HL Deb 17 December 1981 vol 426 cc360-87

4.40 p.m.

Lord Moyola rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have for the future government of Northern Ireland.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name. I did not put this Question down because I really expected a clear and lucid answer as to the future government of Northern Ireland; in fact, I am not even sure that I want one, and it has already been made plain to me by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, in his earlier speech that I am very unlikely to get it. Perhaps I may just say in passing what a very encouraging and cheerful speech that was; it certainly gave me a good deal of heart as to the situation in Northern Ireland.

I put the Question down because I am concerned that some of the recent utterances made by representatives of the loyalist parties, or, if you like, parties representing the majority, may in fact have given the impression that we in Northern Ireland no longer wish to be part of the United Kingdom and are looking for the road to independence. I am equally concerned that the appearance should have been given that we as citizens of the United Kingdom should be anxious actually to flout the will of Parliament. I am concerned also at the willingness that there is on the part of some of our public representatives to knock every proposal that emanates from Parliament or from the Northern Ireland Office, be it economic, be it on security, or whatever. I feel that it may well give the impression that we are trying to go some separate way.

My Lords, that is the last thing that the average sane, rational Ulsterman wants. Independence is not in his mind, or, if it is, it is in very few minds. I am quite certain that they do not want to do anything that is going to break up the Union. Most of them would be highly critical of the security situation which has pertained recently, and which I will not go back over now. Most of them are concerned, apprehensive, about the secrecy surrounding the Anglo-Irish talks. And probably it is these two things which have brought about the present situation. But, in their hearts, the people of Ulster do not want to go outside the law, nor do they want to have any part in some of the activities, midnight marches and all the rest, that we have seen going on.

I think I can say that most of them, when they stop to think, genuinely believe that there is absolutely nothing to be gained by frustrating every proposal which comes either from Parliament or from the Secretary of State. They fully realise that they want friends on this side of the water, and they do not want enemies. They also believe that Northern Ireland's problems are not going to be resolved by marches with masks and so on. They also believe that our security problems are not going to be helped if the police force and the army have to be diverted to keep the peace when these marches take place. They are fully aware that the proper thing is to let the security forces get on with the main job of fighting terrorism, to avoid giving them extra work, and to avoid giving the media the chance to say that we are on the brink of civil war, which is neither encouraging for investment, which is so badly needed, nor discouraging to terrorism.

I should like to touch further on the drama of civil war that the media like to conjure up all the time. Frankly, I do not think that they ever think of the damage which it does—of all the lost investment of the businesses which might have come to Northern Ireland which are put off by all this talk, and of course there is the encouragement which it gives to the terrorists. Goodness knows! who is going to fight anyway? Certainly I and thousands like me have no desire to fight anyone. In my view, all this talk of civil war is doing a great deal of harm purely to produce a certain amount of sensationalism.

The people of Northern Ireland are at the moment feeling throughly disillusioned. The problem is that the sensible people at present have no forum in which to operate. If they go to meetings they are merely shouted at and abused and therefore they do not go. They have no one to whom they can turn who seems to be able to achieve anything for them. They feel disenfranchised, helpless and permanently unable to change anything. I suspect that they probably feel rather like the Opposition did in the old Stormont because they, of course, were fated to be the Opposition for ever and as such they were not able to change things and as such they became, at times, irresponsible. The same is happening on a Province-wide basis because they cannot be any worthwhile influence on anything. It seems to us that the Northern Ireland Office "knows what is best" and that our advice and opinions are very often ignored.

The point that I am getting round to is that what is badly needed is more Northern Ireland involvement in the Northern Ireland Office. This is the nub of the problem which exists at present and which has probably brought the third force into being. They feel that whatever they say is taken very little notice of. That brings me to what is a difficult point to make without giving offence because it involves the Civil Service. I want to say, before I make this point, that all my political life I have had nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for the dedicated people who work for the Civil Service. The fault that I am finding is not with them, but with the system. The plain fact of the matter is that people come over from this country to the Northern Ireland Office. They come for a short time and they do not get the opportunity to make the contacts which they probably would like to make. They do not meet many, of what I would only call, the rank and file of the population. They do not have the chances that we all have who live there to meet people in the market place, the supermarkets and all the public places to which we all, in our normal lives, have to go. They do not therefore have the opportunity to learn the nuances of Northern Ireland politics and what particular thing will upset which section of the population. I do not honestly believe that anyone who does not live there can ever totally master it. I am not even sure that those of us who do live there always manage it sucecessfully.

The important thing is that if I could persuade Her Majesty's Government that, contrary to what the media have preached over many years, there are in fact many people in Northern Ireland on both sides of the sectarian divide who have objective views, have good will and are responsible, then I would hope very much that they would give serious thought as to how those people can he made use of and in some way fitted into the administration.

On the wider matter of solutions or devolved government, I was hoping that the noble Earl, when he replies, will say that he has, in fact, no plans for devolution or devolved government at present. It is not because I do not want to see it. I should like to see it, and I entirely agree with him that it is something that is highly desirable and highly necessary.

However, it can come about only if the climate is right, and the climate is certainly not right at the moment. It is far, far too polarised as between the two communities. It has been brought about by the hunger strike, by the murders which the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, mentioned in his earlier remarks, by the Anglo-Irish talks, by fear of the third force on the Catholic side, and so on. Throughout Northern Ireland there is very considerable fear on all sides. As long as people are afraid, issues, other than survival and how your neighbour will survive, become very much second place.

Certainly in those circumstances you are not likely to compromise with anyone whom you may regard as your enemy or think is perhaps in sympathy with your enemy. If you want devolved government, compromise is absolutely inescapable. Therefore, at the moment my view is that there is very little chance of achieving anything in this direction. Frankly, even to embark on the course and to start a great deal of talk and discussion about it encourages the terrorist, because the terrorist does not want a solution, the terrorist does not want devolved government, the terrorist does not want the situation cooled down.

I certainly think that great thought should be given before we embark on further courses of devolved Government because, quite frankly, I think that we can produce more deaths, and more murders by rushing into some sort of ill-advised and quick solution. I have said this before and I make no apology for saying it again. I think it would be far better if Her Majesty's Government were to say that there would be no further attempts at a solution for some time to come, preferably for something like the remainder of this Parliament. Frankly, I believe that if that were said, quite a few people in Northern Ireland would sleep easier in their beds. I believe that the people who are trying to find these solutions could then be employed in solving the massive economic problems of the Province.

4.53 p.m.

Lord Blease

My Lords, those of us who live in Northern Ireland will, perhaps, more than most readily appreciate the sensitivity of the Unstarred Question tabled today by the noble Lord, Lord Moyola. The question about the future government of Northern Ireland is of crucial importance, and one that is uppermost in the minds of responsible citizens of Northern Ireland.

If I may, I should like to commend the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, on the frank and positive way in which today he has posed the question and some of the issues involved. The noble Lord's manner of approach today is not unexpected and, indeed, is in character with the attitudes towards political consensus, the principle of tolerance and civilised living which he has honourably upheld in public life. It was my privilege to have had the opportunity, through the trade union movement, to work with the noble Lord when he was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland some 10 years ago. In dark and troubled times he sought, with earnest and genuine efforts, to promote positive, harmonious leadership with firmness, fairness and good will to all sections of the acutely divided Northern Ireland community.

As I rise to speak here today, I am very conscious that in no way can I lay claim to have the rights of elected representatives or have that authoritative voice. However, as an individual and as a Member of your Lordships' House, I must say that there is no doubt in my mind that the people of Northern Ireland need to assess with some realism the precarious political, constitutional and economic position which pertains today in Northern Ireland. There is no scarcity of plans and formulae for the Government in Northern Ireland. We have 57 varieties neatly packaged and labelled to meet all sorts of requirements. The dilemma is not the plans, but the will to accept in Northern Ireland our interdependence, and to work together to promote positive and active resolutions for the wellbeing of all peaceable citizens in the Province.

It appears to me that this interdependence must be actively pursued and promoted in at least three aspects of government: law and order; political devolution; and economic development. In dealing with interdependence and efforts towards political devolvement I fully realise that previous attempts have failed to reach inter-communal agreement on the real transfer of power to a local assembly and executive on conditions acceptable to United Kingdom Governments and to both Northern Ireland communities. The problem is that the democratic majority rule is rejected by the nationalist community, and governmental power-sharing with the minority is rejected by the Unionist community, as is also the recognition of the Irish dimension.

The United Kingdom Governments—and here I use the plural because it is not only this Government but previous Governments—have stated that, unless the minority community feels able to accept and identify with the institutions of government in Northern Ireland, there is little prospect of political stability in the Province. The failure to find agreement does not diminish the necessity to pursue acceptable arrangements for the retransfer of executive and legislative powers to Northern Ireland.

I believe that the noble Earl the Minister in his earlier opening remarks and the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, both stressed in some way this sense of the need to have a feeling of interdependence in the Northern Ireland community, but before we go down that road we have to start with the political border. Whether one agrees with it or not, Northern Ireland in terms of the constitution is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is a fact recognised internationally by the United Nations, by the European Community, and so far as I know by every country in the world, including de facto the Republic of Ireland. That status cannot be changed except by a decision of the Westminster Parliament, and that Parliament has said that it will not change it except by agreement with the majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

Professor Norman Gibson of the New University of Ulster is a keen political observer. In a letter published recently in the press in Ireland, which was published both north and south, he stated: The Governments and Parliaments in London and Dublin are determined to work towards closer relationships between Britain and the Republic of Ireland. The United States Government and many governments in Western Europe strongly support these developments; loyalist opposition is not going to stop them, nor is the violence of the IRA or similar groups. The people of Northern Ireland have got to decide whether they are for or against these closer relationships. If the Protestant community, or a large proportion of it, are prepared to oppose these new departures to the point of taking up arms against Crown forces then it would seem that we are inexorably heading for an insecure and impoverished semi-independence outside the United Kingdom. It will be said that to get involved [this is in the Anglo-Irish studies] is to take a giant stride towards a united Ireland which for many in the Protestant community arouses deep-seated fears of becoming a subordinate and alienated minority in a Gaelic and Catholic-dominated Irish Republic. Are such fears realistic? Increasingly the evidence is no. Protestant interests and Protestant identity would and could be protected and sustained within the context of closer political and economic relationships between London and Dublin. The Catholic and nationalist community in Northern Ireland has also historic choices to make. It, too, must choose whether it is for or against a new departure in British-Irish relationships. To decide against them is to align itself with the extreme republican cause; happily, this seems to be unlikely. But for Protestant and Catholic alike, the immediate and fundamental choice is between paramilitarism and dialogue, discussion and compromise. The former can only bring appalling and even greater devastation; the latter can only satisfactorily proceed within the framework of the rule of impartial and evenhanded law. The choice is"— that of the Northern Ireland people. I quote at length from that letter because I believe it reflects new thinking and new attitudes that are growing in Ireland, in both North and South, and they are encouraging to those who wish to achieve a democratic ideal.

I turn to the issues of law and order, and I feel I can best deal with this aspect by quoting from a statement issued on 26th November last by the chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Mr. Herman. He said: It is essential that there be no doubt whatsoever about the role and responsibility of the RUC. Quite simply, this is impartial and professional law enforcement in the interests of all the people. Never was it more necessary that every citizen, Catholic and Protestant alike, should understand where the RUC stands in relation to the community and to the enforcement of the law as democratically enacted by Parliament. No Republican or Loyalist paramilitary organisation or any private force acting outside the law will be permitted to usurp the authority of the police and the army. In a democracy that is how it must be. The RUC supported by the army is determined that is how it will be. In saying this, I want to make it clear that the RUC is not in conflict with the community. Only those people who break the law can be in conflict with the RUC and they do so by their choice. Now is the time for this community to hold on to its commonsense and not to put in danger the democratic values which we cherish. Be assured that the police and the army will fight terrorism until terrorism is finished. I say to the terrorist: You will not win. You will not he allowed to win…. We require greater support by the community because this is so vital to success, but that support and any participation can only he within the law: by joining the security forces, by the community using its eyes and ears to help the police and harry the terrorist, by unequivocal rejection of violence, even to the point of great personal courage and example, and by good neighbourliness and lawful mutual help in areas in which fear and apprehension exists. That is how terrorism will be defeated. That is our objective. The whole fabric of society is threatened by self-appointed armies whose object is to seize power and to dictate to the people, not only what they should do or not do, but whether they should live or die. It therefore behoves everyone who values freedom to be alive to the dangers and to support the forces of law and order. If they do not, they may one day discover to their cost that it is too late". I make no apology for quoting at length from that statement by the chief constable. It reinforces what has already been said by the Minister and others in this debate. That statement, in my view, did not receive the attention it should have got, because it shows completely the impartial role of our police in trying to uphold law and order in Northern Ireland. We are fortunate to have in the security forces people of the calibre of Mr. Herman; and in this connection I would ask the Minister what measures—that is, apart from those already mentioned—are being taken by the Government to focus attention on these matters and note those aspects of interdependence in respect of law and order.

The Minister has already dealt with the community aspects, as reinforced by that statement from Mr Herman, and he has dealt with some aspects of the relationships between the Garda and the law and order forces in the Republic. But are there not more ways in which we could help as between Great Britain and Northern Ireland? Indeed, this is where the whole sense of interdependence means something real to the people at this particular time.

Finally, there is the crucial interdependence on economic development. I shall be brief, since I dealt with this aspect in the appropriation debate last week. The chronic unemployment and serious social conditions in Northern Ireland will in any case be well known to your Lordships. Against such a backcloth of deprivation and social injustice, how is it that Northern Ireland elected politicians can continue to opt out of consultations on social and economic matters, especially those arranged by the Secretary of State for Monday next? Surely this is the time that politicians should be going along. There is nothing to lose by forthrightness across the table.

What can be done to turn the spotlight away from the illusion to the reality? There is no local forum where the day-to-day issues affecting the lives of the people can be examined, debated and influenced, as the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, mentioned in his remarks. Public debate is limited to the media, with television and radio playing the most important part. The inadequacy of this process is such that it can endanger the democratic process. Only items that are deemed as "newsworthy" find a place—the headline issues. Conflict politics take up much of the time, and most of the remainder is given over to reporting the violence in our midst. As a result the people of Northern Ireland are looking at life through a tunnel so bent and distorted that it is impossible to see any light at the end of it. By the very nature of politics in Northern Ireland the media in the main accentuate the negative and neglect the positive. It is no substitute for democratic means of consultation and decision-making.

As the Government pursue their new initiative may I suggest to the Minister that some new thought be given to the ideas put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Moyola. We need a louder Northern Ireland voice to be heard at Stormont—that might sound strange in the context in which I mention it—but we need also a voice of reason, of understanding and of progress, a voice that will be accepted and understood in the international scene, not a voice that is harming the cause of Northern Ireland. I fear that I must agree with the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, in his view that government by press hand-out has failed. Perhaps 20 years ago I would not totally have agreed with the noble Lord in what he said about the integrity and uprightness of the Northern Ireland Civil Service. I was on occasions a victim of the maligning of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, but this is not the time for recrimination. Our Civil Service in Northern Ireland is, I know, impartial and is out to help all citizens in the Province.

I should like to suggest, when the Government's new initiative emerges, why not deliver by post to every Northern Ireland elector a suitable Government explanatory paper? Far too often what is accepted as being the Government's point of view goes right into the press and is misrepresented before it even gets to the people. The Government are then caught up in trying to re-explain their point of view and in trying to get over their intentions to the public.

There seems to be no good reason why the Government should not now embark upon a new initiative, based on these three aspects of interdependence—interdependence in devolution, law and order and the economy. But Northern Ireland has not yet wakened up to where it stands in regard to the rest of the community. Sometimes people think that Northern Ireland is a hub of the universe, but it is indeed sadly missing out. Perhaps if we could turn our attention to the pressing needs of the people rather than to bombastic power politics we would then begin to understand what we have in common rather than what divides us.

5.10 p.m.

Lord Hampton

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, is to be congratulated on raising this important question with the Government so skilfully even as late in pre-Christmas proceedings as this. I have also listened to the noble Lord, Lord Blease, with respect and interest, as always.

There has unfortunately, of late, been greater polarisation of opinion. The SDLP seems much more green nationalist than it was, and Mr. Paisley appears to dominate the Protestant scene, although I did take note of what the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, said in the earlier debate. Nonetheless I have heard it suggested that the possibility of a new Assembly should be considered, which would be offered devolved powers underwritten, in return for the following of certain specified practices, by financial assistance from the United States of America, which both President Carter and President Reagan, I understand, have touched on. This is an interesting idea.

For the time being, however, we consider that direct rule from Westminster is to be preferred to a return to a Protestant-dominated Stormont, which we reject.

We must therefore persevere patiently with attempts to construct a power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland in the hopes that there is more support for this in the Province than the present political leaders are prepared to admit—and once again I noted what the noble Lords, Lord Moyola and Lord Blease, said on this—but this depends on careful timing. It may be difficult, but it is essential to maintain a careful balance between possible stagnation of ideas, on the one hand, and, on the other, change for change's sake at an inauspicious moment, promoting a feeling of some insecurity.

The leader of my party, when addressing the American Chamber of Commerce recently, strongly condemned the activities of the IRA and expressed concern about the funds being raised to support them in the United States of America. I agree with him that we must also clearly condemn the bigotry and thuggery on the other side of the argument. As he said: The Protestants have their murdering gangs as well, spurred on by irresponsible politicians. It is time we stopped describing them as loyalists, for they are certainly not loyal to the standards of decency and democracy upheld by the British Crown". Those who still seek the label of "loyalist" and do such things recently disrupted the work of Parliament at Westminster and sought to bring chaos to the administration of the Province. They also showed ill will forcibly when the Secretary of State attended the supposedly Christian funeral service for the Reverend Robert Bradford, the recently murdered Member of another place. Fear and anger can do terrible things to men, but that action by a church congregation was, for me, despicable.

But let me redress the balance with the words of a remarkable woman who has suffered terribly from both natural causes and terrorist activity. She is quoted in Alf McCreary's moving book called Profiles of Hope. She says—and I quote if I may: Life is for living and there's no point in being bitter. I am convinced that if we can all go through the tough experiences of life without becoming bitter we emerge as a stronger, better person. Bitterness eats away at people. I have never felt bitter, not even at the man who shot my son. I don't know that I would ever want to meet him. But I would rather be the mother of Sean than the mother of the man who shot him…. That really is a harder cross to bear…. The real me has implicit faith that the country is going to be better after this terrible, harrowing time and that there is going to be a brighter future. I should hate to think otherwise. I firmly believe that we are in the hands of an unseen power, if we only put out our hands for help. It is there". As the noble Lord, Lord Blease, has already said, news tends to be reported more quickly when it is bad. We must not forget the many people of integrity and tremendous courage in Northern Ireland today.

We believe, then, that there is need to do much more to counter immoral IRA propaganda in the United States of America and to encourage, hopefully, American action in more constructive policies.

We support the talks between our Prime Minister and Dr. Garret FitzGerald as the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, mentioned. We see no possible suggestion of a sell-out and find totally unacceptable Mr. Paisley's demands that the talks be broken off. At the same time, we consider that any commitment to a united Ireland would be at present neither feasible nor sensible and would only aggravate the situation. I should like to raise with the noble Earl the Minister the possibilities of a border poll referendum in 1982 or 1983 when it would be possible to spell out at the same time the financial advantages of greater economic unity with the South, for example, as regards gas, electricity, agricultural support, trade and tourism.

We consider that the final solution very likely lies in some form of federal structure but this will take much time and patience and much will depend upon the willingness of Dublin and the people of the Republic to accept suggestions for changing its own constitution. I see no obvious indications that direct rule can or should speedily be brought to an end. There is little chance at present of a satisfactory compromise.

5.16 p.m.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, I should like to start by thanking my noble friend Lord Moyola for raising this subject, even if it is just before Christmas. I should like to support him in this contention that, until there is peace for a considerable length of time, initiatives on devolved government are not going to succeed. While listening to him speak on his criticism of the advice that the Government get from Stormont Castle—criticism which I support—I wonder whether the Government would take on board a brand new idea for service by the civil servants transferred from London to Belfast that, at least for a month before taking up residence on the "Gold Coast" in County Down or in Stormont that they should live with a Northern Irish family—it does not matter of which political persuasion—a long way from Belfast, preferably on the border. They might then come to Stormont with their eyes rather wider open than they appear to have.

I should like to repeat my welcome to the improvement in relations between the sovereign powers in Dublin and London. I welcome further the change brought about by the new Prime Minister in his expressions of how he sees the future of Ireland, but I would disagree with his ultimate aim for a united Ireland. I welcome also most warmly the change by the Roman Catholic heirarchy in Northern Ireland. This will do an enormous amount of good.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I am not trying to make a point of interrupting the noble Viscount more or less habitually, but I am afraid that he is under a misapprehension. All this stuff about the hierarchy never having condemned the murders is poppycock. I interviewed the Cardinal at some length for an English newspaper in August. He pointed out to me that he has denounced the murders again and again. I hope that the noble Viscount will denounce Protestant murders as well as Catholic ones.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, I do not think I have ever made a speech in this House when the noble Earl was present when he has not found it necessary to interrupt or correct me on something. I will say absolutely and clearly that the language in which they spoke up to the last five or six weeks has been equivocal arid difficult for me to understand; whereas the language in which they speak today is absolutely clear and cannot be misunderstood.

The Earl of Longford


Viscount Brookeborough

That may be the noble Earl's opinion. He is better educated than I am in semantics, no doubt. I welcome sincerely the hopes of improved trade relations. If you live in our part of the world and see the terrible problems which face us, the meat factories, where in one week they are swamped with beasts, hut, because an MCA comes in, the next week they are left with no beasts to kill. The same thing applies to the meat factories on the other side of the border. Yes, there is a job to do. Gas and electricity are certainly jobs to do. Nobody should feel that in the South of Ireland, in the improvement of trade relations, that there is a crock of gold waiting for us to pick up. We arc all in the very depths of an appalling slump.

I said before that the media had conveyed in the past few weeks that everybody supported the DUP. As I said before, the demonstration by ordinary citizens was that of frustration. I should like to go further into the question of the support and problems of the people in Northern Ireland in discussing politics, and especially to talk about elected representatives in the Lower House. At the present moment in a state of revolution it is almost impossible for a so-called moderate to have any future at all because to be moderate in a revolutionary situation you cannot speak except to mouth the fears and anticipations of the people who are under attack. At the end of the day, people simply have to be re-elected or they are not there. I know that better than anybody else, because I stood and supported my noble friend Brian Faulkner and I was lucky to serve under my noble friend.

The Government time and time again by their actions have played into the hands of the DUP. Violence plays into the hands of the DUP and initiatives taken at the time of violence plays into their hands, and more and more support goes to that party. At this moment if there was a general election today, maybe the election for South Belfast, I am not at all sure who would win that election. It is a strong official Unionist seat. That is the measure of what has happened in the past few months.

The ordinary Ulster man—and I want to try to explain his position and why they have reacted against the Dublin Summit in the way that they have—looks on Anglo-Irish councils, councils of Ireland, with great distrust. The reason is simple—in 1921 there was a Council of Ireland. The object of it was, as designed by this Parliament, that it should eventually produce unity. In 1940 the Government at that time looked at the question of a Council of Ireland with a view by that to buy the ports from De Valera. That Council was designed to produce a United Ireland. The Sunningdale Council in their view was designed to produce a United Ireland. It is therefore extremely difficult in the presence of violence and the other revolution to understand that this Anglo-Irish Summit is a matter of Ministers meeting like-Ministers of sovereign governments. I support what my noble friend said about the apparent advice that appears to be emanating from Stormont Castle.

I am certain that the Government will agree that they did not expect the reaction from the Unionist opinion which came as a result of the issuing of that communique. My noble friend Lord Gowrie knows that I was in touch with him about it and said before it happened that it would be predictable and that that was how it would happen.

I now want to turn to the Anglo-Irish studies because they are written in terms which are almost insulting to people of Unionist opinion. I wonder about this—this is why I come back to the advice, although, I do not go so far as the Member for South Down as saying that there is a conspiracy. But the way that they are written is in a way to produce a reaction that the Unionist people in Northern Ireland will take up a stance which makes them totally unacceptable to the people of the rest of the United Kingdom.

I fear more than anything that the actions of Government in supporting Mr. Paisley inadvertently—and lam not saying it is done on purpose but certainly it would not be done if there was strong Northern Ireland advice—might drive us to that particular position.

In the papers—I do not know how many people have bothered to read about the Anglo-Irish studies—there is not one single reference to the union with the United Kingdom, while the aim of the Dublin Government for unity is repeated and honoured. I should like to ask the Government: Can they not even express support for the union?—because after all it is the United Kingdom and the Government are composed of the Conservative and Unionist Party.

Rumour has it that the Secretary of State has even said that he cannot express support for the union because he is afraid it would offend the minority, the Roman Catholic population, who in 30 or 40 years' time may be in the majority. I cannot believe that is true, but that is one of the rumours which is going round. What the Government should remember is that 40 per cent. of the Roman Catholic population of Ulster, apart from all the Protestants, are anti-Dublin. Therefore they cannot go wrong by supporting the union and thereby removing one of the supports which the DUP have.

What should be done now? First, I would suggest that there should be more Ulstermen in Stormont or more and better-indoctrinated English civil servants after a stay in the country. Secondly, I would suggest that the Government should announce as soon as possible that there will be no political initiative and no devolution until after the next election, when there will be 17 Members of Parliament for Northern Ireland and of necessity they will reflect the population. Thirdly, f would suggest that vigorous security should be maintained; and fourthly—as important as anything else—we should increase prosperity, remembering that Ulster depends very heavily on Government expenditure. Given peace and prosperity for a short time, I believe people would be surprised at how quickly politicians would come to think and act with wisdom.

5.27 p.m.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, first, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, for giving us yet another opportunity to talk about Northern Ireland. For my part, I have learned a great deal from what he has said and from what the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, has said. I have sometimes heard the Westminster Parliament criticised for not debating this all-important subject of Northern Ireland enough—but such a criticism could hardly be levelled at this House this afternoon.

As the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, has said, and I do agree, the importance of this debate lies in providing an opportunity for discussing the means towards an end rather than for making any dramatic statement about the actual form such a political settlement should eventually take. Having said that, I think we arc all permitted to nurture a few personal thoughts, preferences and hopes as to what form the settlement might well take.

I think my own hopes might be shared by those who have no particular axe to grind but who merely have a concern for the future of Northern Ireland. Therefore, as I say, these hopes—which may be shared by other people—are that at some point the people of Northern Ireland will agreee on a devolved administration where the responsibility for governing the Province could be shared proportionately between the two communities. Following upon that, it would become the responsibility of such an administration to decide what the future relationship with the Republic of Ireland should be.

That is what some of us would dream of as happening one day; but nevertheless the matter of immediate concern and importance is the work that is going on at the present moment which is aimed at creating the appropriate conditions for bringing about any settlement at all. That priority was very much reflected at a meeting a couple of weeks ago of a private association with which I am involved, at which there were political, academic, Civil Service and press representatives from the North and South of Ireland and from Great Britain. Their discussions centred entirely on ways of resolving present difficulties and improving on the present situation rather than on putting forward any crystalline political solutions. It seemed to me they bore out the theory that it really is impossible to put a lid on a box while the eruptions within that box are of the kind that will blow the lid off again. Thus it would seem right, in the meantime, to concentrate on all those areas where work is going on to pave the way. And, in my view, the most important areas, which have been mentioned by previous speakers, are as follows.

First and foremost—and, of course, the most fundamental contribution of all—are the efforts of the Northern Irish people themselves in the work of reconciliation. What possible political settlement can there ever be while the division remains so profound and so bitter? Secondly, there is the work going on between Dublin and London with the aim not of lining up to impose some settlement on Northern Ireland, but rather of creating that closer relationship which has eluded the two countries for so many centuries.

Thirdly, there is the work of Dr. Garret FitzGerald, the Irish Taoiseach, in his crusade to increase the trust between all the peoples of Ireland. Fourthly, there is the growing awareness of the existence of the European Community as a framework in which to resolve eco- nomic and social problems in Northern Ireland. Fifthly, of course, there is the all-important role of the British Government in their administration of the Province in the economic, social and security fields, while at the same time searching for a way of placing some political responsibility into the hands of the people of Northern Ireland themselves. By this, I mean not the search for a political settlement, but the search for a way of filling the dangerous political vacuum which seems exists in Northern Ireland today. It is on this last point that I should like to comment on one or two ideas of my own.

I share the view of previous speakers that the time seems to be approaching for the creation of some forum—however modest—to which the Northern Irish could elect their own representatives. Candidates coming from Northern Ireland's established political parties and the many independent candidates could stand in an election which would operate under the system of proportional representation normally used in Northern Ireland. Once elected, this assembly could keep very well clear of any constitutional objectives, but could initially be given the role of producing a procedural report. Its members would thus be given the task of themselves deciding how to operate. Such a report would give the Secretary of State an opportunity of seeing what kind of body it was. He would then be in a position to choose from a multitude of different formulae how best to proceed.

We are fully aware of the major danger which has, in the past, threatened the creation of such a body. I mean the danger of domination by one single block—the block made up by the two Unionist parties. But this danger now seems much diminished, as, clearly, these two parties seem at present to be at variance, and a coalition could well be formed from elsewhere, including the Alliance Party, the SDLP and, indeed, some of the independent members. The movement forward would necessarily be very gradual. Things could be taken step by step and, if anything went wrong, the ground could be retrieved without anything being lost.

I feel that the points in favour of setting up such a forum are quite numerous. It would provide an ordered way of finding out what people in the Province think. They are not very often asked what they think—except for the two extreme examples of the recent by-elections in Fermanagh and South Tyrone—and, then, what the electorate said was not at all agreeable for the Government to hear. It would provide a valve for letting off steam. At the moment, the methods used by extreme elements in the Province for letting off steam are of a very destructive nature. The practical day-to-day administration of the Province under direct rule might thus be much assisted.

It would be a means of giving expression, as the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, said, to the voice of that moderate and reasonable middle ground in Northern Ireland, whose utterances are always drowned by the noise coming from the extreme elements. It would provide a way of bringing forth new political representatives—people wanting to look forward towards the future, and whose views were not imprisoned by history, prejudice and religious bigotry. The only way of drawing out these new political figures would be by producing a forum in which they could operate. Finally, may I say that, in my view, the system of direct rule is justifiable only while there is a constant examination of all these other frameworks which exist to create political progress and to build up trust? It is only in this way that the people of Northern Ireland will be given both the time and the opportunity to decide their own future.

5.35 p.m.

Lord Vaizey

My Lords, may I thank my noble friend Lord Moyola for putting down this Question, so that we can have a full debate on the problems of Northern Ireland. In the previous debate I spoke about the problems of security in relation to the Republic. In a debate which is about Northern Ireland I make no apology for beginning my speech with a discussion of conditions in the Republic.

I wonder whether people in Great Britain appreciate to quite what degree opinion in the South has moved. Discussion now takes place openly, and in all groups, in the South about both Irish traditions—that is, the Irish Catholic tradition and the Irish Protestant tradition. This is not a revolutionary change in sophisticated circles, but I can assure your Lordships that the recognition that there are two major Irish traditions is a radical change in the process of discussion in ordinary Southern Catholic households. It is something which I very strongly welcome.

The noble Lord, Lord Blease, who spoke, as always, so eloquently and brilliantly about this topic, referred to the historic choice which now faces the people in the South of Ireland as well as in the North; whether or not the people in the South are prepared to make the moves and the gestures which will lead to reconciliation. The growing together of the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom is not only desirable but inevitable. We are members of the European Community. Trade links, cultural links, professional-personal links are so close that it is inescapable and inevitable that the rift of the past 60 years or so will gradually he healed and that we shall come together as close and friendly neighbours. In this context, the Unionists will inevitably find that they are modifying their own position, whatever their own strongly held views may be. They will have to respond to the new situation where two sovereign Governments are closely allied in many fields: in security, in trade, in social relations of all kinds.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, I am surprised by the inevitability suggestion. Belgium and Holland were joined in the 16th century. Why should not they, equally, come together? Would the noble Lord say that that, too, is inevitable? I do not follow the argument. The noble Lord is saying something which the facts do not support. This is not an objection to union, but I do not understand the noble Lord's thinking.

Lord Vaizey

My Lords, whenever the noble Lord opposite is present in the Chamber I never make a speech without being interrupted by him. I have not come here to talk about the Province of Benelux. I have come here to talk about the Province of Northern Ireland which the noble Lord first got to know seven years ago, which I have known for 30 years. I am talking about the inevitability in the European Com- munity of two neighbouring states, with populations very closely linked by tradition and migration, with a great deal of common trade and, to a very large degree, with common institutions of law and history, growing together. There has been a separation. If the noble Lord wanted to take part in the debate, I wish he had put down his name to speak and had presented us with one of the opinions of his party, about which we should be very interested to learn but on which no statement of any kind has been made so far.

There is no one solution to the Northern Irish question. Many people would say there is no solution to the Irish question as it stands. The pursuit of a solution may have been what caused so much of the trouble: the belief that there was either only the possibility of a United Kingdom, including the South, or the possibility of a united Ireland. I would respectfully submit that there is a series of steps which may offer what in the end may turn out to be, imperfectly, some sort of solution at least to the present security crisis. I say this, and what I am about to say, because my Irish friends are principally Catholics in the South, and the parts of Ireland I know best are County Dublin and County Mayo. But I must say that my sympathies over the past 10 or 12 years have been very strongly for the Protestants in Ulster who have been subjected to this appalling campaign of violence.

There is an element of hypocrisy in talking about Protestant violence and Catholic violence as though they were exactly parallel. It is called "false symmetry", as someone mentioned the other day during the debate on the USSR and the USA; the fact that they both possess nuclear bombs does not mean that they are powers which should be equally condemned by European nations. There have been comparatively few murders carried out by the Protestants' paramilitary gangs. Of course, those murders must be condemned, but the bulk of the campaign in the past 12 years has undoubtedly arisen from the IRA.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, may I interrupt?

Lord Vaizey

My Lords, the only other person who persistently interrupts my speeches on Ireland in this House is the noble Earl, Lord Longford. The noble Earl has already intervened. He has not put his name down to speak again. I have come here to try to speak seriously about an important question and it is frightfully difficult if noble Lords keep on getting up and battling.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I do not want to come between these two spokesmen of the higher principles, but I should just like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, that I am going to speak in this debate and so perhaps he would rather I let him get on unimpeded.

Lord Vaizey

Yes, my Lords. Actually I always use the noble Earl, Lord Longford, in my logic lectures, because he is an Irish Catholic, because he is both an Irishman and a Catholic; but the total effect of the words "Irish Catholic" would be misleading because he was in fact born and brought up as an Irish Protestant. It is the marrying of those two traditions, which the noble Earl has so brilliantly consummated in his own personal life, which I am trying to make the theme of my speech. I spoke about the two traditions coming together in the South for the first time in my personal experience, which I think is a very important fact, and I have talked about the way in which the United Kingdom Government and the Trish Government, again for the first time, are coming together very closely on a number of very important issues. I believe that that context within which things are taking place is a very important one.

I would respectfully say to my noble friends on this side of the House who are from the Ulster Protestant community that it is important we should remember that Ulster never was in the same constitutional position as Yorkshire. We are often told that Ulster is the United Kingdom and why should we talk about a special Government for the north of Ireland when we do not talk about a special Government for the county of Yorkshire. Before 1801 the whole of Ireland had its own Parliament. After 1914, with the passing of the Government of Ireland Act, we have had de facto Parliaments in Ireland which have been separated from the Parliament here in Westminster in important areas of jurisdiction. From 1801 until 1921, when there was no Irish Parliament, there was in fact a completely separate Irish administration. It is only in recent years that we have had direct rule of Ireland at all from Westminster; for the first time in the history of these two islands, this experience of direct rule is a very recent and abhorrent experience in the total history of the relationship of these two islands. I therefore regard it as absolutely inevitable—and since I realise, of course, that there is no such thing as historical inevitability, perhaps I should modify my phraseology and say that it is pretty likely—that some form of devolved administration will eventually have to be created in Northern Ireland.

I fully accept what the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, from his great wealth of experience has said, supported by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, that now is probably not the time to introduce that devolved administration. What I do ask myself is, when will the time come when that devolved administration can be created? It will never be propitious. If one waits until the murders cease, that gives an additional incentive for the murders never to cease.

On the whole, I would seek to suggest to my noble friend on the Front Bench that representative institutions in the North of Ireland are so important, so vital for the future of both Northern Ireland communities, because it is very important indeed that the Northern Ireland voice be heard in these joint Dublin-London consultations, that some kind of institution in the North must and should be created, however difficult it seems, however obnoxious some of the people who take part in such an assembly might be to those of us who belong to this House or to the lower Chamber.

It is for that reason that I would, on the whole, out of inexperience compared with my noble friends Lord Moyola and Lord Brookeborough, say to the Government, for the moment disregard their advice, press ahead and seek whether or not you can create some kind of representative institution in which both voices of the Northern Ireland community can be heard. Until such institutions are created, it seems to me you leave the field absolutely open to the present extremists and you encourage them—this is the point—to be extreme.

5.47 p.m.

Lord Monson

My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, for initiating this debate. It is a pity that it has to take place so near Christmas, indeed on the day when we rise for the Recess, partly because one should not have to rush a debate on such an important topic as this, and partly because it is, after all, the season of goodwill and in the circumstances it is only natural and human to want to play down differences and to avoid controversy. I would dearly like to have done exactly that, but I am afraid that there are some things that simply cannot remain unsaid any longer—always provided that my cold-ridden throat lasts the distance.

The Government have done a U-turn, not an economic U-turn of course, although that may come, but a U-turn as regards Northern Ireland. The 1979 Conservative election manifesto is explicit about the Conservative intention to restore local government in the Province, thereby bringing it into line with England, Scotland and Wales. In conjunction with full parliamentary representation at Westminster—and I do trust there is going to be no back-sliding on that, and I hope the noble Earl can reassure us—this constitutes full integration. This is consistent, of course, with the Conservative attitude towards Scottish and Welsh devolution. They opposed it, or most of them opposed it, because they believed, rightly I think, that it would weaken the Union. So one should not be too surprised perhaps that the manifesto was written as it was. But certainly, it was a very hopeful sign, at least to my mind.

Ever since the peremptory suspension of Stormont in 1974, I have believed that full integration was the only honourable course. What is more, it is significant that integration is the second choice of nearly all the groups and sub-groups within Northern Ireland, when presented with a list of half a dozen possible options for the future Government of the Province. It was not, admittedly, their first choice, but it was nearly everybody's second choice. This is hardly surprising because full integration does, after all, guarantee justice for everyone in the Province, not just on a temporary basis but in perpetuity. It also guarantees stablility and permanence. Stability and permanence are just what the IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army fear most, because it cuts the ground from under their feet. I believe that it was chiefly for this reason that the INLA brutally murdered the Conservative statesman most closely associated with the policy of integration. I refer, of course, to Mr. Airey Neave.

The other day the Prime Minister declared Northern Ireland was just as much a part of the United Kingdom as her own constituency. Echoing the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, may I say, if only other leading Conservatives were as robust and enthusiastic and unequivocal in their support for the union! The implication of the Prime Minister's statement is that the inhabitants of, let us say, North Down or Mid-Ulster, should have the same rights and same obligations as the inhabitants of Finchley—also the same justice and, I would submit, the same form of administration, at both national and local level. But now this is not to be, mainly, one deduces from reading various Parliamentary Answers over the past 12 months or more, for fear of offending, first, hard line Republicans (not all Republicans, but hard line Republicans who constitute a minority of the minority) but, above all, certain people on the other side of the Atlantic.

I assure the noble Earl that I do my best to understand the Government's problems. I think I understand the problem in so far as they are obliged to offer inducements to friends, neighbours and allies to persuade them to act in the way that most civilised nations would act spontaneously without prompting; in other words, to prevent their countries being used as terrorist bases for attacks upon other countries, particularly friendly countries, to extradite those suspected of committing the most hideous crimes and to prevent gun running and the transport of explosives.

The inducements to which I have referred are not of course financial but consist of hints, nudges and half-promises about aspirations being fulfilled at some unspecified time in the future. Naturally, all concessions to opponents of the union excite Unionist fears, and with good reason as Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien pointed out in a most perceptive article in the Observer on 6th December. The Government will no doubt argue that Unionist suspicion is a price worth paying if their policy stops the flow of arms and leads to greater co-operation between the different security forces, so on and so forth. Well, perhaps, if that policy delivers the goods. The question is: Are enough of the goods being delivered? After all, President Reagan has not even reversed President Carter's ban on the export of arms to the RUC, to take just one example.

Apart from the shelving of integration there are other straws in the wind which fuel Unionist affairs—and if I harp upon affairs of Unionists, Loyalists, Monarchists or whatever you like to call them, it is because it must be evident that without widespread Unionist support no new initiative can possibly get off the ground. If a prominent British politician were to go to Canada and appear on Canadian television and say that the eventual reunification of Hispanic America was the hope and prayer of all English men and women, with Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California reverting to their former owners, the American Government would certainly not remain silent. But when Mr. William Clark comes to Dublin and declares that the eventual unification of Ireland is the hope and prayer of all Americans, the British Government stay mute, as they do when other American politicians angling for the Irish American vote make similar statements within the United States.

Naturally this makes the loyal majority in Northern Ireland even more worried, and yet the irony is that Mr. Clark's assertion is quite untrue. Outside a few areas in Boston, New York, Chicago and San Francisco, the vast majority of Americans entertain no such hopes. Those Americans who have actually heard of Northern Ireland, possibly a minority, have no strong feelings either way, although I may interject to say that most Americans I have met recently were full of praise for Mrs. Thatcher for not having capitulated to the hunger strike.

Americans are bewildered of course. This is not surprising when a former British ambassador to the United States, appearing in an "Any Questions" programme broadcast for once from the United States, totally fails to challenge or to protest against an allegation made by an American fellow panelist to the effect that the British Army in Northern Ireland is a brutal army of occupation. The ex-ambassador's failure to challenge this outrageous allegation must have been taken by the American audience as a tacit admission that the British establishment concedes the truth of this slanderous allegation.

To compound all this, it must be said that when the new Secretary of State arrived in Northern Ireland one most insensitive statement was made. According to press reports, the Secretary of State chided the Northern Ireland people for not making more of an effort to get on with their neighbours in the South. Imagine how this reproach must sound to someone loyal to the Crown—whether they are Protestants, Catholic or anything else is quite immaterial—living in sensitive border areas (such as those described by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough) whose life is at risk 24 hours out of 24. His or her life is at risk specifically because, as Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien points out in his article of 6th December: The IRA could not have kept up its murder campaign so long without the associated political pressure for unification". This political pressure is epitomised—and it is not only epitomised but fuelled—by the articles in the Republic's 1937 Constitution claiming jurisdiction over the North.

That is not all. Time and time again when a middle-aged milkman on his rounds or a postman delivering letters is shot in the back by some callous thug because he—that is, the milkman or the postman—is a police reservist or a former UDR man, we read that the murderers' car drove off towards the border. Once over the border they know full well that they are in no danger of being extradited. To add insult to the ghastly injury, the press office of the terrorist organisation to which the murderers belong, situated openly in the middle of Dublin, may well issue some pompous statement trying to justify the murder. Also the existence of terrorist training grounds in various parts of the Republic is common knowledge to anyone who lives in that country.

I can understand that the Republic may well argue that they simply do not have the money or the man-power to police the entire length of a very long and twisting border. That is a fair argument as far as it goes, but, of course, it answers only one of the many criticisms made. I appreciate that Dr. FitzGerald is doing his best to build bridges and to make things up with the North, and one must certainly pay tribute to him for doing this. One only wishes that his predecessors had started on this course many years ago.

The trouble is that Dr. FitzGerald is encumbered with the deadweight of his people's romantic nationalism. Of course, if this romantic nationalism were ever fulfilled, the people of the South would, in practice, be aghast; the last thing they want is to have the North suddenly dumped on their laps. Nevertheless, the encumbrance of this nationalism is such that it would be extremely difficult for Dr. FitzGerald or anybody else to shake off. For that reason one does not rate very highly his chances of succeeding in deleting the offending articles in the Republic's constitution.

Then there is divorce. Of course, any reform which succeeds in introducing the liberal laws which prevail in the rest of Europe must surely be welcome to a great many people in the Republic, although this is strictly none of our business. But as for seducing the North into the Republic, it is surely a non-starter. Let us suppose that it was suggested to the people of Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney and Sark that they haul down the Union flag and raise the Tricolor; that they outlaw "God save the Queen" and replace it with the "Marseillaise" in return for being allowed to buy contraceptives and get divorced. One has only to consider the idea for five seconds to see how ridiculous it is.

Apart from these few political issues, I bear absolutely no animosity whatever towards the Irish Republic or its people. I have been there numerous times. I have always liked nearly everyone whom I have met there and I have fond memories of my visits. But I do not think that it does a service to anyone to sweep bones of contention under the carpet. Constantly to lean over backwards to make excuses for what the Republic does, or fails to do, as our neurotically guilt-ridden establishment has a habit of doing, is actually to patronise the Republic. It demonstrates—no doubt unwittingly—contempt rather than respect. By constantly saying "You must appreciate their difficulties; you must make allowances" or "That is the way they are; they cannot help it", one is actually implying that the Irish are too immature and mercurial to be able to face honest criticism on a man-to-man basis. A more robust attitude would actually be more friendly, paradoxical though this may sound.

What would an honest critic of the South say to the South? Essentially that the relationship that they should aim for with the North is the relationship that exists between the Netherlands and Belgium. (Here I am delighted that Lord Donaldson's mind runs along the same way as mine.) Here are two countries much closer to each other than they are to other EEC countries. The frontier is extremely informal and relaxed: it is generally possible to cross it without displaying any documentation whatsoever.

There is largely a common cultural heritage, particularly in the spheres of art and architecture. To some degree, there is a common present-day culture and lifestyle, though of course there are many differences as well. There is much trade and much cross border co-operation, but, and this is the most important point, each country has its own head of state, each country has its own flag, and each country has its own national anthem. Furthermore, despite the considerable communal trouble in Belgium between Flemings and Walloons, there exists a strict policy of non-intervention in each other's internal affairs. That, I believe, is the goal to aim for.

6.2 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken speaks with deep sincerity, and he will forgive me if I do not follow him along the lines he has indicated. There is no more delightful speaker in your Lordships' House than the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, whether speaking from the Benches which he originally adorned when he came here as a Labour Peer—

Lord Vaizey

My Lords, I am one of the few people who has never changed his place. The House has revolved round me.

The Earl of Longford

As a form of eccentricity or egocentricity that might rank fairly high, my Lords. The noble Lord is rather an expert on interruptions, but there is no more delightful speaker wherever he speaks from. I hope he will not establish a kind of reign of terror, so that, for instance, if Lord Donaldson attempts an innocent intervention, or I do the same, we are at once rebuked for doing so. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, is far more tolerant.

I have not got the exact words, but the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, said that there was no parallel between the murders committed by Protestants and the murders committed by Catholics because the Catholic murders were more numerous—considerably more numerous. That last point I am afraid is true, but I would say that murder is murder. I hope that the noble Lord will condemn murder wholeheartedly. The murders of the UDA have not been condemned by the leaders of Protestant opinion, including leaders in this House, as fervently as the Catholic murders have been.

Viscount Brookeborough

Will the noble Earl give way?

The Earl of Longford

I will in a moment. I am not squeamish about being interrupted. I am too old for that. Noble Lords spend a lot of time talking about terrorism. Well, yes, terrorism of all kinds, but it is ordinarily assumed by noble Lords that all the terrorism comes from one side, and that of course is bunk.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, the noble Earl is not giving any credit to this House. In no way can I imagine anybody in this House who believes that terrorism is only on one side, but there is no question that the majority of the terrorism has been carried out by the IRA. Further to that, he is, I believe, alluding to me as not having condemned it. I have condemned all terrorism, all murder, whether it be Protestant or Catholic, all my life. Further, the noble Earl must agree that, whatever Protestant murders have been committed, the murderers are so inefficient about being clandestine that they are caught. My problem in my county of Fermanagh is that we have had 66 murders and only two have been solved.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I am very sorry to hear about that, but, since we are on that point, it occurred to me when the noble Viscount was speaking that, if he knows who these murderers are and if they live only a few miles away, he should inform the police—

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, will the noble Earl give way again?

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I am ready to give way a number of times but not in the middle of a sentence. If the noble Viscount knows the names of all these murderers, which he told us earlier he did, all he has to do is hand the information to the RUC, who will then inform the police in Southern Ireland, and I have it on the highest authority—the noble Viscount will know perfectly well who I mean—that the co-operation is excellent between the two police forces.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, the noble Earl is incredibly naive if he honestly believes that the names of the murderers are not known to the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic. They are known to the police, to the Garda and to the Prime Minister. The Irish Republic cannot touch them because they have committed no crime in the Irish Republic. The crime has been commited in the North and it is not possible to get the evidence because the Irish Republic will not allow the Royal Ulster Constabulary to question the people.

The Earl of Longford

I must disagree totally with the noble Viscount, my Lords. I happen to have had a long discussion with high authorities in the RUC not long ago and I know perfectly well that co-operation is excellent between the two forces.

Viscount Brookeborough


The Earl of Longford

The noble Viscount must allow me to speak for, say, three minutes before the next interruption, after which I may forgive him for not being able to contain himself.

I return to what I might have been saying if I had not had those charming interruptions, and I particularly wish to make a few remarks about bigotry. In this country, of course, we have had plenty of bigotry; after all, in England the Catholics were not allowed to sit in Parliament until 1829, but for a good many years bigotry in this country has been very much reduced and there has been a good deal more bigotry in Ireland.

When I was a boy in Southern Ireland, a Protestant—I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, regards that as a compliment or otherwise; I mention that in view of his remarks—because I was brought up as a Protestant in Southern Ireland, I well remember that the family we knew best were Catholics, but the mother had been Protestant. I think I shall not be doing her family any harm if I say that her name was Boyd-Rochfort, a very famous Protestant name. We knew very well as children that on her wedding day, her father being dead, she got a telegram from her mother, Mrs. Boyd-Rochfort, running as follows: Your father's curse probable. Your mother's certain". It was not a very good beginning for married life. We knew that as a sort of story about bigotry as children in Southern Ireland, Protestant bigotry. Many years after that, when my brother, whom I succeeded, was buried—he was a Protestant until the day of his death, having been a member of the Protestant Synod of Ireland—we went to the North. I and my family met a few other irregular Catholics like Brendan Behan. We went to the church, but a very large Catholic audience had to gather in and around the graveyard because they could not go into the church. That was 20 years ago—I do not want to imply that there is no bigotry among Catholics—and a few years after that, that could not possibly have happened. That sort of bigotry on the Catholic side in Southern Ireland has died out completely and I would have said it was much reduced in Northern Ireland.

This question of bigotry does not arise because Catholics and Protestants are necessarily bigoted. Indeed, I suppose one could be a Member of this House without even knowing who was a Protestant and who was a Catholic. One might assume that some were atheists, but, then, one could not guess Members' religious denomination. At any rate, in this country, as elsewhere, we see Protestants and Catholics getting on well together. But in that one area, as a result of history, there is this awful legacy of bigotry. Personally, I shall always go on saluting the Peace Women, not for what they did but for what they tried to do. They really made an heroic effort, and if later it became somewhat discredited, I still believe they made a noble effort to end bigotry, and in my view everybody who sets out to end bigotry should be congratulated.

When the Pope came to Ireland two-and-a-half years ago a deputation from the Presbyterians came to Dublin to see him. There were some Presbyterians who did not feel they could meet the Pope. Old antagonisms and suspicions die hard. The other day I was glad to find, talking of the denunciation of murders, that the leader, the present Moderator—he was not the Moderator when the Pope came—denounced Mr. Paisley. I seemed to be the first person in the debate to mention his name, and that is an odd thing. People talk about "certain quarters" and there seems to be a certain timidity about denouncing Mr. Paisley, who was in fact denounced the other day by the Moderator for incitement to murder. I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, is aware of that, and the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, too. So when you get Mr. Paisley inciting people to murder and being denounced by the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland then one is dealing with a very dangerous situation. Let us denounce terrorism, let us denounce murders by the IRA, but let us denounce the murders on the other side, also. Let us particularly denounce Mr. Paisley. I do not see we should shrink from mentioning his name. Is it thought to be bad form to mention his name, because he is a Member of another House? I would say that Mr. Paisley is causing more harm than any one person has ever caused in the history of Ireland.

6.11 p.m.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, if I may take up the last point made by the noble Earl, I would say that I think that there has been a shrinking away from naming names not because of timidity in regard to the name in question, but rather because of a parliamentary convention, which I am ashamed to say I myself violated the other day, that one does not mention by name people from another place.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, may I stand rebuked and apologise?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, in the last few moments of this most interesting debate I thought that anyone who had casually strayed into the Chamber might gain a brief, but very valuable, insight into why things are so difficult in the Irish scene. There are very profoundly and very passionately held views, and they do not always coincide. I hold some extremely passionate as well as some rather unacceptable views myself, and I spend much time sitting on them and not releasing them into the light of day. I also moderate a few of them as greater experience and, one hopes, greater sensitivity dawns upon one. But this shows the difficulties of dealing simply with a very close connection between two countries, a very intimate, a very friendly connection still, but also one which has produced more than its share of tragedy, difficulty and suffering, and which is, alas! still doing so.

I am in some slight difficulty. A few Christmases ago I gave a friend, as a Christmas present, a collected anthology of Osbert Lancaster's cartoons. There was a very good early one, dating from the war. It was a picture of a large, granite-faced vicar, wearing a surplice with some military medals on it. He was speaking from a pulpit and two old ladies were depicted sitting beneath him. In the caption one was saying to the other, "Since the dear vicar became military chaplain to M15 his sermons have got so non-committal".

I am somewhat in that position today, for two reasons. The first is that the Government are at present actively considering the matter which my noble friend Lord Moyola raised—plans for the future government of Northern Ireland—and do not yet have much to say about their considerations. Secondly, in a sense when moving the order in the previous debate—and I apologised to the House for the fact that there would inevitably be overlap here—I gave a very full and, I hope, a very clear intimation of what our thinking was, and along what tracks our minds were presently running. Therefore, I hope that any noble Lord who at this fairly late stage might feel that my present answer is a little wanting in commitment would do me the great kindness of going back to the previous reply, which will, I think, set the framework rather more fully.

As I have said, I cannot answer directly my noble friend's Question, but I can say that the Government remain committed to a search for political development in Northern Ireland, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is determined that the people of the Province, through their locally-elected representatives, should have a much greater say in their own affairs than they do at present.

My noble friend Lord Moyola said that there was no forum in which the people of Northern Ireland could operate; and my noble friend Lord Brooke-borough talked about the difficulties of a moderate in a tense time, and a moderate who has no forum in which to express and exchange his views. I hope I am not misrepresenting my noble friend in saying that that, in the view of Lord Brookeborough, left the field open to extremists, or to those who are clever at manipulating news and media attention.

But I think it goes deeper than that. There is, I think, a profound wish of all the principal parties in Northern Ireland, for economic as well as for political reasons, to achieve some greater measure of devolution. Here I have to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Monson, skating over what I do not think was a full enough interpretation of the Conservative manifesto of 1979 to be quite fair (but we will not wrangle about that at present), and say that there really is not consent to full integration with the United Kingdom in terms of internal government, in terms of patterns of local or regional government obtaining in the Province, to allow for full integration. Not only the Democratic Unionist Party and the official Unionist Party now, but also the SDLP and the Alliance, as well as a great scattering of smaller parties, have all made representation to us that a far greater measure of devolution is necessary; and, if they have agreed on nothing else, my Lords, they have agreed with us that direct rule should not be a continuing affair, or is not permanently satisfactory.

Lord Monson

My Lords, may I put this to the noble Earl? Might not a referendum show a very different picture? People do not necessarily think in the same way as parties.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, the difficulty with referenda—and I want to say something about them in just a moment in respect of another point put to me—is really twofold. It lies in the nature of the question you ask and the timing of the answer. It is not a satisfactory permanent mechanism for dealing with these affairs.

I am simply recounting to the House that the Secretary of State and I have run an open-door policy to every politician and, indeed, to many non-politicians, and to every political party in the Province, and all of them have made this representation to us very clearly indeed from very different perspectives. Our position therefore is that direct rule is not a satisfactory long-term answer; and, also, we have ruled out full integration (for reasons I gave just now but also in my previous remarks on the order) or returning to the old-style Stormont. Our aim is to achieve a transfer of powers to locally-elected representatives in the Province, so that they can have a greater say in the running of their own affairs. There arc a number of possible ways of making the transfer, and we are considering these. In our judgment, progress on the political front would have beneficial effects on security as well as on the Northern Ireland economy—and again, perhaps tediously, I refer back to my previous remarks—so that it is, in our judgment, in everyone's interests for the local parties to work constructively with us for a solution.

Perhaps this is the only point at which I to some degree part company with some of my noble friends—with my noble friends Lord Moyola and Lord Brooke-borough. My noble friend Lord Moyola appeared to be echoing St. Augustine and saying, "Make me devolve, Lord, but not yet". I think this was very well answered, if I may say so, by my noble friend Lord Vaizey when he pointed out to the House that there really is never a satisfactory time. There are always incidents or eruptions, to use a phrase used by the noble Baroness, and if there are not such incidents or eruptions someone will take very good care to engineer them in order to put the Government or the consortium or the conference or the convention or the commission, or whatever it is, off its stride.

My Lords, having said that, we are not under any illusions about the difficulty of finding an acceptable basis for transferring power. The very fact that direct rule has lasted for an almost unbroken period of nearly 10 years, in spite of the best efforts of successive British Governments and in spite of the considerable measure of consent within the British political system towards finding a solution, is evidence of the problems that Britain faces in restoring power to local hands. Equally, direct rule cannot last for ever, if only for the reason that I try to take time in pointing out to people in the Province, that British public opinion is not irreparably static on this matter; and the movements of opinion within the Labour Party, within the new Social Democratic Party and (if Mr. Steel's recent speech is anything to go by) within the Liberal Party, show that there is some groundswell of impatience—not with the desire of people to remain British, and not with the desire for people to see the British Government standing firm against terrorism, but with the immobility of politics and politicians within the Province itself.

We have ruled out certain governmental arrangements. I mentioned Stormont in the old sense that I mentioned integration. I find myself in agreement with my noble friend Lord Vaizey that Northern Ireland is different and it would be folly to pretend that those differences do not exist in respect of the mainland United Kingdom. The history is different and the existence of two different kinds of communities with different allegiances is rather foreign to the Great Britain system. This was a helpful recognition. All that we are saying about these differences is that any new arrangements must take account of them.

I would also rule out absolutely independence as a serious option. Here, I am glad to come back into line with my noble friends Lord Moyola and Lord Brookeborough, who are so much more experienced in the way of the Province than I am. I do not believe that the vast majority of the majority community wish to go down the independence road which certain quarters (to put it in our delicate parliamentary conventional terms) appear to be trying to lead them. I believe that their overwhelming desire is to keep their British identity and cultural allegiance but to operate within a framework of a strong, devolved regional government. Northern Ireland is not a viable or self-contained state in economic as well as in constitutional terms. It could not, in our view, go it alone without disastrous consequences for its inhabitants.

If I could be more positive, I would describe our policy as resting, in two respects on the principle of consent. First, Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom as long as a majority wish it. We are immutably committed to this principle of self-determination; and I would say to my noble friend Lord Brookeborough that this is perhaps why we do not come out with some of the statements he would like us to. Recognising the desire of the Province to go back to having considerably more say in its own affairs, it is not for us to tamper with or to cast doubts upon that principle of consent. But the second principle is that the consent of all the people of Northern Ireland and of both communities there is essential, even if it is only a modicum of consent. Even if the consent is only rather grudgingly given, it is essential if any new arrangements are to succeed. We are convinced of the need to make that progress on those two bases and, in our view, any progress must be based upon what I have said.

Turning quickly to the particular points made to me, my noble friend Lord Moyola—and others echoed him—wanted to see more Northern Irishmen as advisers. I altogether take this point and the point that my noble friend should have the most expert advice on these complex problems. But the Northern Ireland Office has in its senior posts a number of officials who, while not Ulstermen, have now been dealing with Northern Ireland affiairs for many years and have built up a lot of experience. If I may put it in the jargon of the trade, there is a considerable British dimension to this problem as well.

Secondly, the Northern Ireland Civil Service remains staffing the Northern Ireland Departments and advising Ministers on the basis of first-hand knowledge of the Province about all those matters which fall within the ambit of the departments. Finally, the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service is also deputy to the Permanent Secretary of the Northern Ireland Office and has an office in Stormont Castle. From my short experience in this job I believe that Ministers are very well served and we are in touch with local advice and local opinion.

I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Blease, that both in the previous debate and the present debate various words of praise have been made by noble Lords about the chief constable of the RUC, and also operational points, so to speak, have been directed through me at him. I see him regularly and he has become a friend. I shall take a copy of the Hansard which contains this debate to him. He will be gratified by the praise, and I am sure that he will take on board the points which have been raised.

The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, asked about referenda. A border poll under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 may be held at any time after March 1983. However, in any such poll it would not be for the Government to urge the electorate to vote one way or the other. Self-determination in our analysis must be free, and there are many interpretations of the economic consequences of unity or union which would be very difficult to spell out in the necessary simplicities of a referendum.

I would say to the noble Earl, Lord Longford—directing the point not so much to what he said but to some of the exchanges which were going across my head at that time, and it is a point which I should like to bring to my noble friend Lord Brookeborough as well—that while we have been absolutely uncompromising in our desire to see extradition and in making this desire clear to the Government of the Republic, we recognise that it is not the only answer. There are difficulties in getting evidence for crimes committed within the Province itself, and where there is no evidence that people have gone over the border this is one of the sad facts of the problems with which we deal.

If I may close by giving a small kind of wayside flower of a thought of my own, I would say this. It seems to me that those who love the island of Ireland and live on it will sooner or later have to face a central truth about that island. That is, the two-populations exist there with different cultural identities and allegiance to different political sovereignties. While we are looking for greater devolution, for a greater say by people in Northern Ireland in their own affairs, we must also in the context of the friendly relations between the United Kingdom as a whole and the Irish Republic do all that we can to recognise that central and in my view immutable truth.