Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish Relations: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann takes note of recent events affecting Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations."

I am delighted that at last we are able to get to the point of discussing this very important matter. It is a debate on the review of the Anglo-Irish Agreement which has been looked for by Members of the House for quite some time. We are taking it at a time of relevance. It is three years since the Anglo-Irish Agreement was first put in place. I feel that there has been up to now a very constructive debate on the workings of it. There have been apparent shortcomings in its workings. There are a lot of people who would think that it should be reviewed and that there are major changes which should take place in it. There is no reluctance on the part of the Government to have this review take place. It has been stated and re-stated by the Tánaiste, the Minister for Justice and various other Ministers that they welcome the opportunity to have this review made. The Taoiseach is on record as having a very deep interest in and welcome for this review.

It is important that in this House we should discuss the matter just as it was discussed in the other House. I am sure that there are Members here who would have quite an amount to say which will be of use to the Government and, indeed, of use to the Government of the United Kingdom in their application of this review.

On a point of order, may I interrupt the Senator? Is it unusual that there are no advisers from the Department of Foreign Affairs here too?

The review is about the working of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. In the joint statement issued after the last conference on 2 November both Governments recognised the importance of the review as an opportunity at the end of three years to see exactly where we are going. They also agreed that work would begin on an overall assessment of the work of the conference to date in terms of the stated objectives. The stated objectives were quite specific: that work would begin and that the relationship between the two countries should be reinforced. They agreed that the emphasis should be on a positive programme for the future and reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement.

There is quite precise language in the agreement. It is worth re-stating. Article 11 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement states:

At the end of three years from the signature of this agreement, or earlier if requested by either Government, the working of the Conference shall be reviewed by the two Governments to see whether any changes in the scope and nature of its activities are desirable.

It is quite precise in its language. From our side we are quite precise in what we want to do.

It was here in Dublin eight years ago that a British Prime Minister acknowledged for the first time that the problem of Northren Ireland could only be solved by the joint action of the two sovereign Governments. That is a specific acknowledgement that cannot be undone. The establishment of the Anglo-Irish Conference and the Secretariat was a further step in the new relationship between two Governments which was set in motion at that time by the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, and the British Prime Minister, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher.

The review period we see essentially as involving two separate but interwoven exercises. The first of these is the detailed assessment by the two Governments of developments to date and the mapping out of an agenda for future action. The second, which will take place in parallel with the first, is the hearing of views from interested parties as to their assessment of the past operation of the Agreement and their suggestions for the future. It is unfortunate that quite a number of people in the North of Ireland will not get themselves involved in the process of negotiation and the process of dialogue. It is only in the process of negotiation and dialogue that progress can be made in any sphere.

There is no political problem in the world that is insoluble if people get down and discuss it openly, at the same time recognising that there are differing views. There has been no political system in the world which has lasted through centuries. There have been changes in each and every country in the world in their political philosophy and in their political evolution. I think that if there is a proper sense of dialogue, if people are open-minded, if they approach the problem we have in this country in an open and frank manner, a resolution can be brought about. I would appeal here to our separated brethren in the North to approach openly the suggestion of discussion with the Government here, with the Taoiseach, with the Tánaiste and with anybody who is willing to talk. Otherwise, peace will be kept on the long finger.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement has been proceeding. There has been no diminution of the efforts being made on our side towards the essential end we are aiming for — peace in this island. We have worked rigorously for that. If there was open-mindness, such as we have on this side, three could be a chance in the not too long term that real progress towards peace could be made. The Government have not spared themselves in holding frequent, regular meetings and have pressed forward with the agenda of economic and social development, fair employment and confidence in the administration of justice.

The administration of justice is one of the areas in which there is most concern expressed not alone in this country but in other areas. There was a time when "justice" and "British" went together. Unfortunately, there is now abroad the notion that "British" and "justice" are two separate things. We have not neglected the question of political progress here. As I have said, we would like to have had a situation in which members of the Unionist community were also playing their full part. We would appeal to the Unionist community to join us in dialogue. They now have an opportunity to take a step forward. There is no question or doubt that, if they respond reasonably positively, the trauma of the North of Ireland, the tragedy of the families and the tragedy of Ireland can be eliminated.

Much has been said about security co-operation. It should be said that we in Ireland spend much more on security co-operation than do the people of Great Britain. It is not understood how much we spend. Article 9 of the Agreement states:

With a view to enhancing cross-Border co-operation on security matters, the Conference should set in hand a programme of work to be undertaken by the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána and the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and, where appropriate, groups of officials, in such areas as threat assessments, exchange of information, liaison structures, technical co-operation, training of personnel and operational resources.

The Agreement also states that responsibility for police operations shall remain with the heads of the respective police forces.

When I say that we spend much more on Border security than the British, I think that we cannot emphasise that enough. It is acknowledged by both Governments that security co-operation is now the best it has ever been and that relations between the two police forces are close and constructive. Both forces do things in their own way within their own jurisdictions but co-operate to meet the common objective of protecting the lives of people on both parts of this island. It cannot be over-emphasised that the co-operation is not on a poliitical level; it is on the basis of protection of human life.

There are problems in the security area. These problems always arise when we have a situation such as we have here where we do not have the type of border that there is between many countries. We do not have a physical border. It is very hard to control a border which is totally artificial. Not alone does it cross the boundaries of townlands, but it crosses houses and farmyards. It is extremely difficult to police that border, which is so totally artificial. As has been said, security has to be a two-way effort. There has to be co-operation.

Full co-operation is given to the British Government in their efforts to control the security situation and to prevent acts of violence and to bring violent offenders to justice. We expect the same co-operation from them as they get from us. Unfortunately, there is a perception that they do not give to us the same as we give to them. This is one of the reasons why there is so much apprehension about the administration of justice in British courts. If the perception of "British" and "justice" could be brought together again, a lot of the problems we have would be eliminated. It has to be said that it does not seem as if "British" and "justice" are any longer words that should be put together.

Listening as well as talking, as the Minister for Justice said, is part of security co-operation. He said there are policies that we will advise against. There are policies, we believe, which should be adopted or pursued more actively. Decisions are made by each Government in their own jurisdiction, but in the knowledge that there is a common border. This perception of our attitude towards Border patrol or security is badly perceived by the British press, which to a degree is a gutter press. The viewpoint of the British press is not enunciated by senior people in the British Government or by responsible people outside the Government. There is no question or doubt but that there is a continuous barrage from the press in Britain that we should do more on security. We are doing as much on security as is possible to be done within the resources that the State has. We are putting more resources into that particular effort than we can really afford. We accept the responsibility of statehood.

The saving of life is what is important to us. It is a duty for us. We will not renege on that duty. We continually condemn violence. We will continue to seek to bring it to an end. It has to be put on record that the Garda Síochána are doing a remarkable job. We must pay a compliment to them. They are a force which can be maligned, and have been maligned, but they are a force for good in this country. Their record is unsurpassed in their dedication to the protection of the individual and the State. They have been malinged wrongly by many people. I would like to place on the record, as did the Minister for Justice, the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach recently, that we are proud of their achievements in the security area. We are proud of what they are doing. If at times it appears that individual citizens might feel harassed because of the operation of the Garda Síochána we all realise that what they are doing is in the best interest of everybody in this country — and I do not say the majority — it is in the best interests of everybody in the country.

We spend quite an amount of money on security. The amount in actual fact for this year will be £172 million, that is purely on security connected with Northern Ireland. It represents more by far than what is paid by the British taxpayer. It represents four timesper capita the level of expenditure by the taxpayer in Britain in respect of Northern Ireland. That is at a time in which there is financial constriction here. It is at a time when that money could be ploughed into the expansion of our economy. It is at a time when everybody realises that we could better use that money. However, we are willing to spend it, we do not begrudge it, because it is necessary.

I would like the people in Northern Ireland to feel, as our fellow-Irishmen, that we aspire to unity with them, that the efforts that we make in regard to the security co-operation are there to complement the feeling of mutual advancement for ourselves and that our aspirations are not against them, that we have a country which is peaceful, that people can live in without looking over their shoulders and that people of differing religions or different backgrounds can live in peace and harmony.

We have had an intense debate over the past number of months on the question of extradition both internally and externally. It is an accepted instrument in the fight against serious crime and international terrorism. Unfortunately, because of decisions which are taken in courts outside this jurisdiction, it appears as if our acceptance of the principle is not accepted by the courts of justice outside this jurisdiction, which basically are British organised.

International terrorism has to be eliminated. International terrorism is a crime against each and every one of us. The focus of attention has tended to be on the extradition of persons accused of terrorist offences. It is important to bear in mind that we all have an interest not only in preventing acts of terrorism and bringing terrorist offenders to justice but also in tackling serious crime problems. There is not such thing as an ordinary criminal. If we eliminate extradition we are givingcarte blanche to the drug pushers, kidnappers and the international terrorists.

Extradition must not be unreasonable or arbitrary. We have to have guarantees such as have been written into the latest legislation, that an extradited person should be treated fairly and given a fair trial. It appears as if this is not happening at present. The Government are right when they state that it is right and necessary to have extradition but it must be subject to reasonable safeguards. That was the balance which the Government sought to strike in bringing forward the Extradition (Amendment) Act, 1987.

There are other legal instruments which can be used in the fight against terrorism and serious crime, perhaps more effectively than extradition in certain cases and one of these is the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act, 1976. An examination is taking place with the British Government on how reciprocal legislation in this area can be used to advance legal co-operation. The efforts of the Government since taking office have been consistent in their approach to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It is a fact that the area in which by far the most people in Northern Ireland believe there has been improvements since the Anglo-Irish Agreement is the area of security co-operation in the Garda Síochána and the RUC. Polls have been taken which reinforce this. Anybody can get the figures from the latest poll by reading the record of the other House.

It has been suggested that we need to have more co-operation with the Unionists of Northern Ireland. We have put our hands out to the people of the Unionist persuasion and asked them to come in. The Taoiseach made it one of the keynotes of his speech at the last Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis, that the door is open, that he is there to have discussions with the Unionists but that approach has not been met by the Unionist community.

There are questions about the effectiveness of the Agreement. The reality is that to some extent the Agreement has failed to fulfil the hopes and expectations of many members of the Nationalist community. Important as it is that friendly and neighbourly relations between Dublin and London be developed and sustained, the real test of the Agreement, as the Tánaiste said, is the difference it makes on the ground in Northern Ireland. That is why all supporters of the agreement must be sobered, as the Tánaiste said, by findings which show that only a minority of Nationalists in Northern Ireland feel that the Agreement has made a difference to their daily lives.

The sobering thought which we must bring into this debate is that the perception by the Nationalist community is still not a total acceptance. The other sobering thought we have to bring into this debate is that there has not been on the side of the Unionists the open-mindedness to get into contact. We have only to see, after a war of attrition which went on for over eight years between Iran and Iraq that they are now sitting down and discussing means of ensuring peace in that area, after a war which cost more lives than did the First and Second World Wars, plus the Vietnamese war, south and north, and the Korean War. Now Iran and Iraq are sitting down and discussing means of ending the conflict on a long-term basis. If the Unionists do not come into discussions on the future of Northern Ireland they are sticking their heads into a quicksand from which they will not be able to extricate themselves in the future.

I am, as I said at the outset, delighted that we have the opportunity to debate this very essential matter at a time when the Government are looking at the future of this Agreement. Building confidence in the administration of justice and better relations between security forces and the community in Northern Ireland is of major importance. The level of public confidence in the Agreement has to be built on and confidence in the administration of justice in both areas involved is of primary importance to everybody.

Decisions made by the British Government over the past number of months, like the decision not to prosecute on foot of the Stalker-Sampson report, when there was clear evidence to support prosecution, are not helpful. The decision recently announced to have major modifications to the right of silence is a decision which has obviously negatively affected confidence. The practical experience of people on the ground is the question that is raised as to the value of the Agreement or is a measure of how it is being implemented. Measures need to be taken urgently not just to show willingness to improve relations but to remove or reduce the objective causes of the widespread view that security forces engage in conduct which is well beyond or completely unrelated to reasonable security measures, in other words, harassment.

There have been a number of positive steps taken in the administration of justice over the past three years but the public perception does not follow the actuality on the ground. The supergrass trials, which were the cause of controversy and concern, because they involved as many as 30 defendants tried on the uncorroborated evidence of accomplices before a single judge without a jury, have been brought to an end. At the same time there has been no substantial expression in the words of the Agreement to the aim of public confidence in the administration of justice. I keep harping on the perception of the administration of justice outside this jurisdiction. The public perception is not good. As I have said, British and justice are two words that should not, in the public mind, be brought together.

We have expressed deep concern as a Government at the changes to the right of silence which have been passed through the Westminster Parliament and which go far beyond the provisions in our jurisdiction in the Criminal Justice Act, 1984. Attention has to be drawn, especially to the change which will enable an adverse inference to be drawn by the court if a person chooses not to give evidence. That is a negation of justice that we cannot just stand back from. We must refer to it and say that this particular piece of legislation, which will not be effective in the prosecution of justice but will be an inhibiting factor, is a change in the law in the British jurisdiction which is not sustainable in justice and is not sustainable in fact. The principle that the prosecution must prove its case is of paramount importance in the administration of justice. The inference given that, if somebody protects his right to silence, he is guilty is one that the British Government should look at again.

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Minister for Justice and various other Ministers have noted on a number of occasions the improvements in the security provided to members of the Nationalist community during the marching season, but it is still clear that the issue of harassment requires urgent attention and that the real need here is to put measures in place which, without prejudice to the right of people to have recourse to the courts or formal complaints machinery, will monitor complaints and bring a prompt end to reprehensible behaviour by the security forces where that is warranted.

Among the measures introduced under the Anglo-Irish Agreement were measures which stated that the RUC, the armed forces, including the Ulster Defence Regiment, should operate only in support of the civil power with the particular objective of ensuring as rapidly as possible that save in the most exceptional circumstances there is a police presence in all operations which involve direct contact with the community. That has not been the fact on the ground.

The debate taking place, and which will continue to take place over the next few months in this House, in the other House and outside both Houses of the Oireachtas, is important. There have been strong foundations made to this admirable effort to bring peace to this island. The Government have shown by their actions, and not just through their words, that they are totally committed to the attainment of peace in this island. As part of our place in international fora we will continue fight injustice, terrorism and wrong. The Government are committed to this sense of urgency about the resolution of the problems of this island. We have a unique situation in terms of world politics in the sense of the divisions that we have politically. Unfortunately, in certain areas there are divisions which are mental in the sense of historical misconceptions but if we can sit down and talk to each other there is a good chance that the peace we are looking for will emerge.

Obligations are placed on the Irish Government to enhance the hope of peace. We appeal to our British friends who are unique in the sense that they are our biggest customers in trade. They are also a country who probably have more people of Irish extraction working there than any other area in the world. We move freely between both jurisdictions and there should be the basis there for a lasting peace with justice for everybody in the whole of this island.

In concluding, can I just say that, as a Government we are committed to the peaceful resolution of the problems in this country because it affects our development as a State just as it affects the development of the other State which is close to us. I sincerely hope that the debate that takes place here over this week and next week, will enhance the chance for peace in both communities, I have no doubt that the debate will be constructive. I totally accept the need for the debate and I look forward to listening to the statements made by people from every side in this House on this very important matter.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "Seanad Éireann" and substitute the following:—

"notes the upcoming review of the workings of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and calls upon the Government to:—

(1) put proposals to the Conference aimed at bringing about devolution within Northern Ireland,

(2) bring about regular pre-Conference consultations with all the constitutional parties in the Republic,

(3) ensure that in the context of 1992, the Conference examines the important economic and social implications of the Single Market for Northern Ireland and the Border areas,

(4) ensure that Conference meetings are held in a regular scheduled way and not merely as a form of crisis management.

(5) help initiate a programme of special measures in Northern Ireland to improve relations between the security forces and the community, with the object in particular of making the security forces more readily accepted by the nationalist community.

(6) encourage and speed up the establishment of an Anglo-Irish Parliamentary body.

The urgency of this debate and, more particularly, the urgency of finding a solution to the problem of Northern Ireland was once again tragically underscored last evening by the horrific events in Benburb where a young 13 year old innocent girl was blown to pieces and where her grandfather, into the later years of his life, was also blown to eternity, two innocent people driving along in a quiet country town in Northern Ireland Another mistake the Provos will tell us. Another act of shame on that organisation but once again underscoring the enormous urgency of the problem which faces both communities, both Governments in this country.

At the outset I would like to say that the circumstances surrounding the holding of this debate have to be deplored. It has taken persistent pressure over a very long period to get to a stage where this debate is being held. It is clear to me and to many politicians in both Houses that Government and senior officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs do not like debates on Northern Ireland. Debates such as this raise questions which it is felt are often best left unraised. Issues are put forward which have to be confronted and there is a view held that perhaps dangerous things may be said by us, mere politicians, which will cause trouble or difficulty, that in that great mandarin's phrase, "we will be unhelpful".

I have a very strong view that this élitist approach to Government is one which has to be rejected very firmly, that Northern Ireland is not too important to be left to the politicians. A view that it is too important to be left to mere politicians, that it is better kept in the hands of a small number of officials who know and understand and who will not do damage, is one which is very widely held.

I deplore that attitude. I know it exists under all Governments. I would like to remind those who hold that view of the great damage that was done over those years when Northern Ireland was never discussed in either House of the Oireachtas, the long years from 1923 until the beginning of the Troubles and even after the Troubles and those who read Patrick Keatinge's excellent bookHistory of the Department of Foreign Affairs will see that the debate on External Affairs, as it then was, was usually a very superficial affair and Northern Ireland was never discussed.

We all remember the damage that was done when in 1969 it was discovered when the Troubles began that the Government of the day simply did not have a policy on Northern Ireland. There was an aspiration. Yes, indeed, there was an aspiration but there were no studies, no analysis, no step-by-step approach as to how this aspiration could be achieved. We had all the great windbaggery of the 1948-51 anti-Partition campaign when we lectured the rest of the world — this was in the post-war world — on how our problem should take prominence and should head the agenda at international conferences; but there was no policy of any sort. Had the Oireachtas of the day been doing its job, had it been putting the whole question of Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations under detailed analysis in a sustained way, then we probably would not have been in that situation.

I am saying today that we need a series of regular debates, the fullest possible debate on all aspects of the Northern Ireland problem and Anglo-Irish relations. With that in mind I again refer briefly to a point I have raised on a number of occasions: the failure of the Government to allow the establishment of a foreign affairs committee or indeed a committee on development aid. It is indicative of an approach which insists on keeping these particular areas of policy within the control of small groups of people, it is a view which is offensive to both Houses of the Oireachtas and it is a view which is offensive to all elected Members of both Houses. As elected politicians we should take a very strong view on this matter.

We have now reached the stage of the first review of the operations of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It is important at this stage to remember the elements of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The Agreement was never seen as an answer or the solution to a problem. After 60 years and so many false starts there was no pretence that any one agreement or any one new arrangement could resolve a problem as deep and as intractable as that of Northern Ireland. It was very simply a framework within which the two Governments could meet and talk in an organised, ordered detailed way on a systematic basis and through those talks seek to address problems to find agreeable solutions to them.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement was a recognition for the first time that there was an Irish dimension to the problem of Northern Ireland and that without the implementation of that dimension there was no possibility of finding a solution to the problem, that the Irish Government had a legitimate voice and an interest in seeing the problem resolved. Living on the same island, sharing many of the characteristics and incurring many of the problems of the Troubles, we certainly had a legitimate interest in being represented and in having a voice. Also, the Anglo-Irish Agreement sought to reassure the Unionists that their position was not under threat, their position of unanswerable dominance, yes, but their position within the United Kingdom, their right to be British, their right to have their own particular sense of allegiance, their own symbols, their own sense of identity — none of these were under threat and never would be under threat.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement underscored that the only settlement would be with the agreement of a majority in Northern Ireland, that there would be full consultation as to any overriding settlement of the problem. The Anglo-Irish Agreement was not a final arrangement in any sense. It was really the beginning of an ordered way of facing up to the problem. The most important quality which the Anglo-Irish Agreement needed three years ago was that of durability. It had to be able to survive. It could not be something like Sunningdale, an excellent series of proposals, something which if followed through with courage by the British Government might well have ultimately transformed the whole situation in Northern Ireland; but the Anglo-Irish Agreement, unlike Sunningdale, could not be left to the whim of one Government. It was not something which should be capable of being brought down by the first major organised prostest. It had to withstand that pressure and it has withstood that pressure.

We all remember the very dramatic frightening pictures of the enormous Loyalist rallies in Donegal Square on the Saturday after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, over a quarter of a million people coming out to voice their opposition to the Agreement and believing in their hearts that they could do with this Agreement what they had done with every other single agreement they had opposed in the past: that they could force the British Government to yield, that they could destroy the Agreement.

There was very little fuss or coverage of a similar event a few weeks ago in Hillsborough where Ian Paisley ranted to a crowd of no more than 200. The quarter of a million of three years ago was now down to a small rabble of people who are willing to come out to voice their opposition of the Agreement. The Agreement has passed that first and most important test. It has survived. It has survived the massive opposition, the sustained opposition of the Loyalists. It has survived the bombs and the bullets of the Provisional IRA. It has survived the indifference and the hostility of politicians in this part of the country who did their best in 1985 to see that this Agreement could never actually come into existence, who did their best to persuade politicians in other countries not to support the Agreement and who did their best to represent the Agreement as something which was not in the best interests of the people of this island and that it was, in certain ways, a copperfastening of Partition and so forth.

In spite of all this opposition the Agreement has survived. The fact of survival is probably the most positive thing at this stage that can be said. It is also an indication of the commitment of both Governments to the Agreement itself. We are at the stage now where the real work must begin. Unfortunately, I have to say that that real work has not being going on for these past 18 months.

Our amendments today attempt to focus attention on where the real work should be taking place and where the real emphasis should be. It is very clear to anybody who has watched the events in this country over the past 18 months that this Government do not have the energy, the commitment, the enthusiasm or the imagination to make the Anglo-Irish Agreement work. All of these are absent from the Government's approach. That is not surprising, given what this Government said in Opposition just three years ago, given the efforts of various members of this Government at that time when in Opposition to scuttle the Agreement and to do it down in every possible way. We have now reached the stage where these mistakes of the past, these tactics dictated by narrow political gain, by an attempt to embarrass the then Government in every way possible, should now be put aside. I call upon the Government to bring that enthusiasm which has been lacking, to bring some sense of imagination and commitment to the workings of the Agreement. A freshness of approach is needed badly at this point.

At the present time the Government have fallen in behind the emphasis being laid by the British Government, that the workings of the Agreement focus almost exclusively on questions of security. Of course, security is important; but anybody listening to the speech of the Leader of the House here this morning would think that the only question at issue was that of security. Seven-eights of his speech was devoted to questions of security. There was not a single positive political proposal. The entire emphasis was on how much it costs us and what a great job the Garda are doing. All of that is true, but in so doing he has demonstrated very vividly how the Government have fallen into the priorities set by the British Government, that of seeing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement almost exclusively in security terms.

Of course, security is vitally important. Of course, we have a total obligation to do everything possible at every level to ensure that the provisional IRA and other murderous organisations find no sanctuary here, get no support here, are not allowed to store arms here, import arms and that members of the IRA who are wanted for crimes in Northern Ireland are returned to face the full justice there. All of that goes without saying, but it is only one part of the Agreement. The result of this emphasis on security has been to add to the slowing down of the work of the Secretariat. Because of the absence of political direction there is now a fuzziness about what it is all about. There is a lukewarm approach, there is an absence of any serious effort to make it work.

During the Dáil debate, when we had nine ministerial scripts on Northern Ireland, we did not hear during that time one single constructive new idea as to how the Anglo-Irish Agreement might be made work more effectively. I am calling upon the Government today to accept the amendments we have tabled, to bring a new sense of focus to the workings of the Agreement, to bring a new sense of direction and energy.

Unfortunately, the resolution of the problem does not lie alone with us. The two biggest single problems facing any resolution in Northern Ireland comes from the opposite end of the Unionists and the Provisional IRA. The bigger problem of these is the position of the Unionists. Paul Arthur in a very interesting article inThe Irish Times early this week asked the question, “How much longer does the rest of this island have to wait until the Unionists get their act together.” That sums up the problem facing the Irish Government and the British Government in trying to come to a resolution of the problem in Northern Ireland. Anybody who read the extracts and the reviews of the new biography of Lord Brookborough in the papers over the weekend will realise the extent to which Unionism is now reaping so much of what it has sown in earlier years.

Unionism is a political creed lacking in imagination more than anything else, lacking in generosity and lacking in trust. It is the absence of these qualities more than anything else which characterises Unionism and makes it so difficult to get any movement or any partnership from that community. In the past, Unionists have never had to compromise, or maybe more accurately they had never felt themselves to be in a position to be able to compromise without losing everything.

Unfortunately, as we all know, compromise is the very cement of politics. It is the factor which keep societies together. It is the oil which makes the mechanism of politics work. Without compromise, all societies grind to a halt. Until Unionists can learn that compromise is a noble and honourable political quality, we are not going to make progress. Compromise often involves showing greater strength of character and greater moral purpose than simply saying no, no, no to everything.

Unionism has never had a leader worthy of the Protestant people of Northern Ireland. Its leaders have been obstructionists; they have been narrow; they have been incapable of bringing together their people in a sense of common purpose. We can see that today. We can see today the divisions in Unionism, their inability to come out with constructive proposals which will form the basis for real discussion. I am not saying there are not within the Unionist community many fine politicians and fine people who seriously wish to find a lasting solution to the problems of Northern Ireland, who want to be on terms of good relations with this part of the country, who feel more at home as Irishmen than they do as Englishmen or British.

There are people like Ken Maginnis who consistently tries to talk to politicians down here, Raymond Ferguson in Fermanagh. Perhaps it is unfair to name them because by mentioning them one is not doing them a favour. There are politicians in the Unionist community who genuinely want to see progress but something seems to grip them when they come together in a group, seems to inhibit, seems to prevent them thinking in a way which would allow themselves to free themselves, because they are the biggest prisoners in all of this, from the stanglehold in which they find themselves. Other speakers today might well have ideas as to how we could improve our approach to the Unionists.

Certainly the empty talk of the Leader of the House about an invitation issued at a Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis to the Unionist people, the hand of friendship held out at a Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis to the Unionist people to come down and sup at the table of the politicians in this part of the country, is an empty meaningless gesture. It is one which is almost designed to provoke a negative response, which it has done.

The other great stumbling block in Northern Ireland of course is the Provisional IRA and remains the Provisional IRA. Here we are facing a problem which has blighted this country and which is going to blight this country for decades to come. There can be no doubt in the mind of anybody who travels around Northern Ireland that huge sections of the young Catholic population of Northern Ireland have been socialised into a way of seeing the IRA as their normal political representatives, into seeing the tactics of the IRA as being the normal political tactics, who see nothing wrong with the murders, the outrages, the robberies and the bombings perpetrated in their name by the Provisional IRA. These people have a world view which is a very narrow world view. They talk only to each other. They read only the IRA papers. They do not look outside their own particular area or their own particular mentality. No matter what political solutions are arrived at, these people are going to resist and are going to continue to make a peaceful government very difficult over a long period of time.

There are two approaches to the question of the IRA. Neither offers anything near a full solution. The first is to seek through the workings of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, through greater aid from Britain, through a variety of measures, to remove as far as possible the grievances. That is easier said than done because Northern Ireland with the huge rate of unemployment and enormous structural problems is not an easy place within which grievances can easily be resolved. The emphasis within the Anglo-Irish Conference must be aimed at isolating and removing as far as possible these grievances. Every step must be made to promote integration, integration of the communities as far as possible. I would like to welcome unequivocally the recent measures by Brian Mawhinney, one of the Ministers in Northern Ireland, aimed at bringing about a greater degree of integration among the schools in Northern Ireland. It is something to which we should give full support.

We must aim through the Conference at seeking to ensure that the irritants, the things which maybe to the outsider look small but which deny the people in Northern Ireland, the Nationalist people, the right to the full expression of their identity, are removed. We must also seek to ensure in every way possible that the system of justice in Northern Ireland is transparently open and even-handed. These are the political objectives within the Conference to which our energies should be devoted.

In doing that we must also set our face firmly against giving the Provisional IRA any legitimacy or any sense of respectability. We must expose Provoism for what it is. It is a fascist doctrine which believes that it has the right to impose its methods through force of arms, through murder and the bullet, on those whom it opposes. It is an anti-democratic organisation which totally rejects all of the democratic procedures and which rejects the democratic verdict of the people. It must never be allowed to pose in any way as an organisation which is in the slightest way democratic. It is a racist organisation whose purpose is essentially to drive the Protestant people out of Northern Ireland. Its purpose is to impose its version — and how it perverts the words — of a Gaelic Catholic State on Northern Ireland. Its purpose is to ensure that those who do not agree have no place in that country. It is an organisation which was founded on racialism and must always be seen in that way.

It is also an organisation which is politically bankrupt. You can research the writings of Gerry Adams and the speeches and the transfer of documents with John Hume, for a single political idea, a single new idea, a constructive idea but most of all for an idea which would help to allow two communities to live together in peace and harmony. You can search and you will find not a single idea. This Provo creed must not be given breathing space or respectability or compromise.

When we look at our approach to Northern Ireland we have a very solemn obligation to look at ourselves in the Republic as well. Empty gestures at an Ard Fheis, talking about sitting around a table and discovering how generous we will be in a hypothetical situation are simply not good enough. We, too, have to face up to the realities. If we are talking to the Unionists in Northern Ireland and saying to them, "trust us" then we have got to show them by deed and by word that we mean what we say, that we are capable of constructing a society in which they could feel equally at home. We have not done that. We failed every serious attempt. Last night in the Dáil we saw once again the Minister for Justice on the Bill, a Bill in which he might have shown some generosity, I dismiss it out of hand again. That is just typical of every single issue on these lines that has been raised over the years.

In the New Ireland Forum we made a serious attempt to see what were the realities behind the problem in Northern Ireland and what were the things we might need to change if we were to hold out the hand of friendship in the hope that it could be grasped by the other side. Very few of the things which were proposed there have become a reality. The attempts by Dr. Garret FitzGerald as Taoiseach to perhaps change our Constitution in a way in which it would be an appropriate all-Ireland document were rejected out of hand. On every single occasion, be it the divorce referendum, the attempt to implement the now long-forgotten report of the Committee on the Constitution of December 1967, every single attempt at social change which might have brought about a change of this sort has become an item on the domestic political agenda of the Fianna Fáil Party. It has been subject to domestic considerations and it has been rejected.

The Taoiseach makes these magnanimous gestures, opens his arms and welcomes the Unionists to come down and dine with him. It is easy to make these gestures but not once has he followed them up with one specific proposal as to how they might feel more at home or as to the sort of things they could even begin to discuss with him within the future totality of relationships.

The Fianna Fáil Party have an enormous obligation, if they are serious, to face up to these issues but I have seen no evidence of a willingness to change. I think that the Fianna Fáil Party have not thought through the implications of the unitary state or what this would mean, the implications of foisting a unitary state on a population which tells us day in, day out, they want no part of it. It would simply be a re-run of the sentiment of 1922 but re-run this time over 32 counties with one million people saying they are being forced into a situation which they do not want.

I suspect that the Fianna Fáil approach is much cuter and much more subtle than this. In holding out something as the desired solution which they know cannot be attained within any reasonable time-scale, they are offering a recipe for inaction. That is what I believe the Fianna Fáil Party want on Northern Ireland. Of course, Fianna Fáil are serious about better security, of course no politican in this country wants to see or condone the atrocities but as far as moving away from that, moving away towards some sort of solution, Fianna Fáil's cupboard is bare and that is the way they want to keep it. Movement means changes. Changes disturb the Fianna Fáil Party. Changes means offending the green wing of the party and, therefore, the party operate on a two-tier basis.

Again, I had to smile at the Leader of the House today when he defended the nationwide searches being carried out by his Government. Had they been carried out when we were in Government, can you imagine the row and the rumpus, the shouts and the screams which would have come from the opposite benches? The two-tier scenario is that when Fianna Fáil are in Government you must calm things down, not talk about things and take as little action as possible but when they are in Opposition, beat the green drum for all it is worth. We have seen that over the past number of years.

What we have is a situation where as far as Fianna Fáil are concerned the problem of Northern Ireland is largely a question on their domestic agenda. The party are not facing up to the problems. They are not trying to work out a structured, detailed way towards the finalising of what they regard as their preferred option.

Before coming to the items in our amendment which more or less speak for themselves I would like to raise two questions. One was referred to by the Leader of the House, Senator Lanigan, and I absolutely agree with him. I believe that the damage being done to Anglo-Irish relations by the British tabloid press is incalculable. That press is ensuring that Irish people coming before British courts are effectively tried before they reach the courtroom. They are tagged as guilty; they are tagged as murderers and as bombers before the trial ever begins. Nobody can tell me that the British Government cannot change their libel laws to ensure that this sort of behaviour is outlawed. If there was a will on this question there could certainly be a way. I believe that the British Government should be told in no uncertain terms of the incalculable damage being done to Anglo-Irish relations by the British gutter press, as the Leader of the House referred to it.

The second question raised, before looking at the details of the amendment, concerns the relationship of this State with Libya. Week in, week out further evidence appears that Colonel Gadaffi is still sending arms to the Provisional IRA, that Colonel Gadaffi is training members of the Provisional IRA, that this support for the Provos has not abated one bit, that he sees Northern Ireland as the place where he can attack his most bitter enemy, Mrs. Thatcher. I want to ask a question today. What is the state of our relationship with Libya? Why have we not broken off diplomatic relations as all parties except Fianna Fáil want, and as there is sufficient evidence to warrant? Is it because our cattle trade is too important? If so, let us be told that. Is it because of special arrangements, is it because we do not want to offend some of the major cattle dealers and exporters in this country? What is the reason? There is enormous public anxiety on this. As we see now, the Provos have got surface-to-air missiles and two nights ago we saw that they had a rocket launcher which blew up a shop, which could have killed 40 people in a pub. The enormity of what Colonel Gadaffi is doing to this country needs to be spelled out very strongly.

The Government have a total obligation to answer these questions very directly. What is the relationship between the Taoiseach and Colonel Gadaffi? Were deals done in the past during his visit to the desert. If so, what were these deals? Is it because of the cattle trade that we refuse to break off relations? What steps have we taken to ensure that the full enormity of our displeasure towards Colonel Gadaffi has been conveyed to him? Is there anything we can do? Please, the time has come for straight answers to straight questions.

When we come to the amendments which we have placed on the Order Paper, I will just refer to them very briefly. The first, and perhaps the most important one, is that proposals be put to the Conference aimed at bringing about devolution within Northern Ireland. The Fianna Fáil approach to the Northern problem excludes devolution. I have mentioned already the invitation to the round table, where the totality of relationships will be discussed and, hey presto, out of the hat will come a unitary state and that will resolve the problem. That approach does not allow for intermediate stages, and that is the problem.

Everybody knows that if we are going to move towards any sort of resolution in Northern Ireland, whatever our ultimate objectives, there must necessarily be a phase, however short or long it may be, during which the two communities confront their political differences in a political structure and work together on an agreed basis for the welfare of their people. That is devolution, no more, no less. How can we expect to resolve the problems of Northern Ireland on an all-Ireland basis if we cannot get the two communities to sit down together within an agreed political structure?

I believe that the politicians in Northern Ireland are starved of proper political processes and I believe that the time is now approaching — it may well be there — for a serious attempt be made by both Governments to see if some form of devolution can be achieved in Northern Ireland. It is that particular point on the amendment that we attach most importance.

Paragraph (2) which asked to bring about regular pre-Conference consultations with all the constitutional parties in the Republic is one which does not have to be stressed. It does not have to be pushed. All parties have a lot to contribute. All have a vested interest in seeing progress made and there would be open, frank and honest commitment by all parties, were this possible.

I should have said at the outset when I was talking about the absence of proper parliamentary discussion on Northern Ireland that one of the biggest victories which the Irish Diplomatic Service has won in recent years is the way in which it has raised the question of Northern Ireland high on the political agenda of very many British politicians in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Through lobbying, education and so forth they have actually forced British politicians to confront the problem, but they have also interested them in the problem. It is one of the reasons I should have mentioned at the beginning as to why it is so short sighted for those who control government to starve both Houses of the opportunity to discuss Northern Ireland.

Paragraph (3) in our amendment simply asks the conference, within the context of what will be available with the completion of the internal market, to examine the implications and to come up with plans which foster cross-Border cooperation.

Paragraph (4) is simply to ensure that the meetings are held in a regular ordered way and not as a type of fire brigade reaction to crises which occur. In doing that our Government falls into the trap set by the British Government of ensuring that the Conference meetings are dictated and dominated by security events and not by broader political discussions.

Paragraph (5) deals with the security forces, and that has been covered very fully by Senator Lanigan. There is a need for further measures there. Some have been implemented but far more is needed under that heading.

Finally, paragraph (6) is to encourage the Government to speed up the arrangements for the Anglo-Irish Parliamentary tier. I know steps are under way; progress has been made; but we would all like to see an even greater degree of urgency on this matter.

I am sorry that we cannot support the amendment put forward by Senator Ross and Senator Murphy, calling for a constitutional amendment. I would sympathise very much with what they are saying. In fact, they go back to the report of the committee on the Constitution in December 1967 which recommended this. My reasons for not supporting what they are doing are twofold. First, I think that the emphasis at this stage should be focused on making the Agreement work. That is the political priority. That is where changes can be effected. I believe that our history of referendums in recent years has been a very unhappy one and that the only way in which a referendum is likely to be succesful and not to be divisive is if there is broad all-party agreement for it. While perhaps my own party could support this and perhaps the Labour Party — I cannot speak for the Labour Party or the Workers' Party — there is certainly no way in which Fianna Fáil would support such a move. We would be back to the same old games, the same sad, sorry story that characterised the last referendum.

They are the reasons why I feel I cannot support their amendment, although I must say I totally understand the sentiments and the sincerity behind it and if it could be successful then it might be a gesture worth making. In the present climate it would not be.

In conclusion may I say that what we need from this Government, and we need it with total obviousness, is a sense of commitment and enthusiasm and freshness and imagination a focussed approach to making the Agreement work. The Agreement has stood its test of three years extremely well. It still remains the only framework and the only mechanism by which an ordered approach can be made to the resolution of the problem. Sadly, we are only at the beginning of the process and I hope that in three years' time, when we look at the agreement again, we will be able to report a great deal of progress.

I formally second the amendment proposed by Senator Manning and reserve my right to speak on the matter at a later stage.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I call Senator Hillery.

Senator Robb is keen to get in now. He has a long distance to travel here and he has a particular interest in the topic.

I would like to thank Senator Hillery for his consideration and certainly if it is possible to make the contribution today although I hope to be here——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I will call Senator Robb.

We have waited a long time for this debate. Some of us earlier on felt it was better to see how matters would evolve before we participated in it but in more recent times we have felt, not without some reason, that there seemed to be some intention to try to muzzle or, if not to muzzle, to put on the longer finger the possibility of discussing the implications of the review of the Agreement. Indeed, for some time, we could have been forgiven for believing that the review would come up with some new imaginative concept which could help engage the people of Northern Ireland, all of them, in a new dialogue about their future. It is because I no longer feel confident that this is likely to take place that I, therefore, hope in the course of my contribution here today to indicate some suggestions which might open up fresh debate and might stimulate imagination of people both on the Republican side and on the Loyalist side.

Fionnula O'Connor writing inFortnight, a recent issue, emphasised the fact that, perceived from outside, the workings of the Anglo-Irish Agreement at the moment could be summarised as a form of crisis management response to the latest events, either, on the one hand, of the bending of the processes of law to meet particular needs as perceived by the Government or on the other hand, the barbarity and the atrocities being placed on the people by the Provisional IRA. While I am just mentioning that, I would like to take up what the Leader of the Opposition has said and to say that we are meeting here today in the aftermath of yet another action of wicked barbarity, as was perpetrated last night with the death of Mr. Lavery and his granddaughter. We cannot afford as Irish people in Ireland, out of whichever tradition we belong or have come from to allow this thing to fester on for yet another 20 years.

I was in the Royal Victoria Hospital on the 14th of August 1969 and well remember the impact of dealing with the first bullet wounds in the city of Belfast. We are now almost 20 years on from that and at times it would appear that we are still stuck in a stalemate. There is one thing certain that many of us who lived in Northern Ireland had no idea at that time of the great gulf in perceptions that existed between the different traditions in Ireland. Indeed, many of us had hoped that wisdom might prevail and that we could have resolved the matter in a much shorter space of time than it has taken. It is only as we have gradually studied the legacy of Anglo-Irish history and the bitter legacy of Irish sectarianism that we realise how far we have to go in readjustment of our own perceptions in order to make contact with, let alone meet, the demands of those who hold different perceptions to enable a resolution.

There is one thing certain, that an enduring consensus in Ireland will take a long time. There are people in Northern Ireland who have struggled. Many small groups have struggled — peace movements, New Ireland groups, small political parties. I hope that the ideas which have been taken on board by these groups and to which I shall allude, may have some continuing relevance beyond whatever arrangements are to be made in the short term.

I, therefore, believe that we can bedevil this debate if we see it as something of response to a short term need. We are thinking today of setting the scene and the stage for the intermediate and, indeed, the long term and if we are endeavouring to find a new consensus in Ireland we have to admit that it will be a painful experience for all and that it will take a very long time. That does not mean to say that we should not mark out the parameters and try to solve division.

I therefore hope that this debate will cast its eyes and thinking to the future and that we will be spared any of those ritual rehearsals of the litany of legal, political and paramilitary sins of the past. We could spend precious time on what I would call the buttery approach, that the cause of this action was due to the apparent application of law, that this law has been due to that action. What we have got to appreciate is that the actions, the violence which we have seen both in attitude and in action, and the laws and the bending of the laws to deal with that violence, or the perceptions of them, go all the way back to the period 1641 to 1649, to the curse of Ireland, the curse of Reformation, Counter-Reformation and the violence that has been associated with it — the violence perpetuated through generations, the violence of attitudes as well as of actions, and all the falsehoods which have been used to cope with the inherited resentment and guilt which are the bitter, bitter underlying legacy of those attitudes and actions.

I do not, therefore, propose in the time available to prove my Irishness by once again rehearsing my knowledge of, or indicating my awareness of, the role of my tradition in the unfolding of the Anglo-Irish historical legacy or in the perpetuation of Irish sectarianism or, to put it more bluntly, Irish bigotry. If we cannot lift our focus to the future, as indeed Senator Manning has challenged us to do, if we concentrate only on reacting to the immediate, if we give into despair, if we believe that it is all hopeless — that there is no solution, as I have heard people in this House say to me — then we capitulate to strange forces.

Thus in a debate such as this we must raise our sights above the parapet — and we live behind the parapet in Northern Ireland. Those of us who have come out of the Protestant Unionist tradition are sealed into acul-de-sac at the moment.

It is to try to create some new thinking which will allow people to cross that parapet and join with you in a noble adventure that I am addressing you here today. We must avoid the temptation, therefore, to limit our perception by reaction to the record of outrageous wickedness perpetrated by the IRA and other paramilitaries; but chiefly by the IRA, on the one hand, and by the heavy handed irregular and at times indefensible administration of law and order, on the other. The three greatest blights in the life of the people of Northern Ireland at present are lack of employment conjoined with social deprivation, unaccountability in political life, where we are run by diktats by a dynasty of direct rulers and violence, and the failure thus far — perhaps related to all three — of being able to engage those who must be engaged in constructive dialogue.

Sometimes I feel that there are those still left in the Republic who see the Unionist people as belonging to an arrogant class of wealthy ranchowning, privileged people holding on to the gravitas of empire. The empire is gone and the union, since the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, has been fundamentally changed. The people are the ordinary people like yourselves. At the moment many of them feel broken; they do not know where to go. They feel misunderstood. They feel always under pressure and they do not have the leadership, as Senator Manning quite rightly said. If you speak to an ordinary person today in north Antrim and you get involved in this, he will tell you he feels misunderstood and undermined. The things that gave him his security are no longer there. He looks to his leadership and he sees Portrush of the last weekend and the experience of the troglodite where courageous men like Raymond Ferguson and Ken McGuinness are barely listened to.

Senator Manning was correct to ask how long can one wait? I believe it is in the realm of imagination, vision, courage that we can create the conditions to bring together people who were once privileged by the monolith and were once governed by men who shared, alas, the convictions of Lord Brookborough. Anyone who has read, as the Leader of the Opposition has already mentioned, a summary of Lord Brookborough's political outlook can be none other than appalled and indeed ask the question: are we not now reaping the whirlwind?

Devolution, therefore, would bring some degree of accountability, and in that respect I have some sympathy, understanding and a degree of support for it. But devolution will not cure the violence of Northern Ireland and devolution, before the legacy of Anglo-Irish history and Irish sectarianism, will not produce an enduring solution to end this war. Let us not shillyshally about the word. If it had been here and, by proportion, multiplied three times to allow for population, you would be dealing with 600 Garda Síochána dead, 9,000 killed and over 100,000 injured. This is the end of a long historical conflict in Ireland. What we have got to recognise is that in bringing it to an end we want to build a new beginning. To end this war, and to wind up the state of dependency in Northern Ireland, we need a fair process, a new symbolism and a means of exorcising the curse to which I referred.

This morning I will deal with what I, associated with a small group and representing no one else but identifying with the people out of which I have come, see as a fair process; and it is only intended to be a contribution to thinking about a fair process. I would like to reinforce what the Leader of the Opposition said about the very unfair process of the British tabloid press. It is outrageous that fair trial should be held by tabloid. It should not be beyond the ingenuity of that parliament that claims to be the mother of parliaments — although the Icelandic parliament existed long before Westminster — to bring in, as was suggested by Senator Manning, a new law of libel to prevent what is abhorrent to any people who wish to see justice reign as their priority. With regard to his appeal for compromise, that is what I hope to emphasise today. This contribution will be to ask Irish Republicans as well as Northern Loyalists to compromise. Before commencing, could I set the scene by quoting from the description of the "Miracle of Philadelphia" which took place 200 years ago in that long hot summer during the Constitutional Convention which gave to the United States of America a Constitution which has lasted 200 years, a Constitution which withstood the effects of Vietnam and Watergate:

The federal convention, viewed from the records, is startlingly fresh and ‘new'. The spirit behind it was the spirit of compromise, seemingly no very noble flag to fly to rally 'round. Compromise can be an ugly word, signifying a pact with the devil, the chipping off of the best to suit the worst. yet, in the Constitutional Convention the spirit of compromise reigned in grace and glory; as Washington presided, it sat on his shoulder like the dove. Men rise to speak and one sees them struggle with the bias of birthright, locality, statehood — South against North, East against West, merchant against planter. One sees them change their mind, fight against pride and when the moment comes, admit their error. If the story is old, the feelings behind it are new as Monday morning.

An appeal has been made for generosity. I support that appeal. But it is no good having the empty rhetoric of generosity, whether it is stated in Seanad, Éireann, in the other House, in the New Ireland Forum or in the Anglo Irish Agreement. My definition of generosity is that it begins when you feel uncomfortable — in other words, when you actually begin to feel uncomfortable you may be beginning to be generous. Not many of us in Ireland are prepared to push our generosity to the point of discomfort because we have inherited with our mother's milk the bitter legacy of the past to which I alluded.

I would like once again to ask Senators to consider what they mean by self-determination because much has been made of this in the rhetoric of Irish Republicanism, as indeed in Northern Loyalism. The United Nations Covenants on Human Rights, which have yet to be ratified by Ireland — although they have been ratified by Britain — affirm in Article 1 (1) the right of all peoples to self-determination. Let us stop for a moment and consider the effect of this on the Loyalists and Republicans of Ireland. One has only to think what happens when Republicans affirm the right of the people of Ireland to self-determination and Loyalists affirm the right the people of Northern Ireland to self-determination: a fundamental human right becomes a source of conflict. That right needs to be qualified. The Irish Government, I hope, some day will, through the Minister for Foreign Affairs, present to the United Nations an amendment to that clause. The right to self-determination should be qualified by the need to be based in the achievement of consensus.

That opens up another debate for which we have not the time today to develop — what we mean by consensus, the menthods of achieving it and the means of assessing it. If we are going to move forward we must be clear about what we mean by words such as "consent" and "consensus". It is no good talking about them. They mean nothing in woolly terms unless we are quite clear what we have on offer.

In the context of Ireland and in relation to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, I was a supporter of the Agreement under the slogan, "Don't say no, give it a go". I did that because I have always seen two conflicts in Ireland, one sustaining the other. Let us lay to rest once and for all this crisis of identity concept. There is no crisis of identity in Northern Ireland. Because the identities are so clear and so strongly felt there cannot be a crisis of identity; but there is a conflict of loyalty. We have to question how we resolve that in the context of changing time. That conflict of loyalty in my mind has always been kept alive and provoked by the conflict of claims to Northern Ireland, a conflict which comes from the rival and conflicting roles of the London and Dublin political establishments and the people they represent. The conflict in Irish terms arises from the mandate given by the 1918 General Election, when only four counties in Ireland had a Unionist majority. Nevertheless, do not forget that fewer than 50 per cent of the Irish people actually voted for separation in that election. The conflcit in British terms is that we are bedevilled by the imperialism inherent in the claim by Britain to rule in any part of Ireland. We have to resolve these things.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement has dealt with one half of the equation. It has enabled the two Governments, perhaps for the first time since the Partition of Ireland, to face up jointly to their conflicting roles in keeping our conflict alive in Northern Ireland. It has given the diplomatic means of dealing with situations that arise which can be the cause of dissension and disharmony between the two states. It has certainly established a much more effective means of communication so that we now have at least reached the stage where the two Governments are less likely to be trying to score political points at each other's expense over lives and limbs that are being torn apart in Northern Ireland. The Agreement has also recognised the quality of Northern Ireland. It acknowledged that when people talk about the people of Northern Ireland they are very often not talking about the people of Northern Ireland but about the people belonging to one or other tradition, that Northern Ireland consists of two traditions, two significant traditions in the main, although the people have much in common as I am sure many people down here have observed. How can we deal with this Anglo-Irish dimension? How can we deal with the North-South dimension? How can we deal with the sectarian dimension?

The trouble with the Agreement was that, while Dublin became increasingly the guarantor of Nationalist rights and aspirations, and while many Nationalists felt they could turn to Dublin for understanding and support, it was quickly evident that there was no sympatheticquid pro quo for Unionists. In other words, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the relationship with London had changed fundamentally. It is the endeavour to struggle with that fact of life which has been one of the main reasons Unionism has been driven into a corner, albeit largely of its own making. Salt was rubbed in these wounds when London remained resolutely deaf to kith and kin arguments relating to sacrificial loyalty and service in the past, and equally unsympathetic to hurt feelings in the present. In short, Unionists self-esteem suffered damage of a magnitude comparable to that occasioned by the prorogation of Stormont in 1972.

While those who acknowledge the reasoning behind the Agreement might understand the acute sense of rejection experienced by ordinary Unionist people, it would have been difficult to have shared such a sympathetic feeling for their leaders, who have persistently demonstrated a lack of imagination in coping with the Unionist dilemma. The performance of Unionist leaders has intensified the condition of isolation which has steadily eroded Unionist morale over a whole generation. The Unionist people, and indeed many Northern Nationalists, could justifiably claim that they had been excluded from the decision making process. Unionists people, if they are to fully recover from the shock to their self-confidence, might ask themselves, however, whether at least some of the blame for their predicament is not due to short-sighted stubborn leadership.

It can be of no consolation to observe that the Nationalist leadership by contrast has been consistently more imaginative, more vigorous, more articulate and on the whole much more successful. Significant opportunities have been lost by Unionism: for example, in 1974 at the first assembly, when the Executive was overthrown by power on the streets, the Northern Ireland Convention of 1975, when voluntary coalition was turned down for the same reason as before, majority rule; the round table conference of 1980, when constitutional Nationalists were prepared to put the Irish dimension on the long finger for at least two British Parliaments in return for a reasonable degree of power-sharing in Northern Ireland and total failure to influence the course of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council which was set up in 1982.

The other side of this coin is that Unionists will ask why did not the SDLP come to Mr. Prior's rolling devolution assembly? I submit that by that time it was too late, that constitutional Nationalism, with Sinn Féin breathing down its neck, realised that they were in an impossible situation if the debate were confined within the territory of Northern Ireland. It is because of that that the leader of constitutional Nationalism, with great vision, sought to internationalise the debate and, with a great deal of success, sought first to engage the rest of Ireland in the debate, and thus we had the New Ireland Forum.

But what did we find then in relation to Unionism with the exception of a few brave spirits like the McGimpsey brothers? Their case went by default at the Forum. I applaud the McGimpsey brothers. Many people here may not agree with their perspective, but they should be applauded. They broke ranks, they asked questions of their own tradition, they came to engage in dialogue. I would add if there is a case to be made — and this comes back to how generous we can be — for a new relationship between the people of Ireland and the people of Wales, Scotland and England — and I put it that way deliberately, I do not say the people of Britain — it went largely by default. Even had such a presentation evoked a largely negative response from political parties sitting at the Forum, it nevertheless would have injected the debate with a chalenge of a different perspective. It is also chastening to recall that there were only two Nationalists at one time in Westminster with 14 or 15 Unionist MPs, and two Unionists sat in the Privy Council.

It seems therefore long past time for the Unionist people to ask questions about their leadership in relation to an enduring future for them in the land in which so many have lived for generations. That leadership has made the Unionist people, in the words of John Hewitt, the Ulster poet, strangers in the capital. Hewitt went on to note: "This is our country too, nowhere else, and we shall not be outcasts on the world". A quality of leadership which feeds on the collective paranoia of the siege mentality will indeed lead inevitably to the Unionist people being outcasts in the world. We should therefore be thankful that there are signs of a new beginning in Unionism to tentatively consider the idea of dialogue. There are courageous spirits, people like Raymond Ferguson and Ken Maginnis and we must do everything in our power to assist, support and develop that very early plant of a new possibility.

Thus, when we look at the Anglo-Irish Agreement we see a failure to involve people; we see an escalation in violence; we see it has not resulted in devolved government; we see it has not reduced social alienation or deprivation. We have already recognised the salt rubbed in the wounds of the Unionist people and we have mentioned the effect of bad leadership. On the other hand, we can look to the other side and see that it does represent a point in a process which begun in 1980 in the talks between the present British Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, and the present Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey and developed subsequently by Dr. Garret FitzGerald. We have to face up to contradictions as a result of the Agreement: what an all-Ireland means for Unionists and what it means for Republicans. How far are we prepared to go beyond the rhetoric. The Agreement has highlighted the duality of Northern Ireland, but, perhaps most important, from the perspective of this House, the Anglo-Irish Agreement has established that relations between Britain and Ireland from now on will be on the basis of equality, and Mrs. Thatcher's "out, out, out," and all the body language that went with it, was I hope the high water mark in the patronising of Ireland by the British Establishment.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement has helped to highlight the great difficulties there are for the whole process of law and order in a country without consensus. As I have said, there is a less confrontational, more diplomatic way of dealing with irregularities and trying constructively to work through the prejudiced perceptions we have in relation to the problems confronting us. It has certainly improved communication and has given the prospect of resolving these sensitive issues in a diplomatic manner. Sometimes I ask whether such private diplomacy is in the best public interest, but that is another question.

I will now deal with the prospect of the future in relation to the background of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the review of that Agreement. I propose to deal with a number of issues, first, to set the scene, then to remind us that we are trying to realise the aim of self-determination for the people living in Ireland on the basis of consensus, and to engage in a process which will have Anglo-Irish understanding, Anglo-Irish support and Anglo-Irish guarantorship.

Before going on, I have to introduce two new concepts, one, the concept of the preferendum as a means of assessing consensus. This is a concept which has been developed by the Ecology Party and is quite a fascinating challenge for a new era of politics, particularly in a computer age. The preferendum briefly says this: if there are, say, ten serious options to be selected and assessments to be made as to which of the options has the greatest consensus, it asks those who are participating to vote in order of their preference from one to ten, and it gives ten marks for the first preference and one mark for the last preference. Obviously it is not possible to present this as a means of public assessment yet because we require a great deal of education and a lot of media presentation and teasing out, but in a convention to which I hope to allude, it should have a place because by voting for all the options, what you are doing, is asking those who are participating in a preferendum to acknowledge the right of the person who is presenting the least favoured option to at least receive an acknowledgment. It ensures that nobody is being asked to vote for something which is diametrically opposed to his or her conscience. The chairman, the convenor, the consensor or whoever must determine that the preferendum is prepared in such a way that there is nothing on it that is repugnant to internationally accepted conventions and human rights. If, for example, there were ten options being canvassed in a constitutional convention in Northern Ireland and if all the members, the 100 or so people who were attending as representatives were there voting in this preferendum, giving a number one vote to their first preference and a number ten vote to their last preference on a ten-option preferendum, number nine for the second and so on, by adding up the totals you would arrive at the option which has the greatest degree of consensus. Once that is known inside the convention chamber, that option shown to have the greatest degree of consensus can be presented to the people for their ratification or otherwise in a referendum and because it is known to have this degree of consensus it is likely to be received seriously as an option for consideration by the people.

The second concept I would like to introduce is the concept, of the list system. It is very important, if there is to be fundamental change in Northern Ireland in the context of Ireland as a whole, that we have the widest possible representation on any convention that takes place. The list system, of which many Senators will be cognisant, makes the area concerned one constituency. If you decide that there are to be 100 representatives in your convention, then any individual or group who can obtain one-hundredth of the votes has a right to a seat. The importance of this in the context of Northern Ireland, or indeed Ireland eventually, is to ensure that no party or significant group feels excluded from the debate because, so far, many of the proposals that have been brought forward, many of the initiatives that have been taken have fallen by the wayside because significant groups at the extreme ends have been excluded from the debate for one reason or another. Basically, I am saying that if we are going to move forward, if we are going to introduce a new process, we must consider how do we obtain the widest possible representation and, secondly, how do we assess consensus from collective decision-making on a number of options.

Having established those two points I would now like to suggest that one of the things that the Anglo-Irish Secretariat should address itself to — and those who have the power to influence events in the future should now consider this — is how the two Governments, without prejudice to the development of the understanding that already exists, can sponsor a process in Northern Ireland to allow the people of Northern Ireland to determine on the basis of consensus the means of living as Irish people in Ireland and also to act as guarantors for the outcome of that process, provided the outcome again is clearly based on the principle of consensus and not what has bedevilled Northern Ireland, the idea that majoritarianism is the only form of democratic expression.

In order to capitalise this debate it is vitally necessary for the two Governments to recognise the conflict of claim to Northern Ireland, and, in suspending the relevant workings of the Agreement while this process is being undertaken, to capitalise it by recognising the failure thus far to achieve consensus in Northern Ireland because of the rival claims, and for the Republic to acknowledge the true position of Articles 2 and 3 in relation to Northern Ireland by agreeing with Britain to sub-jointly withdraw the claims to sovereignty while they act as joint sponsors for a constitutional consensus-seeking process in Northern Ireland, agreeing to act as joint guarantors provided that outcome is clearly based on consensus.

This, as I will demonstrate does make enormous demands on the consciousness, particularly of people in the Republic, who perhaps have not thought so deeply about Northern Ireland as we have been forced to do, and it also makes great demands on Unionist consciousness. I hope to show that as the thing evolves, there should be capacity for new movement and new ideas and the resolution of problems in a much wider perspective than has thus far been our experience.

In the event of failure of this process the Agreement would naturally have to be reactivated. I shall come back to that. The first thing I will be addressing myself to, then, is the need to have a forum in Northern Ireland where the people can engage in dialogue and that forum to act as a precursor to this consensus-seeking convention process which would ultimately conclude with a referendum of the people seeking ratification for the option which had the optimum consensus, as shown by means of exercising the referendum in the convention.

Having therefore outlined the background realities and the paramount need to promote understanding of consensus as well as the means of its establishment, the next stage is to outline the steps by which this process may begin. Because of traditional sensitivities and complexities and the widespread limitation of democracy to mean mere majoritarianism, a period of preparation and dialogue is highly desirable. Such dialogue, involving members of the public as well as politicians, would enable vital ideas, however novel, to achieve a sensible degree of intelligibility as well as credibility. It would also protect the politicians themselves from being prematurely hoisted on party political hooks.

The mechanism which we would urge for such unconditional dialogue would be a public forum to consider, not only the topics for a constitutional convention, but also the mechanism by which the convention might conduct its business and indicate consensus for its outcome. The forum would have an impartial secretariat and impartial chairmanship or unimpeachable integrity. It would be open to both written and oral submissions by individuals, groups and parties. It would thus act as a thorough and uninhibited precursor to a constitutional convention which would be charged subsequently to generate proposals for new structures likely to achieve consensus. It is therefore desirable that the two Governments mount a sequence for progress along the following lines:

(1) The British and Irish Governments affirm jointly that the right of all peoples to self-determination derives from the achievement of consensus;

(2) The British and Irish Governments jointly acknowledge the failure thus far to produce government with consensus in Northern Ireland and consequently to acknowledge jointly the redundancy of claims to sovereignty over Northern Ireland and, in so doing, to jointly indicate the intention of withdrawing such claims in due course;

(3) The British and Irish Governments jointly initiate a process in Northern Ireland whereby the people of Northern Ireland may, by both the principles and mechanisms of consensus, determine their own future and in so doing agree to act as joint sponsors for the process;

(4) At the outset, the British and Irish Governments, without prejudice to the ongoing development of their mutual relationship in a wider context, suspend such workings of the Anglo-Irish Conference as may relate to Northern Ireland or limit any relevant workings to those for which a measure of consensus is acknowledged from currently recognised leaders of public and political opinion in Northern Ireland;

(5) The British and Irish Governments jointly sponsor or otherwise effectively support the establishment of a public forum charged with debating the means of consensus in Northern Ireland and the mechanisms by which it might be obtained and assessed: such public forum to have all appropriate secretarial support and to have facilities for producing reports including a final report.

(6) The British and Irish Governments sponsor or otherwise effectively establish a constitutional convention elected by the people using such means as the list system to yield the widest possible representation charged with considering, in the first instance, the final report of the public forum and otherwise formally to prepare proposals which are likely to lead to consensus including the mechanisms for the implementation of such proposals: such a convention to have all quasi-parliamentary facilities at its disposal.

(7) Through the use of a mechanism such as the preferendum, to which I have alluded, to determine at the conclusion of the convention the option which can be shown to have the greatest consensus among the delegates and to put this option before the people requiring the support of two-thirds of the valid votes cast for ratification.

Remember this is taking place in the context of knowing that the two Governments have acknowledged that their respective claims to sovereignty have not worked and that they are now, in the long term, prepared to withdraw these in order to promote a new consensus-making form of self-determination.

(8) The British and Irish Governments to act as joint guarantors for the outcome provided it is consistent with the principle of consensus democracy as distinct from majoritarianism and provided it is not repugnant to internationally-acknowledged charters, conventions, declarations and conventions on human rights.

(9) — and perhaps most important of all to those who would be cynical about such proposals — in the event of failure to achieve the necessary vote, the proposals be referred back to the convention for further consideration and recycled to a successful conclusion unless it becomes apparent that for the time being it cannot reach conclusion. At that juncture the workings of the Anglo-Irish Conference would be reactivated and a decision taken as to whether under the Anglo-Irish aegis further suspension of the workings of the Conference at a later date might still hold out prospects of a satisfactory conclusion. If, however, it were decided that this was unlikely or if the further process ended in deadlock also, then the position should be fully described to the European Commission and the European Parliament and proposals invited from the European Community on the best means of indefinite maintenance of civilised services until such time as there is evidence of indigenous willingness to find consensus anew.

At that constitutional convention many options, presumably, would be put forward and it would be important for those of us who believe and are committed to the building of a new Ireland not to be backward in presenting our view on the development of such a new Ireland and how a consensus might be achieved for it and in the process to challenge not only Unionism but also Republicanism.

Now that I come to a conclusion, I want to throw out a few ideas which would need to be looked at by those who are serious about grappling with the problem in consciousness of the divided Irish people, and in particular the divided people of Northern Ireland.

In trying to promote and keep alive the idea that the people of Ireland will some day be able to live harmoniously together in this island we must do it in the context of appreciating the deeply held convictions and the conditioning of consciousness that goes with what one perceives as being a republican Irishman and a British Irishman — if that is not a contradiction in terms. When we do that, we have to look back through 400 — some would say 800 — years of history, of a cycle of recurring violence, of frustrated aspirations of the Irish majority for the most of that period, a majority often violent in its frustration and in its abject deprivation against the arrogant threatening supremacy of Unionism which was so well articulated inThe Irish Times article last Saturday.

We cannot expect that it is going to be easy. But I come back to the appeal for generosity and say that unless we feel uncomfortable then we are not really being generous. Generosity starts with at least a questioning deep enough to feel in the Irish context at least that you may be uncomfortable. I speak quite personally and with quite a lot of experience in this field because some of us can claim to have challenged the people who belonged to the tradition out of which we came. Many people in Ireland do not yet realise how far they have to go to do the same thing.

First, we would have to acknowledge, those of us who would be seeking a consensus for a united Ireland, that it would need to introduce the concept of a transition period so that those who felt most disadvantaged by the prospect could see it as a period of trial and those who believe in it could be promoting it as a challenge rather than as a threat.

It would be very important to acknowledge that some degree of autonomy for Northern Ireland would be essential for quite a long time to come, not only to deal with matters which could not be resolved overnight but also in the context of the crying demand throughout western Europe for decentralisation and more power to the regions and to the communities. With Article 12 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in mind a primary consideration of the Anglo-Irish parliamentary body once it is set up, should be to explore, among other things, the possibility of a co-ordinating conference of the WISE, the Welsh, the Irish, the Scots and the English. I did not say a British-Irish arrangement. This conference could meet regularly on symbolically neutral territory. A conference such as that, which would reflect the interests of regions and satellite island communities rather than those of the centralised power located in London and Dublin could become a catalyst for a worth-while new debate on the wider implications of what has come to be known as the totality of relationships within these islands.

Another thing that should be seriously considered is why it is that the people of Ireland cannot even conceive at the moment of the possibility of reassociation with the commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth of Nations is no longer the British Commonwealth of Nations, although many Unionists still believe it is. The Commonwealth of Nations consists of a number of republics. Many of them have post-colonial problems such as Ireland experienced. It would provide a further platform, an out-reach for Ireland to promote its positively neutral, peacemaking role in the world but perhaps most important of all, if one needed to be reassured, is that it would give Ireland an opportunity to have a voice where it could exercise control over its most powerful neighbour in relation to the other members who are associated with it.

A Bill of Rights goes without saying but when we come to the possibility of releasing prisoners with amnesty on ceasefire, many people stall. I think that any process that has a hope of being successful in the long term for Northern Ireland must, if all possible, be introduced with a negotiated truce and must conclude with the possibility of ceasefire and amnesty. It would be quite unreasonable to expect peace and no violence if we cannot negotiate with those who have been perpetuating the war and, in the final analysis, when all this is being concluded some negotiation must take place with those who at present have the power to hold the rest of us to ransom, even if it is the most distasteful form of power, the power that comes out of the barrel of a gun. Unless we come to grips with how we can get a truce, how we can get a cease-fire, we are going to be bedevilled in this debate and we are likely to be still debating the same topic 20 years from now.

A community charter is vital. It is all very well talking about concensus and power at the macro-level, but if people continue to feel powerless where they work and where they live, if they continue to feel there is no consensus in their neighbourhood, then they will say: "It is all very well for those who sit in the Seanad or those who debate in the other House or those who debate in Westminster, but for us in the streets the thing means nothing". There is an urgent need for a community charter to ensure that in the context of bills of rights the people of Ireland, North and South, have enough power to make decisions effective where they live and work.

Explicit separation of Church and State should by now go without saying, but more important perhaps would be specific ecclesiastical, cultural and social initiatives designed to ensure that the children of Ireland would grow in unity and that the sectarian and class basis of separation in the growing-up would become a thing of the past in Ireland. It is in that context that I would applaud also the work of Dr. Mawhinney in bringing about encouragement for integrated education in the North. It is very churlish of any organisation to question the right of funding, even if it is somewhat privileged funding to get it off the ground because there is no doubt that while denominational education has not been the cause of the problem, integrated education is certainly part of the solution. It is vital that we consider ways and means of sustaining the economy during a phase of transition. That means canvassing those parts of the world which have a vested interest in law and order in Ireland, such as North America and Europe, to sustain us while we undergo the trauma of change.

The people living in the Irish Republic would have to face up to and indeed acknowledge that movement out for the people of Northern Ireland to resolve this conflict with them implies the dissolution of the present State and Constitution of the Republic. I sometimes wonder if that is not a price which many down here would find too high to pay. In fact it is axiomatic, when you think of it, because there is no way that Articles 2 and 3 give any legal right to the people of the Twenty-six Counties to take over the Six Counties in the event of the withdrawal of British sovereignty from them. One of the ingredients for those of us who would advocate consensus for an all-Ireland arrangement must be the setting up of an All-Ireland Constitutional Conference so that we can discuss an agenda, tabled by Northern representatives and by the representatives of the rest of Ireland, for the purpose of drafting a provisional constitution which would reflect the degree of consensus that would be the justification of any claim to unity. I believe that the ratification of these ideas in the all-Ireland context must be in both North and South separately.

Finally, I come to our amendment, which is being pressed, and the amendment which is being pressed by Senators Murphy and Ross. I think the danger of the latter amendment is that it is very impractical. Many people in the Republic who might wish that Articles 2 and 3 had never been inserted in the Constitution would have great difficulty in voting to exclude them for as long as they see Westminster sovereignty in Northern Ireland. It is only in the context of a fundamentally significant move from Westminster that one could anticipate any possibility of those two clauses having any hope of being removed from the Constitution. If they were not removed from the Constitution in a referendum, as is suggested in the amendment, then it would only reinforce the worst fears of the Loyalist community in the North.

What I have tried to do in our amendment is to acknowledge the need to change the emphasis of these Articles and particularly I do that in recalling the visit of the late John McMichael about three weeks before he was assassinated when he was at the gates of Leinster House making that appeal for amending Articles 2 and 3, not for their repeal. Therefore it is important to consider how these could be amended in a spirit of brotherhood and patience which would give hope that the people of Ireland could reach accommodation on the basis of consensus for the future. I would emphasise that Articles 2 and 3 do not pose any threat, which is sustainable in law either national or international to the territory of Northrn Ireland. In order to support that point I will quote from the late Supreme Court Judge Kenny's prestigious lecture which he gave in Belfast in 1977, Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, Volume 30, No. 3, page 206:

When the people enacted the constitution they did not make a legal claim that the parliament and government established by the Constitution had any legal power under international or national law to exercise any power over Northern Ireland.

In other words, if Westminster were to withdraw sovereignty from Northern Ireland in the morning there is no way, short of the use of force — which nobody down here is advocating — without further negotiation that the two parts of Ireland could come together.

I hope, a Chathaoirligh, that in the course of my presentation I have indicated to you that, while it is a long journey we are embarked upon, unless we start to think about it and think of what it will involve in terms of generosity, in terms of compromise, in terms of movement, in terms of the new world that we are going to enter into in 1992, that we in fact will do the people of Northern Ireland little justice in the travail they have suffered for these 20 years. We must be prepared to be imaginative and we must first and foremost, be prepared to challenge our own tradition and ask what role have we played in perpetuating their conflict and what can we now do to meet them on reasonable terms to try to engage in dialogue. But that will require, not just the Republic's involvement; it will require British involvement. I hope that the British people will try to get from their Government gradually what the British people want, that is, an orderly — and I emphasise "orderly"— means of withdrawing the claim to sovereignty over Northern Ireland. In the context of what I said about the constitutional claim or lack of claim to Northern Ireland we can then, under Anglo-Irish aegis, promote a new debate in Northern Ireland where the people themselves can determine on the basis of consensus how they are going to live together as Northern Irishmen living in Ireland. I speak as an Irishman.

As it is now one minute to 1 o'clock we must adjourn the debate.

I would like to know who the next speaker is?

I think there was a question of that this morning when I was not in the Chair. I think it was Fianna Fáil, then Fine Gael and then Fianna Fáil and then Independents.

Would it be possible to accommodate Senator Ryan and myself? We have been here two-and-a-half hours. The Leader of the House indicated that he hoped each side could at least contribute in the beginning. Could we possibly get agreement now that Senator Ryan and myself might be accommodated?

No, we could not have that. The time of 1 o'clock was decided upon.

I move the Adjournment then.

My understanding would be that our group would be the next group to speak. I move the Adjournment.

Debate adjourned.