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Irish Republic (Collaboration)

Volume 976: debated on Tuesday 20 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to what extent he expects that the arrangements made with the Irish Re-public during the last five months for mutual collaboration against terrorism will be affected by the recent change of Government in that country.

The new Taoiseach has made quite clear his un- equivocal condemnation of the Provisional IRA and all its activities, and has said that the security arrangements which are in existence will be maintained. I am, therefore, confident that our co-operation in the fight against our common enemy will continue unabated.

What quid pro quo did Her Majesty's Government offer to the Government of the Republic in return for an arrangement on the part of the Republic which proved to be politically sensitive and difficult?

Despite what may or may not have happened 10 years ago, is not the new Taoiseach a man who may be expected, having a keen sense of the interests of his country, vigorously to prosecute the campaign against the common enemy?

I do not have the pleasure of knowing the new Taoiseach. Therefore, the original answer that I gave to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) was based on what the Taoiseach has said since assuming office.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, even if collaboration were engaged in to perfection, its impact on the situation in Northern Ireland would be minimal? In reality it is a political problem; it is not merely a problem of terrorism. Does he agree that, no matter how much we improve security, the underlying political reasons for the struggle are still present, and that the Official Unionists should come to the conference to try to solve them?

The hon. Gentleman is slightly out of date. The Provisional IRA has made it clear, in published statements, that its prime aim is, first, to overthrow the Government of Northern Ireland and, having done that, to overthrow the Government of the South. In both cases its intention is to use force and not democratic means. There is no political advance that can meet that ambition. As I have said, I am certain that it is right that we should make a political advance, but I do not think that it will have any effect on the Provisional IRA.

How can the right hon. Gentleman be so dogmatic that the new Premier of the Republic will help him in his fight against the common enemy when the Leader of the Opposition in the Dail said that for nine years the same gentleman never opened his mouth to utter one word of condemnation of the Irish Republican Army?

The Leader of the Opposition in this place is occasionally rude about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. However, I know that she will do what she says she will do.

Should it not be a rule of the House that we await the actions of new Prime Ministers before commenting upon them, rather than condemn them in advance? Will not the Taoiseach be judged by the way in which he discharges the duties or sentiments that he has already expressed in response to the killings of last weekend?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I think that we are entitled to take some encouragement from his published statements to the effect that the arrangements entered into by his predecessors with us will stand.

When the Secretary of State was last in Dublin did he raise with the Government there the question of the large number of people from Nor- thern Ireland now resident in the Republic whom the RUC wishes to interview in connection with terrorist crimes? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House the number of such persons?

I cannot give the figure without notice. In my discussions with Ministers of the Republic I have raised these matters.