Deputy Denis Gallagher moved the adjournment of the debate and has 27 minutes remaining.
Anglo-Irish Agreement 1985: Motion (Resumed)
Aréir nuair a thosnaigh mé anseo bhí mé ag cur síos ar an chomhaontú seo Angla-Éireannach agus ag rá nach féidir linn na cúrsaí seo a scrúdú gan dul siar ar stair ár dtíre ar feadh na mblianta ó tugadh isteach Acht na hAontachta. Ins an Acht sin rinneadh cinnte go mbeadh cosaint faoi leith ag na hAontachtóirí i gcónaí agus sin an chaoi ar sheas na Sasanaigh leo ariamh ó tugadh isteach Acht na hAondachta. Tharla sé nuair a d'féach Rialtas Shasana Home Rule a thabhairt isteach agus tharla sé aris 1921 nuair a síníodh an Conradh idir an tír seo agus Sasana. Tugadh cearta do na hAontachtóirí. Sheas na Sasanaigh leis na hAontachtóirí agus fiú amháin ins an lá atá inniu ann tá an scéal céanna fíor. Tá cearta na nAontachtóirí á gcosaint ag Sasanaigh agus an fhad is a mhairfidh sé sin ní fheicfimid aon toradh buan ná ní fheicfimid aon suaimhneas i dTuaisceart Éireann.
Is cuimhin libh uilig an rud a tharla nuair a b'eigean do na Náisiúnaithe sa Tuaisceart na sráideanna a thabhairt orthu féin i 1969 lena gcearta a fháil agus le insint don saol mór cén éagóir a bhí á déanamh orthu ag Rialtas Stormont. Tá a fhios againn céard a tharla. Ba iad na hAontachtóirí a chuir tús leis an achrann; b'iad na hAontachtóirí a chuir cos ar bolg ar na Náisiúnaithe nuair a d'fhéach siad a gcearta a chur os comhair an tsaoil agus níl sé ró-shásúil a fheiceáil san réiteach atá á dhéanamh ag an Rialtas seo agus Rialtas Shasana go mbeidh cosaint ar leith á fháil ag na hAontachtóirí céanna arís. Ins an socrú a bheas sínithe nó atá sínithe agus a bheidh ann nuair a chuirfidh an dá Rialtas i bhfeidhm é, tá siad ag súil go mbeidh an lá ann a mbeidh Rialtas arís sa Tuaisceart. Ba mhaith liom ceist a chur, an mbeidh aon toradh buan ar a leithéid sin. Má bhíonn Rialtas arís, Rialtas sa taobh ó Thuaidh, Rialtas a mbeidh smacht ag na hAontachtóirí air, céard a tharlós? Feicfimid an sean Stormont ar ais arís; feicfimid, mar adúirt mé, cos ar bolg curtha ar na Náisiúnaithe agus feicfimid an t-achrann arís sa Tuaisceart. Ní bheidh aon suaimhneas buan; ní bheidh aon rud a rachas chun tairbhe do na Náisiúnaithe sa Tuaisceart go bhfeicfimid dul chun cinn éigin á dhéanamh len ár dtír a aontú agus le Rialtas a bheidh i gceannas ar na 32 Chontae a fháil.
Níl mé sásta go bhfuil tada san Chomhaontú seo a dtiocfaidh tada buan as. Tá a fhios againn ar fad go raibh brú ar Shasana rud éigin a dhéanamh maidir leis an gceist seo a réiteach, maidir le socrú polaitiúil a thabhairt isteach a rachadh chun tairbhe don tír ar fad agus don síocháin sa chuid seo den tír. Thuig an Rialtas anseo an tábhacht a bhí le réiteach polaitiúil ach ba chuma le Sasana. Ní raibh aon aird á thabhairt acu ar chúrsaí sa Tuaisceart agus níor mhór ceist na tíre nó ceist na Teorann nó ceist na dtrioblóidí sa Tuaisceart; ni raibh céim ró-ard acu ar chúrsaí gnó i Sasana ó thosnaigh na trioblóidí ansin i 1969.
Anois fuair siad deis an dallamullóg a chur ar Rialtas na tíre agus ar an domhan mór le cur ina luí orthu go bhfuil rud éigin iontach á dhéanamh acu maidir le cúrsaí sa taobh ó Thuaidh. Tá a fhios againn go bhfuil córas poiblíochta acu. Tá teilifís, na páipéir, agus bhí siad in ann an scéal seo a chur os comhair an domhain mhóir agus go mór-mhór os comhair phobal na hÉireann agus rinne siad iarracht a chur ina luí orthu ar fad go raibh buntáistí le teacht as an gcomhaontú seo agus go mbeadh an chéad céim curtha ar aghaidh acu le suaimhneas agus síocháin a fháil sa tír seo.
Ní aontaím leis sin, ní aontaím go mbeidh an dul chun cinn sin ann agus sílim nach bhfuil ann ach sop in áit na scuaibe. Ni fheicfimid tada buan nó ní fheicfimid suaimhneas ar bith go gcuirfear deireadh leis an Teorainn, an Teorainn a chuir Sasanaigh ansin iad féin don chéad uair, an Teorainn a chuir siad ansin ar mhaithe le Aontachtóirí, an Teorainn atá á cosaint acu ar feadh na mblianta i gcaoi go mbeidh an cumhacht ag na hAontachtóirí, agus an Teorainn a chuirfidh ar Éireannaigh, faraor, a dhul amach le saoirse a fháil ar bhealaí nach bhfuil síochánta. Níl duine ar bith sásta leis an gcineál achrainn atá sa Tuaisceart ach caithfimid a admháil dé réir ár staire an fhad is atá cuid ar bith den tír seo faoi shrian nó faoi smacht Shasana go mbeidh daoine a thuigeann nach bhfuil bealach ar bith eile le deireadh a chur le réim Shasana ach le dul chun troda. Sin cuid dár stair, tá sé ó dhúchas againn agus ní féidir é a shéanadh.
Tá a fhios againn go bhfuil daoine eile a thagann isteach agus a bhaineann buntáiste as na cúrsaí sin, cúrsaí arma agus cúrsaí troda agus go mbíonn, b'fhéidir, tuairimí nó rudaí eile in a meoin nó ina n-aigne. Tá daoine ann nach mbeidh sásta géilleadh ariamh don srian atá ag Sasana sa tír seo agus mar adúirt mé aontaím go dteastaíonn uainn an tír seo a fháil aontaithe.
Aontaíonn tú leo.
Bhí tusa uair amháin leo agus d'iompair tú gunnaí.
Leigtear don Teachta labhairt gan aon chur isteach.
D'iompair tú neart gunnaí. An fhad is atá an Teorainn ansin beidh daoine ann a bheas sásta an gunna a thógáil le deireadh a chur le arm Shasana sa tír seo agus sin cuid dár stair agus ní féidir linn é sin a shéanadh. Níor dhúirt mé gur aontaigh mé leo agus níl mé ag aontú leo ach sin cuid dár stair agus beidh sé ann an fhad is atá an Teorainn ansin agus aon socrú a dhéanfar idir Sasana agus an tír seo ní bheidh aon tairbhe ann ná ní bheidh aon bhonn aige le síocháin a fháil don tír an fhad is nach bhfuil sé i gceist nó nach bhfuil sé intuigthe gurb é athaontú na tíre an deireadh a bhéas leis.
Smaoinimís ar an am i 1921 nuair a síníodh an Conradh — agus níl mise ag fáil lochta ar na daoine a shínigh an Conradh: bhí brú mór orthu; bhí brú orthu ó Rialtas Shasana ag an am agus dúradh go gcaithfeadh siad é a shíniú nó go mbeadh cogadh marbhtha ann. Do shínigh siad é faoi bhrú agus rinne siad é mar gur shíl siad ag an am gurb é an rud ab fhearr é do mhuintir na tíre. Bhí daoine eile nár aontaigh leo faraor. Dúradh linn ag an am sin gurb é an chéad chéim le síocháin agus le aontú na tíre a fháil.
Níor tháinig na céimeanna sin; níor tharla tada ó shin agus tá an Teorainn ann. Ní raibh a fhios acu ag an am fiú amháin cén áit a mbeadh an Teorainn — ach shínigh siad an Conradh sin agus táimid fágtha anois le Teorainn a chuir muintir Shasana iad féin ansin agus Teorainn ata á cosaint acu agus tá sé socraithe i gcaoi go mbeidh an tromlach i gcónaí ag na hAontachtóirí agus ní féidir dul thairis sin. Ní shílim go bhfuil aon dáiríreacht ag baint le Rialtas Shasana ná leis an cumhdhaitheoir í féin, an Príomh Aire, maidir leis an méid ata á dhéanamh acu i láthair na huaire, ach tá siad ag iarraidh a chur ina luí ar an saol mór agus ar Rialtas Mheiriceá agus ar ár gcairde i bPairlimint na hEorpa go bhfuil obair mhór déanta acu agus go mbeidh feasta bunchloch leagtha acu le síocháin agus suaimhneas a fháil i dTuaisceart na tíre. I bParlaimint Shasana an Luan seo caite nuair a bhí an rud á phlé dúirt an Priomh Aire í féin faoin chomhaontú agus í ag caint ar dtús faoi Airteagail san chomhaontú agus á mhiniú don Pharlaimint: "This is the most formal commitment to the principle of consent made by any Irish Government", agus ansin bhí sí ag caint faoin Teorainn agus faoin aitheantas a bhí á thabhairt ag an Rialtas seo don Teorainn agus do chúrsaí sa Tuaisceart. Cé go ndeireann an Rialtas ar láimh amháin gur céim í le cois a fháil isteach, go mbeidh deis ag an Rialtas feasta láimh a bheith acu i gcúrsaí sa Tuaisceart, ar an láimh eile deireann Príomh Aire Shasana gur beo-dearbhú é go bhfuil an Rialtas seo ag glacadh leis an socrú atá déanta maidir leis an Tuaisceart agus go mbeidh an Teorainn ansin ar feadh i bhfad agus go mbeidh sé sin deimhnithe ag na Náisiúin Aontaithe.
Arís deireann sí: "The two Governments may have agreed to make determined efforts to resolve any differences that may arise but the Conference will not be a decision-making body. Full responsibility for the decisions and administration of Government will remain with the United Kingdom Government north of the Border and with the Irish Government south of the Border."
Would the Deputy give the reference?
The Irish Times, Tuesday, 19 November.
Ní fheicimse anseo ach sórt cleas nó bualadh bas. Tiocfaidh Aire ó Rialtas Shasana agus tiocfaidh Aire ón Rialtas seo le chéile agus státseirbhísigh agus pléifidh siad cúrsaí maidir leis an Tuaisceart b'fhéidir, ach ní bheidh aon chumhacht acu; ní bheidh siad in ann tada a dhéanamh maidir le cúrsaí i dTuaisceart Éireann. Tá sé sin ráite ag Príomh Aire Shasana; tá sé ráite aici go dearfa: "The conference will not be a decision making body". Ní thuigimse cén fáth nó cén chaoi a dtig le Rialtas Shasana nó leis an Rialtas seo teacht isteach anseo agus a rá agus a iarraidh a chur ina luí orainne go bhfuil aon rud a bheas buan no tairbheach don tír seo sa chomhaontú seo.
Má thógaimid cúrsaí i dTuaisceart Éireann i láthair na huaire tá na trioblóidí a tharla ansin ag cur isteach ar gach gné de shaol na tíre: saol eacnamaíochta na tíre, turasóireacht, agus le cúpla bliain anuas tig linn a rá i dtaobh go leor den robáil atá á dhéanamh ag daoine áirithe go bhfuil baint aige le cúrsaí sa taobh ó Thuaidh. Tá daoine ag teacht isteach anseo le gunnaí ag robáil banc agus a leithéid sin agus sin de bharr cleachtadh a bheith acu ar iompar agus úsáid gunnaí sna Sé Contaetha. Tig linn a rá mar sin nuair atáimid ag caint ar na cúrsaí seo go bhfuilimid ag caint ar an tír ar fad, nach bhfuilimid ag caint ar Thuaisceart Éireann amháin agus níl maith ar bith dúinn a bheith ag ligean orainn féin go bhfuilimid ag déanamh dul chun cinn. Ba mhaith liomsa a bheith in ann teacht isteach anseo agus a rá go raibh dul chun cinn á dhéanamh. Caithfimid a admháil go bhfuilimid sásta go raibh iarracht á déanamh le dul chun cinn a chur ar bun. I ndáiríre ní fheicimse go bhfuil an dul chun cinn ar mhaith linn a fheiceáil déanta againn. Tá a fhios againn uilig go bhfuil an cleachtadh agus an taithí ag baint le Rialtais i Sasana agus go n-éiríonn leo an scéal a chur ar fud an domhain ar mhaithe leo féin agus sílim go ndeachaigh sé sin i bhfeidhm ar dhaoine anseo chomh maith agus go síleann siad go bhfuil buntáistí ag teacht de bharr an chomhaontaithe seo.
Tá focal amháin sa réamhrá — tógfaidh mé an ceann i mBéarla — agus cuireann sé ionadh orm. Deir sé "wishing further to develop the unique relationship between their peoples". Má táimid ag caint ar chúrsaí mar a fheicimse iad idir Sasana agus an tír seo, tháinig siad isteach anseo; chuir siad chuile chineál leatrom orainn; rinne siad eagóir ar mhuintir na hÉireann i gcaitheamh na gcéadta bliain. Is beag cearta a bhí againn, cearta de chineál ar bith. Mar sin "unique relationship", níl a fhios agam céard ba cheart dom a smaoineamh faoi sin. Má thógaimid an taobh eile den scéal, b'fhéidir go bhfuil an Rialtas ag caint ar na hÉireannaigh a thóg na bóithre móra i Sasana; iad a thóg na tithe tar éis an chogaidh, fiú amháin na stáisiúin adamhacha atá i Sasana anois, gur Éireannaigh a thóg iad. Má chuireann tú an dá cheann le chéile b'fhéidir go dtiocfadh leat a rá gur "unique relationship" atá ann ach sílimse gur beag aird ná suim a bhí ariamh ag Rialtas ar bith i Sasana i gcúrsaí a bhaineann le dul chun cinn na tíre seo agus nach n-athraíonn sé sin tada. Tá sé le feiceáil ins an EC fiú amháin, rud ar bith a théann chun tairbhe don tír seo, is iad na Sasanaigh, is cuma cén chuid a bhfuilimid ag caint futhu, is luaithe a éireos le cos a chur orainn. B'fhéidir go síleann daoine go bhfuil mise seanaimseartha nuair atá mé caint faoi na cúrsaí seo ach sin í an fhírinne. Ni fheicimse bealach ar bith eile ach an chaoi a bhfuil siad ag caitheamh anuas orainn an t-am ar fad. Ni shílim go bhfuil tada sa chomhaontú seo.
Níl ach cúig nóiméad fágtha ag an Teachta.
Níl tada sa chomhaontú seo a chuirfidh mise ar athrú tuairime maidir leis an mheas nó an suim nó an dáiríreacht atá ag baint le Rialtas Shasana i leith na tíre seo nó i leith réitigh ar bith a rachas chun tairbhe do mhuintir na tíre seo agus dár ndaoine i dTuaisceart Éireann.
Cuireadh é seo os comhair an phobail i gcaoi gur shíl gach duine go raibh buntáistí faoi leith ann agus má táimid ag fáil rud ar bith as ní fheicimse é. Níor cuireadh ina luí ormsa go fóill san méid a chuala mé ó na cainteoirí anseo sa Dáil — ón Taoiseach é féin — go bhfuil aon dul chun cinn anseo. Más é an rud go bhfuilimid ag díriú ar n-aghaithe san aontacht — duirt me i dtús ama — go mbeidh Rialtas dár gcuid féin ins an Tuaisceart, tá a fhios againn go dearfa cén deireadh a bheas air sin agus céard a tharlós arís i gceann cúpla scór bliain nó b'fhéidir níos luaithe ná sin. Má bhíonn Parlaimint dá gcuid féin ag na hAontachtóirí ní bheidh siad sásta a gcearta a thabhairt do na Caitlicigh agus sin an chaoi a mbeidh cúrsaí agus níl aon rud anseo a chuirfidh tús len ár dtír a aontú, le Rialtas amháin Éireannach a thabharfaidh aire do chúrsaí ar fud na tíre ar fad. Sin an trua.
Ba bhreá an rud dá mbeadh céim ar bith dá tabhairt don rud sin a thabhairt chun tosaigh, ach sílim go bhfuilimid níos fuide ó sin ná mar a bhíomar riamh. Sin mar atá an scéal. Tá aitheantas dá thabhairt ní hé amháin anseo ach idirnáisiúnta go mbeidh an Teorainn ansin agus go bhfuilimid ag glacadh go mbeidh sé ansin. Beidh Éireannaigh i gcónaí ann nach mbeidh sásta leis sin, agus a thógfaidh modhanna len a gcearta a bhaint amach, mar ní fheiceann siad aon bhealach eile as. I gceann bliana, nuair a fheiceann muintir an Tuaiscirt céard tá faighte acu, beidh siad mí-shásta, go mór mhór an SDLP agus na daoine atá ag cuidiú leo. Molaim an iarracht atá á déanamh acu sna cúrsaí seo ach nuair a fheiceann na Náisiúnaí nach bhfuil tada dá fháil acu, beidh an-droch thionchar ag téarmaí an chomhaontaithe seo maidir le aontú ar bith a fáil a rachaidh chun táirbhe do shuaimhneas agus siocháin agus dul chun cinn eacnamaíochta do mhuintir an Tuaiscirt agus don tír seo uile. Is cuma cén socrú atá déanta, muna gcuidíonn sé leis an Tuaisceart ní chuideoidh sé linne. Caithfimid fanacht píosa maith eile ama sula mbeidh an suaimhneas agus an síocháin a theastaíonn uainn faighte againn.
This agreement is a major step towards the bringing together of opposing traditions and the healing of ancient wounds. It meets the requirements of Labour Party policy on Northern Ireland. It recognises the aspiration to the unity of the people and territory of this island through reconciliation.
An essential element in the search for that reconciliation is the formal assurance given in the agreement that only if the people of the North consent to unity, would unity come about. But it does more than this: in article 4 (b) the agreement states that it is the declared policy of the United Kingdom Government that responsibility in respect of certain matters within the powers of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland should be devolved within Northern Ireland on a basis which would secure widespread acceptance throughout that community and the Irish Government support this policy. The agreement provides a stimulus to efforts within the North to find effective structures for devolution which will have widespread acceptance. As we have made clear, our involvement in devolved matters will cease when those structures are agreed by both communities.
This agreement seeks reconciliation through North-South co-operation on security, economic, social and cultural matters. It proclaims unremitting opposition to violence from whatever source. By stating frankly that the two Governments are determined to work together to ensure that those who promote political objectives by violence do not succeed, it ends any question of equivocation about the role of violence in this country.
This agreement commits the two Governments in accordance with the policy of our party to promote the economic and social development of those areas of both parts of Ireland which have suffered most severely from the consequences of the instability of recent years. In furtherance of this endeavour we will be seeking international support, particularly from the Socialist group in Europe from whom I received a telegram of support on Monday last. I believe that this agreement demonstrates the result of that realistic, honest and positive dialogue with the British Government for which the Labour Party have called in the past and which we have been pursuing in Government since the adoption of the Forum report.
We accept that Deputies have the right to scrutinise this agreement which has been prepared painstakingly and with difficulty since the conclusion of the Forum. We want this House to examine its implications and to debate it thoroughly.
It is a major agreement. But let us also remember our obligations as constitutional Nationalists to each other and especially to our fellow members of this Forum in the SDLP. Let us remember also the sensitivities of the Unionist community, the validity of whose identity and sense of Britishness we accepted in the Forum report as a major reality — FR. 5.1 (9) and 5.2 (4).
I plead, therefore, today for understanding and restraint. I plead for understanding of this agreement for what it is, and I plead for restraint in its interpretation. This is a time to lower the political temperature, not to raise it. It is a time for cool heads, not hot heads. We have been through too much suffering on this island and there is so much at stake. I believe the great majority of Deputies in this House are conscious that the eyes of the world are upon Dáil Éireann today. This debate will be a test of our political maturity as a nation.
In the Forum report we recognised the immense cost of violence on this island. We all joined to reject and condemn paramilitary organisations and to reject and condemn all who resort to terror and murder to achieve their ends. We strongly urged people in Ireland of all traditions and all those who were concerned about Ireland elsewhere in the world to refuse any support or sympathy to these paramilitary bodies and associated organisations.
We said that the acts of murder and violence of these organisations and their denial of the legitimate rights of others have the effect of undermining all efforts to secure peace and political progress. As constitutional Nationalists we said we were determined to secure justice for all traditions. We called in the Forum for the strongest possible support for political progress through the democratic process — Chapter 4.11.
By this agreement we are setting our face resolutely against the path of violence and we are following instead the path of political progress. We have sought in this agreement the acceptance of the validity of both the Nationalist and Unionist identities in Ireland and the democratic rights of every citizen on this island — Forum Report 5.2 (4). I believe that we have taken a great step along that road. This agreement has the aim of promoting peace and stability in Northern Ireland, of helping to reconcile the two major traditions in Ireland and of creating a new climate of friendship and co-operation between the peoples of Britain and Ireland. The agreement commits us to improve co-operation in combating terrorism. We will implement this element of the agreement, and every other element in it, wholeheartedly.
The constitutional Nationalist party of the North, the SDLP, have accepted this agreement. I should like to pay a tribute to the unremitting efforts of that party and their leaders whose political efforts down through the years have been an example to all of us, particularly in the South who do not have to work in the same trying conditions as they do in the North. This House should pay a special tribute to John Hume, Séamus Mallon, Austin Currie, Joe Hendron, Brid Rogers, Eddie Magready and others in the SDLP who for a long time have pursued the politics of constitutional nationalism in Northern Ireland. They did so while retaining a dignity that we expected from them. We are all indebted to them. They are realists. They have to be realists. Their party was born of the agony of the last 16 years and they are the Nationalists who must face in every minute of their day the continuing problems of Northern Ireland, the lack of peace and stability, the deep unemployment among workers, the lack of acceptance of the Nationalist identity, and the murderous violence of the IRA. These are the people in the field. They have said they are satisfied with this agreement. They do not see it as impeding their right to work for unity. On the contrary, they see the agreement as recognising the legitimacy of the Nationalist position. We warmly welcome their support as we embark on this further stage of the Anglo-Irish process.
There are two major questions in this debate. The first is the question of the status of Northern Ireland and the second is the question of undertaking action now to make the political progress which is required to bring peace and reconciliation to Northern Ireland.
First, the question of status: as the Taoiseach said in his opening remarks to the press conference at Hillsborough on Friday last, he and the British Prime Minister came to the negotiations with different historical perspectives, and as it were, the different title deeds. The British constitutional position on Northern Ireland remains the same. Our constitutional position on Northern Ireland also remains unchanged. Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution remain. In answer to those who have suggested that Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution should have been amended, I need only point to the hysteria whipped up in the last few days to show that both Governments were wise to maintain the constitutional positions as they now are and to concentrate on the facts of the situation. Those facts of the situation include the fact that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would come about only with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. In this House on 10 November 1981, the Leader of the Opposition gave it as his view that those words merely recognised the practicalities of the situation.
The Leader of the Opposition opposes this agreement now on the basis that the Government would be acting unconstitutionally in proceeding with it. His arguments in support of this contention seem to me to be thin, to say the least. He has put forward diffuse and non-specific points and makes his case by making general assertions to the effect that the Government are acting in a manner repugnant to the Constitution of Ireland by fully accepting British sovereignty over a part of the national territory and by purporting to give legitimacy to a British administration in Ireland.
In making these assertions the Leader of the Opposition assures us he is not indulging in rhetoric. How can he sustain this when he has made no more specific arguments against the Government's position then those made in his speech yesterday? If the Leader of the Opposition can advance specific comprehensible arguments on this issue he has a duty to this House, to the Constituation and to the people to enumerate them before this debate concludes so that the House and the people may make a reasoned judgment. For my part I cannot see any formal surrender ofde jure Irish sovereignty over Northern Ireland.
The Leader of the Opposition has made the point also that no future Government need be bound by the provisions of an international agreement such as this if it were incompatible with the Constitution. His point appears to be that the Government do not have the competence to make this agreement and that therefore it is and will be void and inoperativeex tunc. I believe this is entirely unsustainable. Deputy Haughey has not demonstrated any specific or general want of legal or constitutional competence on the part of the Government in the signing of this agreement. More important, as Deputy Haughey has raised this point, the House is entitled to know what his intention might be in relation to the agreement. Does he intend to denounce it or to treat it as void? We should be allowed to know, to be let in on the secret. Certainly, the constitutional Nationalists of Northern Ireland will want to know his attitude on this. It is too important for them for there to be any doubt about his position.
It is a practicality of the situation that the only unity which constitutional Nationalists would want is a unity achieved without violence and by consent. Can any one of us here seriously imagine a unity brought about by force? Can anyone here imagine what it would be like to live in a united Ireland with one million people in rebellion? No Leader of our State has envisaged such a prospect. I will simply quote Mr. de Valera in this House on 24 June 1947. He said: "I believe that it [the problem of Northern Ireland] cannot be solved, in any circumstances that we can now see, by force and that if it were solved by force, it would leave a situation behind it which would mean that this State would be in an unstable position."
I believe passionately that the abjuring of the use of force is not only a practicality, that it must also be a principle in politics. It must be a principle that we will have nothing to do with those who seek to shoot and bomb our fellow Irishmen until they acquiesce in a united Ireland.
What kind of love of Ireland is that? James Connolly said it best:
Ireland, without her people is nothing to me; and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for "Ireland" and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, the shame and the degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland — aye, wrought by Irish men upon Irish men and women — without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements he is pleased to call ‘Ireland'.
I turn now to the question of political progress and this is what we should keep to the forefront of this debate and to the forefront of the development of Irish politics. Connolly recognised another practicality — the practicality of human suffering and human deprivation. We must ask ourselves honestly: do we want to do something to end this problem? Or do we want to do nothing? Do we want to postpone forever the day of action? Or do we want to start now? I stated in my speech to the last Labour Party conference held earlier this year in Cork that we were prepared to take a risk for peace. Do we want to take that risk? Or do we want to take no risk at all? I need hardly say that it seems to me that the path of taking no risk at all, is the path of greatest risk. For if we leave the business of ending the Northern Ireland problem to the gunmen we can only push back the possibility of unity; and we can only promote the danger to our democratic institutions.
Twelve years ago, my respected predecessor as Leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Corish, said in the debate on Sunningdale, as reported at columns 2029-30 of the Official Report:
The events of the past five years have shown us that there is no magic way by which the Border could be ended. If it has done that — it is difficult to say — it has done some good. At least it may prevent further loss of life.
Brendan Corish was right to introduce that note of caution. Twelve years on, there are still some among us who believe there is a magic way. Of course, there is no magic way by which the Unionist community of Northern Ireland will agree to a united Ireland. Their agreement will have to come in time, as we act towards them with patience, with honesty and sincerity, with transparency of motive and with hard application to the solving of immediate problems. The creation of conditions in which the Nationalist community in the North can more readily identify with structures of government will help peace and stability to emerge in this island. For Unionists who have suffered the rejection of the most precious human right — the right to life — in the past 16 years, this agreement with the British Government provides a practical and careful plan not only to ease their present suffering, but to help towards the re-establishment of devolution on a basis of widespread acceptance, and to help towards the creation of better and more prosperous times for all.
It is important to be clear both about the nature of the role of the Irish Government within the Conference and about the background to that role. First the background: it is not right to suggest that the British Government before Hillsborough always accepted that the Irish Government had a right to put forward views and proposals in relation to the North. Such a right was never before formally accorded to the Irish Government. What is more, Deputies will remember that British ministers, and indeed the present Prime Minister, have denied categorically in the past that such a right was recognised by the British Government. For example, in the House of Commons on 29 July 1982, following discussion between a Minister of State at the Foreign Office and an Irish Ambassador which had taken place on 26 July, Mrs. Thatcher said the following:
My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, made it perfectly clear to the Irish Ambassador that no commitment exists for Her Majesty's Government to consult the Irish Government on matters affecting Northern Ireland. That has always been our position. We reiterate and emphasise it, so that everyone is clear about it.
Of course, Irish Governments have always believed that we have a right and a duty to ensure that the British Government are aware of our views on the North. All parties here are agreed on that. It is a fact, however, that that was never accepted as a right on our part by the British Government and, what is more, it is a fact that it was formally denied on a number of occasions.
Second, the Agreement: article 2 (b) of the Anglo-Irish Agreement 1985 states: "The United Kingdom Government accept that the Irish Government will put forward views and proposals on matters relating to Northern Ireland within the field of activity of the Conference..."
It is also important that we should understand that the right now for the first time formally given to the Irish Government to put forward views and proposals on matters relating to Northern Ireland goes beyond that; it goes beyond a right to consult or to be consulted. The agreement, again in article 2 (b), in a provision which governs the entire working of the Conference on matters relating to Northern Ireland states that, "in the interest of promoting peace and stability, determined efforts shall be made through the Conference to resolve any differences."
Thus on the central question of the role and nature of the Conference itself, the position of the Irish Government has changed in two fundamental respects: first, the British Government have for the first time formally accepted the right of the Irish Government to put forward views and proposals on Northern Ireland, having previously rejected that position; and, secondly, the two Governments for the first time commit themselves, as a matter of obligation under an international agreement, to the effect that "determined efforts shall be made to resolve any differences".
I cannot claim ties of kinship with anyone in the North. I do claim many friendships, both among members of my own profession and among sportsmen who live in the North. In every single case, these are friendships that I value deeply, and friends from whom I have learned a lot. They are Catholics and Protestants, Unionists and Nationalists, and I cannot honestly say that I feel closer to one or the other.
I hope and believe that these many friends will know of me that I have no interest in forcing my aspirations down their throats. I would be dismayed to discover — although I do not think I shall — that any one of them believed that I had abandoned either my Republican aspiration on the one hand, or my commitment to dialogue, persuasion and above all, consent, on the other.
I must and do respect the views of those who have lived closer to violence than I have. I have had many opportunities to discuss the stagnation of ordinary life with them, and I believe as a result that many of them — many who are Unionist among them — believe increasingly that the only way forward is to talk across the divide; to break down barriers of distrust that years of ascendancy have built up.
Many of these people represent the middle ground. I appeal particularly to them to suspend judgment — to wait and see. I believe they will discover that the Irish Government are operating in good faith. And I believe that that good faith will be translated into action to promote dialogue, dialogue aimed at bridging the sectarian gap and building trust between two communities who, in the final analysis, will be dependent on each other for economic and social progress. I cannot help but reflect that my political perspective owes nothing to the divisiveness of the twenties. Like the rest of my generation, I have no link with that tragic period, like the rest of my generation, I want to look to the future and not agonise over the past. While I recognise fully that our history is part of what we are, I prefer to believe that the generation of which I am part will make its own history.
How is that history likely to be read? Is it to be a story of continuing violence and strife; a history of chronic unemployment for young people in the North; a history of sectarian division; a history of a continuing period of no opportunities and no hope? Or is it possible that this generation can write a history of reconstruction, of new opportunities, of peace and respect for one another? I believe it is. Around the world, it is this generation that has led the move towards greater democracy in many authoritarian régimes. It is this generation that has alerted the world to the insanity of nuclear arms. It is this generation that has inspired the worldwide response to hunger and tragedy in the Third World.
Here in Ireland, North and South, it is this generation ultimately that will confront the economic and social challenges of the end of this century and the beginning of the next. It is this generation that will write the history from now on. I hope and believe that there are in this generation the seeds of new opportunities and new awareness, coupled with a growing rejection of the nihilistic violence of those who have no interest in building anything.
The Government have dealt with the practicalities of the situation as we see them, not with dreams and fantasies. We have calculated what we can do now, not what could be done sometime. We have judged our own capacity to act, not our capacity to wish. We will not be hypnotised by prejudice or propaganda. The Government will act with tenacity in implementing this agreement because we believe it to be in the interest of all the people of these islands, but especially of the people of Ireland, North and South, Nationalist and Unionist, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter.
May I put on the record of the House——
No, you cannot.
——the wish of so many backbenchers——
The Deputy is out of order.
I want to know if we will get an opportunity to place our views on the record.
If the Deputy wanted to raise that point he should have done so yesterday morning when the order of this debate was being regulated.
I am asking for an extension of time today.
I hope that this point is not being made in my time. Before giving its approval to the terms of the Anglo-Irish Agreement as proposed by the Government, Dáil Éireann must examine its terms and consider its implications in an objective and detailed manner. The Taoiseach has acknowledged that the length of the negotiations and the level at which they were conducted "reflect the extreme complexity of the issues being tackled and the delicacy of the issues at stake".
Each Member who contributes here has but half an hour to seek clarification on these complex and delicate issues and the Government who have spent 18 months in negotiations must respond fairly and fully to the queries we raise. If this agreement is to bind us, we must understand what it means before endorsing its effect.
Yesterday the Taoiseach expressed his gratitude to the various Governments and associations for their "extraordinary and unanimous support for this agreement". In many cases this support was expressed simultaneously with the signing of the agreement. The extraordinary unanimity and the coincidence of response might suggest that we might offend those friends by being critical here. Despite the complex and delicate issues involved the media generally were quite spontaneous in their approval and commendation. It may be that the instant commendation was confined to the intention as communicated by the two Governments but our role in this Parliament, in this Opposition, has to be more critical. Approval from this Dáil is not just an instant and passing commendation. It involves a binding obligation under the terms of our Constitution. We must not dishonour our role and ignore that Constitution by superficial analysis and vague generalisation.
Much has been made of the alleged conflict between Fianna Fáil and the SDLP in our responses to this agreement. The SDLP's support is not unconditional. While offering full co-operation with the proposed Conference, party Leader, John Hume, has indicated that much will depend on the implementation of the agreement and on the policies particularly in the field of justice. The SDLP, he said, will monitor that implementation very carefully. Mr. Séamus Mallon, Deputy Leader has indicated that it was an agreement "which I would be prepared to give every opportunity to work". In effect, and quite prudently the SDLP are adopting a wait and see attitude.
I have been privileged to know them as contemporaries and to work with them in international fields. I have experienced in their homes, their courage in the face of threats and intimidation which aroused in me an abiding respect for their courage, integrity and dedication. In their unremitting search for justice and permanent peace through political action they have won the right to be heard at home and abroad. Their Ireland is not one of domination or hatred but of equal rights and mutual respect. We share those views and respect their intentions but our role in this issue is different from theirs. We are being asked to give our support and approval to the terms of an agreement in accordance with our constitutional obligation to Dáil Éireann. We cannot wait and see the actual effects of the implementation. We are called upon now to state our position and we cannot be criticised for raising the issues that are fundamental to this State and the Constitution under which we operate.
While it is the clearly expressed intention of the Government to register this agreement at the UN, it must be said that the agreement in its form and terms is very vague and capable of different interpretations which in the end can raise the most fundamental issues for this State. Apart from the limitation in the Irish Government's role to putting forward views and proposals, there is no precise indication as to the legal obligations which attach to the British Government in this agreement. Phrases such as "determined efforts to resolve any differences" in Article 2 (b) and generalisations such as the "the business of the Conference will thus receive attention at the highest level" and the procedures for small and flexible groups in Article 3 are totally inappropriate to a binding international agreement.
The Government should explain what precisely is meant by "proposals for major legislation and on major policy issues" in respect of which they may put forward proposals or views on political issues in Article 5 of the agreement. A similar explanation must be forthcoming before this debate ends in respect of "an opportunity to address policy issues, serious incidents and forthcoming events". Who is to be the arbiter of what is major in these clauses or what will be understood as serious incidents? If this Dáil is to approve the terms in the agreement it should be clear where the responsibility will lie for interpreting the terms of that agreement. If it is the prerogative of the British Government to exclude matters from the Conference which do not conform to their interpretation and their intentions, the role of the Conference, limited though it already may be, can be totally undermined unilaterally by the British Government.
In any assessment of this agreement we must look at what it means for the whole country. Over the years we have won international recognition of the sovereignty of this State. This must be protected. On it depends our right to take decisions on internal affairs and express our position on foreign policy. The protection of our right to be neutral and independent in times of conflict such as a world war is a cherished objective of our foreign policy. Our security is our affair. This agreement makes this and other matters the affair of an Anglo-Irish Conference. The Conference has not got to deal with the affairs of Northern Ireland alone, but Article 5 of the agreement records as coming within the authority of the Conference, matters relating to electoral arrangements, economic and social issues including unemployment, cultural and so on and then makes it clear that "the possible application of any measures pursuant to this Article by the Irish Government in their jurisdiction shall not be excluded". This is more specifically stated in Article 8 which says:
The Conference shall deal with issues of concern to both countries relating to the enforcement of criminal law. In particular it shall consider whether there are areas of the criminal law applying in the North and in the South respectively which might benefit be harmonised.
It is clear, therefore, that this Conference is to have a say, to what limited extent that may be, in the internal affairs of this State. The agreement is, therefore, an erosion of the right to control our own security by this sovereign Parliament which was won under the 1938 agreement by Eamon de Valera. The significant thing is that there is no reciprocal right enshrined in the agreement for matters of internal security in Britain to come within the range of the Conference discussion and consideration of recommendations to be made in respect of anxieties we might have on security policy in Britian, and we have many such anxieties.
When one considers the implications of the Birmingham Six Trial and the application of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the tensions they caused in Britain and between our two Governments, it is quite extraordinary that the right to make recommendations in respect of our internal affairs is not reciprocated by a similar right in respect of the internal affairs of Britain. Ireland and Britain will meet in the Conference which will deal not only with the North but with the whole of Ireland. The Conference will not deal with internal British issues which are of considerable importance to this State.
There is at least a grave risk that this agreement will erode our State sovereignty and the total effect of this in the areas of security can have tremendous consequences for us and our neutrality in any future world conflict or war. I acknowledge that it is not the intention of the Government to give rise to any such possibility, but when we consent formally to an agreement in this House, discharging our role under the Constitution, we consent to it on the terms of the agreement and not just on the hopes, expectations or intentions of our own Government if they are not clearly expressed in that agreement. Of course, it can be said that the role of the Conference is purely consultative but the Taoiseach stressed that it is as near executive authority as makes no difference. In claiming great achievements on behalf of his Government within Northern Ireland when he laid emphasis on the extent of the power of the Anglo-Irish Conference, the Government must explain how such powers within the Six County area are also proposed to be extended to the Republic. The Government cannot have it both ways and suggest that the Conference has a significant role within the internal affairs of the North but none down here. Furthermore, while matters in regard to the internal administration in the North will be withdrawn according as they are handed over to a devolved government in the North, no such time limit is placed in the agreement on the Conference's right in regard to the Republic's internal affairs.
Let no one suggest in this that I am raising unreal possibilities. In this I am discharging, as I believe our role in this House is to discharge, a duty to examine an agreement for what it says and not to rely on vague expressions, intentions or statements of intent by the Taoiseach or anyone else. In referring to statements from the Taoiseach, let me add a matter which is not included in my text as issued but which I want to address now very briefly. The Taoiseach in the course of his statement after the summit agreement referred particularly to the fact that the Supreme Court decision in the McGlinchey case particularly "had got rid of the constitutional impediment to extradition".
What understanding does that show of what the Constitution represents? The Constitution is not an impediment; it is a protection. The decision in that case was a decision made in respect of the issues in that case based on the facts brought forward in that case. It must be said that in no sense could it be suggested as getting rid of the constitutional impediment as the Taoiseach proposed to the world in his press conference. Indeed, many of us in this House and outside were very much concerned with the rushed manner in which that case was presented to the Supreme Court. The consequence is that we have now, here in our jurisdiction, someone for trial who has been returned from the statelet to which he was extradited in respect of whom we can press only charges that are in accordance with the return from the North. So much for the Taoiseach's understanding of extradition or what he calls a constitutional impediment in relation to extradition. While I am at it, let me say that we will have another opportunity of addressing this when any proposal to accede to the European Convention on Terriorism comes before the House. I just want to record as fact that many countries which accede to that convention have reservations expressed in their accession on two fundamental points, (1) many of them do not extradite their own citizens under any circumstances (2) many of them exclude political offences from their accession to the convention. When we come to address the issue in terms of decision by this Parliament on that occasion we will go into these in much greater detail.
As to the contribution which this surrender of our autonomy will make to an improvement of affairs within Northern Ireland, nobody can make any concrete claims. We all hope for peace. We will all make considerable sacrifices to that end. We are obliged to make sacrifices, particularly in the light of the constant suffering and tragedy that have fallen on those people in this island. We are prepared to acknowledge the good intentions andbona fides of the Government in their efforts, but we should not delude ourselves or allow ourselves to be deluded. In the final analysis we must ask what is the whole aim of the document which the Taoiseach proposes for approval to the Dáil. Is it the restoration of internal devolved Government as so clearly indicated many times by the British Prime Minister since this agreement was signed? If Britain once again wishes to get away from the public gaze and international scrutiny, this must not be allowed to be sanctioned by this Dáil. We must not allow our members in the Conference to act as a screen to cover British actions. Our public servants, who will be constantly involved in this, must not be seen to be involved in any even unwitting attempt to conceal from the gaze of the world any complaints, criticisms or proposals we have to make in respect of British failures and injustices in the North.
The Irish Government may make proposals in the Conference "in so far as they relate to the interests of the minority community" but not on the wider issues which are at the base of this tragic problem. Once devolution is achieved the Irish Government in this Conference will be allowed no input on the matters which are devolved. This agreement suggest an intention on the part of Britain to use the Irish representation on the Conference as a shelter before the world if devolution fails to come about, but the input is to be minimal. The Conference may be used to put forward the views of the Irish Government — yesterday the British Prime Minister said "make the representations"—"Where the interests of the minority community are significantly or especially affected". Despite the difficulty of defining the word "significantly" it is quite clear that the role of the Irish delegates will be minimal.
The British Government have had to face public opinion throughout the world since 1974 without a devolved administration to hide behind. The response from our partners throughout the world to this, spontaneous though it may have been, may not have been the consequence of detailed consideration. Nonetheless, that response may be an expression and a consequence of the constant international attention which Irish Governments in recent years — I was involved in this like others — have succeeded in promoting. Are we to limit our right to raise these issues internationally? Will we provide cover for the basic injustices that are at the root of the problem in Northern Ireland in a charade of a Conference the agenda and proceedings of which will be secret? Our Government will be presented as being partly responsible for policy in the North without having any real authority to affect it. Criticism will be kept down and we may be forced into a position of giving a new lease of life to the very cause of the problem, the partition of this country. In fact, the reference constantly throughout the agreement to the minority community suggests — I am not saying deliberately — a partitionist approach.
Are the Nationalists of the North henceforth to be seen as a minority not just by us but in the eyes of the world before which this agreement is now to be registered? If there is a minority there must be a majority. Are we now to concede that the consequence of a partition which we have always opposed confers a democratic right to the majority in a condition that defies democracy? It seems clear that as far as the Nationalist community in the North are concerned, this secret Conference will offer far less protection than the open diplomacy between sovereign Governments which has been a very healthy feature of recent years. No longer will the Minister for Foreign Affairs be addressing his protests to the British Government openly, he will be confined to putting forward proposals privately in a conference the members of which will have a special interest in making it work. Their task will be to dampen down Nationalists' grievances.
The Irish Government and their representatives must not be silenced by this agreement and the Nationalists must not become as alienated from them as they were from Stormont. The great risk of this Conference is that the Irish Government have accepted responsibility without power and without getting anything in return to formalise the relationship of constitutional Nationalists, for instance, with our Houses of the Oireachtas. No Nationalist from the North may sit in either Dáil or Seanad without being disbarred from the principal elected body of Northern Ireland if and when devolution comes about. We cannot allow a situation to emerge where Nationalists will have no parliamentary way of presenting their point of view to a Government who take responsibility for representing them.
If the machinery of the Conference fails, or if the good faith of the British Government is not forthcoming, this Conference could be a recipe for further tragedy not only in the North of Ireland but in our jurisdiction also. As long as the Republic is sovereign and independent its voice cannot be silenced. Its voice may not be as effective as we might wish, but at least it can be used with credibility and standing. We cannot cede the right to criticise the administration of affairs in the North in our open bilateral negotiations with the British Government and before the family of nations in the organisations to which we have acceded.
I should like to make specific reference to the financial package and the support internationally in that respect. I know a little about financial packages. I was Minister for Foreign Affairs when the Carter initiative came through after detailed negotiations with us in Government. The condition there was not just a Conference of this kind but an acceptable agreement and total devolution and support from both Governments within the North of Ireland. We achieved that at that time. As Minister for Foreign Affairs I managed to introduce the European Community to their obligation. I should like to recall that the role of the European Community — we note and welcome their interest in this connection — has long since been raised. I should like to refer specifically to 1977 when I, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, for the first time — I must stress that — raised and got support from the Foreign Ministers of the Community for cross-Border projects to relieve the economic pressures in those areas. Since that time — the Leader of the SDLP, John Hume will acknowledge this — in the relatively short period I spent in the Commission I managed to get Commission support for major proposals for the North of Ireland in respect of integrated programmes right across Northern Ireland. Let no one suggest that what we are hearing now is being heard for the first time. The record is there to prove that in recent years support was already on the way.
I should like to mention one reserve. The Minister, Deputy Noonan, indicated that we were going to get a package of the order of £500 million, but the State Department is quoted in yesterday'sDaily Telegraph as saying clearly that there was no commitment to any specific package. One has to ask: is this another indication of the vague hopes and intentions? Is it not quite extraordinary that we are told that had the agreement been signed a day earlier it could have given rise to an agreement on financial support? That has to be either a terrible mistake in timing or, quite frankly, a deliberate decision in view of the fact that no such commitment has been given. I hope, believe and expect it will but let us not express vague hopes until such time as the matter has been finalised and we have seen the effect of it here and in the North of Ireland.
As late as yesterday in the House of Commmons, the British Prime Minister indicated that, "representations made by the Irish Republic to the proposed Inter-governmental Conference will not normally be made public." Surely the effect of this agreement cannot be to confine us to making representations in private where previously we had won the right not only to make representations but to express strong and trenchant criticisms in public.
With regard to the impact of this agreement on Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution it must be restated again that these Articles do not represent a claim by the South on the North — they never could and never should — but a statement of the territorial integrity of the whole nation. In that nation to which we aspire and which is enshrined in our Constitution, there is no place for domination by a majority over a minority. The very existence of Partition has spawned these terms and the nation that has so consistently argued in favour of equal rights for all in every area of conflict throughout the world cannot now reverse our policy and acknowledge the existence of permanent majorities or minorities within our own country.
Much has been made of the provision in Article 1 which declares that: "if in the future a majority of the people of Northern Ireland clearly wish for and formally consent to the establishment of a united Ireland, they the Governments will introduce and support in the respective Parliaments, legislation to give effect to that wish." Who is to determine how this wish is to be expressed or how clearly it is to be expressed? Who is to initiate the machinery for expressing the formal consent referred to in the article? If the British Government refuse to propose a referendum or to launch the necessary procedure, this article will have no effect.
In the final analysis an agreement which is stated, and on the part of our Government genuinely intended, to promote reconciliation — let me acknowledge that — may have the unforeseen consequence of maintaining division and dissension. Already the reaction of the Unionist population, and their representatives, demonstrates very clearly their distrust of the British Government and their motives in this connection.
The time has now arrived for us in the spirit of the Forum report to acknowledge the role and contribution of the Unionist population on this island. The Taoiseach has many times referred to his own Protestant background which is undoubtedly a matter of respect. I can make no such claim in family ties of blood beyond the fact that since boyhood I remember with great pride and affection, the visits of many Protestant Orangemen to our home in Tipperary, people who had befriended my father in the years he spent in Belfast after his release from Belfast jail during the War of Independence. I have been privileged to know and respect their independence and integrity and to appreciate even more fully the unlimited role which they can play in a new Ireland where a future based on co-operation and understanding will offer new promise and new hope for all the people of this island.
The Republic to which Thomas McDonagh, a son of Cloughjordan in the constituency I am proud to represent which is a happily integrated Protestant and Catholic community, was committed was one based not on domination by one tradition over another but on the recognition that stability and peace in Ireland could only come through arrangements which accommodate both of the main Irish traditions, the Republican tradition and the Unionist tradition, no majorities, no minority. Let us not forget it. Both are Irish traditions and if we are to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation, both will have to come together in agreement and harmony.
We in the Republican tradition are proud of our past. We remember 1916 and Thomas McDonagh with pride and satisfaction. Those in the Unionist tradition take pride, and rightly, in their past, in Derry, Enniskillen and the Boyne. We understand and respect their feeling of pride. The debates of the past are matters for historians, not for politicians. Our obligation is to the present and our aim is to build for the future political structures.
I hope that if the agreement goes through it will not create further divisions between minorities and majorities but that rather it will be the beginning of something much richer. It is for those reasons that our reservations are genuinely expressed. All of us welcome the fact that the debate in the House has been conducted in a calm and reasoned manner and I hope nothing will be said to misunderstand or misrepresent our role in Opposition. We have an obligation as an Opposition to question and seek answers. I hope the answers to some of the questions I have raised will be forthcoming before the debate concludes or otherwise it will not have served its purpose.
Finally, I should like to re-echo what our leader said yesterday. All of us, particularly members of our party, are conscious of the fact that, as constitutional politicians we cannot and must not ever cede the ground to those who have shamed the very meaning of republicanism. If the risk of that cession is there, all of us will be guilty at least of an oversight or something much more serious. For that reason I plead with the House, and the Government speakers who will be responding, not just to engage in general vague commendations and hopes of reconciliation. We all share those hopes but I appeal to them to answer our reservations and explain to us in particular if the terms of the agreement will give effect to the intentions and cannot be used to give effect to the intentions that all of us will totally and utterly oppose.
I have been a little over 20 years in this House and in all that time, in all the issues that have come before the House, I have never felt the same sense of responsibility as I do in contributing to this debate. That is because the issue before the House is one that can have very far reaching effects indeed on the whole future development of this island. It can have those effects either for good or for evil.
At the outset, I would like to make one thing perfectly clear. As far as I am concerned, the people who have engaged in these negotiations have been motivated at all times by one over-riding consideration, the preservation of human life on this island and reconciliation between the two traditions in Northern Ireland. They have worked unceasingly, not only through their political careers and for that effort that they have made and I know will continue to make, I salute them.
Rules have been laid down for this debate and I think, very sensible self-imposed restraints. In order to ensure that I do not cross over these, I must say this about the Fianna Fáil position, I do not agree with it — full stop. As far as rules go and apart from the one that I have mentioned, I have made a personal decision that I am going to dispense with rules that one normally imposes on oneself speaking on major political issues. Long time serving Members of the Dáil, used to political life, usually consider their political careers — and I have done it over the years; every politician who is neither very foolish nor very naive does it. I am suspending that consideration. I am making no attempt whatsoever, in my contribution to this debate, to cover my political backside. I feel and have always felt with regard to the tragedy of Northern Ireland that one is not entitled to have any other allegiance that would supersede the preservation of human life and one must make any and every contribution possible to bring some form of peace and normality to our fellow Irish men and women of all traditions. I intend to use that as my only criterion in my comments here.
I have fears about the possible outcome of this agreement. I wish it well; I think most people of goodwill wish it well. However, wishing it well would not make it work. All the goodwill and good faith of people on either side — British or Irish Governments — will not make it work. As is clearly established in the agreement itself, it can only work if it has the co-operation and participation of both communities within Northern Ireland. I must say that I am less than optimistic about the participation or co-operation of any Unionist in Northern Ireland to this agreement. As the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have rightly said, this agreement, if it were to work, would help to defeat the men of violence in Northern Ireland, it would draw away support from them. I accept that and I know what is motivating our negotiators in this — to defeat the men of violence and to stop the killing. But the other side of that coin is that if the agreement does not work, if they can be the losers in one situation, they can be the winners in the other. If anyone were taking bets at this moment looking at the reaction right across the whole spectrum of Unionism, the odds would not be on this agreement working.
Dealing still with the North, and I see this agreement in two parts — its effect on Northern Ireland and its possible effect on this part of the island — we had a Sunningdale experience that lasted for five months, of an Executive shared by both communities. There is a considerable difference between that arrangement and the present one. First of all, Sunningdale had the backing of all parties in this House; this one quite clearly has not, so we are starting off, tragically in my opinion, with a division within Dáil Éireann on this agreement and a division which can widen and deepen as things possibly may develop over the next few weeks or few months. We also had the active participation and the support of the majority, in my opinion, of Unionists within Northern Ireland for the Sunningdale arrangement and, in fact, some of their leading men — Brian Faulkner, for instance, a Unionist, and a hard Unionist all his life, and a very astute politician to boot — was not only supporting it, he was presiding over that Executive. That is not the situation today.
We have reaction from the wild men on the Unionist side — and God knows they have them, just as the Nationalist side have them — right down to where we see the moderator of the Presbyterian Church now going to No. 10 Downing Street to register their fears on the agreement. That would lead me to believe that the possibility of this agreement as now presented working is very slim indeed. I say that and I hope that everyone listening to me believes that I say that with very deep regret indeed. There was a genuine effort made in this to achieve a very desirable end. However, wishing for something, hoping for something, wanting something does not make that something become a reality.
I believe that there are very big dangers in the present situation. They are not dangers confined, in my opinion, to the northern part of this country. Again, I am saying things here and I am taking no account of political cover for my back because one has to say them when one thinks of the over 2,000 people who have been killed on this island over the past 15 or 16 years. Please God there will be no more, but the possibility exists of more joining that number. There is therefore deep obligation on us to speak out truthfully and honestly on this.
In this agreement there is an arrangement for an Irish Minister and Irish civil servants to be involved with the British Secretary of State and British civil servants in the administration of Northern Ireland. There have been different presentations of this: how consultative is "consultative"? On our side, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and other people, have piped up that this is more than consultative. It is not merely a consultative role; it is somewhat more than consultative. It falls somewhere between being consultative and being joint authority. It is clearly being conveyed that if it is more than consultative there is a degree of responsibility for the administration of the North and for the security forces operating in the North. Certainly I would not accept responsibility for all the security forces in Northern Ireland at present. To me the possibility of the repercussions of that arrangement on this part of the island raises grave fears indeed.
We have had the difficulties in Northern Ireland over the past 15 or 16 years — terrible sufferings, killings and atrocities. We have had some down here too but nothing of the same degree. Does any sane, responsible person think that the happenings on this island over the last 16 years have not, to some extent, destabilised our democratic institutions? If one looks at our democratic institutions at present one will see that there are many things assailing them. We have very large unemployment figures. We have a population who, to say the least, are sick to the teeth with a taxation system acknowledged by all, Government and Opposition to be unjust and which places an almost intolerable burden on one sector. We have had an escalation of violent crime, a very considerable escalation. Over a period of 15 or 16 years all of these things tend to destablise and, let us acknowledge it openly, lead to widespread disillusionment with this House and a questioning of its relevance. All of these ingredients are very dangerous in any democracy. Let us not under-estimate that.
I intend to speak up. I have said we have had wild men on the Unionist side in Northern Ireland. Of course, we have seen the atrocities and the cold blooded murder perpetrated by the IRA over that period. Let us not just look at them and say: we will have none of that. We all know, if we want to openly acknowledge it that things could develop in Northern Ireland in the foreseeable future — and the possibility of their developing under this agreement — for which we could be perceived by our own people as being responsible and which could have very serious effects on this part of the island. I am going to ask openly: What was the mood in this part of the island when, not the UDR or the B Specials, but a British para-regiment cut loose and killed 13 people on Bloody Sunday? What was the mood, the reaction here? It was very widespread and we all know that to be the case. If, and God forbid, an atrocity of that type were to recur with our people sitting in Belfast accepting a degree of responsibility for it, I shudder to think what that might do and what a destabilising effect that might have on this part of the island. We must face up to these matters. We must put them out on the floor and at least address ourselves to that possibility. I believe, and I have always believed, that a start in trying to solve the situation in Northern Ireland can be made only within Northern Ireland. The main thrust of this agreement is to try to get the Unionist people, the SDLP and constitutional Nationalists, to sit down and arrive at an arrangement that would allow them, as fellow Ulstermen, to have a power-sharing arrangement at executive level and there is an inbuilt incentive in this agreement for just such an endeavour. In this agreement there is a mechanism whereby, if the Unionists and constitutional Nationalist parties can sit down and arrive at an agreement for devolved Government, certain aspects of the administration of Northern Ireland would be taken from the Inter-governmental Conference and handed over to them. That provision was inserted, very wisely, as one of the most appealing aspects of the agreement.
Let us look at the situation from the Unionist side. Unionists would not concede power sharing at executive level since the fall of Sunningdale. As the Taoiseach said in his introductory remarks, many of us here still believed that power sharing offered the only real chance of a beginning to the solution of the Northern Ireland tragic situation. The Taoiseach said in his remarks — I do not necessarily have to quote him directly — that he had held that view even after 1980, that some time after 1980 he sought a solution in a wider context. I still hold the view that that offers the only chance of a beginning to the solution.
One could readily see from the television interview last night with the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church how deep a shock the whole Unionist community has received through the emergence of this agreement. What may not have been acceptable and would have been dismissed out of hand last month might seem much more realistic now. That is also implicit in this agreement.
In my opinion the Unionists will not in any circumstances co-operate or participate in anything that involves the Inter-governmental Conference to be established under the agreement. That is an arrangement which the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland have sought over the years. I am fully aware of that. The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, John Hume and Séamus Mallon have all said one thing — the agreement is fine if we can implement it. That is where we are now. It is not a matter of who did what in 1916 or 1974 or 1980. We must address ourselves to the problem of where we go from here. How do we get some normality into the political life of Northern Ireland? That is the only priority.
In another context as a trade union official I have seen workers in a factory demanding an increase of, perhaps, 30 per cent and being advised by those responsible for carrying on the negotiations that their demand might have certain consequences if it were conceded, yet being pushed into demanding the 30 per cent increase and having no alternative but to pursue that aim. They were in full agreement with the aspirations of the people they were representing; they could see the logic and justice of their claim and totally identify with them; but they could also see that the successful pursuing of the claim could have the effect of closing the factory. There are no winners if a factory closes.
This agreement is not worth the paper it is written on if it cannot be implemented and I do not believe it can be implemented if we exercise our full rights under its terms. We and the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland have achieved in a solemn agreement, signed and published, the right of an Irish Government to have direct input into the affairs of Northern Ireland. We all have rights in certain situations and certain aspects of our lives but many times we may choose for various reasons not to exercise those rights. I am not suggesting that this major achievement on behalf of the Nationalist community should be put aside and dismantled. I am suggesting that if it would allow serious discussions to commence between the two communities in Northern Ireland for an executive power-sharing arrangement, it might be extremely beneficial if we were to say that, in the event of such a power-sharing executive being established and maintained, we would seriously consider not actively exercising our rights for the continuance of the arrangement at Conference level.
We may disagree profoundly with the Unionist viewpoint, but let us recognise the reality that once they see us actively participating in governing they will not operate at any level within Northern Ireland. If that happens let nobody be under any illusion. I greatly fear that what we have seen in that part of the island up to now would count as very little compared to what we might see in the future. I also emphasise my fear that these developments would affect the whole island.
I set out the rules for what I would say in my opening remarks. I am not seeking to score political points. I have been a member of the Labour Party since the age of 16 years. I have always adhered to the party and always tried to further their views. Nothing, including the Labour party or any other considerations, personal or political, supersedes the overriding consideration I have always had in relation to Northern Ireland — the preservation of human life. It is in that spirit that I have contributed to this debate.
I fully support the amendment in the name of Deputy Vincent Brady, the Fianna Fáil Chief Whip, which was clearly enunciated in the House yesterday by the Leader of our party. I would support any effective measures which might be taken to improve the position of the people in the Six Counties, particularly the Nationalists. Having listened to the Taoiseach's opening statement, I am convinced that we in Fianna Fáil made the right decision in submitting our amendment which, I believe, is more in keeping with the wishes of the Irish people and a truer representation of the findings of the Forum report.
Article 1 of the agreement gives no commitment to a united Ireland. I would like to have seen a declaration by the British that they believe it would be in the best interests of all sections of the communities on both islands if Ireland were to be united on terms acceptable to all the people of Northern Ireland. That has been the position of the Nationalist parties here through the years. They would have wished the British Government to make such a declaration. The SDLP have also suggested that the British Government should make such a declaration. Indeed, the British Government, following the partition of this country, recognised that eventually the country would have to be united. Had such a declaration been included in Article 1 it would have been a positive step in that direction.
Article 1 of the agreement contains a declaration that if in future the majority of the people of Northern Ireland clearly wish for and formally consent to the establishment of a united Ireland, they will introduce and support legislation to give effect to that wish. That is not entirely new because section (1) of the British (Northern Ireland) Constitution Act, 1973, says something similar. It declares that Northern Ireland remains part of Her Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom and "it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part of it cease to be part of Her Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland voting in a poll held for the purposes of this section in accordance with section 1 of this Act." In other words, in the last official recognition by law in the British Parliament it was recognised that if a majority in the Six Counties decided as a result of a poll that they wanted a united Ireland, the British Government would not stand in their way. Therefore, there is nothing new in that section and while it has been stated on numerous occasions by successive British Prime Ministers over the last 15 years it is not the first occasion on which that was written into law by Parliament in Britain.
This part of the declaration was never accepted previously by an Irish Government. It is now incorporated in the Anglo-Irish agreement. Article 1 (a) affirms that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. This is legitimising the prop to the Unionists and writing it into an international treaty which will be registered at the United Nations. This guarantee has always been opposed by all Nationalists, including the four parties to the Forum. It is unfortunate that the Taoiseach should have moved so far from the position taken by one of his predecessors, John A. Costello, who with the then Leader of the Opposition, Eamon de Valera, proposed a declaration which was adopted unanimously by Dáil Éireann asserting the indefeasible right of the Irish nation to the unity and integrity of the national territory. That has been the position of all the parties in this State since then.
In the same declaration in May 1949, they also condemned the British legislation which first introduced the guarantee to the Unionists in 1949 in the Ireland Act following the declaration of a republic. The Forum represented at least 90 per cent of the constitutional Nationalists on this island and chapter 4, paragraph 1, stated that this fails to take account of the origin of the problem, namely the imposed division of Ireland which created an artificial political majority in the North that has resulted in political deadlock in which decisions have been based on sectarian loyalties. Chapter 5, paragraph 1, states that the guarantee has in its practical application had the effect of inhibiting dialogue necessary for political progress. It has had the additional effect of removing the incentive which would otherwise exist on all sides to seek a political solution. It is quite clear that the Forum were totally opposed to the guarantee and saw it as a major stumbling block to any progress in a solution to the tragic situation which exists.
Following the Sunningdale Agreement, Jack Lynch said that we wanted to maintain the substance and principle of the original motion passed in 1949. That was a reference to the unanimous declaration of this House to which I referred earlier. Despite the Forum's condemnation of the guarantee, it has been included in the present Anglo-Irish Agreement and for the first time in a legal document, an international treaty, which will be registered at the United Nations.
The British Prime Minister has no commitment to Irish unity in the future and she made that very clear on Monday in the House of Commons when, in reply to Adam Butler who asked her to confirm that a united Ireland was not the aim of her Government, she said "Most certainly not, I confirm that". She also stated in the House of Commons and on television that the agreement contained the most formal commitment ever given by an Irish Government about the status of Northern Ireland. In negotiating this agreement, the Irish Government started from a weak position because of the Taoiseach's attitude to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. On numerous occasions he has given his views on these Articles and this week he stated in Cork that he regretted their inclusion in the Constitution. Some years ago he started a constitutional crusade to have them removed from the Constitution. This was a weakness in the negotiations because our negotiators were opposed to Article 2 of the Constitution. Article 1 of the agreement is a contradiction of Article 2 of the Constitution. Article 2 of the agreement provides for the establishment of a Conference at which the Irish Government will have the power to put forward views and proposals on matters relating to Northern Ireland, for example, political matters, security and related matters, legal matters and the promotion of cross-Border co-operation. The Irish Government will only have the power to put forward views. The word "consultation" does not appear in the agreement. The British Prime Minister and the Taoiseach have made it clear that decision-making will be retained for Northern Ireland by the United Kingdom. This puts our Government in an impossible position as they will only be able to put forward views. They will be assuming a certain responsibility for actions but there is no indication that their views will even be listened to. Listening to the Taoiseach yesterday in the House, I failed to understand how he could say that this provision goes beyond a consultative role. I believe that the power to put forward views falls very far short of a consultative role. While our Government can put forward views there is no indication anywhere in the agreement or indeed from anything that has been said since that the British Government would consult the Irish Government about any matter.
In a leading article on 10 November inThe Sunday Times it is stated:
Dr. FitzGerald's Government would have responsibilities to the Nationalist majority without the power to exercise them.
That puts the Government in a very difficult position because they will just have the power to put forward views, to make proposals, but there is no indication that any of these will be accepted. The Government do not have any authority other than to put forward views.
Article 3 provides for a secretariat to be established by the two Governments to service the Conference. There seems to be some doubt as to where the secretariat will be based. The Taoiseach informed us yesterday that it would be based in Belfast, but the British Prime Minister made it very clear in a television interview last Friday that the decision to place the secretariat would depend on the advice of security chiefs. In other words, she did not state that the secretariat would be in Belfast or indeed in the Six Counties. The agreement provides for devolved government in the Six Counties. In his opening address the Taoiseach stated:
If devolved government in Northern Ireland can be agreed upon the Inter-governmental Conference now being established shall no longer have any competence in those areas affected by devolution.
This means that in the event of a fully devolved administration in the Six Counties the Irish dimension would go into voluntary liquidation. In other words, as each department would be devolved the Irish Government no longer would have a role to play, and in the event of a return to a Stormont administration the Irish Government would no longer be involved. In my view, this means we would have a return to the Stormont type Government, with the added disadvantage of an internationally binding agreement accepting the guarantee. This would be totally unacceptable not only to the people of the Six Counties but to those in the whole of Ireland.
All the democratic rules which apply throughout Europe and which we all cherish never existed in the Six Counties. There can be only two forms of administration there, power sharing between the various parties, which is not the democratic way in other European countries, and the alternative, majority rule, through which the artifically contrived majority, as they did for 60 years, would have total control. The only settlement which can bring lasting peace and stability must transcend the present Six Counties boundary, and this can best be done by a constitutional Conference involving the British and Irish Governments and both communities in the Six Counties, who could then formulate a new constitution for the whole nation. That is what we should have been looking for, but we have missed the opportunity. The opposition given in the Forum report pointed in that direction. It was the Forum's wish that there would be a permanent settlement to the tragic situation that exists today.
As a representative here for two of the Ulster counties, I resent the application of the name Ulster to the Six Counties. If the people who use this terminology, members of the British Parliament and the British Press, studied the geography of Ireland they would have a better understanding of the artificial nature of the Six Counties boundary and of the reason why it was set up as a State — to ensure the permanent majority of one community over the other. If the suggested constitutional Conference were set up, the Taoiseach said yesterday, the Unionists would boycott such a Conference. As long as the guarantee is there, there is no need for the Unionists to interest themselves in such a Conference. It is in the interests of the Unionists, as it is in the interest of all the people on this island, to have a permanent settlement which would bring peace and harmony. The only way that can come about is through the unity of the country. I believe the Unionists should have and would have a say in the formulation of a Constitution for the whole island. That is what the Taoiseach should have been looking for.
Article 5 of the agreement states that the subjects for consideration will include measures to foster the cultural heritage of both traditions, changes in electoral arrangements, the use of flags and emblems and the avoidance of social and economic discrimination. Article 5 (b) states:
The discussion of these matters shall be mainly concerned with Northern Ireland, but the possible application of any measures pursuant to this Article by the Irish Government in their jurisdiction shall not be excluded.
I hope that whoever is replying to the debate will explain that part of that Article and tell us the implications it has for the Republic. For example, are there implications in it for a change in the electoral arrangements? The Article states that the Irish Government may put forward views and proposals on the role and composition of the police authorities. The joint communique issued after the Summit states that the conference at its first meeting will consider:
(a) the application of the principle that the armed forces (which include the Ulster Defence Regiment), operate only in support of the civil power, with the particular objective of ensuring as rapidly as possible that, save in the most exceptional circumstances, there is a police presence in all operations which involve direct contact with the communities.
I attended the conference of the SDLP before this agreement was signed and I listened to the unanimous call for the disarmament of the UDR. It was stated at the conference that a former Chief Constable of the RUC had said that the regiment should be disbanded. That has been the view of the minority community in the North and indeed of our people in the South — that the UDR should be disbanded, that they are a sectarian force which succeeded the B Specials which were disbanded. The only commitment we got in the agreement is that they will still be there, still operational, but that they will have an RUC man with them. It is reasonable to say that no Nationalist in the Six Counties will be happy with that. The behaviour of the UDR is well enough known to all of us.
Our Garda and our Army are doing an excellent job in Border areas and I am concerned that as a result of this agreement there will be the danger of our security forces being drawn into much closer liaison with a security force who are discredited as is evident from the numerous reports of senior British legal personnel down through the years, apart from what we know about these forces.
In an article headed, Fixing Ulster, in the current issue ofThe Economist, there is the comment that Mrs. Thatcher has won, but by no concession of principle, a new sword for fighting terrorism and a new ploughshare for uprooting the Irish soil in which it grows. If that is a reference to this side of the Border it is a reference that I would resent. Everybody here knows that 99 per cent of the violence in Northern Ireland originated in that part of the country. I abhor violence either in Northern Ireland or elsewhere. Human life is sacred and should be respected. There is no need for this massive uprooting of the Irish soil as The Economist puts it.
In today's issue of theFinancial Times in an article written by A. H. Hermann and Raymond Hughes it is stated that the agreement provides for British proposals to be made for certain aspects of Government within the Republic as well as the other way around, mostly in matters of security, and that a tough British stance on extradition and on cross-Border joint patrols would demonstrate that the Republic has agreed also to a degree of informal joint authority on its own territory. I would be very concerned at the possibility of our security forces becoming involved in closer liaison with what are a discredited security force.
I am concerned also because the British Prime Minister stated in the House of Commons on Monday that the proposals and the views of the Irish Government would not be made public. Regardless of who might be in power here and putting forward proposals or views or accepting any liaison with the security forces on the other side of the Border particularly where that might involve joint patrols, as is suggested in theFinancial Times this morning, the Government of the day would have a duty to inform this House of their proposals and thereby give to the House an opportunity to make a decision in that regard.
A much more radical change than that outlined in the communiqué would be necessary to make the security forces acceptable to the Nationalist community. There are many aspects of the administration of justice which need radically and urgently to be altered. For example, the use of plastic bullets which has been the cause of so much death and injury should cease, while the supergrass trials which were the subject of a motion in this House last year should be abolished. It is interesting to note that the Government's response to that motion was not to condemn the supergrass system but merely to note it. Although the agreement was signed only on Friday last, the British Prime Minister has said already that she does not see how mixed courts could work. One may ask if she is standing back now from the spirit of the agreement.
The Taoiseach said it was the intention of his Government to accede as soon as possible to the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. It is a matter for concern that persons charged with political offences should be handed over to a jurisdiction in which there is so little confidence. Persons alleged to have committed such offences should be tried under our judicial system.
The only way in which the Northern Ireland problem can be settled is through peaceful means. Though I am disappointed with the outcome of the agreement I consider the Taoiseach to have been right to continue the negotiations at intergovernmental level, something which he criticised the leader of our party for in 1980. The then Deputy FitzGerald believes that the route to progress is through the Unionist community. I am pleased the Taoiseach has now accepted the route initiated by Deputy Haughey.
Article 9 of the agreement deals with cross-Border co-operation on security, economic, social and cultural matters. It relates to the conference setting out a programme of work to be undertaken by the Commissioner of the Garda and the Chief Constable of the RUC and, where appropriate, groups of officials.
Section (b) of that article provides that the conference shall have no operational responsibilities. The main thrust of the agreement is based on security. Our Government are placing themselves in an impossible position by accepting responsibility for security without having executive powers. I should like them to elaborate more on the matter of cross-Border economic co-operation. Will that co-operation benefit both sides of the Border? It has been recognised for many years that as a result of Partition the Border region of the Twenty-six Counties has been deprived. One need only consider the towns along the Border for evidence of this. Clones which is surrounded on three sides by the Border is an example of that deprivation. There is no indication in the agreement that there will be any special economic assistance for those counties on both sides of the Border. There has been EC aid by way of various cross-Border economic funds, but is there to be any special aid now from that quarter as a result of this agreement?
For a number of years there have been in operation cross-Border development committees consisting of elected and executive members of local authorities. Do the Government intend to support efforts of this kind? They have not done so in the past.
In his opening statement the Taoiseach referred to the implementation in the agreement of Forum principles. I had the honour to be a member of the Forum, a body which represented 90 per cent of constitutional Nationalists on the island. The Forum in their report were very clear regarding the structure they would like to see emerge. That is outlined in Chapter 5.7. The principal recommendations of the Forum were rejected totally by the British Prime Minister in her now famous out, out, out speech.
I am concerned, too, at the legitimising of the guarantee in an international agreement of no commitment to work for a united Ireland. I am concerned also at the implications for our security forces and the lack of any positive commitment to a radical change in the administration of justice in the Six Counties. A great opportunity has been missed to progress towards a settlement which would bring lasting peace and harmony to all the people, Nationalists and Unionists, in the whole island.
Is fíor a rá nach músclaíonn deacracht ar bith eile meoin náisiúnachas Éireannaigh ar fud an domhain ná fadhb Thuaisceart Éireann. Is cuma cá dtéann tú sa tír seo, go Sasana nó thart faoin Bhreatain ar fad, chuig an Mhórthír nó go Meiriceá nó fiú go dtí an Astráil féin, cuireann an fhadhb seo i gcónaí isteach ar Éireannaigh is cuma an dtuigeann nó nach dtuigeann siad na miondeacrachtaí atá dlúthcheangailte thart faoin fhadhb seo. Leis na blianta anuas is mó atá ráite agus scríofa faoi thrioblóidí an Tuaiscirt, trioblóidí a tharraing anuas orainn go léir droch ainm mar dhaoine agus mar thír.
Seo í an dara huair a dearnadh tréaniarracht toradh maith a bhaint amach don tír ar fad, agus a thaispeáint do na fir ghunnai — cibé as a dtagann siad — gur féidir, trí chóras daonlathach, fadhb polaitíochta a réiteach ar deireadh ionas go mbeidh seans ag gnáthmhuintir na tíre saol mar ba chóir a chur ar bun dóibh féin agus dá gclann. Ba iad an Comhrialtas a rinne na hiarrachtaí seo, Comhrialtas 1973, faoi chinnireacht Liam Mac Coscair ag Sunningdale, agus faoi láthair ag Hillsborough faoi chinnireacht an Teachta FitzGerald mar Thaoiseach.
Bíonn neart le rá i gcónaí ag lucht an Fhreasúra faoi Náisiúnachas agus eile ach fíor-bheagán a rinne siad faoi nuair a bhí an seans agus an cumhacht acu. Chuile uair a bhí brú polaitíochta ar lucht Fhianna Fáil tharraing siad orthu an bratach náisiúnta; agus dúradh arís agus arís eile go raibh siad chun ár dtír fíor-bhrónach a mhúscailt uair amháin eile agus trioblóidí stairiúla seacht gcéad bliain a réiteach go deo. Ní dhearna siad tada faoi sin ariamh ach a rá gur mhian leo aontacht na hÉireann a bhaint amach. Ba é sin mothú bródúil acu, atá ag gach duine sna Sé Chontae Fichead beagnach, ach arís ag Fianna Fáil ní raibh acu le tabhairt don tír ach focla folamha faoin sprid stairiúil a mbeadh tábhacht ag baint leis dá mba rud é go dtiocfadh tairbhe ás.
Cuirim fáilte roimh chuile rud atá déanta ag an Rialtas i rith na laethanta deiridh agus guím rath Dé ar an obair atá le déanamh as seo amach.
I was not around in 1921 in the historic days of the setting up of this State and the winning of our national freedom. I can only look at those events through the window of history. If one could draw the blind of history down, one would realise that what has been achieved in recent days is as good a starting point as could have been achieved at any time in our past from which we can progress and develop our country.
I had the honour to serve as a Fine Gael Member on the New Ireland Forum. I was privileged to be a part of that historic political momentum. While its perferred recommendations were not acceptable in any of the three forms to the British Government, breaching as they did that Government's definition of sovereignty, it did bring before the peoples of this trouble-ridden island the realities of political life and the difficulties of today. While the recommendations were naturally nationally biased, they played an important role in bringing to the attention of all Irish people at home and abroad the degree of determination which democratic, nationally-minded and constitutional politicians in this part of the country, and some from the North, were prepared to display and implement in order that this sad saga might be brought to a new plane with more positive and beneficial results for all. The achievement of the historic Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 focuses on the reality of political life in Ireland today. The measure of the old and oftentimes misdirected republicanism has been laid to rest.
The rules covering this debate are logical and have a common sense approach. It would be very easy to resurrect the ghosts of the past which have wandered through this House at various times. This agreement has bred a new understanding, a realistic and enlightened form of nationalism in its truest sense. The old ideas belong to a different era. We can justly take a sense of pride from what I consider to be turning the country towards moderation and peace. Let there be no hysterical screaming or emotional elation at the new direction in which Irish nationalism is pointing. There will not be any promises of unity within ten years, as was promised by some Fianna Fáil speakers in earlier times. Instant unity, unlike instant coffee, is not readily available.
This agreement must work. To do nothing is to maintain thestatus quo and this means the continuation of murder, mayhem and carnage; it also means countinuing fear, trepidation and human suffering on all sides to an intense degree. It makes one wonder what kind of mentality, from whatever tradition, brings young people or their elders into a position where they shoot and maim people. The perpetrators of violence and murder must be shown that democracy can, and will, prevail and all moderate and reasonable opinion must be led to understand this without fear to their rights, dignity, values or ethos.
This agreement falls short of executive functions and goes beyond a mere consultative role. It is the best that could have been achieved at this time, and it must work. It is a sophisticated, intelligent agreement; it is also very fragile and delicate. For 700 years people have been speaking about the problem of Northern Ireland and the domination of this country by British rule. The distinguished journalist and editor ofThe Spectator, Paul Johnson, outlined what had been attempted by various British administrations during the centuries. At the start of the last decade he wrote:
In Ireland over the centuries we have tried possible formula — direct rule, indirect rule, genocide, apartheid, puppet parliaments, real parliaments, martial law, civil law, colonisation, land reform and partition. Nothing has worked. The only solution we have not tried is absolute and unconditional withdrawal.
It has been accepted by politicians in this part of the country over the years that to attempt to unite Ireland by force would undoubtedly lead to carnage and civil war. Therefore a determined effort had to be made, and has been made, to do something in the meantime. There is no point in talking about this unless we do something about it.
The implementation of this agreement is of crucial importance. The difficult work has been done and great credit is due to the teams concerned. The drafting of the agreement entailed many hours of detailed discussion over 18 months. Can we now convince the Unionists of the validity of our case? Do we really care about Northern Ireland? Its importance in our list of priorities in the Twenty Six Counties must be considered. Have we tried over the last number of years to build this country into one that would be attractive to the people in the North and elsewhere that would encourage them to join us, to live in harmony with us, to prosper and develop? Have we really tried that? I have heard rabid Republicans shout about the fourth green field and in many cases their friends, relatives and spouses will have spent the day shopping in Northern Ireland to the detriment of our economy. It is a twisted version of Nationalism that has emerged over the years.
We can validly point to what has happened to people of different religious persuasions in the Twenty-Six Counties. In this administration we have elected people of the Protestant and Jewish persuasion. We appointed Jewish Lords Mayor in various cities and the late President Childers was a Protestant who carried out his duties in an exemplary fashion. Can we not convince people in the North by talking to them that this is not an assumption of power by a Dublin Government or an attempt to overrun by force or devious means the people of the Six Counties?
The Nationalist community can feel genuinely secure in that they will have as the Permanent Representative at the Conference, Deputy Peter Barry, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who in his capacity as Minister has been accepted across the divide in Northern Ireland as a reasonable, logical and determined individual. We could not find a better person to take up the first appointment as Permanent Representative to the Conference. It is important that Catholics and Nationalists can have their grievances and difficulties aired at the Conference by a person of the stature of Deputy Peter Barry. The British Prime Minister stated that the right of sovereignty over Northern Ireland is not breached so far as the British Government are concerned. I am sure that the discussions between the civil servants, the Ministers, the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister went into detail about the definition of "determined efforts" in the agreement.
It is of paramount importance that after the initial meetings of the Conference positive progress comes from the discussions, otherwise people will say that this is merely a propaganda exercise and a talking shop. I do not accept that it will be such but, as Deputy Cluskey said this morning, we remember the deep tribal feelings that were unleashed in this part of the country after the events of 1969-70. There are people on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland who are bad minded enough to attempt to provoke similar happenings. In that context that courage and determination of the delegation from the Twenty-Six Counties must be admired.
The Unionist position is shocking at this time. The comparison has already been made that if tomorrow the British Prime Minister in conjunction with the President of Argentina were to announce the appointment of a Minister or Commissioner to look at the Falkland Islands, objective opinion might say that the writing was on the wall, that the British intended to pull out. I am sure some Unionist opinion tends that way. The reverse would happen here were we to have involvement by the RUC or Ministers of the Crown. The agreement is delicate and fragile but it contains the seeds of progress which must be acted upon.
The Fianna Fáil attitude towards this agreement is somewhat unclear. The initial remarks of the party leader implied total rejection. They seem to have mellowed somewhat. I would have thought that the Leader of the Opposition, having got due recognition from the Taoiseach for his part in initiating these Anglo-Irish discussions, would have accepted this agreement for what it is worth although it might not go as far as he would wish, while hoping to get back into power. Deputy Haughey may have felt that the person to whom credit will go for sorting out the Northern Ireland question will achieve a place in history of monumental proportions. Perhaps such a feeling spurred Deputy Haughey to initally reject this historic agreement. I am sure moderate opinion in Fianna Fáil wants to accept this agreement and give it a chance to work.
I have spent ten years here as an elected representative and have seen the Office of the Taoiseach occupied on six occasions. Since the foundation of the State we have had a small number of Taoisigh. I am sure Fianna Fáil opinion in a general commonsense approach agree that this agreement should be given a chance to work. There has been a general feeling of relief rather than surprise and opposition from other sides towards the agreement. The agreement has the approval of world opinion and local opinion. There is no point in people here saying they want unity. Everybody aspires to unity. That aspiration has been recognised in the Forum and it has been recognised in this agreement. It is the duty of politicians to legislate and lead and we must say how we want to achieve unity. This agreement is a start. The average Nationalist opinion in Northern Ireland in the context of unity would mean "Brits out" but that cannot happen for obvious reasons. The process started here is distinct from the evolution of political ideas. It is important to spell out the steps to unity. This agreement is the start of that process. It starts on the path towards reconciliation and equality and makes an eventual approach towards achieving the legitimate aspirations of all nationally minded people. It is important that the momentum inherent in this agreement be maintained and highlighted in a positive and beneficial way.
Unionists must understand that the three important items in Unionist feeling are accommodated. They are their Protestantism, their Britishness and, to a degree, the context of power which has been extremely important to them over generations. The British Prime Minister said after the last Anglo-Irish agreement: "We must not close our eyes to new ideas." I am glad that after the Chequers Summit, which was not received well in this country for many reasons, the Government here and the Taoiseach in particular have been able to convince the British Prime Minister of the necessity for and the validity of the case for attempting to do something about this very long standing and bitter problem.
Through emigration and so on a very high percentage of people from my county live in Britain and from speaking to them I realise that they feel that, if this agreement can be implemented and seen to work for the benefit of Nationalists and all the people of the North, the attitude of Irish people living in Britain towards the British Prime Minister in the next election could be very different from what it was on the last occasion. It would be ironic if, instead of seeing her as the devil in disguise, because her conviction and strength held out and the agreement was implemented beneficially they supported her and her party to a degree never experienced in the past.
It is important that the British Prime Minister should be seen as having the capacity and strength of leadership to withstand Unionist reaction. I hope and trust that vigilance abroad will protect everybody in the best way possible. All agreements have ripples and difficulties and in that context this one is no different from any others signed over the years. Probably people expect that there will be a reaction of one sort or another from extremists in the context of violence and people must understand that that is possible, but unity is preferable to and more acceptable and desirable than disunity, and to maintain thestatus quo is not sufficient. We must point the way forward and indicate the steps towards where we want to go for the achievement of everybody's legitimate national aspiration.
Anglo-Irish relations will never be the same again. The lodging of this signed agreement internationally with the UN changes for ever the status of Anglo-Irish relations. The common perception in the streets of Ireland is that at this time world opinion — Fine Gael, Labour, the SDLP, the US Government, the Speaker of the House of Congress, the British Government and others across the globe — supports this agreement. On the other hand, albeit for different reasons. Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Unionist opinion and the DUP oppose it. Everybody with common sense can understand the economic benefit of achieving better progress. North and South, than we have had to date. I understand that this morning Congressman Biaggi mentioned $400 million for the economic benefit of the North if this agreement is accepted by both Houses here. That will have to be debated in the Houses in America. At present the IDA compete with the IDB for the attraction of manufacturing industry into our country. That is a waste of effort and of money in many cases and we have lost out as a country.
I would have thought that, having been in the front line of Nationalist politics in the North through all these troubled years, the SDLP would have received unanimous Nationalist support from this part of the country. If the SDLP did not back this agreement it would not be worth the paper it is written on. Through the years the SDLP leaders, for whom I have the greatest admiration, have been burdened with the pressures of Nationalist politics in Northern Ireland and have performed exceptionally well. The hope expressed in some Fianna Fáil quarters that the Deputy Leader of the SDLP, Séamus Mallon, would reject this agreement is a monstrosity. He has been under tremendous pressure. I have great admiration for him. He has a very keen understanding of the complex problems of the North and has never been afraid to stand up and speak his mind on behalf of those whom he represents. To attempt to pressurise him into not accepting this agreement could have disastrous consequences.
The implementation of the agreement is now our problem and I trust that in that area the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his team will not be afraid to spell out to their counterparts in Belfast the difficulties as we see them and as pointed out to them by Nationalist opinion in the North. What happens when the delegation from this side raise a problem which is not acceptable to the other side, when the Secretary of State says that they do not accept our views on this matter? At the end of the day will the Taoiseach have to telephone the British Prime Minister and say: "Let us get this sorted out if we can"?
If support for the men of violence falls off, as it did during the power sharing executive of 1974 when Catholics and Nationalists could see that their representatives were in a position to do something, that would be very beneficial. I would prefer to see a devolved power structure in the North sooner rather than later. I would like to see the agreement leading to that as rapidly as possible. The Inter-governmental Conference could then withdraw from both areas that were not covered by their common brief.
We stand at a crossroads in our history. I trust that the effect of the agreement will be to bring about a devolved power structure as soon as possible and that all traditions in the North can be accommodated. There will be no all-party constitutional conference. We had the Airlie House experiment in Washington with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, The Workers' Party, the SDLP, the DUP, the OUP, Alliance, Conservatives and the British Labour Party represented around the one table. There were divergences of opinion, extreme in some senses, and there were some areas of common ground. An emotional debate at that conference centred on security, and this will be of paramount importance in the context of this agreement. I am impressed by Robert Kennedy's words: "Few men have the greatness to bend history itself but each of us has the opportunity to change events in our daily lives, and in the sum total of these changes shall be written the history of the present generation." I trust that this agreement will write a new chapter in Irish history.
I conclude by quoting the words of Dr. Paisley when he said recently, "We are going to show people that Ulster people have grit, courage and determination". I ask him and his followers to use that grit, courage and determination not for the destruction of Ulster or of the island but for its future development, prosperity and happiness. This agreement must work. A line from Yeats is going through my head: "Who knows what is yet to come"? I put my faith in this agreement. I put my trust in the Government who have brought it about, and I hope and pray that the delegation led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs will achieve positive, beneficial results for everybody on the island as a result of this agreement.
(Limerick West): I agree with Deputy Kenny's final words expressing the hope that this agreement must work, and we all hope it will work. Nevertheless, I must give the agreement a somewhat guarded welcome. I have no doubt that the Taoiseach, his officials and the Ministers concerned acted in all sincerity in drafting and accepting this agreement, or that all concerned believed and felt that they were working towards peace and stability in the North. That is a noble and worthy objective. Unfortunately, that is as far as it goes. There is nothing in the agreement which could not have been obtained without reneging on a far more noble and worthy objective, that of national unity. No matter how the Taoiseach tries to crawl away from that reality, I am afraid he cannot escape it.