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Northern Ireland

Volume 200: debated on Wednesday 19 December 1956

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3.32 p.m.

My Lords, with the permission of the House, I beg leave to intervene in order to make a statement on the situation in Northern Ireland. Her Majesty's Government have the greatest sympathy for the people of Northern Ireland in face of the recent outbreaks of violence to which they have been exposed, We pay tribute, in particular, to the courage and resource of the members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the special constables who have borne the brunt of these attacks. Her Majesty's Government recognise that the situation is still fraught with danger, which the people of Northern Ireland have faced and are facing with exemplary restraint.

Immediately after the outbreak of violence on December 12, Her Majesty's Ambassador in Dublin arranged to see the Republican Minister of External Affairs to obtain further information from him and to express the serious view which Her Majesty's Government would be bound to take of these events. As the House will know, on December 14, the Republican Government issued a statement on their own initiative, in which they said that they had determined to take, in conjunction with the police and defence forces of the Republic, such steps as they deemed necessary and appropriate to prevent activities which, if they were allowed to continue, would inevitably cause loss of life.

In the light of this, Her Majesty's Government decided to direct Her Majesty's Ambassador to deliver a communication expressing their very great concern at the recent incidents in Northern Ireland, and the hope that the important objective which the Republican Government had proclaimed in their statement would he effectively and successfully secured. In the Ireland Act, 1949 the Parliament at Westminster declared Northern Ireland to be an integral part of the United Kingdom. That is a declaration which all Parties in this House are pledged to support. The safely of Northern Ireland and of its inhabitants is, therefore, a direct responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, which they will, of course, discharge.

My Lords, we on this side of the House, should like to be identified with the statement that the noble Marquess has made. We are entirely satisfied that these violent outbreaks can do no possible good, and may do a great deal of harm. We rejoice to notice that the Republican Government of Ireland have expressed their view. We are satisfied that peaceful solutions should be sought, and that it is no earthly use attempting to deal with these problems by violence. We hope that the restraint which the Government of Northern Ireland have hitherto very wisely shown will be continued, and we devoutly hope that the efforts of the two Governments will put this violence, which has nothing to commend it at all, to an end. We entirely agree with the action which Her Majesty's Government have taken in making representations to the Republican Government to use their best endeavours to put an end to this most unhappy state of affairs.

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl very much for what he has said on behalf of the official Opposition.