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Social Democratic And Labour Party

Volume 32: debated on Thursday 25 November 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he next hopes to meet the leaders of the Social Democratic and Labour Party.

I met them earlier this month and there are no immediate plans for another meeting, but I am always ready to talk to that party's elected representatives.

Does not that reply and the Secretary of State's attitude show that he has accepted completely the Unionist veto and mean that there will never be any power sharing involving the minority? Does it mean that the Government are not prepared to make any gesture to the minority to try to get them to participate in the Assembly?

These are very difficult matters. It was laid down carefully in the Northern Ireland Act that there would have to be widespread acceptance throughout the community if there was to be any transfer of powers. That remains the position of the Government and of this House. I should have thought that it would be to the great benefit of all the parties in Northern Ireland for them to play a part in the Assembly and to seek gradually to move on toward some form of devolved administration.

When the Secretary of State meets the leaders of the SDLP, will he draw to their attention the fact that if proportional representation had not been used in the recent elections Sinn Fein would not have been elected and the SDLP would have been in a stronger electoral position?

If, within the next six months, a majority of the Members of the Assembly ask for powers over security, what will be the Secretary of State's answer?

Is the Secretary of State aware that it is the wish of many hon. Members, certainly those on the Liberal Bench, that the SDLP should play its proper part in the Assembly? We hope that he will convey that message to its leaders. Will the right hon. Gentleman also correct the impression put about by the BBC, among others, that there is no Catholic representation in the Assembly? Six of the 10 Alliance Members are Catholics.

Six Members of the Alliance Party who are Members of the Assembly are Catholics. They are playing an important part in the Assembly. I still hope that at some future date other people will join.