HC Deb 02 November 1989 vol 159 cc451-3
1. Mr. Parry

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he next expects to meet the Irish Foreign Secretary to discuss the situation in Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Brooke)

The next meeting of the intergovernmental conference is likely to take place later this month.

Mr. Parry

When the Secretary of State next meets the Irish Foreign Minister, no doubt the subject of the Guildford Four will be raised. That may also raise the question of the Birmingham Six. Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Home Secretary to set up an urgent review of that case, particularly in view of the "World in Action" programme last Wednesday?

Mr. Brooke

When the conference last met, the Irish Foreign Minister raised the matter that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. We agreed that it was not natural business within the conference, but I gave an undertaking that I would bring it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Mr. Kilfedder

Does my right hon. Friend agree that hostility between the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom largely benefits terrorists, who use it as an excuse for further atrocities and as a means of recruitment to the terrorist cause? When my right hon. Friend next meets the Irish Foreign Minister, will he tell him that wholesale criticism of the security forces in Northern Ireland only gives joy to terrorists in Northern Ireland and hinders reconciliation between its people?

Mr. Brooke

I entirely take the point made by the hon. Member. The Irish Foreign Minister does not engage in wholesale condemnation. He has expressed to me his praise for the courage of the Ulster Defence Regiment, and we both agree that nothing should be said which gives comfort to the terrorists.

Mr. Molyneaux

I hope that the Secretary of State will persuade Mr. Collins to endorse the view set out on 9 May this year by a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, now the Foreign Secretary, when he said of terrorists: They are professional killers. …. No political solution will cope with that. They just have to be extirpated". On a day when we have all been greatly saddened by the pictures of the funeral of the young airman and his baby daughter, would it not be appropriate for the right hon. Gentleman to give an assurance that there has been and will be no change in the position set out by his right hon. Friend? Does he agree that it is vital that that assurance is given today in view of certain ugly reports which were circulating this morning in Belfast?

Mr. Brooke

I gladly give the assurance that I am at one with my right hon. Friend the present Foreign Secretary on that matter.

Mr. Peter Robinson

When the Secretary of State next speaks to the Irish Foreign Secretary, will he inform him of the steps taken by the Government to appease the Irish Republic in relation to photomontages of suspects? What measures are available to members of the security forces to identify quickly those who might want to kill them and other people?

Mr. Brooke

Notice of the subject that the hon. Member has raised was given some little time ago, and it has therefore been the subject of discussion between us. It remains the case that those going out on patrol go out armed with knowledge in terms of the photomontages of which the hon. Member speaks.

Mr. Mallon

Can the Secretary of State inform the House what firm decisions have been taken by the Anglo-Irish conference to promote cross-border economic co-operation? What efforts have been made by both Governments, working through the conference, to maximise EC funding, especially from the EC structural fund?

Mr. Brooke

At the last meeting of the conference, the Irish side and our side specifically discussed that matter. A working party of officials on both sides of the border is working for exactly the purposes that the hon. Member mentions.

Mr. Leigh

When my right hon. Friend next meets the Irish Foreign Secretary, will the two of them reflect that no newspaper image could have been so poignant as the pictures published today of a tiny coffin being carried in dignity from an RAF plane? Will they conclude that the only victim of such mindless terrorism is innocence and not national resolve, and will they redouble their efforts to co-operate to defeat terrorism?

Mr. Brooke

Everyone in the House must have been moved by those pictures. As I said, I hope that among those who support the terrorists there are those who ask themselves whether their aims can ever be justified by the murder of a baby in that way.

Mr. McNamara

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his first Question Time as Secretary of State. The issue of the administration of justice is continually raised at the intergovernmental meetings. At the last meeting, the role of the UDR was discussed and the question of the Guildford Four was raised. Can the Secretary of State inform the House whether, at the next meeting, he will discuss the case of the four members of the UDR known as the Armagh Four, the circumstances of whose convictions have raised considerable concern and doubt on both sides of the border and in both communities? Will the right hon. Gentleman announce that he is setting up a separate, independent investigation to examine the soundness of their convictions?

Mr. Brooke

As I said in answer to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mr. Parry), that issue is not specifically one for the conference, but of course it may well arise within it. I have said that I am happy to look at new evidence or new factors put to me which might lead to the matter being referred to the Court of Appeal. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words in welcoming me.