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Terrorism

Volume 984: debated on Thursday 8 May 1980

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10.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people have been killed through terrorism in Counties Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh in the 12-month period 1 May 1979 to 1 May 1980.

Does the Minister accept that every one of those deaths represents a body blow to law-abiding communities living in those border areas? Will he confirm that in almost every incident the murderer involved sought sanctuary in the Irish Republic? His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State says that the situation is better than ever, but anything that is an improvement on nil must be better than ever. While we welcome the finds of arms and arms dumps in the Irish Republic, would we not accept the Irish Republic's sincerity even more readily if the people associated with those arms dumps were arrested?

I entirely endorse the point that the hon. Gentleman has made about the total unacceptability of even one death from terrorism. I concede also that a number of the terrorists responsible for these appalling murders come across the border and return across the border. That, in itself, is profoundly troubling, and it is something with which we must try to deal.

I should point out that, looking back over a period of five years, for example, out of a total of 129 murders in this part of the Province, we have succeeded in arresting and charging 42 people for murder. Those charges do not necessarily all relate to murders within that five-year period, and I suspect that there are more arrests and convictions to come. But the fact that these people may go backwards and forwards across the borders gives them no immunity from arrests, charging or imprisonment following conviction.

Following my hon. Friend's answer to the last question, will he, nevertheless, say whether the term " acceptable level of violence " is officially used in his Department? If it is, will he consider the damaging effect that such a phrase used officially has on the morale on the civilian population and on the armed forces serving in Northern Ireland?

If any such unacceptable phrase is ever used I confirm that it is totally unacceptable and that we shall do everything possible to expunge and exercise it from any public statement, written or oral, in this context.