I share the expressions of concern at the grave situation in Poland. Just now in the news it was reported that the Austrian Chancellor described it as the gravest crisis yet to threaten European and world peace. On that score alone this motion is timely and I, too, appreciate the Minister's statement and presence in the House.
I am speaking for a certain strand of public opinion. I am not so sure I am speaking for my fellow Independent Senators because the definition of an Independent is, of course, that he is independent of other Independents. I share the general sentiments, though not some of the loaded political emphasis, in the contributions I have heard. It is true that there are historic affinities between Ireland and Poland. In fact, it is of interest that 19th-century observers, political scientists and national philosophers found the comparison between Ireland and Poland even from the early 19th-century a striking one. It is not necessary to labour the details of the comparison. The affinity is there and we share it. It was good to read that Ireland has shared in the general attempt to bring relief to the Polish people in terms of economic aid and the supply of credits for the purchase of intervention beef and so on. As Senator Robinson says, we want more of this kind of thing.
I am not so sure that we should go beyond that. I am not so sure that we should lecture the Polish Government at present or that we should confidently express opinions about what should or should not be done in what is, after all, an internal affair. Despite all the predictions of the hawks, the Soviet Union has not intervened in the past 18 months. Indeed, it seems to me that the Soviet Union should be given due credit for its prudence at least, if nothing else, in not intervening.
The west has not been without fault in the past 18 months in its attitude to the Polish crisis. Unfounded hopes had been raised. There has somehow been the vague suggestion that Poland can be converted into a western-style democracy. Certain hard realities have to be faced. It may be possible to give socialism, indeed it is to be hoped that socialism will be given a more human face in Poland and elsewhere in the eastern world, but the Polish Government — and again I cite the RTE news I have just heard — have made it clear that socialism will not be undermined in Poland. Senator Ryan referred to the hope that the struggle of Solidarity and so on over the past year or so would not be in vain. A number of people in Poland would take the view that there has been a longer struggle to establish socialism in Poland and its fellow-countries in the eastern bloc and that that struggle is not going to be in vain.
These are realities which perhaps appear unfamiliar from this particular perspective on the fringe of western Europe but nonetheless they are realities. I believe that the western press and western governments have been somewhat irresponsible, if you like, in raising unfounded hopes and in inflating the crisis in almost daily predicting intervention by the Soviet Union. That kind of self-fulfilling scaremongering cannot but aggravate the crisis.
I may say also that the concern for free trade unions came from some surprising quarters over the past 18 months; I mean from administrations like that of President Reagan, who is no lover of trade unions, free or otherwise, and indeed from some domestic opinion here, the same kind of opinion which says that trade unions should be put in their place, that they are getting above themselves and so on but who are full of enthusiasm for Solidarity in Poland. There are certain anomalies and contradictions in our attitude towards these matters. We should keep in mind that not only are the Poles going through their own agony but that they are a pawn in the east-west struggle also. The Soviet Union is not the only interferer: it is the most obvious interferer but it is not the only interferer in the situation.
I would like to quote from the Taoiseach's speech which was published in the Eighteenth Report on the Developments in the European Communities which we began to discuss yesterday. The Taoiseach recalls how the European Council in Luxembourg a year ago stated that:
The Polish people should be free to face their internal problems in a peaceful manner and without outside interference. Any other attitude would have very serious consequences not only for Poland but for the world.
I could not agree more but surely those words are capable of more than one meaning? That they "should be free to face their internal problems without outside interference" applies all around and very much so. That is what we should keep in mind today and that is also why I am happy that the motion is phrased in this neutral manner. There is, indeed, little more that we can do in this House than take note of the present situation in Poland. It would be very ill-advised of us to pontificate on the complex dimensions of the problem in Poland, as ill-advised, let us say, as it would be for a Polish legislative assembly to debate the situation in Northern Ireland.
I agree fully with Senator Robinson that the decision of the American administration to cease aid in these circumstances was an extremely retrograde one. The giving of economic help is putting our money where our mouth is in this situation. Beyond that I would deprecate any tendency on behalf of people in this House to tell the Poles how they should conduct their business. We must beware in this grave crisis of giving the impression that we are emulating the Skibbereen
Eagle. With these considerable reservations I share with my fellow Senators deep concern about events in Poland.