HC Deb 20 July 1989 vol 157 cc504-6
2. Mr. Canavan

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what subjects he expects to discuss at his next meeting with representatives of the Government of the Republic of Ireland.

Mr. Tom King

The agenda for the next meeting of the conference has not yet been finalised, but I expect it to include security matters; recent and forthcoming events; the scope for greater cross-border economic co-operation; the progress made on fair employment; and other matters.

Mr. Canavan

What is the likely effect on the British-Irish talks and on Britain's reputation throughout the world when the British soldier who killed an innocent young man, Aidan McAnespie, is simply given a token fine and returned to normal duties, and when the British Government refuse reasonable demands from respectable organisations such as Amnesty International for a full judicial inquiry into that disputed killing and into the SAS killings of three unarmed people in Gibraltar?

Mr. King

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman bothered to study the facts before seeking to make such outrageous allegations. He may not be aware that the matter was investigated, not only as the absolute requirement on which I insist and as the absolute practice, by the RUC in a full criminal investigation, but on this occasion by the deputy commissioner, now the commissioner, of the Garda on behalf of the Irish Government. On this exceptional occasion, they wished to investigate, too. As no evidence was forthcoming, on either side of the border, that the incident was anything other than an accident, I am appalled that the hon. Gentleman chooses to raise the matter in this way.

Mr. William Ross

As Mr. Haughey has just made it plain that he is not very much in favour of summits of any sort, does the Secretary of State consider it advisable to follow his admirable advice and example?

Mr. King

The Taoiseach said that he found meeting the Prime Minister twice a year, on the occasions of the normal European summits, to be a perfectly satisfactory arrangement. That is sensible because we now have a close working relationship. Here we go again. On the very day when any sensible person can see, before his or her eyes, the obvious benefits of co-operation in the fight against terrorism, there is a deliberate determination not to do anything except to frustrate co-operation. The backwoodsmen are coming out from the Opposition Back Benches with their reactionary views.

Mr. Gow

What objections do Ministers in the Irish Government have to conferring modest additional powers on the 26 district councils, to setting up a regional council with widely devolved powers over local matters and to legislating in this House for Northern Ireland in the same way as we legislate for the rest of the kingdom?

Mr. King

These are internal matters for the Republic. In the Dail yesterday, the Taoiseach made it clear that matters relating to the administration and government of Northern Ireland are primarily for the parties in Northern Ireland to determine. Although I have some sympathy with looking further at some of my hon. Friend's ideas on giving greater powers to local authorities, I must advise him that the behaviour of one or two councils—Belfast is one—does not encourage one down that route.

Mr. McNamara

The Secretary of State sounds remarkably demob-happy this afternoon. We do not dissent from many of the opinions that he has expressed. Although I did not intervene on the previous question to comment on his important statement about international co-operation in the fight against terrorism, I am sure that hon. Members of all parties will warmly welcome it.

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman about the Anglo-Irish review. We do not know how many further intergovernmental conferences the right hon. Gentleman will be attending, but he mentioned a number of important items that are likely to be on the agenda, not least economic co-operation on both sides of the border. Does the Secretary of State think that both Governments might consider issuing position papers or Green Papers so that there can be a general informed debate on both sides of the border among people who might not otherwise want to be associated with the Anglo-Irish review, but who should at least know what is going on so that there can be input from all sides?

Mr. King

In response to the hon. Gentleman's first point, I knew that, whatever my aspect at the Dispatch Box, somebody would read something into it. If I sound enthusiastic about the progress that we are making in international co-operation in the fight against terrorism, perhaps some hon. Members will understand just how important were the arrests made during the weekend. I cannot overstate that, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said about it.

I am ready to support sensible discussion on making political progress by means of background papers and so on, but we have made it clear that the first stage must be discussion with elected people within Northern Ireland to establish the most promising areas for development.

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