HC Deb 14 July 1994 vol 246 cc1157-9
4. Mr. Corbett

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the talks that he has had with the parties in Northern Ireland and with the Irish Government in relation to the constitutional future of Northern Ireland.

6. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he last met Ministers of the Irish Republic to discuss the latest political developments in Northern Ireland.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

Bilateral discussions are continuing with three of the main Northern Ireland parties. I last met the Tanaiste, Mr. Spring, at the intergovernmental conference on 17 June, when we reviewed progress on the preparation of a joint framework document which might facilitate the negotiation of a comprehensive political settlement involving the main constitutional parties and the two Governments as appropriate.

Mr. Corbett

Can the Secretary of State give us the date of the next Anglo-Irish summit, and does he propose to put on the table proposals for cross-border executive bodies in exchange for amendments to articles 1 and 2 of the Irish constitution?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

We have had that one already. It is not for me to say when the next summit meeting will take place. The two Prime Ministers will meet in Brussels tomorrow and will have a workmanlike discussion, which will no doubt cover the prospects for and timing of the next summit. The agenda, too, will depend upon such matters.

Mr. Winnick

Do the two Governments recognise that the rejection of the joint declaration by Sinn Fein and the IRA, totally without justification, has led to the escalation of violence both from the Provisional IRA and from the loyalist murder gangs? Although I totally disagree with virtually everything that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) stands for, will the Secretary of State join me in utterly condemning the assassination attempt? We are all most grateful that the hon. Gentleman survived it, but if his children had been slaughtered we would no doubt have heard the same weasel excuses from those responsible as we heard from those responsible for the child murders in Warrington.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has referred to the disgraceful and disgusting attack on the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea). I endorse what the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) has said; indeed, I said as much myself when I visited the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster at his home the morning after the attack. Only a matter of seconds saved his 14-year-old daughter from being murdered, and no doubt the intention was that the hon. Gentleman would be murdered, too. The people involved presume to speak about self-determination and their support for the self-determination of the Irish people. How can self-determination be secured, save by democracy? The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster is a democratically elected representative, but those people have been elected by nobody—in their mouths, talk of peace and the peace process is no more than hypocritical blasphemy.

Mr. Trimble

Does not the Secretary of State realise that recently we have come to the painful conclusion that, despite our willingness, the Government are not presently committed to any serious discussions with the Northern Ireland political parties and prefer instead to allow themselves to be strung along by the Irish Government and the Provisional IRA? Does not he also realise that the reported concession offered by the Irish Government over the amendment to article 3 of the constitution is utterly worthless and totally hypocritical? Is not it time to bring that charade to an end and for the Government to bring forward sensible proposals for the good government of Northern Ireland, along the lines which were mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux)?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I understand the hon. Gentleman's impatience. I do not share the feelings that lead him to describe what is going on as a charade; nor do I recognise that the Government are being strung along by the Irish Government. That said, I recognise impatience. But it is the duty of us all—I am not a particularly patient man by temperament—to demonstrate as much patience as we can as long as there seems to be a realistic prospect of bringing the discussions to a successful conclusion. If it becomes clear that that cannot succeed, I shall remember and the Prime Minister shall remember that the British Government have responsibility for Northern Ireland. Then it will be for us to consider what we bring forward ourselves, unilaterally, by way of facilitating the achievement by the political parties of the kind of overall settlement which has been everybody's objective for so long.

Mr. Alton

In combating terrorism which prevents political progress from being made in Northern Ireland, will the Secretary of State tell the House what progress is being made in combating the systematic organised crime which bedevils Northern Ireland and the flow of arms and weapons into the island of Ireland from state-sponsored terrorism by a country such as Iran?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

The hon. Gentleman knows that the Iranians have been rumbled in exactly that context. Every step is being taken to ensure that no arms reach any paramilitary organisations from any source outside the island of Ireland. Furthermore, while we are making progress, there is no doubt that racketeering exists on a completely unacceptable scale. We have amended the law and the new law is being applied. It will be very much easier to concentrate on that if violence for political purposes has been brought to an end. But it is a real problem of which we are well aware.

Mr. McNamara

Is the Secretary of State aware that the statements that he and the Minister have made regarding the possibilities of a summit next week may send conflicting signals to different parts of different peoples in the island as to the success and the determination of the two Prime Ministers and the two Governments? Will he therefore consider carefully whether it would be better in the long run if, after the officials have had their discussions this week, the two Prime Ministers at least meet formally at a summit to stock take and to discuss how far they have got and where they may be able to make progress?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

As a mere Sherpa, who does not aspire to lead the summit, it is really not up to me to say more than I have said already. The two Prime Ministers will meet tomorrow and they will be discussing the prospects for a summit meeting and the timing for it.

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