It is not giving away any secret to say that when our party agreed on the wording of our amendment they did so with due regard to the seriousness of the situation, bearing in mind the fact that one day, perhaps not far distant, we could be charged with the responsibility of conducting the situation ourselves. The wording is deliberate and has been carefully prepared. We did have in mind that the Taoiseach might come up with some information which was not available to us and which might in some way justify the grave step he is taking, a step to suspend the safeguards of the Constitution, to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights and place the Government in a position to take drastic measures out of proportion to anything which has yet happened and, please God, anything that might happen in the future. The words "necessary and appropriate" are deliberate. We do not think the situation as of now demands this step.
Those who spoke already in the House and pointed out that we have had the same emergency legislation for a number of years must remeber that when Article 28 of the Constitution was invoked there was no question about the seriousness of the situation around us; nobody had any doubts about its gravity at that time. Indeed, the fact that the Taoiseach sets aside that particular implication of Article 28.3.3º is proof that he knew his position would be rather doubtful if he did not produce a new motion to cover a completely new set of circumstances, new cause and, in some way, justify the action being taken.
We were deliberate in the preparation of the amendment having in mind that an Opposition is not always appraised of all of the facts and of the seriousness of a situation, particularly in relation to security. The Taoiseach said nothing in his opening statement, nor did his Parliamentary Secretary who followed him give us any information that would seem in any way to justify this drastic action. Quite obviously the action is not justified; it is not in keeping with the requirements of the situation. If it could be shown that this action would in any way improve the security position as it has pertained over the last few years, and particularly in the last few months, then we might have some justification for it.
I do not want to repeat what others have said. The tragic events, two of which the Taoiseach referred to, would not be prevented, nor would the detection of those who perpetrated those foul deeds be made any easier by the drastic action proposed to be taken. There is ample legislation available to the Government. It has not been shown in any way that the failure of security in the past has been due to the lack of powers and that is a simple factual statement. On that basis we thought, and we are now more convinced, that this action should not have been taken at this time. It is showing us up in a poor light and it is giving the world a picture that is not in keeping with the situation. Our forces for the protection of law and order, if properly deployed and freed from any political stunting, are quite capable of dealing with any situation that is likely to arise now or in the future.
We should have second thoughts about what we are doing here. This is not a debate in which anyone should be other than sincere but as it has progressed the feeling has grown that it is merely a whitewash action, as it has been called in some press reports. That is more serious than anything inherent in the action the Taoiseach and the Government are taking. It would be very serious to give that tint to the action proposed now. We are not satisfied that the Taoiseach has given any good reason for taking an action that does not suit the situation; from the pragmatic point of view it is not suited to the situation as we see it. The overtones of this serious action are likely to be counter-productive and it is most likely to have an adverse effect on the situation, although I hope I am wrong. To my mind it somehow has the appearance of importing into this part of the country trouble that we have not had to any great extent, if we eliminate the few serious exceptional happenings.
If political motivation is attributed to this action it will nullify completely any effect it might have even from a whitewashing point of view. If those who are praising it in the foreign press and those who have been quick to commend it see as a result of this debate that it is merely a whitewashing effort it will have the opposite effect to what the Government might hope it would have.
To invoke Article 28 of the Constitution is a serious step and any Government would have to be reasonably sure that the circumstances warranted that action. Even in the circumstances of 1939, in the very serious situation that existed, when this small island was setting out to protect its neutrality against the might of powerful belligerents who would have been happy to occupy this country, and when we had a subversive organisation prepared to co-operate the necessity for revoking Article 28 of the Constitution was unquestionable, even in those very serious circumstances Members of the Opposition had some very grave statements to make about the step we were taking, about what would justify encroachment on the liberty of the individual and the action that a Government could take. These arguments are as valid today as they were then.
The Taoiseach has given us his word —which I am prepared to accept— that this suspension of the safeguards of the Constitution and our derogation from the Convention on Human Rights will not be used for anything other than what we are doing now. However, there is no guarantee, and none acceptable from the Government, that some situation could not be contrived where further more drastic action could be taken once the safeguards are gone. That is the situation in which we find ourselves.
One of the most essential ingredients for successful police activity is public co-operation, indeed co-operation at all levels. If there is a national emergency, one of the first requirements should be consultation with all parties in this House in order to get complete agreement, just as it is necessary for the police and defence forces to have the total co-operation of the vast majority of the people who are opposed to violence and what is taking place at present. I do not think everything is being done to bring about that co-operation.
We are all obliged to keep the law even in petty matters. I have seen many gardaí concentrated on the Border areas for the past number of years. Most of them are young people who do not know the local circumstances and have not the intimate knowledge of the village policeman. The gardaí spend most of their time in alienating public feeling by charging people for parking on double yellow lines, for not having proper tail-lights on their cars and so on. The courts are filled with petty actions in relation to motorists and for other minor offences. This is not calculated to get the co-operation of people in an area where that co-operation is most essential. It is perfectly obvious in relation to recent happenings that that co-operation is not available. It is amazing—there is no other word to describe it—that people could work for days preparing for the laying of a mine on a road on the borders of this city, could escape and not be detected. It is difficult to understand. There is a terrible lack of public co-operation somewhere here. Nothing we are doing in this emergency session will in any way improve that situation. In fact it can have the opposite effect.
This is not a debate for any stunting or point scoring. I do not believe we are doing a useful exercise here. We would be better on our holidays. Any action that is taken for the sake of scoring political points is worse than no action and I do not see the use of it. I will give an example. If I am driving into a town and there is a queue a mile long held up at a checkpoint and somebody tells me to take the side road if I want to by-pass the delay at the checkpoint, I can then drive along the side road. The fellow with the bomb coming in does the same thing. Therefore, what is the point of getting out of one's car, opening the boot and closing it again as one does coming in the gates of Leinster House? Is that not purely a perfunctory security measure? It is silly nonsense, degrading and disgusting. The wife of a friend of mine was blown to pieces in Derry last year. There was a bomb attached to a car but it was not in the boot. It was attached to the chassis underneath. It did not explode at the time it was intended to explode but went off when this woman went to her lunch. I am sure bombs are not placed in boots of cars.
We would be better without any precaution rather than the perfunctory type we have. If somebody wishes to have something conveyed into this House that person knows the type of pretentious security which is operated. The same applies to a checkpoint on a main road when the by-roads are open and the checkpoint can be bypassed. The people in charge of security should go into those details and the ostentatious security should be removed. We should get down to real security.
What about the vigilante force we heard talk about some time ago? I thought that was a step in the right direction but it seems to be as dead as a dodo. Those who are responsible for the crimes and terror taking place are better aware than we are of the methods adopted. A lot needs to be done before we get down to the serious problem of declaring a national emergency.
It is disgusting to find the number of people who give support in some form to violence in the false belief that this will lead to the unification of the country. The vast majority of the people dearly yearn for unification but they do not believe in bringing it about by violence. Those people abhor the methods used at the moment by some people in the name of unification. They realise that those methods are devisive and will delay the day when unification must inevitably come.
Many people, particularly young people, are becoming frustrated and believe that there is no other way of obtaining unity than by violence. This is because political action in relation to unity is not pursued with conviction. The Government appear to have abandoned any desire for unification. This is causing frustration in the minds of people. The people have lost any faith in political action. I hoped the Government would assert their determination to work towards the unification of the country but I am convinced that they have abandoned any idea of ever bringing that about. The last major speech the Taoiseach made in the House was on 30th June on the Adjournment Debate. His sole reference to Northern Ireland was when he said that it was unnecessary to go into it because he had already dealt with it in a lengthy speech in the House of Representatives in Washington. When we read the speech he made in Washington we find that he deals extensively with the problem of support coming to subversives from the United States but his only reference to the fundamental problem is when he said: "We have the aspiration of unity in our island". Everybody does not think like the Government do. The Government are under a misapprehension if they think they can eradicate totally the aspirations of patriotism and nationalism of the Irish people. Deputy Cruise-O'Brien works assiduously towards this end but he will not succeed.