HC Deb 28 April 1994 vol 242 cc365-7
3. Mr. Clifton-Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received in respect of his recent visit to the United States; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Sir Patrick Mayhew)

Warm support has been represented to me both in North America and here for our firm opposition to terrorism and for the Downing street declaration.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, as he made clear in a recent speech to the Foreign Policy Association in New York, more than 90 per cent. of people in the north and south of Ireland renounce violence? Does he also agree that, as with many other intractable problems in the world, democracy is the answer? Is not it incumbent on all parties in Northern Ireland to espouse democracy, to renounce violence and to come to the negotiating table?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I warmly agree with what my hon. Friend has said. He is absolutely right about the number of people, north and south, who want an end to violence now. I note that Mr. Reynolds said in Dublin yesterday that the two Governments were now engaged at official level in preparing a framework document which everyone would be able to work on, whether Sinn Fein entered the process or not. That is a reference to the talks process in which so many hopes reside.

Mr. Molyneaux

In the course of his successful visit to the United States and Canada, did the Secretary of State detect an utter rejection of the IRA? Was he aware of a new resolve in both countries to underpin the guarantees of self-determination for the people of Northern Ireland without any fear of coercion or persuasion?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

Indeed I did. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks. There is no doubt that the spectacle of both Governments standing firmly together on a basis of consent and the rejection of violence has satisfied people in both Canada and the United States that those who continue to use or justify violence do so recognising that they cannot achieve their political objective by democratic means. Theirs is a profoundly unpopular stance in north America.

Rev. William McCrea

Does the Secretary of State understand the horror felt by my constituents and many others in the Province when he said in the United States that it was not the Government's intention to humiliate the IRA? In times past, the Government have stressed that their intention is not only to humiliate the IRA terrorists but to annihilate them.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I should be grateful for a reference for that citation. What I said in my New York speech was that the British Government would not surrender to terrorism, and that no one would expect us to do so, but that to give up violence did not mean that one had to surrender aspirations or objectives. All that people have to do is abandon violence and it will then be open to them to enter the political democratic process. That is the point, and I should have thought that it was rather a sensible one.

Mr. Winnick

Is the Secretary of State aware that at yesterday's meeting in Dublin of the British-Irish parliamentary body, at which Mr. Reynolds spoke, all the Irish politicians who spoke made it clear that they were completely opposed to terrorism? There was not the slightest difference between British and Irish parliamentarians on that issue, or in their support for the joint declaration. Does not that demonstrate that people and politicians in the Irish republic are totally opposed to all forms of terrorist violence in the north, and stand with us in the House of Commons on the issue?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

That is entirely true. It was also apparent to me when I read accounts of the successful tour of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and his party in the United States. The Americans were very impressed by the fact that that party stood behind the principles of the joint declaration. There is unanimity, and people who resort to violence and to justifying it are going nowhere except, in appropriate cases, to prison, for a very long time.

Mr. Couchman

During his successful trip to the United States, did my right hon. and learned Friend speak to anyone in authority about the continuing failure of the United States authorities both to extradite people to the United Kingdom when they are wanted for serious crimes here and to prosecute those who give comfort to the IRA by trading in arms or raising money?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I spoke to the Attorney-General, Mrs. Reno, who was very forthright in her desire to help in all matters connected with security. With great respect to my hon. Friend, it is not correct to say that the United States authorities fail to extradite people; extradition in the United States, as elsewhere, is fundamentally a judicial matter. We have cases outstanding in California, on which I will not comment. In a recent case, people were acquitted of offences in Texas; my hon. Friend may have that in mind.

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