§ 3.3 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD rose to call attention to the situation in Northern Ireland; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion standing in my name. I do so, proud to sail under the colours of a Back Bencher along with the noble Lord who has just spoken to us. Members of this House will have studied the debate that took place elsewhere yesterday. They will be aware that the Labour Opposition divided the House on a highly critical Motion affecting Northern Ireland. We attacked the Government for procrastination; we insisted on the transfer of security from Stormont to Westminster and, in winding up, our Leader, Mr. Harold Wilson, insisted—and I know that I am not supposed to quote his words, but this is a paraphase—that there can be no military solution without a political one. He believed increasingly that there can be no political solution without a united Ireland, with proper safeguards for the Ulster majority at the end of the road. The House can take it that I, and, I am sure, all Labour Peers, from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, downwards—and I am glad to think that they will speak for us officially later—and, I daresay, many other noble Lords, would have entered that Lobby with conviction.
§ To-day, I want to see whether it is still possible to initiate a debate which unites rather than divides. I do not use that expression only in a technical sense. Noble Lords have been urging me to 811 adopt an attitude of moderation. They seem to fear that I may make a dart, even from this Back Bench, at the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and, employing a weapon which in my case could not be a boomerang, attempt to pull his hair. In that one form of combat I should clearly have an advantage. Other noble Lords are begging me to preserve a high tone; others a low key. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, a great expert on music will tell me how that operation is performed. At any rate, so far as it is feasible I will follow those instructions.
§ There are many things that I shall not touch on, bearing in mind that there are 25 noble Lords, all distinguished, who will follow me, including my noble friend Lord Brockway, who I rejoice to think is none the worse for—I will not say his baptism of fire, because he may have been under fire frequently—his experience under fire on Sunday. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Defence, gave us on Monday a short, official account of the happenings in Londonderry from the military point of view. It was amplified in another place yesterday, amid a considerable number of protests on procedural and understandable grounds, by the Minister of State for Defence. In the official military account no blame whatever is attached to the Army, or any part of it. There is no suggestion that anything that was done was not done with perfect correctness. That account, as most of us are aware, is in sharp conflict with the account given by many eye-witnesses, including priests who attended the dying, and also by many leading journalists whose names are well known by now to many of us. In these latter accounts grave allegations are made against the military. The London Times gave a useful summary of them yesterday. If I pick out the Guardian, it is partly because the Home Secretary not long ago paid a generous tribute to the quality of reporting by the Guardian specifically from Northern Ireland. Anyone who reads, for example—and it is the only example that I shall give—Mr. Simon Winchester's account in the Guardian of Monday and compares it with the military account will find, to say the least, a marked discrepancy.
§ The Government, rightly—I hope we can agree on this, if only this—have set 812 up an independent Inquiry under the Lord Chief Justice. I am sure that he needs no urging from any of us to proceed as rapidly as possible. I shall make every effort to-day to avoid prejudicing the findings, and I hope that others will be able to restrain themselves in the same way. I am sure that everyone will agree with me in repeating the deep sympathy expressed in this House on Monday by both the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and my noble friend Lord Brockway for the relatives of those who have been killed and also for the injured. At the same time, let us express some equally deep sympathy for all those—now well over 200, it is horrible to relate—who have also lost their lives in Northern Ireland in the past two years, including, I need hardly say, the soldiers and police who have been carrying out the duties for which the ultimate responsibility rests on us at Westminster. I have in mind particularly at this moment the widow (I do not know her personally) of a young officer who died on Sunday after heroically fighting for life for five months.
The effect of these events and the events of last Sunday in the Republic of Ireland, and in large parts of Northern Ireland, have already been shattering. A national day of mourning is being observed in the Republic, and I read in an evening paper this statement:
All Ireland came to a standstill to-day in mourning for the 13 victims of Bloody Sunday' as 12 of them were buried in Londonderry.
And a little further on:
A Northern Ireland trades union spokesman said: Ireland ceased to function as a working community to-day in respect to the 13 who lost their lives in Londonderry'.
So that shows the gravity of the impact on Ireland, as elsewhere. I am sure the House will understand that anyone of Irish blood will share that sorrow to the full.
§ An incidental effect—they would be the first to describe it as a minor effect, but it is regrettable—is that the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, have been unable to reach this House. They intended flying over specially for the occasion. They have sent me urgent telegrams asking me to offer their explanations and apologies. The Irish Ambassador, as the House is probably 813 aware, has been temporarily withdrawn, the first time such a step has been taken in the fifty years of Irish diplomacy. No one would suppose that a step of this kind would be taken lightly by Mr. Lynch, a man of the highest calibre, a peaceful man, a brave man and a good friend of this country, who at considerable personal risk has set his face against any possible idea of ending partition by force. All this is a heavy setback for Anglo-Irish relations, but we must hope and pray that we can find a way back to friendship.
§ My Lords, there is no disguising the grimness of the present scene. One has to face the fact that the bitter antagonism (to use the mildest word available) between the British forces and the Catholic population in Northern Ireland has escalated continuously during the last 18 months, and particularly since internment was introduced in August. In our last debate on this subject here I called internment a tragic blunder, and I repeat those words to-day with increasing sadness, and certainly without any kind of satisfaction. Whatever may be said about internment in theory—and I myself have nothing good to say of it, but whatever could be said about it on some kind of argument—internment combined with forcible interrogation (because part of the emphasis of the present internment is not just detention, not just removal from active life, but internment plus interrogation; that is of the essence of it), as it has been carried out in practice would profoundly antagonise any self-respecting community, whether in Belfast or Kensington or Chelsea. Of course, the effect on the Army is what one would expect with ordinary human beings. If one is hated, I am afraid it is human to hate back.
§ I have said before now, and I will say it again, that I personally am sure that no Army in the world would have behaved better than the British Army in the situation imposed on them. But many things have gone wrong. It is becoming obvious that the Army under their present instructions have been given an impossible task by their political masters. It is literally beyond human power for them to achieve a short-term military victory without doing more and more political damage, defeating the 814 whole purpose of their being in Northern Ireland at all. Things will go more and more wrong unless their political masters—and in the broadest Parliamentary sense that includes everybody here: the Government particularly, but all of us in one way or another—redefine the military task and embark, without a moment's delay, on the political initiative with the aim of a political settlement.
I read with much disquiet—I hope it was exaggerated disquiet, but I read with much disquiet—a passage in the leading article yesterday in the London Times, whose report, like that of the Guardian and other papers, has been deeply impressive.
said The Times yesterday—
of the Government"—
and these words may or may not come before the eyes of the Ministers—
is to bear down on the I.R.A. with increasing severity until the point is reached when serious discussions can begin".
In other words, serious discussions cannot begin now—that is the clear implication of that. And that is not just a view of The Times, foolish or otherwise, but it is the view that The Times, presumably well instructed, attributed to Her Majesty's Government.This policy attributed by The Times to the Government apparently rejects the idea of any serious political initiatives until after a so-called military victory. That policy, many of us will be aware, is a sure recipe for disaster. I profoundly hope that the Government will be able to tell us that it is in fact not their policy. I hope that on this point at least they will be able to repudiate that view attributed to them by yesterday's Times.
§ The first step which has been recommended by Opposition leaders for some little while now is the transfer of security, including of course the police, from Stormont to Westminster. At the present time it rests with Mr. Faulkner, the Leader of the majority Party—about whom I wish to say nothing unpleasant personally; I think he is doing his best according to his lights and that he is a courageous man—to decide whether any particular member of the minority (that is a third, at least, of the population) is to be interned indefinitely. That rests 815 with the Leader of the majority Party: to decide whether any individual member of the minority is to be locked up for as far ahead as one can see. Without any kind of disparagement of Mr. Faulkner, that is a decision that ought to rest on no majority leader in any community in the world.
And what of our own troops? At the present time the blurring of responsibility in respect of internment—and it was threshed out further yesterday in the House of Commons—and other related matters, have added a further heavy burden to the burden our troops are already shouldering. The troops are now seen by the minority —and I speak after a recent visit, but I have visited Northern Ireland, of course, many times in recent years—as the instruments of the majority, which is not of course the ultimate position in law or ethics. And it is certainly not the way in which they conceive their own duties. As Mr. Wilson said yesterday in another place:
We here have to insist … that the political orders given to the Armed Forces for whom we are responsible"—
we in Parliament here—
are matters for which we have the accountability and the control."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 1/2/72; col. 317.]
And that (now going back to my own words) can be effected in only one way: by a clear and definite transfer of security from Stormont to Westminster. The Government have not set their face against this. They are understood to be considering this proposal earnestly, and I beg them to give effect to it without a moment's delay.
§ However, let us look at the whole problem more broadly. During the fifty-odd years of Unionist administration in the North of Ireland serious discrimination has been practised against the minority. Do not let me disparage the efforts and indeed the noble sacrifices of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, who I do not think is with us to-day. At any rate, do not let me disparage his exertions and sacrifices, to which I have paid tribute before. The fact is that he and his esteemed successor, who is also now, I am glad to think, a Member of this House, were excluded by the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland because there they were too anxious to 816 bring about reforms. That is an historical fact which cannot be challenged by anybody, however violent his prejudice. The fact is that the Unionist Party of Northern Ireland has been forced by Governments here—first the Labour Government, in the last stages, and now by the present Government—to carry out reforms they would never have carried out if left to themselves, although the most enlightened members of the Unionist Party, of course, would have liked to carry out those reforms long ago. I am sure that these reforms will in the end prove to be of the utmost value to all concerned. That is something permanently gained. But from the point of view of the minority, so far those reforms have been a matter of form rather than of reality.
§ When I last visited the Ballymurphy Estate in Belfast, for example, which the Army can have some excuse for regarding as a hostile area, I was told that the level of unemployment was 46 per cent. —I thought I might have got my decimal wrong there, but it was 46 per cent. Yet there is a large factory just outside the estate which employs hardly any Catholics at all. So do not let us talk as though the individual Catholic working man has an equal chance of getting employment as the individual Protestant. One may say that this obviously will take a little time, but I am pointing out that one could not expect the Catholics to feel that any great change had occurred.
§ Meanwhile, in the last two years violence has intensified dreadfully. It has been replied to on the British side and by methods that have alienated the Catholic population. I will not say that they have been alienated irretrievably—that word ought not to be in anyone's vocabulary in this connection. We must never give up hope. But they have certainly been alienated very deeply. Let me once again condemn the I.R.A. without qualification. I shall do that as often as anyone wishes me to do it and without any qualification at all. But let me also point out—and I speak from first hand knowledge and I believe that if the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, were here (it happened just after he was Prime Minister) he would support me—the I.R.A. were negligible in Belfast until the invasion of Catholic areas. With or without provocation—I shall not go into that now, but 817 until the invasion of the Catholic areas —up to that time, the Catholics had no arms at all and the I.R.A. did not count. But of course there has been a tremendous change since then.
§ Be all that as it may, allocate the blame or responsibility as we wish, let us deal with the situation as we find it at this moment, the beginning of February, 1972. In his speech of November 25 last year, which in time to come may seem to mark an epoch and which certainly has been received with quite a lot of cordiality and even respect by the Government, Mr. Wilson indicated that in his view the Downing Street declaration of August, 1969, for which his Government were responsible, was no longer relevant. In his own 15-point plan, Mr. Wilson, envisaged, among other things, a movement towards a possible reunification of Ireland after a given period of time. That was significant and it was recognised as significant, certainly all over Ireland and I should think also here where these things are attended to. This was the first occasion since the Partition of more than fifty years ago that a leader of one of the two major Parties—I think the Liberal record compares favourably with the record of the two so-called giants —expressed what is understood to be his conviction that the reunification of Ireland should be clearly and specifically recognised as a desirable objective. In the passage which I paraphrased at the beginning of my speech, he seemed to speak still more plainly in that sense.
§ May we not hope that the Government—if not to-day, though best of all to-day, then in the immediate future—will themselves use words which indicate that they also regard this reunification of Ireland by consent as a desirable objective. No one could have been more explicit than Mr. Lynch in insisting that reunification is only possible with the consent of the Northern population. There are not many Prime Ministers—I cannot think of any other (and this perhaps may not do him all that good)—who are ready to expel members of their Cabinet for being over-zealous in the wrong sense and then to prosecute them. If one wants a test of moral fibre and genuine purpose, I should have thought that would help to supply one.818
§ There is no question of any coercion of Northern Ireland. De Valera said fifty years ago, "Ulster cannot be coerced." That has always been his official policy. The coercion would in fact he physically impossible and it would be repugnant morally to all intelligent people who care for Ireland, whether they live in that island or this one. For all that, let us assume—at any rate let a number of us assume; I hope all of us assume—that reunification by consent—always by consent, without the use of force—is the only future that makes any sense for Ireland as a whole. It will be facilitated by the simultaneous movement into Europe of this country and Ireland. I shall not pursue that subject because of controversies here and even in Ireland. I am afraid there is considerable argument concerned with it, but let us hope that the two countries, Northern and Southern Ireland and this country, can go into Europe together. That would make a very great difference to the whole problem.
§ The Ecumenical movement, bringing together the Churches, is at last making itself felt on what one might call the more spiritual levels in Northern Ireland. To say that it has reached every individual churchgoer in Northern Ireland I believe would be a great exaggeration, but gradually I believe it will bring about a great change and will have an effect more than anything else for good. But real religion, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and others may tell us, has never been the whole trouble in Northern Ireland. It has not been a religious conflict which has divided these warring communities. If it had been, if that really were the point of division, it would be a ghastly mark for religion, and I should be inclined to accept the atheist for the first time, if that were really so. But in fact Protestants and Catholics do not behave to each other in that way anywhere else. In Southern Ireland, where the great majority are Catholics, they do not treat Protestants like that, and in Northern Ireland, where the majority are Protestants they do not treat Catholics like that. It is not a Protestant/Catholic situation in Northern Ireland; it is, as I think we all know, a legacy of history. But that is not good enough; it is not much of an excuse so far as we are concerned. It is not good enough to say that 819 this is a product of history and there is nothing we can do about it. We either act now, while we can, or we accept a terrible responsibility in the sight of generations which come after us.
§ My Lords, what is going to be the transitional form of Government in Northern Ireland? I am personally assuming—and I know that not everyone will automatically agree—that one day, if all goes well, we shall reach a united Ireland; but that is a considerable way on. The question is, what form of Government could prevail there in the intervening period? In the summer of 1969 I recommended in a letter to The Times that there should be a Coalition Government for Northern Ireland, and I put forward the same idea more than once in this House. That, incidentally, was following a suggestion put by the Northern Ireland Labour Party, just before I wrote my letter to The Times. I had every reason to think, at the time, and I still have every reason to think, that if that suggestion had been adopted, the representatives of the minority would have found it acceptable. That is still my strong conviction. But, as I have said before in the House since that time, that idea of a Coalition Government was derided at the time, even by enlightened Unionists. They said, "My dear chap, it it a rational solution of course, but this is Northern Ireland". It was assumed that what is rational was just not appropriate in that part of the world.
§ Time has moved on, and at this moment I am bound to admit that a Coalition Government would be insufficient. So far as that idea was concerned, which I still think would have been right for about two years, it is now dead, at least under that particular heading. But the necessity for something of the kind which in a sense goes further is as great, or indeed greater. I have tried to draw a distinction in this House before now between what one might call fair play for the individual and fair play for the community. For fifty years the Catholics were treated as second-class citizens, at least on paper. Gradually, that is being overcome, but still you remain a second-class community if you never have any share in government; if there is always one dominating community and one community which is dominated—one rider and one horse. In the long run, this is 820 unacceptable to people as they advance in civilisation, so I think we can see that there can be no possible permanency in that way.
§ No one can deny that, wherever the blame lies—and I am trying to avoid those arguments because very quickly the constructive side disappears once one begins attributing blame—the two communities are to-day more polarised than ever. That is quite clear. They could not be more widely separated in spite of noble efforts which have been made to bring them together and to which I attach great importance, and which in a sense are novel and therefore encouraging. A considerable number of people are making serious efforts to bridge the gulf, but the two main blocs, as it were, of the community are more polarised than ever. As a result, there is no longer even a remote possibility that the minority community will agree to accept in the future permanent domination by the majority in Government. It is now clearly essential that the minority community should be provided, as of right—and I stress "as of right"—with the opportunity of participating in the administration of the area, including participation in the Cabinet.
§ I do not wish to be too dogmatic—indeed, I do not wish to be dogmatic at all—as to how this ought to be effected. I would certainly suggest the introduction of a system of proportional representation. As a result of this, the elected representatives of the two communities would apportion between themselves the ministerial offices at Stormont, and the proportions of the offices and the particular offices to be held by each community would be clearly a matter for discussion and negotiation. Something of that kind exists abroad. This is what I call a "community government", or at least that is the phrase which has gathered a good deal of support in wide circles. The difference between a community government and a Coalition, which I have recommended to the House several times before, is that in a Coalition the minority would be dependent on the will and favour of the majority leader—whether Mr. Faulkner or somebody else—and in a community government the minority would be guaranteed participation in the Cabinet, as in all other levels of the Administration, as a right.821
§ My Lords, I hope you will not feel that these proposals have now become irrelevant because of the tragic events and because of the strength of feeling and the antagonism which seems to be gaining strength every hour. I may be told by some well informed people that it is already too late; that Stormont has "had it"; that direct rule from Westminster is the only answer. Friends of mine—and I do not know whether they include any of my colleagues in this House—are recommending that, and I know that some of my Party colleagues in another place have come to that conclusion. We may yet come to direct rule. As Mr. Wilson said yesterday, it is certainly a policy of last resort. But this I must say, and say with a little more aggressiveness to noble Lords opposite: we shall come to that if we drift along as now. Community government will be a dead issue in a month or two if we continue at our present rate of decline. I very much doubt whether it would make any sense at all, if we were to have a debate in April and I were to come to the House and still advocate community government, if nothing whatever had been done in the meantime and more people had been killed. While it may mean the end of Stormont, I personally favour making one last effort to make a success of government in Northern Ireland during a transitional period. One can call it the continuance of Stormont, the end of Stormont or the modification of Stormont—and I think the last would be a fairer way of describing it. Of course I am departing from my view that the unification of Ireland by consent is the long-term goal. I very much hope that the noble Lord opposite, who has had at any rate a little notice in spite of his other arduous preoccupations, will be able to make some comment on what I have said on that and other matters.
§ There are many other things I could discuss, such as economic aid, but there are other expert speakers to come who will doubtless deal with such matters. I close with the reflection that for fifty years (to go no further back) we at Westminster have borne the ultimate responsibility in the eyes of the world, in the eyes of natural justice and in the eyes of the Almighty, for what went on in Northern Ireland. In the last resort, while Northern Ireland continues to be part of the United Kingdom that responsibility remains with us. It cannot be shirked. 822 The Parliaments and Governments of this country have evaded the issue for fifty years, sheltering under the unworthy alibi that what was done there could not be discussed in our Parliament. It was discussed quickly enough when real trouble broke out. As an Irishman who has served for considerable periods in two post-war Governments I must bear my share—and some might well say more than my share—of the blame. The first Government in which anything real was done was Mr. Harold Wilson's Cabinet, with firm and good support from the Opposition Parties, but by that time I had ceased to be a member of the Cabinet so I cannot claim even that vestige of credit. Our eyes are now open to a very painful but salutary truth. There is widespread recognition among those who have eyes to see that a choice now lies between continued inaction and a genuine political initiative, with reconciliation as the single aim—the path, I would suggest, of disgrace on the one side and of honour on the other. I implore the Government to choose the path of honour, but if they do not act immediately the twelfth hour will very soon have struck for Northern Ireland. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, the reason why I shall not detain your Lordships long this afternoon is not because I in any way underestimate the gravity of the situation or the importance of what we are talking about. It is partly because it is not so long ago since we had a full and useful debate on Northern Ireland in this House. In the course of it I think a good many shared opinions were found and many interesting solutions were put forward. The events which have gone to fill the last fifty years of history in Northern Ireland, and even further back, were rehearsed fully in that debate, and to-day I want only to turn our attention to the events that have happened since that debate, and of course primarily the tragic events of last Sunday.
I do not know whether it is yet fully realised what a watershed this makes in the whole attitude of Catholics, in both Northern and Southern Ireland, to the present situation. I compared it yesterday afternoon with the change of sentiment that came to Southern Ireland after the executions of 1916, and Mr. Fitt 823 repeated this in another place last night. This is not just a situation where we may feel that there is quite a lot of hate towards us from the Catholic population of the whole of Ireland. We are in this country perhaps over-used to being hated over a long and turbulent period of history. But it was put to me yesterday by a leading Southern Irish politician that the main burden is that the Irish feel that we hate them. That we do not every Member of your Lordships' House knows, but that they think we do is a real truth which has not yet been fully absorbed.
The events of Sunday have led to widespread recruitment for the I.R.A. Previously, moderate politicians in the South were being rung up by their constituents to know where they could contact the I.R.A. in order to join. The position in the South I think cannot be over-estimated in its importance. Three months ago I commissioned a series of articles, for a magazine which I edit called New Outlook, on Northern Ireland. The magazine is coming out to-day and tomorrow. In it there is an article by Dr. Garrett Fitzgerald written at least six weeks ago. Many of your Lordships will know Dr. Garrett Fitzgerald, and will know of the immense influence he has tried to exert in favour of moderation in the Republic of Ireland. He said this then:Those of us who are engaged in democratic Parliamentary politics in the Republic recognise fully the dangers in this situation for our State. The wave of sympathy for the provisional I.R.A. is now a serious danger to democracy in the Republic and we recognise it as such. The provisional I.R.A. has now reached the stage where they have publicly challenged the Government to dare to act against them in the face of this public sympathy. For the first time in decades we face a real menace of Fascism and many of us are fairly bitter about the British mishandling of the Northern situation that has not only already cost almost 200 lives there, but is now starting to undemine our democratic system as well.That was written a long time before the events of last Sunday.
The military solution, at any rate anything like a short-term military solution, has failed, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has already said. We have two separate communities and it is very doubtful whether, in anything like the foreseeable future, the Army will be able to go into any Catholic area except as an invading and hostile army. The only 824 solution left to us now is that of talking together, and it is that on which we must concentrate our ideas, as to how we are best to get all parties to this problem round the table and talking.
In the same issue of New Outlook Professor Fogarty, a member of my Party and a very distinguished, expert politician, argues for the withdrawal of the British Army and the withdrawal of the British from Northern Ireland, on the ground, as he says:Bring England in and a red white and blue film spreads over your Republic Irishman's eyes and he hares off after the old scapegoat instead of focusing on the realities of the matter in hand.He goes on to compare the English presence, in the communications between those living North of the Border and those living South, with what communications experts call "noise in the system", which should be eliminated. I do not agree with that opinion, though I think it is one which we shall hear more and more strongly argued in time to come. I believe that the best chance of holding talks is for us to stay there, if we manage to do the right things. There are now a number of initiatives which I think we should and must take, and some which we definitely must not take. First, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that we must transfer the responsibility for security to Wesminster. It is we who are ultimately responsible; it is the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Defence who has to control the Armed Services, and it is here that responsibility for all security should rest.
Proportional representation is, I think, something which should be brought in as quickly as possible. A Minister responsible for Northern Ireland, who I would hope would be a Cabinet Minister rather than a Minister of State, is, I think, also overdue for appointment. With every respect to the Ministers responsible, they have been carrying the heavy burdens of very large departments as well. This is a major crisis in the history of our country, and it is wrong that there should not be a special separate whole-time Minister responsible for overseeing it.
I think we have to find our way out of the tangle of internment. I entirely take the points made by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in the 825 last debate we had on this matter, as to how difficult that is, but we have to find it. If we do not, the situation certainly will not get better but may get worse. It may be that the way through is to release a certain number of those interned who are widely thought, by those who should know best, not to have any great I.R.A. responsibilities, and to hold a series of in camera trials for the others in special courts. I do not like special courts or trials in camera, but I like them better than the suspension of the rule of law by internment.
With the noble Earl, Lord Longford, I feel very strongly about the necessity for what he calls community government. I think this is quite feasible so long as security and the constitutional issue are in the hands of Westminster. But where I would differ from him is that I think the Government have an almost impossible job now in taking the kind of initiative which calls for co-operation from leaders of the Catholic community. Indeed, I would go the opposite way from the noble Earl, Lord Longford. I would urge the Government not to make such overtures at the moment, because I feel that they could only at this moment lead to denials of co-operation which afterwards may be bitterly regretted, just as it is fairly commonly accepted that some of the withdrawals from Stormont earlier on are now bitterly regretted.
Lastly, I would call for an imaginative attitude to the position of the Republic. I called for this earlier, in the last debate. The Republic of Ireland has no status de jure in this affair. In every other way, including that of common sense, it has a very important status indeed. I think now that the time when we could just say to the South, "Come in and talk as equal partners" has gone by, and that we have to widen the whole situation.
May I here make reference to the words last night, of the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack? I have already apologised to him for the fact that I was unable to be present, and I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for leaping slightly to my defence. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said (col. 775):I must express profound regret that anybody, in either House of Parliament, could actually suggest that anyone in the world will say that the Lord Chief Justice of England is not an impartial person.826 The Lord Chancellor was referring to my remarks earlier in the day. I think it is common ground between us that no shadow of a hint was ever made that I consider the noble and learned Lord, Lord Widgery, unsuitable or not an impartial person.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD HAILSHAM OF ST. MARYLEBONE)
My Lords, I made that clear. The noble Lord will see that later.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, the suggestion is as to whether anyone in the world will say that he is not an impartial person, and I am sorry I cannot go back on that point. The noble and learned Lord is very recognisable, and if he went into the streets of Dublin in the present conditions no doubt he would find it very difficult to escape physical damage; but if he were to go into the streets of Dublin and stop the first twelve people that he met and say, "Do you think this Tribunal, with the Lord Chief Justice of England sitting alone, is an impartial Tribunal? "he would get an answer "No" from the majority. That is the report that I have from Northern Ireland, and the report I have from Southern Ireland. It is reprehensible; it is illogical. I disagree with it, but it is true; and to say that it is true does not reflect in any way on the Judiciary of England; it reflects on those who have let the affairs of Ireland get into such a state. If you like, it also may reflect upon the logic of the Irish mind. It does not reflect upon the Judiciary; but it is a fact, and one which must be realised.
This brings me to the major final point, that this Government have a number of virtues. Let me go on record now as saying that they have a number of virtues: they "keep their cool"; they are resolute. They show the virtues of a good Conservative Government, as well as some of the vices of a very Conservative Government. But on the other side of the coin they are not always imaginative in trying to find ways through, in trying to go outside the rule book. I think what is needed now is that we should go outside the rule book. We are going into Europe. Ireland, we hope, is going into Europe, too. It is for the Government to realise that no longer are 827 we in the situation where we, Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland can just sit round the table and talk, because the good will is not there, the belief is not there. Anything that now happens, whether it be a Tribunal, or whether it be an all-Party conference, would gain immeasurably by having the chairmanship and sponsorship of some outside body. For a Government which is European, and claims to be strongly European, what better way could be found of trying to approach this problem than in a European context? One thing I am sure of is that unless we try such imaginative steps forward, we shall merely go from bad—and it is very bad—to far worse.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, it is now some three months since we last devoted a day to debating the general situation in Northern Ireland; and that perhaps is reason enough for having a debate to-day. In any event, we are greatly indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for having put down his Motion this afternoon and, if I may say so, for having made a restrained and thoughtful speech, in marked contrast to some of the speeches that have been made elsewhere in the last day or two. I think that there was much in what the noble Earl said which will meet with agreement on all sides of the House. Indeed, I should like to say that I thought the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, also made a restrained and thoughtful speech, and I am grateful to both noble Lords. In addition, there is another reason why it is timely to have this debate this afternoon: because we have had the tragic events of the past weekend to bring the subject into starker relief—events which will inevitably influence both the security and political situations in the future.
Your Lordships will recall that when we debated Northern Ireland in the autumn, at the end of September and at the beginning of November, we noted that there were two main features in the situation at that time. First, in the political field, there had been a switch in emphasis from the campaign to achieve civil rights for individual members of the minority community in favour of a different and more difficult search 828 for some means to give that community as a whole a chance to share in the government of the Province. In the security field, in the meantime, there had also been a switch, from the sort of inter-communal disturbances which we had seen in 1969 and early 1970, to a campaign of terrorism by the I.R.A.
The situation at that time was, moreover, dominated by two recent developments. One was the unfortunate decision of the main Opposition Party at Stormont to withdraw from the Northern Ireland Parliament. The other—and I stress that this came after, rather than before, the S.D.L.P.s decision to withdraw—was the introduction of internment; coupled with the Home Secretary's simultaneous invitation to all Parties in Northern Ireland to join in talks under his Chairmanship. We took note then, my Lords, of the effect which internment had already begun to have, in greatly increasing the flow of intelligence about further terrorists and their activities. And we recognised then that, despite these improvements, it would be most unsafe to attempt to forecast how long it would take before terrorism could be brought to a halt.
In moving on from that time, I think it right that I, as Minister responsible for the Armed Services in Parliament, should say something about the security situation, and I hope that your Lordships will bear with me. I think it may be helpful to describe the current security situation, since however much we may recognise, as of course we do, that there can be no purely military solution, it remains vital to realise that the pace of progress in the political and, for that matter, the economic field is very largely dictated by the state of security.
The build-up of intelligence about the identity, organisation, whereabouts and methods of the terrorists is continuing all the time; and, more often than not, each bit of new information leads to several more—so that there is a snowball effect, enabling the security forces to have a steadily clearer picture of how and where to track down the terrorists. This is matched by a steady increase in the expertise of the Army and Police in knowing how to set about this task. It is worth remarking—though sad to remark—that, while there are many disadvantages in having some battalions 829 returning to Northern Ireland for second, third and fourth tours there, this does mean that many of the newly arrived units already have a great deal of experience of operations in Northern Ireland.
The result of these steady improvements in information and in expertise is constant attrition on the I.R.A. While it would be extremely foolish to be too sanguine about this, there is nevertheless solid evidence of just how telling this pressure has become. Regular arrests of wanted men are matched by regular discoveries of further caches of arms and explosives—and these finds are seldom accidental. Some areas of Belfast, which were previously under almost complete I.R.A. domination, are now very nearly trouble-free. In other areas which have been particularly hard in the past, the I.R.A.'s command structure has been disrupted and they have been rendered largely ineffective. There is increasing evidence of groups of I.R.A. moving out of Belfast because the pressure has been too great; and the inroads which have been made into their strength may be judged by their increasing reliance on women and youths to carry on their activities. Of course, my Lords, it is not a picture of unmitigated success. A few areas in Belfast are still very troublesome. Explosions continue to take place, as indeed do assassinations.
Though all this has been fairly good in Belfast, the events of last Sunday have caused what I hope is going to prove to be only a temporary setback. There are periodical setbacks when terrorists who have already been arrested manage to escape. More serious, there are still frequent raids by well-organised groups from the other side of the Border; though recent actions on the part of the authorities in the Republic, such as the arrests of seven men in Dundalk last Friday, give some hope that these raids may be gradually getting fewer. Nor, as we saw at the weekend, is the situation in Londonderry improving comparably with Belfast. Nevertheless, in the last few months progress has been made by the security forces in this most difficult of situations in Northern Ireland as a whole. And I commend them for their efficiency and restraint.
830 At the time of the introduction of internment last August, the Northern Ireland Government—acting with the full support of the Government in London—imposed a total ban on marches, in order to reduce the risk of provocation by members of one community towards those of another. That ban was for six months; but the Northern Ireland Government has now announced that it is to be extended for a further year. I am sure your Lordships will most strongly welcome that decision. It will help in keeping down the temperature and will enable the security forces to get on with their priority task. I must say that I do not understand why there are some who apparently object to the ban. I find it particularly strange that it should be some members of the minority community who have not simply objected to the ban but in fact take positive action to defy it, since, throughout the middle of 1971, it was that same community—and, also it may be said, the Government of the Irish Republic—which pressed continually for a ban on marches.
However that may be, my Lords, I am quite confident that the ban is right and that it must be upheld; and the security forces will therefore have no alternative but to halt and disperse any unauthorised march which may be held, however difficult this task may be. It is, I believe, proposed to hold another march this weekend in Newry. There can be no one in this House who does not believe that this would be a most unwise and potentially disastrous decision. I earnestly ask the organisers to think again, and, indeed, to contemplate what a responsibility rests upon their shoulders.
There are those who argue that the ban is ineffective, because those who seek to defy it have in fact been able to process for short distances. But this is not the point. There can be no question, in practice, of preventing any march from ever starting. The task of the security forces is to ensure that such marches are not carried through to the achievement of their objective; and this is what is being done. What happened in Londonderry on Sunday afternoon was a dreadful illustration of some—though not all—of the likely consequences of holding a march or demonstration in the present circumstances of Northern Ireland; and 831 thus an illustration of the reasons why the ban on marches was imposed.
First, there is always the possibility of hooligans on the fringe of the crowd resorting to their tactics of hurling stones, bottles and canisters of CS, and other such behaviour, with a greater or lesser degree of savagery. There is a tendency for this sort of behaviour to be brushed aside as too trivial to merit the attention of the security forces. But if one pauses to think for a moment, a lump of rock, let alone an iron bar, thrown by an able-bodied youth with maximum force causes very serious injury if it hits somebody. It is intolerable that people should be allowed to attack policemen and soldiers in this way, for hours on end, without any attempt being made to arrest them. And, secondly, there is, alas! always the possibility of gunmen lurking behind the crowd and making use of it as a shield, round which to shoot at soldiers and policemen while they are fully occupied in controlling the marches or dealing with rioters. Both these things happened in Londonderry; and a very heavy burden of responsibility for what followed must therefore rest on those who organised and continued the march.
My Lords, it would not be right for me this afternoon to examine the sequence of events in Londonderry on Sunday afternoon, particularly since there have been Statements, welcomed in both Houses, on the setting up of the Inquiry. And, in any event, my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Defence stated in some detail the information at present available on what occurred at each stage. I would only say now—and I must do so without prejudice to the Inquiry—that the facts as we know them, and as given to me, afford no support for the idea that the troops fired first, before they had been shot at; or that they fired anything but single shots at identifiable gunmen or bombers; or that they at any time fired indiscriminately into a crowd; or that they ever behaved without their usual self-discipline. My Lords, for my part I—and I have no doubt everyone in the House—am content to await the judgment of the Inquiry.
There is one other aspect of security about which I should like to say something more, and that is the question of 832 controlling the Border. This is not an easy problem, certainly not if one is not to resort to the methods of a Police State. In any case, the length of the Border and the terrain are such that it is really quite unrealistic to talk about closing it altogether. There could certainly be no question of doing so without diverting most of the effort of the Army, which now goes into the task of dealing with the I.R.A. in Belfast. The essence of preventing the movement of terrorists and arms across the Border is really the same as the essence of eradicating the terrorists in the cities: namely, to have good intelligence, so that one knows where and when it will be worth looking for a particular movement, rather than simply casting about in the dark. Nevertheless, we fully accept that some measure of general control on the Border is essential, and we have made useful progress. Mobile patrols continue to pay frequent visits to all points along the Border; while at the same time we have blocked a large number of unauthorised crossing places. I cannot pretend that this latter action has made it quite impossible to make an unauthorised crossing of the Border, but it helps us to limit the number of points at which such crossings can be made—and supports the more precise operations which are mounted on the basis of intelligence.
The least satisfactory aspect of the Border has been the increasing extent to which groups of terrorists operating from South of the Border have carried out hit-and-run raids into Northern Ireland—often aimed at easy targets, such as members of the police and the Ulster Defence Regiment in their own homes. These attacks are as vicious and cowardly as anything that we have seen from the I.R.A. in the past year, but they are clearly difficult to combat so long as the perpetrators are able to return to a safe base across the Border. We have of course asked the authorities in Dublin to take vigorous and effective action, as much in their own interest as in ours; and, as I say, the arrests by the Gardai in Dundalk, to which I have already referred, are a welcome sign that action is in hand. In saying this, it is not my intention, of course, to interfere in the internal affairs of the Republic. But when continuous raids are being conducted over this section of the Border, 833 leaving every sort of terror and destruction in their wake, we clearly have a legitimate interest in what is being done to prevent them.
Another very important theme in the campaign against terrorists is that of propaganda. It is perfectly clear, and will be clear to all your Lordships, that the I.R.A. realise the importance of public opinion, and they go to great lengths to put about distorted accounts of the situation and of the operations against them. Indeed, senior officers serving in Northern Ireland have commented more than once that the I.R.A. seem at times to be conducting a propaganda war with a certain amount of shooting and bombing in support of it, rather than vice versa—and there is clearly a grain of truth in this. We are equally aware of the importance of this factor, and a great deal has been done to ensure that this propaganda is shown up as the lie that it is, and that the truth goes on the record. But this is not easy. It is sadly true, as all of us know, that sensational allegations are more likely to catch the headlines than accurate statements of fact showing that an allegation is untrue.
There are those who argue that, when one is dealing with a ruthless enemy, one cannot afford the risk of allowing their publicity to gain the initiative, and that one should therefore resort to some form of censorship. My Lords, I have made it clear on a number of occasions that, though I understand this line of thought, I do not agree with it. I believe that the responsibility for deciding what should or should not be published or shown should be, and is best, firmly placed on editors, commentators and reporters themselves, relying on their sense of responsibility. I believe also that one can, and should, rely on the good sense of the public to distinguish between what is true and what is untrue, and to make known in no uncertain fashion their opinion of those editors, reporters and producers who make the wrong decision.
My Lords, while these particular aspects are all very important factors in the security situation, there can be no doubt—and here I agree entirely with the noble Earl, Lord Longford—that the central problem is the present antagonism of a large part of the Catholic community for the Northern Ireland Government and for the forces of law and order. It may 834 be thought—and certainly I myself think—that this antagonism is quite irrational. I really do not see how these people can believe that, without the terrorists, they would be in any danger of attack from any quarter, least of all from the British Army. But, irrational or not, this fear is a fact—and so is the hate and bitterness which stems from it. Of course, intimidation by the I.R.A. plays a part, but the sad fact is that, for reasons that go beyond intimidation, a sizeable part of the Catholic community is sympathetic to the terrorists and is willing, in varying degrees, to afford them shelter, and even positive assistance.
All the experience of previous campaigns against internal subversion and insurgency—and, indeed, for that matter, common sense—shows that there is a limit to the ability of the security forces to eliminate terrorism altogether unless and until one can isolate the terrorists from the rest of the community; and I believe that this is the position in which we now are in Northern Ireland. The key question, therefore, must be how to regain the confidence of the Catholic community—and this is a question which goes much beyond the purely military field and involves the whole question of politics. I think there is general recognition for the argument that the Catholic community in Northern Ireland are entitled to expect some significant measure of political change and that it is only through such change that the confidence of that community can be regained. Certainly that view is accepted by the present Northern Ireland Government, as well as by all Parties at Westminster. The difficulty comes in deciding what the change should be and when it should be made—and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, had some things to say about timing in the present circumstances.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, has put forward some suggestions of a kind which he believes might allow us to make some progress on the political front, and these will be commented on (if he will excuse me from doing so) by my noble friend Lord Windlesham in the light of other speeches which your Lordships will make during the debate; and, of course, we have had a very wide range of options proposed to us from many quarters, not least in some admirable newspaper editorials—for example, 835 in The Times on December 18 and in the Guardian only this Monday. And, of course, we have ourselves been thinking about this problem for a very long time. I do not think that it would be possible for me to analyse at this moment all these proposals, but there are some fundamental principles which I believe it is worth repeating, since we lose sight of them at our peril.
There are three points about which the Government's position is perfectly clear. First, there can be no concession to violence and terrorism. If there are to be changes, it must be because the changes are justified on their merits and not simply because they offer a possibility of placating the gunmen for a little while. Second, on the question of possible unification, there can be no question of forcing the majority of people in Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom against their wishes. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in his speech at the Guildhall on November 15:If at some future date the majority of the people in Northern Ireland want unification and express that desire in the appropriate constitutional manner, I do not believe any British Government would stand in the way".On this point, the noble Earl, in his speech, reiterated that this indeed was his view of the situation, too.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I just cut in? I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, who has been very generous about me, but I would go a lot further than that personally, and also I would venture to suggest that Mr. Wilson has gone a lot further than that. He has treated unification as the eventual goal: not as something which is not to be resisted, but as something desirable in itself.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, the noble Earl misunderstands me. What I was saying— and I hope I understood him aright— was that there was no question of forcing the people of Northern Ireland into Southern Ireland against their will. I was not asking him to agree with the Prime Minister's words.
I think we can all agree— and certainly Mr. Faulkner has said that he agrees— that the reunification of Ireland is a respectable aspiration and a legitimate political aim for any citizen of 836 Northern Ireland to hold, provided that he does not believe in bringing it about unconstitutionally— and this, of course, is a very important point in what I shall be coming to now. But however much one may include the question of future reunification in the agenda for talks and discussion, the fact remains that at present the majority in Northern Ireland most emphatically do not wish to leave the United Kingdom; and, that being the case, there really does not seem much to be gained from discussion about it as a short-term possibility. Such discussion distracts attention from the real and immediate need, which is to achieve a climate of reconciliation and reconstruction within Northern Ireland.
The third main point is that, so long as Northern Ireland remains a part of the United Kingdom, the form in which it is governed must be one which is broadly acceptable to both communities in Northern Ireland and also to the Parliament and people of Britain. The Government have undertaken, and mean to ensure, that the minority community in the Province will have an active, permanent and guaranteed place in the government of the Province, and this clearly implies that some changes must be brought about in the governmental system in Northern Ireland. But this leaves the question of the form which these changes should take.
This leaves open a wide range of options. Some are totally unacceptable to one side or the other, some may be acceptable. In so far as it is possible, we should have liked to see the changes and the new arrangements stem from ideas put forward by the people of Northern Ireland themselves, since it is they who will have to live with them. At the same time, the British Government do have a direct responsibility in the matter, since while Northern Ireland continues to be part of the United Kingdom it is out of the question for its system of government to be incompatible with the constitutional arrangements in the rest of the kingdom or repugnant to British parliamentary and public opinion. Thus, my Lords, the acid test of any proposal, new or old, for a settlement of the problem of Northern Ireland is its acceptability. Any lasting settlement must come about by agreement, but it is very difficult to reach agreement, or to know 837 which of the many options may be acceptable, unless the parties come together as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has said and talk about them.
It is scarcely our fault if we have not yet succeeded. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has tried over and over again to bring the parties together around the table. But time and again he has met with refusal from one or other of the parties to participate without preconditions. My Lords, how does one in fact set about conducting discussions when those who claim to represent one community either refuse to participate or insist on rigid preconditions?
The attitude of the Protestant community in recent months has been one of commendable self-control and patience. I am confident that this will remain the position, especially in view of the Government's reaffirmation that unification with the Republic can come only when the majority want it. But patience and restraint are not all that we must ask of the Protestants. We must also ask them to be realistic and to be prepared to talk with their Catholic fellow citizens about the future— and not least the political future. It is entirely in their own interests that they should do so; for unless the canker of the minority's bitterness and resentment can be healed, we may all be sure that this will not be the last eruption of violence and terrorism in Northern Ireland.
My Lords, the difficulties in achieving political advance are thus truly formidable and it would be a great mistake to underestimate them. The security forces for their part will maintain the pressure on the terrorists, while continuing to adapt their tactics to changes and improvements in the situation. At the same time we shall continue to encourage discussions about how to secure a proper place for the minority in the life of the Province— while continuing to uphold the right of the majority to choose whether to remain a part of the United Kingdom. The Home Secretary's invitation to all parties in Northern Ireland to engage in talks remains open. As noble Lords opposite know, we are in touch with the Leader of the Opposition about making a start on inter-Party talks. And we remain in touch with the Irish Government in Dublin.
838 My Lords, the grandfather of my noble friend Lord Salisbury— and I hope it will not be long before we see the noble Marquess back in his place— once, in a fit of deep depression, wrote the following words about Northern Ireland:We can keep the peace and we can root out organised crime. But there is no precedent in our history or any other, to teach us that political measures can conjure away hereditary antipathies which are fed by constant agitation.The free institutions which sustain the life of a free and united people, sustain also the hatreds of a divided people.I earnestly hope and believe that that is not true and that to-day a solution to this dreadful problem can be found. It is certainly the intention of the Government to do what is humanly possible to get agreement among the people of Northern Ireland for a peaceful and just settlement. My Lords, we shall need the help of all men, of all Parties and of none, who genuinely wish to find such a solution. I do not think it will be easy, but it can and must be found.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, those noble Lords who have so far spoken have spoken so reasonably and moderately that one wonders why a solution cannot be found to the problems of Northern Ireland here and now. Of course when we think of the past and of the statement by a previous Lord Salisbury which was quoted, it is worth recalling that he said this on the occasion of his securing the rejection of the second Home Rule Bill; and noble Lords (reasonable as we all are to-day) do carry some responsibility for the present situation in Northern Ireland. But I do not propose to-day to bring more disagreement among us than I can avoid.
We listened with the greatest interest to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and despite the strength of his personal views on the Anglo-Irish, Protestant-Catholic conflict, I am bound to say that no one has a better appreciation of the differing points of view. I see from my original notes that I had the inclination to say that while he understood the Protestant point of view intellectually, he had some difficulty in doing so emotionally. But having heard his speech, I think that would have been an unfair charge. I think all noble Lords would 839 agree not only on the lucidity and humanity of his remarks but also on their objectivity.
There are one or two points that I should like to make at the beginning. First, I should like to take up one point made by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. I do not myself believe that the Irish think that the English hate them. That is my own opinion. There may be some who think this, but I do not think this is generally held to be the case. I would refer briefly to the Lord Chief Justice's Inquiry and I do so mainly to thank the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for his extreme restraint to-day. It must be very difficult for a Secretary of State for Defence who is responsible for, and must be involved with, the Armed Forces, over whom he presides and whom he serves— for he has a duty to show loyalty to them in circumstances when charges are being freely made— not to seek to combat them fully. It makes it all very much easier for us to say, as my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition said in another place, that we should so far as possible in these debates avoid criticisms of the army and await the outcome of the Inquiry. However, I should like to make one point in relation to the Inquiry. The noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack was good enough last night to say that he hoped that one of the benefits of this Inquiry— and of this form of Inquiry with its single head in Lord Widgery— is that it will be possible for it to get carried through a great deal more quickly than any other form of Inquiry. This is a powerful argument in support of the Government's handling of this matter. But I should like to know and I asked this of the noble and learned Lord last night so that Ministers should know that I was going to ask it again to-day— when the Scarman Inquiry Report is going to be published.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, as I am not going to take part in this debate, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, would like me to interrupt him now. I happened to meet Mr. Justice Scarman last night. I understand that the Report is about to be signed. Of course, there will be an interval while it is being printed before it can be published, but I understand that it is complete and about to be signed.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am very much obliged. It is a measure of the ardour of these inquiries, because nobody is more conscientious than Sir Leslie Scarman. I should not like to think that the Lord Chief Justice of England was going to be tied up for a couple of years investigating this matter, and neither, I am sure, would the noble and learned Lord. I should also like to know perhaps the noble and learned Lord can also tell me this— when the Parker Inquiry, on which my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner is serving, will publish its Report.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD WINDLESHAM)
My Lords, if we can help the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, twice within a matter of a few moments, I think that we should do so. I can tell the noble Lord that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has now received the Report and that it will be published shortly.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the word "shortly" has been used with regard to the investigation into the rebuilding of Whitehall. None the less, I am grateful. Probably I owe it particularly to the Lord Chancellor that such answers are so readily available and for the fact that on this occasion the Government should spring to answer some of these easier questions— but I am none the less grateful.
My Lords, having dealt with those relatively minor points, I have some criticisms to make of the Government. I ask them to believe me when I say that in making these criticisms I am well aware that similar criticisms might have been made of a Labour Government in these circumstances though for reasons which I hope I shall make clear I think that criticism of a Labour Government might be in another direction. I do not make these criticisms in order to score off the Government. Listening to the debate, and observing the degree of agreement and reasonableness, I would ask why it is that it has not been possible to bring about improvements. Why is it that, consistently, the situation has escalated and the dangers have grown greater?
When we debated this subject last September I said that I thought it particularly important that we should show great restraint in what we had to say; 841 that we should tread carefully because, in the words of Mr. Bleakley, we were treading on the lives of the people of Northern Ireland. I believe that the time has now come when we must be prepared to say exactly what we think, to make criticisms where they are due, in an attempt still to find a solution. Last night the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack revealed certain information in regard to the Inquiry, and to-day the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, gave a very succinct account, and pointed out why it had not been possible to initiate these all-important inter-Party talks. I do not believe— no one has suggested it — that there is any single sweeping solution to the Irish problem. But I do believe that the Government have not shown the imagination, the energy, even the concentration, that they should, and I will seek to demonstrate that in what I have to say on this matter.
It is extremely difficult for busy Departmental Ministers to give the undivided concentration that I believe it is necessary to give to a problem as acute and specialised as that of Northern Ireland. As we all know, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has occasionally had to concern himself with another island; namely, Malta. And busy Departmental Ministers are not able to give the concentration which I believe is called for to a problem of this kind. The Home Secretary, nice, liberal man as he is, is not renowned— I regret having to say this— for his drive and his energy. This is a valid criticism of the Government, because I believe that their particular style in this area is not appropriate as would be that of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Callaghan. I say to noble Lords— because I have some suggestions to make in regard to this matter— that greater efforts have to be made. I do not say that one should actually kidnap the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the Opposition Party, but greater efforts have to be made to find a way through this impasse. There is no doubt that there is an appearance of supineness, justified or otherwise.
The Government may point, as did the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and with perfect fairness, to the steps that they have taken. They may point to the Northern Ireland Government's White Paper on some of the reforms that have taken 842 place. But the fact remains that every time we discuss reforms it is too late; and once again, my Lords, it is going to be too late. I shall say a few words at the end of my speech regarding the steps which the Government might take.
It is one of the advantages of the debate to-day that all the previous speakers have not sought to go over the previous ground. In fact, we in this House have moved on and we are debating the situation as it is. For that reason, I will not, any more than did the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and others, indulge in a tirade against the I.R.A. It is not that I do not condemn then crimes, like every other Member of your Lordships' House. It is because it is futile to do so. It is the fact, and an undisputable one, that since internment there has been the increasing alienation, to which the noble Lord referred, between the Army and the Catholic population. The tragedy is that as the conflict grows, people find themselves compelled to line up on one side or another, however much they may not want to do so. This is only too painfully true in Irish history; and it is this polarisation to which my noble friend referred that produces actions which seem incredible.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, referred to the reaction after the executions in the 1916 rebellion. It is the fact that it is always the actions of the British that are remembered. I speak as one who sometimes claims to be an Irishman, because my family are Irish. The execution of Erskine Childers is sometimes forgotten. I am not mentioning that as "tit for tat". Or, indeed, the murder of that great man Michael Collins, and Griffiths. One wonders whether the killing is ever going to stop and whether people will be able to look at the situation rationally.
I do not believe now, any more than I did last autumn, that it is possible to remove internment. But it is arguable that the Catholic population would have found the level of violence which the I.R.A. have produced completely unacceptable if it were not for internment which has driven the Catholic community in the towns into a position which has led to the confrontation between the Army and the Catholic community in the ghettoes. The situation in the ghettoes is not typical of the whole of Northern 843 Ireland. To-day, there are large numbers of Catholics and Protestants living in the countryside who, although more split than before, still manage to live peaceably together.
I have dealt with the need for greater energy by the Home Secretary or by someone else, and I should like to deal now with another of the obstacles to the talks. The particular difficulty is the inability of the Northern Irish politicians to reflect, accurately and in enough breadth, the whole position at any one moment. There is no doubt that the elected leaders of the Catholic community do represent those Catholics in the ghettoes, as indeed do some of the extreme leaders of the Protestant community. But, as I have had confirmed by Irish Catholics, as well as Protestants, I think that there are large numbers of Catholics and Protestants who are not fully represented. This is what happens in a democracy when extreme views are developed: it loses that element of representation, and some are not fully represented by those who are in fact speaking in their name. That applies, I believe, to both the main Parties. Then, of course, the single-minded energy of the more extreme leaders gradually pulls the more moderate leaders into extreme positions. This is the classic state of affairs in a revolutionary situation.
Yet another obstacle is the language which they use— there is nothing that we or the Government can do about this— which certainly magnifies the areas of disagreement. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the insistence by many anti-Unionist politicians that Stormont in its present form must be abolished. Yet, equally, many Unionists are recognising the need for restructuring Stormont. It seems intolerable that it is not possible to bring the two sides together on this point. Here again, it is the emotional factors, such as internment, and that people have got themselves into positions from which they cannot or dare not move, that are rocking the boat. The differences between the moderate Unionists and the Social Democratic and Labour Party are not so great as they appear to be. It is a pity that one cannot face this fact. Dr. Connor Cruise O'Brien has rather neatly described this unfortunate phenomenon as "the problem of the sectarian dialect". Then there is the pathological 844 dislike by certain of the leaders for one another. Whatever Mr. Heath and Mr. Wilson think about one another, they are at least prepared to co-operate in Parliamentary terms. Clearly, in no negotiations can one veto the other side's spokesman, especially when both have been elected at a previous General Election, however unsatisfactory the nature of the structure under which they are operating.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, referred to the banning of marches by Mr. Faulkner, with the approval of the British Government. Of course a year or two years ago everybody would have applauded this decision and said,"That will stop the Orange parades"—and when I say "everybody", I mean of course those people who are opposed to the Orangemen. I think this was a courageous action. But I am bound to say— I know it is easy to be wise after the event, but it so happens that these views were expressed to me before— that its wisdom was open to doubt. It was a very difficult decision. It is possible that a measure of control during the marching season would have been accepted. While Protestant opinion is incensed by anti-internment marches, and Catholic opinion is incensed by Orange parades around the fringes of the Catholic areas, it is the opinion of some people that neither community really objects to traditional parades. A blanket ban has the great advantage of appearing to be non-discriminatory; but, as was suggested to me only three days before the troubles in Derry, in order to enforce this ban it would be necessary to use a degree of force which would not usually be acceptable. This, painfully, is what has happened.
In this present situation, and because of the events in Deny not only the people of Northern Ireland and Derry but, above all, the British Army, are deserving of our sympathy. Whatever else happens, the Army have been ordered to be there. For what they are doing we carry responsibility. Whereas, again, we do not want to pay what might be called ritual, albeit sincere, tributes to the British Army, at least they do not shoot individuals in the back while at work: they do not murder people in front of their families; and in my experience they have generally observed standards that could not be equalled by any other Army. But the fact is that in a situation 845 of this kind terrible things happen—and we shall know the truth of some of this when the Tribunal reports.
Let me touch briefly on some constructive points. It is a pity that we have not more time to debate this, but I know that the Government are providing a great deal of generous economic help, some of which is to be administered in Northern Ireland in a way which is apparently totally unacceptable to the Conservative Government in this country, by means of investment grants, the equivalent of the I.R.C. Obviously, the Northern Ireland Tories are a great deal more progressive than Her Majesty's Government in these matters. Why these particular devices are suitable for Northern Ireland and not for this country, I do not know. It is the fact, as I understand, that productivity has been rising faster in Northern Ireland than it has in most parts of Britain. But of course this does not help the unemployment situation. There are many other constructive proposals, some of which are under way, which I have not time to discuss. But I want to come back to the political proposals. I think the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, would agree— as indeed I think we all should— that, however successful he may think the military operations are, they are not by themselves a solution to the problem.
I now come back to the political solutions and the sort of package which my right honourable friend Mr. Wilson put forward. I really believe that that was a remarkable and valuable set of proposals, and I would again ask noble Lords who have not read his speech made in another place in December, to do so. My noble friend Lord Longford, like many people, clearly hopes to see a united Ireland. I should like to see a united Ireland. But we are all agreed that there can be no question of coercion. This my noble friend has said. Where perhaps I differ from my noble friend is that, while I believe that a united Ireland must be on the agenda (it will not be possible to have talks without that matter being on the agenda; and other people will have to swallow other things), I am doubtful in the extreme, particularly since recent events, that in the event we shall see a united Ireland in our lifetime. I 846 deeply regret it. Nor will it be possible, as some people may think, that the withdrawal of the British Army will bring a united Ireland. It will not: it will in fact confirm more strongly than ever a sectarian domination in Northern Ireland. And I hope this remark, which may give offence to some people, will not distract us from the fact that there is a need for concessions also in the South of Ireland. My right honourable friend referred in his list of proposals to the differences between North and South in regard to such matters as censorship, contraceptives, and indeed the action, as some people will remember, that was taken with regard to Dr. Browne's Bill— The Family and Child Bill— some years ago under the not too successful Government of Mr. Costello and Mr. Sean MacBride, when they were told by the hierarchy not to proceed with the Bill. These things are known and constantly repeated in Northern Ireland. Yet the fact is that changes have taken place in the South. For instance, I understand that it is no longer necessary to get a dispensation for an Irish Roman Catholic to go to Trinity College, Dublin. English Roman Catholics were always free to go. This requirement has been changed in the last two years. Roman Catholic Bishops have themselves said that if the people want it, and it is a matter of choice, divorce and contraception should be available. I do not want to make too much of this matter, but because we should face all the issues I think it is one which needs to be got out of the way. I should therefore hope that when the present agony and storm following the Derry riot and the Derry killings has died down, the Republican Government— and I think we should all pay great tribute to the courage and liberality of Mr. Lynch— will be willing to publish their constitutional proposals.
I will touch on only three points very briefly. First of all, there is a real argument in favour of transferring responsibility for security to Westminster, first on grounds of appearances, so that it is not thought— and I do not believe it to be true anyway— that the Army is proceeding at the bidding of Mr. Faulkner, and secondly because it is for Whitehall and the British Government to take responsibility in certain policy areas that lead to security issues. We should 847 be sharing more strongly the responsibility regarding, for instance, the decisions on bans on marches.
This leads me to my other proposal which the noble Earl is aware of. Because I criticise the Government as regards the energy and concentration they are bringing to bear on this matter, I would press for the appointment of, if not a sort of "Cabinet Minister in command", of a Minister with some responsibility— a Minister of State, if one can find a suitable Minister, perhaps even a Catholic Minister; a Minister who concentrates wholly on the problem of Northern Ireland, perhaps partly living over there but all the time opening up communications and informing the Government of what is going on. My experience is that busy Ministers and often busy civil servants miss some of the finer points of a situation.
There are other ideas, my Lords. It may be that we could find a Commonwealth figure who could help to mediate and again add to the communication. But, whatever we do, I think we need to accept that we have to stand by the 1969 Attlee Declaration, that we have to open our position much more widely than we have done already. We should be willing to bring about or at least to encourage, if it were possible, a united Ireland— which I should personally favour though I am gloomy about the prospects— and above all we should seek within the next year or two to carry through the structural reforms which would ensure that when the next Election comes along, or sooner than that, there is the chance of the type of Government to which my noble friend Lord Longford referred, which will not be polarised just between two Parties. May I ask the noble Lord when he comes to reply why, if Stormont do not move, we cannot have legislation in this Parliament? Has legislation even been drafted? I beg the Government to show a greater degree of activity, so that in a few months' time we do not have to meet again and say it is all too late.
§ 4.57 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF PORTSMOUTH
My Lords, I well imagine that when the noble Earl, Lord Longford, put this Motion down for debate he did not think it would be one that we should be debat- 848 ing to-day; and with him, and those who have spoken so far, I want to make the key word of what I say, "restraint". It is perhaps almost asking for trouble for an English Churchman, in a sense, to comment upon the affairs of Ireland. There is, however, only one desire that I have, as an English Churchman, and it is one shared by every Member of your Lordships' House: to seek to strengthen the hands of those Christians and Churches in Northern Ireland who are working to find peaceful solutions in this very difficult situation in which they find themselves. As a Churchman, I desire not to interfere but to understand; and if that is possible in the new and tangled situation in which we find ourselves now, then this is something which all of us desperately need to do. To appear to interfere, as a Churchman, would do harm because we well recognise that English people and successive English Governments do not have a good record in solving Irish problems. There are many good reasons for believing that these problems can be solved only by Irishmen, the citizens both of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Eire.
My Lords, with those who have already spoken, I look forward (perhaps with not quite as much gloom as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton) to the days when there may be a united Ireland. That the position has been changed in that part of Ireland— Northern Ireland— is clear; but Northern Protestants are still, quite rightly, insistent upon certain considerable relaxations on the part of the Catholics before this kind of proposal would be even considered. I try to ask myself, as I seek to understand the situation, what lies behind so much of what has been happening. The first thing I would say is that I have to remember that Northern Ireland was created as an entity within the United Kingdom with the sole purpose of maintaining the Protestant faith. It stemmed from revolt, and from the very beginning Roman Catholics— let us face it— were, and sometimes are, an unwelcome minority. The central issue was the maintenance of the Protestant régime, and that was the sole aim of politics. In recent times this has been remarkably shown in the reaction to the programmes and policies of (as he now is) the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine. He was the first Unionist Prime Minister— and all honour to him 849 for it!— to seek Roman Catholic support and to try to introduce modest social reforms. As I understand it, as soon as it was recognised that the implications of these reforms were a régime seeking Roman Catholic support, he was rejected.
Secondly, I recognise that both Eire and Northern Ireland were established by violent means and with a threat of violence. It has remained true that the attack is on the régime, not on any part of its programmes or intentions. For Eire, any constitutional association with the United Kingdom was unacceptable. For Ulster any constitutional link with Dublin was similarly impossible. The attack is on the régime, and not on its merits or demerits. This has meant that the régime has responded violently. By definition, the Roman Catholics in Ulster must be subversive. "Justice" is assessed in these terms: right or wrong take their meaning from these criteria. The alternatives offered in Northern Ireland are alternative régimes, not alternative programmes.
The tragedy all the way along, and still to-day, is that the main lines of social division are religious and national. It has meant that it has been almost impossible to meet people in a different and maybe conflicting group. Protestants meet each other in their churches and their related social clubs and organisations; so do the Roman Catholics. And how rarely do people meet across denominational barriers with a common purpose which transcends them all! Yet there is an institutional aloofness of all the Churches from the Government structures. The Cardinal and the Roman Catholic bishops have avoided supporting the régime, and equally, until this weekend, have avoided supporting those whose illegal actions were meant to overthrow it. Protestant churches, while joining in condemning lawlessness, have not managed to restrain the extremists in their congregations; and their Ministers sometimes appear in ecumenical settings and sometimes as chaplains of the Orange Order. I believe that one line which must be pursued is the multiplication of occasions of meeting, for other than religious and political purposes, of Roman Catholics and Protestants. Education is an obvious mix-up. I believe that one of the needs of Northern Ireland is the 850 doing away with the denominational schools— an idea of which many Roman Catholics are in favour. The drive towards the opening of universities for all who seek admission is something which can produce only cross-fertilisation. The trade unions and kindred industrial organisations provide other opportunities; and so do social work and social services of a voluntary but non-secretarian order.
All this, my Lords, appears to favour secularisation, and in the present Northern Ireland situation I believe that secularisation may possibly be closer to the will of God than Church allegiance. The churches in Northern Ireland are full Sunday by Sunday; but how sad that there is so little evidence of that reconciliating spirit which comes from the Master they seek to serve and worship! Yet a new ecumenical spirit is at work: churches have condemned religious discrimination; they are beginning to practise mutual visitation and joint meetings for prayers; the Churches' Industrial Council includes Roman Catholics; there is a growth of bodies pledged to the task of reconciliation. All this is commendable, but so much more is needed before they match the influence of the Paisley adherents, the Sinn Fein, the I.R.A., the Orange Order, and the Unionist Party.
Here may I join with those who have already paid tribute to the British Army in the arduous and thankless tasks which have been placed upon them. I think sometimes it can be forgotten that that Army has itself undertaken a good deal of work in community relationships. At one time, certainly, it was the success of that effort which provoked the I.R.A. wrath. All this work must be accompanied by a search for social and political solution. In this search I believe that the Church, Roman Catholic and Protestant alike, has a substantial lead which it can give, if only it will. Tribal memories are notoriously long, and tribal conflicts between people of the same race are markedly bitter. But people can rise above them and create a larger community. One of the big tragedies of to-day, accentuated by the events of this past week-end, is that there has been a development of a new kind of folklore around the activities and alleged cruelties by the military and the police. This is being inflamed and is 851 desperately dangerous. It leads to further entrenchment in positions taken up, which makes discussion absolutely impossible. In spite of what has happened, there must be a fresh beginning in this troubled State.
Perhaps the heaviest responsibility of all lies on the Protestant Church in taking initiatives which show not only a concern for the needs of the minority but a compassion and understanding. The timing of these steps is important, I fully agree. But should there not now be a concentration of Christian people to see what must be done to meet the legitimate requirements of the Roman Catholic minority, while they (the Roman Catholics) must get out of entrenched positions and prepare to meet Protestant initiatives halfway? Wishful thinking? Crying for the impossible? No, my Lords, not if, in sincerity, both sides seek the mind and will of the Christ whom they seek to serve, and are ready to be led not by history or the agony of the moment, or the bigotries and biases from the past, but by Him who for Christians is always pointing the way to the future.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, as a Back-Bencher Cross-Bencher, and in view of the length of the list of speakers, I feel it is my duty to try to be as brief as possible and therefore I will, with your Lordships' permission, omit the normal courtesies and compliments which come at the beginning of speeches and go straight to the matter. I must, with respect, pick up the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on one point. It is no good seeking to belittle what happened at the week-end, not because it involved an immense number of people or is immensely important, as one might say, statistically in the history of the world, but because it will become a piece of legend in Irish history. I am afraid that this is unavoidable, partly because certain determined people are determined that it shall be so, and partly also because Irish history, as everybody knows, is a strange and unique compound of history and legend.
I have been speaking with a great many people and listening to many things in the last few days and I find one common denominator to which I will try to stick. The common denominator is 852 that everybody is saying to everybody else, "What should we do now?" In the light of that, I thought I would try to raise one point about talks and hope that the Minister who closes the debate will be able to comment upon it. I should then like to give one warning and then make a general statement in conclusion.
On talks, from my experience of international affairs I wonder whether it is possible to start, as it were, from the other end. The nightmare of the moment is that the Government and others would like to have talks and are being quite reasonable about it, but there seems no prospect whatever that in the immediate future this particular boat will get off the rocks, because certain people who are considered vital to the talks refuse to come. I wonder very much whether there might not be some possibility of those who are willing to talk starting to do so, and be known to be talking about these great issues. I assume that this would include our three great political Parties; I assume it would include Mr. Faulkner and the Northern Ireland Government; it might include, or be made to include, certain eminent private individuals, particularly if they were Catholic, in Northern Ireland. At some stage, though it might be difficult at this immediate moment, it would include representatives from the Irish Republic.
There are two possible objections to this. One is that the people who chose not to come would repudiate the talks and all their deeds, and the second is that this would mean fairly immediate confrontation. The answer to the first objection is that this is quite true, but talks have a curious way of attracting people who started by refusing to attend. I do not in any way assure your Lordships that this would be the effect, but in this present, stuck situation it might be worth trying. At least it would give the public the feeling that some of the distinguished and responsible people who have this matter very much to heart, and who have it as their responsibility, were formally talking to each other. On the point of confrontation, that will of course have to come in anyway. There is no avoiding a confrontation of view whenever you start, and if it comes earlier rather than later, well, this is one of those hurdles that will have to be got over 853 at some time or another. There may be very good reasons why this cannot happen. Equally, it may quietly be happening—on this I have no knowledge. But I would appreciate it if the Minister felt able to make some comment on this suggestion.
If I may make a reference to the agenda of such talks, it would have to include absolutely everything. It would certainly include the proposals that have been made by the noble Earl, Lord Longford— and may I pay a tribute to what I would call the truly Christian spirit in which he put them forward. I would find it difficult to advocate that the Government should espouse unification, but it certainly should be on the agenda of these talks. There should also be on the agenda of these talks some of the rather frightening alternatives between that and the status quo, such as what I think is called surgery and movement of population. I mention that because it shows just how drastic that alternative would be. There would also be, of course, talk about the new Constitution for Northern Ireland on the assumption that a Northern Ireland Constitution will continue for some time to come.
On that, perhaps I might say just a word of comfort to any of your Lordships who may be worried about the not fully democratic nature of an artificial Constitution. This is a real worry, but there are instances in the world where there are in Constitutions regarded as democratic features which are not in themselves totally democratic. For instance, the Constitution of the United States Senate has nothing whatever to do with "one man, one vote"; it is entirely based on history and geography, and there are States, or certainly one State, with a population in six figures which has as many votes in the Senate as does the State of New York, with many millions. There is, for instance, in the Republic of Lebanon a convention by which the Head of the State is normally a Christian and the Prime Minister is normally a Muslim. So there exist around the world arrangements by which people of different religions or in a special geographical situation can have a specially arranged position, accepted by everybody, under a Constitution which looks slightly undemocratic but in fact is regarded and accepted as democratic by all. The talks would also include, I suppose, a comprehensive 854 system of aid in which all might take part. And to pick up a suggestion in which I would not go quite so far as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, there could be a European element. That would be my feeling on what the talks could do. This again I am quite prepared to concede might all have been thought of already. But I have formulated it in this way to try to give a suggestion of what might conceivably happen, rather than nothing happening at all.
There is a warning about this which, curiously, I do not think has been explicitly mentioned so far. The people who are upset with this country include a large number of people who would wish they were not, and a small number of people who will be anxious that no initiative of this kind shall succeed. There is of course one person well known to us who I think, if I got it right, told us on the television that the objective was the destruction of three communities: Britain, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. There are these views which will go on all the time there is any discussion. This makes the psychological task of the Government, to which I shall come back, extremely difficult.
If I may give an immediate warning, because I think it bears on the situation in the next few days, I do not hear used very much a word which used to be used a great deal in Ireland at one time, the word "coat-trailing". I am convinced that one of the tactics which underlay the events leading up to the Londonderry catastrophe is the psychology that if you do something a little bit illegal or a little bit wrong, the other side can be counted on to do something much worse and then you can blame them. This is a well known tactic and I am sure that it underlies a certain kind of thinking with which we are concerned. I mention it because it is very important that people who are very well-meaning in their feelings about this whole controversy should not be taken in and be made the victims of coat-trailing.
I am particularly anxious to associate myself with what the Secretary of State for Defence said about the proposed march at Newry this weekend. I implore people whom I do not know, and with whom I do not think I necessarily share political views, to realise that they may be the victims of coat-trailing and that 855 if there is another disaster the blood of other people will be debited to their account.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
May I interrupt the noble Lord to confirm that what he has said is perfectly true? I am an Irish Peer and my knowledge of Ireland is not enormous, yet I know that it is a well-known Irish tactic which has been going on for centuries. The description "coat-trailing" is exactly right.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
I am grateful indeed to my distinguished relative the noble Earl for his comment. This brings me to my final reflection, and I have some hesitation in raising it at all. I feel again in my position that it is not quite appropriate for me, but the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, raised it in a felicitous way in this very unfelicitous situation. Unfortunately, too many people in Ireland think that we hate them. I am entirely with the noble Lord in what he said about this and I am sure it is right. There is a lot of history behind this, but it is not an insuperable problem. I join with those noble Lords who have suggested that perhaps the Government could adopt a somewhat different style in their dealings with Ireland. The whole history of Ireland is littered with people who were reasonable, tried to be just and were a bit formal, but somehow the communication did not exist.
I should like to think that the Government were putting into their public posture and utterances something of the feeling of affection which most of us have for the people of Ireland as people— not the terrorists—for there is something about Irishmen which appeals to people in England and people in England feel very frustrated when this appreciation is not understood. I am not in a position to suggest how this could be done, but I think there is something lacking here. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, suggested that there should be a special Minister who could concentrate on this affair. The noble Lord was much too modest to say that he did precisely that, with great success, in the negotiations with Aden at a crucial point. This may be the right way, but always in Government in these situations one has to weigh the specialised knowledge of the Minister who does this against necessity for the 856 matter to be essentially the responsibility of a Minister who carries the authority, whether the Prime Minister or one of the very senior Ministers in the Cabinet. Whether the two work slightly against each other I am not sure, but I am sure that the suggestion of a concentration is at least worth consideration.
§ LORD HARVEY OF PRESTBURY
While agreeing with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, has said about our attitude to the Irish, will he also say that this must be a two-way traffic and that they must cease throwing fire bombs at British property?
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
I am afraid that, like too many British spokesmen, I have taken that for granted, but the noble Lord is quite right and I am grateful to him for pointing this out. Finally, I should simply like to echo one thing which was said by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. That is, that although these things look very grave and we seem to be making no progress and things get worse, like other noble Lords I refuse to give up. Perhaps this is a case where:Out of the nettle danger we pluck the flower, safety".Surely this must be the last time when the British and the Irish, with faults on both sides, get across each other. Perhaps this grim weekend is a reminder of how active and how conscientious, and, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out, how personally Christian—or, if we are not personally Christian, how humane—we have to be in our approach. If we can do this intelligently in the years ahead we may reach the result for which we devoutly pray.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I want to be very careful indeed in what I say. Therefore I am going to ask the House to excuse me if I keep to my notes more than I usually do when I am speaking. As is generally known, I was in Londonderry last Sunday, but I do not want to describe to the House now what I saw and what I experienced. I think the right place to do so is at the Tribunal of the Lord Chief Justice, if I am invited to give evidence to it. I regret that that Tribunal is limited to one person. I should have preferred, in view of the intimate concern of the Republic of Ireland, and indeed the interest all 857 over the world, that it had included international jurists. But, while saying that, I think those of us who did see and experience what happened on Sunday should take an opportunity to give their evidence.
I have to acknowledge that I refrain with considerable difficulty from making any reply to some of the things which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said from the Front Bench. I have no doubt that he spoke with absolute sincerity, believing that he was describing the truth of what happened on Sunday in Derry. He would have to rely upon the reports that he received. I only make the comment that I was there, and I reject the truth of those reports and shall welcome an opportuinty of indicating what happened when I meet the Tribunal.
§ LORD LOVAT
My Lords, if I might interject at this point, could the noble Lord tell me exactly why he was taking part in this march on "Bloody Sunday", which was in defiance of the law—
§ LORD LOVAT
—and further in defiance of a ban on taking part in any political meeting? Would he not suggest that any irresponsible remark of this kind at a political meeting in the present thunderflash atmosphere is just as dangerous as pulling a trigger?
§ LORD BROCKWAY
The noble Lord has got it wrong. I shall proceed to indicate exactly why I was there and it will be a direct denial of the statement that I went to take part in the march, or that I did so.
My Lords, perhaps I should add to what I have already said, lest there be any misunderstanding, lest it is thought that I have been guilty of any reprehensible inconsistency, that before the Tribunal was announced I dictated a detailed and I hope objective and sober description for an article which will appear in the Tribune. As I say, that was done before the Tribunal was announced, and it was not intended to be in any way an affront to the partially sub judice interval before Lord Widgery begins his Inquiry.
As a Member of this House I think perhaps it is due to your Lordships that I should explain the reason for my visit to Derry. I was invited there by the 858 Civil Rights Association to take part in a meeting which was acceptably legal. I laid down the condition that I should not take part in the illegal march, and I informed the Home Secretary, Mr. Reginald Maudling, of my intention. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, with his usual friendliness, came to see me, and no objection was raised to my going to Derry in the circumstances of speaking only at a legal meeting. My Lords, while I regard the right to take part in marches as an essential of a democratic society, and while I have no doubt that the Civil Rights Association intended it to be peaceful, I realised that violence might occur by those who could not be controlled, and it was for this reason, because I did not want to be responsible in any way for the encouragement of violence, that I declined to be involved in any way in the illegal march.
The original intention was to hold the meeting at the Guildhall, but when the approaches to it were cut off, both for the speakers and the audience, the plan was changed so that it might take place in a large open space nearly half a mile away from the military barrier and from where violence was occurring. I am used to the game of Rugby football, and I would say that the size of that open space was three lengths of a Rugby pitch and nearly half a mile—quiet, isolated—from the violence that was taking place. I will refrain from describing what disrupted that peaceful scene and that peaceful meeting until I have an opportunity to give evidence to the Lord Chief Justice.
My Lords, not only one who has followed Irish history but anyone who was present at the events last Sunday must be overwhelmed in mind and in emotions at what may now happen in Ireland. Derry last Sunday will be to Ireland what Amritsar was to India; what Warsaw was to Poland; what Easter, 1916, in Dublin was to Southern Ireland, and what Sharpeville was to South Africa. We have now reached a psychological situation in Ireland where only the most generous action can break through that terrible division. Believe it or not, my Lords, with the knowledge of that my main purpose is to try to contribute to some solution. There is the danger of bloody confrontation almost immediately in the march that is planned at Newry, this coming week-end. I want to make a 859 suggestion both to the Government and to the Civil Rights Association which could possibly avoid that occurrence, and I beg the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to listen very carefully indeed to the suggestion that I am about to make.
On television last night, the Minister for Development in the Stormont Government (forgive me for not knowing his name) impressed me by the reasonable way in which he put his case. He said there was no reason why the demonstrators at Derry (he said "Londonderry") on Sunday should not have held a meeting rather than a march. He said that a meeting would have been legal. I think he said that 50,000 persons could have attended. As one who was in Derry, I am not sure how such a meeting could have gathered without, in effect, marches taking place. The whole of Creggan would have descended that hill, filling the streets; the whole of Bogside would have gone to such a meeting. In effect, they would have been marches. I am not familiar with the geography of Newry in the same way, although I passed through it on Sunday. But I submit this suggestion: let the Civil Rights Association make its objective a meeting which is legal, rather than a march. Let the Government instruct the authorities in Northern Ireland to discuss with representatives of the Civil Rights Association the arrangements under which this legal meeting might be held.
One cannot say that a meeting is legal without also making it lawful that there should be opportunities to attend that meeting. I suggest that if the Civil Rights Association agreed that its objective was a meeting, agreed to discuss with the Irish authorities the routes and everything else by which those attending the meeting might go to it, then in those circumstances, in legal conditions, it would be a duty for protection to be given to those who were attending the meeting. If this were done, Newry might become an occasion for the beginning of agreement rather than for confrontation and worse disaster.
My Lords. I had intended this evening to put forward a series of constructive proposals which I believe would lead to the political solution which is necessary. I do not intend to do so; there will be other opportunities, and others wish to 860 speak. Perhaps I may indicate broadly what is in my mind most effectively if I read to the House the summary which I gave to the Press Association of what I wanted to say in Londonderry on Sunday. You will see that it is a repudiation of violence and also an appeal for the ending of internment. The few paragraphs read as follows:There can be no solution by physical confrontation. Every military escalation by the Government makes the situation worse. Every bomb or death by the I.R.A. intensifies division. A continuation of violence encourages conditions which will bring the extreme Right to power in Northern Ireland.The crucial step to a political solution would be the ending of internment, which would open the way for discussions including the Social Democratic and Labour opposition in Stormont. I hope the I.R.A. would call off its actions in the new psychological conditions which would then be created.A political solution should include: (1) the repeal of the Special Powers Act and its replacement by an Act of Human Rights, including prohibition of religious discrimination; (21 the introduction of proportional representation in the elections of Stormont and all local authorities; and (3) the establishment of an all-Ireland Council for co-operation in expanding spheres between North and South, leading eventually to the reunification of Ireland.My Lords, that is what I proposed to say, and I doubt whether there is any Member of the House who would suggest that I should not have the right to say that, even in Londonderry.
There are just two things I wish to say in conclusion. I want to add that the supreme need in Ireland to-day is to bring about unity between the workers—Protestants and Catholics—in Northern Ireland, and between the workers of both North and South. They are in common the victims of appalling unemployment, had housing and poverty. It is tragic that they should be divided by sectarian doctrines rather than united in a common struggle for the opportunities for human life. I take encouragment from the political report to be presented to-day to the Northern Ireland section of the Irish Congress of Trades Unions, and in the North the majority of members are Protestants. Their report endorses most of the proposals which I have ventured to make in this speech.
The second point is just this. I want to conclude by saying that I have as much feeling for individual British soldiers as I have for the Irish people. They are 861 asked now to perform an impossible task. They exist under conditions of intolerable physical and mental strain, long hours patrolling or crouching in the darkness with the possibility of death by a sniper at any moment. Leaving Londonderry on Sunday night one passed through a street where the British soldiers were standing, crouching in doorways, guns at hands, at any moment to meet a sniper, and we were asked in our car to put down our lights for 400 yards while we passed them so that they might not be shot in the brilliance of the light. Of course we did it. But in going through that experience day after day, night after night, week after week, and it may be for some months, control of oneself and control of one's mind must break down. My Lords, the restricted conditions under which the soldiers of the British Army now live are worse than those from which the internees are suffering. If it were merely a matter of physical comfort, I would at the moment rather be an Irish internee than a British soldier. It is for them, as well as for the Irish people, that the sooner a political solution is found the better; but in those circumstances it will be found only by much greater imaginative and generous policies than we have yet received from the Government.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, it may be presumptuous of me, but perhaps I may express the feeling of the House in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, on his extreme restraint when describing events about which he obviously felt so deeply. Of course, as your Lordships will agree, this has been the keynote of all the speeches that have been made. I do not wish to detain your Lordships for long, but I should like to put a slightly different emphasis from that given by the noble Earl who introduced the subject, by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and by other speakers, because I think the determination, the resolution and the purposes of the I.R.A. and the people who work with them are not fully appreciated by the noble Lords that I have mentioned, and not fully appreciated perhaps by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. I feel that their determination is something which has to be reckoned with. Their determination enables them to use for their own ends 862 people who are saying things and doing things with the very best of intentions.
It is not proper for me to go into, or touch upon, the affairs of last Sunday, and so one cannot elaborate on that particular point. But that can be seen as an example of using people of the most blatant sort. The I.R.A.—and I think there are probably others with them—are such a very real menace at the moment, not only to the people in the North of Ireland but also to the people in the South of Ireland, that the things we do, the actions we take, the advice we give, must surely take full account of this. I therefore suggest to your Lordships that it is a pious hope at this point of time to imagine that everything in the garden will be lovely if, for example, the British Army is removed from the North of Ireland. That, I am sure, would end in the most desperate holocaust.
I think it is quite possible that, by a slow process, the I.R.A. may be more fully brought under control; but, as my noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence said, this will never be totally achieved. What is a fact is that, if at all possible, they must not be made to think that they are succeeding. There are those people who, again with the very best of intentions, give them encouragement: by vilifying the British Army; by organising marches on which these people can fasten themselves by not taking the steps that are inecessary to prevent intimidation, or by bowing to them and doing away with internment. I would agree with the noble Lords who question whether internment was wise, but I would not agree with those who say that it should be ended before we have dealt with this very real menace. That is one point.
The next point I should like to make (it was touched on, as always, by my noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence, but I feel that I must repeat it) is the extreme quality of the British Army that we have to-day. The Fighting Services of this country, at all ranks, are of a higher order of competence and intelligence than ever before in history. I suggest that they are also more competent than any other armed forces of any other nation in the world. We are extremely fortunate to have such a splendid force to take on this very distasteful task, a task that is not made 863 easier when people, again with the best intentions, give encouragement to their enemies—because from the Armed Forces' point of view it is "the enemy". But this very highly trained force, this intelligent force, is one of the rays of hope for the future. The very intelligence that the men are using to carry out their task is, after all, a reflection of the people among whom they are working. The members of the Armed Forces of the Crown are no different from the ordinary run-of-the-mill chap whom one meets in the street; they just happen to be people who have volunteered in one of the arms of the Services because they want a bit of adventure. But basically they are the same sort of people. If, therefore, one can detect—and many people have said this in recent times—a greatly improved intelligence on the part of our soldiers and the way in which they go about their business, perhaps there is hope that this will feed through to the ordinary people of the North of Ireland and the South of Ireland. What we must make quite certain is that those people are not subjected to intimidation, which is the one thing that can corrupt an otherwise determined approach on the part of any man or woman.
The next point I should like to touch upon is this suggestion that the security forces should be controlled from Whitehall. This appears perhaps to do the right thing, in the sense of showing that Whitehall is going to take responsibility. But there are all sorts of areas in which it is not wise to have things centred here. Noble Lords who come from Scotland, Wales, or the regions of England will have had many experiences where things are run worse because they are run from Whitehall.
There is another factor, and that is that when soldiers, or any Services for that matter, are giving aid to the civil power, the rules are that they consult the magistrate. These rules have been in existence for 250 years. The magistrate, 250 years ago, was the local man on the spot; he knew what went on. Our ancestors had a point. As your Lordships will know, before the establishment of local government the magistrate was effectively the local government of the country. It was always he who was put into the position to invoke the Army to come 864 in and aid the civil power. In a sense, in the North of Ireland we have the Prime Minister and his Cabinet who in this respect are functioning like the magistrate. A magistrate is a local person; he knows the local people. I would strongly suggest, therefore, that though it appears a good thing—particularly when looked at from this Chamber—there is really less advantage to be gained by transferring the control of the security forces in some sort of way.
I would also say that the suggestion of a Minister appointed from the Government at Whitehall would not in itself be a particularly good thing. There are two points. One is the fact (and we must face it, and certain noble Lords have touched upon this) that the Irish do not think that the English are very capable at ruling anybody, let alone the Irish. Therefore, they would not necessarily think, any more than they thought when we had a Chief Secretary in Dublin, that this was a good thing and the very best way to do it.
I would suggest one other thing to your Lordships—and I am a little surprised that no noble Lord who has spoken before me has mentioned this—and that is how incredibly lucky we are in the men the people of Northern Ireland have chosen to be their Prime Ministers. Noble Lords have mentioned the two noble Lords who now sit in this Chamber, but they did not mention Mr. Faulkner. I think that it is perhaps a slight oversight not to give real appreciation not only for the courage but for the very good sense of Mr. Faulkner, and, furthermore, to recognise the value of the people who put him there. Though we have been told by the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, that we might "monkey around" with the Constitution (and I think this might be a good idea, but that is another subject), it is a fact that Mr. Faulkner is in his position because his Party agreed to put him there, and it is the elected Party of that part of the country.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, after making a reputation for moderation and restraint I do not want to lose it now, because it is a fact that the same people who put him there threw out his two predecessors.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
Yes, my Lords: I take the point of the noble Earl. I will also go on being restrained, 865 if I may. That is so, but they are the people who are elected. On the question of what their character is, perhaps our restraint will allow us not to touch upon the character of individual people in Ireland except the terrorists, and I preserve the right to be critical of them, as is always the case.
We are now left with the problem of what to do. I think that the most important thing is for us always—and I come back to where I started—to take every step possible to discredit, and to avoid helping even indirectly, the terrorists. We have to meet their psychological campaign absolutely head on. In fact, when I spoke in the last debate on this subject in your Lordships' House, this was one of the points I made. It was interesting that my noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence reported, though perhaps slightly light-heartedly, that the senior Army officers in Ireland have been saying that the I.R.A. are mainly conducting a propaganda campaign supported by acts of terrorism. I believe this to be so, and we must match this point by point. Secondly, the sort of suggestion which the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, made is something which very reasonably might be taken up. We are never going to get a perfect meeting of minds in the short-term. I think everybody will agree with that. Whether they agree with the reasons, whether they agree about who are the villains, is not the point. There is no meeting of minds. Surely there is a great deal to be said for arranging some sort of meeting, of some sort of people, as a starting point. I should have thought the sooner we got on with that the better.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ LORD HUNT
My Lords, until about a week ago I doubted whether there could have been enough change in the situation, since we last debated the subject of Northern Ireland in your Lordships' House, to justify so soon afterwards the debate we are having this afternoon. But since the events of last Sunday, following as they did in quick succession on a whole spate of other incidents, who can now doubt that this debate is timely and appropriate and, indeed, necessary? For that reason, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Longford for his uncanny anticipation of what happened in the streets of Derry last Sunday. What hap- 866 pened is going to be investigated, but proper and necessary though that undoubtedly is, there is nothing that can now undo the damage of that event. It is only the most recent in a whole succession of incidents, which make such a jarring and shocking contrast to the sober note of confidence sounded by Mr. Faulkner himself, and by General Tuzo, at the turn of the year, and endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in his article in The Times exactly a week ago.
It was as if, purposely to give the lie to those expressions of hope, we have had a positive spate of bomb outrages, more brutal murders of police officers, and the nearest approach to open warfare astride the Border, quite apart from the sickening slaughter in Derry City last Sunday. To those who, like myself, have to rely on the news media for our facts and impressions, it really has been as though a chronic illness has suddenly taken a fatal turn for the worse. I was therefore to some extent reassured by what the Secretary of State for Defence had to tell us this afternoon. Perhaps the worst aspect of this worsening situation is that the prospects of any restoration of confidence, of any co-operation from the Catholic minority in the North being regained, of any good will from the Government and the people in the Republic being retained, become more distant and dim.
I trust that no one will accuse me of having any prejudice for or against either community in Northern Ireland. I gained enough knowledge in the late summer and autumn of 1969 to get some understanding of the reality of Catholic grievances, of the sincerity of Unionist fears, to respect the loyalties of the Unionists, to have some sympathy with the early aims of the Civil Rights Association, and indeed to have a sense of the close kinship which unites all Catholics throughout the whole length and breadth of Ireland. I say that simply because I want to join with other noble Lords who have made the same point that I am going to make, and to reinforce the view they hold.
There is now no denying that the Border is a burning issue. Of course it has been an issue all along, but for political reasons it was deemed expedient to turn a blind eye to it. That cannot be done 867 any longer. The realities of the situation demand that some form of union between North and South should not only be contemplated but considered and, above all, discussed as a long-term prospect. We all know that it cannot happen now, but Mr. Faulkner has pointed out that it is a perfectly legitimate aspiration of the Catholics in Ulster. But not only that: it is the firm and determined will of the great majority of all the people in that quite small island, just as union with Britain is the legitimate firm and determined will of the majority in Ulster. All this can only mean that it becomes more urgent and imperative to discuss the future, the long-term as well as the short-term. I see it as a test, a criterion, of the sense of responsibility of all leaders of all Parties, both Catholics and Unionists, in and out of Stormont, to agree to come to talks with an agenda that is as wide as possible, and which covers the whole range of issues. We all know that the difficulty of getting these talks going has become infinitely greater since last Sunday. That simply means that the efforts to get them going will have to be that much greater still. The pity is that perhaps not enough urgency and effort were put into getting talks going before this catastrophe.
It is tempting to say that it is worth any price to get these talks going. Quite apart from the difficulty of agreeing the kind of agenda that I have in mind, the price seems to revolve around the two questions of ending violence and ending internment. I am convinced that the ending of violence should not be entertained and demanded as a pre-condition of talks. It is on that premise that the talks have not got going so far. It has been one of the main stumbling blocks and I think was one of the demands made by Mr. Faulkner. That premise is quite unrealistic and talks will never start at all on that basis, simply because those who must be brought to the conference table do not have sufficient control over the sources of violence. It is in no sense an indication of weakness to agree to discuss a whole wide range of issues, including the question of internment. But the demand, as a pre-condition of starting talks, that the internees should be released, and that there should be no further use of that clause in the Special 868 Powers Act which might bring more people into a state of internment, must not be entertained.
I strongly support the Government's stand in retaining this weapon, deeply as my colleagues and I deplored the very existence of the Special Powers Act in the Report which we made to the Government of Northern Ireland in 1969. I detest internment, and I know that I share the same views on this as all of your Lordships. It is not a civilised measure, but we are dealing with people whose aim is to overthrow civilisation itself. We are not dealing with civilised people and, in the condition of terror created by the I.R.A. Provisionals, internment was unavoidable. As I said in your Lordships' House in September, the pity is that it was avoided for so long and not introduced sooner. I am bound to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, at this point. He expressed a hope—I would say, with great respect, a pious hope—that the I.R.A. would in certain circumstances entertain the idea of dropping violence. I would say that an end to internment and an end to violence are complete contradictions in terms. There is no genuine connection between the true aim of the terrorist and the civil rights of the minority in the North, or the nationalist aspirations of the majority in all Ireland. Unfortunately, time and events—and, as has been pointed out this evening, as Mr. Faulkner himself has rightly discerned it, skilful propaganda—have helped to blur the differences in the minds of too many people.
There is another side of this matter, which the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, touched on just now and in which I should like to support him. It is briefly this. There is not yet civil war in Northern Ireland in the sense of open conflict between the two communities on a large scale and outside the law. In our anxiety about last Sunday it is important to remember that, as the Secretary of State for Defence has reassured us, the situation is still under control. But, my Lords, to let up now in the fight against the I.R.A., to release their leaders and their other ranks, could end control. It could provoke that backlash by the Unionists which we feared so much would happen last year and which has not happened yet. Would the Government 869 not admit that the Ulster Volunteer Force, the Ulster Protestant Volunteers, still exist; that they are waiting in the wings; that they have weapons at their command, and are waiting to be told to go? My Lords, I think it is greatly to the credit of the Right-Wing Unionist leaders, as it is of course to the Stormont Government, to the Government here and, most of all, perhaps, to the legal security forces, that up to date the Unionist Right Wing has not felt impelled to take the law into their own hands and to seek their own salvation. It behoves the Government, even at the cost of alienating still further the Catholic population, not to waver now.
My Lords, since we last debated this subject in your Lordships' House there have been some less serious changes in the situation, in the direction, not of weakening, but of reinforcing the policy of no compromise with the terrorists. Individual policemen have now been issued with personal weapons for their own protection, and yet more police officers have been shot than beforehand. A decision has been made to increase the size of the police reserve force, and so the gunmen have turned their guns on individual reservists: and it is the same story with the build up of the Ulster Defence Regiment. I am glad of these decisions to protect and strengthen the forces of law and order, but I am also worried. It was quite predictable that the I.R.A. would act as they did against the police, and for what it was worth had forecast in your Lordships' House last September that the R.U.C. would place itself more at risk with arms than without them.
I should like to ask the Government these questions. Has the loss of gallant police officers, regulars and reservists, and of loyal part-time members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, adversely affected morale? Has it adversely affected recruitment? We have heard about the encouragement in recruitment given to the I.R.A.: what about the recruitment in the forces of law and order? And what about Catholic recruitment? What has been the effect of recent events on that? As regards the police, given that it was right to issue arms in present circumstances, are these weapons rifles or are they pistols, which would seem to me to be quite inappropriate weapons against 870 long-range snipers and mobile gangsters? Are police constables not more at risk than soldiers at all times, in that they carry out more individual duties and in that they have to live among the community? What is being done to protect the individual constable, apart from the protection given by his personal weapon? Is he covered by another constable or police officer, or by soldiers, in carrying out his individual duties? And, as a temporary measure, should he not live with his family in some protected area? I put this rather long series of questions about the police because of my particular interest in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and because I have been wondering for some time whether the police in Northern Ireland, if sufficiently reinforced and sufficiently protected, could not be now doing more of the kind of duties that the Army is doing but which are more properly done by the police.
My Lords, it is hard for me to advocate and to approve, as I have done by the inferences which can be drawn from the questions I have put, that the clock should be put back in regard to improving the relations between the police and the public, which improvement advanced, up to about 18 months ago, under the aegis of Sir Arthur Young. To arm the police, to put protective barriers between them and the public whom they serve and to whom they are accountable—these are regressive steps; and this, too, no doubt, could be part of the plan of the anarchists. But if a certain temporary loss in the contacts and in the closer relations between the police and the public is the price which must now be paid for protecting these gallant men of the R.U.C. and the police reserve, and for giving them and their families—and future recruits—some assurance that their lives will not needlessly be put in jeopardy, then I accept that this price must be paid.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, I should like to congratulate and thank the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for initiating this debate, and for the statesmanlike way in which he did it. I only hope, though, that if I express more radical views than have been so far expressed in this House, I shall do so with the same moderation. I attended one day of your Lordships' 871 debate on Northern Ireland in September, and I of course read the whole of the debate, but I found myself unable to take part in it because I thought that it was characterised, of course by that strong sense of duty and seriousness which always obtains in your Lordships' House but also by an air of unreality. It seemed to me that that discussion in our House took place as if the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, was Prime Minister in Ulster and not, as he was in that debate, sitting on these Benches. In other words, the solutions noble Lords propounded at that time, and the analysis they made of events, were really something like two years or even three years too late. Proposals were put forward then for ameliorating the situation. But the situation had been transformed during the summer by the beginning of internment. All I ask at this moment is: do not let us once again get our dates wrong. The situation in Northern Ireland does not stand still. It changes, and it gets worse; and the events last Sunday were an appalling deterioration in the situation—a deterioration which I think is bound to mean that many ideas of ameliorating the situation, which have been held with all sincerity, are now, once again, out of date.
I do not think it is profitable at this stage to go back in time and ask where blame lies. Even if it is true that the first violence came from the Protestant side in August, 1969, nevertheless it is pointless to go back in time and try to analyse how the violence escalated. All we know is that the violence is there, and that we are dealing with an appalling situation where you have a terrorist organisation which operates from strongly patriotic motives, and whose methods are the usual methods which all guerillas use. In saying that, I have no sympathy whatsoever for anyone who uses violence. I should like to join all Members of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in the tributes paid to the British Army. Every time you see on television Army officers being asked about incidents, you realise the restraint, the humanity and the sense of responsibility with which they go about their task; and I have no doubt they try to impress on the soldiers under them that same sense of responsibility.
872 What actually happened last Sunday is, in a sense, almost irrelevant to my argument. We just have to live with the fact that now a major incident has taken place, which could have been predicted to take place. So the bombings and the killings of British soldiers, and of Royal Ulster Constabulary, make the adrenalin in my blood rise every time I hear of them and see them depicted on television. But dwelling on violence will not help us to reach proposals for defusing this situation. This is where I was so disappointed in the speech of the Secretary of State for Defence, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. He spoke with all his usual grace, with his lucidity and with the seriousness mixed with charm which I know that all Members of your Lordships' House find so attractive. But he was barren of ideas, barren of initiative and barren of any proposals for really trying to change things. He began with an analysis of the defence situation as he saw it. It was that impressive kind of situation report that one well remembers during the War; the kind of report in which things are always getting better; of how violence had almost been expelled from Belfast; of how the I.R.A. had been pushed back to the frontier. This analysis. I do not for one moment assert was his. It is put into his hands by his military advisers.
But I would suggest—and I hope that no one will think it frivolous—that the Cabinet, and certainly the Secretary of State for Defence, should see the film called The Liberation of AIgiers. Here is a film partly constructed from news reel material and partly from scenario. It depicts how the guerillas of the F.L.N. began in the early 1950s their plastic bomb attacks, their assassinations of police and their brutal murders. It was the same pattern that we see now with the I.R.A. The brutality and the horror of those attacks were not minimised in the film. Then comes the moment when the French Army decide that the situation must change. You see shots of les Paras marching into Algiers and at their head one of those intelligent, efficient French commanding officers who sets about his task in exactly the way you expect an able general to do. He understands that the first object is to get intelligence and information about the 873 pattern of the cells in the F.L.N.; and so this is done. Immediately the army begins to gain control. They first capture one cell, they execute the members of another, they interrogate others and in the end they eliminate them by blowing up houses, by blowing up whole areas in the Algerian quarter. They elminate the whole of the terrorist movement. But the film does not end there. The last ten minutes are newsreels of three or four years later—pictures depicting the celebrating of the Independence of Algiers, with the F.L.N. marching in triumph through the streets.
My Lords, my message to the Government is simply this. You cannot win a war of this kind. We have in this country our civilised standards of warfare and civilised standards of interrogation—and I say that advisedly; for although there was criticism of the methods of interrogation, although prisoners are put under pressure, they are not tortured as they were by the French Army in Algeria. We are too incapable of fighting the kind of all-out war which will eliminate a terrorist movement. This, of course, is an analysis which I perfectly understand is open to dispute. I understand perfectly that the Government believe sincerely that they can eliminate violence and "defeat ", as it is always termed, the I.R.A.; but I do not myself believe this to be so. I look back to occasions when it has not proved to be so: in Cyprus, in Aden, in Algeria. I think that we should weigh this most carefully and ask ourselves whether we can eliminate this permanently. Of course there may be recessions in the violence in one city or another, or in one part or another, of Northern Ireland; recessions in which the I.R.A. is temporarily disrupted. But I ask whether people really believe that I.R.A. violence can be brought to an end by the methods that we are at the moment employing. If so, it goes against recent history.
The next point that I want to make is this. We are dealing here with two communities. These two communities have now become almost totally polarised, so that when people talk about a modification of the Stormont Parliament, or maintain that the present Constitution in Ulster can hardly be altered except in minor details, this seems to me to be a totally unrealistic picture of what the situation now is where nearly half of 874 the country, the Catholic population, do not recognise the rule of the Government in their country. What are we to do? What can be done in a situation of this kind? I See two solutions. I will take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, when he said that we should sometimes look for longer-term solutions, as well as for short-term ones. I would say that there is one long-term solution which I personally should deplore, though I can understand that some people would prefer; that is, to partition the country strictly on a religious basis. This would be a Partition of Ulster itself, of which perhaps two and a half counties around Belfast might remain as a Protestant enclave from which a transfer of population, as the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth suggested, might take place. I think that it would be a terribly retrograde move and a reactionary solution. It may be that this, in the end, is what the Protestant population in Ulster will vote for if they wish to remain completely their own masters.
The other solution, which I infinitely prefer, is that put forward by Mr. Harold Wilson. That is, to make a declaration that our intention is to achieve a united Ireland. I think that when we talk about a united Ireland we should be clearly seen not to be talking of the present State of Eire. Perhaps here I may be allowed to dissent gently from a point made by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. He said that there was no great religious tension between Catholics and Protestants. I wonder whether this is so. I believe that, in a united Ireland, there would have to be very great changes indeed in the minds of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will not take offence if I say that that hierarchy has the reputation of being one of the narrowest-minded, most intransigent, most entrenched and the least ecumenical of any country in Western Europe, except perhaps Spain. I hope that the noble Earl will use his influence to suggest to the Republic of Eire that if they are going to talk about a united Ireland there will have to be considerable changes in the theocratic nature of the Roman Catholic Church. For it is not merely a question of birth control or of divorce; there are deep problems here affecting hospitals, affecting education. So I do not by any manner of means suggest 875 that all the "give" should be on the Protestant side in the solution of a united Ireland.
It will be objected, of course, that this idea goes against the British Constitution; that Northern Ireland is constitutionally part of the United Kingdom. But Constitutions, whether for the United Kingdom or for Ulster, must reflect political, communal realities; and here we have a situation where the present Constitutions no longer reflect the reality. They might have done at one time, but they do so no longer. And so, as I said, if one is thinking in terms of a long-term solution the first step is a declaration of intention by the British Government that they see, as the only future for Ireland, a united Ireland; that they recognise that this means a new Constitution for Ulster which would recognise the two religious communities, each with its own leaders, and that arrangements would have to be made for them to come together in some new form.
A second step would be a recognition of bi-citizenship. Nobody who is a subject of the United Kingdom should lose that citizenship. This is not, it seems to me, a very difficult problem when we remember the way in which an Eire passport is treated now in respect of citizens of Eire entering this country. There are many problems of that kind, but none of them seems to me to be constitutionally incapable of being overcome.
A third step, which again I think will have to be faced, is that an offer will have to be made of repatriation to this country of anyone in Northern Ireland who did not wish to remain and live in that country. just as in Algeria there was the repatriation of the colons. That there may be such people may be fanciful, and there may, of course, be only a minute number. But even if it were a larger number than people might imagine at the moment, the cost of repatriation would be infinitesimal compared with the cost of the destruction. the cost of the tension, at present in Ulster. I know, too, that there are problems regarding the Welfare State; that Northern Ireland has advantages which the Republic of Ireland does not have. Again I do not believe that these problems are incapable of solution. Therefore I hope that, even though this 876 initiative has come from the Leader of the Opposition, the Government will bear it in mind and move towards it. For at the moment, as I say, there is a terrible barrenness about the response which is coming from the Government Benches; a barrenness which admits that the only thing to do is to slog it out.
I must face, too, the role of the Army. If you have a declaration of intent of moving towards a United Ireland, you must also face the fact that there should be a timetable. Is it too much to ask, at any rate for noble Lords on the Labour Benches—like the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who served under Mr. Attlee—to remember India? Of course I shall be accused at once of saying, "Yes, that is the very thing we want to avoid—what happened in India: the terrible slaughter of the Hindus and Muslims; the vast exchanges of population which took place during the holocaust that followed the end of British rule."And yet, my Lords (and I say this with no disrespect to the greatest statesman of our time), had Sir Winston Churchill been Premier, with his well-known views on India, should we have had the transfer of power that we had under Mr. Attlee? My Lords, I believe that Mr. Attlee took one of the most imaginative steps in statesmanship in post-war years when he declared that the Indian problem must be solved. He did it at appalling cost; but it was done. And even though the cost was great, the gains have been more enormous.
I am not suggesting that overnight the Army should be removed from Northern Ireland. But what I do say is that so long as the Army remains it will be almost impossible to bring the two sides together. Its removal would, of course, be a gamble. It is a gamble when you say, "We have a declaration of intent; we have a timetable, and on this date there is to be a withdrawal."Is that too fanciful? Would the Catholics and Protestants in Ulster, recognising that a day of reckoning was at hand, prepare for internecine war? Or would they recognise that their only hope for the future was that they should work together? My Lords, these are imponderables. It would be a gamble; and yet statesmanship sometimes resides in a gamble.
I appeal to the Government to show more imagination than they are 877 showing at the moment. I speak here in two guises, one as an historian. If you study, my Lords, the history of Ireland the story is one in which all British attempts at coercion have ended in failure. I was sad when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, quoted Lord Salisbury—I am talking, of course, about the present noble Marquess's grandfather. I was sad because Lord Salisbury was a man who was incapable, at the end of the 19th century, of understanding that Home Rule might come about. To him it was an impossibility. And by the very quotation from Lord Salisbury I have the feeling that the Government did not at heart believe there was a possibility of any major change in Ireland. I have said that I stand here and talk as an historian. I am also, of course branded as an intellectual, and I know that intellectuals in the Labour Party have not always been the most popular part of that Party—though I am speaking now from the Cross-Benches. But let me say this, my Lords. Intellectuals are very often wrong about politics: they often see things in far too clear terms; in solutions which have little reality because ordinary people cannot either understand them or accept them. But sometimes intellectuals have been right in foreign affairs.
They were right, I think, about Nazi Germany. They were in favour of rearmament at a time when the Labour Party was not. They were in favour of standing up to Hitler at a time when the Conservative Party was not. Again, I do not think that the intellectuals came out too badly over the business of the treatment of colonial peoples. The famous "winds of change" speech of Mr. Macmillan was a great speech; but, of course, it had been made 20, 30, 40 years before by people who saw how the movement in the Colonies was going. I end by simply saying this, my Lords: that we are talking this evening about our oldest Colony; a Colony which is stained with British mismanagement; a Colony which was indeed colonised in the reign of James I. Your Lordships may say that to go back to James I is ludicrous; but Irish memories go back to Strongbow, far further than James I. Somehow we have to understand, and as Anglo-Saxons make an imaginative leap to try to meet the Irish imagination.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, from time to time in your Lordships' House I have found considerable pleasure in taking part in debates. To-day I have no similar sense of euphoria, but indeed a deep sense of perturbation, which is increased by the news that is appearing on the tape of the firing by petrol bombs of the British Embassy in Dublin. This is an accelerating process, of which the events on Sunday were a further stage, and perhaps it is a terminal one. Therefore I am the more grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Longford. for the opportune timing of this debate. But I enter upon it with a great deal of unhappiness, which, if your Lordships will allow me, I should like to share with you, because I should like at the same time to respond to the noble Earl's appeal for restraint.
I am at the moment seething with anger. I make no apology for saying that; I declare it. That anger is partly because of events of which there is no doubt. When I think of the knock at the door, and the woman who opens the door who is brushed aside and lead is pumped into her husband, I am filled with anger: and I reflect that there is no more sorrow in the world than that one widow's tears—not qualitatively. When I hear, and see upon the television screen young hooligans, who know nothing about this except their hatred and their prejudice, stoning soldiers, who stand there mute. trying to understand and, as best they can, to make the appropriate response. I am full of anger. When I reflect upon the toll of murder and the intolerable and execrable situation that split open the whole Irish question last Sunday, it would seem to me to be totally improper if I were to enter upon any talk or discussion of these matters without declaring that anger which is mingled with frustration and not a little shame. There is the frustration of having to wait until somebody can tell me whether, and if so why, those shots in the back were the result of British bullets. Until somebody can tell me what are the true facts about the situation, of which so many diverse and mutually contradictory reports have already appeared, I must await the findings of the Tribunal. But my frustration is the more exacerbating because it would appear that quite a number of those who should appear before that Tribunal have 879 already declared their complete opposition to it and their refusal to have anything to do with it.
But I am also, as a churchman, filled with a considerable amount of sheer shame when I think of what is happening in Northern Ireland some 1,900 years after the first proclamation of the Christian Gospel, and among people who, in a majority, profess the Christian faith, whether they belong to the Catholic or the Protestant creeds. Partly because I want to be restrained, I would invite your Lordships for a little while to examine, if you will, this curious situation, this deplorable situation, in which Roman Catholics and Protestants are at each other's throats, at a time when the history of Europe would tend to persuade us, and contemporary evidence would tend to confirm it, that Protestants and Catholics have found a modus vivendi in other countries. I know very well that this does not properly apply to Spain, and that it is not so long ago that Roman Catholics were underprivileged in this country. But, broadly and largely, Catholics and Protestants have found a way of living together, and of keeping a fellowship of controversy even when they cannot agree.
I ask myself: Why has this happened? Perhaps the first answer is because continentally, at least, a great proportion of the difference between the Roman Catholic and the Protestant has been in the metaphysical sphere: those who believed in supralapsarianism and those who preferred infralapsarianism; those who accepted the doctrines of justification by faith, and those who repudiated them. I remember when I occupied rooms in St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, which once had been kept by J. M. Figgis, the historian, that he made the somewhat cumbrous remark, which from its own length and complexity I tend to remember, that "political liberty is the residuary legatee of ecclesiastical animosities". I dare say that is true; I have tried diligently to understand it, and I think it is true. It is true because the overall claims of the community have been preferred under Gallicanism, from Richer and Richelieu through Bossuet to the Code Napoleon and to Febromanism in the nineteenth century among the Germanic States. I believe that this is the 880 key to an understanding of why this process has not developed and fructified in Northern Ireland, because in Northern Ireland the differences between the Catholics and the Protestants have been polarised in terms of mutually antagonistic concepts of community, of the State. I would say, rather extravagantly, perhaps, that a Roman Catholic in Eire will regard Dublin (shall we say?), and indeed his own country, as a kind of suburb of the City of God; and Protestants in Belfast may equally regard the British Empire, or the British Commonwealth, as almost the same thing as the Kindom of Heaven. The net result has been that these religious differences have crystallised out into political animosities, because there has been no overall sense of community to resolve these differences in a more harmonious fashion.
Not only is this a matter of regret; it seems to me that it is a matter of shame. And I dare say that a good deal of it springs from the inner nature of certain concepts that belong both to the Roman Catholic and to the Protestant faith—characteristics which should be kept under severe control, such as Papal infallibility; and I am glad that it has been. As your Lordships will realise, the infallibility of the Book, as opposed to the infallibility of the person, has been a marked attitude and conviction, at any rate with a large proportion of the Protestants in Northern Ireland. As I have remarked before, one thing you have to say about the Bible is that it is much more garrulous than the Pope.
Therefore I am very happy when I hear the noble Earl proclaiming his belief that we really do not differ as much as some people imagine, and that we ought to get together. And when I am further instructed by my noble prelatorial colleague from Portsmouth that in fact the Ecumenical movement is persuading Catholics and Protestants to work together, I wonder whether this is a sufficient answer. In fact, I am sure it is not. I believe that the only sufficient answer to that aspect of the problem of Northern Ireland which can be called religious is a radical change in the fundamental attitudes and the fundamental credal positions of both Churches. Until that happens, I think we shall still be under the general condemnation of a 881 civilised society where it exists. It is for that reason that I very much hope that the official leaders of the Churches will begin to do much more than inquire into ways in which fellowship can be extended, and will persuade themselves, and through that persuasion convince other people within these two faiths, that our primary business is not to identify ourselves with any existing form of society but to seek a unity, by directing the attention of those who are believers and those who are followers to a society that is nobler and better than either of those which now attract and control such fervent and unremitting loyalty as that which I acknowledge belongs both in Belfast and in Dublin.
These are words said in an atmosphere in which the whole structure and fabric of organised Christianity is being increasingly called into question. If there is some kind of silver lining to be detected in these heavy clouds, it is that at this precise moment, I believe, there are more and more who are disposed to believe that if the Christians were more concerned with the building up of the fellowship of the Kingdom of God on earth, rather than with the more supernatural and metaphysical aspects of their faith, we might have a resurgence of unity and might come to that position which the noble Earl so desires—as, indeed, surely, we all do—in which Christians will again be the leaven of the lump.
So much, my Lords, for what I believe needs to be said about the situation in so far as it is religious. But I am well aware that a great deal of what superficially looks like a religious issue turns out to be an economic, political or social one with a spiritual superstructure that very largely masks the true foundation. It is not necessary to follow Marx to the end of the road that Engels persuaded him to follow in order to believe that a great deal of what is happening or not happening in Northern Ireland to-day belongs to the realm with which many of your Lordships have been most concerned in the various points you have made and in the suggestions you have put forward.
I would appeal to the Government to press forward with such plans as the bringing together of those who are pre- 882 pared to come together at the earliest moment. I believe that there are great advantages to be gained from a contemplation of what inevitably must happen, and that is an entirely different kind of règime in Stormont, and indeed a united Ireland—not one which repeats the predatory nature, the dangers and superficial virtues of the nation-State, but one which perhaps can, as a community, begin to look towards some kind of World Government, finding its unity, not in the proliferation of those rites and ceremonies which belong in the nation-State but in being some kind of bellwether of a more comprehensive unity.
As has been said, there are two problems and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, expressed them clearly. There is the problem of the acceptability of any plans which sound possibly fruitful or worth pursuing; and there is a previous problem, and that is accessibility. Here I confess to the deepest melancholy. In the present situation I cannot see the possibility of plans, however varied, pragmatic or constructive they may be, being undertaken unless there is a radical change in the situation, which we all deplore at present. Referring to the admirable and movingly restrained speech of my noble friend Lord Brockway, I share with him the belief that we have reached a point of no return. I ask myself where is that point to be discovered. Reluctantly, I believe that it lies in the proliferation of violence which, far from decreasing with the increase in the number of troops from this country, has in fact increased.
The logic of the noble Lord who preceded me seems to be this: that he cannot see any hope of accessability to the conference table or of controversy or discussion unless the fighting stops. In fact, if I heard him aright, lie almost committed himself to the belief that it would be necessary to withdraw the troops. He did not press that to its logical conclusion. With reluctance and with considerable awareness of the dangers which would accrue, I am increasingly coming to the conviction that only by such a dramatic action would it be possible to entertain possibilities afterwards of some kind of more peaceful cogitation, deliberation and programming. I do not share the belief that we 883 should immediately release all the internees. I would earnestly ask the Government whether or not the only just or right thing would be immediately, or as immediately as can be arranged, to bring them to trial. This would seem to be sensible and would take a great deal of sting out of the present claim made—very extravagantly, but I think very honestly—by so many people. But I say before I sit down, not because I am a convinced pacifist, that in this particular matter it seems to me that the withdrawal of troops is the only lasting way by which the present situation, which is intolerable, execrable and otherwise irreversible, can be changed. If there is no agreement and no possibility that this can be done, then I am in a deeper melancholy, for, of all the things that have been said this afternoon, I cannot see one of them which has the slightest chance of being put into effective operation at this moment.
I earnestly look forward to the time when people in Northern Ireland who are religious will realise that their common activities in Christ are much more important than their various theological divergencies. I look forward to the time when a truly socialist Administration will remove many of those injustices and deprivations which at present exacerbate the situation. I look forward to the time when the people of Ireland will find a community and, perhaps as a preliminary measure, will find that community through a community Government in Stormont. What sticks in my gullet and what I cannot avoid is a conclusion—and that is why I bear witness to it—that unless this present bitterness and hatred, which accelerates with every shot that is fired, can in some way be redressed, there is no hope.
Now if it is argued that we shall take a tremendous risk by so doing: granted. I wonder whether the risk could be any greater than that which faces us and Northern Ireland to-night. Indeed I do not wonder: I believe that the risk would immediately release into this paralysed situation the countless wishes, hopes and intentions of ordinary people in Ireland who earnestly desire the end of violence. I believe that the credibility of the I.R.A. Provisionals would immediately tend to diminish. For that reason, though it is a very difficult and hard option, I make my contribution to this debate in advis- 884 ing, if I may, the Government to consider seriously whether such an adventure of faith is not the only alternative to the proliferation of violence and a total catastrophe.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF HEADFORT
My Lords, first I should like to say that it was with tremendous shock and horror that I heard of the happenings in Londonderry on Sunday, and I should like to extend my sympathy and those of your Lordships to the relatives of the dead and to the injured. To-day I was glad to hear of the speed with which the Government have set up the Tribunal with the Lord Chief Justice to investigate exactly what did happen and, if necessary, to apportion blame. However, I am sorry that no international figure has been invited to sit on this Tribunal, because I feel that had such a figure been so invited it would have had a much better chance of being fully accepted throughout Ireland as a truly impartial inquiry.
My Lords, I do not know whether any of you had an opportunity of seeing yesterday's Irish Time, There is a report in that paper, near the bottom of the front page, about an Italian journalist, and I will quote from it. The Italian journalist, Signor Grimaldi, said yesterday in a radio interview that was reproduced in the Irish Times, that:tape recordings which he had made on Sunday indicated beyond doubt that there had been no provocation before the British Army opened fire in Derry on Sunday afternoon. 'There hadn't been one shot fired at them', he said. 'There hadn't been one petrol bomb thrown at them. There hadn't been one nail bomb thrown at them. They just jumped out, and, with unbelievable, murderous fury, shot into the fleeing crowd.'He went on to say:I have travelled in many countries. I have seen many civil wars and revolutions and wars. I have never seen such a cold-blooded murder, organised, disciplined murder, planned murder.I was not in Derry on Sunday; this man was. I hope that those of your Lordships who can spare the time will read this paper, and that also the Tribunal of Inquiry will summon Signor Grimaldi to give evidence before them.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, I must interrupt. The noble Marquess quoted a report from an Italian paper by 885 a journalist on the spot. Is he suggesting that this report is 100 per cent. accurate? I am not trying to foul my own nest, but is he suggesting that this should be taken as concrete evidence of fact? As I say, I must not speak against the newspapers, but this seemingly objective man, an Italian Catholic, reports what he thought he saw. Without danger of prejudicing the forthcoming Inquiry, I do not think we should quote from this one journalist on this one time who has spoken so seriously, so violently and so accusingly.
§ THE MARQUESS OF HEADFORT
My Lords, I feel, however, it would be of help to the Inquiry if Signor Grimaldi was invited to take part. Your Lordships will also have seen in some of the British Press reports of a pathologist's report that some of the victims in Sunday's shooting were shot in the back. Many difficulties have created the present situation—
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, would the noble Lord give way? Had it occurred to him that if they were shot in the back they might have been shot by their own side?
§ THE MARQUESS OF HEADFORT
I admit that there is that possibility; but there were no casualties among the British forces on that day, so it suggests that there was not very much fire directed at them.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, is not the noble Marquess prejudging the results of the Inquiry to be held, and wrongly?
§ THE MARQUESS OF HEADFORT
My Lords, if I may continue. One of the matters which has brought the present situation to its disastrous head is that of internment without trial. I personally believe that this must be ended, and ended soon. Bring the men to trial or release them. Get the Catholic population and their leaders to talk again. We cannot continue with this present morass of disaster and death. With regard to 886 the situation on the Border, it has been suggested by the Irish Prime Minister, Mr. Lynch, that the United Nations presence on the Border would be helpful. was surprised and sorry that the British Government did not feel this to be the case. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that direct rule from Westminster was necessary, and I heartily concur with that.
Looking to the future, I think that possibly one solution, although it is one I do not favour greatly, is to re-draw the Border and allow those Catholic areas of Northern Ireland to join the South if they so wish. I came across from Ireland yesterday; I can tell you of the tremendous shock and cold anger there is in the South of Ireland to-day at what happened in Londonderry on Sunday. Before that happened there was some passive support of the I.R.A. in the South, but now I am afraid that that support is becoming much more active. We cannot achieve a military solution in Northern Ireland. We must take the steps to enable talks to start.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ LORD HYLTON
My Lords, in the grim atmosphere of to-day, with feelings of violence and hatred in the air and almost, as it were, standing in the shadow of death, I should like to make one or two illustrations of small points where in Northern Ireland there is some cause for hope. May I start with something called the Corrymeela Community? This grew from students and graduates of Queen's University. It was originally a Protestant body, but since has become fully ecumenical; by this I mean that there are representatives within the Community of all the major Christian denominations. It has permanent centres in Belfast and Bally Castle; it has groups of associates in London and Dublin. During the past year the Community organised no fewer than 103 conferences, of which about half were concerned with community relations, the others being devoted to educational purposes and specific conferences for particular church groups. Five thousand persons stayed in the past year at the Bally Castle centre. The Community also organised 13 work camps involving some 250 people. This is not a new church; but it is a movement challenging the existing Churches to reconciliation and peace.
887 Then again one might look at the work of the Save the Children Fund in Belfast. This body is now catering for 1,000 children between the ages of 3 and 12 years. It is running 16 play groups, play centres and junior clubs, Eleven out of the 16 are centres newly-started since the troubles began. The children attending these places are mixed denominationally wherever this is possible; that is to say, when they come from areas of mixed habitation, or border areas between one community and another. The work has been supported most helpfully by grants from the Northern Ireland Ministry of Community Relations.
There is also the Belfast Housing Aid Society. This body has helped well over 500 families to be rehoused since the troubles began. The families helped have been of all denominations. Some of them were assisted to buy their own houses through deposits provided from the fund raised by the Belfast Telegraph. In the particular district of Belfast known as the Ardoyne there is an ecumenical housing committee which has begun to repair the 194 modern houses which were burnt out on the evening of internment last August. Of those 194, I understand that already 100 houses have been made weather-proof and will soon be completely habitable.
This is not perhaps very much to weigh in the balance against 200 deaths, and things of that kind, yet surely we must strive to encourage and make fruitful these attempts by men of good will. Noble Lords who have spoken have described the polarised situation in Northern Ireland, where the majority desperately wish to maintain their connection with the United Kingdom; where the minority are, to some extent, alienated and disgruntled and where there is little dialogue between the majority and the minority. In this situation I have a feeling that perhaps we should turn back to a speech made by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor in 1969 in Trinity College, Dublin. He suggested the formation of a tripartite Irish Council, which I also understand is something for which provision was made in the Act of 1920 but which was never subsequently formed. Such a Council might perhaps meet in the first place as a peace conference, following the lines suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth. On its agenda there should be 888 the question of the sharing of power between the United Kingdom Government and the Government of Southern Ireland. The word "condominium" is perhaps not exactly a fashionable one at the present time, but it may be significant that the United Kingdom has taken part in all three condominiums which have existed since the final years of the last century. They existed in Samoa, in the Sudan and in the New Hebrides, and it is perhaps worthy of note that the arrangement lasted for 67 years in the Sudan and for 65 years in the New Hebrides.
In this kind of context it would not, I feel, be necessary, or even desirable, to abolish Stormont. Stormont as an Assembly could continue, helped perhaps by the introduction of proportional representation. It could take its rightful place as a legislative and consultative body within the framework of British and European regional policies. If I may express a hope, it is this: that when the Commission headed by the noble Lord, Lord Crowther, reports fairly soon it will have the courage to make recommendations concerning Northern Ireland Arrangements of this kind could, as has been suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, be backed up by dual citizenship for the inhabitants of Northern Ireland so that they would feel equally at home both in Britain and in Southern Ireland, Then, again, another helpful thing might be a plebiscite on the ultimate question of reunion, a plebiscite to be conducted perhaps only every 10 or 20 years. My Lords, these are not original ideas of mine. The have been put forward in various letters to the Press, one last November in a newspaper called the Irish Press, another more recently in the Guardian of January 8, 1972, signed by Professor Mansurgh of Cambridge University.
To turn, if I may, to a future Irish Council, I feel that its task should be to promote by all possible means the unity and harmony of the United Kingdom and of the whole of Ireland. Already we have such things as a common travel area; we already enjoy a wide measure of free trade between Britain and Ireland. For de facto purposes, citizens of Southern Ireland enjoy nearly all the rights of citizenship when they come to live or work in Britain. This is the kind 889 of basis, surely, on which we could build common services. The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, I believe, has in the past been very much interested in the question of trans-Border electricity; but there are no doubt more urgent and more vital fields than this. It will be necessary to harmonise the law, the economy, the welfare services and the educational systems of Britain and Ireland. These are the tasks to which I hope an Irish Council with tripartite membership would address itself. My Lords, I beg to support the Motion.
§ 7.14 p.m.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, the debate so gracefully introduced by the noble Earl this afternoon is about Northern Ireland. I should like, if I may, to extend it to the whole of Ireland. Ireland is an island. It is a geographic and a demographic whole. Denominationally and politically it is, alas! divided. But you cannot speak about Northern Ireland without at the same time speaking about Southern Ireland. And since Irishmen can come to Britain and vote in our Elections perhaps we also have the right to express our views, our anxieties, about the South—not too dogmatically, of course: I am no Senator Kennedy. On Northern Ireland I will simply say this at this stage. I would remind your Lordships that 59 members of the Defence Forces have been murdered in the past year. In contrast, 13 men died in Londonderry. We wait to know why. I share the anxiety of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and his impatience. Meanwhile, we should do well to remember that the 59 were British.
I was brought up on the principle: "My country, right or wrong". Nowadays, I do not say in your Lordships' House, but in many newspapers, the principle seems to be that my country is always wrong. I am perhaps as well qualified as any Member of your Lordships' House to speak about these matters, though I have held back so far because I was too angry. I am a settler: we were sent to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth I and we lived there for nearly 400 years. I am not anti-Catholic, and, as evidence of this, I would point to the debate which I had the honour of introducing in your Lordships' House some eight or nine years ago about Christian unity, in which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, spoke as 890 a Catholic. When I myself am asked whether I am Protestant or Catholic, I say I am a Christian. That is the whole point of ecumenism; though I must in truth admit that the troubles in Northern Ireland in the last year or two have set back the cause of Christian unity by perhaps twenty, thirty or even fifty years. This point was made by the most reverend Primate in our last debate on this subject, in September.
I have no single drop of Irish blood, so far as I know, in my veins. Although of Protestant extraction, I have in my family a cousin, Countess Markiewitz (a closer cousin still to the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth), who espoused the cause of Sinn Fein when I was very young. My father had two houses in Southern Ireland. Both were burnt by Sinn Fein, though our record in regard to the famines (we are going back a long way, as the Irish like to do) was excellent. Mrs. Woodham-Smith will confirm this. I cannot speak for my ancestors, but I imagine they regarded this, as I would regard it to-day, as their duty. The ancestors of other noble Lords could not perhaps boast the same thing. I own the main street of the town of Donegal, and I rack-rent my tenants to the tune of 4p a week; some of them have not paid for quite a long time. In short, I would say that my credentials (which I have been rather labouring) are irreproachable, and I approach this matter from a racially and religiously objective point of view. Admittedly I have my bitternesses, as have others of your Lordships, in regard to what has happened to British troops in Northern Ireland. I am no accessory to murder. But, my Lords, put quite simply, and getting to the point, I am less worried about the immediate difficulties in Northern Ireland than I am about those in Southern Ireland.
I think it possible, indeed more than possible, that Southern Ireland—if you like, a foreign country, though its citizens have the right to vote in our country and influence our Elections—may be on the verge of a revolution. This is not irresponsible talk. I quote Cardinal Conway, a good and saintly man. He said this:Normal life rests only on a crust, under which there is a boiling volcano … do people realise how thin the crust is, and if it is broken 891 how it will be almost impossible to stop the lava of violence flowing on the streets?My Lords, His Eminence was not talking about Northern Ireland, he was talking about the South, and he meant what he said. I do not know whether your Lordships have faced the fact that it is possible at any time that there might be civil war, not only in Northern Ireland but also in Eire. The Lynch Government, which I respect, is not in a position of strength. It might be overthrown at any time by force. It was strange, or perhaps not strange, when they decided to withdraw 150 United Nations troops from Cyprus. Upon them, they thought, and no doubt rightly, they could rely.
But to come back to the words of Cardinal Conway—and he is the text of my little sermon—the lava is there, the volcano is in danger of brimming over. What would happen, what would be the results if this occurred? These are not rhetorical questions; these are questions of fact. Will your Lordships please imagine that suddenly the Lynch Government, the democratically elected Government of Ireland, finds itself in a direct face-to-face confrontation with the I.R.A.? This is no mere conjecture; the fact that there are battles across the Border clearly indicates that the Dublin Government is not in control, or at least not in full control. I should think that the Irish Prime Minister must live in constant anxiety about this.
In the last resort, which way is the country of Eire, this anomalous, self-eating octopus, to go? Are they to follow their legally elected Government or are they going, suddenly, madly, the other way? Are we to get lynch law?—and by "lynch" I mean not the Prime Minister, but mob rule. I have not seen any of your Lordships shaking your heads so far, but I am sure that you do not share my anxieties to the same extent as I feel them. In such an event, what would happen? In the South you would get an anarchic, violent, unprincipled and, I would add the word, murderous gang on the rampage. In the North there would be a mass of Orangemen who are equally well armed and probably more efficient in their organisation than their Catholic opponents. So far they have held back, and to their credit; but God help Belfast if they no longer believe in the British troops and decide to move in on their 892 own! The noble Lord, Lord Annan, suggested that we might take a chance on this, although he remembers partition in India when 3 million died in one week. Personally, I would not risk it. I quote the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in our September debate on Ulster. He said:It is really rather tragic that many of the decent, moderate, law-abiding Roman Catholics have come to believe that the British soldier is their enemy and treat him as such. What do they really think their position would be if the British Army was not there in Northern Ireland? Can they honestly say that they would be safer in their homes if no British soldier was in Northern Ireland?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22/9/71; c. 14.]I should like to emphasise what the noble Lord said. My Lords, I can tell you what would happen if there were no British Army. We would risk a blood bath in Belfast. We would get—I think the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, spoke of this—another Amritsa, another Warsaw. As it is, if the British Army remains, and remain it must, it will remain "pig in the middle."It will not know which side it is on, it will just know that everybody is its enemy. In the end, of course, if there is trouble in the South as well, we may have to withdraw our troops and leave them to fight it out. It would be a sort of mini-Dunkirk.
I have listened to your Lordships' debate and the wise and restrained things that have been said, but I still feel that we are ignoring the real issue. The real issue is not Northern Ireland, it is Ireland as an island. I think that your Lordships have funked it in the sense that you are not prepared to see the situation as it really is. You may ask me how I dare to say this. In reply, I simply point again to Cardinal Conway, that most excellent man born in Belfast, Catholic, who sees the dangers that lie before the whole of the Irish island.
My Lords, I may be accused of "stirring it"; I am sure that I shall be accused of partisanship although, as I said, my record is unimpeachable. I shall be accused of having proffered no practical proposal except for my firmly held view that for the sake of the Catholic minority the British troops must remain. But I try in my small way to look forward. I am, perhaps, or I like to think I am, a strategist more than a tactician. I view the whole situation in 893 Ireland with horror. As a British patriot—and patriotism has not been the keynote of the Opposition speeches or those of my noble friends—I deeply resent the abominations of the I.R.A. I cannot go along with terror.
But when I put these things aside—and your Lordships will know how difficult it is to put these things aside—I am left with this single situation. What is going to happen to Ireland?—and when I say Ireland, I mean the whole of Ireland. Are we in for a reasonable political settlement or are we in for a reign of blood and terror? Is Belfast, or even Dublin, to be another Dacca? Is Ireland to be another Bangladesh? My Lords, I do not know. I simply warn your Lordships of the situation, not as it is in one part of Ireland, but in the whole of the Irish island. I do not do this willingly, for I am by nature a cheerful fellow. I ask your Lordships most seriously to consider these things and to envisage what is not fantasy but a very clear and definite possibility. As Cardinal Conway said, "The crust is a thin crust. It could easily break."
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, over these tumultuous years there has been at least one voice of sweetness, light, reconciliation and realism in Northern Ireland. That is the voice of the Belfast Telegraph, a newspaper that I know only as a reader. Tonight the editorial in the Telegraph says that this is the time to "stop by the graveside and reflect"—tonight. the night of the great funeral in Ireland. I think that it is in that spirit that the debate in this House has been conducted to-day. I do not think there is one of us who has not totally reconstructed his thoughts and his speech in the light of the events of Sunday. The Telegraph goes on to express a fear, which I hope will prove to be wrong, that Ulster isin danger of becoming immune to the sting of death, in danger of seeing a victory in the grave that is not to be had.In this desperate moment, my Lords, I am tempted to say that the problem which faces us is not to find a political solution in Northern Ireland but to avert a human catastrophe. Fortunately, such a bleak proposition is not called for, for 894 the problem of finding a solution and the problem of averting disaster are inter-linked. In all military struggles peace aims must have a profound importance. They may fortify our own courage and patience and they may, if they are generous and beneficient, shorten the struggle. They may win us friends among those who are caught up in the struggle and they may win us friends in the critical world outside.
I think there is to-day throughout the world little understanding of the problem that Britain faces. There is too little sympathy with us and there is too much criticism. The fact that the majority of people in Northern Ireland are passionately opposed to dis-union with Britain is too often unknown, and where it is known it is discounted. This tragic Bog-side story strengthens the impression. The Tribunal of Inquiry may confirm the statement made by the Minister of State for Defence in another place yesterday and all the views that he expressed about the course of "Bloody Sunday", and if the Tribunal does confirm his findings it will be a comfort to all of us to know that the Army behaved with its customary decency and skill.
Nevertheless, whatever the findings are, all that the world will see is a picture of troops with guns and 13 people of a civilian crowd massacred. This may prove to be a mere myth, but of course in politics the myth is always powerful. At this moment all political solutions look hopeless; indeed, they have never looked hopeful during these last twelve months. We are faced with two communities, each with a leadership with directly conflicting aims, one insisting that they stay part of the United Kingdom, the other insisting that they should be let out to make a new union. But the seeming hopelessness of a political solution does not relieve us of the moral obligation to search for a compromise, to try to secure its acceptance, and in the last resort, failing acceptance by the highly committed and more and more extreme leaders of the movements in the North of Ireland, perhaps finding out what the people in Northern Ireland really want.
It is our responsibility, it is our duty to insist that a just, democratic system exists in Northern Ireland, and it is now universally agreed that this system must be vastly different from the one under 895 which the Catholic minority has suffered for fifty years, and against which it has rightly protested. But there are those people who say, "Let us get out. Let them stew in their own bitter juice". I am not including people such as my noble friend Lord Soper or the noble Lord, Lord Annan, who viewed withdrawal as an important constructive act towards a new reconciliation. I am simply speaking of these people who say, "Let us wash our hands of Ireland. It is too troublesome and the Irish are not worth bothering about". We might do so; but if we did so we would never wash our hands clean because we here in Britain, just as much as the people of Ireland, are the victims of history, and we have inherited an inescapable responsibility.
But in all this sombre scene there is one ray of hope. There is emerging here a consensus among liberally-minded people about the kind of solution which would be just, and is perhaps just feasible. Indeed the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, himself put it very well this afternoon, I thought, and I am only sorry that this Governmental voice has been heard so seldom and so feebly on this great subject. There are many intelligent people in this country who believe that this Government have no political policy at all for Northern Ireland, and there are many mothers of sons who are fighting there (some of whom from time to time write to me) and who have no idea what our responsibility is, why we are there and what we are trying to do. The Government must take this more seriously; they must take their relationship with the people here more seriously on this subject and must constantly explain what they are trying to do and how good their intentions really are.
As I have said, there is a consensus, and at the heart of this consensus, as my noble friend Lord Longford has said, there is the idea that there should be a communal Government with important places reserved for the minority. And it should be recognised, as it is being recognised—what seemed to be heretical in a Northern Ireland context only a year or two ago—that to believe in the eventual reunification of Ireland is no longer unpatriotic, no longer disloyal, and does not unfit a man for public office: it is indeed a legitimate aspiration. No new system will make any sense unless 896 the old cold war with the Republic ceases to exist on both sides, and unless the few things on which they now cooperate and the bodies on which there are, even to-day, all-Ireland Committees can proliferate over the next few years. Some day small steps such as these (if I may use the term used in connection with German reunification) may bring about a form of unity, although it is doubtful whether it will ever take the shape of the simple integration of which some people in Ireland are still dreaming to-day.
If the Republic of Ireland is seriously to pursue its aim of unity it must in turn be prepared for vast change. If I were a citizen of Northern Ireland I think I should probably accept the logic of unity. I could easily be susceptible to the romantic appeal of one nation, but I should still resist citizenship of a country where the Catholic Church still has so much influence on secular affairs. I should be worried about the civil liberties of my family in a country which accepts neither divorce nor contraception and censors what its citizens may read. I should be deeply concerned about the level of social welfare; I should be concerned about education, and I should also personally be concerned about sheer opportunity. But these, my Lords, seem to be trivial things in the context of arson, explosion, death and the defiance of the law.
I think that even those of us who are critical of Government policy and who feel that there is a lack of communication between our Government and the people of Northern Ireland, and that perhaps they have left too much to Mr. Faulkner and have blurred responsibility for security, must express our sympathies with Ministers who to-day share the political and military responsibility for Northern Ireland. It is a nightmare. They are facing a developing problem and every course of action is fraught with dangers, both visible and unseen. Of course Ministers have to act. That is their function, and there are dangers in inaction. But this is where one suspects that the real criticism of the Government must lie. They seem to be accepting frustration with too much resignation. The situation they are in to-day calls for political intuition and political ingenuity, and it calls for somebody to have complete and utter concentration on the task. 897 It is these qualities which seem to be lacking and which I hope the Govern. ment will now show.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ LORD REAY
My Lords, I wish to intervene quite briefly in this debate to make, and to support with some observations, one proposal, which is similar in effect to one of the proposals put to us this afternoon by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, in his skilful and convincing speech, and the only one which in my eyes holds prospects of radically altering the situation in Ireland; namely, that the Government should decide that it is a British interest to work for the reunification of Ireland and that all the policies from this moment on should be part of their tactics towards securing that objective.
I think it is indisputable that Britain, notwithstanding the support which we must continue to owe to the Protestants in Northern Ireland and about which I shall say more in a moment, is entitled to hold and express a view with regard to political objectives in Ireland which represent our own interests and which does not depend on objections now expressed in Northern Ireland. The annual financial cost to us of maintaining the standard of living of all the people in the Province, the political and military dependence of that Province on ourselves, the grievous dangers to which we are exposed in the present circumstances—all these facts entitle us to set our own target with regard to Ireland and to work for that target if we have judged that Northern Ireland as a political construction can no longer be preserved. And it cannot be preserved, whatever the successes in the campaign to suppress terrorism, if the consent of the Catholic minority to the existence of the Province has for all practical purposes been withdrawn. Moreover, if Northern Ireland as a political construction has failed (and I believe the British people are ready to accept the judgment that it has failed) and if such a judgment is made, then I believe that it is the wish of the British people that this fact should be acknowledged and the process of finding a final solution within the context of a united Ireland should begin.
I have recently seen it reported that a majority in this country want the Army 898 withdrawn from Northern Ireland. This would be perhaps some indication of the fact that the British people are not dedicated to the preservation of Northern Ireland. But as a recommendation for our withdrawal from Ireland I think it must be ignored. This country created the Province of Northern Ireland. We owe a heavy responsibility to the people we entrusted to the system we established. We have drawn abundantly on the talents and vigour of a people whose standards of conduct and culture are so similar to our own. It is inconceivable that we should abandon them to fight to preserve what they can of their identity in a united Ireland on their own. It must be our task to find a solution, and we must be involved in guaranteeing it once it has been found.
It would be our duty to be satisfied that the Protestant community were joining an Ireland whose Constitution and whose legislation in the field of personal freedom, particularly with regard to the family, was not obnoxious to them; that their prospects of public service, for which they are so suited, were unimpeded by requirements that put them at a disadvantage; that their standards of State welfare were maintained; and, as Lord Annan and also Lord Ardwick said, that the State they were joining was indeed a modern secular State. It would be our duty to secure for them guarantees, supported by ourselves, that the position secured for them by agreement was not subsequently lost.
In surveying the prospects for Northern Ireland, I think it is a mistake for our intentions to be determined by the adamance with which the Protestants in Northern Ireland now express their opposition to such a course. I accept, of course, that the unification of Ireland can be achieved only by consent, as both the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, agreed. But we have a right to attempt to win that consent. It is not enough for us to wait to be approached by the Protestants of Northern Ireland asking themselves for a united Ireland. We have also the duty to do all we can to offer them the chance of a future more secure than what the terror, the ruin and the hatreds permit in present circumstances.
The prospects for reunification could, in this and in other respects, most certainly 899 be worse. When Northern Ireland was established, the risks of having another independent Catholic country as our neighbour, and not necessarily bound to be friendly, had not yet been taken by ourselves. But 50 years of experience have shown the British people that the consequence was tolerable. Even in our most desperate days the neutrality of the Irish Republic was tolerated. The Irish Republic is a Catholic country, but she has a Parliamentary Government and a free Press. She has indicated her recognition of the fact that her Constitution must be made acceptable to Protestants if there is to be a union of Ireland. If this country makes it plain that she wants the reunification of Ireland, if she proves that the Protestant community can survive within a united Ireland, with all the possibilities that we in the same circumstances would demand for ourselves, then I believe that there is the chance that we could turn Protestant opposition—so vehement for so long as it is believed by them that British powers can preserve the status quo—into Protestant consent.
It is my argument that Her Majesty's Government should now decide that the goal it wishes to work towards is reunification of Ireland. Such a decision could become a matter of public knowledge in a variety of ways, suddenly or imperceptibly, accompanied by attempts to reconstruct the Province of Northern Ireland as an interim measure or not so accompanied, as a part or not as a part of the introduction of direct rule. But once the decision was made and known, and only then, will there be a possibility of securing the co-operation of the Protestants in working towards such an objective. With such a decision, and only then, it should be possible to agree over the question of the ending of internment. Only then can we expect the partnership of the Irish Republic in the suppression of terrorism. Only then can we expect to be able to bring all parties to conference.
As a goal, the unification of Ireland is, I believe, the only final solution. Just as geography determined that for 1,500 years we should be involved with Ireland, so it is geography that determines the solution. That it is time for the British Government to accept this target is I think plain. It would be nonsense to represent such a choice as capitulation 900 to gunmen. We should be responding not to the demands of terrorists but to the fact that the large minority in Northern Ireland, or a majority of them, no longer accepted the integrity of their State. Our problem in Northern Ireland is not terrorism; it is the support for terrorism. And each successive measure and event: internment, the cratering of the roads, the findings of the Compton Report, the attempt to disperse an illegal march—all these have solidified and broadened, they have not undermined, that support. I believe that the unification of Ireland as a goal of British policy would be acceptable to, if not even desired by, the British people. Otherwise, the prospects for ourselves in Ireland seems no better than the things we have experienced over the last 18 months, and most Probably worse. My Lords, we have not much time to lose.
§ 7.49 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
My Lords, however sad we may be about the present state of Ireland we must, I think, be grateful—and this is more than a form of words—to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for giving us the chance to debate this subject to-day. I hope your Lordships agree with me that the wisdom, patience and understanding of the noble Earl is much more fruitfully employed representing Ireland—and I am an Anglo-Irishman, as he is—than when he is pursuing elusive butterflies down the streets of Soho.
It has often been said, and I think it has been suggested here to-day, that debate on the Irish question at Westminster can do little to help and may, in so explosive a situation, do much to harm. It has been said how grave a responsibility lies with those who speak here about Ireland; their words may trigger the destruction of lives. I respect this attitude, and am suitably awed by it. Nevertheless I cling to the belief that a Parliament, a place for the talking over of men's affairs and the talking through of their tensions, is still the best instrument for airing and opening possibilities. And it is some sense of possibility, some hopefulness for Ireland, that we are in search of to-day. When there are two sides to a question it is easy enough to provide a framework wherein both may be discussed. Where there is a straightforward clash of interest between parties, 901 compromise and conciliation may at least be attempted. But the clash of interests in Ireland is Irish in its many-sidedness. There is at present not much to be done, hard though this may be to swallow. All we can do is to suffer, to communicate, to share experience, and, where possible, share it without bitterness, to take such precaution against deterioration as we can, and edge carefully towards some ultimate solution.
I do not believe that there is at heart any shortage of goodwill towards Ireland on this side of the Irish Sea, though there may be ineptness and hesitancy in expressing it. Neither the Prime Minister nor Mr. Wilson feel, or are known to feel, any malevolence towards Ireland. Mr. Heath is no Cromwell, and Mr. Wilson is surely no Lloyd George. Yet both Administrations have not so much failed in their Irish possibilities as found the problem too many sided for any single policy to apply. It seems to me that both Administrations have felt unable to formulate any viable long-term policies for Ireland because there have been simply too many variables, too many opposing interests to consider.
First of all, there is the legitimate interest of the legitimate Government of Northern Ireland to govern the people who elected it to office. It may be, as many noble Lords have suggested, that different electoral procedures would make this task simpler; but one can change electoral machinery without shooting anybody. The people who elected this Government of Northern Ireland to office are anxious to maintain their connection with the United Kingdom. There is no sign that Mr. Wilson's call, or any noble Lord's call, for the eventual unification of Ireland finds any favour with them. I was born and brought up in Ireland and I have a home there. I personally believe that eventual unification is desirable, but that belief is neither here nor there. There is no sign that it would, at present, cut any ice in the North of Ireland. There is no sign that even direct rule from Westminster would quiet their fears of being in the minority within the island as a whole, or pacify their preparations to see to what they interpret as their security. Time passes and things change. But to-day there is no sign of change.
902 Then there is the interest of the Government of the Irish Republic. They have seen a modest but definite upsurge in their country's prosperity. This may now be threatened—though I may say, happily, that there is no sign of its being destroyed. They have suffered political divisions and tensions besides which the internal affairs of our Labour Party look like altercations in your Lordships' House. They have seen their own legitimacy, the bedrock of their ability to govern, all but shot out from under them. They are no friends of the I.R.A. in any of its guises or disguises. But their legitimacy rests, as it must, upon public opinion. And, as your Lordships know, public opinion in the Irish Republic has moved from distrust and irritation towards the I.R.A. to a nervous tolerance, and from a nervous tolerance to out-and-out support. It distresses me to have to say this, but I have seen it happen.
Then there is the interest of that section of the population of Northern Ireland who are, rightly or wrongly, be it out of ignorance or fear or legitimate grievance, alienated from the Government of Northern Ireland, from their own Government. They are the people on whom world opinion is focused to-day. They are a factor in American electoral politics, and in the conduct of international diplomacy at the United Nations. Their alienation—and the tragic alienation of their political representatives—from the forms of government in Northern Ireland is at the heart of this problem. In the last few days the alienation has been compounded: the distance between Londonderry and Stormont was always large; it is the distance between Londonderry and London that has widened.
My Lords, next, what of the interest of the British Government? I cannot, of course, speak for the Government, but I believe that their Parliamentary supporters can, and indeed ought to, use Parliament as a way of projecting, of amplifying to the world outside and to Ireland especially, the so much misrepresented British interest. The British Government interest, as I see it, is the equitable discharge of its responsibilities under present law; the withdrawal, so soon as it is consistent with those responsibilities, of our sorely tried forces; the reconstruction of an order whose 903 breakdown is detrimental not only to the necessary angels of justice and truth but to the flesh and blood of economic prosperity. For let no one make the mistake that, whatever the divisions between the island called Britain and the island called Ireland, between community and community, between North and South, all our economic fortunes are interdependent. Mr. Lynch knows this; Mr. Faulkner knows this; Mr. Heath knows this. It is tragic that at a time when the Governments of this country and of the Irish Republic are both convinced that this interdependence is but a part of a wider interdependence within the European Economic Community that the divisions between Ireland and England should now appear wider than the divisions between either country and the continental mainland.
If I speak, my Lords, of yet another interest—the interest of the I.R.A.—I may risk doing violence both to language and to morality. Yet terrorists do have interests—at least in their own interpretation of them. Although the I.R.A. is a split, even a schizophrenic body, it has, as my noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence conceded, been successful in fusing its interest in the disintegration of order with what many ordinary decent Catholic people believe to be their own interest. I again regret to have to say this, but I believe that it has happened.
How then, my Lords, in all this Celtic tracery of conflicting interest, can our Government decipher a practical policy and hold fast to one? I believe that even opponents of this Government will say that they are singular and single-minded in the pursuit of the policies they believe in. This view, I found recently, held good even among the opponents of British policies at the United Nations. So can we, as Members of the British Parliament, as Back-Benchers, help in this quest for a policy? The cornerstone of the Government's purpose to date, as I see it, has been the European entry. I therefore agree with those noble Lords who have suggested that it is within the new European framework that the greatest hope for a long-term Irish policy is to be found. But it may even be, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, appeared to be hinting, that the European mainland is the most suit- 904 able venue for any pan-Irish summitry. But before any such summitry is either feasible or has a chance to be fruitful, it seems to me that the present terrible tension must be taken out of the situation. I do not believe that the present atmosphere in the island is conducive to long-term, large-scale initiatives at present, however politically ingenious or however humanly imaginative. I am not committed to being uncritical of the Government: I believed at the time that the political consequences of setting up internment camps outweighed their usefulness in terms of security, and I said so. I never thought to find myself in agreement with Mr. Paisley, but I did agree with what he said in Parliament yesterday on this matter. All the same, in the short term, in the present atmosphere of nightmare, all one can urge on the Government is the ordeal of patience and the courage that that requires.
Finally, my Lords, this does not mean that there is nothing that can be done, here and now. Politics is a continuous process and initiatives need to be prepared. I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Beaumont of Whitley and Lord Gore-Booth, that public relations between the peoples of Britain and Ireland—or rather, I should perhaps say, between the English and the Irish styles in politics—are bad. That is why, though I have considerable respect for my noble and right honourable friends the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence, I believe that it would be wise to create a Minister for Ireland. Such a Minister could interpret the feelings of the people of England to the two Governments in Ireland. He could present the already extant interdependent economic policies in the form of political initiatives. At present, too many people in Ireland simply are not aware of them.
As I have urged patience upon the Government, so would I urge tolerance upon them—tolerance of that very different attitude towards the conduct of affairs which obtains in Ireland, whether in the North or in the South. Tolerance and the desire for a machinery of communication are, in my view, the surest guarantee of that stance against civil and political anarchy which the Governments of this country and of the Province, and indeed of the Republic, are taking, are 905 right to take and must go on taking. There must be change in Northern Ireland, but there must be no change—and here I congratulate the Government—in attitude towards those in Ireland or elsewhere in the world whose political aims are to destroy politics, to act above and beyond the law, and at whose hands men have always died, as in Ireland to-day they are dying.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ LORD MILFORD
My Lords, the events of last Sunday in Derry have shocked not only all of us in this country, but people throughout the world. The news of police or troops opening fire on unarmed protesters, be it in Rhodesia, South Africa or Ireland, is becoming a terrifying frequent occurrence as more and more Governments of the day seek military solutions for political problems. The basic situation is not what the Government are at great pains trying to put across in Parliament and in the mass media. It is not a direct fight between the I.R.A. gunmen and the British Army. It is the direct result of the British and Stormont Governments' policy throughout the years. For years they would not listen. As the noble Earl, Lord Longford, said, unemployment was allowed to reach over 40 per cent. More, they have been bent on suppressing the justified movement of the anti-Unionists, who have demanded an end to repression and discrimination, and the introduction of democratic rights. In 1969 conflict broke out from this movement, as all movements against injustice and repression end up, and British troops soon arrived. There is no doubt that present events are the result of the partition of Ireland in 1921, and only unification will be the final solution. I think the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord Annan, made important constructive speeches on the future.
A deep and completely impartial inquiry into what happened on Sunday would be welcome, but rushing through the announcement of an inquiry by one man, Britain's Lord Chief Justice, a man of the British Establishment, cannot satisfy the Irish people. This idea lacks all imagination and shows how far we are from the state of mind of the Irish to-day. This step looks as if the British Government are hoping to head off the 906 demands for a complete change in Government policy now, and are determined to fight it out and get a military solution first. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, seemed to confirm this, and it was with great concern that I listened to him. I thought his speech was completely unstatesmanlike and unimaginative. He was not talking at all about human beings, about the Irish; he was just giving cold military statistics, and once or twice I thought he jumped the gun of the Lord Chief Justice's Inquiry. He was not in Ireland. and the accounts of what happened conflict. To-day, in The Times there have been reports of statements, made as they were lying in hospital, by the people wounded in that conflict. I think the noble Lord's speech was very inappropriate for to-day, when there has been this colossal demonstration at the funeral in Ireland of those killed last Sunday.
Let me make it quite clear that I am totally against the violence of the I.R.A. Provisionals. But they are human beings, for the most part young human beings, and, however much you may not agree with them or may hate them, they have beliefs and ideals, as had the liberation and nationalist movements in the past. I could not help feeling—and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will not misunderstand what I am saying—that his report was rather like the report of some of the Generals in the past who had been frustrated in their determination to wipe out resistance movements. Terms like "criminal thugs" and "unscrupulous murderers" are not good enough from a statesman, or from the Government Front Bench. Most of us still remember how we described the Mau Mau, the liberation movement in Kenya. We remember the awful names that we gave to them, and how we imprisoned Jomo Kenyatta for seven years.
Surely statesmanship is really understanding the enemy, understanding his power and hold over the people, and counteracting that with politics. Seeking a military solution will lead to more and more bloodshed. Therefore I think that the policy of internment must be ended, because through it we have cemented a bond between the Catholics and the I.R.A. Those whom we think we have a case against should be brought to public trial straight away, and the whole 907 system of internment should be wiped out. I think that the Paratroops should be flown back to Britain as quickly as possible, because one can imagine how their presence must now feel to the ordinary people of Ireland, and the rest of the British troops should be withdrawn from the Catholic districts and confined to barracks. As a political step, a Bill of Rights should be introduced immediately as a beginning. In this debate this afternoon the only constructive speeches have come from this side of the House. I do not think there has been anything at all constructive from the other side. I believe we must not just be content that these demands have been made on this side of the House, but must realise that the fight for such demands is as much the responsibility of the whole Labour Movement in Britain as it is of the people of Ireland themselves.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ LORD RAGLAN
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Longford is a Roman Catholic, and is highly sensitive to the wrongs which have been inflicted over many years upon the inhabitants of Southern Ireland as well as on the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland. In this, as I am sure he knows, he has my sympathy and the sympathy of a great many (if not all) of your Lordships, and of course of anyone who is concerned about civil rights. But to me this is not just a matter of civil rights: it is a matter of religion. I am an atheist—or, to put it scientifically, an agnostic, because I do not say that there is no God; I say I do not know that there is one.
I have always been, I like to think, moderate in the expression of my views, partly through temperament and partly through the belief (inculcated, I have no doubt, through much that I have read) that the teaching of Christianity has much to do with the teaching of the sort of ethical behaviour which we admire in this country—and I expressed this view some years ago in your Lordships' House in a debate on religious education. But I have slowly turned to the conclusion that too often Christianity has had not so much to do with the teaching of good and kindly behaviour as many people would like to think. The events in Southern United States, Southern Africa and Nigeria, and now, above all, in Ulster, have had a considerable influence on my thinking. Indeed, I have come to 908 the conclusion that the amount of human misery which belief in Christianity has caused through the ages has frequently outweighed what it may have done for good.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Has he had a good look at the atheist regimes of this century? He surely must think they are a good deal worse than anything the Christians can put up.
§ LORD RAGLAN
Yes, my Lords, there are sonic very despicable atheist regimes, like the ones in Russia, for instance—
§ LORD RAGLAN
—but I think they merely took over from the Byzantines and the Russian Orthodox Churches. My Lords, I believe that the evil that in some respects lies in Christianity comes from the celebration and glorification of a brutal death, an unpleasant murder, and that this, combined with its emphasis upon poverty and acute distress as ways of going to Heaven, has made Christianity a justification and a motivation for behaviour which, by our modern standards in this country, is considered grossly inhumane.
My Lords, my Christian friends may say that the people who perpetrated these deeds were not true Christians, that they were misguided. But in my view this is not the case: they were true, believing Christians. The Crusaders, Catharine de Medici and Luther, who was responsible for the slaughter of the Catholic peasants, were all Christians. At the same time as Christianity preaches peace it seems to incite to violence, and it tolerates oppression. Indeed, one of the most poignant moments I have ever had in your Lordships' House—perhaps the most poignant moment—was last month, during the debate on violence in Southern Africa, when I listened to my noble friend Lord Soper struggling to reconcile his beliefs with his loyalty to certain teachings of his faith. Indeed, great and good man that he is. he got into such difficulties that my neighbour on these Benches nudged me and asked me, "What is he saying?" I replied, "He is in a muddle ", and said that I was not surprised. But so far today it is the noble Lord with whom I 909 have found most agreement in regard to this situation and the cause of the trouble.
My Lords, if anything was needed to underline the violence which lies or seems to be tolerable within the doctrine of Christianity, then the situation in Northern Ireland is just such an instance. I do not know whether it is possible for modern-clay mainland Britons, who have been reared in a tradition (albeit a recent one) of religious freedom and of tolerance, to comprehend the Northern Ireland situation if they have not studied Christian history. For it is a fact—and I believe it should be stated—that in spite of the outward show and all the talk and all the propaganda to the contrary, mainland Britain is no longer a Christian country. But Ireland, on the other hand, is one. There, especially in Northern Ireland, you are judged or distinguished not by the kind of person you are but by your religion and your loyalty to it. There you have a well-preserved (indeed, a fossilised) specimen of a 16th or 17th century sectarian confrontation, and we witness at first hand the special type of viciousness which Christians traditionally used to reserve for those of another sect.
My noble friend Lord Longford says that there is nothing like the Northern Ireland situation anywhere else, though I repeat that there have been numerous instances in the past. I can indeed find something for him very much like it in Glasgow at the present day. These people are urged on in fear, hatred and contempt of each other by their priests and hard-line men on both sides, and no one dares or cares to make a conciliatory gesture because of them in case they are accused of disloyalty to their sect. It is what my right honourable friend Mr. Harold Wilson called a theocratic society. You have to be Christians all, in appearance, anyway.
Your Lordships are asking: what is to be done? Hatred and bitterness go so deep that the I.R.A. plant bombs indiscriminately, and of course place crosses and sing requiems over their fallen and are harboured by the Catholic population. The Orangemen provoke and scorn and bang drums, sing hymns and psalms and look to the British Army to maintain some sort of order. One's hopes for change often rest with young people, who are resilient, adaptable, not 910 entrenched; but in this case the sectarian schools inculcate the religion from earliest youth, together with large helpings of slanted and romantically-dressed-up history to help engender the traditional antipathy. What chance is there in this atmosphere of anyone coming to the top who holds the moral values of (I must say this to my noble friend Lord Soper) un-Christian mainland Britain of the 1970s? I heard Miss Devlin speak yesterday. She is the sort of fighter who is thrown up in a situation like this. I believe that she was both awed and frightened by what she saw in Derry on Sunday. I know that if I were her I should be. Is there any hope, with her and her friends, I wonder, of better things to come? There is none, so far as I can see, with Mr. Paisley. He is too full of the righteousness of his religion.
The best hope that I see is for some younger people to come forward who have backgrounds from either side but who have the courage to declare their own lack of religious conviction and a determination to proclaim their atheism as something constructive, good and not to be hidden. In my belief only atheists or agnostics, or those to whom religion is a personal and not an overt belief, can gain trust from both sides. It is only when religion ceases to be the dominating factor and when Ireland begins to work towards being a modern, civilised, non-theocratic society, that the people will start to learn to live together. I am with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, when he questions the choice of the Lord Chief Justice to be a one-man tribunal. If I were an Irish Catholic, I should see him as I might well see the troops, as representative of Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, not believing a word he said if it in any way exonerates the troops. The fact that he has been appointed with the best intentions as the first and best person that the Government could think of indicates to me how little they understand the realities of the situation.
My Lords, I never thought that I should ever find myself making such a speech to your Lordships, for in our speeches we are used to leaving one another's personal beliefs alone; but it has been dragged out of me by the events in Derry last Sunday. I think that upon this overriding matter of religion there has been almost a conspiracy of silence. 911 But unless religion is recognised for the force that it is; that both sides are in fear, hatred and contempt of each other because they are of opposing sects of the same religion; unless enough people are prepared to confess to, and like my noble friend, Lord Soper, to be ashamed of and to condemn out loud the historic evils of Christianity (as exemplified in Northern Ireland) as well as to extol the good they believe that Christianity contains, we shall never understand the situation and there will never be a permanent settlement in Ireland.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask two simple questions? Would he think it right to draw a distinction between what is colloquially known as "Churchianity" and Christianity? Secondly, would he be inclined to believe that most of the strictures—which I did not interrupt because I wanted to hear the full flourish of his condemnation—against the Church are based on the standards of the very Jesus who ought to have founded it and has been so largely neglected by it?
§ LORD RAGLAN
My Lords, my noble friend has asked two, I suppose, quite predictable questions. I do not distinguish between "Churchianity" and Christianity except that one is overt and one is concealed. I think that in my speech I condemned too-overt Christianity, militant Christianity; but I am happy to leave him to believe what he wishes.
§ LORD PLATT
My Lords, again before the noble Lord sits down, while congratulating him on his courageous speech I would ask him: does he not agree that, with all respect, it was a great pity that the noble Earl who initiated this debate should walk out at the very time he could perhaps have defended his point of view?
My Lords, may I ask one other question? Am I right in thinking that the noble Earl when talking about religion meant "irreligion" and that he was confusing it with a kind of hatred which is born in the name of religion just as I am afraid a kind of soporific euphorism has sometimes been born in the name of politics?
§ LORD RAGLAN
My Lords, I tried to show in my speech that violence and viciousness have existed up to the present 912 day among strongly believing Christians. We in this House, I am sure, condemn it, but there are people who do not and who encourage it.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ LORD BURNHAM
My Lords, it is a commonplace to say that there can be no military solution to the problems of Northern Ireland but, as so many noble Lords have said this afternoon, we cannot even talk to most of those most closely concerned until there is a much greater degree of peace and order in that unhappy country. Therefore I want to consider very briefly the ways in which the doctrine of minimum force might be reconsidered with a view to avoiding incidents such as happened last Sunday.
The violent opponents of British rule in Northern Ireland can be broadly divided into two categories: the hard core of ruthless assassins and a much larger hooligan element who do not normally stoop to murder. The former are clearly difficult to deal with, and it will take months, or even years, of patient police and intelligence work before they can be finally eliminated. So far, even when they are known, it has been almost impossible to bring them to trial because those who should give evidence against them in court wish, not unreasonably, to preserve their own lives and the lives of their families. The hooligan element, however, though intrinsically less vicious, is becoming responsible for the loss of almost as many lives, both civilian and in the security forces, as those killed in individual assassinations by gun or by bomb. This is because they are used, sometimes unwittingly, to set up situations in which the I.R.A. can open fire on troops with a sporting chance of escaping themselves because the troops dare not return the fire. Moreover, it must be remembered that the death of an innocent civilian, if fire is returned in such circumstances, is worth far more to the I.R.A. than anything they can gain by killing some unfortunate soldier.
I think that this may shock some noble Lords, but there seems to be quite a considerable proportion of the hooligan element who so far have regarded rioting as a game, relying on the policy of the British Government and the restraint and discipline of the British Army. It is not for nothing that the Irish have a reputation for courage and for loving a good 913 "scrap". It seems to me that the use of such weapons as rubber bullets and water cannon fits in entirely with that sort of philosophy. Unfortunately, rough games, as many of us were told in our childhood, usually end in tears. Hitherto, the security forces, in a praiseworthy attempt to avoid over-reaction, seemed to have allowed such activities as bus-burning, building barricades and stoning troops to continue for considerable periods before taking any action. It is only when the situation becomes altogether intolerable that they sally forth with the intention of arresting some of those involved. It is in the confusion of such metes, that the gunmen are so well able to pursue their own evil ends. I can understand the reluctance to take drastic action until it is essential. However, it must be easier to stop a riot or to disperse an illegal assembly at the start rather than when it is in full swing and tempers are aroused. Moreover, if it were generally known that anyone taking part in any form of violence or illegal activity ran a real risk of being shot if he should not be arrested, then I believe that those who treat this wretched situation as a dangerous sport would desist from it.
It might seem more ruthless to adopt such a policy but it would be equally in accord with the doctrine of minimum force that we all support because there would be a lot less sorrow at the end. If the streets could be cleared, and kept clear, there would be a reasonable chance of discussing a political solution in a calm and reasoned manner; for it is the rioting, the crowd behaviour and the inevitable consequences that raise tempers, more especially, of course, if they involve the accidental death of someone not criminally involved. I believe that the assassinations and bombings which we cannot yet put a stop to will increasingly sicken even those who support the political aims of the I.R.A. until even the latter realise that such activities are not helping their cause. I am quite sure, my Lords, that both the Government and the Army have already given a great deal of thought to this problem. I only ask them to consider once more whether the policy which they have followed, for reasons of humanity, may not in the end cost more lives than one of earlier and, if necessary, firmer action.
§ 8.31 p.m.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, you cannot divorce history from the present situation. So said the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, during the debate on the coal mines last Monday. How true that is of mining; how much truer it is of Ireland! There was a day in 1922 when Lloyd George was asked by friends how he was getting on in his discussions with de Valera which had been running for two or three weeks. He replied, "Not very fast; he has only just got to George III."That is one of the obstacles of negotiating in the present in Ireland. You can, however, make the mistake of inflating the present with dramatic overtones, and it seems to me that that is happening in a kind of explosion of emotion over the events of last Sunday.
Until these events occurred, to me, "Bloody Sunday" was a Sunday in 1920 when a certain number of officers—I cannot now remember whether it was 11 or 19—were murdered on a Sunday morning in Ireland, in their hotels in the presence of their wives. I can well remember how passionately I felt about it at the time. But these are not the things which determine the course of history; they are unhappy events through which we have to plough, and I see no reason why the security forces should in any way be diverted from their task by these events. Indeed, my Lords, I endorse all that I have heard about placing security as the main, principal consideration at the present time. Security should dominate, and my only doubt is whether it has been made to dominate, at any rate in time.
As my wife and I, in Somerset, look at the newspapers, how often have we seen, until comparatively recently, photographs of members of the I.R.A. in uniform on public occasions in full view, not in Dublin but in the North. Why was this allowed for so long? Why were marches not banned? Surely the military—and I am a military man—would have called earlier, had they been free to do so, for the banning of these provocative marches by both sides. Even when the marches were banned, are we to take it that the security authorities were not hampered in some way by having to allow 10,000 people to accumulate before they decided to thwart them and to divert them to somewhere else? Were I the 915 commanding officer on the spot, I would nip these things in the bud. No 10,000 people would ever get near to assembling together. Why are they allowed to'? When you produce a tremendous volume of people, angry and throwing missiles of all sorts, it is only in the last minute that something happens; it is an excusable event, totally unresembling the assassination of people in their homes.
My Lords, I am wondering whether the Army, which arrived in the North, not with an enthusiastic welcome but with at any rate some moderate satisfaction on the part of the Catholic community, has not found itself alienated from the population by having to be concerned with the internment of people presented to them by Stormont on a black list. That, I think, was confirmed by what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. The noble Lord spoke in most moderate terms because, in his position, he does not want to make agitations at the present time. But as a Cross-Bencher of no importance it is open to me to call attention to this fact. Surely that is what has reduced our excellent Army to the guise of the agents of the oppressors, when they arrived to liberate the oppressed. Therefore, while I endorse everything that has been said by speakers from the Opposition and Liberal Benches regarding the transfer of security from Stormont to Westminster, I cannot see that that alone will have the effect that those who sponsor it desire; because it will only mean that Westminster will be propping up an impotent regime and will be the agent of Stormont again. Therefore I see no alternative but to withdraw not only security but also politics from Northern Ireland. It is justice that they want in Northern Ireland, not politics. That would be my feeling as regards the future.
I look over the present situation after fifty years. I was among the Catholics who supported the principle of Partition. I do not like the idea of forcing anyone—whether a Moslem, as I have often argued in this House, or a Protestant, as I say to-day—within political boundaries which are uncongenial to him. I fight in order that he may join the political society that he likes. Nevertheless, my Lords, I have always regretted that this particular partition was a bogus partition. It added a number of people with affilia- 916 tions to the South; it threw them into the North to make the North viable. That is the legacy from which they are suffering to-day, and it is producing its own Nemesis. Am I right, my Lords?
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, who, not long ago, in some intervention in another debate, called our attention to the fact that the population portents are such that whereas to-day the Catholics are 40 per cent. and the Protestants 60 per cent., there are already a majority of Catholics in the schools and therefore the day is in sight—that is to say, within twenty years—when there will be a majority of Catholics who, one may suppose, will want to vote to join the South. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton: I cannot see Irish unity as a prospect, a practical prospect, for to-day. If it is on the agenda. it will be talked about, and when people have finished talking they will get on with something else. I cannot see it over the horizon at all. Suppose that a position is reached where in 10, 15 or 20 years' time 51 per cent. of the North are Catholic. Will it be desirable that the Protestants of Northern Ireland should be carried over by this democratic change in their position into being incorporated with the Irish Republic? I suggest that, in conjunction with the possibility of a united Ireland, the possibility of a segregated Protestant community as part and parcel of the United Kingdom should be considered. After all, we are not concerned with a huge nation; it is not much bigger than the population of a big town—1,800,000 all told. It is not a situation where political independence or self-rule is, of necessity, the best form. They might be very much better treated under our proposals for local government reform as a Region of the United Kingdom, and be better off for it.
These things I hold to be of the future. To-day I feel sure that there is only one political initiative to be taken, if at all, in conjunction with the question of security, which I put entirely at the top, and that is the withdrawal not only of control over security in Northern Ireland on the part of Stormont, but its political control. I cannot see that any other political initiative, and particularly Irish unity, will do anything but befog the issue and put before people a mirage which everybody knows is not over the political horizon.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, I must apologise that, owing to other duties in this building, I was unable to hear all the opening speeches. However, I have furnished myself with notes of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and of my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition. I was particularly sad that I was unable to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, because I think that he and I approach these matters, to some extent at any rate, on common ground. I was much interested in what the noble Earl who has just sat down said, because he from his personal experience, and I at second hand, as it were, through my late father, have strong feelings about what was not done in 1920 and 1921. I should like to revert to that point in a moment, because I believe that Ireland is one of the places where history still has some significance. I think it is not always true to suggest that the lessons of history are necessarily applicable, but Ireland seems to me to be an exception to this rule. I think that some study of history there really does have relevance to the present time.
Before I come on to that point in the short time that I propose to take at this late hour—and it will be the main subject of my speech—I should like to make one or two preliminary observations. It was exactly three months ago that I last addressed your Lordships' House on the subject of Northern Ireland, during the debate on the Queen's Speech. I said at that time that it seemed to me that we were descending into an abyss. Nothing that has happened since then has halted that descent. On the contrary, the atmosphere in which we have been debating this subject to-day, by the very skilful though no doubt fortuitous timing of my noble friend Lord Longford, shows that all of us are deeply concerned at the lack of progress towards a solution. As someone said on the radio last night: "Things are bloodier, not better". This must be a very depressing thought for us all.
I do not wish to go into the events of last weekend beyond saying that I think the saddest comment on it was the remark made by Bernadette Devlin, when she said that for the 13 who died 26 should be killed and she would not weep a salt tear for them. I thought that that was 918 the mark of tragedy. If a woman of her age can say that, then surely we have reached the depths. I say this with great admiration for her courage—I think she is a most courageous person—and with an understanding of the trouble that she has had both personally and politically. Nevertheless, if someone can reach that degree of nihilism, then I think this is the mark of the deepest tragedy in Irish affairs.
I hope very much that we shall not be misled by the emphasis that has been, quite understandably, placed on security, in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. I was disturbed again to read in the account of the debate in another place yesterday a remark by the Minister, Lord Balniel, in which he referred to the growing desperation of the I.R.A. and suggested that this should bring us some comfort. As the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said in another context, this kind of thing can be quite misleading. This sort of remark was made so often in Ireland itself, in those desperate days of the Black and Tans. As the noble Lord, Lord Annan, pointed out, at one moment the military forces may appear to be getting on top and we may regard this as possibly the beginning of the end. But it just is not so in a situation like Ireland. Although I am obviously strongly concerned that we should contain the attacks of the I.R.A. on innocent persons and property, to pretend that any security measures are going to solve this problem is, to my mind, a delusion. We have to look plainly in the political direction.
This is where I find the record of the present Government so discouraging. I think the tone of the speeches, both in another place and in our debate to-day, has somewhat changed from the speeches of a few months ago, and that in itself is perhaps encouraging. But what I find so discouraging is the bankruptcy of political initiative on the part of the Government. Such initiatives as have come at all in this situation have come mainly, I think I can fairly say, from my right honourable friend the Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr. Harold Wilson, who has done what is needed in this situation. He has tried to bring up possible alternatives, possible lines of approach, while not pretending that any 919 one of them is going to solve the problem —and of course it will not—to see in what way some progress can be made.
But what have we had from the Government? When we last debated this matter we were told that there was a Green Paper. What has happened to the Green Paper? We have heard no more of it. I hope that we may possibly hear something more from the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, when he comes to reply. But so far there has been almost a complete blank. We understood that the Government were in general agreement with Mr. Harold Wilson that there should be open-ended talks. I do not underestimate the difficulties, but the longer one goes on the more difficult it is to get open-ended talks, because doors are being closed all the time, and not opened. Anyone who saw, for instance, the reports in this morning's papers of Mr. Faulkner's remarks yesterday must at least be apprehensive as to the possibility of getting anything open-ended where he is concerned. The longer one leaves this, the more difficult it seems to me it will be to get anything on the lines that I think were more or less generally agreed between the two Front Benches, the Government and the Opposition, in the autumn.
Various suggestions have been made. For example, it has been suggested that there should be a senior Minister in the Government who should devote his whole time to what is, I suggest, the most crucial problem facing the Government to-day. Unemployment is indeed important, but that can be dealt with by more normal methods. The situation in Northern Ireland is not normal, and should surely be dealt with as a case for special consideration, which just cannot be woven in with Departmental responsibilities, however conscientious the Ministers concerned may be. It seems to me that we are left in a vacuum of policy, so far as Northern Ireland is concerned, and we appear to be making very little progress. Various noble Lords have said in the debate that they believe that when we are all members of the European Community this will bring salvation. I hope they are right; but, quite frankly, I would rather see our making some progress before we have reached that point, because this seems to me to be merely putting matters off.
920 I said that I would refer to history, and I think that, as the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, has said, one of the facts of history which has surely led to the position in which we find ourselves to-day—this position of acute dilemma as to how, on the one hand, to meet the wishes of the Catholic minority in the North and at the same time safeguard the position of the Protestant majority—is that when the boundary between the North and South was laid down in 1921, nobody then thought that boundary was to be permanent. Michael Collins and Arthur Griffiths would never have signed that Treaty, I am sure, had they thought that boundary was to be entirely unchanged. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland of the time believed in his heart, I am sure, that there would be some changes. In the event, as your Lordships will recall, a Boundary Commission was set up under a liberal-minded judge from South Africa. The representative of the Free State (as it then was) was a very distinguished Gaelic scholar but not, I think, a very good negotiator. The results of the efforts of that Boundary Commission were such that no one wished to put their recommendations into effect: in fact those recommendations were not published until very many years afterwards. The net result of the recommendations would have been to have transferred some 24,000 persons from the North to the South together with some 135 acres of land but this was well below the expectations of the South and I believe also the anticipations of the North, and certainly of Whitehall, at that time.
I am putting this forward as a matter which we ought at least to discuss, perhaps not in the immediate future, as one possible way of removing this log jam. Ought one not to be considering how and at what stages one might advance towards a possible united Ireland, but remembering all the time that one has to protect the interests of the Protestants who passionately wish to retain their connection with the United Kingdom? I found myself in very great sympathy with the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who suggested, as I understood him, that really as an interim stage—ultimately one would hope that there would be voluntary unification of the entire island—one might suggest an adhesion, if they wished, of those parts of Northern 921 Ireland which are adjacent to the Republic. One would then have the North-Eastern enclave, the Protestant enclave, as a region of the United Kingdom, with the government appropriate to such a country—I would suggest, as a Welshwoman, no more and no less than Wales. We do not yet know what the Crowther Commission are going to suggest, but I would think it should be something of that order. That is the price the Protestants would pay for maintaining their organic connection with the United Kingdom.
When the Treaty discussions were going on fifty years ago the representatives of the South, Arthur Griffiths and Michael Collins, pleaded more than once that there should be a plebiscite, referendum, or whatever you like to call it, not on the Six Counties basis but on a district basis, because this would give a very different pattern. If you tell the minority in Northern Ireland that they have to wait for twenty or thirty years, until such time as the Catholic population might or might not catch up with the Protestant population, this surely would have no effect at all on the emotions and attitudes of those who are living there to-day. It does not seem to them to bring any realistic basis for hope, and it seems to me that one should at least discuss, among other things, this kind of approach. I did not have the opportunity of listening to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, but I understood him to be suggesting something on these lines from the reference which the noble Lord, Lord Annan, made to his speech. I think this is one way in which we might be looking forward to some sort of interim progress.
Mr. Harold Wilson, speaking in another place yesterday, said, in effect, that he was coming more and more to the view that there could be no ultimate solution that did not aim at a united Ireland. It seems to me that it is not sufficient to say that. Those of us who hold that view—and I think a number of Members of your Lordships' House do —surely have the responsibility for suggesting ways in which that result might ultimately be achieved. It is for that reason that I have referred to past history, and suggested that we might at least 922 look at it and see whether, by going back fifty years, we can find some way of taking a step forward. I do not think for one moment that what I have suggested would be immediately acceptable—it would not be immediately practical—but I feel so dubious about the suggestions which have been put forward. One involved waiting until the population change brings a solution of its own. It seems to me that if we have to live through twenty or thirty years before we known what is going to happen, as things are going there would be very little of Northern Ireland left. With the polarisation which has taken place in the last few months, although obviously a coalition Government is out of the question, even the suggestion of a community Government seems to me dubious, and we now ought to be examining suggestions that even a few months ago might have seemed extreme.
In conclusion, my Lords, what depresses me most of all is the bankruptcy of policy and ideas on the part of Her Majesty's Government. They appear to lack the imagination and intellectual force needed in this situation. I am very much strengthened in this view when I study history and see how, in the equally desperate situation of 1918–1922, it needed the strength and vitality, on the one side, of somebody at least a little like Lloyd George and someone, on the other side, of the stature of Lord Birkenhead or Winston Churchill to bring about a solution in 1920–21 which, if anybody had suggested it as likely or probable even two or three years earlier, would have been almost laughed out of court. We are not in quite so desperate a situation, but we are in a very serious one indeed, and it seems to me that much greater measures are needed than any which have so far been suggested by Her Majesty's Ministers.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, I should like to deal with this subject this evening under three main headings. The first is to debunk the idea that this is purely religion. I should like to deal with the I.R.A. propaganda and our own inadequate protection of our troops from our own and foreign media, I should like to consider the expense and the privileged position of the Irish in this country, and I should like 923 to suggest a solution. The noble Earl, Lord Longford. and I—he is not in his place at the moment—arc both Catholics. He is a good one, new and vigorous; I am from an old, degenerate, English Catholic family. We Catholics have several representatives in your Lordships' House—I can see two at this moment. We are all related, because in the persecution days we had to intermarry, for nobody else would touch us with a barge pole. By and large, we were Stuart supporters, and in those troubled times we had no use for Dutch William. Many of us suffered for our beliefs, both political and religious, and so did the majority of people in Ireland. Herein lies the difference: we, the English Catholics, were persecuted in isolation, the Irish in large groups. It is much easier to take it that way. Gradually, starting in 1829, we were less discriminated against until nowadays there are very few, if any, instances of religious intolerance. We have forgiven and forgotten. Not so sections of the tribes from the other island. Though they have lived side by side for 300 years or more those sections —not all of them—nurture ancient hates.
This House contains many names which show a Dutch, Huguenot, German, French or Irish origin, all now considered as one as if they had been here from the Conquest or before. In the other island there is a considerable faction who have, for a variety of reasons, refused to integrate or forget, who still bear the scars of 300 years or more ago, who lack the basic thesis of Christianity, who refuse to love their neighbours as themselves. Such is the pathological, historical and fanatical hatred of this country and all things English by a section of the population of that island that I despair of what people keep referring to as a political solution. Only the surgeon's knife can cure the ulcer of Ulster. I have said before in your Lordships' House that I am convinced that such is this feeling—which any civilised race would have overcome centuries ago—that if at the time of the Reformation England had remained Catholic, Ireland would have gone Protestant out of sheer cussedness.
In recent years this difference has been accentuated by segregation in schooling, and both factions are to blame for that, especially in the North. In the South the minority is such a small one that it 924 has not mattered so much, although articles attacking the Protestants there have recently appeared—one in particular by my old school friend Noel Browne, a member of the Dail. The trouble is that in Northern Ireland there is a sufficiently large proportion of bigots in both tribes and they have us caught in the middle. My suggestion is that we get out from in between in double quick time. When I was staying in Belfast not so long ago my host said to me, "If you thought if I introduced you to any of the leading Catholics here that they would accept you as one of them, you would have another think coming. But don't worry; if I had the Archbishop of Canterbury here the other tribe wouldn't have anything to do with him, either".
I should like now to deal with the second of my points, the treatment of our Forces by our own and other media. We tend to forget that at the beginning of this trouble there was a genuine attempt by the Governments at Stormont and Westminster to put right some of the injustices to the minority in Northern Ireland. The extreme Orange tribe was menacing, and the Army were committed by the Government of the time to protect the Fenian tribe. Were they not popular! There were cups of tea, and all were welcome. What I have never been able to understand, any more than have one or two of my Southern Irish friends, is why we stopped there. We stayed on the edge of the Catholic areas, and we have never been in there since. Government writ has never run in large areas.
That temporary popularity did not suit the extremes of that tribe—that is, the I.R.A.—so they immediately set about working overtime to discredit the Army. This was foreseen by the G.O.C. at the time, who warned—and you probably saw it on television—that the honeymoon period would not last long. It did not. One of the main reasons for this was the inbuilt disadvantage we inherited with our unfettered Press and television, plus the expertise of the I.R.A. to distort the truth. What also tends to be forgotten is that the Army were not sent in to defend the Orange Order, which was the other tribe, who tried to control, failed and then sacked their leader because he showed signs of being civilised and not tribal. They also did that to his successor. It is interesting to me. as a 925 Devonian, because they both came originally from a North Devon family with which I am also connected. It is also interesting because there are two branches of that family, one Catholic, one Protestant; they never did, and still do not, hate each other.
In the reforming zeal the "B "Specials were abolished and the reform of the police started. It is no time now to go into the rights and wrongs of those, but I have my opinions on one or two things that took place then. One thing is certain: by the time that the I.R.A. were getting going at their professed enemy—the unfortunate British soldier—the normal police intelligence was ruined by the way the aforementioned reforms were carried out. Whatever the rights or wrongs of it, no intelligence by which the Army could protect itself was available until internment and interrogation. Then we got it, and that caused the murders to increase, because the revenge motive in the Fenian tribe is something impregnated into them from birth. Let there be no doubt that there are several people in internment who would rather stay there than be let out now for an I.R.A. vengeance. Night after night —and during the day as well—our troops have been assaulted, jeered at, thrown at, bombed at, and generally abused. One letter I received said that no one in England seemed to realise what it was like having to compress one's lips and fight back natural reaction to the obscene insults continually thrown at one, especially knowing that the harridans and their children were there shouting and stoning, acting as a cover for the ever-waiting gunman.
One day, for example, in Derry, while this was going on a gunman fired and killed a little girl. The headlines in all the Press and the television said that she was killed in cross-fire. But cross-fire means two sides firing—and not a shot was fired by the troops. Why was it that just at that occasion that friend of the gunman, Mr. Hume, was there? Well, I know why he was there. Why did he rush up and down smelling the barrels of the soldiers' rifles? Because he wanted to pin this on them. As it happened, they had not fired a shot; but so far as the world knew the child was killed in cross-fire.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will not think it an impertinence if I intervene at this point. I have not heard the earlier remarks of the noble Lord, but I just caught the words "Mr. Hume ", and he is a man of the highest integrity. A suggestion that a man like Mr. Hume would indulge in a practice of this kind is so far from the facts as I know them that I cannot accept it.
§ LORD HYLTON
My Lords, will the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, tell us what evidence he has for asserting that Mr. Hume is a friend of gunmen?
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, the answer to the second question first is that I will show the noble Lord the letter. The other question I have forgotten.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, that was the term used in the Press. What I am getting at is that if somebody says a person is killed—as was said of this child—in cross-fire, it implies that fire took place from both the troops and the gunmen. All I am saying is that on that particular occasion the troops had not fired.
Again, look at the way the television reported the planted story of those two I.R.A. women officers who were shot while firing from the back of a car. Their funeral was of course proof of their status, because whenever an I.R.A. officer is killed the I.R.A. have been turning out, uniforms and all. I think that these banned organisations should not be allowed to be so provocative. Take Magillygan Camp. When the British soldiers were there no improvement was made in accommodation: showers were communal and a long way from accommodation; 20 soldiers to a Nissen hut; television, then paid for by the soldiers, was black and white. Now, the internees have 12 to a hut; each hut has four showers; each hut has colour television, paid for by the taxpayer. A set of four huts is a games hut, with billards, pingpong, et cetera. A soldier writes:For God's sake show up this nonsense, destroy this liberal monster that threatens to sap our morale and let's start treating prisoners, 927 murderers and their accomplices as the scoundcls and blackguards they are.Our media, but even more so the foreign media, I feel, have little sense of proportion. What can we expect now that Dublin has engaged an American-run, Geneva-based, public relations firm? I do not think one need go into that. They had the Biafra account, a point that we mentioned the other day. I have been told by a friend in Canning House that Miss Bernadette Devlin is now being painted as Joan of Arc. I do not know what that will make Mr. Maudling.
I have been receiving a lot of I.R.A. propaganda, mainly with a Liverpool postmark and including an attached diatribe from the Irish Weekly, the Irish Press, the Irish Times, which shows the extent of the misrepresentation South of the Border. This is now being disseminated throughout the world. Why do we allow these self-inflicted wounds? I have a copy of the Western Morning News, with an account of the burial of Private Stetford, of my own regiment; underneath another report says, "Exeter University international socialists invited an I.R.A. spokesman to their meeting."
Another thing I wish to dwell on is the assiduous propaganda which has been generated recently by certain people—not, so far, by those responsible, I am glad to say—that the Government and the Opposition are entirely opposed on this question of Northern Ireland and the troops. My Lords, when I was a soldier the Government of my country was a Labour Government. That was when I served during the troubles in Palestine and Malaya. We were very grateful that the country which we thought we were serving in the job we were doing was, so far as we knew, united. I only hope that, whatever happens in the conditions in Northern Ireland now, it will be seen by the troops to be from a military point of view a bipartisan policy.
Last Sunday the biggest success the I.R.A. have had yet took place and the biggest defeat that our own media have inflicted on our own forces since the thing began. The I.R.A. had three coat-trailing aims: to break the ban on marches, and put an intolerable strain on the forces, in an effort to contain them when they had ordinary day-to-day things to do; to provide cover for their gunmen (this is the habit in the Creggan area, the Bogside 928 and elsewhere), and to add to the Army's unpopularity; and I believe that a Sharpeville situation was bound to arise if anything happened. First, under the law they had no right to be there, nor will they have a right to be at Newry next Sunday. I believe that many people feel that if there are any murders the people who will be to blame will be those who have encouraged this sort of thing to happen. Take the programme on the B.B.C., for example, on which viewers telephone a question and the panel answers it. If the panel is to be three to one against the side you are on, or the side you think you are on, I do not think this is at all fair to the chaps who are listening.
"Without provocation says Lynch "—in the Evening News a couple of days ago. "Without provocation ", said those priests who appeared on television and so do a great many others. I want to know why they were there in the first place. The television showed iron bars and rocks being thrown at the troops, "without provocation ". Who ordained that this was not provocation? One young officer has written:Day after day, night after night, the Army is shot at, abused, ambushed and castigated. One day sonic of us will break. There will come a limit and the main cause will be our precious television. You cannot expect the men to take this for ever.He had four men of his platoon wounded by nail bombs in the week before Christmas. I may say, on the lighter side, that he then added that of course his regiment has a friendly rivalry with another one, insinuating that it would be the other one that would break. Your Lordships may have seen on television one of these, I call them animals, come up and spit in the face of a soldier and then turn away. How many of your Lordships would have stood and taken it?
There has been a lot of propaganda about the Parachute Regiment and I was very glad to see that they were present here to-day. Earlier in the day there were quite a number of people present who were wearing the airborne forces tie. While on the subject, I believe that thinking members of the Opposition must be rueing the day when they abolished the fourteen infantry battalions. We could well do with them now. My own son has spent eight out of the last fifteen months in Londonderry, and is still there. I know there are several noble Lords here who now have, or have had, sons 929 serving in the Forces over there, and I wonder—my son would never forgive me for saying this—whether enough people realise the position. For example, do the parents in this country realise what this sort of thing means? So far as my own life is concerned, whenever I am out with my wife she is always saying, "Come on, we must get back or we shall miss the news ". That is what is going on all over this country, and it is a fact which I think some people tend to forget. When I read of the criticism, or even the indifference, of people I wonder why the perpetual strain of this abuse, bombs, sniping and so on, is not more strongly pointed out by our Press. When I read the foreign criticism I begin to wish that the Russian Army had the job; they would finish it in a day, à la Hungary. I ask myself what other Army in the world could have controlled that regiment of the three young men who were taken out and brutally murdered, shot in the back? What other Army in the world could have prevented that regiment from breaking loose and running riot through the area from which they thought the murderers had come?
Recently, and before last weekend, there was hysterical talk of people "putting the boot in" following a television episode; but I am afraid that leaves me cold. Trust them to emphasise that! It would take a better man than me, or many others, to suffer the months of abuse, sniping and bombing and not to "put the boot in" on every possible occasion. I also suggest that those who have not had experience of the strains of being under fire should have sufficient Christian humility to keep their mouths shut when it comes to passing judgment on things that have happened under such a strain.
My Lords, I now come to deal with the cost of this episode to the British taxpayer. I am referring to the cost in terms of hard cash not lives and anguish, with which I have been dealing. The Written Answer I received on January 18 was that the estimated expenditure for the year was £423 million. Of this sum we take £269 million paid by Northern Ireland taxpayers, which leaves £154 million. Add to that £20 million under the health agreement, £37 million under social services payments, £11 930 million under the Finance Act, £2 million under the agricultural remoteness grant, £30 million for farmers from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, £20 million from the G.B. National Insurance Fund; add the £70 million to be borrowed from the National Loan Fund well, I think the total is somewhere around £400 million net before you start adding on the Services. My Lords, you can read it all in Hansard. In other words, to a very large degree we finance the social services and living expenses, for which, in thanks, they blow up the buildings, kill our men and create our widows and orphans. It seems, my Lords, that that "tribe" want to have their cake and eat it, and I do not see why they should. I suggest to the Government that unemployment and health benefit, which comes from my taxes, should not go to pay the harridans who stone or the snipers who shoot at my son. I object strongly to financing the blowing up of buildings; I object strongly to financing the health and education services of children born in hostels at the taxpayers' expense and educated in sectarian schools, and brought up to hate us and a large section of their fellow men.
Another thing I object to, and I have been bringing it up in your Lordships' House for the last nine years, is giving an alien, republican, largely anti-British, people a privileged position in this country as against pro-Monarchist British relations from Australia and New Zealand. I recognise that the majority of both tribes in the island are decent, moderate, civilised people. I have many cousins there. My complaint is that the majority is not big enough; the extremist minority in both tribes is too large. In October I came back to Heathrow from Brazil. Our three-man mission came in, and I, with my Australian passport, went through a gate which said, "Commonwealth passport holders", and the other two Members from another place went through a gate which said, "British passports and Republic of Ireland". They can come in freely; they can do so whether they are going to blow up the Post Office Tower or not. But on that particular occasion I was interrogated as to whether I should be allowed to stay here—by an Indian. Elsewhere in the world there have been large movements of people who have been 931 assimilated, and I keep wondering why Ireland is an exception.
To my mind there is only one ultimate solution—and here I agree with the noble Lord—unification of Ireland, under Dublin. If we put down the present rebellion as it is at the moment, it will only raise its ugly head again in five years. This suggestion, of course, will bring lots of cries of letting down our own people, an indissoluble part of the United Kingdom, et cetera. Granted all that: but the other tribe is like the elephant and never forgets and never forgives, and this ulcer can be cured only by the surgeon's knife. There are sufficient Irish in England who have no sense of loyalty to this country and who could well be returned to their own country to make room for those from the North who could not stand Dublin. Those who so dislike us should be made to go: take that 5,000 who paraded under the banners of the Republic in September. They have been allowed to have their cake and eat it for too long. Let us face facts. The decent Fenians have long integrated with their host country, so you would not lose your decent citizens from that country.
Your Lordships know that to-day the British Embassy has been burned down in Dublin. I think this is the time to let them bear the costs of the country, the whole of that island. Let us finish with this nonsense once and for all. Let us remove our men from this hostile population. By all means make arrangements whereby we do not force anyone to live under conditions he does not like, and it should be a two-way traffic. But I beg of the Government to make one thing quite clear: not another penny, bring our men back, and let the Irish do their own thing. And let us have a shilling off the income tax.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, the first four speeches of the debate this afternoon were of such a character and covered the field so fully that I thought there was a good case for ending the debate at that point. Looking round, I think there are a number of noble Lords who came to the same conclusion and acted upon it. Nevertheless, it is true that had the debate ended there we should have missed a good deal of real worth and value. I think we should 932 have been poorer, for example, had we not had the compassion of my noble friend Lord Brockway, or the sheer religious force of my noble friend Lord Soper, to put against the quite fearful pessimism of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan.
My noble friend Lord Longford brought to bear on this problem such a depth of emotion and experience and knowledge that I myself was profoundly moved at the degree of restraint he was able to show in opening this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, paid proper tribute to my noble friend and, if I may say so, in putting the case as lie did for those who serve under him he showed the same high standard of restraint, and I respected him, too. Although restraint has been called for (and when I hear the sort of speech to which we have just listened I think there is a great deal to be said for restraint), nevertheless, as my noble friend Lord Shackleton said, there is also a case for frankness. It is necessary on occasion to be frank, and if I have to condense the remarks that I have to say without putting in the sort of qualification which some of the assertions might demand, I trust that I shall be excused.
It used to be said of the Palestine controversy—which is, as the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, I think said, in some respects depressingly similar—that the difficulty there was that it was a case of right versus right. It may be true that there is right on both sides of this utterly wretched conflict, but what is certainly true is that there is wrong on both sides; and I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, to think about that. We shall never get near a solution until this fact is deeply and humbly accepted by both sides. This guilt factor in the respective cases of the North and South, the Nationalists and the Unionists, the Protestants and the Catholics, needs to be hammered home day after day if the frame of mind which will permit settlement is to be achieved.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, would not the noble Lord agree that the British Army have no reason to feel guilty, and do not feel guilty?
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I was not meaning, and did not say, that the British Army were on either side. The fate of the British Army is to be above 933 both sides, and that they suffer for it is one of the tragedies of the situation of the present day.
When we last debated this matter I asked that all forms of propaganda should be used to put over the British case, and I am sure we all agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, had to say about the significance of proper propaganda. Something has been done since that last debate—a good deal has been done—but I was not thinking simply of the Army point of view on particular incidents; I was thinking of the whole basis of the British case. Of course one reason why our policy has not been put over in the clear and insistent way that I want is that clarity and insistence are not prominent elements in Her Majesty's Government's handling of this matter. Surely what my noble friend Lord Shackleton said, and what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, supported, is true; namely, that imagination and energy cannot readily be laid at the door of the right honourable gentleman, Mr. Maudling.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth observed that the British people do not have a good record in relation to Irish affairs. But I say—and I say it particularly to the noble Earl, Lord Arran—that if it is the people we are talking about and not necessarily Governments, I do not agree with the right reverend Prelate. The people of to-day, the British people, have shown a degree of tolerance, patience and generosity which compares more than favourably with the bloody intolerance of the Irish factions. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, referred in our last debate to the need for financial assistance in Northern Ireland, but I am bound to say that I agree with a good deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, said when he detailed the amount of financial assistance which has been made available, and which could have been used for law-abiding, deserving development areas in England, Scotland and Wales.
Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said, the financial sacrifices made by the people of England, Scotland and Wales, and the tolerance which they have shown to the Irish people, and not least to the Eire citizens living in this country, 934 has been for no corresponding benefit at all so far as the working class in this country are concerned. The people of to-day do not enjoy any dividends from any part of the Six Counties, or the 32; and net it is a deficit so far as our people are concerned, and in no sense any colonial benefit. I believe there is a need to bring home to the Irish people some of the real truths of this issue. But, also, it is on the basis of these truths that Her Majesty's Government have a duty to our people and, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, said, a duty to our British soldiers to put forward radical, constructive political proposals.
The Economist had a leader on January 15 which made the point that no solution was yet possible, for as yet neither side had suffered enough.The truth about Northern Irelandit said,is that the place has not suffered sufficiently yet.That was on January 15, before the events of last Sunday. It was a terrible thing to say, but one understands what they meant. Why I keep coming back to this need for the insistent reiteration of otherwise unconsidered truths is that I believe it can help to achieve that receptive state of mind which the Economist meant was essential. And even if propaganda is taken to the point of brainwashing, then I prefer that to an agreement which relies upon the acquiescence of death.
The truths which have to be digested are of course many-sided. Mr. Faulkner said the other week that the people of Ulster were citizens of the United Kingdom in just the same way as people in my right honourable friend's constituency of Ormskirk. But, my Lords, this is not true. The people of Ormskirk are not citizens in the same way as the people of Ulster. They have in Ormskirk only one Parliament which they recognise; in Ulster there are two. The people of Ormskirk recognise only one Prime Minister; but in Ulster there is Mr. Faulkner as well as Mr. Heath. The people of Ormskirk pay taxes to support the whole range of domestic and foreign policies decided at Westminster; the people of Ulster, on the other hand, make no contribution at all to an important area of United Kingdom expenditure.
The truth is that the people of Ulster have tried to enjoy the best of two worlds.
935 Quite apart from the present crisis, it is a position which only people as patient as the English, Scots and Welsh would have tolerated for so long. And, quite apart from contemporary violence, the time is due, many will say, when the anomalies of the present Constitution should be altered or, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington said, significantly changed, or, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, put it, modified. For 50 years we have made special financial provision and afforded unique privileges to Ulster, because many English people thought, and hoped, that, little by little, we could get back to an undivided Island. But if not complete union, there is known to-day such a wide spectrum of forms of association that, with the experience gained since 1921, it seems to me inconceivable that, if we really tried, we could not find an acceptable form of association. But it is going to need this realisation that there is to-day wrong on both sides.
There is to be an Inquiry into the Derry tragedy and, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and others have said, we should reserve judgment. But if we are frank, no inquiry is needed to establish the fact that it was an Irish faction, a nationalist faction, which deliberately, in quite cold blood a year and a half or so ago, decided to use violence and murder to further their policy. It is the I.R.A. gunman, who will deliberately shoot down a father in the sight of his family, who has really stained the honour of a Christian country. Not since Belsen has there been such a contempt for human values as that shown by the I.R.A. gunman. I go this far with the noble Lord, Lord Raglan: probably the most appalling truth of this whole affair is that those who support, excuse or perpetrate these crimes against humanity have protested in other spheres, on religious grounds, that even an unborn fœtus was sacred.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend? Does he realise that abortion is forbidden in Northern Ireland?
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I cannot see that that is at all relevant to my argument. The I.R.A. have vowed vengeance for the Derry deaths. If they step up their murders, then the Army, inevitably, will be shooting more, not less. Political 936 initiatives therefore are really an urgent necessity. This is what so many of my noble friends have stressed, and this is what I want to stress, too. It is proposed and convincingly argued by my right honourable friend Mr. Wilson that the responsibility for defence and security should now be brought clearly to Whitehall; and, with my noble friend Lord Shackleton, that proposal I support. But it would be a blunder of the most frightening potential unless the move was accompanied by a fresh political initiative. If Whitehall accepted clear responsibility for this delusion that the Army are getting on top of the gunmen, and that all they want is more time to complete the operation, and if that time were taken without any complementary political offer, then we should be further still from any chance of genuine peace.
My Lords, we may well force the I.R.A. to change its tactics. It may well be, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. said, that we are disrupting the command structure, making more arrests and finding arm piles. But the test of success is not these things: it is whether we can win over support from the ordinary men, women and children of Ulster. It is not the man with a gun in his hand who really matters: it is the woman who rattles the dustbin lid when the troops approach, and the child who throws a brick at the soldier. To win back their neutrality —I do not say their support, but their neutrality—positive social and political proposals are an absolute prerequisite. Something imaginative (that is the word that has been used by my noble friend Lord Shackleton, by the noble Lords, Lord Beaumont and Lord Annan, and others) must be offered over the heads, as it were, of the law-breakers in the streets; something that we could detail, without any inhibition, before the bar of world opinion at the United Nations. Such proposals have been spelled out in detail by Mr. Wilson, and we have had the specific proposals put forward by the noble Earl to-day. These bear the ingredients of the kind of policy that we should be putting forward in the name of our people. For all the moderation of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington; for all the hopes that he expressed; for all his impressive pride in the British Armed Forces, which I support 100 per cent., it still remains I a fact that he made not one specific 937 political proposal. It may be that this debate was not the occasion, but I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, when he comes to reply, will be able to say that this constructive, imaginative offer will not now be long delayed.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, over recent months the House has been notably restrained on the subject of Northern Ireland. There are many noble Lords who are responsible for that and they deserve much credit for it. The same spirit of moderation, as pointed out by several speakers, has marked the debate to-day. The tone was set at the beginning by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who brings to the discussion of Ireland so many years' knowledge of its history and people. Even though he is not nowadays confined by the shackles of any official Party line his speech was the most remarkable tour de force, and was aptly described by the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, as "a true Christian statement"
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, focused our attention at the start of the debate on some of the crucial questions that lie ahead. I must confess that it was a relief to learn, after Mr. Wilson's speech in November in which he enumerated 10 principles followed by a further 15 proposals, that the noble Earl was contenting himself with no more than three main points. As I understood him, these were the transfer of responsibility for security operations to Westminster, the formation of some kind of community Government at Stormont and the longterm objective of a united Ireland. I do not know how far I shall be able to satisfy him and other noble Lords who spoke in the debate, but in the course of what I hope will be not too long a winding up I will try to refer at any rate to some of the central features which have been raised by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. and others.
A deep consciousness of the events of last Sunday in Londonderry has been evident in the speeches of many noble Lords. My noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence has already given the House an account of how a demonstration of this sort can escalate into a tragedy. There is now to be an independent judicial Inquiry and I believe that most noble Lords will agree with what 938 the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said earlier in the debate: that it is wise to suspend judgment until conflicting statements have been investigated. In the meantime, particularly in the immediate future, it is as well to note that those who deliberately set about defying the ban on political processions have a very heavy responsibility. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, told us something of his experiences on Sunday, although very properly he said that he intended to keep his full account for the Tribunal, should he be invited to give evidence before it. In the course of his speech he argued, if I understood him rightly, that civil rights supporters in Northern Ireland should be allowed to go to meetings, which in themselves are quite legal, as he said, in such numbers and along such routes as would amount to informal processions, but without incurring the ban on marches. He put this in his usual persuasive way—so much so that I thought for a moment his short visit to Northern Ireland had infected him with a mild "go" of that congenital Irish disease which the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, described so graphically as "coat trailing".
The fact is that on every Saturday hundreds of thousands of people throughout the British Isles converge on football grounds. But they do not march there. It is the manner and the style that is all important. Nobody wants to stop meetings. That is why those who march in Northern Ireland, from whichever community they come, need to do so. They need to demonstrate, and to demonstrate in a public way, that so strong is the belief in their cause that they are prepared to defy the law. My Lords, I am afraid that we must accept that provocation is an essential element in these marches. When Mr. Faulkner extended the ban on marches last month he made clear that the decision had been taken in order to prevent people from exposing the security forces, and themselves, to unnecessary dangers, and to enable the security forces to concentrate their efforts against the terrorists.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I hope very much that the Government as well as the Citizens' Rights Association will pay serious attention to the proposals which are made, and which the Minister does not quite seem to have gathered. 939 Last night on T.V. a Minister of the Stormont Government said that a meeting of 50,000 was legal. The problem is how the 50,000 are to get there. I saw what they call marches. It was just like the whole population going to a football match. I am suggesting that if you say a meeting is legal, you have to find some method by which those who are getting there are not just regarded as marchers in contradiction of authority.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I think that I have covered the point, although we are not in agreement on it. What I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, is this. He has a great reputation as someone who for very many years has championed the cause of civil rights. If he feels able to use what influence he has with those people, whoever they may be, who are planning to organise a similar event— whether we call it a march, a demonstration or a meeting— in Newry this weekend; if he could persuade them to call that off, that could well be one of the greatest services that he could perform for the cause of civil rights.
My Lords, many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, who, if I may say so, put his points forcefully and admirably, and also the noble Lord, Lord Soper, have spoken of their anger and contempt at the terrorist campaign of bloodshed and violence. I have done so on previous occasions, and my instincts, like those of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, were to do so again to-night. But since the time is late and there are other matters to which I want to turn, all I will say is that I endorse every word that the noble Lords said. It is, of course, not enough merely to condemn the tactics of the terrorists. Positive steps have to be taken to contain them and then to suppress them. This is what has led to the involvement of the Army in what must undoubtedly be one of the most distasteful military assignments of the last quarter of a century.
Tributes have been paid to the fortitude and courage of the Armed Forces by many speakers from both sides of the House to-day, as on previous occasions. I know that they are deeply appreciated, especially perhaps when they come from those who have some reservations about the task the Army has been called on 940 to carry out. It is because condemnation of violence is not enough that an active campaign is needed to combat it. This is the context in which internment must be seen; not just as a policy to be judged in isolation, repugnant as it is from the standpoint of individual liberty, but as a necessary measure to restrain those who are likely to cause further suffering and misery.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who is always listened to in this House with great respect, spoke on these lines earlier in the debate. When one hears of respectable citizens fearful of being lifted, one cannot help reflecting at the same time on the mounting stocks of arms and explosives, of bombs and of acid, that have been located by the security forces. These have no place, none whatever, in the cause of true civil rights and the righting of grievances. And yet these arms were brought into Northern Ireland. They were hidden. In some instances they were used, with the terrible consequences that are only too familiar. Who can argue that these arms should not be secured, and that the men who by their membership of certain organisations have declared themselves ready to use them should not be temporarily removed from the scene?
The point that I want to make in this part of my speech is that it is the tactics adopted by the I.R.A., the deliberate calculated assault on life and property, that give the situation in Northern Ireland its murderous dimension. This is what is right outside the scope of what can be regarded as legitimate forms of political action. We must not confuse the aims of the I.R.A. with a political solution. In the words of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in his speech, we are dealing here with people whose aim is to overthrow civilisation itself. Consequently, if we pause to think it through, military methods, which are all that are available to counter insurgency, have a political aim, and that aim is to arrive at a situation in which the political future of Northern Ireland can be discussed without violence, intimidation and terror distorting all the other elements. Let us therefore not be misled into distinguishing too readily between military solutions and political solutions, because the two are very closely linked.
§ LORD BESWICK
If the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt, do we understand from what he says that the Government believe that there is no chance of discussing political constitutions and solutions until violence has ended?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
Not at all. If I gave that impression, I should like to clear it up. It has been made clear by my right honourable friend from last year onwards that he is ready to hold discussions with anyone who is willing to come and discuss proposals with him. Indeed, as the noble Lord will know, he has already held a number of discussions with certain representatives from Northern Ireland.
Turning now to some of the proposals for political changes that have been made in the course of the debate, I recall that Mr. Wilson said not long ago— in November, I believe— that he had identified over 30 different approaches towards what he called a political solution. To-day's debate in this House and yesterday's debate in another place have added to that number. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, advocated the retention of Stormont, but the introduction of some form of community Government involving a guaranteed representation for the minority. What we have to keep in mind here is that Governments made up of people of different political views have normally come into existence when the major political Parties consent to work together in the pursuit of a common objective. They agree to put their political differences on one side for a time because there is an overriding cause which they accept as of paramount importance— often the integrity of the State itself.
Whatever the merits or demerits of proposals of this kind, it can hardly be denied that this is not the case in Northern Ireland to-day, where some are concerned to preserve the position of the Province as an integral part of the United Kingdom, while others are concerned to achieve a united Ireland. This is not, however, to rule out what the noble Lord has said, if agreement can be reached. Mr. Faulkner has indeed already shown himself ready to make changes in the composition of his own Government, and in the composition of the Parliament at Stormont. On two occasions during the lifetime of his present Administration he 942 has introduced outsiders into his Cabinet: first Mr. David Blakeley, a member of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, as Minister of Community Relations, followed by Dr. Newe, a prominent Roman Catholic from Belfast, as Minister of State in the Prime Minister's own Office. Before the S.D.L.P. and the Nationalist M.Ps. withdrew from Stormont last summer, Mr. Faulkner had outlined a system of new functional committees, half of which would be chaired by Opposition M.Ps.
Then in October came the Green Paper to which the noble Baroness, Lady White, referred in her speech, and which contained further ideas about a possible increase in the size of the elected House of Commons at Stormont and the addition to the Senate of a number of people with wide knowledge and experience from outside the direct political sphere. I will not say any more about these proposals to-night, other than to remark that it is hardly fair to charge Mr. Faulkner and his colleagues with lack of awareness of the need to find some method of enabling the minority take a fuller part in the way that Northern Ireland is governed. The evidence is there, but the response to these proposals has been most disappointing. They have not been discussed, and the reason why they have not been discussed is that the Opposition Members of Parliament have walked out of Stormont.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I make one point plain to the noble Lord, in case he is under a misapprehension? Most of us here are not concerned with criticising Mr. Faulkner— he has enough on his plate without our criticism— most of the criticism is aimed at the noble Lord and his colleagues. Is he saying that until the minority in Northern Ireland join in talks none of these suggestions can be discussed at all, and that that gives him an excuse for saying nothing whatever to-night or at any future date?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, what I was referring to, following the line of thought developed by the noble Baroness, Lady White, was what had become of the proposals tabled by Mr. Faulkner. He tabled a proposal, for example, that there should be four functional committees, two of which should be chaired by Opposition Members of 943 Parliament. How are two Committees to be chaired by Members of Parliament who are not present? You cannot discuss the sharing of power with Parliamentary representatives if they have walked out of Parliament. We are now told that these proposals have fallen victim to the law of diminishing acceptability, but despite the repeated efforts— I hope the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will pay me the courtesy of listening to my argument; we listened to him with close attention. I have prepared a considered response to the three points of which he was kind enough to give me advance notice, and perhaps he would be kind enough to give me the opportunity to reply.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, it was not intended as a rebuke: it would be presumptuous of me to seek to rebuke the noble Earl. It was merely a mild request, in a restrained vein.
Despite the efforts made— and I think it is patent that there have been repeated efforts by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and others— it has not been found possible to meet the representatives of the minority, in order to try to agree upon ways in which all sections of the community can participate more fully in the life and public affairs of the Province, and in ways that would be guaranteed. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, perhaps illustrated the difference between us on this matter (and I respect the careful and frank way in which he has addressed himself to this debate) by implying that he would be willing to consider imposing a solution. Indeed, legislation at Westminster would I think be implicit in the type of guaranteed representation he has in mind when he speaks of community Government. But the reason why my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is anxious to proceed so far as possible by this route of talks and discussion is that it is only in this way that agreement can be reached; and agreement is necessary as an objective, since it is only agreed solutions that will endure. It would be irresponsible to contemplate a patchwork job that would 944 result only in perpetuating the cycle of violence and tragedy which we have seen in Ireland for so long.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord, who is putting a very well argued case on this matter? Is it not seriously for consideration that if you cannot get agreement it may be worthwhile the Government's introducing, whether in Stormont or here, legislation along the lines of their proposals? It would be fair to argue, "If you will not talk to us, none the less this is the way we should go". There will be another Election in two or three years' time. Something has to be done. If I may make a further point: the noble Lord will remember the bitterness of the discussions— and I know that it is a different area— on the reform of the L.C.C. When the time came, despite the blood and thunder uttered from these Benches, all political Parties co-operated.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, there have been some discussions with political Party representatives, trade unions and others, from Northern Ireland. There have also been, as the noble Lord will know, negotiations over a period of some weeks now between the leaders of the Parties at Westminster to see whether, and on what terms, talks could be agreed upon. That is certainly our aim. The Home Secretary has made it quite clear, and said so in public, that nothing is ruled out; these talks would be open-ended. I believe that would cover the point the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has in mind.
Some noble Lords in the debate— the noble Earl, Lord Longford, was the first to do so— referred to the possibility of transferring responsibility for security to Westminster, either immediately to deal with the grave security situation with which we are faced, or as part of the long-term solution to the Northern Ireland problem. The Government. for their part, have taken the view that this may be one of the matters which could be examined in any talks that are held. It would not be right this evening to express a view one way or the other on what might then be decided. The proposal would raise very difficult issues. As the Home Secretary said in another place yesterday. transfer of all responsibility for security, quite apart from the 945 serious practical problems that would be involved, might be regarded by the Protestant community of Northern Ireland as tantamount to direct rule. This is one of the factors that would have to be kept in mind.
My noble friend Lord Carrington, when he spoke at the start of the debate, discussed at some length the question of possible unification; and he did so in the setting of those principles on which future changes should depend. I do not think that there is any necessity to repeat the argument again. Several noble Lords, not as many as I had expected, but the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was one, and the noble Earl. Lord Longford, another, spoke about the need for economic aid. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, also discussed financial subventions from this country to Northern Ireland, but in a somewhat different context. We must accept that ordinary life has to go on in Northern Ireland; respectable people have to earn a living, employment has to be preserved. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, spoke of the need to be ready to provide additional economic aid as soon as more settled conditions emerged. We have not been as patient as him; we have not waited for settled conditions to emerge. Additional aid has already been pumped into Northern Ireland on a large scale.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord again, but he has not quoted me correctly.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I apologise. Let me re-phrase my claim: I understood in the speeches of the two noble Lords that they were concerned that there should be economic aid on a generous scale —
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
—provided by the Government to Northern Ireland.
I should like to describe, very briefly and shortly, what measures have been taken. I do so because I have noticed that there is a tendency to talk in gener- 946 alities without sometimes taking the trouble to look at what is actually being done. One of the Government's first acts after the Election in 1970, was to approve an extensive development programme involving expenditure of an additional £75 million over five years. In November, 1971, followed an additional £1 million for industrial training; then another £2 million for accelerating investment grants. Harland &s Wolff, Ulster's largest employer of labour, with 10,000 workers, has received substantial support from public funds. Next came the review by Sir Alec Cairncross and his colleagues, whose report was published last December. Their recommendation to establish a finance corporation with resources of £50 million to offer loans or guarantees to companies with good prospects but which faced contraction or closure because of disturbances has already been accepted, and the United Kingdom Government have agreed to make available the necessary financial support. This will be coupled with an adlitional £18½ million public expenditure which should create 3,000 jobs.
In all, it has been calculated that these measures represent an additional £100 made available per head of population. That is of course over and above the normal subsidy from the United Kingdom taxpayer, which is well in excess of £100 million. Just before leaving this point I might follow what the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, said and recognise the admirable efforts made by the trade unions in Northern Ireland to keep politics out of industry. The employers also are playing a part. Indeed, I understand that the Confederation of British Industry are sending a purchasing mission to Northern Ireland this week.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, spoke about the police. It must have been a sad speech for him to make as the architect of the reorganised police force in Northern Ireland. He said in his speech, I think for the first time, that he accepted the need in present circumstances for the police to be armed. He asked me a number of questions about the personal protection of the members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and of their families. I can tell him that the R.U.C. are issued with suitable arms as necessary. Flack jackets are also issued. When the R.U.C. 947 go on hazardous duties they are accompanied by Army vehicles wherever possible. The police authority have considered whether to concentrate police families in guarded hotels, but have not pursued the matter because of practical difficulties. The police have themselves, however, voluntarily arranged patrols around the clock for the families who may be regarded as being at risk. The noble Lord also asked about recruitment. I understand that recruitment has not been seriously affected. As regards his question on morale, the R.U.C. are reacting with remarkable resilience in what are clearly very difficult circumstances.
My Lords, at the conclusion of this long debate I would offer your Lordships this thought: that it is facile to say that after last Sunday everything is different. It is not. What has happened underlines more vividly the need for analysis of the real nature of the crisis in Northern Ireland and for identifying and weighing up as calmly as possible all the main elements. This is not an emergency debate on Londonderry; it is an opportunity for deep consideration of the anguish which divides the people of Northern Ireland. Her Majesty's Government have a responsibility towards all the people of Northern Ireland, whatever their political and religious beliefs, and it is a responsibility that we intend to continue to discharge to the best of our ability. In this task we are helped by the concern and goodwill of all those who have given time and thought to the study of this grave situation; and it is in that spirit that I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for initiating the debate to-day.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, we have just listened to a delightful speech, as always, from the Minister. I should like to thank the many noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. Many of them have stayed, and if I do not mention all of them I know they will forgive me, because we have had two first-class winding-up speeches and noble Lords will not want me to cover all the ground again. It might be thought that as the Labour Party point of view has been put so strongly and authoritatively by my noble friends Lord Shackleton and Lord Beswick very few words from me 948 may be necessary. I hope that will prove to be true, but I must make one or two comments.
The noble Lord, the Minister, in his perceptive way, was kind enough to indicate that I had laid three main questions before him. I cannot pretend that he answered any of them, but at any rate he dealt with them and I shall say something about his method of doing so. There were many other important points raised to which I feel I should refer, if briefly, because I do not think they should be lost sight of, but I shall not try to follow them up. There was the question of a possible condominium. I am afraid that I missed the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, but I think that is something which should be carefully considered.
The noble Baroness, Lady White, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, were very much concerned with a possible revision of the frontier, which is something that has concerned me for a number of reasons, some based on my historical studies for many years. The father of the noble Baroness was of course a great expert on that problem in the 1920s. That is something which has to be looked at. I could not help noticing— this surprised me, and I am not sure whether it leads anywhere— that Mr. Craig, one of the leading Unionists in Northern Ireland although he is not now a Minister, suggested that possibly Derry or a large part of it might secede to the South. That was suggested by a leading Unionist yesterday. I am not putting it forward but it was rather noticeable that that suggestion came from that source.
There was also the suggestion floated by my noble friend Lord Shackleton and the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, and others who were interested of some kind of Minister for Northern Ireland. I shall not pursue that either, but one must at least refer to it at this late stage. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, was not by any means alone in saying that the time had come when the troops must come out. There is no doubt, without resorting to any kind of Gallup poll that there is a strong body of opinion in favour of that course. I do not want to be misunderstood; I am not standing here supporting that idea, but in referring to what was said in the course of the debate one 949 cannot help feeling that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, was not alone in his support for it.
Before sitting down, may I refer to the three particular points which I raised. There was the question of the transfer of security in that case and in the case of the community Government. I understood the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to say that the Government here (which matters for these purposes) could not be expected— I want to get this right— to make any progress with them, until they had been able to involve the minority in Northern Ireland in talks. I want to be quite sure that that is so. I think that would be a real counsel of despair. So long as internment lasts and so long as it continues as it is now, the noble Lord can take it from me or from Lord Brockway, or anyone who wishes to offer an opinion, that the representatives of the minority will not come into talks. Is the noble Lord saying, "All right; so much the worse for them. If there are no talks there can be no political progress"? If in April or May the whole situation is much worse, surely the noble Lord will not cone down to the House then in order to tell us that it was all the fault of the minority in Northern Ireland; that they would not engage in talks so one could not expect this poor old Government to produce an initiative of their own. It is quite contrary to an ordinary political or constitutional expectation. A Government do not ordinarily come forward and say, "We are sorry, we have not got a policy. We could not get the other people to talk to us so you could not expect us to have one ".
That is 'what the noble Lord has implied, and if it were really so, although I cannot believe that it is quite so, it would be a shocking answer. The noble Lord must understand that it is a totally insufficient answer to serious suggestions for him to suggest that it is all the fault of Mr. Hume or Mr. Fitt or Mr. Somebody who "will not come and talk to us" and then to add, "So you cannot expect us to do anything about it. We just fold 950 our hands and sleep on it until we go over the precipice". I want to say seriously to the noble Lord that I was very much depressed by that answer and he must not leave the House with the idea that he has satisfied anybody who was not already his convinced supporter.
On the question of a united Ireland, the noble Lord said that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, had gone as far as anyone might expect him to go to-day. In a sense, that is a more verbal matter. It was pressed very strongly, however, by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and also the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, feels keenly about it, and other speakers have come forward and called for a statement in favour of a united Ireland. Therefore it is a case where a verbal statement becomes a fact and the absence of a verbal statement becomes a negative fact, and a very damaging one too. To be quite honest, I am not so critical about the failure of the Government to say something in that respect. In a sense, I think it was natural that they should consider this debate and then consider what they could say about a united Ireland. I hope they will say something, because otherwise I cannot imagine any vestige of bi-partisanship remaining. The Labour Party has come out in favour of a united Ireland, and if the Conservative Party cannot say anything in favour of it at all then there is a complete breakdown of anything that could possibly be called bi-partisanship. However, I am not so critical there, because I think it is reasonable to see what the Government will say. But I am passionately critical of this Government when they say that they are not going to produce any political initiative until the opposition are ready to engage in talks. I cannot believe that is their real meaning. I hope profoundly that it is not so. My Lords, I have said enough for this evening. I am grateful to all the noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, and I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave,withdrawn.