Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Financial Aid for Anglo-Irish Agreement.


asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the present position in regard to financial aid other than aid from the United States in support of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Joint approaches have been made by the Irish and British Governments to the Governments of Canada and Australia on the question of possible contributions by these countries to the international fund in support of the objectives of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Substantive responses are awaited. An approach to the EC Commission on ways in which the Community could best lend its support to the Agreement is also being considered by both Governments.

Is the Minister in a position to state whether there were any specific promises or proposals of special aid from the EC or other countries? Have we any such promises or proposals as of now?

No. We have no promises from any of the countries yet. The Deputy will be aware that a Bill is going through the American Congress in that regard. The British and Irish Governments have made joint approaches to the Canadian and Australian Governments who indicated initially that they would be willing to give support. That was about six weeks or two months ago, but we have not heard anything since. The European Community have almost completed an examination of the options open to them to subscribe, whether through the Regional Fund, the Social Fund or by direct contribution. When that examination has been studied and agreement reached by the British and Irish Governments as to the desirability of each of the options, we will make the formal approach.

Will the Minister say whether the EC are holding back their decision until such time as they know what the position is in Washington?

No, they will not make their decision until they get a formal apportionment jointly from the Governments.

Will the Minister agree that financial aid for the Anglo-Irish Agreement will very definitely soften the opposition of some Unionists?

That is not the objective. The implication in what the Deputy is saying is that in some way the agreement damages the Unionist's position, but, clearly, it does not. On a number of occasions I said that I resented very much this misrepresentation of the agreement by leaders of the Unionist community which has led some very moderate Unionists to believe that it contains something that is detrimental to their interests. It does not contain any such proposals. The intention in forming the international fund was because structurally, psychologically and socially a lot of damage had been done through violence over the last 17 or 18 years on both sides of the Border, but mostly in the North of Ireland. It was in an effort to repair that damage that the fund was set up.

Deputy Kelly rose.

The Deputy will realise that we are dealing with questions nominated for priority and only Deputies whose names are to such questions may put supplementaries.

I thought the Chair occasionally, as it appears to be doing today, allowed supplementaries from other Deputies.

Never, and the record will prove that conclusively.

Perhaps I can prompt Deputy Collins.

If the Deputy whispers the question to me I might include my response when I am replying to the next supplementary.

That will not be as good. Perhaps I can make a disorderly interruption and ask the Minister if he would think of buying space in the Belfast News Letter and in local papers in the North in order to put to the people of the North the point of view he has just been expressing?

The Deputy is being grossly and knowingly disorderly.

I am responsible for that and I tender my apologies to the Chair. In fact, I made a speech which was reported in the News Letter.