§ 2.48 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND (LORD WINDLESHAM) rose to move, That this House takes note of the discussion paper entitled, The Future of Northern Ireland, and of the Government's intention, subject to Parliamentary approval, to legislate for the holding of a Border Poll in Northern Ireland. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The Government welcome the opportunity to debate Northern Ireland to-day and will find the comments of noble Lords most useful in the current phase of moving towards the formation of a set of proposals for the future administration of the Province.
§ Before going any further, I should say at the outset how grateful I am for the remarkably tolerant and understanding way in which the House as a whole has approached a whole succession of events and issues concerning Northern Ireland over the last few months. Although in the period before direct rule there were certain differences between the Parties (I remember some of these being aired in the last full debate on Northern Ireland, held on a Motion by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, in February, 1972), since the British Government have had a direct responsibility I, as the Minister answerable to your Lordships' House, have had nothing but support and encouragement. I must admit that there have been moments, when things have looked particularly black in Ulster, when the feeling that Parliament and much public opinion in Britain has been behind us has been a source of fortitude as well as consolation. I hope it will not embarrass them if I acknowledge especially the part played by the Leader of the Opposition, 146 the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the Leader of the Liberal Party, the noble Lord, Lord Byers, in creating an atmosphere of quite exceptional like-mindedness in a highly exceptional period.
§ We have had a number of Statements and Questions, and a series of short debates, on a variety of Northern Ireland Orders in Council. These have followed the procedure laid down by Parliament when the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act was passed at Easter, but I do not think that any of us have regarded this particular form of scrutiny and control as very satisfactory. To-day's debate (and I think the timing of it is about right) therefore is the first opportunity to stand hack and try to assess what has been achieved in recent months; to compile, as it were, a mid-term report on direct rule ; and to forecast—so far as this can be done in view of the unpredictable nature of Northern Ireland politics—what the next steps should be. The Motion has been worded as widely as possible, including a reference to the Border Poll, so as to enable one full debate to be held in which noble Lords can raise whatever aspects of the subject that they wish. This may mean that the proceedings on the Second Reading of the two Bills can be brief, although any noble Lord who wishes to speak on the Motion and on one or both of the Bills is, of course, absolutely entitled to do so. I shall be here for the rest of the day and will do my best to reply to any points that are raised. Then on Thursday it is intended that we should take the remaining stages of the two Bills and also the Detention of Terrorists Order.
§ To-day, however, the main document before your Lordships is the paper for discussion titled The Future of Northern Ireland. Copies of it are available in the Printed Paper Office. Although its cover is a neutral white, rather than green, it has the same purpose as a Green Paper, that is to present in advance of the final formulation of Government policy some of the considerations which are likely to determine the outcome. Thus the Paper does not advocate any single cut-and-dried scheme for the future. What it does is to set out some of the fundamental conditions which in our judgment any settlement must meet. It places the Northern Ireland situation in the context 147 of certain unalterable facts of life—political, economic, geographical and military—which must be taken into account if a settlement is to emerge which will be acceptable to the communities in Northern Ireland and which has a real chance of enduring. It makes clear that any new institutions must be capable of involving constructively representatives of the whole community; that built into the new structures must be an assurance of absolute fairness and equality for all; and that the future arrangements for security and public order must command confidence not only in Northern Ireland, but in the United Kingdom as a whole. It includes, besides the views of the British Government, the views of most of the political Parties in Northern Ireland, and it is, above all, a Paper for discussion.
This process of discussion, a wide public debate that began even before the Darlington Conference, is not confined only to Ulster. The Parliament at Westminster and British public opinion have a voice and a responsibility also. As my noble friend Lord Blake pointed out not long ago in the course of his notable speech in moving the humble Address in reply to the Queen's Speech, the pledge that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom unless a majority of its inhabitants decide otherwise does not give Northern Ireland the right to determine how it should be governed as part of the United Kingdom. That is a matter for Westminster, and for Westminster alone. My noble friend Lord Blake, with the perspective that comes from historical scholarship, continued with a warning against being too pessimistic in these words:
It is barely more than seven months since, for the first time after half a century, there has been an Administration in Stormont palpably and obviously detached from the communal struggles which vex the Province. This genuine impartiality. … will need time to take effect, even to be noticed, in the turbulent politics of Ulster, feverish, inward-looking, parochial and hectic as they are bound to be."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31/10/72 col. 9.]
The discussion paper also refers to the substantial material support that Northern Ireland, in common with other less prosperous areas of the British Isles, has received from the United Kingdom Government. This is something which has concerned the noble Lord, Lord Beswick,
among others, and I hope that the estimates of the extent of financial assistance which are contained in paragraphs 66–68 of the Paper will be helpful in this connection.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, as the noble Lord has mentioned that, I wonder whether he can clear up a point that some of us noticed his right honourable friend the Prime Minister made in a speech a fortnight ago. He then mentioned the figure £200 million as being the extent of our annual payments. In the discussion paper the figure is put at £300 million. Which is correct?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I am glad to have an opportunity to clear that up because I know that there has been some misunderstanding. The figure in the paper includes loan advances and it explains that the loan advances amount to approximately £100 million. If the loan advances are included we have a figure of £300 million, as spelt out in the Paper for discussion. If you take the loans off you have the lower figure of £200 million, which was the one that the Prime Minister used.
Then, my Lords, at paragraphs 76–78 there is the much quoted part of the Paper dealing with what has come to be known as the "Irish dimension". In this, the Government recognise Northern Ireland's geographical position as part of Ireland and that any settlement must take account of this fact. Moreover, the United Kingdom and the Republic are soon to become members of the European Economic Community and there will then be further opportunities for cooperation which must be of benefit to both. None of this in any way conflicts with or detracts from the pledge given by Her Majesty's Government, and by the former Administration, that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom so long as that is the wish of the majority of the population. But it is important to work towards a situation in which a settlement is acceptable to, and accepted by, the Republic of Ireland so far as is compatible with the wishes of Great Britain and of Northern Ireland.
There has been an encouraging response to the discussion paper from Mr. Lynch. The sombre turn of events in the South has served to illustrate that the legitimate, elected Government of the 149 Republic of Ireland faces one problem identical to our own ; that is the existence within their country of terrorists devoted to the cause of bringing down the machinery of government there as it now exists. Mr. Lynch's Government have decided that certain steps are needed to counter the activities of those who so readily turn to force and the threats of force to achieve their own ends. I do not intend to say any more on this aspect to-day (in any event it would be more proper for my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie to do so) other than to state the obvious: that faced with a common danger it is only wise to work as closely as possible together in the co-ordination of security measures which are designed to uphold democratic processes and legitimate political institutions.
Although over the past seven or eight months I found responsibility in Northern Ireland to be a most effective antidote towards any undue optimism, there are, I believe, now grounds for believing that fresh opportunities are beginning to open up for the future of the Province. But two major obstacles had first to be identified and then surmounted. One was of particular concern to the minority; the other to the majority. On the minority side internment, both the policy itself and the way in which it had been applied, remained a primary source of grievance. For many in the majority community, on the other hand, a deep-rooted suspicion persists that the Westminster Government might go back on their pledges not to alter the Border unless and until a majority of the people of Northern Ireland so decided. In our judgment, action was needed—firm, decisive action—on both of these matters if enough confidence in the Government's intentions was to be built up to make a settlement a realistic possibility.
As regards internment, Regulations 11 and 12 of the Special Powers legislation relating to detention and internment have been revoked and replaced by the Detention of Terrorists (Northern Ireland) Order 1972. This new system, established under the emergency procedure contained in the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act, came into operation on November 7 and hearings by the newly appointed Commissioners began on November 10. The Government will be asking for your Lordships' approval 150 within the forty-day period and, as I mentioned earlier, the intention is to debate the Order on Thursday. But in the context of what I have to say to-day it should be understood that internment in the sense in which it has been known for so many years in Northern Ireland is now a thing of the past. The Government have relinquished the special power to deprive people of their freedom in Northern Ireland without trial, other than for a short period of interim custody. No one can be detained for more than 28 days unless his case is referred to an independent Commissioner, each of whom has had judicial experience. A man suspected of being concerned either with the direction, organisation or training of persons for the purposes of terrorism, or with the commission or attempted commission of actual acts of terrorism, must be told in advance of the allegations against him. He has the right of legal representation and the right of appeal from the Commissioner's decision.
This procedure, which I think we are entitled to call quasi-judicial, is far from ideal and I must stress that it is used only where, because of intimidation or other factors, prosecutions cannot be brought in the normal courts. When they report, we shall also have the benefit of the further advice of a Commission under the chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, which has been set up to consider what arrangements for the administration of justice in Northern Ireland are necessary for dealing with terrorism, other than by internment by the Executive. But, in the meantime, there should be no doubt that people are no longer being interned in Northern Ireland on the decision of the Executive.
The other condition, the second condition, that needed to be met was the commitment to hold a plebiscite on the Border. This goes back to a clear undertaking by the Prime Minister at the time direct rule was introduced. This intention was later reaffirmed on a number of occasions by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and it has become an article of faith with very many people in the majority community in Ulster. It is sometimes difficult in the calm atmosphere of Westminster to comprehend the strength and intensity of feeling in Ulster, but I can assure your Lordships that feelings on this matter are 151 deep-rooted and profound. It is hardly surprising that this should be so since to a large number of people in the Province this is the key issue which, after all, relates to the territorial integrity, indeed the continued existence, of Northern Ireland within its present borders—something which they see as standing out simply in a confused situation. To people who think in this way we believe that it is of the greatest importance to see that this pledge is honoured, and as quickly as possible.
The resulting Bill has now been passed by another place and is before your Lordships at present. It is a short and simple measure which fulfils the obligations accepted by the Government and does so in the most straightforward way possible. The two questions contained in the Schedule are clear and unequivocal. When attempts were made to broaden these in another place, the Secretary of State resisted any additions or Amendments because he said it was imperative not to blur the issue. For the heart of the matter is that this plebiscite is not about the future shape of political institutions in the Province; it is only about the Border—as its title implies. It is needed now, as it was when the Prime Minister originally promised it, to reassure those who are apprehensive that their interests may be sacrificed. In this way it should be seen as a necessary prerequisite for a settlement.
The detailed arrangements for the poll are currently being worked out and regulations will then be submitted to Parliament. Although the Bill as originally published envisaged that these would be subject only to the Negative Resolution procedures, the Government accepted an Amendment in another place to make the regulations subject to the Affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. On the timing of the poll, my right honourable friend has said that he wants to keep his options open a little longer. After the present round of consultations with the parties in Northern Ireland and with other interested groups in the Province as well on the basis of the Paper for discussion, the Government intend to publish a White Paper containing proposals for the constitutional future of Northern Ireland. We want to get on to 152 the White Paper as soon as possible and, for the reasons I have explained, we want to hold the poll as soon as possible. But for the moment we think it is sensible not to tie ourselves down as to which should come before the other.
My Lords, I hope I have not spoken too long in opening this debate. I am always conscious that my noble friend Lord Carrington—who is abroad on Government business or he would be with us for this debate to-day—manages somehow to say all that needs to be said in about 15 to 20 minutes. One of the things he would undoubtedly have said, however, is how much we owe to the admirable way in which the Army are carrying out their duties.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, that is something I know your Lordships would want me to put on record, not only on behalf of my noble friend in his capacity with responsibility as Secretary of State for Defence, but for the Government and indeed the House as a whole. We are discussing this afternoon a subject of the greatest political, indeed human, significance. I have not touched on the bombing and shooting, the intimidation, the fear and the countless personal tragedies. No one who speaks in this debate will do so without a consciousness of the appalling sufferings of recent years. But to-day we are looking towards the future ; towards how we may be able to assist the people of Northern Ireland to escape from a past that has led to such a bitter and intractable conflict. The Government need all the help they can get, in Britain as in Northern Ireland, if they are to have any hope of resolving this long-standing conflict which, we might remember, existed even before Partition. That is why I welcome this debate and can assure all those of your Lordships who are taking part that we shall study their contributions with the greatest attention and the greatest interest. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the discussion paper entitled, The Future of Northern Ireland, and of the Government's intention, subject to Parliamentary approval, to legislate for the holding of a Border Poll in Northern Ireland.—(Lord Windlesham.)153
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, first I should like to thank the noble Lord for his most careful speech and once again remind your Lordships, as I did in a previous debate, that one of the leaders of the Northern Ireland Labour Party said: "Tread softly, for it is our lives which are at stake". I shall not to-day seek to traverse again the very weary and tragic path that we have followed and that has marked so much of Irish history. The story of recent years is set out briefly but, I believe, fairly accurately in the Green Paper, and although it is possible to criticise certain interpretations here and there, as the Unionist Party have done, none the less the general welcome that this document has received in nearly every quarter, except those in which the extremists reside, is a measure of the success of what I believe to be a very statesmanlike document. If I have some criticisms to make I must preface them by expressing my personal admiration for and indeed gratitude to, the Secretary of State and his Ministers, and not least the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, himself. I hope that this debate will be of a kind from which they will be able to draw strength against a background of something which must at times seem to them to be almost hopelessly disheartening.
The noble Lord referred briefly to the arrangements of the debate, and I appreciate that there may be some criticism that we are taking the Second Reading of the Border Poll Bill on the same day as the general debate. But I am bound to say, having thought carefully about it, that I believe we were right (and the Government discussed this with us) to take them together in this fashion. One cannot discuss general policy in Ireland without referring to the Border Poll Bill, or the other way round; and as the noble Lord made clear there will be a further opportunity at the Committee stage of the Border Poll Bill on Thursday. I also think that the Government were right—and I appreciate the personal decision made by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, in this matter—in view of the importance of the Detention of Terrorists Order, not to take it at the end of to-day but to afford us an opportunity to discuss it on Thursday, for it raises fundamental issues and it will 154 be right to examine these things separately. Equally, as the noble Lord himself has done, undoubtedly it will be necessary to refer to it to-day because again it is part of the pattern.
One of our difficulties in discussing the Northern Irish situation, the Irish dimension which of course covers both North and South, and discussing it with our fellow citizens, is that there is still an astonishing degree of ignorance among people in this country; there is a lack of understanding of the situation and of the motives and the feelings of people in Ireland. We all have a personal responsibility in this matter and I commend your Lordships to read the Green Paper, which explains very clearly the background of the present situation. I apologise to the noble Lord for paying him so many compliments, but if your Lordships then go on to read his frankly very scholarly article in to-day's Guardian, which I found most impressive, I am sure that you will have a much clearer understanding of the situation. I wondered whether the noble Lord had had time to write it himself, but I think it bears his stamp. Perhaps he will tell me afterwards. But I think it was his own work. I thoroughly commend this article because again it is detached, objective and, I believe, fair.
It is only against this background that we in this country can begin to understand why some of these individuals with such a long history and culture can behave like barbarians and be responsible for some of the ghastly atrocities that we read about. I fear that we in this country—and we must not be smug about this, partly because we carry much of the responsibility historically—cannot have any conception of the degree of bitterness and hatred that exists, and we have to look to history to explain it. But of course our soldiers in the streets—and once again I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, repeated the tributes that we very rightly always make to the courage and steadfastness of the British Army—know the degree of this bitterness and hatred. Perhaps it shows how dangerous are the elements that are to be found in people once the framework of order and custom and decency breaks down.
We in this country, who have been blessed for many years by a degree of 155 order in our society, ought not to speculate how we should behave in a situation such as exists to-day in Ireland. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to condemn the whole people because of the acts of the few, because of the polarisation that has taken place. The fact remains, as I shall seek to show once again, though with some qualifications, that cur responsibility as a country cannot be shrugged off, however much we resent the death of innocent soldiers as well as the death of many innocent citizens of the United Kingdom who live in Northern Ireland, or indeed the victims of the recent bomb outrage in the Republic.
I want to touch briefly on the Border Poll Bill. I have never concealed my own dislike of this particular measure, especially in the context of the timing which the Government—and let me give this to them—have felt forced to adopt. It is unfortunate that local government elections, which might have revealed the strength of the moderate forces as well as the general opinion in Northern Ireland, had to be postponed, and I accept, albeit with reluctance as indeed the Government accepted with reluctance, that the decision was forced on them and that, as the leaders of the moderate political Parties pointed out, it might well have been impossible for candidates to face the electorate without real risk to their lives. This is a view which I think the Northern Irish Labour Party and the Social Democratic and Labour Party of Ulster reached.
Meanwhile, the Government have got themselves lumbered with this Border Poll Bill and the plebiscite. Yet I do not believe that there is anyone (except possibly a few in this country and in Northern Ireland) who does not know what the result will be, and its only value is perhaps in convincing doubters in other countries. I realise that the Government had a difficult decision to take. This was a promise that had been made. They felt bound to honour it, faced as they were by the agonising threat of the Protestant backlash, and they now feel that they cannot resile. If I may say so to the noble Lord, who has always been extremely helpful and willing to consult the Opposition, it is a pity that the Government did not officially consult the 156 Opposition Parties more over the form of the Bill.
I would not recommend, either on constitutional grounds or in the circumstances of it, any of my noble friends to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill, any more than my honourable friends in another place voted against it. It is important to appreciate that the Amendment was of a type with which we are rather more familiar in this House. expressing points of view but not amounting to a rejection of the Bill—and indeed there was no vote against the Second Reading. I believe that, despite the rather winning way in which the noble Lord expressed the simplicity of the question that is to be asked, the fact remains that it reveals (I hope that my noble friends who are in favour of a plebiscite on the Common Market will not take it amiss when I say this) the limitations in posing a simple question. The moment one asks that question there are other questions one wants to ask, and there is no attempt to stretch it into a wider future and allow people to express an opinion as to whether, in different circumstances, they would be in favour either of closer co-operation with the Republic or even, ultimately, of the possibility of some constitutional arrangements for a link. Let me say that in the present mood I think it probable that the majority of people would vote against any link with the Republic, because of the feeling; but it would have been interesting to sec whether the results would have been different and whether moderate opinion would have been able to express a different view.
This matter was very fully discussed in another place and I will not recapitulate the various points that were made. It is, however, worth emphasising one aspect with which the noble Lord dealt; namely, the need for the Government to publish as soon as possible their proposed constitutional arrangements for Northern Ireland. Here there is perhaps some hope, if not for a consensus, then at least for proposals appearing which, like the White Paper, would commend themselves to the many moderate and reasonable people who might regard them as fair. In considering what these proposals should be, we should not forget the very real progress that was being made following the initiatives taken at the time by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill 157 of the Maine, and it is only fair to point out that the Unionist Party led by Mr. Faulkner, and others, had moved firmly and consistently towards implementing the reforms on which both the former and the present Governments have insisted. But these were clearly too late to restore the situation, and now we have to face a more radical set of proposals.
I do not have much to add to the various ideas that have been canvassed. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see in the Green Paper the extent to which the ideas of the Northern Ireland Labour Party and the Alliance Party, and indeed of the Ulster Movement and certainly of the Ulster Liberal Party, are close to one another. Furthermore, the proposal for a Bill of Rights is accepted also by the Unionist Party; and it is fair to say that the Unionist Party has accepted that internment should end and be replaced by a procedure legally more defensible. I personally incline to the views not so much of the Unionist Party as of those three moderate centre Parties and I hope that it will be possible for them and the Social Democratic Labour Party to come rather closer together, even if what is proposed amounts to an interim constitutional solution.
Thus, my principal request to the Government to-day is that they should publish their White Paper with their own proposals as soon as possible. Again, I am bound to say that the Government have a number of difficult issues to weigh and on which to form a judgment, but as the noble Lord said, the Government are anxious to have the views of the House, including mine for what they are worth, and I know that many noble Lords believe that it is desirable that these proposals should be published before the Border Poll Bill. It is just conceivable that in the light of the reaction, this somewhat disturbing Border poll can be avoided. In any event, if I understand the matter aright, the Government will have to return to Parliament for further approval of regulations as to the conduct of the Border poll and, as the noble Lord said, as the result of Amendments moved in another place this will require the Affirmative Resolution Procedure.
The purpose of the Government by their proposals, a purpose which I am sure we all share, is to liberate the moderate forces. At the same time, as 158 the noble Lord made clear, the struggle continues against the terrorists, and especially the I.R.A. Provisionals, but now joined by Protestant terrorists who are engaged in equally horrible activities. These terrorists' activities will have to be dealt with. I believe, however, that the terrorist campaign has changed in a quite important manner. Obviously the I.R.A. Provisionals have suffered losses in one way or another and the Army has carried out some very successful operations. Meanwhile there is an increase in these awful assassinations of both individual Catholics and Protestants. The Army must therefore continue to have all the support we can give, and recent events in the Republic and the decision of Mr. Lynch's Government to start tackling the I.R.A. may well be crucial. Indeed, it has been the existence of this still too open Border and the absence of any very active co-operation between the forces of law and order, both North and South, which have so enormously increased the difficulties of the Army and the police.
I hope that both sides of the Border will now co-operate for the survival of their own citizens and democratic Governments; and I think it would be right, in view of the criticism that Mr. Lynch has endured in this country, to pay tribute to the courage, determination and political skill which he has shown in what must have been an extraordinarily difficult situation for the Taoiseach. This now brings new hope and a new dimension into the situation. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, was smiling because I did not pronounce "Taoiseach" correctly. If that is so, I apologise. Perhaps I might have expected some help in this context from my noble friend Lord Longford, who is so familiar with these matters. In any event, it shows that one should stick to the language one knows best.
In the present situation scarcely anybody can believe that it is possible to force the Ulster Protestants into a union with the Republic. Only time and the natural development of their common interests can achieve this. Again, I hope that my noble friends who are not particularly in favour of our entry into the Common Market will accept that entry into Europe makes this co-operation between North and South more abundantly necessary if Ireland and I mean 159 the whole of Ireland, is not to be left as an impoverished fringe of the European Community. It would be short-sighted if we did not recognise the enormous difficulties of assimilating the different standards of living and ways—there are great differences in wealth—of the Republic and Northern Ireland, and we should be ready not only to help in arriving at an equality but, if Europe is to mean anything at all of looking to our European partners to understand the nature of the acute regional economic situation, otherwise there will be bitter disappointment, a hitter disappointment for those who think that a united Europe is something to offer all our peoples.
Let me say one word about the Detention of Terrorists Order. First of all, it is a pity that we cannot have it as a Bill, and it is perhaps unfortunate, though by no means disastrous, that Parliamentary timing, as the noble Lord has explained, has made it impossible for us to take it after another place had debated it. Any of us can find defects in what is proposed, but I am bound to say that it represents an enormous improvement over the provisions for internment under the Special Powers Act.
Here I should like to commend to the Government—and indeed I have drawn the noble Lord's attention to it—an extremely interesting Fabian pamphlet produced by Professor Palley, Professor Twining and a group at Queen's University, Belfast, a group, as it makes clear, with very different political views as to how we ought to set about the problem of dealing with terrorism within the framework of law. It is necessary to recognise that there is a provision under the European Convention for the protection of human rights for a derogation in times of emergency from the provisions of that Convention, providing it is done within certain prescribed procedures. The proposals contained in this pamphlet are written against the background of the common law. I should be very interested if the noble Lord himself, or any other noble Lords with a legal background, would look at it.
While no doubt we shall pass the Detention of Terrorists Order, I am bound to say that it bears a considerable resemblance to some of the proposals contained 160 in the Fabian document. None the less, there is much to be said, in my view, for setting it in the framework of a general Act on emergency powers, so that the procedure will fit more fully into our pattern of law, rather than for it to be just something which is specially related to Northern Ireland. Indeed, both the Government's proposals and the proposals in the document by Professor Twining and Professor Palley envisage the provision for special courts and the suspension of jury trial. I would suggest that the Government, as soon as possible, should give consideration towards enacting some more permanent legislation of this kind. I would only say now to those who have criticisms of the Order—and we are bound to have criticisms of it, as there are worrying aspects—that many more safeguards are contained it it than are likely to be found under conditions of martial law or, for that matter, in the legislation which exists not far away from Northern Ireland.
My Lords, may I say that the Green Paper sets out clearly and powerfully the enormous financial help which the taxpayers of the United Kingdom are giving to a part of the United Kingdom containing only about 2 per cent. of the population. When I say "2 per cent.", I do not wish to imply that that 2 per cent. is not highly important in itself and that they are not important members while they remain in the United Kingdom. But there is good reason to believe, as my noble friend Lord Beswick has said on previous occasions, that the patience of ordinary British citizens, unaware of history and of our responsibilities, is beginning to wear thin. Families who have lost husbands and sons are increasingly saying, "What is this to do with us?" It is no good just telling them of our past responsibilities. It is necessary to say—although they may not wish to listen—that without British troops in Ireland there would be a bloodbath and perhaps in the end the consequences of U.D.I. and withdrawal would be almost too awful to contemplate. But some people in this country are beginning to contemplate it and the patience of ordinary people is beginning to wear thin.
I personally think it would be disastrous if we were to follow that path, but it is as well for people, both in the North and in the South, to realise that
161 this may be the last chance, not for immediate peace but for avoiding something which could be infinitely more awful than we are already seeing in Northern Ireland; and perhaps the Republic and this country would both be involved in it. To my mind it is inconceivable that if real civil war broke out in Ireland we should not begin to experience what the citizens of Dublin have just begun to experience. I believe now that the courageous decision of Mr. Lynch and his Government may give us and the Government an opportunity of which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, himself is only too well aware. Whatever they may do, they cannot please everybody. They will meet with criticism; that is absolutely certain. Possibly they will not be able to please even the majority of the people in Northern Ireland, but they may, none the less, now be able to find a solution which will give hope of a peaceful evolution in the future.
§ 3.37 p.m.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, when Parliament was recalled in September of last year as a result of new and agonising developments in the tragedy of Northern Ireland, I spoke to your Lordships about some factors in the religious scene in Ireland which gave ground for hope, not because they were affecting the immediate political situation but because they represented a kind of undergrowth of reason and charity which might affect the political scene greatly if only some twist of fortune happened. My Lords, I would speak in the same sense to-day about some grounds for hope, for unless hope is legitimate there is really no point in our meeting as a Parliament, and I believe that in the light of events of the last few days something new in the Irish psychological scene may now be having a chance to break through.
Let me begin by saying how greatly I welcome the Paper, The Future of Northern Ireland. I think it is a fine document and is typical of the imaginative and courageous approach which the Secretary of State has followed ever since he took up his hazardous office. It is a great advantage that the Paper is flexible in its suggestions; that it puts the ball in the court of the people of Northern Ireland within certain utterly defined principles; that it shows what are the 162 common factors in the policies put forward by at least some of the various Parties; and that it emphasises that there is an immense body of people with both Protestant and Catholic labels whose only real longing is for the cessation of violence.
But I should like to take as my text a quotation which the Paper makes from the Report of the Scarman Inquiry, when that Report describes the way in which the disorders began in these words:More often than not they arose from slight beginnings: but the communal tensions were such that, once begun, they could not be controlled.If conflagrations start from the slightest beginnings, is it possible that the damping down of them may come from slight beginnings, if once communal longings can be rid of violence, can come to the top, and if once a corner can he turned in the psychology of fear? It is an appalling grief that the lovely city of Dublin now has its people exposed to the bombs of terrorists like the cities in the North. But it seems an immense gain that Mr. Lynch's Government is now, after a courageous piece of legislation, resolutely at one with the British Government and with our Administration in Northern Ireland, not only in censuring terrorism but in acting vigorously against it. I venture to think not only that this development, the drawing closer together of Mr. Lynch's Government and our own in their activities, will strengthen the arduous work of the Army, but that it may affect the psychology of fear as between North and South, there now being this common insistence that no political change can be brought about by violence. May this not enable violence-weary people on both sides to see that they share a cause to which they are both committed, the cause of substituting no force but argument for no argument but force? It depends, of course, on the silent body of peace-loving folk finding more influence, through events turning a corner, perhaps a small corner, away from the psychology of fear.
I spoke on the former occasion about some of the quiet ways in which Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland do work together across the political scene. I do not say that such things are influencing the political scene; I think they are not. But I do say that such things are fortifying among a good 163 many people in Northern Ireland that undergrowth of good sense which may one day come into its own when a turn of fortune occurs. Ecumenical activity and co-operation in Northern Ireland has indeed not been decreasing but increasing in the last two years. There are groups of Protestants and Catholics praying in one another's churches. There are groups from both sides working together among young people in social problems, such as drug addiction. There is the Ardoyne Housing Association, which builds new homes for some of the people who have lost their homes, to whichever side they belong. There is the growing number of group holidays for children drawn from Catholic and Protestant homes, and I have myself seen something of these holiday parties and their happiness. These are some of the ways in which people in Northern Ireland are responding to the pleas of their Church leaders to disengage their Christianity from their political fears. And all this, the part of the story which, perhaps inevitably, is unreported in the media, is one day going to win.
I am sure that the worst thing that could happen on this side of the Irish Sea just now would be to have the sort of political arguments the phrases of which could provoke and give excuse for extreme responses on the other side of the Irish Sea. But, thankfully, that is not happening, and the debates both in your Lordships' House and in another place have strongly emphasised that that is not happening, because there is between us the utmost goodwill and common effort, at this moment of tragedy, which is also a moment of hope. I suggest that the newly-awakened common vigour of North and South to end violence gives something of a chance for fears to lessen. I think it is possible that the proposed poll may also help in the lessening of fears in another kind of area, and so, I believe, may the suggestions contained in the Paper before us to-day. And all these things together may at this moment be helping the atmosphere in which the message of Christmas this year may strike deep into the hearts of violence-weary people and bring their latent longings to good effect.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
My Lords, after the three fine speeches we have heard 164 I am afraid that my brief contribution is bound to be rather an anti-climax. The only reason I am venturing to detain your Lordships for a few minutes, because I have no expertise on Northern Ireland, is that I happen to have spent last week half in Belfast and half in Dublin, and what I found there seemed to me in one respect, to offer a new hope for the future. It is a heartbreaking experience to visit those two areas and find so much evidence of bitterness and hatred among people who are basically proud, vigorous, fine people.
First of all, I would wholeheartedly congratulate the Secretary of State and his colleagues on this excellent consultative document. I agreed with every word that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said about that. I cannot remember any other Green Paper anything like so good as the one we have before us to-day. It is a model of fair balance and restraint. It sets forth in the very clearest terms the inescapable duties of any British Government and the onerous responsibilities that lie on the shoulders of the people of Northern Ireland themselves, I believe it must have a wholly beneficial effect on moderate and thoughtful opinion in the South and elsewhere, as well as in Northern Ireland itself. Everything I saw and heard in the short time that I was there, bore witness to the extreme courtesy and patience being shown by the Secretary of State and his colleagues in carrying out their very difficult tasks. May I also say that the present Governor, Lord Grey of Naunton, seemed to me to be held in the greatest respect by everyone there, and in spite of the difficulties of his present constitutional position he is carrying out his day-to-day functions with dignity and with a complete disregard of any risks to himself and the very minimum of security precautions. It was very moving to find the way in which he could move around the country, deeply respected, so far as I could see, by everyone of every variety of opinion.
One must of course pay tribute again to the way in which the Army are carrying out their extremely difficult role, in spite of intense provocation from extremists on both both sides. Indeed, it is difficult to say which extremists are more to be condemned at the present time. I was glad to see that so many of the soldiers one saw patrolling and going about 165 their tasks seemed, compared with what I saw two years ago when I was there, to have grown into veterans. There were no young untrained boys; they really were veterans, and they seemed to know how to carry out their duties in the most professional way. And it was so bitter to find, when one knew how many people there dreaded the withdrawal of the British Army, how few people dared show any warmth to the soldiers as they were going about their tasks.
I should imagine that the Secretary of State's greatest difficulty at present is to find people to negotiate with who can really speak for those Parties which they claim to represent. As regards internment, I think that we must all have been delighted to hear what my noble friend Lord Windlesham said to us just now. One feels that the new arrangements by which the executive Government will no longer put people into internment off their own bat, and the new arrangements for vetting those who are in internment by an independent Commission, are already defusing the internment issue. That was excellent news that we heard from my noble friend Lord Windlesham to-day.
One thing that is astonishing to a stranger is, when a murder or a bombing occurs, how often it seems to be far from clear whether the act has been the work of members of a rival Party or of members of the victim's own Party in an attempt to fix blame on their opponents (of course here I am referring to extremists in both Parties), or has represented the "pay-off" of some personal score, or simply been a case of mistaken identity. All this is bound to increase the atmosphere of suspicion, fear and confusion. One cannot fail to admire the phlegmatic spirit in which ordinary people in the areas concerned continue to go about their normal everyday business, although with heavy hearts.
The conflicts in Belfast, one appreciates so quickly, are in essence not religious but tribal. One sad repercussion is the effect on the young. These youngsters, full of spirit, can be, with such tragic ease, inflamed and involved. It is particularly sad to find that youth clubs, which until the past year or two succeeded in bringing together in the same club, youngsters from Protestant and Catholic families, are finding it impos- 166 sible in the present circumstances to do this, simply because it is unsafe for members of a minority group to leave their own tribal area after dark. But when these youngsters can be got away from home into holiday camps, or something like that, away from the troubled areas and away from their families, then generally, one is told, they get on quite well together.
I was moved when I was taken to one youth club and saw, by chance, some silver cups. I said, "Where did you get them from?", and they answered, "The Army, hearing that we were struggling with our youth club here, have presented us with these three cups in the last month or two." I thought that that was a very nice gesture indeed. Against this bleak and tragic background it is surprising to find how many statistics of current production, trade, and profits are surprisingly good, and even better than last year. I think that this is again a tribute to the pragmatic determination and character of the people concerned.
The really dramatic development seems to me to be the astonishing change in public opinion that has taken place in the South in recent months. I have always felt that the state of public opinion South of the Border was of crucial importance. When I visited the South last summer on holiday I detected for the first time doubts openly expressed about the feasibility of unity with the North in present circumstances. The I.R.A. even then seemed to be failing to inflame even the younger Irish and seemed to be losing ground as regards popularity, but this time my arrival coincided with two major bomb explosions in the centre of Dublin, I think the first that they had experienced there. Incidentally, after the bangs I had to walk two and a half miles from my restaurant to my hotel, not because there were other bombs but because so many streets had been closed with bomb precautions. The effect of those bombs was absolutely traumatic, and within one hour of them going off the main Opposition had withdrawn its opposition and the Government's extremely controversial Special Powers Bill was passed. One very significant result is that for the first time one can presume that the Eire police will be actively co-operating with the 167 Royal Ulster Police in tracking down terrorists on both sides of the Border.
The most revealing feature is surely that in the South public opinion has now subordinated the Northern Irish issue to the preservation of law and order, and, hopefully, to peace. This is an entirely new situation in the South which I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has been handled with extreme courage and skill by Mr. Lynch—I am not going to be frightened of the name—the Taoiseach. Superimposed therefore on the conditions of increasing war-weariness in the North and in the South, that change may indicate at last a light at the end of the tunnel, though the situation is bound to be precarious.
Presumably the Government will soon be outlining their proposals for a new Constitution in Northern Ireland. In view of the almost certain permanence of a Protestant Unionist majority, some variations from the Westminster two-Party model would seem to be desirable—perhaps proportional representation, accompanied by the development of a committee system analagous to what we have in our local government authorities rather than the Cabinet system that we have in our central Government. One supposes that the new Northern Ireland elected authority will be rather more subordinate to the Westminster Parliament than formerly; and if that is so presumably it will mean more Northern Ireland Members in the House of Commons. What one hopes very much is that some form of Irish Council may be agreed on by the various Parties in the North and the Government of Eire; at first with advisory and consultative functions, but later with increasing functional responsibilities and perhaps executive responsibilities for matters of common interest. If such a Council could be born, even in a very embryo form, and if it could be born in circumstances of mutual good will, then it could augur very well indeed for the future.
In the meantime, let us do all that we can to support the efforts that the Secretary of State and his colleagues are making with such patience to win the support of moderate opinion on both sides in the North, and let us help and encourage our Government to react constructively (as I am sure they are doing 168 and will do), whenever signs of moderate policies gaining ground in the South occur, in the way that my noble friend Lord O'Neill of the Maine tried to do in the days when he was in office. It is a long haul, making terrific demands on all concerned, but in the words which my fellow countrymen, speaking as a Devonian now, Sir Francis Drake, used in his prayer:In any great undertaking it is not the beginning but the continuing thereof until it be utterly finished that yieldeth the true glory.Is it not just possible that there may be now coming up over the horizon the first pale light of a better day?
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, as one whose voice is often critical in this House, I wish to begin by paying my tribute to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and to his colleagues, and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. I regard the spirit in which they have approached this problem, and even more their faith when there have been mountainous obstacles to their achievements, as something that we should all wish to recognise. Though I shall be making certain suggestions with which they may not agree, I want them to know that there is that appreciation of what they have done.
The situation to-day gives some reason, I think, for the faith which I have described. It is more optimistic than it has yet been. First, there are the political discussions which now, for the first time, are likely to include the Social Democratic and Labour Party. May I just say, in the light of the postponement of those discussions, that that postponement took place not because of their personal fear of suffering but because they had certain knowledge and information; and also because they realised that if any assassination were to occur it would be disastrous for the future of Northern Ireland. Secondly, there is the fact that the I.R.A. now have decreasing power in Northern Ireland. Thirdly, there is the attitude of the Republic of Ireland which, under Mr. Lynch, is now taking intensified action against the I.R.A. I think the hopeful fact there is that he quite evidently has the support of the population of the Republic of Ireland. Fourthly, one of the rare things that can be said in favour of the European Community is 169 the fact that it is likely to lead to a situation in Ireland that will bring co-operation between the North and the South. These are all very important factors in a more hopeful view about an ultimate solution.
May I now look at the actual problems which are set out in the Green/White Paper? First, there must be a solution to the problem of the establishment of some Assembly in Northern Ireland. It cannot be a reversion to Stormont, as we knew it. Quite clearly, the responsibility for security must remain here in Westminster so long as Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom. There have been suggestions that the new Assembly should be a body rather like the Greater London Council, but I think that the Assembly must have an authority and a status which are greater than is possessed by any local authority in this country. The nature of the Assembly will inevitably become a part of the devolution which will take place, not only in Northern Ireland but also in Scotland and in Wales, and I should like to suggest that before a final decision is made as to the constitution of the new Assembly in Northern Ireland there should be some consultations with those who are seeking some devolution in Scotland and Wales. The second problem is Irish unity. The necessity of some association between Northern Ireland and the Republic is indicated in the Green Paper, in its reference to "The Irish Dimension". I only express the hope that the All-Ireland Council will become a real body of co-operation between North and South in trade, in transport, in across-the-Border development and in common services between the two areas of Ireland, and that by this co-operation there may ultimately develop the desire for closer unification.
We are to have the referendum. I suppose that it must be regarded as a gesture to those who want to be assured that there will be no change in Northern Ireland except by the will of the majority; and I think that all of us accept that. But I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, say that the timing of this referendum is still a matter of consideration. I am little concerned about it as a mere gesture. Everyone knows the views of the majority and 170 of the minority in Northern Ireland. I would suggest to the Minister that it is not enough that there should be a referendum on "Yes" or "No" to unification of North and South. It is very desirable that before the referendum takes place the recommendations of Her Majesty's Government regarding the Constitution should be published. And if the referendum is to be more than a gesture it is very desirable that a third item should be added; that is, whether the Government's proposals should be endorsed.
I pass from that to say that I welcome the fact that the sections in the Special Powers Act relating to internment have now been repealed. I urge Her Majesty's Government to emphasise this fact very strongly, because it is only by its emphasis that opposition to internment will be met. I recognise that both in the North and in the Republic it is now difficult to carry out judicial procedure by the method of juries, but I would ask the Minister a question in regard to the Commission which is in operation in the North. Has his attention been drawn to the criticism voiced by the defence lawyers who have been active in this Commission about the difficulties which are placed in their way in presenting their case? I hope that it may still be possible to make some emendation of the procedure of the Commission, so that the defence can have more rights.
I need not tell the House how much I appreciate the fact that the necessity for a Bill of Rights is now recognised everywhere.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I had meant to congratulate him once again, being ahead of the game, with regard to the Bill of Rights. But I think the timing is better now.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I would accept that, my Lords, but I think it is always the duty of someone to be a pioneer. I do not want to press this; I do not want to claim it. All I want to do is to register the fact that the necessity for a Bill of Rights is now recognised by everyone, even by those who opposed it when, perhaps because the time was premature, it was opposed. I would say this. I hope that when the Bill of Rights is introduced it will include 171 clauses against religious discrimination as well as clauses against discrimination in other ways, and that it will guarantee the full rights of the minority. Perhaps I should just add that, in view of the recent Draconian legislation which has been introduced in the Republic, it may easily be that a Bill of Rights will be necessary in Southern Ireland as well as in Northern Ireland.
My Lords, I pass to a more critical contribution. Has not the time now come when Her Majesty's Government should make it an offence for anyone in Northern Ireland—a part of the United Kingdom—to have arms in their possession unless they are a part of the security forces? I recognise a necessity for some exceptions, perhaps in the Border area, where danger may be great; but there ought now to be definite enforcement of a legal prohibition on anyone in Northern Ireland, except for those in the Border area—in Belfast particularly—possessing arms unless they are members of the security forces. I would add that it is desirable that in Northern Ireland there should now be a ban on uniforms on both sides, as there now is in this country.
My second critical observation is this. One recognises the appalling circumstances in which the soldiers of the British Army, many of them little older than boys, are serving in Northern Ireland. They have the task of providing impartial security. It is like justice: it must not only be applied, it must be seen to be applied. In recent weeks the image has grown up that the attitude of the British Forces in Northern Ireland has been directed more against the I.R.A. Republicans than the terrorist forces which are on the Unionist side. I think we have to face that fact; and I would urge the Minister to be very careful indeed to see that that psychology is not created in Northern Ireland. Beyond that, I would urge that if any legislative or administrative action is to be taken in this country against terrorists from the I.R.A. finding refuge in England, Scotland or Wales, it should apply to terrorists who are associated with the U.D.A. and its armed forces just as fully as to those associated with the I.R.A.
My Lords, my last point is this. I have no doubt that the great majority of 172 people in Northern Ireland are equally opposed to the violence on the side of the I.R.A. and the violence on the side of the U.D.A. They long for it to end. Even a year ago, when I was in Derry on "Bloody Sunday" and met the people in the Creggan there, I had the strong impression that their greatest desire was to see this violence end. I have not any doubt that that is the attitude of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland. I admit it is easy for us, in the safety of this House, but I would make an appeal to the leaders of the Churches in Northern Ireland—to the Anglican Church, to the Roman Catholic Church, to the Scottish Presbyterian Church, to all the leaders of the moderates—to come out much more boldly now than they have ever done before, and to seek to mobilise the moderate elements in great demonstrations, and by action. I believe that if they were to give that leadership they would create such an atmosphere in Northern Ireland that the hopeful tendencies to which I have already referred would become determining.
My last point is this. The greatest tragedy in Northern Ireland is the division of the impoverished, exploited working class. They have their wage standards, their slums, their unemployment—and yet there is this division between a working class which ought to be united against the exploitation and the poverty, the homelessness and the unemployment, which the capitalist system in Northern Ireland determines for them, as it does in the South, in this country and anywhere in the world. Instead of that unity for Socialism, which is the only solution, they have become divided on this issue. That is the greatest tragedy. And my last appeal is to the Irish Trades Union Congress, and particularly to the Northern Ireland Committee of that Congress, who have given a magnificent lead in all these issues, to come out and make a declaration that the workers of Ireland should now decide to unite, not just to end this conflict but to begin to establish across the Border a new society in which they will have an opportunity for a decent life.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I just point out to 173 him that wages in the South of Ireland are far lower than the wages in the North of Ireland? I really think he was rather unfair in the last remarks he made with regard to the exploitation of the working class in Northern Ireland.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I am sorry, my Lords; I was not referring only to Northern Ireland. I want a change to Socialism in the South of Ireland just as I want it in the North.
§ 4.19 p.m.
THE EARL OF ENNISKILLEN
My Lords, it is with great diffidence that I speak as high up the list of speakers as I have been placed, to follow the speeches that we have heard this afternoon on such a very wide-reaching Paper as that which we have before us. It is difficult, I think, to try to isolate some of the points which are contained in the Green Paper, and also, perhaps, to touch on some of the points that have already been touched on. We have all understood that both now and for the future, atmosphere is one sine qua non, among others, for any future prosperity in Northern Ireland—and I would go further and say that this applies to any country. To achieve that atmosphere you have to secure majority support and opinion. I do not believe that you can secure majority support and opinion in Northern Ireland without taking into account where that majority support and opinion basically lie. I make no apology for the Unionists in saying that it basically lies with them; and in many instances (and, I believe, far more than meets the eye among the Roman Catholics in our community) they are as good citizens in their own way as anybody else in that country—if they are left at peace. But they are not left at peace; they are interfered with; they are bullied; they are terrified. It is this system of bullying and terrifying that is bedevilling the whole situation on which, in the peace of this House, we are trying to-day to bring reasoned argument to bear. Reasoned argument is so difficult to bring to bear in the streets and on the borders of the territory itself.
In that connection, I should like to say that to build up the spirit of the people, a visit such as that made by my noble friend Lord Windlesham (an action 174 which seems so small and so immaterial to us) to the Border area where people had just been murdered from "across the way", from a so-called friendly State, goes a long way. It did an enormous amount of good to those people to see that we who over here talk of support are prepared to go on to the site, to talk to the individual people concerned and to give them that feeling of encouragement which I am afraid they have so sadly lacked. It is difficult to say in this House and among your Lordships that they have sadly lacked that encouragement. I understand your Lordships' feelings: you have given them all the help you think you can give them, yet it has not penetrated. I wonder why it has not penetrated. It has not penetrated, I am quite sure, simply and solely because here is a country from which you have taken away the leadership (whether you liked it or not) which existed; and I for one would not be an apologiser. You have taken away the existing leadership; you appeal to the ex-leaders of political opinion to rally moderate opinion. But they have no platform from which to do it; they have little or no opportunity to do it. You have taken the authority on your own shoulders to carry out (with our own Army) this responsibility. It is a very heavy burden for your Lordships and for us in this House and in this country to carry; and it is not possible to carry it without majority support in Northern Ireland.
I want to see improved, as I know do your Lordships, the atmosphere that can produce real good out of the quality which undoubtedly exists in this Green Paper. I do not think that to introduce a new Constitution, a new system of Parliament, in Northern Ireland, without real teeth in Northern Ireland, will ever be successful. The Province must, so far as it conceivably can, have control over its own affairs or it will never get out of its siege mentality; nor will the Opposition ever cease to appeal to the "headmaster outside the classroom". Therefore the possibility of a really joint effort between the citizens of Northern Ireland is more likely to be enhanced by granting them a greater proportion of powers proudly to carry out themselves and to implement themselves. Therefore I urge that when the Constitution is being worked out, the division of powers 175 between Westminster and Northern Ireland must be very clearly spelled out. It should be emphasised that when settled they are to be sacrosanct in the Constitution. They must be powers which are not going to be reversed; they must be powers which of course are acceptable but which are also applicable to the peculiar conditions of that Province. In regard to the Border, thanks to the action of the Eire Government recently in regard to terrorism I sincerely hope that we may quickly see a greater effort on both sides of the Border to make it clear that crossing and recrossing is not to continue to be as easy as it has been throughout this campaign—which I must remind your Lordships is now in its fourth year. For four years the people on the Border, in the streets and in the country have suffered from the sort of incident which caused the type of legislation to be introduced at a moment's notice in the Dail.
I still want to talk about atmosphere. In speaking to the Motion I do not want to say anything which would other than enhance the spirit that I want to see reproduced. It did exist; and I want to see it reproduced in Northern Ireland. They are a proud people. To-day they are a lost people. They must have the strength of their convictions restored to them. The constant reiteration of the pledge which we accept, and accept with gratitude—and I say this advisedly and without any desire to offend—is rather like the drink one offers at the long-overdue departure of a guest. It has a kind of empty ring when it seems to be only a straw that they have to support themselves with. Undoubtedly the action in Eire has created a better element of opinion in the North. The action of the British troops has always been a factor; but the lack of security on the Border and the apparent lack of emphasis that this is a really serious business has destroyed this better element. You can go across the Border morning, noon, night and day without the slightest interference unless by chance you should run into a single patrolman.
This is intolerable to the people who live in the country and who are facing the sort of situation they have to face. They cannot understand why both Her Majesty's Government and the Eire Gov- 176 ernment should not be equally desirous of placing similar edicts on Border crossings as used to operate even before the emergency. Admittedly, we keep supplying new caravans at customs posts. But customs in Northern Ireland to-day is a farce. How could it be otherwise? Surely it is not beyond rhyme or reason to say that there will be no movement across the Border after the hours of darkness, and get the Eire Government's agreement. Why, why, why should people be able to motor from Dublin to Belfast with impunity in a stolen car, or their own car, and not be spotted? We hear about the desire to take away weapons. But where are the weapons that are doing the damage? Do the Protestants of Northern Ireland produce the GP.47? They do not. Do the Protestants of Ireland produce the Armalite rifle? They do not. We have to get our perspective right, so that when we are speaking we are not destroying majority confidence. From majority confidence, I believe, minority confidence can also be restored. But I do not believe that it can be donevice versa.
I should like to say one thing on the Border Poll Bill. Although there may be arguments both ways as to timing—and the Government have left their options open in this respect—I must again, once more on the basis of creating the right atmosphere, warn that postponement of pledges already given, or a substitution of this pledge, would undo all the good that at the present moment seems to be coming out. I make the appeal that we get the Border poll out of the way. I think it will be a long-drawn-out affair to get the Constitution right, and that must follow once you have the Border poll out of the way. I agree that it is perhaps a foregone conclusion that Northern Ireland will vote to remain part of the United Kingdom. But what I sincerely hope is that there will be a large proportion of Roman Catholics who will also vote to keep that identity. For them to do so with impunity to-day is very difficult; but many of them have shown great courage, and I hope sincerely that the poll will be well supported by all concerned who live in Northern Ireland, whichever way they wish to vote. I hope that they will support the poll, and I should like to see it got out of the way as soon as possible.
177 I fear, my Lords, that I have dithered about a bit, but I feel sincerely that when you get isolated incidents—and they are isolated incidents—of hooliganism, and of course worse, which are perhaps outside the filthy practices of the I.R.A., not much should be made of them. The law and order forces are there to keep law and order. Any single person who steps out of line from law and order should be put under arrest and dealt with. This is fact; it is true, and it must be seen to be done. It is being done, and I have watched it being done. Do not let us give way to the idea that the majority is at any time behind the instruments of brutality which we are seeing to-day in Northern Ireland: for they are not. The people there, as so many speakers have said, are deeply anxious to see their country live again.
§ 4.35 p.m.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, it is the first time that I have had the honour of speaking after my noble kinsman, Lord Enniskillen. It is impossible for me to emulate his impressive words from a man on the spot. My main source of information is the bush telegraph; and from Belfast to Dublin, from Washington to, say, San Francisco, the name of Mr. Whitelaw is known, is held in honour and respect, and there are great expectations: even the most passionate Irishmen in the United States await the outcome of Mr. Whitelaw's adventure in Northern Ireland. I do not think there has really been the same honour, with the notable exception of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine. With that exception, it seems to me that Mr. White-law's position on the international scene is unique, and the expectations are, for once, greater than ever before in 50 years.
The area of the United States which I have mentioned seems to me to be so much more important than any other outside Ireland itself because it can determine what happens, particularly in the South of Ireland. A distinguished American, writing to me this year, reminded me that for 200 years since the American Independence, when Irishmen supported that Independence, Americans have known the history of Ireland—a version of it anyway; they have sustained their enthusiasm for an independent united Ireland; and he reminded me that in the dark days of 1917 a President of 178 the United States intervened decisively with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The importance to us is the impact on Irishmen in Ireland, over the Border, over which we have no control.
I was a soldier in the streets, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, described it, 53 years ago when we rounded up the wrong terrorist. The one we were after, with £10,000 on his head, was Michael Collins, and we got somebody else. But we thought that he would be worth quite a lot. We surrounded his house, we informed the authorities and waited for such reward as might come. But, much to our anger, they said: "Let him out". Moving on 53 years, the Dail met a day or two ago with the sounds of the revolution thundering within its hearing as it conducted its debates. It was the Dublin establishment that held fast, and the revolution outside—and inside—that crumbled. The man who signed that paper—that severe draconian Act, if that is what it is—is the man whom we let out, De Valera. So, 53 years later, I add my belated congratulations and respects, feeling that the original decision must have been right. It is perhaps a hope for the troops in the streets of Belfast to-day. I would offer them, and all who are responsible for their activities, another hope. By the time we had established an independent Irish regime in the South we had disarmed the terrorists, or at any rate bottled up what was left of them, so that they were an innocuous few in the South-West corner of Ireland. I hope that the disarming of the North, whatever other course is pursued under the leadership of this country, will continue until the same state is reached when policing is done by the police and the general populace have no arms.
When we attend to the future, as we are asked to do in this admirable Green Paper, there remain the two absolutes, which clash head-on and which are very much pushed under the carpet. Each side passionately claims its right to a certain territory according to the principle of self-determination. In the case of the Ulster Unionist Party, the claim is made and supported in letters twice the height of any other letters in the Green Paper: it is evidently of supreme importance. With equal passion, the South and their 179 patrons in the United States believe in the unity of all Ireland, according to the principle of self-determination ordained by God. Both sides claim their respective territories in accordance with the same principle—in God's name.
Surely the whole of the trouble in the Province throughout its 50 years of history was correctly expounded in another place by Miss Devlin, supported by Mr. Fitt. She said that West of the river Bann the majority do not want to be in the United Kingdom, while East of the river Bann the vast majority passionately want to be in the United Kingdom. One-third of the territory is East of the river Bann and the other two-thirds is West of it. The boundary has never been defensible politically, or according to any international code of self-determination. It may have some economic justification, but it is indefensible from the point of view of security as well; and that is a point which, it seems to me, cannot be smoothed over by trying to unite people in such a way as to ignore it. The substitution of Socialism, for instance, judging by the way it divides people elsewhere, seems to be as divisive a factor as anything else. To set out with that as a target seems to me to be a will-o'-the-wisp. What are we going to do? Ultimately people must want to be where they are, and I hope that the boundary may remain where it is, and that a greater unity with Dublin, with the United Kingdom, and with the Common Market may develop. But, failing that, there is no case whatever to ask any one of our sons to go on defending with their lives a Border that we have failed to manage properly for 50 years.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, it is a privilege to speak between the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, who must always hold a unique position in our debates on this subject. I listened to many excellent speeches made by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, when I used to wind up debates in this House, because he always used to speak last. I do not know whether it is by his own choice or by the choice of others, but I congratulate him on his promotion to what might be called, if not physically at least 180 spiritually, the "Front Bench" of the Cross-Benches. I hope he will speak very often from that position.
Like many other speakers, I could hold forth at great length on this subject, but in view of the time available I shall pass over many things which have been said by myself and others on previous occasions and also over many things which have been said by other speakers to-day with great effect. I will not attempt to mention names except for one. I must certainly refer to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and pay a special tribute to the work in which he is so actively engaged in Northern Ireland. I should like to take a few selected points, even if they appear to be a little disconnected. I have paid tribute before, and I will pay it again—a most sincere tribute—to the Government's initiative that led to the suspension of Stormont and to a search for a new solution, a solution in which for the first time the minority, the Catholics, were treated as being on a level with the rest of the population. I consider that initiative to be the wisest step ever taken by a British Government in regard to Ireland. That may not seem to be the most supreme of all compliments when one thinks of all the other steps that have been taken, but at any rate it is the best that I can manage and it is completely sincere.
I cannot speaktoo highly of the restraint, the human understanding and sheer courage which have been displayed by Mr. Whitelaw and his assistants, notably the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, since that time. That is all very agreeable to say and, I hope, fairly agreeable to listen to. But to-day I cannot speak about the British Government's policy in terms of unqualified praise. The fine initiative of last spring carried with it one unfortunate defect—the plan for a plebiscite, which now seems to be going remorselessly forward, if only because nobody knows how to stop it. I really cannot believe that the Government themselves are happy about this plebiscite. I cannot think that, left to themselves to-day, they would start one. They cannot say, "In all the circumstances a plebiscite is what we need."I believe that the truth is, in the words used by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that they are "lumbered" with it. I 181 would myself use perhaps coarser language and say that they were stuck with it. But however one phrases it, the point is the same: they do not think that they can get out of it.
I regard this plebiscite as a silly farce; I only hope that it will not turn out to be a tragic farce. I think we must pause for a moment to ask ourselves what is the point of it. It will enable the Protestant majority, about whom the noble Earl, Lord Enniskillen, spoke movingly just now, to demonstrate that they do not wish to leave the United Kingdom and join the Republic of Ireland, at any rate in the immediate future. But what does that prove, and to whom? Everyone is perfectly well aware that this is the psychological situation at present and no one doubts it—there is no one in any country who follows these matters who could be in any doubt about that particular situation. Is it meant to reassure—and this may be so, and no doubt the noble Earl, Lord Enniskillen, is able to speak much more intimately about this—the Protestant majority against a sell-out by the British Government? Is it thought that after this plebiscite, if a good result is obtained—and it would be all the better if a good number of people abstained—the Protestant majority will he reassured and able to say to themselves. "We shall not in future be betrayed"? If that is the real argument, I think it is a fairly wretched one.
My Protestant friends, including the noble Earl, Lord Enniskillen, and others—and we are glad to have heard from them to-day—either believe the British Government when they are given repeated promises that there will be nothing like a sell-out, or they do not believe them. I hope they believe them. In that case there is no need for a plebiscite. If they do not, no plebiscite will reassure them, and they will not be any better off after a plebiscite than before. To the Catholics the provocation is obvious. The plebiscite could be turned—I hope it will not be—into yet another demonstration of Protestant supremacy in an area where that has been the history for all too long. I can only hope and pray that that kind of manifestation will be avoided. The plebiscite cannot do good; but let us hope it will do the least possible harm.
182 My Lords, I mention another criticism—and here I have more sympathy with the Government in their difficulties. I do not pretend that if I were in the shoes of the Government I should find it easy to take the right action in relation to what I am about to say. We have heard from my noble friend Lord Brockway a powerful speech about terrorism on both sides. The noble Earl, Lord Enniskillen, implied that virtually all the terrorism was on one side. At the present time—and these horrible statistics are not completely available—on an average two Catholics are being killed for every one Protestant, so plenty of Catholics are being killed. Do not let us pretend that all the terrorism is being performed by the I.R.A. or Catholic extremists.
May I put this question to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, of which he may have received notice?—I sent word this morning, but it might not have reached him. Are the Government satisfied that they are doing all that is possible to cope with the U.D.F. and U.D.A.? The U.V.F. are an illegal body, and I ask the Government: what is the legal or illegal status of the U.D.A.? If they are an illegal body, or if at least some of their performances are illegal, how is it that they are allowed to strut about in para-military style, and generally create the impression that they are the real rulers of Northern Ireland? Will the Government give any assurance that this grossly unconstitutional situation is not to continue indefinitely?
Unless the U.D.A. are tackled firmly, it seems impossible for Catholics in any part of the world not to believe that one law is applied to themselves, and another to those who have ruled the roost for so long. Quite recently I asked someone—not a Minister, but someone well informed—why the U.D.A. were not tackled firmly. He replied, "We would do it if we had 50.000 troops in Northern Ireland". Is the answer that they would like to do it but do not possess the physical powers? We must give credit to the troops and welcome the fact that the I.R.A. in the North appear to be on the way to defeat. Cannot the Government make it clear that law and order is going to be enforced all round on the lines suggested by my noble friend Lord Brockway? We are told in the Bible that you cannot cast out Satan by 183 Beelzebub. Even if you do not make use of Beelzebub for this purpose, the chances of success are much reduced while he is allowed to flourish and appear in many eves to be the real boss of the situation.
Now for some pleasanter words. The Green Paper represents a significant move towards a just settlement with fair play for all. The proposals have been widely supported and warmly welcomed by the Dublin Government and Parliament. I welcome them warmly. I should like to touch with special praise on the section called "The Irish Dimension". Whoever thought out that phrase—I hope it was the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham—is a bit of a genius. Apart from that, I appreciate that he lays claims to genius, but whoever thought out that phrase should be immortalised. The whole section, "The Irish Dimension", is so well drafted that to most of it I can only say, "Ditto!". The two key sentences are these:A settlement must also recognise Northern Ireland's position within Ireland as a whole…It is therefore clearly desirable that any new arrangements for Northern Ireland should, while meeting the wishes of Northern Ireland and Great Britain, be so far as possible acceptable to and accepted by the Republic of Ireland…".That is the great step forward. It was not something that has ever been said before in the course of our debates. It might have been foreshadowed in some fairly vague utterance. But this is very definite. It is a very imaginative step. It is a case where words themselves become the fact, and I welcome those words.
Here is an acknowledgment that the Northern Ireland problem is an all-Ireland problem, and one that cannot be solved in the context of the North alone. It stands to reason that any solution eventually arrived at for the North must, in order to be successful, have not only good will but support from the South. It is therefore logical, and follows imperatively, that the Government of the South should be closely involved in finding the right solution. We cannot exaggerate the importance and value of that section of this excellent Green Paper. The document does not suggest, so far as I can see, the creation of an all-Ireland Council favoured by my noble friend Lord 184 Shackloton and others: it seems, however, to point the way towards it. The noble Viscount, Lord Amory, if anybody, is likely to discover the solution to the Irish question because he loves Ireland for no political reason but because he likes being there; and that is one of his great claims to wisdom in discussing Ireland.
It is worth recalling that such a proposal was contained in the Government of Ireland Act 1920 under which Stormont operated for many years. I will not weary the House with a lone quotation from that Act, but will read part of one long sentence. Section 2(1) reads:With a view to the eventual establishment of a Parliament for the whole of Ireland, and to bringing about harmonious action between the Parliaments and Governments of Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland…So in 1920, when Ireland was partitioned, the objective was a united Ireland ultimately, but in the meanwhile harmonious action between the two parts of Ireland. This is something that we should bear in mind when we talk of the Partition of Ireland and regard it as having existed from the beginning of time as an inherent necessity. That Act went on the Statute Book in 1920. For reasons that need not be gone into now (I suppose I know them as well as most, having written about 100,000 words about that period) the Act proved a nullity. But surely something very much like it could be revived to-day. It could be operated alike by those who hope to see a united Ireland, by those who hope never to see one, and by those who in any transitional period, which might last many years, would preserve an open mind as to where the future would lead them.
The terms of reference of such a Council must be a matter in which the Dublin Government have a voice. That is obvious. It would he impossible to set up a Council of Ireland in which the South of Ireland were playing a part unless they were consulted in its construction. But such a Council could clearly exercise a profound influence on peace in Ireland as a whole. It should not, I think we all agree—all of us who are talking about it agree—have executive powers. And it should not be a mere "talking shop". It should have specific powers of recommendation which might become all the more important in a E.E.C. context. If the E.E.C. wanted to 185 know whether it was right that there should be a certain development in certain parts of Ireland, this would be the kind of body that could offer a most valuable opinion; but that would be only one example. And, above all, it should not be rigidly tied down for all time in the framework of the thinking of 1972. It should have evolutionary possibilities.
I must conclude in a moment, my Lords, but I must say one word…only one, in view of a number of speakers—about those all-important aspects of the White Paper which deal with the proposed Executive structure, the administrative structure, generally in the North of Ireland. As some noble Lords will remember, it is over three years since I myself first began to argue publicly in favour of a Coalition in Northern Ireland. Then as time went on I was advocating, along with others, a community structure. Well, it seems we are now moving towards a system more like that of the G.L.C., certainly without security powers; and I am not in any way resisting that tendency. I would only say now, in words which seem to reflect the attitude of the Green Paper—they are taken from the Green Paper but I do not know if the Green Paper generally goes quite so far—that it seems to me, at least, absolutely essentialto secure the participation of the Northern Ireland minority in the actual exercise of executive power.Those last words come from the Green Paper. For some time we have all agreed that discrimination in all its forms must he outlawed for good, but it is not enough, I submit, to say that there must be no more second-class citizens; that there must never again be a second-class community, a community that is always a dominated community while the other is the dominating community. I feel, with much satisfaction, that this idea that there should no longer be a permanent second-class community is the underlying purpose of the Green Paper.
Finally, one word—and again it must be only one or hardly more—about the position in the South of Ireland. It is still my family home though it rests in the safe hands of my son. On the whole, and with one sorry exception which it would be churlish to name, the attitude of the British papers that I have read towards Mr. Lynch's latest measures has been not 186 ungenerous. The Guardian, whose reporting of the Northern scene has been deeply impressive throughout but whose leading articles have been slightly more ambiguous, came out with a fine leader on Monday which I commend to all who are looking for a measure of rational hope. It ill becomes those who have demanded for so long that Mr. Lynch should take tougher steps against the I.R.A. to begin picking at him or pulling him to pieces when in fact he does so. My noble friend Lord Shackleton and others have spoken very well about Mr. Lynch this afternoon. No one who knows Mr. Lynch, or has studied carefully his performances during these last tortured years, can doubt that he is a very shrewd politician, a Christian gentleman, and a brave and determined man.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, I should like to reciprocate the kind remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, at the beginning of his speech and to say how much I appreciate those remarks and the remarks of the previous speaker. Those of my noble friends who have got to know me since I joined this noble House will know that I have been consistently gloomy ever since the events of August, 1969; and, as noble Lords will see when I have finished what I hope will be my quite brief remarks, though I am still a fervent supporter of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and his able deputy whom we are so honoured to have in this House, nevertheless I am still, I fear, rather gloomy.
Sometimes in the precincts of the Palace of Westminster I ask people how they react when they hear news from Northern Ireland. Their replies are usually unconvincing. An honest friend in your Lordships' House, however, said quite frankly that the whole thing was incomprehensible to him and that in fact he switched off mentally whenever he heard the subject mentioned. This I am sure is the case with the majority of readers, listeners and viewers. I used to imagine that when the first British soldier was killed the people of Britain would sit up and take notice. I was quite wrong. I can still remember the name of that first British soldier. His name was Curtis. He came from Newcastle-on-Tyne and his father gave an impressive 187 interview on the B.B.C.'s "Today" at the time of his son's death. When the interrogator (I always call them "interrogators" because I myself have suffered at their hands) had run out of questions, the father calmly added, "The worst of it is that his mother and I do not know what he died for". I shall remember that dignified addition for the rest of my days, but I doubt very much whether the average British person knows or cares. A dramatic and frightful piece of news such as the attack on Mrs. Curry, the wife of Mr. Austin Curry, Member of Parliament, will steal the headlines; but an ordinary squalid sectarian murder in a Belfast back street will come long after the news about the American, German, New Zealand or Australian elections or even the Foreign Secretary's visit to China.
The reception of the Green Paper on Northern Ireland has been astonishingly good in London, Belfast and Dublin. But the intelligent reader would do well to pause before accepting this initial reaction. It is only a document for discussion. The White Paper has still to appear, and when both sides—"both sides" is a Northern Ireland expression—see the Cabinet's decisions, then the sparks may start to fly. The discussion document comes into the same category as the Ulster clergyman who preaches a sermon about toleration and the necessity for his flock to be good neighbours but then, when he invites the other side to come and play bowls in his church hall, suddenly finds that there is a huge difference between expressing sentiments and putting these ideas into practice.
May I here digress for a moment and say that I am worried about this White Paper. I do not think that much preparation has been made in Northern Ireland so that the public will receive its findings. While there has been criticism about the holding of referenda, may I suggest (and I am not suggesting that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, should give me any reply to-day) that there might be something to be said for holding yet another referendum on the White Paper? Why, my Lords, do I say this? I think one has to live in Northern Ireland to understand what is going on. Many of these extreme Protestants who pretend to be far more 188 British than any Members of your Lordships' House are not at all slow to go on Dublin television or Dublin Radio, and when your Lordships may be listening to "The World this Weekend" as you are enjoying your Sunday lunch you will often hear the voice of an Ulster Protestant on Dublin Radio, which has an exactly similar programme running at exactly the same time. A fortnight or three weeks ago even I was slightly surprised to hear a Protestant extremist being interviewed in Dublin. When the conversation turned towards U.D.I. he—to use a current expression—"blew his top" and said, "Well, the British were chased out of Cyprus and the British were chased out of Aden, and if we want to do it we will chase them out of Ulster as well".
That is why I say that if you want to find a true reaction to the White Paper when it is produced, I think the Government in general and the Secretary of State in particular (for whom I have such a respect) should consider the possibility of holding a referendum on the findings in the White Paper, which I take it will have to lead to an Amendment of the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which is regarded by the Protestants as the Ark of the Covenant in Northern Ireland. I merely throw out this suggestion. I am not suggesting that the noble Lord should say, "Yea", or "Nay", to-day, but merely that he should give it careful consideration. I do not believe that it is entirely without merit.
The speech which Mr. Heath made in Ulster two weeks ago could have been taken, sentence by sentence, from my "Cross Roads" television broadcast, made four years ago. I stressed the supremacy of the Westminster Parliament; I told them that a Conservative Government would be just as insistent on progress and reform as the then existing Labour Government, and held up in front of the television cameras a letter from Mr. Heath to prove it. Had I suggested that a Conservative Government would actually suspend Stormont the disbelief would have been quite fantastic. But this in fact is what happened. I ridiculed the possibility of U.D.I. and mentioned, much to the fury of the Ulster Unionist M.P.s at Westminster, the actual figure—£100 million per annum—by which we were then subsidised by the 189 Treasury. As a former Minister of Finance I had some little knowledge of these matters. I finally finished with the question: "What kind of Ulster do you want? A happy and respected Province, in good standing with the rest of the United Kingdom, or a place continually torn apart by riots and demonstrations (no one, thank God! had been killed in those days) and regarded by the rest of Britain as a political outcast?" How tragic that some four years and nearly 700 deaths later another Prime Minister, this time speaking with the full authority of the whole nation, should have to make practically the same speech!
It is rather strange that in 1972 I should have reversed my roles, and in two speeches in Dublin this year I have stressed that without peace nothing is possible. I watched the reactions of the audience—mostly from the business community in Dublin—and saw the disbelief spreading across their faces. Indeed, these speeches were followed by a great many letters asking what on earth could be done in the South because everything was all right. According to the Irish Times on October 12, 1972, just two months ago, this is what I said at a dinner in Dublin:As I see it, you have two choices: either you play the role of the Good Samaritan, the good neighbour recognising that the flames engulfing the North could sweep across the Border, that the institutions you value could well be consumed in those flames, or else you can pass by on the other side and risk a holocaust engulfing the South as well as the North.Well, my Lords, Dublin, thank God! has acted in time and an ex-R.A.F. corporal named John Stevenson no longer steals the headlines. It is extraordinary to me to hear him speaking on the Dublin radio and being interviewed by a Southern interviewer with a Southern accent and then hearing the reply in Cockney, "Well, all I can say is I've never trusted the British". But that is what has been going on. Of course it is part of Irish history. You see, Erskine Childers, the deputy Taoiseach(if I may possibly instruct the Front Bench, and the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, on how to pronounce these words) his father was a British Army officer, and the rebel Countess, Countess Markowitz, was, like the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and myself, of impeccable Anglo-Irish descent.
190 Then of course we had Maud Gonne, who I think also came from British Army stock. It is a great Irish tradition. The greatest rebels in Ireland are English.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is casting his net somewhat wide. When he was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, and greatly respected, he never claimed to be English.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, I never claimed to be English, but I was not a rebel.
How curious it is to think that what I assume were two Protestant bombs last weekend in Dublin stopped an Election in the South! Any of your Lordships who read the Irish Times last Friday will have seen that an Election was imminent but was stopped by two bombs, apparently from the North. Many of my friends in Dublin were very disappointed because they are strong Fine Gael supporters and they believe that a Coalition Government would run the South of Ireland very much better than the present Government does. I heartily disagree. I have a long memory and I can remember the terrible damage done by the two previous Coalition Governments after the war. I am on record as saying—and I should like to repeat it to-day—that I do not believe one could have a better Taoiseach than Mr. Lynch. It is not for nothing that he is known in the South as "Honest Jack". I do not know many other politicians who have that little prefix put in front of their names.
With regard to this so-called "Border Poll", I am interested to see that the name has been changed, because when it was first promised, at the time of the take over, it was described as a "referendum". I think I know why the name was changed. Incidentally, if the noble Leader of the House is a little worried about the idea of holding a referendum I believe I am right in saying (though I will sit down immediately if I am wrong) that in the various statements which the Leader of the Labour Party has made about the future of Ireland in general and Northern Ireland in particular, he has suggested that periodic referenda should be held, as it were to take the Border out of politics, which I think is a very good idea.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am not sure to whom the noble Lord is referring. I am not the Leader of the House, and I assume that he meant the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. I confess that I do not remember, with regard to what he said, which of us said what.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, the noble Lord has been most explicit, and I make full apology for having confused the issue. But I think the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition suggested that perhaps he was a little unhappy about the idea of a referendum. I was saying that I think (and I will sit down if I am incorrect) that the Leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Harold Wilson, in one of his many statements about the future of Ireland, has suggested that these referenda should be held at stated intervals in order to take the Border out of politics; and it is quite a good idea.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I suggest that the noble Lord is being a little unfair in taking out of the context of general consideration a proposal for getting opinion in Northern Ireland. It is quite different to talk about a continuous sounding of opinion to see how it is going as a general view. That is a quite separate issue from the practical immediate argument as to whether it is wise to hold this particular poll at this time. I know there is room for argument, but the noble Lord is being rather unfair in running the two matters together. May I add that I now know that he was referring to another leader and was not speaking of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, or myself?
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, the last thing I wish to be is unfair to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, who once wrote to me saying, "We are all O'Neillites in this House". I am merely mentioning something that I believe to be correct and I was going on to say that, rightly or wrongly, the Government said at the time of the Ulster take-over that they were going to have a referendum. The impression that it was being postponed or abandoned was disastrous—again, one would have to live in Northern Ireland to know how this impression built up during the latter end of the summer—and may indirectly have been responsible for people losing their 192 lives this autumn. That is the seriousness of announcing something and then appearing to go back on it. I said I thought that I knew why the words "Border Poll" had now been introduced. It was of course slightly embarrassing for the Government to have a referendum in one part of the United Kingdom while they were refusing it for another. I am not in any way blaming the Northern Ireland Office. I am merely talking about the Government as a whole.
I should like to see a more understanding attitude taken by the Cabinet in general and perhaps by the Prime Minister in particular. How much more sensible it would have been for Mr. Whitelaw to meet Mr. Lynch rather than the I.R.A. Yet a total lack of Cabinet understanding led to this ludicrous decision. I know that it was based partly on what had happened to me. A leading weekly journal in London wrote a piece last May or June saying how unwise Mr. Whitelaw would be to meet Mr. Lynch because he would suffer the same fate as Lord O'Neill had suffered before him. Those noble Lords who have done me the honour of reading my book will see that I held an election immediately after meeting Mr. Lemass and swept back to power with a far greater majority than any of my predecessors. It was a decision taken on a totally false premise. Why is it all right for Mr. Heath to meet Mr. Lynch but not the Secretary of State? How absurd can we get? I have said quite enough about that and, again, I absolve the Northern Ireland Office absolutely and entirely from this, but I am assuming—I will resume my seat immediately if anyone tells me that I am inventing things—that the meeting with the I.R.A. had Cabinet approval.
I digress for a moment in the knowledge that it is the small matters which are so terribly important. According to this morning's radio, a B.E.A. pilot has been suspended for refusing to fly to Aldergrove. It is very hard for the man in the street to know what weight to put on announcements one hears through the media, but if there is a serious threat of an interruption of air services between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, I hope that the Government will look into the matter with the greatest care What industrialist will set up a new plant in Northern Ireland if he cannot fly there 193 from time to time to look at it? At least half the people I sit beside in the 'plane are soldiers who have come over on a short trip to England to see their families. If it is true that this will grow and become a great problem—two years ago I would have been frightened that the Government would have left it to sheer market forces—then I hope that B.U.A. will be encouraged to increase the number of its flights to make up for anything that may happen to B.E.A. It is perfectly true that one can fly to Dublin, as I do when I attend meetings of the National Gallery there, and make one's way to Belfast, but that takes about two and a half hours. It would be as if one wanted to go to Birmingham but I had to fly to London to get there.
This is a very serious matter indeed for the industrial future of the Province, for people keeping in touch between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and I am not even mentioning this on a constitutional basis. One of the attractions of Dublin is the marvellous air service it has to London and many industrialists from America and elsewhere would never have gone to the South of Ireland if it had not been for this good air service between London and Dublin. So, as it were, en passant but nevertheless very importantly, if the Government are worried about this, I hope they will go into it carefully.
Many people have paid a very well deserved tribute to the British Army, whose soldiers have done a marvellous job in the most impossible circumstances, and many of their diplomats are boys of 18. About three weeks ago—the shopping areas in Belfast are of course all closed off with barricades—I was waiting to go through a barricade and a woman aged, I suppose, about 35 was very reluctant to open her shopping bag to a young Welsh Guardsman to see whether she had a bomb inside it. With great diplomacy and tremendous charm—I wish the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, were in his place to try to get me to imitate the Welsh accent—this 18 year old asked her, "Are you not going to open your bag, dear, and smile at me while you do it?" He could easily have started a riot if he had been differently minded. So that we must all pay a wonderful tribute to the British Army for what they have done.
194 Finally, while like everyone else I welcome the Green Paper—unlike the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I have a shrewd idea who drafted the part he liked so much—I am very gloomy about 1973. I only hope to God that I shall be proved wrong.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ LORD MONSON
My Lords, before coming to the Green Paper I should like briefly to state my views on the Border Poll Bill. I do not intend to reiterate my feelings about the unwisdom, in principle, of any referendum on the Border decided on a simple majority basis. It cannot be over-emphasised how inimical it would be to the wellbeing of people, both in the North and in the South of Ireland, if in say 15 years' time as a result of the well known higher Roman Catholic birth rate, coupled with emigration from the South to the North as a result of the provisions on the free movement of labour within the E.E.C., Ulster was voted by a slender majority into the Republic, against the wishes of every Protestant in the Province—something which would be theoretically possible. No responsible political leader on either side of the Border could possibly welcome such a result. Fortunately it looks as if the Government may have come round in some degree to my point of view, for in paragraph 77 of the Green Paper we read:No United Kingdom Government has any wish to impede the realisation of Irish unity, if it were to come about by genuine and freely given mutual agreement and on conditions acceptable to the distinctive communities.That means, I take it, that unity would be welcome only if Protestants—either the majority or a very substantial minority—were in favour as well as the Catholic population. However, the current Bill covers only the first poll, where no such dangers exist, and therefore I can give it my total support.
The present Border Poll Bill I see essentially as a public relations exercise, but a most valuable public relations exercise nevertheless, in that it will demonstrate conclusively to the bemused, bewildered and somewhat brainwashed British people the overwhelming attachment of the Ulster people as a whole to Britain and to the Crown. It will also 195 put the record straight so far as public opinion abroad is concerned: although bearing in mind the 1969 Downing Street declaration, which states that:The United Kingdom Government … affirm that responsibility for affairs in Northern Ireland is entirely a matter of domestic jurisdiction. The United Kingdom Government will take full responsibility for asserting this principle in all international relationships.one must be very wary indeed of any move which tends to internationalise the conflict or to give the impression that foreign Governments have a legitimate say in the conduct of affairs within Northern Ireland, thereby arousing the justifiable suspicions of the majority. The poll will, I believe, substantiate the findings of Professor Rose in the late 1960s to the effect that at least one-third of the Roman Catholic population of Northern Ireland supports the Union. One of the few weaknesses of the Green Paper is that its authors seem too readily to have accepted the S.D.L.P. contention that the word "Catholic" is totally interchangeable with the word "Republican". Ironically enough, this argument is also advanced most assiduously by Mr. William Craig: so one can see how valuable it will be if this proposition can be firmly demolished.
Now to the Green Paper proper. Like most other noble Lords, I agree that the historical summary is fair and well balanced. Inevitably, however, there are some exceptions. On nage 5 mention is made of deliberate policies of discrimination, particularly in relation to housing and public employment, by some, though not all, of the local authorities in Northern Ireland. Thus an uninformed reader of the Green Paper may be excused for thinking that such discrimination, where it existed—and, of course, it was by no means universal or even very prevalent—was the prerogative of Unionist councils, whereas, of course, certain Nationalist councils also practised discrimination in areas which they controlled. On page 9 we read thatthe Northern Ireland Government, after consultation with the United Kingdom Government,introduced internment.
That rather seems to push the blame for any adverse result of internment totally upon the Northern Ireland Gov- 196 ernment, which, of course, could not have introduced internment against the veto of the Westminster Government. After all, internment at the time seemed to be the lesser of two evils to most of the parties responsible, and even in retrospect, probably was. That is a matter of opinion.
Last, but not least, the historical summary tends to play down a little the genuine reforming achievements of Stormont during its last five, six or seven years of power, as cited by the noble Lord Lord Shackleton. For instance, the Ombudsman's clean bill of health is not mentioned at all; but in view of Her Majesty's Government's actions nine months ago I suppose this tactical omission can be justified.
We then come to matters such as the Irish dimension. By "Irish dimension" I take it that the Government believe that while the Republic of Ireland has no legal right to interfere in the affairs of the North, none the less there are very good practical reasons for co-operation between the North, the South, and the United Kingdom as a whole. I do not think that anybody could take exception to that. But there is also a British Isles dimension. If Ireland is a natural geographical unit, so is the British Isles, and I was extremely interested to see the noble Lord. Lord Windlesham, bring that point out in his excellent article in the Guardian to-day.
So far as the proposals for the future administration of the Province are concerned, the annexes at the end of the Green Paper contain valuable and stimulating contributions by a variety of Parties and organisations. I am a little worried about the British tendency to compromise by taking opinions in situations such as this, putting them all in a stewpot, stirring them round and taking out the result of what they hope is the mean or the average. One must remember, that however valid and intelligent the contributions of some of the smaller Parties are, they do not command a great deal of electoral support. Therefore, if some proposal based on the average opinion is to be arrived at, the greater weight ought to be given to the Unionists' contribution, representing as they do the majority of voters in the Province.
197 I have not time to go too far into the more specific proposals for the future administration, but there seem to be a couple of points worth making. There does not appear to be any moral obligation to offer all large but permanent minorities a share in a Coalition Government (wherever in the world this may be), otherwise one would have to press for the inclusion of Communists in the Italian Cabinet and of non-Socialist Parties in the Swedish one. Indeed, it is worth noting that in 1970 even the S.D.L.P. did not ask for a share in government in this way. But, in the case of Northern Ireland there seem to be good practical reasons for doing so. It is important, if the White Paper eventually puts forward such proposals, to ensure that it is done on a practical and not on a moral basis. This is purely pragmatic. It will produce perhaps a greater sense of responsibility on the part of some of the wilder people in a minority, and if things go wrong it will give the voters for the minority somebody to belabour other than the ruling Unionist Party, which is as it should be. Things always do go wrong, and if one Government is in power continuously the blame for every single thing gets attributed to that Party and that Party alone. I believe that if some sort of Coalition Government comes into being, a prerequisite should be that every candidate for office accepts the existing Constitution and acknowledges the Queen as Head of State. I know that certain noble Lords feel otherwise, but I suggest that not to stipulate this is tantamount to suggesting the inclusion of Arab nationalists in the Israeli Government.
The Green Paper knocks firmly on the head any idea of independence for Ulster, on the grounds of small population, inadequate resources and industry and, of course, political divisions leading to inherent instability. That may be so, but it comes strangely from a Government who, as I understand it, intend shortly to grant full independence to the Bahamas, a group of islands with one-ninth of Ulster's population, far fewer natural resources, absolutely and per capita, and almost as divided politically. It is also worth noting that at the present time there are no fewer than 24 independent countries who are full voting members of the United Nations 198 with a population smaller than that of Northern Ireland.
None of this is to argue in favour of independence. Of course, economically independence would lead to a sharp fall in the standard of living, and it could not be achieved without the hiving off of certain Republican border areas. But it seems to indicate that any future Government of the Province ought to have, to some extent, the dignity and the powers, including some security powers, appropriate to a semi-autonomous province of this size. If it is felt that the Northern Ireland people cannot be trusted to govern themselves in his way, then I should think that rather than accept a solution of county council status, with inadequate representation at Westminster, they would do far better to opt for total integration into the United Kingdom, with full representation at Westminster and no greater degree of administrative or legislative autonomy than Scotland. In an era that favours devolution, this may not be the ideal solution administratively, but it possesses one enormous advantage: within the wider context of Britain as a whole neither community need ever again fear domination by the other.
I have one final point to make. The noble Earl, Lord Enniskillen, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, have both in their different ways expressed apprehension of the consequences of the worries felt by the majority—the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, after the publication of the White Paper. The noble Earl, Lord Enniskillen, said that there was a feeling of abandonment. I believe that certain legislative and administrative actions could help. I cannot understand the retention of the anomalous and unreciprocated right of Southern Irishmen to vote in British General Elections, with consequent possible influence upon political policies. More important, perhaps, than this is the change in publicly expressed attitudes towards the loyal people—and I do not use that word in any way in an extremist sense, because it seems to have become extremist for some reason recently.
I should like, with some trepidation to quote from Mr. Enoch Powell, but I would emphasise to your Lordships that many other people have arrived quite 199 independently at the same conclusion as he has on this matter. He writes:Britain has a genius for hostility to her friends. The world is not so overcrowded with well-wishers that Britain can afford to disembarrass herself of those who are more than friends, who claim and demand to be part and parcel and stand and fall with the rest of us. Yet the official sounds which emanate from Britain bear no resemblance to a natural partiality of a country for its own people. All too often they bear the evident marks of reluctance and half-heartedness.Far be it from me, speaking from these Benches, to try to suggest to noble Lords on my left and on my right what they might do, but it seems to me that though the Conservative and Unionist Party has no absolute obligation to support the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland as such because it is a separate organisation, one might expect support for the actual Union; not merely indifference, or a lukewarm feeling, but positive approbation, and these sentiments have not been expressed publicly recently in any way. As to the Labour Party, one might expect a slightly greater support for the pro-Union Northern Ireland Labour Party in preference to the pro-Republican S.D.L.P. I know that many people in the Labour Party give such support, but not the majority, I suspect. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, praised the leading article in the Guardian on Monday. I was very interested to hear that, because if I am right it ended by criticising Mr. Harold Wilson's obsessive hostility towards the Protestants in Northern Ireland. Just like anybody else in this House, I want equal justice for every single person in the North of Ireland, and prosperity for all. But over and above that I believe that there ought to be just that little extra reciprocal loyalty towards those who are themselves loyal to Britain.
§ 5.47 p.m.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I should like to open my remarks by joining those other noble Lords who have congratulated the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the production of the Green Paper. He has achieved the near impossible by making it almost compulsive reading, and I find myself full of admiration not only for its contents but also for its presentation.
In listening to the course of the debate this afternoon, I have been most 200 impressed by the encouraging and hopeful attitude that so many noble Lords have taken, and by the fact that they have been looking to the future. The problem of Ulster and of Anglo-Irish relations as a whole has been bedevilled by the past; for generations, even for centuries, it has been bedevilled by the past. All the jokes saying that when you talk about Ireland you go back to Strongbow are bad jokes, because they are true. But at least this afternoon noble Lords have turned from the past and looked to the future. Of course there are those on both sides of the Border, both in the Republic and in Ulster, who not only cannot, but are determined not to forget the past. They will not forget it, and are determined to do all in their power to see that nobody will forget it. It is in their interests to keep the enmities of the past, the frictions of the past, alive for their own narrow ends. Therefore, even if one should so wish, it is not possible to forget the pact in Ireland. What is vitally important is that we should not be deterred by it.
I feel that at this moment there are three circumstances prevailing at the same time which may, with luck, lead to a turn for the better, not only for the stricken Province of Ulster but for the whole field of Anglo-Irish relations. The first of those circumstances is the publication of the Green Paper itself. To my mind not the least important of the features of that Green Paper is its constant reiteration on almost every page, and in almost every section, of this Government's pledge that Ulster will remain part of the United Kingdom so long as that is the wish of the majority of the population of Ulster. One would think that that no longer needed saying; but it does because that fear, or the pretence of that fear, is the overruling factor in the thinking of the Protestant majority, the Unionist majority, in the Province of Ulster. You hear it constantly. All the time there is this pathological fear of engulfment by the Republic. So this reiteration again and again in the Green Paper is of great value.
It is of added value when taken in connection with the statements, speeches, and remarks made by Mr. Lynch in recent months. I should like to quote one sentence from a speech he delivered on November 4 in Cork, when talking of 201 relations between the Republic and Ulster. He said:True peace cannot come from attempts by any one community to coerce another into expressing a loyalty which it does not feel.You cannot have it plainer than that. Mr. Lynch has spelt it out in clear words of one syllable, that it is useless for the Republic to try and coerce the people of Ulster into joining the Republic.
The truth is that no thinking person, no rational being in the Republic, wants to have anything to do with Ulster in its present state. Any idea of coercing it is anathema to Mr. Lynch, and indeed to Fine Gael and the Irish Labour Party. I stress this because it is of paramount importance; the Unionists and Protestants in Ulster need have no fear that they are in danger of being sold down the river into a unified Ireland. There is not one fragment of justification for such fears. If the Unionists continue to express such fears, it can only be that they wish to maintain those fears, to fan those fears, in their own narrow sectional interests. That is the first circumstance: the reiteration of British pledges that Ulster shall remain part of the United Kingdom. The clear statement by Mr. Lynch that the Republic has no intention, and no wish, to coerce Ulster into the Republic, must mean that Ulster Unionists, and all members of the community in Ulster, know that for the foreseeable future Ulster will remain part of the United Kingdom.
The second circumstance is Mr. Lynch's own actions in recent days. He has not only arrested and got a conviction against Mr. MacStiofain, but he has also passed legislation—legislation which must be very distasteful to any democratic Government—that will enable him to take more effective action against members of the I.R.A. within the Republic. It cannot have been easy, and I think for any democrat it must be profoundly distasteful. I can imagine Members of another place, and indeed of this House on all sides of the House, expressing very grave disfavour of such legislation were it to be passed in this country. Let us give him full credit for his courage and determination to root out the I.R.A. Some may say that he has acted dilatorily, and that he should have taken these steps before. I would say to those people that it is only fair that one should look 202 at Mr. Lynch's own position, and that of his Party. He is the leader of Fianna Fáil; they are the legitimate descendants of the old anti-treaty Party in the Republic. It is their most forceful claim that Ireland should be united.
Now noble Lords may disagree with that end, but for someone living in the Republic of Ireland, or indeed any part of Ireland, a unified Ireland is no dishonourable end. If the ends of the Scottish Nationalists or the Welsh Nationalists were to be achieved, I think that there would be noble Lords in all parts of this House who would wish to see the reunification of the United Kingdom as soon as possible. The end of a united Ireland, particularly for one who lives within the Republic, is a wholly honourable end. The means are of course a different matter, and to use the means of the gun, and terror, and the I.R.A. to achieve that aim, is totally dishonourable and is indeed dastardly. By his actions Mr. Lynch has shown that he is no longer prepared to suffer the actions of these people. He knows that by every murder they commit they only do more harm to the cause which he holds so dear, and has every right to hold dear, that of a united Ireland. So in judging Mr. Lynch we must remember who he is and what his Party stands for, and that their wish to see a united, prosperous, peaceful Ireland is one that is wholly honourable.
The third circumstance that has taken place is the joint entry at the same time of ourselves and the Republic into the enlarged European Economic Community. It is impossible to foresee how the Community will develop, and therefore it is impossible to foresee with any accuracy how much closer it will bring the Republic and the United Kingdom. It can be said with confidence, however, that being joint members of the new Community will tend to bring our two countries together rather than to divide them. For that reason, if for no other reason—and there are many other reasons for welcoming our entry into the Community—this can be a very beneficial side effect of our entry, that economic reasons will tend to draw our two countries, through our joint membership of the Community, closer together.
This brings me to a point that causes me some concern; that is the channels of communication between the United 203 Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. We should be friendly neighbours. We are certainly neighbours, and except for the vexed and deeply distressing problem of Ulster we have every reason to be friends. In general principle we have the same way of life and the same attitude to the world's problems. We must face the fact that Ulster is of concern to both countries. Constitutionally it is part of the United Kingdom, and will remain so until the majority there wish otherwise, but geographically it is part of Ireland. For anyone in the North, and the Unionists in particular, to pretend that the affair of Ulster is no concern of the Republic, is to pretend that atlases do not exist. You have only to look at the map of Great Britain to see there, in one island, Ulster and the Republic. They are two different States, but bound together by the physical factors of the globe.
I hope that certainly nobody in this House, or indeed in Ulster, will continue to take the narrow, ostrich-like attitude that what goes on in Ulster is of no concern to the Republic. Of course it is, and it must be. It is like saying that as Wales and Scotland are separate countries their concerns should not be ours. No one for a moment would put forward such an impossible hypothesis.
A week or two ago I should have been far more critical than I am now of the channels of communication between ourselves and the Republic, because since then Mr. Lynch has been over to this country, and has met and talked with our Prime Minister and with our Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. That was a very timely visit. Previously, the only Ministerial contacts between the two countries had been very brief meetings between the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach in Paris and in Munich—both occasions when the two men had far more pressing matters on their minds. So I warmly welcome last week's visit, though I do not want it to become an isolated example of consultation between the two countries.
I know that we have an Ambassador in Dublin, and I also know from firsthand experience how admirably he fulfils his task. But in view of the vital importance of Anglo-Irish relations 204 to-day, because of the common problem to be solved by two friendly neighbours, the channel of communication should be as open and as much used as possible. I should like Her Majesty's Government to give active consideration to the appointment of an existing Minister in the Foreign Office to have special responsibility towards the Irish Republic. The importance of the Irish question is as great as it ever was, if not greater, and this should be the first priority of a Minister in the Foreign Office.
I was in warm support of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, when he asked why Mr. Whitelaw did not go to see Mr. Lynch. But I was very surprised that the noble Lord did not appear to know the answer. The reason why Mr. Whitelaw cannot go to see Mr. Lynch is for fear of offending Unionist Protestant opinion in Ulster. That is the sole reason, and I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, would agree with my diagnosis. But I agree with the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, that it is the greatest possible pity that Mr. Whitelaw cannot visit Mr. Lynch and Dr. Hillery, because that would do a great deal of good. I should like to see a channel opened up between Dublin and Belfast, so that at both official and Ministerial levels there can be consultation between the two. I do not think that the objections put forward by the Unionist Party in Ulster should deter Her Majesty's Government from taking such a step.
I come back to the point with which I fear I weary the House. It has been clearly shown, beyond any shadow of doubt, that the Unionists have nothing to fear from the Republic at the moment. Therefore they cannot possibly object to members of the United Kingdom Government visiting Dublin, to members of Mr. Whitelaw's office visiting Dublin, to Mr. Whitelaw visiting Dublin, or to visits by Ministers from Dublin. If fear is the only reason—and I cannot think of any other reason—for this lack of communication between the Republic and Ulster. I feel that it should be disregarded. So I wish to emphasise that if we are to solve this problem to the satisfaction of all parties concerned, there should be greater communication between the Republic and the United Kingdom, both 205 that part of the United Kingdom Government which is based in Belfast and that part of it which is based in London.
I am not ashamed to say that I am one of those who would like to see a United Ireland—a "new Ireland", as the Irish choose to call it—but I fear that I shall not live to see the day. As the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, said, we have a long haul ahead of us. I hesitate very much to misquote Shakespeare in your Lordships' House, particularly under the very eye of the Provost of my Alma Mater, but Shakespeare wrote:There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood".This is not the flood tide of the unification of Ireland. The tide of a united Ireland is on the ebb. It has been on the ebb for many years and is now a very long way out. But it is just possible that the combination of these circumstances—the publication of the Green Paper; Mr. Lynch's statement that he has no wish to see Ulster united with the Republic, except at the express voluntary wish of the majority of the people of Ulster; the steps which Mr. Lynch has taken against the I.R.A., and the fact that we are both about to join the European Economic Community—could prove to be the turning of the tide. One can only hope that the tide does turn; but, as I said, at the moment it is a very long way out. Nevertheless, I refuse to share the depression of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, because I think there is a chance that the tide may be on the turn.
I believe it right that one day there should be a united Ireland. I believe in that for two reasons. The first is that it is surely logical that a Province which contains 35 per cent. of the population of an island should be part of that island State, rather than part of a State which is physically divided by a sea and of which, population-wise, it represents only 2.5 per cent. Those are the proportions. Ulster represents 35 per cent. of the whole population of Ireland, and 2.5 per cent. of the population of the United Kingdom. The people of Ulster would have a far greater say in that country's affairs than the very small say which they can have in Britain's affairs. But I put that reason second. My first and primary reason for wishing that one day—but not, alas! in my lifetime—there will be a united 206 Ireland is that the cause of Irish unity is a just and honourable one, and until it is met there will be no lasting peace in that troubled community. I would ask the people of Ulster: Do you really want your sons, your grandsons, your great-grandsons to have to go through a time similar to that which you have been living through during the last four years? Is it conceivable that any sane citizen could want to see repeated what has happened in the last four years, and what happened in 1920—to look back at the whole history of Anglo-Irish relations?
While Ireland remains divided, it will remain a running sore. We sincerely hope that we are now seeing the decline of terrorism in the Province, and that the publication of the White Paper and the enactment of legislation to enforce its proposals will mean a new and happier era in the affairs of Ulster. You will never finally put down the cause of Irish unity, and it is a delusion to think that you will, but those who believe in it, as I do, must hasten slowly. We can do far more harm by acting too quickly than by going too steadily. Let us not lose sight of the aim, but let us realise how slow it will be. But I say, with all the conviction that I can command, that until there is a united Ireland that country will be torn and Ulster will suffer the kind of times, the kind of unspeakable horrors, which it has been suffering for the last four years. I would ask all those who live in the Province to think not of themselves, but of the lives they want their children, their children's children and, in turn, their children's children to live in, and to take what steps they can to see that the horrors of the last four years will not recur for future generations.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ LORD LYELL
My Lords, I believe that the Green Paper has provided a very great deal of constructive material for discussion between all sections of the community in Northern Ireland, and there is a very refreshing emphasis on looking forward towards a settlement rather than examining past events and their causes. I believe that the overriding aspect of the Green Paper is the continual reiteration that Northern Ireland is and will remain an integral part of the United Kingdom for as long as the Parliament of Northern 207 Ireland so wishes. But it can be understood, I think, that there are, and have been, fears over this guarantee, especially when Stormont was suspended earlier this year. Nevertheless, I believe these fears to be groundless, since the Green Paper makes great play—and, indeed, it is an important point in its composition—of expressing the United Kingdom's interest in the North, and in achieving a reasonable and workable settlement there.
Paragraph 74 of the Paper, under the heading "The United Kingdom Interest", sets out the fact that, so long as Northern Ireland remains in the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom Parliament must be the sovereign authority over Northern Ireland as a whole; and I feel that much of the discontent felt by Unionists in the North of Ireland stems both from a failure to appreciate this point and also from confusion as to the powers of Westminster and the powers of Stormont. But paragraph 75 of the Paper continues and makes the somewhat controversial, and possibly rather forthright, statement that it is not for Northern Ireland alone to determine how it shall be governed as a part of the United Kingdom. Northern Irish insistence on membership of the United Kingdom carries with it, I believe, the obligation to accept the United Kingdom Parliament as the sovereign authority, and we must hope that any discussions about new political institutions there will contain points to remedy the confusion about responsibilities. I think that probably the confusion is not felt only in Northern Ireland, because until one reads the Green Paper there is a considerable element of doubt as to what is a Parliament, an Assembly or a Convention, and the relevant powers they should have.
I believe also that Northern Ireland, as a part of the United Kingdom, has a right to ask for aid whenever and wherever it might be needed. I think such aid has been given very freely, certainly within the last three years, in an attempt to restore law and order; but certainly over the last 50 years much aid has, I think, been given to foster economic development in the North. I think it is very understandable to find the anger felt by many people in Northern Ireland, and especially among Unionists, 208 over direct rule. I come from Scotland, and we have direct rule from Westminster; and I do not think that necessarily we are any worse off for that, although divergent opinions are held on this matter. Anyhow, I hope that direct rule will provide a breathing space so that everyone in Northern Ireland, of whatever persuasion, can put forward some constructive ideas and can consider and reflect on what kind of institutions will work there. The United Kingdom Parliament, I believe, can only hold a watching brief, and should be available to amend, to propose any new ideas or to offer possible solutions, and to attempt to settle the more contentious problems which will arise in such discussions.
But there is a danger that both communities in Northern Ireland will continue to believe what they want to believe. I think the Loyalists still continue to believe that the United Kingdom Parliament will somehow "sell them down the river". They also appear to believe that direct rule is the beginning of the end; and that after one year has elapsed Stormont will be allowed to continue as it has for the last 50 years. I believe the Catholics are in danger of thinking that Eire both wants to, and is able to, help them achieve unity by force; but the Catholics have also seen the reforms they achieved in 1968 by somewhat mild marches and other civil disobedience campaigns, and there is a danger that they may press more firmly and believe that they can ultimately achieve unification. But I am afraid I do not believe that either community's fears or inflated hopes will come to pass so long as the United Kingdom Parliament takes its responsibilities and continues its attempt to bring about an atmosphere of calm and peace. The recent events in Dublin have given much more solid evidence that the Eire Government at last feels free to try to eliminate the I.R.A. and other allied terrorists, but I am afraid we have yet to see the will carried through into action. We must all hope that the Eire Government will help the discussions on the Green Paper by assuring the Catholics in the North that their future lies there, and that their best interests will be served by full discussion and participation in political life there.
There is also the great danger that discussions on the Green Paper may be 209 hampered by continuing violence and intimidation. I fear that the discussions could be interrupted or even boycotted, but I think every human effort must be made to continue them. The overriding aims of the Green Paper and the subsequent discussions must be to reconcile the communities in Northern Ireland, and also to find political institutions which will be both reasonable and workable. The solutions set out in the Green Paper will provide some kind of framework for discussion to achieve an Assembly, a Convention or a Council, but this has to be determined in the end. I believe the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government should be to set up all and any institutions which will allow all sections of the community in Northern Ireland to air reasonable grievances and to obtain some reasonable amount of satisfaction. Whatever happens, we in the United Kingdom Parliament, taking our responsibilities as they are, must never allow the situation to build up as it did between 1966 and 1969, whereby demagogues of any kind could increase the appalling tensions, pressures and hatred which burst out in the latter part of 1968, which finally erupted into the lamentable events of August, 1969, and which have continued with more or less unabated terrorism.
In conclusion, I should like to express my admiration for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, together with my noble friend the Minister, who is present today, in their readiness to accept what I think will be a long and arduous task. Nevertheless, I believe that the Green Paper provides a necessary starting point for discussion which, should everybody in Northern Ireland desire to work together, offers an excellent hope for a long-term settlement.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I must begin my remarks by saying how very much I appreciated what was said by the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, and how very pleased I was to hear him speak in favour of the eventual unification of Ireland. He said he thought that this particular tide was at present on the ebb, but I cannot help feeling that if the moment has come when he, a former Minister of the Crown, can stand up in your Lordships' House and say that that is what he would like to see, then there 210 must be far greater hope that the tide is on the flood and that at some date, I hope in his lifetime and mine (I think he is perhaps a year older than I am), we may see this event occur. But I will return to that matter later in my remarks.
My Lords, the Green Paper, which in general I welcome, starts off with what it calls the historical background; and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, in his article in the Guardian to-day, which I hope all noble Lords have read, says at an early stage:In Ireland itself it is to history that those interested in explanations most readily resort.This gives me a pretext for going back, not as far as Strongbow, which the noble Duke seemed to think might be necessary, but further back than Lord Windlesham does in his article and further back than the Green Paper, to the prime cause of all the troubles in the Province to-day: the plantation of Ulster. This event is still relevant to-day although it took place at the start of the 18th Century. Because the ancient Province of Ulster was the most tumultuous, the most revolutionary, it had to be suppressed; and this was done by a plantation of large numbers of men and women from Scotland and Northern England who were to hold that Province in their domination and who, because the Reformation had taken place, were Protestants, were Methodists, were Presbyterians and so on. They were put there to dominate that country; and dominate it they did for 200 years or more.
This accounts for a fact that we must not lose sight of: that this is not, and never has been, a religious problem. For that historical reason, those who support union with Great Britain are for the most part Protestants because they are descendants of those "planted"; and those who seek reunification with the Republic of Ireland are Catholics because they are descendants of those whom it was intended to dominate when these North British and Scots families were brought in at that time in history. So in my opinion the principal evil, and the act that is principally and originally responsible for the troubles in the North to-day, is the plantation.
To come to a more modern age as quickly as I can, the next most serious 211 mistake was Partition. In the Home Rule Act which became law in 1914 there was never any question of Partition. But the British Government yielded to the pressures of the time and agreed that those areas in the North-East of Ireland where for historical reasons there was a predominantly Protestant population should not be included in the Irish Free State, as it was to become.
The next disaster was the Boundary Commission. It had been firmly agreed that a Boundary Commission should sit, should consider the details of the Border and should make recommendations so that the boundary should be drawn,in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants so far as may be compatible with economic and geographical conditions.It had certainly been supposed by the Irish delegates, by the Irish negotiators of the Treaty, that this would result in a complete redrawing of the Border in which large areas of the Six Counties where there was most certainly a Catholic majority would be awarded to the Irish Free State. I will not go into the historical details of that disastrous Commission, but it ended (and the Free State Government were forced to accept it; they had no alternative) without recommendations being made. The Border has never been altered; the Border is still in the form in which it was, its provisional form, with the Six Counties in the North-East where the Protestant population had been concentrated.
One of the serious problems that arose as a result was that there was then a substantial minority in the North of Ireland opposed to Union with the South. If the Boundary Commission had done its job and those areas where there was a Catholic majority had been awarded to the Irish Free State, the political Parties would have developed in the North, as they have developed in the Republic, along orthodox lines; because there would not have been sufficient people to whom the most important thing in political life was the question of Union. So it is—and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, regretted this—that the ordinary working people in the North do not have a political life, do not consider Socialism as an aim of importance, because the question of Union with Britain is an overriding one.
212 When I come to consider what can be called the present troubles in the Six Counties there are one or two things that I feel your Lordships must remember. I am glad that the Green Paper accepts that all troubles in the North began not with Catholic (or shall I say?) nationalist violence, but with violence on the part of what I will call the loyalist side. For 200 years the Catholic people have been repressed, they have been discriminated against and denied civil rights; and from time to time they have demonstrated and have tried to improve that position. The present troubles started when the Civil Rights organisation began to demonstrate, and to demonstrate peacefully, for those rights which they should have had all along but which they did not have. Let it not be forgotten that the violence was started—and this is admitted in the Green Paper—by the Unionists who were opposed to the Civil Rights marchers' and members' making this protest. It was because the Catholic minority were suffering injustice and loss that the British Army was brought to the North; and, again as stated in the Green Paper, it was to protect the Catholics from the loyalists that the British Army were there. Their first serious confrontation, which is mentioned in paragraph 22 of the Green Paper, was with Unionist forces. It was only when violence had started in that way that the I.R.A., who have always been men of violence, were able to command enough support to use violence, as they would have put it, in defence of the civil population.
My Lords, I want to speak of what I would call, as a result of I.R.A. intervention, the nationalist's dilemma. Steps have been taken over the last four years to improve the rights of the minority, to give more civil rights to the minority; and there has been a move, as I indicated in my opening remarks, towards the reunification of Ireland. These moves, I would say, can be attributed to what the I.R.A. have done in the Six Counties. I am sure that if the I.R.A. had not intervened, if violence had not been used, we should not now see these concessions being made, and we should not feel that reunification was any closer. So we have a situation where the I.R.A. are succeeding to some extent in achieving those very aims that nationalists, 213 among whom I count myself, would like to see, but by means which we completely despise, by means which we deplore, by violence which appals us. Your Lordships must appreciate that this is a dilemma, when the ends which they are bringing closer are those that we most desire.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, is the noble Lord seriously saying that reunification is more likely now than before the violence started?
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
Yes, my Lords; I am. I would say that until 1968 reunification could not have been even suggested in your Lordships' House and could never have been considered in the Green Paper as a possible course of action; it would never have been proposed by anybody.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord again, he is quite wrong: it has been proposed any number of times in your Lordships' House.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, if it has been proposed in this House before 1968, I maintain that it has never been proposed with as much force. It has become respectable; it is something that has to be seriously considered and debated; and until the present trouble this was not the case. We can have serious advocacy of it and it is something that can be seen as an end to be achieved. I think that this has to be seen as the result of what has happened in the North in the last four years.
My Lords, I turn to the question of the Border poll. I am opposed to it. My noble friend Lord Longford has already mentioned that it is a useless exercise, because the result is already quite certainly known, and it is, as he described it, a farce. The majority of the Six Counties was carefully built-in at the time of Partition. This was the basis upon which Partition was decided upon, so that there would always be about a two-thirds to one-third majority in favour of the Union. This fact does not mean that those of us who look for reunification and hope for it at some future date—I know that it cannot happen tomorrow—withdraw our claim, because we say that Partition should never have 214 taken place; that it was an unjust settlement; that the terms agreed were never fulfilled; that the Boundary Commission never made the recommendation. We say that Partition was wrong and that the question of the future of Ireland should be decided by the whole Irish people. Therefore, even if, as is probable, the Border poll is boycotted by a great majority of the Nationalist people and there is a substantial majority in favour of retaining the link with Britain, this does not diminish by one iota the belief of the Republic that a United Ireland must be sought, and will come, as I hope, within the lives of many of your Lordships.
The Border poll is divisive. It will lead to violence. It will lead to a further renewed polarisation of the people, because it is making extremists of them all. The last thing we want is extremists. Extremists have caused all the problems. Here the voter is faced with the two diametric opposites about which we have had all the trouble; namely, union with the United Kingdom or union with the Republic of Ireland. Surely all the efforts that should be made should be towards having as many moderates as possible in the middle. But this is going to drive the two sides into opposite camps, with much waving of flags and beating of drums, just at the time when there is a hope that some moderation is going to take place.
What is moderate opinion going to think when they see these two stark questions placed on their voting paper?—and it is moderate opinion that should be encouraged. They will look at the questions and say: "Well, it all depends. What is going to happen to Stormont? Is Stormont going to return? What is going to happen to the Constitution of the Republic? Is that going to be changed"—not only Article 44, but Article 2 and other Articles in the Constitution. They are going to say: "Well, if there is reunification with Ireland, will there be divorce? Will contraceptives be available? Will the new State be inside the Commonwealth? And, above all, when is this reunification foreseen as taking place: is it immediate, in five years' time or ten years' time?" All these questions are left unanswered because we have not had a Government White Paper yet. So the person who 215 votes one way or the other is buying a pig-in-a-poke. He does not know what he is voting for. He does not know what conditions will obtain in the Republic or the Six Counties in the immediate or the less immediate future. It is certainly not by a sudden transfer, without any conditions or changes to the Republic of Ireland, the sudden union with the Republic of Ireland, that reunification will ever take place.
The Government make it clear in the Green Paper that there are other ways in which reunification might eventually take place, and these are set out on page 19. I would draw the attention of your Lordships particularly to paragraph 42(c), which says:To admit the possibility of change, and also to provide specific machinery by which it could be achieved in an orderly way … subject to the consent of the people of Northern Ireland as expressed by plebiscite before advancing from one stage to another.With that I should be in absolute agreement: that there should be a gradual process of change from one situation to another. But it appears that although this is hut a Green Paper, the Government have already decided that it is position (b) that they should follow, and that this should be in the form of what they call a "neutral declaration";It is for Northern Ireland to make up its mind what it wishes to do, but the United Kingdom Government would not stand in the way in the event of a wish for change.Yet, as I have already indicated, it is a gradual transfer from one situation to another that should be sought.
The Government also say in the Green Paper, in paragraph 40, that there cannot, as it were, be any transitional steps, and one of the reasons they give is thatthe exponents of a united Ireland all demand a unity of the island and show no sign of settling for less".Yet earlier in the same paragraph we have them telling us that the S.D.L.P., who are indeed exponents of a united Ireland, seek exactly a half-way house of that kind in the form of a condominium of one kind or another.
I leave your Lordships—and I regret that I have spoken longer than I had intended—with my own conviction that the problem must be seen not in terms of black and white but in terms of some middle course that will have to be arrived 216 at, whether there is a condominium, some kind of federal solution, or whether the future State of Ireland will be inside or outside the Commonwealth. I think the poll as at present envisaged will do nothing but harm and I hope that even at this late stage the Government will reconsider, if not the holding of it, at least the holding of it in the near future.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he say whether he thinks it substantiates or destroys his case that we are nearer to unification, or at any rate to discussing reasonably Bills of Right, than we were some time ago. I might tell him from personal experience—because it was not a particularly happy one—that a very short time ago the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, put up a proposition to the House; the noble Earl, Lord Longford, was a teller, and I was the only member of your Lordships' house to go into the noble Lord's lobby.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I find that a difficult question to answer; but as reunification certainly will not take place within the next few years I would hope that in the interval the lot of the minority will be made as comfortable as possible by whatever Bills of Rights or other safeguards it may be found possible to introduce.
§ 6.42 p.m.
My Lords, I was much impressed—indeed, I was filled with admiration—for the sensitive and understanding way in which the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, introduced to us the Green Paper, The Future of Northern Ireland. I think this is the first occasion on which I have been privileged to participate in a debate when the noble Lord has been the principal Government Front-Bench speaker, but I see him from time to time in Northern Ireland and I believe that the warmest and highest tribute should be paid to the noble Lord and his colleagues, under the leadership of Mr. Whitelaw, for the way in which they are discharging an unspeakably difficult, unenviable, thankless and very sensitive task. I am sure that all sensible, moderate, reasonable 217 and intelligent people—people like myself!—will agree. We have observed how men of small stature have sniped at them, and we have also observed that they have been big enough and of sufficient calibre that the sniping has simply bounced off again, like water off a duck's back. I regret that I have not had an opportunity of reading the noble Lord's article in the Guardian because I have been travelling steadily all day, but I look forward to reading it this evening.
I should like to refer to just one aspect of this wide and complex problem; that is, the Border poll. It was on September 22, 1971, that I was so presumptions as to recommend that such a poll should be undertaken; and the noble Lord, Lord Monson, made the same recommendation. At that time I felt that there were so many myths and so much nonsense talked abroad, and the Border had bedevilled politics in Ireland, both North and South, for so long, that something like this might clear the air. I must confess that, though the thought had crossed my mind, I had not been able to foretell what Nationalist and Republican reaction to such a poll, plebiscite or referendum would be.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, has described it quite well. When I use terms like "Nationalist" or "Republican" these are the best words I can think of. To speak of "Roman Catholic" would be completely wrong; to say "anti-Unionist" is also wrong, because there are many people who are anti-Unionist but who are still in favour of the Union of Northern Ireland with the United Kingdom. But the attitude of the Nationalist and the Republican, as I am sure your Lordships know, is that they are not in favour of this poll. For one thing, of course, they know, as the noble Lord, Lord Kilbraken, has said that in Northern Ireland the result is more or less a foregone conclusion: there will be a substantial majority in favour of union with the United Kingdom rather than, in the words of the Bill, to have…Northern Ireland … joined with the Republic of Ireland, outside the United Kingdom.Now the approach of the Nationalists and Republicans represents a perfectly reasonable aspiration and one they are perfectly entitled to have, provided they 218 pursue it in a democratic manner rather than by violence.
Your Lordships have probably heard that recently there has been quite a hit a rumbling to the effect that Republican leaders are urging their followers to boycott the proposed Border poll. I believe that as we approach the date of that poll, whenever it may be, this campaign to induce Republicans and Nationalists to boycott it will increase. The reasons are, first, that they disapprove of it, and, second, that they think it is pointless and no more meaningful than holding an election in a gerrymandered constituency. They will try by means of this boycott to make the poll meaningless. What they say they would be prepared to accept and participate in would be a 32-county poll (in other words, an opinion poll taken throughout the whole of Ireland) because, they say, taking it in the North of Ireland alone is taking it in an artificially created corner of Ireland where there is a built-in Unionist majority, so that it is as useful as holding an election in a constituency where there is only one candidate. Republican leaders have in fact urged that there should be a similar referendum or poll in the South on the same day as Her Majesty's Government arrange the poll in the North. I think that this is a good idea, and I am in favour of it.
My suggestion is that Her Majesty's Government should approach Mr. Lynch—because after all it is up to him and his Government as to what happens in the 26 counties; it is not something within the jurisdiction of your Lordships' House—and say to him that if he would like to conduct a poll with identical questions on the same day, we should not only acquiesce but actually welcome it; but that we should welcome it on one condition only, that there should be a third question following the other two. Your Lordships have this brief Bill in front of you. After the first two questions I would suggest a third (though the drafting of it would need careful consideration), reading something like this:Do you think that Northern Ireland should be joined with the Republic of Ireland outside the United Kingdom if the answers to the above two questions reveal that the majority in the Six Counties do not so desire?You will note that I say "Six Counties": one has to know the language over these things.
219 My Lords, to consider the significance of this matter, the answer to that question would be very much more interesting and illuminating than the answer to the first two questions. After all we know that there is going to be a substantial majority in the North in favour of maintaining the link with the United Kingdom. If the referendum were held in the South (which I am suggesting) we know that there would be a very substantial majority there that Northern Ireland, the Six Counties, should be joined with the existing twenty-six counties to make a thirty-two-county republic. What would be quite interesting would be to know how many people in the North who would vote in favour of joining the South felt that the North should be joined to the South against the wishes of the majority. But what would be far more interesting, and of great significance, would be to know how many people in the South felt that the North should be joined to them against the consent of the majority in the North.
To consider the consequences of such a step it would obviously not be the wish of Her Majesty's Government to embarrass Mr. Lynch. Some justifiable and proper compliments have been paid to him in this House this afternoon. Mr. Lynch is in a difficult position; he has to play his cards carefully. In the future we may well look back and say, "Thank Heaven we have a person of such tact and sensitivity to handle things!" Therefore the first decision that Mr. Lynch would have to make, if he were approached along these lines, would be whether to accept or to decline this suggestion. I do not see any reason why he should decline. He might well accept. But so as not to embarrass him, no doubt Her Majesty's Goverment would make the approach through confidential diplomatic channels rather than shouting at him from public platforms.
Supposing Mr. Lynch consented to do this, would the result be likely to embarrass him? I think it is most unlikely, because my experience is that most people in the South of Ireland, both Protestants and Roman Catholics, are proud to belong to the Republic of Ireland. They would not desire to be reunited with the United Kingdom. In other words, they would not want a reversion to the pre-1920 220 situation. But at the same time they do not want a reluctant million or more people in the North to be bulldozed on top of them. All they want is to be left to live in peace. If the majority in the North want to remain united with Great Britain, and ultimately to be governed from Westminster, all right, let them get on with it. But for Heaven's sake! keep quiet about it. It would be very interesting to see how many people in the South shared the view which is held by many people in Great Britain, by many of your Lordships, by myself, and by Mr. Lynch and his colleagues, that they would not welcome a forced reunification of Ireland. If the majority in the North desire it, that is excellent. If they do not, there is no point in having a shot-gun marriage. So there is no reason why Mr. Lynch should be embarrassed by that. If it turned out that a substantial majority in the South agreed that the North should not be bulldozed in against their will, it would do much to strengthen the hand of Mr. Lynch, because every speech and statement of his that I have read in recent years on the subject of the Border is that he wants reunification by consent. Consent has been the keynote of everything that he has said.
Secondly, if such a majority were revealed in the entire 32-county Ireland, it would reveal that the I.R.A. had no mandate whatever from the people as a whole because it is only the I.R.A. and the extremist Republicans who say that the North ought to be bulldozed into the South. If the people rejected that solution it would cut a lot of ground from under the feet of the terrorists and the extremists. Thirdly, it would take the wind out of the sails of those whose desire is to make the proposed poll a non-event. To do this would remove the main argument that by confining it to the North, to a gerrymandering constituency, makes it meaningless.
It may well be said that what goes on in the South is the concern of Mr. Lynch and his Government. It is up to them to decide whether they want to have a similar referendum to that in the North. I would only say that those of your Lordships who have read the works of the late Stephen Potter would understand what I mean when I say that there would be considerable advantage if Her Majesty's 221 Government took the initiative. Meanwhile, I respectfully but earnestly ask Her Majesty's Government to give serious consideration to this proposal.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, because the hour is getting late I shall be brief; but I will mention two subjects. The first concerns the Army and the defence side of this matter; and the second, the Government's proposals and the question, "When?". On the Army side I have always said consistently that the Army is unlikely to restore law and order and to reduce violence to zero. I still stick to that view. but it is possible that the Army will reduce I.R.A. activities to the level at which politicians can freely engage in negotiations. If the gunmen stop shooting, even if the murdering goes on, it is possible that the politicians may agree to discuss a set of Government proposals. The man who should advise the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. White-law, on that point is the G.O.C. Northern Ireland, at present General Tuzo, and I believe in the future it is be General King. The Secretary of State would be very unwise to go against the advice of the G.O.C. on this subject. The soldiers have had a great deal to put up with and I entirely agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, that most of them are veterans now, having been three or four times to Northern Ireland, and if they take a young man with them they make sure he is looked after. That was my impression when I visited the Army three or four months ago.
The second point relates to the Government's proposals. We all agree, as the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, said, that this Green Paper makes compulsive reading. It is certainly a very good basis for discussion. It is very well set out. If the proposals are seriously considered, I believe that they ought to have one condition. It is not mentioned as a condition, but it is printed in paragraph 78—and the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, read it out:any new arrangements … should … be … accepted by the Republic of Ireland.That point has not been discussed very much, but it is a slightly new element and it ought to be a condition of any new proposals. The criteria—eight of them—are set out in The Way Forward, and, so far as I can see, are quite un- 222 objectionable. The question is: when does all this take place? When do we have a White Paper and not a Green Paper? That is a very difficult question, but I believe it is tied up with the opinion of the G.O.C. which Mr. White-law will get as to when the political negotiations (and we have heard these described as only the first step in a fairly long set of negotiations) will begin. We have read the differing views of the various parties, and although they differ very considerably they also have quite a lot of common agreement, and many common factors.
One point which was read out, for example, is this agreement about a Council. The words used are:by means of a Council of Ireland … harmonious action between the two Parliaments…This passage has been read out before, but to my mind it is very important; and of course it means discussion with the Dublin Government. I am not particularly optimistic that it will happen straight away, but I believe that Her Majesty's Government must make up their minds pretty quickly about the outlines of a set of proposals and put them to the various parties in Northern Ireland, including the Council I have mentioned. I believe that if we are not careful we shall lose the moment. Now is the time when we ought to consider carefully putting these proposals to the parties in Northern Ireland, and see whether they prefer agreeing to what they do not entirely like or shooting, which they have done for four years. If they do not agree, then they will come, I believe, to a dictated solution; but that we do not discuss to-day. We have had a most interesting debate, but the sooner definite proposals are submitted to us in the White Paper, the better it will be.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, there is a saying going around in Ireland that unless one is confused about Ireland one must be misinformed. I came back from there just over a fortnight ago. I had been there for about four days. I was in Belfast for a whole day and was around Antrim, where I have interests. It was extremely sad, because the last time I went to Antrim there was very little bomb damage, but there has been quite a lot 223 since. As to explosive refinements, when I was there the latest thing appeared to be small incendiary bombs which the children were putting into shops on Fridays, and they were timed to go off at the weekend so that the shops would burn when nobody was there. It is really appalling how the children are being used. I suppose some of them think it is great fun—cowboys and Indians—but it is degrading and appalling how children are being used in this terrorism.
I would congratulate those who have written this Paper. It is admirably written. It is the best example of—well, no, we must not call it a White Paper; a Green Paper. It is one of the best Papers I have ever seen written or produced by Government. It is also very diplomatically written, and of course when one is speaking of Ireland one has to be very diplomatic. I have always thought it a great tragedy that the Government of Ireland Act 1920 was never implemented by the South of Ireland. I am sure that if it had been implemented by the South, we should by now have had a united independent Ireland within the Commonwealth. It would have been a wonderful thing. I think I am right in saying that it was an Act produced by the liberal Coalition of the day, and it was an extremely practical and highly sensible Act. I would call it a fount of wisdom.
It is said by some that there are factors in the North of Ireland which are irreconcilable. I do not go along with that. Factors may to a certain extent be irreconcilable at the moment, but certainly the communities are not irreconcilable. I was rather disturbed to hear that the noble Earl, Lord Longford—I have often spoken with him before about this matter—still appears to have this bug in his head that the real question is religion. My Lords, of course it is not. It is true enough that there are people in the North of Ireland, not very educated people, who fear Rome rule; but Mr. Lynch is going to remove this fear—in fact, he has made a move. I would point out to the noble Earl (and I have always mentioned this in speeches and in writings) that the religious question is not paramount; it is not the real question. There is a question of territorial fears, certainly, in 224 the North; but it is not a religious question.
The one factor that is at the moment irreconcilable is that the North should become a part of the Republic of Ireland, or of course vice versa. That is at the moment the only irreconcilable factor. In the context of Ireland I cannot, in the foreseeable future, see black becoming white, or white becoming black, but I can see the two merging into a uniform grey. It is my hope that in my lifetime I shall see that. I sincerely hope that it is Her Majesty's Government's intention that democratic government shall return to the North of Ireland with the greatest possible speed. We hear talk of integration and of an independent Northern Ireland, but that is just nonsense. One hundred per cent. integration would be completely impracticable, for various reasons which I need not go into here. And, of course, if Ulster, the North of Ireland, broke away and declared U.D.I., it would become completely unviable, and it is only the thought of a few wild men.
I presume that the powers of the democratic government, when it is restored to the North of Ireland, will be more or less the same as the powers of the past Stormont Government, and one of the institutions that I should like to see set up—and I am extremely keen on this—is a Council of Ireland as envisaged under the 1920 Act. If there were such a Council—and of course it would not be political in the first place—and if the Council were composed of an equal number of representatives from the North and the South of Ireland, I believe that it would, over the years, do an immense amount of good in bringing the two sides together. Compromise seems to be far away now, but that is the way to achieve compromise.
One or two noble Lords have mentioned the E.E.C., which both we and Ireland are joining. Here is a great opportunity, where many of the barriers between the North and the South of Ireland will disappear within the next few years, whether they like it or not. There will be no Customs; presumably there will be similar social services; there will be the same tax system and the same agricultural support system. I do not doubt that in time a Council of Ireland, if it is constituted, will become the 225 dominant factor in Ireland, and although we shall still have the political factors I am sure that eventually through a Council of Ireland the political factors will be solved.
But before all this can come about terrorism has to be crushed, and this brings me to the question of security. When democratic government is restored, security must be extremely efficient, and I am wondering whether it is possible to have division in security. So far as the armed forces are concerned I suppose the Westminster Parliament will be in charge, but I doubt very much whether there can be a divided security where the police are concerned. I should have thought that if you really wanted to have security, the police would have to be drawn from local people with local knowledge. Therefore I hope that in any future Government of Northern Ireland the control of the police will be in the hands of that Government.
The other point I should like to raise is the question of the "Irish dimension" that several noble Lords have spoken about. Several people of my acquaintance in the North of Ireland rather take objection to this, hut I think such objections are founded on a misunderstanding of the facts. Any Government making any laws that have an international bearing have to consider their neighbours, and, as the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, said, the North of Ireland has the specific pledge that unless a majority of the people in the North desire to enter the South this will not happen. Therefore we need have no fear of the Irish dimension. Anyway, the Green Paper says that it would be desirable, and it also uses the words "if possible". Therefore I would say to my friends in the North who have doubts on this matter that they need have no fears. It is obviously desirable that the South of Ireland should find acceptable any form of Government in the North. That is common sense.
The other question that I wanted to raise was a suggestion of mine which may be completely harebrained. I have made one or two suggestions in regard to the future of Ireland but I have often wondered whether, perhaps in a few years, we could not offer dual nationality to any Irishman who wanted it—the whole of Ireland, if they wanted it—to become 226 British citizens as well as Irish citizens. After all we offered it to France, which is a very big country of about 40 million people, with far fewer ties of blood and tradition and loyalty than exists between Ireland and the United Kingdom. It does not seem to me to be an impossible thought for the future.
I should now like to take up something that both the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, said, that we hear much too often of second-class citizens. We hear the Catholics in the North referred to as "second-class citizens". That is really completely untrue and is utter nonsense. They have had an equal vote, they have equal grants for education. It is a propaganda point that the communications media are very fond of alluding to. The Catholic community will never be second-class citizens. It is true that they have been in a minority, but they have not been second-class citizens. I would also remind the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, that many of the Catholic churches in the North were actually built with money provided by Protestants. In the 19th century the Protestants in the North (including my family) were very generous in donating money to erect Catholic buildings, so I really cannot stomach this idea of Roman Catholics being second-class citizens.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, can the noble Viscount tell us for how long all citizens in Northern Ireland have had equal voting rights at all elections?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, the citizens of Northern Ireland have always had equal voting rights at general elections.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, the noble Lord must remember that there was a Conservative Government in the North of Ireland, and if we had had a Conservative Government in England for the whole time since the war we should not have had equal voting rights in local elections in England. As the noble Lord knows, one had to be a ratepayer or householder to be able to vote in a local election in England, and it was the Government of the late Lord Attlee who introduced the Act under which everyone 227 was entitled to vote in local elections. Thus, one cannot hold that against the Government of Northern Ireland—otherwise, as I have explained, the same thing could be said of Governments in Westminster.
There are a number of other matters about which I might speak, but I will restrict my remarks. I reiterate what has been said about Mr. Lynch. He has my great admiration and I have always spoken up for him in this House. Now that the Government of Southern Ireland are taking action against terrorists I feel sure that a light is appearing at the end of the tunnel. I was surprised to hear my noble friend Lord O'Neill say that he was very gloomy about the future. I cannot agree with him. It would appear that terrorism has outrun itself, and it is to be hoped that with the cooperation of the two Governments it will die a natural death.
I think that the Border poll is a good idea, though I agree that it will serve little purpose from the point of view of the opinions of people in the United Kingdom. Perhaps we in this country know that the result is a foregone conclusion, but there are large areas of the world where this is not the case. A lot of propaganda has been spread throughout the world. It will be interesting to see how many Catholics will vote to remain in the United Kingdom. Quite a few will. I feel sure that when a new Government are returned to Northern Ireland—I presume that the Prime Minister will be Mr. Faulkner—Mr. Lynch and Mr. Faulkner, who are both reasonable men, will, if we have a Council of Ireland, lay the foundations for the future prosperity and happiness of the whole country.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, this has been an interesting and I hope useful debate. My expertise is not such that I feel justified in making a prolonged contribution. To the noble Viscount, Lord Massercene and Ferrard, may I comment that I wonder whether we might do better to have personal clocks instead of the three in the Chamber. Perhaps that might conceivably be even more helpful.
Those who wrote the discussion paper ought to be highly delighted. I am only 228 repeating what others have said when I say that it must be one of the most civilised documents ever issued by a British Government Department. For clarity, objectivity and sheer reason it must be unsurpassed. Of course it does not offer solutions, but if we were living in a rational world we could with confidence say to the same team who produced this Paper, "So great is the impression of fairness you have created that we want you to draft your proposals and we undertake in advance to adopt them." Alas! we do not live in a rational world and the centre of all unreason would seem to be in that land across the Irish Sea.
Until comparatively recently I was one of those who thought that the Irish were more sinned against than sinning, but I am as certain now as anything in this uncertain political world that the balance of blame has changed. As Aneurin Bevan once said in another political connection, "The guilt has passed". There are of course, as many have said to-day, hopeful signs. The discussion paper itself is one of them, with the possibilities it opens up. The arrests since "Operation Motorman" is another hopeful sign and probably most important of all, as other noble Lords have indicated, is the evidence that Mr. Lynch's Government are now prepared to do more to stop criminals preparing their crimes in the South. I say that not simply because it may help the efforts of the security forces in the North, but, much more important, because he has put back the point, which was getting dangerously near, when the patience of the ordinary British public would have snapped completely. Belatedly, maybe, Mr. Lynch has bought a little extra time and has improved the atmosphere in which that time can be used; as the noble Earl, Lord Enniskillen, said, the atmosphere is all-important.
If there was one criticism which might be made of this debate it is that it has been suffused too deeply with what one noble Lord called "the pale light of optimism". When I read the morning papers, this morning's among them, I am of the view that the pallor of the pessimism is pronounced. When my noble Leader said that those who talk of a British withdrawal are unaware of the history and facts, I am not sure that he was entirely right. They know reason 229 and decency when it is to be seen. That there is much misunderstanding, we must all agree, and that misunderstanding is on both sides. I read again to-day the speech made at the beginning of the year by the Leader of the Irish Labour Party, the Republic of Ireland Labour Party, and he condemned violence, pleaded for reconciliation and spoke of these matters as I would expect a Labour leader to speak; but he also thought it necessary to say to the Conference:I deplore the attempted military suppression of the minority by the British Army, the harassment of the minority by the security forces, the whitewashing of the callous massacre in Derry, all done for the purpose of shoring up the Unionist regime in Stormont.Surely there is a misunderstanding if ever there was one. How can one—and I speak as a political opponent of the Government on the Benches opposite—say that the Government are intent only on shoring up Stormont? Yet this is still the belief of many who seek to maim or kill young British soldiers who are expected, and who honestly try, to preserve the peace.
My noble friend said that we cannot "shrug off" our responsibilities in Ulster, and of course we cannot. Nobody I hope would suggest in such a serious situation that we should shrug off responsibilities, but as I see it (and my noble friend and I have often discussed this) there is a world of difference between shrugging off responsibilities on the one hand, and on the other, letting it be known calmly as a sobering fact of life that we have no duty to stay there simply to be shot at whilst organised parties of both sides bigotedly refuse to make essential concessions.
Since our solemn pledge is so often referred to, we might remind ourselves of the actual wording. As set out in this discussion paper it is to the following effect:It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of His Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part thereof cease to be part of His Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.What Parliament? How is it functioning now? Supposing the people of Northern Ireland make it impossible for a Parliament of Northern Ireland to func- 230 tion, where then is this solemn pledge? I say that not because I want to shrug off any responsibilities and not because I want to be unhelpful in these matters, but I do sometimes think that this idea that we are there to be shot at anyhow, that no matter what damage is done the British Army will put it right, is something which does not help towards a solution.
In my first speech on the present emergency I asked for all the skills of propaganda to be used to counteract the insidious exploitation of the sympathy which must naturally be felt for a minority. Since then, much has been done to ensure that the Army's point of view in any incident is put across; but in my view we still need to get over to the Irish people, and certainly to the Irish children, the utterly disinterested, indeed self-sacrificial, role which the British Army play. The White Paper itself must have done much but, of course, not all will read a document of that kind. I hope that all the propaganda effort that can be deployed will be used to let there be known the true purpose and spirit of the British Army and the British people whom they represent.
My Lords, what appears to emerge from our discussion this evening is support for two candidates for inclusion in the White Paper. One such candidate is the idea of an all-Ireland Council. It is not often that one advocates going back, but my noble friend Lord Longford seemed to me to be absolutely right in quoting that Act of 1920, where, as your Lordships will know, and as set out in the Explanatory Memorandum, it is laid down that although two Parliaments and two Governments in Ireland were to be established:With a view to the eventual establishment of a single Parliament, and to bring about harmonious action between the two Parliaments and Governments, there is created a bond of union in the meantime by means of a Council of Ireland…Surely that can scarcely be bettered. If in the White Paper we can go back to those words or to their spirit I should have thought that that would have commanded general support in this House.
There seems to me to be remarkable agreement about a Bill of Rights, and my noble friend Lord Brockway has every right to talk of his pioneering role in this 231 connection. There is less agreement about the referendum, or, more correctly, what precisely it should be about. The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, put forward the constructive proposal that another referendum should be promised on the White Paper. My noble friend the Leader of the Opposition in effect said much the same when he asked for the White Paper to be published before the referendum was taken. The result of the referendum in that case, and in that timing, inevitably would be to reflect the views on the White Paper proposals. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, can tell us if this timing is likely to be accepted.
I must ask another question about the referendum. I have put this question to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, before and he told me then that the point was being considered. May I ask him again whether the referendum will be taken in such a way that one will be able to identify pockets of Catholic opinion on the Border? Is there any reason why we should rule out adjustments of the Border? At least a readiness to be flexible in this direction may help towards a wider settlement.
We have heard some remarkable speeches and I do not propose to say more myself. I would, however, pay tribute to the speech made by the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire. It was a remarkable speech and I think all found it enormously impressive. I thought, too, that the controlled gloom of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, must also be reckoned to be outstanding. But, if we are to take encouragement about the future of our relationship with Northern Ireland, I think it might be derived from the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken. Here we have a noble Lord who returned his war medals, thereby insulting our Queen, and who has dramatically announced his intention of seeking the citizenship of the Republic of Ireland. He then comes 'along to your Lordships' House and speaks for over twenty minutes as if those things had never happened, and the House took it exactly in that way. Surely, my Lords, a nation which can show such a degree of forbearance deserves to get a settlement in Northern Ireland.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, as my noble friend has chosen to make that remark, might I ask him whether he is aware that I am by no means the only Member of your Lordships' House who has sought Irish citizenship? Many of his colleagues and noble Lords opposite are already Irish citizens and have been attending for many years, whereas I have not yet reached that happy state. Is he suggesting that all those noble Lords should not attend?
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I am not suggesting that at all; but none of the noble Lords to whom he refers—and I discussed this with some of them—made their announcement in quite the context that the noble Lord made his announcement.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords. I think the time has come for me to bring this debate to an end. I have always found there is a good deal of distilled wisdom in your Lordships' House, and I have certainly been conscious of that feeling as I have listened to some of the speeches to-day. The House has lived up to its reputation for thoughtful and well-informed consideration of matters of great public importance; and, moreover, most of the speeches were commendably brief. I do not believe there was any speech over half an hour in length. Three of the noble Lords who took part live in Northern Ireland—the noble Lords, Lord Enniskillen, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, and Lord Dunleath—and I have had the opportunity and benefit of meeting them in Northern Ireland. And the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, as we know, lives in the Republic of Ireland. Each of the Irish Peers who has taken part in the debate has brought a special knowledge and involvement to it.
I do not want to speak long in reply. I believe it would be the wish of the House that I should be as brief as possible, particularly since this is only the second out of the four occasions on which I shall be on my feet this evening. The Border poll has undoubtedly been the main subject of the debate, apart from the general development of Government policy, which is sketched out in the Paper for discussion. It is quite right that it should be since we adopted a procedure of having one Motion covering 233 both the Border poll and the Government's thinking which is contained in the discussion paper. In my opening speech I explained the origins of the undertaking to hold this poll and why, in our judgment, it is a prerequisite for a settlement.
The noble Lord, Lord Enniskillen, spoke movingly and with great knowledge, as one would expect, on the need to build up confidence in the majority community. As I said in my opening speech, this is a commitment that means a great deal to many people in the majority community in Ulster. The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, reminded us of some of the consequences leading to violence in the streets of Belfast in the autumn when it was thought that this plebiscite might be postponed. We shall be debating the Border Poll Bill in Committee on Thursday, and we can return then to some of the issues that have been raised to-day. To the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, I would say that the timing has been left open as to whether the poll on the Border should precede the White Paper or should come after it. The Secretary of State wants to keep his options open for a little longer on that and not be tied down to a definite decision at this point in time.
The noble Lord also asked whether the votes would be counted and results announced locally or centrally. The answer is they will be counted centrally, for the Province as a whole. I appreciate that the noble Lord may not regard this as a satisfactory answer, but he will have an opportunity to debate it again in Committee, or when the actual regulations which will determine the organisation for the Border Poll Bill come before your Lordships' House for approval. They will need to do this under the procedure which was agreed in another place last week.
Rather than go over in my reply part of the ground which I covered in my opening speech, I feel that I should comment on a number of topics of considerable importance to which I did not refer in opening and which I know are matters of concern to some of your Lordships. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, gave me advance notice before the debate that he thought it was important the Government should provide some information about action taken against Protestant extremists. I undertook to do so in my reply. He has explained to me that a youth centre 234 which he started four years ago is giving him and his wife a dinner tonight on the occasion of his 67th birthday, and that is the reason why he cannot be present at the moment. It is, however, a matter of considerable public interest, and it might be helpful to have in Hansard a statement of the action that has been taken against the Protestant extremists. There must be no misunderstanding about this. The action taken against the provisional I.R.A. is very conspicuous. At the same time the action taken against Protestant extremists must not be minimised, and should not be overlooked.
The noble Earl asked about the legal status of the U.D.A. The U.D.A. is not an illegal organisation. As its name suggests the Ulster Defence Association was originally formed to defend Protestant areas against I.R.A. terrorist attacks. If it had confined its activities to that role, there would be less concern about it than there now is. But there is some evidence that certain members of the U.D.A. have been involved in intimidation of Catholic families; others in armed robberies and firearms offences; and others in shooting attacks on the security forces. I should like to assure your Lordships that where-ever and whenever there is evidence that U.D.A. members have committed a criminal offence action has been taken, and will continue to be taken, against them, not for being members of the U.D.A. but for whatever criminal offence they are accused of having committed.
Noble Lords will appreciate that when members of the U.D.A. act illegally it is not always possible to distinguish their actions from those of other Protestant extremists, such as the Tartan gangs and the Ulster Volunteer Force. But it is a fact that many Protestants have been charged with offences related to terrorism; and these include murder and attempted murder of members of the security forces, explosives and firearms offences, and armed robberies. I understand that over 50 persons who are thought to be members of the U.D.A., and 20 persons who are thought to be members of the Ulster Volunteer Force, have been or soon will be brought before the courts. These include a former chairman of the U.D.A. Council, a U.D.A. inner council member, a member of the present U.D.A. Council and the second-in-command of the Belfast U.V.F. The 235 same situation applies as regards the U.D.A. parades and uniforms. The Attorney General has made it clear that the decision to prosecute in such cases depends on the activities at the time of those wearing, U.D.A. uniforms. If they are committing criminal offences they must expect to be prosecuted.
The U.V.F. is another matter altogether. This organisation, like the I.R.A. is proscribed, as the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, will remember very well, under Section 24A of the Special Powers Act. The U.V.F. does not normally parade or operate openly. It does not disclose its membership or leadership. It has not recently claimed responsibility for any incidents. The police, however, suspect that it may have been involved in some of the sectarian murders in Belfast, and, as noble Lords may be aware, a prominent U.V.F. leader, Gusty Spence, was recently re-arrested by the security forces and is continuing to serve his sentence for murder.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that subject, can he clear up the point about the wearing of uniforms? Is this legal or not; and if illegal, is it being stopped?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, it is not illegal in the case of an orgainsation which in itself is not proscribed. As I explained, the U.D.A. is not an illegal organisation, and therefore the question of the wearing of uniforms does not arise.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, this is rather an important point. The U.V.F. and the I.R.A. are proscribed organisations. If there were parallel organisations to the U.D.A. on the other side, organisations which were not proscribed, would they be free to wear uniforms? May I then ask the noble Lord how many members of the U.V.F. have actually been interned like members of the I.R.A.—it may be that he is not in a position to give the figures—and how far the Anti-Terrorists Order to which he is coming will apply to people on the Protestant extremist side as well as to the I.R.A.?
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, may I intervene for one second and say to the noble Lord that the new 236 Catholic ex-Servicemen's organisation also wears uniform.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I was about to make the same point; the Catholic Ex-Servicemen's Association (C.E.S.A.), for example, held a parade in Belfast this last weekend—it was discussed with the police—and they chose to wear uniforms. C.E.S.A., like the U.D.A., is not a proscribed organisation. The legal point about uniforms is an extremely complicated one, but it concerns only illegal organisations. A number of members of the U.V.F. have been charged in the courts and have received sentences of imprisonment. As I explained earlier and as we shall be discussing again on Thursday, the internment procedure under the Special Powers Act and the new procedure under the Detention of Terrorists Order are a last resort. They are used only where it is not possible to proceed in the courts. The first priority must always be to proceed through the courts.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, could the noble Lord explain why the U.D.A. is not proscribed and the U.V.F. is?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, the noble Lord should get together with the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine after the debate. I believe I am right in saying that it was when Lord O'Neill was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland that he took the step of proscribing the U.V.F.
I should like to move on to one or two points which were raised on the Detention of Terrorists Order. Again I shall do so briefly, because there will be an opportunity for further debate, but it might be helpful if I made some comments in winding up this debate to-day. The noble Lord. Lord Shackleton, referred to the Fabian Tract No. 416, entitled Emergency Powers: a Fresh Start. This contains a study by a working party drawn from the members of the Law faculty of the Queen's University of Belfast in the academic year 1971–72. Professor Twining was kind enough to send me a copy of this report earlier in the year and we were able to study the proposals closely. I can therefore say that the report by the group at the Queen's University played a part in 237 influencing the approach which has led to the new system which has taken the place of internment in the old sense. It is interesting, for example, to compare what is said on page 26 of the Fabian publication with the Detention of Terrorists Order and the procedure it embodies.
The noble Lord and others—I do not know whether he put this in his speech, but it seemed to lie behind what he was saying—were raising the question whether the new procedure under the Detention of Terrorists Order would be permanent, or whether it would need renewal, and could thus be regarded as temporary. I understand the position is that it will be part of the law of Ireland, which the Temporary Provisions Act says for a period of one year should be made by way of Orders in Council rather than by Stormont legislation. Therefore, although in this technical sense the Detention of Terrorists Order would be regarded as permanent legislation, I should point out that all the powers are vested in the Secretary of State in his own person, and not in right of exercising a power ordinarily vested in some Minister of the Government of Northern Ireland. It follows, therefore, that the future of the Order will have to be reconsidered in the light of any new constitutional settlement.
Certainly this is intended as an interim measure until the basic problem can be considered in the light of the Diplock Commission's Report when that is received. As to whether any legislation proposed by the Government in the light of the Diplock Report will take the form of a Bill in Westminster, the answer to this must depend upon what the proposals are and the extent to which it would be appropriate to make the legislation as permanent as Westminster Statutes tend in practice to be. Certainly it can be said that any proposals to alter the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland—for example, by excluding trial by jury in certain cases—would require legislation at Westminster, because the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland is a reserved subject under the Government of Ireland Act 1920.
Several noble Lords spoke about relations with the Republic of Ireland: the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, who 238 told us of his recent visit to the Republic of Ireland following on the time he spent in Ulster; the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, who makes regular visits; the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, and also my noble friend Lord Dunleath. The action taken by Mr. Lynch's Government against the I.R.A. was applauded from both sides of the House as a courageous and timely move.
I described the aim of the Government's policy towards Northern Ireland in the Paper which I presented recently at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard as coming under three heads: first, to achieve a stable peace in Northern Ireland under conditions of equal opportunity for all its citizens; secondly, to see maintained and strengthened the cordial and co-operative relationship between Britain and the Irish Republic which should exist between neighbouring States with so high a degree of mutual interest; and thirdly to reassure the Protestant community that they will not be forced into a united Ireland against their will. That is on the record as a statement of policy on behalf of the Government.
The noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, made a plea for closer communication between the Government of the Republic of Ireland and Her Majesty's Government. If I may be permitted to say so, I think both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland are exceptionally well served by their Ambassadors in Dublin and in London. There have been meetings between the two Prime Ministers, and I will certainly undertake to pass on to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary the noble Duke's suggestion that a Foreign Office Minister should be designated with a special responsibility for relations with the Republic.
Might I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, who told us that he had been in Antrim recently, how much I enjoyed the volume published this year by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in the series of Ulster characters titled The Extraordinary Career of the 2nd Earl of Massereene, 1773–1805. It can be given to very few of your Lordships to be able to contribute a foreword, as the 239 noble Viscount did in a most engaging way, opening with these words:I must admit that there are many personalities among my ancestors whose exploits I would rather see in print than Clotworthy Skeffington, 2nd Earl and 6th Viscount Massereene, a character who has always been regarded as the black sheep of the family.The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, asked whether there was any threat of interruption of air services between London and Aldergrove airport in Belfast and, if so, whether the Government would take action. I understand there is no reason at present to suppose that the scheduled services of any of the airlines are endangered. If the situation were to alter, the Government would naturally take whatever action they believed to be necessary. We are well aware of the importance of Aldergrove airport to the economy and to the communications system in Northern Ireland. It happens that I spent last Friday going round the airport facilities and installations with the chairman of Northern Ireland Airports Company. As the noble Lord will know, as a regular user of Aldergrove, the Government have recently spent something of the order of between £2 million and £3 million in extending the main runway.
My Lords, I was anxious to speak for not more than 20 minutes in winding up, and I see that I have now spoken for 18 minutes. In conclusion, may I say that it would be unrealistic to minimise the problems which we face as an Administration in Northern Ireland, and which we continue to face? But neither can we allow ourselves to accept the proposition that the position in Northern Ireland is hopeless. That would be a counsel of despair. The human race has never been seen to its best advantage when throwing up its hands and saying, "Nothing can be done." If we believe in the toughness and capacity of the human spirit, we must continue, despite all the frustrations and exasperations, to seek ways of reconciling a divided community. We remain convinced that only in this way can we hope to find a path out of the present crisis. I should like to thank noble Lords for their contributions to a debate which has been most constructive and helpful.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.