Omagh Tragedy: Statements.

It is a little over two weeks since the Omagh atrocity, since a street carnival was turned into a massacre, a ghastly relapse that joins and even surpasses the worst tragedies of the past 30 years. Even in ten years or more the passage of time will have done little to heal what was made to happen at 3.10 p.m. on Saturday, 15 August. As with previous outrages, survivors of the Omagh bombing years from now will still suffer from their injuries. In many cases the bereaved will still be trying to come to terms with their loss; survivors and the bereaved will still be troubled by thoughts of what might have been, and all those who responded so bravely and with such humanity at the scene will be haunted at times by terrible images.

In the aftermath of Omagh I visited the town and later visited the hospital there where many of those who were so terribly injured were being cared for. As we all know and witnessed on television, the heart of Omagh was devastated on that Saturday. Many people will have to work long and hard to rebuild the shattered town. However, at the end of the day, Omagh will be rebuilt and once again become a vibrant and vital part of life in County Tyrone.

It will be much harder to rebuild the shattered lives of those who were so cruelly made victims and who somehow survived. There will be many hours of surgery and physiotherapy. Many victims, with the help of dedicated caring professionals and their families, will be able to live full and valuable lives. However, for some, full recovery may be well nigh impossible. The attack on Omagh was not just an indiscriminate attack on democracy and the British-Irish Agreement. It was a reckless attack on a community, on a people. Those who died were Catholic and Protestant, young and old, men and women. They were from the North and South and included visitors from abroad.

That is the evil done by the self styled "Real IRA" at Omagh — death, pain, suffering, grief and horror — that will unfortunately echo down through the years. Our first objective must be to do all within our power to prevent the recurrence of such an atrocity. I am under no illusions, though, as to the continuing danger fanatics who remain at liberty can pose to the rest of society.

The Government and people have already conveyed, by our words, prayers and silence, our heartfelt sympathy for the survivors of this outrage and for the relatives of the victims and their friends. I say to the people of Omagh: a terrible wrong was done to you. We will continue to grieve for you and support you in any way we can. Our hearts go out to you now and in the future.

Paradoxically, this evil act has brought forth an outpouring of goodness and solidarity, a community of emotions and convictions shared almost universally among people throughout this island. Amidst the grief and pain, we have seen sincere and significant statements and actions that give hope for the future and which must be further built upon.

However, it is important that we, the elected representatives of the people, should also make known our feelings in this House, the seat of our democracy and the Republic. We in this House, not any small self-appointed elite who would blow their fellow humans to oblivion, are the democratic successors of the first Dáil, the custodians of the Declaration of Independence of 1919 and other founding Acts. It is for us to determine how best we can act today in accordance with their spirit, and we will not allow the legitimacy of the Republic, which has no other form, to be usurped or challenged by anyone.

What was done at Omagh was a very far cry from what the people of Ireland, North and South, voted for on 22 May 1998. However, we know that the bomb was intended as a direct attack on the British-Irish Agreement and the operation of democracy. The bombers and their political associates have sought to deny the hallowed right of the people to freely choose their own destiny. The British-Irish Agreement is about dialogue, trust, compromise, peace and democracy. The attack on Omagh was designed to undo all that by generating fear and hatred and more violence and by trying to force everything back into the melting pot. It has abjectly failed.

Many people worked long and hard over many years to bring us to the British-Irish Agreement. It has the support of the Irish and British Governments and the principal Nationalist, Unionist, Loyalist and Republican parties with one or two exceptions, some of whom may yet come to work it. It has the support of the United States and the international community. Above all, 85 per cent of the people of Ireland, North and South, voted for it by referendum on 22 May this year. This included up to 95 per cent of the nationalist population throughout the island.

The so-called "Real IRA" cannot hope to take on the people of Ireland and win. They have already disgraced themselves and the name they have misappropriated. There is no community in Ireland that wishes to have them operating in their midst. The INLA acknowledged in its ceasefire statement, which I welcome, that the new conditions created by the Agreement demand a ceasefire and that the onus on all is to ensure that the democratic wishes of the people are upheld.

The House expects and demands that all remaining groups follow suit forthwith or face the consequences. These people are about to learn a lesson that will teach them to respect the strength of Irish democracy. The time for sophistry that provides a cover for murderous attacks on fellow Irish men and women is over.

Those who organised and carried out this horrific act of violence have a stark choice. They can heed the will of the people now and tell us, and convince us, that their violence is at an end for good, or they can defy us to put them out of business. If they do so, they should not be in any doubt about the Government's determination to crush and dismantle any organisations that still engage in violence, as I made clear prior to the Omagh bombing. They should be in no doubt about our determination to do everything we can to assist in bringing the perpetrators of this terrible crime to justice. We are determined that the people of this island, North and South, will enjoy the peace they democratically endorsed and that the victims of Omagh will have justice.

At a meeting in August the Government decided on a security and legislative response to the challenge of the Omagh atrocity, a response that is extremely tough, even draconian, but that will stay in force only as long as we require it. I am satisfied that in this response we are reflecting and expressing the will of the vast majority of the people on this island. Following these statements the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will introduce the Second Stage of the Bill that contains our legislative proposals. Following the Agreement we would much prefer to be going in the opposite direction, removing emergency legislation we do not strictly need. In normal circumstances we would not ask the House to enact the legislation we are enacting with the utmost reluctance because of the need to protect the people from any other atrocities. No society wishes to introduce further restrictions on freedom without evident and demonstrable necessity and if such restrictions are to operate successfully it is essential they have strong public support.

Neither I nor the Garda underestimated the potential threat posed by this new organisation formed last December. Every effort was made through a tough security counter strategy to dissuade it from continuing and to frustrate its operations in so far as we could from this side of the Border. The Garda had considerable success and intercepted it on six occasions. On five of them explosives were recovered that could have caused large-scale loss of life and/or major destruction. The Garda was also instrumental in preventing a bomb attack in London. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the office of the Attorney General had started to examine further steps that could be taken. My predecessor in the last Government faced a somewhat similar threat during the breakdown of the IRA ceasefire. With renewed bomb attacks there was always the grave danger of a major tragedy that would have put any recovery of the peace process in extreme jeopardy. In those admittedly different circumstances the response was mainly political, and I did not criticise that. Because we live in a democracy tough new legislation has always to be a last resort. Even today there are voices saying that such groups should be left to the effects of broader republican opinion, an opinion which so far unfortunately has not been able to prevent the emergence or operations of this lethal splinter group. While not discounting moral suasion, it is the State that has the ultimate responsibility to act.

The measures being brought forward are to be targeted solely at those who would engage in violence. They are time limited and will lapse once we can be sure that they are no longer necessary. We will monitor closely their implementation, with safeguards and checks and balances in the British-Irish Agreement also coming into effect.

In the past no pure security response could have resolved a complex political problem that has divided people so deeply. It is always necessary to assess the full implications of any security measures and it would never make sense to take measures that could exacerbate the security situation and ultimately cause more lives to be lost than would otherwise be the case. What has changed is that we now have the British-Irish Agreement. There is for the first time a broad democratic consensus on the way forward. The great strength of the Agreement is that it means that extremists are considered to be only extremists. They have no legitimacy and can claim no authority, no basis of support in international law. They act for nobody but themselves. By their actions they have condemned themselves to complete and total isolation.

This year has brought us many truly historic moments but it has also brought us some of the most appalling and heartless atrocities of the past 30 years. I recall the Quinn children. The tragic loss of those three children and the way in which they died touched the hearts of everyone. We in this House have not had the opportunity to offer our sympathy to the children's family and friends. I do so now. We will do everything we can to end the bitter sectarianism and division that led to their tragic loss. All of us have come to a realisation of the human cost of conflict and the terrible price that has been paid for an unwillingness to find accommodation. It is tragic that children died, in Omagh and Ballymoney, because of blind hatred.

In remembering the victims of Omagh and Ballymoney I know that all the other victims over the past 30 years and their relatives and friends will have been recalling their own tragedies and heartbreak. We have to confront a terrible legacy of violence and its effects. I know the former Tánaiste, John Wilson, has begun his work in the Victims Commission but the Government is conscious of all the victims of violence. All our energies and efforts are focused on trying to ensure there are no more victims, no more tragedies.

This year we have come a long way in understanding ourselves and our history. In this year of commemoration we have been engaged in a voyage of rediscovery of the true non-sectarian, humane founding vision of the United Irishmen.

It was a forward looking, popular movement which aspired to a unity of people, drawing its strength from both North and South and from Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter and which stood four square behind the principles of democracy and pluralism, of equality and inclusion, despite the ensuing horrors of repression and rebellion.

The Good Friday Agreement is based on many of those founding principles. Irish history has provided us with many ideals, with many leaders and many visionaries. They, in their time, applied themselves in many different ways to their ideals, often at great personal cost. Idealism and vision today is also about building a new future. It is about accommodation, equality and partnership, and about new trust and reconciliation. It is about building a prosperous, inclusive Ireland that all of us would want to live in. The leaders that we respect are those willing to work together to build a better future, not those who would drag us back into violence to destroy the real chance of history-making that we are engaged in in today's Ireland.

I would like today to make a special appeal to any young people who might be involved or thinking of becoming involved in violence: listen to the voice of the Irish people and ignore the siren voices of the depraved few who will ruin your lives while using you to do their dirty work. These people are about as far from idealism as it is possible to be. They have no realistic objective. They have no support. They have nothing to offer but violence and death. They have no hope of success. It may be that they are so used to violence that they cannot give it up, but you have that chance. Take it before it is too late.

I said earlier that a security response in isolation is not enough in dealing with the threat from extremists. Following the attack on Omagh, I have had an intensive, sustained level of meetings with many of the political parties involved. These meetings and contacts were geared towards responding to the Omagh atrocity and, as well as focusing on security matters, they focused in detail on the importance of implementing the Agreement in all its aspects. We are all fully agreed on the critical need to maintain political momentum.

The Irish and British Governments are working closely together. We are at one as to what is required. We will continue all our efforts, working closely with all of the parties involved to see this process through and to build a better future for everyone in these islands. We will keep going on until we succeed. That is the best tribute that we could pay to the victims of the Omagh bombing, and I know from talking to some of the survivors and people of Omagh that that is what they want. God bless them in their humanity and give them and all the people of this land a fair wind.

I join with the Taoiseach in expressing sympathy to the victims of Ballymoney, who were victims of blind hatred. The victims of Omagh were not so much the victims of blind hatred as of perverted calculation. The massacre at Omagh was the worst mass murder in modern Irish history. It was committed by former members of the Provisional IRA now travelling under the banner of the Real IRA. It represents a direct defiance of the expressed wishes of the Irish people, who voted overwhelmingly for the Good Friday Agreement. The ex-Provisionals in the Real IRA do not believe that their war should be over. They believe the war should continue. The purpose of this debate is to apply our best collective political analysis to ensuring Omagh and its like never happen again. We owe it to those who died and to those who will live their lives in incessant pain to be realistic about facts and not to read into words meanings we would like them to have but which they do not have.

The Provisional IRA said this week that if the objective conditions exist for violent conflict, then such conflict will occur. That is a sad fact of history it claimed. The Real IRA clearly believes the objective conditions for violent conflict still exist. Where does the Provisional IRA stand? What the Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, said yesterday should be read for what it actually said, not for what one might wish it had said. I have believed for many months that the Unionists should meet Sinn Féin and advised them to do so. Mr. Adams' statement is presumably designed to facilitate such a meeting and, in that, it is welcome. Face to face dialogue is the only way forward, but dialogue should not be based on fudge or illusion.

Gerry Adams said yesterday that the violence we have seen must be for all of us a thing of the past. That is just a statement of a wish, not a statement of what the IRA will actually do in all circumstances. Gerry Adams is saying that Sinn Féin wants peace, as does everyone else, but wants it on terms which are acceptable to it. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not new.

Gerry Adams's statement yesterday has not fully taken on board the fundamental change in the political context of republicanism caused by the endorsement of the people of the British-Irish Agreement. That was an act of national self-determination which should be recognised as such by all republicans. Furthermore, in matters of importance, statements of the IRA represent the authoritative position of the republican movement and supersede those of Sinn Féin which are more in the nature of political gloss designed to represent things in the best possible public relations light.

The Provisional IRA said the referenda on the British-Irish Agreement do not constitute the exercise of self-determination by the people. Gerry Adams's statement yesterday did not address or alter that in any way. Mitchell McLaughlin of Sinn Féin endorsed that IRA statement when it was made in April. I will return to the significance of this continuing omission later.

The Provisional IRA has also stated that the British-Irish Agreement clearly falls short of presenting a solid basis for a lasting settlement and said flatly again this week that there will be no decommissioning by the IRA. Gerry Adams's statement yesterday did not alter that. This week the IRA said it was conscious of growing concern at the slow pace of movement — whatever that means. Gerry Adams's statement yesterday did not disagree with that somewhat disturbing statement by the IRA or qualify it in any way. The appointment of Mr. McGuinness to liaise with the decommissioning body does not change the fundamental IRA policy on disarmament which was stated this week and, as Sinn Féin itself points out, it is the IRA which has the arms.

The IRA statement of 30 April was part of a carefully nuanced republican strategy to allow the luxury of an each way bet on the British-Irish Agreement. This each way bet strategy has created the political space in which the Real IRA can claim falsely a spurious sense of republican justification for bombing. Whereas other political parties committed themselves unreservedly to the democratic path, the republican movement said as recently as this week that it will maintain its military capacity indefinitely. The IRA said that whether the agreement transforms the situation depends on the will of the British Government. It seems to believe the British have some sort of moral duty to coerce Unionists into a united Ireland.

While there have been welcome elements in recent IRA and Sinn Féin statements, the Provisional IRA has continued to use arguments which could be claimed by the Real IRA to show that the so-called objective conditions for violence still exist notwithstanding the agreement and the referendum. Some well intentioned people like to believe that Sinn Féin and the IRA are two separate organisations and that we can assess the Sinn Féin peace strategy separately from that of the IRA and of what the IRA says. That is nonsense.

At the top level, the direction of the two organisations is identical in philosophy purpose and execution — they are one and the same. They are two organisations in one movement with one purpose, one strategy and one direction. If the IRA says the British-Irish Agreement referendum was not a valid exercise in national self-determination, that is what the Sinn Féin leadership believes too.

The peace process initiated by Gerry Adams had, up to the IRA statement of 30 April 1998, an internal logic and consistency. There is now a continuing contradiction between the recent public statements of the Provisional IRA and the logic of the peace process initiated by Gerry Adams and John Hume. It is a contradiction which allows a political space for the Omagh bombers. Until that contradiction is resolved we will not have lasting peace. Unless it is resolved, the republican movement will continue to spawn new splinters, all claiming the banner of national self-determination and all able to argue that their difference with the mainstream is one of tactics, not of principle.

The core concept in the Hume-Adams approach to the peace process was that of Irish national self-determination. Republicans claimed that self-determination had been denied whereas other Nationalists argued differently.

The logic of the peace process was that republicans had to be given a new exercise in 32 county self-determination which would replace and transcend the 1918 election of December of that year. The republicans had claimed that the original Sinn Féin 1918 mandate was unfulfilled and then justified violence to fulfil that mandate. This unfulfilled 1918 mandate had provided the ideological and internal logic of the IRA campaigns of the past 40 years.

The aim of all-party talks, which Sinn Féin demanded and got, was that they should lead to such a new Act of 32 county self-determination to transcend 1918.

The Hume-Adams document, prepared by Sinn Féin in June 1982, contained two key statements which Sinn Féin wanted the British and Irish Governments, respectively, to make. These were that the British Government would say that it accepts the principle that the Irish people have the right collectively to self-determination, and the exercise of this right could take the form of agreed independent structures for the island as a whole, and then, in turn, that the Irish Government would say that it accepts that the democratic right of self-determination by the Irish people as a whole must be achieved and exercised with the agreement and consent of the people of Northern Ireland, must be consistent with justice and equality and respect the democratic and civil rights of both communities. These were words drafted by Sinn Féin.

These conditions, set out in Sinn Féin's draft of the Hume-Adams document for peace in Ireland, have now been met. There is, therefore, no continuing justification, in terms of the republican movement's declared principles, for either the maintenance of military capacity by the IRA or for the IRA to fail to say that its war is over.

For the first time since 1918, on 22 May, all Irish people, men and women in all 32 counties, were given the chance to vote on a comprehensive proposal for the future of the island in which all parties on the island, including Sinn Féin, had had a hand. By any definition that vote was an act of national self-determination. It is criminally wrong for the IRA to deny that because its denial is providing an implicit justification for the Real IRA. It is wrong for Sinn Féin to support or condone that continuing Provisional IRA position.

As the leader of the second largest party on this island, representing half a million voters, I challenge the Provisional IRA and its political allies, Sinn Féin, one of whose members is here in this House, to say why it does not accept the referendum on the British-Irish Agreement as a valid exercise of national self-determination by the Irish people.

The 1998 referendum accords with all the requirements of historic republican ideology. Violence committed by republicans for political ends after the 1998 referendum result is of an entirely different character to violence committed beforehand in terms of republican ideology. The British-Irish Agreement deprives all such violence of any semblance of republican mandate. Furthermore, let us not forget that the British-Irish Agreement contains the following words: "All participants accordingly reaffirm their commitment to the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations".

The political wing of the IRA-Sinn Féin was one of those participants and yet the IRA said last April, and said again this week, that it will not disarm. This refusal was not qualified by any words like "at this time". It was a bald and unequivocal refusal to disarm.

The Irish people, in endorsing the British-Irish Agreement, have voted for the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations. This is not some new precondition. It is not a Unionist ploy or a Tory ruse. It is part of the British-Irish Agreement, approved by the people of the 32 counties of Ireland in an act of national self-determination. No one is suggesting unconditional disarmament, but one is expecting a progressive political commitment to disarmament which will be followed through, step by step, with other aspects of the British-Irish deal.

I welcome the fact that Martin McGuinness has described the Omagh bombing as "indefensible". However, as long as the IRA's own war cannot be said to be over, the republican movement is saying that there are still some unstated circumstances in which violence might actually be defensible. That continuing ambiguity provides a moral cover for the Real IRA and for its activities at Omagh. That ambiguity must now be removed by: first, a clear statement from both the IRA and Sinn Féin that they accept the referendum on the British-Irish Agreement was a valid exercise in Irish national self-determination and that it transcends the 1918 election; second, in consequence of that referendum result, the IRA war is over; and, third, in consequence of that war being over, the IRA is prepared to disarm itself, provided the other terms of the Agreement are honoured by others on a step by step basis.

The Government has so far declined to call on the IRA to make such a clear statement. It engaged in surprisingly similar evasion to that of the IRA itself which said this week that it would not say the war is over because it would not "waste time in word games". An Irish Government spokesman, just before the Omagh bomb, said that the Government would not ask it to do so because it would not allow itself to return to what it called "a linguistic quagmire". What on earth does that mean? Saying a war is over is not a word game or a quagmire. Words are the only tools available to democratic politicians to convey meaning. Today's emergency legislation is only a collection of words. Words are important and their meaning is crucial. The meaning of the statement "the war is over" is crucial and very simple. Why will the IRA not say the war is over? Why is the Government afraid to ask it to say so? Why is the Government afraid of the answer it will get?

This is no academic question. It is a fundamental civil rights issue. Under the Constitution, only bodies authorised by the Oireachtas are entitled to hold arms or maintain an army on our territory. This is fundamental to any known concept of civic republicanism; one army, one state and one democratic authority — the people. That is republicanism as I understand it. It is unthinkable that the Dáil would accept that a politician associated with a private army, which exists in defiance of the State's laws, should simultaneously sit at a Cabinet table in this or any other jurisdiction. The British-Irish Agreement solved the dilemma when it called for the disarmament of all paramilitary organisations and transcended the political ideology that made Omagh possible. The people endorsed that. Let us all now implement it in full and without equivocation.

Many words have been spoken since the mass slaughter perpetrated by the so-called Real IRA in Omagh on 15 August. However, no words are more poignant, painful or moving than those spoken by the victims of that murderous atrocity. The comments of Lawrence Rushe, whose wife, Libby, was murdered in the explosion, of Róisín Kelly, who survived the attack, and of Constable Wesley Reid, who worked amid the wreckage of the evil, are testament to the horror visited on the people of Omagh and of the whole island 17 days ago. Sentences fail me when I try to articulate the pain and suffering endured by so many. I would rather let the words of the victims of this atrocity speak for themselves.

I take this opportunity to convey the heartfelt condolences of the Labour Party to the victims of the Omagh bombing. For so long as I live I will never see a clock at 3.10 p.m. on a Saturday without recalling the sheer evil perpetrated on that day.

The Omagh bombing has shaken the Irish people to the core. Over the past 30 years we have seen many dark days. However, there was something different about the Omagh atrocity. Other brutal attacks which scarred the recent history of this island occurred when Northern Ireland was in the grip of violence. Violence dominated that society. For many it seemed a permanent feature on the landscape, a cruel twist of history from which generations of Irish people would not escape. However, over the past 30 years there have been people and political parties who have struggled to break the stranglehold of violence that gripped this island. Thanks to the courage, tenacity and humanity of these people we are now beginning a new chapter in the history of this island.

This new beginning started with the signing of the British-Irish Agreement which was massively endorsed by the overwhelming majority of people in referenda on both sides of the Border last May. For the first time in nearly three decades and in the living memory of thousands of young people, we can see a resolution to the old conflict which has gnawed away at the heart and soul of this island for too long. In recent months, many people who had been too frightened to look over their shoulders have taken the brave step of glimpsing into the future. It is a future which contains hope of a better life for themselves and their families. The people resolved that nobody would take this opportunity away from them.

However, one group of fanatics — those who bombed Omagh — are trying to steal this opportunity. At a time of so much hope for the future, the fact that a small band is determined to maim and murder in an attempt to condemn us forever to the horrors of the past has made the senseless carnage at Omagh so different and so much worse than that which has gone before. Let there be no doubt regarding the intentions of the evil perpetrators of the Omagh bombing. It was more than an attack on the people of a Tyrone town — it was an attack on a democratic society and the properly expressed will of the people. In the words of John Hume it was an act of "undiluted fascism." The Labour Party believes there is a moral and political duty on every democratic state to defend itself and its citizens against those who wish to destroy that democracy by violence. We believe the Irish and British Governments have a responsibility to take forthright and effective measures to eradicate the forces of violence intent on wrecking the peace process.

The Government is right to introduce a Bill to amend the Offences against the State Act and we broadly welcome the intention and detail of that Bill. We do not believe it represents an attack on civil liberties. The people intent on attacking civil liberties are those who planned, assisted with and detonated the bomb in Omagh on 15 August. These are the people who wish to abolish peoples' rights in order to feed their frenzied fantasies. However, we will seek some changes to the Bill. We will propose amendments in a constructive spirit which will improve the Bill in a number of areas. I hope the Minister will consider our proposals in the spirit in which they are proposed.

The Government's legislation will aid the Garda in its pursuit of a gang of terrorists responsible for the mass murder in Omagh. This group of fanatical and violent thugs cannot be allowed to destroy the new Agreement. The Real IRA which presents a grave threat to democracy must be pursued and brought to justice. However, we cannot allow the images and the all too present memories of the Omagh bombing to deflect us from the real opportunity for peace that now exists. The bombers of Omagh wish we would. They are intent on forcing people back into the pessimism and tragedy of the past. They wish to wipe out the progress, long and tedious as it may have been, that has been made on this island in the past four years. It is our duty as political leaders in this democratically elected assembly not to allow this to happen. The men and women of violence cannot be allowed to dictate the political agenda of this island.

Despite the tragedy that has visited us in the past fortnight we must look to the future and redouble our determination to ensure the popular will of the people, as expressed in the recent referenda, is realised and that just and lasting political structures emerge in Northern Ireland in the coming months.

We are now entering one of the most delicate phases of the peace process. The work of the assembly and the formation of the executive are critical moments in the emergence of true democracy in Northern Ireland. The spirit of compromise and accommodation that was so critical in drafting the Agreement must come to the fore again. Many participants in the new assembly are taking enormous risks to ensure this Agreement works and that it has the backing of their respective communities. It is incumbent on all parties in the assembly to recognise this and to use whatever means are at their disposal to assist in fashioning a new political landscape. This historic task cannot be undertaken within an atmosphere where violence or the threat of violence exists or is perceived to exist.

Given the result of the referenda there can be no ambiguity in any quarter regarding the use of violence for political objectives. The old and invalid justification for armed struggle traditionally espoused by the republican movement has, at long last, been consigned to the pages of history by the result of the referenda which took place on 22 May this year.

It is time the republican movement publicly recognised this fact and the logic that flows from it. Sinn Féin and the IRA must categorically renounce violence as a political means and expressly and emphatically commit themselves, their members and their organisation to peaceful democratic politics.

Hear, hear.

Given the history of physical force republicanism, a public declaration of this nature would represent a significant step for that organisation. Nothing less is required.

Hear, hear.

The revulsion and rejection of violence by the people of this State is total. Anybody who stood anywhere at 3.10 p.m. on the Saturday following 15 August knows just how total that revulsion is. The republican movement can no longer remain deaf to the voice of the people and it must take the bold and imaginative steps that it is quick to call for from others. It has a responsibility to move as well. This development would provide a critical impetus to the momentum developing within the new Northern Ireland Assembly. For a start, it would facilitate the establishment of a cross-community executive that could begin the difficult task of reconstructing politics in Northern Ireland.

It will also ensure the entire Nationalist community in Northern Ireland is effectively represented in the new executive. This inclusiveness and engagement in the emerging political structures is, frankly, essential for the future of the Agreement.

I have spent much of my contribution looking forward to the developing political situation. Given the horror at Omagh, many people on the island may find this a difficult task at present. However, we cannot allow the depraved acts of a small group of fanatics rob us of all our hopes for the future. It was clear on the airwaves and streets after the Omagh attack that this atrocity if anything strengthened the people's resolve to rid ourselves of the curse of violence and make the British-Irish Agreement work.

We must take from this expression of popular feeling and use the Agreement to construct a fair and just future for everybody on the island. The future must be free from the horrific violence of the past 30 years which has become the norm for over half of those living on the island, half the population being under 30 years of age. It must be a society in which the unspeakable terror of Omagh can have no place. It will be a society where the forces of fascism, determined to undo the democratic wishes of the citizens of the State, can find no hiding place.

On 15 August the people on the island were cruelly and brutally reminded of the mayhem from which we have slowly emerged over the past four years. The anguish and suffering of the victims of the Omagh bombing will haunt many people's lives for years to come. We owe it to those murdered and maimed in Omagh to work tirelessly to ensure political violence of any kind is never again perpetrated on the island. This work involves dedication, commitment and bravery. We will be presented with stark choices along the way and we must have the courage to make those choices however hard they may be.

The legislation which will come before the House is such a stark choice. I am aware that many people have serious reservations regarding aspects of it. I understand their concerns and do not doubt their motives in any respect. However, in the struggle to fashion a new society on the island we must be prepared to make hard choices which will protect the emerging political solution from the dark forces of terrorism.

I again extend the deeply felt condolences of the Labour Party to the families, friends, colleagues and victims of the Omagh bombing. Their immense pain and grief may not be eased by our presence here today, but I hope they can take some comfort from the contributions to this debate.

I ask those who are determined to wreck our precious peace Agreement and who still cling to the twisted adherence to violence to dwell on a poem by Maya Angelou which reads:

But seek no haven in my shadow,

I will give you no hiding place down here,

You.have crouched too long in the bruising darkness,

Have lain too long face down in ignorance,

Your mouths spilling words, armed for slaughter.

The Omagh bombing was so manifestly evil, so grievous in its human consequences and so crudely obvious in its timing and intention that it presents us all with a challenge of unique urgency and importance.

It was the work of a tiny perverted minority who reject the British-Irish Agreement. Second only to the grotesque, immediate and continuing human misery caused, the cruellest aspect of the bombing was that it sought to eclipse the hope which flowed from the Agreement and threatened a return to the abyss of the previous 30 years. It was as though the demon of violence, which we thought dead, was revived in all its horror.

Many words of condemnation and revulsion have been uttered since that fateful moment in Omagh at 3.10 p.m. on Saturday, 15 August 1998. All those words will ring hollow to the relatives and friends of the Omagh victims and to the body politic of the democratic world unless the most powerful force of the law is unleashed against the perpetrators, sympathisers and fellow travellers of the self-styled murderous Real IRA and their ilk. Just over three months ago, we submitted for the decision of the people of Ireland, North and South, very specific and far-reaching proposals aimed at ending the soul destroying, life blighting violence which has marred our history and our lives for so long. The people on this island endorsed the measures, some of them understandably distasteful to some, deemed necessary for the advancement of the peace process.

That momentous assent, which involved recasting the very fundamentals of our Constitution, our collective self-image, and equally huge adjustments in the position of others, was given in great seriousness and with great hope. It was an extraordinary effort for peace, reflecting the agreement of people of very diverse opinions that a lifeline out of our historic enmities had to be found and grasped. In reality it was the achievement not so much of this Government or its counterpart, or of the Northern politicians who strove so mightily for it, but of this generation. It is historic in the hope it offers.

In the measures before the House later today, the Government is concerned to address its first clear political duty, that is to endeavour to bring to justice the perpetrators of this deed and to prevent the perpetration of another Omagh. These measures are in some respects harsh and draconian because they are designed to prevent something infinitely harsher. They are based upon accepted civil and legal rights and procedures in order to enforce the rule of law and the right to life. This right is under threat, as the events in Omagh proved all too graphically, from a tiny splinter group which is answerable to no one and which cares about no one. That group is unaffected by the dictates of morality and by the unambiguous desire for peace among the people of this island. Its members are crazed, deluded people full of perverted arrogance, which allows them to perpetrate mass murder without compunction. The words of Macbeth so aptly describe the Omagh bombers: "I am, in blood, stepped in so far that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as to go o'er." This group possesses the means to commit further murder and mayhem. It is against that background that the present measures become necessary.

The Government has a clear duty to take extraordinary measures in the face of an extraordinary threat to life and to the peace process which the people have so recently endorsed. We do not underestimate the far-reaching nature of the interference with the ordinary process of law. Even the law so altered, however, stands in stark contrast to the random summary execution of 28 people by the nameless thugs against whom these measures are directed.

These measures will affect only a small number of people. Those so affected will receive a public trial, before an independent court, with a presumption of innocence and a judiciary properly concerned to apply the law in a dispassionate and even-handed manner. They will have every opportunity to explain their position and dispute the evidence against them. The modifications to the law of evidence under which they will be tried will have been enacted by the democratically elected Members of the Oireachtas.

Those who have reservation as to the operation of the new laws will have the opportunity to analyse them as they are publicly administered and to raise any criticism they think appropriate. Everything which is proposed has been found necessary on the advice of those charged with providing fundamental security in the State and has been framed with the most careful legal advice.

The nameless killers against whom these measures are directed, and those who directed or assisted them, claim to act on a republican principle which they think allows them to carry on a so-called war. This principle is a perversion of the republican ideal. The true ideal is that endorsed by the people, who have spoken so strongly and in overwhelming numbers against the dictatorship of the tiny, crazed, isolated group of evil zealots who placed the bomb.

The people are the sole source of authority in this Republic. All authority is expressed by and under the Constitution which, in the words of its preamble, the people "gave to themselves". That Constitution, and its recent amendment as reiterated, clearly requires an exclusively peaceful national policy and respect for the mandate of the people and for the position of the majority in Northern Ireland. That is the constitutional essence of this Republic.

Yesterday's statement by Mr. Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Féin, is highly significant. It is groundbreaking for the republican movement and will, in time, be seen as a milestone in the evolution of the peace process. As Senator Maurice Hayes pointed out this morning, it is a quantum leap for republicans and it would be churlish of us not to accept that the statement effectively says the war is over.

The attitude and intent demonstrated in the statement opens up new possibilities for dialogue and political progress. The key now must be for all of the main players to get down to the real business of making the British-Irish Agreement work. The words of the Agreement must now become a political reality. Full implementation of all aspects of the Agreement will make a vital difference to the lives of all the people of this island, particularly those in Northern Ireland. It is not an a la carte Agreement; we cannot choose the things we like and abandon the things we dislike. Decommissioning is as fundamental to the Agreement as the release of prisoners.

There is no room in this society for those who follow a perverted ideology so often and so recently rejected by the people. The Omagh bomb was an evil rejection of the people expressed in the blood of innocents. It is for that reason these measures and others, if necessary, are required. The sovereignty of the people must now be acknowledged by those who, in the past, have given support to the men of violence. The present proposals convert this moral imperative into a legal duty in the measures against the withholding of information and the use of lands or premises to store the materials of murder. Without such support, the killers could not function.

The proposals, in targeting those who direct terrorism and murder without necessarily themselves participating directly in it, are targeting the godfathers of terrorism. The members of this repugnant group must realise they cannot bask in legal immunity because they were far away when their evil schemes were put into effect by others. Those involved must now take on board the stark fact that their liberty and property may be forfeited if they act as the pawns or acolytes of killers.

The Omagh outrage challenges us all to demonstrate the conviction between our words on Good Friday and their later constitutional endorsement. We expect that others in Britain and Northern Ireland will stand firmly behind their words on that occasion and implement them. It is by reciprocate action on those undertakings that the peace process will move from stage to stage and strengthen itself in so doing.

The timing of the Omagh bomb makes its intention crudely obvious. That intention was the destruction of the peace process and the repudiation of the principle of consent which underpinned it. If the bombers were to succeed in this, the will of the people would be utterly frustrated and, inevitably, arrogant, fascist violence would claim further victims.

Like the murder of the Quinn children in July, the Omagh bombing has attracted such heartfelt condemnation from every quarter as to raise real hope that, after so many unspeakable acts, we are indeed at a watershed in the evolution of our society, North and South. I believe that we are, and that the Agreement and all that has flowed from it is a development of historic proportions, central to the peace and prosperity of this island. It is the Government's determination that the process will not, and cannot, be imperilled by murderous actions from any quarter.

I join with the Taoiseach and others in conveying my condolences to the families of the three children who died so appallingly as a result of a sectarian attack. I also join the Taoiseach in his call to young people, in particular, who may have joined or be considering joining groups such as the Real IRA, to think twice and consider the type of Ireland which would be created by events such as the Omagh atrocity. What kind of united Ireland would that be?

Words are the lifeblood of politics. We rely on words to promote our parties, sell our policies and generally transmit our messages in the most coherent manner. There have been a number of occasions during the past 30 years of conflict when events have been so awful as to render the human vocabulary inadequate to describe the horror of what happened. Atrocities such as McGurk's Bar, Le Mons, The Droppin Well, Enniskillen, Greysteele and, more recently, the murder of the three Quinn children in Ballymoney have all been etched on our minds, but rarely has there been anything to match the sheer awfulness of what occurred in Omagh on 15 August.

The horror of what happened in Omagh is merely intensified by the hope that we had all felt following the conclusion of the British-Irish Agreement that acts like this had become a thing of the past. In 30 years of violence no community has suffered carnage on a similar scale to that unleashed on the people of Omagh. It was an act of vile and horrific mass murder that cut a swathe of destruction and devastation through hundreds of innocent people about their lawful business in a town centre on a summer afternoon. The bomb was totally indiscriminate in the victims it took, murdering and maiming young and old, men and women, Catholic and Protestant, descendants of both planter and Gael, citizens of both the Republic and of Northern Ireland and visitors from abroad.

It is entirely appropriate that the first thing this House should do on reassembling for this short session is to convey our sympathy and solidarity to the victims of Omagh, the families of those who died and the injured and maimed, many of whom remain in hospital and who will have to live with the physical consequences of this terrible deed for the rest of their lives.

If there was one beacon of hope in the awful blackness following the bombing it was the sheer dignity and human decency of the people of Omagh and Buncrana. The bravery and courage shown by many people in the immediate aftermath of the bomb, the immense dignity of the bereaved through what seemed like a never ending sequence of heartbreaking funerals was a source of hope for many throughout the island who were brought to the brink of despair by this evil deed.

Words may convey some degree of comfort but they are not enough. We must show our solidarity with the victims of Omagh in a concrete way by taking every possible step to dismantle the organisation responsible and to bring to justice those who had any hand, act or part in this deed. We must ensure by political and policing action that there will be no more atrocities such as that which occurred at Omagh.

The Government should also look at the possibility of making a substantial financial donation to aid the injured and the relatives of the dead and to assist in the rebuilding of the town centre. Of course money cannot compensate people for the loss of a loved one or for the terrible injuries inflicted by this bomb but extra resources will be required to help the survivors deal with the trauma of this terrible crime.

Since the Omagh bombing the people of the Republic have shared the pain of the people of Northern Ireland. It is now appropriate for the Republic to demonstrate our solidarity by sharing in the costs of the aftermath of Omagh. There is at least one precedent for this in the past two years. The Government made a substantial contribution to the cost of rebuilding the Linenhall Library in Belfast following a firebomb attack by the Provisional IRA.

In our anxiety to condemn the Omagh bombers we must be careful not to fall into the trap of offering post facto justification to some of the terrible atrocities that went before. Some commentators — including Sinn Féin representatives — have gone close to suggesting that the Omagh bombing was to be condemned because it happened after the British-Irish Agreement. No act of terrorism over the past 30 yeas, carried out in the North or elsewhere, on behalf of paramilitary groups on this island were justified and all are to be equally condemned.

The cynical statement issued by the self-styled Real IRA accepting responsibility for the Omagh bombing echoed similar statements issued by other paramilitary groups, particularly the Provisional IRA, in the aftermath of previous similar outrages with its talk of commercial targets, war against the British and pathetic attempts to blame the authorities for failing to deal with inadequate and inaccurate bomb warnings. Whether those who planted the bomb intended to take life on the scale that happened is immaterial to their culpability for the consequences of their actions. This organisation has been responsible for a series of similar car bombs in busy towns and devastation on this scale was inevitable at some time. The objective of terrorism is to put people in terror of their lives.

The statement subsequently issued by the Real IRA in which it claimed to be suspending military operations has to be treated with a considerable degree of caution, especially in the light of the cynical and dishonest statement issued only hours earlier by the same organisation on the circumstances of the Omagh massacre.

It is unclear whether this is a coherent organisation with a distinct leadership that is in control and capable of controlling its members. Our concern must be increased by hints from some members of the Real IRA and its sister movement, the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, that a statement announcing a total ceasefire was imminent but no such statement has yet appeared. A statement of complete and unconditional cessation of violence on behalf of this small but vicious group of people would be a welcome development, but is one which will come too late for the victims of the Omagh bombing.

In the meantime, the search for those responsible must be continued and concluded with urgency. There must be no question of allowing any of those responsible to benefit from any of the terms of the British-Irish Agreement, which the Omagh bomb was clearly designed to destroy. In the aftermath of the Omagh bombing, it was clearly necessary for the Government to review the legislative and security procedures available to the State to fight terrorism. The State has the right to take all appropriate action to protect its citizens from terrorist attack. It has a particular obligation to act when its territory may be used to launch murderous attacks on citizens in a neighbouring jurisdiction. My colleague, Deputy McManus, will deal with the additional powers sought by the Government in the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill in the debate later today.

I will comment on the principles which will govern the approach of Democratic Left. First, it is undesirable and potentially dangerous that a package of measures which has rightly been described by the Minister for Justice as "draconian" should be rushed through the Dáil in 12 hours, less than two days after most Deputies have seen the Bill. The experience in the past has been that rushed legislation has turned out to be flawed legislation.

Second, it is important that extraordinary police powers which may be regarded as necessary at particular times to deal with a specific terrorist threat, are not allowed to become a permanent feature of our legal code. The Government's proposal that these new measures should be allowed to run for two and a half years is excessive and we will seek an earlier review.

Third, such extraordinary powers need to be accompanied by measures to afford increased protection to innocent people who, for whatever reason, may find themselves caught up in events which result in them being taken into custody. Experience here and in the UK has shown that innocent people end up in custody and are wrongly convicted. We will table a series of amendments which will seek to counterbalance the additional powers given to the Garda, with additional safeguards to protect the interests of the innocent.

Of equal, if not greater, importance is the political response to the Omagh bombing. Political opinion ranging from that of David Trimble to that of Gerry Adams has described the Omagh bombing as an attack on the British-Irish Agreement, a view which I share. In these circumstances it is vital that those who are committed to the British-Irish Agreement do everything possible to consolidate it and build on the principles of consent and co-operation enshrined in it. This requires additional movement on all sides. It was predictably depressing to see the opportunism with which some anti-Agreement unionists tried to use the Omagh bombing as a stick with which to beat David Trimble. Equally depressing was the An Phoblacht interview with a representative of the IRA leadership and its rigid and inflexible position on decommissioning and the anachronistic use of terms such as the “occupied counties”.

I previously acknowledged the positive role played by leaders of Sinn Féin in the all-party talks which culminated in the British-Irish Agreement. It must also be acknowledged that, with the exception of punishment attacks, which must cease, the renewed IRA ceasefire has been solid in recent months. I welcome the prompt and unprecedented condemnation of the Omagh attack by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

However, the republican movement, as a party to the British-Irish Agreement, has a particular obligation to face up to its responsibilities after the Omagh bombing. We do not know if the explosives and detonator used in Omagh were originally from the arsenal of the Provisional IRA. However, we can say with a fair degree of certainty that the technical skill and expertise of those who carried out the bombing was almost certainly acquired within the Provisional IRA, and from those who may well be in leadership positions in that organisation.

Nobody can be surprised that the Omagh bombing has increased the genuine concerns that many people in Northern Ireland have about the continued existence of huge arsenals of weapons and explosives. It is essential that all paramilitaries should now demonstrate they are prepared in the immediate future to comply with the spirit, as well as the letter, of the British-Irish Agreement on this issue.

Similarly, a clear and unequivocal message is required from all sections of the republican movement that the campaign of violence is over for good and it is committed to seeking political change by peaceful and democratic means alone. This is not, as the IRA spokesman quoted in An Phoblacht would have us believe, word games. It is an issue of fundamental principle. People will reasonably ask: “if they will not say it, does it mean they do not believe it? ” They will wonder if the unwillingness on the part of the IRA to say the war is over is due to the IRA's realisation that the logical question which will follow is: if the war is over, why does the IRA need to retain its weapons of destruction?

The Deputy has exceeded his time.

So did every other Member.

I ask the Deputy to conclude.

I will do so as quickly as possible.

I have given latitude to Members.

In the context of this ongoing debate, I welcome yesterday's statement by the President of Sinn Féin, Mr. Adams. While it falls short of the unequivocal terms I would have preferred, it represents a step forward and marks the most significant rejection of violence yet expressed by any leader of the Republican movement. What is of concern is the contrast in tone and content between the statement of Mr. Adams and the interview with the IRA representative in An Phoblacht. A clear statement from the leadership of the IRA that it shares the analysis and sentiments of Mr. Adams would be a catalyst for political progress.

The British-Irish Agreement can only work if it is clear that all parties and, in relevant cases, their associate paramilitary groups have put violence firmly and irrevocably behind them. The paramilitary organisations have been the principal beneficiaries so far of the agreement. A substantial number of prisoners have been released in this jurisdiction and shortly the prison gates in Northern Ireland will be thrown open to facilitate the early release of hundreds of prisoners who were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for what were often vile and vicious crimes. Civilised society has been generous and has taken a great leap of faith in agreeing to these early releases. It is now payback time for the paramilitaries. It is time for the Government to exert more pressure on the Republican movement to show a spirit of compromise with regard to the decommissioning of weapons.

I welcome the fact that the leader of the Unionist Party, Mr. Trimble, in his capacity as First Minister, has invited Sinn Féin to a meeting next week and I hope it will be followed by an early face to face meeting between Mr. Trimble and Mr. Adams. The peace process has been built on a series of small steps rather than dramatic leaps forward. Movement on one side must be met with a proportionate reciprocal response by others. The imminent visit of President Clinton to Northern Ireland appears to have provided a catalyst to move matters forward and I hope further progress will be made in the next few days.

The people of Northern Ireland cannot rely on others to resolve their problems. The primary onus is on their political representatives. They must redouble their efforts to find a way around potential obstacles to the establishment of the Executive and to pave the way for the full implementation of the provisions of the British-Irish Agreement.

Bhí mise as baile nuair a tharla an dúnmharú déisteanach san Omaigh ar 15 Lúnasa. Déanta na fírinne, bhí mé ar mí na meala.

In planning one's honeymoon in the middle of August, one hopes it will be a quieter time, politically, than usual. How wrong I was. As one is so far away, one tends to see such a horrific crime as a remote occurrence. However, as my wife and I watched the Taoiseach on CNN speak of his horror, the shock that this was happening at home became painfully and depressingly clear.

Terrorism leaves death, pain and scars. It is the most grotesque act imaginable. Some people have no need to imagine its horror. I have flashbacks of memory of Friday, 17 May 1974. I was a 13-year old schoolboy and was attending a choir practice in the Dublin Central Mission Hall in Abbey Street. Normal life was blown away at 5.30 p.m. in a thunderous bang and a violent blast caused by one of the car bombs which exploded nearby. My clearest memory is of the huge window at the opposite end of the hall falling in. My mother who was at home was aware that her entire family — my father, sister, brother and I — were in Abbey Street at that time. To this day I can only guess the distress which the news must have caused for her.

However, I am alive today while the 28 victims of murder in Omagh, and the many other victims of terrorism, are not. Ballymoney was also a place of unspeakable grief this summer. With others I stood with the family and friends of the Quinn boys who died so needlessly, tragically and innocently. Our prayers are with their family at this time. I have never been to Omagh but, like other Members, I attended a number of memorial services and vigils since the atrocity. Repeatedly, I have heard the names, the ages and details of the lives of those who have passed on. I prayed with people from Omagh who came to Dublin. I prayed for the dead, the injured and the bereaved. This was part of a phenomenal tidal wave of spiritual and community responses which touched every village and town. A further response is now expected of all of us elected to this Parliament. As legislators we must ask how do we deal with the hurt, the pain, the anger and the outrage that well up in us in the face of the Omagh atrocity without falling into the political trap the perpetrators have tried to spring on almost all people on this island, of all political backgrounds, who wish even now to work through the British-Irish Agreement democratically and peacefully. To recall the Dáil to hear expressions of grief for those so cruelly murdered and to express our sympathy with the bereaved and our solidarity with those wounded and maimed is the right thing for the Government to do.

The Green Party — Comhaontas Glas — like all political parties here, comprises people of goodwill interested in public affairs, who have been shocked, grief stricken and even maddened to some degree by this heinous atrocity. The Northern Ireland Green Party, the Scottish Green Party and the Green Party in England and Wales have asked me to say that they are remembering the feelings and needs of the people of Omagh and their thoughts are with the people of Tyrone, Donegal and Madrid who were made to bear the brunt of the reaction of violent republicanism to the unfolding peace process. Yesterday I spoke to the chairperson of the Northern Ireland Green Party who told me that his wife is from Omagh, that he and his wife knew many of the people who were killed and injured and that they were there immediately they heard of the blast.

The shock waves of this barbarous bomb have drawn together communities far and wide as one huge bereaved family. In my own constituency a Malahide man originally from Omagh lost his mother, Mary, his sister, Avril, who was expecting twins, and his 18 month old niece, Maura. How can words make a difference to the grief in that man's family? In the face of such a burden of loss the spiritual response of prayer is sometimes the only one that makes even the remotest sense. As Jesus Christ said, "Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted." It is also written, and this I personally believe: "Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ who according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away reserved in Heaven for you." Is it not ironic, when one considers the dogma of those who carried out the attack in Omagh, that almost all people on this island are already united in the wish to live in peace together and are also united in their determination to end violence and to bring to justice those who remain involved in terrorism? This resolve was demonstrated most clearly in the wake of the bombing by the many priests of all persuasions, the medical professionals and other people, near and far, who helped in whatever way they could, organising vigils, fundraising and bringing whatever comfort possible to the victims. I support the suggestion that the Government should help with fundraising for the victims and the people of Omagh.

The growing co-operation between the different traditions on the island came across very strongly in the joint statements from the Northern Ireland First Minister, David Trimble, M.P. and the Deputy First Minister, Séamus Mallon, M.P. in the aftermath of the bombing. They stated that what was needed was a political response, a security response and a community response. Later today the Dáil will make less of a political response than a legislative one to the tragedy. Whereas there are such requirements, that response is no substitute for the other responses that must also be on our minds. The community response, which in many ways is the most powerful and most needed, relies on every person on this island who opposes violence to act on the one hand by declaring what activities they can help with to promote understanding and peace and, on the other hand, to declare if they have any knowledge of hiding places for weapons or the whereabouts of anyone who has an involvement in terrorism. Life depends on such information being reported.

In saying that, my heart goes out to the many people I have heard from who have been intimidated; some have been killed. They are those who have stood up and spoken out but have not had the community response to support their bravery. Listening to the Garda Commissioner, Mr. Pat Byrne, recently it was clear that the role of the community's response is the vital ingredient in bringing an end to crime and, in this case, terrorism as well.

The security response will cost money, although that aspect is not contained in the legislation. This is the real test of how determined the Government is to catch the terrorists and prevent further atrocities. The Minister must declare what extra money will be provided for the Garda Síochána. From talking to young people, I know there is a long waiting list of those wishing to enrol as trainees at the Garda training college in Templemore. At a time when many employers are finding it difficult to recruit suitable workers, that speaks volumes for the willingness of school leavers who want a chance to serve in the Garda Síochána and to help in the response we are talking about.

The political response requires immediate progress in implementing the British-Irish Agreement. When discussing this legislation in specific terms, a human rights commissioner is needed — as in Northern Ireland where there is a standing advisory committee on human rights — to ensure a balanced response when such emergency legislation is on the Statute Book.

The dead have been buried but the injured and bereaved still suffer and will continue to do so. It is time to work so that memories will be honoured by the hope that no more suffering will be visited on anyone through terrorism. Political, security, community and spiritual responses will also continue to be required. However, the British-Irish Agreement is the vehicle of that hope and its early implementation must now, more than ever, be the focus of our efforts in Leinster House and in the community generally.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Joe Higgins.

Ar mo shon féin, ar son Shinn Féin agus ar son mhuintir an Chábháin agus Muineacháin seolaim comhbhrón ó chroí dóibh siúd a d'fhulaing mar gheall ar an uafás san Ómaigh. Mar atá ráite agam go poiblí roimhe seo, ionsaí ab ea é ar phróiseas na síochána i gcoitinne agus ar shraitéis síochána Shinn Féin ach go háirithe. Is é an freagra is éifeachtaí anois dul ar aghaidh gan mhoill leis an bpróiseas agus comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta a chur i bhfeidhm.

I wish to extend the continuing sympathy and solidarity on behalf of myself, of Sinn Féin and of my constituents in Cavan and Monaghan to all who were bereaved or injured by the bombing of Omagh in our neighbouring county of Tyrone. The devastating personal impact of this tragedy was widely felt, especially in the network of inter-related communities along the Border. We in that region know, from the experience of long conflict which has touched us all, that the process of grieving, recovering and rebuilding broken lives will take many years. The magnitude of this tragedy which ranks with very few others in the 30 years of conflict, makes that process even more difficult.

The dignity and grief of the people of Omagh, of those in Buncrana and of the relatives of the Spanish victims has been remarkable. My party colleagues in County Tyrone have described as humbling the demeanour of the bereaved and the injured. This is a community united in sorrow but also in determination to see lasting peace as the permanent memorial for their loved ones. For our part, we in Sinn Féin are more determined than ever to ensure a lasting and democratic peace settlement is achieved and firmly established. The bombing of Omagh was an attack on the peace process in general and on the Sinn Féin peace strategy in particular. It ran completely contrary to the democratic consensus among Irish republicans. Those who carried out the bombing do not hold themselves accountable to any community or political constituency. The republican consensus and the weight of public opinion generally will ensure their ill-conceived campaign, unbearably tragic though its consequences were in Omagh, will have been short-lived.

The response to Omagh must now be a redoubling of efforts to ensure the full potential of the British-Irish Agreement is reached. The spirit and the letter of the Agreement must be implemented. The assembly must meet. The executive must be established with due representation in ministries for all so entitled by virtue of their electoral mandate. The North-South Ministerial Council and implementation bodies need to be in place and working this autumn. Progress must be made and be seen to be made on issues of justice and equality, demilitarisation, prisoners and policing.

Now is not the time for party politicking and point scoring, for recriminations or the placing of new obstacles to progress. The onus is on all those democratically mandated by the people to join together in the creation of a new political dispensation. Having attended this debate throughout, I must remark how out of step with what is required was the contribution this morning of Deputy John Bruton. I will not be goaded into a political cul de sac of Deputy Bruton's construction. I record my disappointment that he has yet again demonstrated his failure to accept the changing political realities of this Agreement and its implementation.

The British-Irish Agreement was endorsed by the electorate on both sides of the Border because it contained the promise of change and the prospect of lasting peace. Change and peace are inextricably linked. If we lose sight of that, the efforts of those seeking to wreck the peace process will succeed. A return to a failed repressive agenda would run completely contrary to the British-Irish Agreement.

It is time to leave the political failures and conflict of the past behind us. We in Sinn Féin are certain that we have done all in our power to end the conflict. We have lead Irish republicanism successfully into a peaceful strategy. We have made republican consensus for a negotiated peace settlement a central part of the peace process and that is our ongoing task. We will fulfil our obligations and our mandate and others must do the same.

Again I express sympathy and solidarity with the bereaved and injured of Omagh. Our commitment to them and to all who have been bereaved or injured in the conflict is to work without stint until lasting peace and real democracy is established on this island.

(Dublin West): My heartfelt solidarity and that of the Socialist Party with the bereaved people of Omagh, Buncrana and Spain and with the suffering wounded, the maimed and the disfigured who survived the appalling bomb atrocity of 15 August is entirely consistent with our feeling about all such atrocities over 30 years. Whether appalling outrages were perpetrated by the Provisional IRA, such as the massacre of innocent Protestant workers at Kingsmill and Teebane in the 1970s and 1980s, or by loyalist paramilitaries, such as the Greysteel massacre of Catholic working people and the appalling and tragic deaths of the Quinn children at Ballymoney, our reaction has been the same — outrage, opposition and the demand for no more violence.

I hope Omagh will be the last painful reminder that the activities of self-appointed paramilitary organisations advance not one inch the well-being of the working class communities — where they are often active — who suffer most from their activities. Any organisation which transports a 500 pound bomb into a town, village or city is responsible for the resulting casualties whether occurring in an accidental way or not. So also must a military superpower like the United States be held to account for sending flying bombs into Third World countries with equally reckless disregard for the innocent.

The paramilitary organisation responsible for the Omagh barbarity must be ostracised and isolated. Leaders of the political establishment have also called for that and logically should not then be lining up to give a sycophantic welcome to a United States President who sends missile bombs into poor countries, much less escort him around golf courses. The pain and suffering of black and brown people is no less than that of the people of Omagh and Ireland generally. Those of us who have campaigned for decades against paramilitary violence, against State violence and repression and for the unity of working class people, Protestant and Catholic, take enormous heart from the massive and impressive demonstration of unity in the wake of Omagh — a unity of working people across the North, in particular, which has transcended sectarian divisions and pushed those divisions into the background.

When I stood in Omagh on 22 August with thousands of ordinary people in protest at the massacre I felt a vital determination that there should be no going back to the horrors of the past. That determination was replicated in cities, villages and towns throughout Ireland. This is the movement that is sending the sectarian organisation responsible for the Omagh barbarity and others of like mind scurrying for cover. It is this movement that will ensure that the bombers, the sectarian killers, the sectarian fish of whatever hue, have no sea, lake or pond in which to swim. It is that response, not the panic rush by the British and Irish Governments to introduce legislative measures so incredibly, ludicrously and dangerously wide-ranging in their effect that they threaten the fundamental civil rights of our people, that has already made a huge difference. These measures will be counterproductive and are not the way to end paramilitary attacks. If the bitter experience of the last 30 years shows us anything, it shows us that repressive legislation does not solve the problem, it only creates more.

I salute the heroism, superhuman dedication and compassion of the health service workers and assisting volunteers in Omagh and Northern Ireland.

Is é mo dhóchas, agus éileamh láidir, práinn-each ó ghnáthdhaoine an oileáin seo uilig gurb é seo an tragóid dheireannach pharamíliteach, tragóid na hOmaí agus go dtiocfaidh chun cinn anois gluaiseacht thréan a chuirfidh i bhfeidhm cumhacht daonlathach lucht oibre an Tuaiscirt — agus gnáthdhaoine an oileáin — maraon le deireadh iomlán le hionsaithe paramilíteacha, le foréigean Stáit agus síocháin luath inar féidir tabhairt faoi na fadhmanna ollmhóra eacnamaíochta agus sóisialta a ghoineann ar dhaoine bochta agus ar an lucht oibre.

That concludes statements on the Omagh Tragedy. I now invite Members to rise and observe one minute's silence.

Members rose.