HC Deb 20 January 1994 vol 235 cc1027-8
4. Mr. Maginnis

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

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

Inexcusable violence has continued since I answered a similar question on 21 October 1993 and there have been 34 deaths as a result of the security situation in Northern Ireland. Those include 10 civilians killed in an explosion on the Shankill road, Belfast, the murder of seven civilians at Greysteel, and the murder of 12 other civilians, three police officers and two soldiers.

The Government's first priority is to bring terrorist violence to a permanent end in Northern Ireland. They continue to give their full support to the security forces, who are relentlessly pursuing those responsible for terrorist attacks and bringing them before the courts.

Mr. Maginnis

Does the Minister recognise that, despite the desire for peace in Northern Ireland, the IRA has already, since the end of December, made its decision to reject the Downing street declaration? Will the Minister unequivocally assure us that there is no reduction in the level of the security services' capabilities, including the deployment of special forces? Does he agree that those who promote the interests of Sinn Fein and the IRA in the House are no less traitors than those who laud middle eastern dictators?

Sir John Wheeler

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman that those who seek to further or encourage violence in any way do the cause of democracy great harm. The Provisional IRA and other terrorist gangs have not ceased their violence since the publication of the joint declaration, despite the unique opportunity offered to them. I deplore the fact that, only this morning, fire bombs were delivered in Limavady and Coleraine, and the cycle of violence and killing has continued unabated. We utterly condemn that course of action. However, I am glad to tell the House that the security forces also have their successes. In 1993, 366 people were charged with terrorist-related offences–60 of them with murder or attempted murder.

Rev. William McCrea

What deal was agreed between London and Dublin in July 1985 concerning the early release of prisoners in the event of the end of violence? Why was not the House informed of that deal and why was it left to a former Prime Minister of the Irish Republic to unveil British Government policy? Surely the policy of the United Kingdom Government should be announced to the people of the United Kingdom at the Dispatch Box by a Minister of Her Majesty's Government. We should not have to rely on someone from Dublin telling us about such a deal.

Sir John Wheeler

I am unaware of any such deal. We live by the rule of law. Those who are sent to prison for offences in Northern Ireland serve their sentences of imprisonment in accordance with the understood procedures and the rule of law. There are no deals.