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Northern Ireland

Volume 972: debated on Thursday 25 October 1979

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Security

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement on developments in security during the past three months.

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied with present security arrangements.

The Government's first—and overriding—duty in Northern Ireland is, and will be, to defend its people against terrorism from whatever source it comes. We shall not be satisfied until it has been totally suppressed. Ninety-one people have been killed this year as a result of terrorist activity. There have also been 487 bomb attacks. Since the end of August there has been some rise in inter-sectarian tension, mainly in the Belfast area, resulting in four deaths.

The Provisional IRA has continued to concentrate its attacks on the security forces and prison officers. I am sure the House would wish to pay tribute to the extraordinary dedication and bravery of all the men and women in the RUC, the Army and the prison service.

Their efforts are by no means without result. Five hundred and fifty charges have been brought for terrorist offences this year, 36 of them for murder and 29 for attempted murder. In the same period, 647 people have been convicted of terrorist crimes: 53 of these of murder and 16 of attempted murder.

During the recess I announced measures taken to strengthen our hand—an increase of 1,000 in the establishment of the RUC and the appointment of a new joint staff under Sir Maurice Oldfield to assist me in improving the co-ordination and effectiveness of the fight against terrorism. Most recently, I have held discussions with Ministers of the Irish Republic which are leading to substantial improvements in the anti-terrorist efforts of our respective security forces.

The tragic events of recent weeks have shown yet again what the terrorist threat means, and the Government fully recognise the concern that is alive in Northern Ireland today. I take this first opportunity to re-affirm to the House, as I have already done in Northern Ireland, that we neither underestimate the gravity of that threat nor shall we weaken in our determination to overcome it, so that the people of Northern Ireland can enjoy the fundamental human right to live at peace under the rule of law. With the support of the community itself, and the resolve of the security forces, I am confident that we shall succeed.

In view of the alarming statistics of death and destruction in Northern Ireland that the Secretary of State has given, how confident can he be that the measures he has outlined will have any telling impact in the war against terrorists? Will the Secretary of State give an assurance to the House that, if the measures he has outlined do not have the effect that he hopes for, he will change his security policy to one that is more penetrating and effective?

I said in my original answer that with the measures we have introduced and are continuing, and with the resolve of the security forces and the support of the community, I am confident that we shall succeed, although I am afraid that it is bound to take time. In answer to the second part of the hon. Member's question, we constantly look at the direction and thrust of our effort to meet changing circumstances, and shall continue to do so.

In view of the apparent inability of the Dublin Government to deliver what little may have been promised in the way of co-operation, will the Secretary of State now take effective measures to ensure that the land frontier of the United Kingdom is absolutely secure?

There is a later question on the Order Paper about my discussions with the Dublin Government. If I may say so, I think that the hon. Gentleman is premature in saying that the Government of the Republic are not delivering the goods. I shall return to this in due course. The hon. Gentleman suggests that the border should be made secure. Frankly, if by that he means that it should be sealed off, I must remind him and the House that the border is more than 300 miles long and that to close it altogether would require a dramatic increase in the number of security forces that would have to patrol it.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that while security must be maintained—and we must express our gratitude to and respect for the services involved—the extent and cost of that commitment, and the level of economic engagement in Ulster, should, at least to some extent, be made dependent upon the response to the political initiatives that are now so necessary?

I think the whole House recognises that to seek to defend citizens of the United Kingdom against the kind of attack to which the people of Northern Ireland are subjected is a costly business. At the same time, I do not believe that this House would begrudge the cost of seeking to defend our fellow citizens against this kind of evil.

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that after the tragic Mountbatten murders he went on record as saying that he would insist that the RUC would be permitted to question, in Gardia stations across the border, those who had been arrested by the Gardia for acts of terrorism within Northern Ireland? Does he also recall that he talked about hot pursuit across the border, as well as coming to grips with extradition? Can he tell the House whether, on any of these grounds, he has had any satisfaction from the Irish Republic Government in view of the strong statement made yesterday by the Premier of the Republic that no such steps would be taken?

There is a later question on the Order Paper about my discussions with the Government of the Irish Republic, and I think that it would be more appropriate if I left the answer to that point until then.

Does the Secretary of State recall that when he was first appointed he was described by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) as

"a strong law and order man"?
When does the right hon. Gentleman hope to fulfil those expectations?

I trust that the House is is no doubt about the resolve of the Government and I to use the most effective means of suppressing terrorism. Since we came into office, we have adjusted the way in which we are tackling terrorism to take account of the new circumstances. In my original answer I described a number of the steps that we have taken. When further steps need to be taken which seem to the Government to be appropriate, we shall take them.

May I press on the Secretary of State one particular case, namely, the one in which an unfortunate gentleman was not only shot during the day but was further shot during the evening while he was a patient in hospital? May I suggest that one of the constructive steps that he could take is to ensure that hospitals and other such institutions are more conscious of security and the danger to patients than they are at the moment?

This was a most distressing case which showed up a weakness in hospital security arrangements. I immediately issued instructions that security in hospitals should be reviewed in an effort to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.

Political Situation

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, if he detects any signs of political movement in Ulster.

I ask my hon. Friend to await the statement which I shall be making later this afternoon.

Oldpark Road, North Belfast

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the redevelopment of the Oldpark Road area of North Belfast.

A development scheme for the southern part of redevelopment area 2, south of Louisa Street, has been published, proposing that a site of approximately 18 acres should be developed for industrial use. Housing development is proceeding in redevelopment area 3, close to the junction of Oldpark Road and Manor Street. In addition, the Housing Executive intends redeveloping and rehabilitating housing in the Torrens/Heathfield area.

Is it not a fact that for the 576 houses demolished in redevelopment area 3 the Housing Executive is building only 129? How does the hon. Gentleman think that such a policy—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."]—will solve the housing shortage for the people of Oldpark, who deserve to be rehoused in their own area? If the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) would like to go outside I shall speak to him afterwards.

Order. Instead of going outside perhaps the hon. Gentleman will come and have a cup of tea with me afterwards.

In the constituency of the hon, gallant and formidable Member the Housing Executive and the housing associations have contracts in existence or about to be let that cost roughly £12½ million. That constitutes a massive programme by any standards.

Coal

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what further discussions he has had with interested bodies about the continued use of coal in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Commerce maintains regular contact with the National Coal Board, the Northern Ireland coal importers' association and other interested bodies. In discussions which have taken place since the Government's statement of 23 July on energy policy in Northern Ireland, both the Coal Board and the Northern Ireland coal trade have assured the Department that all necessary steps are being taken to ensure that any increase in demand for coal from the Province will be met.

In the light of what the Minister said, it is not a scandal to hear that the Northern Ireland energy market has been supplemented by the largest ever consignment of American coal at a time when, as reported today on the tape, British miners have produced an extra 1 million tons during the past six months? If we are to exhort the British miners to produce more coal and engage in greater productivity efforts, we must secure the markets and be able to use British coal in Northern Ireland rather than the American coal which was imported recently.

I fully agree with the hon. Gentleman. If he were able to persuade the National Coal Board to produce more coal for Northern Ireland we would be able to fulfil all our obligations by importations from Great Britain. The fact remains that in this instance the NCB, which supplies nearly all the coal required for the Province, was unable to make available the tonnages required and a small amount of coal from the United States was imported. I would further suggest that it is vitally important for me to ensure that coal consumers in the Province have all that is required before the winter.

Does not the Minister agree that a policy of generating electricity in the Province based solely upon oil as the generating agent is holding Northern Ireland's economic future to hostage? Will the hon. Gentleman therefore initiate discussions to ensure that phases three and four of the Kilroot power station are dual-fired, with coal and oil, so that in future we shall be able to take advantage of the comparative cheapness of coal as compared with oil?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that those discussions have already taken place and that a review of the possibility of having coal firing for stages three and four of the Kilroot power station is well under way. I expect to have a report within a matter of weeks.

Since the United States Government have put an embargo on arms to the RUC, should not the hon. Gentleman put an embargo on American coal and ensure that we get British coal in Northern Ireland? The hon. Gentleman should play them at their own game.

I suggest that the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is a matter for my right hon. Friend. Secondly, I must insist on obtaining coal for the people in the Province from whatever sources I can to ensure that their demand is legitimately met.

If, as has been suggested, the NCB has increased its output, is the Minister confident that Northern Ireland is getting its fair share of that increased output? If the Government cannot ensure that the NCB meets its obligations in this respect, how does he expect us to make it do so?

The hon. Gentleman will surely be aware that after last year's protracted cold winter, stocks of coal have been at an all-time low. It is, therefore, inevitable that a long period of buildup is required. With regard to Northern Ireland, we are now satisfied that we shall have adequate stocks for meeting the winter.

Law (Conformity)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will cause to be compiled and published a list of those parts of the law in Northern Ireland which in the opinion of the Government it is expedient in due course to bring into conformity with the law in Great Britain or England and Wales, as the case may be, showing the respective enactments in parallel columns.

No. Legislation is introduced for Northern Ireland to meet the particular needs of the Province and not simply to bring Northern Ireland law into conformity with that of Great Britain. An exhaustive survey of the differences between the law in Northern Ireland and that in England and Wales, quite apart from the separate legislative and legal system in Scotland, would be an enormous task of doubtful utility.

Are the Government aware that my hon. Friends and I warmly support the steps taken already to assimilate the law in Northern Ireland with that in the rest of the United Kingdom, or that of England and Wales as the case may be, even where that may be most conveniently achieved by Order in Council, which we otherwise find objectionable? Is it not most unsatisfactory that these measures should be produced, as it were, haphazardly in the course of the session without it being possible to gain any idea of the priorities and to be assured that we are tackling the most serious discrepancies first?

At present there are, of course, a number of orders before Ministers by which it is intended to enact similar provisions to those already in existence in Great Britain. This is a continuing process. If it would help the right hon. Member and his hon. Friends I would be perfectly happy to let him see a list of those orders which are before Ministers, or have them placed in the Library.

Royal Ulster Constabulary (Arms Supply)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the purchase of arms for the Royal Ulster Constabulary from the United States of America.

The United States Administration are reviewing their policy on the issue of licences for the export of arms for use by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has made our views on this matter unmistakably clear. I understand that the Administration have decided not to process further applications for export licences pending the outcome of the review. They have been left in no doubt of the RUC's needs. The British Government therefore hope and expect that the review will be completed soon; and that no restraints will be placed on the export of arms by United States manufacturers for use by a legally constituted police force in the United Kingdom.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is a disgraceful situation in which a friendly power is refusing to supply arms to the legal police force of another friendly power? Is it not a fact that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is being greatly inconvenienced and that arrangements made for training in this particular firearm have been cancelled? Is he prepared to shop elsewhere to get over this inconvenience?

The RUC is not yet seriously inconvenienced by the fact that the orders have not come. It is still using the Walther 9 mm semi-automatic pistol which it has had for 10 years. The RUC believes that the replacement Ruger pistol from America is a superior weapon. I will not disguise the fact that if the issue of licences is not forthcoming in the reasonably near future there will be difficulties. I hope very much that the United States Administration will complete its review quickly and authorise the manufacturers to export the remaining part of our order so that the RUC will get the weapons it needs when it needs them.

Why on earth was a police force ever armed with an automatic pistol in the first place? Even if these American weapons are made available, is the Secretary of State satisfied that there will be a satisfactory supply of spare parts and necessary ammunition?

I do not know why the RUC chose the Walther semi-automatic 10 years ago. However, it did and it believes that those weapons have been useful. But it believes that the Ruger is even better. The question of spare parts is closely tied up with the supply of the weapons because the order is not solely for weapons; it is for ammunition and spare parts as well. We hope that the whole order will be authorised by the United States Government shortly.

Is not this evenhandedness between law and murder unworthy and uncharacteristic of a great country that was once known as the arsenal of democracy? Will the Government do everything possible to change this attitude speedily?

Yes. There can be no question of being even-handed between a legally constituted police force and terrorists. The United States Administration are entitled to be even-handed or to stand back from discussions about political aspiration, but I am certain that they are not in that position as regards arming a legally constituted police force to defend itself against the evil of terrorism, which is all too damaging.

Extradition

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he intends to raise with the Government of the Irish Republic the question of extradition of persons from the United Kingdom now residing in the Irish Republic for whom the Royal Ulster Constabulary has issued warrants of arrest.

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made with obtaining the extradition of alleged terrorists from the Republic of Ireland; and what resort has been had to the criminal jurisdiction legislation.

I have frequently made clear—most recently in my discussions on 5 October with Ministers of the Irish Republic—the Government's concern that those who commit terrorist crimes in Northern Ireland and flee to the Republic should be brought to justice. Extradition procedures have, in practice proved ineffective because the Irish High Court has found cause not to grant extradition for offences which are claimed to be political or to be associated with political offences.

Evidence gathered by the RUC concerning persons who are alleged to have committed terrorist offences in Northern Ireland, but who are now known to be in the Irish Republic, has recently been made available to the Garda. We hope this will enable the Garda to bring prosecutions under the extra-territorial criminal jurisdiction legislation, which allows terrorist suspects to be brought to trial in one jurisdiction for specified offences committed in the other after 1 June 1976.

It is solely for the responsible authorities in the Republic to determine whether charges should be brought, as would be the case in this country in similar circumstances. However, I remind hon. Members that I agreed with Irish Ministers on 5 October on the importance of making further use of the extra-territorial legislation.

Does the Secretary of State really expect this legislation to be effective? If he does, no one in Northern Ireland would agree with him. Is he aware that there is no provision in international law which prohibits extradition of such persons from the Irish Republic? The fault lies entirely with the Irish Republic. What effective steps does he now intend to take after his recent failure to bring these people to justice?

It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the decisions taken by the courts of another country, but I must say that I think the legislation will prove effective. The Irish Ministers whom I met on 5 October, including the Minister of Justice, agreed that the fuller use of the extra-territorial legislation was a step forward of which we should make better use.

Since the Irish Foreign Minister himself asserted when in Opposition, in line with the erudite article in The Daily Telegraph, that there is no constitutional objection to extradition, does my right hon. Friend not agree that consistency in this matter would be as welcome as the progress made in cross-border co-operation? Does he expect the Dublin Government to sign the European Convention?

On the first part of my hon. Friend's question, I should be in even greater difficulty if I were to involve myself in legal arguments. On the second part, I understand that the Dublin Government have indicated that they wish to sign the European protocol and I hope that they will.

The Minister will be aware that the Criminal Jurisdiction Act is the last remnant of the Sunningdale agreement and that it has been an Act of Parliament in Britain and Ireland since 1975. Why is it that it is only recently that the RUC in Northern Ireland has made evidence available to the Garda? Why did it not do so in 1976, 1977, last year and earlier this year? How many people in the Republic does the RUC wish to apprehend?

I referred to recent cases in which evidence has been gathered and sent to the Republic. They are not isolated. It has been done before. I mentioned those cases because, following our meeting and the collection of the evidence, we are asking the Irish authorities to proceed with prosecutions. I hope that we shall succeed. Without notice, I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the number of people thought to be in the Irish Republic who are wanted by the RUC.

Will the Secretary of State accept that extradition is consequential on firm evidence being provided to the Eire courts and that the Act to which he has referred does not allow policemen to go in person to the courts to provide that evidence? Will he demand that the RUC should be admitted to the Eire courts and that the criminals who are indicted there should be extradited to Northern Ireland? If he does not agree to press for those measures, we shall have no alternative but to ask the Prime Minister to assume responsibility for security.

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman is right in stating that witnesses, whether police officers or anyone else, are not allowed to attend courts in the Republic. I believe that to be an incorrect statement. If the hon. Gentleman can give me evidence that I am wrong, I shall take up the matter.

Has my right hon. Friend had any discussions with the Eire Government about the possibility of security forces in Ulster entering the territory of southern Ireland when it is clear to those security forces that a terrorist has been on Northern Ireland territory and has subsequently escaped to southern Ireland territory?

My hon. Friend may have seen that the discussions that I had with Ministers of the Republic on 5 October resulted in a communiqué issued by both Governments in which we confirmed that we have made a number of arrangements which we believe will considerably increase the effectiveness of our joint effort against terrorism. However, we agreed at the same time that we would not make those arrangements public. The House will readily understand why we are not making public precisely what we are doing. Anybody, including the Provisional IRA, can buy Hansard. I shall, therefore, not go into details in the House.

May I press the right hon. Gentleman to tell the House how many cases under the Act have been passed to the Government of the Irish Republic, and to report to the House when the results of that action—and whether the requests resulted in prosecution—come to hand? Since the major obstacle to extradition is the ability of those against whom extradition is sought to raise a political defence, does not the answer lie in the ratification by the Irish Republic Government of the European convention on terrorism?

The hon. Gentleman is right on the latter point. If the Irish Government were to ratify that convention, as we have done, the difficulties would disappear. I canot tell the hon. Gentleman how many applications for extradition have been made recently unless he accepts the period since 1971 as being recent enough. In that time, 75 warrants have been sent to the Republic for people who are suspected of committing terrorist offences and only one person has been returned to Northern Ireland. In the same period, 152 warrants have been sent to the Republic for the extradition of persons suspected of non-terrorist offences and 52 people have been returned to the Province.

Terrorism

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many terrorist incidents have been recorded in police divisions H, J, K, L, M, N, O and P during the first nine months of 1979 in which the terrorists involved either operated from the Republic of Ireland or sought sanctuary there after committing their crimes; and how many people died in these incidents.

Between 1 January and 30 September 1979 the Royal Ulster Constabulary recorded 63 terrorist incidents in those police divisions which required contact with the Garda in view of possible use of the border by those responsible. In the course of those incidents, 35 people died.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that while the figures, particularly those relating to deaths, are shocking, they will not surprise the people who live along the border? Does he agree that the figures nail once and for all the Jack Lynch lie that less than 3 per cent. of terrorism in Northern Ireland emanates from the Republic? What the Secretary of State has said today sounds for all the world like the blarney he must have heard in Dublin. When will he do something to prevent another 30 or 40 people from being killed in Northern Ireland?

On the question of the 3 per cent. figure, there has been a different method of calculating about border incidents. The matter is no longer discussed between us on that basis. The hon. Gentleman calls for stronger measures. We have been seeking to get agreement with the Republic that we should make a better joint effort on both sides of the border. I stress the word "joint", which was stressed in the communiqués issued after my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met Mr. Lynch in September and after I met the Irish Ministers in October. The communiqués said that it was agreed between us that we have to make a joint effort in a common cause.

The hon. Gentleman's constituency is particularly affected since one end of it is on the border. It is the belief of myself and the Government of the Republic that what we have set in motion will be a considerable help in inhibiting the movement of terrorists, stopping people escaping from justice, stopping the supply of weapons coming through and the like. We have the agreement and we must do our utmost to make it work as effectively as possible. I believe that it will be effective.

May I take the right hon. Gentleman back to the question that I put earlier, which he said he would answer more fully later in Question Time? On the questions of extradition—which the right hon. Gentleman said was necessary after the Lord Mountbatten murders—hot pursuit, which he has also said is necessary, and the RUC having the opportunity to question suspects arrested on the other side of the border for crimes committed in Northern Ireland, we have to ask what progress the right hon. Gentleman has made, bearing in mind that Jack Lynch said yesterday that there will be no hot pursuit and that none of the matters to which I have referred will be taken care of.

On the question of hot pursuit, I said that it was very frustrating for security forces pursuing a suspect towards the border to have to stop and allow the suspect to escape unpursued over the border. There are various ways of pursuing suspects. I shall not go into detail, but I am satisfied that the apprehension of terrorists in either jurisdiction will be easier and more effective than before. The hon. Gentleman said that I was going to demand that members of the RUC should be able to interrogate people in the Republic of Ireland. I assure him that the obtaining of evidence against suspects in the Republic will now be a great deal easier.

De Lorean Project

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the further progress of the De Lorean project.

Construction of the factory buildings is well advanced. Recruitment of hourly-paid workers has begun and there is now a total of 155 persons on the payroll. Development work on the DMC12 car is being satisfactorily carried out by Lotus Cars Limited and two prototypes are currently undergoing road trials.

I very much welcome the provision of jobs in West Belfast, but does not the Minister think that the cost so far of providing 150 jobs is rather high at £53 million? Does he not feel that there ought to be more rapid developments in this private enterprise venture which is being so lavishly supported by the taxpayer? Is the hon. Gentleman also satisfied that the venture should be supported by such a vast amount of design and development work by Lotus? Is he satisfied that he has sufficient scrutiny of the project and sufficient Government intervention or is he just handing over the money and letting private enterprise do the rest?

The hon. Gentleman could well have addressed, and probably did address, those questions to the Government of which he was once a member. The fact remains that so far as the investment is concerned, we are satisfied that we can monitor progress effectively, that we are carrying out the arrangements entered into by the previous Administration and that, regarding development, the operation with Lotus Cars is going through smoothly. On the taxpayers' commitment, I would suggest that we have got, through our membership on the De Lorean company and through our monitoring of the NIDA operation, adequate control of how taxpayers' money is being spent. I accept that this is a major part of the Government's responsibility.

Since we discussed these matters in July, has my hon. Friend had any success in establishing whether this remarkably fortunate American person has succeeded in his efforts to obtain a franchise for Alfa Romeo in North America, in direct competition with this car, as a means of hedging his bets?

My latest information is that arrangements which have been under discussion between De Lorean and the Alfa Romeo company have not been concluded and I cannot therefore comment on the generality. But, on the information available to me, I am satisfied that the proposal was not in direct competition with the De Lorean car.

Will the Minister accept from me that the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) are his own and not those of Her Majesty's Opposition? Most of us on the Opposition side of the House supported the previous Government in the De Lorean project, bringing jobs to Belfast where they are much needed. We shall continue to support this Government in that objective.

I recognise the force of the remarks of the hon. Gentleman. I have always believed that the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), thank goodness, is unique.

Government Policy (Information)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what action he is taking to propagate the Government's view of the Northern Ireland situation within the Irish-American community; how this is divided between formal and informal agencies; how much money is being spent; and what are the publications being produced.

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied that the Government's policy regarding Northern Ireland is adequately expounded in North America.

Her Majesty's representatives in the United States receive regular briefing on Northern Ireland, on general and specific issues. They are active in advising suitable British visitors on how they can help to propagate the facts and dispel misunderstanding. Hon. Members themselves and leading members of the local community are also briefed by my Department before visiting the United States.

We shall continue to give a high priority to such work, especially in those parts of the country where ignorance and misconception are most rife. I am conscious that, while the effort being put in is considerable, there is still a lot to be done. Questions about the operation of our overseas information services are a matter for my right hon. Friend, the Lord Privy Seal.

Will my right hon. Friend tell the people of the United States that he is confident about the success of his policies and convinced that Northern Ireland will always want to be, and will therefore always remain, part of the United Kingdom and that anyone in the United States who want to raise money for terrorist organisations in the North of Ireland is wasting his time and will be causing death, havoc and destruction among innocent people?

I am glad to hear what my hon. Friend has said. I have no doubt that it will be heard in the United States. If, with the approval of my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary, my hon. Friend is able to go to the United States, I hope that he will say that there. We wish to lose no opportunity of informing the Irish-American people of the true state of affairs in Northern Ireland, and wishes of the people there, and the evil that is done with money which, I fear, is subscribed, in many cases, in good faith.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is not so much enemy propaganda as the appalling ignorance in America of the facts of Northern Ireland which is to blame? Is it not the case that the image of a colonialist regime backed by British troops, springs all too easily into American minds? Will he make certain that our information services in North America have all the resources and funds they need in order to give the facts?

I agree that ignorance persists at all levels in the Irish-American community and that there is an unfortunate tendency to offer advice from that rather shaky base. Of course, most Irish-American leaders are motivated by a genuine desire to see a peaceful resolution of the political situation in Northern Ireland. But there remains a great deal to be done at all levels in the Irish-American community. I shall draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the point that my hon. Friend makes about the provision of the necessary funds.

Will the Secretary of State recognise that there is also appalling ignorance in many parts of the United Kingdom about what is happening in Northern Ireland? Will he not be too enthusiastic about having confidence in his own proposals for Northern Ireland? We have had troubles in Northern Ireland since 1968, if not since the inception of the State. Will he recognise that not all Americans are anti-British and that some Irish-Americans are very sincere, honest and concerned in trying to bring about a resolution of the conflict? It is unfair to try to discredit every Irish-American who tries to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. There are many well-informed and well-disposed people in the United States. Unfortunately, there is ignorance there, too. I do not deny that there is ignorance in many other parts of the world. We must do our best to dispel it.