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Tuesday, 28 February 1984
Page: 107

(Question No. 599)

Senator Jones asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 14 December 1983:

(1) What is the Australian Government's attitude to the continuing British military presence in Ulster.

(2) Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs discussed the Ulster question with the British Government or its representatives since 5 March 1983; if so, can he indicate whether Britain is likely to consider a timetable for withdrawal of its forces from Northern Ireland in the near future.

(3) Would the Australian Government be prepared to sponsor a motion in the United Nations enabling a UN peacekeeping force to relieve British forces of their responsibilities in Northern Ireland until a solution to the crisis can be found.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The Government's policy on Northern Ireland is based on a genuine concern at the continuing tragedy of the province and at the same time upon a dispassionate assessment of the situation itself and of those parties most directly and legitimately concerned-the local people and the British Government.

The Government's view is that the situation in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the British Government-for historical, political and social reasons. It follows that a lasting solution to the Northern Ireland problem is a matter for the Northern Irish people and the British Government to resolve. This is not to deny that the Irish Government has a special interest in developments in the North.

While it would not be appropriate for Australia to seek to play an active role in this situation, it is the Government's strong hope that there should be recognition of, and reconciliation between, the interests of both political traditions in the North. The Government also, of course, condemns all acts of terrorist violence, which are not only repugnant in themselves but can only impede progress towards a solution.

(2) No.

(3) Sponsorship of such a motion would not be consistent with the policy enunciated under (1) above.