Northern Ireland Peace Process: Statements (Resumed).

It has been argued that nothing has been happening in the context of the peace process. That shows grave ignorance among the people who would make such a statement. Much has happened on the ground, although probably not enough. The interaction between people North and South was quite noticeable with people from Northern Ireland visiting the South and vice versa freely and without fear of intimidation. That was a major step forward which may not be appreciated by people further afield who have the freedom to move without difficulty within their own region.

In my county and constituency our natural heartland was cut off by closed roads and the bombed bridges. Within the last 18 months all of those roads were reopened. Plans were well afoot to rebuild the Aghalane Bridge, the major link between the north-west and Northern Ireland. Work was to commence on the building of that bridge later this year, and I hope the bombing in London will not prevent that.

Tourism has picked up dramatically. The number of people coming to appreciate what we have to offer in our area has increased. Bookings for this year alone were well up on last year's record numbers. Many calls I had in the aftermath of the cowardly act in London were from people involved in tourism who wanted to know if this would have any effect on bookings. They were annoyed because their livelihoods which were beginning to rebuild were being threatened.

We have lived in the shadow of Northern Ireland in the six Border counties. We existed during the 25 years prior to the peace, and that is a generous enough description in the context of what was achieved during the past 18 months vis-a-vis the upturn in the economy, the interest of people in developing their businesses, the rebuilding of towns and villages such as Belturbet and Ballyconnell which were literally dead towns. There were programmes of rebuilding and urban renewal. The opening of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal was an outstanding success and a flagship of the International Fund for Ireland. To say that nothing had happened could not be further from the truth. We do not want to turn the clock back. We want to continue to develop and progress, and we are entitled to do that, having lived with the problems caused by the troubles for 25 years. There can be no going back to that. That is not a selfish attitude but the attitude of people who want to get on with their lives, rebuild and develop. It is an attitude of people who want to do business with their neighbours in Northern Ireland and vice versa. I cannot understand how Protestants and Catholics in counties Cavan and Monaghan can live and work together whereas in Fermanagh they find it very difficult. There are probably deep rooted reasons but they could be overcome by people getting to know each other better and living in an atmosphere free of fear, where the finger of suspicion is not being pointed and accusations of murders and bombings are not being made against one section of the community. People were beginning to leave this to the past, a process which, of course, will take time. The hurt and suffering cannot be forgotten in 18 months, or even in 36 months, perhaps a decade would pass before total healing would take place. The process was in place but it has now been stopped.

We can talk about Nationalists and Unionists but, to be brutally frank, we are talking of Catholic and Protestant neighbours not being comfortable with each other after this atrocity. It is a return to the past. A number of my friends have had to seek their livelihood in England because they could not make a living in Ireland and the goodwill they had built up during the past 18 months with their English neighbours has been thrown away. The feelings of being ill at ease which they experienced for 25 years have returned as a result of the London bombing. The people who planted that bomb had no mandate and have dealt a cruel blow to people who want to get on with their lives.

They will not be allowed to stop the progress of peace on this island. People are bigger and better than that. Out of this dastardly act, good will come. People will come to realise that they must work building peace at a faster pace, because the men of violence are waiting like murdering dogs in the dark of night. They cannot or will not be allowed to take over as there is enough goodwill to rebuild the peace and bring our people together, united in heart, soul and spirit to work for all of us.

In tourism the island of Ireland is being marketed as a single entity and people are being invited to travel North and South. There was to be no difficulty with Border crossings and that is still on the agenda. That will continue because our people are bigger than those who crawled out and planted that bomb.

In any debate on Northern Ireland, security inevitably plays a central role and no consideration of political options can be divorced from the security aspects, even if some people wish it could. It has again become noticeable, particularly since the terrorist atrocity in London last Friday night, that many people view the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin as two separate entities, one of which is full of militant baddies and the other consisting of peace loving goodies.

The reality is different and should be borne in mind. Provisional Sinn Féin is and has always been subservient to the provisional IRA. The former exists as a political front organisation to help to sell and implement the policies and objectives of the latter. There is a high degree of cross-membership between the two organisations; perhaps more accurately it could be said between the two parts of the one organisation. It seems to have always been the case that at least one prominent member of the Sinn Féin leadership as perceived by the public was a member of the army council of the Provisional IRA. There is no reason to believe this is not so at present. All that is uncertain is which prominent Sinn Féin leader is a member of the army council of seven which makes the ultimate decision.

To suggest, therefore, that Sinn Féin is a peace loving organisation that exists primarily to tone down the violent excesses of the IRA is erroneous. It is quite unlike any normal democratic party. It has a two-pronged approach which it summed up as "the ballot box in one hand and the armalite rifle in the other". The argument of its militant adherents is that when it commits an atrocious act of violence, particularly a high profile one in England, the public, politicians and the press all sit up and pay more attention. That argument is probably true and in looking at the present situation we should try to bear it in mind. In particular, we should not conclude that because of the bomb last Friday a strategic policy which was invalid on Thursday becomes valid this week.

If the Governments and other parties are prepared to do things or advocate policies purely because of the bomb then those policies are inherently flawed and adopted for the worst and most undemocratic reasons. The policies adopted in such circumstances strengthen the violent mindset and support the argument of the hawks that normal democracy is too slow and frustrating. If there are some individuals within the leadership of Sinn Féin who are genuinely looking for a permanent peace and settlement acceptable to all and in respect of which they are prepared to compromise, as everybody else will have to, then contact can be maintained with them and their views can be taken on board by the Governments and other parties. There need not be a breakdown in channels of information, even if members of the two Governments quite self-evidently cannot meet people who condone and refuse to condemn an atrocity such as Canary Wharf.

The Taoiseach's speech yesterday concentrated very heavily on an appeal to the IRA to cease violence. While the word "permanent" was not used it was implicit in what he said. While I cannot disagree with any of the Taoiseach's expressed sentiments, I still have an uneasy feeling when a Taoiseach at a time such as this directs the bulk of a formal speech in Dáil Éireann to an appeal to people who have spent 25 years murdering their fellow countrymen and British citizens. In concentrating his remarks on the IRA, the Taoiseach is in danger, as are others, of being seen to react to force as a political weapon with greater alacrity than to anything else. There is a great dilemma here for us all. The vast majority of people so frantically want permanent peace that they are all in danger of succumbing to seeing this as an issue between the IRA and the British Government — in other words of seeing it in Sinn Féin's terms or accepting its agenda.

We should know that is not the real underlying dispute. That is the illusion fostered by Sinn Féin and echoed from time to time by others who do not stand back to think about it. The reality of the problem is different. The kernel of the problem has been, is and will be the inability of the two traditions in Northern Ireland to live together in a normal democratic society without bitter and fundamental mutual distrust. Nationalists there have to be and remain conscious of the way the politico-religious majority dominated and excluded them for over 50 years. Many Unionists claim to see that as the norm. Many of them still hanker back to the old Stormont days and fear they might in the future be treated to a dose of their own medicine.

Unionists may not be well served by their leadership. In the two weeks leading up to Friday Messrs. Trimble and Taylor made a series of singularly unhelpful and rather silly statements. They started referring again to the "Eire" Government as a foreign Government in a foreign country whose views they were not prepared to countenance. That is a total repudiation of Strand II and sets the clock back five or ten years. If those type of views are persisted in it will make progress very difficult, as will the view of Mr. Ken Maginnis that even after an election there will not be talks until there is prior decommissioning. This repudiates the Mitchell report. It hardly betokens a willingness to compromise or an abandonment of the old mindsets for which Mitchell so strongly argued.

There has been an air of unreality in the Republic about the Provisional movement since the ceasefire. It has reached the stage where it is generally considered "bad form" and "tedious" publicly to confront Sinn Féin spokesmen with the reality of the IRA's activities.

Take one example — punishment beatings. This phrase is a euphemism for the systematic torture and permanent crippling of scores of people by the IRA-Sinn Féin. The modus operandi is for half a dozen IRA members to, as they say, “await” a young delinquent or “an anti-social element” as they call him. They take him somewhere they call “safe” and then systematically smash his elbow-joints, knee-joints and anklejoints with baseball bats and iron bars. The young man is then given a few extra blows to his face and left permanently crippled.

This has been going on under our noses throughout the ceasefire. No Minister has told the Provisionals to halt their beatings or else lose recognition or suffer a reduction in status. What signal did that send to the IRA?

We also know that the IRA has been testing weapons, staking out targets, training, gathering intelligence, manufacturing mortar and other bombs, moving arms and generally preparing for a resumption of terrorism, but it was impolite and impolitic to insist that this should stop. What signal did that send to the IRA?

Democratic parties at the Forum and elsewhere leaned over backwards to accommodate Sinn Féin's sensitivities, but eventually it became clear that Sinn Féin was not in the business of compromise; only in the business of grinding down the patience and forbearance of others.

Nobody has ever insisted publicly that Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness should spell out the relationship between Sinn Féin and the IRA. Few journalists have dwelled on the matter. There is a general feeling that while we should accept that there is some link, it is best not to inquire too closely about whether Sinn Féin is autonomous. One of the most alarming features of recent days has been the assertion that the Provisionals have got nothing from the peace process. Let us look at what they have got: access to the airwaves; access to Governments; the establishment of the Forum; greatly reduced security force activity; return of troops to barracks; major concessions on prisoners; opening of Border roads; dismantling of observation points; visas to the US; access to the White House and the President of the United States; greatly reduced searching; unlimited fundraising; offices in Washington and Brussels and an end to exclusion orders.

Let us now look at what they have given in return. They have given: nothing at the Forum; nothing on the principle of consent; no promise to end violence permanently; no decommissioning of weapons; no end to punishment murders and beatings; no end to intimidation and extortion; no guarantee that they would not fire the first shot; no information about missing bodies of their victims; no end to banishments from Northern Ireland; no acceptance of the Mitchell principles; no end to condemnation of others and no condemnation of their own violence. Who is codding whom?

I have dwelt at sufficient length on the difficulties and obstacles. If I am to be constructive I must turn to the possibilities and opportunities, even though they have become severely more limited by Friday's barbaric atrocity. Like Deputy Harney, I have not been convinced of the need for or value of an election. The down sides of such a course of action in Northern Ireland are obvious and numerous. The Taoiseach obviously thought so too as recently as Sunday night last when he expressed his implacable opposition in trenchant and colourful terms. However, I see merit in John Hume's suggestion of a referendum. I have not had time to think this through yet, but a referendum has the merit of allowing the people of Northern Ireland to express straightforward and undiluted democratic views on what should happen, untrammelled by the bitterness and polarisation that is endemic to predictable elections of parties and people in Northern Ireland.

I have complained that we are all jumping to and debating the Sinn Féin agenda. The great democratic deficit in Northern Ireland is that the simple views and requirements of the vast peace loving majority are sidelined by constant public debate on the demands of the IRA. A referendum is an opportunity for the large majority in both communities to assert itself in a way that cannot be done there through a normal election, where most of the parties try to outdo one another in garnering votes by promises of no surrender and no compromise.

The questions will have to be carefully phrased. As posed originally by Mr. Hume, the questions were of the motherhood and apple pie variety, the answers to which might be meaningless. Carefully chosen, pertinent questions could and would allow a democratic expression of view that should be morally binding on anybody with any pretensions to being a democrat. A referendum depersonalises the process in the best sense of the word. It is worth teasing out and should form a part of next week's proposed summit on which preparatory work could usefully be done by officials.

What is vital at that summit and for the future is that the two Governments should become and remain ad idem. If the movement towards a settlement and a permanent peace is ever to succeed it can only be if it is based on a bedrock of agreement on principles between the Governments and a willingness by both to work out and agree details as they arise. There is a great deal in common as exemplified in the various agreements and declarations. The silly ruptures of the last month or so should not be allowed recur. The degree of communication and trust should be high enough to ensure that the kind of mistakes made by the British Government in the past year on Private Clegg and the Mitchell report are avoided in the future.

If the Governments have a clear and unambiguous understanding, they can and should invite democratic parties to meet one another for serious dialogue. If it has to start in different rooms of the same building, so be it. The only qualification necessary for inclusion should be the acceptance of normal democratic principles. Anyone who is thus excluded is self-excluded.

It is a great pity we are having the debate this week. It is, however, necessary that we as elected representatives convey our views in a coherent and honest manner to the electorate, particularly the many parties and interest groups that are central to the Northern Ireland issue.

My first reaction last Friday evening to the London bomb was of sorrow, revulsion and frustration: sorrow that a glorious 18 months of peace had come to such a tragic and unnecessary end, revulsion at what the IRA had done to innocent people who had nothing whatever to do with Northern Ireland, its policies or problems, and frustration that when the major players were doing everything possible to foster the peace process, many peace loving people had their hopes dashed cruelly.

I have nothing but praise for the even-handed way the Taoiseach and Tánaiste carried out their respective duties in terms of the peace process. They have acquitted themselves very well in the most difficult circumstances. It is very difficult to balance the views and aspirations of two diametrically opposed communities, as in Northern Ireland. It is necessary for a democratically elected Government to send a cast-iron message to the men of violence that they cannot expect full access to Government while they continue their evil ways. It is not good enough for Gerry Adams to seek immediate access to the Taoiseach and Government Ministers. As a democratically elected leader, the Taoiseach is right to deny him that access. I will return to that issue later.

On the memorable day in August 1994 when Sinn Féin and the IRA gave a commitment to turn their face against violence for good and enter the democratic process as soon as possible, a great burden was lifted from everybody's shoulders. Immediately after the cessation of violence activities reached frenetic dimensions. The famous handshake by the then Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, to whom I give great credit for his endeavours on that occasion, with John Hume and Gerry Adams will never be forgotten. Nobody should underestimate the outstanding contribution John Hume has made to the peace process. Gerry Adams, in so far as it was possible given his position, was also a major player in the cessation of violence. It is obvious that he is now on a very sticky wicket.

For the past five or six months in particular it was obvious to everybody that the peace process was in difficulty, but I doubt if anybody expected a return to violence. I stress that I hold the IRA totally responsible for what happened in London last Friday, and no amount of clever tactics can explain away that evil deed. I think those views are shared by every elected representative.

Looking back at events dispassionately, other who were involved in this process are less than deserving of praise. For instance, I cannot understand why the Unionists, as the major party in Northern Ireland, are so afraid of coming to the negotiating table. That reluctance displays an inferiority complex and, given their history and numerical strength on the ground, they do not believe they are in a position to enter talks about their future on this island, particularly considering that we had 18 months of peace.

It cannot go unnoticed in the Unionist community that, while their perception of the ceasefire may have been that it was very shaky, at least the guns were silent. Given that that community has suffered greatly at the hands of IRA atrocities, it is very short-sighted of them not to enter into dialogue, if only to reiterate their heartfelt views on various matters, which I totally accept. Unfortunately, irrespective of the type of talks that are arranged, be they direct, proximity or intensive talks, it seems the Unionists are trying to find a way out.

I put it to Mr. David Trimble in particular, who appears to be a very intelligent and perceptive leader, that if Unionists continue the policy of not giving an inch at any cost they will find themselves without friends anywhere in the world in the not too distant future. I have no trouble accepting that many Unionists are suspicious of talks tilting towards a united Ireland, but most people believe that a united Ireland is a long way off — I would say, at the end of the rainbow. I would like to see a united Ireland, but I realistically accept that there are one million Unionists who will not, and cannot be expected to, change their allegiance in the foreseeable future. Many Nationalists who live and work for a united Ireland now see that scenario as futuristic. There is an unreal expectation on the part of people in both communities in the North who are aware that they will have to share that part of the island with each other for their lifetime and that of their children. They must know that murder, punishment beatings, knee-capping and blackmail will only make matters worse.

Peace is a gift from God. The 18 months respite clearly showed the world that the men of violence can be curbed. The fact that republican interests did not give the peace process more time to develop is a disaster. Given that we are talking about centuries of distrust of the deepest kind it is too much to expect that everything would be put right in 18 months. Apportioning blame is a useless pursuit and there is no point trying to decide who is to blame. I appeal for talks and more talks.

Given the decision by the British and Irish Governments to appoint former Senator George Mitchell, and his colleagues, to consider the many barriers to the peace process, it is unreal that the British Government favours elections in Northern Ireland as a precondition to talks. It is obvious to everybody that there has been into shortage of elections in Northern Ireland down the years — any student of politics could write the results of elections the day before they are held. As a democrat, I am not opposed to elections — we are all aware that they are the principles on which democracy flourishes and they serve a very useful and vital purpose. I agreed with John Hume when he stated that following an election held in isolation we would end up, predictably, with more or less the same results and a shouting match.

I found it hard to accept the British Government's view of what Senator Mitchell included in his final report. It was remiss of the British Government to highlight the question of an election. It must have realised what the reaction to that suggestion would be.

I am one of the advocated of keeping all lines of communication open to everybody. I have no problem with Government contacts with Sinn Féin or anyone else who wishes to talk being kept at a certain level. If we have learned anything during the past 18 months, it is that we must intensify the talks. It is incumbent on the British and Irish Governments to come together immediately to organise some type of framework, such as the proposed proximity talks. I was saddened to hear on a news bulletin last night that David Trimble is looking for a good reason for not becoming involved in that type of talks.

If the IRA has decided to jolt everybody's attention towards what it views as a slow down in the talks process and will renounce violence at this late stage after the terrible atrocity in London last Friday, the bad fracture in the peace process might be healed. However, if the IRA continues its violence while efforts are being made to secure a permanent peace, it can be taken that it is giving the two fingers sign to both Governments and the other parties in Northern Ireland and will not concern itself with the democratic process. Every opportunity should be taken to restart the peace process. We should make it as easy a possible for people who hold opposite views to come back into the fold.

As Members are aware, many a fine peace process was scuttled because of so-called core principles. All parties must be given an opportunity to outline their objectives, principles, fears, suspicions and future plans in a non-pressurised atmosphere. If a combination of proximity talks, an elective process and direct negotiations could be agreed as a package with something for everybody, that direction should be taken immediately.

The American connection is very important. The American influence on the United Kingdom is sufficiently strong to ensure that members of the British establishment are made to see matters in a slightly different way. Anything that Senator Mitchell, President Clinton or anybody else in America can do to assist matters will be welcomed not only by the Irish people but all concerned.

It was mentioned earlier that one of the terms used in Senator Mitchell's report was the "decommissioning of mindsets". We have become bogged down on the question of the decommissioning of arms. Like most people, I would like some of the very dangerous weapons to be taken out of circulation. Not many of the arms used in the great conflicts around the world were decommissioned. The IRA will have to decommission its arms, but I do not know at what pace or when that will happen. The decommissioning of mindsets is even more important. We can talk until we are blue in the face, but the necessary confidence and trust must be built up among people irrespective of where they live and people must be tolerant of others of different views and traditions. If we are unable to engender the necessary type of dialogue to achieve that and there is not the required level of trust and confidence, talk of decommissioning arms will not mean much.

I wish to raise a point which I am sure will echo something that is dear to the hearts of all our people. For many years since I became a Member, I have reflected that anything that could be done to stop the dreadful carnage and murder in Northern Ireland would be the best day's work any Irish Government or Oireachtas could achieve. When that day came in August 1994 I genuinely believed that we were on the right road, and we were.

I listened to Deputy O'Malley's contribution and it would be difficult to disagree with anything he said. It will be difficult to have a peace process in Northern Ireland that will be seen to be fair and impartial to all concerned. That is why it must be inclusive. I share the revulsion expressed by Deputy O'Malley at what the IRA has done. I have been a great opponent of its actions through the years, but we must have dialogue and Sinn Féin must be included at certain stages of the process. Matters are now in its hands. Members of Sinn Féin have said on television that they did not get anything out of the peace process, but I believe they got a good deal out of it. Everybody got a good deal and that is what a peace process is about. The IRA must realise that 25 years of the type of activities in which they engaged have not done anything to secure what their political leaders believe is their core principle, a united Ireland. If anything, it has ensured that the electorate in the Twenty-six Counties see things more realistically than 25 years ago. We do not hear a clarion cry for a so-called united Ireland as often as we did then because everybody is more realistic. What we want on this island is peace and harmony where people who hold different views will be allowed space to live their lives and their children and their children's children will be allowed to do the type of things they have grown accustomed to, as they believe they are entitled and as their traditions would demand.

Many people will say this is only a talking shop, but it is important that Members record where they stand on this issue. The next 14 days will be very important. I hope we will get back on the right track and that we will have an Ireland of which we can all be proud. I sincerely hope that in the next few days the men of violence will want to say they have had enough and they will not return to the path of violence.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the peace process, the situation in Northern Ireland and the relationships between the Irish and British Governments and the Northern parties.

A debate in this House on the matter was long overdue as Members should regularly have the opportunity to articulate their views, impressions and ideas on what is the most important issue facing Parliament.

In the spirit of my party leader yesterday, we must be self-critical in relation to the progress of the peace progress. We must learn from our experiences over the last 17 months and see how we can apply those lessons to restoring the peace process and bringing about final and permanent peace to our country.

With my party leader and colleagues, I offer my sincere sympathy to the bereaved and those injured in the London bombing. The IRA bears total and sole responsibility for that action and there can be no excuses for it. We, in this House, are of the view that violence is not justifiable in the pursuit of political objectives. With the cessation of violence over 17 months ago by the Provisional IRA, it was our view and hope that it, too, had come to the conclusion that the Northern Ireland conflict could best be resolved by democratic means.

We should try to understand the dynamic behind that cessation of violence, the process which led to it and the peace process itself. We should try to understand the motivations of all the parties involved in that decision. I do not accept Deputy O'Malley's analysis of the Provisional IRA and its relationship with Sinn Féin. Any analysis of the Northern situation over the last 25 years will have discerned clearly a significant evolution of thought within the republican movement over that period. Granted, it has been slow, tortuous and snail-like but there have been perceptible changes in that movement's approach to the issue and in its progression of thought, culminating in the decision 17 months ago to announce the ceasefire. There was a view, critical to the announcement, which Sinn Féin articulated and believed at the time, that there was a Nationalist consensus; that with the Irish Government, the SDLP and support from Irish Americans and President Clinton considerable pressure could be brought to bear to move the process forward and resolve it through political dialogue.

There was also a considerable evolution of thought within the British Government and from the British establishment, beginning with the Brooke initiative and Peter Brooke's declaration that Britain no longer had any selfish or strategic aim in Ireland, that it would facilitate agreement by consent and a united Ireland, for example, if a majority in the North wished it.

There was considerable movement all round on the peace process prior to the cessation of violence but the momentum slowed down incredibly from the beginning of last year. The Framework Document, which was published in February 1995, was a natural follow on from the Downing Street Declaration. It was a significant document signed by both Governments which was basically a framework for agreement between the parties in Northern Ireland; a defined suggested framework for resolving the relationship between North and South, its constitutional implications and the creation of North-South bodies. It also dealt with the third strand, the relationship between the British and Irish Governments.

The Framework Document was left on the shelf and the Taoiseach did not pursue it pro-actively. I can recall Question Time on numerous occasions when my party leader put questions, such as "Where stands the Framework Document?" and "What progress is being made on the Framework Document and the proposals therein?". Clearly, that document was downgraded in status over a period and presented as just one of a number of documents. That was a significant mistake. I accept the sincerity of all involved, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and others, but we must learn lessons and analyse what went wrong along the way and well in advance of any bombing in London.

In March 1995, the decommissioning issue grew in status when the Taoiseach indicated he favoured the decommissioning process, particularly in conjunction with Washington Three as presented by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew. Again, that was an error. Too much effort has gone into this whole decommissioning question and it was used fundamentally as an obstacle and a stalling process to prevent people having a deal with the critical issue, which was the convening of all-party round table talks, which is what should have happened early on in this particular process. If one compares that with what happened in South Africa, the Middle East or other conflicts no one lost time in moving those processes forward and the protagonists involved moved quickly to keep the momentum and the dynamic going. The decommissioning row, which has taken a full year to address and which has still not been dealt with, was the first major stalling issue. At the time, the Irish Government opened the door too much for the British Government and allowed it to make decommissioning the critical issue it has now become.

We lost much time from May, June and July onwards and I understand that Government officials during those months were working towards a summit but little progress was made. Then, of course, came the collapse of the summit which both Governments had agreed to hold in September. We had that critical weekend when there was talk of crisis, blood on the streets, etc., and the Taoiseach stated the summit could not go ahead. The critical issue was that it illustrated a significant breakdown in relationships between the Irish and British Governments. A key element of the peace process and, the handling of Anglo-Irish relationships throughout the 1980s and right up to the present has been that both Governments were on the one track, meant to resolve their mutual difficulties, planned various summits and agreed a procedure. There was much recrimination surrounding the fact that the summit did not take place. The souring of relationships at that juncture was not helpful to the process. The lesson to be learned is that relationships must be restored between both Governments and it is essential, if the process is again to gather momentum or be restored, that both Governments get rid of the megaphone diplomacy and start meeting, talking and giving leadership on a joint basis.

I mentioned earlier the importance of the Nationalist consensus and, in particular, the republican perception that it was important. A major error was made in October last year when the Taoiseach decided not to meet John Hume and Gerry Adams together in Government Buildings. The Hume-Adams initiative was one of the major fundamental factors in bringing about the peace process, people talked of the Hume-Adams strategy and their relationship was an important one. If they wanted to meet the Taoiseach at that particular time, they should have been facilitated. After all, they had numerous joint meetings with Deputy Albert Reynolds, as Taoiseach.

For example, the British Prime Minister, Mr. John Major, has no difficulty — nor would I — meeting the leaders of the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party at any time. He will meet Mr. David Trimble and Dr. Ian Paisley together and has met Mr. James Molyneaux and Dr. Paisley. The signal sent to the republican movement arising from the decision not to facilitate a proposed meeting was a very negative one which should not have been taken. Mr. John Hume was very angry at that decision, describing it as harmful and not at all helpful to the peace process. Certainly, it undermined Gerry Adams's position in the republican movement.

November 1995 was another month when very little progress was made until the meeting between the Taoiseach and British Prime Minister before the arrival of President Clinton after which a joint communiqué was issued. Events leading up to that communiqué were interesting. At approximately 6 p.m. on that evening RTE more or less signalled there would not be a meeting, that there was no agreement. However, by 8 p.m. both leaders had been on the telephone and, by 11 p.m., we saw them on our television screens commenting on their joint communiqué. Mistakes were made then also. The lesson to be learned is that we should not allow ourselves be pressurised into making late night, eleventh-hour agreements involving concessions.

Included in that communiqué were two harmful concessions. Even though the proposal that former American Senator Mitchell should meet all parties, develop the decommissioning issue and so on had been mooted, it was accepted that that November communiqué would not be binding on the British Government, that Washington 3 remained intact. Essentially, the British reserved the right to dismiss the Mitchell report in favour of Washington 3. That was a mistake. The other was that the joint communiqué signed on behalf of both Governments introduced the concept of an elective assembly and the role that might play in the decommissioning process. We opened the door too widely for that concept to gain credence and those late night concessions should not have been made. While acknowledging all the pressures there were on both Governments to hammer out an agreement in the advent of President Clinton's visit, we must learn from that experience. The concept of an elected assembly, the manner in which it was proposed and gained credence in Westminster among all political parties there bearing in mind the electoral position unfolding there, was very negative. The old Orange card has been deployed very effectively in Westminster.

We all know the difficulties elective processes entail for Northern Ireland, the type of hardline mandates people seek, and very often win, which tend to prohibit them thereafter from being flexible. I can foresee Unionist leaders going to their electorate seeking a mandate not to negotiate with anybody. The language of Unionist leaders in recent months and weeks has been very regrettable. It was exemplified by a remark to the effect that the most detested politician in Northern Ireland is Dick Spring. That is most depressing particularly when one remembers that, in the course of the Peter Brooke initiative in 1992, Unionists met Irish Government representatives. Is that how far we have travelled, that all they can do is heap personal abuse on the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs who, to his credit, has made a great commitment and sincere efforts to resolve the impasse. That type of language from Unionist quarters was very unhelpful.

At the time of the November communiqué it was asked whether we had merely moved the impasse further down the road. I think my party leader said so at the time. To his credit, former US Senator George Mitchell did a great deal of work from November to January but his report was ditched in no uncertain manner by the British Prime Minister on the day of its publication. While he subsequently endeavoured to retrieve it, the signal he sent out was the wrong one sent in a very shabby, unhelpful manner.

The Mitchell report was a very good one, its six principles having found agreement on all sides of this House. My party contends it can continue to form the basis for the restoration and continuation of the peace process. My party believes former Senator Mitchell should be invited back as a peace envoy or as an individual who, with credibility, could engage all parties in working towards a resolution of this conflict. He is neutral, has gained the respect of all involved in the process and, through his talks with the various parties on the decommissioning issue, has gained considerable insight into the minds of all those involved in this process. My party strongly believes that George Mitchell still has an important role to play in this process.

It is equally clear the IRA should be asked what they are now fighting for. Why, in the name of God, did they have to plant a bomb in Canary Wharf, killing two people and injuring others? If one reads any of its political dialogue or position papers, one realise there has been a considerable movement forward. We are now literally down to semantics, splitting hairs within the concept of selfdetermination and so on. Nobody can credibly argue that our present position warrants spilling a drop of blood.

What of Éamon de Valera?

That is an interesting analogy. I listened to Deputy O'Malley's comments on the relationship between Sinn Féin and the IRA. That party would do well to reread what happened in the 1920s, as I have done. I do not accept the black and white argument that they are all the one. Any movement will encounter tensions, caused by people with varying positions in it. In any movement like that of Sinn Féin-IRA there will be what people might loosely call the civil and military wings. I recall coming across correspondence, from about 1923 in the height of our bloody Civil War, when Éamon de Valera wrote to Liam Lynch about some atrocities committed at that time. He threatened to resign as President of Sinn Féin if he did not gain some insight into and knowledge of what the military wing were up to.

Eventually Éamon de Valera effectively and successfully moulded a political process from the Third Sinn Féin party and the anti-Treaty side, but he did not do it immediately. He entered Dáil Éireann in 1927 and — from the documentation I have read of events during that period — had been working on it from about 1923 onwards. When he became a Member of this House he lost half his parliamentary party but built it up again in subsequent elections. Any reading of events of that period gives some insight into the dynamic between a military and civil wing of any movement, the jockeying for power and influence that takes place and the way the whole process can evolve. Eventually a process evolved in the South to allow full participation in parliamentary democracy.

The same can happen in the Northern conflict, which is where I differ somewhat from Deputy Desmond O'Malley's analysis. We should not give up hope. If people are still in a position to persuade the men of violence that dialogue and democracy represent a better opportunity, we should encourage and facilitate them in their endeavours to retrieve the process.

I have made these comments, not to criticise any of those involved but merely to emphasise that we all need to be critical of our roles in the overall process. We should learn from our mistakes and apply the lessons learned to the position evolving, redoubling our efforts to save this very precious peace process.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute. We all regret that this interesting debate could not have taken place in different circumstances. Substantial contributions have been made by the Taoiseach and the leader of the Opposition and much of the ground has already been covered. I hope that what I have to add will be helpful. Some of the insights drawn from my visits to republican prisoners and the relationships built up with them and their families would offer the most fruitful addition to the debate. In attempting to do this in the wake of the bombing last Friday I, like other speakers, walk a delicate line between seeking to help understanding and avoiding condoning violence. I share the view of Deputy Albert Reynolds that if talks with anyone can stop the killing, they should continue. Having got to know some of these people and their families, through correspondence as well as meetings, one cannot close the door overnight. Robert Emmet said that once a new thought has entered your mind, you are changed forever. Only further expansion can come from that.

John Hume, whose actions were questioned by members of my party during the process which led to the ceasefire, proved that talks and communications can be valuable and risks may be worth taking for a very important outcome. Countless negotiations in world conflicts have proved this.

I agree with the analysis that the opposite policy of isolation of the IRA and Sinn Féin, which is a simple and highly moral policy to maintain in times of conflict, yielded only sterility and more violence. I have grave doubts about a rapid rush back to that isolationist policy, although I understand the difficulties of leaders. I welcome the doors left open by the Taoiseach, who would have my support in going as far as possible on that. I welcome the American position on contact with Gerry Adams. It is helpful because their perspective is a more distant and less personal one than that on these islands. I welcome also — unlike some of my colleagues — the intervention of Deputy Albert Reynolds. He has a unique background in the peace process and all contacts at this time are valuable and should be brought into play. I will also continue to use my contacts with the broader republican family to strengthen the men and women of peace in those organisations to return to the path of peace. There is a very strong lobby for peace within the movement. It cannot carry the whole movement with it at all times and we as politicians can help improve the environment to win the argument.

It is strange that my journey to this unusual position for a traditional Fine Gael Deputy contrasts with that of my constituency colleague, the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, whose position became an issue of debate. I heard him defend it last night in his customary strong and determined way. From his youthful republicanism he has exhibited the zeal of a convert in his current anti-Sinn Féin views. Zealots are never attractive. His zealotry may be inhibiting him from exhibiting the intelligence, integrity and consistency which I respect in him in the constituency and his work as a politician. It may be that he is missing the wood for the trees and not giving the process the benefit of his many talents. Perhaps he should listen openly to some of the comments made and consider using his undoubted talents in a more constructive way.

Some 18 months ago, with no personal knowledge, I watched events unfold. I was fascinated by the Hume-Adams process and the Government process which yielded such a fantastic result. I learned from my reflections. When the opportunity arose to become part of the Fine Gael delegation I welcomed it because we were a year into the peace process and there was evidence of a substantial slowing down in the process over the summer months.

There had been difficulties in arranging the summit and arguments over decommissioning — an unwise precondition — which my side of the House toyed with for a while as being a valid argument but one which proved to be a major stumbling block for so long. In our efforts to do what could be done in the atmosphere of the ceasefire I was glad to participate in the visits to republican prisoners. On our first visit, one year into the ceasefire, we were stunned to find that conditions had deteriorated, not improved. We suffered the stress of a closed visit to Michael Ryan who was on a dirty protest at the time. We agreed with the analysis of Gareth Pierse, the lawyer representing the prisoners, that their treatment was deeply provocative, in relation to transfers, education, visits, phone calls and medical needs. Prisoners talked about treating Paddy Kelly's cancer themselves by applying pain killing remedies, even though trained prison medical personnel ignored and neglected his condition. The list of humiliations was endless, although we were one year into the ceasefire. We concluded that there were two possible reasons — that at least one section of the United Kingdom establishment was still waging war, not peace, or, at best, that prisoners were being used as a pawn in the peace process. During that period Michael Mates went public with his solo suggestion that there should be a return to a short sharp war to sort out the position. It was certainly a solo run but it caused great concern.

It is clear that the prisoners, their families and the IRA had reached their own conclusions about the commitment and intentions of the British Government in the context of the peace process. From many of the signs and signals and looking back over reports on those visits it is clear that the Clinton visit only bought a little more time. I am attempting to analyse the reason these men with a long tradition of violence and a lifetime of involvement in the violent struggle, having been won over to peace, having made that huge gamble and initiated what they and all had hoped would be a permanent ceasefire, were willing to return to war. It was to be another five to six months before the ceasefire was broken when there was still hope after the Clinton visit and the Mitchell report.

Over the visits I would have met 17 of the 25 prisoners in the UK at the time. They are not the kind of people I met in Mountjoy Prison which I had reason to visit in my political work. As one relative whose two brothers were in Long Kesh said, they would never have seen the inside of a prison but for the troubles. The visits have meant the families have been in touch more often with me and the other members of the delegation and the Labour Party delegation. One can thus get a broader picture of how they perceived the last year and how unrest among republicans generally increased as time went by. Not only did nothing happen, conditions for the prisoners got worse.

This morning I met the partner of one of the prisoners who also has two brothers involved in one way or another, and she told me about the situation in County Tyrone around Coalisland and Dungannon. Talk of peace dividends and tourism booms as the year went on stuck in the craws of communities who were still searched when they went to visit prisoners, still subjected to random searches in their own homes and had little hope for a change in their circumstances.

In attempting to move the situation forward it is important to understand those involves. Deputy Bertie Ahern referred yesterday to the tortuous thinking of the republicans and Deputy Martin also mentioned it. It is easy to take the high moral ground and forget our own history. It was the tortuous idea of when is an oath not an oath which led to our civil war. If we look deeply we may still have an understanding of how such matters can become a reason to go to war for people in some situations. I was in a pub last night and wondered if anybody can now go into a pub and know they will leave it. Such is the awfulness of what faces us.

We must always remember the victims of last Friday night. However, some of those who have perpetrated such crimes have also given their lives. My second prison visit involved attending the reviews of three of the five life sentenced prisoners. Three of them were my age but they had already served 21 years in jail. If they had families they had grown up without them. Some of them had not had the chance to start families because they went to prison at the age of 17 to 21 years. Many of them have given a lifetime, and they and their families are also victims. I am encouraged from my meeting that many of them have grown and changed during their periods in jail and this is evidenced by the thinking within Sinn Féin Although it may seem extraordinary after last Friday's events, there is a great willingness to try the path of peace.

When the ceasefire was declared there was a strong minority within the republican movement who did not support it, who did not believe it could be effective and that politics could deliver. They were held as long as possible but, ultimately, some elements returned to acts of violence. The context in which that occurred was the failure of the political process to deliver, and that is our great challenge. In assessing our ability to deliver questions remain about what the British authorities were doing in regard to prisoners over the last year. What is the explanation for their attitudes?

As the leader of the Opposition said yesterday, there was an opportunity to make concessions in relation to prisoners which could have created a better climate of understanding. It was one area in which the Unionists were willing to move. Policy in this area was directed by those in the British Home Office. What were they doing? I put this question to them directly at meetings. We asked them if they realised they were undermining the ceasefire. In our reports we noted that on our first visit we indicated that their policy had the potential to destabilise the process and the second time we told them it was destabilising it.

In accessing whether we can deliver politically we have to be sure of the bona fides of all the political forces involved. The British Home Office may suggest it never believed the ceasefire was genuine and has been proved right. We argued the point when we met the governors of prisons and Home Office officials. We were never granted a direct meeting with the junior Minister in the Home Office but wrote to argue that movement on their part could help. However, we got little satisfaction.

In the last year I also had the opportunity of being involved in a unique bridge building experience with the Unionists with the national prayer breakfast. The isolation of the Unionists from the rest of the country is a real problem. The national prayer breakfast involved 300 people from business, politics and religious life. Many of those present were senior figures in public life in Northern Ireland and meeting Irish parliamentarians for the first time. It highlighted the need to build bridges and have communication at all levels.

A feature republicans and Unionists have in common is a tendency to say what they mean; a directness which is refreshing. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have said they cannot go back to the IRA unless they have something to offer. That "something" is all-party talks, which we have been trying to achieve for the last year. Last Friday's events have made that objective more difficult but it remains the challenge for us as politicians. All proposals — the referendum and the elections included — must be analysed urgently in that context if we are to seize the opportunity for peace. I retain a sense of pessimism because I question whether the political willingness is there on the part of the British and Unionists to make the progress needed. If that willingness is there and imagination and skill are shown on our part the peace can be retrieved and again enjoyed.

I am glad Deputy McGahon has joined us in the Chamber. This is one of the few areas of national life in which we have often found ourselves in profound disagreement.

I do not believe the assertion of British Ministers that it was a lack of confidence in the permanence of the ceasefire which caused them to require decommissioning and prevented them from entering into negotiations with Sinn Féin. The British Government regarded the ceasefire as permanent and felt that there was no longer any reason for it to pay much heed to the views or expectations of Nationalists or republicans.

For 50 years Northern Ireland was a political slum. The British Government knew that there was discrimination, injustice and state sectarianism. This would not have been acceptable anywhere else in the United Kingdom, but it did nothing about it. It tolerated what was happening as it was easier to turn a blind eye to genuine Nationalist grievances than to stand up to Unionist bigots who have always been willing to oppose the will of the majority in the United Kingdom to which they profess allegiance. It was only when the civil rights movement turned the spotlight on Northern Ireland and the bloody suppression of civil protest became an international issue that the British Government reacted, but it left it too late. By then the troubles had respawned the IRA and this country was condemned to the violence we endured for a quarter of a century.

It is not alone ironic but deeply informative to note that the British Government met, negotiated and had official contacts with the IRA during its campaign of violence. What, therefore, are we to make of the quibbling and cavilling engaged in by the British Government about meeting not with the IRA but Sinn Féin after the ceasefire was achieved?

During the campaign of violence financial and political expediency dictated that the British Government should endeavour to halt it even at the risk of offending the Unionists. One can still recall the dramatic exchanges in the House of Commons when the leader of the DUP stormed out having accused the British Prime Minister of lying over the contacts between the British Government and the IRA.

When the ceasefire was announced the balance of expediency shifted and for the past 18 months the entire efforts of the British Government have been confined to placating and appeasing the Unionists. It is no coincidence that the parliamentary arithmetic at Westminster has increasingly made the British Government hostage to Unionist demands. The tragedy is that, believing there was no risk of a resumption of IRA violence, the British Government ignored its obligations to the Nationalist population and consistently reneged on its commitments under successive Anglo-Irish agreements.

It is against this background that one must evaluate the IRA's decision to plant last week's bomb. As a constitutional politician, I deplore the planting of the bomb and, especially, the killing and maiming of innocent civilians. On the other hand, we should have learned by now that the politics of condemnation do not bring peace. For 25 years the IRA was routinely condemned. Its guns finally fell silent when it was persuaded that violence could not produce a lasting or just peace and that the path of negotiations offered a better way. Although the guns fell silent there were no negotiations. The irony is that it would appear that last week's bomb was planted with the aim of expediting the negotiations which the IRA had been persuaded offered a better alternative to violence.

The danger is that we have now become trapped in a vicious circle. Those who oppose negotiations with Sinn Féin can claim that the Canary Wharf bombing shows that one cannot engage in negotiations with persons still capable of reverting to such acts of violence. On the other hand, given the way the British Government obstructed the path to negotiations prior to the bombing, the risk is that if it is now seen to behave more responsibly this change will be seen by some in the IRA as resulting from and justifying the bombing in Canary Wharf. The current situation is fraught with risk. There are, however, a number of self-evident truisms which should govern how we proceed.

The history of Irish nationalism this century has been one of compromise. When the democratically elected parliament of the United Kingdom voted for Home Rule in 1912 unionism said no. The first Irish rebels against British rule in this country this century were the so-called loyalists. The response of Unionists to the most modest of proposals for non-sectarian policing in the new Northern Ireland state was to unleash the bloodiest of pogroms against the defenceless Nationalist population. The Unionists have said no ever since to every proposed reform, peace initiative and suggestions that the resolution of conflicts of this type requires compromise on both sides.

We are told that the Unionists cannot be coerced. The British Government has even declined to attempt to persuade them to compromise or talk about compromise, yet, it is as clear as day that without persuasion or the pressure which a democratically elected Government is always entitled to bring to bear on a recalcitrant minority the Unionists will continue to block any proposal which does not give them everything they want. It should be remembered that it was through a combination of persuasion and coercion the Government prevailed on the IRA to halt its campaign. We are entitled to expect a similar commitment and effort on the part of the British Government.

The concept of an election in Northern Ireland at this time is intended to reinforce unionism's rejection of any compromise and it is unbelievable that the British Government or anybody else could take it seriously. The Ulster Unionist Party first called for an election. On what platform would it seek electoral support? Would it be on the basis of seeking a mandate to enter negotiations with Sinn Féin or for compromise and reconciliation? The answer is no; Unionist and loyalist politicians would vie with each other to put the most uncompromising platform before the electorate. Are we to take seriously the suggestion that once given a mandate for no compromise they would be expected to turn around and immediately repudiate their electoral commitments and that mandate?

It is clear that an election at this time, far from facilitating dialogue and reconciliation, would only underpin and reinforce the negative basis on which unionism has approached the peace process. I have heard Unionist politicians and the British Prime Minister ask rhetorically how any democrat can oppose the holding of an election at any time. I pay Mr. Trimble the compliment of believing that he is being capricious, not stupid.

By way of analogy, in 1921 an Irish delegation signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty which contained such negative features from a Nationalist point of view as partition, the oath of allegiance, the denial of sovereignty and so on. Nevertheless, Dáil Éireann voted to accept it and this decision was subsequently ratified by the people in the general election that followed. What would the position have been if the Irish delegation had been selected on the basis of an election held just before the treaty negotiations?

Would de Valera have gone?

How many candidates would have stood on the platform advocating a settlement such as the treaty, let alone been elected on such a platform? What later became known as the republican view would have overwhelmingly prevailed. What would have been the result? If, with the benefit of hindsight, one accepts that the establishment of the Irish Free State by Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins and its subsequent development into a sovereign State by Eamon de Valera were good and worthwhile achievements, the danger of an election at this time is self-evident.

In a more recent context, would the calling of an election North or South immediately after Bloody Sunday in 1972 have been a useful exercise in democracy? Elections are central to the democratic process but their timing must take account of the emotions and problems of the day. Any elections now would, to quote the Taoiseach, "only have the effect of pouring petrol onto a fire".

The third issue I wish to raise concerns the decision of our Government not to speak at ministerial level with Sinn Féin. If I correctly understand the Taoiseach's position, before ministerial meetings take place with Sinn Féin, it will be necessary for it to, not only call on the IRA to restore the ceasefire, but to prevail on it to do so. Is that approach logical or correct? I have heard the Taoiseach's reasons for not having ministerial contacts with Sinn Féin and while many of them are valid, the same arguments could be applied to contacts at official level, yet at least one such contact is being allowed. Are we at risk of engaging in the type of hair splitting exercise for which we have correctly criticised the British Government?

Fianna Fáil's experience, when in Government, of dealing with Gerry Adams causes me to believe he is genuinely committed to the peace process. Equally, it is obvious there are others in the republican movement who are less committed than he to that process. It would be very foolish to respond in such a way that would undermine the position of those in the republican movement with whom experience shows it is possible to deal. Nor should our natural revulsion at what happened at Canary Wharf or our desire to dissociate ourselves from such action cause us to dilute the responsibility the British Government bears for the crisis confronting us.

It was obvious before and after the ceasefire announced in August 1994 that in general the only people on this island who did any real thinking about the development of Irish political life, Nationalism and republicanism were members of Sinn Féin. The majority of people, opinion leaders, commentators and politicians were more or less programmed to condemning atrocities whenever they occurred. This was the general way of thinking as violence on the island became the norm. The shock of the ceasefire was beyond the mind capabilities of many politicians and opinion makers, particularly those in the South. One might have expected this across the water, but many people here had great difficulty comprehending what had happened. New speeches had to be drafted and some people were not capable of changing their thought processes. However, to their credit, some people who had strong views prior to the ceasefire changed their thinking, but the majority of us were locked in a scenario.

There is ambivalence among most Irish people about the use of physical force to achieve political aims


I agree with Deputy McGahon that there is a level of schizophrenia about the use of physical force on this island to achieve political aims. While it may not be popular to say so, I have always maintained there are two sides to my brain, one which logically abhors the use of force and the other which, given our background, understands it.

Does the Deputy understand murder?

Many Members learned in school about the brilliant campaigns going back hundreds of years.

That is part of the problem.

While it is part of our problem, to deny that it exists presents another problem. In fairness, Deputy McGahon has consistently abhorred the use of force to bring about political aims. He has a more consistent view in this regard than any other Member of the House and referred to the schizophrenia that exists. However, we cannot ignore our history and try to wipe out, in 70 or 80 years, what took place for hundreds of years. I envy those who can do so. Some Members were recently party to, or members of, organisations which gave credence to physical force and have been able to change their mindset. They now preach the zealotry of the other side. I wish I was able to do likewise, but in saying so I am not casting any criticism. Some people, both inside and outside the House, have been very successful in that regard.

Having studied our history in some depth, there has not been a majority of people in favour of the use of physical force on this island during any decade this century, including the years prior to 1916 and up to the 1930s. I am sure I could safely say there was never a majority of people on this island who favoured the use of force to achieve political aims. While most people were proud of what happened in the 1920s, they did not favour the use of physical force. However, that is not to deny a large element of the population believed in force to achieve political aims.

The road to politics for most parties in this House has been tortuous, born out of the gun and violence. The antecedents of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Democratic Left believed in the use of force. Why should we, therefore, deny others the opportunity to travel the same path? I have paid tribute to the late W.T. Cosgrave, probably the most under-sung hero since the birth of this State, for allowing Fianna Fáil to enter this House without sticking to the letter of the law. The late Mr. Cosgrave had many great achievements but his greatest was allowing the transfer of power in the early 1930s to Fianna Fáil which, less than a decade earlier, was using force against the institutions of the State. Of all the people written about in Irish history, W.T. Cosgrave ranks with anybody else this century for the course he took at that time. Why would some politicians in this House and opinion writers deny to others the opportunity to travel the road from which they came? I cannot understand that element of their argument.

Gerry Adams and others in Sinn Féin are sincere when they say they have turned their backs on violence but there is an element in the republican movement which is of the view that they are making a mistake. Irish nationalism lost approximately 45 per cent of its followers when it took the constitutional road. A civil war was fought in the 1920s on that very point. Fianna Fáil was formed and when it entered democratic politics it lost a fair element of its support. That happened again at the end of the 1960s with the establishment of Sinn Féin. There is little point in condemning Gerry Adams outright, placing impossible demands on him just to make all of us feel happy if 45 per cent of the people we want to bring in are left outside the door.

Why does he not condemn——

That attitude has got us nowhere. It is easy for me as a member of Fianna Fáil to condemn last Friday night's atrocity. If Gerry Adams also condemned it we in this House would cheer him but a considerable element of the republican movement would desert him and he would then be of little use.

I hope and pray that the progress made prior to and following August 1994 will soon continue and that we will be in a position to welcome all the parties on this island into the constitutional process. The ordinary people, North and South, are way ahead of the politicians in this regard. They want to see people talking together and are not interested in the nitty-gritty. The sooner that day comes, the better.

I wish to share my time with Deputy McGahon.

I am sure that is in order.

Few of us will forget where we were or what we were doing when we heard the chilling statement from the IRA last Friday night accompanied by the news that a bomb had been detonated in Canary Wharf. We had begun to take peace for granted and perhaps we had become too accustomed to hearing good news about investment, growth in tourism, cross-Border contacts and all the other beneficial aspects of the peace process. We may also have forgotten the deep sense of shame which overtakes us when we hear that yet more innocent lives have been taken in our name. We had forgotten also the sense of trepidation with which we listened to news bulletins, wondering what new atrocity would flicker across our television screens.

Last Friday we were reminded that peace cannot be taken for granted. We were reminded also that when politicians fail, or are seen to fail, the gunmen take over. War is the ultimate failure of politics but war is also the first refuge of those for whom compromise means too much giving, talking means too much delay and democracy means too much uncertainty.

We must be quite clear that those who seek to achieve their aims through the barrel of a gun or the detonator of a bomb cannot be allowed to call themselves democrats. Part-time democracy is not an option. The word "frustration" has been bandied about inside and outside this House in recent days. There is no doubt that democratic politics can be frustrating. The path to dialogue is often tortuous and it is strewn with obstacles. It meanders towards its object rather than travelling in a straight line; all of those involved have to compromise.

Last Friday, the IRA sought to relieve its frustration with a bomb. In so doing, it has merely increased the frustration felt by those on all sides who are slowly working for peace. Restoring the ceasefire will not eliminate the frustration; on the contrary, there will be many months of frustration before the final goal of peace has been achieved. That is the nature of democratic politics.

Many of those commenting on the peace process have drawn comparisons with the peace process in play in South Africa. No two countries or two peace processes are analogous but the republican movement might do well to reflect on the words of President Nelson Mandela in concluding his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, when he states; “I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”. We must ensure that each hill in the peace process — and there will be many — is not marked by more violence on the part of those for whom democracy is too arduous a climb.

We must send forth two messages from this House, the first being that violence as a means of achieving political aims is totally unjustifiable and unacceptable. Let there be no equivocation about that issue and, above all, let us not blame last Friday's atrocity on the slowness of the British Government or the action or inaction of any democratic party. One of the cornerstones of democracy is responsibility. The IRA, and nobody else, bears the sole responsibility for the bomb which murdered two people and injured more than 100. I share the disappointment felt by many at the slowness of the British Government and others to respond to the imperative of the peace process. There is a need for compromise and movement on all sides and all parties to the peace process must be prepared to abandon previously fixed positions if we are to move forward.

The second message that must go out from this House is that the IRA does not kill in our name or in the name of our children. Its actions are repugnant to us. It claims to act on our behalf but it dishonours each and every one of us by its actions. Last night the Taoiseach spoke simply and movingly of the two men murdered by the IRA. He spoke of the ordinary lives ended by an extraordinary event. Let us also speak of the lives which were not ended but which have been forever altered — the grieving families and those who have been permanently maimed. What we say here today cannot restore those lives. The greatest tribute we can pay to them collectively is to look forward and ensure that last Friday's atrocity was the last of its kind.

The peace process can recover. One can already detect a new impetus towards finding a way out of the current impasse despite, and not because of, the Canary Wharf slaughter. The wish for peace among all of the people on these islands is far too strong to be blown off course by an IRA bomb. Those within the republican movement who want the peace process to continue must reassert themselves. In that they will have both the moral and the practical support not only of the Irish Government but of all democratic parties on these islands. An immediate restoration of the ceasefire and an unequivocal commitment to the democratic path is the only possible way forward. The Irish Government's decision not to engage in formal discussions with Sinn Féin until the ceasefire has been restored was the only possible decision in the circumstances.

The Government and everyone on this island has a responsibility to uphold democracy and ensure that the lines between democratic politics and the politics of violence are not blurred. However, that does not mean the door has been closed on Sinn Féin; on the contrary the door is open to it to come in from the cold into which last Friday's bomb propelled it, to affirm its exclusive commitment to democractic politics and to persuade the IRA to embrace the path of peace. In recent days we heard statements to the effect that Sinn Féin has no message to take back to the IRA. The people of Ireland are sending the republican movement the very clear message that it should stop the killing for good.

Having listened to many of the predictable contributions yesterday and today, I found Deputy Byrne's speech very refreshing. Some speeches were sincere but predictable in that after the ritual condemnation came the "buts"— the ambivalence of the schizophrenia to which Deputy McCreevy referred — blaming the Brits. This is a national pastime and when we take part in it we join the IRA in its claims. There is a unique mentality, a kind of reverse responsibility, prevalent in the North, that the planting of a bomb is somebody else's responsibility. As Deputy Byrne stated emphatically, the people who bear the responsibility for last Friday's tragedy are undoubtedly the murderers who have besmirched Ireland's name for the past 25 years.

My speech will be somewhat different from those already delivered. Like everyone else I hope that some day — no Member of this Assembly will live to see it — this country will be united through peaceful means. This can only happen when the Unionists realise they have more in common with us, knock on our door and ask to join us. I have grave reservations about the Anglo-Irish Agreement, laudable though it seemed at the time, and I am deeply concerned that the Irish Government has meddled too much in the affairs of Northern Ireland over the past ten years. That is the perception of one million Protestants and it is one of the reasons for their intransigence and repeated slogan of "no surrender". They do not want to join us and will not get into bed with us at gunpoint. Will the penny ever drop in the South that they want to remain British and have the right to do so, as acknowledged by every democratic party in the State? The perception among Unionists is that they will be deserted by the British and forced into a united Ireland. There is no doubt that the British want to get out of the North and would do so tonight. I do not trust them in this regard but I want them to stay in the North until a rational solution is arrived at and they are told by the Unionists to leave. Otherwise the threat of a civil war will undoubtedly hang over the country.

The planting of the bomb last Friday night was the result of the appeasement policies pursued by the British and Irish Governments who could not find an acceptable way to deal with terrorism. Some people have referred to the "war". Terrorists do not wage a war. They are despicable vermin who plant bombs in pubs and under cars and shoot people in the back. They do not wear uniforms, they wear balaclavas. These people have been very evident in the North over the past 17 months.

When the ceasefire was announced I warned amid the euphoria in the House that it was unreal and said I did not believe it. I referred to the most prominent republican in the House in recent years, Neil Blaney, who also welcomed it but gave it a very muted response as he did not believe it either. The IRA is not sincere when it says it wants peace. Seventeen months ago we had to endure the spectacle of IRA posters which stated "Give peace a chance". Yet last Friday night these murdering vermin took the lives of two unfortunate people who did not know what the fight was about. Their bodies were blown to pieces and all the parts have not yet been found.

The peace process is also in pieces. How can Unionists have any faith in the promises of an organisation which called a truce and then broke it in such a foul manner? It is the policies of appeasement which have allowed murderers and terrorist gangs to exist and call themselves nonsensical names such as Sinn Féin. There is no distinction between Sinn Féin, the IRA, the UVF or the UDA — they are all killer gangs, criminals who masquerade under the acceptable cloak of republicanism and unionism. I find it very difficult to watch on television shadowy figures from the UVF such as Billy Hutchinson, David Ervine and Gary McMichael who are guilty by association in the deaths of hundreds of innocent people, mainly Catholic in the North, and Mr. Adams and Mr. McGuinness. Thousands of people found it very difficult to accept Mr. Adams presence in the House when President Clinton came here looking for votes. This House was guarded day and night for 25 years against this man and his organisation in whose campaign of violence 14 gardaí and five soldiers were cruelly butchered. However, it now seems that people are expendable and the crime of murder has been downgraded. The effect of this can be witnessed in the increase in crime in Dublin and rural areas. The culture of the slaughter fields of Ulster has permeated into Irish society.

The Irish Government has meddled too much in the affairs of the North. Stormont has been abolished and will not sit again, and we all say amen to that. We pay lip service to the idea of democratic politics. If we believe in democratic politics why do we not accept the idea of elections in the North for a relatively short period of 18 months with an absolute guarantee that Stormont cannot be entertained again? The British Government has given such a guarantee. If we believe in the democratic principle of elections we should not deny people in the North the right to hold elections.

We should withdraw somewhat from the internal divisions in the North and be replaced by an international commission set up by the EU which would ensure the guarantees the SDLP feels are necessary. Many of the irritations and disadvantages suffered by Catholics in the North have been removed and life has improved out of all recognition. I spent a weekend in the North and like everyone else appreciate the benefits of peace, North and South. However, I will not be ambivalent about this issue. I condemn murder out of hand, it can never be right regardless of whether it is green or orange. What kind of society would we have if we bowed the knee to terrorist organisations?

Most politicians, having condemned the British, glibly ask why the parties do not talk, as if the Holy Ghost could bring a resolution of the problems that have beset this country for so long. What magic potion is contained in talks? What will people so diametrically opposed to each other talk about? They are worlds apart — a million Protestant people who want integration with Britain and half a million Catholics who want a united Ireland.

Until people here speak unambiguously and reject violence as a solution to this tragic problem, we will have fellow-travellers of the IRA who justify the taking of life. The IRA could have killed 100 people on Friday night, and I had to try to console a 15-year-old girl in Dundalk who was inconsolable because her older, only sister, was working in England. Friday night shamed this nation and indicated the number of gullible people who believed the IRA was sincere when it called the ceasefire.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in such an important debate as the question of the North, particularly at this difficult time. My own party leader, Deputy Bertie Ahern, had been hoping for a debate since 5 October. However, I am pleased that, even in these sad circumstances, we have the opportunity to have that debate.

Whatever people's views and emotions at this time — and obviously emotions are high on all sides — it is important to remember that we would not have had a peace process but for the initial talks between Gerry Adams and John Hume. It is only fair that both men should be acknowledged for the work they have done and continue to do with regard to the peace process.

We have had nearly 18 months of a ceasefire. Some people called that peace, and it was peace for that number of months. However, it is important to realise — and perhaps the British Government did not really realise its importance — that it was a period not only to consider the problem but to take things further. That particular opportunity has been lost.

I refuse to be pessimistic about this because the alternative to continuing the ceasefire is too sad to contemplate. As politicians we have a very grave responsibility to do all we possibly can to bring this process back on track. It is easy for any of us to say that we wish the peace process to continue, but for that to happen we have to work hard to get people to the table for talks.

I do not want to be accused of just laying the blame at the door of the British Government in making a political point. I simply state the facts as unemotionally as I can in this situation. I look at the question of the Framework Document, the debates over clarification and the binning by the British Government of the Mitchell report on the question of decommissioning. I look at the communiqué of November 1995 between the Irish and British Governments on the eve of the arrival of the President of the United States to this country and believe that it was only because of his imminent arrival that a communiqué was issued. Unfortunately and sadly for this country, there was no follow-up of that communiqué by the British Government either. Instead there was a proposal for elections which, in the Taoiseach's words — and I agree with him — can only pour petrol on the flames of the situation we now face. The Tánaiste then put forward a proposal for proximity talks which are worth considering. Yet again this was dismissed by the British Government before the ink was dry on the proposal. A week or less before the bomb exploded in Britain Mr. Ancram, in a debate in UCD, said that even if Sinn Féin were to accept the six principles of the Mitchell report, that in itself would not be enough for talks. There was great difficulty on the part of the British Government in accepting any positive proposal to move towards talks.

The word "frustration" has been used many times in this debate. We in this House share this sense of frustration, but we must also remember the very grave sense of frustration on all sides in the North. One other indication of the stagnant approach of the British Government in working towards all-party talks is its treatment of the prisoner issue. This was a very negative approach in an area where the British Government could have shown good faith. Unfortunately, as I have been told by those who have taken a particular interest in the prisoner issue and who on all sides have visited the prisoners and seen their situation for themselves, since the ceasefire their situation has worsened.

What are we to do about this situation? We have to keep dialogue open with everyone. We have to use all our contacts. We must tell the British Government, the Unionists and other groupings who have set up barriers that although there is always the temptation to put up obstacles, we should not do that. We need to move forward to all-party talks where everyone will have the opportunity of discussing their matter of principle at that level.

It is also important to remember that in 1990 Mr. Brooke gave a public commitment that if there was movement towards a ceasefire the British Government would reciprocate with an imaginative and generous response. There has already been a ceasefire that lasted for 17 months, but we have not yet seen an imaginative or generous response. In the Declaration, the British Prime Minister signed a document which said that he and his Government would be prepared to help to persuade the Unionists on the Irish question. Unfortunately, there seems to be a recurring pattern in Irish history where, depending on the arithmetic in the House of Commons, we are heard or not heard as a nation. A problem that is so difficult, delicate and sensitive should not come down to votes and party affiliations within the House of Commons.

I was heartened by the statement by the leader of the Opposition, Mr. Blair, that he and his party did not intend to make the issue of the Irish question a party-political one. That is very welcome for a number of reasons. It shows that Mr. Blair has an interest in and a concern about what is happening in Ireland and that he is giving space to the British Prime Minister to act positively on this issue.

In the present situation it is not too surprising to hear leaders reverting to their old stances. I was saddened but perhaps not surprised by Mr. Taylor's recent remarks about the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, and Mr. Trimble's reference to Sinn Féin as pariahs. I am very sorry to hear Deputy McGahon use the provocative phrase "murdering vermin" because this is not the time to use that type of language. The language used continually by the US administration, President Clinton and his ambassador to Ireland, Mrs. Kennedy Smith, is more appropriate. I believe they have been a tremendous asset to the Irish cause. I thank the American administration for its very positive and helpful approach to this matter. The American ambassador reacted very positively to the Fianna Fáil suggestion that the former US Senator, Mr. George Mitchell, should come again to Ireland to act as an envoy because he knows the situation and already has had the opportunity to talk to people on all sides. The American ambassador was open about the fact that she personally agreed with this idea and would have it put to the American administration. This is more than a ray of hope. The American ambassador said that Gerry Adams was an essential part of the peace equation. I believe we must ensure we talk to everybody regardless of whether he espouses a Nationalist, republican, Unionist or loyalist view. In my view they are all Irish men and women. We have an opportunity in negotiations to put the difficulties behind us.

It is sad that politicians find it so easy to condemn, yet what alternative have they been able to put forward? In fairness, the Irish Government put forward some worthwhile suggestions which fell on not so sympathetic ears in the British Government but I hope there will be more flexibility. Those who are completely committed to the political system have to show that it is possible for a consensus to emerge in negotiations. Until now we have had political paralysis which does not do political institutions much good. What is needed is an open and flexible approach so that no further preconditions are put in the way of talks. We have heard the references to vetoes but that outmoded approach has to be changed. Deputy Albert Reynolds has said and continues to say during this crisis that we have to take risks for peace, that we have to change the mode of our thinking. One does not have to renege on principle but one has to have respect for different points of view. In order to do that, politicians have to create the political climate where people with completely opposing views can come to some kind of consensus.

Deputy McGahon seemed to be rather depressed and felt that diametrically opposed individuals or parties could not possibly come to a conclusion. I do not agree with that because if it were the case there would be no need for the political system. I look at what has happened throughout the world during recent years where the parties to conflicts going back hundreds of years are reaching an accommodation. I believe that is possible in Ireland. Why should ours be different from any other difficult situation?

In the flux it is important not to over-react where security matters are concerned. That is very important because I can imagine that tensions must be very high in the North and if there was to be precipitative action by the security forces or the Government in bringing in further security measures the problem would be exacerbated.

I take this opportunity to call for all-party talks as soon as possible. We had 17 months of peace but the opportunity was lost. We now have the opportunity to regain the initiative.

I refuse to be pessimistic and say it is not possible. I believe we have to find a way forward and we will. To return to fighting among ourselves, to reiterating old arguments and holding on to old modes of thinking will not help us to achieve. The split was always top of the agenda in Irish politics. In history we always seem to turn in on and disagree among ourselves. What was so positive about the peace process was that for the first time in many years we had a Nationalist consensus that allowed us to move forward. I believe the bedrock for that is still there. Let us have the courage to grasp that opportunity.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, with your permission I wish to share my time with Deputy Nealon.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The bombing of Canary Wharf on Friday last shortly after 7 p.m. was a devastating blow to the dream of a peaceful political settlement of the problems in Northern Ireland. Our thoughts are with the innocent victims of this tragedy. Can the Provisional IRA explain to those families that the Irish people benefited from misguided action? We must consider how Irish people living in Britain can explain this return to violence in their name to their work colleagues. They are at a loss to understand how anyone could hope to gain anything from this wanton madness or wish to benefit from the misery and sadness of their neighbours. It is not sufficient to say we are angry about the lack of progress in the talks; the refusal of the Unionists to meet all parties; the slowness of the British Government to bring about a relaxation in the prison regime for republican and loyalist prisoners; the disregard for the sensitivities of Irish feelings by the early release and promotion of Private Clegg; the disregard for the Mitchell report and the amazing decision by the British Government to disregard the view of the Irish Government and the Nationalist parties by agreeing with the Unionists to go ahead with an assembly type election before entering into negotiations with the Irish Government. None of these matters is worth shedding one drop of blood for no matter how angry we feel about them. Our anger should not be seen as condoning the action of the IRA.

We must look for a way forward out of our present dilemma and make a concerted effort to reinstate the ceasefire. The Government cannot be expected to talk directly with Sinn Féin at ministerial level but contact must be made if we are to have a solution. We acknowledge that Sinn Féin, its leadership and in particular Gerry Adams have made a major contribution to peace and should help them to restore it. As Deputy de Valera and the American Ambassador to Ireland said, without Gerry Adams the likelihood of holding peace talks is remote. It is appropriate that he be facilitated in every possible way and that the doors be left open. In the mean-time we must support the Government in its call for closer co-operation with the British Government. We must use whatever means we have at our disposal to ensure a programme for the commencement of all-party talks is put in place, whether that is through the summit meeting which I hope will take place in the near future, or through rescheduling the Forum. No avenue should be left unexplored.

We cannot have inclusive talks if all parties are not present. Unless the Unionists see a reason to be present convening such talks will be difficult. That is why there was a groundswell of support for the action taken by the Government and in particular the Tánaiste. I commend speakers who mentioned his efforts in this regard. During recent years he spent much time and effort at great personal and family expense dealing with this matter. He tried to keep an even keel even when he was subjected to criticisms from various quarters, including Unionists.

Our party has commended and given him its full support for his efforts and those of the Government in their unremitting search for a speedy and certain route to all-party inclusive negotiations aimed at securing a comprehensive settlement in Northern Ireland based on consent and the three stranded approach. It is difficult to understand the attitude of Mr. Trimble with whom I have had the honour to serve on committees. I chaired an international committee of which he was a member. I cannot understand why he should be concerned about participating in all-party talks when one of the grounds we have laid down is that any change made will be on the basis of consent. If consent is included in our agenda the Unionists, being a majority in Northern Ireland, have an effective veto on whatever settlement is arrived at. The Unionists should consider seriously the tremendous advantages for the North of Ireland over the past 17 months, the boom in the economy, benefits to industry, the happiness of families and children, the development of the tourism industry and all that has happened as a result of the ceasefire. It must be emphasised to the Unionists that there are benefits to be gained and that we are not involved with any group that want to exclude them from any settlement or agreement and bomb them into the sea.

My party reaffirms its total commitment to the actions of the Government and Tánaiste. Despite our sense of betrayal following the London atrocity, the responsibility for which lies with the IRA, the Labour Party believes every effort must be made, consistent with democratic principles, to keep the lines of communication open to those committed to reinstating the ceasefire.

I listened attentively to what Gerry Adams said recently. I have no doubt he was unaware of the impending doom last Friday. From his statements he appears to be committed to continuing his efforts for peace. We must be seen to support him. We call on all democratic parties, North and South, to be involved in a search for a way forward. We commend the idea of proximity talks as a way to reconcile the conflicting objectives of those who favour elections before negotiations with those who believe negotiations should be held first.

There are options which can be prioritised with the agreement and consent of the two Governments and the political parties. If we can do that and bring the parties together on the basis of consent surely the IRA must, if it has any heart at all, which we sometimes doubt, listen to the plea of democratically elected politicians who strive earnestly to bring all sides together and see if there is a way to move the process forward. There is a responsibility on us to be cautious in our approach. We should commend the efforts of those with direct responsibility for restarting talks which must be as inclusive as is humanly possible.

As a Deputy for the Border counties of Sligo and Leitrim I have witnessed at first hand and on a regular basis the change brought by the ceasefire. It is not so much a change as a total transformation. For many, their way of life has changed. There is freedom from fear and freedom of movement across the Border in both directions. A recent survey showed that the traffic on the Sligo-Blacklion-Enniskillen road increased by 31 per cent since the ceasefire was announced almost 18 months ago. That is an indication of the change in lifestyle of the people in that area. The message from cross-Border areas after black Friday is that the peace process must be got back on track. A way must be found out of the present crisis. Peace efforts must be intensified. No one wants a return to violence. Typical of the correspondence I received on this issue, not only from Sligo-Leitrim but also from across the Border, particularly Fermanagh, is a letter from the Reverend Ian Henderson, Chairman of Enniskillen and Sligo District Methodist Church in which he stated: "I am convinced that no-one wants a return to such a situation which breeds fear, suspicion and mistrust and can never bring about a lasting peace to our land". I am sure the message is similar throughout the country.

We all know it will be very difficult to make progress again, but many ideas put forward in the Dáil and the House of Commons are being actively pursued by the leaders whose job it is to find a solution to the problems. The Mitchell report, with, as the Taoiseach described yesterday, "its challenging insights", must be revisited. It is only right on an occasion such as this to pay due tribute to Senator Mitchell, and his colleagues, for the job they did. They faced an extremely difficult and delicate task, with a tight time schedule. Their incisive, balanced, constructive report deserved a better fate, and I hope it now receives due consideration. One suggestion put forward is that Senator Mitchell should be recalled as a peace envoy. His conduct of affairs so far, compiling and presenting his report and his stoic reaction to the way it was treated, suggests he is a man of stature, talent and impartiality. He is passionately concerned about bringing permanent peace to Northern Ireland and could play a vital role in that regard. Among the many interesting proposals to advance the peace process is that put forward by John Hume in the House of Commons for referenda, North and South. They would produce massive majorities for an end to violence and the start of negotiations. They would show the highest turnout at polling stations in the history of our voting, and that would be a very powerful message.

The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation has done a very good job, with many ideas being put forward and much consensus reached. I am disappointed it will not meet for a month. That forum still has a role to play. The Tánaiste's proposal for a multilateral proximity meeting is designed to bring together on a voluntary basis all parties and both Governments in a single venue. A proximity meeting is a concept that is new to me, but it worked at Dayton and therefore it is highly recommended, even for such intractable circumstances as in Northern Ireland.

The British Prime Minister, Mr. Major, has called for the election of a negotiating body, an electoral process greatly qualified and modified as regards the functions and lifespan of the body to be elected, presumably with a very firm agreement, a strict timetable and agenda on the follow-up to the elections and with no further preconditions. There are serious problems with an election at this time, many of which were outlined by the Tánaiste yesterday. One of the main problems with holding an election in advance of and designed for negotiations is that inevitably it would lead to a hardening of attitudes, a retreat to old entrenched positions and a polarisation between communities and within each community. It is inevitable that there would be personality clashes. Those elected would move straight away into negotiations, and that is when the difficulties would arise.

If there is to be an election leading to negotiations, it should not be on the traditional lines of separate constituencies with their list of candidates from the rival parties. A much better electoral system for this once-off specific job would be to have one constituency with a list system in operation, or some similar system. There are many models in continental Europe and around the world on which such a system could be based. It would have the effect of reducing confrontation, diminishing personality clashes and encouraging voters to turn up at the polls, even in areas totally dominated by one party, as is the case in many parts of the North. It would ensure parties would have an appropriate geographical spread among their representatives at the negotiations. Most important it would give an opprotunity of representation to the fringe parties such as that of David Ervine, an eminently sound man whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the economic conference in Washington. Otherwise the smaller parties, with a total vote fragmented among the constituencies, might have no representation in the negotiating body. That would not be good for the negotiations. Those parties should be represented and the electoral system should facilitate that.

Under the list system every person turning up at the polls, regardless of the area they live or whether it is dominated by one party, would know that his or her vote would count in the final tally. The list system would give extra powers to the parties drawing up the list, but for the negotiating body that might have some positive elements — for example, the presence in the new body of people particularly skilled as negotiators who might not otherwise have an interest in taking part in the elections. In some combination of the ideas being considered here, in the North and London, there must be a way forward. Anybody with even the slightest knowledge of Irish history can recite a litany of lost opportunities. We now have one of those historic opportunities, and this time if we take the necessary action it may make a difference.

Despite black Friday and the fact that as of now the IRA has not restored the ceasefire, I hope structures will be put in place to ensure peace prevails, an agreed way forward is found and a negotiated settlement reached to which everyone can subscribe. There is great urgency about getting the process under way again. We all wish and must all work to ensure there is no repeat of Canary Wharf.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Joe Walsh.

That is in order and provided for in this debate.

Like almost everyone I know, I was devastated and angry at the detonation of a bomb in Canary Wharf in London last Friday evening.

The breakdown of the peace process is a tragedy. It is clear that the IRA bears responsibility directly and solely for that bombing, but the peace process must continue. It must be rescued and restored without delay. Sinn Féin should point out to the IRA the great achievement of the peace process to date and the great support given to it by people throughout the country and ask it to reconsider its change of heart.

The peace process was a magnificent achievement. Gerry Adams deserves his share of credit for bringing about the ceasefire, but there is no justification for writing off the peace process after only 18 months on the basis the its pace was too slow. We understand the frustrations. We, too, were very frustrated. We were restrained. We expressed our concerns, supported the Government and pressed it to continue its work with a degree of urgency. We will continue to do that because that is the political process.

Two young men, Mr. Inan Ul-Haq Bashir and Mr. John Jefferies, died and more than 100 were injured in last Friday's bomb. The effects of those injuries will last for many years. Tomorrow morning I am meeting one of my constituents, a victim of the 1974 Dublin bombing, who still calls to see me. He is deaf and has various other problems. His life was destroyed after that bombing. Even though there was some financial recompense, nothing worked out for him. That is the reality facing victims who suffer injuries. We all forget about them. We believe once they are sent to hospital they are patched up and on the road to recovery, but the devastation and trauma lasts a long time.

I join with all Members in offering my sympathy to the relatives of the deceased and those who were injured. We were deeply disappointed at this breach in the ceasefire and the failure to make political progress. The start of all-inclusive talks was delayed far too long. The politics of brinkmanship went too far. I will not allocate blame — perhaps enough has been said about that. Those who were responsible for the brinkmanship know only too well how they put the peace process at risk. There are hard men among the paramilitaries and politicians on both sides in this dispute. I ask them to retreat from the precipice.

Our conflict has continued for more than 700 years, the last 25 of which have been marked by death, destruction, sorrow and devastation, but now we have an historic opportunity to break that cycle and bring peace to our island. The complete cessation of violence for almost 18 months provided the necessary space and time for a resolution of our problems, but the politicians moved too slowly. Politics is a frustrating business in a democratic society. We in this House know that. When elected we have great ideas about what can be done immediately, but in practice find it always takes a good deal longer, although usually we achieve our objectives in due course.

Politics is the best approach. It needs skill, courage, perseverance and from time to time the strength to be able to turn the other cheek and keep going. It needs great endurance and commitment. The people, above all, realise the importance of politicians and their work in our society and the danger of demeaning and reducing that work, given that it is the work on which our democracy is founded. The political path is a tough one. Those turning from violence to political participation need to be tough. Sometimes it can be easier to set a bomb and run away than to stand, fight, argue and persevere for what one believes in.

The framework for progress and the dividends of peace are there to be seen. People are living now instead of dying. People are whole and entire instead of being maimed in their thousands. They are happy, not sad or bitter. There has been delay and frustration with the pace of political development. We in Fianna Fáil are totally and unreservedly committed to the reunification of Ireland by peaceful means through consent. We will work by every political means available to bring a just and lasting peace to all the people of Ireland, North and South. What is the alternative but violence? Violence will turn this country into a wasteland in the vain hope that the British will want to leave it some day. Violence is against the wishes of 99 per cent of the people of Ireland, and ultimately, those who participate in it will destroy themselves and their children and disgrace the legitimate Nationalist aspiration. Governments and politicians on all sides can no longer afford the luxury of delay. The peace process is a perishable.

With the proposals recently in the public domain, the goodwill and the political skills available, there is room for compromise and for a way forward and there is still hope. In the context of the proposal for an election to a peace convention put forward by the UK and the Unionists and the Irish Government's proposals for proximity talks and a two-day conference, it is easy to envisage a constructive role for Senator George Mitchell. He must have a role, whatever it may be, in achieving peace and a settlement here. If proximity talks were used to finalise the basis of any election, the role of a convention, to establish the democratic principles and immediate timing of all-inclusive talks, they could make a great contribution to peace, but we must proceed soon. There is no room for delay. Sinn Féin should enthusiastically support this process as the only way to participate in all-inclusive talks on an overall political settlement within a reasonable timeframe. Sinn Féin must use its influence to persuade the IRA to reinstate the ceasefire and enable progress towards peace.

In the light of the Irish Government's unequivocal acceptance of the principle of consent, there is no basis for any fear or apprehension among Unionists. I appeal to them to move towards consensus in the interest of lasting peace. I also appeal to the IRA to accept the over-whelming desire of all Irish people, North and South, to have the long-term, political and constitutional future of all parts of the island settled solely by democratic and peaceful means.

The two Governments must rescue the peace process as a matter of urgency in the interests of all the people of these islands. Now is the time for political leadership, for political risk taking at the highest level. Political leaders must get meaningful talks under way and proceed without delay.

I join in condemning the London bombing and sympathise with the families affected. One lesson to be learned from the extremely regrettable bombing of Canary Wharf last Friday is that there is no room for complacency when dealing with the highly dangerous political vacuum in the North. It is understandable that relief at the cessation of armed conflict has been the predominant response of most people in the last 17 months or so. The citizens of Northern Ireland have regained a sense of normality in their every day lives. All who have recently visited the North heard people say that for the first time in a quarter of a century they can go shopping or socialise. They have been visibly pleased about it. The bombing is a dreadful tragedy and the people who engaged in violence have much to answer for. However, it is totally unacceptable for politicians to be complacent at this stage. The peace process is far too delicate and precious.

Any impartial assessment of the political events of the past 17 months is almost certain to reveal that the requisite sense of urgency in moving towards vibrant and just new structures was frequently absent. What made it worse was that at times the process seemed to be going backward. Month after month we waited for some breakthrough and the final straw was the Mitchell report. That it was dealt with in a cursory way was an insult to the peace process and Senator Mitchell and represented a lost opportunity.

The British Government and the main Unionist parties were remiss in their complacency. In the context of the Northern Ireland crisis, there is no room for negative posturing and that was increasingly the behaviour of Mr. Trimble and others. At a time when every sinew needs to be stretched to ensure peace every democratic party must play its role and have regard to the concerns and aspirations of all sections of the community. The failure of many senior Unionist politicians to engage with our Government was worrying and disappointing. To turn on an answering machine when the Tánaiste sought to talk was grossly irresponsible and unacceptable. It could also be interpreted as a rejection of the 40 per cent or so Nationalist population in the North at a time when, in contrast, all Nationalist parties, including Sinn Féin, were willing to engage in unconditional talks with the British Government, the representative of the Unionist tradition.

There has been the ongoing spectacle of senior Unionist politicians seemingly more concerned with indulging in profoundly negative rhetoric than in taking the first positive steps towards developing a broadly acceptable administration in the North. Their behaviour suggested that little or nothing had changed in their attitude since 1969 and that what went on for the previous 50 years was all right; they were in control, it was a 60-40 situation and they called the shots. The trouble is that those old, tired and totally discredited attitudes of "no surrender" are no good today.

I salute the smaller Unionist parties' representatives, such as David Ervine and Billy Hutchinson, who are far more reasonable in their general approach to the future. Without moving from the traditional beliefs of the Unionist community, they refreshingly acknowledged the rights and aspirations of their Nationalist neighbours. The time for change is now. Too much progress has been made to allow the advances of the past 17 months to be frittered away. Under no circumstances should constitutional politicians allow the initiative slip back to those involved in terror and murder.

This and future generations, North and South, will reap enormous benefits from securing peace. Apart from lifestyle, contentment and the natural order of things, there is an economic dividend. We must not fail, either through a lack of perseverance, political wisdom or, perhaps above all, generosity. It would have been nice to have seen generosity from all sides over the past 17 months. One truism overhangs future developments in Northern Ireland. Ultimately, the Irish and British communities will be winners or losers. The prospect of losing is not a matter I would like to contemplate. There is no room for any sectional interest to steal a march on any political or traditional opponent. That cannot be overemphasised during the critical coming days and weeks. Posturing, often an intrinsic part of the lead up to landmark negotiations, is certain to be of no real benefit in the context of Northern Ireland. The opposite is the case since posturing only encourages those who do not have the best interests of all the people of the Six Countries at heart.

The immediate priority is to restore the peace process. It will take some political skill and in this context, it is vital that all steps taken are inclusive rather than exclusive, geared to the future and bilateral, and even multilateral, rather than partisan. Above all, we must be generous rather than mean-minded and minimal. Watching discussions on current affairs programmes, I see people falling back on the old clichés and shibboleths; it is absolutely depressing.

We must focus on a workable system in the North, for instance, devolved government at local authority level. There are many examples of that. The people from Sinn Féin and the Unionist parties in the North and from across the Border can at local authority level sit down and talk about credible projects and programmes. If we had a referendum and made a decision on the constitutional issue and then put it aside for ten years we could make progress such as was made in the co-operatives in Counties Fermanagh and Monaghan and various other countries when the constitutional flag-waving was put aside.

I suggest that community, co-operative local authority-borough development is the way to make progress leaving the flag-waving and constitutional matters to be decided at the end of each decade. There are so many people who want to make a contribution to positive progress out of this particularly difficult impasse, I believe that to be the way forward.

(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.

I express my sympathy to those bereaved by Friday's tragedy and who have become the latest victims of the Northern Ireland problem. It is important to recall the achievements and success of the Downing Street Declaration. For the first time it created a situation in which Nationalists and republicans came together in a special role in the affairs of the North. The Irish and British Governments also took on a new responsibility and a new role. Tribute must be paid to the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, John Hume and Gerry Adams for the calling of the ceasefire. It was only hours old when it was beset by difficulties.

On the afternoon of the Downing Street Declaration the Tánaiste introduced the concept of decommissioning as something which should be established with a permanent cessation of violence. It became, for the first time, a feature of that which was essential before all-party talks could proceed. It was not a feature of the Downing Street Declaration. Consequently, under strong questioning in this House from Deputy Michael McDowell, the Tánaiste reluctantly accepted the view that it was not possible for Sinn Féin to participate in constitutional talks or the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation without clear, unequivocal and demonstrated disarmament by the IRA. Although the Tánaiste rowed back from this point later, it was further enhanced by the Taoiseach on his departure for the 1995 St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the US.

Difficulties started to emerge when this Government took office. The departure of Deputy Reynolds as Taoiseach was a serious loss to the process. Many crises developed during the ceasefire, for example, the IRA murder of the post office worker. That difficulty was overcome and contact was maintained with Gerry Adams and the Sinn Féin party; they were asked to explain and they did so and were warned. Throughout those crises the lines of communication were kept open.

Over recent months Sinn Féin has been accused of scaremongering, yet the Irish and British Governments were almost surprised Sinn Féin did not know about the bomb on Friday night. Gerry Adams was surprised by Friday's bomb, if not more shocked than anyone. Developments since then, whereby Gerry Adams has been pushed to one side, have been unprecedented. The removal of the section 31 ban gave Gerry Adams access to the airwaves and should have been sufficient justification to allow contact to be maintained with him at the highest level.

President Clinton visited Ireland before Christmas and, in preparation for that visit, the Governments cobbled together an arrangement in the Joint Communiqué. The dogs in the street knew the peace process was in crisis. All-party talks had been promised repeatedly; the Tánaiste said they were tantalisingly close. However, the talks have not taken place. As Deputy Reynolds said this morning, his understanding is that if a date is set for all-party talks that will ensure a restoration of the ceasefire. That is a significant understanding of the present position.

A number of proposals have been put forward recently, among them that of holding elections. John Hume does not agree with the idea but the Government seems to go along with the suggestion that they are justifiable. There will be a general election in Britain and the North of Ireland shortly and I cannot understand why there has to be a special election in the North.

Proximity talks is another proposal. Proximity talks have been going on for a number of months; persons of opposing politics have been in the same room or have often sat in the same broadcasting studio. For years Unionist and Sinn Féin representatives have sat together on councils in the North. Proximity talks may be a means of buying time or concentrating minds but they will not get us where we urgently need to go.

The Government has a responsibility to ensure that the British Prime Minister, John Major, will set aside his own political needs in the interests of peace in Britain, the North of Ireland and the South. The hardline Unionists in the North must recognise that they must give a little to ensure peace can be restored. It is through compromise that peace can be re-established.

The British Government's response to the bombing was typical. All condemnation is justified. However, it was amazing to hear Sir Patrick Mayhew indicate that the British Government would not be deflected by bombs and bullets. At the same time, I have never witnessed as frenetic a flurry in the comings and goings of recent days. Why was that not taking place before last Friday night? Why were attempts not made to ensure the ceasefire could be protected?

I wish to share my time with Deputies Kirk and Ellis.

That is in order.

It is time the Irish and British Governments faced up to their responsibilities and were no longer dictated to by parties with a small electoral mandate. Those parties include the Unionists and Democratic Left which is in Government but only represents 1 per cent of the voting population of this country. The serious minded elected representatives from majority parties must take the responsibility to set the date for talks and ensure that those who can secure peace participate. Gerry Adams will then have something with which to influence the IRA.

I extend my heartfelt sympathy to the families and relatives of the people killed and maimed in the Canary Wharf bombing. It is probable that they had little or no knowledge of the troubles in the North, that they were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The ending of the ceasefire last week was a devastating blow and a major setback for the people of this island and Britain. When the ceasefire was announced 18 months ago it was said that we were moving to a new plane. Few could have disagreed with that assertion. It brought to an end 25 years of murder and mayhem. The necessary bridge building to remove the hatred and bitterness between the two communities was going to be a slow and tortuous process, but where there was a will there was a way. There was an out-pouring of goodwill which was unthinkable a few months previously. Tangible support was forthcoming both from Europe and the United States. President Clinton took a personal interest in the process and his offer of financial support was warmly welcomed.

We tend to overlook the fact that the people of the North are nothing if not resilient. During the 25 years of the troubles when there was significant disruption the perception was that the economy was stagnant, but its growth rate was higher than many expected.

Every effort must be made to put the process back on track. If Sinn Féin fails to exert its influence and impress on the IRA the error of its ways, there could be an escalation of violence. There is also a danger that the two Governments, through their statements, may exacerbate what is already a difficult situation. The comments of their representatives should be measured and tailored so as not to make more difficult the task for those within Sinn Féin who wish to see the process put back on track.

My party leader has called for the appointment of a US peace envoy. That is a positive and worthwhile suggestion which I hope will be seriously considered by the Government.

If we are to convince the people of the Six Counties that we are serious about finding a final settlement, the objective of all-party talks must be achieved. There is a responsibility on the British Government to exert its influence and convince the Unionist parties that this is in their best interests and the best way to ensure a permanent peace. If the political parties fail to hammer out a settlement and there is a return to the cycle of violence, it will take a long time to re-establish the process.

I extend my heartfelt sympathy to the families and relatives of the people killed and injured in the Canary Wharf bombing on Friday night last.

We must examine the background to the peace process. Were it not for the efforts of John Hume and former Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, in conjunction with Gerry Adams, progress would not have been made. This high risk strategy required an element of trust on all sides, but particularly between Deputy Reynolds and the British Prime Minister, Mr. John Major. A ceasefire was announced on 31 August 1994 on the understanding that all-party talks would commence as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, the tragic events in this House in December that year resulted in many changes which had a bearing on Anglo-Irish relations. The trust which had been built between Deputy Reynolds and the British Prime Minister disappeared and we entered a period of inactivity during which the British Government failed to make progress and John Major was a hostage to Unionist demands in order to maintain his position as British Prime Minister.

There was also a change of leadership in the Ulster Unionist Party. It has been obvious for the past six months that David Trimble is not as committed as his predecessor and many others within his party to advancing the process.

The British Government has ignored the best efforts of the Government during the past 12 months to make progress. The process has limped on with issue after issue being raised. Imaginative steps were taken to prevent further progress being made.

In anyone's language decommissioning is a myth. The paramilitaries can rearm as quickly as they can decommission. When it was raised as an issue by the British Prime Minister he received support in this House from people who did not decommission any weapons when involved in paramilitary activity. No one knows where the arms they used are buried. Decommissioning was used as a pretext to prevent further progress being made.

The Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister have a duty to put the process back on track. Nationalists and Unionists and the innocent people injured in the Canary Wharf bombing on Friday night last do not want to see a recurrence. Politicians should take the initiative. In this context, Deputy Reynolds's decision to meet with Gerry Adams was a positive development, although some may not agree. The fact remains that if someone is part of the problem, they are entitled to be spoken to at all times. As we learned last weekend, megaphone diplomacy is not in the best interests of this country.

The holding of an election has been mentioned in an attempt to marginalise the paramilitaries on both sides and people such as David Ervine, Billy Hutchinson and Gary McMichael. Those who live in the real world and whose friends and relatives have suffered because of the troubles do not want to be sacrificial lambs for mainline Unionist parties. It is time people realised this.

There is an onus on every politican to talk to all those involved, either directly or indirectly, so that the peace process can be put back on the rails. We want the prosperity of the past 18 months to continue and the people of Northern Ireland want a return to peace. Who is afraid of peace? There is an onus on the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, John Major, David Trimble, John Hume, Gerry Adams and all paramilitary leaders involved in the peace process to return to the table for negotiations. There is an onus on the two Governments to set a date for all-party talks and get the peace process back on the rails.

Peace in Ireland is about including all and excluding none. If peace is what we seek, violence and the threat of it must be put into the past. Of all the pan-Catholic parties, Sinn Féin has the greatest responsibility to convince the one million Protestants in the North that it no longer wants guns, bombs or bullets.

There has been a great deal of talk about decommissioning, which is about more than handing up guns. For some it is about forcing Governments to recognise that illegal guns and bullets are legal and that bombing equipment held by private armies for the purpose of killing and maiming is legal. No government or democracy can yield to that. Neither the British nor Irish Governments can concede that guns used to rob banks and shoot soldiers on both sides of the Border and bombs used to kill and maim Irish and British people should be legalised. That is what decommissioning would mean and anyone who believes that was not mentioned in the talks that took place between Deputy Reynolds and John Major is not living in the real world. They are not facing the reality of modern society and democracy.

When two people sit down to talk about peace, implicit in those talks is that the guns, bombs and bullets have been put away. I may be a lone voice in saying this, but my reading of the position in Northern Ireland since the ceasefire is that the British Government has been trying to find a formula of words that would take Sinn Féin-IRA off the hook on the question of decommissioning. I have heard Michael Ancram and others claim that decommissioning is not about handing in guns overnight. As Deputy Ellis and others stated, one could never be sure that all guns would be handed in. We are talking about the principle of decommissioning and the recognition by an illegal organisation that a Government elected by the people is sovereign and that there will not be a dilution of democracy to allow it hold illegal guns smuggled into the country. Decommissioning is not about handing up all guns immediately, it is about an acknowledgement that guns have to be handed up and bombs decommissioned. The question of how and when that should be done then arises.

I fail to understand the thinking of one of the pan-Catholic parties, namely Sinn Féin-IRA, who more than anyone want the British out to allow the Irish sit down and talk about the future. They want peace through British withdrawal, whereas such withdrawal could be assisted by peace. If the IRA were to decommission its arms and be seen by the Protestant community in the North to do so, we could wave goodbye to John Major and the British Army. Those who believe the British will leave Ireland in advance of peace live in cloud-cuckoo-land. The British will not be driven out of Ireland by the use of arms. If anybody stands in the way of a solution to the Northern problem, it is IRA-Sinn Féin, those who preach from the platforms of New York and elsewhere in America. They are not republican or nationalist, they are simply anti-British.

There is no such thing as unionism, nationalism or republicanism. People are either anti or pro-British, which is influenced by British policies on Northern Ireland. The people who claim they are Unionists are as Irish as I am, but they have a different way of expressing it. They are Unionists only because they believe in the British Government's policies on Northern Ireland and those who are anti-British are anti-British only because they oppose British policies on Northern Ireland.

If John Major were to change his policies and claim he believed in a united Ireland, how long would Ian Paisley continue to be a Unionist? How long would he continue to be pro-British? He would not remain in that camp. If the coin were turned, it would also follow that Gerry Adams, Mitchel McLaughlin and the other leaders of the Sinn Féin movement would become Unionists because they would believe in the British Government's policy on Northern Ireland.

The bombing in London last Friday was the greatest act of madness ever perpetrated on innocent people by, whether we like it or not, people from our tradition who were brainwashed into believing that what they did furthered the aims of the Irish people. That blindness has been our greatest curse since Cromwell's time. Some people who condemned the bombing are not in favour of decommissioning. There is no logic to that. Any person who condemns the violence in London should favour taking the guns, bombs and bullets off the scene. We should stop the double think. It is unacceptable that someone should go on television and talk about the terrible destruction caused by the bomb in London and claim that decommissioning is not an issue. Decommissioning will always be an issue because one million people in the North have no great desire to have members of the IRA living next door to them. That is a problem for the IRA, but in continuing its violent campaign it is preventing the legitimate Government of this House and people who believe in constitutional politics from communicating with one million Protestant Irish in the North.

David Trimble has put forward a proposal for an elected assembly. Pan-Catholic parties view him as putting another block in the way of peace talks. Let us consider David Trimble's position. For the past 25 years the Protestant people in the North adopted a blunt, unambiguous, unapologetic, deliberate position — they would never talk to Sinn Féin. A new leader has taken over the party and he is looking for a mandate from the people he represents to give him the authority to sit down with the people who have been killing them for the past 25 years. What is unreasonable about that? I am not flying the flag for David Trimble but I can understand his position and it is time for people who should have greater vision to understand also.

Twenty years ago I floated the idea of an electoral system, such as that now being proposed by David Trimble, to Protestant and Catholic leaders in the North. I walked the streets of Belfast trying to communicate that message and also came into this House to outline the views of Protestant people in the North whose voice was never heard in the South. People criticised me, called me a Unionist and a west-Brit and said I was pro-British simply because I tried to communicate to this House the views of one quarter of the Irish nation. I was criticised by people whose political parties signed a pledge to do everything to unite the country and promote the Irish language, and failed in both, who could not buy a ticket to Belfast and never spoke to a Protestant Irishman, but they knew how to settle the Irish question.

When I spoke about these matters in this House 20 years ago I floated the idea of an election but I heard the same criticism from both sides of the House. I was told that elections would generate emotion, that there would be all kinds of distractions and that election campaigns would go off the rails and we would reverse the whole process. In talking about that, I was reminded that Members are not elected directly by the people to the Seanad but by county councillors. Why can we not have a forum in Northern Ireland elected by local councillors made up of 40 or 50 members from all sections of the community who could sit down and talk about peace and reconciliation? Why has someone not thought of that in the recent past? Holding an election in which candidates are directly elected by the people is not acceptable because too many people have taken up positions. The proposal for elections will not work because it would require a climb-down on the part of some people and in Ireland that is not done.

I appeal to people like David Trimble, Gerry Adams, John Hume, Dr. John Alderdice and Dr. Ian Paisley, representing the broad spectrum of people in Northern Ireland, the Government and all parties in this House to consider the idea of a forum elected by local councillors in Northern Ireland. Such a development would be devoid of emotion because people would know who they want to represent them. There are other ways of doing that but the structure to which I referred, namely, the Seanad, is the one closest to my heart.

Whether we or Sinn Féin like it or not, illegal guns are illegal guns and any Government that tries to legalise them is not acting in the best interests of democracy. We constantly hear Sinn Féin spokespersons calling on the British Government to do this or that but when they are asked to condemn the violence in London, they give the stock answer that they are not in the business of condemnation, they have listened to condemnation for 25 years and it does not work. They then proceed to criticise John Major, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and everybody who disagrees with them. Sinn Féin is in the business of condemnation. I know people in Sinn Féin who have condemned the atrocity in London last week but they are afraid to say so publicly.

I stated last week that I believe Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness did not know about the plan to cause an explosion in London. I now believe they did not know because those around them did not tell them but I am not convinced that the decision to detonate the bomb was not taken by people very close to the leadership of Sinn Féin. If I have to be convinced in that regard, approximately one million Protestant people in the North, who are part of this equation and with whom we must some day sit down and work out our future on this island, must be convinced also. If Sinn Féin cannot convince them, we are going nowhere.

I have heard people talk about John Major playing politics with Northern Ireland. Perhaps he is because he is protecting his back; he wants the support of the Unionist party. We all forget, however, that every party in this House has played politics with Northern Ireland. Every one of us, some more than others, is guilty of playing politics with Northern Ireland. When the troubles first broke out in Northern Ireland people here said: "It will be all right. As long as it does not interfere with us, we will be all right". We have played politics with Northern Ireland and the sad fact is that regardless of who is in power in the United Kingdom or here, that will continue until such time as a solution is found. A solution will not be found, however, until David Trimble can convince one million Protestants that he is prepared to sit down at a table to discuss their future with us and ours with them.

I have spoken many times in this House on this topic. We have not learned anything since 1969. We talk all the time about "them" and "us", Catholic parties, Nationalist republicans, etc. and in so doing imply that the one million Protestants in Northern Ireland are second-class citizens. If we are sincere about bringing the peoples of Ireland together in nationhood, we must recognise that there will have to be first-class citizenship for all. We must be entitled to express our political views and practise our faith. When we feel free to do so, when people in the South, particularly Sinn Féin, recognise that there are two valid arguments on this island, one held by one million Protestant Irish people in the North and a different view held by three million Irish Catholics, we will be getting close to recognising the real way forward.

Gerry Adams has a choice to make. He has to decide whether he wants to return to violence or stay in constitutional politics. I pray he follows the constitutional road. If he does this he will fall out with former friends. When Michael Collins did this there was a civil war, when Eamon de Valera did it six years later he fell out with close friends and when Sean McBride did it in the 1930s he also fell out with close friends. The history of republicanism has been a split between those who want to pursue violence and those who want to be involved in constitutional politics. I hope Gerry Adams uses whatever influence he has to steer people away from violence. The choice is his and he cannot be ambivalent. Being slightly constitutional has been the curse of this country.

Last Friday night's bombing in London and the breakdown of the 17 months IRA ceasefire is a tragedy which should not and need not have happened and must not be allowed to continue. The peace process must be put back together before a further tragedy occurs and Sinn Féin must ask the IRA to stop the violence before it spreads throughout Ireland and England. There is no justification for violence and the peace process must be proceeded with as a matter of extreme urgency.

The peace process was a tremendous achievement of which Irish people throughout the world felt justly proud. It was also admired by other nations. It was mainly created by Irish people and sustained by them and the Nationalist and Unionist communities in the North. The republican and loyalist paramilitaries held their ceasefires with great discipline.

The peace process was mainly brought about as a result of the courage of, and risks taken by, republican and loyalist organisations as well as political leaders such as John Hume, Deputy Albert Reynolds and Gerry Adams. A sustained campaign of violence would be a major setback to the growth of the Irish economy, North and South. People seeking employment here will suffer in different ways as a result of Friday night's bomb. For example, there is a fear among tourism interests that bookings for this year could be cancelled because of the threat of further violence. The tourism industry has great potential for growth, not only in Ireland but worldwide. In County Kerry approximately 11,000 people are employed in the industry and the same applies to new industries and service projects.

The long suffering people of Northern Ireland deserve better than the prospect they now face. They have endured 25 years of terrible violence and conflict and do not want to go through it again. Over the past 17 months discussions were held on projects for the improvement of economic and social conditions and progress was made, security was scaled down, cross-Border roads were reopened and there was new hope for a better life for everyone. I was very sorry this evening to hear that British troops are again being deployed on Border roads.

If the ceasefire is restored the country will benefit and the North and South will be brought closer together. It is imperative that there are no further acts of violence by any side as each act will make the restoration of peace under any reasonable conditions very difficult. The breakdown in the ceasefire was a breach of the IRA's definitive commitment to peace and of subsequent statements by Sinn Féin leaders. On the other hand, serious questions must be asked about the actions of John Major's Government. The British Government granted early release to some of its soldiers and loyalist paramilitaries who had been convicted of serious crimes. If 50 republican prisoners in the North had been given early release it is almost certain that the ceasefire would be intact today.

My party leader, Deputy Bertie Ahern stated:

In the Anglo-Irish Agreement the British Government promised to work together with the Irish Government to accommodate the rights and identities of the two traditions. The British unilaterally announced an elected body without any proper consultation with the Irish Government the day the Mitchell report was published. This was a clear breach of the spirit of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Why did the British Government never publicly say to the Unionists that it was time for them to talk to Sinn Féin? Serious questions must be asked about why the Labour and Liberal Democratic Parties sided with the British Government at peace talks, meetings and consultations. In recent months the British Government seemed to abandon its commitment to early all-party talks which were clearly referred to in the Framework Document. The political resources were deployed in the opposite direction, to put up new obstacles to progress.

Over the past 18 months the British Government failed to provide any credible or broadly acceptable route for all-party talks. Outwardly, it appears that it made no effort to urge the Unionists to engage in talks. The British Prime Minister and his Government risked the peace process by not making positive progress towards negotiations. This exposed the process to huge risks and placed it under severe strain. The atmosphere which would have ensured serious all-party talks with Sinn Féin and the Unionists was spoiled from the beginning when the British Government questioned the IRA's ceasefire statement. It then imposed an unrealistic precondition of decommissioning, against which it was warned by successive Irish Governments and which created a serious obstacle.

It is amazing that the British Government selected one option only from the Mitchell report immediately after it was published, the proposed elected body. Elections in Northern Ireland could pose problems for the British and Irish Governments. There could also be serious problems for the people of Northern Ireland during the election campaigns. The Mitchell report should be further studied by the British and Irish Governments in their efforts to find a solution to decommissioning and pave the way for all-party talks. The British Prime Minister opted for elections in Northern Ireland instead of adopting the Mitchell report in its entirety as the way forward. A further question arises as to whether the British Government was listening any longer to the advice of the Irish Government. I firmly support the proposals for a United States peace envoy to help resolve the problem.

A further major effort is required to mobilise public support for peace. I welcome John Hume's proposal for holding a referendum North and South at the same time. I am not convinced of the necessity for elections in Northern Ireland given that they are likely to give rise to new obstacles to all-party talks during the campaign. The peace process and the talks process must be treated as one if political progress is to be restored and maintained.

(Wexford): I wish to share my time with Deputy Noel Treacy.

(Wexford): Last Friday night's bombing by the IRA outraged and horrified every person who felt that the peace process was being turned on its head after 17 months. The peace process brokered over 16 months ago by Deputy Albert Reynolds, the Tánaiste, Deputy Dick Spring, John Major, John Hume, Jim Molyneaux and Gerry Adams was based on trust and brought about following long and protracted negotiations.

Over the past 16 months people, North and South, have enjoyed a peaceful Ireland without the bomb and bullet, daily killings, injuries or damage to property which had been the norm over the previous 25 years. People in the North were able to go about their daily business without the fear of being killed or maimed. There were extensive economic benefits, jobs were beginning to come on stream and there was financial support from the EU and the US. Since last Friday a number of business people who had intended to invest in Northern Ireland have signalled that they will no longer do so because of the bombing.

This is not a time for provocative words or hysterical language. We are all outraged by the bombing in London but always believed in our hearts that there would be setbacks along the road to peace. When the peace initiative was brokered the then Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, said there would be times when people would lose faith but that we would have to strengthen our resolve to overcome any setbacks and get the process back on the rails. We must strengthen our resolve in this regard, and this debate has enabled all political parties to come together to do this.

The IRA must realise that the people of Ireland do not want a return to violence. Also, John Major must stand accused of not playing his part in moving the peace process along the road to a final solution. I have no doubt that his delaying tactics, his pandering to the bigotry and entrenched opinions of the Unionist parties in Northern Ireland and his continuous creation of road-blocks to all-party talks have led to the situation we are in today.

President Clinton visited, and we were promised all-party talks by the end of February. It did not seem that those talks would take place. We had the Mitchell report, and it was generally ignored by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Major. Instead we had talk of elections which, in the North, have not been helpful in the past. Certainly, John Hume would not go down the road of holding elections at this time.

John Hume has played a major role in trying to keep the peace process on track in recent months. In many ways he has risen above the status quo of petty local politics in Northern Ireland in trying to ensure that we do not have a return to the violence and hatred we had over 25 years, but his concern, efforts and sacrifices were not matched with any great degree of urgency or support by the British or Irish Governments.

When an opportunity for peace arises after years of violence and suffering, surely we should have men and women in positions of leadership here and in the United Kingdom with the vision and, more important, the courage to grasp such an opportunity with open arms and not let it slip back to the men of violence as now seems to be happening. With the exception of the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, we do not have people of such courageous leadership. The continuous "not an inch" attitude of the Unionist leadership — David Trimble, Ian Paisley, John Taylor and others — is a shirking of their responsibilities to the people they represent. It seems they would prefer to see the violence continue in Northern Ireland with resultant death and injury to their people than develop the opportunity for permanent peace from the ceasefire we have had in the past 17 months.

What we need from the Unionist leadership at this time is a de Klerk with the guts, courage and ability to see the unique opportunity that exists for peace on our island and lead his or her people down the road to a lasting and peaceful solution. That opportunity may never come again in our lifetime. We cannot afford to abandon such an opportunity. I believe Mr. Trimble has the ability to be such a leader, but has he the courage or vision to become a legend in his own lifetime?

We have heard much talk about isolating Gerry Adams but, as the US Ambassador stated clearly on radio yesterday, there can be no peace process without him. I concur with that view. Mr. Adams played a major role in brokering the peace process and keeping it on track. He can and will encourage the IRA to put the peace process back on the rails and should be given every support by the Irish and UK Governments. To slam the door in his face or stop the dialogue with him at this time will only lead to a complete breakdown in the peace process.

It is time to set a date for all-party talks, to stop the waiting and delaying tactics which have gone on for far too long. The only way forward is for all sides to sit down around a table for inclusive all-party discussions to take place, and ensure that we do not hand back the Northern problem to the men of violence who controlled it for 25 years.

I condemn absolutely the outrageous and terrible carnage imposed on the innocent people of London at Canary Wharf last Friday evening. It was a grave tragedy and nobody has the authority to inflict such atrocities on innocent people and cause millions of pounds worth of damage to property.

For centuries Northern Ireland has been a political tragedy of the gravest human proportions. Many people in Northern Ireland, and in the United Kingdom, have failed to grasp that. We have experienced 25 years of violent war. Three thousand people have lost their lives and 30,000 have been injured. Damage costing millions of pounds has been done to property and both sides on this island have suffered economic losses amounting to billions of pounds.

Throughout, there was only one reasonable, sincere and sane voice, that of the great Nationalist leader, John Hume, who worked incessantly to bring about political progress and rid Northern Ireland of the terrible violence. He used every opportunity in every forum in Northern Ireland, Great Britain, the European Parliament and elsewhere to focus international attention on the problems of Northern Ireland and get support for his efforts. He talked to the leader of Sinn Féin and was berated for doing so by Members of this House and people in this part of the country. He is a brave man, an excellent politician, and he ploughed forward.

There was no progress until Deputy Albert Reynolds became Taoiseach in November 1992, but he never got the credit he deserved. He has now been grudgingly given credit in this House and outside for his role in brokering peace on our island. Peace came about because a political leader, the leader of Nationalist Ireland at the time, was prepared to listen, to assess, to give credibility to the efforts of two Nationalist leaders in Northern Ireland, John Hume and Gerry Adams.

Peace was achieved as a result of the efforts of the team that worked behind the scenes to condition the people of Northern Ireland to peace. On 31 August 1994 we had an IRA cessation of violence, unconditional and without equivocation as to duration or otherwise. It was not easily achieved, but the Joint Declaration of December 1993 which gave hope of parity of esteem, equality of opportunity, and absolute democratic rights for all people in Northern Ireland made it possible to go forward to 31 August 1994 when peace was, ultimately, achieved. At that time the IRA, through Sinn Féin, gave certain commitments to the Government of Ireland on the basis that there would be all-party political dialogue. That, in turn, was negotiated with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Major and, ultimately, peace was achieved.

Immediately the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, announced the setting up of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. Within one week he met John Hume and Gerry Adams and was berated by Members of this House for doing so. Others, now deeply involved in the peace process, chose not to be available for that meeting because it was not politically correct to attend and high risk. However, Deputy Reynolds kept the process moving and drove the peace initiative forward so nobody could accuse him of procrastination. He wanted to ensure political dialogue would be utilised and all-party talks would commence.

It was a tragedy that so soon after that certain political events destroyed the opportunity for further progress. It is now political history that a covert effort by three people, all of whom had legal qualifications, ensured that Deputy Reynolds was forced out of Government in November 1994. Since then the peace initiative has lacked the drive that existed heretofore. The international community was shocked that something that happened 30 years before could bring down a democratically elected Government.

Today we have a Government voted into office by this Parliament but without a mandate from the people. Members of that Government when in office in the past refused to talk to, negotiate with or recognise Sinn Féin and not allow elected members of Sinn Féin on this part of the island to be part of official delegations. It is those people who have the task of developing the peace initiative and it is obvious there will be a slowing down of momentum.

The Unionist leadership did not want to be part of the political dialogue with Sinn Féin. The British Prime Minister then proposed decommissioning, which was accepted by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs on no fewer than two occasions and by the Taoiseach in Dublin Airport in March 1995 before he went to the United States of America. Sir Patrick Mayhew had put forward this proposal, the media then questioned the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste about it and they agreed it could be considered.

During the present stand-off there is a serious vacuum. The Unionists led by David Trimble, Ian Paisley and others with the United Kingdom Government led by John Major are on one side, the Nationalist community led by John Hume and Gerry Adams are on the other and in the centre is the leader of Nationalist Ireland, the Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton. Never before in political history was there such support from Irish America and the US President. It behoves the Taoiseach and his Government to fill the vacuum and they will have the support of President Clinton to bring about political talks that will give rights to people who have been elected in Northern Ireland so that the people of Ireland can enjoy the peace, tranquillity, mutual respect, economic growth and prosperity that has been experienced during the past 18 months. There is a grave responsibility on the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Government who have the support of the international community.

It is time we recognised that it was the attitude of the United Kingdom and Unionist Northern Ireland that got rid of democratic political representation as far back as 1927 because the working class Protestant people in Northern Ireland were gaining strength. The same situation prevails today. David Trimble has called for elections because he wants to assess his position in Unionist Northern Ireland. He is not worried about Nationalists. It is up to the leader of the Government with the support of Irish America to ensure the talks commence immediately before further lives are lost.

We all share a sense of revulsion at events in east London on Friday night. The peace process was shattered but I hope it has ended only temporarily. What is most reassuring is the all-party consensus in this House and the apparent sincerity of some politicians in trying to ensure the talks on the peace process are resumed as soon as possible at the highest level.

I join with my colleagues in congratulating those who have brought about the peace process and continued to work with it — the Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton, his predecessor, Deputy Albert Reynolds, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, the Leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Bertie Ahern and the Leader of the Progressive Democrats, Deputy Harney. As Members know, when one mentions names one probably omits some who should be mentioned. The work of their predecessors from all parties should also be borne in mind. During the 25 years of the troubles, politicians have acted responsibly on this part of the island.

The champion of the peace process during those 25 years has been John Hume, as others have so rightly mentioned. He has gone through hell and high water and I would say his private life is virtually non-existent. He has devoted himself unselfishly and bravely to the cause of justice and peace and all things that are good on this island. We should also remember his deputy leader, Mr. Seamus Mallon. I dread to think what will happen when we lose such people. There is only so much an individual can take and John Hume has worked well above the call of duty. I am disappointed that he has not been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because I do not know of anyone who is as entitled to it as he.

I include also the present leader of Sinn Féin because I believe he has made an honest effort to bring about peace on this island. He has had to endure taunts, insults and denigration on a daily basis from people of whom we would expect more. His political opponents on the Unionist side have been less than magnanimous. Initially, we were quite sceptical about Mr. Adams's motives and abilities but we now recognise the sincerity of his work and this should not go without comment. Sinn Féin has shown in the past 16 to 18 months considerable ability in articulating its views, whether it be by Gerry Adams, Mitchel McLaughlin, Pat Doherty or Martin McGuinness. This has played a major part in maintaining the peace process for such a lengthy period. I am quite sure, although it is only a supposition, that Gerry Adams's life must be under serious threat not just from militants on the Unionist side but from extreme hardliners on the Republican side. They deserve great credit for holding the line.

The British have made many mistakes. I am sure at times they meant well but they have the ability not to understand the politics of Ireland. It is an historical inability going back hundreds of years. A major turning point I believe was the replacement of the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Peter Brooke. He had shown that he understood the considerable problems which affect relationships between republicans and Unionists on this island. It was a grave mistake by the British Prime Minister, John Major, to have him replaced as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland because I believe that the peace talks would be in progress if he had remained. One of the tragedies is that a man who understood the position was replaced at such a critical time. I do not know if other Members of the House had an insight into where the talks on the peace process were leading.

Debate adjourned.