Ceisteanna-Questions. Oral Answers. - EC Summit Preliminary Meetings.

Proinsias De Rossa

Question:

13 Proinsias De Rossa asked the Taoiseach the matters discussed with the British Prime Minister at their meeting in London on 13 June 1990; if the current state of Anglo-Irish relations was discussed; if the proposals of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for political progress in Northern Ireland were raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Dick Spring

Question:

14 Mr. Spring asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement regarding his meeting of 13 June 1990 with the British Prime Minister.

Dick Spring

Question:

15 Mr. Spring asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement regarding his meetings with the Dutch and Luxembourg Prime Ministers; and, in particular, if he will outline the content of those discussions in so far as they referred to the removal of sanctions against South Africa.

Dick Spring

Question:

16 Mr. Spring asked the Taoiseach if he will outline the full agenda of the European Summit Meeting to take place at the end of the month; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Dick Spring

Question:

17 Mr. Spring asked the Taoiseach if he is planning any meetings on the margins of the EC Summit Meeting at the end of the month; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

It is proposed to take Questions Nos. 13 to 17, inclusive, together.

The meetings the Deputies refer to were part of the tour of EC capitals, which I have now completed, in preparation for next week's meeting here of the European Council.

In line with established practice, it would not be appropriate for me to disclose details of these discussions, which are confidential to the participants, except to say that the discussions concentrated on the likely agenda items for the Council. I out lined these in my statement in the House on Thursday last. In my meeting with the British Prime Minister, we also touched on the situation in Northern Ireland and noted the progress in the arrangements being made for the talks on the situation there.

The tour was very useful and, as I mentioned in the House last week, all my colleagues expressed approval for the approach we intend to take. It is clear that we now have the basis for a fruitful discussion and concrete decisions at next week's meeting, on which I will of course be reporting to the House.

Meetings take place in the margin of a Council in the normal course as business requires. It is impossible to say, in advance, how many such meetings will occur or when, at the Council next week.

In relation to the Taoiseach's meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, I should like to ask him to indicate if he is satisfied with the progress made on the Northern Ireland talks, particularly in view of some of the comments made in recent times by various spokespersons in Northern Ireland. Does the Taoiseach envisage that he will be in a position within a short while to make a statement to the House with regard to those talks? I understand that Mr. Brooke will be making a statement to the British House of Commons sometime in July and I should like to ask the Taoiseach if he expects to make a statement at that time, or beforehand.

As I informed the House, the British Prime Minister and myself expressed our support for the talks and our encouragement and appreciation of the efforts the Secretary of State is making. I am aware of the fact that the Secretary of State, Mr. Brooke, intends to make a statement to the House of Commons fairly soon. I undertake to monitor the situation in that regard and see when it could be appropriate for me to make some announcement from our end. Of course, the overriding requirement in this is that neither of us should make any statements which might in any way detrimentally affect the process.

I should like to put a number of questions to the Taoiseach in relation to his meeting with the British Prime Minister. I concur totally with his last remark, that we should be cautious in these matters. I should like to ask the Taoiseach if he will consider, yet again, a briefing for the Leaders of the Opposition parties in the House as has been done for all leaders of the parties, and others, in Northern Ireland? Will the Taoiseach say if the question of the Birmingham Six was raised at his meeting with the British Prime Minister?

I do not like to give particular indications as to what was or was not raised but the Deputy can take it that the latter is a matter which is constantly on the table in all aspects of Anglo-Irish relations. I shall have to consider, as the talks proceed, his other request. It is too early yet to take any decision in that regard but as the talks proceed I shall have to consider very carefully how best to give an indication to the House and indeed, to the general public, what our position is in regard to them.

In relation to the latter point, I should like to emphasise to the Taoiseach that I feel at a certain disadvantage in relation to the dissemination of information. It appears that all parties in Northern Ireland, and a good number of politicians in England, have been briefed on what is happening. It is not helping things when at weekends different statements are issued by politicians who are members of the same party. I should like to ask the Taoiseach to consider briefing us on a confidential basis. In an effort to get the support of Opposition parties for what is happening, and obviously that is very important, he should consider holding at an early date a meeting with the leaders of the Opposition parties, something that is long overdue.

I can do that, of course, but the situation is different. Briefings, in the sense that the Deputy has referred to, are not taking place. The Secretary of State is conducting totally separate discussions and dialogue with the different parties in Northern Ireland. That is what the process is and there is no question of briefing anybody.

My understanding is that the Secretary of State is discussing matters with some parties and briefing other parties but I do not think that is as important as the fact that the leaders of the parties in this House should be aware of what is going on. They should be given some indication of the outline, at least, of what is being proposed in order to avoid making insensitive statements, as were made by some party people in Northern Ireland in recent times.

I should like to appeal to the Taoiseach to consider strongly briefing parties in the House. He had discussions with the Prime Ministers of the various members of the European Community on the question of sanctions on South Africa. The indication in today's newspapers is that support for sanctions is falling away. In view of the Taoiseach's trips to the various capitals of Europe, will he confirm that that is the position and if there is still a strong demand from the people of South Africa that sanctions should be maintained?

I do not accept that support for sanctions is falling away and it is not the position as I understand or assessed it. I naturally discussed it as I went round the capitals and I have already indicated that there are different emphases in various capitals about the matter. I think that the general view among all the leaders of the Community is that they want to do the right thing. There is a public debate going on as to what should happen; one school of thought is that we should express encouragement, approval and support for what President de Klerk is attempting to achieve but that it is too early to consider a move on sanctions. Other views held are that the process is so important that President de Klerk should be given some positive indication of our support. That is the state of play at the moment and I am sure the matter will come up for a substantial discussion at the Dublin Summit. I do not wish at this stage to pre-empt the outcome but the Deputy knows my position — and that of the Irish Government — in relation to this matter.

I wish to ask a question in relation to Question No. 15 which referred to sanctions and the position taken by certain Governments. Will the Taoiseach agree that the position of our Government is very clear in regard to this matter as outlined by himself and the Minister for Foreign Affairs in recent weeks and that that is the position which the Taoiseach will adopt at the Summit meeting next week, that we are not in favour of the removal of sanctions against South Africa at present?

Yes, that is our national position but, as the Deputy knows, as Presidency we have to try to achieve a situation which is in the best interest of the objective of dismantling apartheid.