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Union Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland

Volume 14: debated on Thursday 3 December 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if, in view of the negotiations with the Government of the Irish Republic for increased cooperation between the United Kingdom and the Republic, he will take steps to assure the majority of the people of Northern Ireland that their desire to remain within the United Kingdom has the wholehearted endorsement of Her Majesty's Government.


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will take steps to assure the majority of the people in Northern Ireland that it is the desire of Her Majesty's Government that the Province should continue to remain within the United Kingdom.

I reaffirm that the Government's policy is to maintain the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in accordance with the wish of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

Since the people of Northern Ireland have endured for over 12 years the campaign of violence and hatred directed against them because they are British, does my right hon. Friend agree that they deserve to be commended both for their patience and their courage? Will he therefore make it absolutely clear that they will be supported in their determination to remain British? Will he give that support, and will he make it clear to the Republic that the people of Northern Ireland will have that support for as long as they wish to remain British?

That support has always been made clear and remains the policy of the Government. The Republic of Ireland also recognises that any change could be made only by consent. I hope that the people of Northern Ireland will come to live together in peace and will recognise the great advantages of remaining part of the United Kingdom.

; Is it not clear to the Secretary of State that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), while constantly declaiming his adherence to the United Kingdom, acts as though the United Kingdom Government are alien to the North? Is it not clear that the actions of that hon. Member are opposed to any political steps taken by the Government to engage in conversations that they feel will bring about peace? Is it not clear that something must be done to try to prevent the position whereby the third force, as the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has said, can go through the streets in uniform waving armaments? If any member of the Catholic community did that, he would be arrested. Can we have evenhanded democracy in Northern Ireland?

I assure the hon. Gentleman and the whole House that I intend democracy to be evenhanded throughout the Province.

Although I recognise that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend accepts that nearly all the inhabitants of the United Kingdom are intolerant of the millions of pounds that are being poured into that part of the United Kingdom, and intolerant also of the loss of lives in the Ulster Constabulary and in the Armed Forces, as well as the loss of other innocent public lives? Will my right hon. Friend pledge to show the same tenacity towards finding a political solution to Northern Ireland as we showed when solving the problems of Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe?

The two problems are not in any way comparable. However, I am sure that the whole House will wish to be tenacious in seeking a peaceful solution to the problems that have faced us for so long.

Is the Secretary of State aware that we wholeheartedly support the Anglo-Irish dialogue, but feel that it is probably time that the House had a chance to discuss the matter? We look forward to a debate, as early as possible in the new year, on the joint studies and the other related issues that have been put forward by hon. Members today.

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. However, an opportunity must be given before long for a debate on Northern Ireland. I know that my right hon. Friend has that in mind.