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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 on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, to the House and to you for the length of this answer, but it is customary that I should give a fairly long answer to such a question.

I regret to inform the House that since I last answered questions on 25 March five members of the security forces and seven civilians have died in incidents arising from the security situation. On 28 March a police inspector was shot dead in Londonderry, after leaving church. On 1 April two soldiers were shot dead, also in Londonderry, while returning to their base, after carrying out routine duties at Rosemount station. On 30 March a RUC constable was shot in Belfast and he died of his injuries on 16 April. On 27 April a part-time officer of the Ulster Defence Regiment was shot dead in Londonderry while making deliveries to a supermarket. Despite these sacrifices the security forces continue to perform their duties with great courage and determination.

As the House will be aware, on 19 April an 11-year-old boy died in hospital following injuries that he received in Londonderry on 16 April. The circumstances of this tragic death will, like those of all deaths in Northern Ireland, be fully investigated.

During this period, six other civilians have been killed; four in separate shooting attacks and two on 20 April by a car bomb in Magherafelt. A number of members of the security forces and civilians have been injured, including 10 civilians—a result of so-called punishment shootings.

The car bomb which claimed two lives in Magherafelt was part of a Province-wide bomb attack in which six car bombs exploded, and one was neutralised. There have been other attacks on property, notably an incendiary attack on a bus garage in Armagh in the early hours of yesterday, in which 24 buses were destroyed.

Notwithstanding this sombre catalogue of crime, the House will be pleased to learn that the security forces have continued to make progress against terrorism in the Province. Since 25 March 43 weapons and 4,389 rounds of ammunition have been recovered by the security forces. Seventy-five persons have been charged with terrorist-type offences, including three with murder and three with attempted murder. In the same period, the security forces neutralised 10 bombs.

As the Secretary of State has decided that a new Assembly will have no powers over security and will not be in any position to remedy the security situation, and given the list of horrific murders that he has read out, will he recognise that no progress will be possible in Northern Ireland until terrorism has been eradicated? Will he give an assurance that he will do all that he can to make full use of the specialised units that have achieved such spectacular success elsewhere?

I assure the House that I am doing all that I can, in conjunction with the GOC and the Chief Constable, to defeat terrorism. Every effort will be made to continue to do so. I accept that the mere setting up of an Assembly will not of itself change the security situation, but we must seek political stability in the Province, as it is one of the ways in which we can help to overcome the bad security situation.