(Carlow-Kilkenny): Is ait ach is iontach go bhfuil daoine anseo ag labhairt le dhá lá beagnach faoin-síocháin a bhí againn agus ar chóir a bheith againn fós sa tír seo. Tá suim ag furmhór na ndaoine sa tír seo sa tsíocháin seachas dream an-bheag ar fad atá tábhachtach agus cumhachtach mar go bhfuil gunnaí, piléir agus pléascáin acu. Tá furmhór na ndaoine ag rá gur chóir go mbeadh an tsíocháin againn arís agus tá súil agam go mbeidh an tsíocháin sin againn. Tá brón ó chroí orainn go bhfuil beirt fhear macánta marbh i Sasana toisc go raibh siad ag obair go dian ina siopaí. Ní raibh baint ar bith acu leis an tír seo agus b'fhéidir nach raibh baint ar bith acu leis an tríoblóidí atá againn ná leis na cainteanna. Bhí siad ag obair go dian dícheallach agus maraíodh iad go náireach. Tá brón orainn go léir sa tír seo gur tharla sin. Gortaíodh os cionn 100 duine go dona. Is uafásach an rud é sin freisin mar bhí na daoine sin ag obair nó ag siopadóireacht agus gan baint ar bith acu le haon rud ach amháin len a gcuid gnó féin. Tá brón ar gach éinne gur tharla an rud.
Last Friday's atrocious bombing episode, killing two people and injuring so many others, was shocking to all of us and will be remembered. When I saw televised portrayals of people injured and buildings destroyed, initially I thought it was a programme on what were described as the troubles, a flash back but, when somebody was interviewed on the spot, I realised the atrocity had just happened, not having heard any earlier news or that there had been any warning that the ceasefire was at an end. Watching those horrible pictures was a chilling experience for any decent person.
I suppose we here, and particularly those in Northern Ireland, had become somewhat used to peace, which must have been a marvellous experience for the latter, particularly those aged 25 or younger who had never experienced peace there in their lifetime, but had grown up witnessing heinous crimes, of people being killed simply because some so-called patriot had decided to plant a bomb in a public house, shop or elsewhere. Those young people who had never experienced anything else suddenly began to realise that life could be enjoyable and, from my knowledge of some residents in the North, I am aware just how much that enjoyment meant to them. As my colleague, Deputy Crawford, said last evening, the ordinary human pursuits of shopping, travelling, visiting friends without fear of being blown apart constituted an enormous change for the people in the North. It must be dreadful to come to the realisation that, whether in one's own home, having a drink in a public house or wherever, one is in danger of being blown apart. Therefore, the 18 months of peace enjoyed by all those who had experienced that former tough life must have been marvellous.
In addition, within that period, many people from the South were very anxious to visit the North, the peace process beginning to open up a whole new era of possibilities, tourism alone benefiting enormously, and which I hope will continue. On the other hand, if there are to be more explosions dreadful losses will be incurred throughout the island, the most grievous being that of the precious commodity of life itself.
I compliment all those who played a leading role in the evolution of those 18 months of peace. In that respect I include, of course, former Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds who put so much into that effort and took much flak for the manner in which the IRA were behaving. When everybody else thought there was no hope, that that organisation was merely stringing things along, Deputy Reynolds stayed with it and managed to have the peace process initiated, aided by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs in his negotiations leading to the announcement of the ceasefire.
The Taoiseach has maintained a very balanced line, helping enormously in keeping talks going while John Hume never seems to waver in logic, seldom losing his temper, with the exception of the occasion when the British Prime Minister, Mr. John Major, spoke in the House of Commons on the day of publication of the Mitchell report. John Hume has done so much and taken so much flak also. It is very easy for us in the South to read about events taking place in the North but those living there, dealing with each other, have a much tougher task.
We should at least give Gerry Adams — who seems to be blamed by many for the collapse of the ceasefire — credit for having persuaded the IRA to call its ceasefire. It was not easy to persuade those who had been used to carrying guns and planting bombs to cease their violent activities. It is amazing that former US Senator, Mr. George Mitchell, was able to talk about a split within the IRA. There must have been some rumour to the effect that matters were getting out of control before last Friday's bomb explosion; yet it was amazing that did not reach the ears of those one might have expected would know.
Gerry Adams managed to help in our having had almost 18 months of peace, so it is a pity he was unable to keep the IRA under control, but neither could many others. Therefore, perhaps it is unfair that Gerry Adams should be singled out for having allowed this latest incident to occur, simply because he was not told. One cannot always manage the wild men of the IRA. Under no circumstances do I condone what that organisation does; in fact I condemn its activities out of hand, simply usurping their freedom within a democracy to endeavour to get their way by force.
I also compliment the Leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Bertie Ahern, who has taken a very responsible line on this matter; from a republican party view-point his stance is to be commended as is that of Deputy Harney. Within this debate, with one or two exceptions, there has been no sniping or apportioning of blame on the Government.
The Taoiseach has done his best to reach agreement with the British Prime Minister which, when arrived at, was not broken by the Taoiseach but by Mr. John Major who decided he could do something else. Recalling the scenario that obtained in August 1994, had anybody said: "if only we could get peace for a couple of weeks, we would be able to sit down and discuss matters." we would all have replied readily: "Get us peace for a month and we will certainly sort something out with regard to talks." However, not alone has a month passed but 18 months have elapsed during which it has been very difficult to pinpoint any major achievements on the political front. While acknowledging the enormous benefits of that peaceful period, people's comfort and enjoyment, any analysis of what emerged during that period when there was time to talk, leads one to ask why so little progress was made.
The final straw must have been John Major's treatment of Senator Mitchell's report. I do not know whether he meant his criticism to sound as it did but he certainly gave the impression that he was wiping out the work of the Mitchell trio. That is one of the issues which upset the people who were anxious to break away from the peace process all the time and they decided, after this twist, that there would be no talks.
The idea of insulting the Tánaiste as part of the political process was outrageous. Politicians and leaders of responsible and democratic parties cannot go back to the early 1970s when the British Prime Minister, Ted Heath, sent a telegram to the Taoiseach. Jack Lynch, telling him to mind his own business. That was bad enough in those days but if the language of diplomacy in 1996 describes somebody as the most hated person in the North that is going beyond the serious level of politics and it cannot help the resumption of serious talks.
It is difficult to understand why people are not prepared to sit down and discuss matters with those with whom they disagree. Clearly, talks will never be easy. It was difficult to get the peace process going but the follow-on will be much more difficult. One would expect that if people had experienced 18 months of peace they would be anxious to sit down and discuss matters, having the guarantee, which the Unionists have, that they will not be forced into anything. If John Major backs them and seems to give them encouragement perhaps, from his own weak position as far as a majority is concerned, that is encouraging them. If they were told they should sit and discuss matters with those with whom they disagree they might see reason. We can hardly continue as in the past. Surely some lessons must have been learned from the troubles of the past 25 years. It is time people sat down and discussed the matter.
We had the argument that there would be no talks until there was a decommissioning of arms. It is easy to say that nobody should have guns if they are in politics except that one is dealing with people who think they have that right. They see that other people in similar situations did not hand up their guns prior to talks. Decommissioning was not mentioned when the then Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, and John Major agreed to the peace process and discussions. It became a problem afterwards. Now decommissioning is a block preventing talks. If the elections take place the question is whether decommissioning will be another block. It does not appear as if a real effort is being made on the opposite side.
I compliment and thank Senator Mitchell and his group for their work and regret, despite their great efforts, that their report was not used in the way it should have been. It must have been disheartening for him, having devoted so much time and effort and extended the time to meet everyone, that the report was disposed of in the House of Commons in a few minutes. I hope it will not discourage him from coming back as a peace envoy or co-ordinator, as has been suggested, for proximity meetings in the North to help get over the block on talks. Senator Mitchell could be a co-ordinator or the neutral person who would go from room to room when people are not prepared to sit down and talk to one another.
The latest proposal is that there will be elections in the North but there are different views on that. An election at any time, even in the Twenty-six Counties, can cause blood pressure and excitement and people can lose their cool. An election in the Six Counties will not help to create a peaceful attitude because there are extremists on both sides who will use it to ensure their case is heard. Somebody asked for what they will get a mandate. Will they get a mandate not to talk or to talk? It would be nice to think there would be round table talks and that the issue of elections would be agreed in advance. That is what caused all the havoc. When the announcement concerning elections was made people were not prepared for it. If it had been agreed that there would be round table talks to decide on holding elections in the North that would have been acceptable. It appears that an announcement was made that elections would be held and, come hell or high water, this was one solution. Such a solution does not help.
It does not appear as if the normal type of election in the North will help. The list system has been suggested as a better way where a party gets a percentage of the vote and the candidates are nominated on that basis. It may take some of the heat out of the elections and has the advantage, as pointed out by many, that smaller parties — some of which are more reasonable than the larger parties — would get their place in the sun.
In South Africa and Israel where the position was as bad, if not worse than in the Six Counties those in Government who were sworn enemies were able to sit down and discuss the issue. Yet we in Ireland cannot manage to have common sense which would enable people to sit around the table. Any celebration of the Battle of the Boyne is of no advantage in 1996 when we are trying to work towards sanity, common sense and peace. We have to accept that the plantation of Ulster took place a long time ago and that the people there are Irish so long as they want to be and have their rightful place in the sun.
There is still hope that talks will take place, that common sense will prevail and that instead of calling names across the airwaves people will sit down and help to bring back a peaceful scene to this country and allow people to live and enjoy themselves as best they can in normal circumstances. With bombs, bullets, shootings, and murders there is no peace on this island. I hope the peace which was interrupted will continue and that the explosion in London was a once-off affair.