Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 11 Mar 1981

Vol. 327 No. 8

Defence Policy: Motion.

I move: That Dáil Éireann confirms the principles which have guided the defence policy of the Government and their predecessors.

I welcome the opportunity provided by this debate to restate the principles that have guided and continue to guide the defence policy of this and previous Fianna Fáil Governments.

At the outset, I wish to state unequivocally that the Government are not discussing or negotiating any kind of secret agreement on defence with Britain or with any other country or group of countries. As far as this Government are concerned, any major change in Ireland's defence policy would have to be, in accordance with the Constitution, the subject of the fullest public debate, both inside and outside the Dáil. But this is not an issue at the present time, nor would we lightly give up the very considerable advantages our present defence policy has, not only for ourselves, but, I believe, in a number of respects for our friends and partners in the Western world.

The deep attachment of the majority of the people of this country to this policy arises out of our own particular historical experience. The Government see it as their duty and responsibility to ensure that the policy is clearly and realistically stated, having regard to changing circumstances and the international environment. If at any time some modification in the policy seemed to be required in the overall national interest, then it would be the Government's duty in a matter of such high importance to put the position fully before the people and their representatives prior to any decision being taken.

Our overriding objective is and has always been to establish firmly and to maintain Irish sovereignty and independence and to preserve the safety of our people. Article 1 of our Constitution affirms the Irish nation's sovereign right to choose its own form of Government and to determine its relations with other nations, and to develop its political, economic and social life in accordance with its own genius and traditions. That is the basis of our foreign and defence policy; that is the rock on which we stand. In every policy of Government, in every aspect of our policy, our guiding principle is the national interest, the sovereignty, welfare and security of the people of Ireland and their right to decide their attitudes and courses of action as defined in the widest possible sense. The provisions of the Constitution, in so far as international relations are concerned, are expanded by Article 29, which states that Ireland affirms its devotion to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation among nations.

Other provisions of that Article specifically require that every international agreement, other than those of a technical or administrative character, to which the State becomes a party shall be laid before Dáil Éireann. That requirement would clearly relate to any pact or treaty on defence.

In the formulation of defence policy every country has to take some account of the situation, the attitude and the interests of its closest neighbours. In our case this is particularly so in regard to Britain.

We have always recognised Britain's legitimate concern that her western flank should be secure. As far back as 1921, Eamon de Valera stated quite clearly that we would provide for our own defence, that we would guarantee to repel by force any foreign power, and that we would allow no outside nation to use Ireland as a base for attack on Britain. That policy clearly enunciated many times by Eamon de Valera is still our policy. Britain and ourselves are destined to live as neighbours. The two countries have, as Eamon de Valera said, more interests in common than they have with other nations. There is, in the words of the Joint Communique issued after my meeting with the British Prime Minister last May, a unique relationship between us; and it is in the interest of the people of both countries that we should seek a solution to our outstanding problems in that context.

I believe there would be general agreement on the proposition that one of the really important contributions that could be made in the circumstances of today to the security of these islands and indeed of Western Europe as a whole would be a lasting peaceful, political solution to the problem of Northern Ireland.

A peaceful friendly Ireland would be of significant strategic value to Britain and Europe. The Northern Ireland situation requires a peaceful solution principally on the grounds of ordinary, humanitarian considerations. The people of the six counties of Northern Ireland are entitled to live in peace and security and in the better economic and social conditions which peace will bring.

It is also true, however, that in a world in which the threat of war looms and recedes, a solution to the situation in Northern Ireland becomes increasingly urgent. When a satisfactory political solution is arrived at, we would of course have to review what would be the most appropriate defence arrangements for the island as a whole. It would be unrealistic and improvident not to do so. It would also be mandatory that any such arrangements would require the full authority of the Irish people deciding on them as a specific issue.

I want to assure the Dáil that we are not under any pressure from any quarter to join NATO. On the issue as to whether or not we would ever contemplate doing so, I believe I can do no better than quote what Seán Lemass said on this question.

`There is no possibility that this or any other Irish Government would give an undertaking, in any circumstances, which would impede in any degree the fulfillment of the National will to restore the territorial unity of Ireland. (Dáil Official Report, Vol. 193, No. 1, Col. 11, 14 February 1962).

That is still our position.

I want to clearly re-affirm, however, that these are matters for the future. They are not at present under discussion. Our pre-occupation at present is with the political and security problems of Northern Ireland.

The question of our neutrality also arises in another context, our membership of the European Community. Let us be clear about one thing. This country stands for certain values, enshrined in the Constitution. Our place is with the Western democracies, and we share common concepts of human rights, freedom under the law, individual liberty and freedom of conscience. Our economic interests also are tied in with the Western industralised world. We are, therefore, neither ideologically neutral nor politically indifferent.

On the other hand, we are not a member of any military alliance. The European Community is not a military organisation or alliance. The Community does not have a common defence policy. Nevertheless, we have always accepted and said publicly as far back as 1970 that a new political entity within the Community could develop out of the process of integration to which we are committed and which was endorsed by our people in a referendum. As head of the then Fianna Fáil Government, Jack Lynch said in 1969: "Being members of that Community, we would naturally be interested in the defence of the territories embraced by the Communities. There is no question of neutrality there", (Dáil Debates, 23 July 1969, Vol. 241, No. 8, Col. 1157).

In the event, therefore, of the European States being organised into a full political union, we would accept the obligations, even if these included defence. We could not, and would not, wish to opt out of the obligations and aims inherent in the achievement of the ideal of European unity.

In thinking about our defence policies, we should not resort either to emotionalism or ideology but rather should we calmly and realistically consider every aspect from the point of view of our own fundamental interests. The security interests of other countries may be best served by membership of military alliances. Ours at present are best served by a policy of military neutrality.

We know from past experience that the position of a non-combatant country in time of war is a far from comfortable one. Our primary obligation, in such a situation, both from our own point of view and that of our friends, given our strategic position in the North Atlantic, would be to protect and defend ourselves and this island. We do not wish to become a cause of concern or danger to others.

While it is not profitable to speculate about an unpredictable future, I do not think we should be unduly apprehensive about alleged plans involving attacks on, or seizure of, parts of Ireland in time of war. We can be certain that in the thinking of a number of the great military powers, there are plans for all contingencies. The military mind apparently seeks to encompass and plan for every possible eventuality, no matter how improbable some of them may be.

The possible existence of such contingency plans as well as the appalling destructive capacity of modern weapons point clearly the path we should follow. They underline the urgent need on our part by every political and diplomatic means at our disposal to work on the international scene to secure a reduction in armaments and to promote the cause of peace. It is in our own self-interest that we do not shirk our responsibilities in seeking to promote world peace and security.

Our record to date is an honourable one. We have been at the forefront of those who proposed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and we have always argued forcefully for comprehensive disarmament. In addition, we have consistently taken up responsible positions on world issues designed to reduce tensions and to solve problems which, left as they are, constitute a serious danger to world peace.

As members of the UN Security Council we are involved in searching for urgent solutions to world conflicts, wherever they may arise. We have always supported the peacekeeping efforts of the United Nations, and an Irish officer at present commands the UNIFIL contingent in the Lebanon. Our role and contribution in these operations, which is out of all proportion to our size and population, and which is welcomed and appreciated by our friends and partners, might well be compromised if we were to become members of any particular military alliance.

Our political commitment to Europe and the western democracies, our military commitment to the UN are the principal determinants of the policy that the Irish Government have followed and will continue to follow.

Defence policies are expensive. It is a matter for continuing judgment how best we can meet our essential needs within the limits imposed. As a developing economy the amount of resources we can provide for our defence must necessarily be limited. What is certain is that in our circumstances there is no scope for military status symbols. What we need rather is a commonsense, hard-headed, realistic approach to the basic requirements we have to meet.

I now invite the House and the country to consider the attitude of the principal Opposition party. Fine Gael, to these issues as revealed by the statements of three of their principal spokesmen. Deputy Garret FitzGerald, Deputy Richie Ryan and Deputy John Kelly. I turn first to Deputy FitzGerald. He is quoted in The Irish Times of 8 February 1980, as saying:

There really isn't such a thing as neutrality today: we are part of Western Europe and our interests coincide with theirs. Our non-membership of NATO can be useful if we use it properly but we have to face situations like this positively and not dodge them.

Now hear Deputy Richie Ryan, the official party spokesman on foreign affairs. He said on 8 January 1981:

If pressure is being applied on us by anybody to alter our neutral status we should be told clearly who is doing it so that we can roundly say no.

Next we have Deputy John Kelly. He not alone repudiates any policy of neutrality today but he also condemns any such policy which was adopted in the past. He furthermore, apparently, believes that we should join NATO. He said on October 7 1978 that the policy of neutrality did not have "respectable antecedents" and that "if the rest or most of the rest of the free western world is already taking part in a defensive alliance, then self-respect, if nothing else, should require us to review our supposed policy of neutrality". (The Irish Times, 20 October 1978).

If anyone can construct a coherent defence policy out of these three separate and clearly conflicting attitudes I would be greatly interested in seeing it elaborated.

I think we are all agreed that Ireland's defence policy is a matter of key national importance. On our side of the House we have a clear and consistent policy adapted to our circumstances and in keeping with our traditions and behind which we are united. In the main Opposition party diametrically opposing views are explicitly expressed by at least three front bench spokesmen.

It is this confusion, I think, which causes them to seek refuge in this unprecedented "no mention" amendment. When before has any parliamentary assembly in the western world been asked to vote on nothing more substantial than whether a particular topic was mentioned or not mentioned.

The Labour party amendment at least has the virtue of being couched in recognisable parliamentary terms. Because it speaks, however, simply of "neutrality in international affairs" it cannot for the reasons I have outlined be accepted by the Government. Political neutrality or non-alignment is incompatible with our membership of the European Community, and with our interests and our ideals, as I have already explained. Neutrality, in the sense of not trying to reach common political positions with our European partners, is not a course which the Government could adopt nor would it, we believe, recommend itself to any substantial section of the general public. We can and of course do influence those common positions, so that they reflect our views. And we can, and do, express these views independently if we choose or if we have to.

We have a clearly defined national policy on defence. Our position in international affairs is equally clear and leaves no room for ambiguity and doubt. So, too, is our stand in pursuit of the aspiration of a united Ireland. This Government will not be deflected from calmly and firmly pursuing the policies which we are convinced are the right policies for our country and for all her people.

The studies on which the two Governments are embarked pose no threat to anybody. The subjects of those studies are set out in the communiqué debated in this House on 11 December 1980. The studies, which must for the present remain confidential if they are to be worth while and productive, do not represent decisions. They represent a process of exploration by experienced officials of the ground to be covered and when they are completed they will be submitted to the British Prime Minister and myself for whatever political decisions we may be in a position to take.

A way forward must be found. There is no section of the population on this island that can benefit from a perpetuation of the present situation. In our view progress can be made by the two sovereign Governments acting in concert and re-examining all aspects of their relationships. Let me give this final assurance. No matter what the circumstances nothing will ever be done by this Government that would jeopardise or prejudice the safety of our people, the security of the State, the independence and sovereignty of the nation, or the eventual unity of Ireland in peace and harmony.

There are three amendments to the motion. Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 propose to delete the same words in the motion and these two amendments may be moved. Amendment No. 3 will be discussed with the motion and other amendments and may be moved at the end. I am calling Deputy Cluskey to move amendment No. 1.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:

"Dáil Éireann reaffirms the principle of the neutrality of Ireland in international affairs and declares that our foreign and defence policies will continue to be based on this principle".

I move the amendment tabled in the name of all Labour Deputies in the House. In doing so, I wish to say that I consider this debate to be one of the most important we have had, or will have, during the lifetime of this Dáil. It is concerned with matters of fundamental importance which demand clear statements of position from all of us who contribute to it.

I wish to begin my remarks by outlining briefly the long tradition of Labour Party commitment to neutrality. I do so to indicate that what we in this party say during this debate in support of our amendment is not a passing whim and our position does not arise from a set of circumstances particular to the present time.

In 1914, James Connolly, founder of our party, became President of the Irish Neutrality League which was founded "for the purpose of defining Ireland's attitude towards the Anglo-German War as one of neutrality." He, and the party following his death, sustained that position throughout the First World War.

Again in 1919, at the International Labour Conference in Berne during which this country gained international recognition as a separate entity for the first time, Cathal O Shannon and Tom Johnson re-echoed Labour's position of neutrality.

In 1928, at the Second Conference of Labour Parties and Trade Unions from Commonwealth countries, my predecessor, Tom Johnson, stated our position unequivocally for the first time since national independence. He said then "it is not unreasonable to fear that Great Britain may again become involved in wars as to which none of the Dominions has any direct interest or responsibility. In the case of such an event it would seem unquestionable that some, at least, of the other states forming the British commonwealth would desire to be acknowledged as free from responsibility and immune from attack, so far as international law can secure immunity, unless they committed a belligerent act, or so long as they maintained neutrality." Later in the same year, Johnson again advocated the message of neutrality at the Conference of Inter-Parliamentary Union in Washington.

Many times during the 1930s and, of course, during the Second World War, Labour leaders reaffirmed their belief in neutrality. In 1941, for example, the then Chairman of our party, Michael Keyes, said that "as a neutral country we have no war aims to declare. But neutrality itself is an important aim. It has been the aim of the Labour Party from its inception. We proclaimed it in Dáil Éireann, in party conferences and in election manifestos — we proclaimed it when others who applaud it today were discussing the conditions under which the country might participate in a European War."

For us in this party, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, it is clear from what I have said that our commitment to neutrality is deep and abiding and cannot be seen as a pragmatic response to any given set of events or conditions which existed at given moments in the past or which exist today.

While the Labour Party's commitment to neutrality began earlier and is deeper than is the case with the other parties in this House, it is nonetheless true that there is a strong national tradition on the subject. Time does not permit me to deal with the matter comprehensively.

It is sometimes asserted that the national tradition of neutrality is essentially a pragmatic one, which derived either from our desire to stay out of the Second World War or from our desire to use neutrality as a bargaining ploy to end partition either at that time or subsequently.

This is not the case. Since the foundation of the State there has been a commitment in principle to neutrality by successive governments which was expressed with greater or lesser degrees of clarity at different times.

In 1927, in a debate on the Defence Force Bill in Dáil Éireann, Kevin O'Higgins, a member of the Free State Government, said that neutrality is "a consummation devoutly to be wished". He said this in response to questions from Tom Johnson. It is important to note that this position was set out by the legislature before Mr. de Valera entered the Dáil, indicating that the tradition of this House's commitment to neutrality did not derive from him, although he clearly continued and developed it.

Indeed, in his first contribution on external affairs in Dáil Éireann in 1927, Mr. de Valera complained that the desire for neutrality had not been made sufficiently explicit. He wanted it to be made clear that "if there were to be another Imperial War ... it is the wish of the Irish people to be neutral in that war". This assertion on his part had nothing to do with partition — it derived solely from a conviction concerning the principle of neutrality and its value to us as an independent, small nation.

Later, in 1936, Mr. de Valera again spoke on neutrality, but this time from the perspective of a wider experience. Following the collapse of the League of Nations, in which body he had played a prominent part, he again reaffirmed his commitment to neutrality. In Dáil Éireann in that year, he said "The small states of Europe have begun to look to their own defence ... we want to be neutral". That remained the objective of his policy into the future as it had been prior to that date. It was stated clearly and unequivocally before the issues of neutrality and partition became linked from 1938 onwards.

The strength of our commitment to neutrality became even more obvious in the immediate post-war period. The first Inter-Party Government, when faced with the choice, refused to join NATO. Although the reason for their refusal was the British occupation of Northern Ireland, this explanation must be seen as no more than an easy excuse which reflected the anti-partitionist mood of the people at the time. The fact is that no Irish Government, even if it wished to do so could have brought Ireland into NATO at the time, such was the commitment to neutrality and independence in international affairs felt by the vast majority of the population.

The fact that this was so can be seen by the tremendous groundswell of popular support for Ireland's role in the United Nations from 1957 onwards. Our value to the United Nations during the decade following that year was based on our willingness to exercise independent judgments on matters of substantial international importance. The national pride which was engendered during that period followed directly from the fact that we had, and were seen to have, an independent posture which gave us an international stature far greater than our size or economic prosperity could reasonably warrant.

During the period 1957 to 1961, in particular, the Irish Government, through Mr. Aiken, exercised outstanding influence in the United Nations simply and solely because they developed policies and positions independently of the two power blocs and based largely on a moral perception of what was required to maintain order and peace in the world. During those years, Ireland was active in pursuit of the great goals of mankind — the reduction of cold war tensions, military disengagement in Central Europe, nuclear non-proliferation and Chinese participation in the United Nations itself.

It is true that this period of "independent" high-profile action did not last for as long as it should. It is also true, however, that it had the support of the vast majority of people in this country and that it gave us an international credibility which we would not otherwise have had. The important point, for this debate, is that it happened and it happened because we chose then, if not since, to base our foreign policy firmly and confidently on our traditional neutrality.

It is true that at roughly the same time that Ireland's "independent" policy in the United Nations was drawing to a close, Mr. Lemass was beginning to think in terms of an integrated European foreign and defence policy. His motivation was primarily economic — that is to say, he felt that if the price of entry to the EEC with its economic benefits, as he saw it, was a watering-down of neutrality, then so be it. Nonetheless the fact remains that Mr. Lemass never found it possible to say bluntly that Irish neutrality was negotiable. Nor did his successor, Deputy Lynch. They both recognised that the strength of feeling domestically in favour of neutrality was such that it could not be shaken, no matter how great their personal popularity might be. We have had to wait until today for a head of government who feels that he can throw away our neutrality, as if it were just one more commodity which is expendable on the altar of short-term expediency.

The tendency to seek ways to slip away from our traditional stance on neutrality which has been evident since the mid-1960's arises, I believe, from a shift in the orientation of foreign policy away from the international arena towards the European Community. There is clearly no reason why membership of the European Community should affect our foreign policy if we do not wish it to do so, but clearly there is now a tendency to allow ourselves to be drawn into discussion of common foreign and defence policies, particularly during European summit meetings.

Recent reports that An Taoiseach, not only sat through a discussion of heads of government on a common European defence policy, but also failed to make a case for the neutralist position, are very disturbing. I know it is easy for the head of government of a small, relatively powerless, state such as ours to feel important in the company of more powerful leaders as they discuss common defence systems, cruise missiles and so on. But it is not his business to acquiesce in discussion of these matters when he has no mandate to do so. Our entry to the European Community imposed no obligations on us to become involved in multilateral defence pacts or to abandon our traditional foreign policy. The Government made this clear at the time, when it was stated by them that EEC membership imposed no foreign policy obligations on us under the terms of the Treaty of Rome.

When this was raised by the Labour Party in the referendum on our entry into the EEC Fianna Fáil, then in government, brought out a special leaflet on the subject assuring the Irish people that there was no obligation as far as foreign policy or defence policy was concerned. Are we to take that clear, unequivocal statement by the Fianna Fáil Government at that time as being a guide to the clear, unequivocal statement we have heard from the head of a Fianna Fáil Government here today?

We now find the Taoiseach privately discussing the abandonment of neutrality at European summits. Who gave him the authority to do so? What is he saying to Mrs. Thatcher and President Giscard d'Estaing in our name?

Let me spell out what he seems to be prepared to abandon. A policy of neutrality in the modern world does not amount simply to an assertion that one wishes to avoid being drawn into war and, therefore, wishes simply to remain independent of the two main power blocs. It is both of these things, but is more. In the nuclear age, no country can be passively neutral with credibility. We cannot stand aside from the world, declaring our neutrality, and hoping that the nuclear dust will not fall on us when London is hit, nor can we believe that declaring our neutrality will save us from invasion, if someone wishes to invade us. In the event of war, whether our neutrality is respected or not will have little to do with us and everything to do with the strategic requirements of the belligerents.

The value of neutrality, to us and to the world, lies in preventing war not in escaping from it. At a time of high tension in the world, at a time of growing instability and the breakdown of détente, there is a need for more independent voices, not less. As the two power blocs face up to each other with growing fear and distrust what is required of small nations is not that they take sides but that they stand up for humanity between the belligerents.

When Labour today seek to reaffirm our neutrality, therefore, we are not saying that we should close our eyes to the outside world and withdraw into a neutralist cocoon. Rather we are saying that we should go out into the international arena with positive proposals for peace, with positive opposition to those who interfere with the rights of sovereign states, and with a commitment to work with other neutral or non-aligned nations in favour of a world order which might offer the prospect of avoiding mass, global destruction.

Our concept of neutrality policy is one based on active intervention in international affairs from a position of independence and moral strength. With it we would seek, with other states of similar views, to mediate between the great power blocs in the interest of peace, détente and disarmament. Our standing in the international political arena, which even today is far greater than our GNP alone would warrant, derives from earlier demonstrations of that independence of mind demonstrated mainly by Mr. de Valera as President of the League of Nations and by Mr. Aiken in the United Nations between 1957-61.

We can build on that reputation again if we wish to do so in the years ahead, by once again demonstrating that Ireland has an independent foreign and defence policy, that we decide on each issue as it arises on the basis of a moral perception of the world, and that we are not merely a rubber stamp endorsing the foreign policy of others.

It now appears that the Government are prepared to consider forming a defence pact with Britain in the course of the current London-Dublin talks. Certainly suggestions to this effect have not been denied by the Government side, despite repeated questions on the subject. The Minister for Foreign Affairs indeed has indicated that the matter is very much on the agenda.

I wish to say this to the Government. They must not fall into the trap of trading our neutrality for some imagined settlement of the Northern problem. Mr. de Valera avoided the trap in 1941 and it would be a profound tragedy and mistake if the Taoiseach fell into it now.

There are one or two questions which arose in the Taoiseach's speech. I have mentioned one which I would like to mention again and re-inforce it. It comes clearly from the Taoiseach's speech that as far as neutrality is concerned it is not a matter of principle in the eyes of the Government, that it can be bargained away if, again in the view of the Government, certain advantages might appear to accrue to the nation. It is now being implied, if not actually stated, that our membership of the EEC imposes some obligation on us with regard to both foreign policy and defence policy and that at some future date the Government would be prepared to abandon our neutrality within the EEC context. That is one aspect of it.

This issue was raised during the referendum and because of the strength of feeling and commitment by the ordinary people of the country to our tradition of neutrality the Fianna Fáil Government at that time issued a special leaflet, without any reservation whatsoever, assuring the Irish people that our entry to the EEC would not in the slightest have any implication as far as our defence or our foreign policy attitudes were concerned. Nowhere in the Treaty of Rome are either of those two issues mentioned. If the Government wish to abandon our neutrality so far as foreign policy is concerned, should they not be obliged to have another referendum regarding our membership of the EEC?

At the beginning of his speech the Taoiseach said:

I wish to state unequivocally that the Government are not discussing or negotiating any kind of secret agreement on defence with Britain or with any other country or group of countries.

What is the significance of the word "secret" in this context?

Hear, hear.

Would the Taoiseach elaborate on the use of this word in this way? Is he prepared to tell us, without any qualification whatever, if there has been or if there will be discussion at any level — prime ministerial, ministerial or civil service level — which would involve an abandonment of our neutral position and/or or a military pact with Great Britain or with any other foreign power?

After the famous meeting I pointed out here what I believed had taken place on that occasion: that was that so far as the constitutional position of Northern Ireland was concerned, there may have been a reference to it, but no serious discussion of it. We were told repeatedly from the other side of the House that the meeting was historic. What was implied was that a major breakthrough had been made on the question of the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. There was no strong denial from Great Britian in this regard. So far as internal security and Border security were concerned I believed that the British Government had been very relieved as a result of the attitude of the Taoiseach, that they found him extremely co-operative. Before he became Taoiseach he made noises about fly-overs, about military presence and so on but there was no further reference by him to these matters after he became Taoiseach. The British Government have no wish to upset him, that is, so long as they do not have to pay a price for his co-operation.

When the Taoiseach was making party political capital out of the constitutional position of Northern Ireland, Mrs. Thatcher was prepared to remain quiet but then she began to realise that there was a cost involved for her. Anybody with any brains would have realised that the Protestant population in Northern Ireland would have become frightened and, consequently, a golden opportunity was provided for one of the greatest bigots that this century has known, Mr. Paisley, to stir up the Protestant people and frighten them. It was then that Mrs. Thatcher began to realise that there was a political price to pay and she said quite unequivocally that the talks did not include the constitutional position. While appearing with me on the "Today Tonight" programme on television, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said that there was no question of defence being discussed and there was raised again the smokescreen of institutional positions.

The Government cannot have it both ways. The area in question is much too dangerous for that. We are not talking about a vote-catching exercise but about people being killed. Either everything is on the table for discussion, and that includes the constitutional position of the North as well as our neutrality, or everything is not on the table which would mean that there have been certain exclusions. If there are exclusions, one of them must be the constitutional position, but is our neutrality one of the other exclusions? The people are entitled to know what is included and what is excluded. In particular, our fellow Irishmen and women in Northern Ireland are entitled to this information. Otherwise, Mr. Paisley will continue to go on his rampage all over the place, thereby causing more death and destruction. The Taoiseach has created a time bomb. Let him diffuse it now without any regard for electoral advantage. We are prepared to forfeit any such advantage on our part. Let the Taoiseach do the same. The issue we are talking about is one of human life. I do not believe that the constitutional position is under discussion but it suits the Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil to be somewhat ambiguous in this respect. We must know what is meant by the word "secret" as used in the Taoiseach's speech.

The Deputy may delete the word if he wishes.

It is for the Taoiseach to delete it.

That was the accusation made.

That is not so.

I am here to expose the words used by the Taoiseach, not to delete them.

The Taoiseach made his own speech and that included the word "secret".

Later in the Taoiseach's speech he said in regard to the studies being embarked on that:

The subjects of those studies are set out in the communique debated in this House on 11 December, 1980. The studies, which must for the present remain confidential....

Both Mrs. Thatcher and Mr. Atkins told the House of Commons what is not included. If there is no significance in the use of the words "secret" and "confidential" as used in the Taoiseach's speech, let him tell us so. If he believes that the Irish people would be prepared to support his bartering one matter of fundamental importance to us as a nation for something else that is also fundamental, he is mistaken. While both the question of our neutrality and that of the unity of our country are of extreme importance to us one must not be bartered for the other. The Taoiseach would be making a very big mistake in considering such a possibility as the higher plane to which to raise the issue of Northern Ireland.

I move amendment No. 2:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:

"Dáil Éireann recognising the new needs of our times and in accordance with our traditional policy of neutrality now resolve to establish without doubt the reality of this neutrality and further in order to strengthen the forces of peace resolve to seek membership of the Non-Aligned Nations of the world."

The Taoiseach has only himself to blame if he considers himself to be aggrieved as a result of being asked to discuss this issue here. There seems to be little doubt but that the Taoiseach is not playing fair, that he is not being straight with us. He has stated unequivocally that the Government are not discussing or negotiating any kind of secret agreement on defence with Great Britain or with any other country or group of countries, but why, then, in reply to a question tabled by Deputy FitzGerald and me on 11 February did the Taoiseach consider it necessary to give us an answer extending to four pages, though leaving us still in doubt as to what exactly he meant? The result has been the need for the introduction of this motion and the discussion of the question of whether we are negotiating a defence pact with Britain. As reported at column 1511 of the Official Report for February 11 the Taoiseach said:

The subject matter of the joint studies commissioned by the British Prime Minister and me at our meeting in Dublin last December includes possible new institutional structures, citizenship rights, security matters, economic co-operation and measures to encourage mutual understanding.

Why did he give us all that sort of waffle when the simple statement at the beginning of his speech, which I have quoted, was the answer we were looking for?

This discussion has more than one advantage, certainly for a private Member like myself, given an opportunity of speaking on it. The Taoiseach made a fair comment in his criticism of the Opposition — the Fine Gael, not the Labour Party Opposition. Nobody could criticise the comments made just now by Deputy Cluskey which were clear-cut and unequivocal in the Labour Party's defence of neutrality. On the eve of a general election it is only fair that we should get a contribution from the leader of the Opposition to clear up points referred to by the Taoiseach. It is much too serious an issue to leave to the minor and unimportant Fine Gael amendment, which the Taoiseach is right in ridiculing.

This discussion and the Minister's speech are in the context of truly terrifying changes in the community of the whole world, in the failure of détente, the possibilities in Poland, Afghanistan, and— I dislike saying this about a foreign politician — the election of Mr. Reagan, who is clearly a very aggressive, very militaristic type of gentleman, with General Haig as his secretary. There is also El Salvador and the recent disclosure in the Mary Holland article about the attitude of the military about a country like ours in the case of an atomic war. We would simply be expendable. As far as the Soviet Union would be considered, this is speculation on their part. It may or may not be true. These are the references made in the mock battle plans of the Dutch Treaty, in which all our ports and our major population centres would be obliterated.

Statements were made some years ago that we could be what the military, in their wonderful euphemistic abuse of language, call the pre-empted strike, merely a lesson to the Soviet Union not to go to war and they simply obliterate the Emerald Isle. That is a military possibility. Another American general said that World War I was fought in Europe, World War II was fought in Europe and, please God, World War III will be fought in Europe. In the context of that kind of talking and thinking, surely it is highly silly for the Taoiseach to include in his speech the guarantee to repel by force any foreign power and not to allow any outside nation to use Ireland as a base for attack on Britain. What force? What force could repel a H-bomb on Dublin, another on Shannon, another wherever they like to drop it? It is completely unrealistic to talk like that. Many may be old enough to remember the Polish cavalry charging bravely into the panzer divisions during the invasion of Poland. It took about 20 minutes to eliminate them. Some may be old enough to remember the Maginot Line. A panzer division simply went around this insuperable barrier to invasion.

It is now 40 years later. Things have changed, inutterably and terrifyingly so. We cannot continue with this kind of cliché, with empty, meaningless phrases. We must try to think out some alternative for the old idea that we could sit on the touchline. There are no more touchlines. Nobody will survive, not even the great powers. It is as bad as that. However, in the run up to the destruction of the great powers by one another, we must be among the early starters.

There is an obvious contradiction in the Taoiseach's speech, which perhaps he can answer. He restates the undertaking that there is no question of our entering into, discussing or negotiating any secret agreement on defence with Britian or with any other country or group of countries, the reason given being the North of Ireland question, the fact that Britain is in occupation of the six north-eastern counties. Yet on a number of occasions he quoted Deputy Lynch and Deputy Lemass, and he himself has restated, that we are prepared to enter into a defence agreement with the countries of the EEC. the European Communities, of whom one happens to be Britain, who is in control of the six north-eastern counties. It is a specification of the EEC defence pact, of which we would become, apparently, a member, that we would naturally be interested in the defence of the territories embraced by the Communities — that is, Britain — and that there is no question of neutrality. That is a Dáil quotation of Deputy Lynch. The Taoiseach himself said that in the event of the European states being organised into a full, political union we would accept the obligations, even if these included defence. With or without the British in occupation in the six counties? Must they go first? Is that a pre-condition to joining a European defence agreement of any kind?

Deputy Cluskey is, of course, quite right. I have been asking questions as long as I have been here about defence commitments in the EEC. I must have asked about 50 questions. Repeatedly, it has been established by both sides that there are no defence commitments under the Treaty of Rome. It was on that that we fought the referendum. It was made clear on a number of occasions recently that we are tending — and Deputy FitzGerald is equally culpable on this — to move into the new position of accepting the defence commitment of the EEC. This is not the commitment on which the referendum was fought and, I submit, we have no right to move our people into this sort of development.

Deputy Cluskey raised the secret agreement. Could I ask interested Deputies to study an article by Ronan Fanning, Department of Irish History, UCD, published in The Irish Times on 5 November 1980? He talked about the foundation of NATO. I happened to be in a Coalition Government at that time, 1949. Then we heard much the same as we received from the Taoiseach today and in his answers when he is being unequivocal. May I say that the statements of Deputy Lenihan Minister for Foreign Affairs, are very difficult to keep up with? In this connection I mention his statement that “Everything is on the table” which led many of us to think defence was included, because “everything” should include defence. He also said there would be no question of Ireland participating in any form of military alliance with Britain or any group of countries as long as this country is partitioned. At the same time he is making the case that we must form part of a defence commitment in Europe. How does one resolve that conflict?

The origins and development of NATO are interesting. At the time we were asked by the Americans to join NATO. The classical answer was given by Mr. MacBride "Any military alliance, with or without involving military action, jointly with the state that is responsible for the unnatural division of Ireland ... would be entirely repugnant to the Irish people." That sounds very good and very impressive in the old tradition of de Valera's rejection on the grounds of partition of our country.

Deputy Cluskey's question introduced an interesting twist which came as a surprise to me, although I had my suspicion at the time. There was a letter by a State Department official about the negotiations on NATO. It was said that Ireland would be an important stepping stone in anti-submarine warfare and was to be asked again to join NATO. Mr. MacBride, it appears, replied that we would be delighted to join NATO provided the United States could get the British to give back the six northern counties. The United States simply replied "It was nice knowing you" and that was that.

It appears secret negotiations were entered into for joining NATO. The National Security Council of the United States then reconsidered the question of joining NATO and an alternative was put forward of a bilateral US/Irish defence treaty. This was negotiated by the then Ambassador and Sean MacBride. President Truman was told that Mr. MacBride had volunteered to make an all-out effort to secure bipartisan support for a bilateral treaty. The secret negotiations were pursued further and later a direct approach was made. In 1951 private representations were made to Truman, the Security Council said they did not want to do business with us and they were turned down. The American National Security Council's attitude to us was updated in the sixties and was not changed, the general attitude being they would sooner annoy the Irish than offend the British. So much for the Irish-American vote.

I am giving this information simply to eliminate the Americans as a possible source of a defence agreement. There still exists the possibility that there may be bartering of the Six Counties, of which we were all so rightly suspicious because of the equivocation and doubts expressed by the Taoiseach. That could still be going on in much the same way and none of us will know about it until 30 years later with the publication of the Thatcher Papers.

I put out the suggestion that our role lies with the non-aligned countries, mostly Third World, ex-colonial, anti-imperialist countries, countries with the same poverty-stricken backgrounds as we have and people with whom it is much more natural that we should be associated. It does not seem to matter much whether we expand our Army, increase our Air Corps, or develop our Navy. There is little or no hope of any serious defence. Even the Soviets have accepted that and the United States have probably accepted it, too, except they are further away from the Soviets and Europe and they could possibly survive but would be terribly damaged and wounded.

The logic of this seems to be — and I am glad the Taoiseach referred to it — to pursue unrelentlessly peace efforts wherever we can with the non-aligned countries. There is a new group of non-aligned countries — about 100 of them, a considerable body compared to when it was started by Marshal Tito 20 years ago. They include India and Cuba, although they have been criticised for including the latter. These are countries which are not completely pro-socialist or pro-capitalist and who are anxious to create a completely new social and economic order in society, defending the right of primary producers to protect their prices as well as working for disarmament. These are all countries with whom we should be very proud to be associated. President Nyerere believes that there should be general disarmament and the resources released should be spent on the economic and social development of the poorer countries. I do not believe that is Utopian, although it sounds impracticable.

The prospects are so horrifying and the problem so insuperable that the only thing we can do is to fight tenaciously to retain our independent status. It must be remembered that France still retains its independence within the EEC. We have been told both by the Americans and by the Soviets that we are of most value as an independent, neutral, non-committed nation. What can we offer Europe in military hardware? Little or nothing compared to what we can offer by the moral force of our continued assertion of the sanity of peace. We must attempt to hold the line between the two great powers.

There is another group of more advanced countries consisting of Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden who are known as the "like-minded" group. They are like-minded with the underdeveloped, non-aligned countries. To what extent have we moved across to this group? Is it a fact that it is proposed to hold a conference of these countries in Ireland? In spite of the difference in political outlook of many of these countries varying from India to Cuba, they have a wonderful record of agreement on the objective of attempting to pursue the welfare of the underdeveloped countries as well as the major objective of encouraging the great powers on the matter of disarmament. Obviously we should do everything possible to encourage the reopening of negotiations on the SALT II Agreement and attempt to get some movement at the Madrid peace conference. Where there is any likelihood that our intervention could reduce the exacerbation of differences between the two great powers, we should lose no opportunity of taking action. A great advance is our position on the Security Council. We must be seen at all times as an independent, neutral, non-committed nation.

It was suggested in a recent article that a possible defence mechanism would be to establish our neutrality by mining the sea posts and airports and threatening to blow them up in the event of attempted occupation by any other country. Such an outrageous proposal was seriously put forward by a military strategist, although I understand it would not save us. New aerodromes could be built quite quickly and battleships could cruise off the west coast.

It is an inescapable conclusion that we must first rid ourselves of the sense of complacency which permeates the Taoiseach's speech that we are being protected in some way by NATO. That is not true. There is nothing to stop either of the two great powers using this country pour encourager les autres.

A small token of the kind of force we can use is well illustrated by our response to the behaviour of the United States in El Salvador. The Minister must be congratulated on our refusal to give any encouragement to and our condemnation of such behaviour.

Hear, hear.

This is great power politics. They are attempting to establish a buffer state between themselves and the radical states in southern America. This is something about which we must protest. We must clearly reject the drift towards an all-round nuclear holocaust.

I would be glad if the Taoiseach would leave us in no doubt that he does not take the view that in negotiating for the six north-eastern counties they are or should be in any way a quid pro quo, but takes the view that the unity of our country is something which should be a natural, reasonable progression through changing attitudes to one another, both North and South, and that it cannot be bartered for and should not be bartered as an alternative to joining any defence alliance or agreement.

The leader of the Opposition was not here when I referred to it, but as this is the eve of a general election I would ask him when replying to attempt to make sense out of the conflicting policies to which Deputy Haughey rightly referred and also whether he has a more constructive pursuit of peace policy than put forward by Deputy Haughey. Because he is an important person as the leader of the Opposition I would also ask him whether he still believes it is permissible for him to remain a member of the tri-lateral commission which is a group of people who are not pursuing peace. They are known as Rockefeller's private club, the king makers, the hidden GHQ of the Western world, the most powerful private body of men the world has ever known. Their pursuit of power is the pursuit of power of the Western aggressively capitalist societies. It seems to me that the correct people with whom we politicians in a small relatively poor country should be associated — with our historical ex-colonial background, our empty anti-imperialist background — are the non-aligned countries rather than with the great moguls of organisations like the tri-lateral commission, the oil magnates, the bankers and all these other very wealthy members of the US, Western European and Japanese societies.

The Chair understood that the speeches were being confined to half an hour by agreement.

I conclude by hoping that we will get from the Taoiseach or the Minister for Foreign Affairs clarification on the points raised as to how it will be possible to form a new defence agreement with a number of countries which include Britain and still not be sure whether we have an occupied North of Ireland and I also seek clarification from the Opposition on the very real conflicts of attitudes as expressed by the Taoiseach's speech in regard to the Fine Gael defence policy.

I do not propose to be drawn into a discussion on the tri-lateral commission of which I am a member and which I know has a reputation among left-wing circles in Europe as being a capitalist plot designed to take over the world and in right-wing quarters in America as being an international communist plot to take over the world. It is something more modest than that and I find it useful to be a member of it. I am presenting a report on the Middle East to it at the end of the month. However, it has nothing to do with this debate.

I will make the position of my party on neutrality clear. Fine Gael recognise that Ireland has an interest in the maintenance of an equilibrium between east and west and in the security of the west of which we form a geographical part and whose political system of pluralist democracy we have made our own. But Fine Gael favour military neutrality through non-participation in the existing defence alliances of the west — NATO and the Western European Union. We do so for a number of reasons. First, because we believe this policy accords with the current sentiments of our people and, secondly, because, as we found in Government, Ireland can play a more useful role in promoting world peace outside these organisations than it would be likely we could do within them. The Taoiseach's attempt to confuse this issue by selective quotations from Fine Gael speeches is unconvincing.

Deputy Ryan's statement — and he will confirm this himself if he has the opportunity to speak — referred to pressure alleged to have been placed on us to join NATO in relation to the question of military neutrality. With respect to Deputy John Kelly, his view is a personal one — the counterpart of that of Deputy Noel Davern who is quoted in the Sunday Tribune of 8 March as saying that he favours Ireland joining NATO immediately. They are both entitled to their personal points of view.

As a party which supported entry to the European Community we accepted that, in theory at least, this Community could have evolved into a politically integrated federation and that, if this had happened, such a development would have been likely to have entailed defence commitments. But this has not happened, and there is no sign that it is likely to do so. In the absence of such a development, sentiment in Ireland in favour of military neutrality has grown.

In Government as Minister for Foreign Affairs I pursued consistently the policy of non-involvement in military alliances. Moreover, I missed no opportunity of putting forward to our EEC partners, and to the Government of the United States through its Secretary of State, the reasons why Ireland should not participate in NATO or Western European Union, and I believe that our arguments in this respect secured a considerable measure of acceptance. It is from this clear-cut stance, which I last week reaffirmed unambiguously in Brussels at a Christian Democratic Meeting, that I approach this debate.

Having made this clear at the outset, I have to say that the wording of this motion. "That Dáil Éireann confirms the principles which have guided the defence policy of the Government and their predecessors" is meaningless, for the simple reason that there is no set of principles that has guided this Government and their Fianna Fáil predecessors in relation to defence policy. I shall show this by quoting from the statements of various leaders of that party at different periods.

As we are being asked to vote for a meaningless formula, my party will vote against this motion. If nevertheless it is passed, we shall seek to force from this Government a clarification of their actual policy with regard to a possible defence pact with Britain which they have hitherto denied to this House. We shall do this by putting them to the test of voting an amendment to the motion which explicitly states that the question of a defence pact was not raised in the discussions that have taken place and that it is — contrary to what the Northern Ireland Secretary has clearly indicated — to be the subject of some of the joint studies now under way.

Our stance on the motion before this House has also been influenced by the fact that the motion put down by the Government is clearly designed to avoid this net issue, first raised in press reports and then confirmed by the Northern Ireland Secretary. Mr. Atkins has stated that the defence issue can — in contrast to the constitutional issue of the North-South relationship — be talked about in the continuing discussions, but that it was too early to say when a decision on a defence pact might be made. So far along the road does he conceive things as having gone. It is a question of when, not whether.

The absurdity of this motion lies in the simple fact that Fianna Fáil have made so many contradictory statements on defence policy over the years that there is not such thing as a defence policy laid down by that party or Government. This applies both to the question of NATO membership and to the broader question of neutrality.

In 1951 Mr. de Valera developed the theme of military neutrality vis-à-vis NATO along the following lines. He was asked whether a united Ireland might join NATO. He replied:

A free Ireland would probably have the same inducement to join as other nations...To join the pact at present would be to accept the present situation as one that should be preserved and maintained.

What he meant by that is clear from a further quotation from a year later when he said:

Membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation...implies acceptance by each member of the territorial integrity of each of the several States comprising it. Now Britan claims as an integral part of her territory six of Ireland's counties. Ireland can never admit that claim and must refrain from appearing in any way to accept it.

But a mere ten years later, at the time of our first application for EEC membership, his succesor, Mr. Lemass, was repudiating this de Valera thesis, with his usual blunt forthrightness, questioning whether the de Valera interpretation of the North Atlantic Treaty was "in the national interest". I am quoting from the same column of the same debate from which the Taoiseach quoted selectively. Mr. Lemass argued that if Ireland kept on insisting that:

the North Atlantic Treaty bears the interpretation we have put on it over the years, that it involves an undertaking to do nothing about partition, to abandon our aims with respect to partition, we can well be met with the argument that, in so far as we signed the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Charter of the United Nations, we have already abandoned our position on partition. That would be manifestly absurd.

So much for Fianna Fail having a consistent policy on Ireland's position with relation to NATO. And so much for the attempt by the Taoiseach to use an excerpt from a speech by Deputy Lemass as Taoiseach to suggest that Deputy Lemass was saying that we would never contemplate joining NATO, when in fact the full quotation from Deputy Lemass, had he included the previous sentence, shows that he was denying that partition was any obstacle to our joining NATO. This is a classic example of selective quotation even in this House.

What about the basic issue of neutrality itself? The same total contradiction between Fiann Fáil policies on this more fundamental issue is also evident. For in 1941 Mr. de Valera in a broadcast said:

The aim of the overwhelming majority of the Irish people of the present generation is to secure the status of a sovereign independent Irish State... if possible with its neutrality internationally guaranteed like the neutrality of Switzerland.

But this fundamentalist position was also unceremoniously overturned by Mr. de Valera's successor, Mr. Lemass, who in 1962, in an interview with the Foreign Editor of the New York Times said:

We recognise that a military commitment will be an inevitable consequence of our joining the Common Market and ultimately we would be prepared to yield even the technical label of neutrality. We are prepared to go into this integrated Europe without any reservation as to how far this will take us in the field of foreign policy and defence.

Mr. Lemass's successor in turn, Deputy Jack Lynch, in July 1969 denied that "the word neutrality is relevant in the context of our membership of the EEC" which had yet to be consummated at that time. "We applied for membership of the Communities", he said, "because we believed in their aims and objects and because we believed that it would be in our best interest to do so. Being members of that community, we would naturally be interested in the defence of the territories embraced by the Communities. There is no question of neutrality there". Dr. Hillery, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, in May 1970 said that "when the Community develops and if we are members of a fully developed Community, and if the political unity develops to having a common defence force, we will be part of it". These statements by Mr. Lemass, Deputy Lynch, and President Hillery as Minister for Foreign Affairs, are in total opposition to the concept of neutrality, guaranteed internationally like that of Switzerland, which Mr. de Valera espoused.

So whether one has regard to our policy in relation to NATO, or to our more general attitude on the basic issue of neutrality, there is no set of common principles that have guided the defence policy of the Government and their predecessors. The motion is thus clearly nonsensical in itself, and my party will accordingly oppose it, both on these grounds, and because the motion is a deliberate evasion of the issues currently under debate.

There is the issue of whether or not the Taoiseach has discussed a possible defence pact with the British Prime Minister. If this did happen, it would seem to have occurred on his initiative, not hers, judging by her very carefully worded denial that she raised the matter with him.

Secondly, there is the issue of whether or not defence is to be the subject of some of the joint studies as the Northern Ireland Secretary of State has indicated while at the same time suggesting that it is too early to say when a decision on such a defence pact might be made. Those are two issues we must settle in this debate.

Before dealing with these evasions I want first to return to a matter I mentioned at the outset — the positive merits of our present policy of non-participation in a military alliance. Fine Gael believe that in present world circumstances Ireland has a special role to play as the only member of the EEC which is not a member of NATO, WEU or any other military alliance. This unique status reflects in part Ireland's history as a former colony and in part the instinctive sympathy of many of its people for the peoples of the Third World, a sympathy that derives more remotely from many individual Irish people's participation in the short-lived British imperial experiment, and in larger part from a widespread missionary experience.

From this basis Ireland has, within the general parameters of a military neutrality consonant with a recognition of a common western interest in the problem of maintaining a balance with Soviet power, undertaken actions and espoused policies, in each case by one or other Government and in each case supported by the Opposition, as follows: (i) We initiated the approach to the 1961 nuclear proliferation treaty, and maintained a subsequent concern about this issue. (2) We maintained a sympathetic attitude to the process of decolonisation. (3) We actively supported, in a manner that proved influential within European political co-operation, the concept of a settlement in Rhodesia involving the Patriotic Front, rather than the so-called "internal settlement". I know from sources within the British Government how much they valued the support given first by our Government and then by Fianna Fáil on this issue within European political co-operation which enabled successive British foreign secretaries to carry their own Governments on this issue and secure a satisfactory settlement in Zimbabwe.

(4) We supported the UN position on Namibia. (5) We strenuously opposed apartheid in South Africa. (6) We opposed the overthrow by a military regime of the Allende Government in Chile and offered hospitality to a number of refugees from this military regime. (7) We, that is, Government and Opposition, have vigourously opposed US aid to the Junta in El Salvador. (8) Within the EEC, we joined with countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands in supporting increased aid to the Third World and measures of decolonisation. (9) We worked within the EEC for increased aid to non-associated countries. (10) We actively promoted the Euro-Arab dialogue, and on two occasions during that first Irish Presidency, initiated action to prevent a collapse of this dialogue. (11) On behalf of the Community, we acted to promote a democratic development in post-revolutionary Portugal, despite US pessimism and discouragement by the US Government of these efforts. We insisted and I went to Portugal on that mission and subsequently US officials admitted privately that they were wrong and we were right in continuing those efforts and that they did play an important part in the final result — the emergency of democracy in Portugal. (12) We supported the Palestinian people's right to self-determination within a Palestinian homeland, in addition to Israel's right to a secure existence within its 1967 frontiers, and helped to lead Northern European opinion on this issue since 1973.

(13) We played a prominent role in UN peace-keeping efforts for more than 20 years, from the period when the integrity of Congo-Zaire had to be protected against separatist influences encouraged by former colonial powers, to its present efforts to assist the Lebanon to maintain its territorial integrity against dissident internal forces backed by Israel, and against PLO guerillas.

These policies, taken together, have been successfully pursued through a unique policy of military neutrality operating within a context of concern for the maintenance of a balance of power between East and West, and active involvement in European political co-operation. It has not merely involved no commitment whatever to policies unacceptable to Irish opinion, but has involved active, and in some instances successful, pressure for the adoption by all member countries of the Community of policies reflecting Irish aspirations and those, be it said, of other members with similar views on the issues under discussion.

I return now to the issue that brought about this debate — though the Government deliberately excluded it from their motion — the issue of whether the question of a defence pact has or has not been discussed between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister and is or is not to be the subject of some of the joint studies now under way. I have to say that the evidence has pointed strongly towards the matter having been raised. Quite apart from press reports, which originated in a Sunday Times article before the Taoiseach's first meeting with the British Prime Minister, an article which was apparently based on information as to the Taoiseach's intentions, gathered by a journalist of that paper when in Dublin, we have the clear statements of the Northern Ireland Secretary.

These statements contrast strikingly with the evasiveness of the Taoiseach in reply to every question put to him in this House, with the irrelevant and absurd terms of the motion put down by the Government here today, and with the deliberate obfuscation of the Taoiseach's opening speech in this debate in which he carefully denied what has not been alleged — because it would, of course, be constitutionally impossible — that the Government are discussing or negotiating any kind of secret agreement on defence with Britian, but was careful not to say that the question of a defence pact which would, of course, have to be implemented publicly by Dáil Éireann if it were agreed at inter-governmental level had not been discussed. I note that the Taoiseach was also careful, when referring to the inter-governmental studies, not to deny that those studies, could cover defence matters. I do not think that, against this evasive background, any objective observer can reasonably come to the conclusion that this matter has not in fact been discussed and, in the light of the British Prime Minister's denial of having raised the subject, he must suspect that, if it was discussed, it was brought up by the Taoiseach himself.

Hear, hear.

The question this raises, of course, is why the Taoiseach should have pursued this course of action. What could have motivated him to such a move at a point in time when there is not the slightest sign of movement by Britian on the constitutional issue? Remember Mr. Atkin's words: "The constitutional status of Northern Ireland is not one of the subjects to be covered by the talks." Raising the defence issue is a ploy which, even those who would be willing to accept a modification of our military neutrality as a price worth paying for Irish unity, must feel should have been kept to the very end of the negotiations as the final move to win the prize of a united Ireland, if this were ever to be won by such an Anglo-Irish agreement over the heads of the Northern people which, indeed, some may doubt.

As one with some experience of diplomacy, much of it involving negotiations with the British Government on issues ranging from Sunningdale to unauthorised Border crossings, or the maltreatment of people in custody in Northern Ireland, I find almost inexplicable this behaviour — even in terms of the assumption that this neutrality issue is one that we would be prepared ultimately to concede for this purpose. At best this approach appears frivolous; at worst it can be interpreted as an attempt to win acquiescence by the British Government to inflated Irish Government claims for the importance of these negotiations — inflated claims that might be judged to have some domestic political value within this State as we move towards an election.

Northern Ireland is far too serious an issue to be played with in this way — to be handled either frivolously, or as a weapon in a domestic political battle for political control within this State. Either way, I would have to say that, if the defence issue was raised by the Taoiseach in these discussions at this stage, he acted in a manner contrary to the national interest. All that he has got in return is a visit by the British Prime Minister to Northern Ireland, designed to reassure Unionist opinion, during which she expressed herself about the union of Great Britain with Northern Ireland in these terms: "It is fundamental to the Government's thinking. It is something to which I am deeply and personally committed"— thus giving authoritative endorsement to her Northern Ireland Secretary's flat statement that: "The constitutional status of Northern Ireland is not one of the subjects to be covered by the talks."

I must press the Taoiseach on this particular point. Is he telling us that the Northern Ireland Secretary of State is lying when he makes this statement, endorsed by his Prime Minister? Does he still assert that, as distinct from discussing possible institutional arrangements between what the communiqué describes in British diplomatic language as the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" and the "Republic of Ireland"—which is not the correct name of this State, and whose use so far as I can recall we have resisted in past communiqués of this kind — the constitutional relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic is also down for discussion?

Is it not the case, as Mr. Atkins has said, and as his Prime Minister has confirmed, that the "totality of relationships"— words on which the Taoiseach has placed great stress — is the totality of relationships between these two states as States, which could go as far, for example, as the creation of some kind of Benelux or Nordic Union between them, though not I trust as far as a federation within which our independence in foreign policy matters would be submerged in a federal council within which we should be a small minority.

This is, to me at least, the grammatical sense of the communiqué in which the entities whose relationships are to be discussed are first described unambiguously as the existing States, using British terminology, because the phrase "totality of relationships" in a subsequent paragraph is clearly governed by this earlier definition paragraph. It is on the basis of this, the obvious, syntactical reading of the communiqué, that discussion of a relationship between one of these two States and part of another can logically be excluded, because the relationships under discussion must be between the totality of these States as well as covering the totality of the relationship between them. Was the British Prime Minister's apparently ready acceptance of this phrase — suspiciously ready acceptance, I would say — not explicable precisely because the ordering of the paragraphs required that only the relationships between the totality of each State could be discussed, thus excluding the very subject which our Government, one assumes, wished to have explored — the North-South relationship?

Certainly it is hard to come to any other conclusion when one reads Mr. Atkin's flat assurance that the constitutional relationship cannot be discussed, and his Prime Minister's clear endorsement of this, and contrasts these clear statements with the flabby and evasive language used by the Taoiseach and his Minister for Foreign Affairs in their effort to suggest, rather than to assert, the contrary.

I have to say that as of now, and until the Taoiseach persuades the British Prime Minister to repudiate her Secretary of State's interpretation, instead of endorsing it, or until details are published jointly by the two Governments of a joint study involving the constitutional issue, I am forced to believe the unambiguous British statements rather than the evasive Irish ones — and it gives me no pleasure to have to say that in this House.

To have got into a situation where we appear to be discussing defence arrangements with a British Government which flatly refuses even to talk about the constitutional position of Northern Ireland is certainly to have got the worst of both worlds, and to have shown oneself a remarkably unskilful and dangerously naive negotiator, dealing with people who have vast skills in negotiation, as we know from having pitted ourselves against them on many issues during our term of office, holding our ground despite attempted bullying as on the Strasbourg case, outwitting them in the fisheries negotiations in October 1976 and bringing them to a satisfactory agreement from our point of view at Sunningdale, whatever about the subsequent fate of that agreement for reasons outside our control.

Beyond that there are other issues also. There is the whole question of the wisdom of this high-profile negotiation with the British Government about an issue which must ultimately be settled amongst Irishmen, with assistance, of course, from Britain, but not by a British diktat — we have had too many of them throughout eight centuries of our history. It would be one thing to seek to persuade the British Government to reiterate or expand upon its solemn assurance at Sunningdale that it would support a united Ireland achieved with the consent of a majority in Northern Ireland — a solemn assurance about which successive British Governments have been disturbingly silent ever since. Alternatively, it would have been worthwhile to have sought to secure from British political leaders a public statement of the private convictions of most of them — even if the present Prime Minister be an exception in this respect — that the ultimate solution to this problem must be some new form of agreed constitutional framework for all of Ireland.

Such a public statement might have induced greater realism among Northern Unionists, many of whom delude themselves still about the extent of Britain's commitment to them. This could have been done without awakening the kind of atavistic fears that the Reverend Ian Paisley has been enabled, one could almost say encouraged, to arouse, as a result of the huge publicity given to these mysterious discussions between the Irish and British Government.

We now have the worst of all worlds. We seem to be embroiled in talks which might terminate our constructive role as a country outside any military alliance, without getting in return the slightest sign of movement from the British Government even on the issue of the kind of Ireland they would ultimately like to see, while at the same time arousing deep and dangerous sectarian fears in Northern Ireland.

If this is Fianna Fáil diplomacy, the sooner the Taoiseach calls a general election and allows the Irish people to put them back in Opposition, the better. In the meantime a test of whether the Taoiseach discussed this matter with the British Prime Minister, and whether it is included in the studies or has been contemplated for inclusion, will be Fianna Fáil's vote on our amendment which the Taoiseach has attempted to dismiss airily. If they do not support it, all of us and the nation can draw their own conclusions. We shall draw ours and act accordingly.

It is opportune in a debate such as this to give some indication of the various roles of our Defence Forces within the policy framework which has been outlined by the Taoiseach in his opening speech. These roles have evolved and have been developed in the context of the neutral military stance which we have observed over the years and maintained even in times of great pressure on us as a nation to modify it.

The roles which have been assigned to the Defence Forces have had the acceptance of successive Governments and, while the emphasis on the relative importance of the various roles may vary over a period, depending on the exigencies of the times, the basic statement of those roles remains fundamentally intact. The roles can be broadly expressed as follows:

To defend the State against external aggression— this being, of course, the primary role;

To aid the Civil Power, which means in effect to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána, who have the primary responsibility for the maintenance or restoration of the public peace and for internal security;

To participate in United Nations peace-keeping missions;

To provide fishery protection for the exclusive sea fisheries of the State;

To aid Civil Defence; and

To undertake such other duties as may be assigned from time to time, such as search and rescue and helicopter ambulance service; assistance on occasions of natural disasters, oil pollution at sea; and the provision, where essential, of emergency services to the community.

Neutrality and non-involvement are not assured or guaranteed by mere assertion alone. This status depends on its being respected by belligerent nations. That respect and the forbearance implied to it are founded on the basic principles of international law confirmed in the Charter of the United Nations which provides the framework for the relationship between states.

During our 25 years of membership of the United Nations we have sought to ensure in whatever way we can that the purposes and principles of the charter are fully respected. Our approach over the years has been clear and consistent: we want to see full respect for the independence and territorial integrity of all states as well as for the right of all peoples to determine their own future free from outside interference. We want also to promote in every way open to us a greater measure of justice and order in international relations.

There is a superficial view that to maintain a comparatively small army is in practice a waste of valuable resources. That, however, is to ignore the fact that an army, whatever its size or potential, is the outward and practical manifestation of a nation's sovereignty and of its determination to maintain and protect that sovereignty. The credibility in military terms of a small nation will depend in the times in which we live, on many considerations outside the strictly military arena, not least of which are the will and determination of the nation, come what may, to defend its sovereignty.

Defence of the State against external aggression implies a determination to resist attempts by any party to a conflict to usurp the State's non-belligerency status in time of war. It behoves a State such as Ireland, which is not committed to co-belligerency, to take in peace time such defensive measures as will safeguard its security in time of war.

These measures include the provision of defensive equipment and facilities necessary for training its Defence Forces to meet a military emergency. Training is, therefore, the paramount task of defence forces in the context of the primary role of the defence of the State.

Because of the involvement of the Defence Forces in their other subsidiary roles, this primary role of defence against external aggression often tends to be glossed over. But, it is the fundamental and basic reason for having Defence Forces.

While, as I have said, the primary role of the Defence Forces is the protection of the State against external aggression, the fact is that since 1969 our Defence Forces at home have been committed very extensively in aiding the civil power in such matters as Border patrols, the protection of vital installations, provision of escorts for consignments of cash in transit and escorting civilian prisoners. The organisation of the forces has been reviewed almost continuously throughout the 1970's with a view to ensuring that a proper structure would be available to discharge these important tasks.

Prior to 1969 there were no troops stationed permanently in the Border area. Since then a gradual build-up of the Defence Forces in the area has resulted in some infantry battalions, a motor squadron and supporting elements being permanently located close to the Border, from Letterkenny in the north-west to Dundalk in the east. In addition, there is a permanent military presence at a number of other Border locations, the number varying with the circumstances of particular times.

These forces are there solely in aid of the civil power in maintaining security on the Border as a result of the troubled situation in Northern Ireland.

Acting in that role military patrols go out into the road network around the Border several times every 24 hours. The patrols are accompanied by members of the Garda Síochána and are equipped with radio. They can be diverted quickly to the scene of a Border incident. In addition, stand-to parties are kept in readiness in each post at all times. These are available to respond to additional requests for aid by the Garda and can be on their way immediately to the scene of an incident.

Air Corps helicopters are also stationed in the Border area and carry out aerial surveillance flights in conjunction with the Garda. In addition, fixed wing reconnaissance aircraft support operations in this area. I should stress that what is involved here is aid to the Garda Síochána in the discharge of their function of maintaining security.

The involvement of the Defence Forces in United Nations peace-keeping operations represents an important contribution to national policy. This country sees in the United Nations the means, the best available means by which peace and the settlement of disputes in accordance with international law can be assured. We are, therefore, wholly supportive of the peace-keeping role of the United Nations and try to contribute to the growth of its authority and effectiveness. As Deputies are aware, the Defence Amendment Act, 1960 authorised the despatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force for service outside the State with international forces established by the Security Council or the General Assembly of the United Nations for the performance of duties of a police character.

In the intervening 20 years or so, the country has built up a tradition of involvement in United Nations peace-keeping, playing a significant part in the effort by the international community to maintain some measure of peace and stability and prevent major wars. Our firm commitment to peace-keeping has been based, among other things, on the belief that the co-operation of the conflicting sides is essential to a satisfactory outcome of any mission undertaken. This co-operation has been available in most of the mission areas and has contributed largely to the measure of success achieved in these areas. Unfortunately, such co-operation has not been so readily apparent in the recent past and this has led to problems for the United Nations personnel, including those of Irish contingents. This has not dampened in any way the Government's commitment to peace-keeping, nor has it lessened the availability of Defence Forces personnel to serve on a volunteer basis as members of United Nations peace-keeping forces. The country's strength in maintaining this tradition has lain in the fact that Ireland has no ambition to involve herself directly in conflict anywhere in the world.

Our service with the United Nations has been distinguished and of a very high standard and is positive proof of the regard in which we are held by the United Nations. I should like to mention the high rank attained by some of our officers. During the Congo peace-keeping mission Lieutenant-General Seán MacKeown was Force Commander in the Congo; more recently, there was Major-General Quinn who became Force Commander in Cyprus and an Irishman recently took up appointment as Force Commander of UNIFIL in the Lebanon, Major-General Callaghan. It is a tribute to the nation and to the standard of our personnel, officers and men, that these appointments have been offered to our country.

The defence arrangements made after the Emergency period included provision for a small Naval Service to patrol the territorial waters of the State and to cover the principal harbours. Fishery protection was also included in the duties of the service. The continuation of the Naval Service's role as an essential arm of the Defence Forces has been confirmed in subsequent reviews of the organisation of the forces.

In recent times an unprecedented expansion in the fleet and manpower of the Naval Service has been necessary. An exclusive fishery limit of 200 miles was declared by this country in concert with other EEC States with effect from 1 January 1977. This increased the sea area to be patrolled from 15,000 square miles to 132,000 square miles and it became a matter of priority to obtain vessels capable of patrolling the enlarged areas. To this end three all-weather fishery protection vessels were constructed and launched during the past four years. In addition, it was considered that vessels of a new design would be necessary if the service was to have a reasonably adequate capability to patrol the 200-mile area. Arrangements have been put in hand for the design and construction of two such patrol vessels. These vessels will be equipped with helicopter platforms and hangars and all the necessary equipment to facilitate the operation of helicopters. They will be ordered this year and it is hoped to have them operational by the end of 1984. The EEC have agreed to contribute towards the financial outlay involved in the measures for fishery protection in the short-and medium-terms and discussions will be held with the Commission over the next two years in relation to requirements and financing in the longer term.

The Naval Service has also a major function in the measures to combat oil pollution and Deputies will be aware of the significant part the service played in dealing with the tanker Christos Bitas in 1978 when it was seriously damaged off the Welsh coast and threatened extensive pollution off the Wexford coastline.

Associated with the developments in the fishery protection area have been the deliberations of the third United Nations Law of the Sea Conference, which is now drawing to a close. These deliberations have centred on likely industrial, mining and other resource exploration and exploitation in the sea areas around coastal states and the establishment of codes of international behaviour in relation to this modern progress. The outcome of the Conference is expected to have important implications for the Naval Service.

In addition to its primary defence tasks as part of the Defence Forces, the Air Corps has been allotted subsidiary tasks which include search and rescue operations, a helicopter ambulance service, aid to the civil power and surveillance of fishery activities by aerial patrol of the exclusive fishery area. While many of these tasks are, of necessity, of a non-defence character they are, nevertheless, of great benefit to the State, and, as such, are likely to continue to be discharged by the corps.

The establishment of a Directorate of Reserve Forces in recent times with responsibility for expanding the First Line Reserve and An Forsa Cosanta Aitiúil is an important development in so far as the Defence Forces are concerned. It is clear that the Permanent Defence Force would require an effective First Line Reserve in order to give it even a modest capacity for expansion as quickly as possible if required in aid of the civil power or after the declaration of an emergency. The re-introduction of a reserve commitment for those enlisting in the Permanent Defence Force should provide a regular inflow to the First Line Reserve and consideration is being given to obtaining additional personnel from other sources.

As regards the FCA, the separate development of the permanent defence force and An Fórsa which was decided upon in the recent reorganisation of the Defence Forces is being approached in a manner designed to make the best possible use of An Fórsa and of the detailed knowledge which members have of their own localities.

National defence implies not only Defence Forces but also general protection for the population as a whole. This is where Civil Defence comes in. Civilian populations are increasingly affected in war situations and it behoves the state to take measures to mitigate the effects of these situations in so far as resources permit. In this country these measures are taken mainly through the Civil Defence organisation. This is a voluntary organisation set up in local authority areas with financial assistance from my Department and with the aid also of the regional Civil Defence officers — military officers who have been seconded to the Civil Defence organisation to assist in ensuring that the organisation is kept at a good level of readiness.

In peace-time the organisation, training and administrative experience of Civil Defence volunteers are available to deal with emergency situations.

The foregoing short review gives some indication of the current roles of the Defence Forces and how these are discharged operationally. It will be appreciated that progress in most fields of activity is governed by the resources available and the Defence Forces are no exception.

The heavy costs of equipment and services for the Defence Forces in recent years are related broadly to the change in the tasks of the forces necessitating the provision of new units in additional locations and the need to keep abreast of equipment changes with a view to ensuring a reasonable capability. As an example of the growth in expenditure on defence, deputies may wish to know that in the financial year 1969-70 the expenditure on defensive equipment in the Defence Vote was £367,000. In the financial year 1980 the provision was £11,600,000.

This Government have provided and will continue to provide the resources necessary to secure the most modern equipment for the Defence Forces consistent with our obligations to other sectors of the community, often at very considerable cost by standards prior to 1977. We have supported the production of armoured personnel carriers by native industry, we have provided modern armoured tracked vehicles for the first time in 30 years.

We have provided anti-tank missiles as good as other armies who have at their disposal much larger financial resources. The ammunition stocks, which were seriously depleted, are being replenished at a cost of several million pounds per annum. We have provided two new helicopters of modern design, turbo-prop aircraft, jet aircraft and expect soon to have a large troop-carrying helicopter.

Other sophisticated equipment, involving advanced technology is also being acquired to ensure that personnel are kept abreast of modern developments in these areas. In addition a programme for the provision of new accommodation and the renovation of existing premises has been stepped up considerably over the past few years.

As I have mentioned already, this country adheres to the principles enshrined in the United Nations charter. The preamble to the charter, which was signed in 1945, states that the peoples of the United Nations are determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained. For these ends the charter obliges this country to practice tolerance and live together in peace with other nations as good neighbours, to maintain international peace and security, to ensure that armed force shall not be used save in the common interests, and to employ international machinery for the settlement of disputes. These are principles which must be observed by any state which believes in the concepts of international peace and security. They form sound guidelines for a country such as Ireland which is deeply committed to the United Nations and to what that organisation stands for.

What I have said is in essence a brief outline of the roles of our Defence Forces against the background of the principles as explained by the Taoiseach which guide defence policy. The Dáil is being asked to confirm those principles, they form the basis from which the roles flow and are derived and will continue as the underlying support for those roles which the Defence Forces have in the past discharged with such a high sense of purpose and spirit of dedication. I have no doubt that they will continue to do so.

This debate is an interesting one and in some respects a sad one. I will return to some of the revelations the Minister for Defence has just made in his interesting if not costly contribution. The Labour Party have put down an amendment to the motion attempting to get the House to reaffirm its commitment to neutrality as a fundamental principle of post-independence and post-colonial policy in this State. We have done so not on an opportunistic basis but in line with a fairly comprehensive resolution that was passed at our most recent party conference in Cork last autumn. I would like to put on the record of the House the extent of that resolution by reading out the full text of it. Our party conference passed unanimously the following resolution:

Conference reaffirms Labour's traditional stance on this issue of national policy and resolves that:

the Labour Party is committed to a neutral role for Ireland not alone in the sense of refusal to join any military bloc but in terms of an active political philosophy;

neutrality must be a fundamental and positive principle of Irish national and international policy; neutrality should be affirmed permanently by amendment of the national Constitution:

the pragmatic basis of Irish neutrality should be strengthened by a firm acceptance of a non-aligned position in world politics; national policy between the European Community should ensure that the process of political co-operation does not compromise a neutral Irish position on such matters as armaments, relations with the Third World and dealings with South Africa;

consideration should be urgently given to joining the non-aligned group of nations which is playing such an important part in the evolution of world programmes of development;

active neutrality should imply a total commitment to peace, détente and disarmament, together with the programme of involvement in world affairs in which policy is determined independently in accordance with national needs and on the merits of the individual case;

the Labour Party will work together to bring about public awareness of all the issues which arise in the evolution and implementation of a positive policy of neutrality.

I can say without hesitation — this debate today is testimony to it — that we have certainly achieved the last objective in that resolution because in this House and outside it we have made neutrality an issue in a way nobody a year ago would have thought it was possible to do.

I want to reaffirm what the leader of the Labour Party has already stated, which is that for this party and, we believe, for a significant percentage of the Irish population neutrality is not some form of pragmatic indifference or blindness to our position in the world. On the contrary, it is a very fundamentally held belief born out of an awareness and an understanding of the struggle over many centuries for Irish independence and for Irish freedom. One of the acid tests of a country's independence and freedom is for that country to be able to be independent of and have a different view from that of more powerful and stronger neighbours. Successive Irish Governments, led by different Taoisigh and Presidents of National Executives since 1921 to the present day, when they have demonstrated that degree of independence have won the unanimous support of all sections of the population here. Everybody in the House will testify to the unanimous support the late Mr. de Valera received during the course of the Second World War when he resisted pressure not just from the Government of the United Kingdom but also from the United States and originally from the Axis powers. I am not old enough to remember but there are some people here who will recall the feeling of pride in this nation when the people listened to the firm but gentle and polite rebuttal broadcast to the nation by the then Taoiseach, Mr. de Valera, as opposed to the belligerent and bellicose speech made by Mr. Churchill at the end of the Second World War. That was an assertion by the Taoiseach of the day of independence based on neutrality and it won the support of all sections of the community.

It was important for a nation like ours to be neutral in those times; it is even more important now. The world has changed fundamentally and dramatically since those days, but the issue and the values remain basically the same. There is a struggle for power and influence between two major political blocs. We have a Constitution which affirms basic human rights and principles and systems of Government. In addition, we are a member of the EEC, which is the largest single trading' bloc in the world. We enter the last 20 years of this century on a globe that has seen the gap between the rich northern part of the hemisphere becoming progressively richer and apparently more indifferent to the rapidly growing poorer southern hemisphere.

It is essential that the gap between rich and poor, between the developed world and the Third World be narrowed rather than widened. It is essential also for this country that our credibility as a neutral nation within the EEC is used constructively and positively to try to narrow that gap between rich and poor. If this House fails tonight to reaffirm, clearly and distinctly the traditional all-party commitment since 1921 of the Irish state to the principle of neutrality, they will seriously compromise and undermine the current attempts of Irish people throughout the world to develop an understanding between North and South and will tie the hands of successive Governments in attempting to re-establish a neutral and non-aligned position, whether that be on the continent of Africa, in Latin America or in Europe itself.

We are not talking about short-term party political advantage, though I have no doubt but that aspects of this entire debate were initiated during the Summit discussions between our Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister with that view in mind. We are talking about something far more fundamental and serious. The Taoiseach made two specific references to the EEC and to the western democracies. In the kind of clever script-writing that he has, he attempted to lock us entirely into a commitment to both. In his speech he said that:

The question of our neutrality also arises in another context, our membership of the European Community. Let us be clear about one thing. This country stands for certain values, enshrined in the Constitution. Our place is with the Western democracies, and we share common concepts of human rights, freedom under the law, individual liberty and freedom of conscience. Our economic interests also are tied in with the Western industrialised world. We are, therefore, neither ideologically neutral nor politically indifferent.

That may be the view of Fianna Fáil and of the Taoiseach, but I doubt whether the party's Nuremberg Ard Fheis, to be held in the RDS shortly, will discuss the question of neutrality. But if the Taoiseach has the courage of his convictions and allows such an issue to go to the floor of the Ard Fheis, he will find out if his view is shared by Fianna Fáil as a whole. The Taoiseach went on to state that:

Our political commitment to Europe and the Western democracies, our military commitment to the UN are the principal determinants of the policy that the Irish Government have followed and will continue to follow.

If Fianna Fáil are so committed to Western democracies, I would ask the only representative they have here now, the Minister for Defence, whether we are committed to what is happening in El Salvador in the name of the major Western democracy and whether we committed to the British Government's connivance at what happened in Rhodesia. If we are committed to the Western democracies, are we committed also to the consistent and continued support by the major Western democracies of the apartheid regime in South Africa? Were we committed to the invasion and occupation of a portion of the Vietnamese peninsula by the major Western democracy? Were we committed to the invasion of Egypt by France and Britain, two highly-respected member states of the Western democracies? If that is what commitment to the Western democracies means, let the Taoiseach say so clearly. Let him run the issue at the Ard Fheis and find out how many votes he will get for it. It will take more than a few expensive silver teapots to sell that to the delegates.

I would not wish to be tarred by any partisan brush. There is a parallel set of invasions and strangulations so far as the other major power is concerned, starting with Afghanistan and going back to East Germany, to Hungary, to Czechoslovakia and now to Poland, where we do not know what is happening. Commitment to any power bloc, whether east or west, locks us into that kind of complicity and guilt by way of association. We do not want any part of such association. But, if the Government, with their inflated majority, troop through the lobby tonight and abandon our neutrality, they will not be acting in the name of the Labour Party nor will they be acting in the name of a substantial section of the Irish public.

If Fianna Fáil want to make this issue an election issue they are welcome to do so, but they must do it honestly and openly. Why should a country like ours try to be neutral? Realistically, why should a country with a population of fewer than four million, with a small GNP internationally and of relatively small strategic importance try to be neutral?

Even more important, what can the benefits of our neutrality bring to the world, in terms of 1981? The Labour Party have studied this in some degree and in consultation with sister parties in the Socialist International, and have come to reaffirm the conclusions of previous leaders of our Party and the deliberations of earlier Irish socialists that a country like ours and a party like the Labour Party can make, in the international theatre of human relations, a positive contribution to the maintenance and development of human rights, to the pursuit of disarmament and to the whole question of development co-operation within the context of the North-South dialogue or, as it is now referred to, the Brandt Report.

Ireland neutral, positively pursuing its policy of neutrality at the United Nations and within the EEC — both at the Council of Ministers' level and at the technical level of European political co-operation — has a positive contribution to make, if we have the guts to make it. We can argue for human rights. We can exercise pressure, for example, on the United States Government in relation to what is happening today, this very minute, in El Salvador. Have we done so? Despite his assurances — and let the Minister for Foreign Affairs deny this if he so wishes, when he comes into the House — to this House and elsewhere, I charge the Minister for Foreign Affairs, on 17 February at the Council of Ministers, with acquiescing to United States pressure not to release humanitarian aid to the refugees in El Salvador — aid which was going to be administered by, in the main, an ecumenical organisation of various churches. That is some neutrality. That is some independence.

We had the situation of the republican, neutral and independent Government of this country assuring us, through the mouth of the Minister for Sport that, of course, Ireland was neutral and, of course, we would go to Moscow, that we were a free, independent State and would not take the line from anybody. Then the crunch came, gently, subtly, very firmly, and the Irish Government announced that we were not going to Moscow. That is some neutrality. That is some independence. If the Fianna Fáil Government wish to say honestly that neutrality does not exist, that they threw it away years ago, let them make the reality formally and factually evident. This is something which we on this side of the House all know as long since having been abandoned. Let the Government say that clearly, but it has not been so said. There is a constant and continuous attempt to have it both ways.

So long as there are Labour Deputies on this side of the House, so long as this Party is represented, although we may not always be very successful in what we do, we will certainly ensure, as far as the record of this House is concerned, that Fianna Fáil will not have it both ways. They have been hinged now clearly and distinctly, on to an amendment which is unambiguous, which is not couched in Lynch speech, de Valera speech or Haughey speech, but clearly asks them to do what successive Fianna Fáil Governments have done from the time they entered this House belatedly after the Treaty of 1922. That is, to reaffirm the principle of neutrality. Either the Government are for it or against it and talking about fishery protection vessels which can or cannot take helicopters and about extending the area which we would have to patrol and about replenishing ammunition stock at the horrendous figure that the Irish Government are now to spend — several million pounds, to quote the Minister for Defence correctly, this at a time when the Department of Social Welfare do not appear to be able to afford a computer to organise their affairs — is to try to fudge the issue, to get away from the central theme of what being an independent State means after hundreds of years of struggle for liberation.

It is significant that the Minister for Defence was brought in to make the sort of contribution which he had to make. It is clear evidence that this Government do not want to debate this issue. It is consistent with the response from the time that the Party Leader, Deputy Cluskey, questioned the Taoiseach after the Dublin Summit Meeting. Fianna Fáil do not want the public to discuss this issue and they certainly do not want their party to discuss it. They know very clearly, as Deputy Molloy indicated over the weekend, that attachment to neutrality extends a long way and goes back a long distance. Indeed, it was a countyman of Deputy Molloy's who, in the treaty debates in this House asserted the kind of independent spirit which was at the base of the struggle for national liberation, particularly on the republican side. On 4 January 1922, Deputy Liam Mellowes, representing the constituency of Galway, speaking against the treaty, argued against Ireland going back into the British Empire, argued against the material gains which would allegedly come from it, and went on to try to describe the motivation of the people who fought for freedom in this country and who took on at that time the superpower in the world. I quote from column 231 where Mellowes states:

We hoped to make this country something the world should be proud of and we did not enter into the fight to make this country as the other countries, where its word was not its bond and where a treaty was something to be struggled for. That was not the ideal that inspired men in this cause in every age and it is not the ideal which inspires us today. We did not seek to make this country a materially great country at the expense of its honour in any way whatsoever.

It is this kind of sentiment, expressed back in 1922, which continues in unbroken line, whether it is James Connolly in 1914, asserting the independence of the Irish people to remain outside the capitalist conflict between Britain and Germany, or Eamon de Valera in 1927 and right on to Frank Aiken and other foreign ministers and party political leaders and which brings us to this debate today in 1981. We believe that the Labour Party, in moving this amendment, is a continuous part of that tradition and that we have the support of the majority of the Irish people in reaffirming it. If the Fianna Fáil Party want to break with that, then they have the opportunity to do so tonight. In so doing, they must vote against our amendment and in so doing they will be saying formally to the world that, as far as Fianna Fáil are concerned, they are no longer neutral and they no longer consider that Ireland is a neutral state.

Since I entered this House almost 22 years ago, I cannot think of a debate of greater importance than this one. I am very sorry indeed that the 86 yesmen of the Fianna Fáil Party are not here in greater numbers to listen to a debate which is concerned about the apparent readiness of the Taoiseach for the time being to surrender Ireland's neutrality for propaganda purposes. Notwithstanding all the conflicting statements about the meeting between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister, there is still an area of considerable, grave doubt about what occurred at the meeting between those two heads of Government. It appears that one of the areas of considerable confusion is that which concerns the neutrality of Ireland.

In the face of the widely expressed fears about the risk of a fall-out from a nuclear power station in Ireland, the Government were only too willing to make a declaration that they would not proceed with a nuclear power station without first having a public inquiry, but the risk of a catastrophe caused by a fault in a nuclear power station is negligible compared with the strong likelihood that Ireland will be a direct and early victim of a nuclear war if Ireland joins a defence pact with Britain, a nuclear power.

There are those who in recent weeks have sought to deride advocates of neutrality on the grounds that they, for romantic reasons, are adhering to a policy which is no longer possible. I am not concerned with whether yesterday or years ago our predecessors supported neutrality. What I am concerned about is the future in which we and our children must live. I am certain the only course of self-interest to Ireland dictates that we must not enter into any defence arrangement with any nuclear power.

Last week when the question of neutrality was raised in the course of Dáil questions the Taoiseach raised a laugh from his own benches when he declared in reply to my question in relation to Article 28 of the Constitution that the Government had no intention of declaring war. Article 28 of the Constitution is not about a declaration of war, but it says that Ireland may not be involved in a war without a vote of Dáil Éireann. The point I wanted to make last week, amid the derisive laughter of Fianna Fáil members, many of whom were scared about what the Taoiseach had really offered to Mrs. Thatcher, was that even if there was now a defence arrangement entered into between the Taoiseach and Mrs. Thatcher, or even between this Parliament and the British Parliament, it could have no effect in a war-like situation without a new vote which would involve this country in war.

Two or three months ago there was no European power, no American Government or no Russian authority questioning Ireland's neutral status. Ireland was regarded as being a member of a very small group of nations which were not involved in military pacts. That situation has changed utterly as a direct consequence of the meeting between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister. I regard this as sinister and dangerous.

I have the privilege of being a member of the European Parliament. For four-and-a-half years I was a member of the European Council of Ministers. I am aware that hitherto no pressures were brought to bear by the European Community, or any members of the Community, on Ireland to abandon her neutral status, but because of my role as a member of the European Parliament, within the last month I have become aware that many countries are now of the view that Ireland is changing her neutral status and is prepared to enter into a military obligation not only with her immediate neighbour, Britain, but as the British Prime Minister inferred in her speech in Belfast last week, is also prepared to enter into military obligations with other governments.

Whether it was as a result of a deliberate suggestion on the part of the Taoiseach or as a result of his ineptitude, the word has gone abroad that Ireland is prepared to amend her neutral standing. Clearly the blame for that lies very definitely on the Taoiseach and the present Government.

Hear, hear.

That is not surprising when one recalls a speech delivered by the present Minister for Foreign Affairs in Wales about nine years ago where he expressed his regret that Ireland had left the British Commonwealth of Nations. He considered — and I believe this is still his personal conviction — it would have been better for Ireland to still have knelt before British imperialism for two reasons: first, because the British might be better disposed to us, and second, because of an extremely remote chance that it might make some people in the North see that if we in the South were green, there was a little red in our blood as well. Membership of the Commonwealth 1922 to 1949 did not soften the Unionist cough.

It appals me that we have this shilly-shallying by this Government on a fundamental issue like neutrality. I am convinced that the Taoiseach raised the question of a defence pact with the British Premier when they met. I am also convinced that his speech today was the result of a market survey made at the behest of the Government. Surveys show that the overwhelming mass of the Irish people wish Ireland to remain neutral. I believe that since his gaffe in the meeting with the British Premier, the Taoiseach has seen the results of market surveys which show a fierce antagonism on the part of our people towards anybody who would sell Ireland's neutral position down the drain.

We now have glorious phrases about the virginity of Irish sovereignty which no Fianna Fáil Government would ever want to impair. Neither the Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs nor any other member of the Government was prepared to utter such phrases until they got the message from these market surveys which showed that our people, quite properly, are opposed to involvement in military pacts with anybody.

I am sure the Taoiseach chose his words very carefully in his speech to the House today. His was not a speech left to civil servants. They may have prepared the original draft, but every word is the Taoiseach's own personal decision. He stated as follows:

I wish to state unequivocally that the Government are not discussing or negotiating any kind of secret agreement on defence with Britain or with any other country or group of countries.

This leaves wide open the probability that they are prepared to negotiate an open agreement involving Ireland in defence obligations towards Britain or other countries. They hope to generate such a degree of alarm and anxiety on the one hand and ambition for the unity of Ireland on the other that our people may succumb to the temptation of surrendering to other nations their sovereignty over their own lives.

We assume that in Britain, Russia, the United States of America and possibly elsewhere there are military experts who are studying the advantage to them of possession of Irish soil, airports and sea ports and launching sites for nuclear missiles. It is understandable that military authorities consider such matters, while leaving it to civil Governments to say what is politically acceptable. So far we have not heard from any member of the Western Community — I do not expect to hear it from the Eastern Community — any statement which would indicate that they would not under any circumstances consider that they had a right to invade Ireland in order to obtain possession of airports and other facilities. This silence underlines the argument in favour of neutrality. If any members of the Western alliance consider that they have the right to invade Ireland in order to protect themselves, they show themselves morally as wrong as members of the Eastern alliance. There are no circumstances which can justify the destruction of the integrity of an independent state which decides to remain neutral.

I believe, therefore, that we should assert our right to be neutral in the conviction that by so doing we considerably reduce the tendency of any country to consider Ireland as a possible target. If we waver on the issue of neutrality we will certainly increase the possibility of invasion from one quarter or another. If we assert our position on neutrality I believe there is a greater possibility — no more than that — that we will be left alone in the event of an international conflict.

There are those who feel that the effects of a nuclear war are so devastating and so indifferent to political boundaries that it will not be possible for any country to remain neutral in a world conflagration. I do not believe that the possibilities or otherwise of remaining neutral in a future world war will be any greater or less than in previous world conflagrations. To decide to remain neutral is one thing; not to be affected by the consequences of war is a totally different thing. But one does not necessarily reduce the consequences of war by becoming involved in that war of one's own volition. History points to the contrary.

If there is to be a nuclear attack on, say, Liverpool and the wind is blowing eastwards, the likelihood is that the east coast of Ireland, and Dublin in particular. will be considerably damaged by that nuclear explosion. That is a possibility, but the probability of nuclear attack is increased by entering into a defence arrangement, particularly with a nuclear power. A country then finds itself obliged to have nuclear missiles on its own territory, thus inviting direct attack.

What we are really considering is the balance of advantage in entering into a defence pact which would require us to have nuclear missiles on our own territory against a neutral position which might make us victims of nuclear fall-out as a result of attack on some other territory directly involved in a nuclear conflict. In 1981 and for many years to come Ireland's interests are in declaring its neutrality and its unwillingness to become involved in a situation which would invite direct attack upon this country.

It struck me, when listening to the Taoiseach's speech, that while it was very good in terms of the forthcoming polls his heart was not really in it. Near the beginning of his speech he declared that if at any time some modification in the policy seemed to be required then it would be the Government's duty to put the position before the people and their representatives prior to any decision being taken. In other words, the Government are at present contemplating the build-up of such a massive fear and hysteria or ambition in relation to the unity of Ireland that they can sell Ireland's neutral position down the drain. That is a totally unacceptable position for an Irish Government to assume at any time and particularly at a time when the world is so excited about the possibility of a third world war.

The Taoiseach has also raised the possibility that when a satisfactory political solution is arrived at in relation to Northern Ireland it might be time to review the most appropriate defence arrangements for the island as a whole. I am being perfectly frank in saying that I do not believe that the Government having Ireland in a nuclear war arises in relation to the difficulties of Northern Ireland. I believe that the Government having flown a kite in relation to this may lead to a situation in which some people in Northern Ireland, being totally opposed to unity, may introduce the red herring of the future defence of this island.

By offering this hostage to them the Government have acted against the national interest. Of course, there are many people interested in ensuring that Ireland is not a base to make any attacks upon the eastern or the western blocs. I have already indicated the way in which we can ensure that the likelihood of attack upon us is reduced by making Ireland a neutral zone. Another way to reduce the possibility of attacks on Ireland is to make it clear to any potential belligerents that if they come here we will make Ireland a hell for them. We secured our neutrality in the last war to a large extent because it was clear to both belligerents that it would cost them more than they would gain were they to invade us. That situation still exists. Even if there was a nuclear attack on us we could not be occupied by the attackers until Ireland became safe from the effects of a nuclear attack. Even then, we would want to be in a position to make life in Ireland a hell on earth for any would-be occupier.

When we talk about neutrality and our desire to remain neutral it is appropriate that we should assume the responsibility and the cost of making Ireland useless or impossible for any would-be occupier. That is something we are not doing. One of the reasons why it is difficult for us to do it is because the British Government by their misrule of Northern Ireland by their ineptitude in overcoming the difficulties there, and not by reason of any internal subversion in our State, have imposed upon us a doubling of our defence and security costs. I do not believe that in that situation the British Prime Minister has had the temerity to ask the Irish Government to increase their defence commitment. We as an independent sovereign country have had to double our defence and police costs and have had to double our Army and police force in order to avoid subversion originating in an adjoining country which is not properly ruled. I cannot conceive for one moment that the British made any demands on us in relation to defence commitments except that they might have possibly politely asked whether we would be disposed to enter into a nonaggression pact against Britain or into an agreement that we would not in any circumstances allow our island to be used for the purposes of an attack on Britain. I would assume that no Irish Government would hesitate to enter into such an agreement because it would be of mutual benefit to ensure that neither island would be used for the purposes of an attack on the other. That is not a defence pact or a qualification of our neutrality. It is a strengthening of our neutrality. It is a definite statement that we will not allow ourselves to be used for the purposes of attack on anybody.

It was significant that today for the first time in a long time every seat in the Distinguished Strangers Gallery was occupied by a member of the Diplomatic Corps. They were there because their governments were interested in Ireland's stance on defence pacts or neutrality. They would not have been there if this question had not arisen as a result of the meeting between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister. The only reason why it arose subsequent to that meeting is because the Taoiseach left that grey area open to controversy, to comment and for debate. We would not have had a denial from the Taoiseach if we had not insisted on a debate on the subject. I read in at least a dozen British newspapers or respected magazines over the last three months about the idea that Irish neutrality is now at an end, that it will be no longer possible for Ireland to maintain neutrality and that indeed there was not a willingness on the part of Ireland to maintain her neutral position in future. I did not observe a denial of any of these reports from the Government, a Government supporter or spokesman. They were willing to let these ideas float around in the outside world, adultering the commitment of the Irish people to neutrality. This debate may have the possibility of clearing the air although the Taoiseach's statement, however often one analyses the phraseology used, still leaves considerable doubt. The Taoiseach talks about not entering into discussions on a secret agreement and later on in a throw-away phrase he said that he could drop the word "secret". But he selected the word "secret" in the preparation of his address.


The Opposition are the ones using the word.

It is quite apparent to any reasonable person that there is some form of subterfuge. The Taoiseach also said that, in relation to the Government's association with Europe, they are prepared to accept that if Europe enters into a full political union which included defence they would accept their obligations in that regard. But there cannot be any further movement towards political union without the specific and direct agreement of the Irish Government, ultimately endorsed by Dáil Éireann, as the Constitution so provides. The Taoiseach did not rule out the possibility that his Government might be prepared to agree to a political union which included defence. If the Taoiseach was opposed to that idea and if he was determined to maintain our neutrality, he should have said so. He should have said that under no circumstances would the Irish Government enter into a political union in Europe or anywhere which involved a defence commitment. The Taoiseach was not prepared to say that. We are still left, towards the end of this debate, with the possibility or, having regard to the record of Fianna Fáil in the past ten years, the probability that defence obligations will be entered into to such an extent that it may be next to impossible for the Irish people to withdraw from a situation into which the Government have already committed them. It seems that the future is fraught with danger. We have a Taoiseach and a Government who are ambivalent in relation to neutrality, who somehow or other seem to be ashamed that Ireland has been neutral in the 60 years since we achieved our freedom, and they want to escape from that neutral position.

Various texts were quoted here today as to the origin of Ireland's neutrality commitment. Ireland's neutrality began on the day we sought our freedom. One of the most fundamental rights of any State is to decide not to be involved in a war unless it is attacked.

The Deputy has gone over 30 minutes.

The time for ambivalence is over. It has created great difficulties and pressure for us. I expect the Minister for Foreign Affairs is replying to this debate and I am asking him for a clear statement——

If he can give it without being ambivalent.

——that the determination of the Government is to keep Ireland out of other people's wars. We should mind our own business by defending our own island first. Doing that will cost us enough in money and human sacrifice. That should be our objective. By doing that we would be making a significant contribution to the financial and human cost of the defence of Europe which in per capita terms will be a lot greater than that being made by the citizens of some of the countries who might lean on us to abandon our neutrality because of the ambivalence of the Government in the past few months.

You should get unity in your own party first of all. The Deputy's party is split from top to bottom.

(Cavan-Monaghan): Where is Deputy Molloy?

Is clarification required?


The Minister has been called.

Having listened carefully to the debate the real difficulty coming into it at this stage is to select from the mountain of errors, misconceptions and wrong statements——

That is a nice way to talk about the Taoiseach's speech.

——to show that what we have had is a highly mischievous debate, which it was intended to be.

Would the Minister not deal with the totality of the contents?

The point was made by Deputy Cluskey and taken up by Deputy FitzGerald that there were something sinister in the adjective "secret" when the Taoiseach in his speech said that he wished to state unequivocally that the Government are not discussing or negotiating any kind of secret agreement on defence with Britain or with any other country or group of countries. He said, in the only interjection he made in reply to Deputy Cluskey, that he could delete "secret" if he wished.

But he put it in. Why?

I will tell the Deputy why. I did not stand up to talk without saying why. The Deputy should learn that. The reason why secret is there is that that is the precise allegation being made against the Taoiseach and the Government — that we are negotiating some form of secret agreement.

No. Negotiating secretly an agreement.

The whole thrust of the criticism that has been made——

The Minister is entitled to speak.

Yes, but not to misrepresent us.

The whole thrust of the criticism by the commentators and people trying to stir up trouble is that somehow, somewhere, in the dark of the night, a secret agreement was made.

Secret negotiation for a public agreement.

I want to deal with "secret" first. I will deal with negotiation then.

The Minister is doing great.

The Taoiseach said that you are welcome to "secret". If there was public agreement there would be no debate, no inneundo, allegation or sinister undertones as to what went on at the summit talks in Dublin. The whole thrust of the criticism of the Taoiseach and the Government in regard to the very constructive and responsible talks held in Dublin last December between the two Prime Ministers and senior Government officials, for the first time ever, was that a secret deal was made. These were the kind of words used. It was said that a secret deal was made particularly in regard to neutrality and defence. For obvious reasons the word "secret" was put in there and, if the Opposition do not want it it does not matter.

What about the position of Northern Ireland?

If the Opposition want some petty debating point they can have it. Delete "secret".


The Minister is entitled to make his speech.

Being entitled and capable are two different things.

That is a judgment I will not enter into with regard to the Deputy.

Good boy.

The whole point in the Taoiseach stating clearly that we are not discussing or negotiating any secret agreement on defence is precisely because this is what the Opposition and people in other fora were suggesting.

Nobody made any suggestion. Everyone knows a secret agreement would be unconstitutional and no negotiation——

The Deputy has already spoken. The Minister, without interruption.

As far as the Government are concerned, the Taoiseach said that any major change in Ireland's defence policy would have to be in accordance with the Constitution and be the subject of the fullest public debate both inside and outside the House. Negotiation was referred to by Deputies FitzGerald and Cluskey. There is no question of negotiation at present or until the result of the joint studies being pursued at present between the officials is communicated to the next summit meeting. At present and until next summer, when the meeting takes place, the state of play is that groups of officials from the two Governments are studying various aspects of policy under the parameters set out in the communique arising from the Dublin meeting.

Is the Minister saying that neutrality is only up for tender at present?

That is the kind of cheap remark I would expect from the Deputy.

That is what the Minister is saying.

After that remark the Deputy should either lie down or get out.

Deputy Cluskey should not interrupt.

The present state of play is that officials from both countries are meeting and studying various aspects, options and alternatives being thrown up——

About what?

They will be looked at at the next summit conference to be held in the summer.

Do they cover defence?

That is the position. Let us be precise about words in this matter. There are no negotiations taking place.

Do they cover defence?

That is the third time the Deputy has anticipated me. Perhaps it is a tribute to his intelligence. It is remarkable how closely he is following my train of thought. My next line is defence. The allegation Deputy FitzGerald sought to make was that defence was under discussion and that it was a major mistake that it should be so discussed. The facts are that the two people who are really concerned in this matter and know the truth, Deputy Haughey, as Taoiseach, has said defence matters pertaining to the two islands were not discussed at the summit meeting——

He did not say that.

He said it here.

No, he did not.

He has said it on numerous occasions. Mrs. Thatcher last week in Belfast said that defence matters were not discussed.

She did not. She said she did not raise them. Those are two misquotations the Minister made.

Deputy FitzGerald should stop interrupting.

The Minister is trying to cover up.

I will quote exactly from what she said.

The whole of it?

Deputy FitzGerald should stop interrupting.

Deputy FitzGerald has helped me.

He is not entitled to help the Minister.

Referring to the interviewer who raised the question of defence between the Republic of Ireland and the British Government, the Prime Minister said:

We have not raised defence matters with Mr. Haughey. Defence matters are of a much much wider canvas than bilateral.

In other words, in bilateral talks it was not appropriate to raise defence matters at all.

That is the Minister's parsing.

On several occasions on radio and television, I said specifically that any question of defence in the future must be entirely in a European context, within the context of the European Economic Community.

That is not what the Minister said.

He cannot even quote himself.

I would expect that Deputy FitzGerald would not interrupt.

We would expect that the Minister would not be misleading.

The same goes for Deputy Cluskey. He is not entitled to interrupt.

The facts of the matter are that the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister — and they are the only two people who were privy to the talks — both said — and let us be serious about this matter — that defence was not discussed in any manner, shape or form.

Neither said that. That is false.

I will quote further. What the Taoiseach said today is relevant to the point I have been mentioning and it is concerned with the whole question of defence being under discussion at the Summit. The Taoiseach said:

When a satisfactory political solution is arrived at, we would, of course, have to review what would be the most appropriate defence arrangements for the island as a whole. It would be unrealistic and improvident not to do so. It would also be mandatory that any such arrangements would require the full authority of the Irish people deciding on them as a specific issue.

The point is that Deputy FitzGerald, (a) by the wrong use of the word "negotiation" and, (b) by reason of the obvious falsehood that defence matters were under discussion at the Summit, sought to indicate that the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister were discussing defence in advance of other matters. I would agree with him that, if there was any such negotiation, defence arrangements would be the last matter to be discussed. Arising from his knowledge and experience of these matters, Deputy FitzGerald is obviously right in that respect. In his speech he sought to suggest that, on this occasion, this logical progression of the negotiation, if there was a negotiation which there was not, would include defence matters. Of course it would, and Deputy FitzGerald knows that. He knows that, and the officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs, the officials in the Department of the Taoiseach, and the Taoiseach and I, are well aware of that too.

This is why the Taoiseach said properly that when a satisfactory political solution is arrived at we would, of course, then have to review what would be the most appropriate defence arrangements for the island as a whole.

Review with whom?

Defence is the last matter pending a political settlement of some kind. That is a long while away yet. Does that sort of logical progression in regard to matters of this kind, of which Deputy FitzGerald is well aware, indicate that at this early stage heads of Government would be sitting around a table talking about defence matters?

Would the Minister clarify one thing?

Under any joint studies at present defence does not arise. Defence would arise only after a political settlement.

Why did the Taoiseach not say that?

I might say further that an exact analogy exists in regard to the European Economic Community with which the House is familiar. The EEC has made considerable progress in a whole area of social and economic matters. Political union, as such, is still a long while away. I think a defence arrangement of any kind will be still longer away. Deputy FitzGerald, when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs, and I have always taken the stance and made the point that defence arrangements within the Community would have to be consequent upon and following upon the achievement of an acceptable political union.

May I ask the Minister a question? Would the Minister not agree that what he is doing at the moment is discussing the tactics for bartering away our neutrality rather than the principle?

The Minister is entitled to make his speech and the Deputy is not entitled to question the speaker when he is in possession.

The Deputy does not understand the matter. That is the whole trouble. We are not talking about bartering away or abandoning anything. We are talking about joint studies.

Deputy Cluskey is too shallow.

I am not on the same high plane as the Deputy.

If Deputy Briscoe and Deputy Cluskey would remain quiet we could get on with the debate. They are not entitled to interrupt.

The status of Ireland internationally can be stated clearly and briefly. We are not a member of any military alliance. Neither are we a member of any non-aligned group. I say this in answer to Deputy Browne and Deputy Quinn. The non-aligned group are also a bloc. There is a bloc situation in the world: the eastern bloc, the western bloc and the non-aligned bloc.

The Minister was not neutral on 17 February.

From the point of view of our international contribution within the United Nations, we are much better off as a neutral member. We are much better off being associated with the sort of category to which Austria and Sweden belong. I should like to emphasise that point because it is important. Many of the non-aligned nations are very heavy users of the sort of military hardware which Deputy Browne rightly deplores. Unfortunately that is the case. I do not want to mention names of countries, but that is a fact.

I want to emphasise again that, while we are neutral in the military sense, we are neither ideologically neutral nor politically indifferent. We are neutral in the military sense. We are not a member and we do not propose to become a member of any military group of nations either on a bilateral or a multilateral basis. We share basic democratic, political and economic factors with our neighbours in western Europe and a common commitment with our partners in the European Community to work towards European integration and union. We also have rights and duties under the United Nations Charter. We have our own view, independently expressed, on developments political and economic in many parts of the world, and we do not hesitate to state them, in areas like El Salvador. Namibia and other areas throughout the world where we have a practical point of view.

The Olympic games and so on.

It is important to be clear about our membership of the Community. Joining the EEC did not entail any military or defence obligations for Ireland. The Community have not got a common defence policy as I stated already. In the referendum our people endorsed the decision to enter Europe and to participate in defence commitments after the achievement of political integration, a matter which is a long way away by reason of the slowness in achieving European political union.

I should like to emphasise one other point which I think was made by Deputy FitzGerald on another occasion. There is a very big difference between security, as such, and defence. Security is a much wider concept bringing in our whole relations within the United Nations, international relations generally, political relations and all that area other than defence. We must draw a distinction sharply between security on an international level and military neutrality. We are neutral in a military sense, but we are not neutral in a political sense. That is the net position.

Is the Minister concluding or moving the adjournment of the debate?

I move the adjournment of the debate, if that is required.

The debate is adjourned. I am now calling Private Members' Business, No. 18.

They are afraid of the vote.

The debate must end with a vote.

There is no order of the House to end the debate. As far as the Chair is concerned the debate goes on as long as speakers are offering.

The Government insisted on a three-and-a-half-hour debate. We had sought a two-day debate. The decision was taken to have a three-and-a-half-hour debate and a decision must be taken at the end of it.

As far as the Chair is concerned, the Minister has moved the adjournment of the debate. unless there is an order of the House to the contrary——

(Cavan-Monaghan): The debate proceeded on the basis of an informal agreement, and I heard the Chair say on a number of occasions that there was informal agreement, that the speeches would be for half an hour. The attention of speakers was drawn to the fact that they had exceeded the half hour by a moment or two. The informal agreement was that this was to be a three-and-a-half-hour debate, commencing at 3.30 p.m. and ending at 7 o'clock with a vote. I regret to have to say that this is sharp practice from the Chair.

The Chair had no indication whatsoever that the debate was to finish, none in the world, and if you do not accept the word of the Chair, that is all right. The Chair was told this morning that there had been an informal agreement between the Whips, and the Chair has no power to enforce that.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I invite the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach to say whether it was a three-and-a-half-hour debate. The Labour Party had sought a two-day debate but they were refused and were told it would be a three-and-a-half-hour debate. This is the most extraordinary performance I have witnessed since I came to the Oireachtas in 1961.

On a point of explanation, the Opposition first of all sought to discuss the communiqué after the last Summit meeting. I pointed out to them that we had discussed it on 11 December. Then the Government in their benevolence offered them a three-and-a-half-hour debate. It has been concluded now and that is that.

Right then, let us have a vote.

If the Minister of State says the debate has been concluded the Chair will have to put the motion, but as far as the Chair is concerned, the Minister for Foreign Affairs moved the adjournment.

On a point of order, we sought a two-day debate. I want to know from the Minister, not from the Minister of State, if they are now offering a two-day debate on the communiqué? Is that what is being offered now, is that why the debate is being adjourned, or are the Government imposing a three-and-a-half-hour debate? Which are they doing?

We gave the Opposition a three-and-a-half-hour debate. The time has ended, the Minister moved the adjournment, end of story.


We are now into Private Members' time.

You heard the Minister of State say there was a three-and-a-half-hour debate and that it has now concluded. You then ruled that in that case you must put the motion——

The Minister of State said the debate had concluded but as far as the Chair is concerned, the speaker in possession moved the adjournment of the debate. There is nothing before the Chair, an order of the House or anything else, to say that the debate cannot be adjourned.

I want the situation clarified. We did not enter into an agreement on the time of the debate but when the three-and-a-half-hour period was being imposed on the Opposition by the Government there was informal agreement with regard to the times speakers would take. All I want to know is whether the Government, by adjourning the debate, are now offering us, as we requested, a full two-day debate on the communiqué?

Deputy Cluskey is trying to be clever. First of all, they sought a two-day debate on the communiqué after the December meeting. I told them they had got that debate on 11 December. If they are confused I cannot help them.

The Chair cannot allow this to continue.

Can we have a ruling? What is the Chair ruling? Are we being given what we had sought?

The Chair is going into Private Members' time. We are already well into it. The Minister in possession moved the adjournment of the debate. That is all that is before the Chair.

What precisely does that mean?

The Government are afraid to face a vote.

It means that the debate can be resumed at a later stage.

Will the Minister of State say if the debate will be resumed in the morning?

We will be taking the Social Welfare Bill in the morning.

An agreement was entered into that none of the speeches would exceed 30 minutes, that there would be seven speakers——

The Chair cannot enforce anything without an order of the House.

I accept that. There was an agreement that there would be seven speeches, none of which would exceed 30 minutes, at the end of which the debate would be concluded. Standing Orders provide that at the conclusion of a debate a vote be taken. If you, Sir, are a victim of the subterfuge of the guilty, at least let the people of the country know the country is being sold away by subterfuge, and the country will not take any more messing. The Government have condemned themselves by showing they cannot face a vote. They will tell Mrs. Thatcher but they will not tell the people of Ireland. The people are entitled to be told before Mrs. Thatcher. The Government will not fact a vote and will not say whether defence was raised in the discussion with Mrs. Thatcher. They will not allow a vote because they cannot face it.

Would Deputy Ryan resume his seat? The Chair is moving to the next business.

Mr. Ryan

They have sold the country.

I should like to ask the Minister of State are we to have any more Whip's agreements? On this occasion we came to a gentlemen's agreement. They offered us a three-and-a-half-hour debate.

I now move the suspension of Standing Orders so that a vote can be taken.

The Chair cannot accept any motion at this stage. We are into Private Members' time.

I can move the suspension of Standing Orders at any time.

That is not correct — you cannot.

I want to raise two points of order. First of all, as Deputy L'Estrange has explained, there was informal agreement that the debate would be concluded. That agreement has now been repudiated by the Government, dishonourably. Secondly, I would like to point out that, following that agreement being reached, I discussed with an officer of your office the procedure for the vote to take place after the three-and-a-half-hour debate and I was informed by your office that the procedure at the end of that debate would be that a motion would be put "That the words to be deleted stand" and that it would be followed by a vote on our amendment. That was the advice given me by your office. I am not going to accept this kind of treatment from the Chair when I got that assurance in relation to this matter and when agreement was reached between the Whips. The business of this House should not be subverted by the Minister of State or by a change of attitude by the Chair.

As far as the Chair is concerned, the debate has not ended.

I formally request that the Ceann Comhairle be sent for.

Ten minutes ago the Minister for Foreign Affairs moved the adjournment of the debate in accordance with the rulings of the House. I am in the Chair and I am moving to Private Members' Business.

I formally request that the Ceann Comhairle be sent for.

I second the motion that the Ceann Comhairle be sent for.

If the Deputy will not allow the business of the House to continue I will have no option but to adjourn the House.

(Cavan Monaghan): On a point of order, I want to put on the record of the House——

This House can operate only by co-operation with the Opposition. I tell the Minister for State this is what is going to happen.

If Deputies will allow, the Chair would like to make its position clear——

The Minister should not put his personal integrity as well as his political integrity on the line for Deputy Charles J. Haughey.

It is not Deputy Seán Moore who is speaking. We have found him to be a decent, respectable man. Somebody is making him do this. We had a gentleman's agreement and it has been broken.

It has not been broken.

The Minister has been pressurised into doing this. He is doing it at the dictate of Deputy Charles Haughey and I am surprised at him. I never thought he would do this. There will be no further agreements between the Whips. It is a sell-out.

Will Deputies please listen to the Chair? The Chair is being involved in something for which it has no responsibility whatever. There is a motion before the House and, as long as speakers offer to speak on that motion, under Standing Orders of the House the Chair must accept those speakers——

——unless there is an order of the House saying otherwise.

Or by agreement.

There is no such order of the House before the Chair.

May I say something? When the debate——

I am formally requesting that you send for the Ceann Comhairle.

The only agreement on which the Chair must act is an order of the House. As far as the Chair is concerned, informal agreements——

The Fianna Fáil Whip met me one hour ago. Deputy Fitzpatrick was there when we agreed on the times. He said to me that Deputy Quinn would speak from 5.45 p.m. to 6.15 p.m. Deputy Richie Ryan from 6.15 p.m to 6.45 p.m. The Fianna Fáil Whip said "We will take ten to 15 minutes for Brian Lenihan and we will be satisfied with that". He said to me "We will then have a vote. We are sacrificing 15 minutes of the time". Let them deny that.

I was so generous with the Opposition that I took 15 minutes from the Minister to give it to them. Do not forget that when the debate ends there is a vote. Do the Opposition not understand the rules of the House?


Vote, vote.


The Ceann Comhairle should be sent for. I saw the Ceann Comhairle and he said to me "Seán Moore has been with me a few moments ago. I am glad that has been verified and now I know where I stand". This is what he told me.

Will the Deputy please allow the Chair to say something?

Seán Moore said that they took 15 minutes from Brian Lenihan. I am surprised at him. I have always found him a decent, respectable man——

Will the Deputy cease for a moment?

Do not explode.

The Deputy looks as if he will explode the way he is carrying on. Must we act in this way? As far as the Chair at the moment is concerned, the Chair is now suspending the sitting until 7.30 p.m. The Chair wishes to point out that, unless the adjournment of the debate that was proposed by the speaker in possession is withdrawn or changed, under the Standing Orders of this House, there is nothing the Chair can do about it.

Sitting suspended at 7.20 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.

As I understand it, the debate was adjourned. In those circumstances the Chair has no option but to proceed with the next business.

On a point of order, the position as I understand it, which can be verified by others directly involved, is that agreement was reached on the order of speakers and on the conclusion of the debate. I understand that the Chief Whip notified that to you and my understanding is that you said that you were glad that what you had been informed by the Minister of State was verified by the Chief Whip. In those circumstances, as the informal agreement was reached and was notified to the Chair in relation to the conclusion of the debate, I submit that the vote must take place in accordance with the procedure of the House.

The only informal agreement that I was informed of was the time limit on the speeches.

I invite Deputy L'Estrange to give his account of the discussion.

We were offered a three-and-a-half hour debate. The Whips met and we agreed on the time. I have the first agreement we came to, if you want to hear it. This was agreed with the Whips. Fianna Fáil were to get in at 6.30 p.m. to conclude at 7 p.m. We had two or three discussions today about the procedure. About an hour-and-a-half ago the Fianna Fáil Chief Whip, Deputy Seán Moore, came to my room and said he had heard that Deputy Ritchie Ryan was anxious to speak. He said: "We are prepared to give Deputy Ritchie Ryan half an hour." We agreed on times. He said: "That will be cutting the Minister for Foreign Affairs back to ten minutes but we do not mind that. We think that will be sufficient time for him to conclude." Deputy Tom Fitzpatrick was with me at that time. Deputy Quinn did not take the full time. He was five minutes short of the full half hour so the times were rearranged with Fianna Fáil Chief Whip and me.

I came to the Ceann Comhairle and I read out the times. I said: "The agreement is Deputy Quinn will be 5.45 p.m. to 6.15 p.m., Deputy Ritchie Ryan 6.15 p.m. to 6.45 p.m." I said that the Minister for Foreign Affairs will have five minutes extra and it will be 6.45 p.m. to 7 p.m. to conclude. You said: "In this gentleman's agreement you have exactly verified what the Government Chief Whip, Deputy Seán Moore, has told me." That is the way things stand. I am a long time in this House and when there is an agreement and three-and-a-half hours given, there is always a vote at the end of the time. I can take an oath in any court in the country on what I have said. I believe a man has only his word. I have known the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Moore, and I have dealt with him for a long time. He is a respectable responsible, and honest man and a man of his word up to this moment. Whatever pressure has been brought on him by people who are absent from the House now and are not prepared to come in and defend the man they have put in the dock, I am surprised at what has happened. I am telling you the truth. Has it ever happened before that after three-and-a-half hours having been given for a debate, the vote was not put? Is there any precedent for this?

I do not want to become involved in an argument. I was simply concerned with the changing of the positions of the speakers. I was requested to allow Fine Gael before Fianna Fáil and I agreed to that. That was all. I want to make it clear that the Chair is not involved in this except in so far as order is concerned. The House made no binding order limiting the time for this debate. As the debate was adjourned, the Chair has no option but to continue on to the next business.

On a point of order, the terms of the agreement with regard to the allocation of time has been clearly established in the press and other media over the last week. We sought a two-day debate and the Government imposed a three-and-a-half-hour restrictive debate on this House. I accept, fully and without reservation, that you have no hand, act or part in it and that you are acting in accordance with the rules. I believe that those of us on this side of the House are possibly at fault. We took the Government's word. That was a very serious mistake. We have been denied by a disgraceful breach of faith by the Government in an agreement that was entered into by the Party Whips with regard to time and voting procedure. Stooping to such a disgraceful act speaks more eloquently than any thing that was said here this afternoon that they are undoubtedly bartering away the country's neutrality.

We cannot have a debate on this. I will allow the Minister of State to speak because other people have spoken.

I do not fear any debate on this matter. Our record here is quite clear. As I mentioned earlier, the Labour Party wanted a discussion on the December summit meeting. I pointed out to them that we had discussed this last December. The record is there and I brought their attention to this. The Government then said they would give a three-and-a-half-hour debate. In fairness to my fellow Whips from the Opposition side, they said they recognised the Government's right to put down a three-and-a-half-hour debate. We had an informal agreement on the length of time they would take to speak. Everything I have done here tonight has been in keeping with the Standing Orders of the House. Maybe I am too naive for this job, but we offered Fine Gael extra time at the expense of one of our Members. When the Minister for Foreign Affairs was speaking at 7 o'clock he reported progress. This happens every day in the House.


If you conclude that in any way I am not acting in accordance with Standing Orders——

Was it or was it not three-and-a-half-hours?

We offered the Opposition three-and-a-half hours. I am not Solomon but it would take Solomon to explain to the people over there what they have done. Everything I have done has been in accordance with Standing Orders and I defy the Opposition to prove that it was not.

May I have one word with the Minister of State?

We will not have a debate across the House.

I am entitled to that because the future running of the House depends on whether we can take the word of the Government Chief Whip. If we cannot there will be nothing but disorder in the House from now on. Is it true that you said to me "I am prepared to confine Deputy Brian Lenihan to ten minutes"? When Deputy Ruairí Quinn spoke for five minutes less than his half-hour we agreed to give Deputy Lenihan the extra five minutes which would coincide with finishing at 7 o'clock, the end of the three-and-a-half hours, and having a vote.

That does not have any bearing on it.

Why did Deputy Moore not say to me that the Minister for Foreign Affairs needs a half-hour? Why did Deputy Moore not say that the Minister would get 15 minutes this evening and the other 15 minutes afterwards? Deputy Moore did not say that to me; he said that the Minister would get 15 minutes and a vote would be taken at 7 o'clock.

The Opposition agreed to a three-and-a-half hour debate and that is the end of it.



Will Deputies permit the Chair to make a point? The Chair could not close the debate on an informal agreement. There could have been other speakers.

It was to be a three-and-a-half-hour debate.

I am anxious to make it clear that, as I pointed out previously, the House had not made any order limiting the time for this debate. The House had not made a binding order in relation to time and when the Minister moved the adjournment of the debate the Chair did not have any option but to proceed to the next business because there could be other speakers.

I wish to make a point of order. I should like to state emphatically that the arrangement was that the debate would conclude tonight and that the question would be put so much so that I found it amazing that Deputy Moore's office should be on to my office at about 6 o'clock this evening looking for pairs from the Labour Party for that division tonight. With respect, I should like to tell the Deputy that I gave him the pairs of Deputies Eileen Desmond, Liam Kavanagh and Michael O'Leary, who are on European business, because the division was to take place tonight. It was my clear understanding that as soon as Deputy Lenihan finished tonight the motion would be put because our three-and-a-half-hour debate had concluded. In no way am I blaming the Chair but I am blaming the cowardly absence of the Taoiseach who has run out of the House on the question of neutrality.

We cannot have an argument on this.

He has run out because he is afraid to put the motion to the House.

We must move on. This type of argument will not get us anywhere.

On a point of order, I should like to ask the Chair if he accepts that nobody has contested that the debate was agreed informally as a three-and-a-half-hour debate? That being so, there being no contest or disagreement on that, under what possible procedure can a three-and-a-half hour debate be adjourned to be continued beyond three-and-a-half-hours when there was unanimous agreement on it being three-and-a-half-hours? It is clear that, once there was unanimous agreement on the debate being three-and-a-half-hours, that is the end of it, that nobody else can speak and the vote must then be taken. Nothing else would make any sense whatever.

Not when progress was reported.

The Taoiseach must have gone to the Park.

I repeat that the House had not made any order limiting the time for this debate and in those circumstances the Chair had no option when 7 o'clock came but to move to Private Members Business. I understand that the Minister was not called upon to reply but was called on to contribute.

(Cavan-Monaghan): Reference has been made by the Chair to the fact that there has been no binding agreement and I should like to deal with that matter. The debate started at 3.30 p.m. and it was governed, ruled or controlled by an informal agreement under which each speaker was confined to 30 minutes. On a number of occasions when the speaker exceeded the 30 minutes his attention was drawn to the fact that there was an informal agreement that speeches would be restricted to 30 minutes and he was stopped. One thing that struck me was that when the Minister for Foreign Affairs reached 7 o'clock, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle did not make any effort, good, bad or indifferent, to say to him that, there was an informal agreement to the effect that the debate be concluded at 7 o'clock or ask if that agreement was being changed. That struck me as extraordinary and I am anxious to go on record as saying that.

The only informal agreement I was made aware of was the time allowed for each speaker.

(Cavan-Monaghan): Everybody who reads a newspaper, listens to the radio or looks at television, apart from the Chair and the vice-Chair, knew that this debate was to conclude at 7 o'clock.

The Chair cannot act on that.

I should like to remind the Chair that he had written down in front of him when I gave him the times, "Brian Lenihan, 6.45 to 7 o'clock." I saw that. You had that information from Deputy Seán Moore before me and you said you were delighted that I had confirmed this to you. You mentioned there was an informal agreement and you agreed with me. You showed it to me where you had it written down and you remarked that what I had told you entirely agreed with what Deputy Sean Moore had told you. You told me you were delighted I had verified this.

Would the Deputy come over here for one moment?

I will not go next or near the Chair. I saw where it was written down at that time. Whoever arranged this could have arranged and changed the times half a dozen times since that if they wished but I am surprised at Deputy Seán Moore.

As I said before, I do not wish to get involved in an argument of a personal nature. The fact of the matter is that all I was concerned with was whether Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael came second last or last this evening. I was told that Fine Gael were being allowed to come in second last and that is all. In fact the writing in relation to the times is not my handwriting at all.

No, and that is what I am saying.

I am not going to enter into any personal argument about this.

It belongs to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

Would the Chair not agree that what has happened this afternoon is that an informal agreement was made with regard to the procedure of the allocation of the three-and-a-hour debate and it was clearly understood that there would be a vote at the end of the debate? I appreciate fully the position of the Chair. Obviously, what has happened this afternoon and why the Government have resorted to this totally disgraceful breach of faith with the Opposition is that there is a major split within the Government party on the question of neutrality.

For heaven's sake, talk sense.

They are prepared to do anything before they would expose the split within their party by having a vote either for the principle of neutrality or against the principle of neutrality. What is happening now is that the Government are trying to force us into a political cul-de-sac by confrontation with the Chair.

The Deputy is in a cul-de-sac already.

There is no confrontation with the Chair. The public will see what has happened. The Government are deeply split because the Taoiseach is selling out on neutrality and they must at all costs avoid a vote in this House.

I want to make it clear that the Chair could not have acted other than in the manner it did in respect of this matter. I am moving on now to Private Members' time. I do not want to have to adjourn the House but I will be forced to do so.

I want to ask a question on a point of order. The Minister at the end of the debate moved the adjournment. Would it be in order for me at this stage to propose that the motion be now put?

Hear, hear.

That right exists under Standing Orders and I wish to exercise it.

No, the debate has been adjourned.


We are opposing the adjournment of the debate and we are entitled to——

On a point of order—we are now, according to the rules of the House, in Private Member's time—Fine Gael have a motion—if that Party are prepared to use the next 40 minutes of Private Members' time for a continued discussion and a vote on the issue at the end of it, is that in order?

I have already pointed out that the debate has been adjourned.

It is their time.

No, I am sorry.

A Cheann Comhairle, on one further point of order——

If we get the agreement of the House will the Government agree to that procedure being followed?


On a point of order——

On a point of order, if Fine Gael are prepared to offer the next 40 minutes of Private Member's time, will the Government agree to a continuation of the debate and a vote at the end of it?

The debate was automatically adjourned at 7 o'clock. Deputy Andrews.

Sir, there is a Private Members' Motion——


I am looking at great republicans; they are recruiting sergeants.


There goes neutrality. There goes Ireland's real independence.

Would the Deputy please resume his seat?

Under this party——oh, boy.

Would the Deputy please resume his seat? I am moving on to Private Members' time now.


On a point of order, Sir——

We could spend the whole evening on points of order.

It will be remembered that the Bray Travel motion has to be discussed.

I have explained that the Chair had no option but to act as it acted.

How could a three-and-a-half hour debate be adjourned after three-and-a-half hours?

Nobody is in confrontation with the Chair except in this regard, that when it was approaching 7 o'clock the Chair invited the Minister to move the adjournment, which was contrary to the agreement that the dogs in the street know, which meant that the debate should end at 7 o'clock.


Hear, hear.

Furthermore, even if the Minister did move the adjournment, there was no vote in the House as to whether or not the House agreed to the adjournment.

The fact of the matter is, Deputy, that the Minister was called upon to contribute and at 7 o'clock the debate was then adjourned. He had not been called on to reply.

The second point I wanted to make on a point of order was this, that when three-and-a-half hours of a three-and-a-half hour debate——

On a point of order, Sir, my rights as a Dáil Deputy are being infringed. I was speaking in Private Members' time and I am now being prevented from doing so on behalf of the Bray Travel victims. Fifty-five minutes of their time has been taken up by the behaviour of the Opposition. I would like to know what is my position in relation to Private Members' time?

The second point I wanted to make — my point was that, when a motion which is limited to a three-and-a-half hour debate is concluded, Standing Orders provide that the motion must be put. The motion must be put at the end of the debate. The third point I want to make is this, and here I would ask the Minister of State to listen to me——


I am standing up for my right to speak in this House and I will preserve that right. I am standing up for my right to speak in this House and make no mistake about it. I am not a conspirator. I am my own man in Irish politics.


I will not sit down.

Without prejudice to the two points I have made, if the debate is adjourned I want to know until what date it is adjourned and when this debate will be resumed because, if it is adjourned, it is adjourned to a date that the House is entitled to know.


Am I allowed to continue in Private Members' time?

A Cheann Comhairle——

I am taking one final point of order.

I do not wish to deprive Deputy David Andrews of the opportunity of voting against rescuing the Bray Travel victims, but I do want to raise with you on a point or order one thing. I am sorry for the confusion there now is in this House but all of us in this House, indeed including the chief Government Whip, were under the impression that the debate was to be three-and-a-half hours and that it was to be concluded at 7 o'clock. There was, and you are right in so saying — and the Chair is bound by rules — no formal agreement. At 7 o'clock the Leas-Cheann Comhairle — perhaps mistakenly but nevertheless did so — invited the Minister for Foreign Affairs to move the adjournment. We immediately said, a Cheann Comhairle, that that was not the agreement — and the record will show me correct — the Minister said: well if you are asking me to move the adjournment I will move the adjournment. Frankly, I would prefer to take a benign view of what has happened over the past hour. I would formally invite the Minister for Foreign Affairs, if there has been a mistake, if in the heat of a debate, he took up, perhaps mistakenly, the offer of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to move the adjournment, perhaps not fully aware of what might have been agreed——

I bowed to the ruling of the Chair.

No, with respect, the Minister took up — I am endeavouring to resolve this constructively, a Cheann Comhairle. The Minister for Foreign Affairs was invited to move the adjournment. Either the Government had decided in advance that they were not going to adhere to a three-and-a-half hour debate, which is a malign view, or alternatively a genuine mistake was made. On the assumption that a genuine mistake was made, which any of us can make, by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, I am now formally asking him to say so and let the House have a vote. That is all that this side of the House wants at this stage, a vote on this particular issue. I do not envy the task of the Chair but I do want to say this: I believe that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle was mistaken in inviting the adjournment. This side of the House did not agree to the moving of the adjournment and no vote was taken on the adjournment at issue. I would put it through you to the Minister for Foreign Affairs that a genuine mistake was made and that he should now have a vote because the alternative view is much different.

Might I just point out that, under Standing Orders, Government Business had to cease at 7 o'clock to go over to Private Members' time. If somebody was speaking at that time the debate was adjourned. That is the situation in accordance with Standing Orders.


A Cheann Comhairle, can I refer you to Standing Order No. 20. Can I refer you, on a point of order——

No, I am sorry.

Can I refer you, on a point of order, to Standing Order No. 20? You are dealing with the situation under Standing Orders and implying that an agreement between the Parties has no standing in this House. There are a number of Standing Orders, including No. 20, which specifically refer to the House otherwise resolving. If there is an agreement between the parties surely at any stage Standing Orders can be abrogated? In this instance there was an agreement between the parties. If you hold that such an agreement does not stand up, does not have the force of precedent here, then there can be no future for any agreement; there is no way that this House can be run in the future. There was an agreement between the parties to have a three-and-a-half hour debate and I cannot see how a three-and-a-half hour debate can be adjourned after three-and-a-half hours.

The Standing Orders——

What Standing Order; would the Chair quote the Standing Order?

The position is that we cannot——

You cannot paper over the cracks over there.

Would the Chair please quote the Standing Order under which he is ruling?

The position is that we cannot set aside Standing Orders except on a motion.

Would the Chair quote the one under which he is ruling?

If what is tantamount to disorder does not end I will have to adjourn the House.


Why does the Taoiseach not come in?


A Cheann Comhairle, on a point of order, you said a moment ago that you cannot dispense with Standing Orders except on the proposal of a motion. I proposed earlier the suspension of Standing Orders and it was seconded by Deputy FitzGerald.

A Deputy

Vótáil now.

It has to be on notice, and that is not sufficient notice.




No, I am sorry.

A Cheann Comhairle, you just ruled a second ago that only on a motion——


I would ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to resume his seat. He has not replied to Deputy Quinn's question.

Despite their big majority, they are running scared.

I wish to request simply that we be allowed to proceed with Private Member's Business.



If Deputies persist in continuing in this manner, I shall have no option but to adjourn the House.


For the sake of the dignity of the House, I am requesting that we be allowed to proceed with the next business.

There cannot be much dignity in the House so long as that shower over there remain in office.

Standing Order No. 139, paragraph (2) provides that:

in cases of urgent necessity, of which the Ceann Comhairle shall be the judge, any Standing Order or Orders may be suspended upon motion made without notice.

I suggest that in circumstances in which the whole procedure of Parliament has been set aside this evening, you judge that this is a case of urgent necessity and that Standing Orders be suspended on motion.

The debate was adjourned. I do not accept that that involves a matter of urgent necessity.

(Cavan-Monaghan): Before the Leas-Cheann Comhairle left the Chair he said that the House was being adjourned until 7.30 and that that could not be changed except by agreement.

We must face up to the reality of the situation. The Government are selling neutrality down the drain.


On a point of order——

We must move on to Private Member's Business.



Where is Haughey now?

I have no option but to adjourn the House.

The Dáil adjourned at 8.05 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 12 March 1981.