Private Members' Business. - An Bille um an Aonú Leasú Déag ar an mBunreacht, 1990: Dara Céim (Atógáil). Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1990: Second Stage (Resumed).

Athtairgeadh an cheist: "Go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair".
Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

As I was explaining to the House last night, Fine Gael support the Second Stage reading of this Bill because we have changed our minds about Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. Deputy De Rossa reminded us last night of the initial reaction of my party when it was led by W. T. Cosgrave, that the Articles meant nothing, that they were only a fiction and when read together Article 3 neutralised Article 2, and anyway they were only aspirations. That was the view held by the Fine Gael Party and by myself. We were inclined to go along with the idea that a complete revision of the Constitution would be more appropriate rather than taking one or two Articles at a time.

The argument has been frequently put forward — Deputy De Rossa referred to it extensively last night — that because the Unionist community in the North object to these Articles of the Constitution it is correct to amend them. That argument does not carry that much weight with me. I remember exactly the same arguments being advanced before the Article relating to the Catholic Church was removed from the Constitution. We were told at that stage that it was offensive to the Unionist community, which it was, and that its removal would facilitate dialogue between the two communities in the two parts of Ireland. That Article was removed by an amendment supported by all the parties in this House but, of course, once it was removed, it became, in the Unionists' eyes, just an empty formula and did not mean anything. I suspect the same could happen to Articles 2 and 3 if they are removed.

As I said last night, the judgement handed down in the McGimpsey case changed my party's view in so far as what was an aspiration became a legal imperative. That might have been interpreted by the Provisional IRA as giving them the right to achieve by violence what the vast majority of Nationalist people both North and South want to bring about by peaceful means. I do not have to remind the House of the record of that organisation — all of it without a mandate from the people of Ireland and engaged in by themselves — over the past 20 years. The wanton, mindless violence has affected, either through death or injury, virtually every family in Northern Ireland. Their latest horror is the proxy bomb whereby innocent people are battered, blackmailed and beaten up and made to drive vans or cars containing explosives which are designed to explode when the person is in the car and take the lives of any other people who happen to be in the vicinity at the time the explosion occurs. I certainly do not want those people to operate in my name.

As I was coming through the hall this afternoon I saw the 1916 Proclamation hanging on the wall. It states that nobody should dishonour our cause by cowardice, inhumanity or rapine. I do not know where the IRA see the humanity in the killing two days ago of a young man who was inspecting a plot of land on which he intended to build a house for himself and his young bride. Neither do I see the humanity in the killing of a man who came out to feed his dog the night before last. If the IRA want to try to persuade the democratic Nationalists of this island both North and South or human beings with any kind of moral responsibility that their actions are done in the cause of uniting this country I certainly want no part of it. I do not think there is anyone in this House or in the country as a whole who would not subscribe to that view.

The Bill before the House seeks to amend Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution, to have the Constitution state formally what was agreed in the Forum Report and in the Anglo-Irish Agreement, that is, that the unity of this country should be brought about only by consent and without violence. With the exception of The Workers' Party, I think Members of all parties in this House signed the Forum Report, and I believe that anyone who signed that report should support this Bill, consequential on the judgment delivered last March. I know that is a vain hope because I understand one party in Government have already stated today that they will not support the Bill. I suppose one always lives in hope and maybe the Taoiseach will surprise us tonight in his contribution by saying his party will support it. In that event Deputy Quill's party will be on their own. I do not know how they will feel about that but I understand that at times they are on their own in Cabinet, so there may be no change. Is that right?

Less of the mischief, Deputy.

There are a number of political and legal implications of these changes which must be explored fully by the House before the Bill is passed. We have first to take into account the position of the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland who make up 40 per cent of the population. At least two-thirds of them, if not more, suppoorted the New Ireland Forum and Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. They regard Articles 1 and 2 of the Constitution as their claim on the people of the Republic not to abandon them and not to ever take the problem of Northern Ireland off the political agenda here until there is peace on this island. This is an important point. If we change the Constitution in this regard the Nationalists in Northern Ireland must know that we have not forgotten our responsibility to them and that we will continue to have their concerns and future as a central issue on this part of the island. I have to say that the record of some members of the Fianna Fáil Party during the Presidential election has meant that people in the North are within their rights in saying that some people down here have forgotten about them and have been treating them as less than full Irish people. That is disgraceful. However, we will have that debate at another time.

As well as these concerns there are a number of major legal implications involved in this proposal which I do not believe the Deputies in this Parliament have given sufficient thought to. I hope the Government will accept this Bill in the spirit in which it is presented. If they do this, then perhaps all the parties in this House would agree to have a break between the Second Stage and Committee Stage so that a committee of legal experts could be established who would advise us on appropriate wording with which to amend Articles 2 and 3. Over a period of 50 years the words in those Articles have built up a certain meaning in legal documents both here and in international fora. We should get legal advice in drawing up suitable wording to amend these two Articles. My party will support the Second Reading of this Bill. If the Bill passes Second Stage, I hope The Workers' Party will accept my proposal to give more thought and examination to appropriate wording with which to amend Articles 2 and 3.

I believe that Dáil Éireann should reject the proposal made in this Bill for a number of reasons.

One good reason is that it is unnecessary. Ireland's commitment to the peaceful solution of problems is already contained in the Constitution and in many treaties and international agreements to which we are a party.

Another reason is perhaps a narrow technical one but valid nevertheless. It would surely be absurd for us to set down in our Constitution conditions which people outside our jurisdiction must observe in determining their future. Yet that is actually what this Bill proposes.

Another, in my view totally persuasive, reason for rejecting the proposed Bill is its disastrous timing. The attempt to put the Bill forward at this time, when sensitive and important negotiations are going on in relation to the three sets of relationships in this island, and between Ireland and Britain, must be seen as irresponsible. By the signals it would give to the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland, it could well destroy for some time to come the chances of peaceful progress. It would certainly strengthen the hand of the men of violence who would undoubtedly claim that we had deserted the Nationalist community and that they were now their only protectors. I disagree totally with Deputy Barry on that aspect.

Before I go on to develop these arguments more fully, I would like to take the opportunity to reiterate most strongly the Government's total rejection of violence as a means of attaining our legitimate and democratic claim to unity. I know that I speak for all parties in this House in that regard. Violence does not advance that cause: by dividing communities, it pushes ever further away the time when men and women of Ireland, whatever their political or religious beliefs or affiliations, can live together in peace, with respect and tolerance of each other's views and ideas. Progress can be made only through discussion and negotiation among the constitutionally elected representatives of the people of this island. I know that is common ground between us; nevertheless it is important on this occasion when we are dealing with these issues that I should repeat it.

The Bill is unnecessary because there is already in the Constitution a provision which serves the same purpose as it is apparently intended to advance. Article 29 of the Constitution states:

Ireland affirms its devotion to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations founded on international justice and morality.

Ireland affirms its adherence to the principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes by international arbitration or judicial determination.

The effect of these paragraphs is to make any reference to consent in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution unnecessary. Under them, the only way in which a dispute could be settled, under the Constitution, is peacefully.

There is, of course, the argument sometimes made that our Constitution can be invoked to justify the use of force in pursuit of the purposes of Articles 2 and 3. I utterly and totally reject the view that our legitimate democratic claim to unity can be construed by any reasonable person as a justification for using violence. There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution which can in any way justify the continuation of the campaign of violence being conducted by the IRA. In fact, those who follow the path of violence are making a travesty of the heritage of this country and our conduct since we gained independence, as well as denying totally the fundamental democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution.

Our allegiance to those same principles, to the ideal of progress by consent, with the will of the people, has been a principle by which the action of successive Irish Governments has been governed. It has determined our attitude to the membership of international organisations. We are, for example, members of the United Nations for almost two generations now. One of the provisions of the Charter of that organisation is that members are required-

...to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and

to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and

to ensure ... that armed force should not be used, save in the common interest.

As members of the United Nations, we have held steadfastly to these principles, not only in this country but in the many corners of the world where Irish soldiers have served as part of peacekeeping missions in furtherance of the cause of democracy and peace.

Exactly the same philosophy inspired this country to subscribe to the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, in respect of the territorial integrity of each of the participating states. One of the provisions of that Act is:

The participating states regard as inviolable all one another's frontiers as well as the frontiers of all states in Europe and therefore they will refrain now and in the future from assaulting these frontiers.

Again, in that Act, Ireland records its formal adherence to the principle of the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

In 1985, the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed. That Agreement says that the British and Irish Government:

...affirm 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 a formal declaration by the two sovereign States which has been registered with the United Nations in confirmation of the solemn and binding nature of the undertakings it contains. The Agreement recognises the need for continuing efforts to reconcile and acknowledge the rights of the two major traditions in this island, represented on the one hand by those who wish for no change in the present status of Northern Ireland and on the other hand by those who aspire to a sovereign united Ireland achieved by peaceful means and through agreement.

The Agreement was the subject of a Supreme Court judgment in March last. I would remind Deputies of some of the Court's conclusions. It found that Article 2 of the Constitution consists of a declaration of the extent of the national territory as a claim of legal right. It found that Article 3 prohibits, pending the reintegration of the national territory, the enactment of laws applicable in Northern Ireland. The court found that the Anglo-Irish Agreement is not inconsistent and is compatible with the Constitution and in particular with Articles 2, 3 and 29 and that the agreement was not concluded in disregard of the interests of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland.

That in summary was the essence of the judgment of the Supreme Court. There is nothing in these findings which in my view takes from the adherence of the State to the principle of consent, and the peaceful settlement of disputes enshrined in our Constitution and in international agreement after international agreement.

I am quite clear that the constitutional requirement to seek the unity of Ireland by peaceful means is neither aggressive nor offensive, no more indeed than the Unionist desire to maintain the union is on their part. As I have said on other occasions, I have a simple belief that unity on this island is preferable to disunity.

The Supreme Court affirmed the view that within the meaning of the Constitution the Government have complete freedom to pursue and develop peaceful and friendly co-operation. I should point out that the Articles in question in our Constitution are very similar in their intent to the former Article 1 of the German Basic Law, which in its preamble laid down the following constitutional imperative: "the entire German people are called upon to achieve in free selfdetermination the unity and freedom of Germany". This provision never constituted a physical threat to the former East Germany or served as a basis for the use of force. This had led in the fullness of time to the peaceful unification of Germany, East and West, with the consent of the people in both parts of Germany and of all the other parties involved in a general atmosphere of goodwill.

But if the present wording of our Constitution, the Charter of the United Nations, the Helsinki Final Act and the Anglo-Irish Agreement were not enough to record Ireland's acknowledgment of the need for progress by peaceful means, I would draw Deputies' attention to the fact that as recently as last month, in Paris, I affirmed Ireland's continuing adherence to these same principles and, in particular, signed the Paris Charter for a New Europe which we discussed in this House recently. Deputies will recall that that Charter provides:

In accordance with our obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and commitments under the Helsinki Final Act, we renew our pledge to refrain from the threat or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or from acting in any other manner inconsistent with the principles or purposes of those documents. We recall that non-compliance with obligations under the Charter of the United Nations constitutes a violation of international law.

We reaffirm our commitment to settle disputes by peaceful means.

Deputies will recall also that the Charter reaffirmed the Ten Principles of the Helsinki Final Act, including the provision that allows the possibility of changing frontiers, in accordance with international law, by peaceful means and by agreement. Indeed, the signatories to the Charter welcomed the fact that "the German people have united to become one State in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe and in full accord with their neighbours". I do not want to make too much of a corollary in that regard but I think it is a very clear example of what exactly I am talking about — that a constitutional provision seeking unity is not in any way in conradiction with all the international agreements we have signed. Furthermore, in the German case it did, in the end, result in a very happy conclusion.

We have solemnly undertaken, as in these provisions, not to breach frontiers and not to use force but peaceful means only for the settlement of disputes. This is, I believe, a matter of both morality and pragmatism — as shown time and time again in country after country in Eastern Europe — that radical change can only come about and fundamental institutions of Government can be sustained only by the consent of the governed. Governments everywhere only last by the will of the people.

Against this background of national and international obligations entered into and most solemnly registered, and a simple and pragmatic reading of the facts of public life, can anyone genuinely sustain the argument that there is a need now for a referendum in our country on Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution? Such a referendum would certainly be politically divisive and would be totally unproductive. It would open arguments which on all our past experience here with referenda could develop in ways which nobody in this House or anywhere else can predict on questions of the utmost fundamental importance and sensitivity. It would lead to bitterness and dissention at a time when more than ever we need moderation and consensus.

These are not just my views or the Government's views. Let me mention that a regular contributor on Northern Ireland matters, Mary Holland, wrote inThe Irish Times on 21 March of this year in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision, and warned of the dangers of a divisive referendum on Articles 2 and 3 and made the point that the broader Nationalist community in the North “derives considerable comfort from the knowledge that the Irish Government regards them as its citizens and has a constitutional responsibility to look after their interest”. Even many of the most prominent of those who have argued the case for amplifying Articles 2 and 3 accept the idea that a referendum at the present time could be divisive and even counter-productive. The SDLP have made it clear that they do not believe the Articles should be amended at present. Former party chairman, Mr. Seán Farren, stated in the Irish News on 11 December last year that the time for amendments would be “in the context of a more comprehensive political settlement between both parts of Ireland”. This point of view was clearly expressed at the recent SDLP Conference. The Labour Party in the Seanad debate in March of this year also took a negative attitude to a motion to delete Articles 2 and 3 for the same reasons.

I want to argue very cogently that in many ways this motion is very badly timed — in fact, I would nearly go so far as to say that it is dangerously timed — just as discussions on the current initiatives of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland have been making encouraging progress. A motion like this is almost certainly calculated to damage that progress by seeking to pre-empt something that may very well be raised in the negotiations themselves if they get underway. The timing of the motion is politically inopportune. I am afraid that those who support it — I have to say this — are displaying a lack of political judgment in this area. I do not think they have thought out fully the implications of what they are doing in seeking to pass this legislation and have a referendum on Articles 2 and 3 at this time. I sincerely believe they should not pursue this further. Let us regard this Second Stage debate in Private Members' time as a good up-to-date discussion on these issues and leave it at that because I genuinely believe that if they precipitate us into a referendum on these Articles, which are of fundamental importance to a very large number of people in this country, North and South, and if they start the long process of a referendum at this stage, they will in fact be acting detrimentally and doing damage.

As the House is aware, the Irish Government are at present engaged in a series of discussions and negotiations with the British Government. The aim of those discussions and negotiations is simply to try to reach an agreement or an arrangement which has the prospect of transcending the Anglo-Irish Agreement in a way that can take account of the views of both Nationalists and Unionists in Northern Ireland. That is what the first Anglo-Irish Agreement did not do. Perhaps that is what we will be able to do this time in the course of these discussions with the Unionists present and involved. Perhaps we will bring forward a new type of agreement, arrangement, settlement or whatever, which will have respect for, regard for, and listen to the Unionist point of view. Does anybody seriously argue that in the middle of just such a negotiation, this country should be plunged into a referendum on what could become a major issue in the talks? That is one of the points I want to emphasise. If this initiative succeeds and the talks get under way, we will be running with a referendum in this part of the country on issues which would be pretty centrally raised in the talks we are trying to have. That certainly would lead to total confusion.

More than that it would come at a time, when the people of Northern Ireland are most in need of our understanding and support, and would send them completely the wrong message. That is precisely what we could be doing, whatever about the intention or the actual wording of the Bill itself. As in so many other things that concern Northern Ireland it is not the actual, words, the phraseology or the formulation that counts, but the signals that can and will be read into the words. The signal of this Bill at this time would be totally wrong.

We are repeatedly told that the sensitivities of Northern Ireland should be borne in mind when we are conducting a debate on Articles 2 and 3 and this Government have consistently demonstrated their acknowledgment of and respect for Unionist sensitivities. Our readiness for open-ended dialogue with the Unionist leadership has been signalled time and time again; I personally repeated it frequently. In the current efforts to get talks under way which would embrace all the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland as well as the two Governments, we have consistently shown our flexibility in responding to various Unionist preconditions. Here I would like to refer to something which I am told took place today. Chris McGimpsey, who has been a central figure in this whole matter with regard to the case before the Supreme Court and who is the secretary of the Official Unionist Party, has indicated that he is not interested in this particular proposal. I did not actually hear it myself but some of my colleagues who did, assure me that that is what he said. Therefore, what are we about? I have often said to Deputy De Rossa in this House — when he asked me questions — that I do not want to hear from him what the Unionists think, or what he tells me the Unionists think, or what the Unionists want; I want to hear from the Unionists themselves. That is the only satisfactory way of doing it. If Chris McGimpsey said today on Radio Ulster what I believe he said, that proves my point conclusively.

It is important to remind this House also that we have obligations to the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland, obligations which are not and cannot be secondary to those we owe to any others. For over 50 years Articles 2 and 3 have been of enormous importance to Northern Nationalists. I do not care whether anybody says they were right or wrong in looking at Articles 2 and 3 in that way. I know, from my own knowledge and experience, that that is the position; they do and have looked on Articles 2 and 3 as something of great significance and importance to them. Our Constitution has reassured them that they have a place in the minds and hearts of those who live in the South, that their aspirations are shared and that their claim to be members of the Irish family is not just a hopeless, idle dream.

Northern Nationalists have undergone a great deal over the past 70 years. Their experience as second-class citizens over so many of those years is perhaps sometimes difficult for many in this part of the country to fully understand. I want to say that I fully understand it because I have experienced it and know it at first hand. Indeed, I think there are plenty of people in this House who also know and have experienced it at first hand. Over the past 20 years constitutional nationalism has valiantly struggled to assert the legitimacy of the Nationalist vision while unambigously condemning those who would contaminate that vision by the use of violence. That is something to which we should very definitely have regard.

I am sure all of us here in this House regard ourselves as having a difficult time in expressing our point of view, in promoting our cause in the House and with the public. But we all know that our difficulties, such as they are, as practising politicians, pale into insignificance compared, for instance, with the task of the SDLP over the last 20 years in trying, on the one hand, to maintain their Nationalist position, their tradition and belief and, at the same time, steer clear of the violent expression of that tradition by others. It has been a very difficult job for them; we all know, understand and appreciate that. I do not think we would be doing them any favours, or giving them any help in continuing to uphold that difficult, sensitive position in Northern Ireland by passing this Bill and holding a referendum.

What signal are we to send to those who have struggled to uphold the values of constitutional nationalism? Are we to say that, after all, expressions of nationalism have come to embarrass us in the South, that we no longer feel comfortable with a Constitution which gives full expression to the Nationalist idea? Is that what we want? I would submit that the day we made such an admission will be one not just of disappointment and disillusionment for Northern Nationalists but also, as I said earlier, a day of comfort for the men of violence in Northern Ireland — they will assert that constitutional nationalism has been fatally weakened, that the claim to nationhood has become the exclusive property of them, the men of violence. It behoves all of us, I think, to think long and carefully before we would take any step of that kind, any step which might be interpteted as sending that kind of signal.

I have always stated that new arrangements or structures which might be agreed for Ireland as a whole would clearly require an entirely new Constitution to be brought forward. We should not seek to solve the problem, I think, by making isolated moves or gestures of this kind, the final result of which — unfortunately experience teaches us — has been disappointment and set-backs. Unilateral changes would not result in peace and indeed might have very detrimental consequences.

I agree with Deputy Barry on one point, when he spoke about the Articles which dealt with religion in the Constitution, which were regarded, we are told by some people, as an anathema and that all would be well if they were removed. Of course once removed they would be of no importance; nobody would be interested in their removal.

What I have in mind is not so far from what most other parties in this House have contemplated. Not many years ago all the parties in this House — strangely enough, with the exception of The Workers' Party who are bringing forward this proposal now — sat down together in theNew Ireland Forum. We sat for a long time, worked very hard and produced a set of proposals or recommendations to which all the parties subscribed. I would like to remind Deputies of certain passages in that report of the New Ireland Forum. I might refer them in particular to paragraph 5.7 which was endorsed by all the parties participating in the New Ireland Forum and which states:

The particular structure of political unity which the Forum would wish to see established is a unitary state, achieved by agreement and consent, embracing the whole island of Ireland and providing irrevocable guarantees for the protection and preservation of both the unionist and nationalist identities....

The report of theNew Ireland Forum sets out, at Chapter 5, the requirements which would have to be met to achieve the form of unity wished for by the parties to the Forum. Briefly, those requirements would include: a total cessation of violence which can have no place in the building of the Ireland of the future that we all desire; constructive dialogue with Unionists in Northern Ireland; accommodation of the two traditions, their aspirations and their loyalties and an all round constitutional conference to formulate new structures. That is what was contained in the report of the New Ireland Forum subscribed to by us all and it is as sound today as it was when we signed it.

At this stage I do not think we in this House should now seek to go outside the consensus developed among our parties on these issues by pursuing a road set out in this Bill, of trying to solve one problem of the many that exist, trying to deal with the case of one community to the disadvantage of the other. That is what is involved in this Bill; its promoters are trying to solve a problem perhaps of perception or otherwise of one section of the community to the disadvantage of the other section. I do not think that is a sound way to proceed. I do not think that is the way towards peace or reconciliation.

All the Government's policies and actions are in accordance with the requirements of the report of theNew Ireland Forum. I have made it clear again and again that I would be willing, and indeed anxious, to meet Unionists at any time to discuss their concerns. Such a meeting I believe should take place without any preconditions, without prejudice to anybody's position, Unionists' or anybody else but, in particular, without prejudice to the Unionist position on the Agreement.

To sum up, in my view the proposals contained in this Bill are superfluous and unnecessary, if not constitutionally offensive and could upset the broad consensus here on Northern Ireland that has existed since theNew Ireland Forum. I know we have had differences of opinion and differences of emphasis but there has been that central, broad agreement or consensus since we all signed the report of the New Ireland Forum. I also think that these proposals could send signals of despair to many constitutional Nationalists whose hopes and aspirations some here are inclined to overlook on occasions like this. That is something I would like to emphasise, that we must maintain a balance. We must always have regard in approaching these complicated, tortuous issues of the North, to the position of the Northern Nationalists as well as our attempts to meet the position of the Unionists and to assure them that we respect their traditions and their aspirations.

For these and for many other reasons which I have not time to go into now, I strongly urge the House to reject this Bill and particularly to save us the confusion that the holding of a referendum on Articles 2 and 3 would cause in our community at this stage.

I welcome the Taoiseach's presence in the House and his contribution which certainly sets a different tone to the debate from that set by his party last evening. The conclusion I arrived at last evening while sitting in this House was that the Government and the Fianna Fáil Party were not taking this debate seriously or giving it the consideration it warranted. In that respect I welcome the Taoiseach's intervention at this Stage. I would disagree with many things he said and I certainly do not accept his concluding remarks that this Bill is constitutionally offensive. I hold the belief, and I believe it is held by many people irrespective of political persuasion, that the Constitution itself must have a mechanism where it can be changed and the Constitution must be allowed to grow and mature like the country is growing. I do not believe it was ever envisaged that the Constitution would be immutable or unchangeable when it was decided upon in 1937.

The Bill before the House will be supported by the Labour Party when a vote is taken at the conclusion of Second Stage next week. We have some misgivings about the Bill but it is a Bill which, perhaps, in terms of timing could be moved at a more opportune time; perhaps the timing and the changes proposed are not appropriate to the time. The aim and motivation of the movers of the Bill I believe are laudatory. I do not question their motivation, but perhaps their decision to force a vote, if that is what happens, on Wednesday next raises questions as to their political judgment. If Second Stage of the Bill is passed there will be immediate pressure to establish a Special Committee of this House. We would not favour such pressure at this time. We do not believe the Bill should be allowed to move to Committee Stage until the conditions are right and my belief is that they are very far from right at this point.

I have no doubt that part of the reasoning behind this Bill was the perceived need to capitalise — in the very best and honourable sense — on the spectacular victory of Mary Robinson in the presidential election. That victory signified a tremendous openness in the Irish people, a willingness to face change and an enthusiasm for new ideas. President Robinson would not be representing the people of Ireland today if she had been confronted by the hide-bound and traditional attitudes of old. She discovered, as she said herself——

I hesitate to interrupt the Deputy, but there is a long standing convention in this House that the President is not brought into debate here.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

The President is above politics and should not be called into debate in this House.

I shall respect that guidance, Sir, but anything I said was complimentary to the President and to the present political situation.

Others may take a contrary view.

I respect your guidance, Sir. In the last number of months of the election campaign it was discovered that there was a fifth province in this country — something in our hearts was prepared to support tolerance and to open itself to the needs of others — but that fifth province must be explored with sensitivity. Doors that have been opened can be slammed again if a visitor becomes an invader. The victory in recent weeks is not something to be capitalised on for that reason. It is a victory to be lived up to. It cannot be lived up to by rushing around blindly on the assumption that every windmill is now safe to tilt at. The process of change requires painstaking analysis and it must be embarked on in full respect for the fact that we represent above all else an intelligent people capable of making up their own minds on every issue.

In relation to the Bill before us the following things need to be said at the outset and the following questions need to be asked before I begin to elaborate on them. It is arguable that the present Bill is opportunistic. The Workers' Party have argued in the past for the deletion of Articles 2 and 3. One of the effects of their present Bill is to restate the national aspiration and, arguably, to maintain it as a constitutional imperative, albeit in a qualified form. In the way in which it is worded it could be seen as writing a Unionist veto into our Constitution. The Bill comes at a time when no concessions of substance have been made by Unionists in any negotiation. In fact, all that is happening is still very tentative. It is talk about talks. Is this the right atmosphere in which to make such a concession in principle? In the past we have called for concessions to be made to Unionists, but there is a substantial difference between the kind of concession aimed at getting them to the negotiating table and concessions in principle which might pre-empt the need for negotiations altogether.

What else are we being asked to give up in qualifying or diluting the claim to the national territory? For example, are we diluting our claims in respect of territorial waters, mineral rights off-shore or Rockall? What would be the effects of holding a referendum at this time? Will it not be likely to encourage both sides in the North to back-pedal on efforts to secure talks until the outcome of the referendum is known? What will be the effects of a referendum campaign? Will it not be guaranteed to generate at least as much division and bitterness as the two most recent referenda, dividing political parties, dividing communities and, possibly, even dividing families? What will be the effect of losing a referendum on this issue and of restating the existing provisions in the Constitution? Would it not be guaranteed to set back the prospect of reconciliation at least for a considerable time? Would we not be allowing the murderous Provisional IRA to claim instantly that all their vicious campaigns have been validated by such a decision if it were to happen? What would be the effects of winning a referendum? Is there any guarantee that Unionists would respond positively? Would they not be more likely to seek to test the meaning of the result and, if they could establish that it had given them a veto over the prospect of unity, would that not be more likely to result in entrenched position-taking? Would violent and constitutional Nationalists alike not use such an outcome as an abandonment of them, and would violent Nationalists not claim they are now the only true defenders of the faith as they perceive it?

Without clear answers to these questions it is difficult to see how this Bill can be allowed to proceed beyond a point of principle. At the same time it is impossible to ignore the issues of principle that have been raised. It must be said very clearly in this House that, if there is a way of sending a message, a loud and clear message, to every citizen living on this island that we in the Republic are open to change, then I believe the opportunity should be taken to send that message. There is no future for this island if we continue to cling indefinitely to the myths and symbols of old Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. Devised in a very different time and in a very different atmosphere, they have become a potent and powerful symbol, but a symbol nevertheless.

For some of us they represent the symbol of an aspiration which is ingrained into us from the time we were born, an aspiration which will never be abandoned even if it is removed form our Constitution. For others living on this island they represent a symbol of our dishonourable intentions towards them. We cannot afford to be carried away with the importance of such a symbol. The generosity inherent in the definition of true Republicanism must make us ready to make the symbolic gestures that are appropriate at the time.

Articles 2 and 3 in their symbolism, divide us from the people we claim to be part of ourselves. Therefore, I believe very strongly that we must be prepared to adapt and to change in order to remove the division. Obviously change is a two way street. For a number of years I have been arguing very strongly for the kind of concessions which I believe necessary to attract Unionists to the negotiating table, principally by removing the elements of coercion they believe they have detected in the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Not only was I the first Member of the House to suggest this approach, but for a long time after I did so I certainly felt I was very much alone in the perception that a degree of openness was essential. More than that, I was certainly roundly attacked on all sides at the time when I first called for this change.

We should not underestimate the fundamental differences between the changes that are necessary to attract people to the negotiating table and changes that might make it unnecessary for them to come. A concession on so fundamental a symbol to so many people as Article 2 and 3 deserves to be part of a process of give and take, to put it at its very mildest. If such a concession is now made, why should Unionists come to the table looking for it? Does anybody here seriously believe if we were to abandon Articles 2 and 3 now that the Unionist leadership would immediately respond by saying that our generosity demanded a reciprocal gesture from them? Is it not much more likely that a concession on this point would simply be pocketed and instantly forgotten, which has happened in the past? Surely what we must do, against the background of history and experience, is to hold ourselves ready for change, to prepare for change, but always insist that change must come about at both ends of the process. That is what negotiation is all about.

On the other hand, if we were to go ahead with a referendum, as is being suggested, surely it would be inevitable that any campaign, no matter how wellintentioned, no matter how much restraint we would try to lead with from this House, would stir up fires and passions that could only do damage to the political fabric of this island. If we have learned anything from the last two referenda it is that change in deep-rooted attitudes is painfully and slowly won. A rush to decision on an issue like this can only sow seeds of yet more bitterness and division. Given the difficulties or our history we should be avoiding anything that would add to the bitterness and divisions which have existed and do exist on this island.

I am not arguing here that we should be afraid to confront the forces of reaction, indeed far from it. What I am saying is that there are many Irish people, motivated by nothing but the best intentions who will, at the end of the day, not readily support as radical a change as is being suggested in this House. We know to our cost that there are skilled practitioners here in the politics of fear, and fear is the most easily instilled of all emotions capable of being dealt with only by the most powerful efforts of persuasion and communication. If we try and fail, as I am inclined to believe may well happen, will we have done a service? Despite our good intentions how much service will we have done? It may well be argued that it is more honourable to try, but in relation to the North of Ireland above all else I feel that this is a very dangerous argument. People are being killed every day in the north in a campaign of terror as savage as has been experienced in any part of the world, and the people doing the killing are, to an overwhelming extent, the Provisional IRA. They are the people who would claim any rejection of change as an endorsement of all of the killing and maiming, and the rest of the world would agree with them. Inevitably, the other consequence of defeat would be to set back the process of conciliation in the North and, unfortunately and frighteningly, to replace it with recrimination and anger on all sides.

To look at the specific provisions in the Bill before us, I believe it warrants interpretation and legal examination. It means a number of things that I believe are not immediately apparent on a first reading. It proposes that the provisions in Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, that there will not be any change in the status of Northern Ireland other than with the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland, should be incorporated in Article 2 of the Constitution as an addendum. I have difficulty in seeing how this will in fact be interpreted. If it is intended as an extra concession to Unionism over and above its inclusion in the Anglo-Irish Agreement it fails that test. This is so because first, the Anglo-Irish Agreement is binding on this State, and this State made that concession already in the agreement.

Second, although Article 2 will be amended by this addendum, the territorial claim enunciated by the Article remains intact, undisturbed, and in fact it would be reendorsed by the people were this amendment to be adopted. The incorporation of a consent clause does not in any way dilute the constitutional claim expressed in Article 2 that the national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and its territorial seas. In my opinion, this addendum to Article 2 will make no difference to the meaning and effect of Article 2 of the Constitution as that was expressed by Chief Justice Finlay in McGimpsey against Ireland in which he said:

The reintegration of the national territory is a constitutional imperative. Article 2 of the Constitution consists of a declaration of the extent of the national territory as a claim of legal right. Article 3 of the Constitution prohibits, pending the reintegration of the national territory, the enactment of laws with any greater area or extent of application or extraterritorial effect than the laws of Saorstát Éireann, and this prohibits the enactment of laws applicable to the counties of Northern Ireland. The restriction imposed by Article 3 "pending the reintegration of the national territory" in no way derogates from the claim, as a legal right, to the entire national territory.

Having regard to that statement of the law by Chief Justice Finlay, it seems that the most that can be said in respect of the proposal, in so far as it touches on Article 2, is that the constitutional imperative of territorial reintegration might become subject to a majority of the people of Northern Ireland favouring such unity. Arguably in political terms this amounts to giving a veto to Unionists and there must be a major doubt about the wisdom of writing such a veto into our fundamental law. It does exist, I accept, in the Anglo-Irish Agreement but agreements, by definition, can be changed through the process of negotiation and renegotiation.

The other argument is that the Article, as amended, would still contain a territorial claim to Northern Ireland and this would inevitably be represented by Unionists as a concession which, in fact, is no concession at all. By amending the Constitution in this way, this State would have endorsed thestatus quo subject to a consent clause which is already binding on the State in terms of international law. It is a classic example of a no-win decision.

The proposed amendment of Article 3 is substantial. The most obvious changes, as I read it, are: (i) The jurisdictional claim or proviso as contained in Article 3 at present would be deleted. This is contained in the words "and without prejudice to the right of the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution to exercise jurisdiction over the whole of that territory..." These words undoubtedly are intended to mean that for as long as the Article exists in its present form, the Irish State will not acquiesce in any claim that the frontier at present existing between the State and Northern Ireland is or can be accepted; (ii) The amended Article would proclaim the firm will of the people of Ireland to be reunited in peace, harmony and by consent; and (iii) Further, under the proposal, the laws of the Parliament of this State would have the like area and extent of application as they do at present "until the unity of the people of Ireland shall otherwise require.";

In essence the proposal drops the jurisdictional claim from Article 3 and seeks to put in its place an aspiration to "the unity of the people of Ireland". This must be an aspiration as it is difficult to see how this expression of "unity of people" can be given any hard, real or legal meaning.

Taking Articles 2 and 3 together, the net result appears to be — this is my opinion — that the territorial claim to Northern Ireland would remain. On the basis of the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court in the McGimpsey case, that claim is a claim of legal right and it would remain so. Even though the reintegration of the national territory would no longer be considered an absolute constitutional imperative, it would seem to remain a constitutional imperative which would be subject, in an undefined way to the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. While the claim to the national territory is restated as a claim of legal right, it appears that the jurisdictional claim or proviso would go and would be replaced by an aspiration to "the unity of the people of Ireland".

It is difficult to say how these new provisions would be interpreted as a matter of constitutional law. There is no doubt that the territorial claim would remain as a constitutional imperative in the legal order, even though it would be somewhat diluted by the need for the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. This claim and assertion of the extent of the national territory sits uneasily and defies definition when taken together with "the firm will" of the people of this State that the people of Ireland should be reunited in peace, harmony and by consent.

Under the proposal, Article 3 would define the extent of the jurisdiction of the laws of this State under this Constitution "pending the unity of the people of Ireland". But unfortunately — this is a major weakness — that unity is nowhere defined, and there is no mechanism mentioned which would enable it to be measured. What we would end up with is a new Article which comprises a mix of political aspiration and a legally vague statement which limits the jurisdiction we claim. It is very difficult to understand how such a mixture could be legally defined so as to delimit the jurisdictional extent of our laws. In trying to find a solution we may end up with a more difficult problem.

The result would be that Article 2 would become the focus of judicial interpretation. As stated, the effect of this proposal would be to do little more than to dilute the territorial, legal and constitutional imperative claim to Northern Ireland by making it subject to the obtaining of the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. As I have stated, one interpretation could be that the change would have institutionalised and entrenched a Unionist veto in Southern Irish constitutional law. I would quesiton whether that is desirable or necessary in the light of our obligations at international law and in the light of all our experience in relatively recent years of the intransigence of the Unionist leadership.

The Taoiseach, in his concluding remarks, seemed to indicate that the proposers and indeed the supporters of the Bill before us tonight are behaving — I will try to quote him correctly — dangerously irresponsibly. I do not accept that view offered by the Taoiseach. For the last number of years since he became Taoiseach in 1987, the Leaders of the Opposition parties have behaved responsibly and have exercised very credible restraint in relation to discussions in this House on Northern Ireland. I have, on many occasions, supported by leaders of the other Opposition parties, sought opportunities to discuss with the Taoiseach, to consult with him, to be consulted or at least to be informed on the development of policy in relation to Northern Ireland. I think all of us in the South realise the difficulties and the dangers in which people try to live their daily lives in Northern Ireland. It is far too serious an issue for any party down here to seek political opportunism or indeed to add to the difficulties which people experience on a daily basis in Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately, the Taoiseach has not seen fit on any occasion in the last three years to offer consultation to the Leaders of the Opposition parties. We have sought consultation on a confidential basis, to be genuinely constructive and helpful in relation to the difficulties and the difficult state of negotiations between the parties in Northern Ireland. I do not think anybody in this House who has been involved in the Anglo-Irish Agreement process or in any discussions with politicians north of the Border or in the British House of Commons on the question of Northern Ireland would seek to take advantage of information given confidentially.

Despite our efforts it has not been possible for us to make any contribution in relation to the discussions in Northern Ireland, notwithstanding the fact that all the political leaders in Northern Ireland, irrespective if the size of their parties, have been consulted by the Secretary of State and have been kept informed in terms of the discussions, but that has not been the case here. This is regrettable and, even at this late stage, I would ask the Taoiseach to seek some method by which we could be better informed in this area.

This Bill provides the House with an opportunity of at least getting the views of the Government in relation to the potential for change in the Republic. As I said, the timing may not be correct but there is an opportunity for the movers of this Bill to reflect on how the cause of reconciliation and progress through dialogue can be best served. It seems from the strong position put forward by the Taoiseach and from the statement by the Progressive Democrats that this Bill will not survive a Second Reading. Perhaps those of us supporting the Bill, or indeed The Workers' Party as the movers of the Bill, which I believe is a commendable one, should take the opportunity of considering how best we can serve what we are trying to achieve, that is to move towards peace and reconciliation on this island. Rather than divide this House we should perhaps take the opportunity next week of working towards a consensus which can only emerge after constructive and worthwhile debate.

I listened to Deputy Spring very carefully and he made as good a case against the Bill as any Member on this side of the House could. However, he informed us that his party support the Bill which seems a very strange stance.

Partition has been one of the main sources of the problems on this island. Quite apart from causing the present and past strife in the Six Counties, it has also caused major problems on the southern side of the Border, particularly in areas close to it. It has left a scar, physically and mentally, on this island. My own area has not been able to sustain the same kind of growth — economic or otherwise — because of its implications. No other part of the Twenty-six Counties would welcome peace and harmony on this island more than my own area.

Articles 2 and 3 embody the desire of the Nationalist people on this island to have the nation reunited, not only physically but mentally. Articles 2 and 3 have been the fundamental linchpins of Fianna Fáil since their inception. Like it or not, the Fianna Fáil Party speak for a very sizeable portion of the southern side of the Border, and indeed they articulate the views and aspirations of a large proportion of people north of the Border. This Bill proposes that the validly held views of the Fianna Fáil Party and their supporters should be put aside with nothing put in its place to mirror those aspirations. There is unanimity in the Fianna Fáil Party on the issue of the retention of Articles 2 and 3.

There are very great dangers in this proposal; it would have the effect of allowing Sinn Féin and the Provisionals to claim that they are the only republican party, the only group promoting a united Ireland. It could be validly said that Fianna Fáil have reneged on their previous guarantees to the people who supported them down through the years. The claim by The Workers' Party that Sinn Féin and the Provisionals claim their mandate from the Constitution and from Articles 2 and 3 in particular is nonsense. They do not and never have recognised the Constitution.

In the event of this Bill passing and the resultant referendum amending Articles 2 and 3 — something I do not think will occur — the Provisionals and Sinn Féin would almost certainly claim a mandate from the Constitution. The Workers' Party also claim that they are not driving a wedge between the two parties in Government. Deputy De Rossa said this last night but I do not accept it. They are playing politics with one of the most potentially divisive issues in the history of the State. If they are genuine in their claim, did they consult Fianna Fáil or the Progressive Democrats before they issued this Bill? Did they consult the SDLP or even the Unionists for whom they say they are speaking? Did they consult Mr. Brooke or his advisers?

On a point of order, I did not claim to speak on behalf of the Unionists.

Deputy De Rossa knows that is not a point of order.

From the inception of the Anglo-Irish Agreement I was one of its best supporters in Fianna Fáil but I freely admit that I had problems with it, mainly because it gave the Unionists in the North a veto on any progress towards reconciliation on this island. It allowed them to stifle any effort to allow the two traditions on this island to live in peace and understanding of each other's aspirations. I felt that the agreement was flawed because it very dangerously meant that if there was ever a 50 per cent plus one majority in the North in favour of a united Ireland, it would happen and the former majority in the Six Counties would then be a very small minority on this island against their wishes. It would merely transfer the minority and would not make the situation any better. This was too simplistic in its approach to the problems. It may have placated the present Unionists but, conceivably, it could cause immense problems for our successors.

Why did I support the agreement? Because for the first time, it allowed the Republic some say in the internal affairs of the North. People close to me, on the far side of the Border, have shown me tangible proof that they got action on their day to day problems as a result of their contacts through the Anglo-Irish Secretariat. It must also be accepted that it is an internationally binding agreement which must be adhered to by the Government of the day. However, it does not take precedence over the Constitution and this is why the McGimpsey case did not change my outlook on Articles 2 and 3.

The most recent opinion polls in 1987 showed that two-thirds of the Twenty-six Counties are in favour of unity. It may now be fashionable to claim — which I do not accept — that a large proportion of people south of the Border do not wish to have unity. My attitude is that people want peace and a united attempt by all on the island to achieve it. People who say that we do not want a united Ireland are confusing that attitude with a desire on our part not to draw down on us the violence in the Six Counties.

Deputy Spring referred earlier to the need to signal willingness to change. The Taoiseach said on many occasions that, obviously, we would have to look at our Constitution in the context of any new settlement on the island. This is a much more realistic political approach. He admitted that this would have fundamental implications for Articles 2 and 3 in that context. What more can be said? What more do the Unionists want? I cannot understand why they will not accept this in good faith. Why will they not come to the table, put their aspirations forward and discuss their problems in relation to Articles 2 and 3? the same applies to any other problems which they may have. Obviously, if nothing came out of these talks, each side could then retreat to their respective positions, and I have no doubt that they would but they should at least give it a try.

Deputy Barry is not present but he and anyone involved in the negotiations on the Anglo-Irish Agreement know the political reality of Articles 2 and 3. Why did the British side at that time not insist on the deletion of Articles 2 and 3? They obviously were thinking of the reality of the political situation in the Republic, but now Fine Gael are saying that the Articles should go knowing full well that obviously the British did not feel at that time — and probably still do not feel — that Articles 2 and 3 should be changed.

If Articles 2 and 3 were deleted, could it not be said that the Nationalists are being cast off by us, that we are washing our hands of them? Like it or not, they look to us — not to the Six County State or to the British Government. As Deputy Barry knows only too well, particularly because of his involvement in the British-Irish Parliamentary body which meets here next week, there are still very grave issues to be solved in the North. The UDR and the RUC accompaniment is still a major problem and Deputies Barry and FitzGerald know that. Fair employment is also a major problem and the same applies to the shoot to kill policy.

If we deleted Articles 2 and 3, would it not lessen our right and our duty to be concerned for the interests of the people in the Six Counties? Would it not be thrown at us, with even greater vigour, that we do not have any right to meddle in the affairs of the Six Counties? Obviously it would——

How could it? We would not do anything without their agreement.

We would be casting aside the aspirations, fears and problems of the people in the North. What impact would this Bill and a resultant successful referendum have on Sinn Féin and on the Provisionals? It would give them and their horrific campaign a shot in the arm and would be a setback to the hopeful vibes created by Mr. Brooke's 100 day speech and his more recent utterances. The Provisionals would retreat to their age old justification for the havoc they are occasioning on this island.

As I stated earlier, the Provisionals and Sinn Féin have no mandate from the Constitution. The only mandate they have is the 2 per cent vote they get down here, and they cannot really claim that. If the Provisionals were to quote the Constitution they could not surely reconcile their armed struggle with Article 29 which governs the peaceful solution of international disputes by this State. This Bill could lead to an increase in the abysmal support down here but, worse, it could increase the support in the North for the Provos. A large number of people could turn to the Provos if they felt the Irish Republic was not looking after their interests.

This Bill comes at a most inopportune time regarding the talks. Deputy Spring confirmed this. I fully accept what he said. I have always regarded Deputy Spring as being realistic in his contributions particularly in relation to the North. Why then does he come in here and say that he is supporting the Bill? These talks are at such a delicate stage that any wrong signals from this side could unbalance the negotiations. A vote against this Bill could give the Unionists renewed vigour in their refusal to enter the talks. This Bill is merely playing into their hands. As I said earlier, let the Unionists put their position forward and talk without pre-conditions bearing in mind what the Taoiseach said concerning the possible reassessment of the Constitution.

Many years ago we were playing with requests to change Article 44 of the Constitution which relates to the special position of the Catholic Church. It was said, perhaps justifiably, that this was an impediment to the Unionists in their dealings with us. That has long gone and yet we are no further down the road in satisfying their pre-conditions. Then it was Article 44, now it is Articles 2 and 3. What will it be next? I will just instance a case where a Deputy from the Fine Gael Party and I met two Unionists in the North and we discussed various matters of interest. In the course of the conversation a leading Unionist pointed out that a provision in our Constitution guaranteed the position of the Catholic Church. This was only last year. We told him that this was not so, that that went years ago. This was a senior Unionist who genuinely believed that Article 44 guaranteeing the special position of the Catholic Church was still in our Constitution.

I wonder why.

It is obvious that the Unionists do not know what we think. That is why we should support the Taoiseach's call at every opportunity to get the Unionists around the table. They should not be outside, they should come in.

This piecemeal messing with the Constitution in an effort to entice the Unionists is not the way to proceed. Deputy FitzGerald's constitutional crusade ran aground because its starting point was to give in to all the Unionists' demands prior to negotiations. In negotiations such as these one does not start by getting rid of one's bargaining position. The approach adopted by this Government, and by the SDLP, mirrors the political realities of the three way process. The Oireachtas committee in 1967 looked at this aspect. While it is true to say that they recommended change they did so in a climate of relative calm. Since then, particularly over the past 20 years, we have seen endless violence because of the extreme polarisation of the two communities. We cannot be seen to be adding to this polarisation in any way at this stage and this Bill could lead to that.

The Taoiseach referred earlier to Mary Holland whose views are highly respected in Britain and in Ireland. She put her position very plainly in the article referred to and on the airwaves over the weekend when she said that if we felt the referendum on divorce was divisive, it would not be anything like the divisiveness we would have as a result of a referendum in relation to Articles 2 and 3. She also felt that amending Articles 2 and 3 would in some way alienate and isolate the Nationalist community. These views should not be ignored.

The SDLP's approach should be examined closely. They have suggested that a referendum in the North and a referendum in the South should be used as a device to get consensus on any settlement proposals. This is by far the better way of doing things. It is far better than continually allowing one side a veto. Why should the Unionists have a written veto in our Constitution. Surely the people in the Republic are entitled to their say.

I entirely agree with Deputy Barry when he says that the Provo campaign is putting a wedge between the two communities on this island. On this side we have been accused by some of the more hot-headed people on the far side of the House and, indeed, over the Border, of being in some way ambivalent on the question of the Provos. We are not. I come from an area which has been accused often of having its fair share of Provos, and I categorically refute that suggestion. As far as I, and my colleagues, are concerned the Provo campaign is only putting Irish peace and unity further down the line. How can they expect the families of the people they murder to accept the hand of friendship from this side of the Border? Because of this, we should not in any way assist their propaganda machine. This Bill, and its implications, would give them that shot in the arm for their propaganda machine.

It should also be pointed out that Deputy Peter Barry last night misled the House when he claimed that the Supreme Court judgment of 1 March 1990 changed his party's position on amending Articles 2 and 3 at this stage, irrespective of any general agreement in Northern Ireland. A couple of days after the Supreme Court judgment last March the then Fine Gael Leader told his Ard Fheis that the articles could be removed if the Anglo-Irish Agreement led to the formulation of a new agreement. That was in theEvening Herald of 5 March 1990. In The Irish Times of 16 March 1990 we read of:

...an indication by the Fine Gael Leader, Mr. Dukes, that change should be considered in the light of talks directed towards securing political progress in Northern Ireland.

A Fine Gael spokesman explained that the frontbench had decided not to introduce a motion seeking a redrawing of Articles 2 and 3, in the light of the Supreme Court decision in the McGimpsey case.

It was felt, he said, that such discussion should happen in the context of change in Northern Ireland and not in isolation.

Yet we had Deputy Barry last night saying they had changed their position in the light of the McGimpsey case. After the McGimpsey case when they examined the decision, they decided not to propose a redrawing of Articles 2 and 3. How can they reconcile their stance then after the McGimpsey case and now. Is it not the case, and this is probably a lot more pertinent to the debate, that Deputy Bruton, now the Leader, had a different attitude then, and now, to that of his former party Leader, Deputy Dukes? It should also be stated that what Deputy Barry said last night is not the view of the vast majority of the Fine Gael Party. This was not Deputy Bruton's view in April 1990 when he was urging the unqualified amendment of Article 2 of the Constitution. Journalists at the time noted the divergence of his view from his then leader.

I think the Taoiseach has given Deputy Bruton some advice on how he should approach his new position. I genuinely feel that Deputy Bruton jumped in too quickly, without looking at all the implications of what he was saying in relation to Articles 2 and 3, to support the position of The Workers' Party.

The Deputy will hear him next Tuesday.

That is clearly seen from the reaction of the Labour Party who decided to wait and see how the ball hopped and they chose to support the Bill, but they came in here and said something completely different.

In the light of this it is clear that Fine Gael Party policy has changed, not because of the Supreme Court judgment — as Deputy Barry tried to suggest — but because they have a new leader who is less sensitive to the Nationalist opinion and to the views of the SDLP who are opposed to any attempt to remove or modify Articles 2 and 3 outside a new comprehensive agreement that would help bring peace to this island. I firmly believe he did not take proper soundings from the SDLP on this issue.

Debate adjourned.