HC Deb 26 October 1972 vol 843 cc379-80W
Mr. Kilfedder

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many Roman Catholic schools in the Belfast area have been occupied by the Army; why the Army occupied these schools; why the Army left some of them; what representations were made and by what interests; who were the leaders of the various deputations designed to remove the Army from the schools; and how the history of Army occupation of Roman Catholic schools has differed from the history of Army occupation of Protestant schools.

Mr. David Howell

Until July, 1972, no maintained schools in Northern Ireland were occupied by the Army. During Operation Motorman eight maintained schools in the Belfast area were occupied by troops as this was essential both for the success of the operations against the IRA and for the protection of the troops themselves. As a result of strenuous efforts by the Army to find alternative accommodation, five maintained schools were vacated before the schools reopened in September. Two more will be vacated by the end of this week and the remaining school will be given up by Christmas.

Representations were made by school authorities (maintained school committees), by the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, by organisations of teachers, by parents, by the Community Relations Commission and by individuals, mainly to the effect that the schools could not operate effectively while soldiers were stationed on the premises. The deputations were representative of the interests involved and it is not possible to name any person as leader.

Three schools under the management of a local education authority (county schools) have by arrangement been used by the Army for the past year or more. At the time of Operation Motorman two other county schools were used by the Army, both of which were vacated before the beginning of the present school term. No representations have been made to my right hon. Friend that the schools currently being used cannot operate or that the troops should be removed.