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.