Northern Ireland: Statements.

The Government has two primary objectives: the establishment of peace in Northern Ireland and making an impact on reducing the problem of unemployment. Both objectives are inter-linked.

The deaths of two children from bombs in Warrington and the killing of four Catholic workers in Castlerock last week, as well as other recent tragedies, have brought home to us, by no means for the first time, the reality of violence and its total unacceptability.

There have been more than 3,000 deaths in Northern Ireland alone in a period of more than 20 years. To these must be added deaths in Britain, here in the Republic and on the European Continent. The lives of human beings of all ages and backgrounds have been destroyed in an instant, wrecking families and communities in the process. Many of those who died were the victims of completely random killings. Attacks have occurred at times and in places, where no danger could reasonably be expected. No section of the community has been spared. Many of the deaths have taken place in particularly horrible circumstances; bodies blown to pieces, groups of people sprayed with bullets, executions in lonely lanes, in certain cases sadistic killings, children and young adults killed by plastic bullets, young people and people with young families, in a uniform or out of it, whose lives have been brought to an abrupt and untimely end. It all amounts to a litany of horror, which has not brought a political resolution to the problems of Northern Ireland one whit closer.

All of us would want to express again our deepest sympathies to the families of Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry in Warrington and to the families of the workers killed in the quiet village of Castlerock last week, as well as of other recent victims of violence. Those who perpetrate these actions have no mandate from the people of Ireland, North or South, regardless of the cause they purport to serve. The Irish community in Britain do not deserve to be exposed to the ill-feeling that inevitably arises from incidents like those that occurred in Warrington. There are no acceptable excuses. Tragic civilian deaths are the inevitable and foreseeable consequence of any bombing campaign, whatever the intentions or the warnings. Responsibility cannot be evaded or shifted elsewhere.

Once again, as happened after Enniskillen, the people of this country are saying loudly and forthrightly that they want the violence to stop, that they repudiate any campaign of violence carried out in their name. The self-determination of the Irish people is unequivocal on this point and has been made clear repeatedly. Humanity must come before politics.

From time to time we encounter veiled suggestions that this State is a "safe haven" for paramilitaries to plan and launch terrorist attacks in other jurisdictions. I want to take this opportunity to refute these allegations in the strongest possible terms, on behalf of the Government and the overwhelming majority of the Irish people who have consistently shown their support for constitutional parties at the ballot box.

The Irish Government has always condemned paramilitary violence and employed all means at its disposal to combat the evils of terrorism. The measure of the Irish Government's response to the Provisional IRA and other paramilitary organisations is evident in their on-going commitment to providing all necessary resources for the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, the enactment and application of legal measures, and the maintenance of effective security co-operation with the Northern Ireland and British authorities. The notion of a "safe haven" for terrorists in this State is a fallacy, which is clearly exposed by the reality of the following: Ourper capita expenditure on security, which is three times that of the United Kingdom; the fact that several offenders are serving long sentences in Portlaoise prison for subversive offences; the huge and growing stockpile of arms and explosives in Garda custody as a result of seizures from bunkers, and the experience of many of those persons whom our courts have imprisoned here in connection with serious offences committed in other jurisdictions or who have been extradited for trial.

Commentators who persist in alleging that this State is somehow soft on terrorism would do well to consider these realities, before making misleading claims. Opposition leaders should not lend credibility to hostile propaganda in the press designed to make this country responsible for weaknesses in security elsewhere.


Hear, hear.

The mere fact that a person is suspected, even strongly suspected, of being involved in criminal activities does not, of course, constitute a basis for arrest and prosecution. This is true, irrespective of whether those concerned reside here, in Northern Ireland, or in the United Kingdom. In all cases, the authorities require evidence before they can act. The gathering of evidence here is not hampered by lack of resources, and the absence of sufficient evidence to convict suspects, wherever they reside, cannot be taken as implying that either jurisdiction is disposed to harbour terrorists or that either is a "safe haven".

Legal co-operation with Northern Ireland and Britain in respect of fugitive offenders takes a number of forms. The extradition arrangements we have been operating with Britain and the North provide one means by which a person can be returned to the jurisdiction in which the offence has been committed. The provision made for extra-territorial trial is an alternative means by which a person can be brought to trial in one jurisdiction for offences committed in the other. These are complementary procedures. Both Governments are committed to their use in appropriate cases. Both Governments are also committed to strengthening those procedures, where change is necessary and desirable. The moves are not just on one side. The British Government are incorporating specialty into their legislation in a Criminal Justice Bill — which provides additional statutory safeguards for accused persons — at present going through Parliament. They have also finally ratified the European Convention on Extradition in 1991, which Ireland ratified over 25 years ago.

For our part, the Minister for Justice has already made clear her intention to bring proposals to Government as soon as posssible to tidy up our extradition laws by amending the Extradition Acts. The primary purpose of that legislation will be to provide for an amendment of the Extradition Act of 1987 in order to further clarify the circumstances in which offences are excluded from the political offence exception and to deal with issues raised by the judgments of the Supreme Court in the Magee, McKee and Sloan cases. However, while it is necessary and desirable to close loopholes that have been established exist only since late 1991, we should not be under any illusion that on its own that Act will have any great practical impact in bringing violence to an end.

No one would deny the existence of a strong sense of grievance and injustice felt by the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland. For a long time they were treated as aliens in their own country. To the sense of injustice about partition was added the injustice of a long period of systematic and blatant discrimination; but there are political remedies to these ills, even if some of them will take time. Nothing justifies the creation of new injustices or the attempt to force the issue in a totally counter-productive way that drives the communities even further apart.

If we look abroad we can see examples that are inspiring as well as examples that contain awful lessons. Most of the countries of Eastern Europe suffered for 40 years the most appalling oppression with no freedom of opinion or personal liberty. Eventually, there were largely peaceful revolutions in which popular power was exerted not unlike the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland in the late sixties, and an undemocratic system of government was removed. If we look on the other hand to Cyprus, the Lebanon or the former Yugoslavia, we see countries torn apart as factions try to solve ethnic disputes by force. Instead of the prize of a peaceful and prosperous united country, they have dismembered it and created even more intractable divisions which it may take generations to heal, if ever.

All parties in this House and the vast majority of the Irish people everywhere are convinced that the genuine problems of Northern Ireland, both in the present and in the future, have to be resolved by a process of political dialogue and co-operation between parties dedicated to the democratic process. I would again appeal to the paramilitaries on both sides to think again on the futile course they are pursuing. Surely few, if any, of them in their hearts can relish taking a life. A Unionist life is just as sacred as a Nationalist life.

I accept that the Unionist community also have legitimate grievances. There is no justification for the terrorist attacks of which many of their members have been victims. The Irish Government proceeds from the self-evident basis that both traditions have a permanent place and permanent rights on this island that must be firmly guaranteed in any settlement. They both have an even greater contribution to make in the future.

I would have to express my equal concern and revulsion at the recent upsurge in Loyalist violence, which last year and so far this year has claimed more lives in Northern Ireland than any other source. It is very disturbing, that some of this violence may have a part of its source in collusion between paramilitaries and a small number of individual members of the security forces or the intelligence services and this is a matter that we have repeatedly raised in the Anglo-Irish Conference. I would like to see the same forceful condemnation by all democratic political parties in the North of both the campaign by the Provisional IRA and the indiscriminate sectarian murders by the Loyalist paramilitaries. There is a very clear attempt at present to intimidate and terrorise the entire Nationalist community and not least its elected politicians in the run-up to the local elections. I regret very must certain attempts to provide political explanations of so-called Loyalist violence which can all too easily be seen as providing some justification for it. This morning's shocking revelation of the extent of support among Loyalists for violence shows that all and not just some Unionist political leaders must be unequivocal in their condemnation.

We in this State are proud of our independence and are grateful to the generations, both of constitutional politicians in the 19th century and of the Republican leaders from the United Irishmen to the 1916-21 period, who together and in different ways strove for freedom and the sum of whose efforts eventually achieved it for the greater part of Ireland. But it was clear to most Irish leaders, even 75 years ago, that the use of force against fellow Irishmen was an inappropriate means of solving the deep-seated divisions between Unionist and Nationalist in the North of Ireland.

Partition was adopted as a temporary expedient in 1920. As some historians have observed, nothing lasts so long as pragmatic solutions intended to be temporary. It is important to remind ourselves of the balance between conflicting constitutional ideals and aspirations adopted at that time. It was not just Irish Nationalists, but the British Government as well, who recognised that Ireland ought to be united in the longer term. The Government of Ireland Act, 1920, which partitioned the country, was based on the concept of the essential unity of Ireland. It sought to foster the development of North-South co-operation through a Council of Ireland designed — I quote from the Act —"with a view to the eventual establishment of a Parliament for the whole of Ireland".

It was the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 that first established the Irish Free State and gave it nominal jurisdiction over the 32 Counties. At the same time it gave the Northern Ireland Parliament the right of secession, though still subject for the time being to the provisions in the Government of Ireland Act, encouraging eventual Irish unity.

Is it any wonder then that in the Irish Constitution of 1937 these underlying principles of national unity were reiterated in the first three Articles? These express the Irish nation's right to self-determination, acknowledged by the British in 1920-21, while limiting effective jurisdiction to the 26 Counties. While successive British Governments since 1949 have guaranteed that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom as long as a majority of their parliament or people wish, even this conditional formulation reflects, however obliquely, the fact that there was explicit recognition in 1920-21 that ultimately the people of Ireland, North and South, ought to come together. Since the seventies it has been made more explicit once again that the people of Northern Ireland are free to join a united Ireland if a majority so desire. The present Secretary of State for Northern Ireland stated recently in a speech to the Foreign Press Association:

If one looks at an island of that size with no natural territorial divide of a geographical kind, then if other things were equal, and there was no historical influence which is decisive, there is no reason why it should not, and the natural thing is that it would be one political entity.

He added that there was of course a very strong historical overlay.

The provisions in our Constitution are not unique. There were close parallels in Article 23 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, the preamble of which stated: "The entire German people are called upon to achieve in free self-determination the unity and freedom of Germany". The spirit of Article 23 of the German Constitution was almost identical in wording to Article 3 of our Constitution: "For the time being the Basic Law shall apply in the territory of the states of Bavaria, Hamburg etc. In other parts of Germany, it shall be put into force on their accession". The same criticisms were made of the German Constitution as are made of ours, that it made a theoretical claim over those who did not participate in its drafting, that it presented a phantom which would not stand up in international law compared with the reality of the West German state. Of course, the circumstances are not exactly the same, but nevertheless what has happened since has justified those parties who were not dismissive about that part of the German Constitution. Now Article 23 has become redundant in the context of German unity and no longer exists. The CSCE has always kept open the possibility of the peaceful change of frontiers.

Let us remember that our Constitution took the gun out of politics on this side of the Border by providing a constitutional framework which all political parties could accept. The Constitution was never recognised by Republican paramilitary groups until recently and never invoked by them to justify their campaign. All Irish people now want another framework that will take the bomb and bullet out of the politics of the entire island.

In our agreed programme for Government, stressing the importance of dialogue, we speak of a "willingness to discuss all constitutional issues and to initiate and incorporate change in the context of an overall settlement. Our long term policy is to make possible the eventual achievement of a united Ireland by agreement and consent in the spirit of the New Ireland Forum Report". The programme also speaks "of seeking any necessary endorsement in a referendum for an agreed policy which achieves a balanced accommodation of the differing positions of the two main traditions on constitutional issues". This was an idea that I endorsed last October in my Bodenstown speech.

If we want peace, if we want a political solution, we cannot ignore or gloss over the fundamental position of either community. The present Irish constitutional position means a great deal to the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland. They see it as affirmation that they belong to the Irish nation. They also see it as giving the Irish Government a status to negotiate with the British Government on their behalf. It reflects their deeply held convictions about partition. In effect, the first three articles are seen as the Irish constitutional guarantee to Northern Nationalists.

None of us has any difficulty in recognising the facts of a situation. It is another thing to ask people to endorse as morally right a situation which they feel deep down represents an historic injustice. Our commitment to a united Ireland is expressed in constitutional terms, with an explicit commitment in Article 29 to settle international disputes by peaceful means. Any attempt in a political vacuum to walk away from constitutional republicanism would be a very dangerous exercise and would most certainly provide a new recruiting platform for terrorism. Constitutional change, therefore, must be placed in the context of a broad-ranging agreement that includes a balanced constitutional accommodation, one that not only recognises and respects the importance of the present wishes of a majority but also the validity and legitimacy of an agreed Ireland as a long term goal. I am happy to endorse the idea that goes back to the Forum report that in any future situation the rights of minorities should be entrenched. A similar type of proposal has recently been put forward by the Tánaiste in the form of a covenant.

It is not enough merely to insist on our constitutional position and to hope that somehow or other peace and Irish unity will ensue. Every leader of this country, from de Valera down to the present day, sought creatively to achieve political progress, not resting solely on the fundamental position but making efforts to advance and reach out. Indeed, the very foundation of Fianna Fáil in 1926 and its decision to participate in the Dáil came as the result of a break with the orthodox and inflexible dogmas of the then Sinn Féin Party, which offered no hope of advance. In 1937, de Valera included a little known provision in the Constitution, Article 15.2.2º, which allows for the recognition of subordinate legislatures. This was the basis for de Valera's offer to the Unionists to keep Stormont, with appropriate guarantees for the minority, if sovereignty were transferred. He was also prepared to keep bridges open by his offer of external association first made in 1921 and repeated publicly or privately over the rest of his career.

Seán Lemass broke with the reflex of non-recognition, in a form ofNordpolitik of his own, in his famous meetings with the Unionist Prime Minister, Captain Terence O'Neill. As part of an Oireachtas Committee he was also prepared to contemplate constitutional change, if that would advance the situation.

Jack Lynch was the first to face the challenge of the current Northern troubles. He made it clear from the outset in 1969 that the Government sought reunification of the country by peaceful means and by agreement. He said that of its nature this policy was a long term one, with the initial objective being to promote peace and goodwill and to eradicate bigotry and discrimination. He laid the foundations for the Sunningdale Agreement subsequently signed——

And negotiated.

——by the Government of Liam Cosgrave.

Charles Haughey initiated the Anglo-Irish process in 1980, which asserts the central role and responsibility of the two Governments and which was subsequently developed into the Anglo-Irish Agreement by the Government of Dr. Garret FitzGerald and Deputy Dick Spring in the aftermath of the New Ireland Forum.

The present partnership Government between Fianna Fáil and Labour has the same duty as our predecessors — not to retreat to the certainties of the past but to strive for a decisive political break-through that will help to bring about a new formula for peace.

The Government is deeply committed to the achievement of a lasting political settlement which will accommodate the two traditions in Ireland on equal terms and which will bring about a new beginning for relationships within Northern Ireland within the island of Ireland and between the peoples of these islands. It was to achieve such a settlement that my previous Government recommended a process of political talks between April and November last.

Those talks were unique in their scope and significance. Never before had the fundamental issues which lie at the heart of the Northern Ireland problem been addressed in a systematic and collective way by the two Governments and the four main constitutional parties of Northern Ireland. Never before had Irish Government Ministers engaged in a prolonged face-to-face dialogue with leaders of the Unionist tradition. The fact that it proved possible to get all participants around a table together and to sustain this process over a period of several months was in itself a remarkable break-through and marked a watershed on the road to a political solution. It signalled the critical importance of a wide-ranging political dialogue between the two Governments and the parties in the search for a lasting agreement. Those talks would not have taken place without commitment, goodwill and determination on the part of all concerned. Those qualities were also responsible for the significant degree of progress realised during the talks. I hope that the same constructive qualities will enable us all to return to the negotiating table soon. The need for an agreed political settlement has never been more apparent or more pressing.

There is, of course, no easy route to such a settlement. The problems which we confronted in last year's talks were deep-seated and long-standing. Our endeavour was an ambitious one, and we all recognised this at the outset. We were seeking to resolve profound tensions and divisions which have disrupted our relationships going back over several centuries. It was hardly surprising, therefore, that it did not prove possible to achieve in the time available the comprehensive accommodation of our differences at which we were all aiming.

What we did achieve in that short period, however, was a considerably better understanding of each other's concerns than we had ever had before, and a much fuller sense of the sincerely held positions on both sides which must be reconciled in any lasting settlement. The need for political arrangements which respect the validity of both traditions seemed generally accepted. We identified and discussed most of the elements which would comprise an eventual settlement. We also established constructive dialogue on ways in which an accommodation might be reached on some of the key issues which divide us.

In short, therefore, we laid an extremely valuable foundation for future talks which may take us further along the road towards a comprehensive settlement. As we have already indicated on many occasions, the two Governments are of the view that further dialogue is both necessary and desirable. A promising foundation exists upon which we can build. I hope that all participants will recognise that we should do so soon without further delay.

The positive and constructive approach of the Irish Government has been evident from the very outset. We facilitated the talks process by making clear in advance, along with the British Government, that we would be prepared to consider a new and more broadly based agreement than the Anglo-Irish Agreement, if such an arrangement could be arrived at through direct discussion and negotiation between all of the parties. We also agreed a series of arrangements relating to meetings of the Anglo-Irish Conference to facilitate such discussions.

Throughout the talks last year we indicated clearly our readiness to contemplate change in the interest of achieving a "new beginning" for the various relationships on this island. However, change could not be in one direction only. We wished to see change on both sides in the interest of achieving a fair and honourable accommodation between the needs, rights and aspirations of both traditions. If the negotiations were to achieve the basis of a "new beginning" in the relationship between Nationalism and Unionism and if an agreement were to entail any constitutional consequences in our jurisdiction, I felt both Governments would respond positively to that situation and that we "could approach the electorate with the hope and prospect of a positive response". That, after all, is the essential consideration. It is the electorate's judgment in any referendum, and not the wishes of the Government or any individual, which will determine whether changes can be made. It follows that we need to have an opportunity to assess all the proposals for change in their full practical and political context. That is why it is important to get back to the negotiating table.

The Government worked actively for agreement in last year's talks. We have worked more assiduously to achieve an early resumption of talks this year. We have set no preconditions for our partners. We have made clear that we are ready to sit down at any time and in any place. I hope that others will show equal flexibility and commitment. The saving of a single life in the North or elsewhere demands that flexibility and commitment from all political leaders. When talks resume, the Government will have its own proposals to present. We will also be ready to discuss the proposals which other participants wish to present, or which they may already have presented. We are prepared to discuss everything, once we all return to the table, but that is where the discussion should take place. To select for discussion in advance of fresh negotiations only proposals or papers which individual delegations tabled at the end of the last round would not, I think, be conducive to a successful outcome.

As regards the UUP proposal for an Inter-Irish Relations Committee, the Government is, of course, fully prepared to discuss this idea, when talks resume. However, I would like to correct any impression which may exist, that this proposal has not been studied by the Government. When the UUP first advanced it earlier in last year's talks, it received our full consideration. It was then reiterated in a UUP paper of 9 November last. We are still open to be convinced that it would represent, as the Ulster Unionists claim, a major step forward. However, it would be wrong to base future discussions just on the framework of the Unionist set of proposals, as suggested by Deputy Bruton last week.

I did not suggest that.

All the ideas and proposals on the table, including both the SDLP's and the Unionists', as well as those from the two Governments, will merit equal weight and consideration in future negotiations.

The concentration on constitutional difficulties can obscure the progress that is possible on political and institutional questions, and on economic co-operation. Even if only a limited understanding is possible on all constitutional issues at this time, it is still well worthwhile to seek agreements in areas where more unites us than divides us. There is clearly some potential for agreement on political institutions in Northern Ireland, which would allow the constitutional parties to share responsibility for government there. In the words of the Report of the New Ireland Forum: "A settlement which recognises the legitimate rights of Nationalists and Unionists must transcend the context of Northern Ireland".

Closer co-operation between North and South is imperative in the context of the Single European Market and the consequent creation of a single market economy on the island of Ireland, and also in the context of the wise use of resources in almost every economic and social area. Co-operation is needed in the European Community in dealing with issues that affect the island of Ireland as a whole, or which require a cross-border approach. Co-operation on security would be necessary, even in a far more peaceful context than exists today. The two Governments also have an important role, acknowledged under the Anglo-Irish Agreement, in recognising and upholding the identities, rights and interests of both communities.

The question arises as to whether separate North-South institutions should be established, in which the British Government would play no direct part, or whether it would be better to expand or adapt the role of the Conference to include the full participation of both Governments and the parties to a Northern Administration.

One of the principal contributions of Fianna Fáil since it took office in 1987 has been to place far greater emphasis in the Conference on economic issues and on North South economic co-operation, with economic Ministers in regular attendance. Last May, I published a comprehensive studyIreland in Europe: A Shared Challenge, which sets out many of the opportunities that exist to increase employment, through the greater integration of the two economies on this island. By enlarging the size of the home market, we can give indigenous industries a chance to develop to a size, where they are able to become exporters. There is scope for joint marketing and promotion of Irish tourism, of Irish products abroad, for the development of complementary manufacturing activities, particularly linkages to multinational firms, and for a strong single voice in Europe for Irish agriculture and fisheries. The business organisations see substantial opportunities and employment potential. Independent studies show that up to 75,000 new jobs could be created on a basis of all-Ireland co-operation. Our task is to create the political climate, so that these economic exchanges can flourish. Some of these areas for action were foreseen as far back as the Government of Ireland Act 1920, but were not developed subsequently.

By our own improved economic performance in recent years we have made ourselves a more interesting partner for Northern business and for many ordinary people. In many respects our welfare system is now superior to that in the North, especially in relation to older people. I have always subscribed to the view expressed by Eamon de Valera at the 1933 Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis on the way to reunite the country, when he said:

There is no use in pretending that we can solve that by mere words. We cannot; nor can we solve it by force. We have got to solve it, as I have said, in the only way it can be solved, and that is by having a livelihood for our people down here which will be the envy of the people of the North and make them see that their future lies with their own people and not with strangers.

The INTERREG Programme and the International Fund can do much to improve the economy of Border areas and other deprived parts of Northern Ireland. Major infrastructural projects are underway, such as the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal, now nearing completion, and the upgrading of the Dublin-Belfast railway. I do not think Unionists have any major difficulty about this type of co-operation, which is of as much benefit to them as it is to the rest of us. The economic border is gone — only the political border remains.

In the absence of a new political agreement, we will pursue this co-operation vigorously within the Anglo-Irish Conference. We will also seek to promote judicial and other reforms and create a better sense of fairness in the eyes of the law. Further intensive efforts are needed to achieve greater equality. Down here, the Government is committed to a radical programme of affirmative action, with regard to equality, including the aim of having women representing 40 per cent of the composition of State boards. We will also have targets for increasing the number of physically handicapped people in the public service. If existing fair employment legislation does not show results, a similar type of approach may have much to recommend it in Northern Ireland, if we want to set an example in reducing the employment imbalance between Protestant and Catholic, especially in the public sector.

In my recent visit to America, I was very encouraged by the positive interest and support shown by President Clinton and his Administration and influential members of Congress in supporting the political efforts towards peace of both Governments, and the reform of past injustice and abuses. This assistance, moral and material, is deeply valued and appreciated by the Irish Government. Both Governments are deeply committed to the search for peace. It is important that our positions and our policies be clearly understood by all and not be misrepresented, and we will continue to clarify them to the best of our ability. For my part, the appointment of Gordon Wilson to the Seanad was intended to endorse and to show to the world the strength of the simple, straightforward desire for peace and reconciliation among the Irish people, and the yearning that the killing might cease. This has a force that can no longer be ignored.

A new formula for peace would create a whole new vista. The opportunities that would open up for all of us in Ireland, once peace were established, are vast. It would provide a far better climate for settling or accommodating the differences that remain. It would bring into the political arena groups and communities that have hitherto felt excluded. A new era awaits us. It is the duty and responsibility of all of us to make sure that it arrives soon. Everyone must respond to the changing mood in the political landscape regarding the North of Ireland.

In my contribution to this debate I want to make two basic points. The first is that the security situation is now so serious and threatening to everyone on this island that it justifies all-party action and a meeting of all party leaders should take place. The second point is that if both sides in Northern Ireland look in detail at what the other side is saying they will see there are more grounds for agreement than either side recognises at present. Solving problems like this by imaginative and creative action is what politics is all about.

It is the failure to do this in so many other instances that has brought discredit to democratic politics in Ireland and elsewhere. Throughout western Europe there is a profound distrust of political institutions. This has taken a more acute form in this State largely because of the disparity between what politicians promised and what they delivered. The last few months has brought this phenomenon to a very high pitch. That is the dispiriting background against which political action on any political issue in this State now takes place.

For more than 20 years the people of this island have seen an endless cycle of political initiatives towards peace. A four-stage pattern repeats itself inexorably. First is a long period of political paralysis. Then there is a shorter period in which there is a flurry of activity, when something seems to be happening. Next, there is the moment of breakdown and collapse and finally, the inevitable period of recrimination followed by another long period of political inactivity. It has gone on like this in an endless cycle for over two decades. This cycle is now so set that the business of apportioning blame is under way before the talks process has finally collapsed.

Those who say that we have become desensitised to the campaign of terror are wrong. The powerful public demonstrations of the last week are living proof that even after the years of murder and mayhem, the people of Ireland have refused to be numbed by the atrocities carried out by the terrorists. It is not that we are paralysed or that we do not care, it is just that so many of the people who care feel that there is so little they can do. On top of the general disillusionment with political institutions the people of these islands now have something approaching profound despair about the prospects for peace in Northern Ireland. It will thus be a bad day for Ireland if in a major debate of this sort, the Government fails to announce a series of concrete initiatives to advance the political process and to tighten up on security. The lesson of the last few days is that words are just not enough. Each murder that goes undetected, each bomb detonated without somebody being prosecuted and each time protection money is paid, faith in the effectiveness of democratic politics is further reduced. In the final analysis any system of Government must be effective if it is to last.

While all this is happening democratic politicians in Northern Ireland pull further apart from each other, if one is to judge from what one hears on the air-waves. I detect a deep pessimism amongst those involved in public life in Northern Ireland, about the prospects for a successful conclusion to the Brooke/Mayhew talks. Despite the hundreds of hours of contact, there remain deep differences of perception between the two sides. It will only deepen the despair if we use this full day of Dáil debate to record yet again well crafted rhetoric but no concrete actions to build peace.


Hear, hear.

It is time to return to fundamentals, TheSunday Times carried a report last Sunday naming the chief of staff of the IRA as living in this State at Smithborough, County Monaghan, naming the IRA finance chief as somebody operating from Dublin, naming the head of the IRA bombing campaign in England as also being based in Dublin and claiming that the IRA quartermaster general, whom they did not name but whose name I can supply to the Taoiseach — the person responsible for supplies of arms and explosives — lives at Black-rock, County Louth. Added to this we see the IRA issuing a press release trying to justify the Warrington bomb from some real or imaginary location in Dublin. This is not acceptable. It never has been accepted by the two main political parties or by any of the other parties of this State.

Speaking of much milder atrocities by the IRA at that time, the then Taoiseach, Deputy John A. Costello, said in a national broadcast in January 1957:

So far as they are directed from within territories under our jurisdiction, it is the duty of the Government of this State to prevent their continuance.

On 26 March 1957 in the Dáil, the Minister for Justice of the incoming Fianna Fáil administration, Deputy Oscar Traynor, spoke words that have been echoed by countless speakers since:

There can be only one Army in the State and that shall be the Army established by this Parliament.


Hear, hear.

Yet it seems, if theSunday Times report is to be believed, and I note that it has not to date been officially contradicted, that the provisional IRA are maintaining, within this State, the command and supply structure of an army, that is a rival to the Army of this State.

Another newspaper report, this time in theCork Examiner, has suggested that this rival army is being financed, to a minor extent at least, by the widespread and well organised sale of the illegal angel dust to some irresponsible members of the Irish farming community. It is also being financed by a massive infrastructure of other criminal rackets on both sides of the Border. It meanwhile maintains here large secret dumps of arms and explosives, much of which were supplied by the Libyan Government.

When such a situation as this existed here in 1957, the Fianna Fáil Party, then led by Mr. de Valera, sought and obtained a electoral mandate to deal with it. Within four months of taking up office it brought into force the powers in Part II of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act, 1940. That course of action was subsequently endorsed by the Dáil by 103 votes to five, and the IRA virtually ceased to exist in the years that followed, only to be rekindled by the sectarian pogroms against Catholics in the late 1960s in Northern Ireland.

The situation that exists now is much worse even than that of 1957. Not only are the IRA far more active than they were in 1957 on a wide scale on both of these islands, but now there is counter-terror. Loyalist terror gangs are capable of maintaining a tit for tat campaign of equal ferocity. They are just as indiscriminate in their targets. Politicians, North and South, even members of the GAA, are now publicly on the loyalist hit list. No part of this island is safe, any more than any part of Britain, from one kind of terror or the other.

The popular will to put the terrorists out of business that existed in 1957 exists again today. It exists amongst both communities on this island because both face an equally serious threat.

The precise policing methods that worked in the less sophisticated world of the 1950s will not necessarily work in the 1990s. That is a matter that should best be judged by the Government of the day, using the advice that is available only to it. The same public determination to act now exists. It must be responded to and recognised in this debate. It has not to date been recognised by the Taoiseach. The public want action that is even-handed, comprehensive and effective, that makes both of these islands safe from the intimidation of terror. I have suggested that the leaders of the main political parties in Dáil Éireann should meet to discuss the restoration of peace on these islands. I am taking up a proposal made by the Tánaiste when he was in Opposition. I repeat that proposal now in recognition of the fact that the safety of our people is the primary responsibility of Dáil Éireann, coming before all other responsibilities.

The people have moved on. They do not want sterile political debate about anachronisms in our Constitution. They do not want excuses from the Government as to why we should not quickly reform our extradition laws. The people do not want sophisticated arguments about why "the time is not right".

It is well over a year since the Taoiseach promised a review of extradition procedures. Only this week he was sunk so low in empty prevarication that he tried to misrepresent criticism of Government delay in introducing extradition legislation as a criticism of the gardaí. It is his Government that has delayed this legislation, not the gardaí.

The Irish people now know that the terrorist organisations have developed an extremely sophisticated cell structure, which ensures that those who are directing operations are able to maintain sufficient distance from the actual crimes to avoid prosecution, let alone conviction.

People are also realistic enough to know that a political settlement amongst democratic politicians will not, in itself, end the murders. Even in the unlikely event that Sinn Féin and the UDA were cajoled into agreeing to the terms of a settlement, there is a strong likelihood that break-away groups on the republican and loyalist sides would continue the violence. This has been the pattern of behaviour of violent organisations throughout Irish history.

A referendum on both sides of the Border in the event of a settlement, as suggested by the SDLP, might help deprive the IRA at least of the claimed ideological basis for continuing their campaign, but the network of rackets and protection that underpins the IRA has by now taken on a life of its own. Their crimes now have their own inexorable economic logic.

It should not be forgotten that the IRA ignored every election result here since 1992. There is doubt whether they would pay attention to any referendum at this stage — even one occurring simultaneously in both parts of the Island. But it is worth trying.

It is very important to recognise that there will be no enduring political settlement unless and until the violence stops.

Prejudice and suspicion are a fact in Northern Ireland. That explains the reason the statement I have just made is true. Every time an atrocity occurs, prejudice is deepened, a new family circle is infected with fear and hurt, a hurt that may not disappear for generations to come. I do not believe that any cross-community political institutions, however ingenious, can actually survive, if terror campaigns continue to undermine the essential cross-community tolerance on which any working political institutions must rest.

It is wrong to describe those who thought up and implemented the Warrington bomb blast and other atrocities as "mindless". These attacks were carefully planned by skilled terrorists to achieve a precise political effect. To describe them as "mindless" is to minimise the real danger that they pose. We are not dealing with organisations that are influenced by appeals to sentiment.

Each terrorist atrocity by the IRA and the Loyalists is a rational and calculated act. The death of a child is just as much a means of exerting political pressure for the terrorist politician, as is a television appearance for a democratic politician.

There is another comfortable assumption, namely that this present situation is so bad that it cannot get much worse. This, unfortunately, could be mistaken. We should look at what has happened in Eastern Europe. As long as an overwhelming military presence existed, whether in the form of the Soviet or the Yugoslav Central armies, a measure of peace, peace with resentment, but peace just the same, was maintained over a large area of Central and Eastern Europe.

As soon as this central military power was removed, ethnic violence erupted. We now have violent civil wars in Bosnia, in Azerbaijan and in Georgia and the potential for it in many other parts of Central and Eastern Europe.

Those who argue, for example, that British withdrawal, or a declaration in favour of British withdrawal, would help solve the problem must first, before pursuing that, answer the following questions:

How will they guarantee that, in the absence of the overwhelming military superiority of the British Army, there would not be a radical intensification of ethnic cleansing throughout the island of Ireland?

Are they sure that the Irish Army has sufficient military strength to impose order on the whole island?

Are they sure that they would be able to protect the Nationalists of Portadown and the Unionists of rural Fermanagh? If not, who would be capable of protecting them?

These questions have to be answered. Some will suggest that a United Nations presence might solve this aspect of the problem. One might have thought that until this year. But we have seen how ineffective United Nations troops have been in Bosnia. The United Nations have not even been invited to Georgia or Azerbaijan. If the British, who at least have a vested interest in maintaining peace in Northern Ireland, were to be made unwilling to see their young men die keeping peace there, what likelihood is there that the electorates of far away UN member countries, would be willing to see their young men go on dying in Ireland over a sustained period?

These are practical, and I suggest quite important, questions that must first be answered honestly, if we are to devise a solution that will work. Lives come before constitutional theories.

Let me now turn to the process of talks between politicians, the Brooke-Mayhew talks, that are now at an impasse. The best advice one can ever offer to anybody who is engaged in any process of negotiation, is to try to put himself or herself in the shoes of the person at the other side of the table. To the greatest extent possible, one should try to use their framework of thinking, their concepts, and their language, as the means of advancing one's own legitimate interests. This is much preferable to insisting on the use of one's own framework, concepts, or language.

Much of the difficulty in the recent talks seems to me as an outsider to have arisen from the fact that both sides came to the talks with different frameworks, different concepts, and have continued to use different language. As a result, the talks did not get much beyond formalities, despite all the hours spent on them, to discuss substantive possibilities for agreement. In fact much of the time the delegation appeared to be talking past each other. That has to change and the whole negotiating method has to change. If we have a contribution to make in this House obviously we must urge change on those who are most likely to listen to us. Let me start by saying how the Irish Government and the SDLP might reassess their position, in order to use the framework proposed by the other side, in order to advance discussion on our own interests and in order to get the talks moving again. At the close of the recent round of talks, the Ulster Unionist Party tabled a proposal designed, they said, "to clarify and develop issues arising from bilateral discussions with the Irish Republic's Government and the SDLP". If one wanted to be critical, one could find faults in this paper. That is exactly what we should not do.

I should like to list what I see as the positive elements in the Unionist Paper. First, the Unionists propose that "minority rights would be guaranteed" within Northern Ireland. Second, that "Nationalists would have a meaningful role in the administration of Northern Ireland". Third, the Unionists said that they had tabled proposals for a "Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland". Fourth they proposed an "Inter-Irish relations committee which would facilitate a new understanding of co-operation between Unionists and Nationalists; initiate studies on matters of mutual interest and benefit to the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic and consult the heads of Departments and Ministers and officials on matters relating to areas of mutual interest.

Rather than concentrating on the deficiencies in this paper, and of the proposals, the Irish Government and the SDLP should treat this paper as a framework for discussion and further proposals.

They should, for example, table specific ideas as to how the Unionist concept of“minority rights being guaranteed” could be developed.

As I have said, the Unionists have accepted that there should be a "meaningful role in the administration of Northern Ireland” for Nationalists.

Up to now the Unionists have merely been willing to agree to a concept of committees in an assembly, with some of the chairmanships being granted to Nationalists, who would none the less remain in a permanent minority. This is not adequate. The Irish Government and the SDLP should therefore table alternative proposals, which accept the Unionist concept of a "meaningful role in the administration of Northern Ireland" for Nationalists, but which go on to make much more substantive proposals within that concept far beyond what the Unionists are now willing to accept. That is the way to make progress in negotiations.

The Unionists have also proposed a "Bill of Rights". Again the sensible thing for the Irish Government to do is to table a detailed proposal for a Bill of Rights, within the framework suggested by the Unionists. Obviously, the proposals that the Irish Government and the SDLP might put forward for a Bill of rights could go well beyond what the Unionists presently have in mind.

The Unionist proposal for an "Inter Irish Relations Committee" is a major step forward by them. It is quite a time now since the Unionists were willing to accept any formal institution of a North/South kind.

Rather than fault-finding and saying how inadequate this proposal is, the Irish Government should start by accepting the title "Inter Irish Relations Committee," as proposed by the Unionists, but go on from there to propose functions for this committee that go further than the Unionists now have in mind.

The key to a successful negotiation is, by accepting the other side's basic framework, to make it easier for them to accept many of one's own ideas. Timing is important. In order to solidify the positions taken by the Unionists in their paper, it is important that a Government response to that paper be issued quickly and in good faith.

I know it has been argued that this Unionist paper was issued at the very end of the latest round of talks, and was designed to serve a propaganda purpose as well. Of course, that is true, but that does not change the argument. The paper is there to be used as a vehicle for progress, whatever its defects or presumed motivations.

Equally, I would advise, as I did last week, the Unionist community to take a serious look at the proposals made by the SDLP, which propose to give the Northern Ireland problem a European dimension. At first sight, this European proposal might be seen as threatening by Unionists, in so far as it represents an apparent diminution in the so-called "British" interest in the issue. This need not necessarily be the result. There could be considerable additional protection for Unionists in having a European dimension.

With the opening up of Eastern Europe, Europe is being forced to develop much more sophisticated standards than ever before for dealing with minority-majority situations. Work is already in progress on this in the Council of Europe and in the CSCE. There could be an advantage for the Unionists, whose position on these islands is relatively isolated, to bring a balancing European dimension into the issue.

It is important that Unionists think creatively within the framework suggested by other people, rather than confining themselves to their own framework. This is what I said last week. I did not suggest, as the Taoiseach inferred, that the Unionists' framework should be the only one used in the talks. I advised both sides to seek to use the other side's framework and the Taoiseach knows that I urged both sides to do that last week because I supplied him with a copy of my speech. However, he was unable to resist the temptation this morning of engaging in a not very subtle attempt to knowingly misrepresent the position of other parties in this House. It has been this constant anxiety to score domestic political advantage within this State that has prevented Fianna Fáil in its long history from sponsoring any major constructive initiative on Northern Ireland.

The Taoiseach's speech today consisted of an elaborate historical justification of the traditional position of his party and erected yet another psychological barrier to progress. His speech contained no response to the demand for change expressed on the streets of Dublin and other cities and towns in this State. That emphasises how deeply conservative, in the worse sense of that word, this Government really is.

The Taoiseach's speech did not meet the needs of this moment in Irish history. If progress is to be made, people from within the Nationalist tradition must make a public effort to understand and acknowledge the views of the Unionists, as I have done. That would be a constructive contribution towards a settlement. Perhaps the reasons we have made so little progress in solving this problem over 70 years is that all parties in this House have tended to compete with one another in expressing only one viewpoint about the Northern Ireland issue and as a result of that competition we have become stuck in a rut that has led us nowhere. In his criticism of my speech, the Taoiseach sought to intimidate me into joining him in that competitive restatement of the existing position. I will not be intimidated in that way. I will continue to speak in favour of a settlement and to seek to understand the other side of this issue on this island. I will continue to express in this House the views of the other community on this island, as I understand them, as well as standing up for the views of the minority in Northern Ireland. In doing so, I can make my best contribution as an elected politician to achieving a solution to this tragic problem. If we all continue to compete in demonstrating how green we are, we will make no progress.


Hear, hear.

I have never accepted that principle and I never will. I am willing to pay any price to bring about change. There will be no progress on this issue until the people on both sides make a special effort to understand the views of those on the other side. That has not happened so far and there was no reference to it this morning.

I do not propose to say a great deal about the controversial issues of Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution. Since Germany was voluntarily united, those Articles in our Constitution are the only remaining case of a legal claim, on territory not currently administered by it, enshrined in the Constitution of any European state.

Retaining a legal claim like this in one's Constitution also makes one's own state, in some sense, incomplete or provisional. This is undesirable from a civic point of view and from the point of view of establishing the necessary loyalty of the institutions of the State needed for democratic Government. The Taoiseach has claimed that the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, is a form of counterpart of Articles 2 and 3. He wants the Act changed as some form of trade for a change in Articles 2 and 3.

Let us analyse this proposition. The Government of Ireland Act is no more than a statutory provision similar to any Bill passed by this House. It is not part of a written Constitution. It is not entrenched like Articles 2 and 3 and is not their equivalent at all. In any event, the Government of Ireland Act has been superseded, as far as policy is concerned, by the British declarations in the Anglo-Irish Agreement. If the present Irish Government wants the Government of Ireland Act changed, they should state in very plain language what exactly they want in its place. Otherwise it will simply be seen as raising a debating point, creating a new area of uncertainty, for no clear constructive purpose.

Having said that, I recognise the fears of the Northern Nationalist community about any unilateral change in Articles 2 and 3. There is no ground for the fear that Northern Ireland residents could no longer get Irish passports if these articles were changed to an aspiration from a legal claim. However, I agree that the framing of any alternative wording, and of any agreement to go with it, must take account of the real fear among the Nationalist community of potential isolation or of denial of their identity. That is why there is much sense in making constitutional changes in the context of an overall settlement.

The Government should state unambiguously that it will be prepared to promote a change to Articles 2 and 3 if there is an overall settlement. To date, it has not done so. The Tánaiste spoke of putting a package to the people in a referendum, but he did not refer specifically to those Articles in that context.

This brings me back to my central theme. We must all be prepared to make real efforts in the area both of institutional change and policing if we are to create conditions for a settlement.

The solutions are there; this situation is not impossible of solution. We must have the political courage to put those solutions into effect. This debate will put that political courage to the test. The issue can be postponed no longer.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate on Northern Ireland today. The decision to hold the debate was timely and appropriate. Our discussion takes place against a background of heightened concern throughout this island, and indeed beyond, about the effects and dangers of the conflict. Much of that concern is rightly directed at the unremitting catalogue of atrocities and tragedies which have been caused by the proponents of violence on both sides. There is also, however, a second theme running through many of these protests. People are also deeply troubled that these terrible deeds are being done by people who purport to act in the name of one or other community. They may shelter behind convoluted doctrines and unjustifable arguments, but these all ultimately reduce to one element, namely, contempt for the actual wishes of the people they invoke.

History, particularly in this century, shows that it is always a very small step from contempt for the wishes of the people to contempt for all their other basic human rights, including their lives. Those who uphold these evil doctrines in our island are in the grip of that same pattern. For that reason it is particularly important that those of us who have been entrusted with a mandate of the people, and who are answerable to the people for our actions, should make our voices heard decisively on this question. I know that Members on all sides of the House are fully conscious of the gravity of those issues and will, I am sure, deal with them in a measured and reflective way, as free as possible from tactical or partisan considerations. I am certain that is how the people who gave us our mandate would wish to see the issue debated.

I know that in present circumstances I need not spend time justifying to the House the high priority the Government gave to the Northern Ireland issue in its programme. The victims in Warrington remind us that some 128 children have been killed since the beginning of the troubles — enough to fill a school, had they been allowed to live. The murders at Castlerock are another tragic reminder, if that was needed, of how heavily the brunt of the violence has fallen on both communities in Northern Ireland.

I am aware that there has been some debate, particularly in Northern Ireland, on the extent to which public opinion here may have focused on one tragedy as opposed to others. That is an invidious and unnecessary debate. Those who do not care impartially for all the murders ultimately do not really care about murder at all. All innocent victims have equal claims on our compassion. It has been well said that there is no difference between Catholic tears and Protestant tears. Neither is there any difference between Irish tears and English tears.

We all know from our own contacts how fervently our people want to see this violence ended. We know the bafflement, even the sense of despair they feel when they see murder become a brutal routine. Violence has touched almost every aspect of our society, and it has sullied every aspect it has touched. Even when we finally master it — as in sheer self-defence we somehow must — it will take a long time to decontaminate our island from its poisonus after-effects.

The Government's programme states only the bald truth when it says that the future welfare of all the people of Ireland is overshadowed by the conflict. In addition to those who have suffered directly from the tragedy, there are many more who have suffered indirectly — for example, those of the unemployed on both sides of the Border who might have jobs if resources were not being diverted into the essentially unproductive task of protecting ourselves from the effects of violence, or if economic opportunities were not lost because our island has been sadly tarnished by it.

Those who give themselves a licence to take life, who almost casually dispense death and destruction, violate the most elementary human rights of their victims. They hold in contempt both the unmistakable wishes of the people in both communities and the democratic processes the people choose to express their wishes. They may speak hollow and empty words of explanation and excuse, but these serve only to underline the moral and political bankruptcy of the inhuman doctrines they invoke to justify their actions. I know we all wish the peace movement success in its endeavours to bring home to those who carry out or support these atrocities how deeply their actions are held in revulsion by the peoples of these islands. They have already been successful in demonstrating to the world how hollow is the pretence that such people have any shadow of a mandate for their actions.

I believe that those people, against whom neither reason nor moral outrage seems to prevail, will also receive a message from this House today. They will see again our shared determination that the bomb and the bullet shall not replace the ballot; that those who inflict violence and destruction will not win; that we shall continue patiently and with determination to pursue an agenda of mutual respect and true reconciliation among all Irish people.

It is not, however, enough merely to condemn violence. Our people want this conflict ended. Because it flows ultimately from a political failure, they look to their political leaders to set matters to right. We have seen violence at close quarters for long enough to know how high the price will be if our political processes fail this crucial test.

There is no goal of this Government, or indeed of our politics generally, more important than laying this ancient quarrel to rest. We are not somehow condemned to be fatalistic victims of this situation. All of the factors affecting it lie close to hand, in the relationships within this island and between these two islands. So, therefore, do the keys to a solution.

The divisions we must address are undoubtedly deep and intractable, but if terrorism has proved anything, it is that the hatreds it seeks to mobilise pale into insignificance compared to our common interest in peace. That has been shown again and again by the dignity and forbearance of the victims cruelly picked out at random in this evil campaign. Our challenge now is to build new arrangements which enshrine that deep mutual respect which the victims, and the greater part of the communities they belong to, so generously and so often reach out to each other, in spite of evil campaigns aimed deliberately at fostering their inherited suspicions.

All roads to political progress run through the process of political dialogue. We approach the challenge of finding a way to relaunch such dialogue on the basis of a number of key considerations.

The first, as is clear from my earlier remarks — indeed from everything I ever said throughout my political career — is that violence can have no role to play in building a solution on this island. That is not only because it is profoundly wrong and unjustified from a moral point of view. It is also profoundly counter-productive, in a very literal sense. It takes a very blinkered Loyalist not to understand that violence perpetrated in the name of Unionism gravely weakens the very relationship with Britain they purport to uphold. It takes a very blinkered Nationalist not to see that IRA violence has been far and away the single most influential factor in driving a wedge between both parts of this island, as well as between the two communities in Northern Ireland. Indeed, if it were not for the signal forbearance and good sense of the general communities on both sides of the divide, the terrorism of both sides would have driven Northern Ireland into a murderouscul de sac.

The second consideration is that an essential condition for peace and stability on this island is agreement between the Unionist and Nationalist traditions. The talks process last year represented a major step towards a common recognition of this basic fact. They were an acknowledgement that we will never solve our problems on this island by denying each other's reality. It remains only to go forward from that turning point in our relationship, since there is literally no alternative to dialogue between us, if we wish to secure the future of peace and prosperity we all hope for our children and grandchildren.

A third consideration is that a solution will never be found unless we leave behind us the old shibboleths and slogans, whether they be "Tiocfaigh ár lá" or "no surrender". The notions of victory and defeat may be heady ones on both sides, but they have brought us destruction, not solutions, and they will always continue to do so. They will never offer a basis for understanding or co-operation, whether applied in the context of Northern Ireland or the island as a whole. It was for that reason that the Government programme very deliberately went back to the words of the Forum report and set as our goal an accommodation between the two traditions in Ireland, based on the principle that both must have equally satisfactory, secure and durable, political, administrative and symbolic expression and protection.

The talks process which took place last year allowed each tradition to define for the other the full dimensions of the positions which must be reconciled in any lasting settlement. These reflected a broad acceptance that new political arrangements were needed to give expression to the identity and validity of each. We must now seek to build on that progress. We are pressing ahead with urgency and dedication to seek the resumption of political dialogue. We are doing so, as the Programme for Government envisages, "in a spirit of openness and honesty, with the overriding aim of achieving peace and reconciling the legitimate rights and aspirations of both communities, showing a willingness to discuss all constitutional issues and to initiate and incorporate change in the context of an overall settlement".

Since taking office I have made clear my wishes for face-to-face discussions with all political leaders in Northern Ireland and have followed up in practice wherever I was able to do so constructively. My hope is that we can stimulate new thinking, both within this island and between these islands, on how new arrangements could be shaped which would match the realities of our own time, which we all recognise even if we do not always acknowledge them.

In our understandable concern to address the issues which divide us; we must not lose sight of the vast areas of common ground we share and which we can build on. There is first of all the deep desire for peace on all sides which I referred to earlier and the enormous fund of public commitment and goodwill which could be mobilised if we could be seen to approach that goal. There are close bonds of history and culture, which we share with Northern Unionists no less than Northern Nationalists, and which link us on the sports field, in our places of worship and in so many other aspects of our daily lives. There is a shared desire for the best standard of living and quality of life that the resources of Ireland, properly used, can afford all of us. Our common interests in this area are particularly tangible in the context of the European Community.

Even where our differences seem greatest, in terms of our identity and allegiance, I believe the common ground is greater than we realise. We agree that there would be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of a majority who live there. We agree that if a majority were to consent to a united Ireland, both Governments would give effect to that wish. That amounts also to a recognition of the equal validity of both aspirations and offers a fair and equitable foundation we all can build on and develop. It implies that our relationships in Ireland are now the real agenda for those who wish to see our people united.

This, then, is the framework which governs our position in relation to political dialogue. The Government is, in that spirit, committed to seeking the urgent resumption of dialogue addressing comprehensively all the relationships involved.

I cannot give to the House any precise timescale as to when dialogue will resume. To say this is not to admit either optimism or pessimism but to simply state the obvious. Both Governments intend doing all in our power to facilitate the earliest possible recommencement of the dialogue. In recent weeks I have met many representatives, political and otherwise, from both traditions in Northern Ireland and I have carefully listened to their views. I can only repeat now what I said to them: this Government's door is open and we are ready to discuss all issues as set out in our programme.

The responsibility for early and meaningful negotiations belongs to all the participants in the talks since each contains a key indispensable to full dialogue. It is in the first instance clearly a responsibility for both Governments since we must provide the impetus and the parameters for new negotiations. It is equally a responsibility for Northern Ireland political leaders since no lasting accommodation is possible unless it rests on the consent of all parties to the dialogue. That is why I hope there will be an early willingness to resume the discussions that concluded last November.

I would caution however about any impression of political vacuum in the interval before such dialogue recommences. While open to a new and more broadly based Agreement, both Governments are also committed to the full working of the present Anglo-Irish Agreement unless and until it is transcended by new arrangements. The Irish Government will continue to pursue vigorously the agenda of the Agreement in all its parts for the benefit of both communities in Northern Ireland.

We shall use it to enhance to the maximum the security co-operation necessary to ensure that those who resort to violence do not succeed and are brought to justice. We shall use it to ensure the maximum respect for the human rights and the equal treatment of every citizen in Northern Ireland, whether at the hands of the security forces, the administration or private employers.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement has an impressive record of achievement across the major areas of its agenda over the past seven years. It has made a very real difference on the ground in Northern Ireland. The Agreement has been operated with vigour and determination by successive Irish Governments, along with their British counterparts. While the results in some areas have not come as quickly as we would have liked, it has, nevertheless, been steadily achieving its objectives.

There has been a continuous level of activity under the various headings of the agreement. This work may not always have received the publicity it deserves, but it is having a real impact on the lives of ordinary people in Northern Ireland. There have been tangible improvements in the position of the Nationalist community. Reforms delivered under the Agreement have re-inforced the attractions of constitutional politics in that community in a way which the paramilitaries have found very difficult to challenge.

An important objective of the Agreement is the creation of confidence among the Nationalist community in the security forces in Northern Ireland. The Government is committed to ensuring that the mechanisms of the Agreement continue to address fully the issues which arise in this regard. Within the framework of the Agreement a number of changes have been made, including improvement of policing, more impartial handling of parades, better arrangements in prisons and, more recently, some additional measures to improve procedures for dealing with complaints against members of the security forces.

I recognise of course that these reforms, while representing some progress, have not resolved all the difficulties in these areas. Much, therefore, remains to be done. We shall continue to press for meaningful, sustained and effective improvement, for example, relating to the use of lethal force by security forces, conditions and safeguards for detainees in RUC holding centres, the objective of full and effective police accompaniment of British Army patrols and the continuing problem of harrassment by the British Army of persons, particularly young men.

Important work has also been carried out under the Agreement in the area of the protection of human rights, the achievement of equality between the two traditions and the prevention of economic and social discrimination. In this area I would mention the Irish Government's substantial input through the Conference to the drafting of the Fair Employment Act in 1989 which introduced a range of new measures to promote equality of opportunity in employment in Northern Ireland.

In recent years there has been a welcome emphasis on the Conference's work programme on North/South economic and social cooperation. Meetings of the Conference are now regularly attended by relevant Ministers from both sides to discuss ways in which North/South cooperation in their respective areas can be advanced. The opportunities which can arise for co-operation in the European context are also being actively pursued. I attach particular importance to the Conference addressing in this way the challenges of economic development in both parts of Ireland and the scope that exists for the two economies to make real gains through cooperation.

The mechanisms of the Conference and the Secretariat provide us with a process of continuous structured co-operation between the two Governments in relation to Northern Ireland and is an invaluable asset. It is a mistake to see the Agreement, as unfortunately some Unionists do, as designed for the benefit of Nationalists only. It does give us a certain role in relation to the interests of Northern Nationalists. However, much of its agenda is actually in the longer term interests of both communities.

Take the question of security co-operation or the issue of equal rights for both communities. Both communities stand to benefit from action in these areas. I am conscious of the work which still remains to be done, but I can assure Deputies that I will be pressing for full and rapid implementation of the provisions of the Agreement in all the areas which it covers. I am determined that the pattern of co-operation will increase in the interests of all the people of this island. There is an enormous range of possibilities, including those at European level, where North and South can work together in a way that should be of mutual advantage to all our people. There will be no vacuum in regard to our relationship with the British Government in Northern Ireland. We will continue our efforts to relaunch the search for new political arrangements. I believe that we now have a historic opportunity on this island to begin anew. Our people want an end to violence. They want an honourable accommodation among Irish men and women of both traditions which lays to rest, once and for all, our hatreds and quarrels. The Government will do all in its power to achieve such a new beginning.

The Progressive Democrats welcome this opportunity to discuss in this Chamber the issues involved in the Northern Ireland conflict, which are at the forefront of many people's minds these days. I have to say, however, that it is very sad indeed that it has taken tragedy, outrage and barbarism to put Northern Ireland on the agenda of this House. It is a poor reflection on us that this debate would probably not have happened at all if it had not been for the bestial outrage in Warrington. If the campaign of slaughter in Northern Ireland had proceeded at its slow, obscene pace within the confines of Northern Ireland there is very little indication that this House would have been addressing its collective mind to these issues here this morning rather than dealing with the other Bills which came before the House this week.

It is shameful that Dáil Éireann deals with Northern Ireland in such anad hoc and reactive way. That is instanced to some extent by the Government proposal that the House establish a Northern Ireland and Foreign Affairs Committee that would not be permitted to talk about policy and security matters in relation to Northern Ireland and that the Government, despite the protestations of Opposition parties, still wants to prevent the Foreign Affairs Committee to be established by this House from publicly debating the issues.

I have listened to the debate thus far and have noticed a remarkable contrast between the two partners in Government as represented by their leaders. The speech delivered by the Taoiseach was not merely disappointing and unsuitable for the occasion; it was downright derelict in the extent to which it departed from what is now needed in this country, real leadership. We have had much too much dwelling on history and drum beating. We had a good deal more of it this morning from the Taoiseach, who delivered a potted history of our constitutional problems in terms that would do no justice to a secondary school student.

The Taoiseach came to the House with an analysis of our problems and possible solutions for them which beggared belief and demonstrated a poverty of imagination and an absence of leadership that I find very distressing indeed. One would have only to instance the completely inapt comparison between the German Constitution and Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution to underline the extent to which the analysis the Taoiseach offered the House today is fundamentally flawed. The problem in Germany was not of two populations in a land mass being divided in accordance with their wishes; they were divided against their wishes. The articles in the German Constitution to which the Taoiseach referred did not claim for the German Federal Republic ade jure right to administer the whole of Germany. They amounted to a call to unity, not an imposition of soverignty. What is more, it was not something in the hearts of the German people that held them apart; it was the interference of others. I do not have to indicate to the Taoiseach the extent to which his analysis tendered this morning fundamentally fails to address the concerns of Unionists nor the extent to which he is out of sympathy with a million people who live upon this island, and with their aspirations and their concerns. Not one word in the Taoiseach's speech demonstrated even the slightest superficial understanding of their concerns, still less was there any indication that the Taoiseach proposes to make political progress towards reconciliation of the views he and his party have represented in the past with the views that they maintain today. That attitude contrasts with the views expressed by the Tánaiste, who was at least positive and open-minded. He dealt with the concerns of ordinary people in a manner which was not exclusively nationalist nor exclusively south of the Border in approach but was directed towards all the people of this island. I am not attempting to divide artificially the Taoiseach from his Tánaiste. I am pointing out what must be as plain as a pikestaff to anyone listening to the debate — that there was a marked and almost irreconcilable difference in the approaches of the two speeches delivered from the Government benches thus far.

A great wave of human emotion demands that to which we are all entitled and that for which most people long — an end to the killings, the bombings and the terrorism. As I said last weekend in Limerick, sometimes the blindingly obvious needs to be restated. The campaign of political killing in Northern Ireland would stop tomorrow if those who are killing chose to stop it. That campaign is a matter of choice; it is neither compelled nor excused by other circumstances and it would stop if the people engaged in it chose to stop it. The IRA campaign has no inevitable momentum of its own; it is going nowhere politically, historically or morally. I say to the people in the IRA murder machine that they will not be retrospectively pardoned by history. Now is the time for this Chamber, which the Constitution calls the House of Representatives of the Irish people, to call for, to demand and to resolve to obtain an end to political killing this year, 1993. Such an aim is neither naive nor unreal. We are the elected public representatives chosen by a people who, as in any other democracy, have the right to expect of their politicians that they span the gap between aspiration and achievement. In order to do that, we in this Republic have to be honest with ourselves about what can be achieved, what should be achieved and what is desirable to achieve in the short term.

Speaking about a unitary Irish state in the present circumstances is not to speak at all, except to show that one ought not to be participating in the debate because one is part of the problem rather than part of its solution. For the Taoiseach of this country to speak in terms of a unitary Irish state in the terms that he did in his speech this morning ignores completely the realities that exist in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland may be seen by some as a failed political entity — and, doubtless, the extent of its failure is there for all to see — but the majoritation principle established in Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, an agreement that is registered in the United Nations, binds this country, all its political leaders and all its political parties to the principle that there will be no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland for as long as the people of Northern Ireland state that there will be no change. That is the logic that we must deal with now. I believe that the Taoiseach, in running away from that logic and in going back over history and historical justifications for the Nationalist position, does no service in that he fails to address what must be done now, that is, to arrive within the present constitutional status of Northern Ireland, which is not going to change in the foreseeable future, at institutions and political processes that command and deserve the respect of both traditions in the North and that restate a relationship between North and South and between London and Dublin.

The conflict on this island is a conflict of two absolutist positions. Our collective perception of history here in the South has, alas, been entirely absolutist. Many Members of this House would be able to cast their minds back to their school days, when history was taught to all of us in an absolutist way.

Carthy's History.

That is right. The emergence of this State was portrayed as a slow, painful, moral, historical process, almost inevitable, in which every setback such as Kinsale was a tragedy and every step forward such as the Easter uprising of 1916 was a moral triumph. The history and folklore of the Unionist people in Northern Ireland is similarly and equally replete with absolutism, tragedy and moral uncertainty. What we need least of all is a Cook's tour of constitutional history over the past 30, 50 or 70 years as seen by the Taoiseach, which does nothing to add to our analysis but does much to increase the obstacles to political progress. It is abundantly clear that real political progress in such a climate will be made only by those who are willing to step outside their own history and make common cause with likeminded people from different backgrounds, people who can recognise political opportunities above and beyond the logic and the vocabulary of their own historical community. It is to such men and women that history will look back if this island is to escape in these days and months from the cycle of barbarism to which we have descended and in which we are apparently locked.

I regret to say that collectively this House is nowhere near demonstrating those qualities. I hesitate to use a divisive example but I feel constrained to say that, if my party colleague sitting beside me, Deputy Mary Harney, could be regarded by some as unsuitable to take part in the political dialogue on Northern Ireland because of her so-called sympathy with the Unionist position, it says more about the people who make that judgment because they demonstrate a poverty of imagination, a lack of intellectual grasp, an absence of any element of leadership that bodes ill for the future of the political process in Northern Ireland in so far as it depends on their participation. The same applies to the unfortunate remarks made in this House scarcely a few months ago in relation to Deputy Bruton in which he was accused of being a crypto-Unionist.


Hear, hear.

I have to say that the absence of political leadership, North and South, is one of the greatest recipes for political paralysis. We need leadership. In turn, leadership needs consistency, imagination and a sense of purpose. I look at the two speeches delivered in the House this morning. I have to say that both of them show a passiveness, a lack of determination which beggars belief. Both of them are mind-bogglingly devoid of a sense of determination or a clear agenda for action. We cannot afford to have any more Templemore speeches or those made on other occasions when our representatives, for narrow, mean-minded, ephemeral advantage in the South, throw away their credibility and consistency in the North and, ultimately, in the South as well. Recent events in one of the parties opposite in relation to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution — at which they were made the pretext of another agenda — were as degrading as they were pitiful. To use Articles 2 and 3 as a vehicle for personal, political retribution in the way it was done only underlines how wrong it is that peoples' lives in the North should be seen as pawns in the power games of the South. That ploy was not merely in bad taste — the phrase used by the Deputy — it was breathtakingly callous and cynical. Using Articles 2 and 3 to rally opinion in Templemore or in Rathkeale is equally reprehensible and equally distasteful when it has nothing to do with the problems of Northern Ireland. In squaring up to the Taoiseach on that issue, the former Minister for Defence really had met his match.

In fairness to the Tánaiste it can be said that he is trying to give political leadership where otherwise there is none in this Government. But the rumblings of discontent from his Coalition partners are aimed precisely at the Tánaiste because he is attempting to give that leadership. One would have to conclude that within this House there is still one party, now with 65 Deputies, which collectively, with some honourable exceptions, lacks the commitment, responsibility, understanding, generosity and, above all, the leadership we so badly need and which is so sadly absent. There must be change if there is to be any hope.

On the subject of extradition I note the remarks made by the Taoiseach. I note his statement that changing our laws on extradition will not of itself achieve the end of the campaign of violence. With that view I agree. But I pose this question: can we put our hands on our hearts and say that it was not through Clogga Strand that theEksund and the other shiploads of armaments came into this State? Can we put our hands on our hearts and say that a great deal of that matériel is not stored within the confines of this State? With Kilcock in mind can we say that a lot of the weapons of destruction are not, on occasion, assembled, designed and put in place within this State? When we read our newspapers, can we say, with our hands on our hearts, that a lot of the people engaged in the campaign of violence do not use this State for their nefarious purposes? In these circumstances, can we not see that there is a role for a workable law of extradition?

It is now three years since this party, while a member of Government, put into public circulation, and gave to our partners in Government, proposals for the change of the law of extradition, proposals to close loopholes which had opened up in our laws. It is three years since we were given an assurance by the then Minister for Justice that if certain court decisions then expected — and whose outcome was correctly predicted by the Progressive Democrats — confirmed the existence of the loopholes which we stated were there, the Government would act immediately to close them off. Three years have passed with that commitment ignored and broken. During that period any person found within this jurisdiction in possession of weapons or explosives north of the Border or in Britain, could still resist extradition to either of those jurisdictions to meet justice.

The same applies to people using certain forms of weapons, such as single shot snipers' rifles. They can now rely on the loopholes in our law to resist extradition. I say to the Government that there is a sense of urgency on this because they will find in the near future that somebody will be arrested in this country, or a warrant will be sought for someone, in those circumstances. They will be released by the courts because the courts can only administer the laws handed down to them by the Oireachtas. There will be the upset; there will be the damage done to mutual trust on this island. The responsibility for that will fall fairly and squarely on the shoulders of those who did nothing although they knew what was their duty.

In relation to Northern Ireland's immediate prospects, it has been stated on a number of occasions, with some logic, that present prospects for progress in Northern Ireland must be diminished by the imminence of local elections there. Which is more important in our scheme, in the British scheme and in the Northern Ireland people's scheme of priorities — the holding of local elections to administer local government now, or the resumption of a dialogue for peace and progress to end the killings now? Is it more important that Dungannon Urban District Council be reconstituted or that the negotiations between the constitutional political parties in the North resume? Are local politics in Northern Ireland more important than the dynamic of the peace process, North and South, and between Britain and Ireland? I query the priorities which put the process of political reconciliation on hold pending local elections. God knows, in this jurisdiction, we postpone local elections for no reason. Sometimes it is a surprise to note that they cannot be postponed in Northern Ireland, especially when they interfere with the process that might hasten the saving of lives.

While it would be absurd to allow one party in Northern Ireland to dictate terms and set down pre-conditions for the resumption of talks, it appears to us in the Progressive Democrats that Unionists participants in particular — people like Ken Magennis, who have moved furthest to establish a basis for negotiations — would be well served if the Government were to indicate that our Constitution would be changed to accommodate a new treaty and agreement covering relations in these islands and that such a change would involve the deletion of the claim made in Article 3 of the 1937 Constitution.

I now come to those Articles of the Constitution. Just as in the moral sphere the Eight Amendment of the Constitution was ultimately self-defeating, it is an irony that we also have there an obstacle to unity, peace and harmony in the guise of a constitutional imperative to achieve Irish unity. Articles 2 and 3 are a major obstacle to political progress in Northern Ireland and, hence, to any form of worthwhile unity. The claim made in Article 3 is often misunderstood. It is not an aspiration to unity. It is not a claim of right for Irish unity. It is not a formal disputation of partition. It is about time it was said in this House — and it should be repeated until it has been finally disposed of as an issue — that it is an explicit and unabiguous claim that the people of the former Irish Free State, now the Republic, have the right to impose their 1937 Constitution, the Government and Parliament elected under the Constitution and its laws, upon the territory and people of Northern Ireland. That claim, as set out in Article 3, is unrealistic, unjust and unfounded in international law and no forum of international law and no international legal tribunal would uphold that claim.

The idea that the people of the Irish Free State in 1937 could draft a Constitution which was unashamedly confessional in tone and content at that time and claim to impose it on the people of Northern Ireland who were not even consulted on its content, and who would not have agreed to it, is patently absurd. A claim to unity is one thing; a claim to unity on our terms is another but a claim to unity to the terms of our grandparents is unstatable in its entirety. The contents of Article 3 are about as legitimate, in thirties or nineties Irish political terms, as the slogan in the thirties and forties Northern Ireland politics, "A Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People".

This party has constantly been committed to the process of peace and progress in Northern Ireland, between North and South and between London and Dublin. We are, and always have been, committed to the replacement of Articles 2 and 3 by provisions which reflect our aspirations to unity in terms of unity through consent. Nor is there any reason to believe that the removal of Articles 2 and 3 in their present form would preclude this State and the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland from stating their aspiration to unity in some other terms. Still less would such a restatement deprive Northern Ireland Nationalists of their links to this State or their entitlement to Irish citizenship or passports. All these matters can be dealt with in a context which does not involve an unsustainable territorial claim such as that set out in Article 3.

Just as no party in Northern Ireland should hold a veto on talks it is fair to point out that the talks process cannot be abandoned at the behest of any party in favour of a unilateral appeal over the heads of the politicians to the voters by referendum. Such a course would end in rejection and failure and cannot be contemplated while there is still a great deal to be done, given and agreed by generous-minded politicians in the context of inter-party talks.

This House has chosen this morning to speak about Northern Ireland to the Irish people and it has chosen this occasion to debate the fundamental issues and prospects for the process of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. We do this in a context where the ordinary men and women on the streets of our cities and towns are fed up to the teeth with rhetoric and want action. The action they want is political and the politics they want are generous, open-minded and constructive politics. They demand of this generation of politicians, as of none before, that they look forward instead of backwards. That is precisely what was so wrong with the analysis offered today by the Taoiseach — it was backward looking, introverted and self-justifying. We do not need that; we have had half a century of it and it has achieved nothing. What we need is a different form of politics, one which is forward-looking, constructive and generous and, as Deputy Bruton said — I agree entirely with what he had to say in this respect — which tends to look at the problem through the eyes of and with the concepts of the other people rather than solely analysing their views by reference to our own vocabulary and concepts.

That is what is now required. It requires not merely generosity because everyone will pretend to show goodwill but leadership and, above all, imagination were not evident in the Taoiseach's speech this morning. Not only could these not be found but there was evidence littered throughout the speech in historical examples and references of a very different approach to Irish politics and a very different agenda for the peace process. What the Tánaiste said and gave with the one hand in this debate, unfortunately, the Taoiseach took away with the other. This bodes ill for the success of these talks.

It is not enough for the smaller partner in a coalition to have goodwill for the talks process and to go to the Unionist community and appear on a bi patisan basis to be more generous. We need to shift the great bulk of Irish politics — if I may refer to Fianna Fáil opinion on those terms — and of Irish thinking on to a new level. This requires from the Fianna Fáil Party in particular — there is no point in putting a tooth in this — an entirely new approach to his issue.

As long as people of goodwill are held back by atavistic craw-thumping and drum-beating of the kind heard in the House today and by a view of history — so ably demonstrated by the Taoiseach — which is wholly devoid of an understanding of the other person's point of view, this cycle of violence will continue and the elected politicians, North and South, will find themselves unable to address the real issues in language they are both equally happy with and exchange views on a realistic basis on how new arrangements in Northern Ireland can be arrived at.

There is no doubt that, if restarted, the process of talking in Northern Ireland could give rise to an imaginative set of proposals, such as a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, institutions North and South, and a consultative role for this State in areas which are not the prerogative of a democratically elected assembly in Northern Ireland. It is easy to see the building blocks of the solution but what is needed in a leap of imagination and a new level of leadership here which is wholly absent.

I note that there was a report in one of the newspapers this morning to the effect that the other House of the Oireachtas has invited one speaker from one party to address it in the near future on Northern Ireland.

It is not true.

I would welcome any invitation to any people of goodwill from Northern Ireland to get involved in our affairs and to address us here but I am not aware of any such unilateral invitation. So far as this party is concerned, the Chambers of both Houses of the Oireachtas must be open to all shades of opinion in Northern Ireland. I am glad to note that the Taoiseach has indicated that the story in the newspaper that I am speaking about today is not accurate. No effort should be spared to involve all shades of opinion in dialogue with the South and no partial invitation should ever be issued to one shade of opinion only because that would make us part of the problem and not part of the solution.

This party, and the parties on this side of the House, have approached this issue with a generosity of spirit and a willingness to climb out of old political positions to see if something can be achieved to stop the killing now. It is not enough to condemn the killings; there must be action to fill the vacuum in which the killers operate. This can only take place if there is an early resumption of the talks process in Northern Ireland and it can only be helped if for the purpose of resuming that process, first, the Government indicates that the arid territorial claim in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution would be, rather than could be, eliminated as part of the solution to be agreed between the parties to the talks and, second, if the Government takes every step to ensure that this State and its jurisdiction is perceived by all the people of these islands as a place that is wholly committed to peace, and which does not tolerate in any degree, violence or terrorism. In that context every possible step must be taken to enforce and reform our laws, and to demonstrate to the Unionists, in particular, that nothing is tolerated here which is part of the campaign of violence. With that in mind I ask the Taoiseach, and the Tánaiste in particular, to look to the powers in the Offences against the State Act, for the closure of buildings and the suppression of certain activities which in my judgment, at any rate, should be suppressed because their open execution within our jurisdiction only gives grist to the mill of those who accuse us of being soft on violence. In that context, too, we should take the opportunity — and I hope the Minister for Justice does — to state clearly today what progress can be expected in the reform of our law on extradition and when the Bill will be published and passed. Have we got priorities or have we not? Can we spare a day of this House's time between now and the summer to pass a Bill reforming our extradition legislation? I wonder to what extent such measures are at the head of our list of priorities?

We must have no more political wrangling either between the Coalition partners or between some members of either Coalition partner in relation to Articles 2 and 3 unless and until they are willing to look to the substance of these Articles and acknowledge what I have said — that they are a claim by this House and by the people of this State to impose this House and its rule on Northern Ireland.

We have in the past shown a capacity to legislate quickly and effectively when emergency requires it. The Office of Public Works Act is one example. If we have to do something in a hurry we will do it in a hurry. If something matters politically, we can achieve it at breakneck speed. Is there not such a sense of urgency about Northern Ireland, extradition and the implementation of the powers that exist now to suppress the terrorism campaign in the manifestations taken in our midst in the Republic? Is there not such a sense of urgency?

Today's debate has been useful in that it has allowed it to be clearly demonstrated that there is not a cross-party consensus on every issue, that there is not a shared view and those who are watching us from outside should not be under any misapprehension that there is a consensus that covers all political parties. There is not and the Taoiseach's speech clearly showed there was no such consensus, but — and I address my remarks through the Chair to the Tánaiste in particular — a great majority of Members, all except a group numbering between 65 and 70, share the analysis that has come from these benches this morning. That is the representative view of the Irish people. The circumstances in which the Tánaiste finds himself in Coalition with Fianna Fáil now should not under any circumstances be allowed to disguise the fact that the great majority of Deputies in this House were elected to parties to represent voters who have a fundamentally different view from the atavistic views expressed by the Taoiseach this morning. He is in the minority in this House on this issue and he should know so. His colleagues — that dwindling band — should also know so. They are not representative of the centre of gravity of Irish political views on Northern Ireland any more and if they want to be part of history making in approaching solutions to Northern Ireland, the first thing they must do is recognise their own minority status and the minority status of their own opinions. If they do that, and I am not confident they will, they will start to be part of the solution and cease to be what they are now very evidently, a major part of the problem.

With your permission, Sir, I propose to share my time with Deputy Blaney, as technically he is part of our group.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I was deeply disappointed with the Taoiseach's speech because it gave no indication whatever that he understood, to any significant extent, the real basis of the problems that beset this island. The reality is that the pretence has to stop. It is a pretence that the removal of the political Border on this island is either feasible or even desirable. The pretence must end because it is feeding the murder machine of the IRA which has brought such tragedy to so many people here, in Britain and on the Continent. That is the challenge that faces the political leadership of this country. We will be judged by future generations on how effectively we meet that challenge — not on how loyal we have been to political legacies. Quite frankly, it is irrelevant what Pádraig Pearse, James Connolly or Éamon de Valera believed or said they believed in their time. We live in Ireland today. We must find a solution to the problems we have today. We must seek peace and prosperity, liberty and justice, for ourselves, our children and their children.

Our responsibility is to the future, not to the past, and if we must betray the past, so what? Pádraig Pearse said that "Ireland unfree shall never be at peace". Well that is the nonsense the Provos use to justify the murder of Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry. As far as I am concerned, the Irish people will never be free until we have peace. We will never have peace until we accept the reality that the political Border on this island represents a real divide between the people of this island. That divide can only be bridged by tolerant pluralist democratic politics. Seeking to bridge it by force has deepened that divide and will ultimately destroy us if it does not end soon.

We must not lose sight of the fact that the Provisional IRA has been the main perpetrator of violence in Northern Ireland during the past 22 years. Men, women and children have been murdered and maimed, allegedly in the name of a united Ireland, but in reality the murder campaign has been directed at terrorising the Protestant population into acquiescence to enforced unity. If they do not like it, they can leave: "Brits Out" means "Prods Out.""Tiocfhaidh ár lá" is the war cry of revenge.

Nationalist terror is now being matched by Loyalist terror. The UFF is every bit as ruthless as the IRA and has perfected its capacity to murder to the same degree. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the "terrible beauty" of the IRA now has a loyalist twin. And in its own perverted way, the IRA will be pround that it still has no qualms about murdering children. Make no mistake about it: Warrington was no accident. The Provos set out to murder, and murder they did. It has taken a particular brutal and shocking outrage to stir us once more out of our collective lethargy. The cruel circumstances of the Warrington bombing stunned people and I hope it will prove to be another watershed in our attitude to the Provo campaign in a way that Darkley and Enniskillen were.

The placing of a bomb in a litter bin in a crowded shopping centre — one of them outside of a McDonald's restaurant — meant that children were intended to be murdered. Any human being with even a spark of humanity left could not but be appalled by the spectacle of young children fleeing in terror from one bomb explosion, only to run directly into the shrapnel of another deliberately placed to catch them and do maximum damage. Then we had the sickening pretence that they never intended to murder or injure anyone.

Some people, especially in Northern Ireland, have asked why the Warrington bombing and other similar incidents such as the Enniskillen massacre have created such outrage in the Republic when other equally vicious atrocities carried out by Loyalist gangs do not seem to provoke the same reaction. I believe that the vast majority of people in this State are appalled by all murders, irrespective of the perpetrators or their victims. What adds to the sense of outrage about incidents like Warrington and Enniskillen is that those who placed the bombs claimed to do so on our behalf. This, coupled with the anger at the death of two children, brought 20,000 people onto the streets of Dublin last Sunday.

There are those who say that we have seen such demonstrations before and they achieved little. They point particularly to the experience of the Peace People during the seventies and note that it did not stop the violence. This is to understate the achievements of the Peace People and many other peace groups which continue to operate. They did not stop the violence completely but they certainly helped to secure the reduction in violence which was seen in the late seventies and to narrow the base of Provo and Loyalist support. Indeed the Provisionals were in serious trouble during the late seventies. It was the emotional response to the pointless deaths in the H Block hunger strikes coupled with the intransigence of Mrs. Thatcher which helped breath life back into their campaign.

Peace groups and public demonstrations are important but on their own cannot end the violence. There is a need for political action on the part of democratic politicians to match the mass action of people on the streets. There must be no question of our stepping back and hoping that Susan McHugh and her colleagues can stop the violence. We must give political leadership so that public revulsion is given a positive direction to ensure that the Provos and the other paramilitary groups are made irrelevant, isolated and ultimatley destroyed altogether as part of the political equation.

It is not enough simply for us to demand that the Unionists in the North should change; we must be prepared also to abandon the political shibboleths of constitutional nationalism. We have to examine scrupulously everything we say and do to ensure that it lends no encouragement, intended or otherwise, to any of the murder gangs. If a permanent peace is to be found, politicians generally will have to be prepared to demonstrate a new flexibility and willingness to compromise. The people of Northern Ireland have not been well served by politicians who show an unwillingness to compromise and whose ritual response seems always to be — as was the case with Mr. John Hume's recent statement — to `blame the other side'.

John Hume, the Leader of the SDLP, member of the Westminster Parliament and member of the European Parliament has urged the British and Irish Governments to go over the heads of the politicians in Northern Ireland, with an unspecified `solution'. I have already publicly urged rejection of such a fool-hardy enterprise and welcome its rejection by both the Irish and British Governments. In rejecting it the Irish Government defined the priority of both administrations as being "to get all of the constitutional parties back around the table to resume political dialogue, which is the only sensible alternative to the violence which continues to claim innocent lives". The Northern Secretary of State has taken a broadly similar line — that the politicians should listen to what the electorate is telling them and get back to the talks process.

In welcoming their stance on this issue I also have to say that the positions of both the Irish and British Governments are crucially deficient. The problem is that unless we honestly analyse why the talks process halted and accurately assign responsibility, it is pointless to make generalised pleas for the parties to get back to the conference table. As Dr. Garret FitzGerald noted inThe Irish Times in January 1993, the talks had seen “a visible growth of mutual trust among the Northern participants.... All were at one in remarking on the considerable progress made in the working groups, where bits and pieces of tentative agreements on various issues seemed to be begining to emerge”. One of the key factors which allowed progress to be made was the undoubted capacity to negotiate seriously and to make the significant concessions which were made by Unionists, especially by the Ulster Unionist Party. Despite this, John Hume has recently attempted to suggest that the Unionists are reconstructed champions of Protestant supremacy. This dishonest position reflects the SDLP concern about the degree to which both the British Government and many people in Northern Ireland are assigning responsibility for the failure of the talks squarely on the shoulders of John Hume and the Irish Government.

The failure of the Irish Government to state that it would — as distinct from could — put to the Oireachtas and to the electorate a referendum on Articles 2 and 3 was a major cause of the collapse of the talks. I am pleased we have a new Minister responsible for Northern Ireland. The signs of flexibility on Articles 2 and 3 shown in Deputy Quinn'sFortnight interview and in the Tánaiste's Mansion House address is a welcome development. However, it needs to be said that there are still too many signs of unreconstructed traditionalism on this issue in the governing parties. We all should now acknowledge openly that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has made Articles 2 and 3 redundant. We should not listen to those who suggest that an amendment would leave the Catholic population of the North `deserted'. Is it not time we got away from the sloppy thinking which presumes that every Catholic is a Nationalist thirsting for unification with this State? The consistent findings of the Annual Social Studies Attitudes Surveys is that about half of the Catholics in Northern Ireland would not describe themselves as Nationalists.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement represented a belief on the part of the then British Government that as power-sharing devolution was unlikely to be attained, the only way Catholic interests could be represented within the Northern Ireland state was to give a new consultative role to the Dublin Government. I considered that this was an approach that would create more problems than it would solve, as indeed it did. Nevertheless one beneficial consequence is that the existence of the agreement is the fundamental guarantee that, regardless of Articles 2 and 3, the minority in Northern Ireland cannot be deserted by the Government of this State. So what other reasons can there be for wanting to retain these articles?

It is here that we must deal clearly with the SDLP. This is the party which, despite Mr. Hume's constant lecturing of the Unionists about politics being about negotiation, showed no inclination to move from its opening position which was effectively for a form of joint authority shared between Britain and Ireland. This point is crucial to our own debate in the Republic. Like the Anglo-Irish Agreement, this commitment of the SDLP to this so-called solution shows that constitutional Nationalists, whatever their rhetoric, have decisively left behind the Ireland for which the 1937 Constitution was thought appropriate. Joint authority is not compatible with Articles 2 and 3 which seeks undisputed domination of Northern Ireland by the Republic.

We must be honest in the way in which we discuss the issue of constitutional reform. If we are saying to the Unionists and the British Government that we are open to change in the context of what the Tánaiste called `a generally acceptable package' and mean by this the kind of settlement envisaged by the Leader of the SDLP, we will get nowhere. If what is being sought is joint sovereignty then we should honestly admit it. Like the Anglo-Irish Agreement it also effectively makes Articles 2 and 3 redundant. I personally think that such a `solution' would be a recipe for a massive increase in the level of Loyalist violence, without doing anything significant to undermine support for the Provisionals who would see it as a sign that they are winning.

We must acknowledge that the talks saw important signs of movement and flexibility on the part of the negotiators of the Ulster Unionist Party. Given the nature of the current Protestant `angst' about a possible British desire to disengage, which was articulated forcibly by the leader of the Alliance Party, this flexibility was unprecedented and extremely brave.

However, despite protestations that constitutional nationalism would be open and generous, constitutional nationalism has virtually turned its back on this development, where it has not actively denied, disparaged and misrepresented it. We have to choose between continuing to be the uncritical cheerleaders for an increasingly obviously bankrupt Northern Nationalist tradition or doing our utmost to support those forces in Northern Ireland from both `traditions' arguing for the politics of realistic political compromise. At the core of any such compromise will be a clear recognition that just as Unionists will not be bombed into a united Ireland, they will not be blathered into one either.

If the parties in Government are to break new ground they must not allow themselves to be held back by those incapable of a broader vision. Some politicians down here have also been unwilling or incapable of change. Unionists in Northern Ireland are still, in the view of some, some sort of trespassers on this island who, in the words of Deputy Bell in July 1991, should return to Britain `where they belong'.

Some, like Fianna Fáil Deputy Noonan, are simply the Nationalist mirror image of Unionists like Dr. Ian Paisley in Northern Ireland. The Unionist mantras of `no surrender' and `not an inch' are matched by Nationalist mantras about the sacredness and inviolability of Articles 2 and 3. The territorial claim to Northern Ireland in Articles 2 and 3 are, Deputy Noonan says, a core value for Fianna Fáil. He was, of course, prepared to sacrifice core values before in order to attain or remain in Government, but people like Deputy Noonan are not prepared to even consider amendments to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution, as a step towards ending the violence which has claimed more than 3,000 lives.

One has come not to expect anything better from Deputy Noonan who has become the voice of the worst type of narrow, intolerant Fianna Fáil nationalism, but it is shocking to find a Labour Party Deputy who is prepared to speak the language of the Provos. I am referring here not only to Deputy Bell, but also——

You spoke enough and ended up in the Curragh for your activities.

——to Deputy Bree who made a statement recently which echoed virtually word for word the kind of language used by Mr. Adams on a consistent basis in his statements. I can see no sign of any willingness on the part of the Provos to acknowledge either the immorality of their actions or the futility of their campaign. The latest statement from Mr. Gerry Adams in which he called for a "new beginning to build peace" is notable only for its cynicism. How can there be a new beginning while the Provos continue to murder and destroy? The Provos seem to have adapted their former strategy of the ballot box and the Armalite and are now seeking to go forward with a peace plan in one hand and a pound of semtex in the other? What people want to hear from Mr. Adams is not patronising lectures warning those in peace groups about the dangers of being manipulated, but a statement from him as the most prominent figure in the Provisional movement for more than a decade, announcing a total and unequivocal end to the Provo campaign. People are sickened by the soft-spoken hypocrisy of Gerry Adams, a man whose eloquence cannot stretch to a straight-forward condemnation of murder. Anyone who might be tempted to give credence to Adams' current talk of peace should bear in mind his words following the IRA murder of two building workers in 1988. "There is a war going on", he said "and they took sides".

Northern Ireland is not just a security problem. There are serious economic problems in Northern Ireland for which the British Government have serious responsibility and on which they must take action. There are serious problems in relation to the administration of justice and the operation of the courts and the police service, even though there have been significant advances in these areas. Anything we can do in this House to encourage the development of the economy in Northern Ireland, the introduction of a Bill of Rights in Northern Ireland, the development of a democratically devolved Government, we should do, because that is the path which will lead ultimately to peace and prosperity there. The Dáil and the people of the Republic have a role to play as I outlined earlier, but perhaps the most important contribution we can make is to end our fascination once and for all with the rituals of death and instead address ourselves to and concern ourselves with the policies of life and place the co-operation of people on this island at the heart of our politics. We should end our fascination and constant harking back to the whole question of territorial integrity or territorial unity.

Without spending any of the valuable and too short time available to me on this very serious matter I am just saying, after my colleague has spoken, that there is nothing so self-righteous as a poacher turned bailiff.

I will get on to the very pertinent issues before us. We do not have to go back further than the imposition of Partition. Partition was imposed by the threat of a terrible bloody war and maintained by the blood of our people since then. Anybody who talks here or elsewhere as if the intransigent Unionist attitude was on a par with nationalist aspirations should have his head examined. This gives an importance to the intransigent Unionist position that is not in any way based on either fact or fair claim. Neither is it true that those of us who wish to see our country put together again want to be rid of those who bear the name "Unionist". Of course we do not. I live amongst them. I represent them from my constituency.

Not only did Partition divide people and the farms of some of our people, it even divided the actual households, such was the stupidity of its application. It divided the province from which I come. Why was Donegal left out of Partition? Why was Cavan or Monaghan not included? It was because, on a head count on a religious basis, it was found that it was not tenable and that the majority would not be in favour. Therefore Partition was imposed by blood through blood and the threat of a bloody war and we have had it maintained, after the majority which it has enjoyed for the union was contrived by a count of heads, splitting houses, farms and the historic province of Ulster. Since then it has been maintained by the most outlandish discriminations — job discrimination, housing discrimination and harassment by the alleged peacekeeping forces. This is what is being talked about today as if it is something we should tolerate, should even say we have no further interest, other than as neighbours, by abandoning Articles 2 and 3. We in this House do not have the right to abandon Articles 2 and 3. That is the right of all the Irish people, North and South.

The end of Partition should not come about only if and when the majority in the Six Counties decide. The Irish people as a whole, and only they, have the right to decide. We in this House, even with the full complement attending, do not fully represent all the people of the island because of Partition and therefore when we talk about giving up our claims to the territory of all of Ireland, we do not have that right, despite the fact that we have a Parliament and are elected democratically in our constituencies.

Institutional violence is the root cause of the counter-violence and terrorism which has been the lot of the people in the North, not just since 1969. Over the years since Partition was imposed there were uprisings and the people were beaten into the ground and out of sight. In those days we did not have television, there was not good radio coverage and the world did not know about it. In 1969, and particularly in the seventies, it was the breaking down of the paper wall by virtue of television that really brought to the eyes of the world the chaos and the abomination of the little statelet of the Six Counties. Those are our counties and all the people in those Six Counties are as Irish as you, I or anybody else. We must get around to the thought that Partition is, has been and will continue to be, the root cause of the terrorism which all of us deplore but cannot stop. Let there be no doubt that it will not stop of its own volition while we have Partition.

This brings me to the six counties south of the Border. There is a great concern for the Nationalists, rightly, who are beleaguered in the Six Counties. There is much concern about the Unionist or Loyalist people in the North. What about the Nationalists, Loyalists — or whatever you like to call them — Catholic, Protestant, or covenanter, in the six counties south of the Border who have been divided from their friends and families, who have had their lands divided, and more recently have had their access roads blown up and cratered not by the terrorist but by the occupation forces, all because of the partition? These are the people who sit daily and look at what has been erected in 1992 — the new steel gun towers, the turrets and the battlements, the like of which is not to be seen in any part of the world today. This is their daily lot and we in this Parliament have never recognised that the counties south of the Border, immediately adjoining it, have had problems above and beyond any other problems that the rest of the counties have had. No steps have ever been taken nor sympathy expressed regarding the deprivation suffered by the people of the six southern Border counties. Talks about Articles 2 and 3 are talks about abandoning any claim or aspiration. When that goes, the Protestant people along the Border south of the line will have been finally abandoned. They were betrayed as no other people were betrayed when Partition was instituted and the line drawn, leaving them separated from their natural brethern, the same as the rest of us in the Border counties. Are we to say to them: "Never is there a hope of reunification with your nearest and dearest across the line, with your co-religionists, the majority of whom are in the North and a minority in the South". Surely this is a matter to which some credence should be given. Let us stop waffling and making gestures and token offers to people such as Ken Maginnis, Peter Robinson, Ian Paisley or James Molyneaux.

Not an inch.

These people want a reason for not continuing talks. This is the reason they have picked on and we, foolishly, are following the line that if we abandon Articles 2 and 3 the talks will continue, they will be all-embracing and we will reach a solution. That is the greatest nonsense ever thought up. It is being perpetrated through the media and is almost brainwashing our people into believing that if they can continue the talks with the full participation of the Paisleys, the Robinsions and the like, we will find a peaceful solution. It is a nonsense. It is merely something that has been thought up by the Unionist extremists to give them an excuse at any time to break off the talks because we will not say: "here, keep the Six Counties, we are not concerned about them any more". We do not have the right to do it and it would be wrong of us to do it, even in a tactical way.

Articles 2 and 3 are not the problem but rather section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act. If the Government really want to make progress whether in the short or long term they, together with the British Government, must accept that a British withdrawal from this country is essential if we are ever to live in peace. That does not mean what many of the propagandists from the other element would say, that this is a method of driving the Protestants, Presbyterians, Unionists and Loyalists out of Ireland. Far from it. The entire island would benefit greatly if we were united in our economy and in our entire work ethos. We would be far better off in Ireland today if we were working together, as we would be doing if we were naturally put back together, as we were always meant to be.

This fight did not start when Partition was imposed or as a result of 1916. That was merely the emergence of the fight which had been going on and the disquiet of our people for 800 years. To say that is of no great concern, that we should have these talks, that we should soften up Unionists extremists by agreeing to Articles 2 and 3 being replaced by some other form of words, is a lot of nonsense. To further enhance or strengthen our extradition laws is merely to give a sop to these people. If we have any sense of justice or fair play we will realise as those of us who oppose extradition have believed all along, that you do not extradite a citizen of your jurisdiction into the jurisdiction of another country where they are not assured of getting a fair trial. We know that the administration of so-called justice has been so partisan over the years as to be sickening and is part and parcel of the subjugation of the Nationalist people of the Six Counties.

The police and the British Army who are the peacekeepers, have been involved in a shoot-to-kill policy. Let us remember Bloody Sunday. We did not then have anything like the holocaust of shootings and deaths which we now have. How did that come about? Why did it come about? Is it not to ensure that it is instilled in the minds of the people that they are occupied and that the occupier is in control?

Section 75 does not claim the territory or jurisdiction of the Six Counties on behalf of the Unionist or Loyalist people far from it. It claims it on behalf of the UK Government. The Unionists should understand that the claim in section 75 is not necessarily in their interests.

People who have been accused of offences committed outside this State have been dealt with properly — and perhaps more than adequately — in our courts under the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act. It cannot be said that they would be treated fairly in the jurisdiction to which they might be extradited.

Extradition is merely tokenism and a kowtowing to the occupation of our country. The British Army do not find it wrong to shoot innocent people and, over the years, some members of the police have co-operated with the Loyalist terrorists. Do we want this to continue? A total of 95 per cent of the middle and top management of both public and private undertakings are Protestants. That is not my figure, but that of the Fair Employment Agency. That matter is under investigation in the European Parliament following which a report will be produced. Four out of every five cross-Border roads are closed, more than 80 per cent of our means of access across the Border. Is this what we should expect in 1993, the year of open frontiers? New towers, turrets and stockades have been built as a sop to the extreme Unionists and as an indication to the Nationalists of the Six Counties and those south of the Border that the British are in control and can see their territory from one big steel gun tower to the other, from Carlingford Lough to Lough Foyle. Is that the position we want to see continue in Northern Ireland? Is that what we would abandon by changing Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution? I do not believe so. Brain washing or propaganda has been instigated outside the country, and taken up within the country, by those who claim that the majority of our people would support a change in Articles 2 and 3 in order that the talks can proceed. The talks will not proceed just because of a change in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. Again, that would merely be seen by the Unionists as kowtowing and that we were not concerned about who was abandoned when partition was instituted — our Nationalist brethern in the North and many others who might not be described as Nationalists.

Deputy Bruton made an all-embracing speech this morning. He asked if the British withdrew from Northern Ireland would we be able to secure peace on the island of Ireland. The two Governments should sit down together and deal with the root cause of the entire chaotic position in Northern Ireland rather than smothering over the effects of institutional violence, terrorism, destruction, fire and death. Those atrocities are brought about by the root cause of the problem, the partition of our country. Many years age I advocated to my colleagues in Government to try to get the British and Irish Governments to sit down together to prepare for the day they will go — and go they will some day. Deputy Bruton's question can only be truly answered then, but we must prepare for it. We cannot have an unannounced withdrawal tomorrow morning. There must be a declaration of intent to go. But prior to that an ultimate plan on how matters will be dealt with in the immediate aftermath must be drawn up. There would undoubtedly be trouble, but not the bloodbath that has been talked about. The atrocities of the past 20 years have been far worse than anything we might encounter if Britain declared it was pulling out of Northern Ireland and set a date for that. At that stage Unionists, extremists and ordinary people would realise that they would have to live together or hang together. When that day comes we can have real peace in Northern Ireland. It would not necessarily mean that in the immediate future there would be one Parliament on this island. There is room for various administrations. But we must get rid of the third partner in the bed, otherwise the partners will never be able to share the house, not to mention the bed.

I call a quorum because it is unfortunate that the Republican Party does not have a representative here. Its last representative, the Taoiseach, who was its only representative in the House for a long period, left almost an hour ago.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Today's discussion is long overdue. There are far too few opportunities in this House for a real examination of issues such as those before us today. That is not for want of a disposition on the part of Members. Both Deputy John Bruton and the Tánaiste, for example, recently made very thoughtful and thought-provoking addresses to the Irish Association. Deputy Bruton's contribution this morning was in sharp contrast to the Taoiseach's dreary, cold and passionless attempt to patch together the shreds of erratic and contradictory Fianna Fáil policies over the past 40 years. Much of the Taoisach's speech can be seen, and was designed to be, a pandering to ancient prejudice and an absolutely obdurate failure to give real passionate leadership in a major crisis for politics and civilisation on this island.

It is part of the received wisdom that constitutional issues are at the heart of what we call the Northern Ireland problem. The Tánaiste put it rather elegantly when he addressed the Irish Association on 5 March last. He said:

The unresolved dilemmas which shaped the arrangements of the 1920s still cast their shadows across the political landscape in both parts of Ireland.

Speaking on the failure of the last round of talks to reach agreement, he said:

Potential agreement... did not crystallise because both sides felt politically vulnerable in the absence of agreement on the constitutional issue, which inexorably overrides all other issues for both sides in Northern Ireland.

There can be very little room for disagreement with either of those statements. Later in the same address the Tánaiste went on to indicate that he suspects that:

.... the debate so far on the constitutional aspects has been somewhat at cross-purposes.

I have to say that in the Tánaiste's mouth, which up to last November was more accustomed to excoriation and issuing admonitions all round, that is monumentally an understatement. Even in the context of the very careful orthodoxy of Iveagh House, it is still an under-statement.

This morning the Tánaiste showed a glimmer of understanding of that problem without really analysing its implications. He said:

The concentration on constitutional difficulties can obscure the progress that is possible on political and institutional questions, and on economic co-operation. Even if only a limited understanding is possible on all constitutional issues at this time, it is still well worthwhile to seek agreements in areas where more unites us than divides us.

That is a useful thought which should be followed up.

The plain fact of the matter is that these constitutional aspects have remained unresolved for the past 72 years. I am coming to the view that these aspects might well remain unresolved for some time in the future, possibly for as long again. I suggest that we should consider leaving those issues unresolved for a time and concentrate our energies and imagination elsewhere, on other problems which are more capable of resolution in a time frame shorter than a generation or two. I make that suggestion not because I underestimate in any way the crucial and central nature of the constitutional issues, but precisely because I understand how powerful are the emotions and convictions that lie behind the positions adopted on these constitutional issues.

It is commonplace — and nonetheless commendable for all that — to say that it should be our ambition to recognise fully the legitimacy of the aspirations of each of the two traditions on this island. The trouble is that some of those aspirations are, quite simply, incompatible with one another, no matter how many or how sincere our expressions of understanding or how passionate our desire for reconciliation.

The quintessential Nationalist aspiration is for a 32 county Republic. The quintessential Unionist aspiration is to remain a part of the UK. No amount of political ingenuity will allow those two aspirations to be fulfilled simultaneously. Even though we might recognise and esteem each of these aspirations in its own context, we cannot hope to fulfil both of them simultaneously. Wisdom may then dictate that we should recognise that the constitutional issues must remain unresolved for a time because the different aspirations cannot be fulfilled simultaneously, and fulfilling either one of them inevitably requires the other to be dashed.

There is, of course, an imbalance in that the Nationalist aspiration is just that, an aspiration, and the Unionist aspiration we talk of is now ade jure situation, albeit an uneasy one, with that unease shared in varying degrees on all sides in Northern Ireland. If a decision to leave those constitutional issues unresolved for a time requires any of us to make a constitutional affirmation of any kind, then that affirmation must be made. The model and prefiguration for this is to be found in Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

No amount of violence or bloodshed can ensure that either one aspiration or the other can be fulfilled, because the more likely it seems that either group of gunmen will move nearer to its professed objective, the greater will be the revulsion its methods and promise give rise to among the greater number of those people who have a political conviction that is similar to the gunmen's declared objective.

To what, then, should be turn our energies? There is no lack of matters demanding action. States exist to serve people. In the democratic framework, political systems, government and administrative structures all exist to serve people. They cannot effectively serve an ill-defined notion or ideal of nationhood if that notion or ideal is not common to all the people concerned. Nationalists and Unionists in Northern Ireland have totally different, and equally vague, notions and ideals of nationhood. No state, therefore, can serve these two concepts of nationhood equally. It seems to me, however, that it is possible or that it should be possible to imagine and to construct a political system and an administrative system that serves all of the people of Northern Ireland equally while explicitly recognising and admitting that some constitutional issues cannot for the time being be resolved.

We should then ask ourselves: what do people need, and in what way do they want to be served? This cannot be an exhaustive list as there is not time for this. Nevertheless, I wish to refer to the most important needs people expect the State to fulfil.

They first want the rule of law and the establishment of order. They want to be able to live, work, worship and play in safety, free from the fear of arbitrary and random violence. To have these things they need a police force that is integrated with the community and that is trusted by the community. Over a great part of Northern Ireland those conditions do not exist.

Paradoxically, the more the RUC organises itself to fight terrorists, the further away it gets from the life and trust of the community. In turn, the further away it gets from the life and trust of the community, the less capable it is of understanding and dealing with the roots of terrorism. Anyone who has been involved in talks with the RUC will know the truth of that statement.

Over much of Northern Ireland members of the police force have either no links or very tenuous links with the communities they police — they neither live nor play there. Over much of Northern Ireland there is nobody who is a member of the police force or who has a son or daughter who is a member of the police force. This must change, and it must do so before the rule of law can be fully applied and order properly established. It is clear that the reverse has not worked.

People need a decentralised local government system, in the sense in which we in this House understand it, to which they can relate, which they can trust and which has a substantial degree of autonomy and the power to meet their needs in a framework of normal political argument and choice. This system should be based on secular and immediate needs and requirements rather than on confessional and historical divisions. I believe that that requirement is greater and more urgent in Northern Ireland than it is here, and it is already long overdue here.

People need an administrative structure which is responsive and fair and which is perceived to be responsive and fair and it should be one which values all citizens equally in the framework of the job that it is given to do. If it were grounded clearly in a clear bill of rights, I believe that it could be seen to do so. People need an educational system that is not burdened by the dilemmas of 72 years ago or by the religious values and antagonisms of 300 years ago and which is not warped by the bitterness, divisions and suspicions, religious, civil and political of the last 72 years. These three needs which I have mentioned seem to be the principle and peculiar needs of the people of Northern Ireland. There are, of course, many other needs which they share with communities all around the world and which, God knows, are difficult enough to meet adequately in the world of today.

I cannot prescribe now how those needs will be met but I am convinced that the efforts to meet them are far more important and worthy of our attention than the unfulfillable aspirations on which we all too often concentrate. To meet those needs will probably be the work of a generation. I think that that will be time well spent. If we can undertake that task I believe that we can, and should, leave the other aspirations, the constitutional issues, to a later generation of men and women in Northern Ireland. I believe that after a generation of the kind of work that I have suggested the people of Northern Ireland will make far wiser decisions about those issues and those aspirations, even if those decisions mean doing nothing about them even then, than we can possibly make, with the best will in the world, today.

In trying to imagine a different framework for thinking about Northern Ireland, it is no part of my intention to denigrate work that has already been done or to attack convictions and principles which are sincerely held and honestly expressed. I say that, Sir, in the conviction that what we heard today from the Taoiseach was a speech that I have described as cold and passionless and without any commitment, and a speech from the Tánaiste that was in serious sharp contrast to his address to the Irish Association. What he gave us today, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, was a very disappointing piece of ultra-careful Iveagh House diplomatic orthodoxy which is not what the situation calls for today. I believe we have to move past that. I am trying to find a way to make politics serve people rather than perpetuate the tragedies of history and I can do no better than to state again what Deputy John Bruton reiterated this morning — lives do come before constitutional theories.

I neglected to say, Sir, at the beginning of my remarks that I wish to share my time with my colleague, Deputy Jim O'Keeffe. I am sure the House will have no objection.

That is agreed, Deputy.

I observe that there is not a quorum. I note that there is just one Minister and two Deputies on the Government side.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

It is time to make a fresh start in seeking a solution to the problem of Northern Ireland. In the past 24 years over 3,000 people have been killed and countless numbers have been maimed and wounded. Various political and peace initiatives have been tried, so far without success. A new approach is now necessary. This is a good time to make that new beginning. Following the appalling atrocities in England, there is now a tide of public opinion that not only supports a political solution but demands one. It is, I believe, the bounden duty of all politicians on these islands to work together to put that solution in place. If we are genuinely seeking that solution, it is time also for all politicians to leave behind the exaltation of blood and soil over reason. It is also time to leave behind the inflexibility of historically fixed positions. It will be only if there is a shared generosity of spirit and a total commitment to peace and reconciliation that a compromise formula can be arrived at which is fair and reasonable.

In the past there has been far too much emphasis on protecting the tactical position of all parties to these discussions. This protective tactical approach in some instances related to insecurity on the part of those involved and, in others, to unwillingness to compromise. This unwillingness to compromise has, unfortunately, been related very often to narrow perceived political advantage and, even worse, to internal jockeying for power within parties. It is important, therefore, that those who are unwilling to compromise be exposed and isolated at this stage. This can only be done if those who are genuinely seeking a compromise solution are prepared to enter into discussions with a clear, open generosity of spirit and a clear willingness to agree to what must be seen by all as the essential ingredients of any settlement. While it is inevitable that the suspicion, distrust and insecurity will continue for some time, my hope is that the Irish Government will do everything possible to dispel these by the open, generous approach I am talking about.

At least, that was my hope until this morning. Rarely have I been in such despair as when I listened to the windy, rhetoric and retrospective justifications of the Taoiseach and Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party this morning. I had genuinely allowed myself to hope that the latest attrocities, the efforts of peace people like Susan McHugh, and the public response to those efforts, must result in a fresh approach from the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds. Instead, we were treated to a lesson in historical revisionism and, even worse, we were served an empty diet of hollow sentiment. It is indeed ironic that the Taoiseach concluded his remarks this morning with the words "everyone must respond to the changing mood in the political landscape regarding the North of Ireland". I know that, in the order of things, the Taoiseach did not write that himself but I assume that, having delivered it, he believes in the expression of view contained in that sentence. Why, in the name of goodness, with the country gasping, hoping, praying for a solution could we not have some sense of hope, some sense of vision, some sense of direction from the Taoiseach, who is the lawfully elected leader of the Republic of Ireland?

The Taoiseach propagated a message of despair and hopelessness. I understand the pressures coming from Fianna Fáil Party backbenchers and I understand the pressures coming from the back benches of the Labour Party, but surely the Taoiseach would rise above those in the context of the awful problems we face on this island. By contrast, the approach of the Tánaiste, the Leader of the Labour Party, was at the very least fresh and imaginative. I studied the Tánaiste's speech carefully, but there was no real substance that would give expression to the desire for peace and trigger a political response to the public hunger for reconciliation. The Tánaiste must realise that style without substance will achieve nothing. I encourage the Tánaiste for the future, now that he has responsibility for Northern Ireland affairs, to shake off the caution and conservatism of his Government partners and match his undoubted desire for peace with real initiatives to achieve that peace. It is often said that the problems of Northern Ireland are essentially political. If so, we the politicians must all realise that we have been a failure in finding a political solution.

In many ways the Republic has a strong position in the approach to finding a solution. We are an independent, sovereign State. Fortunately, we have been spared the worst effects of the violence, and that is all the more reason for us to be generous in our approach and understanding of the insecurity of the Unionist and, indeed, the Nationalist communities in Northern Ireland. That must be our approach to political dialogue. Needless to say, any political solution must be fully underpinned by agreement on justice and security matters and in the meantime, pending an agreement, there must be full security co-operation between the two Governments and confidence and trust must be built up between the security forces and the two communities in Northern Ireland. The best prospect of ending violence is to have a political solution, preferably endorsed by referendum throughout the whole island of Ireland, and with that democratic legitimacy to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the will of the people is respected. I firmly believe in the old maximsalus populi suprema lex esto, that the safety of the people be the supreme law.

The thugs and hoodlums of the Provisional IRA, the UFF and the other murder gangs must be confronted. There can be absolutely no ambivalence on this point. I am horrified and appalled at what I could only describe as ambivalence on the part of some politicians on this island, ambivalence principally on the issue of extradition. The right noises are made following some awful atrocity such as the Warrington bombing and then the issue is forgotten. It is absolutely clear that the 1987 extradition legislation as interpreted by the Supreme Court in 1990, three years ago, did not remove the political exemption to extradite for a substantial number of offences which would be ordinarily considered to be part of the paramilitary stock in trade. Offences such as murder — yes, murder — use of non-automatic firearms, possession of explosives and possession of firearms are not offences specifically declared in the 1987 legislation to be outside the scope of the definition of a political offence. It was assumed at the time that following the 1984 Shannon decision in the courts political exemption would apply only if the accused was "at the relevant time engaged directly or indirectly in what reasonable civilised people would regard as political activity". The 1990 Finucane decision expressly allowed that political exemption could apply to politically motivated offences of violence. Hence, glaring loopholes in our extradition laws have been obvious for more than three years.

The Fine Gael Party believes that the best way to combat international terrorism is through a European framework of law that crosses national boundaries. Such framework should be combined with a European system of rights to protect the innocent. At national level the Fine Gael Party demands that the Government introduce a Bill to amend the 1987 extradition legislation. It is completely unacceptable that the Fianna Fáil/Labour Government should talk about further delay in this regard. In reply to a parliamentary question I tabled on Tuesday last, the Minister for Justice once again repeated that work on the legislation was under way in her Department. I remind the Minister and the Government that almost three years ago and immediately after the Fine Gael Party carefully drafted an amending Bill designed to close the obvious loopholes. There is a precedent for amending legislation and, as I had professional help in drafting the Bill to which I refer, my Bill could be taken in its entirety.

Today we need a Government commitment that will introduce and pass into law a Bill to amend the law on extradition so as to remove from the scope of political exemption a range of offences relating to the use and possession of firearms and explosives and offences of violence against the person. There can be no scope whatsoever for ambivalence on the issue of extradition and there should be no question of using it as a bargaining point in the Northern Ireland talks. The legislation should be amended because such an amendment is right in itself. I wish to make it clear that, following the failure of the previous Government to take action on this front, unless I have a commitment from the present Government to introduce such amending legislation before the resumption of the Dáil and to pass that legislation before the resumption of the Dáil and to pass that legislation into law in the next session, I shall on behalf of the Fine Gael Party re-introduce my Private Member's Bill to close the loopholes in the extradition legislation and I will move same and put it to a vote after Easter.

I also demand that the Goverment be absolutely unequivocal in relation to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. It is inconceivable in relation to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. It is inconceivable that there will be an overall solution without an amendment to those two Articles. Nobody is calling for the deletion of those Articles, which is the point on which confusion is deliberately being created. All that is being sought is amendment to the Articles to conform their aspirational nature. The position of those who will not give a clear commitment in this regard in the context of an overall settlement is just as irrational and just as unhelpful as the position of those who would make it a precondition to talking at all. Again, I believe that there is no room for ambivalence on this issue and the Government should now clear up present ambiguities in this regard.

Having cleared up the Government's ambivalent position by prompt action in closing the extradition loopholes and by giving a clear commitment to amend Articles 2 and 3 as part of an overall settlement, the Government should be in a strong position, genuinely seeking to re-open Northern Ireland talks. I feel that if there is not clear evidence of such an open, generous approach, rather than the empty rhetoric we heard from the Taoiseach this morning, those who do not wish such talks to happen or hope that such talks would fail will have their way and the awful violence that has afflicted our island for so long will continue indefinitely.

Ba mhaith liom le do chead, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, mo chuid ama a roinnt leis an Teachta McDaid.

I very much welcome this opportunity to contribute to the statements on Northern Ireland. It is essential that the House engage in regular debate on matters relating to Northern Ireland.

I wish to express disappointment with some aspects of Opposition contributions. Deputy John Bruton came very close to calling for internment. The Government does not believe that that would be helpful. By contrast, a good part of the contribution made by Deputy Dukes was both positive and supportive. I regret deeply that Deputy Michael McDowell should use this occasion to make a strong personalised attack on the Taoiseach by completely misrepresenting what the Taoiseach said. Deputy McDowell tried to indicate that there was a gulf between the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, while the contributions made by both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste were based on the Programme for a Partnership Government and did not deviate in any way from the programme. Of coure, attempting to drive a wedge between two parties in a coalition Government is one of the oldest ploys in the Opposition book. The contribution made by Deputy McDowell was charaterised by a complete lack of concern or interest in Northern Nationalists. As for the interests of the Progressive Democrats in Unionists, the level of that was shown last autumn, when neither of the two senior Progressive Democrat Cabinet Ministers was able to give priority to the historic meeting with Unionists in Dublin Castle. Deputy McDowell is quite wrong if he believes that his views represent the majority of opinion in this country. Deputy De Rossa said it all in the first statement of his speech; he said that the removal of the Border — in other words, Irish unity — was neither desirable or feasible.

The timing of this debate has been set by the huge wave of public reaction in this state to the recent spate of cruel, senseless, murders in Warrington and Castlerock. I join with all right-minded people in condemning these savage murders. These awful atrocities have unleashed among the people of this state and elsewhere a new tide of revulsion at paramilitary violence. In particular, the murder of the two young children, Johathan Ball and Tim Parry in Warrington, has reawakened basic human feelings in many people which, understandably, have for some time been numbed by the day-in, day-out accounts of shootings, bombings and other terrorist acts which we hear and read in the media.

The murder by the Provisional IRA of two innocent children has brough to mind the deaths of 121 — I repeat 121 — other children in Northern Ireland since the beginning of the troubles. The wave of sympathy which has followed the murders has reminded us of the similar public grief which followed the death of the Maguire children in 1976 and led to the emergence of the peace movement which attracted such tremendous support North and South and also in Britain.

Since the deaths of the children in Warrington we have witnessed the advent of a new peace initiative in Dublin which has been born of the outrage felt by so many people at the horror of Warrington, Castlerock and other terrorist crimes. The objective of this movement would appear to be to send a message to the terrorists of all colours that they must lay down their arms and give way to dialogue in the interest of achieving a lasting peace. The people who have organised the peace meetings in Trinity College and O'Connell Street are not being used — as has been suggested from one quarter — in a cynical attempt to decry any particular paramilitary persuasion.

The real cynics are those who attempt to minimise the sincerity and impact of the peace movement by suggesting that those involved are simply being used. The reality is that the genuine people involved are opposed to all forms of terrorism and are motivated solely by a desire for peace. For my part, I have been deeply impressed by the sincerity of their words and actions. I would like to assure them that I will do all in my power to support their call and strive for the peace which they and so many people here, in Northern Ireland and in Britain want to be a reality. As Minister for Justice I have responsibility for matters relating to law and order and the security of the State. This responsibility embraces not only policy on internal security to safeguard the institutions of this State and the lives and property of its citizens, but also policy on security co-operation with other Governments to enable us to work together with them for the greater security of all our citizens.

The security policy of successive Irish Governments has been to oppose all forms of terrorism, whether perpetrated within the State or elsewhere. There is no ambivalence in our attitude to terrorism. There is no tacit support here for those who do not respect the rule of law. There is no succour or shelter here for those who commit violent acts in pursuit of their objectives. We do not turn a blind eye to evidence against those who plan, assist, or carry out terrorist actions. We deplore paramilitary bomb and gun attacks and do all in our power to apprehend and convict those responsible. Our policy is entirely clear. We do not deviate in any way in the practical expression of that policy.

The principal terrorist threat to this State and its citizens is posed by the Provisional IRA. It would be foolish in the extreme for us to think that the violence of the PIRA is directed solely at Northern Ireland and Britain and that this State does not feature on the Provisional's agenda. Sadly, the death toll from terrorism on this island — though predominantly made up of fatalities in Northern Ireland — also includes members of our security forces and civilians from this State. The Loyalist paramilitary organisations, the UVF and UFF, also have a long history of murderous involvement. The upsurge of Loyalist paramilitary violence over the past year or so is the source of grave concern and is a matter which has been the subject of specific discussion at Anglo-Irish Conference meetings. It is a matter which I discuss internally on a regular basis with the Garda Commissioner. I would like to assure the House that it is an issue which will continue to have my constant attention and that of the Government.

The reality is that terrorists on both sides of the political divide match each other — indeed seem to vie with each other — in the viciousness and ruthlessness of their activities. The terrorist campaigns of both sides must be met with a determined resolve to defeat them. There is no such thing as a neutral position where terrorism is concerned.

It is appropriate that I should put on record the actions taken by this Government and its predecessors which give expression to our policy of combatting terrorism. The following facts illustrate the extent of the Government's commitment to the defeat of terrorism:

Against the background of a difficult economic situation and an ever-increasing need to restrict public expenditure, the Government has continued to provide the costly Garda and other resources necessary to combat terrorism. The current annual cost to this State of additional security arising out of the Northern Ireland situation amounts to more than £200 million. This is a very considerable commitment for a relatively small economy such as ours and is a serious burden on our public finances at a time when over 300,000 of our people are out of work. As the Taoiseach said this morning in comparative terms ourper capita expenditure on this additional security amounts to three times that of the United Kingdom. In all, the violence of the PIRA and other paramilitary organisations has cost this country about £2.5 billion pounds since the beginning of the troubles. I mention these cost statistics, not to score points of comparison or to imply that Irish Governments have begrudgingly spent money to protect lives, but rather to demonstrate the extent to which terrorism has robbed this country of money which could have been put to more productive use in creating employment and livelihoods for so many of our people. This is an aspect of terrorism which does not always come to mind but which has a direct and damaging impact on the quality of life in our country.

Since 1970 close on 1,000 extra gardai/ have been assigned to the Border divisions such that Garda strength in those divisions is more than double the 1970 level. At the same time there has also been a doubling in the number of gardai dedicated to anti-terrorist work within the Garda Síochána as a whole. This represents an enormous commitment against a background where resources are scarce and there is concern about the nature and incidence of non-paramilitary crime.

Since 1972 more than 1,500 persons have been convicted in the Special Criminal Court of subversive-related offences. Since 1985 the Garda Síochána has recovered 1,954 firearms, 350,000 rounds of ammunition and 16,550 lbs of explosives, including 790 lbs of the deadly semtex explosive. Most of the arms and explosives have been recovered in the course of special search operations, such as "Operation Mallard" in 1988, the highly successful "Operation Silo" last year and the recent — and very significant — operation at Kilcock in which a large consignment of explosives and bomb-making material were recovered.

These facts give lie to any suggestion that this State is in any way "soft" on terrorism or that our security forces are not doing all in their power to bring terrorists to justice. I would remind those who are apt from time to time to suggest that terrorist suspects are to be seen openly in this jurisdiction that, under the rule of law, suspicion alone is not sufficient to convict a person of a criminal offence either in this jurisdiction, in Northern Ireland or in Britain. The essential element required is evidence to prove that a suspect has committed an offence. The Garda Síochána are well aware of their powers to arrest and charge terrorist suspects. They do not lack the resources to do so. They are, however, much more aware than the occasional alarmist commentator that, in the absence of evidence likely to convict, the arrest and charging of terrorist suspects can provide a source of propaganda to the terrorists on their release, which is certainly a result to be avoided.

I want to turn now to security co-operation. Article 9 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement provides a framework for developing and reviewing co-operation between the security forces North and South in combating the terrorist threat. Security co-operation matters are included on the agenda of every meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference and very substantial progress has been made on security co-operation through the medium of the Conference. Indeed, I would have little hesitation in saying that the current climate of security co-operation is at an all-time high — a view which is shared by both the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, and the Minister with responsibility for security in Northern Ireland, Mr. Michael Mates, who have made public statements to this effect.

Security co-operation is, of course, a two-way process. Both Governments decide on the approach they wish to take to security issues in their separate jurisdictions, but they rely on co-operation with one another to help develop and enhance the effectiveness of their respective security efforts. We co-operate with the British Government in helping to prevent and detect terrorist crimes in Northern Ireland and Britain. In return we receive similar co-operation from the British side which assists us in combating the terrorist threat to this State. Untimately, security co-operation is all about protecting lives and property and ensuring that the security resources available to both Governments are used in the most effective way possible in achieving our common aim of defeating terrorism.

Legal co-operation is another important element in the fight against serious crime and terrorism on these islands. Successive Governments have sought to ensure that the legal means are available to respond to the problem of fugitive offenders. This Government will ensure that that continues to be the case. To that end I propose to bring proposals to Government in relation to amending legislation in the area of extradition as a matter of priority. That legislation will have as its main purpose an amendment of the Extradition (European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism) Act, 1987, with a view to further clarifying the circumstances in which offences are excluded from the political offence exception. In that way it will deal, among other things, with the issues raised by the judgments of the Supreme Court in theMagee, McKee and Sloan cases. The commitment made by the former Government in that regard will thus be given effect, contrary to what some of the other side have attempted to suggest in recent days. That should already have been clear. It does no service for anybody when groundless suspicions are raised to the effect that the Government's commitment in this regard is less than sincere.

Mr. McDowell

The Minister has taken her time about it; it is two years since she gave that commitment.

I have already stated, in response to questions from Deputy Harney on 17 February, that I would be proceeding with this legislation. It should also have been clear from the joint statements issued after the meetings of the Anglo-Irish Conference held on 3 February and 23 March that this is the Government's intention. Against that background I regret the attempts made in recent days to suggest otherwise. To imply, especially in the wake of the tragic events of last week, that there is lack of commitment on the part of the Irish Government to tackle terrorism with every means at its disposal not only plays into the hands of the tabloid press abroad and causes great unease among the vast majority of decent, hard-working people here and in our neighbouring island, but it is also grossly misleading.

It is two years since the Minister made such a commitment. She is ashamed to explain——

The Minister to continue without interruption.

I am just asking the Minister why it has taken her so long to deliver on that commitment.

She has not delivered on it yet; we have heard it before.

I cannot, either, allow to go unchallenged the statement made on Tuesday by the Leader of the Opposition on the Order of Business — which I hope he will take the opportunity of correcting now — when he sought to convey a most misleading impression about the State's attitude to the extradition of terrorists. He said:

In view of the fact that a major newspaper last Sunday named four key IRA personnel, including the person allegedly directing their bombing campaign in England, as living openly in this State, will the Taoiseach state when exactly the promised legislation will be introduced?

That statement creates the clear impression that but for defects in our extradition law these people could be extradited to Britain. That impression is totally wrong. While I cannot, for obvious legal reasons, go into the position in relation to the named individuals, I can and must point to the realities.

The reality is that the means are there which ensure that persons who may be "wanted" in Northern Ireland or Britain for serious offences are amenable to justice. Evidence to warrant the institution of proceedings must, of course, first exist, the but, where that evidence does exist, the record shows that the procedures which are there can be successfully used to tackle the problem of fugitive offenders accused of terrorist-type offences.

The extradition arrangements we operate with Britain and Northern Ireland provide the means by which a person can be returned to the jurisdiction in which the offence has been committed. The simplified backing of warrants procedure which applies to those jurisdictions means that Northern Ireland and Britain have a special status in the Irish extradition code. Those arrangements predate the present campaign of violence and have already been strengthened in recent years — most notably by way of the legislation enacted in 1987 — in response to it. The Extradition (European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism) Act, 1987, placed restrictions on the political offence exception and enabled Ireland to ratify the convention without recourse to a reservation — one of only eight countries out of a total of 21 countries which have ratified the convention to have done so. The safeguards introduced by the Extradition (Amendment) Act, 1987, ensured that those arrangements would continue to inspire public confidence.

Our response to the campaign of violence in Northern Ireland has also involved adopting, on occasion, approaches other than extradition to deal with fugitive offenders. Our law provides for the possibility of persons who are alleged to have committed serious crimes in Northern Ireland and who are found in this jurisdiction being brought to trial here. That is the provision for extra-territorial trial contained in the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act, 1976. UK legislation provides for the corresponding situation and allows the trial of persons in Northern Ireland for offences committed in this jurisdiction. Extra-territorial jurisdiction exists more generally in relation to certain explosives offences.

There is no question therefore of this State providing a safe haven for persons wanted for terrorist-type crimes committed in Northern Ireland or Britain. The Government hopes that recourse will continue to be made to both extradition and extra-territorial trial in appropriate cases and will, as I have already indicated, improve them by legislative change where that is necessary and appropriate.

This debate follows closely on a further series of terrorist outrages and deaths both in Northern Ireland and Britain. I have already referred to those events in an earlier part of my speech. The impact which those events has had on the public on both sides of the Irish Sea is also clear from the manner in which so many people have in different ways sought to express their solidarity with the suffering of those directly affected. The great mass of public opinion is now demanding of the terrorists on both sides that they should cease their campaigns of terror and lay down their arms.

What should now be clear to us as politicians is that it is no longer enough simply to condemn the violence perpetrated by the minority who engage in terrorism on both sides or share in the sense of public outrage and revulsion at the slaughter by them of the innocent. Nor is it enough to say that we have committed, and will continue to commit, the maximum amount of resources at our disposal in terms of security and legal co-operation to deal with the problem.

It is now recognised on all sides that security measures alone will never provide an answer to the extremely difficult and complex issues which underlie the Northern Ireland problem. The key to a lasting solution lies in dialogue and in compromise. The most important requirement at this point is to get the constitutional parties back to the negotiation table — to talk and continue to talk until, together, we find the answers which the people of these islands so badly want.

I have mentioned the need for compromise; that is a crucial point. To suggest that it is a matter of taking the agenda, or an element of the agenda of one side or the other and running with it, so to speak, would not, as some appear to suggest, be an act of generosity but one of folly. It is folly because it tends to encourage those of less thoughtful disposition to believe that it is simply a matter of securing victory, or a series of victories, on particular issues for their own side rather than considering what compromise might be necessary and possible to meet the legitimate concerns of the other side. It is only by encouraging both sides to look at the prospects for matching compromise that we will arrive at a comprehensive settlement likely to meet the very deep concerns of the greatest possible number. It is only by means of a comprehensive settlement that each side can show that they truly understand and respect the separate identity of the other and that they genuinely recognise the legitimacy of their aspirations.

The notion of victory or partial victory for one side over the other, therefore, has no part to play in terms of finding a solution and any attempt to proceed in that way would simply guarantee the perpetuation of the sense of injustice and lack of balance which is the very seed bed on which terrorism thrives.

While it is of course argued that the more shades of opinion that are reflected in the negotiating process, the better the prospects of a satisfactory result, the reality is that some, by their actions and by their support for violence, continue to exclude themselves from the process, despite the fact that they know full well that a change of policy would open the way for different possibilities.

It will, I hope, prove possible to resume the talks process soon. That is what the public throughout these islands demand of the politicians on all sides. The climate in which those talks take place and the prospect of a successful conclusion would be greatly enhanced if those engaged in terrorism were to desist from their campaigns of violence. Our message to those who engage in violence should be the same as that of the people — on both sides of the Border and in Britain — who have acted and spoken of their desire for peace in recent days and weeks: stop and stop now.

I thank the Minister for agreeing to share her time with me. Almost a quarter of a century ago the first big civil rights march took place in Derry when thousands of Catholics, joined by many of their Protestant neighbours, walked through the streets of their native city to demand what all right thinking people would regard as fair play; nothing more, nothing less. Their demonstration was a dignified one without any aggressive intent. Unfortunately, the Stormont authorities were so paranoid that they regarded this simple plea as a declaration of war and responded accordingly.

The television cameras recorded the battering of defenceless people by the police and audiences in Britain were appalled that this could happen in the United Kingdom. Indeed, many of them were surprised to learn that Northern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, such as the manner in which Westminster had allowed Stormont go get on with its own business unhindered.

I happen to live just a few a miles from Derry and I believe that if the civil rights movement had been allowed to continue as planned history would have taken a much more productive course and we would have been spared almost 24 years of slaughter and destruction.

The goodwill generated by Seán Lemass and Terence O'Neill was replaced by an ever-growing fear and suspicion. Twelve months after the 1968 march we witnessed the flight of hundreds of refugees from Derry into Donegal in fear of their lives. The lack of sanity in official circles drove the two communities back into their trenches. Passive resistance is something which requires enormous courage and patience but it has been shown to be one of mankind's most powerful weapons.

Perhaps the saddest thing that happened was the fact that a movement with huge potential for good was eventually hijacked by the Provos and we are now too painfully aware of what this led to. What was ostensibly set up to defend Nationalists in their ghettos has become one of the most cynical and hated terrorist groups on earth. They have the gall to claim that they have some sort of mandate from the Irish nation. They have no such mandate. Successive elections have clearly nailed this lie. They have caused Irish people throughout the world to hang their heads in shame. I trust that the present peace campaign will not allow itself to be cynically used by the men of violence for their own ends. Gerry Adams's response is that to condemn violence is to indulge in platitudes. It is surely not a platitude to express horror and condemnation at the sight of little children being blown to pieces as some part of a holy war.

The mirror image of the Provos is the UVF, whose activities are marginally more reprehensible, if that is possible. From these two groups we have just witnessed atrocities which no cause can justify — the slaughter of innocent children in Warrington by the Provos and the wanton sectarian murder of Catholics by the UVF at Castlerock. Ethnic cleansing is alive and well in Northern Ireland and the perpetrators did not need instruction from the Serbians or anybody else. In the words of Susan McHugh, "It is time to call a halt: enough is enough".

The question is where we go from here. We in this House are the freely elected representatives of our people on this side of the Border. It is to be noted that no representative of the Provos has succeeded in being elected, either as an abstentionist or anything else.

We have a grave responsibility in this debate in the type of language we use. In my opening remarks I have tried to put on record the plain historical facts of recent years. I hope I have given a fair account of events and I urge the House strongly to refrain from pointless recrimination. It is time we looked to the future. We should only refer to past events so that we might learn something to our benefit, and that includes our mistakes. I am certain that our sense of guilt for what has happened is not exclusive to any one side. We should not join the people in glasshouses. Where is the logic in accusing the Unionists of intransigence if we wrap the Green flag around us and shout "no surrender". If we are serious about ending this torment we must face the fact squarely that there has to be give and take on all sides. Compromise is not a dirty word if it means that both traditions can offer some hope to their children and grandchildren that they can live side by side in harmony, peace and in some degree of prosperity. We must aim for nothing less.

Many people in Britain and elsewhere have a misguided belief that this is a religious conflict. Nothing could be further from the truth to suggest this is very close to blasphemy. Are we expected to believe for a moment that the perpetrators of Warrington or Castlerock went on their knees to ask for God's blessing for what they were about to do? I think not. By a cruel accident of fate the Plantation of Ulster left us with two communities of different Christian denominations. Had they a common religion, one or the other, they would probably have merged long ago with some common identity. The present conflict derives from a population which eventually may be split evenly between those who passionately wish to remain Irish and those who see themselves attached to the land of their ancestors in Britain.

The people who live in Northern Ireland are not responsible for what happened 300 years ago and neither side can be coerced into being what they are not. My passionate hope is that one day the goal of the Presbyterian leaders of the United Irishmen will be achieved and that Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter will acknowledge that they are Irish, be they Anglo-Irish, Scots-Irish or native-Irish.

However, it is quite evident that this happy day is not around the corner and, short of driving all Unionists or all Nationalists from their homes, there is only one course to take. It should not be outside the bounds of human ingenuity to come up with a solution which can accommodate both traditions. A few days ago an opinion poll in Britain indicated that the majority of people there want to withdraw altogether from Ireland. That might sound to some people like an instant solution to all our problems but we should remember that Britain withdrew from a few other countries around the world over the years and left behind them a mess that has not been cleared up yet. From Sir Patrick Mayhew's recent remarks it would appear that this fact is uppermost in the minds of the present British Government. Regardless of what Britain may decide to do, either in the short or long term, the fact remains that the people of this island must learn to come to terms with each other. Otherwise the word "united" will have very little meaning.

There has been a good deal of speculation recently about the attitude of the Taoiseach to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. It will be remembered that before last year's talks got under way he clearly stated that, as far as he was concerned, everything was on the table, including the Government of Ireland Act, and that, like all the other parties to the talks, he agreed that there should be no pre-conditions. I can find absolutely nothing in what the Taoiseach has said in the meantime which would suggest that he would support any move to change Articles 2 and 3 in advance of an ultimate agreement and his speech today has further confirmed that. I am certainly quite happy to take him at his word.

I would hope that the Unionist party is not really serious in imposing any kind of pre-conditions. It would be equally valid for the Taoiseach to demand the repeal of the Government of Ireland Act before allowing talks to proceed. Anyone who sends out messages like this is merely stating that he has no intention of allowing any talks to take place in the sure knowledge that these demands are totally unrealistic. In view of recent events the public would impose a very harsh judgment indeed on those of either side who are seen to stand in the way of meaningful talks. I hope that anyone who is tempted to adopt this course will have second thoughts.

We should all remember that on this occasion no solution can be imposed on the people on either side of the Border by any politician or set of politicians. It has been clearly stated that any agreement must be submitted to the people on both sides for approval or rejection. At this stage I cannot see what anyone on any side has to fear. Meanwhile I suggest to Deputies that we should refrain from fighting among ourselves over spurious notions about the likelihood of some sort of betrayal. This is simply not possible in the circumstances. Instead we should bend all our efforts towards achieving an agreement which can command support in both parts of Ireland. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

I have enough knowledge of Northern Ireland to be convinced that the vast majority who live there are the salt of the earth. Any apparent support that Unionists have, as indicated this morning, for Loyalist violence comes from the fears similar to those present in the Nationalist community. These people are well capable of being generous to each other if they are afforded the climate that allows them to do so. Politicians, North and South, can make a huge contribution to creating such a climate if we simply offer the hand of friendship to each other and make an effort to refrain from offensive language. It can be very tempting to play to the gallery by shouting the same sterile cliches that have always proved to be counter-productive but which are calculated to raise a cheer from those who never think clearly about anything. It has been said that Ireland has too much religion and not enough Christianity. Charity was regarded by Christ as the greatest of virtues. The truth is that if all the Christians of Ireland, of whatever denomination, were to practice charity we would never harm, let alone kill, each other.

Finally, I would remind the House that it is our obligation to address the paramilitaries who claim to act on our behalf. It is up to Unionists to deal with the so-called Loyalist gunmen. For our part, it was highly significant that last Sunday's massive demonstration for peace took place at the GPO. I am sure that there are at least some people among the Provos who genuinely feel that they are part of a noble crusade. I would ask them to go inside the GPO and read again the words in the Easter Proclamation which called upon citizens never to dishonour the Republic by cowardice or inhumanity. How can anyone who claims to follow in the footsteps of the men who wrote those words possibly seek to justify Bloody Friday, Darkley, Enniskillen and now Warrington? Surely the time has come to call a halt.

With the permission of the Chair, I wish to share my time with Deputy Currie.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I listened with great interest to the contributions on this very vital and important issue of Northern Ireland. It was refreshing and encouraging to hear the speeches of Members, particularly those from this side of the House. Their speeches demonstated a breadth of vision, compassion and sympathy and this House must send these qualities forward as signals if we are to tackle in a constructive and new way the dreadful problem that is Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, not all speakers showed those qualities. Some of them indicated by their words that they still hold the attitudes of the seventies and eighties. We must recognise that if the problem is to be tackled, and the horrible cycle of violence resolved, we will have to look at Northern Ireland in a new light and be prepared for new departures. We are continually asking those on the other side of the divide to be brave enough to change their opinions and old hardened attitudes in order to make progress. We must be willing to do the same.

Northern Ireland is the defining issue in Irish politics. Other issues, be they issues of social or economic policy, are obviously vital but Northern Ireland underpins all of them. If politicians are unwilling to be compassionate, reasonable, brave and daring in relation to Northern policy we will equally be unwilling to react to the other problems.

Debate adjourned.