HC Deb 25 October 1993 vol 230 cc577-90 3.30 pm
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Sir Patrick Mayhew)

With permission, I will make a statement about Saturday's bombing by the Provisional IRA.

At around half-past 9 on Saturday morning, a house in north Belfast was taken over by two masked men, who said they were members of the Provisional IRA. The occupant of the house was forcibly detained in an upstairs room for some three and a half hours. His car was stolen.

Shortly after 1 pm, a similar car was seen parked on the Shankill road, close to Berlin street. Two men got out of the vehicle. One was carrying a box. Both walked from the car into Mr. John Frizzell's fish shop at 275 Shankill Road. At eleven minutes past one a bomb exploded inside the shop, which is on the ground floor of a three-storey building. This is a popular shopping area which, at the time, was especially crowded with people doing their weekend shopping. The building was completely demolished.

The police, fire and ambulance services were quickly there, and a major rescue operation ensued, with local people providing tremendous help. The injured were taken to a number of Belfast hospitals whose medical and other staff responded immediately. The work of all concerned, both at the scene and in the hospitals, was beyond praise. I am most grateful for the tributes so widely paid to them already, to which I gratefully add my own today.

Ten people died: two children; four women; and four men. They included a seven-year-old girl and her parents; the owner of the shop, Mr. Frizzell, and his daughter; a wife and her husband; a 38-year-old woman; and a 13-year-old girl on an errand for her mother. Fifty-seven people were injured, ranging from young children to elderly shoppers.

In a statement on Saturday afternoon the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility for this atrocious act. It subsequently said that some of those who carried it out were unaccounted for. The Chief Constable of the RUC took immediate steps to safeguard security. In particular, more police and military manpower has been deployed in Belfast and other areas. Two people have been arrested in connection with the explosion.

The whole House will condemn with revulsion Saturday's hideous attack. There can be no possible doubt about this: these people intended, in any event, to commit mass murder, and to commit it in a busy street full of Saturday shoppers and their children. Once again, the Provisional IRA has taken away the lives of children, along with those of ordinary men and women who, in two instances, were their parents.

The natural reaction of humane men and women to crimes of this enorminty is one of rage. The restraint and dignity shown by the people of the Shankill is therefore all the more to be admired. Horrible though the provocation is, I urge the whole community in Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland to continue to show equal self-control in the days ahead. I share the Chief Constable's belief that it will do so.

Reason tells us that revenge merely multiplies the murder and injustice that it reacts against; and reason, not rage, must be our guide. Reason tells us that all violence, from whatever quarter, and certainly including recent loyalist attacks—which have already resulted in another murder since Saturday—must be consistently and universally condemned. But reason also tells us that in this democracy those who commit these terrible crimes, those who commission them and those who justify them must not be bargained with.

To the innocent victims of this attack, and those near and dear to them, our heartfelt sympathies go out. I assure them, and the people of Northern Ireland, that the RUC, with the Government's full support, will spare no effort to track down the remainder of these criminals; and to protect the public from others like them. The RUC needs, and it deserves, the help of everyone.

To those who did this terrible thing, and to those who justify the use of violence, the message, and the only message, is this. In this democracy, no political purpose, whatever it may be, will be advanced by a single inch through the use or the threat of violence. No campaign, however horrible or protracted, will shift us from that determination.

Finally, this atrocity surely reinforces the challenge to all the participants, including the two Governments, who are currently involved as constitutional politicians in the urgent search for a solution to Northern Ireland's political problems. In this democracy, it is only through dialogue —dialogue between those who unequivocally reject the use or threat of violence—that the foundation will in the end be found for a fair and hence a lasting peace.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

May I thank the Secretary of State for his statement? Like everyone else, I deeply regret the circumstances that have led us to appear before the House today.

Over the past 20 years of atrocities in Northern Ireland, including the spate of recent killings in Belfast, culminating in those of Saturday, we have exhausted the vocabulary of horror. I can do no better in these circumstances than to quote my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who said: This is a despicable act of violence perpetrated by depraved people. There will be no question of talking to any people or organisations who are capable of such vile cruelty to innocent people. On behalf of the Leader of the Opposition and of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I join the Secretary of State in extending our sympathy to the bereaved and to the families of the dead and our hopes of recovery for the injured. There must be no hiding place for the people who carried out and organised this terrible crime.

I also join the Secretary of State in expressing our admiration for the work of the support services and, in particular, for the role of the ordinary men and women of the Shankill on that Saturday afternoon and for the restraint that they have shown since.

Is the Chief Constable satisfied with the level of forces that he has at his disposal in what was already a period of high tension? Indeed, the RUC and the Army were already overstretched before this atrocity. Will the Army provide any additional troops that may be needed for an extension of this period? It is important that the security forces in Northern Ireland should not be too overstretched, despite the demands of Bosnia. An additional force presence can help to bring back to members of both communities a degree of confidence; that applies particularly to those who live in isolated communities.

Secondly, is the Secretary of State aware that all people in these islands wish the constitutional parties in Ireland again to sit down to try to work out together institutions that would have the support of their communities? It would be helpful if all the proposals from all the parties and party leaders were on the table so that judgments could be made and a process designed that will lead to an agreement for the divided people of Ireland that will supply a solid basis for peace and justice.

If they are unable to do so, the two Governments must work actively together for a solution. Therefore, the whole House and the country and all the people of these islands expect the two Governments to redouble their efforts to persuade the constitutional parties to come together on the basis of the original three strands. We must refuse to allow bombs and killings to determine the democratic agenda.

Finally, I refer again to the comment of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition: There can be no question of talking to any people or organisations who are capable of such vile cruelty to innocent people. The best gesture that the IRA or Provisional Sinn Fein can make is to end the killings of fellow Irish men, women and children. We hope that there will be no reprisals or attempted reprisals. There must be an end to violence, and then the possibilities of talks open. The finest indication of a blueprint for peace that the IRA could give is an end to violence now.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I welcome what the hon. Gentleman and the Leader of the Opposition have said about those who commit violence.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether the Chief Constable is satisfied that he has the forces that are needed. The leaders of the security forces have been satisfied that the forces now available, the manpower, are sufficient for the tasks that are imposed on them in Northern Ireland. I spoke to the Chief Constable this morning, and I am certain that if he had felt there was a need for reinforcements he would have said so. Fortunately, as the House probably knows, following reinforcements at the turn of the year 1991–92, those force levels have not been reduced. It is important that those who serve in the Army in support of the Royal Ulster Constabulary should not come to the Province without the prior training in the special problems and difficulties of Northern Ireland that they receive when sufficient notice is given to them.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman asked whether I shared his view that continued dialogue between the constitutional politicians of Northern Ireland and the two Governments remained of cardinal importance. It is absolutely clear that that is my view; and, indeed, I ended my statement to the House with an assertion to that effect.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Order. Now that the initial exchanges are finished, may I have brisk questions on the statement? I am sure that I shall get brisk replies from the Secretary of State.

Dr. Joe Hendron (Belfast, West)

I join the Secretary of State and hon. Members in expressing total and utter revulsion at the sectarian slaughter of so many innocent Protestant people on the Shankill road on Saturday afternoon. That slaughter was committed by the Provisional IRA, and I agree with the Secretary of State that it intended to kill many people. I saw some of the injured in the Mater hospital on Sunday afternoon. The people of the Shankill behaved with great dignity.

I know that the Secretary of State and the House will also agree with my expression of revulsion at the murder of so many innocent Catholic people, especially over the past few months, by the so-called loyalist paramilitaries —the UDA and the UVF. Does the Secretary of State accept that there must be urgent and unequivocal determination by the British and Irish Governments to bring peace to the long-suffering people of Northern Ireland, and that therefore no effort will be spared and, above all, that no opportunity, great or small, will be missed either at this time or in the immediate future to achieve that goal? I am very much aware that the British and Irish Prime Ministers are meeting on Friday.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

The whole House will understand the fervour with which the hon. Gentleman, who has a courageous record in constitutional politics in west Belfast, has spoken. I assure him that no opportunity will be missed by either of the two Governments. There is no daylight—if I may put it that way—between us in our opposition to terrorism. No opportunity will be missed in the quest of which the hon. Gentleman spoke. However, the two Governments cannot do it alone—it is the people of Northern Ireland who will bring peace to their Province. We want to help, and we shall miss no opportunity to do so.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

I am sure that the Secretary of State is aware that I represent in another Parliament the area concerned. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara)—the Opposition spokesman—and other hon. Members have spoken to me today. I want to convey to the House the fact that the people of the Shankill road acted with great patience, great courage, great decorum and great dignity on Saturday. I was there with them, and I did not hear any threats or blasphemies; all I saw was co-operation.

The people asked me, on every possible occasion, to thank the local police, some of whom could not be distinguished as police officers on Saturday because their uniforms were torn and they were covered with rubble and blood. They were using their hands to dig out the victims of the bombing. They were joined by ordinary young people from the district, who formed a human chain to lift the rubble off the many mangled, broken and scarred bodies.

I also pay tribute to the paramedics and the fire service. In particular, I must mention the man from the water service who, with his vehicle, was working round the corner. He immediately put himself at the disposal of the rescue services.

The best of the Ulster people came out on Saturday, and I was proud to be associated with the Protestants of the Shankill road.

The IRA Sinn Fein leader, Mr. Adams, has said that the British Government must make a favourable response to what has now become not a peace initiative but an ultimatum. He has made it clear that the response that he wants is for the Government to say that self-determination is no longer to be the right of the people of Northern Ireland alone, but must be given to the whole of the Irish people. I want the right hon. and learned Gentleman to make it clear today that that cannot happen.

For as long as people perceive that to be the intention of the so-called peace proposals, there will be fear and reprisals in the community. No one wants reprisals and we have all appealed for there to be no such reprisals at this time. There certainly will not be any reprisals from the people who stood in the Shankill road on Saturday—that was not their attitude. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must go to the southern Government and deal with the territorial claim because until it is dealt with such incidents will arise again and again.

Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman see the editorial in The Times today, which said that the gist of the Government's policy has been one of concession to Dublin and the nationalist community? It said that that was not the route that should be taken at this time to achieve peace in Northern Ireland.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I warmly endorse what the hon. Gentleman said about the courage and dignity of the people of the Shankill. I have already in this House tried to do justice to the tremendous efforts and selfless work of all the emergency services, as well as the police, on Saturday.

I greatly welcome what the hon. Gentleman said about the importance of there being no reprisals, and I attempted to put my own views about that to the House a few minutes ago. I also greatly welcome his warning against reprisals and his confidence that they will not take place.

As the hon. Gentleman's comments about self-determination, it must be all too bitterly apparent that the Provisional IRA granted no right of self-determination to the people whose lives they snuffed out on Saturday. I do not think that I want to enter—and I do not think that the people of Northern Ireland would wish the House to enter —into a discussion of the wider political aspects that the hon. Gentleman mentioned when bodies are still unburied. Let it be said that it has been made entirely clear for a long time, and never more trenchantly than recently and in the Prime Minister's speech in Blackpool, that only an act of self-determination by the people of Northern Ireland will ever change the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. I reaffirm that, but I do not think it is appropriate to go further than that today.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

I welcome the Secretary of State's statement. May I apologise for the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Walker) who is abroad due to a terminal illness in the family and was therefore not in Belfast on Saturday? I associate myself with the tribute paid to the people who were there.

Does the Secretary of State agree that news reporters who immediately spread information given by the IRA are acting as agents for the IRA and that, in so doing, they added calumny to the nefarious crime that they committed when they implied that Mr. Frizzell was one of the terrorist leaders, which was the thrust of the BBC report and the experienced reporter whom I challenged? He was a man whose Christian principles have been known in the Shankill road for many years and they were absolutely clear—he was a former boys' brigade member and a member of the congregation of which I later became the Minister. That is the type of person who was murdered on the Shankill road on Saturday.

I understand the Secretary of State's unwillingness to enter into a political debate at the moment, but I believe that his statement will give some assurance to the people of Northern Ireland as we look for action, not words. I also put on record the fact that the people of Northern Ireland welcome the broadcast made by the Leader of the Opposition—he has been silent for so long—and are surprised that the Labour party continues to have someone who comes low down on the shadow Cabinet voting list to be responsible for Northern Ireland's affairs.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman felt able to respond as he has to what I said. I was present on Sunday when he took up in person with the BBC the matter with which he began his question. Although I have not heard what the BBC said, I feel sure that the hon. Gentleman will be glad that he has had this opportunity to vindicate the reputation of Mr. John Frizzell.

Sir James Kilfedder (North Down)

When I visited the Shankill, I was overwhelmed by the feelings of grief, courage and anger. I am sure that the Secretary of State will agree that it is right that the people of the Shankill and elsewhere should give oral expression to that anger, but may I also plead that there should be no retaliation against any Roman Catholic? I trust that there will be no tit-for-tat murders.

Did the Secretary of State note the very strong words of denunciation uttered by Cardinal Daly about this crime against humanity? Has he read the full-page editorial in the Irish News? Perhaps the terrorists would like Northern Ireland to degenerate into civil war, as has happened in Bosnia, but perhaps we, the people of Northern Ireland and elsewhere, can use this latest fiendish atrocity as a watershed so that all the decent people of Ulster, Protestant and Catholic, can work together for peace and progress.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I warmly endorse what the hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of his question. I have noticed what has been said so trenchantly by Cardinal Daly and the editorial to which the hon. Gentleman referred. I should like to add my endorsement of what Mr. Dick Spring said about Mr. Adams: If he is serious in what he has been saying in recent weeks, I believe he should acknowledge the horror of what happened, he should condemn it outright without reservation or without any conditions and he should call for and establish immediately a cessation of violence. I endorse every word of that, as I am sure does the whole House. I warmly endorse what the hon. Gentleman said at the conclusion of his question.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

I join other hon. Members in utterly condemning what was a remarkable atrocity even by Northern Ireland's standards. As one who lives in a constituency that has seen so many deaths at the hands of the Provisional IRA, I repeat what I have repeated so often: what it is doing will never succeed, and all it is doing is driving the people of Northern Ireland into further suffering and bitterness.

Does the Secretary of State agree that, when the emotions of today fade into the realities of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, it will take enormous courage, integrity and strength to deal with these problems? Does he agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) has shown that courage, honesty and integrity by trying to take on a problem from which both Governments have recoiled in the past 22 years? He should be commended for that. The Secretary of State must ensure that, after almost a quarter of a century, the full political weight of both Governments is thrown behind the solution to this problem so that the political process in its totality can start to deal with what it should be doing—solving a problem that is a cancer within all sections of society.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I welcome what the hon. Gentleman said, and in particular I endorse his message to the Provisional IRA that what it is doing will never succeed. That is absolutely correct.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the hon. Member for Foyle, whose courage in attempting to achieve a breakthrough I salute. I agree that it will call for qualities of the highest order if we are to assist the people of Northern Ireland to achieve a less antagonistic way of living together, but it must be understood that there will never be any bargaining with those who in this democracy reinforce their arguments with bombs and bullets or the threat of violence.

I do not accept that Governments have recoiled from this problem. Successive Governments, in various ways, have given their best endeavours to resolving it, but I warmly agree that the political process must be reinvigorated because it is only through political dialogue between constitutional politicians that we shall achieve a political solution to political problems.

Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)

My right hon. and learned Friend will know that, the day after the murderous outrage in Belfast, the IRA brought its campaign of violence to Basingstoke. My constituents will now look in a different light on the nightmare that the people of Northern Ireland have endured for too long. I believe that they would wish me to put to the Secretary of State the point that the events of the weekend have shown once and for all the sham and fraud of Sinn Fein/IRA talk about peace, and there must be nothing to do with it.

Secondly, my constituents urge my right hon. and learned Friend to redouble his efforts to promote dialogue within the constitutional parties in the Province.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

The whole House is aware of the attack, fortunately frustrated, in my hon. Friend's constituency and of the one at Reading. We are grateful that those attacks were frustrated. Of course, this is the kind of thing from which the people of Northern Ireland have been suffering for 20 years, and more. I believe that we are directing all our endeavours to the search for the defeat and elimination of terrorism and for that political accommodation which will lead to a less antagonistic way of life in Northern Ireland.

I cannot therefore claim that we will redouble our efforts because I do not know how to redouble efforts which are exercising all our intellect and certainly all our determination. My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) means that we must never give up, and we shall not.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

May I associate my right hon. and hon. Friends with the condolences which the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) have extended to the relatives of those who were so cruelly murdered and maimed in Belfast at the weekend? May I also join the outright and unequivocal condemnation of the use of violence as a way of achieving political objectives?

Does the Secretary of State agree that perhaps the most devastatingly revealing comment to come from all this is the remark of Gerry Adams that, given certain circumstances, he could call off the IRA killers tomorrow? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that if he truly wants to see political progress and the opportunity for reconciliation and harmony in Northern Ireland, the prerequisite must be the ending of violence without any conditions attached?

Does the Secretary of State also agree with Colin Parry, who saw his own son so cruelly murdered in Warrington, who said at lunchtime today that there should be no revenge or tit-for-tat killings? Does not that prove the truth of the old saying that, when a man simply continues to take an eye for an eye, the entire world ends up going blind?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman. Next to the sickening quality of what was done to people in the Shankill on Saturday has been the sickening quality of the hyprocrisy of Mr. Adams. I think that that has been recognised and commented upon on a wider scale than I have ever known before. I very much agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) about the point made by Mr. Parry. No one is better able to make the point—I met that wonderful man only a week or two ago in Warrington—that there must be no reprisals. Fortunately, I believe that the sense, dignity, courage and restraint of the people of Belfast make that warning unnecessary.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

May I join in the expression of outrage at the carnage on the Shankill road on Saturday and join in the sympathy expressed throughout the House to the bereaved and those who were injured? Did the Secretary of State see the comment in the Irish News that evil compounds evil, it does not overcome it? I trust that the Secretary of State will recognise that as a fact, and that he will recognise that evil must be overcome and that many people listening to his statement today will be aware that it was bereft of any security initiative capable of overcoming the evil men.

I urge the Secretary of State to present to the House a security package capable of defeating terrorism. I believe that the House would endorse such proposals which are necessary in Northern Ireland to stop the killing. In view of the remarks of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and of Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, will the Secretary of State indicate whether he should respond quickly to a document or to ideas which they have put to him and say whether he is presently considering any ideas which have the fingerprint of the IRA upon them?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

The Chief Constable has operational independence in Northern Ireland and, under my responsibility for overall policy, is responsible for the security of Northern Ireland and for the conduct of the security forces there. My statement was not bereft of any reference to security. I said that the RUC would continue to have the fullest support in its task of protecting the people of the Province from others like those responsible for this offence. If the hon. Gentleman has specific proposals rather than a general request, the Chief Constable would be very interested to have them, and so would I.

It must be recognised that, in all the emotional dislike —the detestation—of what has happened and the absolutely natural and proper fury that has been engendered, the security forces themselves must always continue to act within the law. That they recognise, and they would have it no other way.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

May I begin by underlining hon. Members' appeals that there should be no reprisal following the atrocity on Saturday? I am quite sure that one of the IRA's objects in placing the bomb was to provoke reprisals. I am also glad that reference has been made to the bombs at Basingstoke and Reading, particularly the latter, for if the Provos' plans had come to fruition, there would have been a death toll there as great as, if not greater than, that in Belfast.

Does the Secretary of State appreciate that the Shankill bomb, the Reading bomb and the offer this morning by Mr. Adams to ensure that there would be a ceasefire by the IRA are all linked, and that they are all part and parcel of the republican plan and the republican initiative which they are trying to advance and to which, unfortunately, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) has allowed himself to be, wittingly or unwittingly, a party?

Does the Secretary of State appreciate that the best way of answering that initiative is to end the uncertainty by making it clear that the Government will not entertain or advance that initiative in any way whatsoever, and that the Government's response to the IRA Sinn Fein will be similar to that which this country gave to Nazi Germany during the war—that we are interested only in its unconditional surrender?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

There is only one message that I wish to hear from the Provisional IRA or from anybody else who resorts to terrorism or the justification of terrorism to obtain a political end, and that is that they have finished with it, without condition and for ever. That is what I want to hear. I am interested in no other message. If that message were to be yielded by the process in which the hon. Member for Foyle has been engaged, the whole House would be very pleased, I trust.

That is what we are about, and there is no uncertainty about the British Government's position on it. There will be no bargaining—there can be no bargaining—in this democracy with those who use force for a political purpose. Reason tells us that to do that would be only to undermine those constitutional politicians who have such a record to be proud of in Northern Ireland. Reason tells us that if we were to do that it would simply feed the appetite of the terrorists.

Mr. David Howell (Guildford)

I fully share the feeling that was so well expressed by my right hon. and learned Friend, by Opposition Members and by hon. Members from Northern Ireland about the latest atrocity—the latest wound—against poor Northern Ireland. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the countries which have been most successful in beating or weakening terrorism are those which have succeeded in capturing and convicting the terrorist leadership and the organising brains behind the atrocities in question? Given that some of those people are known to reside in the Republic, what proposals does my right hon. and learned Friend hope to hear or has he recently heard from the Dublin Government about ways in which these evil people can be more effectively and swiftly brought to account?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I am grateful for what my right hon. Friend said at the beginning of his question. I re-emphasise that co-operation between the Republic and ourselves and between the two police forces has never been higher, and it is very effective indeed. It is, of course, right that, if we can take out the leaders of that quite small and tightly knit band—I speak of the Provisional IRA in particular—we are a long way towards defeating and eliminating all that they perpetrate and what they stand for.

There is a substantial gap between knowing what people are in that category and being able to bring before a court of law the evidence necessary to secure their conviction. Very substantial successes are being achieved not only by the RUC but by the Garda in terms of finding weapons, armaments and munitions and also making arrests. We are persevering with that. Increasing success is being achieved and, slowly, progress is being made towards the elimination of those people. That is the overriding difficulty in circumstances of intimidation in bringing evidence before a court that is capable of securing the necessary convictions.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

The Government cannot talk to paramilitaries or those who excuse acts of violence, but they have difficulty in getting the talks with constitutional politicians going again. We hope that the talks will be developed. Should not the talks also be a continuation of the work that was done by the Opsahl commission, which started to talk to ordinary people in Northern Ireland? The Secretary of State said that those people will have to make the decisions about their future in the end.

The Government should talk to people in voluntary organisations and those who entirely reject violence within Northern Ireland but who are open to other ideas. The credentials of the Opsahl commission cannot be doubted. I am sorry that, during Friday's debate, the Secretary of State did not give more support to the recommendations as at least worthy of consideration.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I recognise and welcome what the hon. Gentleman said at the beginning. He will recall —I mentioned this in Friday's debate—that the Opsahl commission recommended that discussions with Sinn Fein should be entered into if the talks process were to fail. The talks process has not failed, and I trust that it will not fail.

I warmly agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about talking to the "ordinary people", as he described them, and encouraging them, as I never fail to do, to talk to their political leaders. I have no doubt whatever that the vast majority of people across the community in Northern Ireland insist that their politicians talk.

There is one other thing that I encourage people to do, and I hope that the House will endorse it. Whatever the fear of intimidation, and whatever the strength of traditions about not talking to the RUC if they come from a specific part of the community, they must do all they can to help the RUC with any information that they have about these evil people.

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

I share totally the horror of the House about the appalling atrocities over the weekend. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is not only the security forces but the local communities that we rely on in such circumstances? The terrorists have friends and relations in the community whom they live among and who know what they are about to do. Surely we must put much more pressure on their responsibility to tell the security forces to save lives.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I very much agree with what my hon. Friend said; she takes a close interest in Northern Ireland. We have published and continue to show three television advertisements, for want of a better name. The purpose of the short programmes is to show people the evil quality of the things that terrorists do from whatever quarter, and to encouage people—this is my hon. Friend's point—to use the entirely confidential telephone to tell the RUC what they suspect and what relevant information they may have. Much success has come from that.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Is the Secretary of State aware that all of us share his view and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull (Mr. McNamara) about the atrocity last weekend? Coming from a background where people have to scramble about in rubble to save people who have been killed and injured in the mines, I fully understand what they went through. But for the life of me I cannot understand why the Government, after more than 20 years, cannot find some method of getting involved in talks between the two contending sides with a view to finding a settlement when they are prepared to accept that Arafat has every right to negotiate with Rabin, Mandela and de Klerk can get their act together and the Government can negotiate with the Chinese Government, who were responsible for the Tianan men square massacre a few years ago. Why cannot the Government go a stage further than they have in all those gloom-laden years to find some method of starting a new political initiative with a view to resolving this problem, as they have had to do in many parts of the world?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

With those who share the political ambitions and objectives of the Provisional IRA for a united Ireland, of course the Government have been participating in a process of dialogue. That was begun through the endless patience and perception of my right hon. Friend Member for the City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke), who is in his place on the Front Bench. That process must be continued.

The difference between the examples that the hon. Gentleman gave and that with which we must grapple is that Northern Ireland is part of a democracy in which anybody is entitled to put forward any political objective and everybody can vote. It is only those who know that they cannot succeed democratically who are resorting to violence.

As I endeavoured to explain a minute ago, if, in those circumstances, the British Government negotiate with such people before there is any disavowal of violence or of the justification for violence, one serves fatally to undermine those who are courageously—some are in front of me as I speak—pursuing the constitutional path of politics while sharing exactly the same nationalist ambition in the end.

Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept the complete condemnation of violence and murder from wherever it may come by all members of the British-Irish inter-parliamentary body, whether those members be British or Irish? Will he, in these difficult times, press on undaunted with the peace process on the basis that it proposes for the future, as it has in the past, the best way of isolating the IRA and other men of violence?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is right on the latter point. It is right that dialogue is not just the best way but the only way in which we can achieve a less antagonistic environment in which the people of Northern Ireland can live together. If that were to be achieved, it would serve to withdraw a great deal of the toleration for violence—there is very little support for it —that still exists in a number of areas of the Province.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Would it not be appropriate if both the British and Irish Governments seriously considered publicising extensively the atrocity which occurred on Saturday—as well as the other killings that have occurred on both sides—especially in various European countries and the United States, so that people can see what is involved?

Is the Secretary of State aware that it is important to emphasise that, when the Provisional IRA has stood in elections in the Republic, it has received less than 2 per cent. of the vote? Although it will claim that all the killings and injuries over the past 24 years have been in the name of the Irish people and in the name of 1798 and 1916, when it comes to the vote, the Irish people in the Republic have demonstrated that they want nothing to do with the Provisional IRA and that they totally reject the campaign of murders and atrocities. The IRA does not speak for the Irish people, and it knows that well enough.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I can add nothing to what the hon. Gentleman has eloquently expressed, save to say that, when I was in the United States in May talking to American-Irish bodies in Washington, Boston and New York, I found exactly the reaction that he describes when I told them of events. Our diplomatic posts have been doing excellent work there in that area, and we shall certainly take the advice of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

Does the Secretary of State think that it is possible that the politicians are overlooking one important element? If the members of the Provisional IRA are rebels without a cause, is it possible that they can turn into rebels without any money? If it is a money-making exercise in which they attract funds from expatriate Irish all over the world, the IRA could not justify claiming money to pay for bombs and armaments if it did not continue to explode bombs. There must be a lot of members of the IRA who are unemployed but earn a good living out of attracting money from all over the world—they probably even get protection money from wealthy Irish people who live somewhere near the border who are not called on. Are not we overlooking the fact that Gerry Adams could never deliver peace because, to justify the income of funds, the IRA would have to keep exploding bombs?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

We certainly have not overlooked the fact that terrorism needs money as well as the oxygen of publicity and other things. My hon. Friend will be reassured to know that we have taken powers—Parliament has given them—to get into the fund-raising activities of those who support the IRA with money. We have made substantial changes, which are justified, to give greater power to those who seek to enforce the law and to cut off the supplies of money.

In America, for example, there is no doubt that the approach to which the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) referred has secured a substantial reduction in the moneys coming from people who previously, perfectly genuinely, believed that they were supporting a patriotic organisation. My hon. Friend is absolutely right in the thrust of his question.

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)

In welcoming the statement by the Secretary of State, and his strong but sensitive responses to the questions, I especially applaud his statement that reason and not rage should inform our response to this evil atrocity. In that spirit, I salute the courage of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and I urge the Government to give the Hume-Adams talks a fair wind because, ultimately, if we are not continually to be involved in what are almost tragically ritual condemnations of terrorist outbreaks, we must pursue a political settlement and reach the constitutional settlement to which the Secretary of State has aspired. That requires courage on all sides and a determination to back those who are willing to put their lives on the line to achieve that settlement.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

The hon. Gentleman will have heard what I said about my approach to the initiative by the hon. Member for Foyle. I do not think that it was at all uncongenial and I do not wish to add to it, save simply to say that the hon. Member for Foyle has said that he has been acting on his own initiative and not as the emissary of anyone. I have told the House of my reaction if that process produced the only message in which I have an interest—that the violence and the justification for violence were finished and finished for good.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

I have been into Irish pubs in New York and into Irish clubs in California, so I am delighted to hear that the money has dried up to some extent, although it is still coming in. If there is one clear message from the atrocities over the weekend in Northern Ireland, is it not a message to Irish-Americans that, if they wish to see an end to the violence and to the atrocities, they can play their part by stopping giving money to IRA groups and sympathisers in America?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

Of course that is right. I endorse what the hon. Member for Foyle said some time ago, which was referred to in our debate last Friday—that the IRA has killed more Catholics than anyone else has. Since that has come as news to many people who sympathise with the objectives of militant nationalism in Northern Ireland, it needs to be publicised even more widely. My hon. Friend is right: we shall do what we can to act on that.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

As I was a member of the Cabinet that sent in the troops in 1969, and as I note that more than 33,000 people have been killed and injured since, may I thank the Secretary of State for his tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) for the courage and integrity of his initiative? Will the Secretary of State remember that the Dublin Government also said that they believed that the initiative was constructive and creative? Will he take account of the fact that there are many people, probably the majority, in this country who believe that at some stage everybody must get round the table to find a peaceful way to avoid a repetition of the terrible deaths that occur daily, as has happened in so many other parts of the world?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I warmly agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. All constitutional politicians must get round the table, recognising that it is only those who disavow unequivocally the use of violence for political purposes in a democracy and the justifying of it who will be able to find a political solution to political problems. A propos his reference to 25 years ago, I think it will be congenial to the right hon. Gentleman, with his and his family's record, if I say that the price of defending democracy is always high, but it is always worth paying and we will continue to pay it for as long as may be necessary.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his firm but unequivocally just statement, which has helped us to channel our sense of collective grief and righteous indignation into appropriate and, I would hope, constructive responses. Can he tell us that he will not eschew new security measures, including perhaps the introduction of identity cards for all British nationals throughout the United Kingdom and the imposition of a requirement upon Irish nationals in this country to carry a passport?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind opening remarks. The bulk of what he suggested is at least as much—probably rather more—a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary than for me. I take careful heed of what is suggested by my security adviser in Northern Ireland, who is the Chief Constable. I assure my hon. Friend that I shall continue to do so.