRA is determined to smash any attempt at closer co-operation between the British and the Irish Governments. I also know that, if we are to defeat the evil of terrorism, that co-operation is vital.

Mr. Yeo

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the only positive response to outrages such as that at Enniskillen is to reaffirm our determination to make a success of the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Will he assure the House that not only is that his view, but that he will make every effort to ensure that that view is shared by the Republic?

Mr. King

Co-operation must be the right way forward and it is overwhelmingly in the interests of the majority and minority communities in Northern Ireland. The majority community has the greatest possible interest in a more effective attack on the problems of terrorism and in improvements in security. I am determined to work for that and I accept the advice of the Chief Constable that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has given him the best possible opportunity for furthering that cause.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Jim Marshall to ask Question 5.

Mr. James Marshall


Mr. Speaker

I am sorry. I had not realised that I had not called the Opposition Front Bench spokesman. Mr. McNamara.

Mr. McNamara

You do not have to, Mr. Speaker. As I echo most of the opinions expressed by the Secretary of State, I shall not pursue the matter.

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