HL Deb 22 June 1972 vol 332 cc387-9

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, may I repeat a Statement which is now being made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in another place? The Statement is as follows:

"The House will be aware of the statement put out earlier this afternoon on behalf of the Republican Movement to the effect that the I.R.A. will suspend offensive operations as and from midnight on Monday, 26th June, 1972, provided that a public reciprocal response is forthcoming from the Armed Forces of the British Crown. As the purpose of Her Majesty's Forces in Northern Ireland is to keep the peace, if offensive operations by the I.R.A. in Northern Ireland cease on Monday night, Her Majesty's Forces will obviously reciprocate."


My Lords, we thank the noble Lord for repeating that Statement, which appears to be a significant one; and anything which holds out the prospect of a lessening the maiming and killing of Irish by Irish is to be welcomed. Needless to say, all of us in this House will share a sense of relief that our Servicemen are likely to be put at less risk.

May I put two questions to the noble Lord? First, will he make clear what is meant by the "Republican Movement"? Can he confirm reports that the Provisionals of Londonderry are included in the Republican Movement, so far as this statement is concerned? Second, may I ask about the Protestant majority and the extent to which they have been consulted about the consequences and implications of the statement, or whether they are to be consulted?


My Lords, we should of course reserve comment on this matter for a future occasion, because the less said now the more likelihood there is that this initiative will result in lasting peace in Northern Ireland. But may I ask the noble Lord to convey to the Secretary of State our congratulations on the policies which he has followed since taking office, policies which we believe have had a very salutary effect and are partly responsible for this happy conclusion?


My Lords, I must first thank both noble Lords for what they have said. I understand the announcement was made shortly after two o'clock this afternoon on behalf of the Republican Movement. I am afraid that I am not in a position to add to what is contained in the Secretary of State's statement as to the meaning of that phrase. The reference to the I.R.A. does not distinguish between the Official and Provisional wings of the I.R.A. and of course the Official I.R.A. have already declared a cease-fire.

As regards Londonderry, I believe there has been a later report this afternoon to the effect that the Republican leadership in Londonderry have said that they will follow this decision, and that the future of the "no-go" areas is something to be considered. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for his comments about the policies of the Secretary of State in moving towards the sort of conditions in which a cease-fire is possible. This has played a major part in this development.


I do not think the noble Lord answered my second question about other consultations.


My Lords, it is difficult for me to say anything very much about consultations, since this announcement has become known only this afternoon. Protestant opinion is of course extremely important, and we recognise that. We are in regular touch with a wide range of Protestant opinion and shall continue to be so in the new situation.