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Volume 114: debated on Thursday 9 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on cross-border security in the Province.


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about cross-border security.

Although there exists a significant Republican terrorist threat to border areas of Northern Ireland, enhanced security co-operation between the security forces north and south of the border will continue to help to combat that threat. A programme of measures designed to improve security co-operation has been developed under article 9(a) of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and we look forward to continuing discussions with Ministers of the new Irish Government about further progress in this area.

I thank my hon. Friend for that most helpful reply. I congratulate him and our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on bringing forward these important proposals to close a number of routes on the border. Does he agree that there have been more than 12 border incursions in the past two months, some caused by poor map reading and some purely by error of judgment? May I suggest that the next time he meets Irish Government Ministers he puts pressure on them for a give and take policy because, while the closing of these routes is meant to keep our boys in, it is also meant to stop the boys from abroad coming across on IRA terrorist excursions. There must be some give and take on both sides.

My hon. Friend should not underestimate the degree of co-operation that exists on the border. I hope that there will be a growing recognition that when security forces from both jurisdictions have to operate right up to the border, occasional mistakes must occur. I hope that there will be an understanding of the circumstances in which that can sometimes happen.

I congratulate my hon. Friend and all concerned on the conclusion of the unfortunate affair at Magilligan. May I ask him whether he thinks that it is consonant with the Anglo-Irish Agreement that when helicopters of the Irish Air Corps come across the border, presumably in pursuit of terrorism, Her Majesty's Government find it necessary to raise the matter? Conversely, is it really consonant with the Anglo-Irish Agreement that when British soldiers place a listening device just across the border for the protection of human life, it should be necessary for the Dublin Government to raise the matter and for Her Majesty's Government to make amends? Should not the security forces of both countries make each other welcome in each other's territory in pursuit of terrorism?

I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks about the outcome of the Magilligan incident, where it was clear from the outset that this was a futile exercise and would certainly not achieve the aim that those who took part in it had in mind. I repeat what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels) that I hope there will be an increasing understanding on both sides that in the operation against the common enemy, the terrorist, the actions of security forces of both sides operating right up to the border may result in occasional incursions.

To what extent is cross-border security being affected by the allegations of Holroyd, Wallace and Miller? Does the Minister accept the proposition that if there are any civil servants or any officers, former or present, of the security services or any persons in the military anywhere in the United Kingdom who have any allegations to make about the programme of destabilisation of Labour in the mid-1970s, or about the campaign of terrorism against the Irish Government in the mid-1970s, they should make statements and that information should be brought into the public domain in the public interest'?

Not a shred of evidence has ever been advanced to suggest that the allegations of Holroyd and Wallace have any foundation whatsoever. I cannot see how they can have any effect on the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

As the emergency in the Province has now lasted for 17 years, as only last night we further revised legislation to deal with that emergency, as, since the Anglo-Irish Agreement, we have sought to improve cross-border security and to reassure the minority Nationalist community in the North, and as the violence continues, is it not time that we reappraised the entire security operation in the Province?

The basis of the security policy that has operated since 1976, with the police taking the primary role in support of the Army, has steadily reduced the impact of violence in Northern Ireland. That policy is based on the right premise and will continue in that way. I take the opportunity to express gratitude to the RUC and the Army for the efforts that they make on behalf of the entire community in the Province.