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United States Of America

Volume 14: debated on Thursday 3 December 1981

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make arrangements for a ministerial visit to the United States of America to counter the misrepresentation there by sympathisers of the Irish Republican Army of the situation in Northern Ireland.

The countering of such mispresentation has been part of the purpose of recent ministerial visits; and we intend that there should be more.

I warmly welcome my hon. Friend to his new post. Does he agree that it would be helpful if we could get across the basic realities to the people of the United States; for example, that the people of Northern Ireland in their relationship with Eire are just as entitled to choose their constitutional arrangements as are the people of Canada in relation to the United States?

Will my hon. Friend's colleagues explain to the American public that the IRA is seeking to create a base for subversion in Europe which is not dissimilar to what the Cubans are doing in relation to the United States? Will he and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State plan an early visit to the United States?

We need to use every valid argument to persuade the Americans against supporting any organisation that might help terrorism in any way. We are still planning ministerial visits for next year.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that arrangements for his colleagues' trip are adequate? Unless the consulates—I have in mind Chicago in particular—make better arrangements than they have made for visits by hon. Members on similar trips, the visit will be wasted.

I hope that my hon. Friend will let my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State know if there are any shortcomings in the arrangements for overseas visits.