Statements on Northern Ireland.

For several years a great many people have given much of their time, resources and talents to bringing about, by agreement, a new order in Northern Ireland, a new order in which the killing and the pain of the past 25 years would be confined for good to the pages of history.

Monday's bomb attack in Lisburn demonstrated clearly the scant regard those who run the republican movement have for those painstaking efforts. Not only did it undermine the fragile peace in Northern Ireland, it also damaged the prospects for underpinning such peace by a political agreement.

The timing of this IRA outrage was directly and cynically aimed at destabilising the loyalist ceasefire. We must not allow the IRA to succeed in what the Irish News aptly described yesterday as the betrayal of the people of Ireland.

Some will, hopefully, argue that the Lisburn bomb may be a last spectacular, just to show what the IRA can do, as a prelude to calling a ceasefire. "The volunteers will need something to keep their morale going for a while, so a few people have to be killed" might be one way of putting it. If that is the calculation of the leaders, it hardly suggests that any ceasefire that follows it will involve a real acceptance of the Mitchell principles by those who ordered the two Lisburn bombs, that a new ceasefire will necessarily hold in all circumstances and that the republican movement has transformed its analysis in a profound way.

This line of argument shows that the IRA will have a significantly difficult task to convince the rest of us that a further ceasefire, whenever it is called, is credible and irrevocable. One thing is clear — the Lisburn bombs were intended and calculated to cause the maximum number of deaths and injuries, to shatter as many lives as possible, to leave as many men and women as possible paralysed in pain, to cause as many bitter tears as possible. That certainly was the calculation of those who ordered the Lisburn bomb.

The one clear and loud message that this House must send out to those engaged in or contemplating violence is that violence and democratic politics do not mix. This House, as the democratic representatives of the Irish people, will always reject and repudiate the fascist tactic of the armalite in one hand and the ballot box in the other. These are not tactics that are alternative to one another. The republican movement, as a whole, must choose between them once and for all.

The democratic political process in Northern Ireland is embodied by the multi-party talks which resumed on 9 September. These talks have all the imperfections inherent in the democratic process everywhere, but which are especially evident when the divisions between the participants are profound. The difficulties encountered in those talks cannot be used as the excuse or the reason for a heinous act like the Lisburn bombing. Of course the talks are slow; our own Forum for Peace and Reconciliation did not conclude its much simpler task all that quickly, and the divisions there were much narrower than they are in Belfast. Some progress has been made in the Belfast talks.

Agreement was eventually reached on the rules of procedure for the talks. Senator George Mitchell was and remains the chairperson of the process. Neither of these agreements would have been conceivable in the failed talks of 1991-92. While the decommissioning issue has caused considerable difficulty, there is an agreed approach between the two Governments on that issue, something that was not there in 1991-92 or even a few months ago. If we compare with the 1991-92 talks, there has been, on this very issue, intensive bilateral and triateral, face-to-face contact involving the Irish Government and the Ulster Unionist delegations, again a step forward. Such intensive dialogue did not take place on any issue in 1991-92.

Irish and British Ministers now meet at least three days every week to discuss how we can move the talks forward. The Tánaiste and I are in constant contact with our counterparts. Never in history have the two Governments been working as closely together as they are now. If we need a summit we will have one, but we do not want distractions, public relations exercises or hints that solutions can be imposed, colonial-style. That is not the way the talks process has been structured in the first place. It has been structured to achieve agreement between the two Governments and a sufficient consensus of the parties in Northern Ireland. That "and" is important.

The two Governments simply cannot do it on their own. If they could, it would have been done a long time ago. Look at some examples of what the two Governments have been able to agree since the formation of this Government: the Joint Framework Document in February 1995; detailed communiqués following summit meetings between the Prime Minister and myself, particularly in November 1995 and February 1996; ground rules for substantive all-party negotiations in April 1996; procedural guidelines and a draft agenda for all-party negotiations in June 1996. What we now need, in addition to agreement and action by the two Governments, is agreement between the two Governments and a sufficient consensus of the parties in Northern Ireland.

Every possible avenue continues to be explored with a view to finding a way in which both decommissioning and substantive three-strand issues can be addressed seriously and in parallel on the basis of the Mitchell report. Of course, the Government would have wished for speedier and more discernible progress. With that aim in mind, we have made an enormous effort, since the talks resumed, to inject new momentum and substance into the process. I have spoken to the Prime Minister on a number of occasions over the past week and officials have been — and continue to be — in intensive, sometimes hourly, contact with their counterparts, including in 10 Downing Street. On Saturday, the Prime Minister and I agreed to renew our efforts to make the talks work and to build on our joint approach to those talks in every way possible. The joint paper agreed between the two Governments on the issue of decommissioning, published last week, has demonstrated clearly our shared commitment to give the process continuing necessary impetus.

Our proposal was to open negotiations in the three stands on either 7 or 14 October while addressing in parallel the decommissioning issue on the basis of the Mitchell report. That is the only realistic way to achieve decommissioning, and I urge the talks participants to work constructively and in good faith to implement all aspects of the Mitchell report. That report is the key to a resolution of this issue.

Achievement of full decommissioning of course requires in practice the participation of Sinn Féin because the decommissioning we are talking about is, by definition, voluntary decommissioning, but Sinn Féin's participation is by no means indispensable for the negotiations to proceed and agreement to be reached. No one, armed or unarmed, has a veto.

A fully inclusive agreement would of course be preferable. Accordingly the Government has worked very hard to enable Sinn Féin to enter the negotiations which have been under way since 10 June. Channels of communication at the level of officials have been kept open with the sole purpose of bringing about a credible restoration of the IRA ceasefire which, this time, would hold in all circumstances. Logic and the previous statements of the republican movement on the peace process dictate that the ceasefire should never have been broken in the first place. That logic, in terms of a restoration, should surely have been reinforced beyond all doubt with the commencement of the multi-party talks on 10 June.

The position now, as it has been since February 1995, is that the Government will continue to carry forward the political process, with or without Sinn Féin. At the same time, however, the two Governments have demonstrated clearly their commitment to hold open the door to a fully inclusive process. Acts like the Lisburn bombing make it much more difficult, in the democratic and political sense, to continue to keep open direct channels of communication. It is clear that so far the Sinn Féin leadership has not convinced the republican movement as a whole to abandon for good the two-prong approach of politics and violence. Some may well be sincere in trying to achieve that, but it has been suggested that they have accepted the ground rule that there will be no split in any circumstances. Objectively that means, if true, that in important matters the hardest of hardliners have been given the final word. If that be so, let me say this to the hardliners. If the republican movement wants to be taken seriously, as democrats — with all of the benefits which that confers — it will have to get rid of the tactical use of violence for good — no more Lisburns, no more spectaculars, no more beatings, no more coded warnings, just the ballot box.

In what way were the ideals of Tone advanced by the years of IRA violence? The answer is that they were not. That violence deepened existing divisions and created new ones between Protestants, Catholics and dissenters. Before the IRA started its work, many Unionists considered themselves to be Irish. Far fewer do so today, thanks to the republican movement's counterproductive strategy.

I have no doubt that in the days ahead many commentators will attempt to analyse the reasons that have brought the peace process to this point. It is important to do that but I want to put on record my views on some of the arguments that may be advanced.

It has been widely argued that Sinn Féin and republicans were deceived or let down by the slow progress during the IRA ceasefire in moving into comprehensive talks. There was a delay. The Government certainly would have wished for a start earlier than we secured, which was 10 June. Given the nature and depth of the division in Northern Ireland, however, and the logical necessity of ensuring that the Unionists would actually take part in the talks, this delay should not have been sufficient to lead to resumed violence. The fact that this delay alone led to resumed IRA violence raises questions as to the depth of its commitment to peace on any terms other than those dictated by itself. This concern is reinforced by the fact that the active preparation of violence by the IRA was under way long before the ceasefire ended and has obviously continued long after the talks started.

Fundamentally, the republican movement appears unable to reconcile itself with the fact that the British presence in Ireland is not the British Army or state, but one million Unionists. They are the British presence. It seems the republican movement cannot, within its analysis, address Unionist concerns other than in a framework which they know Unionists cannot and will not accept.

The widely presumed notion — and it underlies many of the questions raised on occasion in the House — that the talks process could ever have been speedy reflects an inability or an unwillingness to understand and acknowledge the profound and necessarily divisive nature of the issues the talks set out to address. The talks in Belfast are about the nature of the state. There are few, if any, historical examples of quick or easy consensus of agreement being reached anywhere in the world on a matter of this nature between parties as divided as the participants or potential participants in the present talks. Hence the talks had to be slow and that should be understood. Presumptions otherwise should not underlie questions which are made superficial by that presumption being implied in them.

I have already dealt in some detail with the decommissioning issue but further elaboration might be useful. Whatever about the manner in which it first came to prominence, we have to acknowledge that there were, or are, genuine and deep-seated concerns on this issue. That came across very clearly in, for example, the presentations made to the Forum For Peace and Reconciliation by the main Protestant churches. That strong concern had to be responded to in the talks. It was bound to be a problem in any talks. Anyone who pretends decommissioning will not be a problem in the talks is not being realistic. As a Government, we faced up to it and with the British Government we set up the Mitchell body.

That body's report offered a means by which the impasse on decommissioning could be surmounted. It signposted the way to a substantive, all-inclusive process of negotiations. It struck the appropriate balance between the sincere concerns surrounding the issue on one hand, and the practical considerations involved of getting voluntary decommissioning on the other. More recently, the two Governments, in our joint paper published on 1 October, made clear our firm adherence to the report as a realistic basis for dealing with the decommissioning issue in the talks.

The paper published by the Ulster Unionist Party on 30 September does not offer such a basis. I believe a workable arrangement can be reached and, for our part, the Government will do everything possible to bring that about. The Government has already briefed the Ulster Unionist Party — as have the British Government — on our intentions in regard to legislation to deal with decommissioning. I am taking the opportunity presented by this debate to announce that, as a further demonstration of our commitment and good faith on the issue, the Government intends to publish this legislation at an early date.

The decommissioning issue will not be allowed to block our path to comprehensive three-strand negotiations.

Turning to the issue of marches and parades, there is no doubt the events this summer have severely damaged inter-community relations and the climate for dialogue. The sectarian fall-out manifested itself in many sinister ways — boycotts; damage to schools, halls and churches; arson attacks on private property; interference with people's right to worship; punishment beatings and murders. All these manifestations are profoundly wrong and point to the depths of divisions that exist. The events of the summer, therefore, underscore the urgency and reinforce the need for the multi-party talks to continue, to achieve progress and, ultimately, to reach agreement.

In the meantime, however, the British Government has established an independent review of parades and marches. The Government here will be making a submission with a view to avoiding a repetition next year of the damaging effects which characterised this year's marching season. We deplore what happened at Drumcree and elsewhere but it can never be regarded as a credible justification for what the IRA did in Lisburn or elsewhere. Holding offensive and threatening parades and killing people are both wrong, but they are not exactly on the same moral level.

Throughout this process the Government has not only emphasised our rejection of coercion but also the need for balance. The word "balance" permeates the principles and realities set out in the Joint Declaration as well as the proposals outlined in the Joint Framework Document. The reason for that should be clear to everyone — an ultimate settlement is contingent on the achievement of a reasonable balance between the positions of the parties on the many issues involved in the three core relationships. One of those necessary balances relates to the whole question of consent. Without agreement and consent, stable political arrangements for the governance of Northern Ireland are an impossibility. Any resort to force is fundamentally at variance with the principles of agreement and consent. Therein lies a key question and a key challenge not only for Sinn Féin but also for the republican movement as a whole.

The loyalist paramilitary organisations and the political parties who offer them analysis, deserve great credit for maintaining their ceasefire, even in the face of provocation. I strongly endorse the positions taken by the leadership of the UDP and PUP, that loyalist paramilitaries should not have their agenda set by the provocation exemplified by the cynical bombings in Lisburn.

The loyalist ceasefire has made an enormous contribution to peace and stability in Northern Ireland. We have welcomed the constructive contributions to the talks made by the Progressive Unionist Party and the Ulster Democratic Party and are happy that their continuing participation in the talks is assured. Their contribution continues to be needed. A decision on their part to undertake a ceasefire was the right decision at the time. It remains the right decision to uphold the ceasefire.

Let me say directly to loyalists, and to Unionists generally, that we, the people in the Repbulic, have no agenda for a progressive take-over of Northern Ireland against the wishes of a majority of people there. If there ever was such an agenda or mentality here, it certainly has gone. I believe it is clear to many people in Northern Ireland — Unionists, Nationalists and republicans — that this is so. It has been acknowledged as a fact by many independent and objective commentators, including many of a Unionist orientation. There are probably still quite a number of Unionistminded people in Northern Ireland who have not grasped this sea change in public opinion in this State, not only in the policies of all the constitutional parties in this State but among the population at large. If those Unionists who doubt the change in opinion here had been present at the Forum for Peach and Reconciliation, they would have seen for themselves that Irish Nationalists are far from constituting a monolith hostile to their interests and what they believe.

There is no pan-nationalist front intent on pursuing a malign agenda to undermine the identity or heritage of Unionists or their involvement with the United Kingdom. Any Government I head would never wish to be part of any such agenda. To be fair, I do not believe such an agenda would be followed by any Government that could be formed from any combination of the parties that are represented in this House, for all the parties here have embraced the principle of consent. All the parties here supported the Joint Declaration made by my predecessor and the British Prime Minister on 15 December 1993. It is, perhaps, worth recalling here the contents of paragraph 5 of that declaration which are as follows:

The Taoiseach, on behalf of the Irish Government, considers that the lessons of Irish history, and especially of Northern Ireland, show that stability and well-being will not be found under any political system which is refused allegiance or rejected on grounds of identity by a significant minority of those governed by it. For this reason, it would be wrong to attempt to impose a united Ireland, in the absence of the freely given consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. The Taoiseach accepts, on behalf of the Irish Government, that the democratic right of self-determination of the people of Ireland as a whole must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland and must, consistent with justice and equity, respect the democratic dignity and the civil rights and religious liberties of both communities.

That shows that all the parties in this House — those were words agreed to by my predecessor — and all constitutional Nationalist parties throughout the island, as well as others, support the position being taken by the Government. That multi-party agreement embodied in the Downing Street Declaration, was fully repeated and replicated in the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, where constitutional parties sat down with Sinn Féin to see how far agreement could be reached on the realities, principles and requirements of a path to a political settlement. Apart from Sinn Féin, all the parties held absolutely firmly to the principle of consent.

While in a technical sense, the cause of the failure to get unanimous agreement on the Forum's report related to the method of measuring democratic ratification of an agreement emerging from all-party talks, in essence the breach with Sinn Féin came down to consent. The report of the forum noted that a substantial consensus had developed around the position set out by the two Governments in the Joint Declaration.

All the participating parties, apart from Sinn Féin, agreed to a statement, as follows:

Should [comprehensive, all-party talks] result in an agreement, and if that agreement were democratically ratified, North and South, then the result of the ratification process will represent a valid and legitimate exercise by the people of Ireland as a whole of their right to self-determination.

Sinn Féin did not agree to the reference to "democratically ratified, North and South" but the essence of the matter was that they could not join all the other parties in accepting the principle of consent in regard to the wishes of a majority of people in Northern Ireland.

All the parties represented in this House acknowledge that consent, in those terms, does not now exist for a united Ireland and is unlikely to do so in any near future. Our focus has been on parity of esteem and equality of treatment between the two main traditions within Northern Ireland, including the right of both traditions to pursue legitimately their aspirations, on the basis of the principle of consent, freely given.

The principle of consent also permeates the Joint Framework Document of the British and Irish Governments. However, that document goes further. It clearly states that as part of an agreement confirming understanding between the two governments on constitutional issues set out in the document — essentially on a balanced constitutional accommodation — the Irish Government will introduce and support proposals for change in the Irish Constitution to implement the commitments in the Joint Declaration — the Irish commitment being one I cited earlier. The Framework Document states:

These changes in the Irish Constitution will fully reflect the principle of consent in Northern Ireland and demonstrably be such that no territorial claim over Northern Ireland contrary to the will of a majority of its people is asserted...

The Joint Framework Document sets out the parameters of a possible settlement as seen by both Governments. As such it informs indeed, constitutes a large part of the basis of the Government's approach to the multi-party talks. Thus, in preparing for the substantive negotiations we want to see starting very soon in those talks, the Government continues to study amendments to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution, which would emphasise that it is agreement between people and not territorial aggrandisement that we are seeking.

The Government remains committed to pursuing a meaningful peace process that will bring an enduring peace which will underpin the political process, thereby leading to accommodation through dialogue. Despite the setbacks, we remain of the view that this would best be done through an effective talks process, conducted in an entirely peaceful atmosphere. However, with or without an IRA ceasefire, and therefore with or without Sinn Féin, we are determined to ensure that the talks process is conducted in such a way that the prospects for its success are maximised.

We are all deeply appalled by, and unreservedly condemn, the IRA bomb attack on a British army base in Lisburn. It has left many people wounded, and what remained of the peace process in complete tatters. Some of us were aware that time was running out fast, and warned people to that effect.

The bomb attack in Britain last February, which ended the IRA ceasefire, was deeply irresponsible. We all felt betrayed. It certainly contributed to the deteriorating atmosphere this summer leading to the events at Drumcree and since, even if it was not the sole cause of it. The events of recent days have been even more appalling.

It is hard for me to find words sufficient to express my dismay and revulsion at the premeditated and deeply provocative IRA decision to renew its campaign of violence in Northern Ireland after more than two years. It is an act of such criminal stupidity, and with the potential for such evil consequences, that it is difficult to believe any rational organisation could decide to do it, let alone one calling itself Irish and republican.

The bomb attack is a deeply unpatriotic act. It is the people on this island, Unionist and Nationalist, who will be most affected. All of us would be critical of the way in which the peace process has been allowed to be squandered over the last few years. Why should the people of Northern Ireland, the people of Ireland who have so badly wanted peace, be made to suffer.

The IRA bomb attack is directed at the lives, security and prosperity of the people of Ireland, North and South. It sabotages the progress that could be made through a peaceful political process, notwithstanding the current difficulties and setbacks. It will hold back the entire country, if the violence continues and escalates. It runs a high risk of provoking a chain reaction if it is not halted.

What I find hardest to understand is the political defeatism, cowardice and political illusions of the IRA. They have skilled political leaders. Why do they refuse to trust them? Twenty-five years of violence were marked by complete futility, in which nothing was achieved in terms of any worthwhile advance towards a united Ireland. Whatever realistic hopes there might have been of achieving a united Ireland by agreement, over time, have been largely destroyed by the IRA. Northern Ireland is divided as never before. We, the people of this Republic, do not want an unstable united Ireland built on the peace of the cemetery and on the ashes of sectarian bitterness and hatred.

I would like to think that the IRA, however misguided, was motivated by genuine republican ideals. I see no evidence of any understanding of genuine republicanism among them that could be a foundation of peace and ultimate unity in the 21st century. Republicans know, because they have said it, that Unionists cannot be coerced into a united Ireland against their will. They know, because they have said it, that they do not have sufficient force or the necessary support to push the British Army and Government out of this country. They know that no agreement will work without Unionist participation, because they have said it. Why then do the IRA persist in tactics that it knows will lead nowhere, except to more death, destruction and disaster? The ideals of the United Irishmen, the leaders of 1848 and the leaders of 1916 have nothing in common with the actions being carried out today. Where are the ideals that inspired a nation?

I would like to believe that the leadership of Sinn Féin recognises in its heart of hearts the truth and force of what I am saying. Despite the impressive mandate for peace which it won in June and which should have been used to participate in talks, it has not been able to persuade others within its movement. However discouraging events have been, they are the only people who can persuade the IRA to stop their campaign of action. Sinn Féin, if it is to have a long-term future, must redouble its efforts to win the battle of minds in which the victory is a commitment to democratic methods alone. The IRA's decision of autumn 1994 was the absolutely correct one. The decision to return to violence in February last was an absolutely wrong one. If the argument for peace was won in 1994 by the wisdom and logic of John Hume, Gerry Adams and Albert Reynolds, then that same argument for peace can be won again. Those arguing for the democratic option must have the constant support of both Governments, without any shillyshallying, equivocation or doubts.

The immediate concern of everybody is the impact that the bomb attacks may have on the loyalist ceasefire. I recognise the historic contribution that its ceasefire has made and can continue to make. The loyalist parties have won the respect of many people in the South by their forthright and courageous stand, with relatively little immediate political reward. I urge them to stick to their principled position, including their adherence to the Mitchell principles. Their political cause has nothing to gain from a loyalist return to violence, and that is the view of their own political and community leaders, not just mine. Their spokespersons whom we have all got to know to some degree, some better than others, have articulated the cause of peace and restraint and have tried extremely hard — I am not sure if it is understood in this part of the island how hard they have to work. There are those who sometimes believe that they are in the sabre-rattling position. Many times this summer I have taken their side because from our communications I understand they have to genuinely work within their groupings to try to convince their past colleagues who would like to return to violence of the democratic ways. I hope they will understand from this House today that we recognise that fact. It is important to them. The contribution they have made, not only this year but in the autumn of 1994, is not always recognised. After the IRA ceasefire in 1994 they moved by October 1994, after all the years of violence, to the loyalist ceasefire.

Cardinal Daly in a public address in France yesterday expressed the view that none of the parties involved, neither the British Government, the Unionists nor Sinn Féin, will ever enjoy a better opportunity for peace than the one they have thrown away. I agree. All of us are dismayed at the speed with which the peace process has been allowed to unravel. While the breaches of the ceasefire are entirely the responsibility of the IRA, the breakdown of the peace process and its inability to make progress is largely the fault of others. What I said in February I repeat now, that all of us to a greater or lesser degree share in some of the blame. Collectively, we have allowed the best opportunity for peace in 25 years to escape us.

The British Government will not be thanked by history for the way it frustrated the peace process after it was gifted, mainly through the effort of others, with an unexpected ceasefire. It was the British insistence on prior disarmament, in order to satisy right-wingers and preserve a parliamentary majority, that quite literally wrecked hopes of political progress. The peace process and the ceasefires were based on the premise that there had been no military victory and no military defeat on either side. How can you insist on a surrender of arms, when there has been no military victory? The British Tories had to pretend they had won, and therefore insisted on what they knew the IRA would never concede.

We all remember the line the British Tories brought to us at Christmas 1994 and early in 1995 — try to go and talk to Sinn Féin and others and just get one single bullet. That meant only one thing, — surrender. It had little to do with taking arms out of the process. It was to show the world they had achieved surrender. It is a scandal and indictment of the political incompetence of the British Government that it could not organise inclusive peace talks even after 16 or 17 months ceasefire. Apart from excluding Sinn Féin the British treatment of paramilitary prisoners, who had played a key role in opting for peace, sent all the wrong signals. Surely the very least that those prisoners could have hoped for, having clearly turned their back on violence, was that their situation would not be worsened. In many cases, the plight of the prisoners was made much worse. Such treatment made no sense whatever. Neither I nor my colleagues argued for the release of people forthwith. However, Deputy Ó Cuív and others on the Government benches who worked with him and visited many of the prisons have highlighted the deterioration in the position.

The greatest tragedy so far as the Irish side is concerned was the change in Government. Despite its best efforts — I acknowledge that the Taoiseach and others have undertaken a great deal of sincere hard work — the Government has not succeeded in retaining the confidence of the republican movement or even the same level of confidence among the wider Nationalist community. Neither has it won the confidence of the Unionist and loyalist community. On many occasions it was not tough enough in public with the British Government which sought and succeeded in moving the goalposts many times. I will say no more on this subject as we in Fianna Fáil believe we have a patriotic duty to pull together during a time of crisis and to try to make progress with as much political unity as possible in the House.

The Unionist parties also have to answer for their responsibility in the breakdown of the peace process. Neither in the talks, in which the SDLP still participates, nor in the forum, which is not attended by any Nationalist party, have the Unionist parties shown the slightest interest in reaching an accommodation or political settlement which would underpin the peace process. The best example of this was the day the Unionist parties only turned up at the forum meeting. They had a glorious opportunity that day in July before Drumcree to show they had an interest in moving matters forward. The Alliance Party stayed out of that meeting and the Women's Coalition had pulled out. During that meeting the Unionist parties decided to have a debate about what flag should be in front of them on the table and what flag should be placed in the hall. They managed to spend the entire day — how they managed this I do not know — discussing the size of the Union Jack to be placed on the table and in the hall. This is an example of how serious they were about moving matters forward. The only thing I congratulate them on is for managing to sit for a full day and dragging on the meeting. Even in this House where Members have an ability to talk at length we could not manage to keep a debate on that subject going for a full day. I give that day as an example and, as far as I know, most of the meetings since then have been as unproductive.

The tactics of the parties led by Dr. Paisley and Robert McCartney have been wrecking ones. They have shown not the slightest concern or interest in peace. The Ulster Unionist Party has not felt strong enough to confront such tactics. The entire Unionist effort has, therefore, gone into obstructionism and making it as difficult as possible for Sinn Féin to ever join the talks. The decommissioning issue has been used cynically in the past 18 months to control every aspect of the talks.

I leave it to the people of Northern Ireland to judge which parties have made a genuine effort to consolidate peace and which parties have undermined it. It has often been said that Governments should not be influenced by the politics of the latest atrocity but what was right a month ago is still right today. The terms on which Sinn Féin can take part in the talks should not be made more difficult as a result of what has happened. My view of what is needed to re-establish peace has not altered in the past 12 months.

First, the IRA must restore its ceasefire. If the August 1994 ceasefire is restored with adequate assurances that it is complete and definitive and that there will be no further going back on it, Sinn Féin should be allowed to take its place without delay at the table on the basis of the Mitchell principles. Second, in accordance with paragraph 4 of the Downing Street Declaration, the two Governments should establish a timeframe for talks and define the length of the period in which agreement should be reached. Third, it should be accepted, as we have argued all along, that decommissioning should be part of the talks process and not something on which prior agreement and movement are required. Fourth, a liberal regime for the release of politically motivated prisoners, loyalist and republican, should be established once there is a clear commitment to permanent peace. Fifth, action should be taken by the British Government independently of the talks process to enhance quality and parity of esteem and to build confidence and economic and social progress. Sixth, multilateral talks often prove sterile and there is a case of conducting such talks well out of the public view, as was done originally in the Middle East process. There may also be a case for moving the talks to a neutral location outside of these islands. It has been suggested in the corridors of Congress that President Clinton should, before or after the election, invite the parties and Governments to Washington to provide an impetus for progress.

We on this side of the House give the highest possible credit to Senator George Mitchell who used all his negotiating skills to facilitate the parties to the Northern talks in making some progress. We are deeply indebted to him for this. It is a pity the participants in the talks did not allow themselves to make more use of his skills to bring them into substantive talks. It will be difficult to find another person of such stature who has the time and inclination to work so hard on their behalf with so little return for that work. We on this side of the House were instrumental during the pre-Christmas period in lobbying for Senator Mitchell to take up that position. Most people, excluding the Americans, poured cold water on the idea at the beginning but this view eventually changed. The Government was correct to listen to us and to support his taking up this task. I do not blame Senator Mitchell for being absent for a few weeks. My information is that he does not intend to return for some time. I hope those people who treated him unfairly will at least acknowledge what he tried to do for them and stop some of the backbiting at which they are so good.

I was unimpressed by the brevity of the meeting between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister last Saturday and the decision by the Prime Minister to absent himself from the dinner held by the Irish Presidency during this sensitive time in Anglo-Irish relations and difficult time for the peace process. This did not augur well and perhaps the Prime Minister should reflect on this decision. I have often regretted that relations between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister do not seem, on the face of it, to be of the same quality as the productive relationship between Deputy Albert Reynolds and Prime Minister during the period 1992-94.

It is imperative that the two Heads of Government get together and agree to give fresh impetus to the talks process. The log jams have to be cleared and some of the parties in the North told that a more serious approach is expected of them. If they meet but achieve nothing we will say nothing about that. It would be much better for them to have met and tried to show that they are sincere and interested and that other matters do not fill their everyday agendas. Politicians and those who work in the House understand busy schedules but 15 minute meetings, ten minute phone calls and the failure to attend a State dinner create the impression in the minds of people who may not want to be convinced or who are cynical of the system or who live in communities who have suffered much, that people do not care. I am not stating that they do not care, but an early summit may help to influence people and have a dramatic effect at a time of crisis. I call on them to arrange such a meeting.

I will now briefly refer to the marching season, the Framework Document, the three strand approach and the fact that the Canary Wharf bombing occured between a period of uncertainity and one of movement. I do not want to discuss these matters in detail but when they are considered one can see why people wrongly believe there is a way to make progress. Both Governments should not allow that impression to be created. I will not list the events which took place but I discussed them with individuals from Sinn Féin and I spoke to loyalist and community leaders. Arguing against their perceptions of what was achieved is not an easy battle to win. When these events are analysed — many excellently documented arguments in that regard have appeared in our national newspapers — it is not easy to convince them they are wrong. It is my opinion that every Member of this House believes they are wrong, but we should not play into the hands of those who feel that the use of violence can achieve something. The record of the past two years does not stand up to analysis and democratic politics and a summit meeting could help us move away from some of those issues and tragedies.

Political leaders cannot afford to despair, but neither should they engage in foolish optimism when it is not justified. We need to concentrate minds on the appalling prospects facing us if we do not take every action within our power to halt the slide back into violence. We must make every effort to do so. I am only interested in the future. I cannot change the past, I can merely reflect upon it. We must work on the future.

In the early months of this year I raised in this House a matter which, at the time, people stated made no sense. It involves the possible conflict between the Tánaiste's role as President of the European Council and his role in the Northern peace talks. It is documented in the Official Report that I stated there are Members on the other side of the House who could take responsibility for dealing with the talks. It is not good that meetings are being changed or that those involved have no track record. I say this because people involved in the talks have made it known. I do not believe the Tánaiste can adequately carry out both jobs. Last week, he was forced to cancel attendance at the important Pittsburgh Conference and at the Northern talks to establish a European presence at the Middle East peace talks. This is not a satisfactory situation, and it is not too late for the Taoiseach to reallocate Cabinet responsibilities — or at Minister of State level, if appropriate — so that the highest priority is given both to Northern Ireland and the European Presidency.

My party will continue to do everything possible to contribute constructively to the restoration of peace. We need calm and responsible leadership combined with quick and decisive action. The IRA must be left with no excuse for continuing its campaign of violence and this debate will help that process. I hope that, despite all appearances to the contrary, it is not too late to salvage peace. I believe it is not too late because I am an optimist and there is still room for manoeuvre. The future of all of us depends on the outcome of events in the coming weeks.

In recent months I spent as much time as any other politician discussing the North with people on all sides of the divide. We cannot allow the situation to drift to the other side of elections. If we try to do so in either jurisdiction there will be a return to full-scale violence. No one should believe that the process can be patched up for a period in the hope that we can return to the agenda in the future. It is my assessment that this will not work. The required action must be taken in the weeks ahead.

There is no doubt last Monday was black Monday for the people of Northern Ireland. Once again, they could hear sirens blaring and see the emergency services in full flight. They watched hospital doctors describe the injuries inflicted on 30 people. The IRA had brought violence back to the streets of Northern Ireland. One eyewitness drew an analogy between her shattered window and the shattered peace process. Many believed in the de facto ceasefire in place in Northern Ireland. Last Tuesday's admission that the IRA was responsible for the bombs at Lisburn brought that myth to a shuddering halt.

It is important that the Taoiseach agreed to arrange this debate. He stated that all parties should place on record their outrage at the events in Lisburn. That must be the focus but we must also try to chart a way forward. Condemnation has a role to play, but democratic and constitutional politicians must ensure that the initiative is seized back from the men of violence and that a vacuum is not created which will allow them to flourish. Following Monday's bombing and Tuesday's admission from the IRA, all we heard from its associates in Sinn Féin was a perversion of logic as they blamed the Unionists and the two Governments for what happened. It was stated that the Governments had not set in train meaningful dialogue. I dismiss that out of hand. All members of Sinn Féin could do was express regret at the explosions. Words of regret are inadequate in the face of such barbarity. The taking of life, whether it is the life of a British soldier, an RUC officer or an innocent civilian, can never be used as a tactic for anyone's political gain. It is not the way to achieve political progress.

There were many who believed that Sinn Féin and the republican movement wanted to embrace the peace process. I want to question that the assertion. There was much discussion of TUAS — the total unarmed strategy — but we now know it was a suspension of reality to accept it. The republican movement has been pursuing what a commentator in the Sunday Tribune of 5 October described as the tactical use of the armed strategy. That movement believes in using violence when it suits and playing at peace when it suits. We must ask ourselves if it was ever serious about peace. If it was, why was the London garage where English police discovered ten tonnes of explosives and an assortment of bomb making equipment two weeks ago hired two weeks after the IRA ceasefire in August 1994? The cars which carried the bombs in Lisburn were purchased four months ago. The lorry which carried the bomb that exploded in Canary Wharf last February was stolen and altered before President Bill Clinton visited Ireland earlier this year. At least ten Tory MPs have been informed by the British police that their names are on an IRA hit-list, that their lives are in danger and they are potential targets.

In other words, the training, the transportation and the targeting by the IRA has continued apace while its political subordinates in Sinn Féin have been preaching peace. This begs the question as to whether members of Sinn Féin are merely the glove puppets of the army council. The identity of those who make up that council has yet to be established but there is every reason to believe that some of its members have been masquerading as peace-makers in Sinn Féin. There is compelling evidence to suggest that the republican movement has been alternating between politics and violence as it sees fit. For them it is an interchangeable srategy. I suppose every democratic politician wants to look on the bright side and to understand the republican mind-set, but understanding that mind-set and wanting to be positive does not mean we should replace positive thinking with wishful thinking.

In making up our minds about the real intention of the republican movement we should reflect on two recent examples of the perverse workings of Sinn Féin and its leaders. The Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, was quick to dismiss the Taoiseach's much publicised comments in Washington about a real chance of an IRA ceasefire in the short-term. He wondered from where his optimism and upbeat assessment emanated. Of course he knew otherwise. Yet, when he was asked this week about the IRA atrocity, he said not to ask him about it because he is not the IRA. That does not make sense. He knew there was no possibility of a ceasefire because he knows well what is going on inside the IRA, but when asked to comment on why it carried out such an atrocity he was quick to tell us we should ask its members and not him. As far as I am concerned Sinn Féin and the IRA are the one organisation and of course it is convenient for Sinn Féin to try to convince us otherwise.

The perpetrators of violent acts do not have a place in democratic politics. People must not bomb their way to the talks or use guns, bombs and explosives to get their political way. Earlier this year when Garda Jerry McCabe was murdered in a cold blooded fashion and his colleague injured I called for contacts to be cut off between the Government at official level and Sinn Féin. That did not happen. The contacts have remained in place. I renew that call this morning because after that cold blooded murder all we heard from Sinn Féin were words of regret. It could not even bring itself to condemn the murder of a member of the Garda Síochána. The person the Garda want to interview in connection with that murder was released early from Portlaoise prison, is on the run and has not been found. That should make us realise that if we are ambivalent or believe in appeasing rather than being tough with people, more and more atrocities will occur.

I want to put on record what was achieved during the ceasefire because I am tired hearing people tell us about the little progress made during that time. Prisoners were released early from prisons in the Republic, exclusion orders were lifted on certain persons travelling to Great Britain, Border roads were opened and the broadcasting bans on Sinn Féin representatives were lifted. There was open access for the Government to the White House and elsewhere, the forum was established, troops were withdrawn to barracks in Northern Ireland and many returned home. The Joint Framework Document was published in 1995 and the Ground Rules for substantive talks were published in April 1996. The Mitchell Commission was set up to overcome the problems with decommissioning and a talks date was established. All that happened as a result of peace. Sinn Féin achieved more when it was pursuing its peace strategy than when it pursued solely its armalite strategy and it should reflect on that. Many people suspended their critical faculties, but I would like to believe I did not and I do not propose to say now: "I told you so". People must be given the benefit of the doubt. My party played its part in the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation to bring people together to try to attain peace and a political settlement, but we are not prepared to be ambivalent when it comes to the attitude that should be adopted towards Sinn Féin. I hope the Government holds a similar view.

Talking to Sinn Féin since the Canary Wharf bombing has not achieved anything. It has not achieved a single change in IRA strategy and that is obvious from the Clonaslee bomb factory. Martin McGuinness told us if a date were set for all-party talks he and his colleagues would go to the IRA and ask for a ceasefire. When questioned about that now he claims that as there is not meaningful dialogue there is nothing with which to go to the IRA. It is time to call Sinn Féin's bluff. It is time it was made realise it will be isolated in the political wilderness unless it makes up its mind about whether it wants politics or violence and that they are not interchangeable tactics.

I join the Taoiseach and Deputy Ahern in paying tribute to David Ervine, Gary McMichael and others who, despite the pressure, are still preaching peace. They have shown remarkable courage and are a source of great inspiration. One should contrast the way they acted during this process with some of the longer established Unionist politicians. David Ervine stated recently that as far as he is concerned some people in Northern Ireland suffer too much and others do not suffer at all. I wonder if some people on the Unionist side were happy with peace and not prepared to go down the road of negotiating a political settlement. Were they merely happy to have peace?

Last June I described my disillusionment with what I perceived to be happening at the talks process and I reiterate those remarks this morning, even though the Taoiseach chastised me at that time. Given that it was four years since many of those parties had engaged in dialogue with each other — not since the talks of 1992 — it was depressing to watch from the outside as people argued about procedures, wrangled about where they sat and other such matters. That was not inspiring for people in the North or South or for those in the United States who invested so much in the peace process and held out great hopes for the all-party talks. I hope participants in those talks realise the great onus that is placed on them to make politics work. When constitutional politics does not work the vacuum is always filled by violence. The manner in which George Mitchell was treated is a disgrace. He has the patience of Job and we are fortunate he stayed with the process despite having to return to the United States for a short time.

The war of words engaged in during the past two years is also disgraceful. There have been rows about decommissioning and definitions. Arguments about words will get us nowhere. We must get away from the question of definitions and deal with the substantive issues at stake. We must deal with the political issues that must be resolved if we are to have a political settlement in Northern Ireland. Rows about words are doomed to failure. We will never agree about definitions but, with goodwill, there is hope that we can agree on the substance of the peace settlement.

I will spell out what I believe is the substance of that settlement. We must learn an elementary lesson that Northern Ireland is not a homogenous society. Unionists and Nationalists consider themselves mutually exclusive. In such a society, the models of majority rule, "not an inch" or "winner takes all" are doomed to failure and not acceptable. Northern Ireland is as British as it is Irish and the governmental model put in place there must reflect that reality and the conflicting loyalties and identities of the two communities. Protestants and Catholics live side by side in the Republic. Irish Protestants and Catholics live side by side in other parts of the world and if people in Northern Ireland and the political leaders are interested in a political settlement Protestants and Catholics can also live side by side in Northern Ireland and that means the status quo cannot continue. Northern Ireland must become as Nationalist as it is Unionist. Its nationalism must be economically, socially, legally and institutionally recognised in that society, but that will not happen unless we respect the differing traditions.

Six basic principles form the basis of the settlement that will have to be negotiated. I have no doubt there will be a settlement in Northern Ireland. It may not happen this year or next year, it may even take up to five years to happen because building peace and a political settlement throughout the world is a delicate and slow process.

The basis of that settlement will be that there can be no internal settlement. There has to be a reinstatement of the relationship between Unionists and Nationalists, between North and South, between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom and between the Republic and the United Kingdom.

The second principle must be that there will be no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland unless a majority of the people there wish it. That must be the starting point. Each party in this House and each party to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, with the exception of Sinn Féin, accepts that basic starting point. The third principle is that the right of the people of Northern Ireland to choose between belonging to the UK or to a united Ireland does not override the need to have a partnership society in Northern Ireland.

Fourth, we must acknowledge the nature of Northern Ireland's society. At present it tilts in favour of unionism. This means that the society is unionist. The British administration at Stormont, the parliamentary representation at Westminster, the flags and emblems and all the elements that go to make up the society recognise that it is unionist. I would ask Unionists, if the tilt goes the other way would it be right, if the British Government made comments about Northern Ireland, to refer to it as a foreign Government? Would it be right if MPs at Westminster expressed their concern about what is happening in Northern Ireland, to regard that as impertinent? Would it be right to describe the BBC, for example, or the culture of the Unionists as foreign and alien? I put these questions to the Unionists. That is how they treat Nationalists.

It is essential to recognise that tilt, and as a fifth principle, that means having North-South institutions and recognising the nationalist identity and perspective. In the future it may mean recognising an east-west relationship if ever there is united Ireland. I feel as strongly about that east-west relationship in the context of Northern Ireland as I do about the North-South dimension at present.

As a sixth principle we must recognise that the strands of the three strand process are not separate. They draw their strength from each other like a rope, the configuration and strength of which comes from all its strands. It is wrong to say the Irish Government should have no interest or right to express its views in strand one. The only way the process will work is if the Dublin, London, Unionist and Nationalist views can be accommodated in one package. To try to separate them, as many seek to do, is unreal and unhelpful.

The final principle is that the settlement must come from the centre. That is the only way to achieve a political settlement. Worthy as it was to try to bring everybody into the process it was unreal. That is not to say I did not or do not approve of the talks — I would love if they could work. However, if we cannot get a settlement between the UUP and SDLP or get them to agree about the way forward and stretch across the community divide to negotiate a settlement, how can we ever get those like Bob McCartney, Ian Paisley, Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness to embrace a settlement across the community divide?

The talks will be doomed and the initiative put in place on 10 June will be destroyed unless a new dynamic is injected to the talks process. Having spoken to many people in Northern Ireland over a long period about how the situation can be moved forward, I believe there is no point blaming what did or did not happen or how people reacted to different events. The process was always going to be slow.

The two Governments should meet the two main constitutional parties in Northern Ireland, the UUP and the SDLP. One Government will not be able to meet the two parties together. If the UUP is invited to Dublin it will not come and even if it does nothing fruitful will arise. The Governments should seek to establish a consensus on a way forward from such a meeting. If that is not possible the current process will quickly slide into oblivion.

I respect Deputy Bertie Ahern's point about a meeting between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister — that could be a starting point. However, unless John Hume and Séamus Mallon and David Trimble and John Taylor can come to a basic agreement that will inject a dynamic into the talks process, it cannot survive. It will be damaging if it is suspended for a number of months. Postponing it until after the next general election here or in Great Britain will make no difference. No matter what the Governments do, the main players at the end of the day must be the parties in Northern Ireland.

The successful political process in South Africa only came about because of two great men — Nelson Mandela and F.W. De Klerk — one of whom had to reach agreement with a man his government had incarcerated for many years. There was international pressure and help from many, but it took those two men to make it work, although it was not without its difficulties.

There is a huge onus on John Hume and David Trimble to make the process here work. They must ensure Northern Ireland is transformed into a society where Nationalists and Unionists are treated with equality of esteem; a society in which everybody can give allegiance to the police force and in which the flags and emblems reflect the conflicting community allegiances in that society. It must be a society which institutionalises and recognises nationalism in every sense — economic, social and legal — as it does Unionsim. That involves a role for North-South institutions.

Above all else, it must be a society where there is a level of trust between the main players. If there is not a level of trust between David Trimble and John Hume there will be no opportunity to build such a society in the short-term. A minimum level of trust does not mean that people have to love each other. It means they must respect each other and be prepared to do business with each other. Constitutional politicians must grasp the opportunity presented to them. They have the goodwill of this House, of governments everywhere and of the people of Ireland and Britain. They could not have more going for them. I hope they will not allow the men of violence to fill the vacuum they have created. I hope they will embrace the opportunity and in so doing we will move away from the gloom that has descended.

It is hard to be optimistic but we must not give up. We must insist the process works. The two Governments should cut the links with Sinn Féin and show they will get tough with them. That will help the loyalist paramilitaries greatly. If the Governments call a meeting with the UUP and the SDLP the possibility exists to ensure the process is saved and can transform Northern Ireland. Thus the peace process could become a peace and a political settlement.

There has been some media speculation in recent days suggesting that the Lisburn bombing was intended as a so called "spectacular" prelude to an IRA ceasefire. If this is the case then it reveals a very sick mentality on the part of the republican movement. The IRA statement a day after the attack seeks to justify the two bombs as being directed at "personnel connected with the Thiepval barracks". Does the IRA not know or not care that many of the people who earn their living from Thiepval barracks are of a Unionist background, the kind of people Gerry Adams refers to as his brothers and sisters? I suggest to the republican movement that only fascists would define their own family as people you murder and maim in their own ultimate interest.

The purpose of the IRA bombs in Lisburn on Monday was two-fold: first, to murder and maim the greatest possible number of people and second, to precipitate an end to the loyalist ceasefire. The fact that no warning was given is clear evidence of the IRA's intent. The second bomb was designed to kill those who survived the first, as well as those who went to their rescue. This is a tried and tested terror tactic. What better way to create panic and what better way to delay medical help and treatment for the injured.

This was wanton violence, a case study in terrorism which cannot be justified under any circumstances. The IRA's mealy-mouthed statement admitting responsibility was a case study in hypocrisy. I wonder why it took it a day to issue its statement. Perhaps it put the same care into syntax as it does into bomb-making, but there is at least one big lie in its statement. It lied about its intent to provoke loyalist paramilitaries.

The IRA desperately wants an end to the loyalist ceasefire and has set out in the most cynical and calculated way to achieve this end, yet the IRA seeks to portray itself as defending the Catholics of Northern Ireland. The reality is that the IRA defends no one. It is quite cynically seeking to use vulnerable Nationalists as a means of laundering its image. Such deceit, and such recklessness should not and cannot go unchallenged.

It is essential in the interests of unionism and democracy that the loyalist ceasefire is maintained and every support should be given to all those working to maintain it and to any genuine initiative within the republican movement to move away from the veto by the so called Army Council on democracy and progress. Political violence is morally wrong. It is futile, and simply adds to the cycle of grief, bitterness and hatred. The IRA knows this full well. It knows that there is no way that bombs and bullets can unite people except in fear and in death.

Yet the IRA persists with violence. It is not so stupid as to believe that it will bring Sinn Féin into all-party talks. No democratic party could agree to this sick proposition and the message must go out loud and clear from this House that Sinn Féin's participation in all-party talks is dependent on an unequivocal restoration of the IRA ceasefire and that IRA bombs invalidate Sinn Féin's democratic posturing.

The republication movement must be given no comfort on this score. It must be given no reason to believe that it can bomb its way into negotiations. The requirements which applied in relation to participation in the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation also apply to Sinn Féin's inclusion in all-party talks. Nothing said in this House should lead republicans to think otherwise. Inclusion in democratic negotiations requires adherence to democratic procedure and only to democratic procedure.

Nothing that has happened or has not happened at the current negotiations provides any justification for violence. It is true that the talks have been difficult and that it will require a determined effort on the part of all the participants to provide impetus to the negotiations.

The best response to the IRA bombs is to make that effort. Democracy must be seen to work. The legacy of the recent appalling summer must be overcome. We must not surrender to despair. All of us have the duty of hope and we must fulfil it.

It is true that the all-party talks have often been repetitive, tortuous and frustrating. They are likely to display these characteristics for the foreseeable future, but they are not a sham, they are not irrelevant. Their inconclusive nature is a thousand times better than the finality of a bomb or a shot from an armalite.

If we are to move forward we must of course, be governed by a sense of realism, but we must also, in the words of Jesse Jackson, keep hope alive. However, I would caution those who harbour the hope that the outcome of elections both here and in Britain will give them an advantage that they do not at present enjoy. The broad approach of both Governments enjoys bipartisan support in both Parliaments. There cannot be an accommodation with those who seek to maintain as an option the right to bomb.

Marking time until after the next election will not alter the fact that the fundamental issues to be resolved have been exhaustively explored and are well known. There are no blinding relevations waiting out there to transform our understanding of the tasks ahead. The legacies we share and the aspirations that have divided us will not changed in one year, five or even ten. Therefore, now is the time to address the substantive issues.

First there must be agreement on agendas for the remainder of the opening plenary session of the all-party talks and for the substantive negotiations. In particular, we need to find, once and for all, a way of dealing with the vexed question of decommissioning. Progress on this issue can only be made and has to be made alongside negotiations in the three strands. Our approach throughout has been firmly based on the report of the international body, no more no less, which recognised that there is an intimate connection between progress on decommissioning and progress on the political front and the growth of political confidence.

Decommissioning is, technically, a complex issue, requiring specialist involvement but politically it is basically a matter of trust. Trust will not be won either by jettisoning the question of arms altogether or by according decommissioning a symbolic primacy which is counter-productive in terms of achieving the overriding objective and actual goal of political agreement.

The two Governments have made proposals for the procedural handling of decommissioning in the opening plenary, which in our view are consistent with the Mitchell report and which, if adopted, would help clear the way for an early resolution of the opening phase of the negotiations and a move into talks on the real issues. If accepted these proposals would ensure that decommissioning forms a significant stream in the negotiating process. That is the realistic path to achieving progress on it.

Unionists have nothing to fear from entering negotiations proper. Their position is amply protected by a range of measures: the need for sufficient consensus among the participants before agreement on any proposition; the assurances given by both Governments in the Framework Document and repeated in the ground rules that the outcome of the negotiations will be put to referendum North and South, and the full acceptance by the Irish Government, and the overwhelming majority of Nationalists of the principle of consent.

It is vital for all the peoples of these islands that an honourable accommodation should be found to this chronic and costly conflict. That is a shared responsibility between both Governments and the political parties, Unionists as well as Nationalist. All of the parties in these islands have to prove by deeds as well as by words, their determination that the negotiations will succeed. Both Governments have a particular responsibility to ensure momentum. We need to rededicate ourselves to the success of the negotiations and to demonstrate strong and purposeful leadership, while at the same time remaining sensitive to the concerns and requirements of the parties. This Government, in particular, is eager to play its part in the development of trust and to meet with and respond to any parties which may be sceptical about our intentions and good faith.

Sinn Féin has to face the fact that dialogue is messy and difficult, with no assurance of easy or early agreement, but ultimately it is the only process which can bring agreement. Those people within Sinn Féin who have accepted the realities of political discourse have to persuade their more fundamentalist colleagues of these realities.

The loyalist parties have won widespread admiration for their sustained ceasefire and positive contributions to the political debate. It is vital for unionism and democracy that they continue to contribute at this level. The leaders of the loyalist parties have shown that it is possible to repudiate violence completely while maintaining, and indeed enhancing their political credibility, integrity and influence.

The IRA is out of step with the overwhelming majority of people on this island who reject violence. The republican movement would be very unwise to continue to flout the popular will. It should note the universal revulsion at the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe. There is very little tolerance in this State for political murder and even less acceptance for any supposed distinction between organised crime and political gangesterism.

Every opportunity has been provided to Sinn Féin to play a full part in democratic politics. This Government has done everything it possibly could to facilitate Sinn Féin's entry to the mainstream of politics. It has been given every possible assistance every step of the way and it has taken everything but returned nothing. Sinn Féin has not completed the journey. Instead, since 9 February it has marched to the beat of the IRA drum as a camp follower of violence.

Sinn Féin has to come clean with the Irish people. It can continue to operate as an instrument of IRA propaganda if it chooses or it can function as a democratic political party. There can be no more prevarication, no more posturing as peacemakers while acting like Pontius Pilate in relation to violence.

The Irish people, for their part, have made their choice clear. Their choice is for peace, political dialogue and an honourable accommodation in Northern Ireland. It is our duty as politicians to see that their wishes are respected.

I join the other Members in expressing my deep revulsion and condemnation of the bombing outrage perpetrated by the IRA in Lisburn last Monday. It is the grace of God that so far nobody has died as a result. That is not the way the IRA planned it. They placed two bombs with the second one timed to explode in a position where they knew casualities from the first one would be handled and dealt with. Two people are seriously injured and about eight others are still in hospital. We send the sympathies of this House to those who have suffered injuries.

The IRA betrayed the Irish people and besmirched the name of republicanism. We should make it clear, as has been done by all speakers this morning, that there is no place for violence in democratic politics — they do not and cannot mix. That incident and the 25 years of terrorism we have endured, other than the short respite we had for the last two years, clearly demonstrates there are responsibilities on terrorists to desist from their actions and for those elected in the democratic process to take action to ensure the political way forward is the right and successful one.

All parties must rally to support the Government. That is not to say we can be silenced from criticising the mistakes made. The Taoiseach said the widely presumed notion that the talks could ever have been speedy, reflect an inability or an unwillingness to understand and acknowledge the profound and the necessarily divisive nature of the issues that the talks set out to address. I fully agree with this. However, he went on to say these talks are about the nature of the State. They are about more than that. They are about a three strand relationship, how the people of these islands can arrive at a final resolution after hundreds of years and live in peace and prosperity together. They are about a resolution within Northern Ireland and the creation of institutions which will merit and receive the loyalty and consent of all the citizens within those boundaries. They are about the relationship between the Six Countries and the Republic — its Government and the people who live there. They are about the relationship between this island and our neighbours, with whom we have historic links, many of them through difficult and traumatic times. We are bound together by geography and many other things. We have to establish a proper relationship which will bridge the next century and millennium.

I am concerned at the apparent misunderstanding of the full nature of the situation, as displayed in the Taoiseach's speech. It appears he was unwittingly demonstrating his misunderstanding of the depth of feeling. I understand his continuous efforts to encourage the Unionist mentality and to continue to bend over backwards, which is admirable in his efforts to assure them they have nothing to fear. There has to be a balance between this and understanding the mindset, desires and aspirations of the Nationalist community. I fear that balance is sometimes lost.

The Taoiseach referred to the difficulty of the talks in his contribution, that they would never be speedy. The sheer complexity of the issues to be grasped means the Government should use its most experienced and competent team in negotiations and that there should be a level of continuity. The Government should re-examine the composition of the team.

Deputy Bertie Ahern constructively suggested last April that, considering the workload of the Tánaiste, the Taoiseach should seriously consider the composition of the team and the allocation of particular responsibilities in the peace process talks. It is important to concentrate our minds on this national issue. One is reminded of Herr Genscher, the German Foreign Minister, who was compared to God, except the difference was that God was everywhere and Herr Genscher was everywhere except Bonn. We know the Tánaiste sometimes has a godlike self-righteous air. His workload is such that he is everywhere but Dublin and Belfast. At this sensitive time we need continuity in relations to the talks process. I ask the Taoiseach to reconsider the composition of his team at the talks, to ensure we have the greatest level of expertise possible on a continuous basis. This is essential if we are to make progress.

I disagree with the Taoiseach's attitude when he says "colonial style imposed solutions will not work". There has to be leadership from both Governments. The process has to be driven forward by both Governments. They cannot stand back and allow themselves to be vetoed every step along the way by Messrs. Trimble, Paisley and McCartney. This process requires nothing less than the leadership referred to by the Taoiseach when he talked about what has been achieved — publication of the Joint Framework Document, detailed communiqués, ground rules, procedural guidelines and draft agendas for all party negotiations. We have not had one day of substantive talks. We have had much action but no achievement. Achievement is required at this stage to move the process forward. We need the type of leadership on this issue being given by my party leader, Deputy Ahern, who has called on both Prime Ministers not to have 15 minutes telephone calls or snatch moments at a Heads of Government meeting in Dublin, but to sit down face to face without something prepared by their civil servants and to act as political leaders by giving direction and initiative to this stalled process.

Deputy Ahern outlined six points which were worked out by our party's committee on Northern Ireland on the way forward at this critical time. He made the point that Government should not be influenced by the politics of the latest atrocity and that what was right a month ago is still right today. The terms on which Sinn Féin can take part in the talks should not be made more difficult as a result of what happened. Our view is that the IRA must restore its ceasefire. Second, in accordance with paragraph 4 of the Downing Street Declaration both Governments should establish a timeframe for talks and define the length of the period in which agreement should be reached. This is not colonial style as interpreted by the Taoiseach. It is leadership by Governments, not to be dragged back by the weakest link in the chain which is the backbenchers of the Conservative Party as they face into a general election. Leadership is required by our Taoiseach and the Government.

Third, it should be accepted, as we have argued all along, that decommissioning should be part of the talks process and not something on which prior agreement and movement are required. Decommissioning is essential. Senator Mitchell outlined how it could be handled and we have always supported him. Fianna Fáil was the only party on these islands that supported Senator Mitchell in advance of the publication of his report and we accepted what he said. Fourth, a liberal regime for the release of politically motivated prisoners, loyalist and republican, should be established when there is a clear commitment to a permanent peace. One of the tragedies of the last two years has been that the loyalist and republican prisoners who played such an important role in bringing about the peace process have not been rewarded for their role and support. What happened after the republican ceasefire of August 1994 and the loyalist ceasefire of Autumn 1994? In Christmas 1994, fewer prisoners were released than the previous year — totally illogical and insensitive; an act of political stupidity by the British Government and the Northern authorities. What happened? We have seen the process come under strain. We have seen bombs going off. What happened when the bomb went off in Canary Wharf? Something that could not be agreed, which was a date for talks, was suddenly agreed. We should not be sending those signals to terrorists. The last thing Governments should be seen to do is rewarding terrorism, but, quite bluntly, that is what happened after Canary Wharf. It should not have happened. It sent the wrong signals.

Fifth, action should be taken by the British Government independent of the talks process to enhance the quality and parity of esteem. This brings me to parades and the behaviour surrounding them. Work has to be done by the commission looking at parades to ensure that it makes an early decision and recommendation. Otherwise, if we get past Christmas into spring it will be too late for next year and we will have more incidents like Drumcree. Who wants to go through that again? We also believe that the British Government must build confidence and economic and social progress. We badly need that.

Sixth, multilateral talks often prove sterile. There is a case for conducting bilateral talks out of public view as done originally in the Middle East. There is also a case for moving the talks to a neutral location outside these islands. The need for that was illustrated by Deputy Ahern when he referred to the nonsense at the forum meeting in July when the Alliance Party did not attend. The only thing discussed by the Unionists was the size of a flag, where they would fly a flag and if a flag was to be flown, something that had been decided by the forum in advance.

I call on the Government to show leadership by calling for a summit between both Prime Ministers. I want to refer to yesterday's performance by the Labour Party in the European Parliament. Surely, there is no clearer indication of a lack of cohesion within the Government. We are attempting to give proper signals on the need for peace and reconciliation, the need for economic progress arising from that and the fact that there will be support for efforts towards peace and reconciliation from Europe, American and elsewhere, but what do we see in the actions of the Labour Party in terms of peace and reconciliation? The Vice-President of the Socialist Group in the parliament, a Labour Party representative from Dublin, is promoting a cut of £78 million in EU reconciliation funds for the North.

That is not correct. It is a misstatement.

The Deputy cannot deny this.

That happened yesterday and when it was brought to the Taoiseach's attention he did not know about it.

On a point of order——

Carlow-Kilkenny): The Deputy will be able to reply in a minute.

What the Deputy said is an absolute lie.

The EU Commissioner for Regional Affairs, Ms Monika Wulf-Mathies expressed her deep regret over a decision by the European Parliament's budget committee to propose a £78 million cut in the EU special peace and reconciliation fund for Northern Ireland. For the Government parties to send such a signal at this sensitive time is appalling and outrageous. We have a serious matter on our hands, the reestablishment of the peace process which the people of both islands treasured, and we need leadership at Government level. My party Leader, Deputy Bertie Ahern, has suggested six points of action to the Government in addition to calling for a summit between the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister. I ask the Government to listen. I acknowledge that it listened when we proposed the role for Senator Mitchell. On this occasion, on behalf of those who do not want to see the bomb and the bullet back in our society on a long-term basis, please listen again to the suggestions from my party leader.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Costello.

Acting Chairman:

I will remind the Deputy in ten minutes.

I would rather this debate was not taking place. Monday's bomb in Lisburn was the latest slap in the face from the IRA to those who have sought to build a meaningful peace process in the past four years. I was annoyed that Deputies Ahern and Burke cheapened their contributions by attacking the Tánaiste. It is unfair to attack a person who has probably done more than any other Deputy to build peace and reconciliation here. His involvement goes back a long way.

He said: "Albert, you are on your own".

His efforts go back to before Deputy Reynolds's time as Taoiseach. I have always acknowledged the role played by Deputy Reynolds in building the peace process and changing Fianna Fáil's attitude to Northern Ireland. Through his efforts he was able to persuade the Fianna Fáil Party who up to then always believed there was only one solution. He is the one man who acknowledged the principle of consent and how it should be applied to Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, others now seem to be moving away from that principle.

Deputy Ahern's leadership of Fianna Fáil is obviously under threat. He has always been very positive in regard to Northern Ireland and I hope no member of his party will try to force him, in his own interest, to drive a wedge between the Government and the Opposition on the tragedy of Northern Ireland. It is a tragedy which, unfortunately, will have its effect not only in the North and Britain but also in the South. We should try to encourage those who have committed acts of violence in recent months to move away from that line. I hope Deputy Ahern will not be forced by some of his mavericks to drive a wedge between the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and other members of Government in their pursuit of peace on this island.

I acknowledge that Deputy Reynolds, as Taoiseach, played a major role in regard to Northern Ireland. I also acknowledge that if it were not for the role of President Clinton and the American Government we would not be in the present position and would have gone down a road of total destruction.

Unfortunately, the people in mainstream Unionism, Mr. Trimble and Dr. Paisley, did everything in their power to ensure we would not resolve this problem. Not alone did they make it impossible for Nationalists to take their places at the table, they also attempted to prevent the other wing of Unionism or loyalism, the fringe parties who have played a major role, from taking their places. Having taken their places they then tried to have the fringe parties removed. Their contribution to the difficulties in Northern Ireland must be called into question. It certainly has not been positive. Perhaps in the next few days they will try to improve the position rather than condemn those who have attempted in recent years to build peace.

Whereas the British Government has made a major contribution in trying to bring both sides together, unfortunately it too has dragged its heels. Maybe it has difficulties. Maybe it is a lame duck Government which does not have the support of the majority in terms of the line taken by John Major, but the difficulties of Northern Ireland should be placed above the problems of the Conservative Party. Those problems should be set aside to ensure that whatever is necessary to continue the peace process is done.

I have always acknowledged that a considerable number of people in Sinn Féin have played a major role in leading that party and the broad republican family along the road of democratic politics. Unfortunately, there appears to be an element within that organisation who have yet to be convinced. It would be wrong of us to break links with the people who have taken great risks to bring those who do not concur around to their view. Nobody expects the IRA to bomb its way to the negotiating table, and deep down it does not believe that is the road to follow — certainly the vast majority in Sinn Féin do not believe it. Sinn Féin must take courage and tell those in the IRA that enough is enough, that they cannot continue to do what they are doing, plunging this country into a civil war.

People should listen very closely to what is being said by the loyalist paramilitaries. They can hold the line only for so long. They have taken great risks and are constantly under threat not only from the people on the opposite side of the fence but from within their own ranks. They need our support and that of the British Government. The British Government must help them by taking action on the prisoner issue. It was difficult for this Government to extract some small concessions in regard to Irish prisoners in British jails. The problem remains with loyalist prisoners and unless the British Government tries to alleviate that problem it will contribute to plunging this country into a civil war.

In recent years the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation was set up in an effort to build bridges between the various communities. It is a tragedy that because of the actions of the Provisional IRA at Canary Wharf, that body ceased to function. Whereas it was being perceived by some as a pan-nationalist front, it was far from it. There was an opportunity to bring Sinn Féin into mainstream politics and to debate the problems with them. It was an opportunity for them to realise that there were people with a different view which would have to be taken on board in any agreement on Ireland which might be reached over the coming years. Unfortunately, that is not now taking place because of what happened.

I appeal to members of Sinn Féin who believe that there is only one way, the democratic way, to impress upon their people in the broader republican family, i.e. the IRA, that there can be no solution in the way they are going. Tell them to stop in the name of the people of Ireland for God's sake. They must take that leadership role. It is not enough for any of us to get into the politics of condemnation. We want to see a pro-active approach from the leadership of Sinn Féin to bring those people on board and not to allow them to bring the rest of us into the depths of a civil war.

I hope that all sides of this House will remain at one in the interests of building peace and reconciliation on this island, instead of having cheap shots at one another.

I considered it sordid and demeaning to this debate that Deputy Burke should tell an outrageous lie by alleging that Bernie Malone, a Labour Party MEP, was promoting a cut in the European Union's funds.

Acting Chairman:

The Deputy cannot used the word "lie".

Did the Deputy read today's edition of The Irish Times?

He knows that he has demeaned this debate by making that outrageous allegation.

Acting Chairman:

I remind the Deputy that he cannot use the word "lie". He will have to rephrase it.

It was certainly very remote from the truth. It is an outrageous allegation.

The Deputy should read today's edition of The Irish Times.

The situation now developing in Northern Ireland is quite clearly a tragedy. In the summer of 1994, when the ceasefire was announced, we had tremendous hope. All parts of this country and the world were hopeful that at last we would reach an end to the terrible tragedy that has dominated Northern Ireland for so many decades. We hoped that people would be serious about getting down to basic dialogue and removing whatever hurdles might be there rather than promoting them. In the intervening two years we have gone from crisis to crisis while meeting one obstacle after another. It has been almost impossible to make any real headway.

I have been involved in trying to do something concerning Irish republican prisoners in Britain and elsewhere. Both loyalist and republication prisoners were instrumental in bringing about the ceasefire in the first place. Wide ranging consultations took place with them and they were almost unanimously in favour of the ceasefire declaration which was initially made by republicans in August 1994 and by loyalists in October of that year.

In the summer of 1995 and again at Christmas that year, I visited Whitemoor, Belmarsh and Full Sutton prisons in Britain. I made the visits as part of a Labour Party delegation which included Deputy Broughan, Deputy Bree and Senator Maloney. The visit was made at the request of the prisoners themselves.

The most serious situation we experienced was at Whitemoor where prisoners were incarcerated in an isolation unit. They were on a dirty protest at the time and were held in windowless rooms. The lights flickered on during the night so that the prisoners could not get any sleep. They were not allowed any exercise or recreation and were given their food to eat without cutlery. One prisoner, who was vegetarian, received large portions of meat covering the vegetables at every meal. The situation was pretty outrageous but, thankfully, a stop was put to it when we brought it to the attention of the authorities.

These prisoners had been at the heart of getting the ceasefire up and running but this type of response was seen as demeaning. Instead of responding to the initiative that had been taken, the authorities appeared begrudging and seemed to be introducing worse conditions than those previously in operation.

In November 1995 the Transfer of Sentenced Persons legislation was introduced and it has now been operating for almost 12 months. During that period only two prisoners have been transferred from England under the legislation. They are Paddy Kelly, who is grievously ill with cancer, and Brendan O'Dowd, who has already served 23 years of his sentence. The legislation has been operating painfully slowly. Our Department of Justice has indicated its willingness to receive all republican prisoners currently in British prisons, yet only two have been transferred. That shows an incredible lack of commitment by the Home Secretary and the British authorities. It is actually undermining the peace process.

I saw Paddy Kelly last Friday in Portlaoise prison and his medical condition is quite serious. He has four new growths on his body; one on his back, two under his arms in the glandular area and, perhaps most seriously, one on his groin. If the growths spread to his liver he will have three to five months left. He will enter hospital tomorrow for surgery to remove the growths. He was transferred after much pressure and because the cancer seemed to the authorities to be terminal. He is one of only two prisoners to have been transferred which is a totally inadequate response to the prisoners' families and the prisoners themselves.

We will travel to Britain again at the end of this months for a further visit to mark the anniversary of the Transfer of Sentenced Persons legislation. The visit will underline the need to respond in a meaningful fashion to the prisoners' requirements and those of their families. That in itself will underpin some progress towards getting the ceasefire back on the rails.

Equally, loyalist prisoners have expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of progress that has taken place since they declared a ceasefire almost two years ago. The authorities have not responded in the way that should have been expected if people were serious about removing hurdles from the path to progress in the peace process.

The second area on which I can speak from experience concerns the marches and parades in Northern Ireland this summer. A Labour Party delegation was at Drumcree, the Lower Ormeau Road and Derry for the Orange marches and the Apprentice Boys' parade. My experiences at Drumcree and the Lower Ormeau Road were some of the worst I have ever had. There was a total breakdown of law and order at Drumcree. The forces of law and order literally stood idly by while Orange thugs patrolled the streets surrounding Drumcree and did what they liked. They brought equipment into the area along with munitions. After four or five days the situations was so volatile that the RUC chief constable probably had no choice but to allow, or to force, the march through. When it eventually took place there was unnecessary violence. Mr. Trimble and Dr. Paisley behaved in a most provocative manner and failed to give leadership.

The Apprentice Boys were much more cohesive and disciplined and entered into negotiations with the Nationalist community and community organisations to reach agreement on the proposed routes with the result that the expected conflict and confrontation did not materialise in Derry, as it did on the Lower Ormeau Road in Belfast and Drumcree. I hope the new commission will come up with a set of guidelines which will be underpinned by consultation on both sides.

The response of loyalist leaders in recent days has been very positive. They have strongly urged their members in a wonderful example of leadership not to do anything rash. I hope Sinn Féin will do the same and say to the IRA that there is no future in breaking the ceasefire and plunging Northern Ireland into another wave of bombings and killings.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Joe Walsh.

Acting Chairman:

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I am glad to have this opportunity to contribute to the debate. There was a row across the floor about the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation moneys. It was suggested the socialist group in the European Parliament did not support the proposals that these moneys should be slashed this year. It did. It is now being suggested that it was a housekeeping exercise. In the region of £78 million has been diverted to depressed steel and textile regions following acceptance of a proposal from the socialists group.

It was said that the take-up of moneys was slow. For the past six months at least at Taoiseach's Question Time Deputy after Deputy on this side of the House raised the way in which funds have been disbursed in Border areas. ADM and the Combat Poverty Agency were given responsibility for the programme by the Government. I attended an all party meeting at which the Members who represent Border areas decided to ask the Government to arrange to redirect some of these moneys to Border areas where they are badly needed to put proper industrial infrastructure in place to give us a boost. As Deputy Bradford is aware, when I raised the matter at the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body Mr. Séamus Mallon concurred with me but nobody took any notice of what Oireachtas Members were saying.

On the breakdown of the peace process, like all other speakers, I condemn the IRA for bringing us back to the brink. The word "betrayal" has been used. This sense of betrayal is felt just as much on this side as on the other side of the House. Deputy Brian Fizgerald referred to the Tánaiste's record, but many people took risks in initiating the process. It is for that reason many on this side of the House feel a sense of betrayal at the way the IRA has ruined it.

I participated in the first direct talks with Sinn Féin in 1988 at a time when it was extremely difficult to meet. On the morning we were due to meet Sinn Féin eight soldiers in a bus were blown up. We wanted to convince Sinn Féin there was a better way, a constitutional route, to achieve its aims and that it should do what my party did at the end of the Civil war. Sinn Féin also believed it should do this. We were never sure whether it could bring the hard men of the organisation with it.

Nothing happened until September 1994 when the hawks and the doves in the organisation came together to agree an IRA ceasefire. For 18 months in private and in public, particularly when I was co-chairman of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body, I spent endless hours trying to cajole people to take the constitutional route. I could not understand why their confidence was undermined. There was no movement. As Deputy Costello rightly said, the prisoners on both sides, one of the main elements in putting together the peace strategy, were abused. Instead of making life easier for them it was made more difficult.

There were warning signals of which my party was acutely aware. We were always fearful however that in raising the matter in the House, particularly at Taoiseach's Question Time, we would be accused of being too hard on the Government. Deputy Fitzgerald alleged that in some way we are trying to drive a wedge between the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach but nothing could be further from the truth. My party leader put it extremely well about six months ago. Even then the outlook was bleak. He said that because of the EU Presidency the Tánaiste unfortunately would not be in a position to have a hands on approach.

We have tried our best to cajole the Government into taking action. From speaking to people, including non-politicians, who were involved from the outset in developing the Nationalist consensus — it is clear that what hit the nail on the head was the Taoiseach's refusal to meet John Hume and Gerry Adams when such a meeting was requested. That refusal sent out the wrong signal to the people whom Gerry Adams had been trying to convince to follow the constitutional route. It was the death-knell of the consensus we tried to encourage whereby the SDLP and Sinn Féin in the North, and the main Nationalist opinion in the South — normally portrayed by Fianna Fáil — came together. That process was based on the belief that there would be a compromise among those parties. There was such a compromise but, unfortunately, it was rebuffed not only by Unionists but by Unionism, backed up by the British Government whose spokesperson, Mr. Mayhew, stated in the House of Commons that he could not force the Unionists to the table. That attitude persists to the present day and it is the reason our leader asks the Taoiseach to insist on a summit between the two Governments. History has proved that the only way a British Prime Minister will come to the table, and entice others to come to the table, is by exerting pressure but, unfortunately, that was not exerted in the past two years.

I attended a British-Irish Association conference in Cambridge the weekend the IRA called its ceasefire. During one session, mainly middle class Unionists spoke about the future. I was astounded at their attitude when they said that until every bomb and bullet is handed over, they would not talk to Sinn Féin. I did not participate in the discussion for some time because I felt it was mainly a Northern interest discussion, but I eventually said I could not believe what I was hearing. I told them that for the first time in 26 years they were facing the possibility of peace in their part of this island, yet they were not prepared to go forward in a positive way.

A year ago in Cardiff I attended a meeting of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body at which Mr. Ancram was questioned. I questioned him on the phrase "some decommissioning" which had been used by him. He could not tell me what he meant by "some decommissioning", but Mr. Trimble uses such language even to this day.

The Taoiseach may say otherwise but I am absolutely convinced the attitudes portrayed at that meeting of the British-Irish Association, and the attitude of Mr. Ancram last year, reflected a Unionist agenda.

Many people were taken with the six principles in the Mitchell document, which was painstakingly put together. Paragraph 15 of that document, however, is the most important of all. It states:

But a resolution of the decommissioning issue — or any other issue — will not be found if the parties resort to their vast inventories of historical recrimination. Or, as it was put to us several times, what is really needed is the decommissioning of mind-sets in Northern Ireland.

Roy Magee once used the phrase "decommissioning of the tongues". Paragraph 18 of the Mitchell document states:

However the issue of decommissioning is resolved, that alone will not lead directly to all-party negotiations. Much work remains on the many issues involved in the political track. The parties should address those issues with urgency.

What have we seen for the duration of the talks? The Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, who is in the Chamber, has participated in the talks. I do not envy him his task. We talk about consent, to which Deputy Fitzgerald referred. Consent is important but one man's consent is another man's veto. "Compromise" is the correct word to use. There has been compromise on the Nationalist side but, unfortunately, there has not been any compromise on the Unionist side. That is the reason the talks process is not moving forward. Unionists know if they move forward they will have to compromise. The ultimate fault in that respect lies with the British Government because it is not prepared to tell Unionists they have to compromise, and that they must live with the Nationalists on this island.

We constantly talk about the three strand process but I question the commitment of the Unionist parties, particularly the Ulster Unionist Party, to the three strand process because it issued its own document where, in effect, it wanted to jettison the North-South institutions and establish its own bodies which would have no effect. Unionists must be forced to recommit themselves to the three strand process if we are to move forward.

I have always tended to be optimistic about Northern Ireland but in recent months I have been extremely pessimistic. The reason we are at this impasse is because the two Governments reduced the pressure in the past two years. That is a shame.

I support holding this debate on the current situation in Northern Ireland. The escalating polarisation of the two communities in the North is a source of the most acute alarm and concern for all who have a deep commitment to the future stability and well-being of all the peoples of this island and our neighbouring island. It challenges the strength of our democratic institutions.

The nature of the challenge is both clear and formidable. Before addressing the precise nature of the challenge and the options open to us to do everything in our power to restore peace and hope, I will comment briefly on the general political response to the atrocity at Lisburn on Tuesday last.

In general we heard the usual totally justifiable criticism of the cruelty and cynicism of the bombing. I am deeply concerned, however, about the almost total reliance on facile condemnation by certain politicians. Such a response is totally inadequate and seriously undersells the potential of our political system to successfully tackle the problem. It goes almost without saying that everybody committed to the political process in managing a society repudiates the use of violence in solving problems. It is barbaric, out of date and there is no place for it. We must go on from here because our commitment to the concept of society is meaningless if we do not fully recognise the intrinsic value, integrity and dignity of every human life. Similarly, we are committed to taking every possible step to ensure the safety of all individuals. Such a philosophy is an implicit part of the mind-set of every person who works for the common good.

While it is both necessary and reassuring for many people to hear politicians reiterate their total abhorrence of violence, it must be but a first step in responding to the appalling crisis in the North. For the remainder of my contribution I will focus almost exclusively on what I consider to be the predominant necessity. This involves encouraging every possible effort and initiative which will reopen the door to peace and social cohesion in Northern Ireland and encourage a move away from the sterile and utterly failed policies of violent conflict and bigotry.

It is absolutely necessary to acknowledge the tremendous benefits of goodwill and diplomacy which yielded such a welcome dividend in August 1994. Up to that time — for nearly a quarter of a century — we had a dreadful and depressing sequence of atrocity, condemnation, further atrocity and further condemnation. Very many people both inside and outside political life in Ireland and the UK made outstanding efforts to move those committed to violent struggle in the direction of peace. That was not an easy job. We have to salute the leadership of people like John Hume, Albert Reynolds, Gerry Adams and John Major, because they were pivotal in the process which resulted in the attainment of the much longed for ceasefire of the main protagonists in Northern Ireland.

As well as providing an atmosphere of peace and hope, the ceasefire had one other major side benefit, particularly from the perspective of southern Nationalists. That was the emergence of leaders like Billy Hutchinson, Gary McMichael in particular, and David Ervine. It was refreshing to hear those people who steadfastly pursued the Unionist line in Northern Ireland but who did not reiterate the same old line of the traditional Unionists. That was a welcome development because they communicated a message which, while reaffirming a strong commitment to the political and cultural allegiances of the Unionist people of Northern Ireland, also acknowledged explicitly a clear acceptance of the rights of the Northern Nationalist minority to their beliefs and aspirations. After a generation of listening to the appalling sectarian and bigoted utterances of a number of Unionist representatives, perhaps best epitomised by the leader of the DUP, the clear acceptance of the need for inclusiveness and understanding shown by the new Unionist leaders has been extremely welcome. The future of Northern Ireland, indeed the totality of these islands, can and will be secured if we make every possible effort to build on the very many positive signs of willingness to accept change, particularly among those people I mentioned.

We have to recognise that there is not normal democracy in the North. There are two divided communities, and those people who talk about majorities and minorities have the story wrong from the start. How is it that local communities and councils can, at that level, do positive and constructive work whereas in the national fora they cannot agree even on an agenda? I suggest strongly that in the medium and long term we pursue local government in the development of the whole political process in the North. It has been shown to work there to the very great benefit of both communities.

I propose to share my time with Deputy Paul Bradford. It would be deeply regrettable if the decommissioning issue were to prevent the peace negotiations from moving ahead to explore the lines of a possible agreement. For that reason, and because of the limited time available to me, I will confine my remarks to that subject, although I would like to deal with some other matters as well.

A key and essential objective of the negotiations must be the complete removal of the gun from Irish politics. Indeed, the six Mitchell principles on which the talks are founded require commitment to the verifiable disarmament of all paramilitary arms. The question is not, therefore, whether all weapons should be decommissioned but, rather, how this goal can best be achieved. Full decommissioning will only come about on a voluntary basis. This necessarily requires the co-operation of those actually in possession of the weapons. No matter how desirable it may be, decommissioning cannot with any plausibility be instantly demanded irrespective of the political context.

Viewed from this perspective, the decommissioning question could certainly have been better handled during 1995. Unattainable criteria were set and served both to reduce Nationalist confidence and to foster unrealistic Unionist expectations. Nevertheless the international body established by the two Governments chaired by Senator George Mitchell plotted a way out of this morass. It did so with great skill and balance. It is clear that decommissioning can happen only on a mutual basis, that is, through the involvement of both sets of paramilitaries. That mutuality will, plainly, only be possible if all parties are present at the negotiations and believe that they have been fairly involved in reaching a favourable compromise.

Actual decommissioning will only take place, therefore, as a result of intensive discussions running alongside political negotiations in which both Sinn Féin and the two loyalist parties are full participants. To insist, as some are doing, on unworkable decommissioning preconditions is, in essence, to ensure that decommissioning can never happen. That would be a great irony in itself.

The proposal, put confidentially by the two Governments to the Ulster Unionist Party, reiterated our commitment to work with all other participants in the negotiations to implement all aspects of the international body's report, that is, the body chaired by former Senator George Mitchell. We suggested that a committee be established to work to secure that goal, operating in parallel with the substantive political negotiations. As a demonstration of our good faith and determination to ensure that there would be no blockages on our part, our Government and the British Government have said they would introduce enabling decommissioning legislation in their respective parliaments. Details of that legislation were spelled out very clearly to the Unionist parties so that as progress is made on political issues the legislative framework would be enacted, if necessary, by Christmas. We would also make available a range of expert personnel, including independent experts of international standing who, it is envisaged, would play an appropriate part in the work of a verification commission when that is subsequently established.

Despite all this, and the compromises which it involved, regrettably, the Ulster Unionist Party responded to this proposal by calling a press conference and publishing its own proposals which, in essence, look for agreement to be reached on an entire and timetabled decommissioning scheme in advance of any substantive debate on political issues. It has also demanded that, following the entry of Sinn Féin to the negotiations after an IRA ceasefire, there should be, during a so-called catch-up period, a first instalment of actual decommissioning before it could enter into political negotiations. This would, in essence, involve a return to the so-called Washington III criterion, involving substantial up front decommissioning ahead of any talks, and would depart radically from the report of the international body. Such a departure would have as its effect not the achievement of decommissioning but the destruction of the prospect of ongoing inclusive negotiations.

The only realistic way to achieve the decommissioning which we all want is to advance on the basis of all aspects of the Mitchell report. This Government would welcome total decommissioning tomorrow. To the utmost possible extent we will do all we can to disarm paramilitaries through the actions of our security forces, but we must not confuse that necessary exercise with the goal of voluntary decommissioning by those who hold illegal weapons. Unionists may say that instead of engaging with them we are, despite many rebuffs, continuing to woo Sinn Féin. They may say that we have to make a choice between one or the other. We reject totally the necessity of any such choice. We want to engage with the Unionists. We were ready to get into substantive negotiations back in June, with or without Sinn Féin's presence, and we remain ready now.

None of the delays in moving the process forward can be attributed to our Government and I can say that with great personal conviction having been involved in practically all of those negotiations. Nor do we ask for any special treatment for Sinn Féin. There has to be an unequivocal restoration of the IRA ceasefire. Moveover, it would clearly be necessary for Sinn Féin, like everyone else, to make clear its commitment to the six Mitchell principles and to advance all aspects of the Mitchell report alongside meaningful negotiations. Clearly the recent actions of the IRA continue to widen the credibility gap which Sinn Féin itself will ultimately have to confront and overcome.

The factors which led us to seek an inclusive process in the first place involving all the parties to the conflict remain valid today. It may be that such a process will prove impossible to create, not least if republicans are unable to make a commitment to peaceful and democratic means. It behoves the rest of us not to make decommissioning an obstacle, to stymie those inclusive negotiations which, in the end, are the only means of achieving decommissioning. In these difficult times and circumstances the responsibility on democratic political leaders to offer a way forward and to demonstrate the primacy of politics over the bullet and the bomb is compelling and absolute.

Time is running out and there is no doubt the negotiations are in difficulty. We are in a very frustrating process. We took a long time to get by the rules of procedure but that was done. We are locked in discussions about decommissioning but we need to enter into real negotiations on the substantive issues in the three strands and we need to do it quickly and to prove that compromise and political accommodation are possible because the alternative is chaos and a return to the nightmare of the past 25 years.

Since the ceasefire of September 1994 this is the third or fourth occasion on which we have had a substantive political debate on the Northern Ireland issue. Apart from the debate which took place in the aftermath of the IRA ceasefire in 1994, on each occasion since we have been speaking about a situation that has deteriorated to a certain extent. There were doubts and fears about the future of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

One aspect of the problem which has been of concern was that the expectations in 1994 would always be difficult to realise. Everybody was absolutely thrilled with the decision to call a ceasefire in 1994 but too many people felt that the problems not simply of 25 years warfare but of 800 years could disappear in a short few months or years. That was never going to be the position. Doubts can be cast about how matters proceeded over the past two years and some will say progress was slow. That is a valid criticism. On the other side of the equation we have to recognise that too many of us expected that problems which were generations old could be solved in a few weeks or months. It could not be done in 1994, it cannot be done in 1996 and it will not be done in 1997. Anyone who expects there is a new way forward and that we can find a magic formula that will come like a thunderbolt and dissolve the problems of generations is living in cloud cuckooland. The factors which prevailed in 1996 are the same as those which existed in the 1980s and in the 1990s — a divided community, a divided people, doubts, fears and threats. Those are the factors we have to deal with today and they are no different from those which prevailed in the summer of 1994. It requires time, patience, political skill and goodwill all round and let us hope we have those qualities in abundance.

I listened with interest to Deputy Dermot Ahern who spoke about the Nationalist consensus which was gradually built up over a number of years and which, in a sense, came to fruition in the summer of 1994. He felt a very wrong signal was given to that overall Nationalist consensus when the Taoiseach refused to meet Gerry Adams and John Hume during the summer of 1995. That point has been made by a number of commentators. That sort of wrong signal on the part of the Government would surely pale into insignificance in comparison with the wrong signals which are given every time a bomb explodes, a punishment beating takes place or a ceasefire breaks down.

The Government must reach out as far as possible to the Nationalist people of Northern Ireland who have always felt isolated and under threat. Equally representatives of militant republicanism have a duty to reach out to the Unionist community in Northern Ireland and not to give the type of wrong signal which the bomb and the bullet give. There will always be faults all round and there will be a requirement always to be critical of all sides. The worst signal that can be given from any side is that of the bomb or the bullet and that is why the events of the past week have been so damaging both in the short term and in the long term.

It is always necessary, and it was absolutely necessary this week, that the Taoiseach and the Government be strong in their words of condemnation concerning what happened in Lisburn. There can be no part in a new Ireland for the politics of bombs and bullets. We are being repetitive when we say that but we have to keep saying it because apparently some people are not listening. Progress was not made on any side during 25 years of terrible warfare in Northern Ireland and it will not be made by that means over the next 25 years.

We have to recognise there will not be a military solution to the problem of Northern Ireland. It is important that both Governments, both police forces, and everyone involved in security throughout the island should remain vigilant and try to do everything possible to deal with the security risk to the people and to the State. There is an onus to protect the security of the State. We have to realise also there will not be a military solution to the problem of Northern Ireland. While there is even one man on the mountain with a dangerous dream and an armalite in his hand there will always be a military problem which can be resolved only by political methods and means.

I add my strong words of condemnation of what happened during the week. I condemn it out of hand. It has nothing to do with the building of a new Ireland. We have to reach beyond condemnation and try to reach forward towards a political settlement. Reference was made here to changing the mindsets and decommissioning but we have to make that extra effort to understand the mindsets of the people who feel they can make political progress through bombs and bullets. We in this House find that difficult to understand because we condemn that concept totally. That mindset which is unfortunately prevalent in a strong minority of people will have to be tackled. Until that mindset is changed there will be always the one man or woman willing to let off a bomb or to fire a bullet. That will always cause political problems until we can change that mindset.

We must continue to reach out in an even-handed fashion to Unionists and Nationalists. Both communities are part of the problem and must be part of the solution. The two communities have made progress in recent years but they have also shown glaring weaknesses and a lack of willingness to compromise and understand. The failure of the Unionist community in this respect is sadly evident, particularly from a political perspective. There is an unwillingness by their political masters to accept what has been the position of the Government for the past 25 years, that is the policy of consensus which was so clearly enunciated in the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Joint Framework Document and Downing Street Declaration. What more does the Government have to do and what more does the public have to say to reassure Unionists that we have no desire to force them into a united Ireland through the bomb and bullet?

I believe ordinary Unionists are much more advanced than their political representatives. I accept that during the elections in Northern Ireland last spring the Unionist electorate showed a marked willingness to vote for the traditional Unionist parties rather than the newer and more progressive Unionist parties. However, when a community feels under threat, as the Unionist community in Northern Ireland obviously does, people tend to vote for certainty, conservatism and extremism rather than the more moderate middle ground.

I am unhappy with the leadership being given to ordinary Unionists who I believe are willing to try to carve out a new future. The majority of Unionists realise that they will not be forced into a united Ireland and that this is not part of the Government's plan. However, their leadership does not share the same advanced thinking and is not willing to take part in real and genuine negotiations.

On the other side of the equation, Nationalists and, in particular, the representatives of militant nationalism in the North, must show the same willingness. Some speakers said that Nationalists had made some compromises. This is true to some extent but until such time as the leaders of militant nationalism, namely Sinn Féin, put on record their acceptance that there can be no military victory over Unionists and that there can only be a political settlement and solution it will be difficult to get everyone to the talks table.

I join with other speakers in calling for a new IRA ceasefire. While the talks process is not making progress as quickly as we would wish it is still the only way forward. I encourage both Governments and political parties in the North to show the necessary imagination and courage and to make the necessary compromises to give us a new and better Ireland.

Ócáid an-bhrónach é seo go gcaithfimid labhairt uair amháin eile ar chúrsaí an Tuaiscirt taréis áir agus uafáis.

Ní hé an chéad uair dúinn a bheith ag caint ar an ábhar seo sa Dáil. Faraoir géar tá gach seans ann go mbeimid ag caint ar an ábhar céanna amach anseo.

É sin ráite tá go leor oibre le déanamh againn. Tá díomá an-mhór orm faoin gcineál cainte atá ar bun ag lucht an Rialtais. Is cosúil taréis an méid seo ama nach bhfuil bun-tuiscint fós ar nádúr na bhfadhbanna atá romhainn agus ar an ghá atá ann go dtiocfaidh athru ar gach taobh den aighneas seo.

Tá súil agam áfach go ndéanfaidh daoine mactnamh domhain ar na fadhbanna atá romhainn agus go dtiocfaí aníos le freagraí nua seachas seanchaint.

Dá ndéanfaí é sin is mó i bhfad a dhéanfaimís leis an tsíocháin a chur ar bun sa tír seo ná mar a dhéanfaimís tré a bheith i gcomhnaí ag tromaíocht ar thaobh amháin agus ar phobal amháin gan fadhbanna an phobail sin a thuiscint.

I am opposed to and condemn all violence irrespective of where it comes from. The bombing in Lisburn this week was wrong from a moral and tactical point of view. Violence has many sources and natures and to selectively condemn violence from one side without understanding the underlying violence of the whole society that is Northern Ireland is to ignore the problem and not bring about a solution.

I hope Sinn Féin has the confidence to see that it can achieve much more through democratic politics, by mobilising Nationalist opinion and by trying to persuade those who see the UK as a better alternative to an independent Ireland that they are wrong. It would make much progress in the long term by going this road. I have been open and unequivocal in my promotion of this idea over a long period.

We will not solve the problem by engaging in ritual condemnation. We can only solve the problem if we understand the fundamental nature of it. The problem is that approximately half the community in the sub-state of Northern Ireland does not feel any natural allegiance to the ruling state. Words such as "terrorism" are used in relation to the North. These types of emotive words are purposely designed to convey a certain idea. The one thing we can never get away from in regard to the North is that there is a largely disaffected Nationalist community, a large number of whom vote for Sinn Féin because they fundamentally disagree with the position in which they have been placed, a position which they regard as essentially anti-democratic. British Ministers constantly refer to the "greater number", but to have rigged the numbers in the first place is an insult to the intelligence of Nationalist Ireland. It also puts back the day when a solution can be found to the problem.

I hope even at this stage that Sinn Féin can persuade the IRA there is only one way forward and that as a united people working with our Unionist fellow Irish people we can achieve much more than we ever can with the bomb and bullet. Since the 1994 ceasefire — which I believe most people privately accept caught it on the hop — the British Government has done everything in its power to convince everybody and, in particular the IRA, that the opposite is true.

I have often had arguments with prisoners about the effectiveness of violence. They are very quick to point out that nothing happened until after the Canary Wharf bombing. It is very difficult to argue that point when it is put straight to you face to face. They point to that incident in arguing that the British Government understands only one language. When the opportunities were available and there was no violence, there was no movement. There was only obstructionism and the creation of total stagnation.

On Monday, before the bomb exploded in Lisburn, a radio commentator asked me whether I would prefer if the talks were suspended until after the British general election or, alternatively, if they broke down. I replied that neither scenario was acceptable, that stagnation of that kind promoted the feeling common among Nationalists that the talks are going nowhere and that the belief that everything in Ireland must await the convenience of English politics had undermined the peace process. I drew an analogy with a person riding a bicycle and I stated that when the bicycle is going forward there is reasonable stability but when it begins to slow down it begins to wobble. Essentially, that is what happened with the peace process. When the rate of progress slowed down and there was no movement on a bill of rights, the issue of prisoners, changes to the court system and the other injustices involved in this situation, the entire peace process came off the rails.

I received a letter dated 12 September 1996 from Joe O'Connell, a prisoner in Full Sutton Prison, a week after I visited him. I quote:

My own view as regards the ceasefire is that it should never have been called off and I've stated as much in a letter published in AP/RN last February and nothing that's happened since has changed my view that it was a bad decision by the IRA to return to the armed phase. I am more than hopeful at the moment that the IRA will restore its ceasefire before too long.

That is very interesting when one realises the Joe O'Connell was removed from Full Sutton Prison within the week and placed in solitary confinement in Liverpool. He is known to write publicly to newspapers on his own behalf to promote the peace process. A prisoner who has realised, and publicly stated, that the peace process is the only way forward is suffering punishment for his beliefs in British prisons. He has already served 20 years in prison. How can we persuade his colleagues that he is on the right track when this sort of thing happens to those who openly support peace? How can they be persuaded that there is justice under British rule? It is very difficult to do so. If we want to understand the IRA and the republican mentality in Northern Ireland, we must understand these realities. How can we explain to Joe O'Connell that that is what he gets for his trouble when someone such as Lee Clegg is released from prison after four years?

Having destroyed the republican ceasefire by procrastination, the use of completely unfair and illegal treatment, delaying every possible process, refusing the transfer of a 70 year old man due for release next January and sitting on every other prisoner transfer until taken to court, the British have done their best to destroy what was the greatest moment in our history: the dawning of peace. I hope they listened to Pastor Ian Major speaking on RTÉ radio this morning who stated that there should be immediate movement on the issue of the loyalist prisoners. Having broken one ceasefire, will the British persist in refusing to give anything to the loyalists and recognise the difficulties in which the loyalist paramilitaries find themselves? Will the British once again draw them back into violence? In its dealings with this country, is it beyond the wit of the British Government to understand the nature of the problem we face and have the wisdom to see that much more will be achieved to bring about peace through generosity of spirit than through tough security measures?

Over the years, many Members have correctly paid tribute to the late Senator Gordon Wilson. I believe he was and is worthy of every tribute ever paid him. What made him so different from other people was that, in the hour of crisis, instead of calling for revenge and increased security measures, he held out the hand of friendship to those who hurt his nearest and dearest. If we believe he was right and did more for peace in Ireland than all the security measures in place, surely the greatest testament we could build to his memory would be to act with generosity and stop trying to solve a political problem through security methods.

The speech by the Taoiseach this morning does not contain many new ideas. The Government continues to discuss a solution to this problem with or without the republicans in the North and with or without Sinn Féin. Someone pointed out a number of years ago that if talking to the Alliance Party would solve the Northern Ireland problem there would be no problem because that party was never involved in violence. We must face the political reality in the North. We must acknowledge that because of its creation and maintenance and its legacy of discrimination, many people see the legitimacy of using violence to protect their interests.

Most states and peoples throughout the world do not rule out the use of violence in all circumstances. I hope that people in Ireland do rule out its use. As a nation, a state or a people, the British — and other peoples throughout the world — do not rule out the use of violence when what they consider their vital interests are challenged. Let us recognise it as a political problem and develop political solutions. There must be all-party talks. There is no point in not talking to all the parties. We must reach that point and create the circumstances for doing so in a positive way, not by erecting bogus barriers such as decommissioning. We must remove the various difficulties to reach all-party negotiations. Those must be real negotiations with a fixed time limit. They must not be permitted to continue year after year thereby breaking the patience of those trying to move away from the path of violence towards a political solution.

The situation of Northern Unionists is not the same as that of the Nationalist community when it comes to talks. Unlike the Nationalists, they are represented at the talks by, as they see it, their legitimate Government. Their input to the talks must be predicated and the final decision on their position must rest with what they recognise as their sovereign Government. If the Nationalists in the North had a part in electing this Parliament, I would say the same to them. Irrespective of party allegiances, everyone in this House accepts the right of the Government to negotiate on our behalf because the people we represent have a part in electing that Government and believe it represents them.

Similarly, the Unionists believe they are citizens of the United Kingdom and that it is a legitimate state. As democratically elected politicians they have to bow to the will of their parliament and Government. Unfortunately, because of the creation of that state the Nationalists, particularly republicans, who have never accepted its legitimacy, are not in a similar position. They do not have an opportunity to elect Members to this House and they do not recognise the British Government as their legitimate Government. That is why they must be directly represented at the talks.

We talk of democracy and peace. As Deputy Flaherty stated from the Government benches, the British have undermined democracy. We have tried to build faith in democracy and some of us even went to the trouble of visiting prisoners to explain the democratic route. We argued for the democratic route and said we could bring about change democratically. One of the greatest tragedies of the past two and a half years was the manner in which representations, made by democratically elected politicians in this House, about serious miscarriages of justice in respect of republican prisoners were ignored. Undermining democracy in that way helps feed the beliefs of those in the republican movement who have always believed in violence. It strengthens their hand against those arguing for a new way. If we are serious about trying to achieve peace, the three major protagonists must see that the way forward is through generosity.

I hope the loyalists and Unionists stay their hand in returning to violence. They have shown fantastic courage in the past two years. In resisting the temptation to return to violence I hope they continue to give that good example. Even at this late stage I hope Sinn Féin talks to the IRA and persuades its members that their tactics are merely detrimental to their cause and that a united Nationalist people could do more than violence to achieve legitimate political goals. Even at this late stage the British Government should show the generosity that has been lacking in its movements on the peace process. It should show generosity to loyalist prisoners and the republican community. That would do more than ritual condemnation to bring about peace. Tá súil agam nach mbéimid uilig ar ais sa bhearna baoil i gcionn bliana ach go mbéimid ar thóir na síochána arís.

I wish to share time with Deputy Crawford.

I am sure that is in order.

Those who are, or appear to be, ambivalent about the question of violence tend to adopt a cynical and perhaps contemptuous attitude to what they call the politics of condemnation. The most important message that must emanate from this House is a clear and unambiguous chorus of condemnation of IRA activities. There can be no ifs or buts about that. Members on all sides must sing from the same hymn sheet and send out an all-party united message in that regard.

The IRA broke the ceasefire last February at Canary Wharf. While that was a shock for everyone, the way in which the bombing was carried out in Lisburn last Monday marked a new low in a sordid saga of IRA terrorism. There is something sick about purposely setting off a second bomb to murder and maim human beings going to the aid of those injured in a first explosion. It is difficult to grade the degrees of condemnation, but I am heartily sick of the IRA. It is the scourge of this country and I am glad to hear unanimous condemnation of its activities from all sides.

How often must the IRA be told the Irish people have no time for its unchristian and evil behaviour? How often must it be told it does not have a mandate from anybody for what it is doing. While its members wade through the blood of innocent people to achieve their objectives they are putting themselves further and further away from those stated objectives.

We need to go further than a chorus of condemnation at this stage. We must examine new ways in which we can express that condemnation and deal with the scourge of the IRA. I compare the godfathers of the IRA to the drug barons who are similarly wreaking havoc on this island. The best way to deal with drug barons is to expose them. Is there some way in which the godfathers of the IRA can be exposed and held up to public opprobrium? Why should they be allowed to continue in the mysterious shadowy way in which they have conducted themselves in the past? Why can they not be exposed in the manner in which the drug barons were exposed following Veronica Guerin's death?

Let us give a clear message not only to the IRA but to the sneaking regarders — the accomplices before the fact — who provide funding and safe houses for those involved in these acts. They should be told to lock up their houses because there is no future in their activities. There is a need for the Governments, in particular the UK Government, to be sensitive to public opinion. I mentioned this following the death of Diarmuid O'Neill. It seemed that this young man, who was a member of the IRA, was shot in cold blood without explanation. If that was so, it was against the rule of law. There may be an explanation and I will wait to hear it because an explanation is called for. Apart from the wrong of anybody breaking the rule of law, particularly the forces of law and order, it must be borne in mind that inflaming public opinion only lends support to those involved in terrorism.

There is an air of great gloom with regard to the political process. However, there are structures in place which, if properly used, can lead to dialogue which will offer hope for the future. There are the Mitchell principles and the Framework Document which are sound bases for negotiation. They are acceptable to all constitutional political parties and they ask no preconditions of any of these parties. That is the basis on which a political settlement will be arrived at ultimately.

There are two philosophical points which need to be considered in relation to the peace process. I will put them forward with some difference for discussion. The first is whether there is a real prospect of making substantial progress at the moment. There are two opposing views in Northern Ireland and they will have to be reconciled if we are to have a political settlement. Therefore, compromise is needed. We could blame the old enemy and talk about Britain interfering in Ireland's affairs or we can look at the matter rationally and ask whether the upcoming general election in the UK is the most appropriate time to secure the compromise I mention.

The Unionists and the Nationalists will have to compromise if there is to be a settlement. Given that the parties in Northern Ireland are facing a general election it is not the best time to try to secure a compromise. There is a case to be made for accepting that reality and accepting that there will be delays in bringing the peace process to a successful conclusion.

While there are positive signs in relation to the peace process there is a stalling process in operation at present. I do not expect to see substantive progress or compromise before the next UK general election. I would take that reality into account in my policy on the peace process. It may be that the train of peace is stalled because of this. However, all is not lost because it is still on the rails. The next major impetus may not occur until after the general election in the UK but if so, so what? We have waited long enough for a settlement and, provided we put our minds to it and accept some loss of time in the immediate future, we can still stay on track.

The second philosophical point is the question of all-party inclusive talks — to what degree they will lead to a settlement or whether it will be possible to get all parties to agree to a settlement. If one examines other countries one always finds that the extremes never agree. It is the right approach to try to involve all parties and to have inclusive talks. However, I am not in favour of giving the extremes on either side a veto on a settlement. That is why I favour the approach of sufficient consensus. If it is not possible to get all parties to agree, let us go ahead as a strategic aim on the basis of securing sufficient consensus.

In the Middle East peace process Mr. Arafat and Mr. Netanyahu are talking again. Will it ever be possible for Hamas to agree to whatever final arrangement may emerge? Is it possible that the fundamentalist rabbis will agree to any settlement? I think not. Attempts should be made to involve them but if they are not prepared to discuss a rational compromise they have to be excluded. A similar situation may arise in regard to a settlement in Northern Ireland.

There are positive signs so we should not be totally gloomy, despite the awful behaviour of the IRA. Fortunately, the loyalist groups have not succumbed to provocation and it is fortunate that the support from abroad continues. President Clinton and the EU continue to give their support, despite the glitch in the European Parliament committee yesterday which can be overcome.

Wiser heads, despite strongly held views, turned away from the confrontation and bitterness in Derry during the marching season and the same happened in Bellaghy. These are positive elements which cannot be overlooked. If we can focus on those who are prepared to talk and compromise and seek the formula and timing which will enable that compromise to be reached, we can bring the political talks to a successful conclusion.

Over the past couple of years we have all expressed our happiness at seeing a degree of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, in Ireland as a whole and in Britain. However, there have been bombs at Canary Wharf and in Manchester, Garda Jerry McCabe was killed on duty in Adare and there have been bombs in Lisburn, which have caused serious injury. My nephew works a short distance from where the bombs exploded in Lisburn. For those who do not know people who live near to where the bombs explode, it can be easy to talk about how simple it is to get agreement. However, those of us who live in the Border area and who have friends and relations living with such events realise how difficult it is to find a long-term solution. The bombing in Lisburn is a major threat to the future of the peace process. That two vehicles were able to penetrate the high security army barracks raises questions about security and raises fears among people in the North.

Tourism and trade benefited greatly from the peace, creating the prospect of jobs and a future for families. Many were looking forward to a period of new prosperity. For the first time younger people especially could go shopping or engage in activities in towns and cities across Northern Ireland with a reasonable peace of mind and their families could sleep in their beds at night content that they were not in danger.

The Border roads have been reopened and I hope and trust that the type of thing that happened in Lisburn will not result in somebody who does not understand the situation deciding to close some of them. There is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of others in this House that the closure of those roads created more rather than less room for terrorism. We want to ensure that mistakes in the past are not made again and we hope those roads will never again be closed.

It has already been stated in this House a number of times that in the midst of this situation we must congratulate loyalist fringe parties and those who were involved in parliamentary activities for not taking the bait and starting retaliatory action. We must hope and pray that people like Reverend Roy McGee and others who have had a major role to play in this regard can continue to play that role and ensure that this does not happen again.

Sinn Féin must go back to the IRA and make sure that common sense prevails. None of us can be in any doubt that the preparation involved in planting the bombs in Lisburn or Canary Wharf did not happen overnight. Those bombs were planned long in advance and it is sad at this stage in the IRA's campaign that some of the victims are very young people who have been virtually sucked into its organisation during the so-called peace process. That is the most worrying aspect. While one wing of the hardline Nationalist movement was claiming it was working in the interest of the peace process, another element of that group was literally training young people and getting them involved in carrying on what they consider the alternative means to achieving their objectives — the ballot box in the one hand and the armalite in the other.

I wish to refer to the failure of Sinn Féin to sign up to the formula at the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in Dublin. That gives some indication of the difficulties we face. At that forum members of Sinn Féin were dealing with people around the table who were trying to be helpful. Those people may not have agreed with them, but they wanted to bring in Sinn Féin and to try to reconcile the position. Sinn Féin was asked to sign up to a fairly simple formula and at the last minute it opted out. That did not send a clear message to the other sector of the population who had chosen not to attend that forum, the mainline Unionist parties. That gives some indication of the fact that there are hardline people on one side, but the forum highlighted that there are also hardline people on the other side and that is why there is great difficulty in reaching a compromise. We must beg both sides, on our bended knees, to try to understand that there is no future in the bomb and the bullet. That action might get big headlines for a few hours or a few days and will leave members of families maimed or suffering for the rest of their lives, but it will never solve the Irish national situation.

Commissioner Wulf-Mathies said that yesterday was a sad day because a European parliamentary committee decided that it would make an effort to cut the peace and reconciliation budget to Northern Ireland and the six Border counties. She said that it was with deep regret——

The Labour Party should be blamed for that.

I accept that mistakes have been made and were made before. We were promised £8.8 billion and we received only £5.6 billion. This is a smaller issue but it is still relevant. The Commissioner committed herself and the Taoiseach and the Government committed themselves to ensuring that this situation will be rectified. I, with my colleagues opposite, raised the issue of the delay in getting that money drawn down. We were assured that this type of thing would not happen and it is now up to the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and others to ensure that it does not happen. I assure this House and the people of Cavan-Monaghan, whom a number of Members represent, that I will do everything in my power to ensure that no cutbacks are made but that increases are given because we need them guaranteed until the year 1999.

It is regrettable, after 18 months of peace and six months of indecision since then, that we have to debate this problem again today. During that time of peace the people saw an opportunity to develop a region where economic growth had been retarded for 25 years. For many the Lisburn bombing was the last straw. Rather than give in to the bombers, it is important to renew our efforts for constructive dialogue because no matter where one lives there is no alternative to negotiations through talks. The Lisburn bombing at a most sensitive period in Irish politics was a slap in the face to men like George Mitchell who has made such a contribution to the establishment of peace and has endured so many insults and jibes during the last few months when he was trying to set up the talks process. It was also a slap in the face to many churchmen and politicians who worked so hard. It was a real let down. It happened at a time when industrialists were meeting in Philadelphia to discuss joint ventures about attracting inward investment to the Border region.

Fianna Fáil in Government and in Opposition has always held that the peace process would have to move along at a fast pace and from the change of Government in 1994 I have heard Government speakers claim that it would be a long drawn out process and that there was no need for pressure. I believe that many Members who occupy the seats opposite regret the lack of drive and initiative during the summer of 1995. If the tempo generated by Fianna Fáil from October 1994 until the change of Government had continued we would be much further forward.

The ceasefire brought a positive response and financial commitment from the EU and the Delors initiative with hundreds of millions of pounds available to help the people of the Six Counties and the six southern counties along the Border. Unfortunately, progress to set the necessary programmes in place was delayed to some extent and applications for funding have been processed only recently. As I did on previous occasions, I lay the blame fairly and squarely on the Government for dilly-dallying and not making any progress in setting up the necessary structures. Because of that the take-up under those programmes is well below the level anticipated. That gave the European Parliament budgetary committee an opportunity to support an amendment to reduce this year's allocation for the peace and reconciliation fund from £125 million to £47 million. That is in indirect conflict with the recommendations of the EU Commission, the Council of Ministers and the Parliament's Regional Affairs Committee which intended to retain the figure of £125 million.

Like many others who served in the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation I had high hopes of peace when politicians North and South debated freely and listened to the views of groups representing areas, such as education, health, the economy and trade unionism, and representatives of women's groups, churchmen, former prisoners, former extreme activists and prisoners' organisations. After more than a year's deliberations it all went for naught and no resolution was found.

It is important that the IRA restores the ceasefire forthwith. If Sinn Féin has any control over the IRA, which I very much doubt because that has been proved, it is time it started negotiations with it. It should also agree a timescale for talks. Since the peace initiative was introduced, it has been proved that it has to move forward apace. It cannot be allowed to lag and get stuck in the mud, as has happened over the past 12 months.

I am sorry to interrupt. It is time to proceed to other business.

I want to share my time with Deputies O'Hanlon and Kirk.

After Question Time?

That is provided for in the debate.