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Car Bombs

Volume 990: debated on Thursday 7 August 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if his Department is satisfied with the security forces' liability to protect the community of Northern Ireland from bombs left in stationary vehicles; how many bombs have exploded while in stationary, vehicles; and how many people have been injured or killed as a result so far in the current year.

Neither I nor the security forces can be satisfied so long as anybody is killed or injured through terrorist violence, but the security forces make every effort to prevent the use of car bombs and to detect and disarm them when they are planted.

So far this year, 19 such devices have exploded in stationary vehicles. Two people have died as a result and 24 have been injured. A further seven devices have been neutralised by the security forces; I would like to pay tribute to the Army's bomb disposal teams whose courage and skill continue to save lives.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that very full and detailed reply. However, does he agree that the security position in the border areas of Northern Ireland is far from satisfactory and that little or no improvement has occurred during the past 12 months, despite the valiant efforts of our security forces? Does he also agree that there appears to be an assassination campaign against leading citizens in these areas, not least in Fermanagh? I remind right hon. and hon. Members of the dreadful and horrific car bomb explosion in Lisnaskea recently. What additional action can my right hon. Friend take to protect leading citizens from this campaign of assassination?

I said in my original reply that none of us could be satisfied so long as anyone was killed. I take issue with my hon. Friend about what has happened over the past year. I have a more detailed answer to give about the security situation later, and I will not anticipate that. I say at this stage merely that I do not agree with my hon. Friend. The disposition of forces is, first, a matter for the security force commanders. In any case, it would not be appropriate to give details in the House.

Can the Secretary of State say whether it has been possible to identify the source of the explosives used in these indiscriminate attacks?

Not always, although it is known that some of the explosive definitely have been manufactured in the Republic.

Will the Secretary of State take it from me that all right-thinking people in Northern Ireland are with him when he praises the work of the bomb disposal squads? They are doing signal service in protecting lives in Northern Ireland. However, will he tell the House, in view of 19 bombs which have done serious damage, how many people have been arrested and charged with these crimes?

I cannot link arrests for these crimes directly, although I have some figures to give the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) in reply to his later question. I am grateful for his comments about the Army's bomb disposal squads. They deserve our utmost praise.