This section is the key section to the Bill. It is the section which gives the Bill its meaning, the operative section. I say that I cannot understand the Fianna Fáil attitude to the Bill but it is only right to say that in their opposition to this section they are showing consistency, because one of their speakers earlier made it quite clear that Fianna Fáil were opposed to this Bill in principle, and being opposed in principle to the Bill it is fair enough that they should therefore oppose the section which structures the entire Bill and gives the Bill its meaning. It is a section which makes the offences which are scheduled in the Bill, if committed in the North of Ireland, offences against our law triable and punishable in this State, in our courts and before our judges.
For the entire of the last half dozen years anyhow, since violence erupted in the North, all sections of the community south of the Border and most sections north of the Border have roundly condemned the violence which was taking place and have time after time condemned particular outrages, outrages which come into the category of those in the Schedule to this Bill. I think it is true that all sections of the community other than those actually engaged in violence have condemned the violence that has been going on. I think it is also true to say that, while most people, certainly the vast majority of the people of the State will, given the chance, condemn violence and these outrages that have taken place, by and large, very few people have the privilege or the position to do more than condemn the violence. It does fall to a few people to be able to do something more than indulge in verbal condemnations. The clergymen who met at Feakle were able to do something more than merely condemn violence. But it is not everyone can do more than dissociate himself from violence and associate himself with the expressions of horror and condemnation which have been made by their leaders, political and religious, on their behalf.
But we in this House have an opportunity of doing more than merely verbally condemning these outrages. Very often, despite what people may think, the lot of Parliamentarians is not an enviable one, but at least on this occasion, in this respect in relation to this Bill, in relation to these outrages with which this Bill is dealing, we are in a privileged position in that we can do something more than subscribe to verbal condemnations of violence and outrage where they occur. The essential question that faces us in connection with this Bill is: are we going to be prepared merely to indulge in verbal condemnations or are we going to be prepared merely to allow our condemnations to be frothy words without action because we have an opportunity of taking action? This section under discussion is the section in the Bill which gives us that opportunity.
The ultimate failure may very well be the failure to do something if we are in a position to do something, and I suggest very strongly in relation to this Bill and in particular to this section of the Bill that we are among the few who have now an opportunity of doing something. I know that this section has been opposed by, among others, Senator Martin, on the grounds that it is untimely. The taking of this Bill today was opposed by him and by the Fianna Fáil group basically—I think I am not misrepresenting him—on the grounds that it was untimely. I did not have the opportunity of hearing the entire of Senator Martin's contribution on this section, but I think he expressed his views with regard to this section very fully and clearly at column 943, Volume 80 of the Seanad Debates of 1st May, 1975.
Section 2 of the Bill seems to accept the legitimacy of the Northern Ireland Government. It seems to terminate or at least to curtail seriously the possibility of political protest by the minority in the North.
And he went on to ask:
Do we finally wish to terminate all protests, opposition and challenge to whatever regime happens to obtain in Northern Ireland?