Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) : I have the honour to present three petitions containing many signatures--up to 2,000--from my constituents. They come from Our Lady of the Visitation church, Greenford, in the name of Mrs. J. Balaam of 358 Greenford road, Greenford ; Father Phil Barry and his clergy at St. Bernard's church, Northolt ; Father Antony Brunning of 17 Mandeville road, Northolt, his clergy, supporters and many others ; and the Abbey church of St. Benedict, Ealing in the name of Isabelle Glover of 70 Claremont road, W13, supported by Dom Francis Rossiter, Abbot of Ealing and Benedictine Abbot of All England, Father Michael Hopley and the communities of St. Benedict, Ealing.
The petitioners call for the protection of the human embryo, which they believe to be seriously threatened by the proposals shortly to be placed before the House. They believe, and I share their belief, that there is human life from the moment of conception, that that life is made in the image of God and that it should not be violated under any circumstances by experimentation. I strongly support that view and hope that the House will reject any move to allow experimentation on the human embryo in the Bill shortly to be discussed in the House.
The humble petition of the parishioners of our Lady of the Visitation church, St. Bernards church, Northolt and the Abbey Church of St. Benedict, Ealing showeth that we affirm that the newly-fertilised embryo is a real, living human being :
Therefore, we welcome the statement in the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology (the Warnock Report) That "the status of the embryo is a matter of fundamental principle which should be enshrined in legislation", and its recommendation that the embryo of the human species should be afforded protection in law ; and therefore we oppose all such practices as are recommended in the Report which discriminate against the embryo or violate his/her human dignity and right to life. Wherefore, your petitioners pray that the House of Commons will take immediate steps to enact legislation which (a) forbids any procedure that involves purchase or sale of human embryos, the discarding or freezing of human embryos, their use as sources of transplant tissue or as subjects for research or experiment (unless this is done solely for the benefit of the embryo concerned) ; and (b) forbids all forms of trans-species fertilisation.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray etc. I beg to present the petition.
To lie upon the Table.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Goodlad.]
Mr. Ross : I apologise, Mr. Speaker. We usually debate Northern Ireland business so late that you are not present. However, I am sure that you, as the chief commoner of England, are so interested in this matter that you will stay. I would like to extend that to the whole United Kingdom. The matter that I wish to discuss is of great importance to the common people of this Kingdom, and their rights and privileges under the Crown, especially with regard to their desire to remain under the rule of the Crown.
I should be far happier if I were speaking to a crowded House, but a debate such as this gives one a chance to place on record the views of the Unionist people of Northern Ireland.
I have no doubt that the few hon. Members present, and the many more people outside, will remember the euphoria when the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed. In our debates, arguments and questions, time and time again the Government Front Bench gave two reasons why the United Kingdom had entered into that agreement. Briefly, they were that for the first time the position of Northern Ireland was recognised by the Irish Republic and that extradition of members of terrorist organisations--to be more specific, of the IRA--from the Irish Republic was assured.
At the time, the ordinary folk of the Unionist community said, through their representatives, that the Government's view on the first reason was incorrect. I am amazed that, even after the Dublin Supreme Court judgment in the case of McGimpsey, the Government will still not admit that the Unionist population was correct in believing that the words in the constitution of the Republic have their normal, everyday meaning. That matter will be covered in the next debate. I do not want to pre-empt what the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) will say on that matter, but I should put it on record that the Unionist population got it right and the Government got it wrong. I last spoke on this subject in an Adjournment debate at Christmas in 1987 when I drew attention to the requirements of the Irish Extradition (Amendment) Act 1987 in the Irish Republic. Those requirements were important then and they are even more important today, as the judgments in the cases of Finucane and Clarke relate to offences before that Act came into force.
In that debate I pointed out that, under Irish law, a full book of evidence must be available to the Republic and that some of the evidence that might be needed would be available only after the RUC had questioned the people concerned. In Irish law that requirement applies only to United Kingdom requests for extradition.
In the same debate I also said that the treaty made extradition impossible unless we paid a constitutional price and the price of interference with the judiciary in Britain. We have not paid that price and we may now be seeing the outcome of the blackmail inherent in what was being said in the Irish Republic at the time.
Column 1321The plain truth is that, in the Irish Republic, judges take an oath to uphold the constitution and the institutions of the state. They have now clearly spelt out what they are meant to uphold. I do not take issue with them on that, but I do take issue with my Government for being so foolish as to believe that they could weave their way round the straightforward language of the Irish constitution.
Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East) : Does my hon. Friend agree that many right hon. and hon. Members would like to know whether Her Majesty's Government have yet considered the full implications of recent decisions in the Irish Supreme Court, and whether a policy has been decided with regard to future requests from the Government of the Irish Republic for the return of Irish citizens who, according to Irish law, are now deemed to have been unconstitutionally extradited to the United Kingdom?
Mr. Ross : Many of those people are serving or have served prison sentences in the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend makes an interesting point and I hope that the Minister will provide him with an answer, as I hope that he will provide me.
The debate to which I referred in December 1987 followed two questions to the Prime Minister on1 December. In reply to one of them the right hon. Lady said that she regretted that,
"notwithstanding our representations, the Irish Government are taking additional measures that could make extradition more difficult It is essential that we maintain effective extradition arrangements so that there is no hiding place for terrorists. I agree with my hon. Friend that what the Republic is doing by taking this step is making us the least favoured nation in this matter."
Therefore, the Government cannot now say that they were unaware of the implications of the 1987 Act. Perhaps they hoped that those who committed offences before that legislation came into operation might still be extradited. However, that hope has been holed and fairly thoroughly sunk.
On the same day, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Walker), the Prime Minister said :
"There is a risk that extradition could become more difficult because of the new measures taken by the Irish Republic and that they would be a step backwards from the existing arrangements".--[ Official Report, 1 December 1987 ; Vol. 123, c. 762.]
Twice on the same day, the Prime Minister said with great clarity that the Government were fully aware of the Irish bog of deception and mistrust into which they were wandering and in which they now find themselves up to the neck. Surely we shall not be told today that this has all come as a great surprise. They knew in 1987 that that would happen.
In answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor), on 14 December 1988 the Attorney-General clarified the position of the 1987 legislation. He said :
"In cases unaffected by the Irish Extradition (Amendment) Act 1987, the only documents required of United Kingdom police forces by Irish law are warrants of arrest and affidavits and certificates supporting them. No further explanation of such cases ordinarily is required." That was pre- 1987. He went on :
"In cases to which the 1987 Act does apply, sufficient information has to be given to the Irish Attorney-General to
Column 1322satisfy him that the relevant United Kingdom prosecuting authority has a clear intention to prosecute and that this intention is founded upon the existence of sufficient evidence."--[ Official Report, 14 December 1988 ; Vol. 143, c. 569. ]
That brings me back to my earlier point that the Irish authorities need the full book of evidence. That, as I pointed out in the previous Adjournment debate, is probably impossible to provide unless the RUC has an opportunity to question in depth the individual concerned.
All that shows clearly the increased difficulties that would arise. But just how great they are is perhaps only now becoming clear to the ordinary citizen in this land as the current reasons for not sending back criminals from the Irish Republic to face justice in the United Kingdom become apparent. Finucane and Clarke are the most recent cases, but they are not, by a long chalk, the first, and they will not be the last. The Father Ryan and the Glenholmes cases stand out in people's memory in Britain, but there are many others of lesser note and we shall see many more in the future.
The reasons for such cases not being sent back differ in detail. Sometimes for the tiniest of technical reasons, extradition requests were refused. As a result, known members of the IRA are still walking round as free men in the Republic. Because of the words used in the judgment to which I referred, they will never be returned to justice in the United Kingdom.
Two reasons were given in the Finucane and Clarke cases. First, it was said that there would be ill treatment by prison officers if they were returned. In that case, the evidence that was used of ill-treatment was the Pettigrew case. But is there any evidence of ill-treatment of persons who have been extradited to Northern Ireland from the Republic? If there is, I am not aware of it. No doubt the Minister will tell us.
I am also curious to know whether the Government would like to contemplate the probable attitude of the Irish courts if they were faced with a request to extradite the persons popularly known as the Birmingham Six, had they ever made it to the Irish Republic. One might also consider what would happen if the British authorities were now to apply for the exrtradition of those who have recently been named as the real Birmingham bombers. Can one imagine any Irish court extraditing such people to the United Kingdom? Twenty-one people were killed in Birmingham and 160 suffered injuries. No doubt many of those injuries were horrific and their effects remain with the people who are still alive. I do not believe that there is any chance of getting any of the people responsible back to the United Kingdom for questioning or trial under any circumstances.
The events of last weekend provide the Irish Republic with another excuse for not returning suspects into the hands of British justice. Given the attitude of the Irish courts, how likely are they to extradite to this country a terrorist who has created murder or mayhem of any kind, when they can point to the events at Strangeways and say that there is no way in which an Irish suspect would be safe? I refer to ill-treatment not by prison officials but by other prisoners. That is a second course that the Irish courts will undoubtedly pick up and use very soon.
One is also seeing the revival of the political offence as a let-off for terrorists of every description. In the Shannon case, one justice held that an offence--which is shorthand for murder or brutal maiming at the hands of the IRA
Column 1323--could be political even if it went beyond reasonable political activity. At the same hearing, another justice held that political immunity depended on the motivation of the individual to be extradited, his intent, and the true nature of the offence--and that all were to be assessed by their closeness to the alleged political objective. That was the reason used in the most recent case to let a suspect off the hook.
My hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) recently drew the attention of the House to the Irish Supreme Court judgment that political exemption from extradition should apply to persons accused of politically motivated offences when the object of such offences was to secure the ultimate unity of the country. That confirms what has long been the practical outcome of the decisions of the Irish courts.
If the Minister will refer to questions on extradition that I have asked down the years, and to the answers given by his right hon. and hon. Friends and by himself, he will see that between 1971 and 1987, the Irish Republic made 159 requests to Northern Ireland for extraditions. Only two were refused. One hundred and seventeen were granted, and 49--just under three per year--were not granted for various reasons. Over the same period, extradition requests made by Northern Ireland numbered 411. Fifty-seven of those were refused, 118 were granted, and 237 were not granted--presumably because the suspects were either in prison or could not be found. Another parliamentary answer confirmed that between 1971 and 1989, 110 people were extradited for non-terrorist offences from the Republic to Northern Ireland, and only seven for terrorist offences. Those figures tell it all.
Where does that leave the people who formulated, signed, welcomed and defended--and still defend--the agreement of 15 November 1985? The hope of extraditions has been exposed for the shabby, bloody deception that it was. The figures reveal the spider's web into which this nation's leaders wandered, against every word of advice offered by the Members of Parliament who sit on this Bench. Those figures are proof of the fruits of the 1987 Act and of previous legislation. The evil consequences of the Anglo-Irish Agreement are only now beginning to blossom, and will continue to do so in a dreadful fashion over the next few years.
The two Irish Supreme Court decisions--the second growing out of the McGimpsey case--mean that those who have murdered, bombed, maimed and destroyed will never be extradited. An excuse will always be found by the Republic for not doing so, not least because its constitution does not recognise the validity of the extradition provisions. There is no way that the Irish courts can ever permit extraditions, because they do not acknowledge the existence in law of Northern Ireland. It is not going too far to say that extradition to Ulster from the Irish Republic could be deemed by the Republic as unconstitutional. I have listened carefully to the Government over the past few weeks, and their words show that they are still fogbound or lost in a time warp some time before the McGimpsey, Finucane and Clarke cases. But Ministers are far too clever and well advised by the Law Officers of the Crown and by their own officials to really be so lost. My belief is that the Government realise how much things have gone wrong. What will the Government do about that? Will they allow murder to continue in Ulster? Will they go on
Column 1324shutting their eyes to the real world of terrorism that contaminates our land and blights our lives? Will they for ever close their ears to the counselling they receive from these Benches and from others, when ignoring it has led them into the bog in which they now find themselves? The Government know what must be done, and they know how to do it. Will they make a start? The Irish Republic, because of its written constitution, is frozen in its attitude and will never or can never deliver on the recognition of Ulster or the extradition of those who pursue the concept of a united Ireland through violence.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Dr. Brian Mawhinney) : I congratulate the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) on obtaining this Adjournment debate on a subject that is both complex and important. Extradition is a vital weapon in the fight against crime of any sort, be it of terrorist or non-terrorist.
I do not question that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are united in the desire to see terrorist offenders in particular brought to justice. That having been said, extradition is a matter fraught both with practical and political difficulties, and any failure of the system is given a far higher profile than are the successes that are achieved.
The hon. Gentleman's first concern, rightly, is with the recent cases of Finucane and Clarke, in which the Irish Supreme Court refused extradition to Northern Ireland. I will return to those cases shortly. Before I do so, the House may find it helpful if I say a few words about the mechanics of the system.
Extradition is an arrangement designed to prevent criminals escaping justice by crossing national frontiers, and it therefore plays an integral part in the criminal justice process of modern states. Extradition between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom is operated under a system known as the backing of warrants. This arrangement does not for the most part involve the two Governments but is operated on a police-to-police basis. The original and underlying premise of the system is that the two jurisdictions are sufficiently close, in terms of the workings of their criminal justice systems, for a warrant issued in one country to be acceptable in the other, without the full extradition proceedings that either would require of a third country.
The procedure is, at least in principle, relatively simple. Despite the apparent simplicity, however, almost all cases now involve lengthy appeals, the outcome of which has been, and remains, unpredictable. Any individual case can throw up difficulties on a number of levels, but, broadly speaking, there are three categories of difficulty--administrative, legal, and political.
On the administrative side, the mechanics of processing a request involve a number of different agencies in both the requesting and requested states and co-ordination is thus complex. In past cases, problems have arisen over the immensely detailed scrutiny which the Irish courts have applied in the United Kingdom warrants. A good deal of work by lawyers skilled in this specialist field is often required. We believe that the resulting problems have now largely been solved as a result of a considerable investment of effort by the authorities on both sides, and the production of a detailed checklist.
Column 1325So far as extradition between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland is concerned, there are two particular problems which have figured largely in recent cases. One is the provision of the Irish constitution which requires the Irish courts to protect Irish citizens from the threat of attack to their life, liberty, or property. That provision is the key on which fugitives have hung defences against extradition based on the argument that their life, person or property will be liable to attack if they are returned. The second problem which commonly arises is where the defence case rests on the claim that the offence in question was political. That is a particularly sensitive issue in requests for fugitives to be returned to Northern Ireland. Close examination is made by defence lawyers of political issues in Northern Ireland which can be used to seek to justify fugitives' assertions that their offences were legitimately politically motivated. Extradition hearings have often, in the past, turned into debates on Irish history and political conditions in the Province, and the fairness of the administration of justice in Northern Ireland is often put unfairly under the microscope.
The backing of warrants system is a most important means of bringing to justice terrorist offenders who have escaped to the Republic, not least because it is right in principle that, whenever possible, fugitive offenders should be brought to justice in the jurisdiction where their crimes are committed. However, we do have provisions in our law, and in Irish law, whereby persons charged with the commission of certain serious crimes in Northern Ireland can be tried in the Republic, and vice versa. To date, 12 persons have been convicted in the Republic for crimes committed in Northern Ireland, and three acquitted. Four persons have been convicted in Northern Ireland for crimes committed in the Republic.
Let me turn to specifics. Our utter dismay, bordering on disbelief, at the widely reported decisions of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Ireland not to return to Northern Ireland two convicted terrorists is a matter of public record. I shall return to them shortly. First, however, I should like to set them against the background of the generally improved working of extradition arrangements in recent times.
Since January 1988, 14 persons have been returned to the United Kingdom. A further seven persons are currently before the Irish courts. Of those 14 returned, three were returned to Northern Ireland in connection with terrorist-related offences, two of whom were Maze escapers. One further person was returned to Northern Ireland for a non-terrorist offence.
As far as Dermot Finucane and James Clarke are concerned, both men were convicted in Northern Ireland of serious terrorist offences : Finucane was serving 18 years for possession of firearms and ammunition and Clarke 18 years for the attempted murder of a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. The lengths of those sentences speak for themselves ; people are not sentenced to 18 years for trivial misdemeanours. Both were involved in the mass break-out from the Maze prison in 1983. They were subsequently arrested in the Republic where the district court made orders for their extradition.
Appeals on behalf of both men were quashed by the High Court in the Republic. They were, however, upheld
Column 1326on 13 March in the Supreme Court, their last court of appeal. As a result, these two convicted terrorists are now at large in the Republic. That was a judicial decision, but I, like many members of this House, and many people throughout the country, find it baffling and deplorable. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, among others, has made those feelings very clear. That dismay was also expressed by some in the Republic of Ireland.
The judgments were lengthy and complex and are still being studied closely. Their full implications for future cases may become clear only in the light of experience. In both the Finucane and Clarke cases, the Supreme Court found that extradition should be refused on the ground that the men's constitutional rights might be breached if returned because of what the court called a "probable risk" that they would be assaulted on return to the Maze. In addition, it was found that Finucane, but not Clarke, was entitled to take advantage of the political offence exception.
The slur cast on the professionalism of the Northern Ireland prison service by the first of those findings is deeply offensive and wholly unjustifiable. I believe firmly that the prison regime offered in Northern Ireland is both innovative and constructive, administered by dedicated, trained, and professional staff providing a service of which we can all be proud.
No one who has been returned to Northern Ireland, whether from the Republic or elsewhere, has subsequently taken any sort of action alleging physical ill-treatment in prison. I do not for a moment believe that had Finucane and Clarke been returned they would have suffered such ill-treatment ; nor, I believe, does anyone else who knows anything of the present Northern Ireland prison system. It is the Government's view that the Supreme Court's opinion in this part of its judgment is completely unjustified on the known facts about today's prison regime.
What is even more disturbing, however, is the Supreme Court's acceptance in Finucane's case that he was entitled to lay claim to the political offence exception. The implications of that finding are extremely serious and could, potentially, affect future cases. I shall not rehearse the history of the political offence exception in extradition from the Republic of Ireland to the United Kingdom. It is in some respects a sorry story, but I believe that, before those judgments, we had reached a position where those sought for terrorist crimes in Northern Ireland could lay claim to the political offence exception only with difficulty. The judgments have now rolled back from that position. They are a step in a very unhelpful and regrettable direction, following on from some previous very positive moves in the Republic.
The hon. Gentleman referred several times to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and he rightly pointed out that following this debate there will be a debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). Like him, I do not wish to trespass into the territory of that debate, but I must make one or two comments because the hon. Member for Londonderry, East, raised the issue and because they are relevant to the question of extradition. Since the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, we have made progress on extradition. We are pleased with that, but we cannot be satisfied with things as they are.
Column 1327He has said that, since the signing of the Anglo-Eire agreement, the Government have made progress with Dublin on extradition. Surely, however, the rules were changed by the Dublin Government after the signing of the Anglo-Eire agreement, to the detriment of ease of extradition.
Dr. Mawhinney : The hon. Member for Londonderry, East made a similar point and quoted my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but things have improved. Arrangements have been brought up to date in a way that has made it easier to pursue the extradition process, not least in terms of what I said earlier about the detailed arrangements that now exist. However, my hon. Friend will have heard me say just before he rose to his feet that I am not satisfied with things as they are--nor are the Government.
We shall be pursuing urgently with the Government of the Republic of Ireland our concern that the system as a whole should work effectively. I do not underrate the difficulties caused by these recent cases, but by close co-operation with the Irish Government we must find ways to overcome them.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement was never an agreement to agree about everything, but it does offer a framework for discussion of such matters. The agreement provided a firm framework for our discussions with the Irish Government about ratification of the European convention on the suppression of terrorism, without which we would now be in a much worse position than we are today. It will also provide a framework for our future exchanges with the Irish Government about the implications of the Finucane and Clarke judgments and the urgent action which needs to be taken in consequence of those judgments. These functions are vital.
Column 1328Government also be pursuing the need to extend the role played by the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act? According to the figures that the Minister has given, in so far as it has operated it has been reasonably successful.
Dr. Mawhinney : The hon. Gentleman knows that that Act is one of a number of ways in which we can consider these various matters and seek to make progress. It is a consideration in each of the cases. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will certainly bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's comments during the conference meetings. I shall specifically draw them to his attention.
Let me finish by reiterating how important extradition is. Both the British and the Irish Governments have pledged themselves to ensure that effective arrangements are in place for dealing with fugitive offenders. Extradition is a vital factor in this. The importance attached to it by the Irish authorities is easily demonstrated. It was they who originally sought the extraditions of Finucane and Clarke on our behalf and who continued to make strenuous efforts, throughout their judicial system, to bring the cases to a successful conclusion.
Convicted terrorists and those facing charges for terrorist offences must not be allowed to take refuge from justice in any civilised country. I believe it to be self-evident that people of good will throughout the world should regard terrorists as their common enemy, as we do, and should be committed to take whatever steps may be necessary to bring them to justice. That truism alone must give all right-thinking British and Irish people cause for concern at the present position on extradition in the Irish Republic. But, further to that, the Irish Government are committed in the context of the agreement, and particularly in the context of the recent review, to ensuring, with us, fair and effective extradition arrangements between our two countries. We will strive, with them, to ensure that such arrangements are brought about in future.
Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne) : Apart from the Republic of Argentina, which lays claim to part of Her Majesty's dominions--what it describes as the Malvinas--the only other country which lays claim to any part of Her Majesty's dominions is the Republic of Ireland. That was highlighted in the debate to which he have just listened. I want to remind the House of the terms of articles 2 and 3 of the Republic's constitution. Article 2 says :
"The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas."
Article 3 says :
"Pending the re-integration of the national territory, and without prejudice to the right of the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution the laws enacted by that Parliament shall have the like area and extent of application".
In the McGimpsey judgment, given in the Irish Supreme Court last month, these words appeared :
"The reintegration of the national territory is a constitutional imperative."
The recent decision of the Supreme Court in Dublin to refuse the request for extradition followed after the judgment in the McGimpsey case. Many who are expert in the law of the Republic of Ireland believe that the decision to refuse to grant extradition--not in the case of two suspected terrorists but in the case of two convicted terrorists--depended to a substantial degree on the earlier judgment in the McGimpsey case.
It was possible because my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had in mind the profoundly objectionable terms of articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution that she said in this place :
"no commitment exists for Her Majesty's Government to consult the Irish Government on matters affecting Northern Ireland. That has always been our position. We reiterate and emphasise it, so that everyone is clear about it."--[ Official Report, 29 July 1982 ; Vol. 28, c. 1226.]
On 17 May 1984, again speaking in this place, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said :
"The constitutional future of Northern Ireland is a matter for Northern Ireland and this Parliament, and for no one else."--[ Official Report, 17 May 1984 ; Vol. 60, c. 503.]
However, the year after that last quotation appeared in the Official Report on 17 May 1984, the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed. That agreement gave to the Government of the Irish Republic--to the Government of the only country whose constitution laid claim to Northern Ireland--the right to put forward views and proposals about how Northern Ireland was to be governed and laid upon Her Majesty's Government an obligation, if they disagreed with those views and proposals, to make determined efforts to resolve differences.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement specifically said that the Government of the Irish Republic were there to represent nationalists. You know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that four nationalists have been elected to this Parliament. Three of them have taken their seats. The proper people to represent nationalists in dealings with Her Majesty's Ministers are those who have been elected to this place, and not the Government of a foreign power. To confer upon the Irish Republic responsibility for the representation of some of Her Majesty's subjects when those subjects have at least in this respect an equal right with all other of Her Majesty's subjects to elect their own representatives, was intensely divisive.
Column 1330If right hon. and hon. Members think that I am going too far when I say that Her Majesty's Government accepted that the Government of the Irish Republic were to represent nationalists, article 4 of the agreement, states :
"The Conference shall be a framework within which the Irish Government may put forward views and proposals on the modalities of bringing about devolution in Northern Ireland in so far as they relate to the interests of the minority community."
I shall return to article 4 later in my speech.
Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East) : Surely what the hon. Gentleman said about the Irish Government representing only nationalists is the only position that that Government could take, as their Supreme Court has clarified the matter. We can all see the reasoning behind it, which was that they have a legal claim to Northern Ireland and a constitutional imperative to pursue the objective of a united Ireland. As Unionists object to that, there is no way in which the Irish Government could legally, within their own constitution, represent a Unionist viewpoint.
There are some Members of Parliament, among whom I am not to be included, who believe that Her Majesty's Government entered into the Anglo-Irish Agreement in something other than good faith. I have never doubted the good faith of Her Majesty's Government or of the Government of the Irish Republic in entering into the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Despite the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister which I read to the House, I believe that she, above all people, was appalled, as we all were, by the continuing violence in Northern Ireland and that she, above all, was mindful of the misery caused to wives who were turned into widows and children who were turned into orphans. She was as appalled as any Member of Parliament by the misery caused by the terror, by the continuing division between the communities in the Province, and by the fact that at that time unemployment in Northern Ireland was worse than in any other part of the United Kingdom. She and Her Majesty's Ministers wished genuinely, sincerely and honourably to redress those evils in Northern Ireland. They really believed that the agreement would bring the Province peace, stability and reconciliation. To my deep regret, I was not able to share that belief, but of course the Government believed that the Anglo-Irish Agreement would be acceptable to nationalists.
The Foreign Office, which was the principal Department involved in the protracted negotiations, advised the Government that the agreement would be welcomed in Dublin, in the Vatican, in Roman Catholic Europe, and, above all, in Washington, where it was believed that the signing of the agreement would lead to a diminution of financial and material support for terrorist organisations in the Province. Of course, when they heard that that agreement, if signed along the lines of the final draft, would be widely welcomed and would restore the confidence of the nationalists, Her Majesty's Ministers asked one other question. They said, "You have told us how pleased all these other people will be and how the capitals of Europe and even the most important capital of all, Washington, would be pleased, but what will be the reaction of Unionists?"
That is where the Government were so badly advised. They were given the answer, "Paisley will huff and puff, but on the whole Unionists will be well satisfied with the
Column 1331agreement." The argument ran that the Unionists would be well satisfied because, it was claimed, quite wrongly, that the Irish Government had acknowledged for the first time in article 1 of the agreement that there could be a change in the status of Northern Ireland only if a majority of the people of Northern Ireland wanted it.
However, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will recall the opening words of the Sunningdale communique in 1974. For the sake of accuracy, I have a copy of the text of the declaration made at Sunningdale in 1974, 11 years before the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed. It stated :
"The Irish Government fully accepted and solemnly declared that there could be no change in the status of Northern Ireland until a majority of the people of Northern Ireland desired a change in that status."
The British Cabinet genuinely believed when it sanctioned the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement that the Republic had taken a great new step forward in acknowledging that for the first time. But it was not so.
The second reason why it was claimed that the Unionists ought to be well satisfied with the agreement was that it would lead to a new era of co- operation in the defeat of terrorism between the Government of the Irish Republic and Her Majesty's Government and between the Garda and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. But the Anglo-Irish Agreement was not necessary to secure co-operation in the defeat of terrorism. There is no such agreement between France and Spain whereby France is allowed to put forward views and proposals on how the Basque country should be governed. That is not necessary to secure co-operation between Spain and France in the defeat of terrorism. Relations between France and the United Kingdom, in regard to anti-terrorist measures, could not possibly be better, happier, or more effective, and we are able to achieve that without giving France the right to propose how Alderney, Sark or Jersey should be governed.
It is a myth to say that a precondition of co-operation was the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. If that were the reality, and if the Republic had told Her Majesty's Government that they would co-operate only if they were given the right to put forward views and proposals about how part of the United Kingdom should be governed, that would be the most massive indictment of the honour, integrity and commitment of the Government of the Irish Republic to ending violence.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of State looks puzzled at my assertion that that was the advice given to the Cabinet. He has no need to take my word for it. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave an interview to the Belfast Telegraph just five weeks after the agreement was signed. For the sake of accuracy, I have a copy of the interview which she gave to Mr. Desmond McCartan. She was asked about the reaction of the Unionists to the agreement, and she replied :
"the reaction has been much worse than I expected. One is trying to find out why."
She did not say that the reaction has been "worse than I expected", but "much worse".
The Prime Minister said that she was trying to find out why. What does that mean? It means that the Prime Minister was told that the reaction of Unionists would be one of support, whereas it turned out to be one of hostility. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet had been misled and had not been properly advised. We can readily understand why that was. The Government of the Irish Republic had