§ 11.37 a.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved yesterday by the Lord Carrington; namely, That this House takes note of the situation in Northern Ireland.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD WINDLESHAM)
My Lords, almost everyone who spoke in the debate yesterday rejected outright the use of violence and intimidation which are being practised by the extremists and which lie at the heart of the present crisis in Ulster, and in discussing this subject again to-day I believe that we need to be clear about the starting point. It is because of the methods adopted—and deliberately adopted—by the extremist elements that the British Army is in Northern Ireland at all; it is because of these methods that internment was introduced; and it is because of these methods that hardly a day goes by without some further incident. Houses are set on fire; offices, shops and public buildings are bombed—sometimes by night, but sometimes by day when workers are still in them. Soldiers are killed on duty and are murdered off duty. Passers by—even children—are not spared. Some of this, it is claimed on behalf of those who are responsible, they are proud to have achieved. They boast openly of what they have done. Other incidents are said not to have been intentional. But the violence of the urban guerrilla is indiscriminate. The innocent suffer along with those who have been marked down in some arbitrary way as guilty. That is why violence of this kind is condemned as a means of obtaining political objectives throughout the civilised world. That is why it cannot be 130 tolerated in any part of the United Kingdom.
Every speech in the debate yesterday underlined the gravity of the present situation in Northern Ireland, and certain aspects emerged as being of particular concern. One of these—and it is the one that I should like to discuss first—is the policy of internment. This was criticised strongly by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, followed by the noble Lords, Lord Stonham, Lord Ritchie-Calder and Lord Kilbracken. It was criticised less strongly, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and I should like to say, as this is the first opportunity to do so from this Box, that the Government welcome the moderate and constructive tone of the speeches from both Front Benches at the beginning of the debate yesterday. Government supporters were generally in favour, while a number of noble Lords in other parts of the House whose voices we listened to with respect, such as the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, also accepted its necessity. In the light of the interest shown. I thought that the House might like to have some more information about internment, since the events took place while Parliament was in Recess.
On August 9, the day that a number of men were arrested by the security forces and detained under regulations made in accordance with the Special Powers legislation, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland publicly explained his reasons for doing so, so that there should be no misunderstanding as to why these exceptional powers were being resorted to. He emphasised that the target of the operation was the I. R. A., as it was this organisation that had been responsible for recent acts of terrorism and whose victims had included Protestant and Roman Catholic alike.They are the present threatsaid Mr. Faulkner,but we will not hesitate to take strong action against any other individuals or organisations who may present such a threat in the future … The organisations concerned are those which have murdered in cold blood. created situations which have led to death or injury to people quite uninvolved in disorder, maimed numerous people including young children and put at risk the jobs and 131 the whole future of entire communities. I ask those who will quite sincerely consider the use of internment powers as evil to answer honestly this question: is it more of an evil than to allow the perpetrators of these outrages to remain at liberty?Mr. Faulkner continued:I cannot guarantee that the action we have now taken will bring this campaign swiftly to an end. We may yet have much to endure as a community; but if we endure it with courage and steadiness, the utter defeat of terrorism is sure.This is a question, my Lords, which I believe we should do well to ask ourselves in this debate, too. The evil of internment is that it deprives people of their freedom without trial. It has thus no place in our system of government. But freedom itself, we should do well to remember, depends on a series of conventions, and above all on mutual understanding and tolerance towards opposing points of view. If, in any society, in any part of the world, there are enough people who are determined to get what they want at the point of a gun, they can hold the majority to ransom. Faced with demands of this kind, a society must either modify its traditional standards which have been openly defied or risk extinction. Moreover, the right of the militant to his freedom must be balanced with the right of the law-abiding citizen to enjoy his freedoms in the widest sense. Mr. Faulkner emphasised this when he said:The action we have now taken does not indicate any policy of repression. We are acting not to suppress, but to allow the overwhelming mass of our people to enjoy freedom—including freedom from fear of the gunman, of the nightly explosion, of fire-raising, of kangaroo courts and all the apparatus of terrorism.In the early morning of August 9.337 men were arrested and detained. Nearly 100 were released within a short time and before detention orders were made. Those arrested included 50 officers and 107 volunteers of the I. R. A. Provisionals, and 33 officers and 37 volunteers of the official I. R. A., totalling 227. In response to allegations by those arrested that brutality was used against them by the security forces, Sir Edmund Compton, who will be known to some Members of your Lordships' House as the former Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration in Great Britain and who still holds that office in Northern Ireland, was invited to head an indepen- 132 dent Inquiry into these allegations. Your Lordships will be interested to know that this Inquiry has now started. It began its work on September 2, and since then members have visited the main sites where the offences complained of were alleged to have taken place. These include the police offices or holding centres at Ballykinler, Magilligan, and Girdwood Park. They have also been to Belfast Prison and the "Maidstone" while these were detention centres. They have taken possession of records maintained at the time of the events at these places, and have received and considered a considerable volume of written evidence. They are now proceeding to hear witnesses. The Inquiry started with an assurance of the full co-operation of the Army and police authorities as regards the provision of information and the attendance of the Army and police personnel whose evidence they require. The Chairman of the Inquiry is satisfied that this promise is being fully kept and that the Inquiry is not being impeded by the absence of statutory powers to require the production of records or the attendance of witnesses.
The Special Powers legislation also provides for an advisory committee to consider representations from those against whom an internment order has been made, and his honour Judge Brown, a Northern Ireland county court judge, has been appointed to act as chairman of this committee. In another place yesterday my right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced that another member of this advisory committee will be Mr. P. N. Dalton, a member of the English Bar and a former judge of the High Court of Kenya. Mr. R. W. Berkeley, chairman of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners, who has previous experience of this very responsible work as a member of the advisory committee when internment was earlier used in 1959 to 1962, has also been appointed. Mr. Dalton is a Roman Catholic. Anyone will be able to make an appeal to this body, and its main function will be to assess whether, or when, an internee's release can be safely permitted. Where appropriate the committee will consider if it can accept an undertaking that an internee will not engage in violence on his release. All who are interviewed will be able to go before the advisory committee with legal advice if they wish.
133 Before leaving this aspect it should be said that the Northern Ireland Government have not claimed to have interned every I. R. A. activist, nor was it expected that internment would have an immediate effect on the scale of violence. Internment is not a once-and-for-all measure; the search continues for a number of known I. R. A. members who will be interned if, and when, they are found. Similarly, if any other group in the community organises itself as an armed organisation and embarks on a campaign of systematic violence and terrorism, both the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland have made it quite clear that the same policy would apply.
Another matter which was raised by several speakers in the debate yesterday—initially, by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing—was whether the frontier between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland might be more tightly controlled. He was followed on this theme by the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, and the noble Earl, Lord Enniskillen. At this point, I might say how helpful it has been to the House to have Peers with the first-hand knowledge that comes from residence in Ireland, like Lord Dunleath, Lord Enniskillen, Lord Kilbracken, and Lord Headfort, taking part in this debate. The frontier is far less well defined than many national boundaries. It was drawn in 1920 along the lines of the existing county boundaries, and not for defensive purposes. It divides communities in a way that other frontiers do not. Hundreds of roads, countless tracks and even more footpaths cross it, as they always did. Thousands of local people who cross it daily do so as part of their normal lives. It is estimated that terrorists may represent no more than one in something of the order of 10,000 crossings.
There is, therefore, a need to balance the military resources involved, and the inconvenience caused in blocking the frontier, against relatively few crossings by terrorists. But, as my noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence said yesterday, after careful study the G. O. C. is concentrating on mobile patrols and reconnaissance from the air. These, coupled with the paramount importance of good intelligence, are judged to be the most practical approach. Noble Lords who are concerned about the 134 frontier can be assured that the situation is being kept under close review, militarily as well as politically, and that every step will be taken, in this as in other matters, that is necessary in containing and defeating terrorism.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I wonder whether I may interrupt the noble Lord for a moment. He said that the frontier is not nearly so well defined. I am not sure whether the word "defined is right. The frontier is difficult to detect, but it is defined with great precision. It is physically possible to mark where it runs, and the mapping is every bit as detailed as anywhere in the world. The Boundary Commission did a very thorough job. So I hope that the noble Lord may prefer to correct the word "defined". It is only a correction of fact.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I am grateful for that intervention by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. What I understand the position to be is that when analogies are made with European land frontiers the geographical features which have been used to form frontiers—rivers. natural features and factors of that sort—make a more clearly marked line between countries than is the case with the former county boundaries in Ireland.
I have been speaking so far about measures which are restrictive and which have been taken—and taken with reluctance—because of the demands of the security situation. But I do not want it to be inferred from what I have said that Her Majesty's Government have not given much thought and consideration to the grievances of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland. It seems to us, as my noble friend Lord Carrington indicated when he opened this debate yesterday. that these grievances can be considered under two heads. First, there are complaints of discrimination against individual citizens; and, secondly, there are complaints that the minority community as a whole has been unable to achieve effective participation in government. Noble Lords opposite—and I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was one who was present at the meeting which led to the Downing Street Declaration—will recall that in that statement by the Governments of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland in August,1969, there 135 was a specific undertaking that in all legislation and executive decisions every citizen of Northern Ireland is entitled to the same equality of treatment and freedom from discrimination as obtains in the rest of the United Kingdom, irrespective of political views or religion. In the White Paper entitled, A Record of Constructive Change, the Stormont Government have spelt out the legislative and administrative changes which have been made in the last two years in fulfilment of this undertaking.
But despite some of the doubts expressed in yesterday's debate about the effectiveness of the reform programme, there are certain facts which are matters of record. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about the reforms in the police, particularly the establishment of a Police Authority representative of the minority as well as the majority in the community, and the replacement of the Ulster Special Constabulary with a volunteer reserve. As the House knows, these changes followed on the Report of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. Major changes have also been introduced to meet allegations of sectarian discrimination in the allocation of housing. I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, put her finger on a shrewd point when she remarked on the irony that in refusing to pay their rents as part of the campaign of civil disobedience members of the minority community may well be adversely affecting one of the most important reforms—the introduction of the Housing Executive which is to take over shortly.
The Office of a Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration had already been established in Northern Ireland before the Downing Street Declaration. Therefore, since June,1969, in Ulster just as much as in the rest of Great Britain the Parliamentary Commissioner has been responsible for investigating complaints against Government Departments. In addition, a Commissioner for Complaints was appointed to inquire into citizens' grievances against local councils and public bodies. Both of these officials are independent of the Government and report direct to the Northern Ireland Parliament. It is therefore a matter of fact that machinery now exists which enables an individual citizen in Northern Ireland 136 to pursue grievances, whether against Government, local authorities or any other public body.
My Lords, no doubt it can be argued, as it can with other reforms, that these procedures do not go far enough. But it is surely an important step to have opened up channels for aggrieved citizens who may feel that they have been victims of discrimination. On the two main bodies that I have mentioned—the Police Authority and the Housing Executive—Catholics are now represented; and, moreover, the Community Relations Commission has a Catholic, Mr. Maurice Hayes, as its chairman, together with three Catholic members. We must hope that it is to remedies of this sort, which now exist, that the individual who has a grievance will turn, rather than to the alternatives offered by the militant and the demagogue.
The position of the Catholic minority as a whole in relation to Government and the decisions of Government raises, if anything, even more difficult problems. The Parliament of Northern Ireland is now, and always has been in the half-century of its existence, based on universal adult suffrage. But one Party has maintained a majority throughout the whole of this period. Thus, it is natural that the minority, which we should bear in mind is not only a minority at Stormont but one that reflects the composition of the population of Northern Ireland as a whole, should feel resentment at their continuing inability to influence decisions which affect everyday life throughout Ulster. Mr. Faulkner's recent proposal for functional committees at Stormont, on all of which the Opposition would be represented and half of which would be chaired by Opposition Members, was a recognition of this. Other proposals which arc now being canvassed include a widening of the Senate, an increase in the size of the House of Commons, the introduction of some non-Party people in the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland, and possibly a system of proportional representation in elections to Stormont. All these suggestions, my Lords, are aimed at enabling representatives of the minority as well as the majority in Northern Ireland to play an active role in the life and public affairs of the Province. Within a constitutional and democratic framework of this kind Her Majesty's Government are anxious to find 137 ways and means to encourage further progress so that representatives of both majority and minority communities can work together towards the evolution of a form of government which is acceptable to both. This is the purpose of the series of talks which the Home Secretary has already begun with a wide range of representative groups.
My Lord, other suggestions have been put forward in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, when he opened from the Liberal Benches, and the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, from this side of the House, both referred to the possibility of some kind of All-Ireland Council—not one perhaps that looked back to the concept of the 1920s but one which looked forward, rather, to the possibility of consultation on joint economic interests between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the future. The Government do not want to discourage these or any other constructive proposals at this stage. The Prime Minister is meeting the Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland at Chequers next week. The Prime Minister's invitation was accepted by Mr. Faulkner and Mr. Lynch without preconditions. Although I know that all noble Lords who referred to this tripartite meeting in the debate yesterday regard the prospects as hopeful, the talks are not designed to produce any instant and immediate solutions. To expect them to do so would be unrealistic. The purpose of the meeting is to make possible a frank exchange of views between the three Prime Ministers and to help create a background of understanding to enable the three Governments to work more effectively to improve the situation in Northern Ireland. As your Lordships are aware, the Home Secretary is now currently engaged in a series of discussions with representatives of various organisations and political Parties in order to explore areas of general agreement as to the nature of changes that might helpfully be made in order to bring the communities together.
It seemed to me in listening to yesterday's debate that there is much common ground between almost all who have spoken so far. The most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, commented on this in his own speech. We agree that this Parliament at West 138 minster has a responsibility towards all the people of Northern Ireland. We agree that violence and intimidation cannot be condoned. We agree that civil rights cannot be allowed to become the exclusive prerogative of either the minority or the majority. Where we differ we do so in our judgment of the situation in Northern Ireland and in the policies which we believe are most likely best to contribute towards a peaceful and orderly society.
My Lords, this is an aim which Irish politics has, unhappily, defied for centuries. We all know that there are no neat and tidy solutions. Ireland would not have survived as a perennial problem for so long if there were. What we need to do now (and I say this with humility to those who have much longer experience than I have) is to keep our nerve; to remember our responsibilities; to refuse absolutely to give way to the barbarism of the extremists; and to ensure that our minds are always open to the prospect of reconciliation. The British political tradition has surpassed greater challenges than this in the past, and I believe that by showing firmness combined with tolerance and common sense we can handle the situation in Northern Ireland in the future.
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, we had a long debate yesterday, and the whole of it was marked by precisely that temper of restraint and moderation that is so badly needed in the Irish communities to-day: and, if I may say so, that same standard of moderation and restraint was shown by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to whom we have just listened. My Lords, there is no problem in Ulster that could not be alleviated if the human will were there. I spend some time now among people who are trying to solve problems where we have inadequate scientific knowledge. They are trying to deal with matters where the human frontier of knowledge has not yet been extended far enough, although the will to solve the matters is undoubtedly there. Here we see exactly the opposite. There is no new gimmick that is wanted; there is no new piece of information that is needed. It is only something here in the human heart that is wanted in order to settle what is going on in Ireland to-day.
Maybe the most frustrating, saddening, infuriating feature of this wretched affair, 139 as it seems to me, is to see this lack of moderation and tolerance in a community where so many are so vociferous in claiming that they belong to the Christian Church—a Church based upon peace and love. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury came down yesterday to tell us what contribution was being made towards reconciliation by the Churches in Ireland, and he welcomed and supported the condemnation of violence made by Cardinal Conway and by the Archbishop of Armagh. I am bound to say, however—and I would have said this if the Archbishop had been here—that if Christ himself were here to-day I think He would be much more active in the cause of peace and understanding than many of His priests. The example given by the most reverend Primate was welcome, but I should like to see more evidence that the whole force of organised Christianity in Ireland was being much more actively mobilised to preach peace in the streets as well as in the pulpits.
My Lords, there have been some conflicting views, but on one point there has been virtually complete agreement; namely, the debt we owe to, and our admiration for, those who serve in the security forces in Ulster. I cannot think that there has ever been a more distasteful assignment than that which has now been given to them. No doubt, as my noble friend Lord Longford said, some mistakes were sometimes made, and certainly internment has injected another element into the situation. But it remains true that the tributes offered by informed Members of this House were infinitely well deserved; and I want to ask that some extra steps be taken—something out of the ordinary, something warmer than a paragraph in the Orders of the Day—to express to those serving men the gratitude and understanding of this House of Parliament.
I should like to take this question of communications further. I cannot think that the British case, including the case of the British serviceman, is being heard sufficiently clearly or forcefully or persistently. Much of the undoubtedly widespread criticism of the Home Secretary over the handling of this matter in recent weeks stems from this fact. He seemed too aloof from the grimness of the prob 140 lem and an inadequate spokesman of the British interests. I am specially concerned about the Irish children and the impressions that the younger generation are now receiving. I do not want a new generation of mythology to emerge about the alleged iniquities of the British. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said yesterday that it seemed incredible that decent Roman Catholic women should come to believe that the British soldier is their enemy, but that is what is happening. At the moment, whatever may have been the circumstances, if someone is shot it is the British soldier who is blamed. There is possibly an altar erected in the street and an elaborate funeral with much emotion; and always this criticism of the British and the spitting at, and the insults to, the British Serviceman.
One of the lessons that I thought we learned in the last war was the importance of propaganda and that the nearer the propaganda was to the truth the more effective it was. The truth is, as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said, that the British Army went there for the purpose of keeping peace; the truth is that they were welcomed at the outset by the Catholics equally with the Protestants; the truth is that when there was a natural tragedy, the floods, the troops helped Catholics equally with Protestants. The truth is that the British Serviceman has nothing vicious or cruel or sadistic in his make-up; the truth is that his natural anxiety is to get his feet under the table rather than to get his bayonet into someone's ribs. This truth is not appreciated. This truth, or the essence of it or the implications of it. ought to be put across, day in and day out, North and South of the Border. There should be skilled practitioners as there were during the war putting this truth across. Radio should be beamed right across Ireland, North and South. There should be loudspeakers in the streets. All modern means of communication and persuasion should be used. I cannot think that it can be claimed by the present Government that we are doing enough in this connection.
"Ah," it may be said, "there is only a tiny minority, a handful of men, responsible for this trouble, for the violence which faces the British troops." This was the view expressed yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. I do not believe 141 this; I have never believed it. My noble friend Lord Shackleton yesterday mentioned Aden and my interest in that area. They told me that same story when I went there. I did not believe it. They said that there was only a handful that had to be identified and apprehended and the troubles would be over. When we left we saw just how wide had been the support which made terrorism possible. A handful of terrorists cannot get away with it unless they have support—and not just intimidated support—from a very wide background. It is not as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, tried to tell us, just a single sniper that we are up against. It is not he who is the real trouble. It is the gangs of youths and of men and women in the streets, the hostility of the children: all this adds up to the real intractability of this problem.
Many have spoken about the hopeful signs in the situation and the moderate-minded men who can be found. I rejoice in that and shall have something to say about it; but it is also necessary to accept, by all of us on both sides, that there are to-day some infinitely discouraging signs. I do not think we should ignore, as the Government really are trying to ignore, one section of the scene. I am still thinking of this fact: that there is a callous disregard of human suffering and this bigoted prejudice against the troops who are trying to do their duty. I am saying that it is not confined to a handful of people in Northern Ireland; it is not the isolated sniper. I recall the picture of grief portrayed by one photograph of an Irish mother and housewife at the murder of a British soldier. I remember the great effect of the reference by the noble Lord the Defence Secretary to this photograph. It was a moving reference. But I also recall a picture of Irish women chanting, the caption said, "If you kill a British soldier clap your hands." This kind of thing, if all are not careful, will create a backlash in this country, and it will not help Ireland, either a divided or a united Ireland, if that comes about. There was a time when Irish truculence was a matter for extreme English toleration. I remember when Ellen Wilkinson came back from the Spanish Civil War and said that there are Germans and Italians fighting on one side, there are French 142 and English fighting on the other; and there are Irish fighting on both sides. We all laughed; but there is a tendency to-day not to laugh at these Irish foibles. I warn that this is potentially a very dangerous situation—and not least for Ireland.
My Lords, my argument here is that it is not good enough to say that some things should not be mentioned because the situation is explosive. The fact is that an explosive situation will one day explode if we try to pretend that ugly facts do not exist. There are many English, Scottish and Welsh taxpayers who are just waking up to the fact that they are pumping more money into Northern Ireland than into any of the increasingly depressed regions of England, Wales and Scotland. How many of us had appreciated, until my right honourable friend Mr. Wilson spoke of it, that those Ulster citizens who live comfortably in Ulster make no contribution to the huge defence bill of the United Kingdom'? I say all this although I am conscious, deeply conscious, that there is another side of the Irish picture. When we think of Ulster, we think, all of us, of great servants of State like Alanbrooke, Alexander, Montgomery and others. Nevertheless, I say that it behoves all those who genuinely seek peace in Northern Ireland to recognise that there may well come a point in time when the British electorate will say that enough is enough and the cost of this eccentric community is too high. The lesson that I hope will be drawn from this is that none who is to take part in the forthcoming talks can afford to strike a posture of intransigence. It is necessary to have flexibility as the keynote of all future discussions.
I am bound to say that the tone of Lord Carrington's speech was eminently reasonable. If I wanted to make a Party point, and I do not really want to do that, I would say that if the tone and attitude of that speech and of that speaker had been more evident a month or two ago we might be that much nearer an end to the killings to-day. The noble Lord came very close to what my noble friend Lord Longford said, many explosions and murders ago, that there must be participation in Government of the minority. He also said that no suggestion to this end would be ignored. Of course, he 143 could not go into details in advance of the forthcoming talks; but I was glad to get the assurance of Lord Windlesham that when the Government say that nothing is to be ignored they really mean this and that there is an apparent readiness to consider all proposals, including the sound constructive proposals put forward by the Northern Ireland Labour Party and by my right honourable friend Mr. Wilson. We understand that already there is a readiness to enlarge the composition of the Northern Ireland Parliament and to co-opt additional Members from the Opposition.
That would be a start, but it must be made clear that this is only a start. One may talk of co-option, but will there be effective citizens from the Opposition willing to serve? If those invited, or who accept co-option, are open to the genuine criticism that they are "a set of Uncle Toms" as it is put, then this will be an opportunity lost. All these doubts apply equally to the housing committee and the other bodies of which the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has made mention. There are, as he says, members of the minority serving, but only because of their appointment by the Government of the day. I cannot see that this potentially hopeful step can be fruitful unless it can be seen as something leading to a more acceptable position. What we need to attain is a position in which the Opposition does not depend on the say-so of the head of the Government they seek to oppose. In other words, there must be an as-of-right representation, and one would think that proportional representation offers a solution here.
My noble friend Lord Shackleton dealt effectively with the criticism of the P. R. solution in this particular situation and I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, whether he accepts the feasibility of this point.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD HAILSHAM OF ST. MARYLEBONE)
My Lords, I am so sorry, but I did not hear the question. I was trying to listen but someone distracted my attention.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I was saying that my noble friend Lord Shackleton dealt effectively with the criti 144 cism which was made in the last debate about the proportional representation possibility. He put forward certain propositions and invited the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, to indicate whether he accepted the feasibility of proportional representation in this situation. I go on to ask this further question of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. There has recently been an objective inquiry into regional representation; namely, through the Crowther Committee. May I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor why it is that we cannot be allowed to see at least that section of the Crowther Committee's Report which deals with Northern Ireland? I say, incidentally, that I hope the Home Secretary was impressed by the figures on this proportional representation point given him by the Northern Ireland Labour Party. They showed that although they fought in only seven out of twelve constituencies, and although they received 100,000 votes, they have no representative in the Stormont Parliament. And this is the Party which, on the evidence offered by my noble friend Lord Shackleton and by others in the House, has been among the most moderate and constructive elements in the Irish situation in recent months.
My Lords, I should like to say something about internment. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, was good enough to give us the background of the Government's decision to use the internment weapon and we are grateful to him for what he said. We have to understand the problem with which the Government were faced but I think that they must make an extra effort to understand the doubts that have been raised. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, if I may say so, got himself a little tied up yesterday in his altercation with the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, in the argument they had about internment. I beg the noble and learned Lord to believe that there was something in the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, and the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder and by my noble friend Lord Longford. There is more in their point than the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was apparently prepared to accept.
The noble and learned Lord was logical. Of course he was able to show 145 the weaknesses in the case put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken. I agree with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, that in these circumstances one cannot expect to have witnesses come along and freely give evidence that is likely to convince a jury. I accept that. But nevertheless, I think that it is almost certain that there were men picked up by the Army on the instructions of the Government of Northern Ireland who ought not to have been interned and who were on the list because of some personal prejudice; or at least because of inadequate evidence. My Lords, I said that the noble Lord the Lord Chancellor got himself tied up because he argued the case for the independent jury and said that you cannot expect a jury to be convinced unless you have these independent, freely speaking witnesses. But when the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, brought up a case where there were witnesses; where the man in the dock was a Protestant; where the evidence appeared to be conclusive and yet the jury brought in a verdict of not guilty, the noble and learned Lord had a little difficulty in getting out of that in the light of what he had said a minute or two earlier.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Not in the least, my Lords. I pointed out to the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, that it is fatuous to bring a charge before a jury if you believe that the jury is either intimidated or perverse; and as he had ruled out the alternative of internment, I asked him what he would do in those circumstances—and he did not answer.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, to use the same language as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, I would say that it is fatuous to deal with this situation as one in which logical argument could prevail. We are dealing with an illogical climate of opinion and I think that something different from our normal logical processes of law is required here. I go along with the consensus of opinion which said you cannot afford to let out those men who seek only to get their finger on a trigger in order to shoot British soldiers in the back. But I say that you have somehow to evolve a system which gives confidence to both sides and which will identify the men who are really dangerous, and those who have been picked up on inadequate evidence.
146 I accept that something has been done. The question is whether sufficient has been done. I ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor whether there have been discussions, or whether there will be discussions, with the moderates in Northern Ireland, people like those who came to speak on behalf of the Northern Ireland Labour Party; and whether there will be an attempt to convince them that the measures that have been taken to allay doubts are adequate. If the Government are not able to convince those moderately-minded men, I suggest, I beg, I entreat them to see whether there is something more that can be done; including, possibly, the proposal that was put forward by my noble friend Lord Shackleton about an independent court sitting under a Commonwealth judge and possibly outside Northern Ireland.
My Lords, there are to be talks, and we all hope that they will be successful talks. We hope that there will be a continuing dialogue. I repeat again that in my view, in our view, they can be successful only if there is a readiness on the part of all those who take part in the talks to recognise that no one single party to those talks has a record which entitles them to say that they alone have the truth in this matter. All sides must be prepared to say that they have made mistakes and all sides must be prepared to make concessions. If it were entered into in that spirit, then one would hope that this discussion has had some effect upon events in that unhappy country.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, this debate has had two special characteristics. The first is the obvious desire of all noble Lords to keep the temperature of the debate as conciliatory as possible, an anxiety because the situation is so serious that anything wrongly said might do disproportionate harm. The second feature of the debate has been that, as it has proceeded, all sorts of possibilities have been discussed and, gradually, one has the feeling that the possibilities which are not really possibilities at all have peeled off. As we have gone on, we reach nearer and nearer to the only things that can be done and must be done.
I have intervened in this debate partly for the simple reason that I think my 147 distinguished relative Constance Gore-Booth, perhaps better known as the late Countess Markievicz, would have wished me to do so. Of course she refused to take the seat in another place to which she would have been entitled and I have no doubt that she would not have deigned to have come to your Lordships' House either to shout me down or give me support. But I think she and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and I would have found ourselves on the same platform on one important point which is, as the noble Lord said yesterday, that our relations with Ireland are perhaps the least satisfactory part of our history.
I intervene also for a broader family reason. I come from a family which has lived in a part of Ireland, part of the Irish Republic, for nearly 400 years, and when I say "lived" I do not mean simply owning land but living there. It has lived in geniune harmony as a Protestant family with the Catholic community around it. In this respect, if I may for a moment adopt the Irishism of introducing the ridiculous into the tragic, may I mention that I am two up on the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, who told us last night that his family house had been burned down. Our family house has gone down twice, but on both occasions exclusively because of the carelessness of the occupants.
I have introduced this Irishism because I try with this background to think a little Irish. It occurs to me that though, perhaps not quite all the time but for a great deal of the time, when noble Lords debate Ireland they talk a great deal as the British do about reason and agreement in Irish matters we need a little element of the bog and the rain—an element of instinct which does not always respond to Anglo-Saxon reason. If I may quote a perhaps over-simplified saying as a humble advice to those who deal with this matter, may I remind them that, the British never remember and the Irish never forget ". If those who negotiate would keep this a little in mind, it would be a very useful warning light when the going is getting difficult. This remark applies to some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. It certainly applies to one, not even a proposal, but a thought, which will I hope not be pursued if humanly possible: the 148 demand raised in a few quarters for a kind of Westminster "take-over" of Northern Ireland. That, in terms of Irish memory, even if it applies only to Ulster, would mean centuries of frustrated conspiracies. It would mean,"Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right ". It would mean another tragedy like the Easter rising of 1916 and a whole series of new plays in the Abbey Theatre about the Black and Tans, when the theatre ought to be thinking about something else.
If in this I have suggested that the British should remember, I should now like to remind your Lordships of one point which the Irish should forget. Surely the Irish should now forget the image of the British Army as an arm of the Imperial power. The British Army is now the upholder of liberties for others. I want to persuade what I might call my Irish constituents to accept this new rule, and to apply themselves to it in their own behaviour towards our patient and courageous soldiers.
This brings me to political and other action. On the political side, I think your Lordships will accept now the view which has been distilled through this debate: that one of the roots of the troubles in the North is the feeling of a significant minority that it will never share power. This cannot be good for anybody's morale or for anybody's political good sense. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has encouraged us very much in giving us an idea of some of the discussions that are going on into making possible participation by the minority. I do not think that it is for us to elaborate further on this while the conversations go on. There is only one point about this on which I hope the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack will reassure us, as I am sure that he will; namely, that at no time shall we assume that this is happening. We have done that about Northern Ireland before. We need the assurance of any British Government that they will keep after any Stormont Government and make sure it really is happening this time. But in the end, as I said before, it must be done by a Stormont Government and not by a Governor-General.
Of course, while this is happening, the community itself has every right to demand as adequate a protection as it can get for its law and order and security. On this I find myself in almost word for 149 word agreement with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, which, characteristically of him, was full of content and humanity. I agree with him and with the most reverend Primate that in the circumstances, which have been explained over and over again, we must accept that the only thing that could have been done last August to protect the community was the extremely unlikeable introduction of the internment procedure. Nobody can be pleased with it. Nobody can welcome it. Everybody must hope that the situation can arise when it can be ended. But I do not see how otherwise the authorities could have proceeded. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who said that, once it had been introduced, we could not suddenly go into reverse. if we did (again using an Irish expression) we should find ourselves on the run. The only modification I can think of at all is if at any time the authorities are satisfied that certain persons are in fact irrelevant, they should be allowed to go, at least to show that internment is not thoughtless and perpetual.
The question then is: How do we, as the responsible Power in the last resort, try to ensure that these things happen? How do we ensure political evolution acceptably and preserve law and order at the same time? Here I should like to make two appeals on exactly the same subjects as in the earlier part of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, put forward as immensely important. One is to the Churches and the other is to the media of information. To the Churches, I would say this—and it is very much the line taken by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. It is certainly a splendid and positive contribution that Achbishop Conway, in making his case for his religious community, at the same time repudiated violence. Others have done the same on the Protestant side. But this is a noisy age in which there is too much to listen to, too much to read and too much to do, and it is no good a high dignitary of any of the Churches saying these things once for the record. They must be said over and over again from the highest authority to the lowest in all the Churches, Catholic, Protestant and all denominations, as well as in the field of education, in the field of private advice and everywhere else. Then there will be results.
150 As the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, pointed out, this is a matter of Christianity. There must be instilled into the ordinary decent person a reminder that when he sees somebody on the other side of the street his reaction should be to love his neighbour or to love his enemy or, if you like it in more topical terms, to say to himself: "That man is probably a Christian too, and the world is judging Christianity by the way Christians behave to each other." If there is any doubt that this attitude properly explained and properly preached can have its effect, then I would refer to one of the great figures of this century: I refer of course to that great man, Pope John XXIII. In a small community which I know in Ireland it was pretty well believed that if the Protestants were holding an open-air fete on a Saturday afternoon the Catholics would pray for rain. The effect of the influence of Pope John was such that the local relationship was transformed out of all knowledge and prayers were the other way round. That can happen, and I am sure that with the help of people of good will in all Churches this transformation can be brought about. It must be done by a repetition which may seem initially tedious; hut, after all, if you do get bored with something you know what you are bored with.
Now let me refer to the media. I do not go all the way with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in feeling that this is a matter of whether or not the Home Secretary has a good image with the public. I think this goes back to what I was saying before. We are not fighting wholly with the present Irish image of the British Army. What we are fighting with is something much more intractable; namely, the Irish image of the British Army then or even, if you like, the Army of William of Orange. Therefore we need not only the help of any Government propaganda or information machine, but we need the help of the media themselves. I think I know as much as most nonprofessionals about all the demands on the media—commercial competition; the demands on reporters and photographers; the desire for a good picture; the aparent demand for crime and violence and all the rest. But this question is so serious that I hope the media will at some time ask themselves: "Have we not in this matter a public duty?" I should 151 like to suggest what that public duty is. It is not just to wait for things that are constructive and courageous, but to go and look for them. Sometimes people will be courageous rather discreetly; maybe this is wise because of the spirit of intimidation that is around. But sometimes. in such ways as the most reverend Primate suggested, there may be things to report which will encourage people to be courageous. So I would hope that the media might look at it in this way.
If I may take up the noble Earl, Lord Longford, the story in the Sunday Times about internment was not a helpful one, simply because it cast doubt on the forces of law and order and led the case nowhere. What we want is something to encourage the people who really are doing something to help. And it is not only physical courage, although there is plenty of that in evidence; it is also moral courage that is going to be needed. I refer particularly to the need for moral courage among the Protestants in Ulster and among Catholics in the Irish Republic. It is the moderate ones who have to stand up and be counted for peace and conciliation if, as so many noble Lords have rightly said, we are to win hack the means for conciliation.
Perhaps now I may in winding up that part of the argument reiterate also the warning given to us by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and also I think by the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford. If action along the lines which is being contemplated now and if persuasion along the lines that I have ventured to suggest show signs of succeeding, we shall then get a vicious backlash. One can be quite sure that the thugs, the Maoists and the anarchists and others will make one last deperate effort to wreck things. We must have the coolness and foresight to be able to repel that assault.
So, my Lords, I come very much to a programme which is that summarised more briefly and better by the most reverend Primate yesterday, with Northern Ireland for the foreseeable future as part of the United Kingdom; an effort to make the minority part of the Government and an effort to bring a feeling of conciliation among people of different religions. After all, let it be remembered that there are other countries in which Protestants and Catholics run 152 things together. In fact, one of the countries in which they sometimes govern together is Holland, the country of William of Orange.
I do not think we can be easily optimistic about this situation, but neither do I think that we should lose hope. On this I should like to read to your Lordships a short quotation and then explain why I do so. It is as follows:A little while—soon, soon, perchance The Road of Dust and Tears may seem … But a dark tunnel through a dream ".I quote that because it was written by Eva Gore-Booth. It is in this spirit that I think we should send a message of courage and good cheer to our soldiers and of good will to the three Prime Ministers, and should pray that this may be the last of the travails between the British and Irish peoples.
§ 12.48 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, this is an occasion, as was I think first said by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, yesterday, and with which I am sure we shall all agree, of extraordinary delicacy, and perhaps more than any that has taken place in all the many years since I first became a Member of this House. For our debate may well be read with even more passionate interest by many people in Ireland, both in the North and in the South, than in this House itself. Moreover, the situation is not made easier by the fact that the talks between Mr. Heath, Mr. Lynch and Mr. Faulkner have not yet taken place or by some rumours, which became current yesterday, that the Stormont Government are contemplating possible drastic changes in their political system—and of course we do not yet know what those changes may be.
I do not say this in any spirit of criticism of those Leaders of the Opposition who have asked for Parliament to meet, but merely to stress the need for that restraint which the House always shows on occasions of this kind and certainly showed yesterday. Of course Parliament has to face up to the hard facts of any situation, however awkward, if it is to be of any use at all. But there is clearly a need for all of us to put a strong bridle on our tongues if we are not to do more harm than good. It is in 153 that spirit that I shall try to speak in the few words—and they will be few—thatI shall address to your Lordships. There is really only one point that I want to make, and in making it I cannot claim the same personal experience of Ireland as others, including the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, who spoke before me, have at their disposal.
I do not intend to say anything to-day about the constitutional aspect, except that it must of course play a full part in any solution of this tragic problem. I personally, like many other people, perhaps, should be in favour of attempting to apply the principle of proportional representation in this exceptional case, if that is possible, or indeed any other device acceptable to Ulster that may be calculated to bring the two communities closer together and to stop their moving further and further away from each other, as now appears to be the position. But to-day, my Lords, I am more concerned with the question of law and order, and it seems to me that the first thing we should ask ourselves in the situation that seems to be steadily deteriorating is this. Is there anything in which we—and I do not just mean the present Conservative Government but, broadly speaking, the country as a whole— have gone wrong up to now?
That leads me to another question: why did we send British troops to Ulster, and what was the function that we intended them to perform? I suppose the natural answer of most people would be: to maintain law and order with absolute impartiality between all sections of the population. But that is really a police function rather than a military one, though I am sure that everyone here will agree that the troops have done it to the very best of their ability, and with, indeed, unexampled patience, courage and restraint. But this surely leads to one further question that I feel we ought to ask ourselves in the light of recent experience: is the task that we have set our troops one which a military force, sent from outside Ulster, is really qualified to perform? It is about this, even after listening to the debate yesterday, that I cannot help having doubts.
My Lords, I should have thought that the very essence of a police force, if it is to be effective, is that it must be a local 154 force, locally recruited, under the direction of a local administration and with special knowledge of local conditions and people—in fact, it should be a member of the community which it serves. I take it that this is what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, had in mind when he said yesterday (col.12):… the key to success in the security situation is intelligence.That is a very proper function for a locally recruited force, yet it is just what a military force, such as we have sent to Northern Ireland, from outside is not and cannot be. I do not say that such a force is of no use. It can deal, at any rate to some extent, with riots and with gunmen; and that it does. But it cannot nip trouble in the bud. It cannot anticipate or prevent it, which it is Cle main job of the police to do, because coming from outside Ireland it has of itself no local knowledge at all. Therefore, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said earlier—and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, said the same thing yesterday—British troops in Ulster have more and more, in the eyes of Irishmen, come to have character not of a police force but of an army of occupation. The noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, who has just spoken, I think would certainly agree with that. To more and more of the Irish people the real enemy has become not Stormont but Britain—to many of them now a foreign Power—and the longer our troops from England stay in Northern Ireland, and the more they are compelled to take over the main responsibility for the maintenance of law and order, the more that idea will gain ground.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, the noble Marquess has been kind enough to quote me. I do not want to enter into an argument with him, but may I just remind him that my point was that because of this obsession with the past in Ireland there is a temptation on the part of the Irish people to fight against the old British Army and not the new one. The new British Army is therefore in some difficulty. But I think that the interpretation the noble Marquess has put on my remarks goes perhaps somewhat too far in stressing that.
§ Time MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I was about to pass to that point. This is not entirely, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said, because 155 our propaganda has been inadequate, but because of something far more deepseated—a bitterness against Britain that has been handed down from generation to generation. I think this was the point that the noble Lord was making. I do not think there will be any way out of that unhappy situation until our troops from this side of the Irish Sea finally fade out and we leave it ultimately to Ulster's own forces of the Crown, locally recruited for the preservation of law and order, to do the job that really only they can do. That is why I am sure we all welcome so warmly the firm statement, if I understood it correctly, of my noble friend Lord Carrington yesterday, that it will be a main policy of Her Majesty's Government to build up the Ulster Defence Regiment and, I hope, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which have done such tine work in the past, to be the main bastions of law and order in Northern Ireland in the future. In the meantime, I feel that internment, as some other people have said, must go on. To release these internees at the present juncture would clearly be too dangerous; and I am afraid that we must all face that fact, whatever may be our general views of internment in principle.
Of course, my Lords, as the most reverend Primate said yesterday, we must not abandon Ulster. I do not take such a pessimistic view about Stormont as that taken by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, yesterday. But this I do feel: if Stormont is to survive it can do so only on the basis that, as soon as circumstances permit, it is able to stand on its own feet and not be dependent on military forces drafted in from outside the confines of Ireland. Ulster must be what I believe is now probably called a viable country, maintaining law and order by its own efforts in its own territory by means of a force that is locally recruited and that contains, of course, both Protestants and Catholics. for the maintenance of that peace and quiet which the vast majority of both communities, one may be very sure, so ardently desire. I know that it is very easy, my Lords, to say such things, sitting here comfortably in the Palace of Westminster, and much more difficult to put them into practice on the spot. But it is, I most truly believe, the only practical way for Northern Ireland. Otherwise, I believe, the situation will get 156 steadily worse and worse, as it is doing now from day to day, and we shall be left ultimately with only two alternatives—either direct rule from Westminster or the cutting of the last link between Britain and Ireland. These are two alternatives, I am sure, that none of us would willingly consider as a solution to our present ills.
§ 12.59 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to find myself following my noble friend Lord Salisbury whom I, like the rest of your Lordships' House. hold in the deepest affection. It would be an impertinence on my part to speak at any length on this subject, having as little direct knowledge of Ireland as I have, and perhaps particularly so as I am addressing noble Lords who arc gaunt and faint with hunger. For those two reasons I promise to keep my remarks very short. My excuse for speaking at all is that I feel that the situation is so serious that it is right, even for those of us who have little direct knowledge of Ireland, to acknowledge our sense of deep and sincere responsibility—a responsibility that we cannot and would not wish to escape. One of the special tragedies is that we are not dealing with the affairs of a people of insignificant or contemptible character; on the contrary, the Irish on both sides of the Border are as fine, as robust and as courageous a people as any that can be found anywhere in the world. Perhaps their outstanding characteristic is courage. I agree with several speakers, and particularly with the noble Lord. Lord Beswick, and the noble Lord. Lord Gore-Booth, that this situation is one in which courage is called for; but even more than physical courage moral courage is called for as never before.
We are engaged in one of those debates which in this House, as is customary, has been marked with a high sense of responsibility. There has been little inclination in the speeches that I have heard to indulge in recrimination for past events, or to assign blame for disappointed hopes. My noble friend the Leader of the House and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, set exactly the right tone yesterday, and that tone was well followed by my noble friend Lord Windlesham and the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. to-day.
I have for some years spent my holidays fairly regularly in Ireland. Even a few visits to the North and the South 157 must convince one that the people of both countries are sitting on a powder barrel. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said on that. There is a real risk that the present situation, deplorable as it is, could drift into almost irretrievable disaster. It would be a tragedy if this should happen, in spite of the existence of many at heart moderates on both sides of the Border. Unfortunately, those moderates are often not very articulate, but there is a feeling of despair and fatalism among them in the present situation which is dangerous. These are circumstances in which many noble Lords have said so rightly that the object of statesmanship must be to influence moderate opinion, to restore its morale and to discredit, so far as possible, the irresponsible fanatics. This clearly calls for statesmanship of a high order, both in the North and in the South. I am not going to have the presumption to propose a solution; I listened with admiration to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, who has a close knowledge of Ireland. I only want to underline one or two of the many wise things that I have heard noble Lords on both sides of the House say yesterday and to-day.
First of all. we must accept as basic the fact that has been mentioned by noble Lords on both sides of the House that there can he no change in the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. What a splendid thing it would be if the leaders of the State and Church on both sides of the Border would declare their acceptance of this democratic principle! Secondly, while the restoration of law and order is inescapably the responsibility of the British Government, pari passu with the strict exercise of that responsibility one feels urgent consideration should be given, and be seen to be given, to new political initiatives. I listened with interest and approval to the speeches of my two noble friends who spoke for the Government on this matter. If we have to acknowledge, as I fancy we may have to acknowledge, that the settlement of 50 years ago requires amendment, let us not delay a day in trying to work out the amendments required. Do not let us worry too much if those studies and considerations lead us to conclusions as regards political and electoral tech 158 niques that are somewhat different from those we have here in the rest of the United Kingdom. It has been heartwarming to hear the well deserved tributes that have been paid by everyone to our soldiers in Northern Ireland. I thought it was a sign of their high morale when their Commander asked for an investigation into alleged excessive severities. I am sure that everyone in this House feels that there is no Army in the world that can be more safely entrusted with these appallingly difficult responsibilities than our own Army, and we are proud of them.
With regard to internment, internment without trial is a hateful proceeding and no long-term solution can emerge from that alone. I am sure that will be recognised everywhere. Whether the degree of the short-term emergency was sufficient to justify internment in this instance I have no means of judging, but I attach great weight to the views of the Ministers who have had great reluctance in adopting this procedure. Even the argument of necessity is one that from history must be used as a plea with the greatest caution. Now that it has been judged that internment was necessary, and it may well have been necessary, it is not, as the House has recognised, something that we can end by a stroke. We shall be wise, however, to recognise that its imposition inevitably makes the problem of separating the moderates from the extremists more difficult. The long history of Ireland shows what a powerful influence grievances, real or imagined, can be, and here there is a new prima facie grievance which may be eagerly adopted and prove counter-productive in the task to which I have referred.
The last point I want to mention is that it must be right in the circumstances with which we are confronted that the personal links between the three Governments should be strengthened and, if possible, new personal links forged. We all know the personal links that existed between my noble friend Lord O'Neill of the Maine and Mr. Lynch, links which were sadly terminated when my noble friend left the office which he had held with such distinction, credit and courage. I was delighted when my right honourable friend the Prime Minister arranged the tripartite talks; all three Prime Ministers will carry with them the heartfelt good 159 wishes of us all. Politics is the art of the possible, but how much can be accomplished when there is a foundation of mutual personal respect in the spirit which was advocated by Cromwell—not invariably a tolerant man—when he said, "Only think it possible that you may be mistaken ".
Most of us have our own pet good ideas, and I felt I had to produce one. What a good plan it would be if the Prime Ministers of Eire and Northern Ireland would set up a standing joint liaison committee composed equally of Ministers of both Governments with the sole assignment to recommend to their respective Prime Ministers actions which could be taken at a routine level to reduce friction and to safeguard peace. Such a demonstration of positive good will and shared aims would surely do much to encourage moderate opinion on both sides of the Border. My Lords, I have no right to detain you longer. This debate will justify itself, as I am sure it has, if it demonstrates our deep sense of personal responsibility and our united resolve that the grievances of the minority which still exist shall be removed as speedily as possible, not only in law but in fact as well.
§ 1.10 p.m.
§ LORD ILFORD
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Amory and I hope I shall do nothing to depart from the course of moderation which he has put to us in such practical terms. This has been a long debate but little has been said about the position and attitude of the Irish Republic. It seems to me to be difficult to consider what is going on in Northern Ireland without some reference to the actions of the Irish Republic.
The Irish Republic bears a grave burden of responsibility for the misery which the Irish people have endured during these last months. For forty years the Republican Government have tolerated in their territory these gangsters and guerrillas, whose activities have now broken out into violence and bloodshed. Throughout that period these men have found a refuge in the territory of the Irish Republic. True it is that their activities have varied from time to time and have not always been mounted upon the scale of to-day. But can it be denied that these men have been organised, armed and equipped in the 160 shelter which the territory of the Irish Republic has afforded to them? The Republic could have routed these men out, destroyed their organisation and confiscated their arms long ago if there had been a mind to do so. My Lords, that mind appears to have been absent.
The Prime Minister of the Irish Republic has condemned violence and anarchy. He is a man who abhors these things as much as we abhor them. But condemnation is not enough: we are entitled to expect the co-operation of the Republican Government in suppressing the violence which is destroying their country. It seems to me that there are three matters in which we might expect and invite their co-operation. The Irish Republic should assume emergency powers, as has been done in this country. Have they power to arrest or intern persons engaged or identified in these activities? I believe there is no such power. Without such powers it is not possible to curb or restrain the activities of such persons. However distasteful such powers may be in a country which has enjoyed free institutions, nevertheless the Irish Republic cannot safeguard the situation in Northern Ireland unless they assume such powers. It is not unreasonable to expect them to do so.
In the second place, I ask the Government whether we have the full co-operation of the Irish forces in closing the frontier. The Irish Republic should as much concerned as we are to ensure that the frontier is effectively closed. We were told yesterday that this is a very long frontier, of over 200 miles; but some noble Lords pointed out that there were other frontiers which were longer but which are nevertheless quite effectively closed. This frontier, if it is possible to do so, ought to be closed, and not too much consideration should be given to those persons who unfortunately have to cross the Border from time to time. That is not a circumstance which ought to weaken us in ensuring that this frontier is effectively closed. It was suggested in the course of the debate that we might offer the loan of armoured cars to the Irish forces on the frontier to enable them to keep the frontier effectively closed. I should welcome such an offer; but if such an offer were made, would it be accepted? I hope that it would be, and that if we can assist the Irish forces 161 in keeping this frontier closed by the loan of military equipment, or even of troops, we shall not hesitate to do so.
The last point I desire to make is this. Persons who have been engaged in violent activities in Northern Ireland ought not to be allowed to enter and retain without restraint their liberty in the Irish Republic. In Ireland our troops are fighting a snipers' war. British soldiers are being shot down by snipers who, when the fatal round has been fired, slip back behind the neutral frontier which our troops are not allowed to cross. This, surely, is a state of affairs which the Irish Republic ought not to tolerate. My Lords, I hope that I have not painted too dark a picture; in fact I hope I have not painted a dark picture at all. But I hope that Her Majesty's Government will be able to give us assurances upon some of the matters to which I have referred. Our troops in Northern Ireland are facing a task of exceptional difficulty with remarkable courage and discipline. I hope it will be possible to afford them such assistance as we can from the sources I have endeavoured to indicate.
§ 1.18 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, I hope that my noble friend Lord Ilford will forgive me if I do not follow him too closely in the argument he has admirably put forward, and will accept, perhaps as the best of all possible reasons, that anybody who speaks at this moment might reasonably feel himself under a duty to be brief and, perhaps even more important, unrepetitive, which may seem a very difficult thing to be at the end of this long debate; nevertheless, I hope I may make the attempt.
A policy has recently been put forward by Mr. Enoch Powell, the only maker of a policy who has claimed for his policy that it is based purely and solely on logic and common sense, for which reasons, he maintains, it will be eventually accepted as the proper solution by one and all. Your Lordships have no doubt read it in the newspapers. The argument runs, if I remember rightly, something like this. The answer to violence in the present situation is not more violence: the "antidote" (I think that is the word) is hopelessness. What is necessary is to convince the enemy, in this case the 162 I. R. A., that his cause is totally hopeless. Then Mr. Powell goes on to suggest the method by which this might be done: closing the frontiers; treating the Republic of the Irish in every respect as foreigners; imposing our own immigration laws and so on, including, and finally, direct rule from Westminster. By this means we shall convince them of our utter determination that there shall be no surrender to them.
This is indeed an argument from common sense. So far as I can see, its logic is almost impeccable. It is in fact precisely the kind of argument that is so often worked out, as I see it in my mind's eye, in some quietly secluded donnish study under a pool of lamplight in which no other persons enter to disturb the studies of the composer—and that is precisely what is wrong with it: no other persons have entered into it at all. There are no people in this argument. As I say, the logic is impeccable but the premise is totally wrong, the premise being that hopelessness will be the one thing that will stop an Irishman from pursuing an ideal upon which he has set his heart. It will not—and for two reasons: first, it is impossible to convince him that his task is hopeless, and even if, for the sake of argument, it were possible to convince him it would not deter him anyway, because hopelessness is not a deterrent factor to an Irishman. if anyone says that this is a tiresome characteristic of the pigheaded Irish I might mention that such a characteristic has not been unknown to have emerged, even among the British.
This question of whether or not it is possible to deter by hopelessness the people who are now manifesting as the I. R. A. is so vital to this whole situation that I will venture for a moment or two to offer your Lordships a little proof that what I say is true. They will not be stopped by any form of hopelessness. It has been said—and in fact it has been said by Mr. Harold Wilson quite recently—that it might be a good idea if we were to forget 1920. We forget 1920 at our peril, because that is the key date from which our present misfortunes flow. But I venture to go back a little further than that, to 1798 when the greatest—at least up to 1919 it was the greatest—of the Irish rebellions took place. In its initial stages it was led by Wolfe Tone, Lord 163 Edward Fitzgerald, whose brother incidentally was my great, great grandfather. It was put down with the utmost savagery by the British Army. It was a total failure; it was bound to be a total failure; the people who organised it—the Society of United Irishmen—knew it would be a failure and they did it just the same. According to one account that I have seen that was the 152nd rebellion which had taken place in Ireland, and they have all been hopeless.
Two years after 1798 there came the Union, and for 114 years there was no actual organised armed rebellion against the British power in Ireland. Then came Easter Monday,1916, when there was to be, under the auspices of Sinn Fein, which had come into being a few years before, a nationwide rebellion against the British. For various reasons into which I need not go now the rebellion was called off at twenty-four hours' notice. The calling-off notices went out and the rebellion did not take place except in Dublin, where it was known prefectly well that it was supposed to be called off; but in Dublin the Rising took place just the same. There could not have been a more hopeless rebellion than that. It was known to be hopeless. It was known that even if the rest of the country was not rising at all the whole of the British Forces would be used in order to put it down. Its leaders knew that they would fail and that they would be executed—Padraic Pearse and others They went ahead. After a week of fighting they were defeated; the rebellion was put down and they were executed—the last great hopeless rebel] ion.
In 1919 Sinn Fein came into the field again. By 1920 they had driven the British out of most of Ireland—out of 26 counties—by causing Britain to sign a treaty and the Free State was set up. This was not a totally successful rebellion, as we shall see, but it was by this time the 154th rebellion. If the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, were here he might perhaps accept this analogy which I have heard put forward by a mountaineer—possibly himself—that all succeeding attempts to conquer Everest stood upon the shoulders of those who had gone before until one eventually, under the noble Lord's own leadership, reached the top. So it had 164 been with these rebellions. In 1920 the top was nearly reached and it ended in a Treaty which set up the Irish Free State and the partition.
The rebels (by this time they were called Sinn Fein—Ourselves Alone) had nearly reached the top, but not quite. To begin with, they had not got a republic; they had only got a Free State. The immediate result following upon that was a civil war in which the Republicans were in fact defeated. But after this long history of fighting and striving for a Republic, would they now say that that would be an end to it and they would give in? Not at all. Here we had unfinished business. Sinn Fein, proscribed in the South as in the North, did not cease to exist. The military organisation which had fought for it did not cease to exist either. Sinn Fein is still operating now. The Irish Republican Army is, as it was, the military arm of Sinn Fein and they are fighting unfinished business. That is their point of view and, what is more, it is my point of view. I do not identify myself with their aspirations, but my point of view is surely a purely rational one and it is that this is for them unfinished business. Are they going to give it up simply because by some means imagined by Mr. Enoch Powell, or anybody else. it is thought that we can convince them that it is hopeless? No, my Lords.
I have ventured to put forward this perhaps rather tiresome excursion into Irish history for this reason. We have heard a great deal of talk about the urban guerrilla and the bloodthirsty gangster. and I may say that there is no term of condemnation so strong that would not heartily endorse it in regard to these people. We know it is the policy of this Government, as it was of the previous Government and it must be the policy of any Government, to destroy this terrorist type of operation in Northern Ireland; but we have heard little of the fact that, no matter what its methods may be, this is only a continuing manifestation of Sinn Fein, which itself is the heir of all the rebellions in Ireland, which have had one purpose and one purpose only: to get the British out of Ireland. That purpose continues. They may have other objects, but they are minor ones.
165 My noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence said that their purpose was to incite hatred between the communities. With respect, I would demur from that. That is not their purpose, it is their method. Their method is an exceedingly efficient one, whether we like it or not: it is to divide, to incite hatred, and they are doing it exceedingly well.
The point is that this is going on. The Army may defeat and smash the terrorists and internment may or may not assist towards that end. They may bring peace to the streets of Belfast and Derry and Newry but they will not finish the I. R. A., they will not finish Sinn Fein, they will not finish the hard core aspirations of driving the British out of Ireland. For that reason we have a long haul ahead of us. We may just as well face it. I see no object whatever in referring to this operation against the terrorists in Ireland at the moment as a short-term policy. It may be a short-term policy in the streets, and if it is successful it will be a tactical victory; it will be a battle that will be won but not a war. The only essential thing that will bring peace to Ireland is the ultimate smashing and elimination of Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein is based in the South; it operates in the North. It is also partly based in the North. This necessitates a policy of co-operation which has been frequently mentioned between the Governments. I believe that we shall have it. I hope it will be brought about by a gradual process of secret diplomacy, if necessary, between the Prime Ministers and the Governments of Great Britain, of Northern Ireland and of the Irish Republic. I think it will happen. I think it is necessary in the interests of all both North and South that it should happen.
There are men of good will in the Republic, although it is worth remembering there are also at this moment at least three former Cabinet Ministers of the present Fianna Fail Government, Mr. Lynch's Government, who have been removed from that Government and are in fact practically in a state of rebellion. He has a very difficult situation there. Let us not weaken and say, "To hell with the Government of the Republic. Let us cut them off; let us show them who they are". I do not go along with my noble friend, Lord Orr-Ewing, in this matter. I think it is a mistake.
166 With that object of co-operation achieved, and the parallel object of bringing peace among the communities, there can be peace for Ireland. But there can be no peace for the communities so long as these people exist, and their elimination must be the first and overriding objective of all our policies. In the end all may yet be well under some form none of us can yet foresee. For we have come to a turning point. Even if at the moment we are back to 1920, as I see it, we passed a turning point three years ago, thanks to the emergence of a wise, just and courageous man at the head of the Stormont Government, Captain Terence O'Neill, Lord O'Neill of the Maine as he is now.
It is possible to think that after many years Mr. Gladstone's advice has been taken. What did Gladstone say in 1886? Moving the Second Reading of the Government of Ireland Bill of that year, which was narrowly defeated, he said—nobody took any notice then but it has been noticed since:If it he a just and reasonable demand, we cannot hasten too soon to meet it, and we will not wait until the day of disaster, the day of difficulty, and, I would add, the day of dishonour, to yield, as we have so often yielded, to necessity what we were unwilling to yield to justice.With that attitude informing, as it does now, the policies of our rulers on both sides of the St. George's Channel, with the co-operation, as I confidently expect to see it emerging, of the Government or Governments in the South, we may I believe, first smash Sinn Fein and then restore what we all want to see, none more than myself: peace to an Ireland which can live at peace within its own borders.
§ 1.34 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, I have listened with a great deal of interest to the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, and, though he may be surprised at this, with a great deal of agreement. I think his analysis of the situation is to a very large extent absolutely correct. But I do draw not entirely different but somewhat different conclusions. I believe that ultimately there will be no peace in Ireland until the tension between the North and South has been sufficiently relaxed for those two countries to become as one—whether they are actually one or not is irrelevant, but until they feel and think in the same way. That, obviously, is a 167 long way ahead, and it may well be that the entry both of Eire and ourselves into the European Economic Community will hasten that day in a way which could never have been foreseen a few years ago. But that must be, to my mind, a long term objective of anybody who concerns himself with the Irish question, so to reduce tension across the Border that these two countries act as one and think as one and are prepared, if necessary, to be governed as one.
Before we can attempt to reach that stage there must be the more urgent task of relaxing the tension between the two sections of the population in the Six Counties—accurately, of course, but unfortunate in designation—loosely called the Protestants and the Catholics because there are many more differences between them than simply one of religion. So that must be the immediate task which confronts us. And here, to my surprise, I find myself in complete agreement with one part of Mr. Enoch Powell's proposals, and that is direct rule from Westminster. My reasons for saying that are that it must be manifest to anybody who looks at these problems now that the existing Government in Ulster, Stormont, and its predecessors, have failed to bring these two sections of the population together. Some have tried, and tribute has already been paid to the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine. I am happy to add my tribute to his attempts. But as so often happens in these cases—and we have seen it happening in many countries before; Rhodesia comes to mind immediately—the attempts of what one may describe as a liberal Conservative to bring about reforms which the extreme wing of his Party does not like do not result in progress but in the exact opposite. He is thrown out and the more extreme people take over, and when the extreme people see that some of the things he was attempting to do are the right things, and they make tentative movements towards that end, they themselves are pushed out. That has been the history in Ulster, and we have to face that situation to-day. The result has been the disaster which is confronting, not us—we are remote and safe— but the people who live in the Six Counties, and for them we have overriding responsibility.
Can we possibly fulfil that responsibility by allowing the Government at 168 Stormont to continue its policies which have been proved over the years, whether they wish it to be so or not, to be ineffectual, while not only do the people of Northern Ireland suffer, but our own soldiers, whom we send and for whom we are responsible, are subjected to the danger and the death that they are being subjected to to-day? I do not believe that we have any right to ask, to order, the British Army to undertake a hopeless task such as that, no matter how brave, how self-restrained and how disciplined they may be. From a purely military point of view—and I am no military man—surely it is a manifestly impossible situation for a small force of people from across the sea, whether they speak the same language or not, to protect and maintain order and create peace in a country where the borders are not patrolled and cannot be patrolled, where arms and terrorists can cross with impunity, and where even if those borders could be closed there is a long sea coast which cannot be adequately guarded.
The situation, on a smaller scale, thank God! is not all that different from the situation in Vietnam, and we have seen over 20 years what has happened there. No matter what military force comes into a country, so long as forces can come in from outside, assemble across the borders, shelter there, and use a long sea coast, no military force in the world can possibly achieve its object. When at the same time a large section of the population—and again one sees this happening increasingly in Vietnam—is turning against the military not because of their behaviour, not because they are brutal and licentious (indeed very far from it), but simply because they have come to be represented as the organs of a hostile Government, then the situation becomes still more impossible.
I believe that this is the situation to-day, and that we must face it because of our responsibility to the people of Northern Ireland and because of our responsibility to our own soldiers, whom we are sending there to protect them. Until we have the authority here in Westminster in the hands of Her Majesty's Government to decide what shall be done, confidence can never be restored. It is, above all, a question of confidence. I accept that the legislation is there which diminishes and possibly even abolishes the differentiation between the Ulster 169 Protestants and the Ulster Catholics, but you need more than legislation in these matters. You need, on the one hand, the willingness and the ability of the authorities to ensure that that legislation is put into effect and put into effect quickly, and you need, just as important, on the part of those who over generations have suffered deprivation, a belief that there has in fact been a change of heart. Until they can be convinced of that, the tensions will not be relaxed and there can be no question of genuine co-operation.
You may be able to find some courageous, high-minded, idealistic people from the Catholic side who will be prepared to work with Stormont, but that is not enough. We must have the wholehearted co-operation of the mass of the ordinary people. I am convinced that so long as Stormont is in control that can never take place. It can only take place if it is seen in Ulster that it is the British Government at Westminster who have the ultimate responsibility, and are prepared to use it. I am sure that co-operation will come sooner or later. We have always tried to postpone taking awkward, unpleasant, difficult decisions for as long as possible. The longer we postpone taking decisions, the harder it becomes, and the harder is the task which then confronts those who have to decide. I believe that two or three years ago might have been a better time, but the longer we wait the worse it will become, and now is the time for this country, this Parliament, this Government to accept the responsibility which is ours in any case, and to take to ourselves the powers which are essential if we are to fulfil those responsibilities.
§ 1.43 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, during the course of this debate we have heard a great many speeches and, on the whole, I suppose the great majority of them have been in general support of the Government line. But the recipe that the Government have produced is one that needs to be looked at carefully for two reasons. The first is that it is closely similar to equally sensible sounding (and eventually disastrous) policies in places as disparate as Cyprus, India, the Irish Republic, and many others. The second is—and I do not wish to be too acerbic about this—the source from which it comes. God knows! no political Party has any exemption horn 170 errors in Ireland, but the fact is that to be a Unionist, whether an Ulster Unionist, Liberal Unionist, Coalition Unionist (as I gather the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, was) or a plain Unionist, is to be a member of an organisation which has been consistently wrong over Ireland for one hundred years, and has made many of the mistakes which have landed us where we are at the present moment.
In spite of men of good will, like the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, there is still a refusal to face up to facts which militate against the half measures proposed by the present Government. One noble Lord said that he objected to Mr. Wilson's twelve points as being likely to discredit the Stormont Government. Unfortunately, in the eyes of a great part of Ireland, that happened years ago, and they have now got to earn credit again, which they may well be doing at the moment. Therefore, I want to examine the general analysis. Of course, the analysis was not completely general. There were one or two noble Lords who suggested that the trouble in Northern Ireland was really part of an international conspiracy, with mysterious but deep roots in the soil of Cuba. I am sure that they have, as they said, evidence that the I. R. A. has been studying Communist and Maoist tactics, though why, as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, said, the boys who beat the Black and Tans should need such expertise is slightly baffling. But to go on and say that this proves an international Communist conspiracy is as absurd, with all respect, as to say that the presence of Sandhurst-trained generals at the head of almost every black militarydictatorship in Africa proves an international military capitalist conspiracy. There are people who would say that, too. But you and I, my Lords, know that that is nonsense, and the other is nonsense as well.
Many noble Lords have identified two specific problems. the military and the political. I believe that this analysis might have been deeper and more useful if they had identified three problems. First, there is the problem of law and order. Secondly, there is the problem of the short-term political settlement the reforms which are in course of being implemented, or are being thought about and have been discussed. Thirdly, there is the problem of the long-term political 171 settlement—the problem of the Border. I do not believe that we can separate any one of these from the others, and I think that it is a fatal mistake to try to separate them, or to try to treat them chronologically in time instead of as a complex together. I should like to say a few words on each of these problems which together, I believe, add up to an alternative approach to that of the Government and, I believe, that of the Labour Party.
The first problem is the imposition of law and order. It is a matter requiring a great deal of expertise, and one can have little doubt that the Army is doing extremely well in the circumstances; and probably some of the interesting suggestions that we have heard, particularly last night, will be taken up and maybe can be even improved on. But the problem as it has come before your Lordships' House in these two days has been the problem of internment. It is a very difficult problem, and when I say that I take a particular line on it. that is not to say that I do not realise the real agony of decision and indeed the knife edge balance of the arguments. But I believe that internment was a real mistake. The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, said that to release the gunmen is to make them think, "At last we are getting somewhere". There may be something in that, but when they really knew that they had got somewhere was when they were interned and they had succeeded in getting the rule of law suspended.
The name of the game, my Lords, is escalation. That is the game that the I. R. A. are playing, and if you play it you are playing their game. I take the points made by the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack in his interchanges with the noble Lord. Lord Kilbracken, and the noble Lord. Lord Ritchie-Calder, and although I do not agree with internment I do not think that the two noble Lords managed to answer the Lord Chancellor's points. I think that was because, in the terms in which he put the points they are unanswerable. He rightly asks the question: how do you get law and order in a situation where witnesses are intimidated and where you can never get a case to court for the law to deal with. I think that is an unanswerable question 172 in itself. I am forced to admit that not to intern is to ensure that some people get killed who would not otherwise get killed. But I still think that this may be the lesser of two evils. Before noble Lords start accusing me of taking bloodshed and human life lightly, may I say that if the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, is right and we are now seeing the very end of the bloodshed, then I am disastrously wrong and the Government are certainly right. But I do not believe that this is so, and I do not believe that the Government think it is so either. In which case the decision that has to be made—a hard and grievous decision—is not just will interning these men, or letting them out, cause bloodshed; it is what course must the Government take to ensure the minimum bloodshed and the minimum loss of life over the longer period? Governments are not elected, and noble Lords are not given seats in this House, in order to produce short-term, easy or comfortable solutions. I would not say that we should release internees if that was all I had to say on the subject of Ulster. But I believe that a return to law and order, and a return to the rule of law in law and order, must happen together with initiatives on the other two points I have raised.
Let me now turn to the second question, that of the short-term political settlement. My noble friend Lord Gladwyn spoke fairly fully about that yesterday, so I shall not go deeply into it. There now appears to be general agreement about the reforms needed, but do not let us underestimate the opposition that still remains in Ulster to reform of any kind. Why else were Lord O'Neill of the Maine and Lord Moyola sacked, except that they were committed to at least some of these reforms, and indeed to only some of these reforms? And there is even a sudden conversion to proportional representation. It is true that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, referred to it yesterday (col.8) as "some modification of the doctrine of pure democracy", whereas it is a move towards true democracy, away from the distortions of the English two-Party system. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked that P. R. should be on the list system, which shows (I say this with great respect) that he has not quite gathered the full virtues of P. R.
173 For various reasons, the list system is not a good one. In this case, it would be disastrous, for one of the virtues of proportional representation in the Ulster situation is that it would release the present Parties from the domination of the, very often, extreme Party caucuses. This the list system would not do; in fact, it would make this situation worse. But all of these points and P. R. have long been Liberal policy and we welcome our new allies. Here I should like to pay tribute, if your Lordships will allow me, to the Northern Ireland Liberal Party. A great deal has been said about other Parties in Northern Ireland, but I think this Party was ahead of all the other Parties in its bipartisan, non-sectarian approach to the problems of the region. It is a tribute to people like Sheelagh Murraghan and Albert MacElroy, that the former was the one politician acceptable enough to be appointed to the Community Relations Commission.
I now want to turn to my third and last point—the long-term political settlement. It has been suggested by many speakers in different parts of the House that the problem of the Border must be put on ice. I am afraid that I do not know what that means. If it means that we should not talk about the frontier, then it is merely the perennial call of the Ulster Unionists over the years. We were given an example of how it should be done. One noble Lord said that we should have a referendum in Northern Ireland, to be followed by a ten-year moratorium on constitutional change. It was to the credit of the noble Lord that he was prepared to face the practicalities, but I think he showed up the hollowness of the idea. We know the results of a plebiscite in Northern Ireland; so do the Nationalists, and so do the Southern Irish.
As regards a ten-year moratorium on change, I imagine that ten years is just about the period of time which intelligent but extreme Nationalists have as their goal and what is happening at the moment is just a preparation for those ten years. I do not believe that it would make any difference whatsoever. If Mr. Lynch, on behalf of the Irish Government, pledged the Republic of Ireland in advance to obey this, it would not make an iota of difference, because the Northern Irish do not believe that 174 Mr. Lynch, in face of pressure within his own country, can deliver the goods. This, it appears to me, is the key to a whole lot of questions. I believe that there is no harm and much good at any rate in the middle and long term, in talking about the frontier. There is no ultimate solution which is not a one-Ireland solution, and the Unionists must realise this. There is no ultimate solution which puts Ulster into a united Ireland against her will, and the Nationalists must realise this. Mr. Lynch has said that he realises this. But the question is not what Mr. Lynch says now; the question is what he can get away with in the Republic. The bully-boys are drilling in the South. In most towns and villages opinion is uneasy. Indeed, opinion throughout the Republic is inflamed on this issue, and what Mr. Lynch can do in the present situation is very severely circumscribed.
What we desperately need is the full co-operation not only of the Government but of public opinion in the Republic. The meeting of the three Prime Ministers is most welcome. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, boasts that it is the first time that Prime Ministers of the three countries have got together. It is also a measure of our failure in the past. Britain and Ireland are going into Europe. Britain and Ireland already have, as has been mentioned by many noble Lords, a special relationship. We should be able to be the closest of friends, the closest of allies and in the closest contact, and we should not be talking, as some noble Lords have done, about sanctions.
That is why I welcome the initiative of my right honourable friend Jeremy Thorpe at the recent Liberal Party Assembly, and yesterday in another place, when he suggested that what is needed is a major initiative towards the Republic. He suggested that dual citizenship should be available between England and the Republic for those who want it. I do not want to argue the practicalities; I know that there are many practical objections. But I also know, as does everyone else, that if we really wanted it they could be overcome. What we are saying is that this is the time for a real, solid and dramatic move to co-operate with the Republic in close amity, and if that annoys some people in Northern Ireland, 175 all I can say is that the matter is more important than that.
To sum up, my Lords, the Government say: tackle the law and order problem; eliminate the gunmen by internment and other methods; reform slowly but surely; shelve the issue of the Border. It looks all too familiar as a recipe for failure, because it fails to grasp the total complexity of the situation. The Labour Party seem generally to agree, except that they are against internment. We say: first, revert to the rule of law, realising the risk and the cost of ending internment; secondly, implement the proposed reforms; thirdly, be prepared to talk openly about long-term solutions, and make an imaginative and, if necessary, expensive bid to tackle the problem in treble harness with Ulster and with the Republic. I know that there are great difficulties in the way; I know that there are many risks. But, my Lords, I see no other chance of a really lasting settlement, and I commend this solution to your Lordships.
§ 2.0 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, my task is to wind up on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition this very long and serious debate. I think the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, were that this debate would be justified, even if it only illustrated our deep sense of responsibility. If that is so, if that is true, then this debate has surely been amply justified. I approach it with not very strong Irish connections. I suppose my only connections are that my wife is half Irish and half Scots; and my father (whose sense of humour I know the noble Marquess once enjoyed) thought that, since she married an Englishman, that was her saving grace. I also have a son who, some three weeks ago, married a very beautiful, red-headed Irish girl. Having talked at that wedding with the guests from Southern Ireland, I was very forcibly struck by the words of my noble friend Lord Beswick: that clearly the message of our forces in Northern Ireland, their purpose and the manner in which they operate there are not understood, and I hope that the Government will carefully consider all that my noble friend Lord Beswick said in this matter.
176 I speak also with another background, and it hinges very much on what I have just said. I spent some five years as a volunteer in the Security Forces in the confrontation in Malaysia. That confrontation was not won by the Army. I doubt whether, in the end, it was won by the police. It was won, in the end, by winning the hearts and the minds of the people of Malaysia; and if there is any message that my noble friend Lord Beswick put out to-day, it is that the Army itself and all the security forces together will not solve this problem. It will be the winning of the hearts and the minds of the people of Northern Ireland, in the first instance, and, secondly, of those in Southern Ireland. I also speak with some experience in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, chairing constitutional conferences bringing Colonies into full independence, where we sought, using all the ingenuity that was available in that Office, to devise ways and means of securing, quite clearly and without any question, the rights and the privileges of the minorities. My Lords, I believe that if you are to seek safeguards for the minorities in Northern Ireland, if there is the will, the ingenuity and the expertise is available for the creation of such a Constitution.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, thought that the debate showed two issues, the military issue and the political issue. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, thought that there were three issues, since he sub-divided the political into the short term and the long term. I would say to the noble Lord and to the House that I believe that there are at least four issues, because in the end no political solution, no degree of legislation, is going to solve the problem in Northern Ireland until you have dealt with the economic and the social problems of that territory. Therefore there are four areas to which I should like to address myself this afternoon. First, there is the military situation. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, posed the question: can the Army bring security to Northern Ireland? I do not think there is any doubt at all that the Army by itself cannot bring security and stability to Northern Ireland. It requires the cooperation of all the forms of government, including the police. The noble Marquess suggested that we should seek a 177 marked increase in the locally-recruited police force and the Ulster Defence Regiment. I would not disagree with him there, but I hope he will agree with me that until the police force and the locally-recruited forces in Ulster have the confidence of the people of Northern Ireland as a whole, then there can be no question of the withdrawal of British Forces from Northern Ireland. I hope the noble Marquess will agree with me there. I certainly agree with him that these locally-recruited forces should represent all strands of opinion in Northern Ireland, and I was very grateful for what he said in this regard.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I am most grateful to the noble Marquess; and I hope note will be taken of this. I do not wish to be critical of the noble Marquess, but I was a little anxious that the course of his speech might well have been construed in some quarters of Northern Ireland as indicating that the noble Marquess was advocating the Third Force. I have no doubt at all that he repudiates any such suggestion.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
No, my Lords, I said the Ulster Forces of the Crown. I went out of my way to say that.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I provoked the noble Marquess deliberately so that there should be no misunderstanding by those who report our deliberations and our speeches in your Lordships' House.
Now, my Lords, the Army. I have on many occasions paid my own tribute, on behalf of my Party and myself, to the way in which our soldiers have performed in Northern Ireland. However. I share with my noble friend Lord Beswick the feeling that the spirit with which they were once received in Northern Ireland does not exist to-day. I do not attribute any cause for that to Her Majesty's Forces. They have been called upon to perform one of the most difficult tasks of any military force; and to have to do it in their own country, sometimes among their own kith and kin, must have been very obnoxious. Let us recognise, however, that the forces who are challenging law and order seek to discredit the Army on every conceivable 178 occasion. Certainly the point made by my noble friend Lord Beswick is right: more publicity should be given. But, my Lords, I wonder whether we have not moved beyond the stage of propaganda.
During all the time that our forces have been criticised, my mind has gone back to that period when I held special responsibility, in the last Administration, for Nigeria. The forces of the Federal Government were under deep and bitter attack, not only in this country but throughout Europe, for committing atrocities. It was very difficult to get the truth across. I like to take some credit for having been responsible for setting up the International Observer Corps in Nigeria. Those independent Generals, drawn from five different countries, completely and utterly impartial, free to move and making their reports to their respective Governments, in my view did more to reduce the propaganda effect of the Biafran Government than anything else.
I am not suggesting that in Northern Ireland one should create an international observer force. I am certainly not suggesting the participation of the United Nations in this respect. I wonder whether, rather than setting up an inquiry after the event, after the accusations have been made, when perhaps the real damage has already been done by the mere making of the accusation, it would not be worth considering the setting up of a small Commission made up of Privy Counsellors of the British Parliament, representing, if possible, various aspects, not only of political life but of religious faith, who would have a responsibility to Parliament as a whole, who would be free to move in and around Northern Ireland and who would be able, under their Privy Counsellor's Oath to receive all the information that may be made available to them and for them to report to Parliament from time to time. I do not believe that anything that such a Commission could do would inhibit the British forces in Northern Ireland. I think it would do two things. First, it would make the Army itself feel that it is being looked at by someone who is clearly impartial, someone who is not seeking news for news' sake, someone free from the general pressures of political or religious life. Secondly, I believe that it would give greater satisfaction to the British community as a whole if such a Commission 179 were able to make such reports. I put this forward as a suggestion that I hope the Government may consider.
We on this side of the House have condemned on many occasions the atrocities of the I. R. A. and other extremists. It may be that acts of terrorism have been made by both sides without the security forces being able clearly to identify the culprits. I hope that this House will say quite clearly that whatever changes are to come about in Northern Ireland they shall not come about as a consequence of terrorism and murder. We regret the deaths of British soldiers. We must also regret deeply the deaths of many civilians, particularly innocent children. I believe that in the end the security forces can overcome the worst elements of the I. R. A. but they will be able to do so only in conjunction with the Government and the civilian authorities and in the bringing together of the people of Northern Ireland as a whole.
My Lords, I wish to say only one thing about internment in a military sense. I do not like internment, but I accept that on occasions it is necessary. Whether it was necessary on this occasion only Her Majesty's Government who have all the facts can make the real judgment. But there must be no doubt at all that there are many who believe that the security forces themselves were opposed, perhaps rightly, until the last moment, to internment. They regarded it as counter-productive. They considered that it could well polarise the two particular sections in Northern Ireland. I believe that this is so. If I may say so, I believe that it is true to say that internment has undoubtedly polarised the two communities as no other action has done in the past. It is believed, and I hope that it can be repudiated, that internment was brought about to prevent a Protestant backlash and to keep Mr. Faulkner in office. If that is not true, I hope that the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack will repudiate it immediately.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, may I repudiate it now in case I forget to do so in the course of my remarks? Of course that is not so.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I am grateful. Then we can take it that this 180 decision was taken purely and simply on military security grounds and presumably on the advice of the military security officers.
My Lords, the second point that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, made—and with which I agree—was on the short-term political situation. I have no doubt at all that the situation is such in Northern Ireland that no one political Party can solve it—and particularly a political Party which is divided among itself as to the course of action required to deal with the situation. I therefore hope that, in discussions with Mr. Faulkner and Mr. Lynch, it will be possible to bring about in the short term—and in the short term only—a coalition Government or a community Government to include Members of the political Parties of Northern Ireland who are prepared to up. hold the Constitution of Northern Ireland. I believe that such a coalition, such a community Government, in the short term would do more than anything else to remove the fears and pressures in Northern Ireland. To support such a Government, again in the short term, I would suggest that the Senate be increased in number by an Act of the Westminster Parliament—and I shall come to that, for a special reason, in a moment—so as to enable the inclusion of a fair number of members of those political Parties who uphold the Constitution of Northern Ireland. The same legislation should entrench those parts of the Constitution which bear particularly on minorities and entrench them in such a way that the new membership of the Senate would be sufficient to block any form of change. This is very similar to what has been written into Commonwealth Constitutions. I do not believe that there would be any difficulty over this if the Government and those in Northern Ireland had the will to adopt it.
In regard to the long term, whether it be proportional representation or some other form of electoral change, clearly we should work to see that the political Parties, as opposed to religious groups, have representation in the Stormont Parliament. I do not think that there is any doubt that one of the reasons why the Unionist Party has been able to achieve its majorities in Stormont and in the House of Commons has been the fact that elections have not been fought on a 181 political, social or economic platform but have always seemed to be bedevilled by the question of the Border. Therefore, I would hope to see political Parties created and fighting for the elections on the grounds that we so well understand in this country.
I mention legislation, and I do so for this reason. Quite clearly, we are meeting some of the wishes and some of the fears of a minority. But in Northern Ireland there are the fears of the majority. I would therefore suggest that if we had this form of legislation we could, as a Preamble, use the words of the Downing Street Declaration of 1969 which made perfectly clear that there was no question of any change in the Border without the consent of the majority in Northern Ireland. If you wish an example of such a provision I would refer your Lordships to the Constitution of Gibraltar which has such a Preamble merely to satisfy the people of Gibraltar that they are part of Her Majesty's Dominions and would never be handed over to a foreign Power against their will. I believe that such a Preamble, written in the legislation of the Westminster Parliament, would do much to alleviate the genuine fears of the middle ground of the Unionist and Protestant faith.
I have two things further to say. I hope that the Government will give careful consideration to the proposals made by my right honourable friend Mr. Wilson with regard to a Parliamentary Commission, composed of Members of the Westminster and the Stormont Parliaments, with powers similar to those of a Select Committee; and also the earlier suggestion made by my right honourable friend Mr. Callaghan about the creation of an All-Ireland Council. With all the fears in Northern Ireland, I do not believe that there can be a solution without some form of participation in discussions by the Government and people of Southern Ireland. Such an informal framework as proposed by my right honourable friend would, I think, meet the case.
My Lords, I come to the fourth point. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, spoke of the hooligans on the streets of Northern Ireland. They are a threat; they are a blot on the scene of Northern Ireland. But many of those so-called hooligans have never had the dignity of 182 a job. They left school and have stood at a street corner year after year, perhaps saying to themselves, "I shall never have the dignity of earning a wage." According to the tape this afternoon the figure of unemployment is now 8.8 per cent. In Northern Ireland 45,000 people are unemployed; 41 per cent. are wholly unemployed. Until one brings back to the young and to the men and women of Northern Ireland the dignity of being able to work and earn a living I do not believe that there will be a satisfactory settlement and political stability in Northern Ireland.
My Lords, I ask the Government to consider this. I know about all the pressures from all the regions in this matter, but Northern Ireland is costing us a fortune in money and in lives. if we get a political settlement; if we get agreement for the political Parties to work together for a long-term peaceful solution politically in Northern Ireland, we must bring alongside the hope of creating a good standard of life for the people. I hope, therefore, that the Government will consider whether it would not be right and proper to say that, over a period of ten or fifteen years, we will give to Northern Ireland a very considerable sum to help to solve all the social and economic difficulties there; so that, side by side with political reform, there may be economic hope for the people. The most reverend Primate spoke yesterday about a gleam of hope that he saw in Northern Ireland. I take a more sombre view of the situation there. I believe that unless there are dramatic and far-seeing initiatives, both by Her Majesty's Government and also by others who are in authority in Northern Ireland, and by the political and religious leaders, and unless there are dramatic and imaginative initiatives, we could well be on the brink of a very bloody civil war.
§ 2.26 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, in what I thought was a very notable and in many ways a notably wise speech, the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, made one statement of which I took particular note. The noble Lord said that he did not think much good would be done by a speech in this debate if there was not an element of bog and rain about it in addition to logic. And as he said it I felt uneasily conscious that 183 there was going to be a good deal of bog and rain in the speech in reply from beside the Woolsack. In the nature of things, it is difficult to reply to a debate of this character without improvising in the light of what has been said, if one is not simply to deliver a carefully prepared harangue which may or may not bear a certain relationship to what has gone before.
The noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, began with a family reminiscence. I should like to share with the House the earliest political memory that I have. I do so only because it has a bearing on what I want to say. I can fix the time exactly. It was March,1914, and I was just over six years old. My uncle, Ian Hogg, was commanding the Fourth Hussars at the Curragh. In those days families were families, and uncles and aunts. cousins and sisters came to lunch on Sundays. They came to lunch on a Sunday in March,1914, at 46, Queen's Gate Gardens, my father's house. In those days little boys were brought down after lunch to be netted and admired. One little boy, aged six and a half, heard a name being bandied backwards and forwards across the table and in a childish treble asked a question: "Daddy, who is Winston Churchill?" My father—forgive me for saying something which perhaps may sound a little critical now of a parent whose example I shall ever he thankful for—said to me words he had never used before. He said, "My son, you know I have always tried to teach you that it is wicked to wish that anyone were dead. But if I could ever bring myself to wish that anyone were dead, I would wish it about Mr. Winston Churchill."
I mention that for two reasons, not merely to show how the best of men could sometimes be wrong, but also because I am probably the last member of an English Cabinet to remember the frame of mind which held the British people in the atmosphere before 1914. And when I went to Ulster in the autumn of 1969 I went with that recollection very deeply embedded in my mind. I thought that the worst thing I could do for England and for Ulster, and for that matter the worst thing I could do for Ireland, would be to re-create—which would have been very easy for me then—the animosities that existed between the 184 British political Parties in Westminster, to reproduce the pattern of 1912. I came back from Ulster still thinking, and I still think to-day, that that is the worst possible thing that could be allowed to happen.
I mention this at the outset not because I wish to appear unctuous, or to utter general moral exhortations, but because politicians are often the victims of objective forces which drive them into polarised situations. I am perfectly sure that the great contribution that can be made by this House and by the other House of Parliament at the present time is to remain relaxed and calm, not to allow polarisation to develop between our political Parties, and to inject into the present situation elements of sanity and compassion which it badly needs. My Lords, I use the words "sanity and compassion", and not the word "justice". Justice is something which we must win inch by inch, but we shall not win it if we do not retain at every stage of the discussion sanity and compassion.
There have been many such speeches in the course of this debate. It would be invidious, I think, for me to try to pick them out. However, it would be churlish not to acknowledge the very helpful speech from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton (and I shall revert, and revert with complete agreement, to some of the things he said), and to the speech of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who made not only a very helpful speech but a brave one in the circumstances. As he said, it must be our objective to put sanity and compassion first. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, who said that, provided these two conditions are observed, there is no reason why we should not discuss here matters about which we may hold different opinions, provided that we discuss them in the right way.
One thing that emerged from the early stages of the debate—it was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Carrington in the course of his remarks yesterday—is the fundamental identity and difference both between the situation in October,1969, when I visited the North, and the situation now. In October,1969, I saw with my own eyes, what had happened. There had been mob violence on a gigantic scale in which one community wreaked its 185 vengeance on another. It would not be profitable now—I do not think it was profitable then—to ask who started it or who was morally the more to blame. But two facts emerged fairly clearly to my mind at that time. The first was that the Catholics had very much the worse of it. As I went down the streets, particularly in Belfast, I saw the houses which had been burned. I am not speaking now of commercial buildings but of homes, which ought to be holy places, which had been burned. About three-quarters of them were manifestly Roman Catholic. The second thing on which I felt absolutely convinced was that, whoever else might have been guilty, the victims of that were innocent, wholly innocent. As one Protestant lady who had had her home burned out said to me as she was showing me the little shop which she owned and above which she lived, "They were my customers. I thought they were my friends." That is what had happened. Two violent mobs were each wreaking their vengeance upon the most innocent members of the opposite party, whoever else might be to blame.
That was the situation then, and that was what led me. when I came to make my report to the Conservative Conference immediately on my return, to make a plea, which was deeply felt and perhaps too emotional, for a return to Christian or, rather, common civilised values. Deeply felt and perhaps too emotional, it may have seemed to others, but I thought it was what was needed then, and I still think that it was what was needed then. But the present situation is radically different in one important respect. The elements of the situation are identical, as I will come to show, but in one respect the situation has been transformed. As my noble friend Lord Carrington said at the outset of the debate, whereas then there were two angry mobs wreaking their vengeance on the helpless, we are now facing a campaign of terror by a very carefully organised band of deliberate revolutionaries. Although I do not think that much good is done by adding to the vituperative epithets heaped upon their devoted heads by various speakers, one must at least acknowledge that it is no good appealing on grounds of Christian and civilised values to the I. R. A. We know what their objective is, and we know that they adopt what is 186 legally treason and legally murder as their methods; therefore it is no good appealing in that sense to them. In that respect they are wholly different from the Catholic population of Northern Ireland and from the Protestant population of Northern Ireland. It may be true, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, tried to tell us yesterday, that a large proportion of the population in working-class Catholic districts of Belfast have a sympathy with and stand behind the I. R. A., but it is not useless to appeal to them; nor is it right to identify them with the I. R. A., who are wholly different in character.
My Lords, that brings me to discuss the question of internment. The most reverend Primate said yesterday that internment offended his liberal conscience. I do not know why it is his liberal conscience that internment offends, but I assure the most reverend Primate, and assure the House, that it offends my legal conscience far worse than it offends the most reverend Primate's liberal conscience. After all. Magna Charta is not a liberal document. The barons were not members of the Party of which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, is the spokesman: it is a legal document. And internment is basically contrary to Magna Charta, which lays down the principle that a man should be convicted only after a judicial process, and trial by his peers at that. The real objection to internment is not that one spares a moment's compassion for those who are guilty of murder or treason; it is that if it were possible to be 100 per cent. sure that the right people were identified nobody would have needed Magna Charta.
It is a perfectly practical demand by civilised society that you identify the right people before you punish them; and it is literally true that you cannot be certain of doing so except by a judicial process, and that anything which attempts to do it by an administrative process is not inherently efficient. And what is clear, as I think one noble Lord pointed out yesterday, is that if you use the judicial process, at any rate you know what you are going to do to the person convicted: there is a definite sentence. But if you use internment, you have an indefinite sentence, and you are faced, sooner or later, with the question of when and on what terms you are going to let them out. Both of these things led me, and 187 led the Government, to view internment with intense repugnance. But it is to be justified as it was justified, first by my noble friend Lord Carrington, and secondly by my noble friend Lord Windlesham, on the basis that it is the lesser of two evils. Of that I have no doubt.
I was asked to say that we were not run away with by extremists, and I most earnestly assure the House that that is so. But I must say this, with all sincerity—and I am able to say it with even more sincerity because I was out of the country when the decision was taken,: and I therefore sought to form an independent judgment, something one is seldom able to do if one is in the immediate circle of consultation. I believe that if we had allowed matters to escalate as they have been escalating steadily from February onwards, and on an increasing scale since the withdrawal from Stormont of the Opposition Party, people—not extremists, but moderates of both Parties, probably, and certainly the Protestant majority—would have thought we v, ere mad; and public opinion here would have asked us what we thought we were doing with the lives of our troops.
I was convinced before I went away—although I do not think I communicated this decision to anyone—that it was not a question of whether, but a question of when. Some people think that we acted too quickly. This is arguable. We might have had to sacrifice more British lives and seen more innocent people blown up before public opinion gave us an adequate support for what we did. This is perfectly arguable. It is a matter of judgment when it becomes intolerable. Some noble Lords have said in this debate—the noble Lords, Lord Bourne and Lord Hunt. said it yesterday in speeches which interested me greatly—that we acted too late. It is no good arguing about that now. One accepts that a moment may come when a small minority can render the ordinary process of law wholly inactionable to a given situation. I say that deliberately.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, spoke about the intimidation of juries. But, with respect, as I pointed out to him at the time, this is not a question of the intimidation of juries. If juries are intimidated, and if juries are perverse— 188 and one jury, the noble Lord claimed, was—then it is relatively simple to maintain some kind of judicial process without a jury. It may be distasteful; it may be contrary to the British conception; but you can still retain the judicial presence. But you cannot retain the judicial presence if witnesses are afraid to confront the persons whom they are accusing, because it is inherent in the judicial process that you come to a conclusion about the facts after confronting with one another two different sets of witnesses giving different accounts of the same set of events. That is the essence of judicial process. It is no good pretending that once that has become impossible any form of judicial presence is possible at all.
The case that I am making is that the point had come when the capacity of the courts to deal with a conspiracy of treason and murder—because levying war against the Queen in her own Realm is treason: killing British soldiers who happen to be there simply because they are there is murder; and killing civilians in a mistaken attempt to kill a British soldier is murder—was not effective. I cannot say that this point had not been reached when we chose to resort to internment. Moreover, if we were asked—and two or three noble Lords have asked—to let them out now, I wonder what people would think of us; and I wonder whether they would not be right. This is not deferring to extremists; this is to cut the ground from under the extremists' feet. If every time you face the same decision you are going to say that you are yielding to extremists, and therefore not doing it, you are making it absolutely certain that the extremists will always win, because they will always point to your failure to act sensibly when the moment had arisen to do so.
This brings me to the next point that I want to raise by way of summing up. When I came back from Northern Ireland in the autumn of 1969, I put forward some positive proposals. I will not rehearse them all. I had communicated them to the Northern Ireland authorities; I had communicated them privately to the Home Secretary; I had communicated them to my own Party authorities; I had communicated them to the Republic of Ireland, through the Embassy; and I later delivered them at Trinity College, Dublin. As I say, 189 I will not rehearse them now, because people would accuse me of vanity, as the moment for carrying them out has possibly passed. But the essential feature of those proposals was tripartite talks between the three Prime Ministers of the day. That is precisely the point that we have reached now. I wish that it had been done two years ago. I do not reproach the then Prime Minister or the then Home Secretary for not having done this, but I say that it is a considerable achievement on the part of my right honourable friend Mr. Edward Heath that he has been able to do it now, because I know something of the difficulties then and I know something of the difficulties now.
The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in a speech which, if he will allow me to say so, I heartily applaud (except at the point where he got tied up in a mistaken attempt to criticise my intervention yesterday), said in effect: "What is discussable at those tripartite talks?". One thing that is certain is that at last we have achieved a position at which no one of the three has made any preconditions at all. As perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will know from his own experience in Government, it would be only too easy to make one of those three birds leave the nest and desert the eggs, and it is not desirable that I should go into detail as to what is to be discussed or not. I would only say this—and I say it because it has recurred again and again during the debate in one form or another. I heartily endorse the wise advice given by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, when he said that the issue of the Border might well be put into cold storage if one cares about the future of the people of the North. I should like to explain why I think the noble Lord is right.
The beginning of wisdom in this unhappy business is to realise that there are two communities in Northern Ireland, as there are in Cyprus, as there are in the sub-continent of India and as there are in other parts of the world. I do not know of any occasion anywhere on this globe where that situation obtains where an intractable period of tension has not existed for a long period of time. But in this particular context it is not much help for an Irish Nationalist to talk about the Irish people. There are two communi- 190 ties, not one, to be considered. Their proportion is approximately one million Protestants to 500,000 Roman Catholics. Nor is it much good to say, as sometimes extreme Protestants do, that all the Roman Catholics are disloyal. There are two communities and each owes a loyalty to a different thing, and most of them are loyal to the thing to which they owe loyalty. There are two communities, and it is not much good asking for a solution if by that we mean something which will end the trouble and enable us to lock it away in a cupboard and forget about it for ever and a day. We should all like this very much, but it is not going to happen.
The Protestants are a majority. Majorities have their rights: they also have their responsibilities. The Catholics are a minority. They have their responsibilities and their rights; but every time there is talk of a united Ireland at the present time you drive those communities apart more completely than if you talk about anything else in the world. That may seem odd to us, but it has, I beg the House to believe, an element of truth in it. Now Mr. Lynch quite frankly realises—and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was absolutely correct when he said this—that if force were attempted it would be a prelude to a civil war beside which the present troubles would look like child's play. Force has to he excluded from this discussion. Mr. Lynch says that he would like to persuade the Ulster Protestants into a united Ireland. That is a perfectly legitimate aspiration. He also said that he does not think it will happen in his lifetime. My Lords, neither do I, and it is for that reason that I beg people not to talk too much about what will not happen in our lifetimes but to talk rather about how we are going to live together in the interval.
There is one other thing I should like to say and I will say it with as much delicacy as I may. One of the things I said in 1969 and which I think is sufficiently relevant to repeat now is that we have to recognise the interest in the Republic in what goes on across the Border. One of the communities regards itself as Irish, for the very good reason that it is Irish, and therefore its rights and wellbeing are things which must stir the heart of the Irish Prime Minister. If he did not become interested in these 191 things it is very likely that his constituents would choose another Prime Minister. Equally there are practical difficulties to be discussed, namely, the Border and the securing and patrolling of the Border, together with the security arrangements between the two sides of it. After all, we are not the only people who have interned the I. R. A.: it has been done in the Republic more than once in the last 25 years, and done with considerable success. Therefore these things do enter the realm of discussion, and I would beg the House to believe that it is not particularly helpful when someone from outside the United Kingdom says, "If you do not do x, yor z I am going to encourage a campaign of civil disobedience inside the United Kingdom." That does not improve the relationships and I do not think it should be done. But I would say frankly that all matters are discussable, provided the three parties recognise that it is not equally profitable to discuss everything.
Then I was asked a little about the public relations side of the British case. If he will allow me to say so. I very much agree with the sentiments and with that part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. when he asked for it to be proclaimed from the housetops. and also with the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, when he pointed out that the image we have to fight was not the image of the British Army of to-day but an image going back over centuries to Wolfe Tone and previous encounters between the Irish Nationalists and the people of this country. This is one of the reasons why I singled out the speech of the noble Lord. Lord Beswick, for admiration. The best form of propaganda, if I must use that word (I hope it will be the last time I do so), is support from the Opposition in this matter. A word in favour of the British Army from the Opposition is worth ten from the Government of the day. For that reason I was particularly glad to hear the references from the Front Bench opposite to the work of the troops and in praise of their morale. I am deeply grateful for them, and I endorse what was said. The appearance of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary on "Panorama" the other day was the kind of exercise that I should like to see repeated. I should like the media also to take note of what the noble Lord, 192 Lord Gore-Booth, said in addition to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. I would also urge very strongly that we do not regard this as a form of psychological warfare. Our interest is simply to say what we believe to be true and to proclaim what we believe to be right, and the word "propaganda" has inescapably become confused with another sense of public relations.
I was also asked a number of questions about the suggestions of the Northern Irish Labour Party. I should like to endorse the praise of them given by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. They have injected a note of sanity into this situation. I would not go the whole way with the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, who indicated that they were the only people who were talking sanely. I think that is going a great deal too far. I do not want to discuss their particular suggestions, because such a discussion is best conducted with my right honourable friend when they can be put forward in more detail. I do not agree with all their opinions—why should I?—but I frankly regard their attitude as wholly admirable. It represents one of the few ways of breaking down the high barriers which at present exist between the two communities.
I want to end by saying something which is perhaps a little difficult. I think insufficient praise and attention have been given to the moderate and farsighted leadership—the self-sacrificing leadership, as I am bound to call it in the light of events—shown by the Northern Irish Government. May I say in passing that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, talked as though our role was that of an umpire. I think it would be a great mistake if we allowed ourselves to be put in the position of trying to dictate to either community in Northern Ireland. We should seek to elicit, support and praise what is best in each. I am sure that is right. Although we bear a responsibility, as my noble friend Lord Windlesham reminded the House earlier to-day, for legislation, we must not seek to impose settlements upon anybody, and still less to create the impression that we are bullying the lawfully elected Government of Stormont. I think that too little has been said about the moderate and farsighted Unionist leadership and too little praise has been given. It has not been easy for them.
193 As the House has been reminded, leader after leader has lost his position in circumstances of humiliation and defeat. They have been accused, threatened and repudiated. But as each man has fallen another man has come to take up the torch and carry on with the programme of reform. The latest of them is Mr. Brian Faulkner. I think Mr. Brian Faulkner is entitled to take a certain pride in his achievements to date, in circumstances of such great difficulty. His White Paper, published under the title, A Record of Constructive Change, was entitled to a warmer reception than it has received so far at the hands of the minority. I think that the achievement of those Unionist statesmen who have staked their own reputation and careers in the interests of peace between the two communities, and the creation of a just society based on equal rights, might have been treated with a little more generosity.
This has not been at all the case of a Unionist Government dragging its feet until, contrary to its inclination, compelled by Westminster to act. It is to my knowledge—and, as I have said, I have been acquainted with this problem, from childhood onwards—that at the higher echelon of. the Unionist Party there has always been a body of men determined to make this a just society; men to whom the rights of our Roman Catholic fellow countrymen are just as valuable as our own rights, not only for reasons of justice but because we regard our own rights, and the maintenance of them, as closely bound up with their rights and their recognition. This has been the spectacle of brave and honourable Christian and Protestant men and women because their wives have sometimes suffered more than they have themselves facing humiliation and threats for what they believe to be just and right, and being treated too often by those whom they sought to benefit with carping criticism, cynical condemnation and sometimes rank ingratitude. I say that of the extremes on both sides of the community.
The most reverend Primate, to come back to his extremely valuable speech, spoke of rays of hope in the relationship between the religious communities. I agree with him that this is not a dispute about religion; it is not connected with religion any more than the dispute in Cyprus is connected with the rival merits 194 of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the doctrine of Mohammed, but is a dispute between religious communities, each owing an allegiance to a different form of the Christian religion. They tend to use the theological slogans as rallying points and as points of invective. I welcome the courageous statement of the Cardinal Archbishop the Archbishop of All Ireland, the Archbishop of Armagh, and the Protestant Archbishop, against violence. But it is not enough in this connection to denounce violence; there is a more positive duty upon them. Ecuminism—a horrible word—is a duty, and so is the active participation ill community life. We should encourage cross-fertilisation and discussion more than has been done, and we should avoid insulting other people's beliefs.
When I go to Belfast and see chalked up on one side of the street, "To Hell with the Pope" it turns my stomach. It is not that I am any more a Roman Catholic than is the reverend Ian Paisley, but that sort of action is abominable and religious leaders ought to stop it among their supporters. When I see on the other side of the street something even more unmentionable about the Queen, I think that that is equally abominable and religious leaders ought to stop that among their supporters. Ghettoes are sins against God and man, and where they are imposed by a majority upon a minority they are a sin of the majority. But there are ghettoes which people in this day and age, minorities in this day and age, build for themselves and will not climb out of or, if they peep out of the doors, climb back into vigorously. One such ghetto is the alternative Parliament in Londonderry.
It is no good complaining that Stormont is 100 per cent. Protestant if you will not go there. It is no good complaining of the police being 90 per cent. Protestant if you do not encourage your young men to join them and see that they join them. It is no good complaining that senior civil servants and local government officials are not Roman Catholics if you will not take your place at recruiting and go up the ordinary ladder. This is not a new phenomenon, it is one which religious leaders ought seriously to take to heart. The ultimate ideal of the two communities is incompatible, I do not 195 deny. but their immediate interest is identical, and that is that they should learn to live in harmony with one another under the situation as it is and not as they would like it to be. Stop calling one disloyal and stop demanding that the other be subjected to the other three-quarters of the island.
My Lords, I hope that the tripartite talks are a success. I hope that they are a prelude to something of the kind which emerged from my noble friend Lord Amory, who made the suggestion that there should be a permanent relation- 196 ship in which they can consult regularly about matters of common interest. I hope that we shall not expect an immediate solution, because in that way lies despair. We have a long time in front of us in which we shall face these tensions, and what we can do as the British people is to inject both sanity and compassion into a scene which has been sadly lacking in both.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at six minutes past three o'clock until Monday, October 11.