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Convention Election

Volume 886: debated on Thursday 13 February 1975

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12.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he can now announce the date for the constitutional Convention election.

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he can now say on what date he will hold the forthcoming constitutional Convention on the Province.

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will now announce the date of the Convention election.

The date on which the elections should be held is still being considered. I intend to give about a month's notice of the election.

May we assume that the delay may be due in part to the difficulty of finding and obtaining the services of a chairman for the Convention? If not, may we be given the name of that person in the fairly near future?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the referendum on the EEC may now take place in June? Does he therefore accept that it would be desirable to separate the two polls as widely as possible?

I had no problem in finding an excellent Ulsterman to be chairman and shall announce his name shortly. I am aware of the problem of time and am also aware that the new register comes into force at the end of this month. I shall announce the date of the election at the appropriate time.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the new register will be published within the next two or three days? Is he further aware that at present there is a political vacuum in Northern Ireland which should be filled as soon as possible since it is necessary to know who is speaking for Northern Ireland? Is it not vital that the Convention elections should be held at the earliest opportunity?

I have not noticed any political vacuum in Northern Ireland. There may be a vacuum in the sense that I have not announced the date of the convention. I shall announce it at the appropriate time and give a short period of notice, because I shall have to publish the order which will dissolve the Assembly. Indeed, I shall publish two orders. I am aware of my responsibilities.

If the Secretary of State cannot announce the date—and we understand his difficulties—will he at least announce a deadline?

I can get plenty of deadlines in Northern Ireland without bringing in one myself.