Joint Framework Document on Northern Ireland: Statements.

As the House will be aware, earlier today in Belfast, the British Prime Minister and I together launched a Joint Framework Document. The document is a shared understanding between the British and Irish Governments and its purpose is to assist discussion and negotiation involving the Northern Ireland political parties. Copies of the document have been circulated to all Members.

At the outset, I wish to put on record my thanks and appreciation to the Tánaiste and his departmental staff who have negotiated with considerable skill, patience and tenacity to achieve this outcome.

The Tánaiste has shown himself in a long and patient process of negotiation of this document to be a tenacious and effective negotiator, as all in this House who have dealt with him will know.

Ask Deputy Harney.

He has also proven to be an extremely good colleague. That combination has helped him, with the Minister for Justice and many others, to bring about today's agreement. It is also appropriate that I pay tribute to my predecessor as Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, and his advisers, without whose vision and considerable courage the peace process, of which this document is an integral part, would not have been possible. It was entirely appropriate that there should be applause for the introduction of this document from both sides of this House. All have played a good and constructive part in bringing this about.

May I again emphasise what this document is? It is a shared understanding between the two Governments to assist discussion and negotiation involving the Northern Ireland political parties.Deputies will recall that in 1992 talks involving Northern Ireland political parties came to a halt. It was suggested then that it would be helpful if both Governments were to set out their shared view on the broad lines of a possible political accommodation. It was felt this might give impetus and direction to the process of negotiation.

In response to this suggestion from the political parties, the British and Irish Governments began a painstaking and detailed exercise which has led to the publication today of the Joint Framework Document. The document also draws on the Downing Street Declaration of 15 December 1993. In a sense, the publication of today's document brings together two separate but parallel exercises — the talks process and the peace process are now, formally, one process.

Lasting peace and stability on this island requires that three sets of relationships be addressed: the relationship between the two communities in Northern Ireland, the relationship between both parts of this island, and the relationship between the sovereign Governments in Dublin and London. In the documents published today, the two Governments have set out their shared view of the points that need to be met if the three relationships are to be satisfactorily accommodated.

May I briefly say what the Framework Document is not? It is not a prescription for an unpalatable dose of medicine. It is not a blueprint rigidly to be imposed on the people of Northern Ireland. It is not a cage within which their political leaders will have their dialogue confined. It is not an Irish nationalist agenda. It is not a British agenda. What is it? It is a view, shared by two Governments, as to what might most usefully be done to deal with the three, fraught and difficult, sets of relationships to which I referred.

It represents an assessment by the two Governments of what we think might be an agreed outcome from future talks involving the Governments and the Northern Ireland political parties.We believe we have got it right. We are open to persuasion by anyone who believes otherwise.

It is now a matter for the people of Northern Ireland, and also for the people in this part of Ireland, and in Britain to study the document, and I recommend that they do so in a constructive and calm way. No party will regard this document as meeting all its requirements and aspirations. The document represents balance and compromise.If its main elements become the basis for new institutions and political arrangements, I believe that they will ultimately command the widespread support necessary to ensure a fair and effective management for the three sets of relationships to which I have referred.

This document is the contribution of two Governments together. It aims at balance between aspirations that are, if put within a traditional, absolutist and territorial matrix, basically irreconcilable.However, the document does more than just attempt to balance two irreconcilable aspirations. It is the beginning of work towards a wholly new form of expression of traditional aspirations, focusing on individuals and communities rather than on territory. By expressing aspirations in this new way, we hope that the two otherwise irreconcilable sets of aspirations can, in fact, be reconciled.

The Governments will welcome the detailed papers and contributions of political parties, especially in Northern Ireland. We challenge them to seek the same balance; the same rethinking, and the same radical reconciliation that we have sought in our joint proposals. Let Nationalist parties show how their proposals accommodate Unionist aspirations.Let Unionist parties show how their proposals accommodate Nationalist aspirations. Let both recognise the reality of the divisions that exist and the need to bridge them creatively. That is the challenge to both of them. Do not just recite your own fears and aspirations. Tell us how the fear of the other community can be assuaged. Tell us how the other community's aspirations can be given legitimate express, that is the challenge.

Let me turn to the document itself. The document is founded on four guiding principles: the principle of self-determination as set out in the December 1993 Downing Street Joint Declaration; the principle that the consent of the governed is an essential ingredient for stability in any political arrangement; the principle that agreement must be pursued and established by exclusively democratic peaceful means without resort to violence or coercion; and, finally, the principle that any new political arrangements must be based on full respect for, and protection of the expression of, the rights and identities of both traditions in Ireland and, must in an even handed way, afford both communities in Northern Ireland parity of esteem, including equality of opportunity. The document seeks to build such a framework on four main pillars: structures within Northern Ireland; North-South institutions; east-west structures and constitutional issues.

The Joint Framework Document commends direct dialogue with the relevant political parties in Northern Ireland to develop new internal political structures. The dialogue is one for the political parties in Northern Ireland. The Governments confirm that cross-community agreement is an essential requirement for the successful establishment and operation of such structures. While the principles and overall context for such structures are a recognised concern of both Governments, the structures themselves should be negotiated in direct dialogue involving the relevant political parties in Northern Ireland, who will have to operate them. In a separate document published today, the British Government has unilaterally set out its ideas for structures in Northern Ireland. Neither my predecessor nor I felt it appropriate to become involved in the detail of this document and I do not propose to comment on it.

Moving then to the second pillar, the North-South institutions. We envisage that new institutions should be created to cater adequately for present and future political, social and economic interconnections on the island of Ireland enabling representatives of the main traditions North and South to enter agreed, dynamic, new, co-operative and constructive relationships.

These institutions should include a North-South body involving Heads of Departments on both sides, duly established and maintained by legislation in both sovereign Parliaments. This body would bring together Ministers representing the Government and political heads of departments from the new democratic institutions in Northern Ireland. Its function would be to discharge or to oversee delegated executive, harmonising or consultative functions over a range of matters. In the first instance, the two Governments acting in agreement with the parties will designate these functions. Subsequently, the two administrations North and South may agree to designations of further functions to be added at a later stage.

It is our intention that the functions for the proposed North-South body would be designated by the two Governments in agreement with the Northern Ireland political parties. Our approach on this, as on all other elements in the document, is based on the principle of consent. We wish to see a North-South body which will be flexible and dynamic. Its terms of reference, its legal status, and arrangements for its political, legal, administration and financial accountability will be established by legislation in both sovereign Parliaments, but again only following the pursuit of agreement with the participants in the Northern Ireland talks process, and only following endorsements by the people of both parts of Ireland voting separately in referendums on the same day. In this process, emphasis will, of course, be placed on making sure that the arrangements are workable and useful.Everybody's views on this will be welcome.

Functions which might be designated to the North-South body would fall into three main categories: consultative, harmonising and executive. The range of functions that might be designated at the outset for executive level action would include sectors involving: a natural or physical, cross-Border or all-Ireland framework; EC programmes and initiatives; marketing and promotion activity abroad; and culture and heritage.

Again I emphasise that no function whether executive, harmonising or consultative will be carried out without the agreement of the Northern Ireland representatives on the body. I would also like to make it clear that functions will be designated only where it makes practical common sense. I do not envisage a North-South body with an imposing headquarters. I do not envisage thousands of civil servants working out how all the people on this island might be brought together under some uniform arrangements. The North-South body that I envisage will consist of, say, three Ministers from this Government and three Ministers from whatever administration emerges in Northern Ireland, sitting down together from time to time and making decisions. They will be doing this without in any way diminishing the separate traditions and aspirations of the people they represent. The emphasis will be on practicality and workability.

The third pillar in the Joint Framework Document deals with east-west structures. Both Governments envisage a broadly based agreement which will maintain a standing Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference chaired by the designated Irish Minister and by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with a small supporting permanent secretariat. The Inter-Governmental Conference will have as its main objective the deepening of co-operation between the two Governments, and will provide a continuing institutional expression for the Irish Government's recognised concern and role in relation to Northern Ireland. It will provide a forum for agreement on bi-lateral matters not covered by other specific arrangements and excluding matters for which responsibility is transferred to new political institutions in Northern Ireland; consider ways of enhancing community identification with policing in Northern Ireland; review the workings of the agreement and promote, support and underwrite the fair and effective operation of all its provisions and the new arrangements established under it; monitor those provisions and where necessary provide a forum for the resolution of disputes; and provide a framework for consultation and co-ordination between both Governments and the new North-South institutions.

Let me now deal with the constitutional issues, the fourth and final pillar which I referred to earlier. The Irish and British Governments are prepared to address them as part of an overall accommodation.

In the case of my Government, I am prepared to introduce and support proposals for change in the Irish Constitution to implement the commitments in this document and in the Downing Street Joint Declaration. I will return to this point in a moment. In the case of the British Government, their new approach for Northern Ireland, vesting the constitutional future in the people of Northern Ireland, will be enshrined in British constitutional legislation. This will embody the principles and commitments in the Joint Declaration, and in this framework document, either by an amendment of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, or by its replacement by appropriate new legislation and appropriate new provisions entrenched by agreement.

For reasons which I explained yesterday, I do not propose at this stage to table details of proposed amendments to the Constitution. More time is required for consultation and consideration.The detailed wording of the redrafting of the Constitution is properly a matter for the Government and the Oireachtas, not for negotiation at that level of detail with another government.What I can say is that the principles and immutable political commitments underlying the changes to our Constitution will be to remove any jurisdictional or territorial claim of legal right over the territory of Northern Ireland contrary to the will of the people of Northern Ireland; to provide that the creation of a sovereign united Ireland could therefore only occur, in circumstances where a majority of the people of Northern Ireland formally chose to be part of a united Ireland; and that the existing birthright of everyone born in either jurisdiction in Ireland to be part as of right of the Irish nation would be maintained.

It is also important to say to Unionists that the document contains a recognition by both Governments of the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its constitutional status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union or to opt for a sovereign united Ireland.

In the framework document, both Governments also commit themselves to finding a means in their own jurisdictions to protect specified civil, political, social and cultural rights. Obviously, there will be widespread consultation with the relevant political parties. There might also be a covenant enshrining a dedication to mutual respect between the two traditions to the exclusively peaceful resolution of all the differences between them.

So much for the document itself and for the background developments which lead to it. In conclusion, the problems with which this document is attempting to deal are deep rooted and of long standing. I will not attempt an historical analysis nor do I think it relevant to rehearse the wrongs, the grievances, and the injustices felt on all sides. Much pain has been inflicted, much damage has been done, much trust has been forfeited, and much sorrow has been caused. Those of us who share the island of Ireland have certainly not been enabled to realise our full potential. The tensions between the two communities in Northern Ireland, between the two parts of Ireland and between Britain and Ireland have diminished all of us.

Traditional political structures have not provided solutions to our problems. We must find new and imaginative structures which will provide security to both nationalists and unionists. Paper declarations can only go so far. As long as a significant section of people feel systematically alienated from the structures of government, no one will feel secure. Our proposals today are, I believe, balanced and should if fully implemented, provide security for everyone. Security does not come from constitutions or statutes. It comes from knowing that your neighbour, of a different tradition, can feel that same loyalty to the State, and can identify with it on the same terms of equality and esteem, as you do. That is what we want for Northern Ireland.

As we embark on this new phase in our discussions, I am encouraged by a number of things. I am encouraged by the excellent and positive spirit in the Anglo-Irish relationship which has made possible the launching of this Joint Framework Document. I am encouraged that it was possible for my party and for this Government essentially to work with a document inherited from a Fianna Fáil-led Government. I am encouraged by the cessation of violence in Northern Ireland and by the considerable discipline and skill which has been shown in maintaining that cessation on a daily basis.

I welcome the way in which Sinn Féin has embraced the political process and joined with other parties in working the political institutions to which it now has access. I think in particular of its role in the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation where it is making its mark. Senior figures in that party have demonstrated political courage and a sense of openness to new ideas.

What should perhaps most encourage us this year, when we look back 50 years to the end of the Second World War, is that we can see that new and imaginative political institutions, the European Union in particular, made possible the maintenance of peace and gradual reconciliation between European states which had for generations engaged in war as a means of resolving disputes.

I hope that a similarly imaginative and courageous approach on the part of all the political elements on this island and in Britain would achieve the same degree of trust and co-operation. My Government and I are ready to play our part. A successful settlement in Northern Ireland, reconciling different loyalties within the one land area, can provide an Irish and British model for resolving many similar conflicts in the emerging states of central and eastern Europe.

In conclusion, I ask only that all other parties approach the document, published in Belfast today, in a constructive and calm way. Read it, think about it, give us your ideas, but above all, give us your commitment, your faith in the future.

Fianna Fáil warmly welcomes the publication of the Joint Framework Document and supports its final content. The Framework Document is the next major step in the peace process following the Downing Street Declaration, the two ceasefires and the establishment of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. During negotiations for a new agreement we wish to see it amplified in certain directions. We intend to participate fully in the broader political debate and discussions on it. We will judge on its merits any new agreement which emerges from negotiations.We have always maintained that any new agreement, if is to be achieved or to work, must be balanced and even-handed and respond to the ideals and interests of both communities in the North, both traditions on this island and both countries on these islands.

The talks processs which the Framework Document is designed to assist was originally based on the three strand concept laid down by Mr. Peter Brooke when Secretary of State in consultation with the Irish Government in March 1991. It would deal with three sets of relationships, strand one within Northern Ireland, strand two between North and South and strand three between Britain and Ireland. It was a basic principle of the talks that nothing would be agreed until everything was agreed. Northern Nationalists are not prepared to proceed with internal institutions without assurances about the institutions which will reflect the North-South relationship. The Unionists say they are not prepared to proceed with North-South co-operation without constitutional change or the establishment of an assembly. All three strands therefore are interlocking. The Framework Document recognises this reality. Unionists and Nationalists will want to consider together as a balanced whole the Framework Document covering strands two and three in conjunction with the other internal framework published by the British Prime Minister this morning.

The Joint Framework Document in its final form contains no important or substantial variations from the document as we left it. The compromises reached are reasonable and sensible. We may not have achieved everything we sought but the final outcome represents all that we could reasonably expect to achieve at this stage.

There are one or two phrases I would have preferred to be stronger. For instance, I am not sure why paragraph 17 does not read as it did in November: "New arrangements should therefore build on [rather than just be in accordance with] commitments in the Anglo-Irish Agreement and in the Joint Declaration".I regret that the broad category outlining areas for executive action described as "marketing and promotion activities abroad" does not specifically include tourism, the most obvious area for joint endeavour, but its inclusion is meant to be understood. I also regret, as I shall set out in more detail later, that the understanding on constitutional change was not tied up fully. The Tánaiste and Sir Patrick Mayhew at their meeting in mid-November, prior to the break-up of the last Government, intended to refer the matter for final decision to the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister.

Fianna Fáil is proud of the part it played in Government in the formulation of the Framework Document and in elaborating certain of the key concepts within it. We have always held that the two Governments have a duty to lead the way towards a new agreement by setting out for the Northern parties and the people parameters for discussion and negotiation and by providing them with a clear focus on the key points to be addressed and resolved.

The Framework Document represents the considered view of both Governments and, to a large extent, both parliaments on where agreement needs to be found if real potitical progress is to be made. The aim and purpose of the document is to help the parties and the two Governments to arrive at a balanced overall settlement that will underpin and consolidate the peace process and can be endorsed by the people, North and South, in a new act of self-determination, the first on an all-island basis since 1918, although this time concurrently.

This is more than a discussion document and less than a rigid blueprint. Both Governments have put enormous effort into identifying the main issues and realities that require resolution. These will not go away by rejecting a document; they will promptly resurface in any future discussions or negotiations.While the position papers of individual parties will add to the basis for discussion and should be regarded as welcome contributions, I doubt if any individual party would be able to produce such a balanced framework on its own. The two Governments have put forward a coherent view which takes all the necessary elements into consideration in a balanced way. The parties in Northern Ireland should be ready to address all aspects of the problem and not be tempted to try to turn their backs on the realities. A one-sided approach will lead up a blind alley and go nowhere. We have been up that road many times before, for example, with the 1975 Constitutional Convention and the 1982 Prior Assembly. I therefore urge the parties to adopt a positive and constructive approach. Let them take the Framework Document as a basis for discussion and add to or subtract from it or put their own position papers alongside it but there is no point in rejecting it.

Great credit is due to the Irish negotiating team. The Framework Document has been negotiated by the liaison group under the political direction of the Tánaiste and the Secretary of State. When Fianna Fáil was in Government a constitutional working group was established following a bilateral meeting between the then Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister at the European Council in Corfu, answering directly to the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister. It was chaired on the Irish side by the special adviser to the Taoiseach and covered sensitive sections of the Framework Document dealing with the principles of a balanced constitutional accommodation as well as the underlying specifics of change. That work stands, in the latter case, as we left it.

Great credit is due to my predecessor, Deputy Albert Reynolds, in setting out from his first day as Leader of Fianna Fáil the argument for constitutional balance as between Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution and section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. This was an argument that met with some scepticism at first but it was eventually accepted as a valid basis of discussion by both the British Government and all parties in this House. He also made most of the running in the argument for North-South bodies with executive powers, with the main emphasis being on the mutual economic benefit for North and South. While the Framework Document was 90 per cent complete by the time Fianna Fáil left office on 15 December and required a few weeks intensive work I compliment the Taoiseach, Deputy Bruton, and the Tánaiste for bringing the document to a successful conclusion within a reasonably short period. I also congratulate those dedicated officials who worked with him through all that time.

We all appreciate the difficult political position of the British Prime Minister, John Major. He made a tremendous commitment to the peace process and did not back off the Framework Document following the recent inevitable leaks, despite great political pressure on him from many sides to do so. Mr. Major will enjoy an honoured place in Irish history books for his part in the Downing Street Joint Declaration and the Framework Document. Whatever specific complaints we have from time to time regarding particular actions — or lack of action — by his Government, we in Fianna Fáil acknowledge his statesmanlike contribution to peace in Ireland. He has, on many occasions, risen conspicuously above selfish but nonetheless vital party political interests. We hope he will maintain his Government's commitment to the basic understandings in the Framework Document and that both Governments will continue to work together in partnership to reach the urgently needed agreement that is discernible within its parameters.

The just and lasting peace of which all sides have spoken will transform peoples' lives in Northern Ireland and throughout the island. Progress, even this far, with the peace process is a real achievement for both communities. It is not correct for Government Ministers or spokespersons to downplay what we have at the moment and describe it as a truce or a ceasefire, as if it were merely provisional and contingent. The paramilitaries on both sides and the organisations associated with them made a definitive commitment last autumn to the success of the democratic process. Sinn Féin said this will hold in all circumstances and it would be wrong to suggest that a gun is being held to any-body's head in the process.

The return to normality means it is safe for people to go out in the evenings, to mix more and to open the door to neighbours. It means more economic opportunities and investment in jobs. It promises, over time, an end to the ghetto existence, the removal of the army and army installations and the gradual phased release of prisoners. In a personal sense, it is a promise of freedom.For the community as a whole it is an immense opportunity to transcend the fears and deeply entrenched divisions of the past. Whatever the temporary setbacks, the disagreements, the frustrations and provocations, peace is far too valuable to contemplate going back to the dead-end and destructive violence which cost over 3,000 lives and which created such misery and hopelessness.The democratic path, however difficult, slow and frustrating it may be, offers far greater rewards to all in the long term.

All the parties have a conscientious obligation to contribute to the building of peace. That is why I hope there will be a measured reaction to the Framework Document, in deeds, if not in words. When the people of the North listen in the coming weeks, as they probably will, to negative and warmongering language from any politician, they should ask how much the speaker has personally contributed to the peace process over the past 18 months or indeed to efforts for peace over the past 25 years, and ask if they, the citizens of Northern Ireland, care as little about peace, as the speaker seems to, even if appearances are misleading? Are their political rights and beliefs, despite being fully democratically respected, worth pursuing to the point of resuming the carnage? No side can be comprehensively dismissive of the concerns of the other community. The benefits of peace should not be lightly ignored but the peace cannot be complete, until it is secured by a political settlement.

Unionists should recognise that in the past two years the two Governments have gone a fundamentally different route from the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The Anglo-Irish Agreement imposed institutions and arrangements on the people of Northern Ireland, without their representatives being consulted or involved. The agreement was not open to negotiation. In contrast, in the run-up to the Joint Declaration, the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party, as well as the Loyalist organisations, were informed by a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach in broad terms about the initiative and the views of both were, as far as possible, substantially incorporated and taken into account in the Joint Declaration. With regard to the Framework Document, it represents the joint position of both Governments, but their understanding will not be implemented unless it is incorporated by broad democratic agreement into a new settlement. This time, there is nofait accompli.

There is, therefore, an opportunity for unionists to participate actively in shaping a new agreement. In their absence and without their participation, there can be no new agreement, as recognised by the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, John Hume and Gerry Adams, when they met in Government buildings last September.

Similarly, the approach today is quite differentvis-à-vis Republicans. The intention of the authors of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was to isolate and defeat them. The Joint Declaration, in contrast, was intended to encourage them in from the cold to the democratic political process, by addressing their core political ideological concerns. The Framework Document, and the wider peace process of which it is part, is intended to provide the basis for a far better life in the most deprived urban areas of Northern Ireland in particular, and it will fail if it does not do that.

We must look at the fundamental issues we face. Why did the troubles arise in the first place? It was because the previous settlement of 1920-21 allowed the nationalist community to be treated systematically like second class citizens for over 50 years and denied, in many cases, their full civil rights. James Connolly predicted, as far back as 1913, that the majority would have scant regard for the rights of the minority left to their mercy, and that partition or exclusion was, for this reason, a proposal that should never have been made. However, if we want to be honest, the troubles equally arose, because all demands for reform were systematically brushed aside as a challenge to the constitutional security of unionists. The lessons that Northern nationalists have drawn from their experience is a determination to claim and enjoy equal citizenship within the North, and never again to allow themselves to be largely isolated from the rest of the people in the island of Ireland. Unionists, on the other hand, have sought removal of the constitutional threat that they believe they face behind every reasonable nationalist demand.

Twenty one years ago the principle of power-sharing was bitterly contested, when Sunningdale was brought down by the Loyalist workers' strike. There has been a considerable evolution in unionist and Loyalist thinking on the internal Government of Northern Ireland in the intervening period. There is a general acceptance that any institutions will have to be based on partnership rather than majority rule. Partnership, equality and parity of esteem are the three main concepts that need to underlie any new Northern Ireland institutions. Peace will not be founded on the restoration of any hegemony.

Partnership and equality can only be built on parity of esteem. At the New Ireland Forum, two weeks ago, a former President of the European Parliament and Dutch Minister, Piet Dankert, spoke of the need for a triple equality in a divided community; equal rights, equal opportunity and equal treatment. Fianna Fáil would like to see all three principles as a concrete expression of parity of esteem contained in any new agreement to be negotiated.

The talks in 1991 and 1992 made considerable progress in the Strand I discussion, which is broadly reflected in the British internal framework document. Our attitude as politicians is that internal arrangements are mainly a matter for the Northern Ireland parties and the British Government, even though under Article 4 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement we have the right to put forward views and proposals. I am sure the nationalists parties in the North will analyse the British Government document closely and ensure that adequate safeguards against a return to majority rule are provided in any new agreement. They will have our full support in that regard.

While not fleshed out in the Framework Document, reform of the police, the courts and of emergency legislation are bound to become an important part of the negotiations from now on.

Many unionists have difficulty recognising that the logic of equality and partnership within the North also extends to relationships outside the North. While their right to maintain constitutional links to Britain is recognised as long as a majority so wish, there is an extreme reluctance to accept formal institutional links between North and South, even where the case for greater North-South economic co-operation is acknowledged. This is the main reason for the so far somewhat negative attitude of some Unionists to the Framework Document.

They seem to forget that North-South institutions were an integral part of the deal that established partition. I would like to quote from the third volume of Ian Colvin's "Life of Lord Carson" which describes what it calls the Carsonian plan:

The exclusion of the Six Counties ...was to be accompanied by a Council of Ireland to be composed of two delegations, consisting on the one hand, of all the Members returned to Westminster from the excluded area, and on the other, of a delegation equal in numbers from the Irish Parliament.

By a majority of votes in each area, the Council would exercise legislative power affecting both areas, or extend to the Six Counties by agreement any Act of the Irish Parliament, and "even agree to the inclusion, under the Home Rule Act, of the whole of Ireland subject to the consent of the majority of the voters in the excluded area". Carson's idea was to tell the Ulstermen they could stand out, until they should see it was to their advantage to go in "and at the same time create a general Council which would bring all Irishmen together for Ireland's good". This scheme was subsequently incorporated in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 and carried over into the Treaty, but it was stillborn.It was later revived as part of the Sunningdale arrangements. The idea of concurrent self-determination contained in the Downing Street Declaration and the structure of the new joint body corresponds closely to his idea of how the Council of Ireland would operate.

The statue of Sir Edward Carson, arms outstretched, lies before the Stormont Parliament, as the founding father of Northern Ireland. Can we not all on this island find inspiration in one of the most constructive suggestions to emanate from the fount of 20th-century unionism?

Was there not always an interest, North as well as South, in maintaining islandwide economic links? Belfast never again enjoyed after partition its status and reputation as the industrial capital of Ireland, which it enjoyed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The question of North-South economic co-operation will not go away. Back in 1959 the Minister for Commerce in the North, Lord Glentoran, proposed to his cabinet colleagues a North-South common market. Captain O'Neill and Seán Lemass explored the possibilities of co-operation in the 1960s. It was an important part of Sunningdale in the 1970s. Since then, such co-operation has been conducted under the auspices of the various Anglo-Irish committees and conferences. Indeed, the Anglo-Irish Agreement conducts such necessary co-operation, in the absence of a willingness by Unionists to participate in it. Both parts of the small island suffer from the relative lack of institutionalised co-operation and inhibitions about it on both sides. The Governments, or better still the Dáil and the Assembly, have to give a lead. Unionists object to the initial bodies being established under Westminster legislation. Their own policy documentA Practical Approach to Problem-Solving in Northern Ireland, from which the Taoiseach has quoted many times, explains why such establishment under Westminster legislation is necessary where strand two North-South institutions are long-fingered and only hinted at vaguely.

If nationalists are expected to accept and participate fully in Northern Ireland institutions, then there has to be some corresponding commitment on the part of unionists to North-South institutions. Nor could it be the position that all co-operation would have to collapse if institutions in the North collapsed. That is not the position at present, nor was it the position in 1972, when the Lough Foyle Fisheries Commission established by the Stormont Parliament and the Dáil 20 years previously continued with its work, as it does to the present. Obviously, if co-operation is to be effective, a number of sectoral bodies will need to be set up to deal with specific areas, and this is provided for in the Framework Document.

Naturally, Fianna Fáil would have preferred a bolder and more definite approach by the two Governments to the subjects to be covered initially by North-South institutions, the scope and extent of which had not been fully settled at the time we left office.

I attach great importance, as I have said in recent speeches, to the European dimension. My last action as Minister for Finance was to attend the Council which agreed the European Union support package for the peace process for Northern Ireland and the Border counties.The body will be responsible for the implementation of joint European Union programmes. I would like to see the development of flexible arrangements for representation of joint interests by the Irish Government in the European Union, with of course the support and understanding of the British Government. If the Germans and the French have proposals to appoint a person to each other's cabinets, then it is surely no derogation of sovereignty to attach an Irish delegate from the North on occasion to the Irish delegation, and perhaps an Irish delegate from the South on occasion to the British one, to represent specific joint interests. This requires more discussion and more flexibility, which is very much in the character of the modern European Union. We value our sovereignty as much as anyone else, but we are not so hung up on it that we would allow it to impede fruitful co-operation. We have never had other than a positive attitude to the European Union.

Decisions on the constitutional future of Northern Ireland are vested in the people of Northern Ireland. But what is being discussed on foot of the Framework Document has as its core an agreement covering relations within Ireland. It is what the Joint Declaration endorses approvingly as "any measure of agreement on future relationships in Ireland which the people living in Ireland may themselves freely so determine without external impediment". The challenge posed by the Joint Declaration, which Ulster unionists in principle accepted, was "to see peace, stability and reconciliation established by agreement among all the people who inhabit the island", such agreement to enhance the totality of relationships.

We recognise that unionist fear of the nationalist majority on the island as a whole runs deep, the fear that unionists could be coerced into a united Ireland against their will. The Downing Street Declaration has helped bring about the situation, where attempted violent coercion has ceased and where political coercion is equally repudiated. Unionists should now accept that for the first time the threat of coercion has been removed, provided that the rights of nationalists are fully respected in future. We need no longer claim that a nationalist majority on the island represented by this State still has or should have an admittedly theoretical claim of right to exercise jurisdiction over the people of Northern Ireland, whether they consent or not. If we are to reflect that in our Constitution, it can only be as part of what the late John Kelly called "a new dispensation", which has the agreement and consent of Northern nationalists.

Self-determination and consent are linked concepts that balance each other. Consent is a two way process. The Irish people could not endorse partition in 1920, exceptde facto. They could not be reasonably asked to accept the practice of discrimination under majority rule. Nor could the crown colony style of direct rule from Britain over the past 20 years be regarded as something the Irish people could be reasonably asked to legitimise fully. But in the Joint Declaration, the Taoiseach confirmed that: “in the event of an overall settlement, the Irish Government will, as part of a balanced constitutional accommodation, put forward and support proposals for change in the Irish Constitution which would fully reflect the principle of consent in Northern Ireland”. Fianna Fáil is prepared to support the honouring of that commitment, assuming the other conditions are satisfied. It is our contribution to facilitating the achievement of a new agreement and to overcoming unionist fears.

Acceptance of the principle of consent is not a new one. It was implicit at least in the rejection of coercion by most of the leaders of the independence struggle. As the Supreme Court pointed out in 1990, consent is consistent with Article 29 of the Constitution with its commitment to the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The consent principle, contained in the Sunningdale Agreement, was accepted in the communiques of the Anglo-Irish framework in the 1980 summits between Charles Haughey and Margaret Thatcher, which 11 years before the three stranded talks, were built around the totality of relationships. Consent was formally incorporated in the Anglo-Irish Agreement.As a new development, self-determination and consent were the twin pillars of the Downing Street Declaration.In other words, successive Governments and all parties in the Dáil have long ago renounced the idea that their will, representing the majority on the island, could be imposed on the people of Northern Ireland against their consent. It is reasonable, as part of an overall settlement, that the understanding should be incorporated in our Constitution.

As I have stated, the solution to our problems lies in the context of resolving three sets of relationships between our traditions, within Northern Ireland, between North and South, and between Great Britain and Ireland.

The three stranded process is the agreed method of resolving these difficulties, and the guarantee of both Governments that there will be inclusive talks is adherence to the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

It is in that context, and for the purpose of achieving an overall and comprehensive settlement that will underpin the peace process, that Fianna Fáil would be prepared to recommend certain balanced constitutional amendments on the clear understanding of substantive and reciprocal change in British constitutional law.

The Constitution, as it stands, draws a distinction between the nation and the State. Other partitioned countries, notably Germany, China and Korea, have adopted, as a means of easing tensions and facilitating co-operation, a doctrine of one nation, two States or, in our case, two jurisdictions. The Ostpolitik of Willy Brandt was a constructive and very productive policy.

Maintaining the integrity of the nation as set out in Article 2 is vital. We were not prepared to accept a 26 county based definition of the Irish nation which would exclude Northern nationalists.Anyone born on this island or of Irish parentage is entitled to be regarded as a member of the Irish nation, regardless of borders. Equally, we are committed to the idea of one nation, in Tone's words: "a substituting for Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter the common name of Irishman". That is our ideal, even if not everyone accepts it.

When we were in Government we proposed that there should be a more pluralist definition of the nation, that explicitly recognised the existence of different identities and traditions. At the same time, our citizenship laws do not force anyone in the North who does not want it to accept Irish citizenship. Equally, we could not ask any Nationalist, North or South, to accept the proposition that Armagh, Antrim or Down or the other counties are no longer Irish as far as we are concerned. It is another matter to claim that the whole island is or should be under the jurisdiction of 26 county State institutions. It is universally accepted now that the people of the North cannot be coerced into a united Ireland. There is a good argument for saying that our Constitution should not appear to say otherwise.

Northern republicans refer constantly to the "Dublin Government". Even they do not recognise it as the Irish Government of a 32 county Republic. In Northern parlance, the Dublin Government is the Government of the Free State, not of the island as a whole. The basis to which we strongly held in discussions with the British Government was that Article 2 defining the national territory would be maintained, with an addendum making it clear that it "is the shared inheritance of all the people of Ireland in their diverse identities and traditions", in other words that our definition of the nation was a pluralist one.

We considered it reasonable in the context of an overall settlement and a balanced constitutional accommodation to incorporate the principles of self-determination and consent into our Constitution, and to accept that a united Ireland, which remains a primary legitimate national objective, can only be brought about in a spirit of concord, reconciliation by agreement and consent, achieved concurrently.

If our Constitution were no longer to contain what is described in the Framework Document as "a territorial claim of right by the State to jurisdiction over Northern Ireland contrary to the will of a majority of its people", it was reasonable that we should ask the British to do the same. Prime Minister John Major suggested at a bilateral meeting in Brussels last year that both countries should give up their territorial claims to sovereignty over Northern Ireland. It was also agreed that constitutional law on both sides should reflect the up to date agreements and international commitments entered into by both countries.

Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 which established partition, now reads:

Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the supreme authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters and things in Ireland and every part thereof.

Given that under the 1949 Act this State had ceased to be part of "his Majesty's Dominions", the survival on the Statute Book of language of supremacy over all of Ireland may sound strange, but then the Act of Union was not repealed until a few years ago. The 1973 Northern Ireland Constitution Act, Article 1, which some claim is the more up to date legal position, contains both a territorial claim and a negative consent clause. It states:

It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of Her Majesty's Dominions and of the United Kingdom, and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part of it cease to be part of Her Majesty's Dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland....

To say that Northern Ireland will not cease to be part of her Majesty's Dominions without the consent of a majority of the people is not quite the same as a clear commitment, that it will so cease with the consent of a majority, which is nearer to the commitment in Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Joint Declaration to legislate for Irish unity, if a majority so wish. So the 1973 Act also needs to be updated. We had an understanding with the British negotiators that the 1920 Act would be amended or repealed and that the new legislation would be introduced making it clear that the people of Northern Ireland had the freedom, unhampered by any selfish British strategic or economic interest, to determine Northern Ireland's future constitutional status, whether to continue in the Union or concurrently with the people of the South to become eventually part of a united Ireland.

In our Constitution, the Irish people, not the State, are sovereign. Pádraig Pearse wrote a famous pamphlet entitled "The Sovereign People". As a result of balanced constitutional change, ultimate sovereignty on whether to remain in the Union or join a united Ireland will also be vested in the people of the North. I was very glad to hear the British Prime Minister this morning say that the future of Northern Ireland was irrevocably vested in the wishes of a majority of its people. Provided that is translated clearly and unambiguously into British constitutional law, following an overall agreement, we will have no complaint. British territorial sovereignty over Northern Ireland will be gone. We will have helped to place sovereignty unequivocally in the hands of the people. Concurrent self-determination, by the people of Ireland, North and South, or, in other words, simultaneous referenda, will provide popular ratification of any new agreement governing relations in Ireland, establish a new dispensation and, perhaps some time in the future, bring into being a united Ireland by agreement and consent. The decision to remain under United Kingdom jurisdiction is a matter for the people in the North to decide.

In indicating or preparedness to take these steps, if they would help consolidate a new dispensation that would have the consent of all sections of the community in the North, Fianna Fáil have shown political vision and courage. It would resolve any preceived problems created by the Supreme Court judgment in 1990 and do away with the suggestion that there is some Constitutional imperative to absorb the North into our State, albeit by peaceful means. We wish to retain in our Constitution a strong commitment to the ideal of a united Ireland brought about by agreement and consent but that will not prevent us in the meantime from seeking an agreed Ireland between unionists and nationalists, republicans and loyalists.We will insist on retaining in our Constitution the ideals of a modern, democratic, Irish republicanism that have meaning but which threaten no one. Irredentist claims will be gone. Fianna Fáil prospered politically down the decades by being principled yet pragmatic. Our very foundation as a democratic party came about, because we refused to confine ourselves to and continue with a sterile doctrinaire approach that was harmful to our fledgling democracy.

Constitutional change on either side may or may not be strictly necessary from a legal point of view but we can accept the argument that it is very desirable from a political point of view, as a means of building confidence. As regards the right of the Irish Government to intervene on behalf of nationalists in the North as enshrined in the Anglo-Irish agreement, that right under international law derives from the extent of the nation also defined in the Constitution, not from the contested claim to jurisdiction by the State.

No doubt, there are unionists who would wish us to go further but we are entitled to express our ideals in our Constitution and if it is not legitimate for nationalists to wish to see Ireland reunited or to regard every county in Ireland as Irish, then the nationalist identity itself is illegitimate. We are prepared to recognise that this island belongs to people of diverse identities and traditions, to unionist as well as nationalist and to place no compulsion on them to live in the same State or under the same jurisdiction without the consent of a majority in the North.

The Framework Document, as published, is fully consistent with the advanced state of our understanding with the British Government when we left office. We do not believe the people need or should be asked to go further. I want to make it absolutely clear to the House today that nobody outside, or anybody participating in the future in this debate will get it wrong — Fianna Fáil do not intend to ask them to go any further now or in the foreseeable future.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

I regret the failure of the Governments to reach a clear understanding about exactly where they stood. We are ready to do all that is necessary to facilitate an overall settlement on the basis of the position we set out for the British Government, which the present Government has not altered, now reflected in the Joint Framework Document.

The Joint Framework Document proposes three elements as the outline of a peace settlement: the restoration of internal, political institutions in the North on a consensus basis, the establishment of North-South links in areas of mutual interest and balanced constitutional change which removes any imposed or perceived threat of coercion. Whether there will be a united Ireland some time in the future will be primarily for the people of Ireland, North and South, to decide freely and concurrently.The development of inclusive negotiations around these issues would give an enormous boost to confidence in the permanence and durability of the peace process. This offers a unique opportunity, particularly for the people of Northern Ireland, to break out of the prison of history. The political history of the point we have now reached is of some substance. We on this side of the House congratulate the Taoiseach and his Government on that.

I appeal to all to work for a happier future for our children. Let us work to render the whole of Ireland one of the most prosperous countries worldwide. We do not ask the Taoiseach to go one inch further than I have advocated today because, if he were to attempt to do so, the answer would be "no". We have set out our position in considerable detail and have brought it to the stage at which the British Government know exactly what it is. There it must be allowed to rest; in any constitutional proposal or change to move any further I am afraid we would be on opposing sides. Therefore, I ask the Taoiseach not to place us in that position.

On behalf of the Progressive Democrats, I too welcome the publication of the Joint Framework Document. Like the Joint Downing Street Declaration and the ceasefires of the Loyalists and the IRA, it is another milestone in the development of the peace process, leading hopefully to the eventual creation of a normal political society in Northern Ireland.

As others have done, I want to pay tribute to the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the entire Government and their predecessors, for the work done in bringing this document to its present stage. As I watched the press conference this morning I was very much reminded of the comments of the present Taoiseach before he took up that office. We are told by some commentators and others that the election of Deputy John Bruton as Taoiseach would put the peace process at risk. There is very clear evidence that, in the document negotiated by him and his Government, he sought to develop the peace process and produced a fair and balanced document to which any fair-minded person would have to lend their support. In particular I want to congratulate him because, although I recognise that much of the work was done by the previous Government, in all these things, it is the final document that matters most, the final agreement and, for that in particular, great credit is due to the Taoiseach. He must see it as a great personal achievement.

I want to pay tribute also to the British Prime Minister. I wonder whether many of us, faced with similar domestic political difficulties, would have had the courage and commitment to do what he did today. I must pay tribute to him, given that he withstood the pressure following the publication of the leak, a leak that was selective, malicious but nonetheless brought with it a lot of pressure on him internally from within his own party and on the part of those who support his party in Westminster. We should not underestimate the commitment and courage he has shown. If in 1972 and 1973 the then British Prime Minister had shown the same courage, perhaps we might not have experienced all the difficulties, violence and strife we had in the intervening 23 years.

Hear, hear.

I want also to remember the victims of violence, the heart-broken families and relatives of the 3,000 who died. They suffered so much at the hands of the paramilitaries on both sides, particularly the Provisional IRA. They are often forgotten; they are lonely, heart-broken people who have paid a horrific price for our failure to find a political settlement over the past 25 years. I hope that today's agenda-setting document — that is what it is, it is not an agreement — will give them some hope that their sacrifice was not in vain. Indeed they should always be at the centre of our agenda. Lately I have observed they are sometimes forgotten; sometimes it appears that those who engaged in the violence are placed higher on the agenda than their victims. If we forget the victims, those who paid the ultimate price, in our dealings with each other, in discussions between parties, we will not find a settlement that will win the support of the community in Northern Ireland or normalise that grief-stricken community that has witnessed so much horror over the past 25 years.

Lastly, I want to pay tribute to those politicians who have never supported violence, despite the wrongs done them and their communities, despite the fact that they lived in a society that did not recognise their very legitimacy yet they never saw any reason to condone or support violence. I speak in particular of the SDLP and representatives of the Alliance Party, many of whom within the Alliance Party, come from a nationalist background, having moved away from their tradition, in that tribal sense — and I do not say that in any offensive way — but never saw any reason to condone or support violence, nor did the SDLP. Therefore, we should pay tribute to them because it is their courage that has brought us to our present position.

Having said all that, the document is not an agreement, is not a blueprint, as it says itself. Rather I would see it very much as an agenda-setting document, one that outlines the parameters as far as both Governments are concerned for reaching agreement between the divided peoples in Northern Ireland. It has taken two years to be brought to this stage. Therefore, there is a duty on everybody, particularly on elected politicians, to put some thought into that document, to personally reflect on its contents and not engage in the typical knee-jerk reaction we observe so often when dealing with Northern Ireland. I and my party over the years have gone out of our way to understand the Unionist community, to ensure that their fears are taken on board, that their legitimacy and aspirations are respected and to see the other person's point of view. For many years we sought to have contacts with unionist politicians and for that reason, I was very disappointed — I do not say this lightly — at the negative, quick, knee-jerk response today which is very depressing and disappointing.

For example, Dr. Ian Paisley said the Joint Framework Document was a declaration of war on Northern Ireland. Mr. Ken Magennis, a very reasonable, fair-minded person, well respected North and South, said it did not contain one single, solitary grain of comfort for Unionists; I will deal with that later. Mr. David Trimble stormed out of a television programme; I think there were responses on the part of other unionist politicians that were equally depressing. I understand the fears and concerns of the unionist community, fear of the unknown, change makes us all fearful, but they have great reassurance in this document. Their greatest reassurance is their sheer numbers, nothing can happen without their agreement; they are in a majority and should use their power and political clout to set the agenda, to be part of the process, and not stand back from it and simply take a negative approach as, unfortunately, they have done to date.

In particular I contrast their response with that of Mr. Gary McMichael of the Ulster Democratic Party. It is extraordinary that those who came from a greater extreme, who condoned and engaged in violence, should be far more positive in their response to the Joint Framework Document than many of the moderates on the unionist side. Mr. McMichael welcomed the document, saying that he saw it as a basis for dialogue.I agree with him. I urge other unionist representatives, particularly the unionist people, many of whom are concerned that we should reach an agreement that is workable and fair, many of whom are frightened and fearful — and I understand that — to think again, to come in, be part of the process and not simply keep saying "no", because that is not a basis for any settlement on this island.

I believe the Joint Framework Document is fair and balanced, for a number of reasons, particularly as far as the unionists are concerned, and I want to talk about them first, because many may feel there is a lot more for nationalists in this document than for unionists though that is understandable because nationalists have a lot of catching up to do.

I want to address what is in it for the unionists. The Irish Government, on behalf of the Irish people, gives for the first time in explicit terms a commitment to change our Constitution, to take out the claim of jurisdiction over Northern Ireland and replace it with the aspiration to Irish unity which is what most people in the Republic want. That is something unionists have been offended by for many years. They have sought that change and now there is a strong commitment to give them that change. That is welcome. There is an explicit acceptance that there can be no change in the status of Northern Ireland unless that is the consent of the majority in Northern Ireland and unionists make up the majority there. There is a commitment that nothing can happen unless separate referenda are put to the people North and South. That gives great assurance to the unionist community.

The document is fair and balanced. Paragraph 18 states:

Both Governments recognise that ...at present a substantial minority of its Northern Ireland's people wish for a united Ireland.

It also states:

...they acknowledge that the option of a sovereign united Ireland does not command the consent of the unionist tradition, nor does the existing status of Northern Ireland command the consent of the nationalist tradition. Against this background, they [both Governments] acknowledge the need for new arrangements and structures — to reflect the reality of diverse aspirations, to reconcile as fully as possible the rights of both traditions, and to promote co-operation between them, so as to foster the process of developing agreement and consensus between all the people of Ireland.

For unionists who have feared for their position within the United Kingdom and who have withstood the appalling violence of the IRA against their community for the past 25 years there are significant and fundamental guarantees to build on the current peace process — guarantees in relation to the constitutional status, to no change without a referendum and to changes in the Republic's Constitution. I would like the unionists to see those guarantees as positive.

There is a good deal in this document for the nationalist community, but they have a lot of catching up to do. There is an explicit statement by the British Government that it recognises the full and equal legitimacy of nationalist and unionist communities within Northern Ireland. Paragraph 24 of the document reiterates that this will be given recognition through the powerful new North-South institutions. The agreement to establish North-South bodies is the greatest signal to the Nationalist community that its identity, its aspiration is being recognised and being given legitimacy.They must be seen as parallel bodies to the maintenance of the union. Through the maintenance of the union, flags and emblems, representatives at Westminster and the administration at Stormont unionists have powerful daily reminders of their unionism. They can see in all of that the legitimacy of their unionism. Nationalists are entitled to recognition of their nationalism. I welcome the strong commitments given to the powerful North-South bodies. Nationalists will see that as the first recognition that their nationalism is being legitimised. I welcome in particular the duty of service required in the Framework Document and also the fallback position both Governments have, as outlined in paragraph 24 which states:

Both Governments consider that new institutions should be created to cater adequately for present and future political, social and economic inter-connections on the island....

Paragraph 25 stated:

Both Governments agree that these institutions should include a North/South body involving Heads of Departments on both sides and duly established and maintained by legislation in both sovereign Parliaments.

In the event that devolved institutions in Northern Ireland cease to operate and direct rule from Westminster is reintroduced, the British Government agrees that other arrangements will be made to implement the commitment to promote co-operation at all levels between the people North and South representing both traditions in Ireland, as agreed by the two Governments in the Joint Declaration. I am delighted that fallback position is in the document because there are fears among the nationalist community that if the majority community wish in any sense to boycott or veto North-South institutions in effect they do not have a fallback position.

There is a commitment by the British Government to change the Government of Ireland Act or to introduce other legislation to acknowledge its neutrality in respect of whether Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom or opts for a united Ireland, on condition that the greater number of people in Northern Ireland will make that decision. I welcome that commitment and those in relation to our Constitution.

Unionists must not see the Framework Document as a sell-out to nationalists, they must see it as for the first time giving Nationalists the opportunity to have what Unionists have had for so long. They must see that if Northern Ireland is to survive and prosper they must reconcile the nationalist minority to the state there. Since the creation of Northern Ireland following partition unionists have treated nationalists as the enemy within. Was it any wonder that nationalist alienation from the Northern Ireland state grew apace? No attempt to win them over was made during that time.

If it appears that Nationalists have got more from the document than Unionists, it is because the Nationalists have so much catching up to do. The union link has been maintained, there is a British administration in Stormont, there are seats at Westminster in the British Parliament and the emblems of unionism is represented most strongly by the British flag. Those are powerful emblems and signs of unionism and the legitimacy of the Unionist community. Compared to them Nationalists have had very little and if they see great hope from the publication of this document, they are entitled to see that. The prize of reaching agreement on this island between the two divided communities is not simply a prize for Nationalists. There can be no agreement unless those two communities resolve their differences.The capacity exists in the Framework Document to bring about an agreement. We must reconcile extreme unionism across the spectrum with extreme republicianism. I believe the document provides the capacity to do that if people are willing to allow that to happen. We need to transform Northern Ireland society, to normalise it and to have in Northern Ireland a society with which everybody can identify.

I am disappointed with the Framework Document in one respect. A commitment to a charter or a covenant is not as strong nor as powerful as a commitment of a bill of rights. In my view we need a constitution for Northern Ireland that recognises the legitimacy of both traditions, that outlines personal and communal rights and that will be adopted by the people and only changed by them. A constitution would give permanency to those rights that cannot be secured in any other way. I am disappointed that there is not a stronger commitment, even to a bill of rights, in the Framework Document. That is the one area about which I express great surprise and disappointment. I assume the reason there is not a stronger commitment is because the British Government does not recognise that in some parts of Britain people do not have those basic rights. Northern Ireland is no ordinary part of the United Kingdom. Those rights have been denied and we will only create a normal society if there are structures, a judiciary, a police system and so on with which both can identify and consider as theirs. I believe a constitution encompassing a bill of rights is a powerful weapon in the process of bringing about that type of society.

In addition to the political aspects of a North-South body there are obviously enormous economic benefits to be gained from such co-operation. If we had not had the conflict of the past 25 years and the political difficulties within Northern Ireland, we would have established those bodies long ago. What other island with a population of five million people on the periphery of Europe would operate as two distinct economic units in terms of tourism and other economic activities? It does not make sense.

Last Friday at the forum tourism representatives from the North and the South strongly made the point that promoting the entire country is good for tourism North and South. Measures such as promoting the entire country, working together in economic areas, harmonising our fiscal policies as well as our economic policies, particularly in the area of taxation, can only benefit people North and South. The benefits to be gained from the sum of two parts is greater than working separately as two individual units.

Northern people, and particularly the northern business community, see the sense in working together on an all-Ireland basis so far as economics are concerned. I say to the Unionist community that all we are seeking for their fellow citizens are the same rights they have had for so long. Sometimes we are inclined to take for granted many of the things we have had for a considerable period. It has to be good for both communities and for the people at large to work in co-operation with each other. It has to be good if they have their own devolved assembly in Northern Ireland.

I welcome the publication of the British Government's internal document — the Strand I document — for a devolved government in Northern Ireland. I have only had an opportunity to read it very quickly so that I am making very preliminary remarks. I would prefer if the three-person collective presidency to complement the assembly was increased to five as, in the context of Northern Ireland, it would be more inclusive. In terms of devolving powers, I am always suspicious of any representative body of politicians that do not have powers to raise revenue or do not have control over policing matters. The power to raise revenue and control over the police would be powerful weapons for politicians to give them a sense of identity and commitment to the state in Northern Ireland. It would be a false assembly — a little like some of our local authorities — if it did not have those powers. I would be surprised if politicians did not want to have those powers. They cannot continue to look to the United Kingdom to underwrite them in these areas and I hope we can move to a position where those powers will be devolved.

When we speak about Northern Ireland, the conflict there, the abnormal society, the real political divide where a substantial minority of the people there feel alienated from the State and have felt alienated for some considerable time, many who do not understand the problem think the solution is simple. The problem of Northern Ireland is not just one of identity as represented by unionism or nationalism. Unionism and nationalism are legitimate aspirations but they are incompatible. We need structures that can accommodate both. I believe we can find those structures but it will be extremely difficult because it is not merely two different traditions and identities. They play different games, sing different songs, live in different areas, go to different schools and worship in different churches. It is an endemic, difficult problem. We have the capacity, if we really want to transform Northern Ireland, to create the kind of structures that can accommodate both traditions. What is required is good will, courage and commitment on the part of Governments and particularly on the part of the British Government.In the past, in the Sunningdale days when we came close a weak British Government backed off and the whole process collapsed. If it is that fragile, it can collapse again. I appeal to the representatives of the community in Northern Ireland, of every political hue — their politics do not matter — to reach agreement with each other, to help create those structures and ensure they work. The Governments, no matter how committed or how courageous, will not be able to create a real political normal society in Northern Ireland if the politicians there do not wish it to happen. When James Molyneaux, Ian Paisley, Gerry Adams, John Hume and John Alderdice can agree structures, to work in an assembly together, to share power with each other and to represent their people as we do here then they, and they alone, will provide the most powerful evidence that we are transforming Northern Ireland society. After 25 years of violence the people there deserve that.

During my recent visit to Northern Ireland what impressed me most was the progress made among the ordinary community representatives, how forward thinking they were, how determined they were not to return to the dark days of recent times and how committed they were to working with their neighbours in Northern Ireland. The leadership of the three larger political parties has been there for so long maybe they have become complacent too. If they can represent what I detected on the ground, then we will be able to create that kind of society.

Many expectations have been raised as a result of the publication of the document. To a large extent, it is not as historic as previous documents, because of the leaks, and we do not have the same sense of occasion as when the Downing Street Declaration was published.That is a pity because it allowed some people to have their responses ready in advance, particularly those who want to knock the process. The Governments have outlined the parameters which are fair and balanced. There is an understanding and a depth to them that we have not had before on a joint basis from the two Governments. The response from most politicians, apart from those on the Unionist side, has been positive and I welcome that. Some have not yet responded. That may be a good thing too because care, thought and consideration in politics is always worth while. The document has the capacity to bring about a lasting agreement that can stabilise Northern Ireland society. I do not believe it will happen soon or as quickly as some people think. It is now 23 years since the Sunningdale Agreement. In the meantime, we have had the Anglo-Irish Agreement, including the process in which my own party was involved while in Government — the last round of talks which did not come to a satisfactory conclusion. There were many positive aspects to that process, we were happy to be involved and very disappointed that it did not lead to more positive results.

The process has continued for a long time and it will not end as rapidly as we might think. It may be two or three years down the road before we get the kind of society most of us would like to see. The essential elements of that agreement are contained in the document published today — North-South institutions; a devolved assembly in Northern Ireland, as outlined in the Strand I document; a bill of rights, hopefully a constitution for Northern Ireland which my party would like to see. These are among the key elements of any new settlement. We owe it to the people we represent to work together to bring that about, to seek to build trust between the divided peoples, to get to know and understand each other, to choose our words carefully. If we do, we can play our part in ensuring peace and reconciliation on this island.

Regardless of the outcome of political talks, there is no justification for returning to violence. I do not like to hear people referring to the "fragile peace" process. There never was justification for the violence and certainly there would be no justification for a return to it. Some people have spoken about the inevitability of violence recurring.I do not believe it is inevitable and I certainly hope there will be no return to it.

If people are committed to the democratic political process there is no reason they should have huge arsenals of weaponry or engage in punishment beatings.Given the act of faith, demonstrated by the two Governments today, in the publication of this document I believe both Governments deserve to have that act of faith vindicated by those who have that weaponry. It should be surrendered or disposed of and we should see an end to the punishment beatings. They are not compatible with those who want to engage in the democratic political process.

Today is a day of opportunity for the people of Northern Ireland, a day of opportunity for the people of this island as a whole and for our two islands.

We are seeking to move beyond the politics of the slogan. "Up the Republic" and "No Surrender" are not an adequate response — and were never an adequate response — to the complexities of legitimate but conflicting rights and allegiances which are at the heart of the problem of Northern Ireland.

What is on offer in the Framework Document is a plan and a process — an agenda for the good governance of Northern Ireland, and an evolving process whereby that condition of good governance can be carried out on the basis of the democratically expressed wishes of all the people of Northern Ireland.

This is a complex document for a complex problem. There is no basis in this document for triumphalism on the part of anyone. There is no victory in it for any one political view and no defeat for anyone.

At every critical stage of action proposed in the Framework Document the two sovereign Governments are asking the people of Northern Ireland to express their views through their democratically mandated political parties about the nature of society they want in Northern Ireland. People on all sides will be fearful — that is inevitable — but what needs to be emphasised is that the document places the future of the people of Northern Ireland firmly in their own hands and guarantees that there will be no interference in regard to the determination by the people of Northern Ireland of their constitutional arrangements.

This document is an enabling document, not a straitjacket. It says to the political parties of Northern Ireland that it is possible to resolve the problems in an exclusively peaceful and democratic way and a way perceived to be fair by all the people of that society, but it addresses itself to those political parties by saying people must participate in this decision-making process. Not to do so, whether through attachment to an absolutist position which accommodates violence as a means to an end or through an unwillingness, bordering on unreason, to recognise that Northern Ireland is a very singular place often said to be more British than the British, more Irish than the Irish, is a failure of judgement and of nerve and is certainly a failure to show leadership. What this document guarantees is that nobody in Northern Ireland will be less British and nobody will be less Irish.

The document throughout shows a clear and explicit commitment to the principle of parity or equality of esteem. What that means in practice is that each individual, has the right to have their national allegiance, their national identity, respected, that nobody is a second class citizen or disaffected member of society but a respected and respectable member of society with allegiance to a particular culture and heritage. To be real this respect must be institutionalised at official level and that commitment is set out clearly in the document.

The way forward mapped out in the Framework Document does not conjure up a perfect solution to the major political problems of Northern Ireland but it does offer a pragmatic approach for the rapid development of a peaceful society in which people of different traditions can coexist and co-operate and in which national identity can become one enriching aspect of people's lives rather than a cause for segregation or sectarianism.

In its emphasis on equality of esteem the document sets out to enshrine the principle of communal rights in law and in practice. The principle of communal rights is a complex one, but at heart it seeks to protect identity, not to copper-fasten it. As a leader of a political party which has sought to structure politics on issues such as the distribution of wealth and power in society, there is no way I would support the pigeonholing of people according to which community they came from, regardless of aspiration or ability. The provision of communal rights seeks to protect equal opportunities and equal respect for groups of people. They should be seen and must be guaranteed as complementary rather than antagonistic to individual rights, which of course remain paramount.

I had some concern that the emphasis throughout the document on both traditions and two communities might be unintentionally insulting to those many people of integrity and principle in Northern Ireland who do not regard themselves as primarily members of either tradition and who always sought for a basis of communality and common interest among the people of Northern Ireland. I have in mind particularly people such as those in the trade union movement and the voluntary and community sectors and political parties such as the Alliance Party, the Workers' Party and Democratic Left who set their face against division and sectarianism. I would like to pay tribute to these men and women. The framework document endorses that middle ground position because what it says ultimately is that a normal Northern Ireland is a single community of people in which national identity is one among a number of distinguishing characteristics of individual citizens.

The document very clearly offers a return to, or the beginning of, real politics for the political parties of Northern Ireland in inviting discussions and negotiation with the political parties on both the political structures in Northern Ireland and on North-South institutions. It is precisely this kind of consultation and dialogue resulting in consensus which would need to be themodus operandi of any Northern assembly and its methods of decision making.

For too long, politicians on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland have lived in mutually exclusive circles relying, by default or otherwise, on the two sovereign Governments to express their views. This framework document embodies a definition of self-determination which is both humane and just, at the same time recognising minority rights within the island as a whole and minority rights within Northern Ireland. The principles in question here are those set out in the Downing Street Joint Declaration of 15 December 1993, the principles of agreement and consent.

Both Governments believe the document sets out a realistic and balanced framework for an agreed Ireland and an agreed Northern Ireland which can be achieved, with flexibility and goodwill on all sides, in comprehensive negotiations with the political parties in Northern Ireland. By consent we mean that the consent of the governed is an essential ingredient for stability in any political arrangement. I welcome the decision that this Government will seek to amend the Constitution of Ireland to reflect both this principle of consent by the people of Northern Ireland and to end the territorial claim of right to jurisdiction over Northern Ireland. The removal of the claim to jurisdiction should not offend any Irish person. People who are Irish by birthright will always be Irish. You cannot take that away from them any more than you can force someone to be Irish whose national identity or allegiance tells him or her otherwise.

In its acceptance of the need for constitutional change in the Republic, the framework document recognises that we have come of age in the Republic and that pluralism, acceptance of difference and pragmatism are positive attributes, they do not pose a threat to the cohesion of society, rather they only pose a threat to a monolithic intolerant society. At the same time the document sends a powerful political message to both unionists and nationalists. To unionists, it says; yes you have your right to self-determination, but not to run a winner takes all society. To nationalists, it says, of course your right to national identity and equality must be protected, but if you want to be part of a united Ireland you must persuade unionists that this course is in their interests.

There is an onus on both Governments and all political parties to build on the opportunity afforded by the ceasefires in Northern Ireland. The Framework Document represents political progress, and is paralleled in a triple strategy by the encouragement of economic development and by moves to foster peace and reconciliation. Already, the European Union has activated a commitment, including participation by both Governments, of £320 million for balanced economic and social development in Northern Ireland. The US administration will hold a conference in Washington in May targeting potential American investment. The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation meanwhile fulfils its worthwhile and complementary role of building trust and understanding between the various traditions on this island.

The investment in economic development and reconciliation initiatives can help pull political development along but they cannot replace it. The Framework Document is indicative of the high level of agreement between the two Governments on the approach towards a balanced political settlement in Northern Ireland. It is not a rigid blueprint, it is more a set of handrails, and at every identifiable opportunity in the process it seeks the input and participation of the democratically mandated parties in Northern Ireland. For example, there is real scope for these parties to contribute to the design of North-South co-operation.

I would appeal to all parties concerned, even it their initial reaction is dismissive, to look again. It rewards careful scrutiny and considered response and in this context I welcome the measured response of the SDLP, Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party and of Garry McMichael of the UDP. As I said, it is an enabling document, one which offers opportunities and safeguards to each tradition. It reflects balance and accommodation on all sides. For the people of Northern Ireland, and of all this island, it offers the chance to move from a discourse of antecedents and historic oppression to a discourse on such issues as access to employment, education and health and the distribution of economic and political power in society. I would like to see the politics of everyday realities displace the politics of identity and allegiance because the latter have become no longer issues of contention but merely personal attributes.

This document represents the collective political judgment of the two democratically elected Governments on measures to secure peace and promote further political progress in Northern Ireland. As such, it can be said to be indicative of the will of the majority of people in both jurisdictions but, as both the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister have said, nobody would claim that this document is the sole repository of wisdom in this area. Certainly one achievement of the document — even before it was formally published — was to focus attention on the problem and promote new debate. Already this week both the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party have published their own proposals, and while these are naturally dominated by the Unionist orientation of the parties concerned they should not be casually dismissed by non-unionists. Every democratic view has to have an input into the political future of Northern Ireland and, as the political voices of one of the main traditions in Northern Ireland, the input of these two parties is absolutely crucial.

There are encouraging signs from the two documents that both parties are thinking seriously about the new political structures for Northern Ireland. Clearly both documents fall very much short of the balanced approach advocated in the Framework Document, but at the same time they also include suggestions which may stand in their own right and which could play a constructive part in promoting progress in Northern Ireland.

The publication of the Framework Document is the third major development with regard to Northern Ireland in the space of a little more than 14 months. There was the launch in December 1993 of the Downing Street Declaration, followed in the autumn of last year by the ceasefires of the loyalist and nationalist paramilitaries, and now the historic events in Hillborough and Belfast today. These events have transformed the political and social life of Northern Ireland and, after more than 20 years of despair, have allowed the people there to hope again. Anybody who has travelled to Northern Ireland as frequently as I have over the past two decades cannot but be struck by the improvement in the quality of life of the people there. The endless round of destruction has ceased, the awful sense of fear has gone and the appearance of a society under siege is steadily lifting. We cannot go back to the endless cycle of violence and destruction which has scarred Northern Ireland for so long.

There is a solemn obligation on us all to build on the progress made to date. All of us, both the political parties and the paramilitary organisation, share in this obligation. The ceasefire of the nationalist and loyalist paramilitary were a crucial turning point, probably the crucial turning point of the recent past. The cessation of violence has allowed the two Governments to address a number of the grievances raised by the paramilitary groups and the political parties associated with them, especially the nationalist one. In the Republic the Ministerial Order under section 31 of the Broadcasting Act was lifted, the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation was established into which Sinn Féin was given a substantial input and a substantial number of those serving sentences for paramilitary offences have been released. In Northern Ireland there has been a round of talks between Sinn Féin and British officials, exclusion orders against a number of people have been lifted, there is a much lower police and military presence and day time patrolling by the army has been ended in most areas.

The two Governments are continuing to explore ways in which additional measures can be taken to copperfasten the peace process, but there are also obligations on the paramilitaries to deal with those matters which still cause concern.There are still huge quantities of arms and explosives out there which still offer the potential for terrible death and destruction. There is also worrying evidence of continued — indeed increased — involvement by paramilitary members in savage punishment beatings.It cannot be said too often that, regardless of the level of petty crime in Northern Ireland and of the problems of public confidence in the police in certain areas, no organisation has the right to act as judge, jury and executioner in such cases and no organisation has the right to inflict such violence on other citizens.

I have great pleasure in recommending to the House the document launched today which I hope will lead to a more permanent peace.

The meeting earlier today of the Taoiseach and Prime Minister at which the Joint Framework Document —A New Framework for Agreement— was launched is another critical and historic step on the road to consolidating peace on this island. The publication of the Framework Document is the culmination of work which has been ongoing for nearly two years.

We have in a period of little more than a year witnessed history in the making. During the past 14 months we have witnessed the adoption of the Joint Declaration in Downing Street by the then Taoiseach and by the British Prime Minister on 17 December, 1993, the announcements by the provisional IRA and the combined loyalist military command of the cessation of their campaigns in August and October of last year and, most importantly, the hope which those developments have inspired on both sides of the Border. Those events are all of immense significance in their own right while together they combine to create the most tangible opportunity to secure a lasting peace, based on mutual understanding and respect, for more than a quarter of a century. That is the prize towards which a New Framework For Agreement is directed. It is the culmination of detailed and painstaking work by the two Governments which predates the adoption of the Joint Declaration.

I am honoured as Minister for Justice to have participated closely in the most recent of those discussions. Nobody who was present in Hillsborough today could have failed to have sensed the historical significance of the occasion. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the valuable work of both my predecessor, Deputy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, and the Government in which she served in that process. The Tánaiste, Deputy Dick Spring, was central in the work of preparing the Framework Document in both Governments, and I congratulate him on what he has achieved. I also thank the officials in my own Department who have been closely involved in the work leading to today's events.

The Government has now brought the Joint Framework Document to the table for all to see and read, and hopes that its publication will contribute in a positive way to consolidating the peace process. We expect its publication to give impetus and direction to the process of debate and negotiation which is now needed by providing a basis for structured discussions. People throughout these islands want their political representatives to take the lead in harnessing the opportunites which the events of the last year have created. They are looking to their political representatives to engage in the process of dialogue.

We want comprehensive negotiations to get under way as quickly as possible. Discussion and negotiation provide the only means to secure the type of balanced accommodation necessary to end the divisions which have caused violence on this island. What we want, and expect, is discussion and negotiation. Both Governments have already made clear that "A New Framework for Agreement" is not a blueprint to be imposed. Nevertheless it represents the considered view of both Governments as to what might constitute the outcome of future talks. It also represents our joint assessment of where agreement might be found. It is to be seen, therefore, as the Government's contribution to the process of debate and discussion.

Its purpose is to facilitate discussion, not to pre-empt it. That means that both Governments remain open to proposals or suggestions from the parties. We, therefore, welcome the publication by the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party of their proposals.They represent an important contribution to the debate and other parties may equally wish to put forward their views. All proposals and suggestions as to how a balanced accommodation can be achieved will be given careful consideration. We will seek to build on any area where general agreement can be secured, subject to the requirement that we build the complete edifice and that all that we do is geared towards that result. There is no profit from taking aná la carte approach, by building a few bricks here and there. We must agree to build methodically and to include the difficult as well as the easy parts if we are to produce a structure that is sound and will stand the test of time.

The significance of the Framework Document lies in the fact that it builds on the principles outlined in the Joint Declaration. The proposals it contains to that end are both balanced and fair. They threaten nobody. They suggest how the principles in the Joint Declaration might be translated into practice. The Framework Document sets out the type of changes that would achieve this objective both in terms of constitutional change and new structures and arrangements.

ANew Framework for Agreement points to a balanced accommodation of the differing views of the two main traditions on the constitutional issue. What that will mean is seeking new arrangements capable of accommodating the different viewpoints within both traditions.That equally means seeking to accommodate both traditions at different levels — on the constitutional issue, as well as in terms of structures and rights. Those are the principles which inform the New Framework for Agreement and the approach it commends to the parties and the people.

That will involve change here and on the British side but we, for our part, should not be shy of change if it can promote reconciliation and underpin a lasting political settlement. Those changes will include constitutional change here and in the United Kingdom. What is involved in that respect will be ensuring that the basic law of both jurisdictions adequately reflects the commitments entered into and the reality of the diverse aspirations of the two traditions on this island.

What is important, as I said, is the balanced nature of the proposed changes. The British Government, for its part, reaffirms that it has no selfish, strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland and that it will uphold the democratic wish of a greater number of the people of Northern Ireland on the issue of whether they prefer to support the Union or a sovereign united Ireland. It will enshrine in its constitutional legislation the principles embodied in this new framework for agreement by the amendment of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, or by its replacement by appropriate new legislation.

The Irish Government, for its part, has committed itself to ask the electorate to change the Constitution. The proposed change will be to remove any jurisdictional or territorial claim of legal right over the territory of Northern Ireland contrary to the will of its people and will provide that the creation of a sovereign united Ireland could, therefore, only occur in circumstances where a majority of the people of Northern Ireland formally chose to be part of a united Ireland.

New structures which are capable of reflecting a new beginning for relationships within the island of Ireland need to acknowledge that there are many matters of common interest to both parts of Ireland. That is why theNew Framework for Agreement suggests new institutions to cater for future political, social and economic interconnections which would include a North-South body involving heads of Departments on both sides and established and maintained by legislation.

The functions to be delegated to that body will be a matter for agreement. Those functions will, in the first instance, be those matters which the Governments designate in agreement with the parties or which the two administrations, North and South, agree to designate. In addition to that, theNew Framework for Agreement proposes that all decisions within the body would be by agreement between the two sides. Moreover, heads of the department would exercise their powers in accordance with the rules for democratic authority and accountability in force in the Oireachtas and in new institutions in Northern Ireland. The operation of the North-South body's functions would also be subject to regular scrutiny in agreed political institutions in Northern Ireland and the Oireachtas respectively.

A crucial concept running through all these elements is the concept of agreement.It is the fact that nothing will be imposed, that all that is put in place must be agreed and that nothing is agreed until all is agreed, that gives us the right to say that this document is truly non-threatening.

The Government believes that a North-South body of the type described in the document has much to commend it. It can be a powerful agent in promoting understanding between the two traditions and the motor for economic progress throughout the island. It will, in effect, build on the increasing co-operation that has been developing already between both parts of the island, particularly in economic matters. Structures within Northern Ireland itself will also need to reflect cross-community agreement.

Ensuring parity of esteem for both communities and traditions is another important principle underlying the Joint Framework Document. That needs to be reflected not only in new political arrangements but equally by ensuring the systematic protection of basic rights in both jurisdictions.

I want to mention one other aspect of theNew Framework for Agreement which is of particular interest to me as Minister for Justice. That is the issue of law and order which the document recognises is closely linked to the issue of political consensus and which will remain — for the time being — a matter for east-west structures. The document identifies the issue of policing and of enhancing community identification with policing in Northern Ireland as an important issue and an area in which the climate of peace and growth of agreement may offer new possibilities and opportunities. That is a matter in which I, as Minister for Justice, will be taking a close personal interest and to which I intend to bring my own experience in this jurisdiction and that of my Department to bear.

I should also make clear that the new climate of peace will not detract in any way from the very high level of co-operation that already exists between the police forces in the two jurisdictions, between the Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable. What it can mean in both jurisdictions is the freeing of resources to tackle other forms of criminal activity which are a source of concern to ordinary people in both communities throughout this island. My colleague, the Minister for Social Welfare has outlined some of those areas of concern to ordinary people.

Although the issue of policing will be reserved to the east-west structures in the first instance. It is an area in which I would expect both Governments to welcome an input from the people of Northern Ireland through their democratic representatives.

The Framework Document, is not, as I have already made clear, being put forward by the Government as a blueprint.It provides a framework for the process of debate and negotiation and represents the views of the two Governments as to what might constitute an agreeable and acceptable settlement. The accommodation to which it points is intended to enable the people of this island to work together constructively for their mutual benefit without compromising the essential principles of the long-term aspirations or interests of either traditions or either community. I repeat that it does not threaten, and is not intended to threaten, the aspirations or interests of either community or tradition.That is not to say that it is not intended to challenge both traditions.

TheNew Framework for Agreement is intended to challenge and I know that it will challenge people on all sides of the debate. It must do that if the prize of a lasting political settlement which will secure peace is to be achieved. A lasting political settlement will elude us unless there is movement and compromise on all sides. All sides need to leave the uncertainties and failures of the past behind. We all need to approach negotiations in a spirit of generosity. That is the only approach that will enable us to move forward and create the sort of new relationships which will be capable of securing peace.

That process will take time. The Framework Document itself needs — and deserves — to be read and considered by all sides before judgement is passed. I appeal to people, North and South, not to be swayed by those who will selectively quote from the document for their own purposes. Read and study it in its entirety and make your own judgment on the basis of what the complete document contains. A reading of the full document will show that the proposals it contains are balanced and fair, and that neither tradition need fear its contents. Both traditions will, I hope, come to see that it offers a good basis for the discussion and negotiation that can — and should — lead to a lasting political settlement.

Representing two of the Ulster counties south of the Border, I welcome the Framework Document with my colleagues in the House. I congratulate all those involved; I congratulate the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and former Taoisigh who were involved. The document is a logical follow on to years of discussion between the British and Irish Governments. One could go back to Sunningdale but there was an important development in 1981 when the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, recognised for the first time that there should be a settlement which would transcend the boundary of the Six Counties of Northern Ireland, that one could not have a settlement within the Six Counties. We had the Anglo-Irish Agreement and it was recognised that there should be three strands to the discussions and, obviously, these three strands are important: the relationship between the two communities in the North, the relationship between North and South, and the relationship between Britain and Ireland.

The last two years have been quite eventful. We had the Downing Street Declaration which was important and spelled out many important principles: the principle of self determination, the principle of consent which we all recognise and which it is important that the unionists recognise also. I would criticise politicians who would lead the public and those who may support their parties to feel that consent is not there and that they will not have the right or the opportunity to pass judgment on whatever agreement is reached in the talks which, I hope, will proceed soon.

The other major welcome development was the cessation of violence by the provisional IRA and by loyalist paramilitaries. After six months of peace, people on this island, particularly those in the Six Counties, recognise the value of peace. Young people who grew up not knowing what it was like to live in a peaceful atmosphere now see the benefits of it. I hope that will be a spur to people to take this Framework Document seriously, to read, study and debate it and make decisions which will bring a lasting peace acceptable to all people on the island no matter what their culture is.

As has been pointed out, when in Government my party was engaged until November 1994 in preparing the document. The twin pillars of the Downing Street Declaration, to which I already referred, were self-determination and consent. It is important to recognise that there can only be a solution to the problem by peaceful means. It is also important to point out that there should be civil rights and rights for both communities in the North and, indeed, for all the people on this island.

I understand why the Taoiseach, when addressing the House, did not refer to the structures in Strand I, that is, structures which would be put in place in the North which would be accountable to all the people, both unionist and nationalist. Indeed, the paragraph relating to accountable government in Northern Ireland refers to democratic principles. I suppose the tragedy of Northern Ireland and why we debate it so often is that there have never been democratic principles there. The type of democracy experienced by other European Union countries has not been evident in Northern Ireland due to the way in which the Six Counties were established — to create a permanent majority over the souls of a permanent minority. Ordinary democratic rules under which the majority rules, could never apply in Northern Ireland and that is the cause of the problem.

I hope that when the structures are established in the North — the assembly of 90 members and the panel of three who will be elected — there will be fair play for everybody, particularly for the smaller party. Obviously, in time there will be a transfer of responsibility from the British Government to the assembly. As long as there is fair play, the more power that is evolved, the better.The new Intergovernmental Conference will have a major responsibility in ensuring that there is fair play for the smaller community. There must be power sharing, the structures must be acceptable and unionists and nationalists must have equal rights.

There are, however, two areas which must be looked at and where change is needed — the courts and policing. The only way a civilised society can function effectively is if the overwhelming majority accept the institutions of state. For good and obvious reasons, nationalists in the past have not accepted the courts in the North or the police as institutions to which they could subscribe. These areas must be addressed urgently. We must consider how the courts can attract the support of nationalists. Perhaps there could be a link with the European Court to which people who are not happy could appeal in the short term and police recruitment and management must also be looked at.

In the context of the cessation of violence by the provisional IRA and loyalist paramilitaries, it is important to point out that there have been incidents in which the British Army has lacked sensitivity.Last week, for example, the British Army saturated parts of south Armagh. I visited Cullyhanna where people were unhappy about the level of activity and about harassment. Now that there is a cessation of violence, it would be helpful if the British Army stayed in the background, perhaps in their barracks, not only in major towns, but throughout the countryside.

Fair employment and the cultural identity of the people are important and should be recognised. I hope the new Intergovernmental Conference, involving the British and Irish Governments, will be a guarantor of rights to the people. The Taoiseach referred to the functions of the North-South structures. While it will be encouraging to see them established, how they work is more important. If they do not work effectively they will not produce the benefits we want to see. There is an obligation on us all, North and South, to ensure that they work effectively. We can all identify areas where the interests of the people in the North coincide with those in the South, but not in Britain — none more so than in agriculture. Over the years the Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry represented the interests of farmers in Northern Ireland better than any British Minister for Agriculture and that is recognised by the farming community.

When I was Minister for Health I met my counterpart in Belfast every six months. We saw an island of five million people where resources for health services were scarce and should be used to the maximum advantage of those on the island. I am glad we succeeded in establishing expensive hi-tech services for the whole island. For example, for the whole island lithotripsy, the crushing of kidney stones was carried out in the Meath Hospital in Dublin, while in return the total body irradiation for children awaiting bone marrow transplants was carried out in Belfast. This is an indication of the type of practical co-operation which can exist.

As regards the constitutional issue, maintaining the integrity of the nation set out in Article 2 is fundamental. I was glad my party leader, Deputy Bertie Ahern, referred to that today. Some 18 months ago I attended a regional meeting of the SDLP covering south Armagh and it recognised the importance of Article 2 of the Constitution and under no circumstances did it want to see us let that go. While it is fundamental that we hold on to that, there would be no harm writing into the Constitution in Article 3 what we have already done, that is, that we recognise that the reunification of our country can only come with the consent of the majority in Northern Ireland. That is something which we have recognised in a number of ways. I would like to see all parties study the document.

As a result of the cessation of violence and the discussions taking place to develop structures within the North and North-South bodies there are now opportunities to pursue economic development in the Border areas. The cessation of violence was a major advance. It is recognised that all frontier regions suffer economically. Because of this the European Union established funds such as INTERREG and introduced the Delors II package. The 12 Border counties had the added disadvantage of having to endure 25 years of violence and we now have an opportunity to redress this. The problems have also been recognised by the contributors to the International Fund for Ireland and by the United States which has organised the Washington Conference which will be attended by President Clinton.

It is important that the Government grasps every opportunity to ensure that the Border areas are developed. It is recognised that most overseas industries locate within 20 miles of Dublin because of the competitive advantages to be gained in terms of the road network, sewerage facilities and land banks. I understand there are 1,000 acres of land in public ownership within a 20 mile radius of Dublin. While there are opportunities to develop telemarketing and sales and reservation services it is unfortunate that Telecom Éireann has practically no fibre optic cable network within the Border areas. I ask the Government and the IDA to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is put in place to attract industry.

The development of the road network is a major issue. I would like to see a major road from Dundalk to Sligo as there is no national primary route north of the Dublin-Galway road.

While there was a reference to the need to establish North-South bodies and to meetings between Ministers and heads of Departments it is important to allow local authorities on both sides of the Border to play a meaningful role in the provision of services. This matter has been neglected in the past. There are many examples on the Derry-Donegal border and on the east coast along the Louth-Down border where cross-Border economic committees have been established but these have not received the support of successive Governments, North or South.

There is a need for tax concessions in the 12 Border counties. We also need to examine our tax structure, including VAT and PRSI, as we are not able to compete with the six Northern counties.

I agree with the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, that the Framework Document does not pose a threat to anyone, rather it provides an opportunity to the people on this island and the political parties, especially those in the six Northern counties, to come together to examine it. The Downing Street Declaration and the Framework Document recognises the principle of consent. It is annoying that leading unionist politicians are misleading the people by suggesting that a solution will be imposed on them as the Irish and British Government have stated clearly that this is not the case and that there will be a referendum. Therefore I appeal to all the parties in Northern Ireland to examine the document and to the Government to ensure that all three strands are taken together and we do not neglect strands II and III.

The Framework Document is another major step on the road towards a permanent cessation of violence on this island and I hope that people will be able to live in peace and harmony in future.

This is a time for quiet and deep reflection, not for knee-jerk reactions or for people to say what many will regret later. It is important for those of us who represent the Nationalist people not to say or do anything which will inflame or enrage the people we want to be reconciled with. A few days ago the chairman of the Ulster Unionist Council, Mr. Jim Nicholson, made the startling remark, which we should try to ignore that the unionists are now friendless. There are four million people who are prepared to be their friends.

The Leader of my party said in his speech that the return to normality means it is safe to go out in the evening, to mix more and to open the door to our neighbours. I say to Mr. Nicholson that we have often shaken hands to avoid any further violence. He and his colleagues should consider this document because we do not want to endure a further 25 years of violence.

It has been said that we are inclined to forget the 3,000 victims of the violence.It would have been their wish that there be no retaliation or a further 3,000 victims. I therefore appeal to unionists — I was disappointed that there was a knee-jerk reaction — to rethink their position like most of the other political parties, as we do not want to endure a further 25 years of violence.

I would like to be associated with the tributes to the Taoiseach, Deputy Bruton.I have been critical of him in the past because on many occasions in the Dáil I felt he was not of a Nationalist way of thinking. He has every right to feel proud of himself tonight and I congratulate him on what he has achieved in recent months.

I express similar sentiments also to the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, who worked extremely hard with the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, over recent years. Great credit has been paid to both men over recent months. We must also include in our tributes the British Prime Minister, John Major, the Northern Secretary, Patrick Mayhew and, indeed, the many unionist politicians who stood back when the ship appeared to rock, took cognisance of the facts being laid before them and acted in a very responsible way.

I have no disagreement with most parts of the document. There is a proposal to establish an Assembly and institutional bodies and it is intended to have intergovernmental conferences. One aspect, however, requires further explanation. In the many interviews I gave today the question of constitutional change arose. The absence of detail in regard to commitment to constitutional change in the document — I speak personally although my party favours this also — will be a thorn in the sides of the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in the coming months. I hope that will not be the case but judging by the way this aspect was portrayed on television today, it will cause a number of problems due to the blanket way it was announced, which was as follows: "The Irish Government will introduce and support proposals for changes in the Irish Constitution, so that no territorial claim of right to jurisdiction over Northern Ireland...". People will read only the first part of that sentence and a full explanation will have to be given by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste if we are to allay any fears in this regard.

Fianna Fáil reached a certain point with regard to constitutional change before we left office. We made it quite clear to the British Government, and it was accepted at that time, that we had gone as far as we were prepared to go in that regard and the Leader of our party referred to the important issue of Article 2 this afternoon. This matter should be resolved as soon as possible.

My colleague, Deputy O'Hanlon, referred to other issues concerning the Border region. I also give a broad welcome to this document which contains a basis for an ongoing peace settlement for Northern Ireland and we all must work together to persuade representatives on all sides that that basis exists. We will certainly do everything on our side to ensure that.

This is one of the few occasions on which I regret that Fianna Fáil did not have more to say.

Deputy O'Malley has 30 minutes. There was a little confusion earlier about the time allocated to spokespersons and other speakers.

Like my party Leader, Deputy Harney, who spoke earlier I heartily welcome the publication today by the British and Irish Governments of the Framework Document. I am glad to see also the publication by the British Government of its document on the devolution of powers within Northern Ireland but this latter document is somewhat more cautious and more limited than seems to me either necessary or desirable. For example, a failure to delegate or devolve fiscal powers makes the public administration, and the very policy of Northern Ireland, secondary and subsidiary in an unnecessary way. So far as politicians are concerned, facing up to the disciplines of public expenditure and of revenue raising to meet it makes men out of boys.

Perhaps there is no great enthusiasm among many of the parties in Northern Ireland to have the most important internal powers devolved. Given the sensitivity of policing, the undoubtedly difficult task of exercising control over the police and having ultimate responsibility for them should vest in people who are locally elected within that jurisdiction.Such people have a greater anxiety to get it right. To control the Northern Ireland police ultimately from London is somehow to put them in the same category as the police of Bermuda, the Cayman Islands or Hong Kong. It should be remembered in the North that failure to accept responsibility is as culpable as failure to confer it.

I regret I cannot give any kind of fully considered response to these two documents.I did not see the Framework Document until 9.30 this morning and I did not see the other document until almost lunchtime. They are carefully drafted and require more study than briefly reading through them once. I am, however, encouraged and even at times stimulated by what is contained in the Framework Document. It is not, as has been repeatedly pointed out, a blueprint.Its best description is its own subtitle, "a shared understanding between the British and Irish Governments to assist discussion and negotiation involving the Northern Ireland parties". I commend that subtitle to all the parties in the North and I plead with them to see it as a carefully constructed agenda or a starting point for dialogue and not as anything else.

For a long time during the inter-party talks of 1992 at Stormont, the parties sought a steer or a direction from the two Governments. The Governments undertook that challenge eventually. It took them a long time because the very process, even between the two Governments, is fraught with difficulty. They have now produced something that is worthwhile and challenging. It is fair and balanced as between the two traditions and as between the different parties.

I rejoice to read the views and attitudes of the British Government today, as set out in the document, compared to what they were as recently as 23 years ago. I recall that at the end of January 1972, I was Minister for Justice when the British Army murdered 13 civilians in Derry on Bloody Sunday. The then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, sent a strongly worded note of protest to the then British Prime Minister, Edward Health. Within hours he received a curt reply expressing no regret for the deaths and stating that anything that happened within Northern Ireland was no business of the Irish Government. Thank God we have come a long way from that.

The difficulties of dealing in Government with the British Government at that time were immense and could scarcely be grasped by those who were not involved. There was an arrogant and frequently culpable ignorance of Irish affairs, both in terms of facts and of feelings.The first ever breakthrough came later in 1972 when Jack Lynch began to persuade and, eventually, to convince Edward Health that the problem was a great deal more complex than successive British Governments had regarded it and that it required a much more open minded approach than had been the case on their part up to then.

If I can rejoice at the change in attitudes of the British Government over a period of 23 years, I think I can rejoice at a change in attitude in Irish Governments over a much shorter period. I was involved in the talks at Stormont in the summer and autumn of 1992 when it was impossible to get the Irish Government, of which I was a member, to agree collectively to make certain statements which fell far short of what is contained in the Framework Document on their behalf. The statements relate to the constitutional position in the Republic and what might happen in that regard. We had at that time a long and sterile argument for several months on whether in respect of constitutional change relating to Articles 2 and 3 "would" should be used rather than "could" as this would have enabled some progress to have been made. The Government that changed in November 1992 took a somewhat different view before it in turn fell in November 1994. It appears the then Government had come around to the point of view expressed in this document today. There was a great window of opportunity in the summer and autumn of 1992 and it was not availed of. There were a number of impediments to progress and I regret that one of them at that time was the view of the then Irish Government on certain matters.

I do not have in front of me exactly what Deputy Bertie Ahern said but I get a slightly chilling tremor from what he said earlier today and which I think Deputy McDaid repeated at the close of his speech that, as far as the constitutional position is concerned, Fianna Fáil had agreed to go this far but it would not go any further.

As agreed.

I may have minister-preted them and no doubt in this debate they will correct me if I have, as I do not wish to do so but I get the feeling they have gone this far in Opposition because they went that far in Government but that if an attempt is made to go beyond this, Fianna Fáil will not give it its support. If that is the correct expression of their views, I regard it as regrettable and I ask them to rethink it. One of the strengths of the present situation, both in Ireland and in Britain, in this House and in the House of Commons, is that there is almost universal support for what the two Governments are doing. I think that has great influence in Northern Ireland, not least on those at both ends of the spectrum who might for their own historical, ideological or other reasons not wish to look very favourably on this Framework Document.

We can see that a large part of it will cause further problems and it should all have been published today.

But it was not at that stage and the Deputy knows that.

There is a certain vagueness or uncertainty about the references to the constitutional position of both sides in this document — paragraphs 14 to 21. Having read it I think it is probably correctly expressed to have it slightly vague and not to use particular or specific wording on either side because if you do I fear you are committing the debate to a parsing and analysing session rather then trying to grasp the spirit of what is here.

The spirit of the two Governments is markedly different from 20-25 years ago and in some respects markedly different from as recently as two or three years ago. I think it is the spirit rather than the letter that will conquer this problem. It is the spirit of the two Governments, the spirit of this House and the House of Commons, if I interpret them correctly which hopefully will encourage everyone in Northern Ireland to take as open and generous a view as possible and to seek to confront the present difficulties without recrimination and without looking back and trying to rehash and refight every year in the late 20th century the battles and disputes of earlier centuries that have no relevance. At times one thinks that some aspects of Northern Ireland are like a place that is in a time warp, as if it was some kind of lost valley in the Himalayas that had not come to terms yet with the normality of democracy and life in the contemporary world. It is unfair to accuse everyone of that, and that is not the case, but some aspects of what happens in Northern Ireland, particularly in the month of July give the impression of people who are still caught in a foolish time warp that we would all like to get out of.

I think there are copperfastened guarantees for unionists, they have the guarantee of the Assembly, the guarantee of the British Government and Parliament, the guarantee of a referendum. I think it was the Taoiseach who described it as a kind of triple lock, any one of which can hold up the process. It is perhaps not the most promising process, if it can be held up in that way, but how can anyone object to entering the process if they have all those guarantees?That is why I am particularly disappointed, not at what Dr. Paisley had to say, because one would expect that but at what some others had to say, who hopefully on reflection and a closer study of this document, which none of us has had the opportunity to give it so far, might moderate their view and realise there is a huge majority of people in Northern Ireland who, while they may not be agreed on many things are certainly agreed on the fact that they do not want to go back to the way things were more than six months ago.

The danger of a reversion to pre-August 31 will arise if political progress is not seen to be made and it will be made if all concerned are prepared to enter into the spirit of the agenda set today. It is no more than the agenda. They can talk out certain parts of the agenda and substitute other items from time to time, different versions of what is set out in this agenda, but at least there should be dialogue and I do not see how any person of rationality and goodwill can in the present context refuse to enter into dialogue. They would bear a heavy responsibility were they to refuse to do so. I hope on reflection most of them will enter into dialogue. Deputy Harney remarked earlier it was somewhat strange that people of the unionist tradition who appear to have had a former violent background seem more amenable to progress than those who did not have such a background. Perhaps the explanation is they have less to lose. I do not know. The greatest inhibition to progress on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland is that moderates keep looking over their shoulders. They should take their courage in their hands and press on. This document gives them a good starting point for so doing and they should avail of it. The like of it may not come again for some time.

The North-South institutions are dealt with in some detail between paragraphs 24 and 38 of the document and make interesting reading. Anyone in Northern Ireland, even the most entrenched unionist who does not want to see any kind of united Ireland in the future, who reads those paragraphs with an open mind will be satisfied that it is to his and everyone's benefit in Northern Ireland for some arrangement of this kind to be made.

If we could leave out the political aspect of North/South institutions which is the one that seems to consume most people and look at the economic and commonsense aspects, there could be no argument about it because it makes so much sense. I have been Minister for Industry and Commerce on a few occasion and was disheartened that trade between the North and South is incredibly low. I know of no two contiguous jurisdictions in western Europe where the trade between them is as low as it is between here and the North. The loss to both of us is incalculable. Even if we could achieve a normal level of commerce between us the gain that would accrue in terms of employment and the generation of wealth in both parts of this island would be considerable.It seems crazy that for political and historical reasons we should cast that aside.

The level of our trade with Britain is enormous in spite of perceived traditional antagonisms and that we are not two contiguous jurisdictions but have what is often described as the most expensive sea in the world, per mile, between us. Britain is by far our largest customer and up to relatively recently, small and all as we are, we were her third largest customer in the world. We are now her sixth largest customer. If we can trade to that extent with Britain — we are still worried about our overdependence on one market — why can we not trade even at normal rate with the other part of our own island? If North-South institutions did nothing else I would like to see them succeed for the purpose of bringing normality to trade and commerce.

We have a huge number of common interests and they are listed in paragraph 32 under the harmonising level. We have common interests in transport, energy, trade and health where we duplicate facilities unnecessarily on both sides of the Border. In higher education we duplicate facilities and create serious difficulties and unnecessary expenditure. It brings me back to the point I made earlier about the need for fiscal power or revenue raising powers in the North. We will not have a normal political society there or a normal parliamentary society, no matter what assembly is established, unless we force those elected to exercise the normal powers of Government. There is a kind of cop out if they see themselves as just the recipients of largesse from London and the dolers out of someone else's money. Sovereignty is deficient if full powers are not exercised. I am not talking about external powers or external defence, currency and so on but internal powers which all elected representatives in Northern Ireland should be anxious to implement in full.

The three layers of consultation, harmonisation and executive action envisaged for the North/South institutions is a good division of the type of powers it is appropriate to devolve to such a body. They do not all have to be devolved to the same extent and that difference is recognised by the three categories set out in the document. As Deputy Harney said, I am surprised, having valued the relevant strength of much of the rest of the document, to see how comparatively weak the section headed "Protection of Rights" is which is contained in paragraphs 50 to 53. It is very vague. There is no question of a bill of rights, less so is there the question of a written Constitution even though it seems that Northern Ireland is clearly a place where it is appropriate to have a written Constitution which would guarantee personal and communal rights for the benefit of individuals and the two traditions. What we have is a suggestion by the two Governments that democratic representatives from both jurisdictions might adopt a charter or covenant.

The word "covenant" has overtones in terms of Northern Ireland — whether that is why it is used, I do not know — but a charter, covenant or any other declaration that lacks constitutional underpinning is deficient. When these talks begin, as I hope they soon will, this is one area in which the need for a specific guarantee of constitutional rights will be examined, on the personal and communal level. A means of vindication of those rights is required.

Younger people might think that the question of rights is of little importance because people in Northern Ireland have the same rights as those in Britain, but that is not necessarily so. I recall, more than 25 years ago when I began going to Northern Ireland regularly, meeting people, including my wife's family, some of whom had no vote at all and others who had three, four or five votes depending on how much property they owned. That position existed and was defended by the then regime in Northern Ireland into the 1970s and at least was implicitly defended by the British Government who were aware of it but did not interfere.

The British Government has made great progress in the declaration of rights for people in Northern Ireland. Whether they all operate in practice is another matter. I have in mind in particular the difficulties many Catholics experience in obtaining employment but undoubtedly there is a transformation from the position under Stormont in that nowadays one finds Catholics in senior public positions. This was almost unknown 30 years ago but there remains a long way to go. In County Tyrone great amusement was caused, approximately 30 years ago, by the appointment of a particular individual as a surgeon. His name was so English, so apparently Protestant, that he was appointed by mistake but, having signed his appointment, nothing could be done about it. It seemed abundantly clear to everyone on both sides of the fence that, had they known the truth about him, he would not have been appointed. Probably that was true. Many people in Britain and even here do not realise just what things were like in Northern Ireland, the fact that people there are only slowly coming out of that rather peculiar, one-sided society in which they were forced to live for so long.

Some great things have happened in more recent years in regard to Northern Ireland. The Joint Declaration was a great advance, as were the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 and the ceasefires of August and October last. These two documents published today, particularly the Joint Framework Document, are in that tradition of fairness, equality and parity of esteem. While the Joint Framework Document is not a solution in itself it is another very important stepping stone on the long, slow road to a resolution of the problems in Northern Ireland, to ensuring that the conflict endemic there for so long will cease for all time. For that reason I recommend this document for what it is, a worth-while agenda on which to start a dialogue so badly needed. I recommend that to the parties in Northern Ireland, to the people there and urgently enjoin them to accept it in the spirit in which the two Governments have offered it and to avail of the opportunity it affords them.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Cuirim fáilte roimh an doiciméad seo, “A New Framework for Agreement”, a seoladh i mBéal Feirste ar maidin. Ní chuireann an córas nua seo brú ar éinne ach amháin, b'fhéidir, brú chun cainte, agus ní dhéanfaidh sin dochar d'éinne. Tá sé i bhfad níos fearr go mbeadh caint agus díospóireacht ar siúl in ionad marú lá i ndiaidh lae.

Mar sin tá súil agam go leanfaidh an tsíocháin atá sa tuaisceart faoi láthair, agus go mbeidh dul chun cinn ann freisin sa chóras polaitíochta de bharr an doiciméid seo.

This document launched today will help to continue the peace process in Northern Ireland. It is a sign of our maturity here that all sides have welcomed its publication, that there is no waving of the green flag as happened in the past, that all people are responsible and clearly see the difficulties involved in Northern Ireland if we do not all pull together and make an effort to continue the peace process.

There are two differing views. This document has been described in advance of its publication as balanced. Now that it has been produced it is quite clear that its contents make every effort to bring both sides together, that nobody is under pressure to accept its contents totally. They are entitled to discuss them, sit down with people who may have differing views and reach an agreement. That is what we all hope will happen. We cannot have or witness any more the type of life in Northern Ireland that obtained there over the past 25 years. I had a special interest because my sister has lived there for over 30 years. I have heard many experts talk about it, some of whom challenged me politically when canvassing, but they were never in Northern Ireland. One must be there to understand how the people living there feel. I happened to be there on the eve of the Twelfth of July when preparations and rehearsals were taking place for the parades the following day. I have to admit that they were very colourful and enjoyable, but I knew exactly how the people living there felt about this demonstration, that it was putting them down, reminding them of the past. While history has been described by some wit as a thing of the past, on many occasions it does not help to go back too far. Perhaps it is time to forget the Battle of the Boyne. Perhaps on this side there are things we should forget too, allowing everybody live in the present in peace.

Today we should be magnanimous with one another here in the South. The Taoiseach has been an excellent ambassador for us in the launching of this document in Belfast and has been magnanimous in the House in paying tribute to his predecessor, Deputy Albert Reynolds. I join other Members in wishing Deputy Reynolds every success in the future and I thank him for what he did in setting about the production of this document. I know it was tough at times but he can have the satisfaction of knowing that it has at last been published.

I want to compliment also the Sinn Féin Party who, over the years, led a different type of life from that they are now leading. It cannot have been easy for many of them to consider the concept of peace, so many having spent almost 25 years as liberators, as they perceived themselves. Perhaps we perceived them here in a different light. It is to their credit that they have accepted peace and brought a new kind of life to Northern Ireland which I hope will continue for many years. I hope that when they sit around the table they will agree to disagree with others holding different views.

I compliment Mr. John Major. He is not in a strong position in the House of Commons but he has withstood attacks and threats and the danger of his Government collapsing. He could have taken the soft option. Perhaps if he had been in office in the 1970s we might not have had the problems we encountered up until recently.

This document allows people to discuss the concept of Northern Ireland. People of differing views will find it difficult to talk to people with whom they may have fought in the past — there were gunmen on both sides — and people who did not believe in the use of the gun held still different views. I hope people in the North will be able to have discussions. I was heartened by the views expressed on television tonight by people interviewed on the street. When asked how they felt about the document, they all, with the exception of one, said that it should be discussed. The document is geared towards those people.

Debate adjourned.