Joint Declaration on Peace in Northern Ireland: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann endorses and supports the Joint Declaration on Peace issued by the Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, and Prime Minister John Major, and calls for a permanent cessation of violence and an exclusive commitment to the democratic process by all, for the sake of all the people of this island.

The Joint Declaration issued by the British Prime Minister and myself represents an historic and unprecedented opportunity for peace.

The Declaration is a charter for peace in Ireland. It sets out to demonstrate to every shade of opinion in Northern Ireland that their political aims and ideals can be far more effectively pursued by purely democratic methods. We have not in any way prejudiced or predetermined a political settlement or a final political solution, which is a matter for negotiation between the two Governments and the democratic parties.

The purpose of this carefully balanced Declaration is to provide a framework for peace. It is not designed to promote or to give an unfair advantage to either the Unionist or the Nationalist agendas. The Declaration is designed to show how democratic methods can be applied to the principles and ideals which each community holds dear.

I am very gratified by the generally positive reaction in both Britain and Ireland, in the Dáil and in the House of Commons, and among most of the main constitutional parties in Northern Ireland, including the SDLP, the Alliance Party and the Ulster Unionists. There has also been a broad welcome from church and community leaders, employers, trade unions, chambers of commerce, and many other groups both North and South. I also welcome the worldwide interest in and support for the success of the Declaration, including statements from President Clinton and President Delors and our European friends. Yesterday, I met the Chairman of the PLO, Mr. Yasser Arafat, and he has publicly expressed his support for the Declaration.

Indeed, I would like to quote Yasser Arafat's words, as reported in yesterday'sEvening Herald:

Peace can solve all issues; we have to remember that. All wars solve nothing. It is in the interest of the people that there should be peace. For every revolution there must be an end.

Only yesterday, the military wing of the African National Congress decided to dissolve. In South Africa, in the Middle East, and two or three years ago in Central and Eastern Europe, there has been a recognition by leaders of stature that the old sterile ideological conflicts must be brought to an end everywhere and that a new spirit of peace and reconciliation must be brought to bear on the deep differences, which have caused immense human suffering.

The moment has come for the people of Northern Ireland, too, to place behind them 25 years of tragedy, which has advanced nobody and which will not advance the political interests of any community in the future either. If the present situation is allowed to continue, everyone will be losers. The Union will not be any stronger, a united Ireland will not be any nearer. Indeed, it is quite possible for both communities, simultaneously, to be far worse off than they are at present.

This historic Declaration is a serious attempt to get away from the zero-sum mentality, which has bedevilled all attempts to solve the Northern Ireland problem. This House, I believe, simply does not accept, nor do I believe does the House of Commons, that one side can be better off only at the expense of the other, that Unionists can only flourish at the expense of Nationalists, orvice-versa. In this Declaration the British Government are not the enemies of Nationalist aspirations, nor are the Irish Government the enemies of Unionist ones. We must all recognise that there has to be a much greater spirit of mutual generosity on all sides.

I want to refute the notion that this Declaration in some way represents a reward for violence, or that any organisation has "won". Neither Government has departed or backed down from any essential democratic principle or international obligation. What the Declaration does however is to draw out of the long-established positions of both Governments, whether implicit or explicit, many of the different possibilities contained within them, and the scope they provide for far-reaching political evolution and change. As Cardinal Daly said in an evocative speech at Westminster last week, some of the principles drawn from "the vaults of British Government policy" provide a basis for the resolution of the problem. Ever since I was elected leader of my party and Taoiseach, I have referred back to the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and the creative evolutionary potential contained in that legislation balanced against the fact of continued partition for the present.

As for the notion of betrayal, my Government, too, feels a sense of responsibility towards the Unionist population. Nothing that either I or John Major proclaimed on Wednesday represents a betrayal of the democratic rights of the people of Northern Ireland. I have stated, and I now repeat, that neither the Government nor the people of this State have any desire to impose either by force, or by some form of political coercion, a united Ireland on an unwilling population and against the wishes of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. Only a united Ireland based on clear agreement and consent is worth having.

I believe there is hardly anyone in Ireland today who believes that unity is or should be on the immediate political agenda. There is no way round the task of first building better relationships, new trust, and developing the practice of co-operation between the two parts and the two communities in Ireland. Any attempt, whether political or otherwise, to move quickly in the direction of a united Ireland in the absence of a basis of consent, would be totally counter-productive. But that does not mean that the ideal should be abandoned as a long term aim. Indeed, Irish unity in the right conditions would still be the almost universal wish of the people of this State.

The most pressing item on the political agenda, after peace, is to create an accommodation between Unionists and Nationalists in Northern Ireland and between North and South, within a broad framework of British-Irish co-operation. An atmosphere of peace will make that task much easier. If overall agreement at first proves difficult, then let us proceed by smaller steps in a balanced way.

I need not remind this House that democratic politics can be robust and vigorous in its own way. Political argument or combination does not represent coercion, and I cannot accept for one moment the notion that the mere aspiration for a united Ireland represents coercion. Unionism has always been vigorously expressed. Nationalism has just the same entitlement, and it should not be forgotten that the current troubles began with an attempt to repress the Civil Rights Movement by force.

There have been some complaints that the Declaration has too much of an all-Ireland flavour. I do not believe that it is biased in either political direction, but Unionists should remember that their very name and their philosophy, relates to the political future of a part of this country. Unionism and Nationalism are both competing political philosophies that once applied to the whole of Ireland, and now mainly to a smaller part of it. It is difficult to deny that any two communities that live together side by side, whether they are whites and blacks in South Africa, or whether they are the Israelis and the Palestinians in the Middle East, must find a mutual accommodation, and a way of working constructively together.

As I pointed out two days ago, since the beginning of the 17th century, there has been no real political accommodation between the main traditions on this island, although the Irish Volunteers and the United Irishmen attempted to create one 200 years ago. The awful consequences of that long and persistent failure have been with us over the past 25 years. It is the task we now face.

Both John Hume and Chris McGimpsey have accepted the concept of an agreed Ireland. What the Declaration commits both Governments to work for is agreement between the people of Ireland, and to implement whatever agreement they reach.

As Peter Temple-Morris, the co-chairman of the British-Irish Inter-parliamentary Body, has pointed out, the British Government may not be cast exactly in the role of persuaders, as far as Irish unity is concerned. But both they and we are certainly cast in the role of persuaders, in so far as achieving agreement between both traditions in Ireland is concerned and also in the pursuit of peace. The Declaration speaks of the role of the British Government being "to encourage, facilitate and enable the achievement of such agreement over a period".

One of the greatest concerns that all of us have had from time to time is that the requirement of consent, the guarantee, as it is variously called, seems to enable one community to refuse idefinitely, not just a united Ireland, but any political progress or accommodation. That is where the Declaration is helpful, when it makes clear that the British Government will work together with the Irish Government "to achieve such an agreement which will embrace the totality of relationships". There will certainly be quite legitimate persuasion exercised on all democratic parties to enter negotiations and to stay in them until a satisfactory agreement is achieved.

The Declaration is a clear statement of an even-handed approach by the British Government to the question of change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. There may be some sentimental attachment, but there is no selfish British strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland. They are prepared to implement now and in the future the preferred wish of a greater number of the people to support the Union or a sovereign united Ireland.

The acceptance of the principle of self-determination may have been implicit in the settlement of 1920 and 1921. It has been explicitly accepted by the British Government for the first time now, and on the same conditions as then. They state that "agreement may, as of right, take the form of agreed structures for the island as a whole, including a united Ireland achieved by peaceful means". They accept that the people of Britain would wish, in friendship to all sides, to enable the people of Ireland to reach agreement on how they may live together in harmony and in partnership, with full recognition of the special links between the peoples of Britain and Ireland.

It is unrealistic to expect that the right of self-determination in any country that has been partitioned for half a century or more should be exercised, except in accordance with the wishes of the people living in both parts. I have given many examples of how this has occurred in Germany or would occur in China, Korea or Cyprus. The exercise of self-determination, in the manner set out in the Joint Declaration, represents the norm, not the exception.

I do not know of any fairer statement, that has been or could be made by the British Government with regard to Nationalist ideals than what is set out in paragraph 4 of the Joint Declaration. John Hume has correctly described it as the most comprehensive statement by a British Government on British-Irish relations in 70 years. I also believe the Irish Government has gone further than in any previous formal statement towards meeting Unionist fears and concerns.

There has been some argument as to whether the British Government recognises or denies the value and legitimacy of a united Ireland, phrases taken from a leaked draft document destined for Strand III of the talks process. I regard such discussion as entirely theoretical. The fact is that there are no less than three references to the conditions in which a united Ireland can be achieved in paragraph 4, which is in the name of the British Government. From the Irish Government's point of view, support for a united Ireland and support for the Union, are equally legitimate political objectives, and both may be regarded as having value from different points of view.

Our aim must be to bring the most alienated sections of the Northern communities in from the cold. The Declaration stated that "the Irish Government would make their own arrangements within their jurisdiction to enable democratic parties to consult together and share dialogue about the political future". I went on to say that it was my intention that "these arrangements could include the establishment, in consultation with other parties, of a Forum for Peace and Reconciliation to make recommendations on ways in which agreement and trust between both traditions in Ireland can be promoted and established".

Both Government believe that once there is a permanent end to violence, "democratically mandated parties which establish a commitment to exclusively peaceful methods and which have shown that they abide by the democratic process, are free to participate fully in democratic politics and to join in dialogue in due course between the Governments and the political parties on the way ahead".

I would like to set out more formally the role that I envisage for the proposed Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, which is of course entirely a matter for the Irish Government and democratic parties. The approach I am setting out now, differs in no way from previous proposals I have put forward, and that much of the recent speculation has been ill-founded about what the Irish Government were pressing for in relation to an all-Ireland Convention.

In the light of the joint commitment to promote the objectives set out in the Joint Declaration, I have indicated to the British Prime Minister, my intention of establishing, in consultation with other parties, an Irish Forum for Peace and Reconciliation to consult and advise, as long as is necessary, on the steps required to remove the barriers of distrust, which at present divide the people of Ireland and which also stand in the way of the exercise by them of self-determination on a basis of equality. It will be open to the peace forum to make recommendations on ways in which agreement, in the spirit of the report of the New Ireland Forum, and respect for the rights and identities of both traditions in Ireland, can be promoted and established. The peace forum will operate with full respect for the authority of the institutions established by law in the State. It will be a fundamental guiding principle of the peace forum that all differences between the Irish people relating to the exercise of the right to self-determination, will be resolved exclusively by peaceful, political means.

The peace forum will be open to democratically mandated political parties in Ireland which abide exclusively by the democratic process and wish to share in dialogue about Ireland's political future and the welfare of all its people. The Irish Government will approach the peace forum in a true spirit of openness and magnanimity.

Subject to discussions with other parties, the peace forum would be organised on similar principles to the New Ireland Forum. It would be open to any party in Ireland, just as the New Ireland Forum was, whether by way of membership, or by way of giving evidence to it. As its name suggests, its primary task is to remove barriers of distrust, and to begin the process of reconciliation.

The forum would in effect provide a means to debate and devise appropriate alternative political strategies to violence which will genuinely advance the cause of reconciliation and break down barriers that lie in the way of an agreed future. Such a debate, taking place among all strands of nationalism and hopefully a wider range of opinion, in the aftermath of a permanent cessation of violence, could be a very healthy exercise in advance of resumed talks between all political parties, Unionist and Nationalist. I see it in no way as a confrontational exercise, and it is not in competition with the talks process. There is no future, whatever in going back down the road of old-fashioned 1940s style anti-partition campaigns. I am sure that view is shared throughout this House. We have to adopt a modern and enlightened approach.

The Government understands, and indeed shares, the desire of parties opposite to engage in future in more meaningful dialogue and co-operation with the Unionist community through a process ofdétente.

However, in my view peace is the first essential for better relationships on this island. If we want to be realistic, we have to guarantee that there will be a political process, once violence is permanently ended. The forum could provide a useful input to wider negotiations. It will not be used to threaten anyone, just as the New Ireland Forum threatened no one.

The Joint Declaration was the first stage in the peace process. The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation could be absolutely vital to reaching a second stage, and to achieving a permanent cessation of violence. While I understand some of the hesitations there may be about it, I would ask the parties in this House to consider it as a genuine contribution which they can make to the achievement of peace. It involves no concession of principles on anyone's part, as it is modelled on a body in which nearly all parties here have previously participated. From time to time, there have been calls or suggestions from different sides that it might be reconvened. In the circumstances of a genuine cessation of violence, it could play an important role in the strengthening and consolidation of the spirit of democracy throughout this island. I do not underestimate the real difficulties and problems involved, but the achievement of a permanent, just and lasting peace is the objective that takes precedence over all others, as far as I am concerned. Peace is paramount.

Many other practical questions will arise, following a complete cessation of violence. The Irish Government will address these questions in a pragmatic spirit, in which the spirit of generosity and of justice must go hand in hand. Our overriding desire is to close for good this chapter in our history, while never forgetting those who have suffered. We will naturally seek the destruction of arms, as it is our duty under the law. But we should all be realistic enough to recognise that here, as in every situation around the world disarmament goes hand in hand with confidence-building.

I would now like to put on record briefly some of the history of the present peace initiative, which is not well known or understood, and which has had to remain largely confidential until now.

I have spoken on many occasions of my first meeting as Taoiseach with Prime Minister John Major in February 1992, where we both made a resolution to try to bring peace to Northern Ireland during our term of office together and to spare the people of Northern Ireland another generation of violence.

In April 1992 with the assistance of John Hume, and also using some ideas put together over some considerable time by some Redemptorist priests committed to peace work in the Clonard Monastery in Belfast, I drew up in my office a first formal draft of a Joint Declaration to be made by the British Prime Minister and myself, designed to facilitate the beginning of a peace process and a permanent cessation of violence. The background was clear. On the indications given to me by John Hume and other responsible people, and indeed on the evidence of their own public statements, Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA were looking for an alternative peaceful strategy to violence. It will be noted from the date that the origins of this initiative long predated the surfacing in public of renewed meetings between John Hume and Gerry Adams in the spring of this year, which were a sequel to the SDLP-Sinn Féin dialogue in 1988.

Because the initiative involved not only a statement of how the legitimate rights and aspirations of those holding Republican ideals could be pursued, in a purely democratic fashion, but also a restatement of the obligations by which the Irish Government is boundvis-à-vis the requirement for the agreement and consent of a majority, it took 14 months to finally settle a first formula. John Hume and I were satisfied that it would have a capacity to produce peace, but at the same time satisfy the basic requirements of the two Governments.

I would have to confess, however, that the initial document, submitted by me to the British Government last June, represented the outer limit of what the Irish Government could agree, consistent with our obligations. However, I formed the judgment that it was right to present, on my responsibility, a text to the British Government, that had the full support of John Hume, and that, if accepted, would bring a cessation of violence. I knew that subsequent discussions on it between the two Governments would be likely to substantially improve the document, while hopefully still retaining its capacity to be a vehicle for peace. The two central principles of the document, which balanced each other, were a recognition by the British Government of the Irish peoples' right to self-determination and a recognition by me that this could only be exercised with the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

In recent months, joint public statements between John Hume and Gerry Adams have provided public evidence of how far Sinn Féin has moved towards acceptance that progress can only be made by democratic means. In my view, this evidence of progress, even though clearly insufficient while violence continues, should have been more warmly welcomed. It should have been seen for what it is, as an important and vital stepping-stone on the road to peace. I believe, and John Hume believes, that the Joint Declaration is in keeping with the spirit of the joint Hume-Adams public statements, though the Joint Declaration is set in a broader framework.

In the development of the peace process over the last 18 months, John Hume has played an indispensable role through direct meetings and dialogue with the leader of Sinn Féin. Independently of that, I have also benefited from the advice and input of respected community leaders, whose sole vocation is to work for peace, and who have been able to interpret for me accurately shifts of thinking within both Sinn Féin and the IRA and the Loyalist paramilitaries.

Last June, John Major and myself decided to appoint a small group of officials to examine the initial draft Declaration. In the course of a number of meetings, a whole series of important and necessary improvements were discussed, which removed any ambiguities from the text and made explicit, clear and unequivocal assurances that the democratic rights of the people of Northern Ireland would be fully safeguarded. By October, official discussions had made considerable progress. Since then, I would add, in a series of contacts with a leader of the majority community in Northern Ireland, the Irish Government has made further radical improvements to the text, including the addition of whole new sections, some of which addressed the concerns of the Unionist population.

At the end of October, the process unfortunately began to run into turbulence. One major problem was the tendency of the media to identify the discussions of the two Governments as focusing on the uncritical adoption of what was simplistically described as the Hume-Adams proposals, but which was in fact the original draft presented by me to the British Prime Minister in June. This created much distrust on the Unionist side. The enunciation of a number of principles by the Tánaiste — although put forward primarily in the talks context — helped to dissipate an excessive media concentration on these. I made it clear in my Dáil statement on Northern Ireland, prior to the first Brussels meeting, that I welcomed the input of John Hume and Gerry Adams, which provided important elements, but that any initiative would have to be taken by the two Governments, whose responsibility would be to create, in their own broader terms, a framework for peace. This position was reflected in the Brussels communiqué, which was unfortunately presented afterwards in some quarters as a straightforward rejection of the Hume-Adams efforts for peace. All I had said in the Dáil was that it was not simply a question of adopting them.

While I believed that I had secured British agreement at Brussels to resume the initiative, I greatly regret the unfortunate impression created among the Northern Nationalist community for a couple of weeks afterwards that the Irish Government would abandon the Nationalists. That was never the case. My sole objective throughout was to protect and pursue a vitally important peace initiative, which I had put forward and to which John Hume had contributed so much. It is of course a complete myth to suggest that I was so taken aback by the negative reaction in the North and at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis to the Brussels communiqué that I hurriedly altered course again the following week. The truth is that I have never deviated one iota from the steady pursuit of the objective of achieving a formula for peace. John Hume and the community leaders to which I have referred were of course kept informed at all times of developments, but nevertheless, it was put to me that political leaders have to respond to public perceptions, even if they are different from the underlying realities.

However, some ten days after that first Brussels meeting, and after the next meeting of British and Irish officials, I was made aware of renewed difficulties, despite the space that I had attempted with some success to create for the British Government. This time the difficulties centred on the acceptability of the contents of the document in its revised state from the Unionist point of view. I had already undertaken to do what I could to try to ascertain and improve its chances of some degree of acceptance from within the Unionist community.

Throughout the last two months, I have made a determined effort to reassure the Unionist community by whatever means were open to me. When tension was running high and when murders of Catholics were virtually a daily occurrence, I conveyed through another respected intermediary messages intended for the Loyalist paramilitaries, making it clear that in seeking peace I was not seeking in any way to predetermine or prejudice the shape of a political settlement. I specifically refuted any notion that the Irish Government was involved in some way or another in a pact to deliver peace in return for joint authority. These private messages reinforced public statements to the same effect. I also spoke to a number of leaders of the different Protestant Churches, and influential Northern journalists, as well as the leader of the Alliance Party, Dr. John Alderdice, who has adopted a most helpful and constructive attitude to this initiative throughout.

In response to the British difficulty, I took steps to ascertain what could reassure moderate opinion among the Northern Protestant-Unionist community, so avoiding what was alleged to be the mistake at the time of the Anglo-Irish Agreement that no Unionist was ever consulted. I incorporated the vast majority of the recommendations I received into the text of the draft declaration. I also communicated in writing with James Molyneaux, a political leader for whom I have great respect, regardless of often profound political differences, and I authorised an individual trusted by us both to brief him at his discretion on my proposals, and I encouraged Mr. Major to do the same. The Tánaiste and his office have met face to face with a number of leading Unionist politicians over recent weeks. While I never asked for or expected enthusiasm for the peace formula, I do believe that the achievement of peace in a manner that respects everyone's fundamental rights and identity is in everyone's interests. I welcome the political response from mainstream Unionism. I believe it will always be greatly to the honour of James Molyneaux and his colleagues that at the end of the day the attitude they adopted helped this initiative for peace, notwithstanding their distaste for certain aspects of it.

I was deeply impressed and greatly encouraged by the tremendous yearning for peace shown on 25 November, when one of the largest ever demonstrations for peace in Northern Ireland took place. There was also a big response to a phone-in to the two Northern morning newspapers, and two million throughout the island stood for a moment's silence for peace at 1 o'clock. There have also been indications of strong support from the Northern business community.

As we came nearer to the achievement of a formula for peace, it was to be expected that the pressures on the two Governments would increase. There were for example two leaks of documents, one on the Irish side, the other on the British one, both of which would have upset the peace process, and indeed succeeded in doing so for a brief period.

The leaked Irish document was prepared as an Irish contribution to Strand III of the talks, assuming Government approval had been given, which it had not. The Irish Government is surely as entitled as any other party to the talks to submit whatever document it chooses and to put forward its own ideas, without provoking an adverse reaction. The essential difference between the talks document and the peace declaration is that the first would have been an Irish contribution to the formation of a joint position by the two Governments, whereas the peace declaration is intended to represent a careful balance of different views and interests and is essentially non-partisan in nature.

The merit of the peace initiative I have put forward has been to enable the British Government to negotiate only with another democratic Government. I want to repeat that the Irish Government has never acted as a proxy or conduit for the IRA, and I would never put anything forward that was not consistent with our own fundamental position and obligations.

In the final stages, the British Prime Minister and I had a series of meetings, four in all this autumn, as well as a number of communications both in writing, by emissary and by telephone. It was a delicate and often difficult negotiation, but at the end I believe we both achieved a very good result, with which we are both fully content. I believe the Prime Minister displayed considerable political courage in adopting this initiative, which was unusual in its approach.

I would like to pay tribute to the many Church and community leaders, and others who came to see me in confidence and who helped me form clearer judgments. For over 30 years I have been expanding my number of friends and business and political contacts in both communities in the North of Ireland. I have been able to draw on this knowledge and experience.

In the final analysis this Joint Declaration is particularly addressed to the people and organisations on both sides who can most directly deliver peace. While none of us can ever condone the deeds committed over the past 25 years, I believe it is right to acknowledge what I believe are serious and courageous efforts that have been made for some time by some in the Republican leadership to find a path to peace out of the impasse. I believe when they examine the Joint Declaration closely, together with the proposal for a peace forum, which I have elaborated in more detail today, they should find that they provide the necessary elements for a peace process, that will create its own dynamic.

There is now an immense responsibility on many different leaders and among all of us to hold open this opportunity for peace, and to let people grasp it while it is there. A great deal hinges on the decision. Let us not set rigid new preconditions. Let us remember that it is better to end violence than to preach against it. There has never been, and there never will be, a better opportunity for peace. I commend the Joint Declaration to the House. The best Christmas message all political leaders could send to families in Northern Ireland would be the news of a lasting peace with justice for all.

Peace is not just the absence of violence. So-called peace is no more than a ceasefire if arms are available for reuse. Peace is reconciliation. Peace is acceptance that it is possible to be different and yet to live in the same place. Peace is the acceptance that it is honourable to be British and to live and belong in Ireland, just as it is honourable to be Irish and to live and belong in Britain. Peace here in Ireland and throughout Europe requires that we stop thinking about territory, pieces of land, and start thinking about people.

The idea that nation and territory must equate with one another is an obsolete hangover from the 19th century. The Treaty of Union in Europe renders it obsolete because it accepts that sovereignty is multi-layered. Sovereignty exists at European level, it exists at national level and it exists at regional level but, about all, a Cheann Comhairle, sovereignty exists at the level of each person. Under the Treaty of Union in Europe an Irish woman living in France now has certain rights as a European that the French Government cannot deny her. This is how, by using this concept, we can reconcile the affirmation of all national identities, whether majority or minority, without having to redefine territorial boundaries of states throughout Europe or, necessarly, within Ireland. That is how the problems of Ireland and Britain can be solved.

I speak in this House as a member of the Christian Democrat family of parties in Europe. These parties throughout this Continent are committed to the dignity of each person. It is through that concept, rather than through the 19th century territorial concepts, that we can build a new reality in Ireland, not just an agreed Ireland but an agreement that it is possible to be different in Ireland no matter where one lives on this island.

My party recognises that the building of such an Ireland will be a slow and staged process. Indeed, my party and the party it succeeded when founded in 1933, 60 years ago, has always accepted that progress in these matters is a staged process. In accepting the Treaty which established this State and gave us our independence and international recognition we saw that as "a stepping stone to further development", in Michael Collins's own words. We built on that stepping stone in the Statute of Westminister in 1931, which established a completely new concept of sovereignty for the members of the then British Commonwealth.

From the very foundation of our party in 1933 we have accepted the principle of consent in Northern Ireland to any change in the constitutional position. There is no other party which has accepted the principle of consent for so long, right back to its foundation. I am glad that all parties in this House now accepted that minority position we adopted at the time of our foundation in 1933. However, we recognised that before that consent could be exercised or even considered, immediate problems had to be dealt with — the problems of systematic discrimination and the denial of political rights suffered by the Nationalist community who lived in Northern Ireland.

It was in that spirit that our party — I give credit also to those who did the groundwork in the Fianna Fáil Government led by Mr. Jack Lynch — negotiated the Sunningdale Agreement. I acknowledge also that at that time we had the involvement of the Labour Party in Government and that on that occasion the Fianna Fáil Party did not oppose the Sunningdale Agreement when it was brought before the House, just as we are not opposing what is being brought before the House today. That agreement however was brought down for reasons there is no need to go into on this occasion.

In 1985 our party was responsible in Government with the Labour Party for negotiating the Anglo-Irish Agreement. This Joint Declaration between the Prime Ministers would not have been possible were it not for the trust that was built through the working of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Without the foundation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement no joint Downing Street Declaration would ever have been possible.

I commend all Ministers who have worked that agreement since it was put in place, but I have to say in passing that there is a contrast between the attitude the Fine Gael Party is taking to this Joint Declaration today and the attitude taken by the party led by the Taoiseach on that occasion and, indeed, by himself as a member of that party, in opposing the Anglo-Irish Agreement, even to the point of sending one of their spokespeople, who was then a senior member of the party, to America to oppose it overseas as well as at home. I am glad to say however that that has changed, that that atmosphere has changed in this House and I claim no small share of the credit for the Fine Gael Party for the fact that that atmosphere has changed.

I now turn to the Declaration, the Taoiseach's speech and a number of other matters which have been raised in this debate, but before doing so I wish to lay down certain principles. It is my view that no settlement, solution, formula or declaration will achieve peace and reconciliation — these are indistinguishable, just as the talks process and the peace process are indistinguishable and cannot be separated, as the Taoiseach has attempted to do — unless all those affected by it feel a sense of ownership, a sense that they had a hand in the making of that formula and a part in the functioning of any institution established under that formula or flowing from it. Unless people feel that they have a sense of ownership, even though what is being done may well be to their benefit, they will not give it the allegiance that is required.

That is the criterion I will be applying to the Taoiseach's speech in the analysis which I am about to undertake. Will it and does it create a sense of ownership in all the people living on this island of the peace and reconciliation which we all agree it is important to build? Barriers must be broken down, not erected.

In that spirit I wish to take up a number of points in the Taoiseach's speech. He said: "Unionism and Nationalism are both competing political philosophies that once applied to the whole of Ireland". I put it to the Taoiseach that those two political philosophies should not be presented as competing. Indeed, the process of thought which sees these two concepts as competing is obsolete, because both concepts are based on the old idea of sovereignty, that you had one territory, one allegiance and one nationality within that territory. It is only if one accepts that view of political thinking — and as I said in my earlier remarks, I do not accept it because we have moved beyond that — that one sees Nationalism and Unionism as competing. I disagree therefore with the Taoiseach's analysis in that presentation.

Nationalism and Unionism are reconcilable once one moves away from the idea of one sovereignty, one territory and one people. The new concept that I would put in its place accepts the idea that there can be different allegiances held by people living in the same territory at the same time. The Taoiseach should eradicate this concept of competition between Nationalism and Unionism from his thinking if he is to make the leap of imagination that is necessary to build true reconciliation on this island.

I also take issue with another point in the Taoiseach's speech. He said:

One of the greatest concerns that all of us have had from time to time is that the requirement of consent, the guarantee, as it is variously called [the guarantee of the Unionist position] seems to enable one community to refuse indefinitely, not just a United Ireland, but any political progress or accommodation.

In making that statement the Taoiseach seems to ignore the progress towards accommodation which has been made by both communities in Northern Ireland, specifically by the Official Unionist Party in the talks process which came to a premature end in October 1992.

In case the Taoiseach might believe that the requirement of consent allowed the Unionists not to make concessions I would remind him, as I am sure he is well aware, that in those talks the Official Unionist Party proposed a Bill of Rights which would give everybody living in Northern Ireland certain rights. It proposed a two-thirds majority vote on all issues of legislation in the Northern Ireland Assembly. It proposed a panel of three persons, one of whom would be a member of the minority, in regard to which all decisions would have to be unanimous, therefore giving a veto to the nationalist minority in Northern Ireland. Furthermore, it accepted the idea of all-Ireland institutions working on a co-operative basis.

It is surprising that those substantial concessions have not been acknowledged in the Taoiseach's speech. If we are to achieve reconciliation we must be willing not just to become obsessed with the generosity of our own concessions but also to acknowledge the concessions made by others. It is surprising that the Taoiseach has not acknowledged in this House the specific concessions made by the Unionists in those talks, which unfortunately came to an end for reasons it would be unhelpful to go into detail about here, as he presents himself as a Nationalist leader in Northern Ireland.

Regarding the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, the Joint Declaration states:

The Taoiseach's intention is that these arrangements could include the establishment, in consultation with other parties, of a Forum for Peace and Reconciliation to make recommendations on ways in which agreement and trust between both traditions in Ireland can be promoted and established.

On the day the Joint Declaration was agreed the Taoiseach said:

I would like to thank all the Opposition parties, and their leaders, for the degree of patience and understanding they have shown in the national interest over the past few weeks, and for their broad support.

The Taoiseach will acknowledge that I responded to that, but I regret that he did not consult me about the detailed decisions he announced here today in regard to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, even though he clearly envisages that the Forum will involve the party which I represent. I am surprised that the Taoiseach did not consider it worth his while contacting me from a practical point of view, particularly as I indicated to him in the Dáil that I believed it would be important to negotiate the purpose and functions of such a body with all the intending participants. The Taoiseach said that he intends to establish this body "in consultation" with other parties. Having regard to his speech today, it appears he has announced decisions and that the consultation he now proposes will possibly extend to no more than the logistic arrangements as to where the body might meet or the physical or other supporting arrangements for the body. The Taoiseach is not listening to what I am saying.

It will not be set up until there is a cessation of violence.

I realise that.

There is plenty of time.

That is very optimistic.

That is a significant statement.

It will be predicated on the cessation of violence.

That does not mean there is plenty of time.

For consultation.

We have all been busy during the last few days but I would have thought it would have been worth the Taoiseach's while to have lifted the telephone. He knows where I am.

The purpose of the forum as outlined in the Joint Declaration is "to make recommendations on ways in which agreement and trust between both traditions in Ireland can be promoted and established". I emphasise the words "both traditions". Because of the way the forum was announced it is probable that the participation of one of the two traditions on the island in the negotiations will be reduced. If there has been no consultation with the Fine Gael Party it is unlikely there has been consultation with the majority of the parties in Northern Ireland prior to the Taoiseach's statement today. That is regrettable. It is important that if that body is to reconcile both traditions, both traditions must be represented. How can one reconcile oneself with another party if the other party is not present? That is similar to suggesting that a married couple who have separated should be reconciled but that they should do so without meeting one another. A forum that does not contain within its membership representatives of both traditions cannot achieve the stated objective contained in the Joint Declaration to promote reconciliation. In setting up that body from which one tradition is either excluded by the nature of the setting up of the body or excludes itself by choice, there is a risk that far from promoting reconciliation some form of institutionalisation of division may take place.

I am particularly concerned about a phrase in the Taoiseach's statement in regard to the forum where he refers to a debate taking place among all strands of nationalism and hopefully a wider range of opinion. The Taoiseach envisages the forum as providing for debate among all stands of nationalism and, hopefully, certain unspecified wider ranges of opinion. In using that phrase the Taoiseach appears to have accepted that only what he describes as Nationalist parties will be present. That does not seem to square with the words in the Joint Declaration which refer to reconciliation between both traditions and not a debate within one tradition.

The Taoiseach has drawn a parallel between that forum and the New Ireland Forum. The New Ireland Forum took place at a particular time in history prior to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. For the first time ever an international treaty gave certain rights of consultation and participation to the Northern Nationalists community in respect of decision-making in regard to the area in which they live. Perhaps a coming together of all representatives of Nationalist parties was necessary at that historical juncture. That was 1983; this is 1993. The parallels are not exact and circumstances have changed. The Anglo-Irish Agreement is in place. This Declaration acknowledges — this is shared by the British and Irish Governments — the rights of the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland in terms in which they were not acknowledged at the time the New Ireland Forum was brought into being. To present this as some sort of similar institution to the New Ireland Forum is to mispresent it.

There is another point in the Taoiseach's speech that concerns me. He said: "The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation could be absolutely vital to reaching a second stage and to achieving a permanent cessation of violence". The Taoiseach seems to accept that until this forum is established there will be no permanent cessation of violence. I hope that is not what he means. I will read that statement again: "The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation could be absolutely vital to reaching a second stage"— I presume by that he means the establishment of the forum —"and to achieving a permanent cessation of violence", by which, I presume, he means the second stage. If that is not what the second stage means in that phrase, what does it mean?

There is no excuse for the continuance of violence. There is no need for any further conditions to be fulfilled or further bodies to be established before violence ceases. Within the logic of the Hume-Adams declaration violence is inherently pointless from the perspective of the Provisional IRA and the agreements entered into by Mr. Adams on their behalf because Mr. Adams has already accepted that the agreement of the Unionist community is necessary to any political progress. Therefore, there is no point in shooting Unionists. This Declaration contains the statement that the British Government will facilitate any agreement between the Irish people, and the House of Commons has unanimously accepted that principle. There is no point shooting British people in order to persuade them to agree to something to which they have already agreed. Taking into account the Hume-Adams declaration and the Reynolds-Major declaration there is no logical point whatever in continuance of violence. No further lives should be lost.

I hope the Taoiseach, in his understandable wish to promote a breathing space for people to consider the position, is in no way accepting — I am sure he is not — that in that space violence should continue. It should not continue. Violence should stop now. Certainly a little more time is needed to consider the declaration of the cessation of violence because people need to consider this position. We all need more time to consider declarations than I was allowed to consider the Taoiseach's speech today in regard to a forum involving my party. We all need a little more time than that to consider what we are going to do. I accept that breathing space is needed, but during that time there is no need to kill another person. There is no need to kill anybody no matter what ones perspective. I hope people will stop killing. Please stop; please plant no more incendiary devices on railway tracks in Surrey; please do not shoot any more members of the RUC; please do not shoot any more British soldiers; please stop it.

I wish to make two points about arms that have been stored away. When we talk of the arms available to the IRA we are not talking about small arms kept under the pillow by somebody who feels threatened to deal with an intruder to their house who comes from another community with malicious intent towards the person concerned; we are talking about huge dumps of arms. My understanding is that of the four shipments of which theEksund shipment, which was apprehended, was part, three got through — we all know how much arms were contained in the Eksund shipment. Those arms are now under the control of the IRA and its indirect political spokesperson, Provisional Sinn Féin. They represent a threat to the existence of this State because they can be turned on anybody. They probably exist in large quantity in this State rather than in Northern Ireland, they are secreted somewhere here. Those arms are under the control of an organisation which has never accepted the validity of this body in which I am privileged to speak. They have tactically accepted that they will take their seats but never accepted the validity of the body in which they would take those seats.

It is very important that there be clarity on this matter. I completely understand the need to build up trust in Nationalist areas of west Belfast. I understand the traumatic experience of 1968, 1969 and 1970 of people living in those areas when nobody seemed willing to protect them and the police force was most definitely not even-handed. I fully understand the deep sense of insecurity felt by many people living in Nationalist areas of west Belfast. It will take quite a time to persuade these people that they or their protectors must give up the arms they have in those areas for immediate self-defence. I do not accept the principle that self-defence should take place through the agency of a private army. I draw attention to the fact that it is impossible for the RUC to offer protection to these people at the moment because any member of the RUC who enters those areas to give them protection is liable to be shot by the Irish Republican Army.

It will take time to reach a point where the RUC can enter those areas, where Nationalist recruitment to the RUC will rise from its present 14 per cent, which is extremely high bearing in mind that Catholics who join the RUC are putting themselves at risk, to a higher level of, say, 40 per cent. I accept that a process of consultation is necessary in regard to those arms. It may be necessary for the Irish Government, through the Maryfield Secretariat, to engage in bridge-building to assist the RUC in entering those areas and to assist the community organisations, including Provisional Sinn Féin once it has forsworn violence, in accepting the scale of protection they are offered.

Loyalist arms must be handed up, and I accept that will take time. However, I do not accept the retention, under Provisional IRA and Provisional Sinn Féin control, of such large quantities of arms that can have no purpose but offence. I do not accept that there is any excuse for maintaining those sort of armaments on the territory of this State. It is essential that these armaments be handed up. I would remind the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs of what he said in the House in reply to the debate on Wednesday, and I quote: "We are talking about the handing up of arms". I agree with him, and indeed I have quoted him publicly with approval.

I would draw the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs' attention to a phrase contained in the Taoiseach's speech in this context, and I quote: "But we should all be realistic enough to recognise that here, as in every situation around the world, disarmament goes hand in hand with confidence building". That is an unexceptional statement in many ways, but it would be wrong to equate agreements about disarmament between sovereign and legitimate Governments with agreements about disarmaments between sovereign and legitimate Governments and organisations which have used terror throughout the years to achieve their way and have now given this up.

I hope that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs will insist on verifiable handing-up or destruction of these arms. It is not possible to conduct a reasonable political dialogue with people around a table in a forum or any other such body if those people have arms secreted away, some of them probably in my constituency of Meath. How can I talk to people from the same constituency who have not been elected, who have arms available to them and who could use them if they do not like what I am saying to them?

I now wish to refer to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution and to quote from the Taoiseach in this regard. He stated: "I acknowledge the presence in the Constitution of the Republic of elements which are deeply resented by Northern Unionists". However, he goes on to say that he would be willing to deal with those deeply resented elements in our Constitution only in the context of an overall settlement. I believe some measure of contradiction exists between those Articles and the Declaration we are being asked to approve here today, which states that both Governments:

...make a solemn commitment to promote co-operation at all levels on the basis of fundamental principles, undertakings, obligations under international agreements, to which they have jointly committed themselves, and the guarantees which each Government has given and now reaffirms, including Northern Ireland's statutory constitutional guarantee.

I want to stress the words "statutory constitutional guarantee" which suggest to me that the Government has accepted either the 1949 Act or the 1920 Act or both. The Taoiseach had previously suggested that he would be unwilling to recommend a change in Articles 2 and 3 unless there was a change in the 1920 Act. It seems from the passage in the Declaration from which I have quoted that he has already accepted the 1920 Act as being operational. Indeed, he has reaffirmed his acceptance of that in suggesting that it is not being affirmed for the first time. That reason for being unwilling to be categoric about a willingness to move on Articles 2 and 3 seems to have been removed.

I compliment the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs on what he said about this matter. I asked him if the Government would be inclined to use this concept of an overall settlement as an excuse for postponing forever or indefinitely action on that aspect of our Constitution which the Taoiseach has already accepted, to use his own words, is deeply resented by Northern Unionists. I went on to give an illustration of a situation in which, for example, 90 per cent of the matters in dispute might have been agreed and 10 per cent remained disagreed. I asked if the fact that 10 per cent of the matters in dispute were not agreed — perhaps it had something to do with social security rights on both sides of the Border or some minor matter — would be used as an excuse for saying "There is no overall settlement so we will not be willing to recommend a change in Articles 2 and 3". The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs very properly said: "It is not our intention to use the formula as quoted by Deputy Bruton to hold up progress or act as an inhibition", by which I infer an inhibition to recommend to the Irish people a change in Articles 2 and 3.

It is important for this House to remember that Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution are the only remaining territorial claim in any Constitution of any European country on territory it is not now administering. I would remind the House that the Taoiseach was correct in saying that the fact that the only part of Europe over which such a claim exists is Northern Ireland is deeply resented by Northern Unionists. Therefore, I would have hoped for a more explicit statement from the Taoiseach on his willingness to move in this area than that contained in the Declaration.

I now wish to make my final point on this issue; it is perhaps the most important point I wish to make. The aspect of the recent process which saddens me most is that it has occurred at a time — perhaps it has provided an excuse for this — when no face to face talks are taking place between the parties in Northern Ireland. I do not think there is any other part of the world — one could include Russia and the former Republics of the Soviet Union — where the political parties in the area concerned are not talking to one another face to face. If, as I hope and am confident, this process, which has provided an excuse for those who should be talking to one another for not talking to one another, delivers peace in a short time, then that time will have been well spent. However, if, as I fear from some of the remarks made by the Provisional movement, and which perhaps have been said in an aside here by the Taoiseach, it will take a very long time to achieve a cessation of violence after this Declaration and during that long time — by "long time" I mean five or six months, which is an unacceptably long time; one month might be an acceptable period — no talks take place between the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland, it will be an absolute disaster.

I say this because it is only possible to make progress or reach agreement with people if one talks to them face to face in the same room rather than talking to them through an intermediary or through the media. The lack of any engagement between local politicians in Northern Ireland, who have been democratically elected, who have never used violence and who do not support the use of violence, has artificially and dangerously enhanced the status of those who use violence. A situation in which everybody is holding their breath and waiting for the men of violence and their political directors to say yes or no inevitably enhances the political significance of these men of violence in the minds of everybody. In so doing, it diminishes the significance of those who do not use violence and that is the risk of any delay. For example, the longer people are waiting on Gerry Adams's word, the less important Joe Hendron will seem. The longer everybody is waiting on the words of these unnamed leaders of the Loyalist organisations, the less important Jim Molyneaux will seem. The longer this process is dragged out, the less important constitutional politics will seem. Indeed, the longer it drags out the less will be the political support for those parties who traditionally did not use violence because they will cease to have been centre stage.

The important point I want to make is that it is most unfortunate that the talks process and the peace process have been separated in the Taoiseach's mind. There must be talks between the constitutional politicians in Northern Ireland immediately. I intend to seek a meeting, within the next month, with all the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. I have already met them and I intend to meet them again. If it is not possible for others to open up dialogue with those parties I, as the Leader or the Fine Gael Party, intend to open up that dialogue because it is not acceptable that the only people in this House, talking to these parties, other than Fine Gael, are those who cannot say to whom they are talking. That is not healthy dialogue and there must be healthy dialogue. We must put constitutional politics back at centre stage. We must reward politically those who have not used violence, and in our anxiety to get those who have used violence in the past to cease, we must not pay the unacceptably high price of diminishing the political support and the status of those who have never used violence. That is an extremely important principle, a principle which I hope the Taoiseach shares and which I know the Tánaiste shares and I hope it is a principle that will guide his actions and those of the Government in the weeks ahead. I can say on behalf of the Fine Gael Party that it will guide our actions.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Michael McDowell, if that is in order.

I wish to say at the outset, and I do not wish in any way to criticise the Tánaiste, that we are now having a debate with no member of the Cabinet present and no member of the majority party of Government. That is a disgrace and it is disappointing.

Hear, hear. It is an indication of the Government's real interest in Northern Ireland.

I wish to comment on the Taoiseach's speech. When I heard last night of the briefing that was given to journalists about what the Taoiseach would say this morning, that he would clarify matters with a view to helping perhaps Sinn Féin and the IRA to make up their minds, I was concerned that he would seek a change or to interpret in a different way the language of the Declaration because on occasions we are good at implying that words mean different things. I am happy the Taoiseach has not done that.

The Taoiseach stated this morning that the Hume-Adams process was underway since the spring of 1992. Apparently the Taoiseach and Mr. Hume were trying to devise what they call a peace declaration since April 1992 at a time when the talks were taking place in Northern Ireland and a couple of months before the Unionists came to Dublin. For them, that was a major psychological development. The fact that there were secret talks taking place between the Taoiseach and John Hume with a view to appeasing Sinn Féin and the IRA is extraordinary. I believe that will disappoint many people and I would like the Tánaiste, when replying, to clarify exactly what the Taoiseach was doing. How can we expect Unionists to come to the table and engage in talks if there is some side show going on about which they are not aware? I do not know if the other members of the then Government were aware that that process was underway, but it indicates clearly to me why those talks failed.

The Taoiseach could not have been serious about those talks if he was engaged in a separate process. Indeed, Chris McGimpsey said recently that if the Government had given a commitment in 1992 to change Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution, those talks would not have broken down. It is unfortunate we were not more determined to give way to the constitutional parties through the talks process rather than putting so much effort into trying to appease Sinn Féin and the IRA.

If we want to restore credibility to politics on this island, particularly in Northern Ireland, and if we want to show that democratic constitutional politics is the way forward, we must go out of our way to ensure that all of the commitments given are given through the constitutional democratic process and not to people who engage in violence.

I want to refer also to the Taoiseach's reference to a Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. I heard a BBC correspondent tell his listeners that when the Opposition parties attended a briefing the other day, nobody raised any objection to the forum, according to a Government spokesperson. I attended that briefing and I saw it as my duty simply to ask questions of clarification. I gave no commitment in relation to the document whatsoever. It would have been inappropriate for me to do so. I read the document once, asked some questions and then left and it is highly irresponsible for a Government spokesperson to read into that that I was in some way agreeing to everything contained in the Declaration.

Hear, hear.

I want to agree with Deputy Harney. I gave no commitment either on behalf of John Bruton.

If the Taoiseach and the Government are serious about involving us in the process, the way to go about it is not by allowing Government spokespeople to give briefings such as that to try to put people into a corner. If we are to show that we really mean what we say in terms of reconciliation and putting the hand out to those who disagree with us, yet do not show a spirit of co-operation in this House, we will not get very far.

In relation to the forum, I will not reject it out of hand because, unfortunately, there have been too many occasions in this country when people were not prepared to be openminded, when the politics of "not an inch" dominated rather than the politics of consensus, compromise and reconciliation. I welcome the clarification in this regard. The Declaration refers to the possibility of having a forum. The Taoiseach's speech this morning and on Wednesday seemed to indicate that it will definitely take place and, therefore, I would like some clarification in that regard.

The Taoiseach stated that "the forum for peace and reconciliation could be absolutely vital to reaching a second stage and to achieving a permanent cessation of violence". I would like the Tánaiste, when replying to this debate, to clarify whether it is the Government's intention that only parties that have renounced violence totally will be involved in that forum and that the forum will not be used as part of the peace process to get people to move towards a cessation of violence. Mr. Adams is already on record as saying that he does not believe peace should be a prerequisite for getting involved in talks and if this is a way of trying to accommodate him and allow him to negotiate his way to peace, it is not acceptable to me or my party.

A New Ireland Forum was held in 1984, which was useful at that time. It helped Nationalist parties on this island — although it was open to all parties — to form an opinion about what might be acceptable. It was the first time that all of the Nationalist parties had agreed that a unitary state was not the only option, that there were others. It was welcome in that regard and respected the legitimacy of unionism.

Quite honestly I do not know what a peace forum could achieve in present circumstances. If Irish nationalism is to gang up and go to Irish unionism, in my view that would be a retrograde step. It would further polarise the two divided communities in Northern Ireland. If it is about peace and reconciliation, we must start bringing people together and not seeking to polarise them in any sense.

Hear, hear.

I would have to be absolutely clear that the terms of reference were such that Unionists could feel happy to become involved in this peace forum. Otherwise, I am not so sure whether it would be worthy of establishment in the first place. I would also welcome — and Deputy John Bruton referred to this — an opportunity to discuss these matters in private with the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste before they are announced publicly, when parties are placed in a very difficult position in which they appear to be unreasonable if they even ask a question. That is the position the Taoiseach has sought to put us in. Details of this so-called convention were leaked to a Sunday newspaper last Sunday. I responded and so did other parties. If the Government intend to be serious about including us then they need to change the way they do business or we will not see peace and reconciliation on this island.

Over the past two months as the search for a peace formula in Northern Ireland quickened and developed, after the suspension of what was called the Hume-Adams dialogue in September last, I repeatedly stressed in this House and outside it, on every relevant occasion, that any such formula must be balanced and even-handed as between the two communities in Northern Ireland in terms of their political rights, identities and aspirations. At times along the way it often appeared to me that this essential balance might not be struck, that in effect we might sign on for or promote a peace formula that went much too far to appease the so-called Republic movement and, consequently, would trigger a violent Loyalist reaction. Replacing one form of violence with another form of violence would not be acceptable in any sense.

In this House on Wednesday last I welcomed the Downing Street Joint Declaration of the Taoiseach and his British counterpart. I readily acknowledged that, happily, my fears in this regard had not been realised. I described the outcome, as presented in the Declaration, as fair and balanced. I am happy to say that, in the meantime, nothing has caused me to alter that opinion. At the core of that unique and necessary balance is the recognition, on the one hand, that there can be no change in the current status of Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom, so long as that is the democratic wish of a greater number of people of Northern Ireland, to quote from the Joint Declaration. However, on the other hand, the British Government make it crystal clear, in language that is binding in its clarity and straightforwardness, that if and when a majority of people in Northern Ireland wish to leave the union and agree to some form of unity with the rest of this island, they will be fully facilitated. Not only that, but we have unique commitments from the British Government regarding their official disinterest in maintaining the Union. The bottom line reality which should be taken on board by Unionists just as much as Nationalists on this island, is that Britain emerges from this joint Declaration as maintaining the Union solely as a matter of honour and duty because that is the clear wish of the majority of people of Northern Ireland.

On the other hand, the British publicly acknowledge that they have — and here I quote from paragraph 4 of the Joint Declaration: selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland.

They go on to say that they will encourage, facilitate and enable the achievement of an agreement between all the people on the island of Ireland and that they will work together with the Irish Government to achieve such an agreement.

The British Government explicitly accept that the form of such an agreement may be a united Ireland so long as that is achieved by peaceful means. They commit themselves to bringing forward the necessary legislation as a binding obligation to any agreement between all the people living in Ireland. In a final, devastating and resounding confirmation of their effective disinterest in the political shape of the future of Northern Ireland the British Government state that it is their belief that what the people of Britain want is, and I quote again from paragraph 4 of the joint Declaration: enable the people of Ireland to reach agreement on how they may live together in harmony and in partnership,

What more could any Irish Nationalist of any hue ask from a British Government? In effect, the British are not putting it up to everyone on this island, and that includes Members of the Oireachtas, who want to see a United Ireland, to get on with the task of persuading the Unionists in Northern Ireland that their best interests lies in some coming together with the rest of this island.

We have heard a lot in recent weeks about the Irish Government being asked to get Britain to join the ranks of the persuaders. I believe that the British have now neatly, effectively and accurately turned the tables on everyone who wants to espouse the policy of Irish unity, by putting it up to them to become effective persuaders of the Unionists about the validity of their case. Of course, that is where we should all come back to reality.

The bottom line, to which I shall return later, is that at present the greater number of people in Northern Ireland do not want to unite with the rest of us in the Republic. We must be sufficiently mature to acknowledge that we have a lot to put right in our own house before we can credibly expect a greater number of people in Northern Ireland to want to come together with the rest of us in some form of single, political entity.

I want to address the issue of the likely response of the so-called Republican movement. I am glad the Joint Declaration has not been rejected by Sinn Féin and the IRA. If they require time to consider it, and confront the stark reality and choice that lies at the heart of that document, so much the better because the bottom line for the IRA and Sinn Féin is that, if they are any way frank in their assessment of the Joint Declaration, then they must see that the game is up for them in terms of seeking to maintain an armed struggle to drive the "Brits" out of Ireland, to borrow their language. At all times it has suited the IRA and Sinn Féin to seek to present their campaign in Northern Ireland as an old style, anti-colonial war of independence.

The scenario is endearing, especially the farther away one goes from the war-weary communities of Northern Ireland. It can be especially appealing to third or fourth generations of Irish people in the United States, Australia and, for some, even as near as Britain. That picture is of a war lording, imperial power, one John Bull, still with his foot on the throat of dear old Ireland, maintaining an unwanted colonial hold over its fourth green field in defiance of the will of the native population. For decades that picture was a total perversion of the reality of the British presence in Northern Ireland. But, today, especially in the aftermath of this Joint Declaration, in particular within the context of clause 4 of that Declaration, such a representation of the British role in Northern Ireland is simply untrue. In fact there is little doubt that, in the eyes of the wider global community, the British have done themselves quite a service with the clarity of their role as set out in that vital paragraph. From now on it is impossible for the IRA and Sinn Féin to continue touting their version of the British presence as an unwanted imperial presence.

The IRA and Sinn Féin might also ponder the findings of the most recent poll of opinion within Northern Ireland undertaken byThe Irish Times on 3 December 1993. That underlined especially the complexity and elusiveness of agreement within Northern Ireland on the form of government arrangement the people there want. It was stark in its findings in relation to the option of Irish unity. For example, that poll found that only 14.7 per cent of the people of Northern Ireland now favour Irish unity and, of the Nationalist or Catholic community there, only 32 per cent, or one in three, said that Irish unity was their favoured option. These findings of the real feelings of the people of Northern Ireland, on the option of Irish unity, and the effective British declaration of their willingness and intent to withdraw from Ireland entirely as soon as that is the wish of the greater number of people in Northern Ireland, exposed the entire barrenness and futility of the Sinn Féin and IRA policy and campaign. They never had a mandate for their anti-democratic murderous action. The lack of any legitimacy for their actions was never more starkly evident than it is now.

Bearing this in mind I believe we have to be very careful in the manner in which we respond to Sinn Féin and the IRA. Yes, they can have clarifications of the content of the Joint Declaration but, frankly, it is hard to imagine what clarification might be needed; it could not be clearer. It is vital that neither the British nor Irish Government goes any further in seeking to appease the IRA and Sinn Féin. The ball is now in their court. No amount of fanciful language or fudge can get away from that.

At the core of the necessary reaction, when it eventually comes from Sinn Féin and the IRA, has to be answers to the following questions. Do they accept that Irish unity cannot come about without the freely given consent of the greater number of people in Northern Ireland? Do they accept that such consent on the part of the greater number, in other words, a majority of the people in Northern Ireland, does not exist at present? Do they accept, given the freely stated and explicit British Government statement that they are not opposed to Irish unity provided it is the wish of the people on this island, that their murderous campaign of coercion is anti-democratic, illegitimate and wrong? These are the blunt questions for the IRA and Sinn Féin to square up to and answer frankly. They are masters of linguistics and evasions of truth and it is time they were confronted with these basic questions.

In that context, therefore, I want to sound a warning. Neither sovereign Government must defy the logic of the central message in the peace declaration that there can be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the people there and they must make this plain to Sinn Féin and the IRA. The leaders of those organisations are no boy scouts, they are ruthless, skilful, manipulative people who have either done dreadful deeds or freely excused them. There can be no compromise with them on the fundamental issue of the need for consent to any change in the status of Northern Ireland.

In the light of this fundamental fact the unassailable logic of the position of both Governments now is that if Sinn Féin and the IRA end up rejecting this Declaration, then both Governments will have to redouble their security efforts and co-operation to tackle this undemocratic cancer in our society head on. This time around I believe they could be more successful because from now on the IRA will find it much harder to sustain their campaign because no fair-minded citizen in this State, Northern Ireland, Britain or anywhere else will afford them the necessary comfort and support they need to sustain their campaign.

In this context, too, we have to be clear in our response to the viewpoint expressed by the Sinn Féin spokesperson quoted on the morning news bulletin today. There were expressions of concern for the fact that Irish people were being deprived of their right to have Sinn Féin's viewpoint heard under section 31: there was a reference to the right of free expression. I would remind this Sinn Féin spokesperson, Councillor O Caoláin, and any other apologist, that people for whom Sinn Féin remain constant and unashamed apologists have deprived thousands of Irish and British people of a far more fundamental right than the right of free speech, that is, they have deprived them of the right to life. What kind of Christmas has Sinn Féin given to the victims of the Shankill bomb? If Councillor O Caoláin, or any other Sinn Féin spokesman, is concerned about the moral sanction which successive Governments here have placed on the men of violence and their apologists by section 31, then they have a very simple remedy. Let them renounce violence and murder as a means of political persuasion and then they have the fullest freedom of the airwaves.

As I stated, it is the IRA and Sinn Féin who are now called on to deliver. They cannot evade the clear choice facing them either to give up and renounce for all time their campaign of violence and come into the democratic political process or persist with their killings and confirm their status as a fascist terrorist organisation. If they are sincere in seeking the unity of the people of Ireland, as distinct from its territory, then they really have no option but to end their campaign and join the ranks of the persuaders, as the Tánaiste said last night, of the greater number of people in Northern Ireland that their welfare and their future would better be served by some form of unity with the rest of us on the island.

A section of the Joint Declaration that has received little attention to date but which I and my party believe is of immense significance is that where the Government commits itself to examine any elements in the democratic life and organisation of the Irish State that can be represented to the Irish Government as a real and substantial threat to their way of life and ethos. If it appears to the Government there is nothing wrong with our present Constitution I would regret that very much. It should not require others to tell us how we are not pluralistic in this State. It has been obvious to me, and to my party for a considerable period, that the Irish Constitution is not pluralistic, that the ethos of that Constitution is alien to many people who live in this part of Ireland. The Progressive Democrats Party is an embodiment of an existing desire on the part of a growing number of people living in this State who see the need for a far ranging, institutional, legal, social and economic change in our society. We want to do this, not to appeal to outside people, including those living in Northern Ireland, but to enhance the quality and plurality of life on our own island and for our people in the Republic.

There are many outdated legal trappings to life in Ireland today that have little relevance to the end of this millennium and which, in many respects, do great offence to the welfare of many of our people. One of the most fundamental of these is the constitutional bar on the dissolution of irretrievably broken down marriages. The passages in the Constitution that refer to women are certainly outdated for women in the Republic never mind what women in Northern Ireland may think of them.

There are many other aspects of Irish life which need to be examined as to their openness and receptiveness to all shades of life in this State, never mind those living outside our jurisdiction. That is why my party published, some years ago, a new draft constitution for this Republic. That is why my party has sought, through the submission of parliamentary questions — which are constantly being refused — to ask the Taoiseach to establish a constitutional committee of this House of the Oireachtas to put forward suggestions for the amending of that Constitution. In our draft constitution we suggested that the two languages, Irish and English, should have co-equal status rather than Irish enjoying a fairly meaningless status at present as the first official language.

Earlier, I talked about the need for anyone seriously interested in Irish unity to join the ranks of the persuaders of the Unionists of the validity and the greater attractiveness of such coming together. Such persuasion has to be grounded on reality to have any chance of success. If we accept reality then we must realise that a society with 300,000 people unemployed and a continued reliance on borrowings to meet day to day expenditure requirements is in no position yet to issue a meaningful invitation to the people of Northern Ireland, whether Unionist or Nationalist, to join with us. That reality has its financial dimension too in terms of the £3 billion to £4 billion by which the British Government subsidise Northern Ireland. The question arises as to how we would bridge that gap.

While stating that downside I also recognise that significant economic benefits would flow from a peaceful coming together of the people of the two parts of this island. Much of that benefit can be realised without the two States having to formally unite. We can do much, we could have joint trade missions and we could have much co-operation on the economic front. Less than 5 per cent of business in Northern Ireland is with the Republic. We need to get to know each other on that front too and violence has prevented that. It has done enormous damage not only to investment in Ireland but also to tourism. Certainly, peace on this island would go a long way towards helping to improve economic conditions here. This country has spent almost £3 billion since 1969 on various security measures, 1,500 people have been tried before the Special Criminal Court during that time on matters relating to Northern Ireland.

This economy has paid a very heavy price for the violence of the IRA and the men of violence and we have had enough. Every ordinary person wants to see an end to it. As I said in this House the other day, the real border in Ireland is not a territorial border but rather a border between the peoples who live on this island, between Nationalists and Unionists. It is a border based on fear, misunderstanding and ignorance. It is a border that has to be broken down and can only be broken down by a spirit of generosity on our part every bit as much as on the part of the British.

My party has said for some considerable time that any political solution to Northern Ireland should be underpinned by having a constitution for Northern Ireland that would respect the legitimacy of nationalism and unionism. That constitution would contain a bill of rights and would be enforced and interpreted by a court of appeal, perhaps, a three person court — one nominated by the Republic, one nominated by Britain and one nominated from Northern Ireland by agreement. That constitution could provide for a devolved assembly and a power-sharing executive.

There are many opportunities. This Declaration has put the key in the door. It is a matter now for Sinn Féin and the IRA to open the door and there are enormous possibilities inside. I beg them to do that. If they do not, those of us who belong to democratic constitutional politics must not sit on the side, we must continue and not allow the momentum to die. We cannot allow the people of violence to continue to veto progress on this island.

I wish to pay tribute to the constitutional leaders in Northern Ireland, to John Hume and Dr. John Alderdice and his party who, for many years have adopted a most reasonable approach to the difficulties in Northern Ireland. It has not been easy for them to do so. It is much easier in Northern Ireland to belong to one of the tribes and it is much more difficult to move beyond that, as the Alliance Party have sought to do. I want to pay tribute to Mr. James Molyneaux and the Reverend Martin Smyth as it cannot be easy for them, as they look over their shoulders at Dr. Ian Paisley and the DUP who reject the Declaration out of hand, before they have even seen it. That is what they have to contend with and we must appreciate the enormous restraint that has been shown by the Official Unionist Party and must not in any sense seek to undermine that.

That is why I believe the Taoiseach's comments this morning that he was involved in dialogue with John Hume going back to April 1992 when at the same time his Government was involved in talks with the Unionist Party may make them wonder if they can really trust us; that we mean what we say and that we sit down around the table and truly negotiate or will there be some other sideshow where the real action takes place? We in the Republic have to go to extraordinary lengths to reassure the Unionist people because what they say is what they believe even if we do not like that.

I will conclude shortly as I wish to hand over to my colleague Deputy Michael McDowell. If this opportunity is not seized by the men of violence, I do not believe that democratic Governments can go any further. What we must do is to restart the talks process between the constitutional parties. I invite the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste from now on to seek to consult with the leaders of the Opposition and not to have us relying as we have had to do, on politicians in Northern Ireland telling us what has been happening. The Government has a duty to show in the first instance that it means business by at least talking on a private and confidential basis to the political leaders in this House. There are many who may not wish to see this process succeed, the leaked documents have been evidence of that, I do not know why those leaks took place but obviously they were not done by people who want to see progress. We have to work together and we can only work together if there is a spirit of generosity and openness and not in the spirit, of which I have evidence in recent times, of being told how I must behave and told if we ask a question we are being anti-Nationalist in some sense.

Perhaps the most revealing phrase that emerged during this morning's proceedings was that which the Taoiseach expressed in an exchange with Deputy John Bruton who was protesting about the absence of consultation in relation to the proposed forum for peace and reconciliation. The Taoiseach said — and I hope the note of the House's proceedings records it, because it was said rathersotte voce.“There will be plenty of time for consultation because the IRA have to first give up violence by way of permanent cessation”—or words to that effect. It is a gloomy prospect that the Taoiseach is conceding in this House that there will be plenty of time during which the IRA will not commit themselves to a permanent cessation of violence. That suggests the Taoiseach is so committed to adopting a conciliatory tone with the IRA leadership, political and paramilitary, that he is willing to envisage a long period of time before they come to their senses and realise there is no future in violence and, as Deputy Harney put it, every single murder they commit is counterproductive and utterly evil.

I do not believe the IRA and Sinn Féin are separate institutions. I do not believe the stuff we read in the newspapers that it is up to Sinn Féin to persuade the IRA of their position. The people who are figureheads of the Provisional movement — and its one single, united movement — are people who in the past held commanding office in the IRA. There is no point in codding ourselves about this: we are talking about one single, united movement, the Provisional movement. Of course, there may be differences of emphasis between certain constituent members of that organisation but it is one movement and it will decide its future in terms of its own perceptions of Irish politics and it will make a decision for peace and democracy as one movement. It will not be a matter of one part trying to persuade the other. I refuse to be dragged into a collective delusion that we are in a situation in which Sinn Féin — which you can see — is engaged in the process of persuading the IRA army council, which you cannot see. I refuse to accept that analysis as I think it is fundamentally false. The people we see are central figures in the military campaign and its progression.

I believe the Provisional movement must now realise that 95 per cent of the people of this island are calling on them once and for all to give up their campaign. The Provisional movement gets less than 2 per cent support in the South and 10 per cent support in Northern Ireland. On any analysis that gives them overall at the very most North and South, about 5 per cent support. That is not, as has been stated here today a mandate for anything. It is not a mandate to kill. It is not a justification to kill. The voice of 95 per cent of the people must be given some weight and it must be heard. The time for appeasement is over. The logic of their situation must be brought home to the Provisionals, that is that they do not have any quarrel with the British Government or with the Government of this Republic. Their quarrel is with the people of Northern Ireland who uphold the Union. Killing them is completely inconsistent with the notion of unity by consent. Killing people is completely devoid of political logic at this point.

If the Provisional IRA cannot see that they must give up violence and there is no longer any logic even in their own perverse view of the world, in continuing the campaign of violence, and cannot be persuaded within a matter of weeks at the very most to formally renounce violence but think they can wheedle some new interpretation or put a new gloss on the unequivocal statement of the viewpoint of 95 per cent of the people, the prospect of ever persuading them to give up violence is very limited. There is nothing more to be said to them in terms of the total picture. There is nothing that they do not understand. The people in the Provisional movement are perfectly capable of interpreting the historical facts with which they are confronted and they do not need a lesson in history or expect the declaration to be read over to them in a different way. They do not need soothing words but they need to confront the logic of their own position. There is no need for a lengthy period of time to elapse before that logical becomes clearly crystalised in their minds and that is that the killings must stop.

Sometimes in history it is necessary to co-operate with people who have, in objective terms, resorted to violence, killing and murder as part of the political process. That has happened all around the world and it is a situation that causes difficulty, as Deputy Bruton said, for those who engage in constitutional politics but it is something which in the last analysis the logic of history may require us to do. But the acts which were done by the Provisional IRA and the killings that occurred must be condemned and must never be forgotten.

Whatever about extending a co-operative hand of friendship to the people involved in that movement to escape from the terrible position they are in, the wrongs they have done must never be forgotten. In relation to the provisional movement, in particular, there is no future in this society or in any western European society for a political movement which uses the ballot box and the bullet to achieve its results. No other society in western Europe would accept that. The last major societies in western Europe to accept it were those that succumbed to the Fascist revolution of the thirties. The provisional movement has no more moral entitlement to use the ballot and Armalite strategy than had the Nazi Party in Weimar, Germany.

Any society that tolerates a fundamental ambivalence on the part of people who claim as of right to participate in the domocratic process and to kill on the other flank of their political movement, devalues its own democracy. The time has come to confront the provisional movement with a united statement by 95 per cent of the people on this island that there is no longer any toleration whatsoever of such ambivalence and that such ambivalence must now stop. I address the members of the Fianna Fáil Party particularly, who recently, according to press reports, were considering relaxing their position in relation to the section 31 ban. I also address the Minister, Deputy Higgins, who has responsibility in this area. Now is not the time to reconsider whether the airwaves should be available to people who cannot decide whether or not they are ambivalent on violence.

Hear, hear.

If they want to get behind the microphone in Montrose, as Deputy Harney said, all they have to do is say that they will renounce violence permanently. I appeal to the Government parties not to succumb to a critical error of judgment due to a feeling of euphoria in the wake of the Downing Street Declaration, and throw away the statement of public disapproval of ambivalence on violence, before the people to whom it is directed have thought out their own position. We do not need such people behind the microphone. They have no entitlement to be behind the microphone as long as they cannot sort out the fundamental issue of whether they stand for violence and murder as part of their fundamental package, and apologise for those who do it, or whether they renounce violence in its entirety. Now is the time for firmness on the part of the Government on this issue. Now is the time not to show weakness, because if this process is ever to unravel, those who have been centre stage for so long will have gained status and those who have been standing back and making the concessions to them from the moral position of constitutional politics will lose out. Now is not the time to become confused about the fundamental principles involved in confronting violence.

Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution have been mentioned here. It is noteworthy that the Taoiseach in the Declaration and here has never used an analysis of Articles 2 and 3. We have been fudging this issue and saying what could or would happen. We have been talking in terms of a hint at constitutional change in the Downing Street Declaration. I note that every time John Hume is asked about this issue on Northern Ireland television he avoids a direct response. The same thing is seen in this House on occasion.

Members of this House should read Articles 2 and 3 and think about what they mean. They are a claim of right for this House and the Government elected by this House to exercise jurisdiction over the whole island in conformity with the 1937 Constitution. It is a claim, by necessary implication, that the 1937 Constitution extends to the entire island and that the Government and the Parliament established under it have jurisdiction to legislate for the whole island. What Deputy Harney says must be taken on board, that that was an enormous claim to make in 1937 for the people of the Irish Free State, that their values outlined in a confessional Constitution which was exclusive and not designed to be a Constitution for the Unionist minority in Northern Ireland should be imposed on the whole island. People like Deputy Frank McDermott in this House pointed that out to the leaders of the Government.

Hear, hear.

He pointed out that that Constitution is not a constitution for a united Ireland. The idea that the Unionist community are to be asked to accept that that claim can survive is wrong. They must be assured that that claim will disappear as part of the process. They must be assured in terms which are clear and unambiguous. The British Government has been quite unambiguous in the language used to set out the extent to which it is willing to facilitate the Irish people to solve their problems if they can. Why is it that the Dublin Government cannot be unambiguous and clear about an analysis of Articles 2 and 3 and how they are inconsistent with this process?

Deputy Harney mentioned the point which deserves more emphasis, that according to the Taoiseach for 14 months he has been working on the text of a statement which would end the violence. It seems to suggest, therefore, that at the time when the Unionist leaders came to Dublin in October 1992 and asked him to give them a commitment that the Irish Government would support an amendment to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution as part of the process, all he could say was, "It could". When history is written on that series of talks I have no doubt that it will be seen that the stonewalling and obstructionist tactics which were adopted with the Unionist leadership on that central issue then was the major reason those talks broke down. It is all the more remarkable now to find that a principle such as the one now embodied in the Downing Street Declaration, if the 14-month genesis is to be believed, was being worked on at that time. It is a terrible tragedy that constitutional politicians were not given by the Dublin Government in clear terms, the concession which they now feel compelled to give many lives later, after Greysteel, the Warrington bomb and the Shankill bomb. I am asking for some degree of clarity and some abandonment of ambiguity by the Dublin Government.

I fully appreciate that it is only in the context of a settlement of the whole problem that a referendum is likely to be put to the Irish people asking them to alter Articles 2 and 3, but some members of the Fianna Fáil and Labour Parties should acknowledge that there is no point in being ambiguous on this any more and that those Articles cannot survive a settlement of the Irish problem and will go in the process. The average Unionist is entitled to hear that and the average Nationalist of whatever persuasion is not entitled, in the last analysis, to deny them that commitment. I am not asking that this be done now as a precondition for progress but I am saying that it can be indicated that it will be part of the settlement in which the Irish Government is interested.

I propose to share my time with Deputy Sargent.

I must express my regrets to Deputy De Rossa that I have to leave the House. I mean no disrespect to him.

Now that the initial excitement has died down it is time to put the orgy of self-congratulation and backslapping behind us and set about a serious examination of the terms of the Downing Street Declaration and consider the moves that must now be made if we are to build on the potential for peace and political progress offered by the document.

It is important not to try to separate the ideas of peace and political progress. I am concerned with some of the remarks in the Taoiseach's speech this morning where he seems to make progress on the political front contingent on a cessation of violence. Regardless of whether the Provos or the Loyalist paramilitaries end their campaign, we must make political progress. The political parties, North and South, must move forward on the basis of the Declaration that has been achieved by both Governments. There is no doubt that the Downing Street Declaration is a very significant development and the Taoiseach, the British Prime Minister and all the officials on both sides are entitled to full credit for their remarkable achievement, but nobody would claim that the Declaration is in itself a formula for a political settlement to the Northern Ireland problem. It offers a set of foundation stones upon which I hope a lasting political edifice can be built, creating a new Northern Ireland capable of winning the widest possible cross-community support and which will permanently free the people of Britain and Ireland from the scourge of terrorism which has taken so many lives, blighted so many families and destroyed so much over more than two decades.

My first reaction to the Declaration was one of cautious optimism and 48 hours on I believe that is still the correct approach. The reaction has generally been positive and even where the enthusiasm has been less, criticism has been — with the predictable exception of Dr. Paisley — restrained and thoughtful. The reaction of the two Parliaments has been positive. I hope the Taoiseach will acknowledge that the Democratic Left and the other Opposition parties in the Dáil have been responsible and have not sought in any way to exploit the agreement for party advantage. However, while the Taoiseach thanked almost everybody this morning, he ignored the role played by the political parties on this side of the House.

In Britain and the Republic, the reaction among the media, trade unions, business and the people in general has been welcoming. It is, of course, in Northern Ireland, where the reaction is most important and which we are all closely watching. Again, there are some grounds for hope, although some of the vox pop pieces on radio and television indicate a degree of rejection by some people. I welcome the British Government's decision to take up a suggestion I made in this House that the document should be made available in libraries and disseminated as widely as possible. I hope the Irish Government take a similar step. However, that is not sufficient. We must find ways to ensure that people in Northern Ireland and the Republic have a means whereby they can participate in discussion and consideration of the document and that they are not dependent on demagogues to tell them what is contained in it. Radio, television and newspaper columns must be used in that regard. We should encourage trade unions, community organisations and so on to consider and discuss the contents of the declaration because future peace on this island hangs on a thread.

It is clear that senior members of the Ulster Unionist Party were made aware in advance of the contents of the Declaration; the Taoiseach confirmed that this morning. They had a carefully worked out common position in regard to it. The raction of its spokesmen was cautious and restrained. They criticised elements of the document but, most important, did not reject or dismiss it. We should not underestimate the political difficulties that the Ulster Unionist Party may face as it has already come under attack from the DUP and that is likely to intensify.

In this regard we should be aware that any sense of triumphalism or displays of exaggerated euphoria in the South may only add to the difficulties Unionists may face in promoting the declaration among some of their more reluctant supporters.

Against that background, I welcome the decision to establish a Select Committee on Northern Ireland in the British House of Commons and regard the continuing opposition to it by the Government and the SDLP as illogical and misplaced. When the idea was first mooted during the summer it met with a barrage of opposition from our Government, but no logical basis was ever put forward for that criticism.

In the continued absence of devolved Government in Northern Ireland a Commons select committee, with members from all parties at Westminster, will provide a valuable democratic form of accountability. The present process by which Northern Ireland matters are dealt with at Westminster by Orders of Council, with minimal debate, is undemocratic and damaging to the political process. A committee which would review Northern Ireland affairs and give matters pertaining to the people of Northern Ireland the importance and urgency they deserve would be an important step forward. By what perverted logic can the Irish Government justify opposing the establishment of some democratic structures for Northern Ireland, when at present there are virtually none? By what perverted logic can we apparently object to the Parliament which exercises jurisdiction over Northern Ireland having a committee to consider Northern Ireland matters, when our Parliament has a foreign affairs committee mandated to discuss Northern Ireland, and which has proved so useful?

The establishment of the select committee was something which the Unionists have been seeking for many years. In the Downing Street Declaration they are being asked to accept many things that they would normally consider to be unpalatable. Let the Government demonstrate that its promises of generosity to the Unionists are something more than empty rhetoric by cutting the begrudgery on this issue and welcoming the establishment of the select committee.

The reaction to the Declaration which is awaited with greatest anxiety is of course, that of the paramilitaries on both sides. Again, the are some grounds for guarded optimism. There has been no outright rejection yet and there has not been the instant violent reaction that some people feared.

It is expected that the loyalist paramilitary groups will announce their response within the next 24 hours and it is my fervent wish that they will react positively to the Downing Street Declaration by declaring an immediate ceasefire.

Such a decision would add enormously to the pressure on IRA leadership to end its campaign of violence. In this regard the decision of the loyalist paramilitary groups will have a key impact on whether or not peace can be secured.

There is sometimes a rather simplistic view taken down here of the paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland which tends to see the nationalist gangs as people pursuing political objectives through violent means, but to just dismiss loyalist killers as sectarian psychopaths, without any political philosophy or objectives.

However, the joint statement issued on 10 December by the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commandos shows that this is indeed a simplistic view. The statement, which received little attention down here, shows that notwithstanding their horrific and unforgivable crimes against Catholics, there are people involved in these groups, as there are in the IRA, who are engaging in serious political thinking.

The statement called for no diminution of the position of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom, and added that there must be no dilution of the democratic procedures through which the right of the people of Northern Ireland to self determination is guaranteed. But it went much further than that. It said that the groups recongnised the right of any one or group to seek constitutional change by democratic, legitimate and peaceful means. It said that the groups recognised and respected the rights and aspirations of all who abided by the law, regardless of religious, cultural, national or political inclinations. It expressed support for a written constitution and a bill of rights with stringent safeguards for individuals, associations and minorities. It called for structures which would allow elected representatives, North and South, to work together to explore and exploit co-operation without interfering with either's internal jurisdictions.

I urge the loyalist groups to carefully study the provisions of the Downing Street Declaration and make an independent assessment of them, based solely on their merits. If they do so, I believe they will find that many of the points they made and assurances they sought in the joint statement have been covered in the Declaration.

Loyalist paramilitaries have always maintained that their violence was primarily a reaction to the activities of the IRA. They are now presented with an ideal opportunity to demonstrate their bona fides in this regard. The Unionists community in Northern Ireland have endured appalling suffering at the hands of the IRA. They have a particular interest in the securing of peace. The loyalist paramilitaries can now play their part in delivering that peace by declaring an immediate cease fire. This would free the hands of the democratic politicians of all persuasions to construct a new future for Northern Ireland in line with the guarantees contained in the Declaration regarding the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.

The best thing that can be said about reaction of Sinn Féin and the IRA is that they have not rejected the Declaration. They have indicated that it may be some time before a detailed response is available. This may reflect a genuine desire to consider the Declaration in detail and to consult in the most comprehensive manner possible with their members. On the other hand, it may be an attempt to play for time and regain the initiative.

The Provosional IRA leadership, and Gerry Adams in particular, has talked at length about peace. It is now time for him to show whether this is a genuine desire to see peace or simply posturing in an attempt to improve the image of his organisation.

The Downing Street Declaration reflects the collective will of the majority of the people of Britain and Ireland as expressed through their Governments. I expect that the Declaration will be today endorsed by the parliaments of Ireland and the United Kingdom. It clearly has the support of the overwhelming majority of the people of the two states.

Mr. Adams says that Unionists have no right to exercise a veto over Irish unity. It is now time that we tell Mr. Adams that he has no right to exercise a veto over the movement for peace. He must be reminded that he and his organisation have no mandate from the Irish people either to reject this declaration or to continue with the campaign of violence. His support is simply a minority within a minority in Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland his party gets no more than 10 per cent of the vote: they do not have a single representative in the Dáil or in Westminster and have never received more than a negligible vote in the Republic.

The two Governments have, in the declaration, gone as far as is possible to go towards responding to the demands of the Provisionals. They must now either accept this invitation to come on board the democratic political process or face the wrath of the people. They have a choice — put away the gun, abandon the bomb and argue their case before the electorate in a democratic way, or face the wrath of the people, the loss of whatever minimal support they have and the prospect of intensified security measures against them.

They must be told to accept the Declaration or reject it. There must be no question of renegotiating the content of the document with Sinn Fein or anyone else. They have said publicly that they are going to seek clarification from the Government as to the meaning of the contents of the Declaration. I would urge the Government to be very cautious in regard to this. The Declaration largely speaks for itself. I suspect that when the Provisionals talk about clarification, they may in fact be seeking a statement from the Government which would give the declaration a particular Nationalist slant, which they could then use to sell it to their own hardliners, but the impact of any such statement may well be to jeopardise the prospect of the Declaration achieving broad support among the Unionist community.

We should avoid at the same time setting preconditions about arms or amnesties. The bottom line must be an acceptance by the IRA and Sinn Féin of the Declaration and an unequivocal rejection of violence. There can be no negotiation on this, but if and when that is agreed, other matters can then become a matter for discussion and consultation.

It is clear that the question of surrender of weapons will constitute a major problem should a ceasefire be forthcoming. At no stage in Irish history has the IRA ever voluntarily surrendered its arms, yet without the handover of weapons and explosives the prospects of real peace would be remote indeed. There is particular fear in Northern Ireland that in the event of an IRA ceasefire without the surrender of arms, much of these might find their way into the hands of criminal gangs in Belfast and other areas.

The prospect of surrendering their arms to the British army or the RUC may constitute an insurmountable barrier for the Provos. In that context it may well be worth offering the IRA the facility to voluntarily surrender arms in the Republic. We have many gardaí and members of the Defence Forces who have considerable experience through UN service abroad of dealing with and disarming paramilitary groups and that experience could be vital in this regard. Separate arrangements obviously would have to be made for Loyalist paramilitaries, and we should look at the possibility of calling in international experts on conflict resolution, as is provided for under CSCE.

In my address to the Democratic Left conference in October I set out a number of proposals which I said would assist paramilitaries to come in from the cold. I made these proposals not on the basis that they would necessarily agree to a ceasefire; I felt that even in the absence of a ceasefire there would be opportunities to test the sincerity of those who claimed that they wanted to end their campaign. The proposals also sought to de-escalate armed activity by both legal and illegal forces. I urge the two Governments to look again at a number of those proposals, in particular my suggestion of a series of 24 hour "free periods", initiated without advance publicity, in which individuals could surrender weapons without penalties.

The ending of virtually every politically motivated armed conflict throughout the world has involved amnesties or the early release of prisoners. We have to face up to the fact that some similar arrangements will have to be part of any overall political settlement in Northern Ireland. I would like to see an immediate amnesty for any activists who unequivocally abandon violence. I would like to see a generous operation of the parole system in prisons, North and South, over Christmas. Steps would have to be taken also to assist with the reintegration of prisoners and paramilitary activists into the community.

There is a particular obligation on the security forces in the present delicate situation to operate with great caution and sensitivity and to do nothing which would jeopardise the long-term prospects for progress. All it would take would be one unfortunate incident to set the whole project back.

We should also acknowledge that, rightly or wrongly, communities in parts of Northern Ireland see paramilitary groups as offering some degree of protection from attack by what is regarded as "the other side". However misguided this may be, it has to be recognised that it is there and in the event of a ceasefire and surrender of weapons people may feel vulnerable and exposed. I suggest that in such circumstances the two Governments might consider inviting the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe to provide civilian observers and monitors in flashpoint areas to reassure local communities. I draw attention to the declaration made by the CSCE in 1992, sections 17 and 18 in particular, which provides for the provision of monitors in areas where there is likely to be conflict. Both Ireland and Britain are signatories to this agreement. It would be worthwhile examining the possibility of using its services to de-escalate activity and demilitarise Northern Ireland.

There is also an urgent necessity now for the two Governments to start looking at the economic measures which will be necessary to rebuild Northern Ireland and assist it in recovering from the awful impact of the destruction of the past 25 years. Just as unemployment has contributed to the maintenance of violence over the past two decades so a major programme of job creation can help bring it to an end.

A number of points arise from the speech made this morning by the Taoiseach and from comments made in the press. So far as I am concerned the most welcome feature of the declaration is that it avoids the use of the term national self-determination. The term self-determination is used instead. This is important and it should be acknowledged by all sides that this is an important break-through. I felt from the very beginning that it would have been impossible to grant national self-determination and at the same time provide for the consent of the greater number of people in Northern Ireland because national self-determination implies that the people on this island have the right to decide the future in a way that would preclude or relegate those who disagree with this position to a minority position and therefore they would fail to have their voice heard.

I draw attention to the fact that over the next week or so there will be much confused talk about national self-determination and self-determination. It would be useful if people drew attention to the Opsahl report. In the introduction Torkel Opsahl pointed out that in his experience the concept of national self-determination, which is the design behind so much death and destruction in the former Yugoslavia, is not a helpful one, particularly in a divided society like Northern Ireland.

In discussing the idea of a forum which the Taoiseach dealt with at some length in his speech this morning and to which I referred in my speech the other day, we should look at concepts such as national self-determination in a new way and accept that the idea that nations have to be incorporated within the borders of a particular territory is no longer valid.

There is no single state in Europe or elsewhere where there are not minorities of one kind or another — ethnic minorities, national minorities, language minorities etc. If we go down the road of trying to equate national borders with ethnic nationality then we are feeding the kind of madness that has consumed the former Yugoslavia and is in the process of consuming the former Soviet Union. That is a point which should be emphasised at all times. Self-determination and national self-determination are two distinct things and should be defined in a way which guarantees the rights of minorities. After all, a democracy, and a republic in particular, is based on the principle not that the majority takes all but that it defends and protects the rights of minorities within its borders and must have respect for all.

I have argued for a long time that we should not confirm section 31 of the Broadcasting Act without debate as we have done over the last 17 years. Each year I have put down a motion seeking to have a debate on this issue. I do not accept the Provisional's argument that their voice cannot be heard because they cannot be interviewed on television or radio. Their statements are heard, they are readad nauseam on the national interviews with them.

Having said that, I believe that section 31 does distort the way in which radio and television does its business. At this point — and this is where I disagree with my colleagues on the Opposition benches — I think it would be far more beneficial to have Gerry Adams on radio and television than being put through his hoops by way of interview about why he believes it is not possible to give us peace now, today, rather than waiting for men in hoods to decide that they are going to give it to us in a month's time or in six months time or never. It is important to hear him on that.

It must be borne in mind that Gerry Adams is not the leader of homogeneous group known as the Republican movement who will jump through hoops because he cracks the whip. Ruairí Ó Brádaigh who leads the Republican Sinn Féin organisation was in Belfast the night before last at a public meeting in the heart of "Provoland" declaring Adams to be a traitor and to have betrayed the cause of freedom and unity. I have no doubt that there are elements in the Provisional IRA who, if Adams gets his way and has a cessation of violence, as he implies he wants to, will move to other organisations and continue their campaign. On the basis of my own experience, I suggest that a split in the Republican movement is almost inevitable if any section of them decides that they want a cessation of violence.

I want to make a point about the idea of a new Northern Ireland. We have come a long way since 1990 when I put down a motion in this House for the amendment of Articles 2 and 3. On that occasion most of the speeches made against the idea of changing Articles 2 and 3 were very much stuck in the mould of the thirties and forties which saw any idea of altering those articles as a betrayal of the aspiration to unity, a betrayal of the Nationalist people of Northern Ireland. I am happy that the Declaration incorporates an approach to Articles 2 and 3 and to the idea of the future of Northern Ireland and the future of the Republic which I attempted to put forward on that occasion in 1990, when I argued that we must accept the existence of Northern Ireland as a fact, that we must accept that it is a legitimate entity. People will argue whether it is failed or otherwise, but it is a legitimate entity that exists and will exist as long as the people of Northern Ireland want it to exist within the United Kingdom. I am happy that this declaration acknowledges and accepts that. The overwhelming support there has been for the Declaration indicates a major change in people's view of how we relate to Northern Ireland and how we relate to politics.

Some time ago I read a book written by a Professor Crick from a university in Britain who is the person who does much of the thinking and writing within the British Labour Party. Unfortunately not many of his ideas seem to have affected their spokesman on Northern Ireland, Mr. McNamara. He argued that dead philosophies survive as habit. It seems to me that this habit of genuflecting in the direction of a United Ireland is just that, a habit. In one phrase today where he acknowledged that the idea of pursuing a United Ireland today or tomorrow was not on, the Taoiseach has gone some way down the road, but at the same time he argues that the vast majority of the people in this State want a united Ireland. I disagree with him. I think what the people of this country want, in the Republic and Northern Ireland, is peace and the freedom to go about their daily business, to live and to work, if they can find work and to act politically in pursuit of the interests of the future for their children. If the forum does get up and running — and I leave open the question of what form that may eventually take — it would be a mistake simply to take as read aspirations to unity as a global aspiration among the people of this State or, indeed, among Catholics in Northern Ireland, which opinion polls show not to be the case. We must examine fundamentally our attitudes to national determination, our attitudes to unity and our attitudes even to the principles which we claim to abide by within the European Community, one of working together, co-operating and coexisting with our neighbours.

I welcome the opportunity to speak and I thank Deputy De Rossa for sharing his time with me.

The long-standing and still ongoing crisis in Northern Ireland is an issue that calls for an input from all who are concerned about it. This is not the time for personal rivalries or political point-scoring. I support the Taosieach, the Tánaiste, the Government and all the other groups in their efforts to date to create the conditions that will bring about peace.

The Green Party, Comhaontas Glas, as a democratically mandated party in Ireland, is looking forward to participating in the Forum for Peace and reconciliation as announced by the Taoiseach. However, the nature of Green politics based on principles of ecology, non-violence, equality, self-sufficiency and local democracy has a particular set of procedures and values to offer the peace process.

At the time when the New Ireland Forum was held the Greens submitted an analysis of and contribution towards reconciliation between those of different views here. Since then the Green Party has developed decision-making using consensus in preference to straight majority voting.

During the past few weeks I attended meetings in Belfast and Dublin with members of the Green Parties from the Republic, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. The mechanism to bring the aspirations and assumptions of all those regional representatives together can usefully be applied to the greater need for reconciliation between the people of Northern Ireland and the people of these islands. To this end we look forward to making an all out effort in the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation to carry on the work of achieving peace.

Let us not think there will not be any mistakes, setbacks and requirements to accept faults in all of us. Too many have suffered and too much normal politics — by that I mean the politics of local government and economics — have been neglected, particularly in the North, for anyone to stand on ceremony. It is vital for the building of trust and understanding that each of us should know where we are coming from and where we are at. In this regard the Greens welcome the debate on section 31 of the Broadcasting Act and strongly favour emphasising the existing laws to prohibit incitement to violence. That would provide the safeguards which would permit the lifting of section 31 prohibition. Putting a muzzle, or the semblance of a muzzle which is closer to the reality of the position, on points of view will not further the process towards reconciliation. Allowing journalists to hold an open debate is more synonymous with building a tolerant, pluralist society where minorities are heard and feel at ease with one another.

Even within established minorities there are differences, but simple analysis does not respect this. We hear about the concerns and fears of the Protestant community in the North. Those fears and concerns are real and providing concessions to Protestant values will go some way to allaying those fears. When Gandhi said, "the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way it treats its weakest members" he was referring to other species and not just humans, but his remark illustrates that we will not engender the type of trust and understanding which is required simply by focusing on the most aggrieved or the most vociferous minority who state their case.

Similarly, the sincerity of society in the Republic towards reconciliation will be judged by how it accommodates other minorities. On the one hand we say we all want to feel at home here and yet at noon and 6 p.m. the Angelus bells signal what religious ethos underlies our public broadcasting. It is said that our country is bilingual and yet road signs are often displayed only in English and when displayed in Irish they appear to be less prominent as opposed to being on an equal footing. They are symptoms of the problem but they are signs that are read and noted by people who listen to our words and observe our actions. We must reconcile the two.

I welcome the positive and open response of the Official Unionists to the Declaration. I was happy to meet Dr. Chris McGimpsey in Dublin this week. His imagery was an enlightenment. In regard to the Unionist point of view he compared the various communities on this island to rooms in a house. Sometimes doors are open and sometimes they are closed, but just because they are closed it does not mean they are locked. If they are not locked it does not mean they have to be left open, particularly if those in the room do not want the door open. That is a reasonably analogy with which we can all identify. If this island were to be compared to a house it could not be described as a simple house. There are big and small rooms and, indeed, many rooms. As Christ said of paradise, "my house has many rooms". In regard to reconcilliation we must recognise that that image and analogy is one that needs to be further explored.

In some of those rooms there are those who have been born into violence. They are often dismissed as terrorists and psychopaths. The type of terminology used has contributed to the problem and continues to feed it. We need to avoid the type of pre-conditions which result in further partitions within those rooms. The type of partition to which I refer in relation to Irish politics is the famous occasion of the split. On "Morning Ireland" this morning a journalist fromThe Irish Times expressed the fear that a split in Sinn Féin could further exacerbate the problems that may be encountered on the road to peace.

In Dáil Éireann almost all parties have some lineage which connects them to the War of Independence, the Civil War or more recent conflicts. Those conflicts evolved from similar processes and we must learn from lessons of history and ensure we do not end up in a similar situation to that which prevailed in the past or a more serious one. We must be open to fresh thinking, whether from the Green Party or other parties, Glencree Reconciliation Centre, Co-operation North or the various churches. They all have a right to be heard. We should learn lessons from trouble spots like the former Yugoslavia, and realise that the concept of the nation state leaves a legacy of intolerance as well as providing a vehicle for cohesion. The Green view of society respects diversity as diversity is not only respected but is essential to the continuance of life on this planet. The society we seek to bring about should not be simply free from terrorism but should promote an economic system based on the ecological principle of diversity.

I look forward in the proposed process to meeting those who believe in peace and are prepared to risk change for the sake of peace.

Ba mhaith liom a rá mar fhocal scoir agus mar mhóid do mhionlach polaitiúil na tíre seo go n-aithním mionlaigh eile ar an oileán seo agus sa Bhreatain, áit a bhfuil mionlaigh pholaitiúla chomh maith. Orthu seo sa muintir na Breatainne Bige atá go láidir i bhfábhar Chaomhnú a dteanga dúchais, muintir na hAlban agus dreamanna eile. In Éireann, ní mór dúinn mionlaigh éagsúla na tíre a aithint. Tá mionlaigh creidimh agus teanga i gceist anseo chomh maith le mionlaigh pholaitúila, agus tá a dtuairimí chomh tábhachtach céanna le tuairimí an tromlaigh agus le tuairimí iadsan atá i gceannas as na meáin cumarsáide, cuir i gcás. Is ionann cearta dúinn uile agus is gá maireachtáil go síochánta in éindí le chéile chun todhchaí na tíre a shlánú.

In his tremendous book,The Nine Years War, Seán O'Faoláin, a great giant of English literature, wrote when describing the defeat of the Northern chieftains, O'Neill and O'Donnell, at Kinsale almost 400 years ago, that Kinsale was to mean for Ireland a parting of the ways, a schism with everything that had gone before, an ending as absolute as death. In every generation and every century subsequent to that the conflict regarding the territory of Ireland or part thereof has been the subject matter of violence.

The last 25 years have shown the futility of violence, of bombs and bullets. In the course of those 25 years perhaps the most significant development was the securing by the former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, of the recognition by the British Government that the Northern state had failed as an entity; and it has failed.

Dr. FitzGerald then secured the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which I welcomed. The present Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, has secured his place in Irish history by obtaining a formal, explicit recognition for the first time that Britain has no economic or strategic interest in this country and that the Irish people, North and South, have the right of self-determination. He deserves the eternal gratitude of the Irish people for that and I believe his initiative will succeed.

The argument has very often been made in this House and elsewhere that there should be a unilateral abandonment of Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution, as if that would bring about peace overnight. Far from resolving the difficulties and problems that exist, that would merely exacerbate the violence. It would alienate and isolate, for the first time in the history of the State, Northern Nationalists who want to be Irish. No Government of this State has the right to say to Northern Nationalists that we will not reflect in our laws their fundamental right to be Irish if they so wish.

The second issue I wish to address relates to violence. The IRA has been guilty of severe violence, of inhuman crimes which have brought tremendous tragedy to many families over many years, but let nobody run away with the idea that all Loyalist violence has been reactive violence. History shows that is not the case. Let us remind ourselves that there are two kinds of violence; the violence of the bomb and the bullet and the violence of social and economic deprivation, which has been a major feature on the Northern landscape for many years.

IRA violence, much as it must be condemned, should not be confused with Irish nationalism. It appears that many people throughout the world believe that Irish nationalism is something to be frowned upon, to be ashamed of, to run away from. It is important that we put on the record of this House that from the time of Tone, Irish nationalism has had a very proud tradition. It would be remiss of me not to say that some of the greatest Irishmen were nationalists and some of the greatest Irish nationalists were Northern nationalists.

I strongly believe that a House of Commons select committee on Northern Ireland affairs should not be established as it would exclude the Irish Government from the process. That would not be helpful because the Irish Government has a very important role to play in this regard. It should be recognised by the British Government that the best thing it can do in the context of an overall settlement is to stay neutral. We have continuously stated — it is stated again in this document — that we do not threaten the Unionist tradition, their values or their cultures, that we have no interest in coercion or intimidation. The least the Irish Government is entitled to in return is a recognition by the British Government that they must remain neutral.

History is a great teacher and in relation to every militant republican organisation in this State, when peace ultimately came after a period of violence the first item on the agenda was the split. In this context it is extremely important that nobody say or do anything which would in the final analysis lead to a major split among the membership of Sinn Féin. If there is a major split it could very well destroy the entire process. It is the fundamental duty of all people who want peace, be they in Sinn Féin or elsewhere, to ensure that they seriously commit themselves to it and recognise the futility of the violence and mayhem of the last 25 years. It is important if there is to be a cessation of violence that section 31 of the Broadcasting Act be changed. It would be a foolish man who would not consider that in the context of future negotiations the question of an amnesty for prisoners would have to be considered. This is a very complicated matter and it will have to be considered.

Hopefully we are witnessing a coming together and that, far from a parting of the ways, as Seán Ó Faoláin said, we are looking to a new beginning. I hope we are witnessing the dawn of justice, equality and fraternity among all the people of this island, North and South, Catholic and Protestant, Nationalist and Unionist.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the role played by John Hume and Séamus Mallon in this process. Ireland may have had, and probably has had, greater Irishmen and will probably have greater Irishmen in the future, but Ireland has never had, and I do not believe ever will have, men who loved her better.

The Fine Gael reaction to the Taoiseach's announcement this morning that he intends to establish a Forum for Peace and Reconciliation must, of necessity, be a neutral one. The Taoiseach has made it clear that the forum is predictated on a cessation of violence. To a degree, this is an improvement on the manner in which he launched the idea in his speech on Wednesday. However, he has pointed out that the forum will be established "in consultation with other parties". I want to make it clear that no such consultation has taken place with the Fine Gael Party and, pending such consultation obviously we will have to reserve our judgment on this issue, we will have to get answers to certain questions.

I want to put it on the record that Fine Gael will be particularly concerned to ensure that any such forum has as its central focus, as the Downing Street Declaration provides, "the making of recommendations on ways in which agreement and trust between both traditions in Ireland can be promoted and established". It is difficult to see how this objective can be achieved if the Unionists are not involved. It is important that we reassess our attitude to the Unionists. The Taoiseach referred to this in his speech when he said, "My Government, too, feels a sense of responsibility towards the Unionist population."

Dr. Chris McGimpsey, secretary of the Official Unionist Party, when he was in Dublin on Wednesday, referred to how the Unionist delegation who came to Dublin last year were underwhelmed with the welcome they received from the Irish Government. I think Unionists will also be underwhelmed by the manner in which the Government's sense of responsibility for them was expressed by the Taoiseach.

One of the main recommendations in the Opsahl report centred on the need to establish a parity of esteem for both traditions in Northern Ireland. In this respect, a change in our attitude is necessary. I agree with the remarks made by Deputy O'Donoghue about the major role played by John Hume and Seamus Mallon in enabling us to reach the stage we are now at. I am delighted to see the role played by them acknowledged. However, we should not overlook the role played by Jim Molyneaux and John Alderdice. We should not, as Deputy O'Donoghue did, focus on one side of the equation. The more we change our attitudes in this regard, the greater contribution we can ultimately make to the achievement of lasting and just peace on this island.

It is important that a major effort be made to have dialogue with all of the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. I was very glad to accompany Deputy John Bruton on his recent visit to Belfast when we had consultations with the different traditions in Northern Ireland. It was great to be able to talk to the SDLP at its headquarters, but it was even better to visit Glengall Street and meet representatives of the Official Unionist Party and listen to their point of view. Similarly, it was helpful that Dr. Chris McGimpsey, secretary of the Official Unionist Party, was in Dublin on Wednesday to give his view on the Declaration. It was important that many of us went along to listen to what he had to say. The question of symbolism is important in this respect. The fact that he sat in the distinguished Visitors Gallery for the debate on Wednesday evening was a simple but symbolic gesture. The fact that we were able to extend to him an invitation and the fact that he accepted it are important symbols.

When looking at the situation in Northern Ireland today, the quotation from, "There is a tide in the affairs of man which taken at its flood leads on to fortune" I think,Julius Caesar, comes to mind. This quotation was never more true than in relation to the position in Northern Ireland today. I think the yearning for peace on this island is shared by 99 per cent of the population on the island. That is the background against which the Downing Street Declaration was issued on Wednesday. The circumstances in which the Declaration was issued were very propitious.

The Fine Gael Party fully supported the process leading to the Declaration. Like every other political party on this island, there are some aspects of the document about which we have reservations. Nevertheless, we fully accept the genuine intent of the Declaration to provide a framework within which all parties on this island can, without loss of principle or face, work peacefully together to resolve our political differences. There is the opportunity for those who are genuinely patriotic and who genuinely care about the future of the people of this island peacefully to resolve their differences.

The message is very clear, particularly to those who are involved in violence. The British Government has made it clear, without in any sense abandoning those who support the Loyalist tradition, that it is for the people of the island of Ireland to work out their own future. There is an absolute commitment to those of the Loyalist tradition that there will be no coercion, no change in the status of Northern Ireland except with the consent of the majority of those living in Northern Ireland and that that position will be legally and constitutionally guaranteed. It is clear that there has been movement on the part of the British Government in formally expressing — this may have been said in statements previously — in a solemn declaration the right of self-determination of the people of Ireland on the basis of consent freely and concurrently given North and South.

It is only fair to recognise that there has been movement on the part of Fianna Fáil also. The Labour Party was involved with Fine Gael in the negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985. The Fianna Fáil Party bitterly opposed that agreement at that time. I am glad Deputy O'Donoghue now acknowledges that that agreement was a major step forward. I believe the agreement was probably the foundation on which this Declaration was based. The fact that Fianna Fáil has changed can be clearly seen from the fact that eight years after its opposition to it, that party is fully working the Anglo-Irish Agreement and was fully prepared to participate in this Declaration. I hope there will be an end to the kind of rhetoric we have become accustomed to from Fianna Fáil, including the statement by the Taoiseach as recently as last year that Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution were not for sale.

The Downing Street Declaration amounts to a total rejection of the partitionist mentality which did not recognise the right of Unionists to live on this island with their own identity, culture, traditions and religion. Furthermore, it fully accepts that if unity is ever to be achieved on this island it must be brought about by the majority of the people on this island and that the establishment of "a nation once again" must involve full agreement and consent of the different traditions on the island. This poses challenges for all of us. For those of us living in the Republic, it poses challenges in regard to changes in our laws and Constitution. It also poses a challenge for those living in Northern Ireland, particularly those involved in violence.

The theory is that Loyalist violence is a reaction to Provisional IRA violence. I do not know whether or not that is true, but if the Loyalist paramilitaries indicate, which hopefully they will, that they are prepared to cease their activities, this will put the ball fairly and squarely in the court of the Provisional IRA. I would add my voice to those who have sincerely asked the IRA to give peace a chance. If this organisation needs a breathing space, the Members of this House will be prepared to allow a reasonable breathing space for consultation. However, the first essential of a breathing space is that one should be able to breath — people cannot breath if they are dead. If the Provisional IRA want a breathing space, they can have a reasonable breathing space, but it should give everyone else a breathing space also.

I represent a constituency which once returned Michael Collins to the Dáil. I do not accept that those in the Provisional IRA can claim legitimate succession to those led by Collins in the War of Independence. There may be those who aspire to follow in the footsteps of Michael Collins. I would say to those people that the establishment of his reputation as a statesman occurred after the truce was declared in July 1921 and in the run up to the Treaty in December 1921. Now is the time for change, which in my view is a sign of growth and development.

One of my favourite quotations is from John Henry Newman who said: "To live is to change, to be perfect is to have changed often". I believe the opportunity for change, growth, development and, most importantly, peace and reconciliation on this island now exists. That is the challenge confronting everyone and I ask those with patriotic intent to respond to that challenge.

I am glad to have the opportunity to contribute to this debate and I wish to refer to two points made by Deputy O'Keeffe in his contribution. He referred to the forum for peace to which the Taoiseach referred earlier but in his speech the Taoiseach did not exclude any parties within this island from taking part in that forum. We on this side of the House and I am sure those Opposition — perhaps it was a misunderstanding on their part — would all like to see not only political parties on this side of the Border but also political parties from Northern Ireland take part in that peace forum. The Taoiseach has made that opening for them if they so wish.

Deputy O'Keffe referred also to the symbolism of Chris McGimpsey's presence in the Dáil on the day the Taoiseach made his speech in relation to the Joint Declaration. There was another element of symbolism on that day in that myself, Deputy Harte and a number of other Members of this House as well as Members of the Seanad were sitting in the House of Commons when the British Prime Minister made his concurrent statement to the House on the initiative. Having listened to what Mr. Major said on that occasion and the way in which he reacted to some of the interventions made by other speakers in the House, I am delighted to see that Mr. Major is now adopting a strict attitude and is willing to face up to the extremists on both sides but particularly those in the Unionist camp.

As co-chairman of the British-Irish Interparliamentary body, I would like to add my name and the voice of that body to this Declaration. The body, which is made up of Members from both Houses of Parliament, sat last week in London in the run up to the Joint Declaration being signed. The day before the Declaration was signed, the body endorsed unanimously the search for peace by the two leaders. Although we found it necessary to postpone a portion of our last meeting because of the Joint Declaration we were delighted to do so in order to hear what the two leaders had to say.

In its deliberations on Wednesday, the body also congratulated unanimously the efforts made by John Hume as the catalyst for this process. Deputy O'Donoghue is correct when he praised also the efforts of Séamus Mallon. We must give credit also to the moderate Unionist leaders, Chris McGimpsey, Jim Molyneaux and one or two others. Unfortunately, they did not see fit to express that reasonableness in some of the comments they made in the days prior to last Wednesday, particularly in what we would see as the heightening of anxiety amongst their people rather than perhaps dampening down that anxiety.

The body as a whole was used by the Irish Members to impress upon the British members the need for Mr. Major to go that extra mile. I must say from a personal point of view that Mr. Major went a long way towards that extra mile. The body has been used as a vehicle for better understanding between both islands and indeed between both parts of the island. It is a body where the members can air their respective fears and aspirations and it has been a worthwhile process. It is part of what I would term the London-Dublin axis which is working well. As long as there is a vacuum in the North and a lack of consultation between North and South, it is the one axis which we should strengthen. Thankfully, the two Prime Ministers have met that challenge and the Declaration is the fruit of their efforts.

I would like to place on record, and indeed the Taoiseach acknowledged this in his speech, the involvement of the co-chairman, Peter Temple-Morris, and my gratitude to all the British members of the body for the very forthright way in which they use their membership of the body to promote British-Irish affairs. The Acting Chairman, Deputy Leonard, is a vice-chairman of the body and is indeed an interested and worthwhile member.

Deputy O'Donoghue referred to the select committee. There is nothing wrong with the establishment of a select committee. We in this Parliament cannot object to the setting up of a select committee in another Parliament. It implies a degree of integrationist policy within British policy. I would have been extremely unhappy if the Prime Minister had given the go ahead for the select committee without having signed the Joint Declaration. The situation is not as bad now because the Joint Declaration has been signed and the British Government has, in effect, put its signature on an understanding with this Government and the Irish people that they will work together and bead idem. However, the Taoiseach should say to the British Prime Minister that rather than putting in place a select committee, Mr. Major should encourage, cajole and even force Unionist participation in our body. Why are they not prepared to join our body when they are prepared to join a select committee? One might say it is not a major decision on their part but it goes to the nub of the problem that we face on this island, that up to now people have put a veto on political progress. They put a veto on participation in the British - Irish Interparliamentary Body. We cannot force them to participate but the British Prime Minister should, in some way, tell them that they can have their select committee when they take a meaningful part in the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body.

Events have shown that time is of the essence. There is an overwhelming desire for peace on our island and one only has to look and listen to that tremendous person, Colin Parry, who has been on our airwaves over the past number of months. I was particularly taken by his words when it transpired that the British Government had been talking to the IRA around the time that his son was murdered. I was impressed with the tremendous understanding of that man in stark comparison to the extremist views and comments of some of the Unionist leaders and politicians in the past number of weeks. We could all learn a lesson from Colin Parry's attitude, particularly those outspoken people on the island.

There is no doubt that John Hume found movement within the Provisional IRA and that has been used as a catalyst. The two Governments ultimately have the responsibility in this regard because the Hume-Adams initiative is only one aspect of a much larger process. There is no way the two Governments could have simply accepted the Hume-Adams initiative without going any further. In order to get a balanced statement they had to take on board all the other aspects.

It is stated in the Anglo-Irish Agreement that when there is a 51 per cent majority in favour of a United Ireland, the two Governments will facilitate them by passing legislation through both Houses. Before that ever takes place the two traditions on this island should get together and decide on their own destiny. It has been said that the British Government should use persuasion to bring about a united Ireland but I believe that view has been distorted by many people. What most of the Irish people wanted was for the British Government to act as persuaders to an agreement between both traditions on this island.

I will conclude by saying that recent revelations about contacts with the IRA on the part of the British Government would lead me to believe — and I have said this before — that the Unionist tradition on this island has a lot less to fear from Dublin than from London.

As I see it, the Joint Declaration has put those warring factions in Northern Ireland on notice; do they want peace, or do they want anarchy? Who is their real enemy?

Throughout my lifetime I have heard the Provisional IRA or extreme republicans talk about getting the Irish people together around the table to work out their future and plan their own destiny. For many years I have taken a particular view of Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution. First of all, that their very existence was not helpful, that the served no useful purpose. When the Irish people endorsed the Constitution in 1937 those who drafted that Constitution, were saying, as a sovereign Government, as a sovereign nation, to another sovereign Government and another sovereign nation, namely, the British: "This is Ireland; it belongs to the Irish, not the Nationalist Irish, not the Republican Irish but all of the Irish". If we really believe in that interpretation then I submit, because of the statement on the part of the British Prime Minister in the House of Commons, which is incorporated in the communiqué, that it is now for the Irish to work out their own future, that Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution become superfluous. When the Protestant people in Northern Ireland argue about Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution they exaggerate to the extent that Article 2 and 3 mean a claiming of their lands and properties in Northern Ireland for a Nationalist Ireland. That is not what they mean. Rather they were a signal to the British Government that it is the Irish who live in Ireland, just as it is the Scots who live in Scotland, the English who live in England and the Welsh who live in Wales. There is nothing threatening about that.

Once the British Government have said that it is a matter for the Irish to work out their own future, whatever that future may hold, then Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution are no longer a threat to the community in Northern Ireland who see them as such. I would openly debate this with them if called upon to do so.

Dr. Ian Paisley, in many of his speeches, said that he would accept the democratic decision of the people of Northern Ireland if they were to vote themselves into a united Ireland. The late Brian Faulkner is also on public record as having said that if at any stage the people of Northern Ireland voted for a united Ireland he would proudly take his place and work towards such a settlement provided it was done without coercion, without force, in a democratic manner.

I would ask Dr. Paisley, a man I have met many times and whom I have grown to like in many ways but who I find very difficult to understand at times, to reconsider his position because there is nothing in this Joint Declaration, nothing in the Anglo-Irish Agreement, there is nothing that I am aware of in the minds of the people of Southern Ireland wants to threaten or coerce people in the North into a united Ireland. The Taoiseach has explicity stated that the Unionists people now have a right of veto. I see nothing wrong with that because the Protestant people of Northern Ireland — if we aspire to a united Ireland, and all of us would like to have a united Ireland — hold the key to that aspiration. Unless we can persuade them, by peaceful means, by friendship, by understanding, providing that there is something in it for them to be part of an all-Ireland settlement, they will not use that key. Therefore, it does not matter whether we call it a veto, or whatever; they hold the key.

I made such speeches many times in the early seventies and I said to Unionists, that we would not coerce or force them into a system they did not want to join. I said that only when they considered joining us would we put the unity of Ireland on the agenda, but that in giving that solemn guarantee we asked them not to force 500,000 people in Northern Ireland into a system they did not want to join. That was my way of putting my message across in the early seventies. I made such speeches repeatedly I thought everybody knew about them but evidently they did not. I am saying again that this Joint Declaration clearly spells out to the Protestant people of Northern Ireland that we are not coercing them into a system they do not want to join, that we will not make a united Ireland an issue, or put it on the agenda, until they are ready to talk about it.

However, at the same time I say that, in giving that solemn guarantee, then we call on them to find structures within Northern Ireland which will fairly treat the 500,000 people who feel alienated, not wanted in the system that was there, who seem to be adrift from the remainder of the island.

When people like Mr. John Taylor or Dr. Paisley say that they are not Irish, that they do not want to be part of this nation, what they are really saying is that they do not want to be part of Catholic nationalism. Whether we like it or not, when we talk about nationalism in this House or anywhere else, the Protestants hear us talk about Catholic nationalism, just as when we hear them talk about unionism, we hear them talk about Protestant unionism.

When one examines both statements closely — people talking about unionism or nationalism — we discover that what we are really saying is, not unionism and nationalism but Protestant unionism and Catholic nationalism. Those two things are incompatible and therein lies the challenge. Can we persuade the people in Northern Ireland to be part of an Irish nation and, in so doing, can we dilute the things which make them believe that this is a Catholic nation rather than an Irish one?

I have heard many Protestant people talk about what they have to tolerate. For example, when they look at the Gaelic League they see the Robert Emmets, the John Mitchels, the Pearse brothers, that every Gaelic football club has to nationalise itself rather than be just a sporting club. They cannot understand that people feel good about that, they take exception to it, it generates a certain fear among them. They feel that the Catholic Church has far too much influence. Within the past six weeks I was a guest at a Protestant meeting in the North of Ireland. As one who has spent a lot of time in the North, trying to understand the other side of the Irish coin, I was frightened in the extreme. I could hear war being talked about, to the extent that those who addressed that meeting frightened ordinary, decent Protestants attending. Some of them wondered why I, and another Member of this House from another party, were able to sit in the audience and listen. I have always aspired to attending a Protestant meeting, to hear what they are talking about, and to participate, but time did not allow me participate on that occasion. Nonetheless, let me say this, I left that meeting having made up my mind that, had my faith been challenged, I could not have sat there any longer. It was not that they were against a united Ireland, against nationalism, against republicanism, they were not against the South, they were against the Catholic Church. If that is the case, then we Catholics, and our church leaders must ask a very deep, searching question: why do the things we have done make people in Northern Ireland afraid? We have to dispel their fears because, unless we unscramble this bigotry, this sectarianism that exists, we are going nowhere.

Finally, in debates like this I think Members should be entitled to speak for much longer than ten minutes. I could speak for much longer. I know quite a number of Members who will not have the opportunity to speak for even ten minutes. In future, whenever a debate on Northern Ireland takes place in this House there should be no time limit on speeches. Members should be allowed to speak for as long as they have something to offer.

I wholeheartedly welcome and support the Joint Declaration on peace signed by the Irish and British Governments. It contains a package of proposals that can bring peace to Northern Ireland. The overriding principle of consent is the essential bedrock for success and it heavily underscores every provision and proposal in the Joint Declaration.

The commitment by the British Government that it no longer has "selfish, strategic or economic interest" in Northern Ireland and that it is leaving the field of battle to the "people of the island of Ireland alone by agreement between the two parts respectively to exercise their right to self-determination on the basis of consent" makes the continuation of the armed struggle to remove the British presence unnecessary and irrelevant.

Sinn Féin and the IRA should accept the bona fides of this declaration of intent by the British Government that they will no longer interfere in the affairs of Northern Ireland but will be facilitators for agreement based on the "rights and identities of both traditions in Ireland". Sinn Féin and the IRA should now become part of the peace process envisaged in the Joint Declaration. Mr. John Hume has already espoused it and clearly sees no conflict between it and his and Gerry Adams' joint peace initiative. Indeed, John Hume has described this as the most important initiative in 70 years on this island.

The IRA should now declare a cessation of hostilities before Christmas and take up their place in the new Forum for Peace and Reconciliation that will be established in the new year, to enable all strands of nationalism to devise appropriate alternative political strategies to violence in advance of resumed talks between all political parties, Nationalist and Unionist.

In the light of such a cessation and declaration of intent to join the peace forum it is inconceivable that the Irish Government would renew section 31 of the Broadcasting Act in January 1994. Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and other Sinn Féin spokespeople would have their long sought for access to the airwaves to present their views, opinions and proposals for political progress on this island. This long-standing grievance of the elected representatives of the Republican movement would be gone forever. Likewise, the question of release of prisoners in Northern Ireland, in British and Irish jails would be addressed at an early stage. Dozens of young men — who were mere children when the troubles began — who were caught up in violence through their innocence, triumphalism or the brutalities of their experience and have been languishing in prisons for many years with little hope of release or ever living a normal life again, would be given a reprieve, a future and the possibility of a return to their families and their loved ones. These would all become inevitable effects of the ongoing peace process if the dogs of war were put back on the leash.

In relation to the Unionist side of the proposition, the Irish Government has made clear that it has no longer any acquisitory demands on Northern Ireland, that it is establishing the principle of consent in relation to the majority on that part of the island, and that it is prepared to look, in the context of the Constitution, at the ethos and the establishment of a pluralist society and whatever other basic principles are required to ensure that the two traditions on this island are respected. It is also prepared to introduce a Bill of rights as expressed in the Declaration. That is an essential part of what is being proposed.

This represents a new departure, a process, and it is not a defined solution. There are no limits to the march of the peoples of this island with their separate identities and traditions towards peace and reconciliation if we are prepared to embark on the process which is envisged and is incorporated in the provisions and the proposals of the Joint Declaration.

I welcome the Joint Declaration which represents an historic development in the relationship between these islands. In the debate in this House on Wednesday, 27 October 1993, in the aftermath of the horrors of the Shankill and Greysteel massacres, the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, outlined the six democratic principles which could underpin a peace process and on which both the British and Irish Governments and the people of Ireland — both North and South — could build a framework for peace and a political settlement.

These six principles included a statement that people living in Ireland, North and South, without coercion and without violence should be free to determine their future. It also included a statement that if we believe in consent as an integral part of any democratic approach to peace we must be prepared to express our commitment to that consent in our fundamental law. These principles received widespread support in both parts of this island and in the United Kingdom. The Joint Declaration of 15 December is based on these principles.

This Declaration is historic because no British Government has made such a clear declaration that they have no selfish, strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland. This, from now on, refutes the argument used by Sinn Féin, the IRA and others that the British presence in Northern Ireland was part of a grand imperial plan or strategy. Whatever justification may have been claimed for an armed struggle, which had as its goal to drive Britain out of Ireland, no longer exists.

The real problem on this island concerns the relationship between its peoples. For far too long these relationships have been founded on mistrust, hatred, fear and terror. In the Joint Declaration the Irish Government has set out its position clearly and without any misunderstanding. It is clear from the all-party reponse in this House that we, in this part of Ireland, do not want a false unity which is based on coercion.

The first prerequisite for a peaceful settlement is the removal of violence. If the Provisional IRA grasp the opportunity now presented to them it is hoped that politics would replace terror as a means of achieving political objectives. The IRA now has that chance. The peace process, in which it has claimed an involvement and a very important part in the Hume-Adams talks, has given it that choice. The people of Ireland expect and demand that it accepts that choice.

The laying down of arms by all paramilitaries is essential for the maintenance of peace in the future. In the past year we have seen an upsurge in Loyalist violence and attempts by Loyalist paramilitaries to import large quantities of arms from Eastern Europe.

I welcome this Joint Declaration which is the first step in the peace process. The next step is the cessation of violence, not only for Christmas, but a complete cessation of violence. The peace process will be a slow, painstaking and difficult one but it is one to which everybody must commit themselves.

A great many things have been said during the past couple of days about the value of this Joint Declaration, many of which I agree with, but some of which I do not accept. No matter how much we may want this initiative to succeed — I think we all do — we have to keep a very firm grip on the realities that underlie this whole process. If we bring out those realities and stress them, as indeed has just been done — I am delighted to accept what has been said — we have a better chance of making sure that the process gives us the result we want.

The most important value of this Joint Declaration lies not so much in what it says because, as pointed out in the text of the Joint Declaration, it is "based on a number of key principles articulated by the two Governments over the past 20 years", but in the fact that this week two heads of Government after a fairly lengthy process of deliberations entered into with clear intent in mind, have sat down and have said these are the principles and the beliefs on which they operate collected together and sealed with the approval and indeed the firm declaration of acceptance by the two heads of Government. I believe those principles have gained a new importance. Even though they are things, that have been said at various times by various Ministers, Secretaries of State and indeed by Prime Ministers and Taoisigh over the past 20 years, the fact that they have been put together in a coherent and articulate statement is the particular value of this Declaration.

There are other things that emerge from it that are of very considerable value. The Taoiseach himself has referred to some of these over the last couple of days, as have other Members. It has been pointed out very clearly, that the two Governments are making it very clear that neither has the slightest wish nor intention to coerce anybody of any other tradition or belief. Neither wishes to cajole any other party to give up a long held principle or a long cherished position. The two Governments have said very clearly that the way forward lies only in the political domain and their belief is that it is by operating on the basis of principles and beliefs contained in this Declaration that we can make further progress.

I understand from the Declaration and the manner in which it was put together — this morning the Taoiseach gave us a particular insight into how he went about preparing for this — that the two Governments are saying they are not prepared to compromise in any way on the principles and beliefs set out in this Joint Declaration. They will not be pushed off those principles or beliefs by any threat of terrorism from any quarter. It is important that that should be stated clearly and explicitly as often as any representative of either of those two Governments gets the opportunity to do so. There may be other people who do not understand that very clearly and I can see, to an extent, why that might be the case.

It is clear from what we have known from rumour over the past few weeks, from what we heard explicitly from the Taoiseach this morning and from things that we heard in the House of Commons in London in recent weeks that paragraphs 4 and 5 of this Declaration took quite a long time to draft and to get agreement on. In some ways it is not surprising. The question will be asked why it took so long if all of these principles had been set out at various times over the past 20 years. I am afraid there may be some people, now involved in terrorism, who might draw the conclusion that precisely because the matters set out in those two paragraphs proved so difficult to formulate into the shape they have taken in the Declaration that the Governments might be capable of being pushed away from the content of those two paragraphs by a continuing terrorist campaign. It is of vital importance that the two Governments make it abundantly and explicitly clear that that will not work and that they say, in effect, that there is to be no political reward of any kind for any terrorism, either past, present or in the future.

An inference that I draw from this document, which I hope is the correct one, is that if the two heads of Government have gone to the considerable trouble of adopting this Joint Declaration they are saying that with these beliefs and principles they will embark on talks in a political process to lead to what we might call loosely a resolution of the problem. There is much more in that than we have time to discuss here. It is important that they say it is on the basis of these principles and beliefs that they will approach any further talks. That being the case, for everybody involved, whatever their interests or participation, the starting point must be very clear, particularly for the terrorists. It must be made clear that there is no way they can influence the process or these beliefs and principles by any further terrorist acts. I believe that the question now lies firmly, clearly and unambiguously with the terrorists and with the many people, most of them very well meaning, who have been saying in recent times that the terrorists have to be brought into the process of talks. Those people are entirely mistaken if they suggest that should happen before there is a complete cessation of violence.

The choice is now firmly and clearly put to the terrorists and there is no possibility any more that they can escape from the inevitable logic of this situation. It is up to them now to decide whether they want to be part of the solution or not. Every day that passes without the people who are involved in terrorism saying that they want to be part of the resolution and making that clear by laying down and destroying their arms, increases my doubt as to their real intent and whether they want to be part of the resolution of this problem. It is not going too far to say that on the basis of this statement in the Joint Declaration of the principles and beliefs on which the two Governments base their actions and the fact that all of these things have been said over the past 20 years, there has never been a case for terrorism of the kind we have known in Northern Ireland over the past 20 years.

The question now is clear. If Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA, the people involved in the UDA the UFF and UVF are sincere in what they say about their desire to be part of the resolution of this problem, they must say immediately that their campaign of terror is at an end and they will give up all of their weapons and accept the principles and beliefs set out in this Joint Declaration.

There is more to be said, I ask the Taoiseach to do only one thing, that is to be much more careful in his use of language than he has been here in this House this morning. With a totally unemotional approach to the speech I have found five places in the Taoiseach's speech where he will, I think inadvertently, have given rise to feelings on the Unionist side that they cannot entirely believe how friendly he is. It is an awful pity that he should put the enterprise in any jeopardy.

I welcome this opportunity to say a few words. Just as Deputy Dukes, I believe any Member could speak for half an hour or even an hour if he were to express all his views.

The date 15 December 1993 will go down as one of the most historic days in this country because on that occasion the door was left ajar for people who are involved in paramilitary activity to get off the streets and become involved in a political arena. We all realise when it comes to politics that the bomb and the bullet accompanying the ballot box is not an achievable aim and will not achieve any results. What has happened in Northern Ireland since 1969 has touched the hearts of every citizen North and South. Atrocity after atrocity has been committed, atrocities which nobody could stand over in any cause which civilised people can understand.

The Joint Declaration provides an opportunity to close that horrible chapter of Irish history, one which will leave scars for generations. Those of us whose relatives were, perhaps through no fault of their own, involved in paramilitary activities at the beginning of this century realise that at the end of the day everybody must come to the negotiating table. That must now happen in relation to the North.

Both Prime Ministers took risks when they decided to embark on this road which they hoped would lead to peace. The good relationship which the Taoiseach as Minister for Finance had with Mr. John Major as Chancellor of the Exchequer over five to ten years was something that could be built upon in embarking on that journey. Trust was there, and everything is about trust when it comes to this agreement. Can Nationalists be sure that their interests are being protected and can Unionists be happy that their interests are being protected? This document seeks to create a happy arena for the aspirations of both sides. The right to free political thought is specifically mentioned in the document as is the right to freedom of expression and religion, the right to democratically pursue political aspirations, the right to seek constitutional change by peaceful and legitimate means and the right to live where one chooses without hindrance. These basic rights should be available to anybody in a modern society.

Eighteen months ago in the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body I stated that it was the duty of the two Governments to find a route that would accommodate all those involved in this problem. This is an opportunity for those who have been involved in paramilitary activity for the past number of years to return to the democratic process. The fact that the document has received a guarded welcome across the political spectrum is very important, because Unionists, for the first time in our history, have not thrown out as being unacceptable something which was produced by a southern Government. The only group of Unionists in Northern Ireland who have tried to do down this agreement is the DUP. Its reason for doing so is associated with Northern politics and has nothing to do with its firm beliefs. We all know that every person here wants to see peace, a peace which will be acceptable to everybody, which will not end up in violence again in ten or 15 years time. We have had a history of violence flaring up every ten to 15 years and the last flare up has lasted 25 years. We cannot allow it to continue. The fact that the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister realised that was of enormous benefit when it came to discussions.

The rights of minorities must always be protected. We on this part of the island have shown that the rights of minorities have always been well protected and will continue to be protected as long as we have democratic politics. In 1969 the civil rights movement was founded as a result of a lack of trust in the political institutions in the North and some paramilitary organisations jumped on the band wagon. I appeal to those who have been involved in paramilitary activities, to their friends and families to consider this opportunity as one to come into a political forum to express their views.

Since the first day I joined a local authority I sat with members of Sinn Féin who were always willing to accept the democratic decision of that body. I hope that the leadership of Sinn Féin will now exert political pressure to bring about a cessation of violence in Northern Ireland. We are coming up to the annual Christmas truce and I hope that when it is announced we will be told it will continue indefinitely.

Every opportunity that could be given by democratic politicians to allow people to come in from the cold has been given and that cannot be denied. People I know who are sympathetic to Sinn Féin believe that this is the first opportunity to allow people who have been involved with the IRA to move away from violence and into the political mainstream. If the opportunity is not grasped there will be greater problems and people should remember that there is not a military solution to this problem. Those who think that there is are not living in the real world.

There is a yearning for peace and the people of Northern Ireland will force the issue in the months and years ahead. There will not be an overnight solution. The process will be tedious and those involved at Government and at paramilitary level will have to agree to conditions which they may not like, but peace is more important that personal gain or personal loss.

In this historic document of 15 December 1993 the democratic Governments are inviting those who have been involved in violence to come in from the margins and become involved in democratic politics. We owe a great debt to John Hume and Gerry Adams who realised and explained to their supporters in Northern Ireland that the present situation could not be allowed to continue indefinitely. We now have an opportunity to resolve the Northern problem by democratic means and I have no doubt it will be grasped by everybody in Northern Ireland and in the Republic.

I speak with a certain degree of trepidation as if these were my first words uttered in this House. Everybody notices that there has been a Protocol, unwritten but true, and a sort of seniority attached to those people who would speak on the Northern question. A predictable cast of people have spoken on the North and new Deputies have been reluctant to add their voices and new perspectives to that debate because there is always the fear that careless words cost lives. Added to that predictability in the cast of players both North and South, a heavily coded complex language has evolved.

People skirt around language. Ordinary politicians avoid using such coded language because the debate on Northern Ireland has become so complex and skilled in terms of political language. The Joint Declaration contains a great deal of such language and is heavily coded with all sorts of messages, compromises and concessions. As my Leader stated this morning, the Progressive Democrat Party welcomes the Joint Declaration. It is at last a move forward and a break away from the stasis which has been part of the Northern Ireland question for a long time.

I was made aware of the importance and skills surrounding language in regard to Northern Ireland when, as a new Deputy, I participated in a British-Irish Association conference in Oxford last year. Newly elected Deputies from both sides of the Border and England, Scotland and Wales were invited to come together, hold workshops and get to know each other. That was a valuable experience for me. Many academics were present, people who had mastered those political language skills. Also, I was among my own generation. It is time for a new perspective here and in the North. To date, participants in debates on Northern Ireland have usually been male and for that reason I am privileged to be allowed speak today on this topic on behalf of my party. Women's voices on Northern Ireland politics have not been heard sufficiently. The voices we have heard for the past 20 years have been very intransigent at times and did not seek compromise or common ground.

The topic for discussion at the conference was "Europe and the Regions". It was hoped that by talking about Europe as a neutral territory the Border between North and South could be blurred. It was a loosely hidden agenda; of course, we were all there to talk about the North. As usual the best communications and dialogue took place outside the workshops, in other words, at meal times and in the bar. What struck me most was that Northern Ireland politicians have covered the issue of their politics so well and in such detail during the past number of years that they become impatient with ordinary Southern politicians when discussing Northern Ireland. There is no angle they have not covered or teased out and they frequently become impatient when we use the wrong word or "get it wrong". Constitutional politicians in the South devote their political passions to many issues such as feminism, environmentalism justice and Northern Ireland, but the Northern problem is only one of the issues which concerns Southern politicians. In contrast, in the North it is the big issue, the life and death issue of the Constitution, the status of Northern Ireland and the war which has been taking place there for some time.

The language used in regard to Northern Ireland has become very coded and it is time we broke down that code and started talking about the many issues which do not divide us but unite us, the duality we share with the Northern Ireland people. In many respects we are half English from a cultural point of view and the same applies to people in the North. Many of us are well educated. I know my Shakespeare as well as I know my Patrick Kavanagh and I know the plays of the Northern playwright Brian Friel, as well as I know the plays of Southern playwrights. It is those cultural issues which unite us and they should be stressed more and more.

The coded term "accommodating Northern Unionists" is frequently used. We should be talking about liking and marrying Northern Unionists, as I have done, as opposed to accommodating them, and we should not insist on the children of such marriages being reared as Catholics. My children are being reared as Protestants and my husband was brought up in the culture of Ulster unionism. He went to school in the shadow of Stormont. We hear far too little about what we share culturally and racially. When John Taylor was being backed into a corner by the prospect of a pan Nationalist gang-up he made rather arrogant comments about feeling alien from the Irish race. It hurts to hear Ulster Unionists make such comments. We understand Ulster Unionists far better than they understand us. We understand British people better than they understand us because of our education, literature, the television programmes shown here and so on. They do not learn Irish history to the same extent that we learn English history. All those fusions of our culture should be stressed.

I welcome the reference in the Joint Declaration to the need for us to change some of our institutions which will make us more attractive to Ulster Protestants. There are many examples, but Articles 2 and 3 are the well known ones. They are part of the national self delusion in the South. Does any of us really believe we have jurisdiction over Northern Ireland? Anyone who does is deluding themselves. It is similar to saying we are bilingual when most people here speak English better than Irish. English is my first language and I am no less Irish because of that. We must move away from the Catholic concept of nationalism.

On my way home from the Dáil last night I turned on my radio to the voice of Senator Gordon Wilson. His recall of the tiny incidents, his humanity, belief in God and — use of the soft sounds of Ulster Protestantism which we do not hear very often must be complimented. We usually hear the intransigent Ulster Unionist voices. I compliment Senator Wilson for his contribution to the Oireachtas and for his programme on the airwaves. That is the voice of Ulster Protestantism we should hear more often. It would be a great mistake to change the section 31 prohibition. Much has been conceded by both sides in the Joint Declaration, but there is a difference between compromise and capitulation. It would be a mistake to give in on that important access point to the media at this stage. Unless Sinn Féin categorically renounces violence we should move no further in that regard.

The importance of the Joint Declaration is that for the first time the British and Irish Government have recognised the legitimacy of the Nationalist case for a united Ireland and a Unionist case for union with Great Britain. Those two aspirations are now recognised on an equal basis and it is important that they are recognised as such by both Governments.

Within that framework we can achieve peace. Those who hitherto have pursued their political objectives through violence can now abandon that method and take part in the political process, the talks and negotiations which may lead to an agreed Ireland and democratic structures in Northern Ireland, in which both communities would be involved in a partnership administration with useful linkages between North and South whereby common social and economic objectives could be pursued. The overall package would be guaranteed by the two sovereign Governments in London and Dublin.

As I see it, the historic achievement of this declaration is that it opens the door and allows those who have pursued their objectives through violence to put their arms and bombs aside so that the representatives of both communities can negotiate the structures of the future. The objective of a lasting peace in either a united Ireland or some other agreed structure can be pursued democratically by the two communities involved. For the first time this document provides the framework within which this can be done legitimately by the representatives of the two traditions. It provides an avenue through which the paramilitaries can abandon violence and pursue their objectives either of a united Ireland or the maintenance of the link with Britain provided the majority so decide.

It is important at this time that we in Dáil Éireann show generosity towards those who have used violence in the past and say to them that they now have an opportunity to come in from the cold to achieve their objectives democratically with other Irish men and women and thus ensure that the Ireland of the future — a peaceful Ireland in which the required social and economic developments can take place for the benefit of all the people of Ireland — can be built by the two communities through negotiation.

I avail of this opportunity to appeal to the representatives of the various paramilitary groups on both the Republican and Loyalist sides to consider this document carefully. They will see that in this document the objectives they are seeking through methods which we would regard as wrong can now be achieved through negotiation and discussion with their fellow Irish men and women. So far as the people of this country are concerned the most important aspect is the response in the immediate weeks ahead.

If there is a constructive response to this declaration and a cessation of violence, as the Taoiseach said this morning, there could be a peace forum in this jurisdiction in which all parties on this island could discuss the position North and South in a positive way, and how the barriers which have led to distrust, prejudice and division on all parts of the island can be removed. This would not run counter to the need to continue the talks between the two Governments in London and Dublin and between the parties — the three strands of talks — on structures in Northern Ireland and linkages with the Republic and for the ultimate settlement to be guaranteed by the British and Irish Governments. This settlement would be endorsed by the Irish people, North and South in concurrent referenda.

I hope this democratic process will start in the immediate future, within a matter of weeks. If the pleas of the people, North and South, and the neighbouring island of Great Britain, are heeded then the response to this declaration will be positive within a matter of weeks. I appeal to the paramilitaries to give a positive response. We could then proceed to consultations within the peace forum in this jurisdiction and to wider talks between the two Government, together with all the parties on this island, to find a permanent peaceful settlement. The way is now clear.

The key element in this document is the recognition of the aspirations and objectives of the two traditions, morals, a united Ireland and link with the United Kingdom. Through the peace forum and in the subsequent intergovernmental talks we can ensure that the principle of equality between the two traditions runs through each subsequent decision in these talks and the ultimate settlement. This principle should also be reflected in the structures established in Northern Ireland, the linkages between Northern Ireland and the Republic and the overall settlement involving the two sovereign Governments. The principle of equality and respect for the two traditions on this island should run through all subsequent decisions in the areas I have mentioned. That is the great achievement of this Joint Declaration which I hope will evolve in the immediate weeks, months and years ahead. That is the aspiration that will command support from all sides in the House today.

I would like to share my limited time with Deputy McGinley. There now exists a palpable overwhelming desire for peace in the North. That desire exists among all the people of this island. It transcends all divisions. I believe it exists with almost equal intensity North and South among those who have directly suffered and those who have remained relatively untouched. This desire for peace is now a powerful and mighty force crying out for, demanding success for the framework for peace laid down in the Downing Street Declaration.

That Declaration was very courageous, skilful and clever, some of it in coded language. Earlier today the Taoisach gave us an insight into how it finally developed. All of those involved deserve the due recognition of this House. Among the architects I include Mr. John Hume. This is an important stepping-stone, like the Anglo-Irish Agreement of Hillsborough, that may, just may have within it the opportunity for final peace. For all of us it represents a challenge to attain that peace and to restore friendship and co-operation on this entire island. There are no guarantees about this: our hopes may be cruelly dashed. If that happens on this occasion it will be all the more cruel because our hopes are so high.

However, I feel there are good grounds for optimism now despite the tragic reversals that have blighted attempts at reaching agreement in the past. It is the people of the area from which violence emanates who can do most to ensure that the challenge for peace will be met, and my feeling is that on this occasion the desire for peace is very strongly rooted in these communities. It is just possible that the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Major may have seized the moment, seized the hour. Their Declaration is courageous but it also shows a very practical realism about what is attainable. This is a framework for peace through the agreement and co-operation of all the people, North and South.

Naturally the people I represent as a Dáil Deputy in the Border constituency of Sligo-Leitrim have an added dimension to their interest in this development. With the achievement of peace we could, one would hope, have a quick return to the normal style of living with the restoration of the former pattern of trade, commerce and tourism and with the former friendly fraternising of people along the Border. The restoration of the blocked or cratered roads would, I hope, be the first early physical sign of a return to normalcy.

Undoubtedly the tragic events of the past 25 years have done enormous damage to the economy of the north west. These difficulties coincide with a time that brought huge problems anyhow with the decimation of that region. That is a story for another day but one that I hope will not, with the coming of peace, be left unnattended to by the Government for any longer than is necessary.

In the Joint Declaration of the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister we genuinely have what it claims to be, a framework for peace for all people living on this island. We all know of the great "if onlys" of Irish history. Another opportunity has now arrived but it, too, could become another "if only". However, if the will of the people as I believe it to be now prevails — the will of the people of both traditions in the entire country — it will not be another "if only". It can become a final stepping stone.

First I wish to state that I welcome the Downing Street communiqué issued last Wednesday. It is obvious that much time, energy and effort has gone into its production. Earlier this week I attended a meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body in Westminister and I can honestly say that among the members of that body there is a huge groundswell of concern, tempered with hope, optimism and goodwill towards this country and Northern Ireland.

There is a genuine attempt in the communiqué to arrive at a balance between the wishes and aspirations of both communities in Northern Ireland. It recognises the apprehensions, concerns and anxieties of the Unionist population. It categorically and unambiguously states that the Governments of the United Kingdom and of the Republic recognise the principle that there will be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority of its inhabitants. This statement will go far to assuage the fears of the Unionist majority.

Last Wednesday I listened to the British Prime Minister make his statement in the House of Commons. I was particularly interested in the response of the Official Unionist Party members. There was no out-of-hand rejection. Instead there was a steady, muted, responsible reaction. By their response they have given a lead to all other parties to treat the document in a similar manner.

The wishes and aspirations of the Nationalist population of Northern Ireland have also been recognised. The British Government stated that it has no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland, that its primary interest is to see peace, stability and reconciliation established by agreement among all the people who inhabit that area. So far as I can tell, this is the first time that such a statement has been made so officially and unambiguously by the British Government. How can anyone on the Nationalist side disagree with such a statement? To disagree with paragraph 4 would mean being in favour of forcing people to join together. Such a policy would merely prolong and exacerbate what we have witnessed in Northern Ireland during the past 25 years.

The communiqué is committed to bringing people together by consent, breaking down old hatreds that have been generated over the centuries and particularly by the latest campaign of violence. This can only be achieved by a slow process, and the aim stated in the communiqué is to establish the structures to enable such a process to be initiated and to progress in the coming weeks and months at an acceptable rate.

In the public gallery of the House of Commons last Wednesday I was impressed with the response from all sides of the House to the statement made by the Prime Minister. The only dissenting voices there on that occasion were from members of the Democratic Unionist Party. I regret very much that they were so vehement in their opposition even before they had had time to read and digest the recommendations in the statement.

The statements made last Wednesday and here in the Dáil today are a mark of our concern for the future of Northern Ireland and of this island as a whole, and also of the maturity of all political parties in this House. There is always the temptation for political parties to put their own interests above those of the country. I am glad to see that such is not the case on this occasion. Unfortunately, it has not always been the case, as witness the approach adopted by different parties in the wake of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 — the less said about the manoeuvring on that occasion the better.

Territorial unity and a thirty-two county Republic is no longer the major item on the political agenda and this fact now seems to be accepted by all parties in the Dáil. The national priority now is a unity of minds and hearts between both communities in Northern Ireland, ultimately between North and South leading to a permanent peace on this island.

This document has immense implications for County Donegal. There is probably no other part of the Republic that has suffered more economically as a result of the troubles in Northern Ireland. Ninety per cent of the traffic between Dublin and Donegal goes through Northern Ireland. Everyone who has travelled there is aware of the Border checkpoints, detours and diversions which continuously delay and disrupt traffic. Tourism to the county both from Northern Ireland and other parts of the country has been adversely affected. Donegal is often seen by tourists visiting this country as being part of Northern Ireland. A cessation of violence and the establishment of peace would be a boost to the economy of Donegal and the north-west region in general.

The separation of communities in Northern Ireland on the basis of religion is tragic, particularly when we all profess and adhere to the same Christian principles. In Donegal there are Christian churches of various denominations and I can truthfully say there is an excellent spirit of understanding, co-operation and Christian charity between all the churches. His Grace, the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Dr. Mahaffey always makes a point, in his public addresses, of recognising the excellent spirit of understanding and co-operation between the different Churches in Donegal.

I look forward to 1994 as being a year of peace-building on this island. We have the framework within which to promote understanding between the peoples, North and South. As a person geographically from the north of the country and politically from the South, I appeal to all sections to come aboard and help us to achieve that peace that will make this little island of ours a much happier place to live in. That is the only recourse available to the true patriot.

I would like to share my time with Deputy Bree.

I am sure that is agreed.

I have been a Member of this House since 1969 and that membership has concided with the long history of the problems in Northern Ireland, of death and destruction. Thee have been many discussions about those problems in this House. During that time there have been initiatives by various Governments, for example, the Sunningdale Agreement, the New Ireland Forum and the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Those initiatives met with some success. The Sunningdale Agreement was scuppered by a weak British Government. The Anglo-Irish Agreement brought forward many initiatives but it did not bring peace to the North.

In regard to the Joint Declaration on peace of 15 December, great work has been done by our Government, by people on both sides of the Border, including John Hume, and by the British Government who set the framework and foundation for better dialogue in the future. We own congratulations and good wishes to the Government, particularly the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, for what has been achieved. During the past three-and-a-half years since the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body brought together public representatives from the Houses of the Oireachtas and the Houses of Parliament in Britain. That time has been well spent in that understanding between politicians has improved.

I welcome the proposal in the Joint Declaration to establish a peace forum. I hope that proposal will be adopted by the interested parties so that dialogue and discussion can take place at every level. The business communities in the North and the South met this week and IBEC and the CBI have a strong role to play in ensuring that the benefits that could come about through peace to the economies of both parts of this island are expanded and improved upon. We have heard of the good wishes expressed by the all-Ireland body, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions which will have to become active with the working community on both sides of the Border to ensure that the peace initiative is understood by all.

The Churches of all denominations, and that which Dr. Paisley represents, could come together to continue to demand peace. Community groups have played a great part in demanding peace over the years. Women's groups on both sides have played their part. The peace train and so on instilled in ordinary people a desire for peace on this island. Many youth groups who, perhaps, have not been as prominent in this area suffered as a result of what happened during the past few years. I hope organised groups who may be members of EU organisations will become active in the peace forum.

Our sporting organisations on this island have a role to play also. Our national sport is played on both sides of the Border. The recent tense experience of our soccer team who travelled to the North is one, with better understanding, we would hope would not be repeated.

I wish to pay tribute to the joint chairmen of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body, Deputy Dermot Ahern and Mr. Peter Temple-Morris and to the former Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Mr. Jim Tunney, who served with distinction and played a great part in improving relations. I hope, as vice-chairman of that body, that I can continue to help the peace process. I look forward to the success of the Joint Declaration in what has been a momentous week. It represents a great opportunity for peace on this island.

I view the Joint Declaration on peace as the beginning of a process which will see an end to the conflict in Northern Ireland — a process based on mutual respect for the rights and aspirations of both traditions. I stress the word "beginning" because the reality is that this Declaration is the first step in a process which I hope will bring peace and justice to our land. As the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs pointed out, the process of building a peace that can be sustained will be long and painstaking. It has already been made clear by some that the Joint Declaration falls short of the expectations of many Nationalists. It has been stated that while the document does much to quell the fears of Northern Unionists it tends to ignore the fears of the Northern Nationalist community. Considering that for the past 70 years the Northern Nationalist community has had to survive in a blatantly undemocratic and sectarian State it is understandable that Nationalists would have many fears. Like the Palestinian people and the people of South Africa, Northern Nationalists down the years suffered injustice and discrimination and they, more than any other community here, desire a solution which will bring lasting peace and justice.

I welcome the confirmation by the Taoiseach in this House on Wednesday that the Nationalist community suffered neglect and discrimination for many years and that it was the duty of the Irish Government to see that that did not happen in future. While the Joint Declaration may fall short of the expectations of many, nonetheless, it provides a framework for the development of a genuine peace process. Paragraph 4 of the Joint Declaration is of particular significance because for the first time Britain agrees that it is for the people of Ireland alone, to exercise their right to self-determination on the basis of consent North and South. It declares that Britain no longer has selfish strategic or economic interests in Northern Ireland — a declaration which must be considered as one of the foundation stones of the document.

The Declaration states it would be wrong to attempt to impose a united Ireland and both Governments accept that Irish unity would be achieved only by those who favour this outcome by persuading those who do not, peacefully and without coercion or violence. Having regard to the fact that the State of Northern Ireland was imposed by force of arms, without the consent of the people of this island 70 years ago, considering it has taken 70 years of discrimination and coercion to maintain that state it is logical that we now recognise that a solution can only come about peacefully by consent and without coercion. The Declaration deals with the genuinely held fears of Unionists. It is important that we continue to emphasise that Northern Unionists have nothing to fear and they should learn to trust the good faith, not only of the Irish Government but of the majority of the Nationalist people of this country. The assurance that our Government will examine any elements in the democratic life and organisation of this State that can be represented as a real and substantial threat to their way of life and ethos, or can be represented as not being fully consistent with a modern democratic and pluralist society — with a view to removing such obstacles, is clear evidence to this.

Finding a political solution will not be easy. However, this Declaration will create the conditions whereby all political groups can be represented at the conference table. If it is to be successful, it is important that the many and varied political organisations and the general public, North and South, study the contents of the Declaration and give due consideration to the many issues it addresses.

If there is to be genuine consultation and debate on the issue, the current order under section 31 of the Broadcasting Act will have to be lifted. Orders made under section 31 of the Broadcasting Act have been imposed by successive Governments, which did not have the political will-power, capacity or courage to take real political action to begin the process of resolving the Northern Ireland question. That cannot be said of our partnership Government. There is now a growing body of opinion who hold that political censorship has prolonged the violence. In the context of the Hume-Adams talks and the Joint Declaration on peace, the public are seeing the nonsense of section 31, particularly in that it has been evident that RTE has been severely restricted in its coverage of the peace initiative.

The Programme for a Partnership Government states that one of our priorities will be to restore confidence in the democratic process by encouraging greater openness and participation at all levels, by improving public accountability, transparency and trust. Political censorship undermines the democratic process. It inhibits genuine public participation in the decision-making process. It breeds ignorance.

Obviously, there is a need for a proper balance between the right to freedom of speech and information and the need to prevent the airwaves from being manipulated or abused for subversive purposes. I accept that radio and television cannot be allowed to be used as a vehicle for inciting or for promoting violence. However, I also recognise that such abuse can be dealt with effectively by other measures, including the use of section 18 of the Broadcasting Act and, indeed, through the prohibition of incitement to hatred Act.

If the peace process is to advance and the people of this country are to be made fully aware of the process and its implications, the order under section 31 of the Broadcasting Act should not be renewed. I support the motion.

In the short time available to me I will do my best not to go over ground covered by other people. I am confident that a process has begun which will lead first to a cessation of violence, then to political arrangements for a settlement of the Northern Ireland problem. However, this is not inevitable. In addition to the cessation of violence other problems down the road include the disposal of weaponry and the position of prisoners, both of which are extremely sensitive and difficult problems.

There is also the problem central to any solution, that of policing. As I said before, policing is a possible Achilles heel of any settlement. Unless we find a way in which there can be impartial policing in Northern Ireland we will not find a solution to the problem. As I said on previous occasions, one will know that a solution to the Northern Ireland problem has been found when my sons or grandchildren together with the sons or grandchildren of, say, Ken Magennis, will walk down The Square or Scott Street in Dungannon, both involved in impartial policing. Policing is of crucial importance. We must begin to change the emphasis from policing the troubles to policing the peace. I hope that as soon as possible the Government will consider that problem. I welcome the fact that a body which has already been referred to, the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body, has started to think in those terms.

The efforts of John Hume, now almost universally recognised and appreciated by everyone in the know, have been praised. Some people who did not find many words of praise for him a few weeks ago are praising him now, but that is a matter for another time. Those efforts are still required and could be crucial in the days ahead. There is a job for a facilitator and for people to give elaborations, and John Hume could be crucial in that role.

The wives and mothers of prisoners, of those involved in the violence and those who, if it were to continue, would be sucked into it, could also be of crucial importance. They have a vested interest in peace and I hope their views will be given the importance they deserve. I would remind the Government and everyone involved that the views of wives and mothers have been crucial in the past. They were crucial at the time of the hunger strikes and they could be equally crucial now. I hope they will be allowed play their part.

It is necessary to issue a word of warning to the leadership of the provisional Republican movement. If it allows this opportunity to pass it may not recur, or it will be a very long time before it recurs. That movement should remember that the votes for Sinn Féin in the North represent only 10 per cent of the electorate — it received only 2 per cent of support from the electorate here. These figures do not represent support for the campaign of violence because, as Sinn Féin has admitted, there are reasons people, particularly in the North, voted for them other than support for the campaign of violence, and that should be borne in mind.

My constituents in Dublin West, like the great majority of the electorate in this part of the country, will not be held to ransom and will not tolerate the playing of games in order to increase the attraction of individuals to the provisional Republican movement and to enable them to hold the limelight as long as possible.

The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation has two purposes. The Taoiseach told us that the forum "could be absolutely vital to reaching a second stage [of the peace process] and to achieving a permanent cessation of violence". That presumably refers to the involvement of Sinn Féin. Its formal involvement would be a sign that the IRA has ceased violence for good, and that would be welcome. However, as someone involved in the forum of ten years ago I do not believe that it could contribute very much of value to the definition of constitutional nationalism which was superbly discussed in that forum. The statements of the forum in relation to the role of constitutional nationalism, which will stand for a very long time, have been effective in helping us arrive at the present position.

The second purpose of the forum is much more important, that is, in the words of the Taoiseach, "to make recommendations on ways in which agreement and trust between both traditions in Ireland can be promoted and established". That, as Deputy Bruton has pointed out, requires the presence of Unionists. Without such presence and involvement the forum could not carry out its task. I say to the Government and to all involved that extraordinary efforts will have to be made to ensure Unionist participation. The agreed Ireland for which all of us in this House wish and to which we contribute our efforts will not come about without Unionist agreement, and that requires Unionist participation in this forum. Extraordinary efforts must be made to ensure their presence. Everything possible should be done by the Government and individual Members of this House to ensure involvement not only of Unionists but of practising Unionist politicians.

Many thanks and congratulations have been expressed to people who contributed to the process so far, but others should be included also. It must be remembered in particular that co-operation between the two sovereign Governments, without which this agreement would not be possible, has been immensely facilitated by the framework provided by the Anglo-Irish Agreement. When people point the finger at the Anglo-Irish Agreement it should be remembered that it provided the framework for the drawing up of this Declaration. It should also be remembered that crucial elements in the process were foreshadowed in the dialogue between the SDLP and Sinn Féin in 1988. I do not know whether the Tánaiste has read that correspondence. If not — it became publicly available towards the end of 1988 — I would advise him to do so because there are elements in it which could be of use in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Our thanks should go to the many people, some still publicly unidentified, some known to me, who have facilitated this process. It would not be right or in the best interests in terms of security and so on to name some of these people, but to those who will read my words and who know I am aware of their involvement in this process, I say thanks on behalf of everyone in the House for the work they have done. Hopefully some time they can be publicly identified. I would like also to join in the thanks to the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body for the work it has done. It has led to an amazing level of mutual understanding among people, both on the British and Irish sides, who had difficulties in the past. It has educated both the British and Irish sides. This body deserves our thanks.

I wish the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs all the best in the difficult work which still has to be done in this process. They have my support in doing this.

At the outset I wish to thank all the Deputies who have contributed to his debate and, as Deputy Currie said, all the people who have been involved in this process which has continued for many months.

When the British and Irish Governments agreed their Joint Declaration last Wednesday, they were clear that the step they had taken was not the end of the road towards lasting peace, nor even, to paraphrase another British Prime Minister, the beginning of the end. It was rather "the end of the beginning" of a process which has the potential to transform the way in which we, as Irish people, live together on this island. My hope is that it can be the instrument which will enable both traditions in Ireland to give the most precious gift it is in our power to bestow on each other, the gift of peace.

The determination of the two Governments to work with imagination and persistence for the achievement of peace is one necessary condition for reaching that goal. But the efforts of the Governments, however determined and inventive, are not a sufficient condition. For their efforts to succeed, they must mobilise the support of the wider public in this jurisdiction, in Northern Ireland, in Great Britain and more widely. Our initiative to succeed must culminate in a recognition by those who wield the weapons of death on both sides, that these terrible methods and all the human suffering they entail can and must be made a thing of the past. There is a new spirit abroad, and not just in Ireland, which acknowledges that violence has a corrosive dynamic of its own, making it an instrument that always damages those who resort to it as much as, or sometimes more than, those at whom it is directed.

It is because the reaction to the Declaration is so crucial to its ultimate success that the lead given by this House, both on Wednesday last and in this debate today, is so important. The debate has been open and frank, and I am grateful for the many constructive contributions that have been made. On balance, I think the signal which has been given is a valuable and positive one. It shows that the elected representatives of our State, gathered here, endorse the paramount importance the Government attaches to the goal of peace. It shows they support the efforts which have been made to advance it, and they wish to steer, as the Government does, for an honourable and lasting accommodation which will safeguard the basic concerns of both traditions in Ireland and thereby bring peace.

The international response to the Joint Declaration has also been extremely gratifying. It demonstrates the depth of international concern at a conflict which has, sadly, clouded the name of Ireland throughout the world. It also reflects the widespread hope that it can be laid to rest once and for all. On my instructions, our Embassies abroad have been active in bringing the Declaration to the attention of foreign Governments, international organisations and media. They have briefed them on the importance of this initiative taken jointly by the two Governments and stimulated their sympathetic interest and support. The response to these efforts has been an impressive display of international solidarity with the two Governments.

President Clinton has expressed very strong support for the Declaration. He saluted the courage and flexibility demonstrated by the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister in their search for peace and expressed the hope that all parties would be inspired by their vision. His words of encouragement have been echoed by Speaker Foley, the Friends of Ireland, Senator Kennedy, and other leaders of opinion in the United States. Valuable expressions of support have also come from Prime Minister Keating of Australia and from the Canadian Government; from President Delors and several of our partners in the European Union and elsewhere in Europe; from the Government of Japan and many others. There have been numerous individual messages of good wishes from friends and allies around the world.

In this connection, I want to advise the House that on next Monday, at the General Affairs Council of the European Union, I hope to take an opportunity to brief my colleagues on the content and meaning of the peace Declaration. I will be asking them to express their solidarity and support for the peace process and I have every hope and confidence, given the history of the Union, that we can start a process of securing practical measures of support for reconstruction, especially in the Border areas and in the many parts of Northern Ireland that have been economically blighted by the last 25 years of violence.

In preparing for the work which lies ahead we will be strengthened by the knowledge that this first step we have taken towards a lasting peace has been so widely acclaimed, and that we can count on the continuing goodwill and assistance of so many.

At the same time, as the Taoiseach and I have been at pains to make clear, there is no question of our being overcome by euphoria or a false complacency. The Joint Declaration is, as the Taoiseach has described, the product of a lengthy, painstaking and arduous set of negotiations. It is, as has been recognised, a complex document of profound significance in what it says about the principles which will underlie the future political development of our island.

In spite of the painstaking efforts to consult widely in preparing it, and to balance in it the fundamental concerns of both traditions, I did not expect that everyone would rush to welcome the Joint Declaration. What I do urge, however, is that everyone and, in particular, the people of Northern Ireland who have suffered so much from the conflict of the past 25 years, should study the document carefully and read it as a whole and in its entirety. I commend the desire of some to refrain from immediate judgment. It was perhaps also predictable that others should have rushed to the old shibboleths of treachery and sell-out, even though I was of course disappointed by this reaction. As I have said before, for too long every development in the difficult course of the Northern conflict has been analysed purely in terms of victory and defeat, of gain and loss. As Louis MacNeice ruefully commented:

And one read black where the other read white, his hope — The other man's damnation.

Inevitably, then, there will be those who apply this barren calculus to the Joint Declaration, who will scan it for evidence either of triumph or disaster. There is also in Northern Ireland a very understandable wariness, after so many disappointments and failed initiatives, to believe that at last it is possible that things might change.

My first plea, therefore, is that the Joint Declaration should receive the careful scrutiny it merits. I am confident that nobody who reads it in detail and without preconceptions will see in it either a threat or a betrayal. Rather, it will be seen for what it is: the solemn expression by the two Governments of their commitment to ensuring that the future of Ireland, North and South, is decided, freely, on the basis of consent and agreement, and without any coercion, by the people of Ireland, North and South.

The Declaration is balanced and it is fair. It offers to everyone living in Ireland and, in particular, in Northern Ireland, the prospect of real peace, by offering all a framework where the fundamental concerns of both traditions are reflected. It creates, in short, a "table" where all can sit down to negotiate the future without loss of principle or damage to basic concerns.

As is said in the Declaration's opening paragraph, the development of this agreed framework for peace is based on a number of key principles articulated by the two Governments over the past 20 years, together with the adaptation of other widely accepted principles. In other words, the pieces of the jigsaw have all been to hand, but only in putting them together can we see exactly where they fit, exactly what their relationship to each other is. Never before has there been so comprehensive a statement of the principles which have to form the basis of a meaningful political process, nor, I believe, have the implications of these principles been so fully and carefully teased out.

The British Government has confirmed its fundamental commitment to uphold the democratic wish of a greater number of the people of Northern Ireland on their constitutional future. The Prime Minister reiterated what has been said by Ministers, that his Government have no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland, which in itself marks a radical departure from the past history of British involvement in Ireland. Rather, Britain's primary interest is now to see peace, stability and reconciliation established by agreement among all the people who inhabit the island.

The role of the British Government will be to encourage, facilitate and enable the achievement of such agreement though a process of dialogue and co-operation. Should the people of Ireland, by agreement between North and South and on the basis of consent freely and concurrently given, express their wish to bring about a united Ireland, the British Government will give effect to this, or equally to any measure of agreement on future relationships in Ireland which the people living in Ireland may themselves freely decide in the exercise of their right to self-determination.

There is only one qualification imposed on the exercise of that right and that is the requirement of concurrent North-South consent. That is a qualification which the vast majority of Irish people would in any case firmly insist on for their own good reasons, quite irrespective of any wider relationship or commitment.

I can think of no political fact more certain than this: any test of self-determination which could be devised to test the wishes of the people of this island as a whole would confirm that in their overwhelming majority they would reject any strategy of forced unity which overrode the wishes of a majority of the people in Northern Ireland. We know too well from our history that, in the words of the Declaration, "stability and well-being will not be found under any political system which is refused allegiance or rejected on grounds of identity by a significant minority of those governed by it". We have seen the bitter fruits of the lack of consensus in Northern Ireland. The fervant wish of our people is to address and overcome that lack of consensus, not duplicate it in a different framework.

This wording of the Declaration is, inevitably, complex and careful but it means, as I said on Wednesday, that the British Government is not the enemy of Irish national aspirations, nor the Irish Government of those of Unionists. In a nutshell, what the Declaration means is that it is up to us, the people living in Ireland, to build trust, to seek reconciliation and to reach agreement on our future. The long and tangled relationship between Ireland and British has created an amalgam of passions, loyalties, aspirations and enmities which for the past 70 years has been concentrated within the narrow ground of Northern Ireland.

The problems remain, but we now know beyond all doubt that the way is open to us to seek peace and reconciliation on our island. The Declaration confirms we can set about this task, not only without external impediment, but with the British Government as an active and supportive partner, prepared to "encourage, facilitate and enable" any agreement reached by Irish people on this island.

The use of violence over the past quarter of a century has consistently and rightly been rejected by the overwhelming majority of Irish people, North and South. We have condemned it as evil. We have been appalled by the death, bereavement and suffering it has brought. We have been dismayed by the sheer waste it has meant. We have seen how it has widened the gap between Unionist and Nationalist, Protestant and Catholic, North and South. We have seen it to be futile and counter-productive.

Still its perpetrators, on both sides, have continued the slaughter. Many Republicans must surely have come to realise, along with the rest of us, that a unity of territory without a unity of the people living in that territory is not just improbable, but, in fact, worthless. Now they have come to a watershed. It is time for them to choose between the meaningful political process which is now offered and the isolation of a campaign of violence which breeds only more violence and poisons the lives of Nationalists and Unionists alike.

To choose the path of violence will be to condemn not just themselves, but their children and their children's children to lives of violence and terror, of imprisonment and death. They will be turning their backs on the chance to contribute to the creation of a new Ireland.

And, I ask, for what? As John Hume said, what is contained in this Declaration clearly negates the reasons advanced by Republicans in justification of the campaign of violence. If the crude slogan of "Brits out" ever had any meaning, it has none now unless, as so many Unionists fear, it means that in the eyes of the IRA it is they who are to be overridden and forced out.

It is time for the Republican movement to show that it has learned from the history of the past 25 years that reconciliation and trust are at the heart of the equation in Ireland. If what they seek is a genuine unity, then they have a marvellous opportunity to work for the good of the people they represent as well as for the objectives which they cherish and which nobody is asking them to abandon.

All of us, however, and not just the Republican movement, have to examine our consciences and see how we can promote the objective of peace and reconciliation. This duty falls on the Irish Government and on constitutional Nationalists generally; it also, I suggest, falls on Unionists and their leaders.

I know, not least from my recent contacts with Unionists representatives, that there is within that community a fear of change, a belief that all change and movement in the political situation can only harm them and in some way threaten their links with Britain. Since taking office I have tried very hard to dispel those fears. I have argued that political change need not be a zero-sum game. The position of Unionists is, in a sense, doubly guaranteed. The British Government has used this Declaration to restate once more its constitutional guarantee that there will be no change in the status of Northern Ireland unless that is the express wish of a majority of its people.

The language of the Declaration makes clear, in its contrast between joint commitments and the individual guarantees that each Government has given, that that particular undertaking, like the statutory guarantee itself, is a matter for the British Government, not for both Governments. However, the Declaration also reaffirms the joint pledge on this issue enshrined in the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

As I have said before, Unionists should also see in the best traditions of Irish nationalism the potential for the most important guarantee of all. The Joint Declaration in a sense codifies what has been the consistent trend in the thinking of Nationalists over recent decades. We accept — indeed, rejoice in — the diversity of the people who share this island.

We acknowledge the existence of two traditions, two identities, which have been defined in large part by their differing political aspirations. These two traditions deserve, throughout Ireland, an equality of respect, a parity of esteem. No political structures not founded on that basis can survive or would be worthy of survival.

I would hope that these values would be vindicated in the work of the proposed forum. There has been some criticism of the consultation process on this issue so far. However, it is fair to say that the essential idea underlying the forum is in fact that of consultation with the democratic parties in this House, and on the island generally, about how we shape our common future.

A cessation of violence would transform the sitution on this island. It would be right, and I believe very productive, in the wake of such a momentous change — the momentous change we are talking about is a total cessation of violence and the establishment of an atmosphere of peace — for all democratically mandated parties to take stock of the new situation and of how the potential benefits and the momentum for positive change can be developed and consolidated. I can assure Opposition spokespersons who have expressed concern on this issue that there will be very full discussions with them to find the best means of ensuring that the forum can contribute as effectively as possible to the goals the Taoiseach defined this morning. I would also say to the Unionist parties that they would be welcome to contribute and to play a role. They choose for themselves. I believe this process has great potential for Unionist parties as well for other democratically mandated parties on this island.

In the Declaration, the Government declared that it would be wrong to attempt to impose a United Ireland in the absence of the freely given consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. We accepted that the civil rights and religious liberties of both communities must be fully safeguarded. Deputy Harney spoke of the importance of that part of the Declaration which evoked the possibility of social and other changes in this jurisdiction. I agree with her that this area should not be overlooked.

An important section of the partnership programme of this Government is devoted to such change, and we will be pursuing it vigorously. These social changes are valuable and, in some cases, overdue in terms of the needs of this jurisdiction. The contribution they can make to removing fears and misunderstandings between the two traditions on this island is yet a further reason why the Government is right to pursue vigorously the programme which it set for itself at the establishment of our partnership.

We have undertaken to ensure that in no way can Unionists regard any aspect of our State as posing a real and substantial threat to their way of life or ethos — this commitment is, of course, fully in line with my determination as Leader of the Labour Party, to ensure that our State fully reflects the values of a pluralist and tolerant society.

Let us be clear that, in making this commitment, we are undertaking to look at every aspect of Irish life in an open and honest way. Whether we are talking about the need for new symbolic or cultural expressions, or about laws and institutions, we will take that commitment very seriously. This paragraph represents an open invitation to anyone who does not share in the ethos that underpins the lives of most people in the Republic, to point out to us, whether in the context of the proposed forum or elsewhere, those aspects that they find offensive, unacceptable or threatening.

A willingness to change on our part should go hand in hand with the potential for development in relations between the two parts of this island. There are a great many areas easily identified, where co-operation and agreement among us can pose no threat, and can only enhance the quality of life, not to mention the economic prospects, of the island as a whole.

In culture and in the arts, the diverse traditions on this island have added richness and strength to our overall expression of a national identity. The pooling of resources, while respecting that diversity, could only enhance that expression. Whether one is talking about culture, agricultural development or the need to attract industrial and tourism investment into Ireland, no one can deny that the combined efforts of both parts of the island would be very powerful, just as the impact of peace on its own will have a galvanising effect. The island of Ireland is a classic case — and it always has been — where the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. The ending of division and the building of relationships, which are both friendly and businesslike, would be a powerful catalyst for the kind of progress that will draw down the maximum benefits for the people in both parts of Ireland.

In response to some of the comments made about section 31, the factual position is that the Government must decide, before 19 January 1994, whether or not the order banning Sinn Féin from the airwaves should be renewed. It can be renewed or revoked.

——or delayed.

If it is renewed, as the legislation stands, it can only be renewed for a further year, and not for any shorter period. To do anything else would require legislation amending the Broadcasting Act.

The Government will, and should, give the most careful and detailed consideration to the proposals now before it from the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Michael Higgins. I would like to feel that we can arrive at a decision which will further promote and enhance the prospects of an open dialogue, in which everyone who accepts a democratic mandate can take part.

Such a dialogue would clearly not be complete — indeed it would be ludicrous — if, for example, Sinn Féin was taking part in a Forum for Peace and Reconciliation on the basis of a total cessation of violence, and still banned from taking part in debate on the airwaves.

In this respect, as in many others, the first step is up to them. We are, all of us in this House, looking for signs of a commitment to the democratic way. What I am saying is that the Government, I believe, will be prepared to play its part in encouraging those signs in every legitimate way open to us.

The Joint Declaration confirms once more that in the event of an overall settlement arising from the dialogue which this peace framework is intended to initiate the Irish Government, as part of a balanced constitutional accommodation, will put forward and support proposals for change in the Irish Constitution which would fully reflect the principle of consent in Northern Ireland.

There have been arguments, and implied recriminations, about what might or might not have been done in the talks process. I was not a participant and have no interest in partisan arguments about the past.

However, I do not share the view that it was somehow in contradiction with the talks process to investigate the possibility of an agreement which, in John Hume's phrase, removed the gun from Irish politics forever. Success in that endeavour would transform the prospects of success in dialogue about the practical arrangements just as continuing violence, and the security measures it engenders, make that talks immeasurably more difficult.

Progress must be made on this problem in whatever area it becomes possible. As long as there is death and destruction, we cannot flatter ourselves that we have solved the problem. The false conflict set out by some speakers between the peace process and the talks process overlooks that point. Both processes are complementary and, in the right circumstances, can reinforce each other.

Those who complain about the conduct of the earlier talks should also face a clear and logical conclusion: there is now a new situation, a new Government with a new policy and new personnel. If they feel that opportunities were missed in the last talks, let them return to the table and, at the very least, test whether things have now changed and whether a new approach is now possible. I have tried to urge this point in all my contacts with Unionist representatives.

To those Unionist spokesmen who have complained that the Joint Declaration does not address the issue of Articles 2 and 3,, I say simply: please read it again. We have made a clear and binding promise, a promise which is incorporated in a declaration made jointly with the British Government.

Moreover, the controversy is surely merely a symptom of the fundamental problem facing us all, which is how we are to reconcile two traditions with differing aspirations, how we are to protect and safeguard the identities from which these traditions and aspirations stem.

In the Joint Declaration the Irish Government in essence, has repeated and amplified what we have said consistently: that we value and respect the Unionist identity in Ireland and that, while working for peace, reconciliation and agreement, we accept that there can be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of a majority of its people.

I want to say very clearly to the Unionist community: We are not an enemy of your rights and aspirations; we aspire to be your friends and partners. I honestly do not believe that any Unionist leader who calmly and seriously studies the Declaration can have reason to doubt the good faith and openness of the Government. Indeed, I think that it is the duty of responsible political leaders on all sides not to misrepresent the Declaration to the people for whom they speak or to whip up fears for which absolutely no objective justification exists. But I am ready, at any time — as I have been over the past number of months — to meet any Unionist who may feel that there are elements in the Joint Declaration which may require further elucidation, or who seeks confirmation from me, face-to-face, of what I have been saying.

The text of the Joint Declaration, accordingly, seeks, I hope and believe successfully, to balance the obligations and duties of the two Governments with a view to ensuring that the rights, aspirations and identities of all the people of this island are not only protected and guaranteed but are seen by all to be protected and indeed guaranteed. In so doing, it aims to create a climate for peace. Its central purpose is — in setting out clearly and comprehensively how the two Governments see their roles — to alleviate the fears, suspicion and misunderstandings which have allowed violence to take root in the political culture of Northern Ireland.

We have not sought to prejudice or predetermine the shape of a political settlement. This is a matter for lengthy and careful negotiation involving both Governments and all those in Northern Ireland committed to the democratic process.

It is my hope it will soon be possible to begin building on the progress already registered in the political talks process. However, I believe, that the prospect of a lasting and worthwhile political settlement would be immensely improved by a permanent cessation of violence from all quarters. To commit violent acts now, in the wake of this Declaration, would be still more senseless than before.

Now is the time for the near universal yearning for peace to be answered; now is the time for all of us on this island to make use of the opportunity which now exists to make a fresh start, to banish the demons of the past, to conquer our fears and our lack of trust, to learn, once and for all, how to live together on this island which is our common home.

This House will rise at the conclusion of this debate for Christmas. I imagine that this may well be the first time in the history of the House that we have risen for the Christmas recess on a note of total unanimity.

In expressing the hope that every Member of the House has a happy and a peaceful Christmas, may I also express the hope that this rare unanimity among us will send a powerful message to all who want to listen. This House is adding its voice, and its determination, to those who want to dry tears, to those who want to comfort the suffering, to those who want to rebuild shattered and damaged lives.

We have a rare opportunity here today to express, in the decision we make to support this Declaration, and in the season in which we make that decision, the true meaning of Christmas, and to send abroad, loud and clear, the hope of goodwill towards everyone, and peace on our small portion of the earth.

Question put and agreed to.