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United States Of America (Ira Propaganda)

Volume 22: debated on Thursday 29 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about proposed ministerial visits to the United States of America to counter the prevalence of Irish Republican Army propaganda there.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland hopes to visit the United States of America shortly to explain the Government's constitutional proposals to members of the Administration and Congress, and other leading opinion formers. We also hope to encourage those Americans who might have been misled by the sterile propaganda of the Irish Republican Army to look beyond that and above all to refrain from providing funds to organisations which support terrorism in Northern Ireland.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Can he confirm that the United States is the main overseas source of funds for the IRA to enable it to buy weapons of murder? When my right hon. Friend goes to the United States, will he explain to the people of the United States that the people of Northern Ireland are just as entitled to choose under whose sovereignty they live as are the people of Puerto Rico or the Falkland Islands?

As I said, one of the main purposes of my right hon. Friend's visit will be to put that message across. I already detect rather more success and awareness than hitherto in the United States of the reality of terrorism in Northern Ireland, and, therefore, the need not to contribute funds for its purposes.

Is the Minister aware that responsible Irish-American opinion has always been bitterly opposed to all the activities of the IRA in the United States of America? Will he bear in mind that in the past week Right-wing Conservative Members have expressed their gratitude and thanks to responsible Irish-American opinion as it has been expressed in relation to the British dispute over the Falkland Islands in the speech by Senator Daniel Moynihan?

I think that there is truth in what the hon. Gentleman says. Some money has gone to the IRA because of ignorance of the reality of the situation in Northern Ireland. Our task is to develop a greater awareness of that reality.

Might it not be possible for a fresh series of visits to be made by Congressmen and others, perhaps as a result of a joint invitation from this Government and the Government of the Republic? Would that not be money very well spent?

We are always glad to receive visitors from the United States of America and give them such information and briefing as they require about the situation. We are also glad to make it possible for Ministers and other Members of Parliament to visit the United States and to put our message across.