Thursday, 18 October 1984
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. G. Collins: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he believes that representations made by officials of his Department on his behalf to the British authorities concerning a speech by the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Hurd, at a passing-out parade in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh were justified.
Mr. P. Barry: There were several positive elements in Mr. Hurd's speech of 3 October last notably on the principles and objectives he laid down for police behaviour and the relations between the police and the community. Nevertheless, the statement that the police in Northern Ireland enjoy increasing support among the public at large is a matter for concern. It runs counter to the information of the Government about the relationship between the police and the minority community, information that is based on the views and experience of responsible leaders of the minority who have themselves courageously and repeatedly condemned the use of violence for political ends. I believe the representations made on my behalf regarding that portion of the speech were justified but as I have pointed out there are many other parts of the speech which I found helpful.
Mr. G. Collins: Would the Minister agree with the Taoiseach's statement that the representations made by the Department of Foreign Affairs on the Minister's behalf were, in the Taoiseach's words, “over-hasty”? Will the Minister be making a protest to the British Embassy regarding the remarks by the British Prime Minister to the effect that democracy exists in Northern Ireland in the light of the statement made by him in Lahinch  on 25 August last that the real substance of democracy does not exist in Northern Ireland?
Mr. P. Barry: Part of the problem is that Irish politicians frequently look at things differently from British politicians regarding Northern Ireland and we have a different perception of what is going on there. When I commented on Mr. Hurd's speech, a point I repeated the following day, I said that the reports I am getting from responsible leaders who are anti-Provisional IRA and anti-violence, do not give me the same assessment of the view of the minority of the RUC as Mr. Hurd said in his speech. The same applies to many other statements by British politicians. As regards the point made by the Deputy, I think what the Taoiseach said was that he found many constructive parts in the speech but that he thought the view expressed concerning increasing support for the RUC was not correct. I think he would possibly have preferred that my Department, under my instructions, should have brought up the matter with the British Government and that we should have stressed equally the positive part of the speech as I did two days later, as well as the part with which I found fault.
Mr. G. Collins: Can the Minister say whether he agrees with the Taoiseach's remarks about the approach by his Department on his behalf, which was described by the Taoiseach as overhasty? Does the Minister accept the description of these comments and the actions of his Department?
Mr. P. Barry: I do not mind repeating myself. The Deputy must appreciate the difference between the two countries. Different emphasis is laid on different things. When I heard the speech by the  new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I felt that what he was saying about increasing support among all sections of the community for the police force in the North was not correct because it did not match the reports I am getting almost daily from very responsible leaders who are themselves very anti-Provisional IRA and anti-violence. They tell me that the sense of alienation by the minority in Northern Ireland from the security forces there is widening every day. When I heard that I indicated to the British Government that we could not agree with that section of the speech. I repeated that the following day, saying at the same time that I saw some positive things in what Mr. Hurd had to say. I welcomed his new approach and said I appreciated the fact that he had on open mind about many things. What the Taoiseach was saying in his broadcast on the Sunday of that week was that he would have liked me or my Department to stress the more positive elements which he definitely saw in Mr. Hurd's speech, but he also said he knew the point I was making. Increasing minority support for the RUC was not the information coming from his sources either. I do not think there was any great difference between the Taoiseach's position and mine.
Mr. Haughey: Would the Minister accept that on this side of the House there was some excuse for our being a little confused as to his attitude to matters of this sort when yesterday he was at great trouble to point out that he was not speaking as Peter Barry but as the Government? Today in reply to my colleague, Deputy Collins, he indicates that, unlike this side of the House, there is room for plenty of disagreement over there.
Mr. Haughey: The Chair will not abbreviate me. Would the Minister accept that on this side of the House we are dealing with a matter of Government, with the Minister for Foreign Affairs saying one thing and the Taoiseach another? Would he not accept that the Taoiseach said that his statement and his reaction were too hasty? The Minister is now attempting to say that the Taoiseach was concerned with balance, contrasting one part of Mr. Hurd's speech with another. Will the Minister reply specifically to the point that the Taoiseach said that his, the Minister's, reaction to the speech was too hasty? We fully agree with the Minister for Foreign Affairs that Mr. Hurd's interpretation of the situation is completely fallacious and that there is growing alienation. Could we know the Government's attitude? Do they agree with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, with whom we agree, that there is alienation, or do they agree with the Taoiseach in saying that the Minister for Foreign  Affairs reacted hastily and, by implication, in error?
Mr. P. Barry: I have given my explanation and understanding of the situation. I do not think there was any contradiction between the Taoiseach and me. The Taoiseach made the remark quoted by Deputy Haughey and added that one phrase in Mr. Hurd's speech did not reflect reality. This was the phrase which I brought to the attention of the British authorities. I said it did not reflect reality and was not in accordance with the information at my disposal.
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