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Volume 976: debated on Tuesday 20 November 1979

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


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

I gave the House a full analysis of the security situation in Northern Ireland during last week's debate on the order renewing the Emergency Provisions Act. Since I last answered questions on 22 November, nine people have died as a result of terrorist action, one of them a civilian, five of them members of the security forces, and three of them members of the prison service. Last Sunday, 16 December, brought home to us all once again the ruthless, callous and mindless nature of Provisional IRA terrorism when five soldiers of the Regular Army and an innocent civilian, retired from the Ulster Defence Regiment, were murdered in Dungannon, Forkill and Omagh. There was a series of co-ordinated car bomb and incendiary attacks on 26 November in which 10 people were injured and damage caused in a number of towns.

On 5 December, and again yesterday, car bombs caused damage in London-derry as did an attack in Lisburn on 6 December. The RUC and the army have continued with their intensive operations to counter terrorist activity and to bring those responsible to justice. Twelve of the incendiary devices used on 26 November were neutralised by the security forces, but for which the casualties and damage caused would have been a good deal more severe.

Since 22 November, 60 charges have been brought for terrorist offences, including four for murder and five for attempted murder. Three of them relate to the murder of a prison wages clerk in Belfast on 7 November. In addition, 19 weapons and 4,755 rounds of ammunition have been found.

The RUC also played its part, along with other police forces, in the events leading up to the arrest of a number of people in Great Britain recently, and the charging of nine of them with terrorist offences the day before yesterday. While they do not tell the whole story, these figures illustrate the degree of effort which the security forces, with the full backing of the Government, are continuing to make in the fight against terrorism.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the answer, the first part of which will have saddened the House. Bearing in mind the time of year and the fact that most, if not all, our soldiers in Northern Ireland will be separated from their families next week, will my right hon. Friend agree, on behalf of the House, to convey to the commanding officers of all the regiments in Northern Ireland and to the Chief Constable of the RUC the deep gratitude of this House and the British people for the magnificent job they have done during this year?

I shall do that most willingly. I shall also record the enthusiasm with which my hon. Friend's suggestion was received by the House.

Do not the statistics of death and destruction that the Secretary of State has given show that the security situation is deteriorating? As we end this decade of terror and violence in Northern Ireland, what words of encouragement can the Secretary of State give to the people of Northern Ireland that they will not have to endure another 10 years of this activity?

The figures that I have given are, of course, deplorable. I hope, however, that the hon. Gentleman heard the figures for the successes of the security forces. There is no doubt that those whose business it is to defend us are becoming all the time more skilled and effective. I hope very much, and I believe, that as the years progress and as people in Northern Ireland can agree more and more with each other about how they want that part of the United Kingdom to develop, the terrorists will find there is no place for them in Northern Ireland, that there is no haven for them and that their activities will be circumscribed to such a point that they will not trouble us in the way that they have done.