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Taoiseach (Meeting)

Volume 980: debated on Thursday 6 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when next he expects to meet the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland.


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he intends next to meet the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins : I have no plans to do so.

I welcome that answer from the Secretary of State. Despite Mr. Haughey's decision to postpone his threat to use his diplomatic services to blackmail Her Majesty's Government, will the Secretary of State assert that the internal affairs of the United Kingdom are the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government alone and are subject to no external influence?

I repeat what I have said many times before. The affairs of Northern Ireland are for Her Majesty's Government, the House and the people of Northern Ireland alone.

Is it correct that Mr. Haughey informed the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister of the contents of the speech that he delivered recently to his party conference before he made that speech? Do the Government intend to counter the rabid publicity and propaganda campaign that Mr. Haughey has announced and ensure that British embassies throughout the world expose the hypocrisy of the Republic, which refuses to extradite wanted men to the United Kingdom?

I do not know about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but Mr. Haughey did not tell me about his speech. The hon. Gentleman speaks of a publicity effort. It is the business of embassies and our representation abroad to do their best to present the true facts about the United Kingdom, including the Province of Northern Ireland, and this they do, I hope, successfully.

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his plans and seek an early meeting with the Prime Minister of the Republic to discuss a possible extension of the areas of common interest that exist between the two parts of the island of Ireland—I have in mind interests such as transport, water supply, electricity, tourism, sport, agriculture and culture—and perhaps move some way towards reconciliation between the two parts?

I do not need to involve the Taoiseach in that. There is well established machinery for dealing with such matters. There are consultative committees and groups that meet to discuss matters of common interest that have a cross-border connotation. That work has been going on for many years and it continues. If it is necessary to invoke the assistance of the Government of the Republic to make it go better and faster, I shall do so.

Will the right hon. Gentleman convey to the Prime Minister the welcome that was given in Northern Ireland to her retort to Mr. Haughey's claim of jurisdiction over Northern Ireland and her assertion that that would not be changed without the consent of the majority of the people of Ulster?

The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to convey that personally in about 15 minutes.