HC Deb 29 March 1990 vol 170 cc663-5
10. Mr. Hunter

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions he has had recently with Ministers of the Republic of Ireland about the extradition of convicted or suspected terrorists from the Republic.

Mr. Brooke

Extradition matters were discussed at the latest meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference on 2 March. I have not had the opportunity to speak to Ministers of the Republic of Ireland since the disappointing outcome of the Finucane and Clarke hearings, but I hope to do so shortly.

Mr. Hunter

In the light of the recent case of Dermot Finucane and James Clarke, does my right hon. Friend now agree that the Republic of Ireland is a safe haven for terrorists and that that seriously undermines the validity of the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Would not it be better to negotiate and to come to an agreement with Ulster Unionists rather than with a Government who appear to support terrorists?

Mr. Brooke

At the time of the extradition judgments, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear in the House that the judgments might give some people the impression that terrorists would have a safe haven in the Republic. The Anglo-Irish Agreement continues to be a serviceable instrument for the discussion of such matters, and in that respect we shall continue to support it.

Mr. Maginnis

Will the Secretary of State protest in the most strenuous manner at the judgment by a majority of Supreme Court judges in the Irish Republic who ruled that political exemption from extradition should apply to persons charged with politically motivated offences when the objective of such offences was to secure the ultimate unity of the country"? Does the right hon. Gentleman concede that that amounts to a mandate for terrorist warfare conducted against the Unionist community in Northern Ireland being enshrined within the legal interpretation of the Extradition Act 1965 of the Irish Republic?

Mr. Brooke

The Irish Government have been left in no doubt, through the secretariat, of the strength of our feelings about the judgment to which the hon. Gentleman referred and which he will recall elicited astonishment in the Republic. I agree that the implications for future extradition cases from the Republic, especially those relating to the political offence exception, are extremely serious. However, I do not go as far as the hon. Getleman's final interpretation.

Mr. Gow

Will my right hon. Friend make representations to the Government of the Irish Republic that it is most desirable to remove articles 2 and 3 from the constitution of the Irish Republic? Will he assure the House that he has made such representations, either directly or through the framework of the secretariat?

Mr. Brooke

My hon. Friend is correct to refer to articles 2 and 3, as they relate to the Supreme Court's judgment. In answer to an earlier question, I made quite clear the Government's attitude towards articles 2 and 3.

Mr. William Ross

The Secretary of State says that the Government of the Irish Republic have been left in no doubt as to his strength of feeling. Am Ito understand that he now understands the full meaning of the judgment to which my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) referred?

Mr. Brooke

I did not entirely catch the hon. Gentleman's question, but I point out that the court's judgment has obviously been subjected to considerable scrutiny with a view to the conversations that we shall be having in the future.

Mr. Hayes

Has my right hon. Friend made it absolutely clear.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to ask his question sitting down?

Mr. Hayes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is nice to get a little sympathy.

Has my right hon. Friend made it absolutely clear to the Irish Government that Conservative Members are utterly appalled at the decision of the Irish Supreme Court? Has he warned them that if this sort of behaviour continues, it will provide more ammunition for those people who are against the Anglo-Irish Agreement and who want to undermine relations between this country and the south of Ireland? Does he agree that that would be regrettable?

Mr. Brooke

I know that I speak on behalf of the whole House in expressing sympathy with my hon. Friend for his injuries.

In answer to my hon. Friend's question, I remind the House that this was a decision of the Irish Supreme Court. The Irish Government were acting on our behalf and were as anxious as we were to secure a satisfactory solution. In that light, we shall be having further discussions with the Irish Government.

Mr. McNamara

Does the Secretary of State accept that our overriding concern must be to ensure that offenders are brought to justice—not where they are brought to justice? Given that the use of the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act does not excite the same controversy as extradition, should not the right hon. Gentleman and his Irish counterpart consider means of increasing the number of cases that are tried under that legislation?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Gentleman is correct to raise that issue, but it is really one for my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General.