HL Deb 30 July 1985 vol 467 cc159-61

3.7 p.m.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will now recognise the IRA as having a legitimate role to play in the resolution of the problems of Ireland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Lyell)

My Lords, no.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. May I put two further questions to him? Do the Government recognise that such leaders as Jomo Kenyatta, once stigmatised by the British Government as a terrorist, later became the acknowledged leaders of their nations? Furthermore, do the Government recognise that the present legislation being proposed by the United States will very likely be found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, in answer to the noble Earl's first supplementary question, at present Mr. Adams's party, the Sinn Fein, is opposed, and indeed condemned, by nearly 90 per cent. of the electorate of Northern Ireland. This party secured nearly 4 per cent. of the vote in the recent local elections in the Irish Republic. So far as the noble Earl's second question is concerned, this is entirely a matter for the United States authorities, but certainly I have no reason to believe that the new treaty, if implemented, would be inconsistent with the constitution of the United States.

Lord De Freyne

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the IRA is not recognised by the Irish Government under section 31 of their constitution? May I also ask my noble friend whether the showing of the television programme is the right thing to do at the present time?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I can tell my noble friend, and indeed the whole House, that those who seek to overthrow democracy in Northern Ireland by terrorist violence can have no recognised role in resolving any of the problems of Northern Ireland. As for my noble friend's second supplementary question, he and indeed your Lordships will be pleased to know that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has asked the British Broadcasting Corporation not to broadcast the programme and I, for one, am glad that the BBC governors are considering this.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, in order that there may be no dubiety, is the Minister aware that his remarks regarding the role of the IRA are fully supported by the Opposition and, I feel sure, by every other section in your Lordships' House? But, at the same time, is he not aware that there is a fervent desire for improved relations between the communities in Northern Ireland? Is he therefore also aware that we hope that the discussions between the Westminster and the Dublin Governments will proceed with a view to establishing some framework in the interests of both communities in Northern Ireland and relationships with the South?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, we are very grateful, of course, for the first part of the noble Lord's supplementary question. So far as the second part is concerned, I am afraid that that is another question and I must say, "Wait and see".

Lord Monson

My Lords, will the noble Lord the Minister not agree that in the, one hopes, unlikely event of any British Government agreeing to compromise on the unity or integrity of the United Kingdom, then in effect the IRA will have secured one of its major objectives?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, the noble Lord and your Lordships will be well aware that there are 1 million citizens in Northern Ireland with little or no interest in reunification. Indeed, that section of the population forms a majority in that part of the United Kingdom. The noble Lord and the House will be perfectly well aware that it is a long-standing principle of democracy—and above all of self-determination—that the wishes of the majority on a constitutional question such as this should prevail, and indeed will prevail. I hasten to stress to the noble Lord that this need for consent is accepted by the Government of the Republic of Ireland.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that a great many of the million or so people he quoted are in fact Roman Catholics?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I would not be in a position to comment on that.

Lord Fitt

My Lords, would the noble Lord accept that the IRA is a murderous terrorist organisation that is illegal in both Northern Ireland and in the Republic? Would he also agree that it has no significant support in the whole island of Ireland, and that less than 12 months ago the activists of the IRA tried to murder an entire British Cabinet? I repeat that that was less than a year ago. They have also carried out the most indiscriminate, ruthless and barbaric killings at Harrods and in Regent's Park—and I am not counting all the murders that they have committed in Northern Ireland.

Would the noble Lord agree that if anyone with any claim to responsibility were to ask this House to legalise such an organisation he can only be charged with deliberately giving succour and support to the. murderous elements that have so ravaged the name of Ireland, and of this country as well?