Before that very sombre and tragic interruption of our business I was coming to the last very simple point which I will make to the Government, that is, to reiterate my view that their proposal meets the existing problem. However, it does not go far enough; it certainly undermines the credibility of the way foreign policy will operate. I believe this is shoring up further trouble for us not very far down the line. There is a willingness and a desire on our part to prevent this happening and we are asking the Government at this late stage to look again at the thinking and the content of our amendments. I believe the Government will not be losing if they do this. Our political process will be stronger, more secure, and will be restored to its rightful constitutional role.
An Bille um an Deichiú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1987: An Dara Céim (Atógáil). Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1987: Second Stage (Resumed).
I will not delay the procedures of the House too long as the position was very well put by the Minister for Foreign Affairs this morning, but there are a few points I would like to make and which I feel should be made. The contents of the Single European Act have been discussed both in the Seanad and in the Dáil before and if the wishes of our party at the time had been met the Referendum which will take place next month would have taken place last year. At this stage we would be having the Single European Act ratified by Ireland in conjunction with other European countries. The delay in the passage of this Bill has not had any major consequences so far but each day of delay makes it more difficult for us in Europe.
A number of items in the Single European Act need to be addressed and worries are being expressed about certain matters such as the aspect of neutrality. On the question of neutrality, the declaration by the Government makes it quite clear that the provisions of Title III do not affect Ireland's long established policy of military neutrality in that co-ordination of positions on the political and economic aspects of security does not include the military aspects of security or procurement for military purposes and does not affect Ireland's right to act or refrain from acting in any way which might affect Ireland's international status of military neutrality. The Minister made it quite plain this morning that there are areas where Ireland has got involved in discussions about international matters, such as affairs in the Middle East and aspects of military involvement which does not include the military involvement of Ireland. The position that would arise in the future if we got involved in a military alliance has been well explained. There is no suggestion that we ever will and there is no reason why we ever should.
The position regarding Ireland as a small neutral country should remain. There would be no benefit to us in getting involved in military alliance of any description. As a small nation, if there is an international war — it does not make any difference who starts it — Ireland would be in the invidious position of not being able to do anything about it. There is no point in us getting involved with one or other of the major power groups in the world. We would not have a major part to play. We do a very good job at international fora in explaining our case and in trying to ensure that the world does not get involved in any further major conflicts. We have a major part to play in regard to that.
There are problems which need to be resolved under the Single European Act. There is no doubt but that we must complete the internal market within Europe because it has been a major inhibiting factor in our trading relationships. We have not really got a true marketplace because throughout Europe we have different countries with differing rates of VAT and different tax rates and I am glad that the harmonisation of taxation, even though it will create problems for us, is expected to be completed in 1992. It is only then that the full potential of the marketplace in Europe of 320 million will be realised. Countries like Japan and the United States have been more successful than Europe in their trading relationships over the past number of years and it is purely and simply because of fragmentation of markets that we have not been able to come to grips with the potential Europe has.
People have been worried about the position in regard to public morality. They feel there could be dangers if the Act is passed. I do not think that those dangers are real. The Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation produced an excellent report and laid down quite clearly where the difficulties are and how they can be overcome. It was unfortunate that the reports of the joint committee were not properly examined by the two Houses of the Oireachtas although they were well discussed by the Seanad. It is hoped that with the quick passage of the constitutional amendment many of the problems which have been faced by the Community will be eliminated. In regard to the completion of the internal market we should work hard in the future to ensure that our interests in Europe are not lost. There will be increased use of qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers which will be a good thing. The incorporation in the EC Treaty for the first time of a new chapter on economic and social cohesion is again a move in the right direction.
The declaration by the Government and what is considered as being narrow wording, is the proper way to go ahead. Some have said that the interpretation is very narrow but we are dealing with one subject and we should get that out of the way. There may be a need in the future to have a look at the overall position in regard to our various international agreements which have been signed in good faith but which now, apparently, people are afraid might come into question. The strengthening of legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas is something which is to be desired. I do not think it was ever intended that the Supreme Court would be an overruling body in a narrow sense. It would seem as if the overall views of the Houses of the Oireachtas, and the Government, should be of paramount importance rather than the dissenting voices of two or three Supreme Court judges. I am not suggesting that the Supreme Court should be done away with or that they should not have an input into what happens in Ireland but, nevertheless we must, as Houses of the Oireachtas, strengthen the position of the Houses of the Oireachtas and ensure that legislation which goes out of this House will not be capable of an interpretation which is not in the best interests of the Irish people.
Like other Members, I find it quite difficult to turn back to the matter before the House, the serious issue of the Single European Act, after the very terrible news which we received and on which we have already commented. However it is necessary that we do address the issues raised by the measure before the House. As a person who favoured the idea of holding a consultative referendum on the Single European Act because of its political importance, and as someone who recommended that the Bill debated last December be referred to the Supreme Court for a ruling on its constitutionality, I must say I am not too disturbed by the decision of the Supreme Court in the Crotty case. In a curious sense it is a constitutional chicken finally come home to roost. Let us face it, the whole handling of the Single European Act was open to very serious criticism. I made that criticism last December when we were debating the Bill and I make it perhaps even more forcefully now. Murphy's law appears to have prevailed in our approach to the Single European Act. As the text of the Bill before us today makes clear, the Single European Act was signed on two dates in February 1986, therefore at a very early stage of 1986, yet it was not until December 1986, that the Bill commenced its debate in the two Houses of the Oireachtas.
I disagree with the defence put up by Senator Manning of the then Government's handling of the Single European Act. I do not think they can be proud of the way in which it was handled nor do I blame that Government solely. To some extent I am repeating comments I made last December when we were debating the Bill. The more serious criticism must be levelled at the Government for not ensuring that the parliamentary debate commenced at the proper time. It should have commenced in March, April, May or June 1986. There should have been a full opportunity for examination of its implications, and it should have been preceded by the explanatory Blue Paper which was ultimately produced in November and then only because the Government were embarrassed into producing it, mainly by the then Opposition. It was not produced as a matter of Government concern that people would be properly informed.
It is true, as Senator Manning and Senator Lanigan mentioned, that the joint committee on EC legislation, of which the three of us were members at the time, examined in detail the proposals for the single market and the proposals of the Single European Act in relation to European political co-operation. We heard the representations of a number of groups and we published a substantial report which was available only at the very end of November or the beginning of December 1986, I cannot remember which. Therefore, in a sense the joint committee, too, failed to tackle the task at a stage early enough and failed to produce the informed, detailed analysis and representation of the views, concerns, worries and preoccupations of the various interest groups and sectors in sufficient time.
Following the debate on the Bill in the Oireachtas last December there was in the event no reference to the Supreme Court under Article 26. Indeed, the Council of State were not called together on the matter. The President calls the Council of State for advice on such matters, but I think it is well known that that is done if the Government indicate that the matter is one on which the views of the Council of State might be taken. It is interesting that was never done in this instance.
It seems that we were all too concerned about the European timetable. We were all a little too pre-occupied about the fact that Europe wanted this measure by 1 January 1987, so we failed to get our own act together. We failed to start our own debate early enough, then we became too preoccupied about Europe's timetable and about not holding things up there. At the end of the day it was a courageous individual, Raymond Crotty, who had to seise the courts of this problem and ultimately see his course of action vindicated by the majority decision of the Supreme Court that the Single European Act could not be ratified without a constitutional amendment approved by way of referendum. It is not a record that we can be particularly proud of.
A number of aspects of it are very positive. I am not at all worried about the fact that we have held things up a little in Europe. I do not think that we have in any way damaged our position as a country, far from it. It is extremely important that it is recognised in Europe that we are the only member state of the EC which has a common law tradition combined with a written Constitution. We are a country within which the powers of Government are exercised within a constitutional framework and are open to judicial review. All I regret is that we did not in our own performance in processing the Single European Act start earlier, pursue it with more seriousness as it warranted and have a referendum voluntarily because of the importance of the issue. Now, a little late, we are going to have that referendum.
It is very important that we do have a referendum on this issue. It is most important, if we want to take a further significant step in the European context, that we do it by the mandate and popular approval of the people, having had the issue put in the course of a referendum and having had an opportunity to examine it. Of course, as Senator Manning remarked, all kinds of views will be put forward. Already we are hearing fairly strange views put forward. Indeed, a colleague of mine in the law school, Professor McAleese, has raised an abortion scare. I think we will have a good deal of scaremongering and of fairly way-out views of one sort or another on the measure, but that is part of the democratic process. I hope we will have also a very serious addressing of the basic issues. Indeed, it will be necessary for the Minister in his reply on Second Stage to address more sharply the issues raised in the Crotty judgment. The majority judgment of the Supreme Court raises a very serious issue about Ireland's involvement in EPC and unless the Minister addresses that in a very clear way there will be a great deal of worry, concern and apprehension expressed throughout the country about what the commitments may mean for Ireland. I will come to that more specifically when I have looked at the broader issues of the Crotty judgment.
Indeed, it seems that it is necessary to consider a number of fundamental issues, not, I hasten to add, at any great length but at least to raise them in this debate. The first is the broader implications of the majority decision of the Supreme Court in the Crotty case for the relationship between the Executive and the Judiciary and for the treaty making power of the State. That would include consideration of the possible impact on other international commitments as has already been indicated, for example, our membership of the UN and, a very sensitive matter, the Anglo-Irish Agreement. That leads to the question, which presumably we will discuss in more detail on Committee Stage, of whether it is appropriate to confine this Bill to the narrow ground of simply seeking to provide a minimalist referendum to allow ratification of the Single European Act. That is what the text of the Bill before us proposes. It is couched to meet the issue of enabling Ireland to ratify the Single European Act and get the approval of the people in a referendum. The Minister has made it clear that this was the Government's intention. It is nothing broader than that and there are no further complications in it.
It is very important for us to assess whether that is the appropriate response to make at this stage to the Bill or whether, as others have urged, it would be preferable to take on board the broader implications and seek a broader formula. I have given a great deal of thought to which would be the appropriate approach, and I have concluded that the Government are probably prudent in what they propose to do and that I will support them. The broader implications are very complex and I do not think they can be fully assessed in a hurry with a referendum brought on within a matter of four weeks after the debate has been concluded.
We just do not have the proper opportunity to consider the implications. There are different kinds of implications which I will come to in more detail later. The issue of the Single European Act is sufficiently important and complex in itself to be the proper subject of a referendum unfettered by other issues. The people ought to be able to address that issue, to consider the implications of that issue, and to vote on it. There are significant reasons, however, why there must be no delay in addressing the broader issues. Indeed, I intend to raise a couple of constitutional issues that have not yet been raised in either House.
I propose to examine the implications of the Crotty judgments, the majority judgments, on the conduct of foreign relations by Ireland particularly in the context of the EPC. That is where I hope the Minister in his reply will be very specific and will clarify the position of the Government. The portion of the Minister's speech where he dealt with this does not appear to be reconcilable with the majority judgments of the Supreme Court. Will the Minister make it clear whether he disagrees with the legal interpretation of the majority judgments of the Supreme Court? Possibly the Minister's advice is that that legal interpretation by one court of an international Treaty is not the view shared by the Minister's advisers of the implications of Ireland's participation in European political co-operation. It is necessary to sew this clearly into the record of the House so that at the end of Second Stage we will know what the position on that is.
Before I look at the broader implications of the judgments of the Supreme Court on Part III of the Single European Act, I must say that I agree with the Minister's comment on the judgment of the Supreme Court on Part II of the Act. That very significant judgment has gone almost unnoticed but in that judgment the Supreme Court, as voiced in the judgment of the Chief Justice, affirmed that the amendments proposed in Title II were all compatible with Ireland's obligations and with the Irish Constitution and that, therefore, the process of ratification by way of the passage of the Act in 1986 had been a sufficient ratification, and that Act was, in effect, in conformity with the Constitution.
The focus obviously, from the point of view of this debate is on the second part of what the Supreme Court did: the five judgments on the part of the Single European Act which dealt with European political co-operation. Looking at the broader implications I will begin by referring to a very brief passage in the judgment of the Chief Justice who was in a minority with Mr. Justice Griffin on this issue. He said in the course of his judgment:
The net issue which arises in this part of this appeal is whether, having regard to the general nature and effect of Article 30 of the SEA and its status in relation to our law as above outlined, this Court is entitled under the Constitution, at the instance of the Plaintiff, to intervene so as to prevent the Government from ratifying this Treaty.
It is an issue of a fundamental nature, the importance of which, in my view, transcends by far the significance of the provisions of the SEA.
It is a very interesting statement that that issue of the relationship between the courts and their role here and the Executive transcended completely in importance the content of the Single European Act. It is for that reason that I am not in favour of rushing into a response to the broader implications of the Crotty judgment.
These implications are extremely important and I have no doubt that they are being examined seriously in the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is extremely important that there is a very detailed and comprehensive examination. We might well avail ourselves of a European model in approaching this problem. As the Minister will know, at European level, whenever there is a particularly difficult problem, they often establish a committee of experts. It would be desirable to have some top level committee of experts examining this not just internally within the Department of Foreign Affairs or within the Attorney General's Office. The Government are entitled to seek advice, but on an issue of such importance — where it touches on the Constitution and on the relationship between the Judiciary and the Executive — it is desirable that there would be a committee of experts to examine the broader implications of the Crotty judgment apart from in the context of the Single European Act. Such a committee should examine the implications of the fact that the courts have asserted and exercised a very significant role in this area and declared that Ireland could not ratify the Single European Act without a constitutional amendment in this case notwithstanding that there had been a resolution by the Dáil adopting the Treaty provision.
That is the first of the broader issues. The implications of it are to be found in the judgments of the majority, where a very clear distinction is drawn between declarations of policy or contexts in which policy may be co-ordinated, and reducing that process of co-ordination to a Treaty framework. It is clear from the judgments of Mr. Justice Walsh and Mr. Justice Henchy that they place considerable significance on the incorporation into a Treaty.
I will refer to the relevant passage in the judgement of Mr. Justice Walsh. His approach, in viewing the second part of the Single European Act on European political co-operation as encroaching on sovereignty, in effect, as encroaching on the full independence of the Government in the matter, seems to be based on a very strict or fundamentalist approach to the concept of sovereignty. The majority judgment of the Supreme Court on an issue is the authorative view, but we live in a democracy and it is therefore open to criticism and scrutiny. The judges would wish that it would be so scrutinised and analysed and that they would learn from any criticisms made. Mr. Justice Walsh adopts a rigid and strict encapsulation of the notion of sovereignty which seems to date almost from the last century rather than from this century, where we have a much more interdependent world, where we have the reality of membership of the European Community and membership of other international organisations. I will place on the record the relevant sequence in Mr. Justice Walsh's thinking. He said:
As was pointed in the decision of the court in the first part of this case the essential nature of sovereignty is the right to say yes or to say no. In the present provisions that right is to be materially qualified.
It commits the State and therefore all future Governments and the Oireachtas, to the other member States to do the following things:
1. To endeavour to formulate and to implement a European foreign policy.
2. To undertake to inform or consult the other Member States on any foreign policy matters of general interest (not just of common interest) so as to ensure that the combined influence of the States is exercised as effectively as possible through co-ordination, the convergence of their positions and the implementation of joint action.
I do not want to take up the time of the House by continuing the list. He lists ten similar requirements of that nature on the State. He concludes in his judgment on that and I again quote him:
All of these matters impinge upon the freedom of action of the State not only in certain areas of foreign policy but even within international organisations such as the United Nations or the Council of Europe. That latter effect of the Treaty could amount to the establishment of combinations within these organisations. In touching upon the maintenance of the technological and industrial conditions necessary for security the Treaty impinges upon the State's economic, industrial and defence policies. The obligation on the High Contracting Parties after five years to examine whether a new revision of Title III is required does not give the Treaty a temporary character.
That is the challenge to us in this House: to understand precisely what the Supreme Court is saying the Single European Act means, and to reconcile that with what the Minister says participation in the process of the Single European Act means. It does seem there that what Mr. Justice Walsh is saying is that it impinges on our freedom of action to such an extent that it constitutes an intrusion on sovereignty which requires the mandate of approval of the people by way of referendum.
What the Minister has said effectively —I will quote the relevant passage later —is that there is no infringement on our freedom of action in that regard, that we have been taking part in a process and will continue to take part in that process without any constraint on how we would act. I would be grateful to the Minister. if, in replying, he would address this issue and, if you like, would take the passage from the judgment of Justice Walsh and the passage to which I am about to refer to in the judgment of Mr. Justice Henchy. The Minister might give his view on how this may or — as he appears to say — may not affect Ireland's involvement in the European political co-operation process. Mr. Justice Henchy in the relevant part of his judgment stated as follows:
It is urged on behalf of the Government that the changes in existing interstate relations effected by Title III are slight, that it does little more than formalise existing practices and procedures by converting them into binding obligations. This, I fear, is to underestimate the true nature in international law of a treaty as distinct from a mere practice or procedure, and to misinterpret the commitments for the future involved in Title III. As a treaty, Title III is not designed in static terms. It not alone envisages changes in interstate relations, but also postulates and requires those changes. And the purpose of those changes is to erode national independence in the conduct of external relations in the interests of European political cohesion in foreign relations. As I have pointed out, the treaty marks the transformation of the European Communities from an organisation which has so far been essentially economic to one that is to be political also. It goes beyond existing arrangements and practices, in that it establishes within the framework of the Communities new institutions and offices (such as European Political Co-Operation, the Political Director and the Political Committee) and charts a route of co-ordination, by means such as working parties, a secretariat and regular meetings, so as to give impetus to the drive for European Unity.
All this means that if Ireland were to ratify the Treaty it would be bound in international law to engage actively in a programme which would trench progressively on Ireland's independence and sovereignty in the conduct of foreign relations. Ireland would therefore become bound to act in a way that would be inconsistent with the Constitution. The Governments constitutional mandate requires it to act in accordance with the Constitution. In proposing to ratify this treaty it is in effect seeking to evade that obligation and to substitute for it an obligation, or a series of obligations, in international law which cannot be reconciled with the constitutional obligations.
Again I would hope that, in his reply, the Minister will address that particular statement of Mr. Justice Henchy:
All this means that if Ireland were to ratify the Treaty it would be bound in international law to engage actively in a programme which would trench progressively on Ireland's independence and sovereignty in the conduct of foreign relations.
Mr. Justice Henchy also appears to have a view of sovereignty which I do not necessarily share. That view of sovereignty is a very strict constructionist one. What both judges have said is that this process, because it has been encapsulated into a treaty, will trench upon our independence and sovereignty in the conduct of foreign relations.
What the Minister said in his speech to this House was very different. Perhaps I should refer now to the relevant passage where he said:
A constitutional distinction has of course been drawn in the Supreme Court between informal commitments and Treaty-based commitments. That is in large part why we are putting this Constitutional amendment to the people. But in doing so, I wish to emphasise that there is nothing in Title III which will oblige Ireland to conform to any foreign policy position with which it is not in agreement. Our obligations under the Single Act will remain limited essentially to working for common positions and joint action. Naturally, in working out our positions we will take full account of the attitudes of our partners. This we do already, just as I know that our partners take account of our attitudes.
I believe then that Title III of the Single Act poses no difficulties for Ireland's ability to conduct an independent foreign policy.
It would be important that we would have the Minister's comments in reconciling that position with the majority judgments of the Supreme Court in the Crotty case. The third judgment — the judgment of Mr. Justice Hederman — is very brief but he does concur with his two colleagues.
Apart from the significance of the passages I have just read for the Crotty case possibly they also have far-reaching implications for our other international commitments, as was pointed out in some detail in the other House and has already been referred to by Senator Manning in this House. To what extent has the State, if you like, inadvertently, possibly, drawn Ireland into international commitments, treaties for which the appropriate constitutional process was not followed within Ireland? That is really the issue — whether there was, in fact, the constitutional authority to do that. The position is referred to in an article by Finbarr Murphy who is lecturer on European Community law in University College, Dublin, and also a colleague of mine at the Bar, published in The Irish Times of Wednesday, 15 April 1987. He refers to these broader implications as follows:
However, the really serious implication of the Crotty judgment concerns the status and validity of certain international commitments entered into by the State. In short, wherever the State is involved in an international arrangement which stipulates that a particular procedure for consultation and discussion should be followed, then the limitations on the exercise of the State's foreign policy inherent in that arrangement are inconsistent with the Constitution.
A number of examples come to mind: the Security Council of the UN and the obligations flowing from negotiations in the context of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. But, by far the most obvious international agreement at risk under the Crotty doctrine is the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. That set up a framework to deal, on a regular basis, with political and security matters, legal issues and cross-Border co-operation.
Then he quotes:
"Determined efforts shall be made ... to resolve any differences" on these issues in respect of Northern Ireland. Such efforts must be made through the Inter-governmental Conference established by the agreement. It need hardly be added that the State's participation in the UN, in the GATT and in the AIA was not preceded by an enabling referendum. And, while the State would still be bound by international law to observe the terms of these agreements, the domestic status of these agreements would be most unclear. Furthermore, the resulting legal uncertainly would be matched by political uncertainty.
To say the least, that paragraph raises very serious issues indeed. That is the primary reason I am not in favour of trying to wrap it all up in this referendum or trying to rush through some sort of global formula.
We need to look very carefully at the issue involved, for example, if the Crotty judgment places in some doubt the powers of the Government to negotiate and conclude the Anglo-Irish Agreement as an international treaty — the constitutional authority to do so — that is obviously a matter of very grave concern to the House. If that is a problem which will require a constitutional amendment, and I say "if" because it is a very complex matter which would require very considerable thought and study, it would not be appropriate simply to do it by way of some generalised formula. It would be much more appropriate to ensure that if we are going to have a constitutional referendum on the Anglo-Irish Agreement it will be an honest one, that we will at last address the fact that it is difficult to reconcile the guarantee in Article I of the Anglo-Irish Agreement with the provisions of Article 2 and in particular of Article 3 of the Constitution. It is not only difficult to reconcile them; they are not reconcilable.
Apart from the Crotty judgment difficulty, if I may call it that, namely, the problem of whether what the Government were doing in entering into the agreement was within their powers under the Constitution, there is the additional issue in relation to the Anglo-Irish Agreement that the provisions of Articles 2 and 3 must be taken into consideration. As I said, if we are to have a constitutional referendum to "secure", as I have heard the word used, the Anglo-Irish Agreement it would have to be an honest constitutional referendum. For the first time the people should actually be asked to incorporate into the Constitution the guarantee in Article 1 that there would be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority. That should be encapsulated into a newly formulated text of Articles 2 and 3. It should not be simple deletion or removal of Articles 2 and 3 but incorporation of the guarantee in Article 1 into them. Obviously that would be a matter of very serious concern.
There is another whole area of potential constitutional problems which did not surface in the Crotty case but which exist. I am sure the Minister and his advisers are very well aware of the problem. We have a constitutional problem about ratifying the Community Patent Convention. There are two conventions; there is a wider European patent convention and there is a specific Community patent convention involving the member states of the European Community. That patent convention was already being negotiated when Ireland joined the European Community in 1973 and we participated in the further negotiations. The format which had been chosen and which was there when we joined was a convention, a Community patent convention. It provides for mandatory reference by final courts of any problems of interpretation of the patent convention to the Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
In this way it raises a potential constitutional problem. The Supreme Court would be obliged to refer the question of interpretation of the patent convention, if the matter arose before it in litigation, to the Court of Justice. Therefore the Supreme Court would not be the final court and so the convention would infringe at least that part of the Constitution unless it came within the amendment adopted in 1972. The formula adopted in 1972, which was of course considered at length in the Crotty decision, was that it only applies to measures "necessitated" by our membership of the European Communities. At the time the patent convention was at a fairly advanced stage of its negotiation it became evident that there could be a very serious problem for Ireland.
I recall at that time in Europe people were talking about la probleme Irlandaise. The Irish problem they were talking about was Ireland's problem with the Community Patent Convention. The question was whether it was necessitated by our membership of the European Communities. I recall the date of the signing of the European Patent Convention, 15 December 1975. On that day a special meeting of the Council of Ministers was held to pass a resolution. It is quite a brief resolution, I do not have it with me in the House today, but its whole purpose was to use the word “necessary” several times —“whereas it is deemed to be necessary”, “whereas it is necessary” and so on — in an attempt to resolve the Irish problem. But it appears that the prevailing view is that notwithstanding this Council resolution passed on the same day as the signing by Ireland of the European Patent Convention we cannot ratify the European Patent Convention without a referendum. That was the view expressed by Mr. Bruton in his ministerial capacity. It is the latest official view I have heard. Presumably it is still the departmental view that ratification of the Community Patent Convention would require a referendum.
If we had more time at our disposal and if we were not under the kind of constraints we are, I would say that is an obvious measure to be included in this Bill. It is a technical, boring, uninteresting subject — except to patent agents who are worried about their future — and it should not be something that needs an isolated referendum which would prove expensive. I am just referring to it as a further existing problem and a problem that we have known about for some time. In the light of the Crotty judgment in particular, we may now have a problem also with the convention on the recognition and forcing of judgments. I had not thought so up to now but I would like to examine further whether we have a problem with that convention. It was referred to in the Accession Treaty and the acceding States undertook to adhere to it. These are serious issues which further justify the establishment of the high level expert committee which I have proposed, the establishment of a group of experts or some qualified body to look at the broader implications of the judgment.
I want to turn now to the actual policy implications of the Single European Act. I have asked the Minister to clarify his statement, in introducing the Bill, that Ireland has full freedom of action. He referred to the proposed lodgment of the declaration by the Government clarifying Ireland's position. He said in his speech that Ireland's position on this issue is very clear and very well understood in Europe. I do not agree. It is not clearly understood and it is not clear to Europeans what our position is. It will be very good for this country that Europe will come to recognise that we have a different approach on foreign policy issues, that we have une probleme Irlandais and that we intend to continue to have it. It is important that our whole approach to involvement in European political co-operation be very clearly spelt out. It is a matter on which much greater accountability should be made both to the Oireachtas and to the population at large. I say that in the context of seeking to ensure that the Single European Act will be the subject of a positive referendum, in other words that the people will vote yes to it.
Between now and May 26 there is going to be a very clear obligation on the Government to clarify very significantly what, if any, constraints there would be on Ireland's foreign policy in the context of a treaty encapsulating European political co-operation and secondly, what dangers there could be to a country which has a different policy from the other member states, which has a stated policy of neutrality, which does not belong to either NATO or the Western European Alliance and which has a very strong popular endorsement of that stance. The strength of feeling on this is reflected in the extent to which, particularly in the present Government party, there has been a shift in approach from the approach which, for example, was adopted by Mr. Lemass and even by Mr. Jack Lynch in relation to this issue. I believe that the shift, if I discerned it correctly, accurately reflects public opinion.
There is a very strong view that Ireland should maintain its position as a country which is not a member of and does not intend to become a member of either NATO or the Western European Alliance, which does not want to be sucked into some process where, because we are a small country, we can simply be accommodated and where we keep the head down and do not ensure that our foreign policy is properly safeguarded in that regard. That is going to be the main focus of the referendum debate and, if satisfactory answers are not provided the fears will augment, the apprehensions, the wild theories, and the very real concerns will begin to gather force.
We have had the experience recently of referenda and we know if things get off to a bad start, they can get worse. I am in favour of ratification of the Single European Act, and I am in favour of it being done through the full process of a referendum.
As I said before, I would prefer to have the provisions in relation to European political co-operation encapsulated in a treaty. I would prefer to have the express wording, even though it appears we have a difference of legal view between the majority of the Supreme Court and the, perhaps, more political view which the Minister has given in the House today on what the implications are. At least we have a clear test which we can question and we have a good reason to look for much greater accountability. One of the things that has concerned me since Ireland became a member of the European Community and participated in European political co-operation, is that our Ministers, and perhaps even more than that, our civil servants were engaged in a very developed but secretive process about which there was very little accountability, very little feed-back of an open nature, and very little public debate or knowledge of what was being discussed.
The fact that we have had the Crotty judgment and that we are going to have a referendum will at least change that framework. From now on we will have very close scrutiny of foreign relations. For that reason I repeat my support for the proposal put forward by Deputy Higgins and his Labour colleagues for the establishment of a joint committee on foreign relations. I noted that Deputy Higgins returned to that proposal in his contribution in the other House on this Bill. I strongly and warmly support him on that. We need a joint committee on foreign policy matters, not just to deal with the European Community but to deal very significantly with other important foreign policy issues. Now in particular, where it is clear from the Crotty judgment that there is a complex constitutional framework which must be satisfied, it is extremely important that we see the early establishment of such a joint committee and allow it to carry on its work.
I propose to be brief. Senator Robinson has dealt very ably with the legal and constitutional implications of the Supreme Court judgment and I do not propose to follow that line of the argument because as I am not a lawyer. I would not feel confident to do so.
The Single European Act is the result of more than a year of intense negotiation between the member state Governments of the European Community which culminated in agreement at the European Council Summit in Luxembourg in December 1985. Ministers of all 12 Governments signed the Act in February 1986 and put in hand ratification procedures in the various national parliaments. The intention was to complete those procedures by 1 January 1987. The Single European Act is essentially an updating of the treaties which established the European Community. Some of the articles of those treaties are being modified and, of course, some new articles have been added. The Act is intended to consolidate the achievements of the Community over the past 25 years and to enable it to move on to another stage of integration that will safeguard Europe's future in an increasingly competitive world.
One of the essential provisions of the Act is to change the requirement for unanimity in the Council of Ministers to the practice of reaching agreement by qualified majority in certain policy areas. Indeed, it is the insistence on unanimity which has stultified Community activity and led to a considerable backlog of decisions. The internal market of the Community is defined in the Act as an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured. The aim is to achieve this by 1992 and the greater use of majority voting is designed to enable the Community to meet this deadline. It is only when we achieve those objectives that we can truly say we are full Europeans. There are still restrictions on certain goods and trade and I hope they could be removed as soon as possible and common technical standards agreed. This, of course, will increase competition within the Community but it will also open up a common market of 320 million people. This should be a tremendous advantage to Ireland which, more than any other EC member state, relies on exports.
Since Ireland joined the Community in 1973 we have benefited enormously from our membership and any doubts at this stage about our continued membership should be dispelled. There is no question of our withdrawing, for the simple reason that, because of our geographical position in Europe, we could not survive. Our record shows that since 1973 we can compete in the larger European market, and over that period our industrial output has increased by 70 per cent, three times faster than the European average. It has also taken advantage of the reduction of tariff barriers between here and continental Europe to diversify its trade away from the United Kingdom. When we joined the Community, trade with the United Kingdom accounted for more than 60 per cent of exports while only 10 per cent went to continental Europe. In 1985, for the first time, Ireland exported more to continental Europe, 35 per cent of the total as against 33 per cent to the United Kingdom.
Our membership of the Community has also made this country an attractive and profitable base for foreign industries to set up here. This has given them free access to the European market. Since 1973 more than 850 overseas companies have set up in Ireland and currently employ directly approximately 80,000 people with as many more spin-off jobs. Almost 90 per cent of their production is for export, mostly to other European countries. Taking domestic and overseas industrial firms together, Irish industry exports two-thirds of its total output. Under the headings of the various European Community funds, Ireland has received up to 1985 a total of £6,382.9 million. If we examine those funds we will see that we have gained under each heading. Up to 1985, under the European farm fund guaranteed section, our total intake amounted to £835 million. Again, under the European farm fund guidance section, up to 1985 we have received £56 million. Under the social funds up to 1985 we have received £193 million. We have received £113 million under the regional fund, which shows quite clearly that over those years we have been net beneficiaries from Europe. During that same period our total contribution to Europe amounted to £1,117.44 million. The country has benefited greatly under the various schemes during that period.
Over that period also, Irish agriculture has benefited enormously from our membership. Grants available from Europe have enabled our farmers to modernise their farms and farm buildings, diversify their enterprises and, in general, to compete successfully with their European counterparts. This would not have been possible if they did not have access to the European market and if they had been confined solely to the United Kingdom market.
The main worry for most people as regards the Single European Act is that our position on neutrality will be affected. We have an assurance from the Government that this is not so and that our position on neutrality will be respected by our EC partners. It was stated in 1972 that no military or defence commitments were involved in Ireland's acceptance of the Rome and Paris Treaties. I submit that it is also very important for us to do so now in relation to the foreign policy provisions of the Single European Act. For that reason I welcome the move by the Government to deposit alongside the instruments of ratification a declaration by Ireland recalling the special consideration given to Ireland's need for industrialisation and economic development at the time of accession as set out in Protocol 30 and our understanding that our policy of military neutrality is not affected. That declaration is very important for us in view of our very special position.
Without getting involved in any political arguments as regards the way the ratification of this Act has been handled, it is important for us to be in line with our European partners. The people are being given an opportunity on 26 May to exercise their sovereign right under the Constitution to decide whether the State may ratify the Single European Act. I feel confident that the people will, as always, approach this matter in a mature and sensible manner and that they will vote overwhelmingly, as they did in 1972 in favour of our accession to Europe, to ratify the Single European Act.
There are two Bills before us, the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1987, and the Referendum (Amendment) Bill 1987. One deals with the legislative process to set up a referendum and the other decides the words to be put on the polling card. As a political unit we want to be constructive in this House, particularly in an area in which we have always expressed our view vociferously and without fear or favour, going back to the initial dialogue that took place when Ireland's accession to Europe was the subject of the first referendum. We decided at that time to oppose the application for full membership based on the terms that were agreed at the time by the then administration. We campaigned vigorously against the terms of entry, not against entry. It has been proved since 1971 when we took that stand that the Labour Party have played a major role in the continuing evolution in Europe to the betterment of our country as a whole and have participated at all levels within the European Community.
We were quick to accept the legitimate judgment of the people in the referendum of accession which was carried by 83 per cent to 17 per cent. Following that, in the first direct elections in 1978, we stated our position comprehensively as regards the development of Europe and what we saw for the Parliament. We have had an ongoing interest in the development of the European Community from a political level. For that reason, we will be constructive in what we want to do in this House day. We have reservations in regard to how the Government propose to deal with the decision of the Supreme Court. I accept that it is not the Government's fault that this situation has arisen but you will remember, a Chathaoirligh, when we had this debate about the Single European Act in the House before Christmas that I put on the record the formulation that we as a parliamentary party had followed in our democratic process of agreement to the Act. We pointed out then the reservations we had, particularly with regard to our neutrality, because a large element within our party had legitimate concerns in this area. Nobody in our party was out of step in relation to the cohesion that we looked forward to in Europe or the improvement in the decision-making process with the provision still for a veto for our national interest to be protected.
All the areas contained in Articles 1 and 2 of the Single European Act were applauded by the party and agreed to. However, Article 3 created problems and it was as a result of numerous meetings that eventually, by a majority, we decided to support the Act as it stood. As part of the Government of the time we insisted that this separate declaration about our neutrality should be deposited with the Single European Act when it was lodged in Rome. We felt that that was the appropriate thing to do, that it would outline to our colleagues in Europe that we had a specific commitment to neutrality and that we wanted freedom in the future to follow a neutral and, indeed, independent role in matters of foreign policy.
Almost at the same time our party leader called for a specific referendum to write into the Constitution our positive neutrality. We called for that referendum at the time of the passing of the Single European Act and jointly signed the declaration which the Minister referred to this morning which is now in the Library and which is public knowledge. I have a copy of it to hand and it specifies exactly what the Government said about the provisions of Title III, which was that they do not affect Ireland's long established policy of military neutrality, that co-ordination of positions on the political and economic aspects of security does not include the military aspects of security or procurement for military purposes and does not affect Ireland's right to act or refrain from acting in any way which might affect Ireland's international status of military neutrality.
That was part of the declaration we helped prepare and which we wanted lodged simultaneously with the Single European Act. We called for a specific referendum on neutrality so that we could put beyond any doubt in the future, in the minds of any Government of whatever political hue, that so far as the Labour Party were concerned should be a positive statement in our Constitution about neutrality. We have been consistent in following the line we have followed since we first published the document on political co-operation in Europe. That was an international policy document adopted by a party conference and which dealt specifically with the whole area of European political co-operation. As a socialist party, aligned to Socialist International and to the socialist group in Europe, we felt it was important for us to categorically state the differences between ourselves and some of our socialist colleagues in Europe, particularly those who are members of NATO.
We followed an absolute, precise and continuing concern about our neutrality and we follow it again today in this debate. Unfortunately, some people have tended to condemn the court case but I want to respect the findings of the Supreme Court in its drawing the constitutional distinction between informal commitments and treaty based commitments. It is because of the distinction the Supreme Court has drawn between the two we feel it is appropriate that the constitutional referendum which is about to take place should be as wide as possible because problems that may not be thought of now but which may arise must be seen in relation to the Single European Act because that has been the specific subject of the constitutional case in the Supreme Court. Previous Governments have legitimately entered into other agreements in the knowledge and belief that the Houses of the Oireachtas were supreme in allowing them to enter those commitments. Our membership of the United nations and our acceptance of the UN charter, the agreements on GATT, the Anglo-Irish Agreement and all such legitimate agreements could now be in jeopardy as a result of the Supreme Court decision on a specific Act, which is also an agreement and which it is felt goes beyond the previous Treaty of Rome and the previous amendment to the Constitution in the seventies when we voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining the European Community.
It is for that and no other reason that the Labour Party wish to have all these matters clarified now so that any possibility of a defeat of this referendum would be put out of the way. While there are still doubts in people's minds about neutrality, military alliances, informal discussions about military alliances or any other such discussions that might take place there is a possibility that a large section of the community who do not fully understand the Single European Act may be guided in favour of voting against it. As has been said by Senator Hussey and other Senators, the economic consequences of that for us as a nation, now that we have aspired to full membership, would be disastrous. It is our responsibility as a small political unit within the Oireachtas to ensure that the likelihood of defeat is set aside by having a wording as broad as possible to ensure that there are no doubts about our neutrality and that any existing agreements we have made in good faith will stand.
We have no doubts about the benefits. We have received documentation from farming organisations and other vested interests. Of course, we realise it is in our interests to be in Europe economically.
Senator Hussey has compared the value of our exports to Europe with the figures in respect of the UK in this regard. The Senator referred also to our commitment to the development of the decision making process in a whole range of areas. Of course, we want to be part of Europe. But there is a price to be paid for everything and we want to ensure that the price we pay for that economic development will not in some way remove the aspiration we have had for many years, espoused by all the political parties and governments of all hues. We have proclaimed this aspiration, signed a declaration in respect of it and lodged it separately but the problem is that because it is lodged separately it could be read by our partners as a separate document. Either the Treaty is totally binding or it is not. When the previous Government outlined the Single European Act they dealt with Titles II and III in various aspects which deal with everything from our environment to our technological research and development. They dealt specifically with Title III and I quote from page 27 of the previous Government's explanatory guide to the Single European Act:
...the Twelve partners, member States of the Community, state that they will endeavour jointly to formulate and implement a European foreign policy by informing and consulting each other on foreign policy matters of general interest, by co-ordinating their positions and by taking joint action. In adopting national positions each partner engages itself to take full account of the positions of the others and to consider the desirability of adopting and implementing common European positions. Furthermore, each partner will endeavour to avoid any action or position wich might impair the effectiveness of the Twelve as a cohesive force in international relations and, as far as possible, to refrain from impeding the formation of a consensus.
That puts a lot of responsibility on us as a small neutral nation within an economic community of 12, 11 others who are all aligned militarily in NATO. The quotation continues:
The core of the European Political Co-operation process is represented by the meetings of Ministers for Foreign Affairs, together with a member of the Commission, at least four times a year. They may also discuss foreign policy matters within the framework of European Political Co-operation on the occasion of meetings of the Council of Ministers of the European Communities.
That is what Title III states and the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, has decided that that is a formal commitment and our lodging of a declaration is an informal one. That is why we are faced with the position we are in today. The Labour Party want to be constructive but we want to make sure that the elements of doubt that are in people's minds are removed. There are a whole range of pressure groups out there with different views about Europe, on the power that Europe has or may have on a whole range of matters which most of us know are irrelevant but they are sowing the seeds of dissension already among the electorate. They might just set off a chain reaction and in spite of the Government getting a reasonably good vote in the other House and being assured of a reasonably good vote here for their existing tight wording, there will be people out there who will be worried that in some way instead of a constitutional referendum we will be having what could be termed to be an insult to the Constitution.
The Constitution does not allow a Government to enter into certain agreements but if we pass the referendum they will be allowed to do that. Have we forgotten about the other agreements we have entered into not knowing that in some way they might be in contravention of our Constitution? Senator Robinson has outlined her view of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It is debatable whether it is contrary to the Constitution and the Government have expressed that reservation. We would like to see the Anglo-Irish Agreement continue and lead to peace. We do not want a repetition of the kind of autocracy we heard about this morning. We hope the Anglo-Irish Agreement will not be found by somebody with a vested interest to be unconstitutional because we want to make sure that it continues and evolves into something decent. We have played a major role in bringing it about and for that reason we want retrospectively to cover agreements already reached.
The Labour Party put down a Private Member's motion in the previous Seanad — it was referred to by Senator Mary Robinson — requesting a formal all-party joint Oireachtas committee which would deal with foreign policy. We were rather disappointed at the time that a narrow amendment from our partners in Government who accepted the principle of what a joint Oireachtas committee would do was accepted. We wanted a forum where the Minister could hear the view of other Members on foreign policies. We had a major debate in the other House and, unfortunately, the Labour Party lost the vote. Unfortunately, at that time the Fianna Fáil Members abstained. They were not in favour, apparently, of the concept of a joint Oireachtas committee on foreign policy. We were and Fine Gael were, although to a lesser extent. We are concerned about the legitimacy of people's views on the development of a foreign policy and our party have published a document on political co-operation. Although that document was published some time ago it is very relevant today as a result of the Supreme Court decision. I will quote what our party feel about the future of the country and the development of a separate foreign policy. That document, European Political Co-operation, states:
The process of EPC springs from the stated goal of the European Community "to bring about an ever close union between the peoples of Europe". Such a union is widely interpreted as being necessarily political and, consequently, as embracing — in one way or another — issues of foreign policy and international relations.
The European Community is more and more seen by third world countries as a single unit. It is the world's largest trading power and has a single customs tariff. It has negotiated trading arrangements with almost 100 countries. It has a Treaty of association with more than 60 Third World nations. More than 100 countries have diplomatic representation in Brussels. The Community acts as a single power within many agencies and takes part in the regular Western Economic Summits. All of this makes for a deeper and deeper Community involvement in matters of a profoundly political nature.
While all member states insist upon their national sovereignty in respect of certain elements of foreign policy it has been recognised that co-operation in this area is of importance and, over the years, there have been significant moves to strengthen this required common approach.
A number of factors have led to this situation:
—Member states want to play a more active role in world affairs;
—The EEC's commercial and trade interests are seen to require a political voice, e.g. GATT, North/South Dialogue;
—It is more and more difficult to make distinctions between economic and political issues at international level. For example, trade talks with Arab nations inevitably lead to discussions of Middle East problems while trade relations with the countries of the Eastern Bloc have serious political overtones for some member states. As the Commission has said, "it would be difficult for the Community to sign a co-operation agreement with a country where policies are bitterly condemned by its members states. On the other hand a member state cannot expect to develop relations with another country without broaching the subject of trade which lies within the competence of the Community."
EPC as at present operated is seen as the preliminary step towards dealing with these issues. In the words of the Commission "it has been seen by member governments as the natural and almost inevitable consequence of the economic union promoted by Community institutions. This co-operation can be defined as an attempt gradually to align the foreign policies of Community countries while respecting their national sovereignty."
The exercise of EPC has no basis in the Treaties establishing the European Communities and it has been developed since 1969, on a voluntary basis...
The Single European Act was brought in to make it more formal. The quotation continues:
The Hague Summit of 1969 decided to extend the activities of the Community and to initiate an analysis of the available ways of bringing about political unification.
The Davignon Report of 1970 advocated a harmonization of foreign policy as an essential step forward and outlined a series of preliminary procedures for regular co-operation between the member states. At Copenhagen in 1973 the Foreign Ministers adopted an approach to co-operation in the search for common policies on potential problems of concern to the Community as a whole.
The Paris Summit of 1974 decided to form the so-called European Council and EPC was given more ambitious goals; the gradual adoption of common positions and co-ordinated diplomatic action in world events.
At London in 1981 the Foreign Ministers were able to declare that EPC "which is based on membership of the European Community, has developed to become a central element in the foreign policy of all Member States."
This lengthy process has led to a creation of a wide, elaborate system of co-operation which has yet to enjoy the support of a full secretariat. The Single European Act proposes in one of its sections that it set up a secretariat to deal full time with this problem of EPC. At the European Council where the Heads of Government tend to devote an increasing amount of time to the discussion of world political issues, the Foreign Ministers, who meet at least four times a year, deal with EPC matters along with dealing with them also on the fringes of their regular monthly meetings. Therefore, do not let anybody fool us; within the Community this whole concept of EPC is one that we could get sucked into unless we are wary of it. I know, as Senator Robinson said in French, that we have an Irish problem about this because we want to be different. We have been different in the past: we have been able to express our views on a whole range of issues differently from other member states. We did so on the Falklands war under a previous Fianna Fáil Government, and rightly so. We have adopted the Charter of the UN. We have put our forces on the territories of other countries in the interest of the protection and preservation of peace. We have done all these things, but we have done them with the consent of the people by way of the election to the Houses of the Oireachtas of the Members of the Dáil and Seanad.
The Supreme Court has now decided that there are certain areas where without the will of the people being re-expressed we cannot enter into separate agreements which could put some of those constitutional rights in jeopardy. All we are suggesting as a small political unit in this House is that any constitutional amendment that is put to the people be put in such a way as to be unambiguous. That can be said for the present wording of the proposed amendment because it is so narrow and specific. However, because it is so narrow and specific it will allow other fringe elements in the community to take advantage of the fact that they want to oppose the whole concept of Europe anyway. The Labour Party do not share that view. We want to make sure that we are crystal clear about the position to which the Government have aspired and which they have stated publicly but we want the Constitution to be worded in such a way by the insertion of certain Articles that there would be no doubt in people's minds about the ability of the Houses of the Oireachtas or the Government of the day to enter into agreements that could not be constitutionally challenged by an individual or group of individuals in future. That is not unreasonable to expect when we are going to the expense of a constitutional referendum which many of us felt might not have been necessary, and legal advice that it was not necessary, but in the meantime the courts have decided that it is. Now that the country is to be subjected to a referendum let us do the job properly and ensure that we will not have to do five different jobs by way of constitutional amendments. I say this because the history of constitutional amendments here is not a happy one. Therefore, if the Government are to do a job properly which they see the need to do and have no option but to do, we want to assist them in every way but we want to see that the referendum is successful by ensuring that the proper words are put to the people, that the amendment is wide enough to put to rest any doubts in people's minds about neutrality but will ensure that we will have the ability in the future to have a separate role in the development of our foreign policy.
I hope that the new Government will take on board the suggestions of the previous Seanad about the setting up of an all-party committee in which we could all work together for the benefit of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the day as he will be the first in line, so to speak, with his Community partners, at the UN and at all other international gatherings at which Ireland's right is respected. We are regarded as a small nation, non-aligned militarily and in every other way. We have a clear voice that we have always been able to raise to express our view. Now that is being questioned. Let us put the question at rest correctly once and for all so that there can be no ambiguity about the desire of all of us to adopt the Single European Act, to amend the Constitution to allow that to be done properly and to put all the other side issues in place in the Constitution so that they can be beyond doubt.
I have said that the history of constitutional referenda is not happy. Any suggested amendment to the Constitution which had a social implication has always led to most extraordinary debate, much of which was irrelevant. Everybody knows that the so-called abortion referendum was to introduce a prolife amendment. Although abortion was illegal in this country it was found that the Constitution should have a specific wording to protect the life of the unborn. The only doubt or argument between all of us was in regard to the kind of words to be used to ensure the right to life of the unborn. The law of the land was irrelevant because abortion was illegal and so there was argument about the proper wording. I want no arguments about the words in the Bill before us so I hope that the Government will concede to the amendments I will put down on behalf of the Labour Party to ensure that the ambiguity that might be there at present will not be there and that the amendment can be accepted overwhelmingly.
Europe is waiting for us. One reason we agreed to the passage of the Bill before Christmas was to allow it to be lodged in time for 1 January because every other of the nations concerned had done so. However, we have a protective Constitution which precluded us from doing that. Possibly it is good that legislators should have to have regard to constitutional rights. Let us now have regard to what the Constitution should say in these areas and let us not insult it by a narrow wording which it provides in one paragraph that we cannot enter into these while we say now, in reverse, that we can. We might as well have no Constitution at all if we are to continue to do that with it. Many people feel that it should be amended or rewritten or that we should have a new one. The Taoiseach has promised an all-party discussion about a possible future review in a good many areas. I welcome that commitment, but while we are dealing with it just now let us do the thing properly. I hope the House will agree.
We will all agree that Mr. Crotty has become famous for his lone stand in opposition to this Single European Act. Indeed, whether we are for or against the Act we must accept that it was he and he alone who was prepared to make the commitment and take the risks to ensure that the citizens of this country would be consulted on this matter which will irretrievably affect their future and the future of their children. It has been a matter of regret and concern to me that while the then Government were aware of the proposal in the Single European Act and had as early as February 1986 signed the same Act on behalf of the Irish people, there were no disclosures to the people of its existence until the Act came forward in October 1986 and only then in a situation in which it was required to be passed by Christmas 1986. We all remember the haste a fortnight before the Christmas recess with which both it and the Extradition Bill were put through both Houses of the Oireachtas. I hope I am wrong, but I came to the conclusion then that there seemed to have been a calculated manoeuvre to stifle any discussion and full disclosure of the importance of this Act. At that time there were very real whispers from the Fine Gael element of the Government quietly hoping that Fianna Fáil would oppose the Single European Act and that it would become a general election issue, which they had hoped to be to their advantage. By asking the people on 26 May to decide, we are simply doing what Fianna Fáil asked the Government to do; we are having a referendum, admittedly at a huge cost to the Exchequer.
The Single European Act is designed to speed up the economic integration of the European Community. It is suggested that such integration would add a 2 per cent growth rate to the Community as a whole, adding literally millions of jobs to unemployment-stricken Europe. The provisions of the proposed arrangements regarding the equalisation of the wealth of the different regions gives reason for us to hope that the disparities between our standard of living and that of the wealthier parts of the Community will be diminished at a rate which will be more acceptable than would otherwise occur. Above all, this is an Act about future economic and political development within a united, strong Europe. It should not be confused with other issues such as neutrality.
Having regard to co-operation and the foreign policy area, I certainly have no misgivings about what might ensue, because since we joined the EC what is proposed now in this Single European Act, in relation to our foreign policy has been in practice anyway. There has been continuous consultation with our partners, and endeavours to reach joint positions. This has left us with a large measure of freedom of action as our UN record shows. In relation to our UN record we can recall with great regret the death of young Liam O'Brien from my own town and the death of Corporal McLoughlin from Sligo because of our role in endeavouring to keep world peace. At that time the Minister for Defence indicated our misgivings about our role as keepers of the peace in that area. In regard to that problem we could pull out of that situation tomorrow if we wanted to.
The decision by the Supreme Court in the Crotty case was that it is not permissible for the Government to ratify the Act without further reference to the people. We know by now that legal people hold differing views and that majority legal opinion, apart from the three to two decision of the Supreme Court which causes this referendum to be held, is that the Act is not contrary to the Constitution. There is absolutely no contest legally or otherwise on the economic argument. The doubts are on the legal aspects of sovereignty and neutrality and this is where our real worry lies. I am interested in legal matters but I am by no means a legal person. Mr. Justice Henchy in his judgment stated that these provisions meant:
each state's foreign policy will move from a national to a European or a Community level...
...each member state will immediately cede portions of its sovereignty and freedom of action in matters of foreign policy. National objectives and ideological positions must defer to the aims and decisions of an institution known as European Political Co-Operation, which is to work in tandem with the European Communities. A purely national approach to foreign policy is incompatible with accession to this Treaty.
Mr. Justice Henchy might be mistaken throughout his legal argument. I see nothing in the provisions of the Single European Act which would require Ireland to adopt a position because of any perception of the common European good let alone any perception of such common good that might conflict with the perception of the common good of the people of Ireland.
Earlier in this debate Senator Robinson referred to the judgment of Mr. Justice Walsh and strangely enough the very same point had occurred to me. Mr. Justice Walsh in his judgment said that the essential nature of sovereignty is the right to say yes or no and he went on to argue that that right in Title III of the Single European Act is materially qualified. By Justice Walsh's own criteria, sovereignty being the right to say yes or no, the Single European Act does not infringe sovereignty. We all accept that there is an obligation to consult with our EC partners and take their views into account but there is absolute freedom to say yes or not to any proposal that arises.
We have the very important question of regional development and we know that among the objectives selected, that of aiding regions which have fallen significantly behind in terms of structure to enable them to catch up, is the real crux when it comes to cohesion. We can say that the Community is now probably more vulnerable than ever before. Before Spain and Portugal joined one European in eight had an annual income of 30 per cent below the Community average. The figure now is one in five. We would have to agree that it is necessary to concentrate budget funds on the least favoured regions which are, all of Portugal, Ireland, Greece, parts of Spain, parts of the South of Italy, Northern Ireland and some parts of France. They obviously would have to be the principal beneficiaries as a result of this. We know that the European Regional Development Fund will be the main instrument for helping those regions that have lagged behind structurally to catch up. The amounts that have been set aside for those regions will be up by 80 per cent of the total so that, as a nation, we should certainly clearly benefit. Another point to be made in regard to this matter is that, for the first time, as part of regional policy, the regions themselves will now be allowed to play a central or key role. As I said earlier, the Regional Fund will almost double as a result of the passage of this Act. Clearly, this should have beneficial results for this country.
I said I would refer briefly to the other points of sovereignty and neutrality. It goes without saying that we all aspire to a sovereign Irish nation for the entire island of Ireland. The sovereignty of the Irish people, as enshrined in our Constitution, is absolutely basic and totally fundamental. I am of the opinion that our joining the Community has enhanced the meaning of sovereignty. Membership of the Community has allowed us to become involved in significant developments we never dreamt of seeing. In regard to this particular matter I would ask which was preferable, to remain in the economic shadow of one single powerful neighbour or to be part of a huge wide area or Community in which as a sovereign State, we could pursue our individual interests with much more effect? Possibly we lost some element of our sovereignty when we became a member of the EC. I would concede that point but so too have all other member states. Countries which felt very strongly about national sovereignty for hundreds of years were prepared to concede, to lose some small element of their sovereignty so that they could become part of a huge new arena which would be for the benefit of their people.
The question of neutrality, obviously, is one dear to everybody's heart. Eamon de Valera, the founding father of Fianna Fáil, will always be remembered for his stand on neutrality in 1939. He won world fame, as a fine stately figure, for his concern for an Ireland then in quite difficult times. He stood fast on neutrality. He used it to develop not just world connections but, within his own party, he used neutrality as a marvellous mechanism to develop his party to what it is today, the biggest in the State. But neutrality is not just for Eamon de Valera whom I know is the person best remembered for his role for every one of us. Leaders of Ireland over the years have indicated their concern for neutrality, and rightly so. The declaration which is attached will put beyond all doubt the position of the Government, our Leader's and that of us all on this matter. It is put very simply and clearly. The provisions of Title III do not affect Ireland's long-established policy of military neutrality and co-ordination of positions on the political and economic aspects of security does not include the military aspects of security. That, to me is clear, specific, definite.
Not alone are we concerned about neutrality; every nation in the world accepts our position on neutrality. They accept our policy of military neutrality, that the Irish people wish to continue to have that aspiration. This Government clearly have no intention of changing. I firmly believe that the head of any Irish Government whether present, in the past or in the future, who would deviate on the position of neutrality would never be forgiven by the Irish people.
We are all aware of the concern of our EC partners and of the world generally about security issues. There is now, as we know, a huge debate taking place in Europe, indeed in the world, on issues of security, on disarmament, on their implications for European countries and the world at large. It is only to be expected that, with the prospects of major changes in the military and the armaments situation, these developments would be referred to in some way by member states. That is something that ought not to concern us too much as long as we make it quite clear that we are not involved. Even in the past few days more and more international talks have taken place. Hopefully significant agreements will be reached in the whole area of arms control, military neutrality and matters of that kind generally. Our role, our neutral stand affords us a real opportunity to promote the cause of peace, help reduce armaments and participate in this peacekeeping effort of the United Nations to which I referred, a role welcomed by our friends and partners. Having made that point, I stress what I said earlier — if we are not happy with it, we can pull out of it. I know that is not the intention and should not be, but the option is there.
Above all, this whole problem is an economic one. Over the years our farming organisations have been very supportive of the EC. They are aware that our agriculture has improved and has been supported to an extent that would have been impossible outside the Community. It is no surprise that the IFA are anxiously awaiting the passing of this Act. Our farmers have done well from the Common Agricultural Policy. Whilst there is a reform of the CAP in train at present, the fact remains that if, in the absence of CAP, we had to market all our agricultural exports at world prices in 1985, the return from these would have been less by about £660 million. That is a figure no farmer can forget, no farming organisation can ignore. That is why the simple, harsh, economic facts are that the IFA and every farmer in this country are totally supportive of the passage of this Single European Act.
Equally, industry and commerce have benefited from our involvement in the EC. Why should they not? We must remember that we now have access to a market of 320 million people. Certainly, within a market of that size, it is possible for industry to specialise, develop, export and to undertake many innovations which will be important not alone for themselves but for industry generally and our country. It would be impossible now to confine ourselves to a market of 3.5 million people, which is our home market, compared to the market of 320 million people which I referred to. Overall 75 per cent of all our exports now go to the Community countries. Without this huge market we would not survive. If we were not a member of the European Communities, I anticipate, as does everybody, high tariff walls, higher than Carrauntoohil or any other mountain in this country, would exist. I repeat, without this huge market of 320 million people we would not survive.
The Council of the European movement make the point that people who are campaigning against the Act say that were Ireland not to ratify the Act, our membership of the Community would be unimpaired. It is important, they say, to understand that other member states would not renegotiate the Act to accommodate us; they would immediately take action to implement the provisions of the Act. I am not sure if that is correct. I was led to believe that if we do not ratify this Act, the Act will fall. No matter how it goes we would be the overall losers by not ratifying the Single European Act. We would no longer have equal representation in the Council of Ministers. It would make economic life in particular very difficult for us. That has to be stressed and stressed loudly.
The referendum, as we know, will be held on 26 May. It will be straightforward and I totally agree that is the way it should be. Senator Ferris referred to an expansion of it. Senator Robinson was quite definite and quite specific, as was Deputy John Kelly, that the Government have done the right thing in introducing a simple straightforward referendum. To introduce other agreements would positively complicate matters and would cause further delays.
Trying to link the Anglo-Irish Agreement with this Act would be totally divisive. Senator Robinson referred to a patents directive which might well be the subject of constitutional review later. To try to introduce elements like that is clearly confusing and complicating the issue. The Government have wisely acted in a simple, straightforward way. I do not have to spell out that our future is crucially linked with and is very dependent on the Community which is now growing and developing all the time. The Community is committed to ensuring that the benefits of further progress are shared by all within it. We need a full commitment to Community membership while, at the same time, adhering to and maintaining our own stated policy on military neutrality. Failure to ratify the Act would create an impossible situation for us, a situation too serious to contemplate. Like the majority of the Irish people I want Ireland to continue as an active committed member of the Community.
I have been here since the start of the debate and I have been struck forcibly, as I have been in the past, by the quality of the contributions from Senators who have spoken. The debate by and large has been free from any party political rancour or cross fire. That is indicative of the seriousness of purpose which Senators are bringing to the debate. It is clear that a great deal of thought and research has gone into this matter on the part of those who have made contributions.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in the House today on the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill and the accompanying legislation, the Referendum (Amendment) Bill, which is specifically designed to assist voters at the referendum. The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill allows for a referendum to be held, as everybody knows, on 26 May in order to ratify the terms and obligations of the Single European Act. On that date the electorate will be invited to endorse the wording of the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill which reads: "The State may ratify the Single European Act (signed on behalf of the Member States of the Communities at Luxembourg on the 17th day of February, 1986, and at The Hague on the 28th day of February, 1986)". The key issue, and one on which all speakers are united so far, is to ensure the ratification of the Single European Act. But there is also a concern which I share and which has been expressed by other speakers which involves the freedom of action by the Government of the day in relation to foreign policy. This latter aspect arises from the recent Supreme Court judgment, which judgment has resulted in the publication of the legislation which we are debating today in Seanad Éireann.
The question to be put to the people on polling day, 26 May, is simple and straightforward. The question is: are we as a people willing to join with our EC partners in furthering the ideal of a united Europe by ratifying the Single European Act? A referendum is, in a way, a sacred political exercise and it allows the people of Ireland once again to consider the question of membership of the European Community, which they also did in 1972. At that time — and I certainly am one of those in the House who remember it quite clearly — there was prolonged and sustained debate but we, the people, voted overwhelmingly and unambiguously to join the Community. In many ways it is a useful exercise to engage in this debate once more, some 15 years down the road, because it presents us all with an opportunity to take stock of ourselves as a nation and more particularly as Europeans and to assess our enthusiasm for the EC in the year 1987.
It must be remembered that since 1972 the demographic structure of this country has undergone some change. I am particularly pleased that in the course of this referendum our young voters will have an opportunity to voice their opinion and to let us know how they view our role in the EC and its impact on our economic, social and cultural life. This is to be welcomed because, as with many things in life, we take our membership of the EC for granted. We now have a chance to assess our situation afresh and it is to be hoped to reaffirm our commitment to Europe.
The wider debate in the country is really only beginning to get off the ground. It is fair to say that to date there is a deal of confusion as to what the Single European Act is and the effect on this country of ratification. It is to be hoped that this confusion will be dispelled during the course of the debate leading up to polling day and that through constructive and thoughtful contributions in this House, we will assist in that process of understanding and the utmost clarification.
The Single European Act is the culmination of a series of efforts in recent years aimed at the relaunching of the Community in the direction of closer and strengthened integration. The series of measures which led to this are in themselves interesting and entailed painstaking and detailed consultation. One of the speakers to date indicated that very little was known about this, that it was launched on an unsuspecting Irish public but I do not really agree with that. Those of us who are interested will have heard of the Spinelli report and of the Dooge report and will have known that there were happenings in Europe designed to springclean the EC and to assess and establish a fresh approach to membership of the States involved.
I would like to speak about some of those background measures which led to the Single European Act. In June 1983 the Solemn Declaration on European Union was adopted by the Stuttgart European Council, and this was a limited step along the way. In February 1984 the European Parliament adopted the Draft Treaty on European Union or, as I have referred to it already, the Spinelli report. In June 1984 a decision was taken by the Fontainbleau European Council to set up an ad hoc Committee on Institutional Affairs which had as its mandate to make suggestions for the improvement of the operation of European co-operation. This committee was established during the term of the Irish Presidency and had as its chairman a former distinguished Leader of this House, Professor James Dooge, to whom tribute is due, and I was pleased earlier in the proceedings today to have heard these tributes paid to our former distinguished leader. In June 1985, the Milan European Council discussed the report of the Dooge Committee and it was decided to convene the intergovernmental conference which negotiated the Single European Act. Matters moved rapidly then, and on 23 July this conference was formally convened and in February 1986 the Single European Act was signed by member states.
The Single European Act is the culmination or the end of a process which emerged from a real need on the part of all the European countries. There was a realisation that during the economic storms of the past decade the countries of Europe, with a population and a productive power equal to that of the United States and Japan, had failed to weather the economic storms with anything approaching the competence of their two similar trading powers and competitors. Europe developed, it is true to decribe it with a sort of marked anxiety as to how it was going to cope with the problem of having a higher inflation than Japan and the United States, having a lesser rate of growth than Japan and the United States and having a higher unemployment ratio than both of these two countries, despite the fact that economic philosophies and systems are basically so similar.
What we witnessed during the period of economic storms was a certain abandoning or jettisoning of the idealism of the Treaty of Rome and a rush to what I can only describe as a sort of national protectionism. We were not allowed to put up protective trade barriers because of course that is prohibited but a certain narrow economic nationalism manifested itself within the Council of Ministers and right across the board in the Community at large. Vital national interests were invoked left, right and centre, and the end result was a virtual paralysis of decision-making. We had, I think it is fair to say, an abuse of the veto and a use of it at a very trivial level, which is of course the abuse I refer to. It was obvious that this type of situation could not be allowed to continue. For very sound practical reasons, and for strong, economic motivation as well as a yearning to reassert the original ideals of the Treaty of Rome, the Single European Act process was set in motion.
I am firmly of the view that we must embrace Europe fully and go forward towards our partners, ready to give and to receive. Although we are an island nation geographically located on the periphery of Europe, we belong in every sense to the mainstream of Europe. We have a proud tradition over centuries of reaching out, of contributing and of welcoming European influences which have enriched the quality of life for all on this island. The gains have been substantial and the balance has conclusively been one of advantage to this country. What has been referred to by one incisive political commentator as the greasy till argument cannot be overlooked. By the greasy till argument I mean the strong, economic implications of all this for us. We are an economy heavily dependent on exports. Seventy per cent of these exports go to the other member states of the EC. Approximately £4.7 billion has come to this country from the EC since 1973. In the year 1985 alone, some £900 million came to this country. There is a market in Europe, to which so many speakers have referred, of 320 million people. We ignore that at our economic peril, and at the risk of our very survival as an economy. Since 1973, over 850 overseas companies have established themselves in Ireland and they employ directly 80,000 people. Almost 90 per cent of what these companies produce is for export. Coupled with some 40,000 people working in food processing, at least 120,000 of Ireland's 185,000 industrial workforce are dependent on the EC. These jobs in turn support roughly an equivalent number of jobs in the service sector. In view of all of this we cannot be cast in the role of reluctant or conditional Europeans. The opportunities presented to us on every front are enormous and we must grasp them and utilise them to the benefit of all our people.
The benefits of our membership of the EC have been far-reaching and significant in the area of law reform and in the removal of disadvantages and discrimination suffered by women in this country. The EC has, in my view, together with our courts virtually dragged a reluctant Ireland into the latter half of the twentieth century and compelled, in many instances, this domestic Parliament into enacting reforming legislation. This while of course it has pleased some, has created unease among what I would like to describe as the more reactionary or ultra-conservative forces in Irish society. It is hardly surprising that these groupings have emerged from the back woods, or the woodwork, to take up positions in opposition to the ratification of the Single European Act. My calculated guess is that these voices will grow shriller and louder, but I am confident that in the end the sanity of the Irish people will prevail and these arguments which are absolutely extraneous to the matter of the Single European Act will be seen as such and will be massively discounted in the result of the referendum.
Other groupings who have emerged in opposition expressed concern about the impact of the Single European Act on our policy of neutrality. I have thought very carefully about this and examined the issue minutely because I take very seriously indeed our commitment to neutrality. It is one of the more positive aspects of our foreign policy and it is high time that we had a considered, mature and serious debate on what exactly the policy of neutrality means to us, what its potential is within the EC and, in particular — and I say this as Fine Gael spokesperson on co-operation with developing countries — we need to examine what implications the policy of neutrality, which we hold so dear, have for our relationships with other countries still in the process of developing. It would not be a bad thing if this referendum leads to some sort of coherent debate on neutrality because, like motherhood and apple pie, it can become a sort of Irish sacred cow — everybody is in favour of it but nobody has analysed it or knows exactly with it means and what its implications are.
I am satisfied that the Single European Act involves no threat to Irish neutrality. It specifically excludes any discussion of military aspects of security or defence issues. If I thought that there was any endangering of that position I would find myself in grave political and moral difficulty and I have given it a great deal of consideration and thought.
Article 30 of the Act deals with European political co-operation under which the member states co-ordinate foreign policy. This system has been in operation since 1970, but outside the treaty framework, and Ireland has participated in its process since 1973. In recognition of the place which this increasingly successful form of common action occupies in the process of European integration, the member states have decided to codify what has been existing practice. It does not extend the practice; it merely codifies it.
The Act declares that the Governments are "ready to co-ordinate their positions more closely on the political and economic aspects of security". This makes it clear that military aspects of security are not to be discussed in the EPC. This formula was written with Ireland's special position in mind because it is not a member of any military alliance and has always had the agreement of its Community partners that the military aspects of security would not be discussed during EPC meetings. An instance of this is to be found in the Seanad Official Report of Tuesday, 16 December 1986, Volume 115, columns 994 and 995. The former Leader of the House, who had intimate knowledge of what led up to the establishment of the Single European Act by virtue of his work in the Dooge Committee, said:
While those meetings were confidential, I want to give an example, and I am sure my colleagues of the day who have survived in the domain of Foreign Affairs will forgive me for this illustration. I think it brings home, and it brought home to me, the reality of European political co-operation.
There was a proposal made informally at an informal meeting that there should be meetings of European Ministers of Defence. I said this was incompatible with Ireland's neutral status. There was no discussion, there was no attempt to persuade me that I was wrong or that it did not really matter whether our neutrality would not be compromised in any way. The chairman said in that case the subject would be dropped. That is the reality of our position. It means that we have our Ministers there to say this every time one of our colleagues tends to stray beyond the barrier but the position is that there is never any attempt to force it.
I found that insight compelling and I would stake my life on it because I have worked with former Senator Dooge and know that what he says he absolutely stands over and means.
The Act also has Ireland's special position in mind when it says that "nothing shall impede closer co-operation in the field of security between certain high contracting parties within the framework of the Western European Union or the Atlantic Alliance". It is important to remember and to state that Ireland is not a member of either of these bodies and the Act makes clear that its Community partners agree that these are the appropriate fora for discussion of matters that might go beyond the political and economic aspects of security. In addition, the Act states that where certain member states participate in such discussions, they will take full account of positions agreed in the context of European political co-operation. All this establishes beyond doubt that the issue of neutrality does not arise in connection with the Single European Act.
The Supreme Court judgment has given rise to some difficulty in that it appears to cast doubt on the authority of the State in the conduct of foreign affairs. Fine Gael would wish to see a broader amendment to the Constitution which would put the proper conduct of foreign policy beyond doubt, not an extension of the proposition to include references to neutrality with which I have dealt adequately. Given that in the Crotty case the Supreme Court appeared to have taken upon itself the right to tell the Executive what it might or might not do in its conduct of foreign relations, it seems necessary to us on this side of the House to have a more adequate amendment. This point will, of course, be more fully developed on Committee Stage of the Bill.
I am confident that this measure will be passed by this House and I sincerely hope that the debate in the wider public arena does not become shrill and overly hysterical, althought in recent times referenda debates tended to take on that particular coloration. It is important that those of us who have had an opportunity to study the issues and to make contributions in the Houses of the Oireachtas should make ourselves available to groups and bodies who wish to have this matter debated and to have the facts put before them. Perhaps it is a little churlish of me to say this, but I hope the Government party have not lost the knack of how to campaign in a referendum. We, on this side of the House, have had more than our share of experience in informing the electorate of the issues in past referenda. On that note, which is not meant in any way to be acrimonious, I will conclude.
Senator Murphy rose.
In case there is confusion, I have to come to this side of the House and Senator Murphy can speak after Senator Robb.
I feel a great sense of concern about the attempt to pass the Single European Act and I am full of admiration for Mr. Raymond Crotty's attempt to establish, as an Irishman in Ireland, the right of the individual to challenge the constitutionality of any Bill passed in the Dáil. It says a great deal for the Irish Constitution which has been subjected to so many appeals for amendment in recent times that it is possible for a citizen to bring the Oireachtas back to debate an issue which quite obviously had not had sufficient debate among the people and about which many assumptions were made which turned out to be incorrect during the passage of this Bill through the Dáil.
I can recollect hearing the last Minister for Foreign Affairs saying that the constitutionality of the Single European Act was not open to question and he felt quite certain that it would be passed. Indeed, the President signed the Single European Act and it would have become law had it not been challenged in the courts. I can understand the great difficulties that are now facing the Government and all those people who wish us to "grow up as Europeans". I use that term deliberately. But there are different ways of growing up. You can grow up by enhancing, enriching and developing your individuality so that you can in time be enriched by contact with others who have grown up in a different way.
My major feeling about the Single European Act — and it is an instinctive feeling because with all the material that has been thrown at me, I cannot possibly in logic and by intellect alone, determine what are the priorities in this Act — is that there is a grave danger that Europe is moving in the direction of a confederation of national capitals rather than a federation of autonomous regions. It is the Europe of the many flags, not just the flags of the nation states but the flags of the individual regions, a Europe of great vigour and colour, a Europe which, because of the very variety of life and living, customs and traditions in it will be preserved by approaching it federally from outside in rather than from inside out and which in the end will give the world a much more healthy and new sense of direction for the future, what in fact has been loosely called "Fourth World consciousness", the consciousness of the old nations or old ethnic groups that one presently enclosed and confined within the nation states.
We have heard of the Bretons, the Basques, the Catalans, the Galicians, Euro-separatists, the Bavarians, the Walloons, the Flemings, dare I say it, the Northern Irish, the Scots, the Welsh, the Irish, and the Irish of the Gaeltacht. All of these traditions are saying something about what has been brought down through the millennia. It is a form of language, if you like. It is not for nothing that there has been this new revival of the Gaelic tongue in the North of Ireland. A well advanced, middle-aged surgeon going to the local technical college in Ballymoney to learn Gaelic with his anaesthetist and his theatre sister so that we might some day claim to be the first bilingual operating theatre in the North of Ireland says something about what is moving in the chemistry of people. What is moving is a thorough disgust of centralisation and centralism. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said that the centralisation of all forms of life of the mind was a monstrosity amounting to spiritual murder. I say "Amen" to that. I have said it before in the Seanad Chamber.
It is a great privilege for me to stand here today. My grandfather was elected MP for the Unionist Party for West Down in the 1918 general election. He received an invitation to attend the first Dáil and for some reason he did not take it up. I reflected on that today and the little bit of parchment which I found in a drawer in an old aunt's house two or three years ago. To return to my theme of centralism and the fears that people have of being overtaken and trampled upon by a great momentum of a central machine, Solzhenitsyn wrote letters to the Soviet leaders begging them to return to the original concept of the Soviet and to move away from the idea of a centralised USSR, because he could see that unless people got power back to where they existed in a quantum which could be balanced within the context of overall guidelines, any request or invitation to them to participate and to be alive where they live would be meaningless. The invitation to participate is a sop to further frustration unless there goes with it the power to make that participation effective. I fear — and again I return to my instinctive hunch — that this has been an extraordinarily complex exercise carried out by well motivated people and real Europeans. I share in the view that Ireland as a European nation has a role to play in Europe with other Europeans as a coequal on the basis of equality and preferably from an independent stance, so that the word "interdependence" has real meaning and is not a word such as "integration" which very often is a euphemism for absorption. I believe that what is being felt by the individual, the powerlessness and the impotence of individuals living in our communities today, particularly in our inner city communities, is also reflected on a greater scale by the ethnic communities of Europe in relation to the centralising control of nation statism.
Nation statism is a thing of the past and you may well respond: "But this, after all, is what we are arguing about. The day of the nation state is gone, sovereignty no longer has the meaning it had and, therefore, why not become part of a greater whole?" It depends on how we go about it. I am not happy, as an Irishman striving to struggle with the conflict which exists in our country, that it is going to be worsened if we are absorbed into a great amorphous, new Europe where the strongest can exploit the periphery and where in order to get a sizeable piece of the cake and the power to do effective things with your life you have to move further and further towards the centre because you become more and more dependent on it.
In another context I could argue that what we want is a self-help and help-out Europe, certainly not a hand-out, but a stay-on-the-edges type of Europe. These are my fears and I believe that these are fears that are felt by many ordinary people. Having said that, I can immediately see the value of moving towards more integration provided the principles that we apply to Europe, apply to the world. My second fear is that there is a certain European exclusiveness about this, the sort of exclusiveness which has resulted in the obscenity of butter mountains, wine lakes, beef mountains and so on, while many parts of the world are starving and the sort of obscenity which leaves people coming to my back door with a pound or two of butter that they cannot get rid of because this has come out of this embarrassing mound while people in Ethopia or elsewhere are starving.
I ask for all the nice theories and for all the nice ideas about helping the rest of the world are we going into this to become part of a very exclusive and powerful club using the argument that it will balance the power of Moscow, on the one hand, Washington on the other and that this is the high motivation while we will have to lose perhaps our unique place in the world to be part of this greater machine to balance these other two machines which are poised to send us all into a state of self-annihilation. May I now read from the famed Solzhenitsyn's Nobel prize winning lecture of 1973. It states:
In recent times it has been fashionable to talk of the levelling out of nations, of the disappearance of different races in the melting-pot of contemporary civilisation. I do not agree with this opinion, but its discussion remains another question. Here it is merely fitting to say that the disappearance of nations would have impoverished us no less than if all men had become alike, with one personality and one face. Nations are the wealth of mankind, its collective personalities; the very least of them wears its own special colours and bears within itself a special facet of divine intention.
I will therefore, try to give the thrust of what I feel because I cannot argue this matter intellectually. I can reinforce what I have said by saying that some years ago in a little leaflet called, A New Ireland for a New Era, Fire Questions not Bullets”, section 12, entitled “The European Ideal and the Future” stated:
If the European ideal is to succeed do you believe it will be more appropriate to pursue it along lines which will lead to a federation of autonomous regions or do you prefer an extension of the present development which points towards a confederation of centrally controlled nation states?
I will now speak as an angry citizen living in a peripheral community in the smallest sense. What Brussels does to London, London does to Belfast, Belfast does to Ballymena and Ballymena does to Ballymoney and I am at the lowest rung of the ladder with no power either locally or regionally. The nearest access to power is through some Westminster MP sitting in Belfast, apart from the fact that I have the privilege of ventilating my frustration through the courtesy of the Taoiseach inviting me here to address Senators.
There are, therefore, many reasons why I look upon this new integrated movement in Europe with grave reservations because I have not yet been convinced that Europe is being built along the right lines. I am a European, an Ulsterman and an Irishman. I am an Ulsterman in Ireland, an Irishman outside of it in Europe and I am a European when I travel around the world. Are we convinced, therefore, before we sign this Single European Act that we are not going to accelerate a process which will result in putting 320 million people into the wonderful internal market and seeking more and more to control them? I note that in the Single European Act, employment is one of the matters that figures. Do the Government feel that in anything they have heard in regard to employment and unemployment in Europe they have yet heard anything that convinces them? Employment in the traditional industrial sense is gone. The number of man and woman hours in employment must be reduced in the traditional industrial sense; otherwise we will promote ecological disaster. If we begin to promote more and more ecological disasters there will be more anger about having a share of what remains and we will then have the other type of disaster which will blow us all to oblivion.
Unless be begin to ask how at local community level we can share social space, we can promote participation which is effective with the power given to the people to make it so, we can give new opportunity for creative work and for lively enjoyment in sporting and cultural activities, we are doomed. I wonder what has been said about this in Europe and whether it is possible for the best planners in the world centrally placed in Brussels to come up with a prescription that will enable us to respond to a very urgent need on behalf of the 300 million people in Europe. The only way we will respond to urgent need is to give back in trust to the people the right of decision-making where they live.
I should like to deal with a number of fears that have been raised. First, I should like to deal with the question of sovereignty, I agree with what has been said about sovereignty. Over the past 150 years through international and, more recently, supemational law, it has been greatly diluted. In a nuclear age absolute sovereignty makes absolute nonsense. That has been emphasised by a number of people whether they are for or against the Single European Act. Therefore, to some extent sovereignty must be shared but we must be clear about what we are sharing. That brings me to the question of our independence, our inter-dependence and our ability to determine who owns the land of Ireland, how it is used, and who owns the seas around Ireland, how the seas are used and to what degree with three votes out of 76 we are going to be able to effect reasonable control over what we have inherited in trust from the past. The question is: under the Single European Act will we be able to exercise our trusteeship?
I should now like to deal with the question of neutrality, a matter that worries most people. It certainly worries me. As an Irishman coming from a tradition which is not over-represented in this House, it is important that I should indicate, as an outsider and as a person who is very grateful to be so easily welcomed here, how I see Irish neutrality. Irish neutrality, and the strategic value of Ireland, featured largely in the Treaty negotiations. For centuries English people had a paranoia concerning their vulnerability to attack from the west. It is possible that the occupation of Ireland by a continental force was a source of strategic interest to England from time immemorial. The first phase of Irish neutrality was the need for what was then called the Irish Free State to exercise its independence and to break away from the patronising and the control of its most powerful neighbour. In those years it was an exceedingly powerful neighbour. That purpose of neutrality was an expression of independence. It then came to the phase when Ireland joined the UN and a number of Irish speakers at the UN indicated that neutrality was not an ideology for Ireland but that it would remain on the Statute Book until such time as the problem of Partition could be dealt with constructively. It was even suggested that Ireland would be willing to join NATO once that matter had been resolved.
A number of things have happened over the years. First, the relationship between London and Dublin today is as good as it has been since the foundation of the State. Secondly, the UK is looking more towards Europe than the rest of the world and, thirdly, Ireland does not pose quite the same threat but, nevertheless, an unsettled Ireland is always a potential threat to England. A settled Ireland which attempted to tinker with neutrality would, I believe, perpetuate various causes for subversives to undermine whatever settlement was brought about. It is vital that, in the context of the perception of traditional Irish republicanism, we establish neutrality in terms of positive neutrality not as a sanctimonious virtue which has to be carried through with a holier-than-thou attitude while the hypocrisy of the whole thing is that we are slaughtering each other in our own country and not in the terms of military neutrality — the phrase in the documentation appalls me. Positive neutrality implies a philosophy and a place for Ireland among the nations of the world before we all lose our sanity and become part of the international nuclear madness.
Ireland's neutrality must, therefore, undergo reappraisal, not only because we might be in danger of losing for some short term gains but because the alternative, making a sanctimonious virtue out of it, will not encourage us to fulfil our destiny as a nation with a distinct role to play at this very dangerous time. We should not be in the business of competing in the virtue stakes for neutral purity. Rather we should be defining an international role for Ireland based on a policy of uncompromising, positive neutrality that would seek to undermine the forces of centralism and promote the forces for peace wherever they are found.
Therefore, Ireland must take on itself to stand courageously in Europe for the rejection of nuclear blasphemy and in this respect seek to liaise with the peace movements, dissidents and others in Eastern Europe as well as in the West, in America as well as in Europe. We must give leadership for the creation of a network of nonaligned neutrality. We are in a unique position in relation to the Third World and the development of Fourth World consciousness. We have powerful political associations in North America and through the Catholic Church a readymade network of associations of peace throughout the world. We relate to Europe more easily than our neighbours and we share an archipelago with them. Ireland, therefore, is in a unique position to give leadership that encourages the Fourth World movement to which I have alluded, that is the ethnic groups who feel imposed upon by the internal colonialism of traditional nation states. It must find ways of raising awareness on the issues of nuclearism and neutrality at Community level by whatever means and wherever possible on a global scale. By doing this Ireland, through a network, could undermine unaccountable central power wherever it is found at local, regional or international level so that a vigorous, healthy and sane world community may evolve which emphasises the uniqueness of difference rather than pursuing the self destructive claims of uniformity. In this pursuit of a policy of active or positive neutrality we must ask in our streets which citizens will not wear the badge that reflects nuclear blasphemy and in our towns which neighbourhood has not yet posted the badge which rejects the same.
Ireland must stand, therefore, like a latter day David to challenge these nuclear Goliaths, be they European, American or Soviet. Ireland must promote a real debate not just about a compaign for disarmament but about a campaign for positive neutrality based on respect for life and the environment. We must ensure that among our children are learned all the major languages of the world so that we can penetrate with our message, that we may mobilise the youth of the world to campaign against this disease of advanced nuclear sclerosis, be it in 10 Downing Street, the White House or the Kremlin. Our youth must be made aware, along with the youth of the world, of the biological and strategic evils of nuclearism so that as a people who once preserved Christendom through the Dark Ages we will preserve for mankind the hope of life when death seems so near. We must seek to isolate through the international institutions with which our people are associated all who promote the possibility of nuclear disease. We must ask our medical men with regard to their basic ethic in relation to the promotion of health and prevention of disease to come clean and tell us that they are true to their calling. We must ask our churchmen, all of them, why if Christ would have repudiated the deterrent button they are not prepared to do so unequivocally. We must ask our lawyers wherein lies the justice in deterrents. We must ask our political leaders whether they are going to gamble the world to prove that two wrongs do not make a right after all.
In defence of our own neutrality, in promotion of peace missions, in the mobilisation of the non-aligned, in acting as the link between the Third World and the Fourth World, in promoting the dismantling of centralism within our own country and throughout the world it is found we could use the greatest force of all, the force which has been personified in the challenge of this Single European Act by Mr. Crotty, the force of——
The Senator is straying somewhat from the matter before us.
Let me conclude by saying that I will be voting against the ratification of the Single European Act, not because I do not believe in Europe but because I believe that the direction in which this is going to take us has not yet been made clear and because I have great concern about even the most well intentioned, highly dedicated, well informed gathering of people determining the central control of Europe from Brussels when what mankind needs at the moment is more and more devolution of power back to the nations on the periphery, back to the regions of the nations, back to the communities, so that the individual can once again count as a European in Europe and contribute his culture in that way.
I begin by expressing my agreement with the Supreme Court's majority judgment in the Crotty case, a judgment which we are now being asked to disregard in the referendum. The pronouncements of Walsh J., Henchy J. and Hederman J. have occassioned much annoyance among those who believe that it was an impertinence to challenge the constitutionality of the Act, those who believe that ratification is rubber stamping, those who, as we heard just a while ago, believe that the courts have no business telling the Executive what it might and might not do in matters of foreign policy. The court has not done that at all. The court has intercepted a con trick from being perpetrated on the public, and more power to them and more power to Mr. Crotty. The courts have protected the rights of the people where the political sections of our State have let down the people.
It is to be noted that Supreme Court judges are to be seen as part of the establishment. They are seen as very respectable people. Indeed, in their personal capacity Messrs. Walsh, Henchy and Hederman are probably what is known as "good Europeans". Therefore, I take particular satisfaction in the reflection that their judgment has conferred respectability on the opposition in the forthcoming referendum. Since these judges have said that the Single European Act infringes our constitutional rights and sovereignty, we cannot easily dismiss or shrug off those who oppose the Single European Act as mischievous cranks, loony lefties, CND freaks and so on. That is one very good consequence of the judgment.
Some proponents of the Act, and some opponents, have been less than straightforward with themselves about what is at stake. In my view the central issue is quite clear — I was going to say "stark". The choice that faces us is of great historical moment. Is this State going to commit itself to the continuing process of EC political integration or is the price too high for us to pay? Anyone who studies the text of the Act and anyone who keeps in mind the objectives of the Community founding fathers as well as of their latter day successors — Senator Bulbulia outlined the process in the EC which led to this Act — anyone aware of that text and that context can be left in no doubt about the importance of the Act. The Minister's statement talks about a "modest advance". The Act sounds anything but modest in its phrasing. The Common Market was never meant to be only a common market. The Treaty of Rome was Stage I. This is Stage II and the Act includes a provision for a review of its workings in five years time: can anyone doubt that that will be Stage III? The trend is unmistakeable. We are a long way from EC political and military union but this Act puts down the most important marker in this regard since the Treaty of Rome. The Supreme Court judgment points out that the Act is a Treaty, that Title III is described as Treaty provisions.
What strikes one immediately about the text of the Treaty is its solemnity, its sense of history, its sense of destiny. It is quite extraordinary that the Minister in his statement referred to all of this as simply a "modest advance". For supporters of the Single European Act to claim that Title III is only the formalisation of an informal process, leaving our freedom of decision unimpaired is to fly in the face of common sense and to fly in the face of the phraseology of the Treaty. What would be the point in solemnly formalising the European political co-operation process if a further stage of common policy was not intended?
It is literally correct to say that the Act does not threaten our military neutrality. That is, not yet. Clause 30.6 (c) has been quoted more than once here and I propose to quote it again. It says:
Nothing in this Title shall impede closer co-operation in the field of security between certain of the High Contracting Parties within the framework of the Western European Union or the Atlantic Alliance.
In that subsection, with reference to the word "security", there is no adjectival qualification. It is an interesting feature of the Treaty that sometimes it qualifies "security" by a word like "industrial" and at other times one is not quite sure what kind of security it is talking about. The vagueness is very likely deliberate.
It is a reasonable interpretation of Clause 30.6 (c), although not the only interpretation, to say that the EC partners involved in NATO or the Western European Union do not propose to stand any nonsense from a mickey mouse neutral. Yet, the real problem soldoes not lie in that clause. There is no threat as yet but the threat certainly looms ahead. The emphasis in this Treaty is on security which is a euphemism for defence which, in turn, is a euphemism for a military stance. In a Treaty where there is such emphasis on security, in such a context, sooner or later our non-military stance will be unacceptably anomalous. It is only a question of time. Fianna Fáil Ministers have said over the years that it is only a question of time. Mr. Seán Lemass, Dr. Hillery and indeed Deputy O'Kennedy have said that. The trend is unmistakeable.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Ministers have said that of course there is no threat to our neutrality but in the course of time if there is European integration we will play our proper part in the defence of Europe. What our two major political parties are really saying is that there is no threat yet, that they recognise that neutrality is very popular with the people but that in the course of time it will be phased out. This certainly is what this Treaty does. In the long run neutrality is incompatible with European union and, according to the Minister's statement and the official Government position, we are ultimately committed to a European union.
We cannot long more maintain a very narrow distinction between the political aspects of security on the one hand and military security on the other. Our European partners will sooner or later compel us to assent to a European military system and the present stage of Soviet-American talks where the reduction of nuclear missiles in Europe is contemplated will move the EC further on towards its own military system.
Incidentally, I am falling into the same error which I have frequently condemned in the past, the use of the word "Europe" for the EC. One consequence of the Single European Act, if ratified and implemented all round, is that it will harden the border between the EC and those Western members of European who are not members of the EC on the one had and of course still more harden the border between Western and Eastern Europe. If we ratify the Single European Act we will relinquish control of the last shreds of an independent foreign policy which has been slowly eroded by the EPC process.
There have been a lot of red herrings about sovereignty and the way in which the court judgment has allegedly affected the Executive's prerogative to handle foreign affairs. That is not a real issue. Certainly, there is a question mark over the constitutionality of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, but that does not stem from the Supreme Court judgment. The reason the Anglo-Irish Agreement is constitutionally questionable is that it conflicts with at least Article 1 of the Constitution and probably with Articles 1, 2 and 3. The basic assumption of these articles is that there is one nation inhabiting the island with one homgenous cultural and political objective.
Those assumptions in the Constitution are now confounded by the evolving realities of Anglo-Irish relations, of North-South relations, of the New Ireland Forum, of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael's admission in the New Ireland Forum that Northern Unionists were entitled to a British ethos and, finally, by the Anglo-Irish Agreement. All that development conflicts with the narrow unsupportable assertion in the Constitution that Ireland is one nation with one ethos and objective. That is why the Anglo-Irish Agreement conflicts with the Constitution: it does not arise from the Supreme Court judgment.
The Minister in his statement suggests that the Supreme Court judgment may well put other agreements in an international context at risk and he refers to our membership of the UN and suggests that somehow our membership of the UN limits our sovereignty in much the same way as the judges have said it is limited by the Single European Act. That flies in the face of common sense. Even the countries most committed to the UN do not regard that commitment as really limiting their sovereignty. On the other hand, the limitation of sovereignty in the Single European Act is obvious to anyone who reads the text and is aware of the context.
I agree that sovereignty is an outdated concept in some respects. Sovereignty is limited by all kinds of international developments but when we accept that, we are still left with that degree of sovereignty which a nation State reserves for its own interest. It is that residual sovereignty, as it were, which is now under attack in the Single European Act. It is important to be clear about that distinction.
There is sometimes confused talk about pooling of sovereignty and consensus. The suggestion is that what will happen and what has been happening under the EPC process is that our sovereignty is not being so much lost as pooled and shared, and a consensus is being somehow arrived at by which we still preserve the virginity of our sovereignty. The catch in this argument is that the small, weak and peripheral country has much more to lose in this pooling of sovereignty than those strong members of the Community which have such economic and policital clout. For example, who seriously suggests that France will lose its freedom of initiative in foreign policy under the Single European Act? That is not the name of the game. But we are going to lose. In time Title III will mark the end of an independent Irish initiative in international affairs.
It may be argued, as Deputy John Kelly argues very trenchantly, that our neutrality is a fraud, that at the least it is no great shakes. What we have here is a continuing confusion which is really relatively easy to clear up because our neutrality is not one in the ideological sense of strict non-alignment. Our neutrality is being infringed arguably every day of the week. The last Minister for Foreign Affairs admitted to a remarkable number of over-flights of NATO, mostly United States, aircraft over this country. All of that aspect of neutrality is a fraud. It is a fraud in the sense that we have no hope of defending ourselves against attack under our present modest defence budget. But that is not really what our neutrality should be about anyway. We have inherited accidentally, from World War II onwards, a position of non-participation in military pacts. We should be turning that to good use to achieve the kind of ideological contribution to peace about which Senator Robb spoke. I would suggest to Senator Robb that the trouble is that one cannot promote that particular mission to peace, within the Single European Act or indeed arguably within membership of the EC itself. Our neutrality may be no great shakes. Our contribution to international affairs may be negligible. Yet, if we did have the real independence and sovereignty which we exercised in the early sixties, we could play a more positive role; we could play a role disproportionate to our size. We have a lot going for us in the wider world beyond the Community.
One of the matters we shall be deciding in the forthcoming referendum, in this "make up your mind time", is which international approach we will accept. Are we going to see ourselves in the de Valera/Aiken/United Nations tradition, as we did for a brief period in the early sixties, or are we going to settle for what can be, at best, a subordinate role in the formation of EC foreign policy? Our European partners expect us, await us, to ratify the Single European Act. Despite all the sentimental claptrap sometimes spoken about our European contribution, the close links and so on, the fact is that historically our European partners had very little time for us. We were there to be used intermittently as a pawn in their strategic games. Their regard for us today is problematic. Perhaps I may instance a trivial but a personally-experienced example — our monetary unit, our punt, is rejected with scorn in European banks, as I found out myself, even though we are supposed to be members of the European Monetary System. But, whatever of their attitude to us, what is now expected of us is that we pay for our keep. There is no such thing as a free lunch, no such thing as a free European transfer of, say, £900 million per annum. The price we must pay for the hand-out is the ratification of the Single European Act and the acceptance of European integration.
In my view talk of renegotiation is highly dubious. It is true we have the negative power to delay the process. But it is Skibbereen-Eagleish, in the extreme, to think that, as a very small tail, we can wag the large dog which is the process of EC integration. Rather, the consequences will be that the tail will be dispensed with or absorbed in due course. There is no way that our European partners will move back to the position of a purely free-trading area at our request. There is no way that the EC will return to a purely economic association. Therefore, I regard the amendments put down by The Workers' Party in the Dáil, if not quite meaningless, very unlikely to work. By the same token Members will have before them a letter from the Conference of Major Religious Superiors, no doubt well intentioned, which seeks our support for a declaration in the Constitution safeguarding Irish neutrality as well as our continuing acceptance of the European process. I do not believe they are compatible. One can put as many declarations as one likes in the Constitution but, if one ratifies the Single European Act, one is well on the road to political and military union.
The choice is clear and stark. Perhaps the choice will not be made in this referendum but it constitutes the first part of the choice, as it were. If one believes that this country cannot survive outside the EC — and one of the consequences of membership has been to cultivate a mentality or psychology of dependence, an admission of failure widely voiced in the course of today's debate, then one votes "yes", one swallows hard, one says goodbye to any kind of distinctive Irish personality on the world stage; one sells out to a new union, a union of European states, in which one will settle for being a kind of European West Virginia or South Dakota. If, on the other hand, one believes that this State and its history has any meaning at all, that there is any significance in all that troubled past; if one believes, with Wolfe Tone, and I quote him: "Once we are afloat we should be able to take care of ourselves or else we deserve to sink"; if one believes that we should recover and consolidate our economic and political control over our affairs — and we had in recent months a sad instance of the way in which that control has been lost, in the way in which a budgetary provision about duty free goods was called into question under EC regulations — if one believes, as does Senators Robb, Norris and I that we must never be part of a nuclear pact for any reason whatsoever; if one believes that arms procurement is itself immoral and unacceptable; if one believes that independence and what is left of sovereignty and neutrality are not for sale, then one votes "no" and one takes the consequences. In view of my political track record, and what I have stood for in Irish public life I have no alternative but to vote "no" and I shall take that side in the forthcoming referendum.
I share the view of an earlier speaker that this is an informed and constructive debate. I listened with considerable interest just now to Senator Murphy. I value the independent voice of University Senators. I work in a university myself. However, that is not to say that I do not value party membership, I do, and have chosen to take that route for election to the Seanad.
The need for the Bill before us obviously arises from the Supreme Court judgment in respect of Title III of the Act. Nobody disputes the right of any individual to pursue his or her case in the courts. While I share the surprise in respect of the Supreme Court decision, that is their right; they are independent and respected. The contentious aspect relates to Title III. There is, in some quarters, genuine anxiety about the sphere of foreign policy which specifically relates to Title III. The people will have a chance to decide on 26 May whether this State wishes to have this Act ratified. For my part I share the hope that the people will indeed decide in favour of the amendment and, therefore, in favour of ratification.
Obviously, our membership of the European Community is important. I share some of the views expressed by Senators Robb and Murphy in connection with centralisation. Like so many others here, I have just been engaged in a Seanad election campaign. There is, arguably, too much centralisation in this country leaving aside the EC altogether. There is a certain resentment felt outside of Dublin that too much decision-making power is located in Dublin. Any Government must take cognisance of that.
It would be madness to leave the EC. The arguments for staying within it are overwhelming. Having said that, we need to be particularly vigilant at all times within the councils of the EC to pursue our interests. At the same time, and this has been outlined by the Government in their views on this Act, we must ensure that we honour those commitments we have entered into. The ratification of the Single European Act is urgent and the approval of the constitutional amendment by the people will, I hope, result in the Act, at present held up, being put into effect throughout the Community.
Much ground has already been covered, so I will touch briefly on the economic aspects of the Act and on the European political co-operation about which there is some genuine anxiety. We are a very small country with a population of 3.5 million. Despite the concern expressed about centralisation and its undesirable consequences, we are fortunate to be members of the European Community. Since joining the EC in 1973 almost £5,000 million has been transferred to this country. Agriculture has been a particular beneficiary and through the Social and Regional Funds, we have also been able to make advances. We have access to a market of 320 million people. This duty-free access to the biggest market in the western world not alone allows us to find markets for upwards of three-quarters of our own exports but additionally it serves as one of the main attractions for foreign industry to locate here.
In the course of my professional work in UCD from time to time, I meet some foreign industrialists before they decide to invest in this country. They have hard economic brains but we need the jobs and all that flow from them. Two out of every three jobs in this country depend on membership of the European Community. This country depends critically on exports. In 1960, 75 per cent of our exports went to the United Kingdom and only 6 per cent to the Community countries. That figure of 6 per cent jumped to 69 per cent by 1985. We have also obviously benefited from the Social and Regional Funds although the question of more resources for both funds needs urgent attention. On that front, we need to be vigilant that the Single European Act will result in adequate funds being available for social and regional purposes. Additionally, following the accession of Portugal and Spain, we are now in a more competitive position for our share of the resources from both funds.
With regard to European political co-operation, there is a line of argument which says it is impossible to distinguish between the political and economic aspects of security on the one hand and the military and defence aspects on the other hand. It is worth repeating that the Community has no authority or competence to discuss matters of military policy. Our policy in Ireland is one of military neutrality and the Irish people want it that way. The position of neutrality is not a means to opt out of international obligations. I agree with Senator Murphy that our role in international affairs is limited but it is greater than it has been historically. It has been enhanced by our membership of the Community compared to the very secondary and vulnerable position we held over the centuries. I am not an historian but I think our position as an independent country is enhanced in the Community and on the world stage by virtue of being a member of the Community.
We can and have played a role in promoting peace and in trying to achieve a reduction in armaments, limited certainly, but nonetheless we have an authenticity and status which is important. However small our part, it is a contribution to a very difficult area of tension and conflict. As a country we have always participated in conferences or actions which could contribute to the easing of international tensions around the world. We live in a nuclear world and the defence of any country is extremely difficult. We have participated in these organisations without at any time compromising our policy of military neutrality. The reality is that we have gained substantially economically and we needed those economic benefits. Article 6A of the Single European Act actually specifies that only the political and economic aspects of security are legitimate subjects of co-ordination between the member states. Military aspects are therefore excluded.
Looking ahead, the aim of the Community is political union. The Minister of course has underlined that and that is part and parcel of our membership of the EC. It is a long-term objective of the Community. We will see how that unfolds but as of now, if anything, Ireland's neutrality is clarified in the context of the Act and our neutral position now enjoys a better safeguard as a consequence of the Act.
The Government have opted for a tightly drafted amendment with the sole purpose of permitting the State to ratify this Act. I am not a constitutional lawyer but I am confident that the Government have considered very carefully the legal advice they have received on the suitability of the wording and that they are proceeding accordingly. The Bill deserves the approval of the House. This debate which has indeed been constructive and balanced will help the people to make up their minds in favour of the amendment.
First of all, I would like to compliment the Minister for his very clear message to the House and to the public at large. I am personally impressed by the simple approach the Government have taken in dealing with the problem caused by the Supreme Court judgment on Title III. The wording in the Bill will not confuse the public in the least. I declare an interest in this matter in that I am a passionate advocate of European union and I believe that the best future of this country lies in the protection that we, as a small nation, have in the Treaty of Rome. My understanding is that the EC was conceived in the rubble and ruins of Europe. It is a travesty of justice to the work of Adenauer, Schuman and de Gaspari for anyone to read from the Treaty of Rome anything that would enable them to take war-like decisions or to take a military stance. The whole foundation of European union and the EC was based on the fact that these great politicians of this century whose countries had been at war ten years previously were able to come together and endeavour, through the Treaty of Rome, to ensure that history could not repeat itself and that problems would not again be solved by open warfare.
With all its problems, and all its inconsistencies and all the shortcomings that are in the EC, we would have no unemployment in this country or in the Community if we had another European war. Over 40 million people perished between 1939 and 1945 and everyone in this House, especially our historians, knows that better than I do. This is the first time in the last 30 years that politicians attempted to provide for their peoples and to solve the international problems by diplomatic and political means. I believe, for what it is worth, that they have done a very good job.
I am glad that after 30 years the member states have got down to making some amendments so that the Treaty of Rome will be more effective and better equipped to address the economic problems of the 12 member states. I have no quibble with Mr. Crotty or anybody else who used our judicial machinery to test the validity of the Single European Act. I agree with Senator Robb when he said it was nice that a private individual can do that. My view is that as a nation we have deprived millions of people in the Community of the benefits which would accrue from the early implementation of the amendment to the Treaty which the Council is proposing.
May I put on the record the three opening Articles of the Treaty of Rome which demonstrate what the Community is all about? I know this has been said over and over again, but it might fit into this debate. The following are the Articles:
By this treaty, the High Contracting Parties establish among themselves a European Economic Community.
The Community shall have as its task, by establishing a common market and progressively approximating the economic policies of Member States, to promote throughout the Community a harmonious development of economic activities, a continuous and balanced expansion, an increase in stability, an accelerated raising of the standard of living and closer relations between the States belonging to it.
For the purposes set out in Article 2, the activities of the Community shall include, as provided in this Treaty and in accordance with the timetable set out therein:
(a) the elimination, as between Member States, of customs duties and of quantitative restrictions on the import and export of goods, and of all other measures having equivalent effect;
(b) the establishment of a common customs tariff and of a common commercial policy towards third countries;
(c) the abolition, as between Member States, of obstacles to freedom of movement for persons, services and capital;
(d) the adoption of a common policy in the sphere of agriculture;
(e) the adoption of a common policy in the sphere of transport;
(f) the institution of a system ensuring that competition in the common market is not distorted;
(g) the application of procedures by which the economic policies of Member States can be coordinated and disequilibria in their balances of payments remedied;
(h) the approximation of the laws of Member States to the extent required for the proper functioning of the common market;
(i) the creation of a European Social Fund in order to improve employment opportunities for workers and to contribute to the raising of their standard of living;
(j) the establishment of a European Investment Bank to facilitate the economic expansion of the Community by opening up fresh resources;
(k) the association of the overseas countries and territories in order to increase trade and to promote jointly economic and social development.
Article 4 sets out the institutions of the Community — the Parliament, the Council, the Commission and the Courts of Justice.
Article 6.2 states:
The institutions of the Community shall take care not to prejudice the internal and external financial stability of Member States.
The Treaty of Rome in a non-military way provides, through co-operation, greater living and working opportunities for the population of a united Europe. I believe this is a tremendous document. It is an imaginative document and underlines the hopes of the founding fathers for a united Europe as the only alternative to the devastating effects of war. It must be remembered that those founding fathers had lived through two such wars.
Over the years I have read the biographies and the works of these people and I have great respect for their foresight. No other legislation has been given so much time as the Single European Act. In the Seanad we debated at length the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1986, which described the Single European Act, but we also had extended debates on the European Parliament Treaty establishing the European Union and the Report of the Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation prepared by Senator Maurice Manning and Deputy Joe Walsh. We also debated at length "A People's Europe", a report from one of the two ad hoc committees created during the Fontainebleau Council meeting in June 1984. The first of those committees was chaired by Pietro Adonnino, whose name is given to the report entitled “A People's Europe”. The first page of that Report states:
The European Council considers it essential that the Community should respond to the expectations of the people of Europe by adopting measures to strengthen and promote its identity and its image both for its citizens and for the rest of the world.
That ad hoc committee was composed of representatives of the heads of State or Government of the member states.
The second ad hoc committee dealt with institutional affairs and was chaired by our distinguished former colleague, Professor Dooge. In his report to the heads of government meeting in Brussels on 29-30 March 1985 he said in his covering letter to the President of the Council, President Craxi:
At its meeting in Fontainebleau in June 1984, the European Council decided to set up an ad hoc committee to make suggestions for the improvement of the operation of European co-operation in both the Community field and that of political or other co-operation.
At its meeting in Dublin in 1984 the European Council asked the committee to continue the work, which it began last September of last year, with a view to securing the maximum degree of agreement. It also asked the committee to complete its work and to submit a report, which after preliminary consideration at the meeting of the European Council in March 1985, would be the main subject of the European Council in June 1985. In execution of that mandate, the ad hoc committee submits the attached report. As in the case of the interim reports submitted to the European Council last November——
That was November 1984.
——this document reflects a broad consensus. Wherever a member was unable to accept the consensus or any point, this is indicated in a footnote, or an annex to the report. In one section of the main text, which was considered to be of particular importance, two options have been included, one representing a majority view and one representing a minority view.
With the submission of this report, the Fontainebleau mandate has been discharged.
This was signed by Senator James Dooge.
We also had addressing the joint committee the late Signer Spinelli who was a former Commissioner of the European Communities. He had steered his draft report through the European Parliament towards European union. On all those occasions we had the opportunity in the Seanad of having extended discussions so that it is sometimes almost extraordinary to find people saying that the whole idea of the Single European Act has been rushed through the Oireachtas; it is the only legislation that I can recall in the last 25 years occupying a portion of the agenda of the House continuously in one form or another for almost three years. It is important and appropriate that it should get a very full and minute examination because so much depends on it for the economy of this country we should be in a position in the Republic to gain the maximum benefit from our membership and our contribution to the European Economic Community.
The preamble to the Single European Act states:
MOVED by the will to continue the work undertaken on the basis of the Treaties establishing the European Communities and to transform relations as a whole among their States into a European Union, in accordance with the Solemn Declaration at Stuttgart of 19 June 1983,
DETERMINED to work together to promote democracy on the basis of the fundamental rights recognised in the constitutions and laws of the Member States, in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the European Social Charter, notably freedom, equality and social justice,
CONVINCED that the European idea, the results achieved in the field of economic integration and political co-operation and the need for new developments correspond to the wishes of the democratic peoples of Europe for whom the European Parliament, elected by universal suffrage, is an indispensable means of expansion.
That preamble sets the entire tone of the amendments that the Single European Act proposes to the Treaty of Rome. It is appropriate that after 30 years in operation the Council, those in authority and indeed the Parliaments of the member states should get together and see in what way that document, now 30 years old, might be amended so as to enable it to better serve the interests of the people it is designed to serve. One such area of that was touched on by Senator Robb. He mentioned in his excellent and interesting speech the question of Europe and the regions.
The Single European Act is at last writing into the Treaty of Rome the whole concept of regional policy, of regional development and of the regional fund. I submit, a Chathaoirligh, that Articles 130A, 130B, 130C and 130D are long overdue and are very welcome because they give, for the first time, validity to those in the Community who were using and advocating the use of the regional funds and the regional policies to bring about equality between the regions right across Europe.
I am surprised that some of the provisions of the Single European Act dealing with foreign relations in Title III were recently declared to be unconstitutional by a narrow margin in the judgment of the Supreme Court. That decision will indeed be a disappointment to those of us who are anxious to see this country move forward with our new partners in Europe. It will also be a disappointment to the other member states of the EC who have already ratified these Acts and are anxious for the new proposed reforms to be implemented. Any institutional reform should reflect the existence of significant possibilities for improved decision making within the framework of the treaties and recognise the necessity and the desirability of promoting vital national interests when invoked by member states. Following an interGovernmental conference in autumn 1985 the Heads of Government as a European Community reached agreement on institutional reform of the Community at their meeting in Luxembourg. This agreement is incorporated in the Single European Act signed by all the member states last year. It proposes amendments of the Treaty of Rome and other Community treaties and new treaty provisions on European co-operation in the sphere of foreign policy, with the objective of making concrete progress towards European unity as expressed in Article 1.
The text of the Single European Act has been presented to both Houses of the Oireachtas in the form of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, 1986, and was passed in both Houses without any amendment.
In preparation for the debate in both Houses the Joint Committee on Secondary Legislation considered the policy issues raised by the proposals for European union and they agreed on the need for improvement in the working of the Community. They concluded that given wholehearted support from the member states the Treaty of Rome could be made to work well for the Community of twelve. Modifications of the Treaty in the Community's legislative procedure has now been agreed by the Heads of Government and each of the other eleven national Parliaments have ratified the Act. The preamble to the Single European Act declares the will of the signatories to transform the relations as a whole among their states into a European union. This European union is to be implemented on the basis, first, of the member states operating in accordance with their own rules and, secondly, of European co-operation in the sphere of foreign policy.
It is appropriate to ask how the Single European Act will affect the powers of the Oireachtas. Nothing in the Act is likely to have an immediate impact as far as I can see but in the long term the position of the Oireachtas — and the same will apply to the other 11 member state Parliaments — will become weaker. It is already apparent from the preamble that the Act's intention is to make the Community's legislative procedure more effective. This streamlining, if successful, will increase the extent of the Community law and thus Community competence — the areas subject to Community law rather than national law.
The erosion of some of the powers of the Oireachtas is an inevitable consequence of membership of the Community. It is liable to be accelerated by measures which make the Community more effective politically and economically and it is encouraged by the existence of the Community's own directly elected Parliament. More effective decision making, the completion of the internal market and an enhanced status for the European Parliament are primary purposes of the Single European Act. I am not enamoured by the thought that the Commission is getting some additional powers but this hesitancy is clearly outweighed by the new powers allocated to the European Parliament by this legislation.
One of the major institutional changes in political co-operation under Title III of the Act will formalise a regular system of European co-operation in the sphere of foreign policy involving regular meetings of Ministers for Foreign Affairs within the framework of European Political Co-operation. I understand that European Political Co-operation will have a small secretariat that will be based in Brussels, and responsible to the Presidency who will service meetings of the Ministers, the political committee who prepare the ministerial discussions, the working groups and the European correspondents whose job it is to monitor implementation of the policies decided on by the Ministers.
I would like to ask the Minister if it is possible for our Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities to have an opportunity of scrutinising some of the processes of this committee? This might ease the minds of some of the people who are apprehensive about the transfer of powers in this area. On the other hand, I recall attending a number of those meetings under the framework of European Political Co-operation which were held during my period in the European Parliament in the seventies. If I recall correctly, in the main those meetings constituted an exchange of views with the Presidents in office at the Council on the current political situation across the Community. They were really not suitable for the kind of scrutiny our joint committee undertakes. That is just a personal assessment and it is now seven or eight years since I have had any first-hand knowledge of that committee.
Since this entire debate seems to revolve around the Title III provisions it might be appropriate if I read on to the record of the House the actual provisions themselves. I hope the House will bear with me when I do so. I would like to quote the wording of the Single European Act:
European Co-operation in the sphere of foreign policy shall be governed by the following provisions:
1. The High Contracting Parties, being members of the European communities, shall endeavour jointly to formulate and implement a European foreign policy.
2. (a) The High Contracting Parties undertake to inform and consult each other on any foreign policy matters of general interest so as to ensure that their combined influence is exercised as effectively as possible through co-ordination, the convergence of their positions and the implementation of joint action.
(b) Consultations shall take place before the High Contracting Parties decide on their final position.
(c) In adopting its position and in its national measures each High Contracting Party shall take full account of the positions of the other partners and shall give due consideration to the desirability of adopting and implementing common European positions.
In order to increase their capacity for joint action in the foreign policy field, the High Contracting Parties shall ensure that common principles and objectives are gradually developed and defined.
The determination of common positions shall constitute a point of reference for the policies of the High Contracting Parties.
(d) The High Contracting Parties shall endeavour to avoid any action or position which impairs their effectiveness as a cohesive force in international relations or within international organisations.
It goes on to state:
6. (b) The High Contracting Parties are determined to maintain the technological and industrial conditions necessary for their security. They shall work to that end both at national level and, where appropriate, within the framework of the competent institutions and bodies.
(c) Nothing in this Title shall impede closer co-operation in the field of security between certain of the High Contracting Parties within the framework of the Western European Union or the Atlantic Alliance.
That last paragraph should allay the fears of many people who are reading into this Single European Act the feasibility or the possibility that the member states of the Community, who are members of NATO, will devote some of their time at the EC meetings to deal with matters of the latter military organisation. I understand from speaking to our colleagues that that is not the case and that the Ministers when meeting under the aegis of the EC will continue to concentrate their minds on economic questions pertinent to the work of the EC.
These provisions do not seem to impose any obligations to cede any national interest in the sphere of foreign policy. Obviously the phraseology used in Article 30 has been chosen with great care: "to ensure that the obligations of the countries under this treaty, the member states, permit the utmost freedom of action to each of the Governments in the sphere of foreign policy". I do not see how any of these provisions impose any obligation on our country to cede any sovereignty or national interest. Nor do they in any way allow a decision of the State on any issue on foreign policy to be over-ruled or vetoed by any other member state. Article 30 does nothing more than institutionalise and formalise that process while still insisting as before that the common EC foreign policy can only be established by consensus. The terms of Article 30 simply require our Ministers to listen, to give due consideration to the desirability of adopting and implementing common European positions and to have consultations to decide on their final positions so that each country is obliged to listen, to consult and to have regard to the interests of each of their 11 partners.
I listened to Mr. Crotty speaking on television after the recent court case when he referred to the problems of the Single European Act as he perceived them. I have taken the opportunity of reading into the record the areas that some people seem to perceive differently than the way I perceive them. I hope that in the upcoming referendum campaign the public will have the opportunity of looking at the pros and cons of this extremely important question. This country will have exactly the same freedom of action as each of our 11 partners in the European Communities. We will have the same kind of benefits and we will have the same difficulties but the implementation and the adoption of the amendments to the Communities at this time can only contribute to the faster development of the Communities and equip the Communities to meet the problems that have to be confronted, tackled and surmounted.
On the question of neutrality I do not think it matters to the country whether we have a policy of neutrality because, as we are all aware, an industrial accident at Chernobyl threw most of Europe into chaos. I do not think the 250,000 unemployed in Ireland are concerned with political theories for or against membership. However, they will understand the benefits Ireland received from membership such as the £700 million we got through the aegis of the Social Fund in the past eight years. Farmers, and those in the agri-service industry, may debate academic and judicial theories if they wish, but I am sure they will agree that their lot could not have been much better outside Europe. It would be extraordinary if the people rejected our opportunity of continued membership of the developing Community. If we vote against the amendment to the Constitution and are prevented from adopting the Single European Act it will be a retrograde step.
That Act is a legal instrument which is necessary to amend the Treaty of Rome, strengthen the Common Market, give the European Parliament more powers and write the regional fund into the Treaty for the first time. It should be remembered that we received more than £500 million since 1979 to help us improve our infrastructural development. It will take more than some theories, and a sequel to Mr. Crotty's book to replace the £6,000 million we received in grant-aid from the EC in the past decade.
The Single European Act will add a number of fresh ideas to the objectives of the European Economic Community. Some of them concern aid and other matters relating to the Community which have been endorsed by resolution at Summit meetings. Those resolutions will feature in the Treaty thus removing any doubts about the legality of implementing Community legislation, particularly under Articles 100 and 235 the exercise of which depends on direct links with the needs and purposes of the Common Market.
The objectives inserted in the EC Treaty consist of the co-operation in economic and monetary policy, in Article 20; the harmonisation and improvement of the working environment and the health and safety of workers in Article 21 and the advancement of economic and social cohesion aimed in particular at reducing disparities between different regions of the Community. In that context the European Regional Development Fund is now being given official status for the first time in Article 23. The Treaty also provides for research and technical development to strengthen the technological basis and consequent competitiveness of European industry. That is dealt with in Article 24. It also provides for the protection of the environment and the prudent use of natural resources as contained in Article 25. Following the adoption of the Single European Act in member states there will be fewer instances of the Community not having competence and confidence to enact regulations or directives. However, Community action in regard to further objectives will in almost every case be a matter of choice.
As far as the completion of the internal market is concerned, the Single European Act sets a goal for the completion of it by the end of 1992. By then it is expected that that market will be an area without internal frontiers in which goods, persons, services and capital will move freely, in accordance with Article 13 of the Treaty. In order to create the internal market, some of the existing legislative powers are made more flexible and new powers are created. The new powers in Articles 17 and 18 give the Council power to harmonise VAT, excise duties and other indirect taxes to the extent necessary for the functioning of the internal market. I am sure many Irish people will be happy to see the implemention of that provision. Those provisions replace the existing Article 99 which had only optional powers. Those optional powers were taken up by successive Governments here. A power to adopt measures of approximation of national specifications and regulations by qualified majority is contained in the new Article 100(a) which replaces an existing provision which requires unanimity.
In my view we are reverting to the original provisions of the Treaty of Rome. If our Ministers are not able to convince their colleagues at the various Council meetings, I do not think there is any hope for the country. All Government Ministers who have represented us at EC level since we joined the Community in 1973 have performed exceptionally well. I do not have any qualms about depending on the ability of individual Ministers, from whatever party, in the future.
Another important change is that the assent of the European Parliament will be required under Articles 8 and 9 for the admission of new member states and for the conclusion of association agreements with non-member states or international organisations. A new legislative process, called co-operation procedure, is being introduced in Articles 6 and 7 for the exercise of some of the Council's legislative powers. Among the most important of these is a new power of approximating national laws and that power is designed to bring about the free movement of workers, freedom to establish a business and to provide services. The co-operation procedure will give the European Parliament a greater say than it has at present.
The Single European Act is the first international agreement to recognise the Irish policy of neutrality and to provide greater safeguards for it. We should not lose sight of that. Political co-operation works on the principle of maximum informality, a commitment to consult with no legal obligation in any circumstances to agree, a maximum exchange of information, the attempt always being to create consensus on a common view. Now the Single European Act includes the Title containing the provisions on European co-operation in the sphere of foreign policy, the first time that European political co-operation procedures have been brought within the framework of the Treaty. That is a recognition of the importance which the governments of the Community attach to that matter. The external identity of the Community is not only important for those countries which are members of that Community but for many Third Countries who recognse the crucial and economic importance of the Community for them. Some of the countries have come together in imitating the Community model. I refer to the ASEAN — the Association of the South East Asian Nations — Central America and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in the context of the Lomé Convention.
Member states of the Community have over the past 12 years made determined efforts to improve their international co-ordination on many political issues so that they can act on the international stage in a cohesive and unified manner. In economic spheres they have done this with considerable success. The Community's role in the GATT and trade agreements with Third Countries testifies to this. A Chathaoirligh, you will recall that last year the entire world was captivated by the Trojan efforts and contribution of Band Aid on which I congratulate all concerned, but few people realise that it would take two Band Aids a day to equal the monthly contributions the Community makes to the developing Third World Countries on an ongoing basis.
The present malaise in the EC arose not so much from its economic crisis as from the fact that a number of governments, especially those of the larger countries, refused to give it its due. They do not take into account the European dimension and tend to attribute all that is positive to their own action and all that is negative to the Commission. In every capital city and in many of the large regional capitals we have well endowed and established information offices for both the Commission of European Communities and the European Parliament. I often wonder if these organisations are working sufficiently hard at getting a report across to the Republic on exactly how succesful the Community is and the contribution and the input it makes to practically every economic area in this country. I have read nothing from either of those offices here in Dublin in the context of this present crucial debate.
I have no hesitation in supporting this Bill and in recommending that the electors throughout the country as a whole should vote for progress and that we amend our Constitution to accommodate this legislation which, above all else, gives hope for those who foresee a future of peace, harmony and co-operation with all Europeans so that together we may work to improve the living and working conditions and the environment by strengthening the Treaty provisions under which we can expect to achieve our goals. People would do well to remember that the EC is an Economic Community and therefore, our association with it is one of economics. Whether we are self-employed, a professional person, a farmer, in agri-business or perhaps unemployed, in an EC strengthened and improved by the Articles of and amendments to the Treaty of Rome, it is through these legislative instruments that we can have hope and confidence in the future.
Mar gurb í seo an chéad uair dom ag óráidíocht i Seanad Éireann is mian liom labhairt ar dtús i bpríomhtheanga oifigiúil na tíre agus i dteanga mo shinsir. Ócáid stáiriúil í seo domsa. Bhí m'athair ina Bhall den Teach seo romham agas tá mise ag leanúint leis an tradisiún anois. Guím go dtuga Dia cabhair dúinn ar fad sa díospóireacht seo inniu. Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leat féin, a Chathaoirligh.
I felt it important, as this is my first occasion to address this House, that I should make my initial remarks in the national language. I am not a native Irish speaker but I believe it is important that Members of this House should make an effort, where possible, at least to acknowledge that Irish is the official language of the country. I should also like to take this opportunity to congratulate, you, a Chathaoirligh on your elevation and to wish you well.
I welcome the opportunity on this historic occasion to make my maiden speech to the House on a subject of such fundamental importance to our future wellbeing. The issue before us and ultimately to be put to the people is whether we as a sovereign, independent country wish to join with other member states of the EC in giving to the Community a much needed stimulus, a new dynamism, an injection of new hope. I listened with interest to Senator Murphy talking about the negative aspects of this Act and of Ireland's involvement in the EC. Without being in any way disrespectful to his generation, as someone of a younger generation I would prefer to look at the positive aspects of membership of Europe and of the challenge it gives to this young State.
The decision of the Government to frame the Bill in its simplest and most straightforward manner should ensure that, when given the opportunity to vote in the forthcoming referendum the people will be concerned with the ratification of an Act which was debated and negotiated by the previous Government and by both Houses of the past and present Oireachtas and, until the recent constitutional action, accepted by the vast majority of the Members of the Oireachtas acting in the interest of the people. However, Mr. Crotty is to be congratulated on his initiative. It proves yet again that our Constitution is there for the protection of our people and that recourse to law is an inalienable right of our people.
However, it is precisely because of the Supreme Court judgment that we are here today. While I am very reluctant to question judgments of such an august body of men, their majority decision was also questioned by two of their number so I feel that I am on relatively safe ground. This constitutional action has prompted several other interest groups to get in on the act, if the House will pardon the pun, and now we are being asked to consider such wide-ranging issues as neutrality, the independence of the Government to make foreign treaties, and moral issues such as divorce and abortion. Because so many other issues are impinging on the proposal to ratify the Single European Act I must agree with the Government's decision to limit the question essentially to whether we ratify or not and in so doing leave the other wider issues for calmer, more studious debate in a longer timescale than is given to us at present. This is not to imply that these other issues are not in themselves important. I will welcome such a debate, as the Government have indicated that such a debate will be forthcoming, if only to quantify this country's perception of such issues as neutrality and foreign relations generally. A debate along those lines has not happened in this country for some time and it is long overdue, but this is not the issue here.
While accepting the judgment of the Supreme Court I must put on record my puzzlement — if that is the correct word — at the decision of the President, Uachtarán na hÉireann, not to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court when it was given to him in 1986 following its passage through both Houses of the Oireachtas at that time.
I do not think it is fair to criticise An tUachtarán.
I was going to go on to say that this is not a criticism of the President and if you can bear with me perhaps I can clarify that. The President with all of the legal resources available to him and as custodian of the people's rights under the Constitution must have received advice that the Bill was not an infringement of our Constitution in all its aspects. This is not a criticism of the President; far from it. It is simply an added dimension to a debate about the majority decision of the learned judges, when Mr. Crotty did what the President did not by implication feel compelled to do despite the impressive constitutional powers at his command.
I do not want Senator Mooney to think I am being sharp with him but it is totally inappropriate to bring the President into any debate in this House.
I accept that ruling. In fact I understand that the President is acutely conscious of his constitutional obligations.
Once we are likewise, the Senator can continue.
Opponents of ratification have raised the spectre of an Irish Government at some unspecified time in the future being pressured into dropping this country's military neutrality and joining a European wide NATO style military alliance. I question the honesty of such statements and seek evidence of any action by the original Six and now by the Twelve member states of the European Community that indicates such a scenario now or in the future. It is worth pointing out that Ireland in 1972 with the overwhelming support of the people joined an economic community of states where her position on neutrality was recognised, respected and to date has never been infringed either by word or deed. I would ask the prophets of doom, where is the evidence that there is some conspiracy afoot to drag us kicking and screaming into a military alliance? Such would be the manner of our going because there is a national revulsion against such military alliances. We should remember that the reason for the EC, indeed for the original concept, the European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of the EC, was to ensure that Europeans would never again go to war. It would be a salutary reminder to the young people of Europe who are members of the peace movement that following World War II it was the then leaders of the peace movement who first lit the spark of European unity, first between the old aggressors of France and Germany, and latterly the other countries who now make up the EC. It is worth recording the Preamble to the Treaty which established the European Coal and Steel Community. It says:
Resolved to substitute for age-old rivalries the merging of their essential interests; to create, by establishing an economic community, the basis for a broader and deeper community among peoples long divided by bloody conflicts; and to lay the foundations for institutions which will give direction to a destiny henceforth shared,
Recognising that Europe can be built only through practical achievements which will first of all create real solidarity, and through the establishment of common bases for economic development,
What was that quotation from?
It comes from Progress or Decline, which is a European Communities Document published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. So it has remained — an economic power bloc that has made European war unthinkable. Yet few today will acknowledge that real achievement of maintaining the peace since 1945.
The expansion of the original Community to its present Twelve came as much from the applicant countries' desire to be part of a Community which is a symbol of European democratic traditions as by a stimulus towards economic development. It is interesting to note that the inability of the Twelve to agree on a unified defence posture is another counter argument to those who would say that ratification of the Single European Act threatens Ireland's traditional military neutrality. As early as 1954 the original six abandoned the idea of a European defence community. That was 18 years before neutral Ireland joined and only nine years since the cessation of hositilities in Europe. It was also at a time when the East-West cold war and Soviet hegemony was at its highest. Surely that was the time for Europe to come together in a European defence pact, but they could not agree.
There has never been a powerful movement for independent European defence. Such a defence structure would imply a totally integrated defence alarm structure and that would imply a complete reversal of French foreign policy in the area of military operations. It would also involve a forward deployment of non-German forces to meet the alleged Soviet threat. That would come from other member states and in the context of compensating for the withdrawal of American troops from Europe, which would have to happen before any concerted European defence initiative could be even contemplated, it would be an impossible drain on existing resources, keeping in mind that the current trend in European economies is that defence budgets should be reduced. Even then, a European defence structure would not compensate for the loss of the American presence if it were to copy the present arrangement in NATO and that is that sovereign nations within NATO reserve the right to decide their own options in the case of attack. A unified defence system among the Twelve could only come about through a common will, that is a genuine federation with a European Government, a European defence Minister, a European supreme commander at the top of a European defence force. The proposition of an independent European defence structure dealing alone with an external aggressor assumes that a united states of Europe is already in place, that there is full political unity. The general consensus is that this cannot be achieved in the foreseeable future. Indeed the post-war history of European unification proves that western European Governments rather than the people they represent resist any attempt to transfer what they see as substantial national sovereignty in deciding such matters of foreign relations to any European groupings or institutions. The publication on the future of the European Community from which I quoted earlier stated that only a change of attitude of historical proportions in the wake of some catastrophy can change this state of affairs.
Not even the European members of NATO can agree. France refuses to take part in an integrated command structure. Britain has its independent nuclear deterrent and Denmark among other countries refuses to allow troop movements on its soil. So much for a determined and concerted European effort to strip us of our military neutrality even in the context of improved European political co-operation. Irish neutrality is acknowledged and respected by our European partners. It enables us to act as objective and independent peacemakers in the trouble spots of the world and to give a lead on disarmament in the UN and its associated bodies. It enables our missionaries and technicians to work in peace and affection in the Third World. I would defend such noble causes against any attack and there is nothing in the Single European Act to diminish this country's right to decide its foreign policy. That brings me to the right of an Irish Government under the Single European Act to engage in foreign treaties. The suggestion that the recent court decision abrogates past decisions or inhibits future ones has come as a surprise.
I presume I am entitled to quote from a Dáil statement?
Statements by Ministers may be quoted.
This is a quote from the Taoiseach in the Dáil recently when he was quoting a former Taoiseach, Mr. de Valera, in his reference to Article 29 of the Constitution:
The idea of this Constitution is to put this matter or our external relations in its proper position relatively to the Constitution, and that is outside it, as a matter for foreign policy, to be determined from time to time according as the people's interests suggests to them that they should put this Government or that Government into office with powers to implement their will. That is what is done here. It is done by giving to the executive authority, namely, the Government, which is the fundamental executive authority, power to use any organ, instrument or method of procedure which may be used for similar purposes by other nations with whom we may be associated, no matter what it is.
Further, in reference to Article 29.4.2. Mr. de Valera stated:
Consequently, dealing with our external relations, it enables the executive Government of the day to make use of it, provided that there is a law passed by the national Parliament which would make that possible. Now, the law can exactly prescribe the conditions. In our case the law has already been passed, and this Constitution takes over the law. Therefore, when this Constitution is passed, as far as our external relations are concerned no change is made, but the external relations are kept in a position in which they can be dealt with and handled as a matter of public policy without bringing them across the fundamental rights which govern the working of our institutions.
There has also been a question raised about our sovereignty, that if this Act is ratified it will diminish our status as a nation. I wonder where all those voices of concern about our sovereignty were on each and every occasion that Ireland entered into a treaty with another country? I refer specifically to extradition treaties with various countries, or trading treaties, our ratification of various Council of Europe treaties, the Law of the Sea Conference, the European Convention on Human Rights, justice, the list is endless? Of course, all of these, including our original entry into the EC, involved a diminution of our sovereignty, an inhibition on our ability to say "yes" or "no" to a particular issue, but all in the interests of the common good or common humanity based on our Christian ethos and the obligations of a civilised society wishing to play a full role in world affairs.
I believe Ireland today partly fulfils what Robert Emmet stated in his hopes and aspirations for this country, in that we truly have taken our place among the nations of the world. There are those in our society who would wish to build a barrier around this country, to prevent us from fulfilling our true role, whose isolationist philosophies, were they to succeed, would relegate us to the status of an impoverished people. To those people I say: you are being less than honest.
I have left the moral issues until last. It seems certain that the opponents of this Bill, having fired off a few salvos about its effects, have decided to go to the bottom of the barrel and suggest to the people of Ireland that ratification of the Single European Act will bring such social evils as abortion all that more quickly to our shores. The people voted on this issue in a constitutional referendum. They directed that abortion should be outlawed in this country. It is inconceivable that our European partners would pressurise us, attempt to overturn the wishes of the people, or indeed force a future Government to change the constitutional wishes of the people without further recourse to them in another referendum. To suggest this eventuality in a Europe whose democratic traditions are a model for the world is ludicrous. I do not believe that the opponents of this Bill are really serious in putting forward such a proposition. But, if they are, I will readily answer that proposition.
Ireland has a long and proud history as a European country despite what was said earlier about our historical links with Europe being tenuous to say the least, or that we were a pawn in European affairs. During what were known as the Dark Ages our missionaries brought the light of Christian civilisation to the heathen hordes of the European mainland. We, a small island on the periphery of Europe, with limited material resources, became the island of saints and scholars. We led Europe in helping to provide civilised standards of behaviour on the Christian model. As a modern Irish Christian I am prepared to take that same message to Europe, to the modern-day Europeans, who seem to have lost their sense of Christian morality. I am sufficiently confident in my beliefs, strong in my Christain faith, to face our European neighbours with the reality of Christian thinking and morality without being afraid that they are going to change me or my country. Rather it is I and my country who will change them.
I find it offensive to hear suggestions that we are somehow too cowardly to stand up for what we cherish and believe in in the corridors of European bureaucracy. To some it may seem like a simplistic view but, if our missionaries could succeed in the violent atmosphere of the 7th and 8th centuries with only a prayer book in one hand and a candle in the other, how much better equipped are we, in this 20th century, to set the agenda on matters of morality and Christian ethics? It is this confidence that will make our people realise that our future lies within the EC.
I have often bemoaned the fact that Ireland is geographically located on the wrong side of Britain. From such a disadvantageous position our perception of Europe and the world beyond has been distorted and confused by British habits and attitudes. This is not a criticism of our British partners but it is inevitable, especially in view of our colonial past. In Europe we are the young Europeans, treated with respect, treated as equals, treated as a mother country in which a national inferiority complex does not exist, where a strong and vigorous Government, such as that led today by the present Taoiseach, can bring added prosperity, economic benefits and, ultimately, national reconciliation to this troubled land.
I am somewhat disappointed that in the debate to date there has not been too much reference to the aspiration of national unity. It would be remiss of me to sit down, having made a contribution to this debate, without referring to what I believe to be an important aspect of our continuing membership of Europe and indeed in the field of European political co-operation.
I referred earlier to the fact that I felt we were always, in a sense, at a disadvantage being located the other side of Britain. The fact is that down through the years, particularly prior to our entry into the EC, in the early days of our membership, when we were finding our feet, and perhaps to a certain extent today, Irish news is and was disseminated through British eyes. The centre of the news agencies for Europe is London. The attitudes and perceptions of what happens in Ireland are disseminated to the world through London, through British eyes. I should like to think that our membership of the EC, our involvement in it as an equal partner, has brought a new view of the Irish troubles to our European partners. For example, the Anglo-Irish Agreement has been referred to in the context of the Single European Act. I believe that Britain would have the world believe that, in having an Irish Government agree to the working of this Act, the problem of Ireland has been solved. After all, the Irish Government agree with us — this on the part of the British — that this is the way forward. What is the point of raising it? Why should we bring it up at any public forum? The problem has been solved?
I believe it is in that area, if in none other, that an Irish Government, acting independently with their own point of view on this matter which is fundamental to the future of this country, which is so dear to the aspirations of so many Irish people, on that matter, if none other, if we were seen to have our own independent line, if our aspirations to national unity were to remain centre stage, our European allies would be able to help us in creating a climate in which there could be what I want to see — the eventual withdrawal of Britain from this country.
I believe that is what the Single European Act is about, and other things. It affords a unique opportunity to a nation of 3.5 million people on the west coast of Europe to improve their nation, make it more equal economically with their richer partners, to harmonise our tax laws, to create an internal market in which our people can purchase the necessities and luxuries of life in their country for the same price as in any other part of the Community. It also affords us a unique opportunity to ensure that the prospects of unity for our country are brought nearer so that, ultimately, we can say to our itinerant youth, scattered in far off Australia, America and nearer, in London: "Come back; come back to Ireland; your people want you; your country needs you".
Is mór an onóir dom a bheith in bhur measc anseo inniu i Seanad Éireann. It is a great privilege to be here this afternoon. I speak, like Senator Mooney, as a new Senator with many of the same objectives. If this is the land of saints and scholars I must confine myself principally to the area of scholarship because to attempt at this early stage in our encounter to persuade Members of the House of my individual sanctity might strain their credulity a little more than perhaps is necessary at this time.
I consider this a particularly important debate because we are dealing with extremely complex matters. I see Seanad Éireann partly as being a forum in which it is possible for us as politicians and as experts, which some of my colleagues are in areas such as constitutional law, to tease out the principal areas of interest, where decisions are required to make them clear and illuminate them for the general public. On this matter it is important, as was said earlier in the day, that the press in particular continue to carry extensive reports of the proceedings of Seanad Éireann. I regret that, as far as I can see, none of the newspapers saw fit to carry detailed coverage of the judgments in the Supreme Court. I am privileged enough to have been able to obtain copies of some of these judgments and I will address my layman's mind to some of the matters that are contained therein.
It seems the problem we are facing this evening arises from the drafting of the wording of Article 29.4.3 of the Constitution. The original draft amendment in 1971 stated that matters would be afforded the protection of the Constitution if they were consequent upon membership of the Community. At the behest of the former Taoiseach, Deputy Garret FitzGerald, this form of wording was changed to "necessitated by the objectives of membership". What is now protected by the wording of the Constitution are only those matters which are a legal necessity. This is what is principally the difficulty which was referred to the Supreme Court.
The debate is concentrated quite properly on Title III, the title in which the constitutional defect was found. However my information, and I stand to be corrected upon this, is that with regard to Title II what was involved was a majority 3:2 judgment. In regard to Title II, which covers the completion of the internal market, there is the possibility that a better plaintiff — I am not speaking in moral terms — in the legal sense of the word, with a better case might impugn this title and might impugn specific items of legislation flowing from it and this is certainly a matter of concern. For this reason, among others, the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, is perfectly correct to have confined himself to what has been described as a minimalist wording. Deputy Haughey needs no compliments whatever from me for he is a very shrewd and acute observer and taker of the Irish political temperature and with regard to this referendum he has probably got it right.
Subsequent to the holding of this referendum it will be necessary to look at the wider implications of this judgment, I would like very strongly to support the suggestion of my colleague, Senator Mary Robinson, who made the recommendation that a committee of experts should be established to investigate the foreign policy consequences of this judgment. Some of these have been raised in the media and also in the other House. Some of them seem to be a little extraordinary for example, the suggestion that as a result of this judgment we may have to leave the United Nations. I say extraordinary but that does not mean it is impossible. The law, and in particular interpretations of the law, are quite capable of being extraordinary. The law is quite capable, as Charles Dickens noted not only of being extraordinary but on certain occasions of being "an ass". I do not of course intend any disrespect to their Lordships of the Supreme Court.
The decision on Title III was a 3:2 verdict. Other members in this House have taken comfort from the majority verdict but I take particular comfort from the minority dissenting verdict of two very distinguished judges, including the Chief Justice. Among the problems that may be encountered it is possible that the Anglo-Irish Agreement could be construed as an ultimate casualty of this decision. It would be a great disservice to the country if this happened. I find it interesting that, as reported in the press, a gentleman from Northern Ireland intends travelling down South to make this case in our courts. Of course I do not wish to take this right away from him or from any other person. It is interesting, with regard to the question of citizenship, whether in terms of establishing locus standi, this constitutes one of the first, if not the first, de facto recognitions from that kind of source of the jurisdiction of this State.
In addition, other items may be impugned. They were enumerated by my colleague, Senator Mary Robinson, who spoke about the Community Patents Convention and described it as rather dull and boring. I am surprised that a lawyer can find anything dull and boring but I am even more surprised that I did not find it so. It is something that is of particular importance to this country in view of our narrow industrial base some of whose best areas are pharmaceutical industries, microcircuitry and so on where the protection of patents, as they are developed by our native Irish ingenuity, are a vital concern. It seems possible that this legislation could be impugned.
I was particularly heartened and reassured to hear the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Lenihan, read into the record of the House the statement that "A further and fundamental concern of the Government is to ensure that there is no confusion, either by the Irish people or by our European partners as to the scope of EPC in so far as discussions of security matters are concerned". In regard to Title III it seems that security and particularly the question of military alliances and our neutrality is the crucial point. He goes on to say: "This relates to the enduring importance which this Government attach to a policy of military neutrality". There is nothing in Title III which obliges Ireland to act in a way incompatible with its policy of military neutrality. I am indeed glad and relieved to hear this.
Among the preparatory work I have undertaken for my political career I acquired a large book entitled The Spirit of the Nation— the speeches of Deputy Charles J. Haughey. It contains an extract of a debate on the Dooge Report held in Dáil Éireann on 26 June 1985 in which Mr. Haughey stated that the simple fact was that there was a widespread movement in the community to bring about a new form of Community in which it would be impossible for us to retain a policy of neutrality.
I would like further reassurances from the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, in consultation with the Taoiseach, that this situation has been satisfactorily mended as far as he is concerned.
The question of our neutrality is perhaps the single most important point. I am, however, reasonably satisfied — although I would encourage further reassurance in this matter — by the words of the Minister, particularly when supplemented by his statement that they would be lodging a special memorandum with this Act relating particularly to the question of our neutrality. Now the question has been asked, "what is our neutrality?". This is a good question.
The European Community developed not as a political union, but from a market, and that is the lowest form of morality, self-interest. It can develop into a political union in which the forms of morality are also maintained at a fairly low level. But it seems that our neutrality, which is very special, gives us a particular position of moral authority. In practical terms, of course, our neutrality means very little. It will have absolutely no impact whatever on the international military or political scene. Some Senators, mentioned Chernobyl but did not, in my hearing, draw the inevitable conclusion with regard to our neutrality. We could be as neutral as we liked on the day the reactor at Chernobyl blew up, and yet we were the fourth highest victim in terms of radiation dose in the Community. So our neutrality, such as it was, was incapable of protecting us on that occasion.
It is highly likely that in the event of the outbreak of war, our neutrality would be similarly useless in terms of protecting the Irish people. Apart from anything else, one must consider, for example, what view the Russian Government would take of the runway at Knock Airport. We all know, or presume to know its function, but President Reagan can agonise over a similar length of runway in the State of Nicaragua, and it is not inconceivable that the Russians would prefer, rather than to take us at our honest Christian face value, to include the runway at Horan Airport among the first 50 targets for an all-out nuclear strike. Therefore I do not believe that our neutrality would protect us very much. That does not mean to say that I do not value it and honour it.
We have an excellent, if, perhaps accidental position in this matter. We have an Army which is respected throughout the world. It was a particular pleasure to me when I was in Beirut some years ago to meet with members of the Irish UNIFIL contingent, and to learn from my Lebanese hosts the very high regard in which our Army is held in that part of the world. I take this occasion to congratulate the Army on its performance in very difficult circumstances. The tradition of our Army has been that of peacemaker, rather than warmaker. It seems the margin of appreciation under the terms of the Single European Act should allow us to continue this as the principal military engagement of our foreign policy.
I positively welcome the possibility of a united Europe speaking on issues of foreign policy. If I can translate that into what I see as the concern of the simple man, I am, for example, a frequent air traveller and I think that among the most despicable crimes with which the 20th century is faced is brigandage and air piracy conducted very frequently for the purposes of political pressure. It is very regrettable that in recent years the European Community, because of the absence of an instrument like this, has found itself incapable, as a result of the reluctance of one member state, to adopt a policy and issue statements condemning the most horrendous outrages against innocent civilians while air passengers. I consider it would be a very considerable improvement if this instrument, as I believe it shall, allows the European Community to issue statements with this kind of matter in mind. I would certainly feel safer.
Of course, it also seems that there is a sufficient margin of appreciation within the legislation to allow a State which had particular problems even in regard to a matter like this, to distance themselves from such a statement if it was found to be necessary. I refer for my comfort to the judgment in the Supreme Court, in particular the judgment of Mr. Justice Finlay, the Chief Justice who said:
The provisions of Article 30, Title III, do not impose any obligations to cede any national interest in the sphere of foreign policy. They do not give to other high contracting parties any right to override or veto the ultimate decision of the State on any issue of foreign policy. They impose an obligation to listen and consult and grant a right to be heard and to be consulted.
That — and I am not a lawyer — sounds to me like a statement rather than an analysis or a convincing argument. I support it with the judgment of another of the learned judges of the Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Griffin, who in his judgment approaches an area which I can understand, even if I am not quite capable of understanding the delicate nuances of the law, because to my great pleasure I discovered that Mr. Justice Griffin set off on an analysis of the language in which the Treaty is written. He says:
The language used in Article 30 would appear to have been chosen with extreme care to ensure that the obligations of the Parties under the Treaty would permit the utmost freedom of action to each of the Parties in the sphere of foreign policy, and is in stark contrast to that used in Title II. For example, the Parties are to endeavour to formulate and implement a foreign policy, to inform and consult each other on foreign policy matters; consultations are to take place before deciding on their final position; They are to endeavour to avoid any action or position which impairs their effectiveness as a cohesive force; they are as far as possible to refrain from impeding a consensus, in international institutions and at international conferences they are to endeavour to adopt common positions on the subjects covered by the Title, and where not all the Parties participate in such institutions or conferences, they are to take full account of positions agreed in the EC. On security, the Parties are expressed to be ready to co-ordinate their positions more closely on the political and economic aspects of security.
Not as a lawyer, but as a lay person, I have no doubt that the Bill to enable a referendum will be carried. I believe that the important decision is the decision to be made by the people of Ireland and that the plain people of Ireland reading that kind of text would reach the conclusion I have reached, that is that this does not represent a necessary constriction on the freedom of movement of the Irish Government in formulating foreign policy. For this reason I welcome it because I would like to see Ireland take a far more independent foreign policy.
I would like to salute the Taoiseach for the way in which he successfully distanced this country from the military adventures of Mrs. Thatcher in the Falkland Islands, and to say I hope that in this session of the Oireachtas he will also fully distance himself from the equally disgraceful adventures of President Reagan in Nicaragua. Many of our young people wish to see a determined, positively neutral, morally directed foreign policy in which we dissociate ourselves from persons who are prepared openly to flout international law, to mine the harbours of a friendly and democratic state, thereby causing loss of life, without declaration of war. This is an area in which I would greatly welcome the kind of independent foreign policy which we have been assured will be the outcome of the Single European Act.
I will be voting for the Single European Act. I am taking the Government and the principal Opposition parties at their word that this preserves the possibility of an independent foreign policy and I and the rest of the people will be watching, hoping and praying that we get an independent foreign policy from this Government. Although I have said that our neutrality is in practical terms a fiction, it is an important fiction. If I may draw a parallel, I think of the example of one of the greatest Europeans of this century, sadly now often forgotten, Raoul Wallenberg, who unarmed — or armed only with the moral authority with which he was so nobly equipped — went into the cattle trains taking Jewish citizens of Hungary to the gas chambers of Auschwitz and by the pure persuasive force of that moral authority struggled successfully against the greatest military machine this planet has seen, the Nazi Government. If one individual could do that I see no reason for this country, with its traditions, not adopting a moral position in foreign policy.
I take very seriously what Senator John Robb said also with regard to the obscene butter mountains, wine lakes, cereal dumps and all the rest of the paraphernalia of the unacceptable side of the economic aspects of the Common Market. Again here is a place in which the unique and tragic history of the Irish people should ensure that we will make a positive intervention with regard to the redistribution of these resources, not just within the Common Market but also to the suffering people of the disadvantaged world. If any country has the moral authority to do that, Ireland is indeed that country.
I will be supporting this Bill. I am grateful to the various interest groups who have provided me with a great deal of briefing documentation which I endeavoured to read in addition to the Bills. I listened to many people who had reservations. I do not intend to touch upon the so called moral argument in this particular lobby because I feel that by ventilating this subject you are only going to raise a chimera. It is much better to ignore it, it is irrelevant. The best way to demonstrate its irrelevance is to ignore it totally and to concentrate on the reality. I wish finally to advise the House that the principal concern of the many young people who spoke to me on this matter, and who I may say in the majority of cases were urging me to use my influence and my vote against this Bill, was the area of neutrality, the rejection of a military alliance and not to be totally negative, principally to attempt to ensure that this country once again began the promotion of the ideals of nuclear disarmament. We should be urging the Government to be much more positive in this area. I would like to see us dissociating ourselves from the grudging response given by the European Community and by President Reagan to the recent overtures of Mr. Gorbachev. In concert with many of those with whom I spoke, I may say regretfully, because I speak of a great friend and ally of this country, the United States of America, I feel at the moment in far greater danger from our ally, President Reagan, than I do from Mr. Gorbachev whom I would like to salute as the most positive person who has appeared in European politics for the last 20 years.
I planned to make a long speech like some of my colleagues but as I normally dine at 7 p.m. I will limit my remarks to a few key issues and hope that I get out to eat fairly shortly. Since my election to the Seanad I have been approached and have had communication, orally and verbally, from a number of concerned parties. Three issues have arisen time and time again. One of the most vocal of these groups has been concerned about what have just been referred to by Senator Norris as moral issues. I sought a personal assurance on this from the Taoiseach and he gave it to me that these would not be affected. I would like to assure the House that if I thought for one moment that by ratifying this Act we would be forced at some future date to accept the introduction of abortion or divorce, two issues which have been clearly and definitively decided by the Irish people, I would oppose this Act with maximum vigour. I do not think we need to say any more about that.
I also received a document, which has been referred to by Senator Manning, from the Council of Major Religious Superiors asking us to ensure that Ireland will not become part of any military alliance and will play no part in a common arms procurement policy with our European partners. I would like to say a couple of sentences in this regard. Political co-operation works on the basis of principles of maximum informality, a commitment to consult but no legal obligation in any circumstances to agree, maximum exchange of information and the attempt always to create consensus and a common view. The Single European Act contains one article relating to security which has been criticised by some commentators in this country on the grounds that it seriously compromises Ireland's military neutrality. The article has probably been read before but I will read it again in case it has not been read into the record.
Article 6 (a) states:
The High Contracting Parties consider that closer co-operation on questions of European security would contribute in an essential way to the development of a European identity in external policy matters. They are ready to co-ordinate their positions more closely on the political and economic aspects of security.
Article 6 (b) states:
The High Contracting Parties are determined to maintain the technological and industrial conditions necessary for their security. They shall work to that end both at national level and, where appropriate, within the framework of the competent institutions and bodies.
Article 6 (c) states:
Nothing in this Title shall impede closer co-operation in the field of security between certain of the High Contracting Parties within the framework of the Western European Union or the Atlantic Alliance.
The text of Article 6 (a) specifies that only the political and economic aspects of security are legitimate subjects for coordination between the member states. Military aspects of security are, therefore, excluded and discussion of them by member states cannot take place within the EPC framework. The forum for such discussions remains in NATO itself or in the Western European Union. Article 6 (c) makes this clear and I attach great importance to this clarification which provides a better safeguard of Ireland's position than has been the practice up to now.
It must be recalled, of course, that the political aspects of security have featured regularly on EPC agendas and Ireland has participated fully in the discussion of disarmament questions at the United Nations, at the Conference of Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Stockholm Conference on Disarmament. In short, Ireland has always been prepared to take part in conferences or actions which could contribute to a lessening of international tension where it exists. The Community's act of support of the Contadora peace initiative in Central America is an example of this. The drafting of Article 6 shows an understanding of Ireland's neutrality on the part of our EC partners. It does not compromise our neutrality; nor does it undermine our right to maintain and develop a strong and positive independent foreign policy. I wish to remind the House that one thing that is not mentioned very much is that the right to use the veto, also known as the Luxembourg compromise, has not been affected by the Single European Act.
Earlier on today Senator Manning said that he saw neutrality as not necessarily a moral issue but rather a position dictated by the national interest. I would agree with this. I would like to refer to the speech made by the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, in moving Second Stage of the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1987, in the Dáil on 22 April. One of the previous speakers was ticked off for quoting from a speech that might not have been the speech of a Minister. The Taoiseach is the Minister for the Gaeltacht but I am sure I can quote from his speech. He said:
Let us clear away the cloud of uncertainty. Let the people decide as soon as possible on our membership of the Community as one straightforward question. This party——
referring to Fianna Fáil
——sought last December to obtain the endorsement of the Dáil for making, and depositing alongside the Instrument of Ratification, a Declaration which would seek, firstly, to preserve our original entitlement to the recognition of our special economic needs which was an integral element of our accession and membership of the Community from the outset and remains so and, secondly, to have our policy of military neutrality reiterated. We were, and are, satisfied that had the then Government sought to do so it would have been possible, before the Single European Act was finalised and signed, to secure our partners' acceptance that the Intergovernmental Conference would have noted an Irish declaration of the kind we proposed last December, as they noted declartions by Greece, Portugal, Denmark, the Presidency and the Commission.
He went on to state that it was still open to us to make this declaration, and the declaration has been made. In my opinion the important part of the declaration is:
The Government of Ireland note that the provisions of Title III do not affect Ireland's long established policy of military neutrality and that co-ordination of positions on the political and economic aspects of security does not include the military aspects of security or procurement for military purposes and does not affect Ireland's right to act or refrain from acting in any way which might affect Ireland's international status of military neutrality.
Later on in his speech the Taoiseach said:
This Government is fully committed to the policy of military neutrality and that policy will be adhered to.
Another issue which is constantly referred to is the diminution of our sovereignty. Here again I am sure — it is an important aspect of this Act — that some of our sovereignty will go. I want to quote again from the Taoiseach's speech. He said:
We did of course concede some element of our sovereignty when we joined this great Community of European nations but so did all the other member states. Nations which had exercised full uninhibited national sovereignty for centuries were prepared to concede some of that sovereignty so that they could work together for the greater benefit of their people.
It is the same when you join any club, any society or any organisation. You give a little in order to gain some. Let me paint a scenario for you. Suppose you are at home some evening and you get a call from a friend who says: "There are eleven of us here having dinner, we would like you to join us". You say to them: "I will go and have dinner with you but I want to decide the menu". They say: "Well, we have a fairly adequate banquet laid out before us", but you say: "No, I want to decide the menu". I think it would be quite a long time before you would get a call again.
That is the position in which Ireland finds itself. We are a small nation. We have to join this greater European union and I have no particular fears for it. I do not believe that the Single European Act is a major leap forward, as some people would have us believe. Nevertheless, it represents a modest but important advance and should allow the process of European integration to develop further. The decision to move towards the achievement of a single internal market by 1992 will present many new opportunities for Irish industry. The economic and social cohesion of the Community is reinforced by this Act. It provides for the formulation of a genuine regional policy, capable of tackling the serious economic and infrastructural underdevelopment of regions of the Community, such as Ireland.
European union is still far off. For the foreseeable future the task will be to complete economic union; that is to say, monetary union, financial harmonisation and cohesion. If this is achieved, then the European Community will provide greater prosperity for all of its citizens and will be even closer to what its founders originally envisaged, Europe as a force for peace.
For those of you who are old enough, I would ask you to take your minds back to 1944-45. Nobody would have believed that Germany and France could work in harmony. Nobody would have believed that Britain and Germany could work in harmony. Yet, these nations work in harmony today for the common good. Somebody on the radio said recently, I am not quite sure who, that jaw-jaw is better than war-war. That is what this is all about. It is an aim towards peace. I am not so worried about the sovereignty aspect; we can give as much as we want to give in that regard. The nationalistic Germans are not too worried about losing a bit of their sovereignty, the proud French — who speak only their own language — are not too worried, nor indeed are the arrogant British, who occupy part of our country as they have done for 800 years.
They are the larger nations of the Community but the smaller nations are also prepared to row in. I do not think we have any other option. That is why I urge the ratification of this Act. I fully support the amendment. I have faith in the Irish nation that they will, on the day, pass this amendment and allow us to ratify the Act and get on with the work of becoming good Europeans, without at any stage lessening our Irishness. We have not been asked by the Europeans to give away anything that makes us Irish. They have not asked us to alter our culture or our language which is now accepted as one of the working languages of the European Parliament nor have they asked us in any way to diminish all of those things which make us Irish but merely to incorporate some of those things which might make us better Europeans.
Finally, being married to a Tipperary woman, I could not go home tonight and face her without passing my own good wishes to the Cathaoirleach, who is also a Tipperary woman.
I want to begin by stressing that what we say in this debate in support of our arguments against the limitations of the wording of the amendment is not a passing whim. The Labour Party position has not arisen merely from a given set of circumstances at the present time. This problem has been with us for quite a long time and our attitude has been consistent. The Labour Party's main concern is in relation to the question of an independent foreign policy outside membership of any military alliance. We are not convinced that this amendment — or the Constitution as a whole — would prevent any Irish Government from acting in a manner inconsistent with the affirmation that we should adhere to a foreign policy outside membership of any military alliance. For example, we are not happy at present that the proposed wording will give the necessary protection to the people of Ireland with regard to becoming involved in a military alliance.
In the course of his very good contribution Senator Mooney mentioned the fact that we will not be dragged screaming and shouting into a military alliance. That is not the way it happens. As somebody who has been through the Second World War and knowing some of the powers who are now involved in the European Community, I would not say that circumstances could not arise again which would involve us in a military alliance, even though we did not want to be part of that military alliance. Circumstances may arise in which we would have no control over such an alliance or we may gradually lose our control. With each agreement we give a little and, consequently, are dragged more into the net. It is that which concerns the Labour Party.
The Labour Party have always followed the principle of justice, honour and kindliness. It is our golden rule. We have long since recognised that there must be international co-operation on a democratic basis with a fair opportunity for all. As socialists we want to be international. We recognise that modern forms of communication have long since isolated many national groups and rendered them, to a great extent, things of the past. We also accept that we cannot weave a cocoon around ourselves and hope that the rest of the world will give us a living and will not interfere with us. We accepted that principle when we were campaigning against our entry into the EC. However, our opposition then was based on the fact that the country was not ready to take on the obligations of EC membership. The fact that 250,000 people are unemployed here is an indication that we did suffer as a result of accepting international co-operation in 1972.
However, the argument is not that the EC caused unemployment here but that we suffered in some respects. Our membership of the Community amounts to our involvement in international co-operation because the Community has agreements with Third Countries. I accept that membership means we are entitled to security, happiness, freedom, peace and some benefits and that if we put something into the Community we have certain rights, but it must be remembered that we also have certain obligations. What will be the position if the EC decide to form an EC army? Will Ireland be in a position to decline to join such an army? That may be an extreme case but it is a possibility. The point I am trying to get across in my own inner city way is that citizens who receive all the benefits of Community membership can be called upon to help the Community should that group of nations come under attack. Will a nation like Ireland have the right to opt out? Can an individual who has benefited from our membership of the EC say he or she is not prepared to fight and die in support of a Community cause? I accept that the position of a conscientious objector is different.
It is my view that as time goes on we are likely to get more dragged into giving away a little more. When we joined the Community we gave away some of our sovereignty and through time we will give more of it away. While I do not think there will be another world war in my life time nobody can say that a war of massive proportions will not take place. The danger exists and there is a possibility of our being sucked into a military alliance, rather than dragged, as a result of the benefits we get from the Community. We are moving one step nearer a military alliance and the Labour Party are concerned about that.
Many people would not consider those issues relevant in a debate on the Single European Act but we must be prepared for the day when there will be no turning back. Even if there is a likelihood of our not being able to turn back we must make every effort to protect our position. I agree with the sentiments expressed by Senator Norris, that if a war did break out we may not have much say. However, we are not in the same position as Sweden, Austria or Switzerland who produce arms on a big scale and maintain a substantial well-trained army. Those countries are not members of the Community and the more benefits we get from the Community the more we will be obligated to any military alliance.
There is no such thing as being able to guarantee security, freedom, happiness or peace. Our freedom was dearly bought and we must guard it at all costs. We must guard our position but we have an obligation to give a little more each time there is an agreement in the form of support to other groupings in the EC. It is my view that as a beneficiary in the EC there is an obligation on us to guard and maintain the Community which has democratically chosen ideals. Let us take it one step further: if we become more involved in those principles of freedom and peace through justice we may become threatened. For example, if we are not making a commitment to a different military or foreign policy attitude, the EC are entitled to put the squeeze on, so to speak. That is where the dangers lie. One becomes involved in these things, not dragged into them. It is a gradual process.
Maybe this is not a good analogy, but years ago when television had not been long in existence there was a debate on TV about the drug situation in Dublin. The Garda at that time were satisfied that there was no real problem in that respect, but that did not mean that there was not going to be a drugs problem. In a natural evolution of circumstances and events we now have a drug problem. I am quoting that example to illustrate that one can be involved in something and get the benefits from it — I know that the benefit from drugs is a different benefit from what I am talking about — but then the obligations on one become strong. This is the problem that I see with what we are talking about.
We are somewhat anxious about this. The Supreme Court did not rule against the Single European Act. The Labour Party will not vote against the Single European Act although many of the contributions here suggest that they may, but we will vote against the amendment because we believe the dangers I outlined here exist — maybe in the long term but they exist. As a consequence, it is necessary for Ireland to make sure to continue in the vein of the people who have gone before us and who guarded our neutrality very dearly. If we are to play a positive and progressive role in foreign policy we must be characterised by genuine independence. The only way we can do that is by making sure that when we alter the Constitution in any way we give ourselves ample protection within the meaning of the Constitution to safeguard that independence. We must stress that through our representatives in the EC.
I have mixed feelings about this, arising probably from my boyhood and my background. I would not like anyone to take anything from me and if anyone tried to do so probably I would fight for it. I can understand that if people in the EC find very strong pressures on them they would be inclined to fight back. However, I am talking not about me but about the nation and how this nation should behave and how its citizens should be protected. The Labour Party's commitment to neutrality was earlier and is probably deeper than that of most other parties in this House. However, I agree that there is a strong national tradition on the subject. We all know about Éamon de Valera. The Taoiseach, too, has expressed that tradition in recent times. We have a national tradition of neutrality but it is a pragmatic one which derived from our desire to stay out of the Second World War and to use that neutrality as a bargaining policy to end partition. That was the basis of our neutrality at that time. The Labour Party tradition of neutrality goes deeper and farther back. Since the foundation of the State there has been a commitment in principle to neutrality by successive Governments. This was expressed in different degrees by different parties, but there was no quibbling by the Labour Party. As far back as 1927 before Éamon de Valera expressed his views on it our own Tom Johnson set out the Labour Party's position and stated what the Labour Party stood for on neutrality. We adhere to the whole concept of neutrality as expressed by Tom Johnson and later by our chairmen on international fora throughout the world. That was before Éamon de Valera spoke on neutrality and before he reiterated his views when the League of Nations was about to collapse. He had a vast experience of the world situation and was our representative in the League of Nations, an organisation somewhat similar to the UN. He could see the dangers on that occasion and he made the people here very much aware of them.
For that reason and the others I have mentioned we find it very difficult to vote for the amendment as it is worded now — or perhaps not so much the wording but the amendment itself. We do not think it does the job it is required to do. Its purpose should be to protect not only neutrality but GATT, the Anglo-Irish Agreement and other agreements already made and not leave us exposed in those areas where we are vulnerable. We have an opportunity to do that and we should do it.
James Connolly, founder of the Labour Party, became President of the Irish Neutrality League in 1914. He wanted to define Ireland's attitude towards the Anglo-German war as one of neutrality. In 1919 at the International Labour Conference in Berne, as a result of which we gained recognition as a separate entity, Cathal O'Shannon and Tom Johnson reiterated Ireland's position on neutrality. In 1928 at the Second Conference of Labour Parties and Trade Unions from Commonwealth Countries Tom Johnson stated our position unequivocally for the first time since we had gained national independence. He said on that occasion that it was not unreasonable to fear that Great Britain might again become involved in wars in which none of the dominions had direct interest or responsibility and that in such an event it would seem unquestionable that some, at least, of the other states forming the British Commonwealth would desire to be acknowledged as free from responsibility and immune from attack. That was so far as international law could secure immunity and unless they committed a belligerent act and so long as they maintained neutrality. Later the same year Tom Johnson again gave a message of neutrality to the conference of the Inter Party Parliamentary Union in Washington. This was expressed many times in the thirties, and in an international forum in 1941 Mr. Michael Keyes as Chairman of the Labour Party reaffirmed our position. The history of the Labour Party goes back a long time on that. In 1984 the Irish Congress of Trade Unions which represents 650,000 people expressed their view about the whole question of the nation's attitude to neutrality and the different interpretations of neutrality. As far as we are concerned, the Supreme Court did not rule against the Single European Act for which we voted in Government. We are not voting against the Single European Act now but against the way in which the amendment is being introduced which is not adequate to give us the necessary protection to set at rest the fears of the people we represent. In the event of us not getting an opportunity to speak on amendments, it is likely that we will have to vote against the Second Stage.
Ba mhaith liom ar dtús comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leat as ucht do thofa mar Chathaoirleach an tSeanaid. Guím gach rath ar an obair atá romhat agus geallaimse gach cabhair duit san obair sin.
Aontaím leis an Bhille seo. Caithfidh mé a rá, áfach, go raibh roinnt faitís uair go raibh Rialtas an ama sin ag rith go róthapa agus go raibh ceisteanna tábhachtacha éagsúla nach raibh freagraí sásúla ag teacht ina dtaobh. Ach ag éisteacht le daoine a bhfuil suim mhór acu sna gnóthaí seo, tá mé lán sásta gurb é an Bille seo an tslí cheart agus nach bhfuil aon dáinséar ann. Tá trácht déanta cheana ar na rudaí a bhfuilim ag tagairt dóibh agus níl sé ar intinn agam na ceisteanna sin a leathnú anois.
I feel very privileged to be a Member of this historic House. I do not know how long this debate will last but somebody mentioned that one could get very used to these plush surroundings and that perhaps the people who have semipermanent seats in this House might become anxious about the Seanad being here. I thank the Ceann Comhairle and the powers that be for allowing the Seanad the opportunity to discuss this Bill in the Dáil Chamber. I can always say that I made my maiden speech when the Seanad met in the Dáil Chamber.
I am supporting this Bill because I am satisfied that it is the right course to take and that the fears expressed are unfounded. I do not share Senator Murphy's view in relation to neutrality, that we are being led by nods and winks towards the abandonment of our neutrality and ultimately towards a military alliance. If I shared that view I would not support this Bill.
We cannot survive outside the EC. This is not a defeatist attitude. It is pragmatism and realism. We cannot be inward-looking. What would be our position if we were outside the EC which effectively is what those who are opposed to this Act are advocating? It has been argued that we are a very small voice in Europe. Even if we accept that line, at least we have a voice. The alternative is to have no voice at all. I share Senator Robb's concern in relation to social and humanitarian aspects of economic policy in the EC and the consequent beef mountains, butter mountains and wine lakes, but at least within the Community we have an opportunity to express our concern when so many people throughout the world are starving. Outside of the EC we would have no forum and our position as a small open economy would be untenable.
In relation to the Act, it is only natural that modifications would be made to a treaty signed as far back as 1957, with the developments which have taken place in the economies of the Community in the last 30 years. For that reason our place is within Europe. The benefits we reap from membership are great. Ratification of the Act will lead towards achieving some of the fundamental objectives of the Treaty of Rome such as the reduction of the disparities in the development between its different regions and the removal of the remaining barriers to trade in the Community. This cannot but enhance our economic prospects. I support this Bill.
I have been present since the start of the debate this morning and I am very impressed with the standard of debate which has been free of any sign of rancour. Although it is my first day here, I am not so politically naive as to believe that that should be normal in this Chamber or in the Chamber in which the Seanad should be sitting. Perhaps it was good that this should be the case on my first day in the Seanad. It is an honour to be a contributor to this debate but in view of the many excellent speeches that have been made in favour of the Act I will be brief because a lot of the ground has already been covered.
Ireland joined the EC in 1973 as a result of a referendum carried by 80 per cent of the voters in favour of joining. We are now part of a community with a population of 300 million plus. It is unchallenged that we have derived tremendous benefits from our membership of the European Community particulrly with regard to agricultural expansion in the late seventies and early eighties when we were in a position to benefit from the new and expanded markets. This debate on the Single European Act has really been taking place for the past two to three years and the people are now fully informed of all the implications. The Single European Act was ratified by 11 member states and it is designed for smoother and speedier decision-making and to remove internal barriers to trade. We should urge voters to support the Single European Act on 26 May. In doing this we will be signalling to Europe that we are as committed to Europe as to fighting for the best available share of the EC cake. I urge everybody to support this Bill.
Before I call Senator Fitzsimons I would like to assure Senator McCormack that I made that request as the new Cathaoirleach because in the last four years in the previous Seanad we had this marvellous atmosphere in which heavy legislation was dealt with in detail, and rarely did party politics intervene. The atmosphere that the Senator finds himself in today could well be the atmosphere the Senator will find himself in for whatever length of time, and I hope it will be a long time.
My contribution will be very brief for a number of reasons. First, the subject has been well debated already and I have no new insight or novel view on it and, above all, time is important and is running out. There was a clause in contracts in olden times which stated, "time is of the essence" and, if ever it was of the essence it is now, particularly as so many more Senators want to make a contribution. Therefore, I shall confine my remarks on what I consider to be the pertinent areas.
As a layman I find the Single European Act rather complicated. The Act is not too lengthy in itself but there are cross-references to other treaties. In order to study the Act in detail it would be necessary to refer to them also. There are the publications in relation to the Act, the speeches made in the Dáil and Seanad on two occasions and, of course, the court judgments which are very lengthy in themselves. Therefore, to make a well-structured meaningful contribution it would be necessary to have some legal background and some legal qualifications. Many lawyers have contributed to the debate here and in the Dáil, not all of them in agreement on some aspects.
I shall confine my remarks to the last debate in the Seanad when the question of constitutionality arose. Senator Eoin Ryan, who is no longer in this House, made a very important contribution at that time, dealing with the constitutional issue. I shall quote from his contribution from the Official Report, Volume 115, of Tuesday, 16 December 1986 at column 976:
Secondly, are we entitled to pass it without a referendum? This is a very complex problem; it is a legal problem; it is one which I do not think can be answered with complete certainty.
At column 977 he continued as follows:
While taking that view and accepting that these amendments are within the framework of the treaties, we must acknowledge that by passing this Bill a further transfer of sovereignty is involved.
Finally, at column 978 he states:
I come back to the question: should there be a referendum? In my opinion referendum is not necessary.
Senator Mary Robinson in the same debate, at column 1045, stated:
As it happens, I was one of those lawyers who in a sense felt constrained to enter the debate because it seemed extremely important to tease out in public and in adequate time the ramifications of the Single European Act. In a two-part article which was published in The Irish Times on 24 and 25 November last I examined the two separate components of the Single European Act and noted as a personal conclusion that the ratification process does conform to the constitutional requirements and the constitutional framework. I concluded that on balance, and I stand over it. It is my view that this is a black and white issue on which it is possible to say that this is the case and there cannot be any doubt about it. I think it is an extremely difficult issue. It is only when you look at the situation that the complexity of it is brought home.
At column 1046 Senator Robinson continued as follows:
As an individual I remain of the view that if the Bill were referred to the Supreme Court under Article 26, that court would conclude — and there is only one judgment of the Supreme Court on a reference — that the Bill is constitutional but that would have a significant number of positive factors for our society. It would be an authoritative view. Any view expressed either by the Minister, by individual Senators or even by those of us who are lawyers and Senators, is only an individual view.
Paragraph 1 of Article 33 of the Single European Act, states:
This Act will be ratified by the High Contracting parties in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. The instruments of ratification will be deposited with the Government of the Italian Republic.
Therefore, I would blame the Coalition Government for not having followed that advice. Many people expressed the view that a referendum should be held. It was up to the Government to ensure that that was done but, unfortunately, they blundered. In saying that, my view would have been that it is simply a question of evolution, that the EC is not static, like any other body, for example the Church, it is a growing, organic thing and we must make room for change. Nevertheless, the reality is and was that when the matter was taken to the Supreme Court a constitutional referendum was deemed to be necessary.
In passing I should like to pay tribute to Mr. Raymond Crotty. It took courage and I am sure considerable finance was put at risk to bring that action. We must remember that the Government had from February until the end of last year to hold a referendum. We must pay tribute to Mr. Raymond Crotty. In a sense the Government were trying to rush this legislation through the Houses. It was a case of — like the Emperor's new clothes — if it were repeated often enough we would have to believe it.
This Government have adopted the right procedure, to put this single issue before the people on 26 May. It would be wrong to complicate the matter at this stage notwithstanding the fact that treaties previously entered into may be at risk. It is important that we hold this referendum. We owe it to our eleven partners in the EC because they have gone through all the necessary procedures and it is we who are holding up ratification of the legislation.
It has been said that, through our membership of the EC, we have benefited to the extent of £5 billion. If that is true — I am sure that, in essence, it is although I believe the figure has been questioned; I am not even sure whether it is a net or gross figure — some effort should be made to determine exactly the extent of our benefit of membership of the EC. It has been pointed out to me by an authority that countries in Europe who are not members of the EC had a greater GNP over the past 15 years. In any event there are 320 million people in the EC.
With regard to the internal market and the possibilities for our people I do not think anyone would say at this stage that we should leave the EC. There are people who will point out that some of our problems arose since we joined the EC and that some of the problems such as unemployment coincide with our entry to the EC. We have benefited to a considerable degree and if problems arose through mishandling of our internal affairs, or for whatever reason, we cannot blame the EC. If we did not use our resources as we should and as we could, we cannot blame the EC.
The Act is very short but it seems to be simply a streamlining of procedures. It is a steamlining of procedures to our advantage and in our interest, for example, with regard to the internal market, the depressed areas where there is great disparity and the environment. In the last Seanad Professor Dooge made the point very clearly that, in effect, this is a step when a leap is needed and, indeed, a leap is what many people wanted. Unfortunately, that did not happen and perhaps a step at a time over a period will bring about the same result.
The Single European Act amends the Treaties establishing the European Communities and it contains provisions on European co-operation in the sphere of foreign policy. These two elements were negotiated separately. They are distinct but they were brought together in one Treaty which is known as the Single European Act. There are people who say we should renogiate. This has been mentioned on a number of occasions. We must remember that ratification was completed before this matter came before the Dáil or the Seanad and before we had an opportunity to decide on it. In a sense this may have been unfortunate. It was Hobson's choice; for those who wanted to remain inside the EC there was, in effect, no choice. It was a case of putting the cart before the horse. The question that comes to my mind is whether this is likely to happen again. It should not happen but it is a precedent. Denmark voted to renegotiate but the members of the EC very definitely said no. That should be a lesson for us. Renegotiation is out totally.
The matter of national sovereignty has been referred to by many previous speakers, in particular by Senator Mooney. It seems there is no doubt that there is a loss of sovereignty, but the question is how much. This whole question of sovereignty is dealt with by Professor Basil Chubb in one of his books, Constitutional Change in Ireland. He points out in one section that, for example, in this country and in other EC countries an individual may bring the State before the European Court. There are many people who would regard this as the negation of sovereignty. There also seems to be a point that after chipping away at it, sovereignty may be lost. Professor Dooge dealt with this matter when it was last discussed in the Seanad on 16 December 1986. As reported at column 986 of the Official Report he stated:
In a way it is remarkable that we have managed to make progress at all because in a sense what is happening in this whole process towards European union is the replacement of the fiercely independent national State believing in the divine right of sovereignty enshrined in national parliaments by a new system of States still independent but operating through common institutions in a shared sovereignty. In a way one can say that this transformation is in its turn almost as great a transformation as that from the feudal society based on local power to the centralised nation State, a process which took hundreds of years to achieve.
He also stated:
In the next century people will look on the notions that are being floated today in this country in opposition to this measure in regard to the idea that sovereignty is an absolute indivisible thing, as old-fashioned as the divine right of kings. Its time is past. It is now part of history and it is time to move beyond it. This has been there in the consciousness of those who think and are concerned about the position of Europe.
Deputy Kelly is reported in The Irish Times today as having stated, with regard to the same matter, that the Government's approach to proposing the minimum amendment of Article 29 of the Constitution that will cover the Single European Act was correct but that ideally the right thing would be to go further, to devise a form of words for Article 29 which would commit us in plain language to the process of European integration, specifying if necessary the areas in which national sovereignty would remain unimpaired. He also suggested that such a formula should also authorise the Government to sign and ratify any agreement which did not impinge on those reserved areas.
In the last Seanad debate on this matter former Senator O'Leary also referred to sovereignty as a theoretical doctrine and nothing more. In effect, there is a diminution of sovereignty. It is interesting to ask the question posed by Professor Basil Chubb: at what stage do we cease to lose sovereignty? Is sovereignty something that is lost? Is it something that we must have in toto or not at all? That is an important question and one which will be addressed in the years to come.
Do we need a new Constitution? I said before in the Seanad that after 50 years it is opportune that we should have a new Constitution. The past 50 years have been very dramatic. More has happened in that time than perhaps in many centuries previously. A new Constitution should be drawn up. I am glad the Taoiseach has offered to discuss the matter with the other political parties. I thought the time of our accession to the EC would be a very opportune time to prepare a new Constitution but that time has passed.
I think it is reasonable that we should have majority voting. In a sense, Ireland may seem very weak with three votes out of 76. It has been stated recently that perhaps the majority vote is not the important issue but that the minority blocking vote is important, because the minority blocking vote is 23. Germany has ten votes; France has ten votes; Italy has ten votes and the United Kingdom has ten votes. Any two of those with another partner could create a minority blocking vote.
Neutrality has been dealt with and I will simply refer to it in passing. There is no question of losing our neutrality. I want to refer to the question of public morality which has been mentioned in some detail by Senator Mooney. I will quote one small paragraph from the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities, Report No. 34, The Single European Act. On page 66 it states:
Community legislation can only be introduced when it finds its legal basis in an Article or Articles of the Treaty. There is no legal basis for legislation relating to divorce, abortion or other matters concerning public morality, and there is, therefore, no way in which the Community can affect legal provisions on these matters presently in force in Ireland.
As I said at the outset, all these matters have been debated in some detail and I do not have any new insight into them. To make a meaningful contribution it would be necessary to have some legal training or legal background. Those are some of my general observations. I hope the referendum will be passed with a big majority on 26 May.
I am beginning to wonder listening to the debate here, reading the debate in the other House, and listening to discussions on radio and television, whether I am talking about the same thing everybody else is talking about. I have read the Supreme Court judgments but I am not sure how many other people have. I will come back to this in a minute. This is the nub of what I have to say. I am going to confine myself largely to what the Supreme Court said because that is the issue we should talk about but it is an issue that has been avoided. However, there are a few other things I want to say.
First, there is an opinion abroad that our membership of the EC has been an unqualified success. We have heard about the enormous benefits that have derived to this country from the EC. The trouble is that you cannot quantify benefits. You can talk about net inflows of cash, but since some of the poorest countries in the Third World have been the single biggest beneficiaries of inflows of cash and have showed no benefit from it, because of the inadequacy in many cases of their own internal policies, inflows of cash alone are not an index of benefit from membership of something like the European Economic Community. I would have thought growth in gross national product and growth in employment would be the indices we would choose to measure the benefits derived from membership of an economic community.
The truth is that those small countries of Europe which chose for one reason or another to stay outside the EC did an awful lot better over the past 14 years than we did. Norway, Sweden, Finland, Austria and Switzerland are all outside the EC and have had a better rate of economic growth over the past 14 years than we have had. Notwithstanding aspirations attributed to them by people with vested interests in the Irish Council for the European Movement, to my knowledge they have no intention of joining the European Community, though they may have certain interests in increasing trade links in certain areas.
The answer you always get when you say this — and people never talk about it until you actually confront them with it — is that they are all different; that Norway has oil and Sweden has this, Finland has this and Austria has this. Of course, they are all different and so are we. We had fisheries and we gave them away. The difference between us and Norway is that they had oil and they held on to it, we had fisheries and we gave them away because we did not believe we could develop the industry because we did not believe in ourselves. This is the saddest tragedy of this whole debate.
I do not care if people agree with me. It is part of the political process that people should disagree but people are not willing to disagree with me on this issue. They all sit with this hang-dog look — and I attribute this to the major political parties in this House — saying it is tough but we have to stay in the EC, we are struck with it because the alternative to ratifying this measure is to leave the EC. That is the most arrant nonsense I have ever heard. All we would be doing — I will elaborate on this — is to reject Title III of the Single European Act.
Title III, in the interpretation of our Supreme Court, is a new treaty. It does not spring from our commitment to the EC, and nobody can tell us that it does. We would still be full members of the EC. The record of the past 14 years shows that those who make life most difficult within the EC are those who do well out of it. We have got this boy scout mentality, that if we sit back nicely, do not upset or argue with anybody and behave ourselves we will get all the benefits, whereas countries like Britain and Greece, to name but two, have chosen an opposite view which is to dig in their heels, say, "No, No, No" and do enormously better than we have done. This idea that sitting back and saying "Yes, Sir" and being good Europeans will draw greater benefits to us is at variance with the facts and is a particularly sad reflection on a country which takes pride in its individuality, in its sovereignty and its independence.
We have got the most appalling handout mentality in our attitude to Europe, which is that if we say "no", "maybe" or "yes, but", we are seen to be ungrateful and the goodies will be taken from us. If our membership of the EC is no more than the membership of a subservient nation holding out a begging bowl for the scraps off the rich man's table of the European Community, and if that is the justification for our continuing membership, then shame on us all. Shame particularly on the party over there which claim to be the defender of independence, republicanism and sovereignty and who would give this away for money.
That same party over there — a party with which on many occasions I have expressed a sense of identity, often at considerable political embarrassment to myself — will tell me we have benefited to the tune of X billion pounds — is it £5 billion? — from membership of the EC, and they will ask me to explain how we are going to do without that money if we leave the EC, which I do not think is in question anyway but that is the way they interpret it. In the next breath the same party will tell us that the £1 billion or the £1.2 billion a year the United Kingdom delivers to Northern Ireland is a minor matter when it comes to talking about Irish unity. They say if we can deal with that problem we will get Irish unity straightened out. The idea that a decision about the sovereignty of this country, about our independent foreign policy, about out neutrality and a decision about our defence policy and defence alignment, would be made on the basis of relatively limited and highly arguable cash benefits is wrong in itself and is a dreadful reflection on the capacity and willingness of Members of this House and the Irish political process generally to address the issues as they are and not to try to pretend that the issues are other than what they are.
In terms of addressing the issues, and of being satisfied by those who are now persuading us to have a referendum and to carry it — in particular I refer to the Minister for Foreign Affairs — I find it astonishing that in his script there would be a fundamental error about the nature of the decision of the Supreme Court. I quote from the Minister's script in which he says — and he refers not to Title III here but to the remaining part of the Single European Act—
The Supreme Court in a unanimous and little publicised judgment, ruled that it had not been shown that anything in these provisions... was invalid having regard to the provisions to the Irish Constitution.
With regard to unanimity, there is no way that anybody could know whether the Supreme Court is unanimous on that issue because anybody who understood what we were doing here would know that Title III is not part of the European Communities.
It is a different Supreme Court case.
I am reading from the Minister's script which says:
Most arguments in the case brought before the Irish courts to prevent ratification of the Single European Act and most of the deliberations before the courts were devoted to the amendments to the European Community Treaties which are contained in Title II and which, unlike the foreign policy provisions, are to be made part of Irish domestic law by the European Communities (Amendment) Act, 1986. These elements constitute the main substance of the Single European Act. Extraordinary allegations were made both before the courts and in the public debate more generally about the effects on Irish sovereignty and the various rights guaranteed under our Constitution.
The next sentence relates to a different judgment altogether, to a unanimous and little publicised one.
The Minister has a constitutional right to come in now if he wants to make a point to Senator Brendan Ryan. You may come in but I cannot have this chat between the two of you.
My understanding is that the Minister was referring to the judgment read out by Mr. Justice Finlay with regard to the constitutionality of Title II of the Single European Act.
That was unanimous.
It was not unanimous. In the case of the constitutionality of an Act which has been incorporated into Irish law, the Supreme Court must speak with one voice, irrespective of whether it is a majority, a minority or a unanimous decision. We do not know whether the Supreme Court voted 3:2 or was unanimous on that issue. We could not know, it would be unconstitutional. In the case of Title III, a separate Treaty which is not incorporated into Irish law, they can give individual decisions which is why we know their individual opinions. The Minister was wrong about Title II, poorly informed. There was no such thing as a unanimous decision. There was one decision read out by the Chief Justice and that is a provision of the constitution. I defy the Minister to ask the Attorney General about that matter. That was the decision read out by Chief Justice Finlay as one judgment because it was a judgment of the constitutionality of an Act of this Oireachtas which was the European Communities (Amendment) Act, 1986.
It was agreed to by all sides.
It was not said and cannot be said under the provisions of the Constitution.
It was because it was not referred to in the separate judgments that formed the 3:2 majority. They were concerned with Title III.
Precisely, because in the case of Title III it was not incorporated into Irish legislation and, therefore, the judges were free to give individual interpretations. When the judges are making a judgment on a matter which is part of Irish legislation they are obliged by the Constitution to give one decision and one decision only and that decision was given by Mr. Justice Finlay. As far as I am concerned the Minister and his advisers were wrong and do not understand either our Constitution or the Single European Act. That is a damn bad basis from which to start a referendum campaign. I suggest to the Minister—
It is not utter nonsense, it is the truth.
Senator Brendan Ryan, please continue your speech and let the Minister account for himself in his reply.
Under the Constitution where the Supreme Court is adjudicating on the constitutionality of legislation for this country it is obliged to give one decision, it may not say whether that decision is unanimous or a majority decision. I do not know whether under Title II, which is the area that was incorporated into Irish legislation, the Supreme Court was unanimous or whether it had a majority view. The Minister, no more than myself, is not in a position to know whether they are unanimous.
I can tell you that in my reply.
I look forward to that because the advice of an eminent senior counsel who sits here beside me and a solicitor is that the Minister is wrong. He could not know whether they were unanimous because they could not tell him as they would be in breach of the Constitution if they did. That reflects poorly on the comprehension of the Government, the Minister and the Department of Foreign Affairs of the constitutional implications of this whole matter. They do not even understand the constitutional obligations of the Supreme Court. When this issue was brought before the Seanad late last year I recorded my views on the fact that an ad hoc arrangement and a treaty meant two entirely different things and I am very glad that the modest opinion that I offered then has now been underlined, emphasised, and elaborated upon by the Supreme Court.
I welcome the Supreme Court decision. I am somewhat astonished at the decision in the sense that I always saw the Supreme Court as a relatively cautious, conservative group but I regret that people seem to feel obliged to apologise for what has happened in this country over the last six months. If ever a country vindicated its right to call itself a parliamentary democracy this country did so over the last five months. We discovered in the last five months that neither Parliament nor the Executive have absolute powers, that we are all subject to the provisions of the Constitution which was used by one citizen to work through the courts to insist that his and our rights as citizens could not be taken away arbitrarily by Government or Parliament in any way that was inconsistent with the Constitution. Regardless of what you find in the media and in many political circles, particularly among those who are firmly ensconced — and I am not talking incidentally about anyone in this House — in the European gravy train we should be proud that our courts took a view which was independent of the Executive, and of the power of the Oireachtas. It shows that we are a mature parliamentary democracy in which the separation of powers is not just a fine theory but a matter of practice and fact. I am very happy about this.
If somebody like myself who is firmly entrenched on the left of Irish politics said or implied some of the things that were said or implied about the Supreme Court and the qualities of its decision-making over the last few weeks, I would be, I am quite sure, categorised as attempting to undermine one of the primary institutions of the State. In other words if the decision had gone differently and I had said that they were wrong or mistaken, it would be suggested that people like me were attempting to undermine the institutions of the State.
Some of the things that have been said by very senior people in this country — and I am not talking about members of the Government, I am talking about other people — were close to contempt of the Supreme Court and were quite unbecoming of people who are much given to touting their commitment to upholding the institutions of the State. I welcome the decision of the Supreme Court but now that they have taken a decision we have to address, not the peripheral issues or what might happen if we did not address it, but what they said.
Listening to the chorus of voices — I have Fine Gael on my left, Fianna Fáil on my right and I am not sure about the Members in front of me and where they stand — I am reminded of Harold Macmillan who once said that whenever he found the establishment unanimous about anything they were invariably wrong. I said this in 1986 when the Single European Act was brought before the Oireachtas and I say it again now, that ordinary people have good reason to be wary when the establishment lines up and says "this is in your own interest, you must do it quickly" and particularly when the same establishment address almost everything except what was said by the Supreme Court. We have had a huge debate about the possible additional implications of the Supreme Court decision. We have had a huge debate about the possible consequences of our leaving the EC, which is not on at all. I have not yet heard the Minister report it but he may have said it.
Yes, fully in the Dáil.
I will listen with great interest and I promise not to interrupt you unless you provoke me severely.
That might well be on the cards.
The Minister and I are far too friendly for either of us to be provoked too severely. He is after all a constituent of mine and I must be reasonably nice to him.
Did he vote for you?
To the best of my knowledge the NUI constituency operate by a secret ballot. I do not know about any of the other areas. At this stage, because I think it needs to be addressed, I want to read considerable sections of the Supreme Court judgment onto the record of this House. I want them placed there so that the Minister can explain certain things he said. I want to begin by quoting at some length from Mr. Justice Henchy. I quote from the transcript of his judgment, page 2:
Thus, unlike the main part of the SEA, Art. 30 is not intended to be an amendment of the existing Treaties but sets the member states on a course leading to an eventual European Union in the sphere of foreign policy. Pending the attainment of that objective, which is outside the stated aims of the existing Treaties, the member states become bound to formulate and conduct their foreign policy according to the terms stated in Art. 30. What had been no more than an objective declared by the Stuttgart Declaration of 1983 is now to become a matter of solemn treaty.
Six months ago the only people who would have said that would have been people from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Irish Sovereignty Movement, etc. They would have been dismissed as the lunatic left, or whatever was the pejorative adjective at the time but he, is a judge of the Supreme Court. He goes on to say:
The essence of this fundamental transformation in the relations between the member states of the European Communities is that those states are no longer to have separate foreign policies but are, as far as possible, to merge their national foreign policies in a European (i.e. Community) foreign policy and to work together in the manner indicated so as to implement what is called European Political Co-operation, with a view to achieving eventual European Union.
He went on to say on page 4:
Without going further into Art. 30, it is clear from those provisions that once the member states ratify this Treaty each state's foreign policy will move from a national to a European or Community level. Apart from becoming bound to endeavour jointly to formulate and implement a European foreign policy, each member state will become specifically bound to inform and consult its fellow-members, to refrain from deciding on a final position as to an issue of foreign policy without prior consultations, to take full account of the positions of the other partners in adopting its position and in its national measures, to ensure that common principles and objectives are gradually developed and defined, and to recognise that the determination of common positions shall constitute a point of reference.
Those and other commitments expressed in s. 30 make manifest that, although the approach to the ultimate aim of European Union is to be reached by a pathway of gradualism each member state will immediately cede portion of its sovereignty and freedom of action in matters of foreign policy. National objectives and ideological positions must defer to the aims and decisions of an institution known as European Political Co-operation, which is to work in tandem with the European Communities. A purely national approach to foreign policy is incompatible with accession to this Treaty.
That is what Mr. Justice Henchy of the Supreme Court said. I did not write it. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament did not write it and I am perfectly certain if the Minister had the choice he would not write it either.
A purely national approach to foreign policy is incompatible with accession to this treaty. I want to emphasise that this is not an opinion of a judge of the Supreme Court; this is the authorative interpretation of what this means.
With reference to that, I heard Senator Norris, who I am delighted to welcome to the House and I am delighted he is here, quote Mr. Justice Finlay who was in fact one of the minority opinions. Mr. Finlay's position is a minority opinion. It is no more than that. The decision of the Supreme Court is what is reflected here. I want to repeat again what Mr. Justice Henchy said so that every member of Fianna Fáil in this House can hear it: "A purely national approach to foreign policy is incompatible with accession to this Treaty" and "national objectives and ideological positions must defer to the aims and decisions of an institution known as European Political Co-operation". I can assure this House that if this Bill is passed I shall endeavour to ensure that every single citizen of this country is aware of this statement before they take the decision and that every single citizen is aware that this is not an opinion but a factual interpretation. That is what the Supreme Court said it means, that is what we are bound by and that is what the Irish courts will use when they refer to this to understand what is meant by it. Mr. Justice Henchy went on:
The methods of co-operation between the member states, which hitherto have been informal, aspirational or, at most, declarational (as under the Stuttgart Declaration), now pass into a realm of solemnly covenanted commitment to the conduct of foreign policy in a way that will lead to European Political Union, at least in the sphere of foreign policy. In that respect. Title III of the SEA is the threshold leading from what has hitherto been essentially an economic Community to what will now also be a political Community.
I repeat I did not write it. This is what Justice Henchy of the Supreme Court said. This is the authoritative interpretation. I repeat in case it may be misunderstood that this is not an opinion, it is the view of the Supreme Court.
One judge. Correction, please.
I am sorry, my advice is that this is the basis on which the Irish courts will now draw their interpretations. This is the ruling on the finding of the Supreme Court.
Would the Senator read the other two judges as reported?
I will come to Mr. Justice Walsh in a minute. I am not used to these interruptions in the Seanad.
I cannot take bad law.
The lawyer from whom I got this interpretation is the lawyer who advised counsel who was successful in having the Supreme Court come to the conclusion that is repeated here. I will trust the interpretation of that lawyer. He understood the meaning and implications of the Single European Act, Title III, far better than the Attorney General's Office, the Department of Foreign Affairs or anybody else I know did, because he was the one who advised counsel. He was proven right and all the other experts were proven wrong. Mr. Justice Henchy went on to say:
The fundamental and far-reaching changes in the conduct of the State's foreign policy to which I have referred would thus be effected by the Government, without reference to the People and without an Act of Parliament.
He further goes on to say:
A persual of Title III of the SEA satisfies me that each ratifying member state will be bound to surrender part of its sovereignty in the conduct of foreign relations. That is to happen as part of a process designed to formulate and implement a European foreign policy. The freedom of action of each state is to be curtained in the interests of the common good of the member states as a whole. Thus, for example, in regard to Ireland, while under the Constitution the point of reference for the determination of a final position on any issue of foreign relations is the common good of the Irish people, under Title III the point of the reference is required to be the common position determined by member states.
I do not think one could find a more fundamental position. Mr. Justice Henchy also said:
As a treaty, Title III is not designed in static terms. It not alone envisages changes in inter-state relations, but also postulates and requires those changes. And the purpose of those changes is to erode national independence in the conduct of external relations in the interests of European political cohesion in foreign relations.
That is a selection of quotations from what Mr. Justice Henchy said; it is not the entire judgment. To suggest that we are talking about something minuscule and something minor in the light of that interpretation is to fly in the face of the facts. My training as an engineer or my experience as a politician does not allow me to fly in the face of the facts. I usually find that a very good place to start in an argument is to actually get the facts right and argue from there rather than try to have an argument without looking at the facts. The facts have not been addressed as far as I can see.
I want to quote from the judgment of Mr. Justice Walsh and in particular I want to quote his views on Article 6 (c) of Title III which says as follows:
Nothing in this Title shall impede closer co-operation in the field of security between certain of the High Contracting Parties within the framework of the Western European Union or the Atlantic Alliance.
This is being sold to us as the final and definitive recognition of Ireland's unique position within the European Community. Implicitly contained in that is the recognition that we are not a member of the Western European Union or the Atlantic Alliance. What Mr. Justice Walsh said on this is:
One interpretation of that is that the member states who are members of the Western European Union or the Atlantic Alliance (Ireland is not a member of either) can develop their own co-operation in those fields without being impeded by anything in Title III of this Treaty. However, it can also amount to an undertaking on the part of this State that in the exercise of whatever powers it may have under Title III it shall do nothing to impede such co-operation in the field of security in the framework of the Western European Union or the Atlantic Alliance on the part of those member states which belong to those institutions.
All of these matters impinge upon the freedom of action of the State not only in certain areas of foreign policy but even within international organisations such as the United Nations or the Council of Europe. That latter effect of the Treaty could amount to the establishment of combinations within these organisations. In touching upon the maintenance of the technological and industrial conditions necessary for security the Treaty impinges upon the State's economic, industrial and defence policies.
Will people stop pretending, therefore, that there are no implications for our defence policy contained in the decision of the Supreme Court? Who is supposed to tell us, if we do not believe the Supreme Court? A judge of the Supreme Court said "that in touching upon the maintenance of the technological and industrial conditions necessary for security the Treaty impinges upon the State's economic, industrial and defence policies." Mr. Justice Brian Walsh said that. In his speech the Minister said:
I believe then that Title III of the Single Act poses no difficulties for Ireland's ability to conduct an independent foreign policy. The extent of the commitments it contains are modest and appropriate to this stage in the Community's development;
At the outset I expressed the wish that we would conduct this debate on the basis of the facts. I do not know how the Minister was enabled to come to the conclusion that, "the extent of the commitments it contains are modest and appropriate to this stage in the Community's development", but the portions admittedly selective, of the Supreme Court judgment I have read — I do not believe they are in the least bit unrepresentative — do not for one second suggest that what is involved are modest or insignificant changes. The words of Mr. Justice Henchy — it is extremely important that people should hear these words over and over again and I can assure the House that they will hear them in the next four weeks from me — are worth repeating:
The essence of this fundamental transformation in the relations between the member states of the European Communities is that those states are no longer to have separate foreign policies...
According to Mr. Justice Henchy we are no longer to have separate foreign policies but the Minister has told us that the commitments entered into are modest and appropriate to the State. We cannot have it both ways. A fundamental transformation is not a modest change. It is not that I distrust the Minister or do not believe him, but I believe he is wrong because the Supreme Court clearly indicated and underlined the fact that he is wrong. So are Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Progressive Democrats wrong. If those parties were to tell us that they accepted what the Supreme Court said, were prepared to bite the bullet and go ahead, I would say fine, but going around and pretending to the Irish people that we are involved in modest changes when the Supreme Court have clearly indicated that it is not true is unfair to the Irish people, somewhat dishonest and is also demeaning the whole political process here.
There is little else one needs to say on this issue because the Supreme Court said it better, more authoritatively, with greater precision and with better use of English than ever I could. However, I should like to make a few points about the issue because it is clear that, given what the Supreme Court said about the economic, political, defence and foreign policy implications of this Act, I will be as vigorous as I can in my campaign to have the referendum defeated. I will be endeavouring to ensure the maximum possible exposure of the negative side of this argument on our national broadcasting service. One hopes that the balance the national broadcasting service so conscientiously observed during the last referendum, and quite rightly, will be reflected in their coverage of this issue. If there is not somebody from the anti side to speak I hope they will excise the comments of the Taoiseach, as they did on a couple of occasions during the last referendum. I hope time will be devoted not to the weight of the political parties but to the weight of the arguments. In other words, that we will have 50 per cent of the time.
I advise RTE to go cautiously on that matter because they have a legal obligation to balance these issues and I doubt if there is any court in the land that will accept that balance in a constitutional referendum is synonymous with the relative weight of the political parties in Dáil Éireann. Our courts have shown to a formidable extent in the past few months their independence of the political process and I suspect that if RTE are not particularly careful about balance on this issue they may find quite quickly that the courts are prepared to assert themselves.
Since I will be campaigning against the referendum I should address the declaration on neutrality that, as the Minister announced, will be circulated to our colleagues in Europe. Other parties have attempted to annotate declarations. I refer to the document, The Single European Act, An Explanatory Guide, which is now a somewhat dubious document in the sense that it contains pre-Supreme Court matter. In fact, it is still being distributed by the Department of Foreign Affairs as a document on the Single European Act and that is misleading and, perhaps, in contempt of court. That document is available to people if they are regarded by the Department of Foreign Affairs as acceptable.
A colleague of mine who is involved in the campaign against could only get five copies while another colleague who said he was a teacher without mentioning anything about the group he was associated with got 50 copies. I should like to ask the Minister to ensure that copies of the Single European Act are available. If one goes to the Government Publications Sale Office seeking it, one is referred to the Department of Foreign Affairs but they do not appear to be in a position to make copies available. An up to date version of that Act, and an explanatory guide, would be very welcome. It was the Minister, and his party leader, who got a commitment from the last Taoiseach to produce an explanatory guide and I should like to ask him to give us an up to date, admittedly pro-Government, and legally consistent version of the Act. The only one available is sadly out of date.
There is in the account of the Final Act a reference to various declarations. There is reference to a declaration of the Kingdom of Denmark on two issues which were noted at the signing of the Final Act. Many people in Denmark thought they had some significance but at a seminar in Copenhagen at the end of March two gentlemen who head the Council's and the Commission's legal services, Messrs. Glaesner and Ehlermann said that those declarations which were noted at the time of the signing of the Single European Act had no legal significance whatever. If the views of Denmark on a number of issues which were noted at the time of the signing of the Act have no legal significance, one can only speculate on the legal insignificance of a document circulated nine or 12 months after the Single European Act had been signed by the Irish Government.
I suggest that if the Minister really wants to get our partners to recognise our position he should circularise that declaration to the other member states and invite them to agree in writing to our position, because a declaration unilaterally subscribed to by ourselves, made unilaterally after the Act has been signed, has not as much worth as the little piece of paper it is written on. It is a nice gesture but it means nothing, as the Danes discovered to their cost about a much more formal declaration they made at the time that the treaty had been signed. That is my information. Perhaps the Minister can elaborate on it or explain it, but my information is that the authoritative legal advisers in the EC have recorded their view that the Danish declaration is of no legal substance and of no meaning.
What would happen then if by some great good fortune this amendment were to be defeated? Very little would happen. We have been treated to an exercise something close to hysteria. Incidentally, it is not the style of the present Minister for Foreign Affairs to exercise hysteria. He exercises many fine qualities but not really that much in the line of hysteria. Therefore, it is a pity that he said things like this in his speech. In an interesting insight into how we really see our position in the EC, the question would then arise not of whether our partners might take action against us but what action they would inevitably take without us. In such circumstances I am not convinced that our negotiating position within the Community and our ability to draw down the extensive benefits of membership would be seriously eroded. The evidence of the last 14 years is that those who baulk most get most out of the EC, not those who play the good scouts. They are quite clearly taken for granted.
The Treaty of Rome will not be affected by any decision on this issue and our responsibilities and the obligations of our partners in Europe will be the same in terms of the Treaty of Rome whether we ratify this or not. To suggest that at the end of it all what we get from the EC is not based on our rights as members but apparently on the goodwill of the rest suggests that, far from being an equal partner in a Community of sovereign states, we are a subservient partner dependent on the goodwill of others for whatever we can get out of them. That is a very different vision of the EC from the one that has been presented to us so often by those who advocated our membership and who support our continued membership and, indeed, the extension of our participation in the EC. If we have no rights, if all we have is goodwill, then we are a subservient people with a begging bowl and without the right to participate as equal members. If we have the right to participate as equal members then these awesome threats of what will be done without us, in spite of us or upon us are nothing more than exaggerations calculated to frighten an increasingly wary Irish people into voting in favour of something for which they have, to say the least, no enthusiasm, and to which I think increasing numbers have a considerable hostility.
I reiterate that I will over the next four weeks oppose the passing of this amendment and I will try as far as possible not to use my own interpretation of what the Single European Act means. I will try as far as possible simply to let people know what two eminent members of the Supreme Court said this Act means. Whatever people might think about my political views, nobody can say that either Mr. Justice Henchy or Mr. Justice Walsh are part of the left, not to mention the loony left. They are authoritative senior members of the Judiciary, well balanced, well informed, better read than I am, than the Attorney General's Office are, than the officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs or, if I might say so, than the Minister probably. Their views of what this Act implies and of what it contains for us are the ones I will use, and their views are that we are surrendering our sovereignty, that we are talking about a fundamental transformation of relationships and that this should not be foisted on the Irish people in terms of the language the Minister used about modest changes or anything like that. We are talking about fundamental changes, fundamental relationships. That is what the Supreme Court said and that is the issue that I invite the Minister to confront, not the consequences of not ratifying it, though we can talk about those if he wishes. I am prepared to discuss those with the Minister once he is prepared to confront the consequences of ratifying the Act as authoritatively interpreted by the Supreme Court.
Today's debate has ranged over all possible aspects of this question. The last speaker, with such gusto and energy, promises to add a great deal of spice and controversy to the referendum debate. I cannot say sincerely that initially I welcomed the thought of another referendum, given the experience we have had in the past in two referenda campaigns. In those we saw the most unfortunate, even dishonest, manipulation of the electorate by interest groups in the run-up to the last two polls in recent years, and nobody would wish for the emergence of similar tactics, the scaremongering which masqueraded for public information dissemination and in particular in the last referendum the regrettable double standards of the Fianna Fáil Party in the face of such important issues as marital breakdown and the need for divorce and the amending of the Constitution accordingly. However, because of the majority decision of the Supreme Court judges that Irish sovereignty had been eroded through the passing of the Single European Act last December, another referendum to put the issue to the people is required.
The Act proposes to do little more than institutionalise the informal procedures and provisions of European Political Co-operation which all Irish Governments have accepted and operated since we joined the Community. The Single European Act is not a major leap forward towards European union which many had hoped for. Nevertheless, it presents a modest but important advance and should allow the process of European integration to develop further. European union is still far off. For the foreseeable future the task will be to complete economic union such as monetary union, financial harmonisation and cohesion.
While one must — and I do — respect any citizen's right to challenge our laws in relation to our Constitution and similarly respect the recent Supreme Court decision, I must say that it is regrettable that this small nation must now seem to be the most eccentric member of the EC. I suspect that Ireland in the past three months must have lost a measure of support and goodwill which we will need badly in future negotiations. As someone who, prior to our entry into the EC, was an ardent supporter of the Community and the idea of entry into the Community and as a member of the Fine Gael Party, I will be urging an emphatic "yes" vote and, I hope, a high turnout, I regret that I will on this occasion be in opposition to Senator Ryan with whom I was in harmony on the last two referenda.
Ireland has cause to celebrate our 14 years membership of the Community and I trust that voters, urban and rural, will reflect this on polling day. After all, 84 per cent of the electorate favoured EC entry in 1972, and although we have difficult and painful economic stress in our country at present and have to cope with the twin difficulties of serious unemployment and emigration, our plight would be worse without the Community umbrella. In 14 years what benefits are we talking about? They have already been mentioned by several speakers today. Since accession around £4.7 billion had come to this country with well over half the financial benefit coming through the CAP. We can all see clear evidence of this benefit throughout the countryside. Those urban representatives who campaigned by car over the hills, dales and roads in the Seanad campaign could judge the stark contrast of today's prosperity among the farming population — they may disagree with that but I saw a stark contrast — with the grim deprivation and poverty of many farmers over 15 years ago.
Membership of the EC is not only about finance. As a result of our membership of the EC we have seen great changes in the status of women. They owe their present rights of equal pay, access to employment, maternity leave and the general non-acceptane now of discrimination against women in so many areas to the EC. To be at best charitable to all Governments in the past 14 years. womens's rights and issues affecting their economic well-being would have been low priority on their agenda, if it figured at all. Without the external pressures of EC directives Irish women would still be in the disadvantaged dark ages. It was on 3 March 1976, for instance, that the European Commission rejected the Irish Government's application for derogation from the Commission's directive on equal pay, and it was made binding from February 1976. During those years women of all ages, particularly those over 25, benefited substantially from training and retraining courses funded from the European Social Fund.
I support the simple wording of the proposed amendment. This is in common with my ex-colleague in Dublin South, Deputy Kelly. For the purpose of having the Single European Act ratified I would prefer if we did not make it more confusing than it need be. Having looked at the complex amendments tabled in the Dáil which will be tabled here again this evening, I suspect that if accepted they could have the effect of confusing people and perhaps making them stay at home on polling day. Even as it is, many voters do not understand what the Act is about. I took a straw poll this past week on it and I asked 15 people about the Single European Act. They were very ambivalent about it and only one person could give anything like a reasonably accurate synopsis of what was involved. Their apathy about this matter is regrettable.
I hope this campaign can be harmoniously and honestly conducted, taking into account the views of people who honestly oppose the majority in this House and in the other House. I do not want another Pandora's box of fiction, hypocrisy and half-truths opened once more. I believe in freedom of speech. I know we will hear every shade of opinion before polling day but the academic exercise of introducing supplementary issues is something that the electorate deserves to be spared, on this occasion.
In this context I take issue with the recent statements of Professor Mary McAleese who is already trying to raise the abortion and divorce skeletons in the context of this Act. I suggest Professor McAleese is an unreliable source of information given her inconsistent nature, for example, as a Fianna Fáil candidate in Dublin South East. Was she in or out of tune with the party on their present proposals for the referendum? Similarly, there was an extraordinary turnabout made by the Professor in the last referendum on the divorce issue, taking account of the interview she gave in The Crane Bag, Volume 4, No. 1 in 1980 where she said that there is really nothing to fear in a country from a divorce law, and that, it will iron out a lot of anomalies that exist in this country because of the incredibly bad state of our family law. We all know what the Professor went on to say during the referendum campaign.
While our job is to ensure an emphatic "yes" vote on 26 May, the matter should not rest there. Because the Supreme Court judgment raised such fundamental issues of foreign policy-making and the role of the Oireachtas in this, we must set in train immediately the further changes necessary, when the Taoiseach honouring his agreement to meet with the party leaders on the matter. That is something that should not be long-fingered. I do not support the notion that the simple words proposed to be put to the electorate should be elaborated on or extended.
In the year which sees the 50th anniversary of our Constitution, the most appropriate manner in which to mark this milestone would be an all-party agreement to draft a new Constitution that would perpetuate the best of the 1937 version but make provision for Ireland, the men, the women and the families of the eighties and into the future.
I was amused by the arguments put forward this morning and this evening. I find it strange to be admonished to be a good European by people who refer to other Europeans in the most racist and offensive terms. I have heard Europeans being called immoral, amoral and unchristian. I have heard nationalities being ascribed certain unsavoury characteristics. I hope that in future in the Seanad such racist remarks will be considered to be unparliamentary and unacceptable. I regret that the Cathaoirleach is not in the Chair at the moment, but I hope she will take cognisance of those facts. I certainly will not listen to such remarks in future. There are probably many arrogant British people but to ascribe the term "arrogance" to the whole nation is unacceptable to me and I hope it is unacceptable to others. In the future I will not tolerate such offensive language.
It is somewhat extraordinary in terms of what can and cannot be done with the acceptance or otherwise of this Act. On the one hand, we are told to accept this Act or get out of Europe, or accept this Act and do something different to everybody else in terms of foreign policy. Those arguments are not compatible. It ill-becomes a legislator to be a Luddite or conservative in approach to innovation or new proposals, particularly when discussing changes as wide ranging as those we are discussing today. There are very many satisfying, very progressive and positive aspects of the Single European Act as proposed but because of the time of day I will not go into them at length. The idea of strengthening the European Parliament to give it some teeth and more influence is a good one.
I recall my first visit to the European Parliament and discussing with some parliamentarians what exactly was going on in this huge building in Strasbourg. Was it getting anybody anywhere? Was it improving Europe or Europeans in any sense? A French parliamentarian with whom I spoke took me outside, pointed to the river and said: "Thirty years ago we were shooting each other across that river; now at least we are talking. I believe a major contribution can be made to world peace through developing and working on European contact. I shall revert to that point later. Also there is much to be learned and gained, indeed much good influence could be brought to bear on this country from the consideration of the more progressive policies in the European Parliament. Our experience on social issues in recent years has proven that beyond any shadow of doubt.
Even in the area of foreign policy I have some difficulty with the arguments of many of those with whom I agree on this issue. I am not quite so worried about the minutiae of foreign policy because of the incredible and inexplicable sort of two-faced stance this country has always taken on neutrality, to which I shall revert later also.
In the Single European Act I very much welcome the decision to take, as a base, a high level of protection in the areas of health, safety, environment and consumer protection. That is positive and progressive and is very much to be welcomed. As a trade unionist I very much accept the recognition of the need for and commitment to improving the health and safety of workers in Europe. Also, as a final reference point to what might be seen as positive in this Act, again as a trade unionist I very much welcome the decision to develop dialogue between management and labour with a view to improved industrial relations.
I suppose it is also a good thing that the question of our neutrality is becoming a discussion point, in the hope that over the next three or four weeks our people might, for the first time in our history, consider precisely what being neutral is all about. Certainly there has been no indication here today, or at any other time, that there is any understanding of it. I have heard people speak of our traditional policy of neutrality. I do not believe there was a major battle fought in Europe before this century in which the Irish were not fighting on both sides. I do not know where this traditional policy of neutrality emanated, where it ever existed or how we ever operated it. We have applied an amazing set of double standards in this area. If asked the question I think most of our people would favour neutrality but most of them have never considered what it is all about or why they should support it. Senator Norris earlier, speaking about neutrality asked: what good would it be to us in the event of a nuclear holocaust or in the event of another Chemobyl? Of course that is the real difficulty when discussing neutrality. It is always a case of: what is in it for us? If neutrality means anything, that is not what it is all about.
In this whole area of neutrality it is vital that we set out some of the parameters of what it is not and also some of the parameters of what it might be. Certainly it is not what the Swiss have made it, the "I am all right Jack" policy of regressive legislation, in a country in which women did not even have a vote until ten years ago and, in many areas, still do not have a vote. There is nothing for us to aspire to in the Swiss policy and position of neutrality. That is a message that should go out strongly to our people. Neither is it the policy followed by de Valera, of being neutral on the right side, another favourite cop-out for Irish people and politicians in discussions of neutrality. Nor is it the position taken by the Swedish in the pragmatic sales of arms to all sides. Being neutral must mean being prepared to work assiduously for peace, to work against the conditions and circumstances which lead to war. Above all, being neutral must mean remaining non-aligned. Were we to move forward within those parameters we might achieve something close to my understanding of neutrality.
Though the provisions of this Act may well strive for unity we should consider that, though it may seem to be a contradiction in terms, unity is not always a force for good, that unity can very often reinforce division in other areas. To develop that point slightly, I am afraid the proposal before us today will have the effect of bringing more of Europe under the influence of NATO and, as such, is dangerous, a high risk to the people of Europe. The provisions of the Act ensure that almost all of Europe will come under the influence of NATO or of the Warsaw Pact. In effect, that polarises the countries of the Continent of Europe. It plays into the hands of the super powers. It increases international tension and is regressive to those of us who are actively committed to international peace.
From my position, for the sake of a million students in fulltime education, whose future is probably unemployment or emigration — which is bad enough without worsening their effects with a threat of war, which is what I believe this proposal will take us closer to — for the sake of half a million trade unionists in this country, and on my own behalf — because I believe we should remain nuclear-free and, if the House will excuse the phrase "actively pacifist"— until I receive very much more reassurance from the Minister than he gave the House this morning I am not ready, to quote from the provisions of the Act, to coordinate more closely on political aspects of security, as is proposed. In a situation in which the majority of the partners whom it is proposed we should join are in a single-minded military pact, I cannot see that it would be in the interests of this country to proceed with this proposal in its present form. For that reason, I intend to oppose it.
I shall be brief because much of this debate has been purely and simply a re-run of the Seanad debate on the Single European Act of December last and has not been relevant to events which have taken place in the meantime, which is the judgment of the Supreme Court.
It appears we have an awful lot of amateur lawyers in the Seanad, in the Dáil, among political commentators in the press and outside it. I do not particularly like the judgment of the Supreme Court. I find it inconvenient. It does not concur with my views on the situation but I do not question it because that is what the Supreme Court is there for. Possibly it is wrong for us now to question what the Supreme Court said. Therefore, it is right for us to remedy the position by way of referendum.
One of the significant things about the referendum about to be held is that it shows us, once again, that the Constitution itself is an unwieldy document. Since I have been a Member of the Seanad over the past five years the Constitution has arisen as a difficulty in a very general way. The Constitution has had to be surpassed, or has had to have things inserted in it in order to put into effect the wishes of the people or of the Government of the day. Very controversial, very divisive and very difficult issues have been resolved purely by amendments of the Constitution and through referenda in the past few years.
One of the lessons we should learn from this is that we should look at the possibility of a new Constitution and the possibility of a rapid review of the Constitution as was promised by the Taoiseach in the Dáil recently. I hope that as a result of this referendum, which nobody expected, we will have that rapid review very soon with proposals for amendments to the Constitution, all party proposals possibly, Government proposals possibly, but certainly a thorough examination of the difficulties which we have been encountering in the Constitution in the past few years.
The honest approach of the Government's attitude to the Single European Act is that they believe, as did the previous Government, that there is no practical alternative to this and whether we like it or not this is realistic. When they had the luxury of being in Opposition, Fianna Fáil flirted with opposition to this Act. They played with the idea of opposing it or amending it and said that perhaps it did impinge on our neutrality. I welcome their rapid conversion to this point of view while they are in Government. I welcome the fact that, not only on the Anglo-Irish Agreement and on the economy but also on the Single European Act, they are not afraid to change their minds and say it publicly. One of the realities of the debate here today is that those who oppose this referendum and those who opposed the Single European Act beforehand have not produced any alternative. There may be particular clauses and obligations in it which we do not like — and there certainly are obligations in it which we do not like — but as a whole it appeared to successive Governments that there is no alternative to it and those who have opposed it have produced no alternative.
There is a great deal of humbug talked about Europe. There are a great number of people who have the luxury of being an Independent, as I am, or the luxury of being in Opposition, who are very happy to knock Europe and other international institutions of which we are a member because they do not have to take responsibility for making the decisions which the Government have to make. The obligation on those who will vote against this Act tonight or who have voted against it before, is to say what we are to do if we fall behind Europe in this way. I heard no such suggestions or practical alternatives in this debate and I am disappointed because it is very easy to oppose things. It is far too serious simply to say: "No, we do not like the European ideals". Opposition to this constitutional amendment is undisguised opposition to a European ideal without producing any alternative.
It was interesting to hear Independent Senator, Professor Murphy, say, in opposition to this Bill, that we would ignore the significance of our troubled past if we were to pass this legislation or if we were to become a closer member of the European Community. I do not concur with that idea at all. The significance of our troubled past is still great. The making closer of our ties with Europe does not ignore our troubled past but possibly lessens it and this is a good thing. We should not pretend it never happened. Our troubled past is something we should leave behind us and by creating closer lies with the European Community we could do that.
Our troubled past has a great deal to do with Great Britain and the United Kingdom. One of the relics of that is that before we joined the Community we were economically far more dependent on Great Britain than we are now. One of the great benefits of joining the Community is that our trade with and our dependence on the Community have been far greater than with Great Britain. I would like to ask those who oppose our creating closer ties with the Community whether they want us to revert to that situation of greater dependence on one particular country. The diversification of dependence has strengthened us in the world. It is a pity that we should once again attack the institutions of the European Community while not looking at the consequences of withdrawing from it.
Much has been said here today about neutrality but none of it is new. I do not mind sacrificing some of our sovereignty in the pursuit of a greater European ideal. I am not sure that what Senator Brendan Ryan called "a purely national approach" is a good thing. I see nothing wrong with a more international approach to foreign affairs and to international affairs. It is a pity that neutrality — whatever that means, and it is undefined — is still the sacred cow that it has been for 30 or 40 years. It certainly needs re-examination. It is frequently confused with a declaration of an identity of being Irish and with a declaration of independence. Many people feel it incumbent upon them to support neutrality for reasons which they do not understand. For some reason they feel that it is anti-Irish to be anti-neutrality. That is wrong and is something on which we should have a national debate because the benefits of neutrality are doubtful.
The reasons we call ourselves neutral, while actually being part of a western ideology, are very suspect. Are we neutral between west and east; are we neutral against Britain; are we neutral against America; or in what way are we neutral? Are we neutral because it is convenient for us to be neutral because we know that we stand under the Western umbrella and will be protected by Britain and America if there is an attack? It would be beneficial for us all to re-examine this issue, to tackle it and to be more honest about it and not to confuse it with independence.
Finally, it would be presumptuous and maybe a little absurd, if for reasons which are suspect, Ireland were in this referendum to obstruct the progress of the European ideal and inflict wounds on ourselves which we had not properly thought out. If we want to obstruct the progress of Europe we should give good reasons and I have heard no such good reasons here today.
The reality of the matter is that 84 per cent of the Irish people voted for our entry into the European Community in 1972.
The reality is what will happen on 26 May.
The reality is that since 1972 we have derived substantial social and economic benefits from membership of the European Community. The reality of the matter is that our participation in that Community has been of such enormous benefit and our economy has become so inter-woven now with the general economy of the Community, the general finance mechanisms of the Community, the transfer of resources mechanisms and the policies of the Community, that it would be absolutely intolerable at this stage to embark on any path that could mean other than continuing as a full member of that Community. The Single European Act is a further and, as I said in my opening remarks, modest step forward towards a European union that at some future date will be achieved on a gradual basis which has operated heretofore.
On foot of the Supreme Court decision one of two courses was open to us. We could have devised an amendment for consideration by the people that would have fully restored the position of Article 29 as it existed before it was mitigated by Article 6, as stated in the Henchy and Walsh judgments in the recent Crotty case. To follow that course, and we considered it very fully, would have meant a very broad amendment which would have introduced a number of other areas, the most fundamental of which being the Executive power of the State dealing with external relations, subject only to Dáil Éireann. Under Article 29 the courts do not have regard to the conduct of international relations which lies with the democratically elected Government, subject to Dáil Éireann's examination.
Article 29 when framed by Éamon de Valera was written in very plain language but a further nuance was introduced in the Walsh and Henchy judgment, supported by the Hederman judgment, elevating Article 6 as an aspirational Article into something that operated as a governing Article on Article 29. That requires major consideration by legal and jurisprudential people, political people, representative of all political parties, who I hope will sit down and work this out, because it is a very serious and fundamental matter dealing with the conduct of our international relations and external relations. It means that our membership of the various multilateral and bilateral arrangements, to which we have subscribed within the United Nations and various agencies of the United Nations, and a number of other arrangements we have contracted within the European Community since 1973, are areas where we must safeguard ourselves legally and constitutionally as far as the future is concerned, and without reference to future participation in multilateral, bilateral and other treaty arrangements in the years ahead.
There are three important points involved here. First, the conduct of international relations which under Article 29 resides with the democratically elected Government, subject to the approval of the Dáil — and that is the central issue; second, our membership of the various multilateral and bilateral arrangements to which we have subscribed and, third, our potential membership of future arrangements and treaties within the EC and other agencies, including the United Nations. That is not a facile or simplistic matter. That is a serious matter that requires very careful examination.
For that reason, the Taoiseach rightly, and after full Government consideration of the implications of the judgment in the Crotty case and the separate judgments in particular, decided to speak to the leaders of all the political parties with a view to working out a system so that once we had this referendum out of the way very serious consideration would be given to that whole area of complex law to which I referred. I want to assure Senator Ryan that this is not an idle or a simplistic matter. It is a very serious and complex matter. What we want to do in the meantime is to put beyond yea or nay our position within the European Community, to establish clearly, through the referendum process which is the only process open to us, that we agree to the Single European Act. The Government can then proceed to immediate ratification of that Act. With that objective in view, we decided on a two-tiered approach: we would ask the Oireachtas to agree to a very clear, unambiguous and precise amendment, adding the Single European Act to the existing Community Acts within the provisions of Article 29simpliciter, and at the same time the leaders of the other political parties would be approached and given an assurance, which the Taoiseach and I have given in the Dáil and which I repeat here, that once this matter has been dealt with we will proceed to the very complex examination of the major matters I have just mentioned.
Senator Ryan made my point because, while expressing his legitimate opposition to this very tight and precise amendment, he raised the other complex issues I mentioned. They are not issues that can be incorporated in an easy or facile manner in a referendum in a matter of a few weeks but we can bring this issue to the people. Any legal or constitutional authorities on the referendum process will agree that that is the proper way to approach the referendum process so that there is no confusion in the public mind on the matter and that the public are faced with a very clear and unambiguous choice. That is written into the referendum procedure under Article 46 which states:
A Bill containing a proposal or proposals for the amendment of this Constitution shall not contain any other proposal.
The essence of the referendum proposal is what should be represented to the people as clearly as possible. While appreciating the other points I mentioned earlier about the complex matters raised in the judgments concerned in the Supreme Court decision, we made a firm decision that the greater good and benefit as far as the national interest was concerned lay in putting a precise amendment to the public. That is the way to conduct a referendum. It is the way a referendum should be conducted as provided in our Constitution. It is the way the ideal referendum process should be exercised as far as the people are concerned. In that way you avoid any element of confusion, any element of doubt, or any element of extraneous issues being brought into the debate. We have already seen some evidence of extraneous issues being dragged into the debate which have no relevance to the net issue, which is our ratification of the Single European Act.
Another issue that is often raised is sovereignty. I dealt with that in my opening remarks. As far as every State is concerned — and people who are concerned about world peace and world involvement should be the first to recognise this — we are all interdependent, we are all in one global village. On the part of even the strongest powers there is a reduction in sovereignty in any arrangement or any treaty's into which they enter. As far as a small country is concerned, we can have great influence within a multilateral arrangement, within an agreement with a number of States or within a community of nations, such as the United Nations or the European Communities. Within bodies of that kind a small country has a far greater chance and opportunity to express its real sovereignty and nationality than it would in a situation where it turns its back on other countries. In the antiquated Victorian world sovereignty used to be a legal principle of some consequence and, indeed, people who talk like Senator Ryan are talking like ancient Victorians. In the modern world there has to be a high degree of shared sovereignty, shared responsibility and co-ordinated action. That is what is important. A small country can achieve the maximum benefit both for itself and for the idealism it hopes to share with other countries within the Community or an organisation of nations.
Title III of the Single European Act refers to the formalisation of European political co-operation. European political co-operation has always dealt with political co-operation in the area of security as it affects political and economic matters. There is no defence or military commitment involved, there never has been and there never will be. This is my third time to hold the office of Minister for Foreign Affairs. I have attended numerous meetings in the European milieu and this matter has never been raised. It is totally acceptable to the other member states that we have a policy of neutrality and that we can vary in how we define it. I will refer to our policy or neutrality later. We have a policy of neutrality that is respected and acknowledged and which has never been questioned.
Colleagues from other parties in this House who have acted over the past number of years as Minister for Foreign Affairs since 1973 would all agree on that aspect. It has never been raised. It is a scaremongering tactic that has never arisen within the ambit of European political co-operation. It deals with security in the political and economic sense and does not involve Ireland in any area of military security, defensive or offensive. We are recognised in the Community as being neutral in the military sense and, at the same time, we can participate in political co-operation as far as political and economic matters are concerned. What is being done here in relation to Title III of the Single European Act is quite simply a formalisation of procedures that have existed in an informal way since the Community was set up. We have co-operated in a very practical and constructive way in procedures in which I and other Irish Ministers were involved without any prejudice whatever to our continuing discussions on legitimate political co-operation in the areas of political and economic matters.
We are a member of the CSCE which is the major institution in Europe at present concerned with achieving a reduction in armaments in Europe linked with confidence building measures and human rights. That body is meeting in Vienna at present and we have always participated in it as an example of European political co-operation. Title III deals in two pages with the provisions on European co-operation in the sphere of foreign policy. All that is spelled out there is a consultation procedure between the various contracting parties, without the establishment of any defence aspect in it.
I challenge any mountebanks who want to declare that defence or military involvement is contained in a single paragraph of the two and a half pages in Title III to show me where it is. I have read it carefully and not a single word refers to a defence or military involvement of any kind. It is a matter for political co-operation in the area of foreign policy. There is enormous scope for Europe to co-operate on political matters because we are not politically neutral. That is a fact of life. There is enormous scope within that which formalises a process in which we have engaged since 1973. It does no more than put down in writing what in practice has been done by every Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs since 1973 in dealing with his counterparts within the European Council. I challenge anybody here to point out a single sentence that in any way involves us in any defence or military area or that in any way changes what has in practice been the case since 1 January 1973.
The rest of the Act, which is not in dispute, is concerned with the creation of a single internal market. It is essential to achieve the internal market to finally establish Europe as an area for factories that locate here for the expansion of their exports into the Community of 320 million people. If these factories are established here — and we are a very favoured base for the location of such industries — we will be able to utilise that market to the fullest and best extent. That is the purpose of establishing a single internal market to ensure that barriers and regulations that exist in regard to some member states — not Ireland — will disappear over the next five years. Linked with that is the important aspect which we have written into our declaration which we will lodge as establishing our position.
Apart from our position of military neutrality we wish to write in and emphasise also that side-by-side with the creation of the internal market there should run a concomitant policy of economic and social cohesion designed to ensure that to a far greater degree than heretofore there will be a transfer of resources from the centre countries to the peripheral countries in the Community. That is written into the Preamble to the Treaty of Rome. It has been the basis of the social fund and in particular of the regional fund and to some extent it is part of the Common Agricultural Policy also. However, we want far greater resources spent by the Community towards achieving a level of uniform prosperity throughout the Community that will tackle the problem of eliminating disparities in wealth throughout the Community. That, in particular, affects the more peripheral countries such as Ireland.
There is a commitment in the Single European Act. The biggest task that this or future Governments have is to make that aspect of economic and social cohesion a meaningful one so that, side-by-side with the creation of the internal market, we also have a very rapid expansion of funds that will help the parts of the Community that may not benefit to the same extent as other parts of the Community from the creation of the internal market and that through the concept of economic and social cohesion that is written into the Single European Act we have a means, or to use the Common Market phrase a "window", through which funds can be made available either through the European Investment Bank, the Regional Fund or some new agency and a means whereby funds can be channelled to countries and above all to regions — I believe that we should start using the word "regions" to a greater degree than "countries"— that are not benefiting from the creation of the internal market to the same extent as other regions.
This is the positive thinking which we could not engage in if we were not in the Community. I find this disappointing among some people in this country at present. We are a member of the Community for a number of years, we have adapted to it, we are in it, we are involved in it; and it is up to us to make the most of it. That is the challenge facing us. That is not a job for the Europeans. It is up to us to make the most of the system and to participate to the maximum extent. We are not making the most out of it by turning our backs on Europe. All of the other member states have ratified the Single European Act. They have agreed to it. It was ready to go from 1 January 1987, yet we continue to stall and have proceeded to doubt its validity and talk about rejecting it.
I am glad of the very constructive approach which has generally been adopted in this and in the other House. The sensible and practical middle ground of Irish thinking both in this and in the other House, within the political parties and by the people outside will see the validity of what we are saying. It is in our national interest to ratify the Single European Act as quickly as possible, that we do not remain on the outside looking in and that we are inside with our other partners doing something beneficial and getting the benefits in the national interest and participating with the other member states in order to achieve that.
Any other attitude is just the politics of begrudgery. It will not get this country anywhere. It will be disastrous as far as the national interest of our country is concerned. The national interest of our country at present requires that we put this matter to the people as expeditiously as possible, that we support it to the maximum extent, as the Dáil did yesterday and as I am certain the Seanad will do this evening, and that the people respond to that sort of leadership from their political leaders and respond equally in the referendum provided we have presented them with positive, constructive, political, economic and social reasons for the State to sign, ratify and agree the Single European Act as quickly as possible. Above all else, we must also assure the people that the other major issues which have surfaced and which have been raised in this House since the Supreme Court judgment are dealt with in a sensible way by all of us. We must behave sensibly in a very important area. It is a very important area as it brings into question the conduct of our future and past foreign policy in international relations. That matter should be dealt with on an all party basis as soon as possible. The immediate task is to go to the people and to put a rational and constructive case to them. If that is done, I am sure they will respond.
Is Second Stage agreed?
May I ask the Minister if he will clarify a question which I put in my contribution? I appreciate it has been a long day and that I spoke at an early stage in the debate but in my contribution I did specifically ask the Minister in a number of different ways to clarify how he reconciles the approach which is set out in his speech introducing the Bill with the majority judgment of the Supreme Court. In his speech he said quite clearly:
... I wish to emphasise that there is nothing in Title III which will oblige Ireland to conform to any foreign policy position with which it is not in agreement. Our obligations under the Single European Act will remain limited essentially to working for common positions and joint action.
The Minister is obviously very familiar with those judgments. Mr. Justice Henchy says that Title III will trench upon Ireland's foreign policy. Mr. Justice Walsh says that it will be the kind of restraint on our foreign policy that requires a referendum. The Minister has said that apparently there will be no constraint or no impingement. It is important to the debate which will take place over the next four weeks that the Minister should clarify this, preferably not just in a sentence. I would like a specific clarification on how to reconcile that position with the majority judgments. Does the Minister disagree with the majority of the Surpreme Court? If he does not disagree, then how does he reconcile quite conflicting approaches on Title III of the Single European Act?
First of all, at this stage it is a matter for the people. In some degree if the Senator and the Seanad think it the whole way through, the Supreme Court aspect is now over. It is now with the people and the politicians. That is written into the Constitution. There is one very wise thing in this Constitution, whatever we say about it, and that is that at the end of the day the paramount power lies with the people. Whatever the Supreme Court says, if we recommend to the people and the people decide by way of referendum, that is the final decision. That is the answer I would also give to Senator Ryan and to anybody else. The referendum process is written into this Constitution and, at the end of the day, it is the people who will have to save us. The referendum procedure is the paramount procedure in the Constitution. I am not engaged in a series of submissions to the Supreme Court. We are now into a political arena, in the Oireachtas. It will go to the people and the people will decide. No court and no Parliament can gainsay the decision of the people.
I have to say I find that answer completely unacceptable because it did not address the issue. The referendum will be a matter for the people to decide. This House now and the people through the ears of this House, and subsequently in the referendum debate, are entitled to know whether the Government are of the view that the provisions of Title III do not in any way trench upon or constrain Ireland's foreign policy. That is what the Minister is saying. Are the people to believe the majority of the Supreme Court who said in a ruling in the Crotty case that the provisions of Title III trench upon and constrain Ireland independent foreign policy? I think we are entitled to clarification. It is a very specific point and I asked it in my Second Stage speech. I am entitled and the House is entitled to clarification. Is the Minister saying he does not accept the majority view of the Supreme Court in the Crotty case? It would be open to the Minister to say that the Supreme Court, having said that Title III of the Single European Act trenches upon foreign policy issues, constrains the Government and he now requires a constitutional amendment to endorse the ratification of the Single European Act and endorse the involvement of Ireland in this process. Or are the Government saying that they do not agree with that judgment of the Supreme Court and that there is no constraint on the independence of Ireland's foreign policy?
I hope the Senator was in the House for my speech.
I was present for the Minister's entire speech.
I spent more time than any other speaker in the Dáil dealing with the Supreme Court decision. That is almost the entire reason why we are not having a wider amendment, such as was requested by Fine Gael and the Progressive Democrats. The Senator is now touching on the issues that need to be rectified by whatever jurisprudence advice, legal advice and constitutional advice we can get.
I was specific in referring to the Single European Act.
I made it plain in the Dáil and in the Seanad earlier, that I regard Article 29 as the basic governing Article as far as the operation of Ireland's foreign policy is concerned. It is clear and unambiguous and gives authority on the conduct of external affairs and international relations to the Government, subject to approval by the Dáil and that is where it lies. There is a conflict in the Supreme Court judgment that has to be acknowledged and how to resolve that conflict between the interpretation of Article 29 and Article 6 is the question. We are into very wide constitutional issues here but the resolution of them would require a very complex amendment to the Constitution.
That is not my question, that is not the issue.
Of course it is. It is the reason why we did not get into that area. Can the Senator see my point?
I do not see the Minister's point.
The reason we have chosen the basic amendment for the House is because of the point the Senator has raised. I thought I made it clear in the Dáil and here that if we go into that area we are into a highly complex legal, constitutional argument. That main matter requires to be dealt with in a further constitutional amendment embodying the aspect of where the Executive authority lies in the conduct of foreign affairs, in the area of past treaties and future agreements. That is a very complex area and one about which I am not going to give an opinion tonight as to how it could be resolved. I would be very foolish to do so particularly after the sort of divisions we have seen between High Court and Supreme Court judges on this matter. That is the main thrust of the Government's decision not to have a more wide-ranging or complex amendment incorporated at this stage. It is a matter for very serious investigation by lawyers, such as Senator Robinson, and by all parties. We will have to have a real legal and professional examination of this area. It is the reason why the Government brought in a straighforward incorporation of the Act into the amendment to be put to the people.
I should like the guidance of the Chair as to where we go from here. I make that request because of the response of the Minister to the questions put to him and the suggestions I made earlier. Is it wrong to request the guidance of the Chair on how our amendments which deal with these matters can be moved? The Minister has said that these items of defence never came up for discussion and for that reason I wonder why that is not written into the Constitution so that they can never come up in the future. Has the Chair had an opportunity of looking at our amendments?
I have allowed amendments Nos. 2 (a) and 3 and ruled the other amendments out of order. I am anxious to put the question in regard to Second Stage.
Mrs. Robinson rose.
I must point out to Senator Robinson that I cannot permit a cross-examination on this issue.
I want to make it clear that the Minister, who has a great deal of experience in dealing with questions, has not answered mine but it is an important question for the referendum.
That is a point of view. I have been more than clear.
I should like to know why the Minister is choosing not to answer the question.
I must put the question.
I am entitled to get an answer to a very specific question. The Minister has created a camouflage on a different issue entirely. My question was very specific, are the Government going to run the referendum on the basis that there is no constraint of any kind on Ireland's foreign policy envisaged by Title III? That is not what the Supreme Court said but I should like to know if it is what the Government are going to say. If so, we are going to have great confusion in this debate; we will have a very confusing referendum.
Cuireadh an cheist.
- Bohan, Edward Joseph.
- Bradford, Paul.
- Bulbulia, Katharine.
- Byrne, Seán.
- Cassidy, Donie.
- Connor, John.
- Cullimore, Séamus.
- Daly, Jack.
- Doherty, Michael.
- Doyle, Joe.
- Eogan, George.
- Fallon, Seán.
- Farrell, Willie.
- Fennell, Nuala.
- Fitzgerald, Tom.
- Fitzsimons, Jack.
- Friel, Brian.
- Hanafin, Des.
- Haughey, Seán F.
- Hillery, Brian.
- Hogan, Philip.
- Hussey, Thomas.
- Kelleher, Peter.
- Kiely, Dan.
- Kiely, Rory.
- Lanigan, Mick.
- Loughrey, Joachim.
- Lydon, Donal.
- McCormack, Padraic.
- McDonald, Charlie.
- McEllistrim, Tom.
- McGowan, Patrick.
- McKenna, Tony.
- Manning, Maurice.
- Mooney, Paschal.
- Mullooly, Brian.
- Mulroy, Jimmy.
- Norris, David.
- O'Callaghan, Vivian.
- O'Connell, John.
- O'Connor, Nicholas.
- O'Toole, Martin J.
- Reynolds, Gerry.
- Robinson, Mary T.W.
- Ross, Shane P.N.
- Ryan, William.
- Wallace, Mary.
- Ferris, Michael.
- Harte, John.
- O'Shea, Brian.
- O'Toole, Joe.
- Robb, John D.A.
- Ryan, Brendan.