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Northern Ireland (Terrorist Activities)

Volume 986: debated on Monday 9 June 1980

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I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the upsurge in the terrorist campaign by the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland over the weekend, resulting in death, injury and destruction ; the shooting across the border from the Irish Republic ; and the safe refuge provided by the Irish Republic after a callous secretarian murder by the Provisional IRA."
It is unique to have two applications under Standing Order No. 9 on the same subject, but the situation in Northern Ireland is grave. However, I shall be brief since the House has already heard from the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell).

I must stress that the Ulster people's patience has been stretched to the limit. They have suffered cruelly and shown remarkable patience and restraint despite the bloodshed, death and destruction of the Provisional IRA campaign of terror, and they cry out for an end to their agony, which would not be tolerated in any other part of the United Kingdom for 11 days, let alone 11 years. After a lull, the Provisional IRA has demonstrated once again that it laughs at weak security measures, weak laws and weak government by unleashing one of the worst weekends of violence in Ulster this year.

On Saturday afternoon a part-time Ulster Defence Regiment member, Mr. Richard Latimer, who was the sixth member of the UDR to die this year, was cold-bloodedly slain in a shop in the village of Newtownbutler, in front of his 11-year-old son, by provisional IRA gunmen. The thugs then got into a car and sped across the border to the safety of the Irish Republic. It is four years ago this month that my own cousin's wife was murdered by the IRA. She had no claims to any political or religious hatred of any kind ; she only bore the same name as I did, and her killers are now in the Irish Republic. Then there was the attack on the Army, on a band of soldiers entering their helicopter near Crossmaglen, who were fired upon from the Irish Republic side of the border. The House should take note of the deplorable and deteriorating situation along the border. We must have some action from the Government.

The House is the only political forum to which the Ulster people can appeal for their basic right as British citizens—the right to life, peace and freedom from fear. They look to this House for a military offensive and an end to the restraint which the Government have imposed on the security forces in Northern Ireland. This House is the only place in which the Ulster people can expose the hypocrisy of Mr. Charles Haughey, the Irish Prime Minister.

There is an urgent need for a debate so that the Ulster people can show that they reject what has been said at the meeting between the two Prime Ministers. They want to get rid of the smugness and they want to see the extradition of IRA terrorists who are safe in the Irish Republic. They demand an all-out military offensive to wipe these vermin from the face of Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) gave me notice before noon today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believed should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the upsurge in the terrorist campaign by the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland over the weekend, resulting in death, injury and destruction ; the shooting across the border from the Irish Republic ; and the safe refuge provided by the Irish Republic after a callous sectarian murder by the Provisional IRA."
The House will appreciate that every hon. Member who has the responsibility of a seat in Northern Ireland would echo the condemnation that we have heard today of the violence in the Province. But the House knows that I do not decide whether the matter is to be debated. I merely decide whether it should be debated tonight or tomorrow. The hon. Member for Down, North must receive the same reply as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), that I cannot rule in his favour.

I must tell the House that, in view of the obviously deep feeling in Northern Ireland, I allowed the hon. Member to repeat the application. I hope that on other issues, when I have already given a ruling, that ruling will be accepted and other Members will not raise the matter again. However, I understand why it was done today.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to minimise in any way the horror and tragedy of Northern Ireland. However, it seems to me that, with the greatest respect to the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), his application under Standing Order No. 9 was an abuse of our procedures. His application was on the same subject as a previous application a few moments ago which had been refused by you, Mr. Speaker.

In the debate that we had a few months ago, I argued that applications under Standing Order No. 9 should continue to be made on the Floor of the House and not in your office, Mr. Speaker. However, today many of us were deeply concerned about the statement made by the Secretary of State for Defence, and hon. Members could have put in five or six applications under Standing Order No. 9, one after the other. I think that it is wrong that an exception should be made on one subject and not on others.

I understand the feelings of the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), and I know that the House also understands. However, I confess that I did not want the people of Northern Ireland to feel that I was refusing an expression of opinion on this serious matter. I genuinely hope that, in order to protect the Standing Order No. 9 procedure, there will not be a repeat performance.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I suppose that I, of all 635 Members of the House, should be the last to dispute any decision on the Standing Order No. 9 procedure, and I stress that I am not doing so. Understanding that there is a difference between a private notice question and a statement, may I suggest that it could be conveyed to the Secretary of State for Defence that there were a number of very important questions that could have been asked today by many hon. Members, across the spectrum of opinion? We can hardly claim to be satisfied by the Secretary of State's replies. That is not a reflection on him, and I do not for one moment accuse him of complacency. I merely point out that it is difficult, in the context of a private notice question, to satisfy the House on such a delicate issue, involving as it does the whole question of the Pearl Harbour mentality of the United States Air Force.

Order. The hon. Gentleman must give me a point of order on which I can rule.

I hope that the Leader of the House will see fit to persuade the Secretary of State for Defence, if he needs any persuading, to make a statement tomorrow.

I was generous to the hon. Gentleman in allowing him to make his point, which was not strictly a point of order.