Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 18 May 1993

Vol. 430 No. 8

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Meeting with British Prime Minister.

Trevor Sargent


2 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will give the stated position of the Irish Government on Sellafield to the British Prime Minister when he meets him in June 1993.

Jim O'Keeffe


3 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the agenda for his proposed meeting with the UK Prime Minister, Mr. John Major.

Proinsias De Rossa


4 Proinsias De Rossa asked the Taoiseach if a date has been fixed for the planned meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mr. John Major; the matters he expects will be on the agenda for the meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2, 3 and 4 together.

Deputies will be aware of the agreement that the Taoiseach and British Prime Minister should meet twice yearly for discussions on matters of concern to our two countries. As I indicated to the House recently, I expect that the next such meeting will take place in June. In accordance with established practice, the date will be announced simultaneously in Dublin and London close to the time of the meeting. The agenda has yet to be finalised but is likely to cover bilateral matters, including Northern Ireland, European Community issues and other questions of common interest.

As regards Sellafield, the British Government is very well aware of our serious concerns. In January of this year, a detailed submission was forwarded by the Government to the British authorities which reiterated our objections to operations at Sellafield and requested a full public inquiry regarding the proposed expansion plans.

I thank the Taoiseach for his reply, but would he agree that it is by our actions that we are known? Would he agree that our Government is doing more to support Sellafield at present than to oppose it? For example, does the Taoiseach remember agreeing to a Sellafield protection clause in the Single European Act, at Article 30, section 6, which commits us to maintaining the technological and industrial conditions necessary for the security of each member state? What excuse will the Taoiseach have to offer for sanctioning the money for THORP during Ireland's so-called Green Presidency since these are definite actions? How does the Taoiseach stand over the Green 2000 report presented to him in February which states, on page 166, that the role of nuclear power must inevitably be re-examined?

I am afraid quotations at Question Time are not in order.

I am helping the Taoiseach to clarify the position.

The Deputy must proceed in accordance with the rules governing Question Time.

I do not propose to reply by way of a whole series of statements as the Deputy sought to do. I have made it clear that we have made our case to the British Authorities. There are approximately 80,000 objections to the expansion of Sellafield in the THORP area, about 40,000 of which enamated from Ireland. I am sure the Deputy will be glad to know that President Clinton has also expressed his concern in relation to it. We are doing all we can. I do not think anybody needs to question any more our concern, opposition or indeed our endeavours to keep the British authorities fully aware of what is our position.

I have no doubt that——

Order, I am calling Deputy Jim O'Keeffe. Will Deputy Sargent please resume his seat. I am calling Deputies in the order in which their questions appear before me.

Would the Taoiseach say whether it is intended that the United Kingdom position paper on Northern Ireland will be discussed at his meeting with the British Prime Minister or, alternatively, or perhaps additionally, does the Taoiseach intend to take any initiative or launch any proposals which would help to get the Northern Ireland talks process restarted?

I do not think Deputy O'Keeffe, or anybody else, is under any illusions about our total commitment to the restoration of the process of political talks, indeed to having the whole dialogue restarted as soon as possible. We expect to be consulted in relation to the so-called British paper, about which we hear and read so much. That remains our position. In regard to initiatives regarding it, the Deputy can be assured that, when the talks process resumes, we will avail of every opportunity, as we have done, to produce papers in an endeavour to making progress within that overall area.

To get them resumed?

Does the Taoiseach expect that the talks might be resumed before he may have an opportunity of meeting the British Prime Minister in June, given that the Northern Ireland local elections will be over and their results to hand by the end of this week which will mean that that obstable will no longer obtain? Would he agree that every effort should be made to get these talks under way? In addition, can we take it that the Taoiseach will not use the matter of being consulted or otherwise on the British proposals as a reason for not proceeding with those talks? I understand that the Taoiseach is anxious that the talks would proceed but it would be unfortunate if they did not go ahead simply because some question arose about consultation on the British proposals?

Will the Taoiseach say whether he will be raising the fact that the British Government's opt-out on the Social Charter may be likely to have serious implications for Irish industry and jobs and whether he will be urging the British Government, when it does ratify, to include the Social Charter in their ratification process?

The Deputy can be assured that the Irish Government will not lay down any pre-conditions for starting talks or indeed resort to any such opportunity or excuse. We are totally committed to the resumption of the talks process. It may be that too much emphasis is being placed on the question of the production of a paper for the future — a blueprint. As I understand it, it will be neither but merely an attempt by the British Government to focus on the particular issues involved; no more than that. Having said that, we do expect to be consulted. Indeed the way forward, leading to the possibility of progress there, is to ensure that we all consult very closely with each other in order to achieve, first, the resumption of the talks. I would hope they would be resumed at the earliest possible date. I am not prepared to give a date or to predict whether they will be back in action before I meet the British Prime Minister. Let us hope they will but I can assure Members we will not put any obstacle in the way of their resumption.

In relation to the Social Charter, we should await the decisions in the House of Commons and House of Lords before meeting that particular challenge.

In addition to the other matters the Taoiseach might discuss with the British Prime Minister, will he explain to him that the spectacle of British soldiers walking free out of a court, following unprovoked and vicious attacks on members of the civilian community in Coalisland——

The Deputy is raising a very specific matter worthy of a separate question.

Would the Taoiseach agree that circumstances in which justice does not appear to be even-handed — and I am not being specific here — in which one British soldier only has served time for activities in Northern Ireland since the troubles began and was released very quickly, creates an impression that justice does not appear to be even-handed, which is not in the furtherance of the cause of peace and that the only gainers in such circumstances are the men of violence on all sides?

The alienation of any communities and/or their faith in the administration of justice certainly is deplored by the Irish Government at all times. The type of incident about which the Deputy speaks is indeed a matter that is brought up on a regular basis at the intergovernmental conference meetings held under the Anglo Irish Agreement.

The Taoiseach seemed to indicate that, after the talks resume, there might be some Irish proposals or initiative taken by him or his Government. In that event, I suggest that he consider, in advance of the talks being restarted and with a view to helping to get them restarted, such an initiative, or launching proposals to help get that process restarted?

It is a matter of choice how one approaches the talks process. Our view always has been that the talks process can make more progress within the confines of the conference rather than endeavouring to debate initiatives in the open which tends to do more harm than good. We believe that progress can be made through all of the people concerned sitting around the table, exchanging views, without any preconditions being attached. We believe that is the best way to make progress.

If they all sit around the table.