asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland which factors best illustrate the steady return to normality that is taking place in Northern Ireland.
Anyone returning to Northern Ireland after an absence of two or three years could not fail to be impressed by the changed atmosphere in the Province. There has been an obvious improvement in the security situation, which is reflected in the downward trend in the indices of violence. That does not mean that there is an acceptable level of violence, or that the Provisional IRA is no longer capable of acts of violence, but it has permitted a gradual relaxation of some of the more annoying and restrictive security measures imposed because of the violence. Town centres have been opened up again to traffic. Many of the restrictive traffic humps on the roads have been removed. The non-travelling public are once more allowed into the passenger terminal at Aldergrove airport. Nearly all of the shebeens or illegal drinking clubs have been dealt with by the police, who have the first role in maintaining law and order.More importantly though, it is clear that the people of Northern Ireland have rejected violence and the sterility that it brings. They wish to lead as full and happy a life as possible as any trip to a shopping centre or one of the many civic festivals held this year will show. There is a feeling of renewed confidence. Tourism is picking up and fresh investment from abroad may help to ease the massive economic problems that face the Province.