Deputy Richard Bruton, who moved the amendment, and Deputy Roger Garland have already spoken. Deputy Tomás Mac Giolla was in possession when the debate was adjourned.
Radiological Protection Bill, 1990: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.
I was referring to my amendment No. 7 which is being taken with amendment No. 6 for discussion purposes. Amendment No. 7 proposes that it shall be unlawful for any vessel to enter our territorial waters or for any aircraft to fly over or land in the State while carrying nuclear weapons. It also proposes that the relevant foreign government must provide the Minister for Foreign Affairs with a written statement certifying that the vessel or craft is not carrying nuclear weapons. This will replace the present procedure which has been in existence since the fifties. Under this procedure the United States Government have neither to confirm nor deny that their vessels or aircraft are carrying nuclear weapons. They are never requested to give a guarantee or statement in that regard.
As I said the last day, Greenpeace, at great expense to themselves, have examined the records of United States vessels. Under the US Freedom of Information Act these records are freely available to the public. There is certainly far more information available on these vessels in the United States than there is in Ireland, Britain or most countries in Europe. They examined the records of the US naval vessels which had visited Sweden. Following presentation of that information to the Swedish Government, the controversy which arose there and the various political decisions which have been taken, Sweden will seek guarantees after 1992 that US vessels are not carrying nuclear weapons. The Soviet Government Procedure was not to confirm or deny: apparently they just denied it.
Greenpeace also examined the records of the US vessels that visited ports in Ireland and they presented their report to Members of the House last October or November. They found that 14 vessels had visited Irish ports between 1982-89, that ten had nuclear capability while the remainder had not. Apparently the attitude of the Government is that there was no evidence to show that they were carrying nuclear weapons when they entered Irish ports and that is so. The only way one can find this out is by inspecting the vessels when they enter the ports. Greenpeace carried out an extraordinarily thorough examination of theUSS Conyngham which visited Cobh from 8-11 July 1988 and gave information on every movement of that vessel during the six month period prior to entering Cobh on 8 July.
According to the report, the hard work paid off as theUSS Conyngham successfully completed a nuclear technical proficiency inspection with outstanding final grades prior to arriving at Cobh. It is most likely that nuclear weapons were carried on board. The funny thing was an Irish stowaway was discovered on board on their way home from Ireland. It was stated in a report on the stowaway girl by Seán Cronin, in Washington, in The Irish Times 28 July 1988:
Since theUSS Conyngham is a guided missile destroyer, this correspondent asked the Navy spokesman whether it was armed with nuclear weapons when in Irish waters. He gave the standard reply —“we neither confirm nor deny that our ships have nuclear weapons.” However a source close to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service said that this matter came up at an INS staff meeting on Tuesday in a report which said that the State Department was keeping the incident under wraps because the destroyer had nuclear capability and should not have been in Irish waters.
This shows that one cannot take these matters on trust. It is clear that the nuclear powers are not going to confirm whether nuclear weapons are being carried on board and their ships will enter our ports, when allowed to do so, for the benefit of the crews and so on. It is essential, therefore, that guarantees be sought, and certificates given, from foreign Governments when they seek permission for visits to our ports by ships with nuclear capability. If the Government seek guarantees in writing, that would certainly be an improvement.
If the Government do their homework as Greenpeace have done — this could be done with the help of our embassy in Washington — they would know which ships have nuclear capability and, consequently, which ships they would have to inspect. All they need do is their homework. In addition, some years there can be up to 11,000 overflights while the average is approximately 7,000.
I do not want to take up the time of the House as we dwelled on this matter at length on Committee Stage but there is one other point I would like to make. There are more nuclear reactors in the seas around our coasts than on land in Britain and possibly the rest of Europe. Submarines and aircraft carriers have nuclear reactors on board. We do not know how they dispose of their waste nor do we have information on the damage they cause in the seas. Apart from the constant danger of radioactive waste being dumped in our seas, there is also the danger of accidents similar to that involving theUSS Nathaniel Green in 1986. An accident could occur in fog at any time around our coast and should a nuclear powered boat or ship be involved, there is a grave danger that we could have a mini-Chernobyl.
The Bill does not take any of these factors into account. It deals only with the civil use of small amounts of radioactive material and makes no reference to nuclear weapons or nuclear powered boats. I intend to press my amendment and will also support Deputy Flaherty's amendment No. 6 but which is not quite so specific because it is essential that we receive guarantees when permission is sought for overflights or visits to our ports by ships.
Like Deputy Mac Giolla, I will try to avoid dealing with matters covered at an earlier stage. I support the amendment in my name and that of Deputies Bruton and Garland which is similar to the amendment put forward by Deputy Mac Giolla. The Minister will probably argue that traditionally this has been a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs and he does not intend to alter this. While a number of foreign affairs matters are involved, in making an attempt to tighten the position in this legislation we should not come into conflict with the Department of Foreign Affairs having regard to stated public policy. A number of serious questions have been asked about this policy. Deputy Mac Giolla made reference to the Greenpeace investigation and stated that the matter is taken on trust. It is also clear that it is the policy of countries with nuclear weapons not to give out information. This leaves countries such as Britain, France and the United States with a free hand to act as they see fit.
Officially, our policy is much clearer. Authorisation is normally granted by the Department of Foreign Affairs for visits to our ports by foreign naval vessels provided that such vessels are not carrying nuclear weapons and do not form part of a naval exercise. What we have proposed should not present the Department of Foreign Affairs with any great difficulty as this has been the policy of successive Governments. Furthermore, we have to legislate for the present. Any change in our status, which my party foresee in the context of European defence, is a matter for another day. For now we have to introduce proper radiological protection legislation and we will not complete the job if we ignore this matter. We suggest that the Minister should clear up the confusion and give some teeth in this legislation to what is, after all, official Government policy.
To neglect this matter which comes under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs is to leave a gaping hole in any legislation that proposes to protect this country from radiological hazard. This is a complex area and there are many ramifications. In the context of stated Irish foreign policy at present, there should be no problem accepting an amendment along those lines which simply gives more strength to what is official policy.
I support the remarks of previous speakers. When one addresses this amendment either in terms that it comes within the ambit of another ministry or it is a matter that need not be considered within the pure view of the legislation as drafted, one is not dealing with the real world. This amendment provokes attention between illusion and reality in a rather dramatic way. On a number of occasions at Question Time when questions were asked about the degree of traffic entering our airspace or waters as Deputy Mac Giolla has pointed out, there have always been difficulties. The screen that has been thrown up has more or less taken the following shape: notification is required and in so far as no notification has been given we know nothing, and in knowing nothing there is no question to be answered. The accountability of this House has been called into question several times. Evidence has been provided to Deputies and Deputies have placed it on record that there were breaches of the law, but people have taken refuge, as Deputy Flaherty has said, in what has been an understanding, and that understanding has been abused in practice again and again.
My second point is that, sticking tightly to the terms of this legislation, it is only to the merit of the legislation that it anticipates a situation where there would be far more accountability in the general context of politics, particularly in the context of foreign affairs, and that is likely to be the case. Why should this legislation be seen as something within which attempts have been made to make it accurate and accountable while at the same time it is a cork in a sea of non-accountable nuclear abuse? In that sense, the legislation, if it is to be valuable, must address a situation where there will be more accountability in relation to these previously normative understandings that have no force and that have been abused, as has been pointed out. Equally if the legislation is changed as the proposed amendment suggests it will more easily fit with a better context of nuclear regulation.
Another feature of the replies given again and again has been that these are matters for moral suasion, as if a large number of non-nuclear powers had the same capacity when they enter different chambers and fora where these matters are discussed as the people who have nuclear carrying capacity, which is markedly not so. Another answer has been that these matters can be the subject of a future international conference and need not be the matter of legislative scrutiny.
At the end of the day, Deputies in this House have to respond to the best of their knowledge. The kind of information being put forward is not defeated by saying we have no official knowledge of it. The dogs in the street know it. We have to take account of what the facts are and that the public by and large is very concerned not only for the ecological implications but also for what a nonsense this is making of even larger issues, such as the sovereignty of this country. For all these reasons it seems that the correct thing to do — even if the Minister cannot respond to the broad framework of the arguments put forward for the amendment in terms of its foreign policy implications — is at least to have this legislation with the merit that it has been prepared in the aspiration that we will have far more accountable use of our waters and our air space. We, in the Labour Party, support the arguments put forward in favour of these amendments.
There is a major dilemma here for politicians from all sides. I have just heard Deputy Higgins, Deputy Flaherty and others making a very legitimate case for the movement of nuclear submarines through international waters, but the question we must address is, can you deal with that issue within the context of this Radiological Protection Bill? We are moving into a decade when we will have a more open approach at UN and EC levels to military matters, particularly to nuclear capacities. Let us hope we have learned one lesson from the Gulf war, that is, that we must have a more open approach in this whole area.
We had been making very good progress internationally on the whole question of verification of nuclear capacities, particularly between the super powers. I know the Minister will say that this is outside his remit, and I can see the logic of that argument, but as a member of the Government the Minister should be conscious of the feelings of people, including myself, who would like to see an opening where measures could be introduced into our law concerning the passage of ships and aircraft with nuclear capacity through Irish waters and air space.
In saying that, this is a broader question and this Bill is not the appropriate one to deal with it. With all due respect to this Bill, it is too big an issue to be dealt with here. The Bill addresses specific matters. I do not know why this matter is such a secret. Why can we not have a much more open approach, particularly to the passage of nuclear submarines through Irish waters? I would ask the Minister to take into account the very legitimate views expressed here today.
I heard Deputy Bruton last night refer to the non-nuclear approach to defence. In Fine Gael's view in an EC context, there must be a non-nuclear approach to defence. Many people on this side would not agree with that approach. It is a mixed bag coalition when Deputy Garland, my constituency colleague, takes a different approach to this matter from that of Fine Gael.
There has been a very wide ranging debate on this matter, and I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for allowing me to broaden it a little. On earlier Stages a very legitimate point was made which I support. We have a very proud tradition on disarmament at UN level. Deputies have been saying that we must clear the lines with regard to the secretive nature of the passage of aircraft and nuclear ships through Irish waters. The Irish Government and the Irish people must give a very clear message to the international community that we want to see a more open regime. I accept that there are international implications, but what we are speaking about today is the global nature of this subject matter, particularly in the context of our European relations into the next decade.
I would ask the Minister to take on board the view that this issue will have to be addressed in future legislation. I accept his position but he should accept the goodwill of Deputies that there is a foreign policy matter to be addressed and that the Irish Government should have a key role to play.
In his fine and lucid speech — as usual — Deputy Higgins referred to illusion and reality; Deputy Tom Kitt seemed to be confused in regard to both in his contribution. We are talking about radiological protection and we must concentrate in this Bill — regardless of other Bills and foreign policy — on the invasion of the waters and air space of this country, which claims to be non-nuclear. Some years ago our people went to great democratic lengths to ensure that we did not have a nuclear plant in this country and, in doing that, they endorsed the fact that we should not be invaded — with secrecy and aggression — by large nuclear powered weapons.
As spokesperson on the Marine for Fine Gael, I feel particularly outraged about the fact that our waters have been consistently invaded by aggressive, nuclear forces on what they call routine surveillance and deterrence, which has nothing to do with this country or our foreign policy. Like Deputy Mac Giolla, I should like to pay tribute to Greenpeace because they have exposed the secrecy and mysticism shrouding nuclear weapons to the detriment of us all and in spite of the hostility of these greater aggressive nations. Thankfully, we are now in a period when it is acceptable to ensure that we flush out the secrecy of the invasion of air and water space. Over the years, for a variety of reasons such as foreign policy and nuclear accidents which dangerously affect people, we have had open discussion on the deployment of nuclear weapons on land.
During the fifties and sixties — during the Cold War — opposition to nuclear power was seen as heresy, treachery, a selling out of sovereignty. However, because of the trading of secrets which went on then, through an evolution of history and painful acceptance of what nuclear weapons and plants can do, we have, thankfully, reached the stage where there is freedom of information, to a great extent, on the deployment of nuclear weapons on land and the beginnings of disarmament; there is also the totting up of dangerous weapons all over the world. It is up to us in this House — and in every other capacity — to draw attention to the fact that, while that has been done on land, the powers have retained their "neither confirm nor deny" policy and secrecy with regard to what is in the world's waters.
Not alone must we be vigilant with regard to surveillance, we must also monitor accidents at sea. I remind the Minister we are also talking about the only comparatively environmentally free and protected area in the world because we have destroyed the land area of our planet. The last area to be preserved and protected for the future of all species on this planet is the seas and the fact that the subject is allowed to be shrouded in such mystery and to be invaded by such dangerous chemical and nuclear weapons is an affront to the planet's future and to people's right to know. We have a responsibility to pass on this planet and to ensure, in so far as our powers extend, that its destruction will not be condoned, excused, or accepted by Members of this House. Bills emanating from any Department should have a basic bottom line with regard to the protection of our seas and our air space.
Not alone do we have the "neither confirm nor deny" policy of ships capable of nuclear deployment visiting our ports — which has been taken on and dealt with — we have the great example and model of New Zealand which, in economic terms, risked far more than we did by its isolation geographically in banning ships which would neither confirm nor deny whether they were carrying nuclear warheads. New Zealand has a population comparable with ours of 3.5 million, it is a small country in a competitive world and it had the guts and courage to do that. There were threats by the United States of economic retaliation against them but they held firm. If a small, isolated, economically open competitive market economy, such as New Zealand, can make a stand against this successfully, we can do the same.
I also pay tribute to Sweden which not alone has started dismantling its nuclear plant but, as Deputy Mac Giolla said, will, by 1992, have brought in the necessary policies and procedures not to allow invasion of their waters. We know that it was through the paranoia of the United States' Navy the "neither confirm nor deny" policy was first introduced; we also know that a very high number of nuclear submarines travel the seas at all times. In July 1987 Greenpeace pointed out that the Warsaw Pact deployed about 340 submarines, that NATO had 260 and that some 300 belonged to other states. The five nuclear powers now have more than 9,000 offensive nuclear weapons in their submarine forces. They went on to say — which is relevant to us — that submarines are the most invisible element of the naval arms race. We have a hidden force mysteriously beneath the sea, neither confirming nor denying that they carry nuclear warheads, and having the arrogance to demand that that is accepted from them; we also have, again and again in our waters, submarines interfering with the fishing of peaceful people following a traditional, environmentally friendly occupation.
For all those reasons, it is not just a matter of debate whether it is relevant to the Bill, it is not a matter of debate whether our foreign policy should also be approached in future years to be changed; it is our responsibility and duty to protect our people. We have declared ourselves to be nuclear free, we took a great economic energy risk back in the sixties to ensure that we would not have a nuclear plant and we lived with the consequences, as it happened happily; as most wise people knew, it was the best decision we could have made. At present countries which have contaminated themselves are trying to dismantle their nuclear plants at very great economic and environmental cost. As we know, the environmental cost will not be known for the next 1,000 years. In the light of all this, of disarmament throughout the world, because of our need for clean seas in regard to our environment and our competitiveness and integration in Europe, it would be irresponsible not to include this in the Bill.
Let us put the marker down here and extend it to all the other Bills and policies. As politicians, we have a right on behalf of the people of this country to ensure we monitor each Bill as it goes through the House.
Listening to the last speaker and reading the amendment before us it is very difficult to disagree with anything that has been said.
There is no difficulty. Just agree with it.
That would be even more difficult for me. I am on the record of this House as expressing my concerns about nuclear energy. We all know the experiences of the past and how we as a nuclear free country, as Deputy Barnes said, have been affected by nuclear accidents many thousands of miles from our shores. This poses a question I have posed in the past, and I have communicated my concerns to the Minister for Energy. I have communicated with him in a separate capacity as to whether there should be recognisable national boundaries at all when we talk of nuclear energy. We know there is no such thing as a national boundary for nuclear energy.
I cannot disagree with the amendment before the House. On the other hand, I understand the Bill before the House is to put in place a framework for protection, and that we welcome, but we also have to recognise that the amendment would interfere with international law and this is an area which causes some difficulty. If there are international laws and we are to recognise them — as we do — one could not support the amendment, but that poses a further question. Maybe through the EC the Minister can try to make the necessary amendments to international law to give recognition to the sentiments expressed in the amendment. That would be a step in the right direction and would meet what I have said, that there should be no recognition of national boundaries when we talk of nuclear energy. If we can get that accepted and written into international law I think the Minister would be quite satisfied to accept an amendment of this nature if it was not interfering with international law. However, I do not want to pre-empt the Minister in what he might say on that.
I would like to express a number of other concerns but I am restricted to the amendment before the House. Related to that amendment is the development of the Sellafield plant that has been spoken of frequently particularly in relation to the development of the THORP plant. If that development goes ahead I fear we will again be bound by international law. Can the Minister, the Government, we as legislators, as the elected people of the nation, do something about nuclear energy, national boundaries and international law? I think there will be general agreement in the House that we should try to make inroads in that area, and the sooner the better.
I support this amendment. If we are to do something to protect the people of Ireland from the hazards of radiation we can only look at the legislation before us and at the needs of the people. By and large the people would favour the type of amendment before us.
Fianna Fáil TDs make me smile. They are all things to all men. They can get up here, as did Deputy Callely and Deputy Kitt, the only two Fianna Fáil Deputies here this afternoon, see great merits in the legislation and say that it is required, but what can we do about it? It is not the mechanism to meet the needs and problems that exist. We as legislators must assume the responsibility of bringing in the type of legislation which will deal with the problem. All we have now is the legislation before us to deal with our seas and airways.
If you are to give consideration to the EC and our involvement in international matters you cannot deny the rules and regulations that are there in international law.
It is up to us to look at the situation and bring in legislation to meet our requirements and if necessary stand up to the EC and tell them this is what we want.
Ask your colleague now.
I come from the Dublin North constituency which includes the towns of Balbriggan, Skerries and Lough-shinny. I am being parochial but it is the same elsewhere: everyday trawlers go out from these places on to the Irish Sea and time and again accidents occur, trawlers are lost, fishermen lose their lives. What would happen if a submarine was damaged when it was carrying nuclear bombs or something like that? How would we deal with that kind of incident? When a ship comes into an Irish port, Cork for instance, and there are protests as to the kind of materials it may be carrying, the Department of Foreign Affairs say they do not know what is happening, or what is on board. Is it not time that the Government knew what was on board?
This is not a radical amendment. It tries to deal with the problems on the ground at the moment. If we are meeting the requirements of the people we represent we must take on board some hard decisions and we must also take on board the type of amendment we have here. I hope that on the basis of the contributions made here, particularly from the Opposition and in the light of the sentiments expressed by the Government the Minister can recognise the logic of this. I do not want to go on and on about what was brought up here at another stage, but as a TD representing a constituency in which there is a great interest in the Irish Sea in terms of the livelihood of a large number of people, I urge that his amendment be taken on board. The Bill will not be sufficiently strong to deal with the problems unless the amendment is accepted.
The Minister says that this Bill is not the appropriate one for the inclusion of those amendments. He might tell us what Bill may be going through the House in the very near future which may be more appropriate to have at least the spirit of those amendments included. If no such Bill is contemplated I respectfully suggest to the Minister that he take on board the spirit at least of those two amendments.
The Minister's colleagues in Government, although not of his own party, spoke in favour of the amendment and possibly deep down the Minister will agree with it. At one time we thought we knew quite a lot about nuclear power but the extent of our knowledge soon came to light after the Chernobyl disaster when national and international boundaries were not recognised and animals here were affected and infected by nuclear fallout. Those animals were the sheep on our mountains.
I agree we must fall in line with international law but why should international law not fall in line with our thinking? I respectfully ask the Minister to have the spirit of the amendments included in the Bill.
I thank all the Deputies who contributed to this discussion. It is important that I state clearly at the outset that the Irish Government's position with regard to nuclear energy and nuclear weaponry is very clear. There is a long established history of Irish Government opposition to nuclear weaponry and Ireland has played a very prominent role in the movement for nuclear disarmament.
The discussion we had here may be relevant to the Bill in the sense that we are trying to establish an institute which will have a professional capacity to deal with any disaster that may arise in regard to radiation as a result of a nuclear accident or a nuclear attack within a distance that could affect us, and to deal with radiation matters in other areas of life. Deputies opposite do not really believe this is the correct Bill in which the kind of changes in law they are advocating should or could be implemented. These matters relate to international law.
The amendment relates to international matters, to territorial waters covered by international law and this is not a matter for the Minister for Energy in the strict sense, but a matter for the Minister for Foreign Affairs. We had a long discussion on this matter on Committee Stage and it was also discussed on Second Stage. I thought I had dealt with all the issues raised on how Ireland's position was protected both in legislation and in our arrangements with foreign Governments. This is not a matter for the Minister for Energy but for the Minister for Foreign Affairs. However, in view of its overall relevance I will take the opportunity to put as much information as I can on record in an effort to reply to some of the points raised by Deputies. I pointed out already that this legislation was not the appropriate medium for the arrangements being suggested in this amendment.
The intent of the proposed amendments is to allow the ministerial regulation of the entry into Irish territorial waters of any foreign state ship, submarine or hovercraft and the passage through Irish airspace of any foreign state aircraft by requiring, prior to any grant of permission for such entry or passage, the production of a certificate from the relevant foreign state authority that the ship, submarine, hovercraft or aircraft in question does not carry any nuclear explosive device.
I am satisfied that existing legislation and Government policy in this area are quite adequate and that further measures are not called for. I would make the following points: Under the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order 1952, the permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs is required for overflights by foreign military aircraft, while the permission of the Department of Foreign Affairs is required for visits to Irish ports by foreign naval vessels. Thus, these matters do not come within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Energy. The proposed amendment has serious implications for Ireland's national obligations under the rules of international law and I would emphasise this point to Deputies. Under international law, a foreign naval vessel has the right of innocent passage through the territorial waters of another state. Permission or prior notification is not required and the question of a declaration does not, therefore, arise. The proposed amendment would involve a very serious deviation from the rules of international law and would have major international implications.
I am sure that Deputies on the opposite side do not for one minute suggest that an amendment of this kind to a Radiological Protection Bill is the appropriate way to make that sort of fundamental change in Ireland's participation in the international law of the sea, which would have wide-ranging repercussions for the shipping trade not alone here but throughout the world.
As I indicated, the permission of the Department of Foreign Affairs is required for visits to Irish ports by foreign naval vessels. Permission for a visit will normally be granted provided that the visit does not form part of a naval exercise and the vessel is not carrying nuclear weapons. Thus, it has been Government policy over the last two decades not to permit nuclear weapons to enter Irish ports and the Government are not aware of any reason to doubt that our policy in this area is not being respected.
The entry of foreign military aircraft into Irish airspace and landings of such aircraft in the State are already covered under existing legislation. The strict controls which exist under the Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order, 1952, provide that no foreign military aircraft shall fly over Ireland unless at the express invitation or with the express permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In addition any aircraft involved must comply with any stipulations as the Minister may make. Information such as identification numbers and aircraft types must be provided. In seeking permission it is also necessary to state whether the aircraft comply with certain conditions, the most important of which are that they are unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition of intelligence — gathering equipment and do not form part of any military exercise or operation. It is Government policy not to permit nuclear weapons to enter our airspace.
Why did they come in, then?
Ireland is not a member of any military alliance and thus remains free from any commitment, in particular to admit nuclear weapons, that such membership might entail. Foreign Governments are well aware of our policy on ships' visits and overflights and are reminded of this policy on a regular basis.
One of the effects of the proposed amendment would be that naval vessels of certain foreign Governments would cease to visit Irish ports. We have generally welcomed such visits as part of the network of relations and contacts among friendly countries. There is also an economic benefit involved for the ports concerned, but that is not a major consideration.
Finally, I would again make the point, as I did in Committee, that the proposal from Deputies to amend the Bill to include a provision which would bring nuclear weapons under its terms of reference — in other words, to declare Ireland a nuclear-free zone — is doubtful, because I am firmly of the opinion that the Radiological Protection Bill is not the appropriate medium, given its primary aims of establishing the institute, providing for radiation protection measures and giving effect to international conventions. The question is of a military nature and more pertinent to the diplomatic arena, the area of international relations and the responsibilities of the Department of Foreign Affairs. That is the responsibility of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his Department.
Deputies raised the question of accountability and the need for clarity regarding our position. Deputy Higgins stated that we must take account of the facts. I heard Deputy Mac Giolla saying certain things but adding the qualifying statement that the evidence is not there to prove them. We have a cross-party policy which is crystal clear. We are adamant that it is prohibited to enter Irish territory and ports with nuclear weapons on board. The Government fully share the concern expressed here and in many other places regarding the dangers and risks posed by mobile nuclear power stations, namely submarines. It should not be necessary for me to have to repeat that the Government have raised this issue at every possible opportunity at various international fora, particularly at the UN. It has also been raised at Community level and with the International Maritime Organisation.
Amendment No. 6 states:
In page 21, between lines 44 and 45, to insert the following:
"(9) The Minister shall by order regulate the entry into Irish territorial waters of any foreign State ship, submarine, or hovercraft, and the passage through Irish airspace of any foreign State aircraft by requiring, prior to any grant of permission for such entry or passage, the production of a certificate from the relevant foreign State authority that the ship, submarine, hovercraft, or aircraft in question does not carry any nuclear explosive device.".
The Government do not and will not grant permission for naval vessels carrying nuclear weapons to visit Irish ports, nor will they consent to overflights of aircraft carrying such arms. That, however, is not the point at issue in the amendment. The amendment proposes that Ireland introduce a policy which would have serious implications for our obligations under international law. Under international law a foreign vessel has the right of innocent passage through our territorial waters. The question of granting permission for such passage does not arise, nor does the question of the production of a certificate. This is the key point in the amendment, not the Government's policy on nuclear weapons, which is clear and unequivocal. Regarding the regulation of entry of nuclear weapons into Irish territorial waters and air space the Government's position is firm and consistent and it would be wrong to convey any other impression from this discussion. There is a general prohibition against foreign naval vessels carrying nuclear weapons when visiting Irish ports and the Government believe that this prohibition is observed. We take every opportunity to make known our position on this issue. I have already outlined the conditions which strictly regulate overflights by foreign military aircraft.
The amendment is not only inappropriate from an international legal point of view and unnecessary for the purpose of this Bill but more importantly would serve to confuse the basic issue of the categorical prohibition on the entry into our ports of any naval vessel carrying nuclear weapons or the overflight of our territory by any aircraft carrying such arms. Our policy position on this issue relates to visits to our ports, not entry into territorial waters, which is covered by international law.
I wonder if some of the Deputies who put their names to this amendment were aware of the serious effects of its acceptance. There would be chaos in regard to international shipping.
What about the chaos of a nuclear accident?
If this House wishes to take some positive steps to deal with the matter which has been raised here and by the Government at international fora it should not be done by way of inserting an amendment in the Radiological Protection Bill but by way of a motion or a Bill brought forward by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, which would be followed through by other Ministers at international fora where international laws have been agreed, without which world trade and shipping could not operate. There would be serious implications for us if we were to adopt this type of amendment. I am convinced Fine Gael gave no consideration to its implications. It contains the same wording as the amendment tabled by Deputy Garland. It was an amendment posted in to the spokespersons by an outside organisation.
There are two amendments before us, Nos. 6 and 7.
I recognise that Deputy Mac Giolla has an amendment as well. Deputies from all parties have spoken but I am directing most of my comments at my colleague on the Fine Gael benches.
Does the Minister expect a higher level of sanity from us?
I am suggesting to her, although without any evidence, that possibly she agreed to run with this amendment. I doubt if she has put it formally to her party and I will be surprised if she has the considered support of Fine Gael, in view of the chaos that would result if it were adopted.
How is it there was not world chaos when New Zealand did it?
They did not do it.
They banned nuclear ships.
Deputy Mac Giolla spoke at some length about a Greenpeace report entitledUS Navy Warships in Irish Ports. Is that so?
Correct. It covers the years 1980 to 1990.
I have already expressed my views on this study on Committee Stage. It is detailed and extensive but does not provide any evidence that there have been nuclear weapons on board vessels visiting Irish ports.
There isprima facie evidence.
We have recently seen a happy conclusion to a long running problem in regard to certain unfortunate people who were incarcerated in the prisons of an adjoining state on evidence which was shown not to stand up.
The Government extradite people onprima facie evidence.
We of all people want to be certain that when we make allegations we have evidence to substantiate them. I have always tried to be open in regard to my responsibilities.
It is up to the Minister to find the evidence.
I have always tried in this House to be open about my responsibilities, as the Deputy acknowledged on a few occasions. Wherever evidence is supplied to me, I will be the first person to take some positive action on it. There has been no evidence provided to substantiate the claim made by the Deputy in regard to this matter.
I have to insist on this. There isprima facie evidence in this report. The only further evidence missing is photographic evidence. Somebody would have to actually see it, and only the Minister can authorise that.
Deputy Mac Giolla cannot interrupt the Minister, and I am sure he appreciates that.
I have only ten minutes more in which to reply. On close examination, this report contains largely circumstantial evidence and Deputies will be aware that the Government cannot act simply on the basis of assumptions. I would like to emphasise this point since the Deputy appears to be claiming that a nuclear weapon state has infringed our prohibition on carrying nuclear weapons when visiting an Irish port.
Deputy Mac Giolla also referred to what he described as the decision of the Swedish Government to change their policy on this issue in 1992. I do not want to misinterpret the Deputy but that is what I understood he was saying because Deputies in the Fine Gael party started to refer to the same point as if it was a fact. I would like to clarify this point since Deputy Mac Giolla may misunderstand Swedish policy in this area. I have had the matter checked out and have been informed that there has been no change in Swedish policy on port visits. Their policy, like ours, consists of a general prohibition on the visits of ships carrying nuclear weapons. The only evidence that could be found as to how Deputy Mac Giolla arrived at that belief is that a motion was adopted by the Swedish Social Democrat Party at their annual party congress, or annual "Árd Fheis" in September 1990, but there has been no government decision on the issue. There has been no change in Swedish policy. In the Swedish Parliament recently, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Sten Andersson, pointed out the serious consequences that would result from a unilateral Swedish decision on this issue.
We did not say it was in breach of international law.
Let us deal with what is before us. There was a long dissertation in this House today and on Wednesday last from Deputy Mac Giolla where he indicated that the Swedish Government had reacted to the Greenpeace report by changing the law of that country to take effect in 1992. I am simply stating that on my verification of the facts, this statement does not stand up and it is not true. In fact, it is the opposite to the statement by the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Deputy Mac Giolla referred also to the visit of theUSS Conyngham and the Greenpeace allegations that the vessel was carrying nuclear weapons when it paid a visit to Cobh. The visit of the USS Conyngham was conducted in compliance with our policy. Nuclear capability is not synonymous with the carriage of nuclear weapons.
I know that.
Neither is the evidence submitted by Greenpeace in relation to theUSS Contyngham categorical. The Greenpeace report contains many probabilities. Greenpeace have also been found to be wrong before in such matters, as in Sweden in 1989 when Greenpeace staked their honour on the assertion that there were nuclear weapons on board the US ship Ticonderoga, and this was not the case as was subsequently verified. Greenpeace themselves freely admit today to their mistake.
There is no reason that we cannot inspect the ships and find out if they are carrying nuclear weapons.
I am merely trying to keep this debate on a rational and factual level. We cannot substantiate a case on facts that do not stand up or where there is no evidence to verify them.
How can they be verified — only the Government can verify the facts.
In the matter of this debate, the Deputy could be accused of throwing Scuds, and this is not allowed.
We all share a common concern in this matter. I do not disagree with the reasons that Deputies are giving for the need for greater international control in these matters. I am merely saying that the Radiological Protection Bill is not the legislation through which this can be done and I am not the Minister with particular responsibility at Cabinet to do these things——
In many of the cases, as I pointed out, it is not a matter solely for this House. Where we subscribe to international law in these matters there is another forum where these matters have to be thrashed out if we are going to get agreement.
The British Nuclear Fuel authorities spoke about expanding their facility for reprocessing nuclear waste. When they sought business around the world and ships with this nuclear waste began to ply the Irish Sea to the port where they discharge the waste, they can enter into Irish territorial waters. I made the most minute scrutiny of the law in this area, with the assistance of my colleague, the Minister for the Marine, to see if there was any way in which we could act in order to protect our people against the obvious dangers of vessels carrying nuclear waste travelling up close to the Irish coast. We do not have the power on our own to opt out of the situation because of international law in this matter, unless we want to become a country in total isolation from the rest of the world. I do not think that is what the Deputies are suggesting. That is why I suggest the parties opposite have not given this matter the serious consideration it deserves.
Deputy Barnes suggested that the New Zealand prohibition referred to territorial waters. That is not correct. The New Zealand reaction referred to their own ports and internal waters and not to their territorial waters. I am sure the Deputy is aware the amendment tabled by her party relates to territorial waters and not to ports and to internal waters. The New Zealand action is not similar to the action the Deputy is proposing in this amendment.
Is the Minister saying he would be willing to accept an amended version of our amendment to cover the ports?
No, I am not. I am suggesting that the party opposite have a foreign affairs spokesperson who could sponsor legislation in this area. They have also a marine spokesperson who may wish to change the international law of the sea and could probably start it from the benches of this House. It would be a long hard battle but it is something which cannot really succeed unless there is agreement at international level. I have experience of how difficult it is to get international agreement on the nuclear issue. There are countries that are very dependent on nuclear energy, and even the members of the European Community have differing views.
There are member countries of the European Community who are very pronuclear energy. In our attempts to have a Europewide inspectorate of nuclear installations established, we have found it very difficult to get the other member countries to support even that much of a change. Ireland is standing out as a shining light in world fora in continuing to state its position clearly and unequivocally, in advocating greater nuclear safety throughout the world and the abolition of all nuclear weapons. We have a long proud tradition in that whole area. I would not like, in opposing this amendment, to be interpreted in any other way than as fully supporting the continuation of Government policy in this area.
As it is now 4 o'clock I am required, by order of the House today, to put the question. The question is: "That Fourth Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed."
- Ahern, Bertie.
- Ahern, Dermot.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Barrett, Michael.
- Brady, Gerard.
- Brady, Vincent.
- Brennan, Mattie.
- Brennan, Séamus.
- Browne, John (Wexford).
- Burke, Raphael P.
- Callely, Ivor.
- Clohessy, Peadar.
- Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
- Cowen, Brian.
- Cullimore, Séamus.
- Daly, Brendan.
- Dempsey, Noel.
- Dennehy, John.
- de Valera, Síle.
- Leonard, Jimmy.
- Leyden, Terry.
- Lyons, Denis.
- Martin, Micheál.
- McCreevy, Charlie.
- McDaid, Jim.
- McEllistrim, Tom.
- Molloy, Robert.
- Nolan, M.J.
- O'Connell, John.
- O'Dea, Willie.
- O'Donoghue, John.
- O'Hanlon, Rory.
- O'Keeffe, Ned.
- Fahey, Frank.
- Fahey, Jackie.
- Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
- Flood, Chris.
- Flynn, Pádraig.
- Foxe, Tom.
- Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
- Haughey, Charles J.
- Hillery, Brian.
- Hilliard, Colm.
- Hyland, Liam.
- Jacob, Joe.
- Kelly, Laurence.
- Kenneally, Brendan.
- Kirk, Séamus.
- Kitt, Michael P.
- Kitt, Tom.
- Lawlor, Liam.
- Lenihan, Brian.
- O'Leary, John.
- O'Rourke, Mary.
- O'Toole, Martin Joe.
- Power, Seán.
- Quill, Máirín.
- Roche, Dick.
- Smith, Michael.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Tunney, Jim.
- Wallace, Dan.
- Wallace, Mary.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Woods, Michael.
- Wyse, Pearse.
- Byrne, Eric.
- Gilmore, Eamon.
- Gregory, Tony.
- Higgins, Michael D.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Kavanagh, Liam.
- Kemmy, Jim.
- Mac Giolla, Tomás.
- O'Shea, Brian.
- O'Sullivan, Toddy.
- Pattison, Séamus.
- Quinn, Ruairí.
- Rabbitte, Pat.
- Ryan, Seán.
- Sherlock, Joe.
- Stagg, Emmet.
- Taylor, Mervyn.
May I, a Cheann Comhairle, wish your good self and all the Members of the House a very happy and pleasant Easter.
On behalf of Fine Gael I thank the Taoiseach for his good wishes and hope he and his Ministers have a restful and enjoyable holiday also.
Let me reciprocate for the Labour Party.
The Dáil adjourned at 4.15 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 17 April 1991.