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 in Fortnight, 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 a cul-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 sympathetic quid 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 in The 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.