UK and Northern Ireland joint communiqué of 30 August 1969
During his visit to Belfast the Home Secretary, Mr. James Callaghan, was invited to attend two meetings with the Northern Ireland Cabinet on August 27 and 29; at the second meeting the Home Secretary was accompanied by the Minister of State, Home Office, Lord Stonham. Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have reaffirmed the pledges previously given that Northern Ireland will remain a part of the United Kingdom as long as its Parliament and people so wish, and have assured the Northern Ireland Government that this position is unaffected by recent events.
The Home Secretary noted two measures already taken as being of particular importance in the restoration of confidence: the establishment in pursuance of resolutions by the Northern Ireland Parliament of a tribunal of inquiry under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Scarman to inquire into the recent grave disorders; and by the Northern Ireland Government of an advisory board, under the chairmanship of Lord Hunt to examine the recruitment, organization, structure and composition of the R.U.C. (Royal Ulster Constabulary) and U.S.C. (Ulster Special Constabulary) and their respective functions; and to recommend, as necessary, what changes are required to provide for the efficient enforcement of law and order in Northern Ireland.
The necessity for an early report was emphasized on both sides. The Northern Ireland Ministers reported to the Home Secretary on the progress being made with the reforms already announced. They informed him that in addition to legislation already passed to establish a parliamentary commissioner in Northern Ireland they intend to introduce legislation to establish machinery for the investigation of citizens' grievances against local authority or other public authorities. This legislation would embody, as an ultimate sanction, provision for remedies in the courts. Reshaping of reforms they explained that the points scheme for the allocation of local authority houses was now in operation in all local authority areas pending consideration by the Minister of Development of the comments of particular authorities on the application of such schemes in their areas. Thereafter the Minister would approve permanent schemes only if they were based on this principle.
Attention was drawn to the Northern Ireland Governments White Paper on reshaping of local government reforms published in July which embodied firm proposals for the designation by an independent body of the electoral divisions within the new local government areas. The latter proposal will be implemented by legislation this session. The Home Secretary also noted the Northern Ireland Government's decision to introduce legislation to set up a community relations board to promote good relations between all sections of the community. Half the members of the board would be Protestant and half Roman Catholic.
Recognizing as they do the need to maintain the momentum of reform, Northern Ireland. Ministers intend to consider the accelerated recall of Parliament to press on with measures which are now being prepared, with a view to their early enactment. The Northern Ireland Ministers informed the Home Secretary that apart from four persons who were being charged with criminal offences as detainees had been released. In their discussions Ministers had very much in mind the affirmations in paragraph 6 of the joint declaration made at Downing Street on August 19 of the entitlement of every citizen of Northern Ireland to the same equality of treatment and freedom from discrimination as obtains in the rest of the United Kingdom, irrespective of political views or religion.
It has been. agreed that effective action in the following fields is fundamental to the creation of confidence: 1. Equality of opportunity for all in public employment, without regard to religious or political considerations. 2. Protection against the incitement of hatred against any citizen on the grounds of religious belief. 3. Guaranteed fairness in the allocation of public authority housing, with need, assessed by objective criteria, as the only relevant yardstick. 4. Effective means not only for the investigation of grievances against public bodies but their ultimate redress if conciliation and other procedures are ineffective. 5. Proper representation of minorities to be assured at the elected level of government by completely fair electoral laws practices and boundaries, and at nominated or appointed level by recognition that such minorities have a right to an effective voice in affairs.
Joint working parties The Government of Northern Ireland have accordingly sought the cooperation of the Home Secretary in setting up joint working parties of officials of the two governments to examine the extent to which the Government of Northern Ireland's present practice or pledged commitments adequately ensure:- 1. The fair allocation of houses by public authorities; 2 the avoidance of any discrimination in any form of public employment; and 3. the promotion of good community relations by methods including the prohibition of incitement to religious hatred: And to report to the Government of Northern Ireland within a matter of weeks.
To mark the great importance he attaches to the promotion of good community relations the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland has intimated his intention to designate a Minister with special responsibility for that subject. At the request of the Northern Ireland Government a mission of representatives from the United Kingdom departments concerned with economic and social affairs (including the Ministry of Technology. the Board of Trade and the Department of Economic Affairs) will visit Northern Ireland at a very early date to assess the economic and industrial prospects in the light of recent events The Home Secretary assured Northern Ireland Ministers of the readiness of himself and his colleagues to help in any way possible in any steps that would lead to a better life for the whole community in Northern Ireland, and to an elimination of root causes of many of the grievances which have been expressed.
The Home Secretary joined with the Northern Ireland Cabinet in appealing to all citizens of Northern Ireland to use their influence to restore harmony between all sections of the community in the interests and well being and prosperity of the province. The Home Secretary said that speedy implementation of the reforms already announced and actions following the further study would go far to restore confidence and deserved a cooperative response from all sections of the community in Northern Ireland.
The Home Secretary readily accepted the invitation of the Northern Ireland Cabinet to pay another visit to Belfast in mid-October for discussion of the conclusions reached by the working parties and of the action to be taken as a result of the report "1 the advisory body on the police. The Home Secretary informed the Northern Ireland Cabinet that the United Kingdom Government had agreed to make a grant of £250.000 in order to relieve the present distress in Northern Ireland. It will be used: (a) to relieve the immediate distress of individuals by providing clothing, food. medical care and essential furniture (e.g. beds, bedding and cooking utensils); (b) to spread the money as far as possible to satisfy the most urgent needs; and (c) to provide a small cash grant where provision in kind is not appropriate. The grant will take the form of a contribution to the Ulster Innocent Victims Appeal Fund.