This State will spend an estimated £172 million this year on security connected with the Northern Ireland situation. That continues to represent almost four timesper capita the level of expenditure—
Review of the Anglo-Irish Agreement: Statements.
On a point of order, I suggest that you a Cheann Comhairle, might allow those who wish to leave the House to do so and then let the Minister resume. In that way we might be able to hear what he has to say.
The Chair does his best to maintain order in this House. He has consistently appealed to Members at the end of Question Time and the Order of Business to leave the Chamber as quietly as possible.
This State will spend an estimated £172 million this year on security connected with the Northern Ireland situation. That continues to represent almost four timesper capita the level of expenditure by the taxpayer in Britain in respect of Northern Ireland. That expense is incurred at a time of national austerity and financial belt-tightening, but we do not grudge it. We make that expenditure willingly because it is in our own interest to do so and in the interests of preserving lives in the North. People in Northern Ireland are our fellow Irish men and women and we aspire to unity with them in a new Ireland. Our efforts in regard to security co-operation are all the more necessary because of that feeling and that aspiration.
Extradition is an internationally accepted instrument in the fight against serious crime and international terrorism. I draw attention to serious crime because in the public discussion that takes place on extradition, the focus tends 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 in tackling the increasingly serious actions of what are called "ordinary" criminals although the threat they pose to us and to our children, for example, through kidnapping or illegal drug trafficking is far from "ordinary".
We all agree that extradition must not be unreasonable or arbitrary and that an extradited person should be treated properly and given a fair trial. The Government consider that it is right and necessary to have extradition but to have it 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. One of these is the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act, 1976. We are examining with the British Government how the reciprocal legislation in this area can also be used to advance legal co-operation.
I believe that the efforts of the Government since taking office, and the efforts of the previous Government, are recognised by all the people in the North, including Unionists. It is a remarkable fact that the area in which by far the most people in Northern Ireland believe there has been improvement since the Anglo-Irish Agreement is the area of security co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the RUC. In a recent poll published in theBelfast Telegraph on 4 October 1988, 47 per cent agreed that there had been an improvement, including 38 per cent of Protestants, in security co-operation. That compares with only 21 per cent who thought that the Anglo-Irish Agreement had led to an improvement in the administration of justice, and even fewer, 13 per cent who thought the Anglo-Irish Agreement had led to an improvement in job prospects.
The same poll to which I have just referred asked people in Northern Ireland whether they believed that terrorism would most likely be defeated by security measures, by political measures, by a combination of security and political measures, or could not be defeated at all. By far the largest number, 42 per cent, believe that terrorism will most likely be defeated by a combination of security and political measures. It is all the more striking that a slightly larger proportion of Protestants than Catholics, 44 per cent, believe this to be so.
Of course the issue of confidence in the administration of justice cannot be treated merely as an aspect of more effective security operations. Its inclusion in Articles 7 and 8 of the Agreement reflects its wider importance as a political factor in Northern Ireland. It is a major goal to be pursued in its own right as a means of attacking the vicious circle in which the absence of confidence and the absence of political consensus reinforce each other for the worse.
Building confidence in the administration of justice and better relations between security forces and the community in Northern Ireland involves two things. First, the level of public confidence is directly related to the policies pursued by the authorities and to decisions taken by them in pursuit of these policies. Confidence in the administration of justice must be adversely affected by, for example, the decision not to prosecute on foot of the Stalker-Sampson report when evidence clearly existed to support the prosecution for the perversion of the course of justice. The decision recently announced to make major modifications to the right of silence is also a decision which has affected confidence negatively.
Secondly, the level of public confidence is related directly to the practical experience of people in their everyday encounters with the security forces and the legal system. Measures need to be taken urgently not just to show willingness to improve these relations but to remove or reduce the objective causes of the widespread view that the security forces engage in conduct which is well beyond, or completely unrelated to, reasonable security measures, in other words, harassment.
There has been a number of positive developments in the administration of justice over the last three years. The supergrass trials which were such a cause of controversy and concern because they involved as many as 30 defendants tried on the uncorroborated word of an accomplice informer before a single judge without a jury, have been brought to an end. At the same time, however, there has been no "substantial expression", in the words of the Agreement, of the aim of public confidence in the administration of justice. The Government continue to be of the view that on objective legal grounds, as well as on the grounds of increasing public confidence, the method of trial for scheduled offences in the Diplock Court needs to be reformed. We remain of the view that a three judge court of first instance is the right step to take.
The Government have already expressed their deep concern at the changes to the right of silence which have now passed through the Westminster Parliament and which go far beyond the provisions in our jurisdiction in the Criminal Justice Act, 1984. I draw attention especially to the change which will enable an adverse inference to be drawn by the court if a person chooses not to give evidence. This is not only a major modification of the principle that the prosecution must prove its case, it will also increase the burden already borne by the single Diplock judge.
In the area of the police, the Tánaiste has noted on a number of occasions the improvement in the security provided to members of the Nationalist community during the marching season and the more impartial decisions of the police in the conduct and routing of parades. It is clear, however, 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 the formal complaints machinery, will monitor complaints and bring a prompt end to reprehensible behaviour by the security forces where that is warranted.
I have to say, too, that the level of accompaniment of the Army and UDR by the RUC is not at all satisfactory and that much more needs to be done to implement the formal commitment in the Hillsborough communique to the application of the principle that the armed forces, including the Ulster Defence Regiment, operate only in support of the civil power with the particular objective of ensuring as rapidly as possible that, save in the most exceptional cases, there is a police presence in all operations which involve direct contact with the community.
In the prisons area there has been progress in conditions and on the question of release, especially for young prisoners who committed their offence at an age younger than 18 and who were given indeterminate sentences. The Government are conscious that a number of persons were caught up in violence in Northern Ireland in the 1970s at a very young and impressionable age and they recognise the importance which the families of the prisoners and the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland attach to the issue of prison releases. It is an area which the Government consider extremely important, which is kept to the forefront of discussions with the British Government and in which we wish to see progress sustained.
In summary, the review of the working of the Agreement over the next few months will examine the overall record of the Agreement in detail and it will seek to imbue the Anglo-Irish process with a new sense of urgency. Strong foundations have been built for the Conference and Secretariat but it would be wrong to suggest that we are satisfied with the scope and pace of change to date. Much more needs to be done in particular in the area I have been speaking about, the administration of justice and relations between security forces and the community.
Before I conclude I want to return to the emphasis I laid at the beginning of this statement on the importance of joint action by the two sovereign Governments to deal with the problem of Northern Ireland. It has been said — and I agree — that the very serious difficulties we have had in the last year or so would have caused even greater strains had the machinery of the Agreement, the Anglo-Irish Conference and Secretariat, not been there to be used and to permit an immediate exchange of views.
It is important to recognise that our relationship with the other island is a unique one. The contribution of Irish people to the politics and the economic, social and cultural advancement of Britain has been extraordinary. Britain is our largest trading partner and — let us not forget — we are Britain's seventh largest trading partner. We give each other voting rights. We have a common travel area. British and Irish people can move freely from one jurisdiction to the other and it is important to bear that advantage in mind when we consider the problems which undoubtedly exist in the operation of security measures such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Our development as a State, our international achievements in the United Nations and elsewhere, our membership of the EC, and now our participation in the Anglo-Irish Conference have all helped to place the relations between the British and Irish Governments on a basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect. That gives us reason for no little pride as well as hope and determination to improve our relations still further, to end the problem of violence in our land and to reach a historic understanding among all sections of the people of Ireland.
A Leas-Cheann Comhairle——
Deputy Seán Barrett.
I am sure I will not be out of order if I avail of the opportunity, first to congratulate Deputy Ray MacSharry on his appointment as European Commissioner. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity when the announcement was made. Also let me say that, despite the fact that he is our political opponent, it is delightful to see the Taoiseach back on his feet again. We wish him all good health.
I thank the Deputy.
Having listened to the Tánaiste's contribution this morning, I am extremely disappointed with the uninspiring opening address we got from him. I sense a sort of begrudging acceptance that this Agreement is in place and that our Government are doing the minimum they possibly can to keep it ticking over. I say that in all sincerity because I suppose it is understandable when one considers the attitude adopted by Fianna Fáil when this Agreement was signed and the efforts made at that time by, in particular, the Tánaiste to do all in his power to damage the impact of the Agreement in November 1985. It is important that we state that.
Having said that, let me say that I sincerely hope that if anything arises out of this debate today it will push the Government into a more positive attitude towards the Anglo-Irish Agreement, because an Agreement of this nature will succeed only if both parties to that Agreement want it to succeed. In order for it to succeed it needs leadership, and there is a glorious opportunity for this Government, for the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste to show some inspired leadership in this instance, some understanding, compassion and sincerity towards the people who are plagued with this horrible problem day in and day out in the Six Counties. It is an opportunity for the Taoiseach to bury the remarks he is supposed to have made to Deputy Neil Blaney at the formation of this Government when Deputy Blaney in this House stated that when he asked the Taoiseach what he intended to do with the Anglo-Irish Agreement the answer Deputy Blaney got was that he intended to let it wither away.
In these circumstances those of us on this side of the House were for the first eight or ten months of the life of the Government extremely sceptical about the attitude of the Government towards the Anglo-Irish Agreement, because literally nothing was happening. It is important also for those of us who perhaps regard ourselves as the younger generation on this island to ask those people who consistently refer back to Civil War politics and to aspirations that we all hold but know in the short term cannot be achieved, to leave us alone and give us an opportunity of living our lives like young Irishmen and women who want to forget about the past, who do not want to bury our aspirations but just to live in peace and harmony in the real world. The reality is that one million people on this island say they want nothing to do with a united Ireland and, despite what aspirations any of us has, we are not going to bomb those one million people into submission.
Let me make a suggestion. This debate would have been far more fruitful if we all had come into this Chamber and somebody started at page 1 of the Agreement and read out the preamble and Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 and let us go through each line of this Agreement and ask how far we have gone to try to bring about what this Agreement is really trying to do, that is to give both communities in Northern Ireland an opportunity to live in peace.
The Agreement goes on to say that it recognises that those of us who support the Nationalist viewpoint do not have to forfeit our right to a united Ireland, that some day if there is agreement of a majority in Northern Ireland that will come about. It says equally to the Unionist population that until that day arrives we are not going to force them into something they do not want to go into.
I have listened to many debates on TV and radio and in here, and it appears that the number of people on this island who have read that document must be extremely limited, because the ignorance displayed in some of the comments on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland shows either that people do not want to know what is in it or do not want to understand clearly what is in it. I and my party would be only too delighted if, tomorrow morning, the Taoiseach could sit down with the Unionists in Northern Ireland and go through this document, find out what their fears are, listen to their grievances and come back into this House to see could we co-operate to bring about a situation by which the aims of this Agreement could be achieved. We are dealing here with people's lives. It is just not good enough to play party politics. Those of us who have children would not like to have to face the day-to-day problems that people in Northern Ireland are facing. When their children leave home they do not know if they will come back safely. If they go out to shop, a bomb may go off, and maybe their son or daughter will be maimed for life. Their son or daughter might be coaxed into some subversive organisation that can point to the constitutional politicians and claim, perhaps with some justification, that we have failed to find a solution.
All of us who are interested in constitutional politics have a moral obligation to forget our grievances in relation to what went on in this island in the past and to come together to find a solution that, first of all, will bring about peace and stability. We are all marvellous at issuing statements every time a bomb goes off and sympathising with the unfortunate people who are affected by such an atrocity, but actions speak louder than words and I am afraid we have failed to a great extent to persuade those who hold a different viewpoint that we are not about to take them over or to impose something on them against their will and that this Agreement is something really positive.
As this debate is supposed to be about the review of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, it is important that we look at what successes we have had and what we should be trying to do in the future to improve the situation. There have been some successes and the Minister announced those this morning. We have had an improvement in policing in the marching season and an end to the supergrass trials; we have had the beginning of an economic programme in West Belfast and preparation of new and, hopefully, effective fair employment legislation; but these are all things that one would expect in any free, democratic society. We are talking about the right of people to get a job irrespective of their religious or political beliefs. All of these things we talk about as successes are things that any reasonable, free, democratic society would expect for its inhabitants.
Over the last 18 months we have had meetings between the Tánaiste and his opposite number in the UK, in accordance with the Anglo-Irish Conference. Despite what the Tánaiste may tell us it would appear to us that all of these have been about crisis management and security problems that arose and had to be attended to. Unless there is something we do not know about, that is a fair assessment as far as this side of the House is concerned.
All of the blame is not on the side of our Government. The British Government must realise they also have a role to play in the success of this Agreement, that they are in a position to bring about changes if they want to do so. I have openly criticised the attitude of the British, particularly in relation to some incidents that have occurred in the past, for instance, the Gibraltar affair when it was quite clear that the security forces should have made a better effort to arrest the three individuals in question and bring them before the courts.
I know the British authorities at times take exception to criticism, but it is only fair and proper that if we have something to say we should say it straight to their faces and make them realise that every time they make decisions like this they make it twice as difficult for us here to deal with terrorists and subversives. Every time an incident like this occurs it results in marvellous publicity for the Provos and drives people into their arms, despite our efforts to persuade people towards constitutional politics. The British must respect the difficulties we have here and the cost to this island of the security we have to supply because of a border that was created many years ago, a border that is extremely difficult to secure and police and that is costing this country vast sums of money. At the time of the Forum it was estimated that the loss of tourism revenue up to the beginning of the troubles was in excess of £1,000 million. I understand that the additional costs of security to us last year were £180 million. God only knows what losses we have had in investment opportunities in the past 20 years since these troubles started.
What do the young people say to us when they hear these figures being thrown out? If we had £1,000 million to invest in jobs for the 250,000 people that are unemployed, that money would be far better employed than it is on what it is being used for at present, to keep the Provos, the UVF and other subversives and terrorists just at bay. It is important that we get this message across loud and clear to every citizen of this country. Like other Deputies in this House, I attend meetings and have been on radio programmes and people telephone in and want to know why politicians do not talk about unemployment and emigration rather than about Northern Ireland. They have this notion that because we talk about Northern Ireland we have only this aspiration of a 32 county united Ireland. The message has not got across to the Irish people that as long as that problem remains in Northern Ireland this country suffers a vast loss of revenue day in and day out, never mind which should of course come first, the loss of lives of citizens of this island.
It is vitally important that we realise that when we talk about finding a solution to Northern Ireland we are talking about people's lives, the people who are living there on a daily basis, whether Unionist, Nationalist, Catholic or Protestant. That is the situation we have to face. We are dealing with people's lives; we are dealing with lives down here; we are dealing with loss of investment opportunities and with a type of society that nobody will want to live in. I just want to put on record, like my colleagues, Deputies Dukes and Barry, what we want on this side of the House. First, we want regular meetings of the Anglo-Irish Conference. We want ongoing discussions on important political items. Many of the problems that have arisen over the last 18 months would not have arisen if there was regular political contact between elected politicians to discuss these problems on an ongoing basis. When there is loss of contact mistakes are more likely to be made. Nothing has been done in the last 18 months to create confidence in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. Only recently the Tánaiste was talking about something that Deputy Peter Barry was speaking about 18 months ago, three judge courts. This is only a new item on the agenda.
I would advise the Deputy that his time has expired.
I will very quickly put a couple of points on record. We want to see a devolved Government in Northern Ireland, political discussion that will bring that about and regular meetings of the Conference to deal with that aspect. We want the promotion of cross-Border co-operation in relation to economic and social development. We can see an all-Ireland rugby team appearing on a pitch. Why can we not have more contact through sport which can break down barriers, as has been proved in the past? Of course we want cross-Border security to deal with the common enemy, terrorism, and of course we will support reasonable extradition arrangements. We, like other parties in this House, want safeguards. We want only people who have a case to answer to be extradited, not people who are just to be questioned. We do not want any suspension of the Agreement; we want talks with the Unionists in Northern Ireland so that the main purpose of the whole operation, a devolved government, will be achieved.
I should like to thank the Chair for his tolerance. A time limit of 15 minutes on an important subject like this is very short. I hope that at the end of the debate something positive and constructive emerges. We should all reaffirm our commitment to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the working of it. This side of the House will always be available to give a positive response.
The Tánaiste in his opening statement, and my colleagues in Government in their earlier interventions, have addressed a wide range of issues that will arise in the course of the review. They have commented on the symbolic and substantive achievements of the Agreement, the ground that has been covered in the past three years and the outstanding issues that have to be urgently addressed.
I share the sense of urgency which has been expressed in this debate. The human and economic costs of violence in Northern Ireland are appallingly high. The most poignant and tragic loss of course is that of the lives of men, women and children. It is a loss of chilling finality which can never be made good. But while the dead are rightly mourned, our first duty is to the living, to the vast majority of people of both communities in Northern Ireland who long for normal, peaceful lives lived in a society which offers dignity and decency to its citizens.
When we talk of lives of dignity and decency, it is shorthand for much else. It encompasses the political, legal and economic environment in which people function. It means a fair deal in education, housing, jobs; it means equality before the law; it means acceptance of the culture and ethos of different traditions.
The harsh reality is that many or all of these basic democratic rights were withheld from the Nationalist community during the Stormont years. A veneer of normality covered over the discrimination and repression; but that veneer cracked under the civil rights demands of the late sixties. For 20 years the society of Northern Ireland has been torn apart, and the healing process was bound to be a long one.
That veneer of normality that covered the discrimination and repression was not all one-sided. Television programmes many years ago showed up bad housing conditions on the Shankill Road. I watched the emergence of Dr. Ian Paisley from the social problems in that area. The social problems were bound to explode. I recall discussing the matter with business associates over lunch in Belfast in early 1970 and their view was that the problem was so bad that it amounted to a time bomb waiting to explode. They said that once that time bomb was set off the problems would be with us for a long time. In fact, they forecast that thousands of lives would be lost. I did not believe that forecast but how right those people were. They could see how deep-rooted the problem had become. Many people were left uncared for for a long time with the inevitable result.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement is an attempt to create a basis on which dignity and decency can be restored to the lives of the people of Northern Ireland, particularly the minority community. That it has succeeded in part is indisputable. That it has failed to wholly succeed is also, I would suggest, indisputable. The main questions are: does it hold promise for the future? Does it have a potential that is capable of being realised? I believe that the answer to those questions is "yes", but in saying so I must emphasise that there is a need for a much stronger commitment from the other signatory to the Agreement, if it is to realise its potential. It calls for much more than over-concentration on security matters to the exclusion of other initiatives which, in my view, could go a long way towards building bridges of trust between the two communities. The long litany of insensitive, ill-timed statements and decisions that have been issued over the years have not done anything to ease the problem. In my view they have succeeded, as Deputy Barrett said, in acting as a recruiting force for the IRA while at the same time making the divide much wider. It is difficult to understand that after that long period of time nothing has been learned about the real problems of that part of our island.
An issue on which I would like to make some remarks is that of fair employment. We have noted some developments in this area, and the proposed new legislation would appear to hold promise of concrete change, but there is one point worth emphasising, location of industry is probably at least as influential in securing an equitable share-out of employment as is a revision of existing legislation. There is an historical imbalance of massive proportions in Northern Ireland in this respect. It is no doubt true that industry is attracted to the facilities of the Belfast area, but that is not the only factor. It is sobering to recall that between 1922 and 1964 of the 111 advance factories built by the Minister of Commerce in Northern Ireland, only 16 were built in the three western counties. While the record improved considerably subsequently, this legacy of discriminatory decisions on location cannot be discounted. Past decisions may be largely irreversible, but it is essential that their effect is taken into account when decisions are taken which have an influence on location of new industry.
As Minister with an economic brief I would also like to comment on the scope for action in the economic area. In my view, that area can contribute in its own way much more than many of the other matters referred to in the debate. Building up the economies of both sides of the Border could help to reduce the mistrust and bring people closer together. Article 10 of the Agreement provides that the two Governments shall co-operate to promote the economic and social development of those areas of both parts of Ireland which have suffered most severely from the consequences of instability in recent years. This applies in the South to our Border counties particularly.
A substantial degree of co-operation in the economic sphere has already developed between the two administrations at many levels as a result of the Agreement. North and South we share many common problems, particularly high unemployment and it is recognised that a co-operative approach in practical initiatives to develop the economy of the whole island is in everybody's interest. It is through practical co-operation in areas of mutual economic concern that the barriers of mistrust can be broken down. The north-west study which both Governments have agreed to commission is an example of our co-operative approach to addressing particular economic problems in the Border areas. The study will assess the major economic and social problems of the Donegal, Derry and Strabane areas and recommend a development strategy for the region as well as examine the scope for close co-ordination between the authorities on both sides of the Border. The emphasis will be on practical and realistic recommendations. An application to carry out this study has been lodged with the EC and we hope for an early response.
The International Fund for Ireland, which owes its origin to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, is now almost two years in operation and has received substantial assistance from abroad and from the US in particular. Of over £20 million allocated to projects in the South almost £5 million is currently being expended on a variety of projects under the business enterprise programme.
The business enterprise programme is geared towards creating viable jobs in the Southern Border counties and in the North. It has been particularly active in supporting the start-up and expansion of small business and in identifying areas which are not covered by the promotional agencies. For example, a small business task force has been established which is assisting companies, on a sectoral basis, to identify constraints on the development of their industry and to evolve solutions to them, be they at the production or the distribution level. County enterprise companies have been established in each of the six Border counties with a mandate to encourage greater entrepreneurship through the availability of revolving business funds, assistance towards workshop accommodation and community economic activity.
One of the main objectives of the fund was to encourage greater co-operation between North and South and a striking example of its success was the tremendous impact which a joint Galway-Derry initiative made at the first Ireland Trade Festival which was held in Boston last May. That event was so successful that plans are well underway, assisted by the IFI and CTT, for another festival in Boston next year.
The IFI have also been actively involved in the development of Irish science and technology particularly through focusing on gaps in the ever-changing industrial infrastructure. Over £2.5 million has been allocated to projects in the South to date.
The approach of 1992 and its implications for North-South relations is of particular interest and relevance. In an EC context we are faced with similar problems as a result of our location on the periphery of the Community. In addition the elimination of customs barriers between the North and South of Ireland after 1992 will give a strong impetus to Border trade and will eliminate the perspective of the economic border that exists between North and South.
Even when we have reached the situation of solving all the major cost disadvantages we have internally on the island of Ireland we are still left with a sea dividing us from the mainland market of Europe, the only part of the whole market that will be left without a land frontier. There, I suggest, we have common problems to take up at EC level as, indeed, we are doing in many other areas.
1992 is, as we all know, a watershed year for Europe. I see it as a year of opportunity in every sense. As barriers come down between the economies of the European countries, they also come down between the peoples of these counties. Any clinging in the six counties of Northern Ireland to the slogan of "ourselves alone" will become increasingly anachronistic in the nineties. Equally anachronistic will be those who cling to a siege mentality that is rooted in the history of past centuries.
The approach of 1992 has certainly not gone unnoticed in the context of North-South relations. Contacts are taking place at various levels of industry and in other sectors. I discussed the whole question last July with Peter Viggers, M.P., Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with responsibility for Industry, when I met him at Stormont Castle to discuss North-South economic co-operation. We agreed that a major seminar dealing with the issues involved should be held in the Irish Institute at Louvain in December next. The purpose of this seminar is to prepare industrialists and senior representatives of public sector agencies North and South for the elimination of trade barriers in 1992. The choice of the Irish Institute at Louvain, a seventeenth century building which has itself been refurbished by trainees from both sides of the Border, is symbolic of the spirit of co-operation which exists between the two Governments on this issue.
The contents of the Forum report on "The Economic Consequences of the Division of Ireland since 1920" remain highly pertinent today. The report noted that the division of the island has given rise to considerable economic costs, North and South. I quote - "For example in the absence of co-ordinated long-term planning, capital investment in areas such as energy, education and health, has entailed considerable duplication of expenditure. The impact on areas contiguous to the Border was particularly adverse. Not only were they detached from their trading hinterlands, but the difficulties of their location were worsened by their transformation into peripheral regions at the dividing line of two new administrative units". I would suggest that 1992 offers us an opportunity, if we wish to avail of it, to redress some of the economic consequences of that division.
I mentioned at the outset of my comments the human and economic cost of the violence in Northern Ireland. The human cost dwarfs all others. But even if we were not driven to act by the human tragedy of Northern Ireland, there is a compelling economic argument for action. The direct and indirect costs to our economy since 1969 for the violence in Northern Ireland were estimated by the Forum, in 1982 prices, at over £2,000 million. The same calculations, done today, would obviously result in a far higher figure. In today's climate of financial stringency, we can afford it even less now than at any other stage.
I am satisfied that the review process as envisaged will devote adequate attention to the advancement of work in the economic and social areas. If the litmus test is to be, and we have made it so, what issues make a difference to Nationalists in their daily lives, I have no doubt that time spent on these issues is well justified.
There are many areas where we can work together to improve the economic lot of the people of this island. I believe that the more we work together the closer we can come to one another. From a personal view and as one who lives within 35 miles of the Border area I am very familiar with the culture, the habits and the traditions of the people of Northern Ireland. From my business contacts, for long before I came into politics I had done business with many business people in the North of Ireland — I can say openly and honestly that they have made a major contribution to the total development of this island, whenever that opportunity has been afforded to them. Many times I have spent my holidays there. Since my children were very young they, too, have spent their holidays in the North of Ireland in mixed communities. Only in that way can we understand exactly what the people say, what the people feel, what the people think.
As an example, I might say that some 12 years ago I sat down with a customer of mine in the North of Ireland and talked in his sittingroom about the problem for three or four hours. He had a strong Unionist tradition, he had been an election agent for one, William Craig, and subsequently a lieutenant. He put to me the following very straight question: "as a businessman, would you eliminate Santa Claus? I replied in an honest manner that I would not and I threw the question back to him and asked: "what happens some Christmas if Santa Claus does not arrive? He replied, in the good tradition, in the strong work ethic and business community sense of the North of Ireland, "we will look for the best deal wherever we can get it." Dr. Paisley is a man with whom my company have done, and still do business too.
I do not want to go into the terms in detail as that was done this morning on behalf of the Progressive Democrats by Deputy Kennedy. I want to talk in more general terms about the Northern Ireland situation at present. It is very welcome that the Dáil is debating a primary issue of life and death in this country. It is a sad reflection on the factual level of real interest, as distinct from the level of rhetorical interest, which politicans in the Republic accord to the problems of Northern Ireland, that the topic is so rarely debated in this House.
We must avail of every opportunity at our disposal to spell out the constitutional and peacefull way forward to a resolution of the conflict there. We in the South have a vital role to play in this process, not merely in representing the views and aspirations of the Nationalist minority to the British Government, but also in working to assuage the legitimate concerns of Northern Unionistsvis-à-vis the Republic.
To fully understand the enormous breakthrough that the Anglo-Irish Agreement represents in relations between the two islands, and in the quest for a resolution of the divided Nationalist loyalties of people living on this island, it is really necessary to try to take a perspective that is longer than three years. In other words, I have no doubt that a longer-term historical perspective on the accord will surely adjudge it to have been the most important development in that context since the Government of Ireland Act which partitioned this island.
To appreciate what a significant turning point it has been, one has only to recall the declaration of four years ago by the British Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, that Northern Ireland was as British as Finchley, her own constituency. She would not state that today, she simply could not. Nowadays the Irish dimension of Northern Ireland is accorded significant recognition alongside the undoubted British dimension that exists there. It is institutionally represented by the Anglo-Irish Conference and the Conference Secretariat at Maryfield, Belfast, which has civil servants from the Republic ensuring a permanent and continuous input to the governmental process in Northern Ireland.
Of course there is a long way to go yet in the battle for full equal status for the Irish dimension of life in the North which is the tradition, right and aspiration of Nationalists living there. Above all else, there is a need for practical changes and ceaseless sensitivity in ensuring that the legal and judicial process of the North is transparently fair and just at all times to the minority there. In the face of the constant IRA terrorist campaign, I accept there are very severe difficulties facing the forces of law and order in the North, but I stress the unique importance of justice and fairness being meted out to the Nationalist minority at all times, not only because that is an absolute right anyway but because any lapses in that sensitive area, or merely apparent lapses, are always pounced on and fully exploited by the IRA murder gangs and their publicists in Sinn Féin to seek to further poison Anglo-Irish relations, to seek to further alienate Northern Nationalists from any coming together with their Unionist neighbours and to win further gullible recruits for their evil actions.
Therefore there are many legitimate areas of Nationalist concern in Northern Ireland not yet adequately addressed either by the Anglo-Irish Agreement or otherwise. However, to appreciate the significance of the fundamental progress marked out by the Agreement we have only to look at the events of the past three years from the perspective of the Unionist community. For them it has been an unprecedentedly traumatic departure. They felt, as they saw it, totally let down, betrayed and abandoned by the British. They saw a British Government — a Tory and Unionist one to boot — reducing their union status to one of mere conditionality rather than being an absolute right any longer. That conditionality is to the effect that if a majority emerges in Northern Ireland which favours unity with the Republic then the British will not stand in the way of that happening. On the other hand, it should be noted that the Tánaiste this morning, in reviewing the Articles of the Agreement one by one, never even mentioned Article 1 which, from any standpoint, is perhaps the most imporatant of all the Articles in the Agreement. Article 1 in particular constitutes an enormously significant breakthrough.
In passing we must not overlook the undoubted courage required of a British Government in taking such an initiative from their point of view. That point was legitimately expressed by Mr. Tom King in his RTE interview last evening. In the Republic we would be less than generous not to acknowledge it. As Tom King put it, the Agreement demanded a far greater break with tradition on the British side than on the Irish side. Notwithstanding that, the Agreement was totally condemned at the time by Fianna Fáil.
We are always more than quick off the mark in the Republic to criticise the British for their undoubted transgressions and failures where Ireland is concerned. Nonetheless we should give credit where it is due and when it is due.
The changed nature of the union of Northern Ireland and Great Britain signalled at Hillsborough not only challenges the Unionists' sense of their Britishness, their political future and the obligation it imposes on them to look to a wider relationship on this island; it also throws down a very clear challenge to Nationalists, not least in the Republic, to work to create a genuine majority in the North which, of necessity, must include many Unionists who will accept and see no threat in some greater links with the Republic and, in the first instance, with their Nationalist neighbours in the North.
TheNew Ireland Forum gave rise not just to Nationalist Ireland's case for new institutions — partly realised in the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement — but also demanded of Nationalists of a constitutional tradition a fundamental respect and tolerance for the diversity of traditions on this island and, specifically, to recognise the Britishness and Protestantism of Ulster Unionists.
We have talked on this part of the island of generosity but how have we acted? We have said that the Unionists would be surprised at how far we would go. But how far have we gone? We agreed in theNew Ireland Forum on the need for mutual tolerance and respect. But have we moved from that formal expression on paper into a genuine national political philosophy? In a word, have we moved one whit from mere lip service to tolerance?
Last year, in a shameful, callous, disgraceful action, the IRA struck at the heart of Unionism, showed just how well they understood the power of symbolism and tradition on this island and between these islands by blowing a Remembrance Day service at Enniskillen to human shreds.
The Nationalist majority on this island aspire, to one degree or another, to the eventual unity of the country. The realistic fulfilment of that aspiration is a long way off. But the road to its achievement, whatever its constitutional form, follows two broad but opposite signposts. One points the way to the militarist antidemocratic murder campaign of IRA terrorism, aided and abetted by their mouthpieces in Sinn Féin. Happily that is the road taken by a tiny minority of Irish Nationalists only. The other road is that of constitutional nationalism where sometimes progress is frustratingly slow. We stick to that road in the certain knowledge that the reconciliation of differences will never occur through force. But to be constitutional, to talk of generosity, to signal a willingness to enter into dialogue — positive as that may be — is not sufficient in building the necessary bridges to Unionists. Constitutional Nationalists themselves must seize the symbolic ground on which the IRA so callously stride. The process required is not a mysterious one. With courage, taking the long view, it is not even a difficult one. As well as waving the flag of generosity there are occasions when we must come out of our own trenches and, with the courage and generosity of our own constitutional values and vision, step into no-man's land with all its attendant risks. What I am saying in another way is that, in this area — where we have had oceans of verbal Republicanism — action will always speak louder than words. For example, it spoke very clearly on the question of the breakdown of marriage.
Last Sunday, one year on from the Enniskillen atrocity, and an entire generation and more from what was being remembered, an ecumenical service was held in Dublin to honour 50,000 Irish men who made the supreme sacrifice in the First World War. This was a day, less in this Republic but perhaps more so in Northern Ireland, where the Britishness of the Unionist mentality found expression. Why could our Government not be represented in any capacity whatsoever in its own capital city, symbolically building one of those necessary bridges where action speaks louder than words, where one picture that told its own story would be worth more than a thousand rhetorical repetitions of the theme of some future unspecified generosity? It might represent a small gesture but nonetheless an important symbol, and symbols seem all-important on this island. Last Sunday, and every such Sunday, when an Irish Government stays away, and hides behind the agreed formula of an entirely proper national day of commemoration, we do no service to our long-term Republican aspirations. How better to build bridges than by standing on such occasions with people of another tradition? It should be remembered that standing with them is not standing for them. They represent their own cause; we do not. Standing with them does not require of us an abandonment of what we represent and to which we aspire. What standing with them shows is simply a respect for the tradition which may not be in the mainstream of this Republic but which nonetheless, is not alien to it, and which carries its historic legitimacy and right to respect.
We have had sufficient verbal Republicanism and flag-waving. Could one blame any Unionist looking southwards last weekend from concluding ruefully that, so far as Fianna Fáil and the Irish Government are concerned, it is a case of by their deeds shall they be known.
It appears to me that the Anglo-Irish Agreement at present would be working very well if it were little more than a committee that met occasionally and discussed various relatively unimportant matters that arise from time to time. By all accounts there is a very good relationship between the Tánaiste and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. There is a kind of socialbonhomie between them which enables them to get on well on a personal basis and conduct the affairs on the agenda before them. But the real agenda so far as the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Anglo-Irish relations and the situation in Northern Ireland are concerned, cannot be conducted between those two people. It has to be conducted by the two Prime Ministers, either in person or on the telephone. Their commitment has noticeably been lacking.
It is hard to believe that it is three years yesterday since the British and Irish Prime Ministers met, other than for those brief ten minute meetings at European Councils. It is only they who can break the logjam which unquestionably has arisen in terms of making political progress. It is only they who can restore the great sense of possibility and hope which existed after the signing of the Agreement at Hillsborough three years ago. It is not enough for them, the Tánaiste or any Minister here to say that we now have regular monthly meetings of the Anglo-Irish Conference and that that in itself is enough. There is a necessity for a political commitment at the very highest level. Political commitment at the very highest level achieved what was achieved in November 1985. The same thing is called for now and this House should call for it not just from the Taoiseach but also from Mrs. Thatcher.
Tá sé de phríbhléid againn páirt a ghlacadh sa díospóireacht seo ar an socrú Angla-Éireannach. Is é an cuspóir atá againn ná mionscrúdú a dhéanamh ar an socrú sin, an méid atá déanta agus ar ród atá romhainn. Ó cheart is léirmheas atá i gceist, agus tá súil agam go mbeidh dea-thoradh ar an léirmheas sin, is é sin go rachaidh sé chun sochair don socrú Angla-Éireannach.
As many Deputies will be aware, I had considerable doubts about the terms of the Anglo-Irish Agreement when it was signed by the British and Irish Governments three years ago. It was however an international agreement entered into by two sovereign Governments and lodged at the United Nations in New York. It would be damaging to our standing among the nations to do an Ali Pasha on a solemn international agreement. We considered, when we took office in March 1987, that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was binding on us.
I mentioned considerable doubts. I still have considerable doubts about the quality of justice available in the Six Counties. Many of my constituents who, as the House knows, live along the Border have serious doubts in this regard. These are intelligent balanced citizens, the kind of people upon whom we rely for jury service and whose impeccable behaviour as citizens gives weight to their doubts and opinions.
We need movement on reform of the administration of justice and, in particular, of the Diplock Court system. As against this, I should like to welcome the new emphasis which the Conference has been giving recently to prison issues, out of which has emerged the promised review of SOSP cases. As we are all aware, Fr. Denis Faul regularly campaigns on this issue. I cannot over-emphasise the importance of a positive outcome to this review.
The Tánaiste is quoted in yesterday'sIrish News, page 1, as saying that “during the review period the Government will be drawing up a positive programme for future action with a view to broadening and deepening the work of the Conference”. I know that the administration of justice must loom large in that positive programme.
The present Government however, as they did in every other policy area, took a conscious decision to use the machinery immediately available to them — in this case, the Anglo-Irish Agreement — and tried to develop its potential in an imaginative and dynamic manner, and there has been some progress on an agenda of reform of importance to Nationalists. Supergrass trials are gone. A code of conduct for the RUC has been introduced. The marching seasons of the past two years have been the quietest on record. Work is well advanced on new fair employment legislation, but let me strike a note of caution and warning here. The Government will reserve their final position on this new legislation until they see and study the fine print of the text. We are not prepared to give blank cheques in this or any other areas. The record in that area is particularly bad. I recall seeing a career guidance teacher's book in a very large and quite distinguished post-primary school in the Six Counties which contained a column — a column which should not have been there — with the heading, "possibilities of employment in chosen career in Northern Ireland". Whereas opportunities were open in Britain and the South of Ireland, only the word "nil" could be read in the other column, a column that should not have been there.
The Government also consciously tried to broaden the approach taken by their predecessor and to extend the work of the Conference and Secretariat more actively into the social and economic areas. I have already spoken of our decision to give a new impetus to the fair employment area, an issue of central, daily concern to the Nationalist community in the Six Counties. In addition, the Government, through the Conference, were successful in having the British Government introduce a special £10 million package for west Belfast for 1988; this will be the first instalment of multi-annual and, we would expect, progressively more substantial support for west Belfast. I would fervently hope that this initiative might be extended to include disadvantaged areas in other parts of the North, including Unionist areas of deprivation. When I spoke here on this issue three years ago I referred to the deindustrialisation of areas in the North and I am sure that this matter will be a source of concern for the Anglo-Irish Conference in the future and will come under surveillance in the study being carried out on its workings.
The reference to disadvantaged areas leads me on logically to the International Fund for Ireland. The fund was established under Article 10 of the Agreement "to promote the economic and social development of those areas of both parts of Ireland which suffered most severely from the consequences of the instability of recent years". The fund to date has been supported almost exclusively from the United States, and here I must pay the warmest possible tribute to the generosity and instinctive concern for Ireland shown by so many of our friends in Congress there over the years. Indeed, today President Reagan underlined their commitment to that type of generosity in the future and we must be grateful to him and the American people. I know I will be forgiven and understood if I single out Speaker Tip O'Neill for special appreciation. The two Governments owe an exceptional debt of gratitude to Mr. O'Neill for his concern, commitment and dedication to ensuring that the fund successfully got off the ground with substantial financial support available to it. Being of Donegal stock, it pleased him to be able to use his influence in that regard.
Neither our predecessors nor ourselves were, of course, happy that a disproportionate share of the burden of financing the fund fell on the United States. We, therefore, took up actively the question of a joint approach to the European Community with the British Government. Here I must pay tribute to the Tánaiste who succeeded in convincing his opposite numbers on the British side of the importance — symbolic as well as substantive — of a Community contribution. This can be very important in the eyes of the Europeans and Americans. The response from the Community was swift and positive and a European contribution will now be available to the fund from next year on.
The operation of the fund has, of course, already been reviewed by both Governments. Following discussions at the Conference earlier in the year, a joint paper on future strategy was conveyed to the board of the fund who recommended that the fund should be focused to a greater degree in future on disadvantaged areas in Northern Ireland and that, secondly, they should consider supporting one or more imaginative cross-Border flagship projects. We are particularly pleased that the board of the fund subsequently established a Disadvantaged Areas Initiative and decided to consider supporting a number of cross-Border flagship projects. I mentioned the word "symbolic"; symbolism is very important in this regard and the key is the sharing of the project between North and South.
One of the flagship projects which is under active consideration at the moment, and to which the Government attach high priority, would involve linking the waterways of the entire island through the reopening of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal. I understand that the board of the fund are commissioning a study on,inter alia, the tourism potential of this linkage and that it is hoped that this report will be before them early in the new year. The Government, for their part, have established a high-powered inter-departmental committee to ensure that there are no bureaucratic blockages or hold-ups to the early advancement of this historic endeavour. The possibility of providing access to a system of waterways unique in Europe can only be fascinating and exciting to anyone with a feel for the tourism potential of this country and there are waterways I know from having sailed them. A reopened canal would recreate for the people of Fermanagh, Cavan and Leitrim — and indeed for the country as a whole — an invaluable and unique facility. I, as Minister for Tourism and Transport, look forward to the early advancement of this project and I will continue to give it every possible support and encouragement, both inside and outside Government.
What I have outlined up to now has been by and large the positive part of the balance sheet of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. There is, however, a very considerable amount of work still left to be done before we can say that the operation of the Agreement has made a significant and visible impact on the plight of the Nationalist community in the North. We need urgently to see a major move on harassment, which perhaps is the greatest source of concern to, and alienation of, Nationalists today. A system of responding quickly and effectively to complaints of harassment needs to be put in place as a matter of the highest priority. And this system should be accompanied by the closest possible monitoring of patterns of harassment. This is an issue of the deepest concern to the Government. Harassment is the recruiting sergeant for violence.
Secondly, the commitment on the accompaniment of the UDR, set out three years ago in the communique issued with the Agreement, needs, after three years, to be made effective. I spoke about that three years ago as well. It is, in particular, unacceptable that in Nationalist areas, and on access routes into Nationalist areas — and there are many parishes in my county, half of which are in County Cavan and half in County Fermanagh — the UDR should continue, three years after the signing of the Agreement, to be unaccompanied. The implementation of this commitment, given the history of the UDR, is the minimum reform necessary at this time.
It is time to take stock after three years of the progress — and the lack of it — achieved under the Agreement. I welcome the decision of the last Conference that the review should be "thorough and serious". I should wish to see each of the operational articles of the Agreement examined in detail and recommendations made on how their potential might best be developed. Apart from the confidence and administration of justice areas, I believe it is crucially important that the potential for co-operation in the economic and social fields be exploited and maximised, including the implications for both parts of the island of the completion of the Single Market in 1992. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Reynolds, has already spoken about this. There is enormous potential in this area which, if we can succeed in harnessing and developing it, will be of the greatest possible advantage to the people of this island, in the North as well as in the South and Unionist as well as Nationalist. I hope that my remarks will be seen always in the joint context, the North-South context, because that is what the Agreement is about. At present in the United States we are doing joint marketing of the North and South in the tourism field.
Before concluding, I would wish to place on record my very strong support for the development of the widest possible dialogue between all the political parties on this island. As the Tánaiste said, as reported in yesterday'sIrish News, “Logic, realism, and commonsense all point towards the need for such dialogue”.
Ireland will never realise its full potential unless all of us, of whatever tradition and in whatever part of the country, accept that we share a common destiny together on this island. That was the theme of my remarks when I came to this House 14 or 15 years ago. We must, together in Ireland, Unionist and Nationalist, confront the view sometimes heard from the other island that there is no solution to our problem. There is, and must be, a solution. It will be found in large part in the two great traditions in the island getting together and agreeing on how we will share this island together to the maximum benefit of all our people. That is a common theme of Mr. John Hume MP, MEP. Again I want to refer to my contribution in 1985 which recognised that.
In conclusion, I would like to wish the review every possible success. It will require great commitment, imagination and foresightedness on the part of both sides if the process is going to make the impact of the Agreement more relevant and more responsive to the real needs of people on the ground. It is largely against this background, and it is a challenging and formidable one, that the outcome of the review will be judged. I want to repeat that harassment and unevenhanded justice are the recruiting sergeants for violence.
The whole purpose of the Hillsborough Accord was to make possible political progress in Northern Ireland and, in particular, to make possible the hastening of the devolution process and the restoration, if possible, of some kind of power sharing executive of the kind which existed briefly in 1973-74. That progress was intended to be achieved partly by inserting an irritant — I mean the word in a benign sense like the piece of gravel introduced into an oyster in order to produce a pearl — in the shape of the Irish dimension in northern government. The presence of a small number of Irish civil servants is a purely symbolic thing but, as Deputy O'Malley said here half an hour ago, this is a country in which symbolisms go a very great distance, sometimes far further than practical measures. I recognise the importance of symbolisms and even though the thing could not weigh very heavily on people's practical lives, I have no doubt that the presence of an Irish official dimension in the governmental process in Maryfield does mean something disagreeable, unwelcome and unfamiliar to the ordinary Northern Unionists or Protestant just as it would be unfamiliar, disagreeable and unacceptable to us if there sat in on Government processes in Merrion Street looking over every Minister's shoulder a couple of gentlemen or ladies from Whitehall.
We have to understand, even though it takes an effort to understand it, the Unionist mentality. Deputies, particularly those like Deputy Wilson from the Border counties, are always at pains to tell us how well they understand the Unionists, that they have been dealing with them all their lives. Even Deputy Reynolds, who does not strike me as being a Border-type, was boasting a while ago that he lived only 35 miles away from them. We are always hearing about how well they are understood but I think it is only the very odd Deputy who makes the point here that they, too, have sensibilities and that if we try to put ourselves in their position — even though I have no sympathy with the history behind their activities; I realise that they laid down the ground on which their present misfortunes have been built — and tried to reverse the irritations under which they now live we would find that we too would think we had plenty of reason to be intransigent and to be grumbling.
At present political progress towards devolution and power sharing is blocked by the Unionists refusal — I know I am telescoping a whole spectrum of opinions and views in the Unionist camp by putting it like this — to do business with or talk to anybody for so long as the Anglo-Irish Agreement is in place. That is unreasonable of them even when I take into account their sensibilities which I have tried to draw the attention of the House to but I wonder if it would be possible for us to do something outside the Anglo-Irish Agreement which would not cut across it and which might signal to them that we, too, are willing to have bruised sensibilties in the interest of the higher value of normalising conditions for ordinary people in Northern Ireland; that we, too, will endure some blow to our pride; that we, too, are willing to put something in our pocket and forget about it or put it up on a shelf and leave it in abeyance in the interest of creating decent, neighbourly, Christian civilised conditions in that one part of western Europe where they do not exist for many people.
The suggestion I would make to the House — it is not a new one but I have not heard it made here yet today — is that the Government should consider initiating a referendum to remove from Article 3 of the Constitution the unrealistic and offensive claim to the effect that this House, this Parliament and Government, are entitled as of right to exercise jurisdiction over the Six Counties of Northern Ireland.
In 1966, before he left office, Mr. Séan Lemass, then Taoiseach, set up a committee to review the various provisions of the Constitution. That committee unanimously recommended a change in Article 3 to a less abrasive formula, a formula in which a claim of right on behalf of this House, and on behalf of the Government supported by this House, nowhere appeared. That lasted only a couple of months until former Deputy Kevin Boland shot it down in flames at a Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis and all the "guff" Republicans ran for cover. That was the last that was heard of that. I am speaking from memory but I think that report was signed by Séan Lemass himself, George Colley, David Andrews, Eoin Ryan and Bobby Molloy, although he has now moved to another party, and I may be forgetting a couple of Fianna Fáil names.
I wish Fianna Fáil could find it in their hearts to look at this report again, to revive it and see if they could swallow that as well as all the other things they have swallowed, and promote a referendum and on the same day as the European elections which are due to be held next June. This could save money and would serve to muffle the fuss which a referendum of this kind will cause. When the referendum is passed, as I believe it would be because this party would support it as would the Progressive Democrats and the Labour Party, it would signal to the Unionist population that we too are willing to endure a thorn in the side. If it was what I might call a real thorn in the side and if we had any real basis historically for grievance about having to face facts and incorporate into the Constitution something realistic instead of something unrealistic and offensive, it would be a different matter, but there is not such a reason.
I am sorry to rake up ancient history seeing that I so frequently advocate that we should ignore it, but the plain fact is that the only representatives of the Irish Nationalist tradition which could be found signed a treaty in 1922, and ratified it subsequently by legislation in 1925, which recognised the status of Northern Ireland. Everybody here knows, it was poison on the side of the people who signed the treaty to do that. Collins, Griffiths and Cosgrave thought it was a temporary settlement, that it was only a matter of time before the Border would disappear, but this was all they were able to get for the moment.
Twelve years after the 1925 Settlement Act we enacted a Constitution, admittedly by plebiscite — and I cannot question the people's right to enact what they like — which effectively said to the British and the people of Northern Ireland that they cannot rely on our word in a document, that they cannot rely on a promise given as solemnly on our behalf as it is possible for a promise to be given, and we incorporate this provision which flies in the face of the faith we had offered them.
It is all very well to talk about duress; virtually every peace treaty is signed under duress but the rest of the world has to be able to rely on it otherwise there would never be peace. If there was nothing to be gained from a peace treaty the victor country would never sign one because it would be open to the vanquished to turn around as soon as they got their breath back and break it.
I have to ask the House to put themselves in the shoes of a population with whom, historically, I have no sympathy. What use is there talking in the grand language of Deputy Wilson about the two great traditions in the island when his own party's record is one of ignoring one of those traditions, of trampling and spitting on it and regarding its views, values and wishes as irrelevant, not weighing in the balance against Article 3?
I do not mean to speak excitedly to Deputy Wilson, although he has a short fuse at times, but he is the target of what I am saying now because he and Deputy Davern are the only two in the Fianna Fáil benches at present, and Deputy Davern seems to be more laid back about this than Deputy Wilson.
I have to ask Deputies to put themselves in the position of a Unionist being told we have to co-operate when all he has to do is open page 1 of the main text of the Constitution and he finds the words:
Pending the re-integration of the national territory, and without prejudice to the right of the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution to exercise jurisdiction over the whole of that territory, ......
What is he to make of somebody who talks friendship in one breath while holding up a placard inscribed with those words? When he asks if the pacard will be taken down because it is causing annoyance, he is told we cannot do that because we would be selling out the dead generations if we did. One dead generation which fought to set up this State were willing to compromise on this, thinking it was only a temporary measure, but they were willing to offer faith to the other people who live on this island and to the British, and they acquiesced in the Twenty-six Counties.
To take that step I believe it would unfreeze relations and dismantle the distrust of which the Minister for Industry and Commerce spoke about earlier. If it does not do that, then I must admit I am at the end of my resources. I cannot think of anything else we could do. We have taken the special position of the Catholic Church out of the Constitution and we have done our best in the teeth of the hidden opposition of the Fianna Fáil Party to put the law in regard to divorce on the same footing as it is everywhere else in Europe. I cannot think of anything else we could do. We will have shot our bolt, but at least let us shoot that bolt and make that effort.
On a recent television programme I was asked by the interviewer, who thought he had me spreadeagled with this question: "If you are so keen on this and if you think your party are of the same opinion, why did you not do it over the last four and a half years you were in Government?" The answer is very simple. No referendum of any kind has ever been carried in the history of this State against the opposition of either of the major parties.
Everyone watching Fianna Fáil over the last few years listened to the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, talking about Northern Ireland being a failed political entity. The cheek of him to say that in one breath and with another breath invite them to come to see him and have tea. How can he talk like that to people, illegitimising their institutions in our Constitution and then making fun of them in casual expressions of that sort, cheap, glib expressions which would enrage us if anyone used them about us? What prospect is there for a party with a leader who spoke like that and which bullied the New Ireland Forum — which I must admit was no difficult task — into putting a unitary State at the head of their list of preferences, making it absolutely certain that Mrs. Thatcher would throw the lot out the window? Their intent was to humiliate the Government and leave them in a hole. What was the prospect that a party with that record would row in on a referendum to amend Article 3? Absolutely none. That was one foolish referendum the last Government did not embark on because had they done so naturally it would have been defeated and there would have been the same campaign against it, except this time it would be an overt campaign, mounted by the far side. I know Deputy Wilson would not willingly tell a lie to the House and I do not believe he would even contradict me, but they would have opposed that.
They are in a different position. They are dealing with a very different kind of opposition, as they know, on the economic front. We do not hand trip them. We are not in here every week with Private Members' motions calling for more and more expenditure, whingeing about this, whingeing about that, whingeing about people who think they are left short because of Government measures. We realise the Government have a disagreeable job to do and we are deliberately, even at the cost of votes to ourselves — and many of our grassroots do not like it — refraining from making difficulties for this Government. As I said, this Government are facing a very different kind of opposition.
This is a "weather window", as I have said in another connection, in which it will be possible to do these things because the Government will not get opposition from over here. I have not heard this subject being formally debated in the Fine Gael Party — I do not think it has been debated recently — but I know that Deputy FitzGerald, the former Taoiseach, thinks as I do about this. It is not right to involve other colleagues by naming them, but I am as certain as I can be that a proposal to go back to something like the 1967 formula in the report of the Committee on the Constitution would be supported by this party. This is the moment to do it. That might unfreeze relations. That might signal to the Unionists that we are doing something over and above our obligations under the Hillsborough Accord, that we are moving out to meet them at a cost of putting our pride, on many of the words we have spoken, in our pockets, forgetting about them for the moment.
It may be — and I am certain it is so — that there are people up there whose rooted objection to doing business with this State is so ingrained into their bones that nothing will make them think otherwise. If so, I am at the end of my resources. Who says our lives will be a failure? Who says we will all pass through the world without any achievement to our names if we do not see a united Ireland? Would not the achievement of peace and normality for 1½ million unfortunate people be achievement enough? Are we so inhuman that we will postpone that to a childish desire to see a tricolour waving on City Hall in Belfast? If that is the collective feeling of this House, I will leave it but I do not believe that that is the case. We have had this idiotic, chauvinistic idea wished upon us and we are afraid to throw it off. I am sorry to say something disagreeable but if we said we would go back to the position of 1925 we would accept that you had a right to live with your own institutions and that, in order to normalise relations between us and to induce normality in the North, we ought to relinquish our claim. We would say that we would never revive it although we would always have the aspiration to unity and you could not kill that on us. We could say that we would not make a claim of right which would always lead you to suppose that even when we were holding a hand out on one side of our body, we would have a hatchet behind our backs.
I know that Deputy Wilson is a reflecting, thinking man. I also know that he has a short fuse and a large dose of Ulster blood — I suppose it is all Ulster blood — and that I am not, therefore, speaking to someone who is necessarily receptive emotionally to what I am saying. However, I know that intellectually he will listen to me and the House and I would be grateful if he would float this idea in his Government.
I should like to end by saying this to him in regard to the Government's general performance, by way of analogy and not by way of getting away from the subject. The moments in which the Government have got applause — perhaps muted — and approval from people who never voted for them and perhaps never will vote for them, but who recognise an honest day's work when they see it, is when the Government have gone back on things they said which they ought not to have said, when they have not persisted in politics or attitudes which were wrong. It may be rather sentimental and sloppy of them but Irish people are inclined to give a cheer to someone who recognises that he has made a mistake or taken up a wrong position saying sincerely that they are sorry. Irish people admire that and it is a great trait. They do not value a pedantic consistency; they value somebody admitting and acknowledging, even grudgingly, that he was wrong and doing something else. The Fianna Fáil Party would come out of it with nothing but credit if they were to initiate a referendum process of the kind I mentioned. I cannot believe they would not get the assistance of this party, I cannot speak for the Progressive Democrats but I expect the same would be true of them and of Labour. It would be a major contribution and something which no amount of political rhetoric about the two great traditions in this country could compare in its long-term effect.
I listened to Deputy Kelly and I know his remarks are sincere. Article 41 was considered offensive and it was removed from the Constitution. Similarly, I do not see anything offensive in giving up the aspiration to unity because it is practical and sensible. The republicanism I should like to see is the kind that came from Sean Lemass, who believed that the person who worked for the Republic, built it up and took pride in an honest day's work would make the country more attractive. That is the best way forward.
Too often in the European Community I heard the Reverend Ian Paisley saying that if such and such was in the Republic of Ireland it would be termed a disadvantaged area. I do not mean disadvantaged in the sense of the areas now being selected by the Agreement but the Glens of Antrim were not included and many areas in south Fermanagh were also excluded because the Government are so far removed from the concept of farming and have no interest in getting a disadvantaged area plan for the small farmers in these areas to keep the small communities alive. The social aspect was looked for as an example to the Republic from the viewpoint of what had been done and much support was given by the Irish Members to the Northern pleas for disadvantaged areas.
My main concern is how people are perceiving this Agreement. We have been talking about both traditions in Northern Ireland but we are largely leaving out another section, the people of the Republic. I am worried about their perspective of the Agreement. I am also worried about the emphasis that the press have laid on this Agreement. They emphasise that any meeting which takes place is always in relation to security. They do not emphasise meetings which discuss economic well-being or social integration. For example, the broadening of the Agreement by the Government to include disadvantaged areas has not been emphasised. As far as I am aware, the vast majority of people in my constituency do not even know that such matters are being discussed because of the emphasis on extradition and other areas.
I support the principle of extradition. It is a commitment which, as a civilised nation, we must have. However, it worries me that certain aspects surrounding extradition have not been fully explained to the people by the press who continually emphasise the security aspects. Only one person has been extradited under the amended 1987 Act for an offence which was not of a very serious criminal nature, which did not relate to terrorism. All the other applications have gone through our court system. The worrying part is that the public are being fed a line by people who are not openly members of Sinn Féin or the IRA but who are clever, well placed people who express their allegedly independent, serious concern regarding extradition. Of course, this has been fuelled by the unequal justice applied to Irish people in British courts. Whether true or false, that is how they see it. A man who had raped 17 women got the same sentence as the Winchester Three. Officially, these people had done nothing beyond amateurish planning but they got a savage sentence. This is where the fear of co-operation with extradition and other such matters arises.
The failure of the British Government to introduce a three judge court is a very serious matter. We know why Northern Ireland had to get rid of juries, they were not able to bring in a decision because of fear. However, we introduced a very fair system of a three judge court to deal with terrorist charges. Each had a different level of experience and could confer with the others. When the jury system was replaced in Northern Ireland they turned to the Diplock system, a single judge. That judge does not have the confidence of the Nationalist minority in Northern Ireland and he must now contend with the right of silence.
The right of silence is a major aspect. If one does not want to condemn oneself one need not say anything, but it is now accepted that if you remain silent you are guilty. I would not like to see that judgment left to one judge. If the confidence of the Northern population is to be restored we will have to see the introduction of the three judge courts in Northern Ireland. It is not just the people in Northern Ireland but also the people in the Republic who need to be assured of that confidence in the courts as well as in the police and in other areas.
People already have doubts as a result of the failure to prosecute in the Stalker-Sampson affair. The release of Private Thain from jail and the reinstitution into the Army of that same private who had been given a life sentence casts serious doubts among the practical people in the Republic of Ireland. The men who disrupt communities are now doing so in a much more clever fashion and those people are not even known to be members or strong supporters of the Provisional IRA. The Gibraltar incident is another such case and the unfortunate remarks of the British Prime Minister in relation to that case bring about a kind of gung-ho situation. This again casts serious doubts among people in the Republic, people who never supported violence and who would have no hand, act or part in it. There is a lack of sensitivity by the British authorities in this area. There are people on both sides to be considered.
I am delighted that the prison review system is in operation. The champion of that has been Father Denis Faul who has done tremendous work over the years. He has proved himself to be a very independent person when it comes to helping all the people of Northern Ireland. I know that the Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice have been working extremely hard on the Anglo-Irish Agreement. While Deputy O'Malley may say that there is abon homie attitude between the two sides and is facetious about it, I do not think it is fair to say that the progress that has been made has been as a result of anything else but trust and confidence on both sides. Negotiations nearly broke down on a number of occasions and it was the strong resolve of this Government, through the two Ministers who have been dealing with this matter, who have kept them on the right track. We should try to ensure that the minority in Northern Ireland have confidence in the system of justice there. The Government should work with the British Government to ensure that that is brought about. People in the Republic do not believe that a person who is extradited to Britain will get an honest trial. Nobody has been extradited from the Republic to Britain but there is a fear among people that, if that should happen, they would not get a fair trial.
I would ask the Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice in their continuing negotiations to try to get the support of the vast majority of the people of the island in regard to the introduction of the three judge court system. Above all they should implement the Criminal Jurisdiction Act which would ease tensions between the people in the North and South. There was a recent trial of some UDF people in Northern Ireland who were charged with crimes in the Dublin area. Those people were successfully tried in their own jurisdiction and were sentenced. That practice should be brought much more into perspective. I am not trying to diminute the issue of extradition but in the present circumstances it would be fair if the Criminal Jurisdiction Act was brought much more into play. This should be done and should be seen to be done. The public should be able to view those matters in the public light rather than from behind closed doors.
I do not know what the Government's policy is for development in regard to Northern Ireland. I have a fairly good idea from listening to various press statements issued by the Government what they are against but I am not quite so sure about what they are in favour of. Their policy seems to be one of reaction, reaction of horror to the last atrocity, reaction to some recent action taken by some British institution and, to a lesser extent I am glad to say, reaction sometimes to pressures from their own backbenchers. They have many criticisms to offer as a Government of things that are happening in Northern Ireland but I am not sure that they have any clear idea of what the next step will be to bring about a coming together of the two communities in Northern Ireland. No suggestions have been made from the Government side as to what should be done next to bring the communities together. The only concrete proposal of that kind that was mentioned in the Tánaiste's speech was a reference to devolution on which he promptly poured cold water. If he believes devolution is not the answer, what is his answer and what is the Government's answer to the next step to bring about a solution?
The Tánaiste referred to the problems experienced by the Nationalist community since the Agreement was signed. He said: "We have in particular to take account of the reality that, to some extent at least, the achievements of the Agreement have so far failed to fulfil the hopes and expectations of many members of the Nationalist community". He went on to say: "That is why all supporters of the Agreement must be sobered 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". He does not say whether he believes the Nationalist community are right or wrong. He just made that statement without drawing a conclusion from it. However, he listed five concrete achievements of the Agreement: the improved policing of the marching season; an end to supergrass trials; a new code of conduct for the RUC; the beginnings of an economic programme for West Belfast and the preparation of effective fair employment legislation. He did not say what further progress is anticipated by the Government or the Nationalist community which would allay the disappointment to which he referred.
I have read carefully through the Tánaiste's speech and the only concrete suggestions I could see in it as to what should be done, beyond the five elements of progress to which I have referred, are a strengthened commitment to consultation — whatever that means — under Article 2 of the Agreement and the introduction of three judge courts. I would ask the Tánaiste and the Minister a straight question. Do they believe that if those two suggestions made by the Tánaiste were implemented tomorrow, we would be able to say in two year's time that the Nationalist community were satisfied? Do they believe that would satisfy them? If the answer to that is "no", they should be asking a much more fundamental question, "What else do we need to do?" and try to find an answer to that.
I believe the answer is to be found in the form of devolution on the basis of power-sharing. If progress is to be made the communities in Northern Ireland must be put under some measure of pressure to take responsibility for the management of their own affairs. To some extent the Unionists are constantly looking over their shoulder and saying London is responsible for them. To a certain extent also the Nationalists are looking over their shoulder to Dublin and saying Dublin is responsible for them. It is almost a relationship similar to that of parents and children. Children feel their parents are in some way responsible for them, and that being the case, they are reluctant to take responsibility themselves. I stress that that is an analogy, not a reality; it is an analogy that could cause hurt to people and I do not mean it in that sense. However, I want to say in a positive sense that we must create a means whereby the two communities in Northern Ireland will take responsibility for managing their own affairs, otherwise, two years from now we will still have the same disillusionment that the Tánaiste referred to, despite the major progress that has been made under the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the fact that politicians from the Republic have a direct say in what happens in Northern Ireland. Despite all that, the Tánaiste, probably not incorrectly, referred to disillusionment. I think that disillusionment will continue in both communities unless the whole climate is transformed by means of devolution.
The Tánaiste said, "I simply do not see the prospects in this area are very high at present". That is an unnecessarily fatalistic attitude. The Tánaiste must try to make the climate one in which that area will have prospects. He is a politician and a leader and he should be attempting to lead opinion in Northern Ireland towards devolution rather than simply accepting resignedly that progress cannot be made. The only way we in this House can change that is to try to analyse why there is a reluctance in the various communities in Northern Ireland to go into devolution on a power-sharing basis and consider what we can do to remove that. The SDLP are probably a little reluctant to enter into power-sharing because they saw what happened to Sunningdale and they feel the guarantees are not ultimately there, that the legs will be cut from under them again as happened when British Prime Minister Wilson failed to stand up to the Ulster workers' strike. Before they would be prepared to be really forthcoming about devolution the SDLP would want much firmer guarantees that that sort of thing would not happen again and they would not be left holding the baby, so to speak, isolated in their own community, supporting policies that a majority in the power-sharing administration got them to agree to and then walked away from them. We need to address that question about how the SDLP can be given greater assurances that an Ulster workers' strike type of situation will not recur than was offered to them in the Sunningdale Agreement.
The Alliance Party are the only party who have come out full-bloodedly in favour of devolution in a power-sharing context. It is important that the document the Alliance Party have produced be analysed to some degree at least in this debate. They suggest that the Secretary of State should nominate an executive who would, as far as possible, be balanced, representing all the parties in an elected assembly in Northern Ireland, but nobody in the assembly should support violence. Such an executive would continue in office only if they got repeated motions of what they call — not confidence — acceptability from 70 per cent of the members of the assembly, which would require both communities continuing to express acceptance, if not necessarily agreement, with the operation of what would be effectively a power-sharing executive. That is the way things might work.
The only reservation I would express about the Alliance Party approach is in regard to how this body would be financed. They say there are two alternative ways of doing it. One would be a revenue based system where devolved administration would have to raise the money to pay for their own activities. The other would be an expenditure based system where essentially they would work out what they needed and then go off cap in hand to somebody else looking for the money. The Alliance Party conclude that they are sceptical about the proposition that it would be possible in a devolved system in Northern Ireland institutions to finance themselves while at the same time maintaining comparable standards of service with those provided in Great Britain. In other words, they want a devolved administration which has devolved power but no devolved responsibility. They want power-sharing but not responsibility-sharing as far as raising the money is concerned.
If you want the two communities in Northern Ireland to work together and get away from the sense of looking to somebody else they must be responsible for paying and taking the tough decisions in regard to how they will pay for what they are going to do in Northern Ireland, and not simply saying they are going to Brussels or London to look for more money if they reach animpasse in their discussions and can go no further because they have not got the ability and have not taken responsibility for raising the funds themselves. If a devolved administration were to work on a power-sharing basis it would have to be a devolved responsibility administration that had financial responsibility and had to take tough financial decisions themselves rather than have those simply passed over to London or somewhere else. However, broadly speaking the Alliance Party are prepared to go along with power-sharing and devolution, and so are the SDLP so long as the problems I have referred to about having the ground cut from under them as happened before can be addressed.
One might say the Unionist parties are totally opposed to this ideal, but if you read the Unionist parties' document, admittedly published before the Anglo-Irish Agreement and entitledThe Way Forward— a happy title — you will find they criticised the SDLP for not entering the Assembly because if they had entered the Assembly it might have been possible for cross-community support to have been achieved for an Executive under the terms laid down by Secretary of State Prior. They said that because the SDLP did not enter the Assembly devolution was paralysed. Therefore, in a sense, in a sort of backward way, they are accepting that devolution and power-sharing on a cross-community basis are desirable if only because they are criticising somebody else for frustrating it from happening. They do not actually propose power-sharing in The Way Forward, but what is interesting is that they propose a concept that perhaps imaginative politicians here could build on, that is the concept of a bill of rights. What they have in mind is a bill of rights for individuals, not for a community, to be explicitly set out in legislation which would oblige the devolved administration to respect these rights of individuals. The effect of such legislation would be to provide machinery whereby “any action on the part of the Northern Ireland devolved institution conflicting with any listed right would be declared void and any act of the Northern Ireland administration conflicting with any such right would be declared unlawful.”
They admit that this proposal, "may be considered by some to be too modest, but they (the Unionist Party) have watched while grander and more ambitious schemes have failed."
The Tánaiste might consider taking the Unionists at their word and saying, "OK, we know you are not in favour at the moment of devolved administration involving power-sharing; you want something slightly different from power-sharing, but could we build on this concept that you are in favour of a bill of rights?" Why not say there should be a bill of political rights for communities as well as rights for individuals, a right not just to an individual to fair housing for himself but the right for an individual to feel his community is entitled to a fair say in housing policy as distinct from just a right for himself? Could we extend the concept of a bill of rights to include community rights, in other words, rights for the minority as well as the majority, as well as simply rights for individuals?
Politics, frequently, is taking somebody else's ideas and using them to achieve something one wants to achieve. There is nothing underhand or unworthy about that. It is, in a sense, the art of the politician to find a way of building across what appears to be an unbridgable gap. There may appear to be an unbridgable gap at the moment between those of us who want a power sharing administration in the North so that peace and harmony can be restored and people in the North who are Nationalist but against violence and who want something concrete to give allegiance to just as Unionists of the same temper will have. In the concept of a Bill of rights put forward by the official Unionists there is something that one can at least build on and talk to them about. That is why I am disappointed that the Government have been so vague and impersonal in the invitation they have issued to the Unionist community. We have said that we would be prepared to talk if they are prepared to talk, but no invitations have been issued. I hope in that short description I have given of the party's policies and concerns about devolution that the Tánaiste will see that there is fertile ground for a political initiative by him to achieve devolution and that he should not simply stand back and wring his hands and say circumstances are unpromising.
The last point I want to make is in regard to integrated education. I hope the Minister for Education will have something to say about that. The Northern Ireland Office has proposed that a simple majority of a board of governors of a school or 20 per cent of the parents of that school can initiate a proposal to change the status of the school to make it an integrated school, that if such a proposal is carried the board of governors would be obliged to have a postal ballot on the proposal. They further propose that there should be preferential treatment in regard to grants given to integrated schools in Northern Ireland. The Catholic Bishops have responded to this by saying that they own the Catholic schools, that the trustees are the actual legal owners of the schools, and that while the Church does nothing to oppose or obstruct efforts of people whose sincerity they respect and who feel that integrated schools is the way forward, essentially they, the Bishops, feel that the proposals put forward are unfair and unjust in a number of other respects, particularly in regard to the integrity of Catholic education and the amount of effort they put in over the years to put the schools there, and in that a transient majority could simply take them away from them. I believe that bitterness arises from not having certain common experiences. Somebody with whom one has common experiences, with whom one has lived, worked and played, however long ago it may have been, is somebody one would find it a lot harder to engage in violent conflict than somebody who is simply a name on the electoral role or in a telephone book. If all the Catholics are educated in one set of schools and all the Protestants are educated in another set of schools it would be extremely difficult to get people to realise that those about whose movements they are giving information to subversive organisations are actually human beings who, if they only got to know them, they might like quite a lot. The reason they do not get to know them is, to a very great extent, that they never got the opportunity to do anything with them. They play different games; they go to different schools; they may live beside one another but they have virtually no common experience.
I respect and support the ethos of Catholic education. Religious education is extremely valuable and, in a world where it does not cause other problems, it is something that one should have but in the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland one is talking about having to adjust a scale of values. There are other values that are also important and one of those, in the context of integrated education, is building a community with peace and reconciliation and understanding between individuals. While I do not think it is right for politicians down here to tell the churches how they should order their affairs — we are suspicious of other people telling us how to order our political business — we should open up some dialogue with the churches about the possible role of integrated education, in the long run, not providing a panacea for the problems in Northern Ireland but starting a process that will make alienation and treating people as objects rather than as human beings something that is much less possible than it is at the moment.
I am very glad to participate in this debate today and to have been here for that very spirited and interesting contribution from Deputy Bruton. The review provided for in the Anglo-Irish Agreement is in the following terms:
At the end of three years from 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".
While it is clear that what is envisaged is a review of the workings of the Conference rather than of the Agreement as such, the statement issued after the meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference on 2 November leaves no doubt but that both sides are determined that the review process should be as broad as possible. That statement makes clear that the two Governments have committed themselves to ensuring that the review will be thorough and serious.
According to the same statement, the review will have both a historical, evaluative aspect and a forward-looking character. It will look back over the experience of the past three years and assess the working of the Conference during that time. This work will entail a careful appraisal of how the Conference has measured up to its potential under each of the articles of the Agreement.
The main emphasis, however, will be on a positive programme of work for the future in order to further the aims of the Agreement. Over the next few months this programme will be drawn up with the greatest possible account being taken of views expressed to each of the Governments. The Government naturally hope that all constitutional political bodies, including the Unionists, will avail of this opportunity to come forward with their views.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement is often criticised for allegedly having delivered too little, but it is surely not correct to judge it solely on a list of its achievements over a three-year period. The Agreement is more than its past record or even the present agenda of the Conference. It provides us with certain mechanisms which the Government are committed to using for the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland and particularly of the Nationalist community.
The Anglo-Irish Conference and the Secretariat are now firmly established. The Conference is now meeting more often than at any time over the past three years. This year alone it has met nine times and a further meeting is envisaged for next month. If we were to take a European analogy, this is almost as often as the meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Brussels. The Secretariat in Maryfield operates on a 24 hour basis and has proved itself to be a most effective channel for dealing with the whole range of issues covered by the Agreement.
Of course there have been other positive developments. The improvements in the policing of the marching season over the last two years have been widely acknowledged. There has been a new code of conduct for the RUC. The supergrass trials have ended. Co-operation on security matters continues. New fair employment legislation is to be introduced. The Fund was set up and has now turned its attention to disadvantaged areas and there has been the beginning of an economic package for west Belfast.
However, if achievements have been made, a great deal remains to be done. The constant complaints made by the Nationalist community of harassment by the security forces cannot be ignored. An effective way of responding to these complaints, together with a careful monitoring of the patterns they indicate, would seem to be basic elements of any progress in this area. The need of the Nationalist community to feel greater confidence in the administration of justice must find a response in practical ways which can allay their concerns. The economic aid to west Belfast must continue and other economically disadvantaged areas must be helped in a similar fashion. The new fair employment legislation must meet the most rigorous standards if it is to be effective on the ground. In a situation where studies over the past 20 years have consistently shown that Catholic males are two-and-a-half times as likely to be unemployed as their Protestant counterparts, there is clearly no room for half measures.
In my own area of education, Deputies will have been aware that there has been an ongoing discussion in recent months on the merits of new education proposals for Northern Ireland. The consultative document proposing new structures for education in Northern Ireland published at the end of March evoked much comment. This was followed by a period of consultation with the various interests involved and a further document — again with consultative status — was published at the beginning of October. Much of the concern of the Nationalist community has centred on the position which would be allocated to the Irish language in the new proposals. The latest document gives enhanced standing to the Irish language in the school curriculum and is more satisfactory than the first consultative document. I would hope that, in the final document — to be published next year — the effort to meet the widespread concern about the status of the Irish language will carry through and will result in proposals which can command general acceptance in the Nationalist community.
The Irish language, and the concerns of the Nationalist community about the cultural aspects of their identity, are of course ongoing matters of discussion in the Conference and there have been some developments in these areas in Northern Ireland in the recent past. There has been progress in the use of Irish in official correspondence and in the recognition of Irish personal names in the same context. The Northern Ireland Arts Council have provided some funding for Irish language and cultural activities. An Irish writer-in-residence scheme to be shared between Queen's University and the new University of Ulster at Coleraine, has been set up. The use and knowledge of Irish were the subject of a question in the continuous household survey of 1987 and will similarly figure in the general census of 1991. A bilingual ordnance survey map, together with an accompanying gazetteer of place names in the Irish and English versions, has been published and a research unit into Ulster place names has been set up at Queen's University. Progress remains to be made, however, in many areas such as the use of Irish in street names.
I should like to respond to the comments by Deputy Bruton on the proposals in the consultative documents, particularly in relation to integrated education. Integrated education formed part of the proposals in those documents and it is expected that the final proposals will be submitted next year after the various interests have given their opinion. In regard to integrated education, there remains much of interest to educationalists North and South. I have studied the earlier documents and I continue to have an interest in this matter.
Before concluding I want to place on record my wishes for the success of the review process. It is a valuable opportunity to carry forward the work of reform and political progress in Northern Ireland. Such political progress we all acknowledge must take full account of the value and identity of the two traditions there. We can only hope that the Unionist community will take to heart those reassurances and will have the confidence to engage in open and constructive dialogue in the very near future.
I wonder sometimes if the Unionist community are as intransigent as some people make them out to be. The difficulty lies not with the Unionist population but with their political leaders. It might be a lot easier to talk to the ordinary Unionist if that person was allowed an opportunity to express his or her views on what is happening in Northern Ireland and how the problems there might be solved. We might find that they would be considerably more forthcoming than we are led to believe. It is also my belief that a number of prominent Unionist politicians, when having discussions in private, often express the view that they would like to get involved in dialogue but the fear of being branded as a traitor stops them from doing so. The name Lundy lives on in Northern Ireland after 300 years.
In my view there is a type of cat and mouse game taking place between senior Unionist figures, each one being too willing to brand the other as a Lundy if there is even an attempt at compromise on the issue of power-sharing. That is why it is a great pity that some of the questions put at Question Time since the Dáil resumed on 19 October have not been answered in as honest a fashion as we would like. For instance, a number of direct questions, and supplementaries, have been put to the Tánaiste, substituting for the Taoiseach, asking if any approaches had been made to Unionist politicians either formally or informally. We have not been given an answer to those questions, they have been hedged. We received some fudged replies to different questions. It is unfortunate if we cannot have straight talk in our national Assembly. We will not solve the problem in Northern Ireland on our own. It has to be solved by the people of the 32 counties. We need to be honest with one another and we should be given straight answers to our questions.
I accept that there is a necessity for confidentiality in case movements are afoot for some secret or open talks. People may not wish to give the game away in case such talks would be disrupted, but I am not convinced that is the case. The Government should have made approaches long ago to Unionist politicians in an effort to get dialogue going. I made an attempt two months ago to get a debate going on the question of a power-sharing assembly in Northern Ireland. The political leaders on the Unionist side in Northern Ireland, whether they are members of the DUP or the OUP, are scared stiff of being branded as traitors or Lundies. However, somebody else must take their place if they opt out, if they do not accept their responsibilities, if they do not lead their people as elected leaders should. Somebody must fill that vacuum.
In September, I appealed to the leaders of the three Protestant churches in Northern Ireland, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church, to endeavour to get Unionists to sit down and talk with the other constitutional parties on the island. It need not necessarily be in the island, it could be just the other constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. I am thinking primarily of the SDLP and the Alliance parties, we might possibly also include The Workers' Party and the Labour Party but I understand that they are very small in numbers and influence there. Nevertheless, everybody who is in favour of a constitutional settlement should be included ——
And Fine Gael, too.
Yes, but they do not count as an entity there. Every group should be consulted. I am making the point that the Church leaders are the next most important group of people where public perception is concerned in Northern Ireland. The problem there, for all practical purposes, is perceived by the rest of the world as a religious conflict. It is not just the Unionists and the Nationalists, it is the Protestants and the Catholics but we know that that is not the case. The religious aspect has gone out of it for a long number of years but the fact remains that the influence of the churches is still very strong and is second only to the influence of the politicians who have reneged on their responsibilities.
I wrote to the Leaders of the three Protestant Churches, to Dr. Eames, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, to the Right Rev. Dr. Godfrey Brown, the Presbyterian Moderator and to Mr. Stanley Whittington whom I believe is the President of the Methodist Church although a change has taken place in the meantime and, I think, Mr. Eyre is now President of the Methodist Church. In restating that case and in asking them to get together I would add to it, the Leader of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Ó Fiaich. When some of these people wrote back to me they asked why all the churches had not been involved. The point is that it is not the minority groups that are causing the impasse but rather the Unionists and their representatives in the Protestant Churches. That was the reason I wrote only to those three. I have no doubt that Cardinal Ó Fiaich and people like Dr. Edward Daly and Dr. Cathal Daly would be only too glad to get involved in dialogue which might lead to the setting up of an assembly which would be powersharing in all its aspects. I make that plea again and I would go further and say that it is time a forum was set up within Northern Ireland where everybody and anybody who had a view to put as to the formation of a powersharing assembly could be listened to and where even people who had a view that there should not be a power sharing assembly could be listened to.
As I said initially, there are strands within the Unionist community, and those strands are considerable, who want to see an end to the bloodshed and who are willing to share power with the Nationalist minority. I believe there is a considerable interest among the Unionists to have that take place. Why not give them some vehicle to express their willingness to take part in such an assembly? I would go so far as to say that Unionist politicians — perhaps not Unionist leaders, they might only be councillors — would only be too willing to come in and express their views. Some of those views would probably be favourable towards the formation of a powersharing assembly, some would not. Some people would be afraid of being shot or assaulted or of being ostracised from within their own community.
Let the Unionist politicians take to heart the very clear message that every time there is a murder in Northern Ireland, every time there is an atrocity by the IRA — even for that matter an atrocity by the UDA or any paramilitary group — they should ask themselves if they share any part of the blame. Of course they do, so long as they refuse to talk. The surest way of undermining the IRA or any paramilitary group is to have a powersharing assembly where the public can be represented and have their views represented. So long as the people of Northern Ireland are denied such an assembly there will be violence. Let these people understand clearly — I think they do understand but they refuse to recognise it publicly, and that is what is so awful — that there is no military solution to the Northern problem. It is no good blaming the security forces when there is an atrocity in Northern Ireland. It is no good blaming the British Army, the RUC or the security forces in the 26 counties and it is no good blaming lack of security on the Border, the basic reason lies with the Unionist politicians who refuse to accept powersharing. Until that is recognised and until something is done to see that talking takes place the bloodshed will continue. There is not a military solution.
When looking at the review of the Anglo-Irish Agreement let us consider the setting up of a forum where ordinary people, civic leaders and Church leaders can come in and express their views as to what should happen, and shame the Unionists, who have abdicated their responsibility, into talking. It must be done and it should be done sooner rather than later.
I will quote very briefly from a letter I received from Dr. Godfrey Brown, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. I think it is informative and helpful. In his letter he said it must be clearly recognised that failure to do so — by that he means failure to get involved in dialogue — has by no means been confined to the Unionist parties who for their part have found a great reluctance on the part of the SDLP politicians, in spite of their public protestations of an open door, to engage in discussion. I find that extraordinarily difficult to believe because I had assumed that the SDLP were at all times willing to enter into discussions. I would be amazed if anything to the contrary were true. It is very important that people get together so that they can iron out these misunderstandings. I am quite sure it is a misunderstanding. Dr. Brown is an outstanding man and he is an exceptionally moderate individual and a very good leader of his flock.
If there are misunderstandings they are largely due to the fact that people are not sitting down and talking. I am asking civic leaders, religious leaders and representatives of the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland to get together and start talking and embarrass the Unionist leaders, who have shown nothing but moral and political cowardice to date, into going into an assembly and sharing power with the minority. That is the only way there will be a solution to the problems. It is the only way in which one can undermine the IRA, the INLA, the UDA, whoever. It must be done. These people must be castigated for their failure to show a little bit of courage.
Deputy Deasy has one minute remaining.
I should make it clear that the Government can help the whole process by endeavouring to coax the Unionist politicians, the leaders of the Unionist Parties, to talks that will eventually lead to power-sharing.
I have the greatest admiration for the Tánaiste in his efforts to bring about peace on this island. I wonder whether he has spoken to the Unionists officially or unofficially. We are entitled to an answer. If he has not — and I suspect he has not — then I implore him to do so as quickly as possible.
Today's debate takes place just after the third anniversary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. This Agreement is the culmination of a process which began at the meeting between the leaders of the British and Irish Governments in December 1980. The aim of both Governments was to establish a framework for the future conduct of Anglo-Irish relations and, to quote the words of the Preamble to the Agreement:
Recognising and respecting the identities of the two communities in Northern Ireland, and the right of each to pursue its aspirations by peaceful and constitutional means;
The campaign of violence in Northern Ireland which, in the words of the New Ireland Forum, has affected almost every family in terms of death, injury and intimidation has also led to harmful economic consequences. There is a need, in the interests of all the people of this island, to deal with violence by means of an adequate security policy.
The response to violence must take place in an environment in which fundamental human aspirations can find expression and in which basic human freedoms can be exercised. That is the context within which we must operate. To forget it is to treat the symptoms rather than the disease. It is to run the risk of Government action being perceived as dismissive of the concerns of the broad mass of the people who wish to live in freedom and peace, who wish to live with justice, in accordance with the rule of international law, and to pursue economic and social advancement as of right.
Alienation and deprivation can be fertile ground for exploitation by the men of violence. The challenge is to achieve a balanced implementation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement so that violence can be dealt with while, at the same time, the political, social and economic aspirations of the people can find a fruitful means of expression. We must never let the men of violence feel that they can set the agenda for the elected representatives of the people.
I have said that it is obvious that there is a campaign of violence in Northern Ireland. It is equally obvious that there is alienation and economic and social deprivation suffered in disproportionate measure by the Nationalist community. It is nauseating to law-abiding people to hear the perpetrators of violent acts, or their supporters, deliver lectures on economic and social deprivation. This nausea must not blind us to the fact that political alienation and economic and social deprivation do exist. We must be as diligent in the fight against alienation and economic and social deprivation as we are in the fight against terrorism. We care about people's basic rights. We will not leave a residue of discontent to be exploited by those who espouse violence.
One of the main causes of Nationalist alienation is a belief that it is difficult, to say the least, to achieve remedial action in respect of their legitimate grievances. The Anglo-Irish Agreement must be seen as a vehicle to respond to these concerns. It can only do so if its work results in practical action on such questions as freedom, peace, justice and equal opportunities for economic and social advancement.
The challenge facing the people of Ireland and Britain, as the Anglo-Irish Agreement completes its third year and as we enter the process of review, is to redouble our efforts to seek, in a practical and tangible way, a political response to the problems of Northern Ireland. The Agreement provides a framework within which the ingredients for such a response can be found.
Both Governments will, during the review process, examine what has been achieved under the Agreement and seek to build on it for the future. Both Governments remain committed to the Agreement and to the framework set out therein for intergovernmental relations. We remain committed to it because we see it as the best framework for the conduct of Anglo-Irish relations and because we see it as having proved itself as a forum for intergovernmental relations. In itself, that is a major achievement. The achievements of the Agreement have so far failed to fulfil the hopes and expectations of many members of the Nationalist community. However, it is important that we give full weight to the positive developments that have taken place: improved policing of the marching season, an end to supergrass trials, a new code of conduct for the RUC, the beginnings of an economic programme for West Belfast, the preparation of new and, we hope, effective fair employment legislation — all these deserve recognition as developments that are beneficial, or partially beneficial, to the Nationalist community.
There is a sense that the Agreement marks a commitment by both Governments to find a means of giving priority to the problems of the people of Northern Ireland. The Agreement and its potential for achieving progress are now facts of political life. That potential, or promise, represents a challenge to both Governments. We must now review the workings of the Conference with a view to meeting that challenge by delivering on the potential of the Agreement.
There are, of course, links on social security. My area of social welfare provides a good opportunity for ongoing contact between the Northern Ireland authorities and ourselves. Earlier this year, I travelled to Belfast to meet Mr. Richard Needham, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for Health and Social Security matters in Northern Ireland. We had a wide-ranging discussion on recent developments in the field of social security of common concern, including statutory sick pay, the extension of social insurance to the self-employed, the provision of social security pensions and schemes to assist the long-term unemployed to obtain employment. We also discussed measures to combat fraud and abuses of our social security systems.
Of particular interest to both of us was how rates of benefit and conditions of entitlement compare as between the Republic and Northern Ireland. The comparison reveals that both systems are broadly similar in structure and scope of coverage. However, when it comes to the rates of benefit, the payments here, even after allowing for the punt/sterling difference, are in many cases higher than those in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. This is a measure of the progress we have made here in recent years, particularly since 1980, and of the commitment of the State to those in need.
For example, the personal rate of payment for an old age pensioner is some 17 per cent higher here than in Northern Ireland. The following table sets out a comparison of some of the main social insurance payments:
Britain/ Northern Ireland
Old Age Pension
1. No increases are payable for child dependants in receipt of unemployment benefit or disability benefit in the case of British claimants.
2. Social welfare recipients in Northern Ireland may be entitled to family credits.
In addition, our pensioners, aged over 66, are entitled to free travel and, under certain conditions, to free fuel, free electricity and free telephone rental. The Northern Ireland authorities were very impressed with the range of additional schemes we provide for the elderly and other social welfare beneficiaries.
In addition, pensioners and the long term unemployed here receive a Christmas bonus of 65 per cent of their weekly social welfare income. In comparison a bonus is payable only to pensioners in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Even then the bonus only amounts to £10 for the pensioner. By way of contrast, a contributory pensioner here with a dependent spouse will receive a bonus of IR£66.50. An unemployed person on long term unemployment assistance with a wife and three children will receive a bonus of £64.20 as against no bonus in the North.
People often do not realise that our social welfare system compares very favourably with other developed countries, including our nearest neighbour. Social welfare recipients on benefits generally receive higher payments while we have some catching up to do on their child support levels.
Contact and co-operation at local officer level, between officers of my Department and their counterparts in the DHSS, continue in relation to individual cases and is working satisfactorily. In addition, head office officials from both sides meet from time to time for discussions and to agree on a common approach to the administration of the EC Social Security Regulations.
A feature of both appeals systems is their actual and acknowledged independence from the central paying Departments. While the Northern Ireland system is of a more formalised independent nature worthy of further consideration, the accessibility and informality of our system of appeals must not be under-estimated. It is important to strike the correct balance between formal independence and accessibility and flexibility. These are all issues which I will be particularly conscious of in the current review of the appeals system as promised in theProgramme for National Recovery.
While there are may differences between the systems operating here and in the North there is a common approach in that the principal aim is to ensure that the scarce resources available are directed to those most in need. Deputies will be aware that in the last budget we provided extra increases for those on the lowest rates of social welfare. In considering possible strategies for the next budget I am looking at opportunities to address some of the issues raised by the recent research on poverty carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute. The social security system in the UK has been undergoing major change in recent times and their supplementary benefit scheme has been replaced by a new scheme of income support. In addition, they have replaced their family income supplement with a family credit scheme. Again, the stated aim is to ensure that the resources are targeted to those in greatest need.
Another area where I had the pleasure to see at first hand the practical demonstration of cross-Border co-operation was the recent launch of a north coast tourism project undertaken by the Inishowen Community Development Group and the Glens of Antrim Community Development Association. I was happy to be able to assist the Inishowen Community Development Group with funding through the Combat Poverty Agency. This joint venture is a concrete example of the benefits which can flow from co-operation between communities and serves to highlight the mutual benefits of that co-operation for communities on both sides of the Border. Such cross-border co-operation can only serve to further the cause of peace and reconciliation on this island.
The Irish and British Governments have committed themselves to a thorough and serious review of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The results of such a review will need to be seen in practical terms in a relatively short timescale. If the review fails to do this, we run the risk of damaging the credibility of the Agreement.
Failure to renew our efforts to achieve tangible progress also runs the risk of conveying the impression to the men of violence that they have a veto on political progress in Northern Ireland. We, as constitutional Nationalists, are dedicated to ensuring that no such impression can be gained. We know that the achievement of a political and constitutional order, in which all may give legitimate expression to their aspirations and seek economic and social wellbeing, is no easy task. It begins with a general framework of commitment to issues such as peace, justice, stability and order, which the overwhelming majority of people accept as basic values. Credibility in pursuit of these basic values can only be sustained by a practical response to the everyday concerns of all the people. In the case of Northern Ireland, the general framework is there in the form of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Indeed, it includes a specific and practical agenda across the range of political activity. The feeling among Nationalists is that action on foot of that specific agenda has been too slow. We must now move more quickly, especially in the areas I mentioned earlier, namely, recognition and respect for the identity of the Nationalist community, fair employment, economic and social issues, justice including the introduction of three judge courts, and relations with the security forces.
Nationalist impatience must be seen in the context of the message which the Agreement conveyed three years ago that a serious attempt was being made to address their grievances. The two Governments agreed on a framework for progress backed up by a specific agenda. If Nationalists perceive a reluctance to recognise their identity in a tangible way, it will adversely affect the optimism and confidence necessary for political progress. Implementation of the specific agenda of the Agreement is seen as an indication of the will to make political progress. It is a vital preliminary to creating favourable conditions for political movement. Any perceived reluctance to implement the specific agenda of the Agreement risks losing the hope and confidence engendered by the Agreement. We must not risk losing the sense of hope and confidence that exists in the Nationalist community and which is as vital to the creation of a favourable political climate as it is to the creation of a favourable economic climate.
The conditions for progress have been identified. We now need to make a renewed effort to proceed with the specific agenda of the Agreement to provide the necessary impetus for political movement. That will be the main task of the review now beginning.
During the course of my contribution I would like to dwell on the economic problems of this island. I sincerely believe that all of us have failed to give due consideration to the economic problems caused by the continuing turbulence in Northern Ireland. If we reflect on the alienation which is felt by communities living in certain suburbs in central and west Dublin, to which the Minister for Labour made reference in recent times, and if we reflect on the alienation which is felt by those living in Toxteth and other working class areas in Britain and if we reflect on the tension that exists between those communities and the police we will see that conditions are ripe in places like west Belfast for tensions to exist and for disagreements to occur with the police even if there were no religious divisions and no partition of this island. We should give a good deal more consideration to the economic dimension and I believe that the British Government have never adequately considered this dimension of the Northern Ireland problem. It is true that there is a very large net transfer to Northern Ireland from the British exchequer but it is also true that average income in Northern Ireland is a great deal less than that in Britain and it can be confidently asserted that the average income among the Catholic community in Northern Ireland is even smaller.
We have been promised some progress in respect of fair employment but I do not think there has been enough talk about this problem, let alone enough action. There are difficulties but as important as progress in respect of fair employment is, the creation of employment, a difficult task at any time as we in this Republic know, is even more so in Northern Ireland. Those of us who represent constituencies with high unemployment must understand the sense of hopelessness and alienation which is felt by those who are unemployed. If that hopelessness is a fact of life for families for one, two, three or perhaps more generations and has become ingrained, is there any way in which people so alienated and bereft of hope could ever identify with the establishment sought to be imposed on them, leaving aside any tribal loyalties or any religious divisions? Of course not. As a Deputy for west Dublin, which has some of the worst unemployment black spots in Europe, it is very easy for me to understand the hopelessness and alienation felt by many people in west Belfast, Strabane, Newry and other places in Northern Ireland, without there being any tribal or religious divisions.
It has been repeated several times during the past 60 years that this State alone of the 13 States of northern Europe is in the slow lane of economic growth. Even during the sixties when we had relatively high growth by our standards we have always been in the slow lane alone. Most countries have been in the middle lane of economic growth and some have been in the fast lane of economic growth. We need to keep reminding ourselves of that fact so as to brace ourselves for the sort of economic and political change which is necessary not alone on this island as a whole but in this Republic. Many things must be changed. There are many factors in this Republic of our own making which have contributed to the fact that this State alone in northern Europe is in the slow lane of economic growth.
However, all of the faults do not lie entirely within the Republic. A significant contributing factor to our lonely isolation in the slow lane in northern Europe has been the division of this island. The economic effects of partition have been devastating for this Republic, for Northern Ireland and for this island as a whole. I want to reiterate that we in this Parliament, the Government of this Republic and the British Government must give much higher priority to the economic problems that exacerbate the divisions in Northern Ireland and which perhaps so significantly contribute to the cause of partition in this island. This fact is much more important than has ever seemed to be recognised by any Government or political party.
As I have said, job creation is a difficult task and it is particularly difficult to create new jobs in the sort of turbulence which exists in Northern Ireland. If we are to remove some of the principal causes of alienation we have got to start creating jobs. We have to show the Catholic Nationalist community that they are not regarded as second class citizens. Of course, there is a reluctance to try to achieve this by sacking Protestant workers in some of the State-owned enterprises like Harland and Wolff and Shortt Brothers where discrimination against Catholics is most emphatic. Bishop Cathal Daly was reported from America as saying that this should not be so and that we cannot attempt to create employment for Catholics by sacking Protestants. They are very generous words spoken by Bishop Cathal Daly and they are words that need very careful consideration, as does anything that distinguished Churchman says, but it makes the task of achieving fair employment in reality very much more difficult. If fair employment is deferred and postponed for years to come, as seems likely, notwithstanding the promised legislation, are we not leaving in place one of the worst nettles in the situation? Are we not allowing to fester and continue the biggest factor causing alienation? I do not think we can just sit back and accept smugly that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the British Government are doing everything they can about employment and fair employment. If they even gave the same lip service to employment and fair employment which they give to security, and rightly so to security, I believe that would be greatly appreciated by those families who are in the third or fourth generations of unemployment and whose families have never known employment.
Of course unemployment is a problem throughout the European Community but it is a particular problem on this island, both North and South. There are certain things we could do about it if we could only get our act together. Great hopes are placed in 1992 and the move towards a Single European Market for the creation of jobs throughout the Community. I hope that those hopes and portents are more than fulfilled because we on this island badly need jobs. I do not think we should under-estimate the contribution a lot more jobs in Northern Ireland would make towards easing the tensions, stresses and divisions of that beleaguered part of our island.
In the few minutes allowed to me I have purposely dwelt exclusively on the economic aspects of the Northern Ireland problem and, at that, not even in the sort of detail I should like to have done. However, that is not to say I am not concerned about other factors in Northern Ireland. I do not criticise the British Government for being very concerned with security nor should our Government be criticised for being very concerned with security. Going back to the economic dimension, the fact is that the security problems — murder, extortion, kidnappings — and all the things which are happening as a result of the Northern problems not only have awful negative effects in humanitarian terms but have huge negative effects in economic terms as well. Security is in our interests. Security problems affect jobs in this Republic as they do in Northern Ireland and all of us should be more conscious of that fact.