HC Deb 21 October 1993 vol 230 cc373-5
4. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on security in Northern Ireland.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Sir John Wheeler)

Since my right hon. and learned Friend answered a similar question on 1 July 1993, there have been 13 deaths as a result of the security situation in Northern Ireland, including 12 civilians and one soldier. The Government will continue to pursue a security policy that strives to defend the people of Northern Ireland against those who try to promote their views by violence or threat of violence.

Mr. Townsend

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend to a post for which he seems singularly well qualified. First, there have been reports during the summer recess of arms finds in Northern Ireland. Can he give the House further details? Secondly, what have the security forces done to try to improve their relationship with local people in Northern Ireland?

Sir John Wheeler

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The Royal Ulster Constabulary, ably supported by the Army, is succeeding in arresting a large number of terrorist offenders. As at 10 October this year, 283 people had been charged with terrorist-related offences, including 46 with murder or attempted murder. Moreover, large quantities of firearms, ammunition and explosives are being recovered by the operations of the RUC, so ably supported by the Army. I should further say to my hon. Friend that the relationship between the public and the RUC and the Army has never been better and is improving all the time.

Mr. Maginnis

In view of Lady Thatcher's frank admission in her memoirs that the United Kingdom received far better intelligence co-operation from most other European countries than from the Irish republic and her conclusion that the Anglo-Irish Agreement's contribution to security was very limited, is it still the Government's intention to continue, in her words, to refrain from security policies that might alienate the Irish Republic?

Sir John Wheeler

I speak for the Government as it is today and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the co-operation between the Garda and the Royal Ulster Constabulary has never been greater. I have visited many of the border police stations and seen evidence of that co-operation. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that co-operation will continue.

Rev. William McCrea

Bearing in mind the bomb at Cookstown courthouse in my constituency which displaced many elderly people and the recent death in our Province of another constituent of mine, the innocent Annie Bogle, because of the IRA bomb in Castlederg thrown near elderly people, what would the Minister say to my constituents are the steps that the Government intend to take to end the reign of terror that the people of Ulster have suffered for more than 20 years?

Sir John Wheeler

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the policy of the Government is to use the resources of the RUC and the Army to the fullest extent to arrest and detain the terrorist gangs who commit those abominable crimes. In no circumstances will the Government permit any killing or crime to take place without the fullest investigation and the determined support of the forces of the Crown to prevent those outrages from recurring.

Dr. Hendron

While I appreciate that the Provisional IRA have been the main killers in Northern Ireland over the past 20 years, will the Secretary of State make a statement about the murder gangs of the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force? Bearing in mind that almost 30 children in west and north Belfast have been left without a parent over the past few months because of those murder gangs, that thousands of Catholic people, mainly in the Belfast area and beyond, are living in fear and terror, and that, as the House knows, the most recent victims of those murder gangs were Jody Reynolds and Patrick McMahon, will the Secretary of State make a statement?

Sir John Wheeler

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As he knows from our recent meeting, I take very seriously such wanton killing of individuals. No matter what the motive, it is evil, wrong and should be opposed. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Royal Ulster Constabulary will do its utmost to prevent such outrages. Nine people had been charged with serious terrorist offences in the five days from 8 October.

Lady Olga Maitland

May I seek the Minister's assurance that, despite the row over defence budgeting, not one soldier will be withdrawn from Northern Ireland and the Army will remain properly equipped?

Sir John Wheeler

I am glad to repeat the assurances of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who made it absolutely clear that the Government will continue to devote all resources necessary for security in Northern Ireland. I am glad to confirm that position today.