HC Deb 29 October 1992 vol 212 cc1118-9
3. Dr. Spink

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he has taken to reduce the support received by terrorists from citizens of the United States.

Mr. Mates

Our posts in the United States have made great efforts to reduce financial support for the IRA. The signs are that financial support to terrorist groups has declined, but our efforts continue. On the other hand, United States' contributions to bodies such as the International Fund for Ireland continue to make a major impact for good, particularly in disadvantaged areas.

Dr. Spink

I welcome those positive statistics. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the security forces on their recent success in the east end of London? What efforts is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that terrorists' sources of financial support, wherever they may be, are cut off?

Mr. Mates

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning the explosives finds, which will have brought much relief to those who feared more bombing on the mainland. Let us hope that we have put an end to that for the moment. My hon. Friend rightly said that it is vital that we cut off the terrorists' sources of finance. A special unit in the Northern Ireland Office is devoted to doing just that and the fraud squad, special branch and the Royal Ulster Constabulary are working as hard as they can to stop not only the inward flow of funds but some of the rackets and illegal activities that are taking place in Northern Ireland, by which terrorists finance their campaigns.

Mr. Trimble

I am sure that the Minister will agree that the anti-racketeering squad of the RUC has had significant successes in reducing the flow of funds—to such an extent, we are led to believe, that the IRA is now having difficulty in financing its terrorist operations in this part of the United Kingdom. Does he agree that, in the light of that fact, it is especially important that effective action is taken in the United States, especially by United States Government agencies? In that context, does the Minister further agree that it is regrettable that there is a Republican candidate in the election who openly backs terrorist organisations?

Mr. Mates

I agree with everything in the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question. As to what is taking place in the United States, we certainly must, and we will, continue our campaign to persuade United States citizens that what some of them believe is aid for humanitarian causes is nothing of the sort, but is aid to terrorists. Through our posts there, through visits by Ministers and by a general climate of persuading the United States to understand the problem in Northern Ireland, we seek to reduce that source of funds and eventually to eliminate it.

Sir James Kilfedder

Part of Main street in Bangor, in the heart of my constituency, was blasted by an IRA car bomb last week. Fortunately, no one was killed. Will my hon. Friend confirm that many of the victims of IRA terrorism over the past 20 years—people who have been killed or maimed—have suffered as a result of money contributed to the IRA cause by American supporters? As my hon. Friend suggested earlier, perhaps he will tell people in America that the best way to help the people of Northern Ireland is to contribute to organisations that do good and which bring peace to those people.

Mr. Mates

I entirely agree. We have made great strides in persuading our friends in the United States that the money must be properly directed to organisations such as the International Fund for Ireland, which I have already mentioned. My hon. Friend is right to say that without funds the terrorists would not be able to wreak their havoc. That is why we shall continue to make it a top priority to cut them off from funds, from whichever source those funds come.