HC Deb 02 May 1991 vol 190 cc418-9
4. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on cross-border security co-operation between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic.

Dr. Mawhinney

We continue to discuss with Irish Ministers measures to enhance security co-operation and, in particular, to reduce the threat from terrorism faced by vulnerable individuals and communities in the border area. Where improvements are possible, both Governments are committed to securing them.

Mr. Townsend

I recognise that communications between the two police chiefs have greatly improved in recent years, but is the Minister satisfied that enough is being done on the military front in terms of liaison officers, joint patrols and procedures for hot pursuit? Will my hon. Friend comment on the recent leaking of high security documents from the Garda, which unfortunately found their way into the hands of the IRA? What talks have taken place with the Garda about that matter?

Dr. Mawhinney

My hon. Friend is right to point up the good relations and standard of communication between the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland and the Garda commissioner. It is clear to all that security relations between the two have improved considerably and are good, but that does not mean that they cannot be improved. Both Governments are committed to seeking that improvement all the time. The leaked document was clearly a matter of concern. That concern was relayed to the Irish Government. We were happy that they shared our concern and moved immediately to set up an inquiry under a senior officer. We have asked to be informed of the result of that inquiry when it is available.

Mr. Maginnis

Is the Minister aware that on the occasion of the removal of two permanent vehicle checkpoints—PVCPs—in county Fermanagh, it was necessary, because of the high level of threat from the IRA, to have 500 extra troops brought into Northern Ireland to protect those who were dismantling the checkpoints? Is he further aware that it was disgraceful that as soon as the checkpoints were dismantled and my constituents were left more open to attack from the IRA, those 500 troops were withdrawn? Was not that a betrayal of the people in my constituency and an abrogation of the responsibility of the British Government?

Dr. Mawhinney

No, I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that it was a betrayal of his constituents. He has been assiduous in representing their best interests, and I am happy to acknowledge that. For our part, we too have been seeking co-operation with the security forces to ensure that the people have the framework of peace and stability to which they are entitled. The logic of the hon. Gentleman's question is that the departure of the troops after the two PVCPs changes was not a reflection on security policy, because the suggestion was that they were there to do a specific job. General security is a matter of continuous review and I assure the hon. Gentleman that we take it most seriously.

Mr. Kilfedder

As every terrorist atrocity further divides the community, will the Minister point out to the Dublin Government that to develop a rapprochement between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, they must take much more effective measures against the IRA operating along the border, and secure their side of the border if the people alongside it and elsewhere are to live in peace?

Dr. Mawhinney

Those matters are constantly under review and attention is paid to them by us and in our discussions with the Irish Government.

Rev. William McCrea

Does the Minister realise that the people along the border in my constituency are living in absolute fear for their lives? Many of the attacks on the Castlederg area have been made by people who have left the Irish Republic, in which they have found a safe haven, have done their dastardly deed and have gone right back into the Irish Republic. Does he realise that nothing has hindered them in any way, certainly no action by the southern authorities?

Concerning the leaks that have already cost the life of one of my constituents in Castlederg, is the Minister aware that we are alarmed at the improved relationships between the Garda and the IRA? Does he accept the inquiry which, it has been suggested, is sufficient? I assure him that the people in my constituency, who are living in fear for their lives, will not accept the inquiry that has been set up in the Irish Republic and that nothing but a full independent inquiry will be accepted.

Dr. Mawhinney

It is recognised that the hon. Gentleman and his constituents have suffered greatly in recent years, as have the constituents of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis). I am satisfied that the inquiry will be full and rigorous. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join me in not condemning it, at least until we have received its report.

Mr. Hume

When discussing matters of this type, will the Minister remind the House, and particularly some of those who have been asking questions, the facts about from where violence comes? Will he confirm that virtually 100 per cent. of all people convicted of acts of violence in Northern Ireland are from Northern Ireland?

Dr. Mawhinney

As the hon. Gentleman says, most of the violence in Northern Ireland is generated within the Province. Moreover, the terrorist organizations—both the Provisional IRA and the Loyalist paramilitary—:bear the responsibility for the death and destruction that take place in the Province. They must be called to account, both legally and morally, for their actions.

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