HC Deb 08 November 1990 vol 180 cc2-3W

Constitutional Position

1. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom because that is the will of the majority of people who live there. It will not cease to be a part of the United Kingdom unless that situation changes. Majority desire for a change in status clearly does not exist at present. There is no reason to expect this to alter in the foreseeable future.

Aims and Objectives

2. The Government's aims are:

  1. (a) to maintain the rule of law;
  2. (b) to ensure that all the people of Northern Ireland are free to express their political opinions without inhibition, fear of discrimination or reprisal;
  3. (c) to defend the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Northern Ireland against those who try to promote political objectives, including a change in the status of Northern Ireland, by violence or the threat of violence;
  4. (d) to create in Northern Ireland the conditions for a just, peaceful and prosperous society in which local people can exercise greater control over their own affairs.

3. So that these aims can be achieved, it is the first priority of the Government in Northern Ireland to eradicate terrorism, from whichever section of the community it comes. There is no acceptable level of violence and, for so long as violence continues, it will be met with a firm and resolute response.


4. To this end, the Government will:

  1. (a) ensure that the police, supported by the armed forces, have the resources they need to undertake their difficult and dangerous work on behalf of the whole community;
  2. (b) provide a legal framework within which the security forces can act to defeat terrorism;
  3. (c) co-operate closely on security with the Government of the Republic of Ireland;
  4. (d) seek to isolate the terrorists from the cornmunities within which they operate.

5. The Government will implement this strategy with total commitment until terrorism has been defeated in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

6. In parallel, the Government will implement effective measures in the political, social and economic fields, designed to promote equality of treatment, economic well-being and stable democratic institutions. These measures will help to create a climate in Northern Ireland in which peaceful political development can take place, thereby complementing and reinforcing the Government's security strategy.

7. In accordance with this strategy, which is endorsed by the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the General Officer Commanding the Armed Forces in Northern Ireland:

  1. (a) the Government are determined that terrorism will be defeated through the evenhanded and energetic enforcement of the criminal law.
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  3. (b) The police will continue to take primary responsibility for the prevention, investigation and securing evidence for the prosecution of crime, including terrorist crime. The armed forces will act in support of the police, but only where and when the security situation makes it necessary.
  4. (c) Wherever and whenever possible, the police will operate without military support, in accordance with the goal of restoring normality, and with the ultimate aim that all military support to the police should be dispensed with when the security situation permits.
  5. (d) Anti-terrorist legislation will be kept under review, to ensure that it is appropriate to the prevailing security threat. It will continue to strike a balance between providing the RUC and armed forces with the legal means they need in order to protect the community effectively, and at the same time providing appropriate safeguards for individuals. When the need for a particular provision no longer exists, it will be repealed or allowed to lapse, as a step towards greater reliance on the ordinary criminal law.
  6. (e) The police and armed forces will continue to be governed by the legal principle of using only such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in preventing crime and arresting offenders.
  7. (f) Members of the police and armed forces, like all other citizens, will continue to be subject to the law. If members of the security forces break the law they will themselves be liable to prosecution.
  8. (g) The public have a right to expect the highest standards of behaviour from police officers and members of Her Majesty's forces. Activity or actions falling short of those standards will never be condoned. The Government hope that anyone who believes that they have a genuine cause for complaint about the conduct of a police officer or member of the armed forces will use the procedures which exist for the investigation of such complaints.

8. The Government recognise that, to be fully effective, the actions of the police and armed forces against terrorism in Northern Ireland require the support of all sides of the community. The actions of the security forces must, therefore, at all times be such as to create and maintain confidence in their integrity and professionalism, as well as in their operational effectiveness.

9. The Government call on men and women of good will from both traditions in Northern Ireland to co-operate with the security forces as they carry out their duty to protect the community. Such co-operation may include accepting the inconvenience which may result from security force operations against terrorists and reporting crime, including terrorist crime, to the police.

10. The Government believe that confidence between the community and the police and armed forces can best be achieved if both traditions are properly represented in the locally recruited forces. Hence the Government believe that all those who recognise the importance of building and retaining that confidence have a duty to encourage members of both traditions to co-operate with and to join those forces.

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