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Political Future

Volume 984: debated on Thursday 8 May 1980

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether, following his recent discussions with members of the Government of the Irish Republic, he will now indicate that he does not intend to resume these discussions so far as they relate to political arrangements and circumstances in Northern Ireland.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will give an assurance that it is the firm policy of Her Majesty's Government that ultimate decisions regarding the constitutional future of Northern Ireland will remain the sole prerogative of the United Kingdom Parliament.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will place in the Library the political analysis which he presented to the Government of the Irish Republic on 15 April.

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will explain the Press communiqué issued after his talks with the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic; and if he will make a statement.

My discussions with Ministers of the Irish Government on 15 April covered matters of mutual interest such as security and the economy. I also explained the Government's policy on transferring responsibilities to locally elected representatives in the Province. The analysis I gave was that contained in the conference working paper—Cmnd. 7763—my speech in this House in the debate on 29 November and in my answers to questions in this House. I am happy to repeat the assurances that I have given before, that decisions on Northern Ireland's future are for the people of Northern Ireland, Her Majesty's Government and Parliament.

I propose to call first the four right hon. and hon. Members whose questions are being answered.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is no reason why the Government of the Irish Republic should not procure and study Green Papers and the Official Report of this House? Will he, in all his contacts with the Irish Government, bear in mind that he is dealing with a State which claims as part of its territory a portion of the United Kingdom? Will he, therefore, be especially careful to avoid, in communiqués or otherwise, language which could give rise to misundertanding?

Should it not be clearly understood in Dublin that the current diplomatic initiative and pressure of the Irish Government will, of course, be listened to politely as befits an EEC partner, but that decisions on this matter are for the people of Northern Ireland as a whole and the elected Parliament of the United Kingdom alone?

I agree with my hon. Friend. We obviously listen to the views of Governments with whom we are in close relationship and who, as my hon. Friend says, are members with us of the EEC—

My hon. Friend is quite right in his last statement. I am prepared to repeat that as often as is necessary.

Is the Secretary of State aware that we derive much comfort and satisfaction from the personal assurance given by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the affairs of our part of the United Kingdom are the responsibility of this Parliament and of her Majesty's Government? Will the Secretary of State take effective steps to ensure that there is no impression left in anybody's mind that there has been, or will be, any breach of the undertaking given by the Prime Minister?

I hope to do that. There has not been, and there will not be, any breach of that undertaking. I hope that the fact that I am answering questions on this subject in the House will help. I made it my business when I was in Dublin to repeat the words that I have used this afternoon.

As the joint statement from both parties after the Dublin talks stated that each party outlined the policy in relation to the political situation in Northern Ireland pursued by their respective Governments, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what outline of policy he stated at those talks? Following his remarks this afternoon may I ask him whether he has entered into an agreement with the Taoiseach that he can come to Northern Ireland as often as he likes and tie up hundreds of members of the security forces in looking after his security?

The hon. Gentleman makes much of the Taoiseach's visit to Northern Ireland yesterday. May I re-Mind him that that was not a unique occasion? The Taoiseach attended the enthronement of Dr. Armstrong as the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland. He attended, as I did, at the invitation of Dr. Armstrong. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will recall that such a thing has happened before. It happened when the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh was enthroned. The then Taoiseach, Mr. Lynch, attended, as did my predecessor. That seems to me perfectly acceptable and proper.

Does the Secretary of State agree that, not only are such talks useful, but that they should be uprated to include regular consultations between the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Ireland so that we can discuss, among other things, the possibility of Irish unity and get away from this silly idea that any group of people in the United Kingdom—be those people in Northern Ireland, Cornwall or Caithness—can veto a decision made by this House?

Meetings between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach are, of course, a matter for her. Naturally, they meet from time to time about their European business. I have regular meetings—not with the Taoiseach—with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice in Ireland on matters which are of common interest. Those meetings are of great benefit to both sides.

In view of the recent capture of an M60 machine gun—to which my right hon. Friend referred earlier—did my right hon. Friend in his conversations with the Irish Government urge them to initiate diplomatic pressure in the United States to prevent the proceeds from Republican fund-raising activities from being diverted to the procurement of lethal weapons of death such as M60 machine guns?

The details of the discussions which I had—as in the case of all discussions between Governments—are not made public beyond the official communiqué. I think that there is no doubt in the minds of the Governments of the Republic and the United States of our views on this matter.