(Carlow-Kilkenny): I wish to share my time with Deputy Crawford.
Joint Framework Document on Northern Ireland: Statements (Resumed).
Is that agreed? Agreed.
(Carlow-Kilkenny): Last evening before Private Members' Business rudely interrupted my contribution I was thanking the people who had played a leading role in getting this discussion document on the table. I had not thanked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, or John Hume, both of whom have played a leading role throughout the discussions.In particular John Hume's common sense has never wavered throughout troubled times. I hope that people writing about grey men in grey suits will not belittle the presentation because in the long run I think it should not matter if people appeared with punk hairstyles and grass skirts. This is an important document and the seriousness of the presentation reflected its seriousness. We need to be careful that what we say helps rather than hinders the process.
Some of the comments by Unionists today are not very encouraging but as somebody else pointed out perhaps it is a negotiating stance and they are arguing the best case they can make. It is very hard to see how a discussion document can force anybody to do anything against his will. For everyone's sake I hope this document will lead to serious discussion with everybody sitting down and talking. It is far better to build bridges than blow them up. The people have an opportunity to continue living in peace and move freely throughout the North. With peace all forms of economic activity will advance, in particular tourism. I have been told that tourism in Belfast has increased by 100 per cent. I think it could increase by 500 per cent if peace continues. I hope all reasonable people in the North will take this opportunity to advance the cause of peace.
It is unbelievable that a great many people in the Twenty-six Counties have not visited the North. It would be nice to think that we all knew the other part of the country and that people in the North could come South and feel they were among their own. The reality is that we are an island and as long as we are agreeable to share each other's cares we can get on together. I hope that anything that is said about the Framework Document will not hinder the advance of peace.
I welcome the publication of the Framework Document. The speed at which it was published was important as obviously the change of Government was a hiccup. People in the North, the South and the United Kingdom will have an opportunity to read the document carefully and come to their own conclusions. I thank the Taoiseach, and in particular the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, for the work he has done in both administrations, the British Prime Minister, John Major, the members of the Opposition, John Hume, Gerry Adams and many others in Northern Ireland who have made this possible.
The utterings of the main Unionist parties in the past 24 hours are somewhat disappointing but we realise they must take their people with them. I too welcome the publication of the Unionist document, A Practical Approach to Problem-Solving in Northern Ireland, and I hope all these papers will be brought to the negotiating table so that the matter is sorted out across the table rather than across the barrel of a gun as in the past. What has the past 25 years of violence done for us? More than 3,000 people are dead and many more have died from stress and anxiety. Once again I sympathise with every family who has suffered traumatic bereavements as a result of the troubles. Thousands have been maimed and their families will continue to look after them. With the six months creasefire, people realise what it would be like to live in peace and harmony with one another. We must ensure that nothing is done or said that takes from that. Ordinary people across the divide yearn for its continuation, as was obvious from their comments on television and radio yesterday.Regardless of where they live or where they come from the vast majority of people want this document to be used as a discussion paper. It is important to use this document rather than guns and bombs.
The potential gain from peace cannot be quantified and tourism and agriculture are just two areas where jobs will result. People, North or South, who have a job will be working for each other rather than using their time for all the wrong reasons. Farm organisations, women's groups, chambers of commerce and community groups from both sides of the Border have all worked together and discussed their common interests and what they can do for each other. I was involved in farm organisations for many years through which I met people from all sides of the divide in the North at farm and industry level. We had many things in common and worked together closely. What I find hard to accept in public life is the difficulties at council and Oireachtas level in sitting down together as official bodies to discuss how money, in particular European Union funds, should be spent to do things for the good of all. The political groups have said "no", yet the commercial groups and chambers of commerce have said "yes".
The document gives us an opportunity to discuss ways and means of rectifying the political situation.The three Northern Ireland MEPs, Dr. Paisley, Mr. Hume and Mr. Nicholson, fine gentlemen in their own spheres, were able to work out how EU funds, which are being given as a direct result of peace and reconciliation on this island, could be spent north of the Border and in the six counties immediately south of it. It is interesting that they were prepared to sit down together when money was involved. I hope they will allow their members at local level to do the same. It is important that local politicians, for example in Monahgan County Council and Armagh District Council, are involved in discussions on how to use the funds to the best possible advantage through the political system and structures. I do not see why other groups in Northern Ireland and across the Border should not discuss it together.
It is important to realise what the documents are about. They are important, lengthy, detailed documents. The heading on the new Framework Document states it is a shared understanding between the British and Irish Governments to assist discussion and negotiation involving the Northern Ireland parties. It is not written in stone. Paragraph 4 states:
A climate of peace enables the process of healing to begin. It transforms the prospects for political progress, building on that already made in the Talks process. Everyone now has a role to play in moving irreversibly beyond the failures of the past and creating new relationships capable of perpetuating peace with freedom and justice.
It is an indication of what can be done and opens up an opportunity for dialogue with the relevant Northern Ireland parties for new institutions and structures to take account of the totality of relationships and enable the people of Ireland to work together in areas of common interest while respecting our diversities. That is extremely important.
In his speech yesterday the Taoiseach said that no party will regard this document as meeting its requirements and aspirations. The document represents balance and compromise. If its main elements become the basis for new institutions and political arrangements it will ultimately command the widespread support necessary to ensure a fair and effective arrangement.
Peace in my area in the past six months has shown what is possible. The dispute over closed roads has ended once and for all. People are able to move about freely in their communities. I recognise the quick response made by the previous Government to reopen and resurface roads in the Border areas. It is important to use some of the EU funding to make them good permanent structures. We also need to open up the road of communication through dialogue with community groups and politicians.There is much interest in doing that. When the Minister for the Environment met his counterpart in Northern Ireland last week he agreed that the N2 should be looked at as a possible means of transport from Dublin to Derry. During the term of the previous administration that idea was wiped off the map. I am glad it has resurfaced because traffic on that road has increased by almost 25 per cent and that in the middle of winter and when the peace process has only begun.
I beg all politicians North and South to read the document. The people in Northern Ireland demanded this document yesterday. Supplies in post offices ran out in no time. Let the politicians read and act on it. We do not want to go back into our corners. We heard a little of that on radio this morning when Unionists said they would not move an inch and, unfortunately, some of our politicians said the same — they had gone thus far and were not prepared to go any further.
I commend the document and hope it is used in the way it is meant to be used, that is, to improve the lives of those on this island.
As Fianna Fáil spokesman on Foreign Affairs I join my Leader, Deputy Ahern, in warmly welcoming the publication yesterday of the Joint Framework Document in Belfast. I applaud the balance between the Irish and British opinion which is in the documentvis-à-vis such issues as cross-Border institutions, the role of the EU and the principle of consent. It is important, as we approach the next stage of the peace process, to praise those who have been principally involved in getting us this far. I would like in a special way this morning to say a word of praise for John Hume, for his work, together with Gerry Adams, in initiating the talks process with the former Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds and the British Prime Minister, John Major; for the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, who in 1991 was involved in the beginning of the process; for the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring and the Taoiseach, Deputy Bruton, for the important roles they played also. The back-up they received through the years from the Civil Service in the Republic, the North and the UK was important. One man who has played a very special role in all of this work is Dr. Martin Mansergh. I put on record my appreciation and recognition of the work he has done.
At the launch of the document yesterday the British Prime Minister stated that this process went back four years to 1991. That reference gave me great pleasure because it recalled for me the role I as Minister for Justice, together with my colleague, Deputy Collins, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, played in dealing with the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Peter Brooke. With the approval of the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey and the Government of the day we agreed the three strand process. The Joint Framework Document published yesterday refers to strands II and III of the process agreed as far back as March 1991. Its publication is particularly welcome because during the period before its publication it led and would undoubtedly have continued to lead to a series of very damaging leaks similar to that inThe Times which set temperatures soaring and could have threatened the advancement of the peace process. The publication day of the Joint British-Irish Framework Document was an important event, following four years of intergovernmental discussions.
I will remind Members what was involved in the three strand process and what continues to be involved in it, because the principle of nothing being agreed until everything is agreed remains vital. The first strand concerned the structures within Northern Ireland and was the subject of discussions between the parties in Northern Ireland and the British Government. The structures would enable elected representatives in Northern Ireland to exercise shared administrative and legislative control over all those matters that can be agreed across both communities. Yesterday the British Prime Minister published the proposals of his Government in relation to strand I.
The second strand concerns North-South institutions which would enable representatives of democratic institutions, North and South, to (a) enter into new co-operative and constructive relationships, (b) promote agreement among the peoples of the two islands, (c) carry out on a democratically accountable basis delegated executive harmonising and consultative functions over a range of matters to be agreed and (d) serve to acknowledge and reconcile the rights, identities and aspirations of the two major traditions.
Finally, the third strand dealt with the east-west structures which were intended to enhance the existing basis for co-operation between the two Governments and help to promote, support and underwrite the fair and effective operation of the new arrangements.
After the publication of the March 1991 proposals there was a process of negotiation and discussion, followed by the talks at Stormont in 1992 between the British and Irish authorities and the parties in the North which continued until the end of 1992. After the respective Governments delayed the recommencement of the Anglo-Irish process, the talks were suspended by the Loyalists.In December 1993 we witnessed and welcomed the Joint Downing Street Declaration which, in turn, led to the IRA ceasefire on 31 August 1994 and the Loyalist creasefire on 13 October 1994.
The publication of the Joint Framework Document yesterday and today's debate should represent the beginning of a period of negotiation and discussion to ensure that the process which has continued since April 1991 and the ceasefires will give birth to a permanent peace in 1995.
I appeal to all concerned to carefully study and consider the document published yesterday, there should be discussions by all interested parties involving all strands of opinion and, in my strongly held view — I have tabled a priority question to the Tánaiste on the issue today — nobody should be excluded from that talks process. Sinn Féin and the Loyalists should be involved without preconditions. I want to emphasise that, of course, the decommissioning of weapons is vital but should not be seen as a precondition to talks. With almost six months of the peace process behind us it must be recognised that all democratic parties, including Sinn Féin and the Loyalist organisations, must take their place at the table and be involved in the talks process.
I appeal to the Unionist parties, in particular the Official Unionists and the DUP, not to be hypocritical in relation to this issue — because there is certain element of double - speak on this. The Unionists and the DUP speak to the Loyalist organisations and the fringe groups within the Loyalist community but their weapons have not been decommissioned. If they are prepared to talk to their Loyalist representatives they should be prepared to accept the bona fides of Sinn Féin and talk to it. The issue of decommissioning of arms must be tackled, but it should not be a precondition to talks because, if we set preconditions, we will go nowhere in this process. I am also heartened by the reaction of the smaller Loyalist parties at this stage and that of Sinn Féin to the document, which has been very considered in its approach, saying it is prepared to read and, consider it and move forward.
Of course, the Joint Framework Document is open to discussion and amendment. It is critical that all of us, the people of the North and South, from all sections of all communities, are aware that the document is not afait accompli. Its general status should be clear to all concerned and, essentially, should remain intact, but it is essential to state that its detailed contents are open to discussion and amendment. One thing should be borne in mind throughout all the discussions, neither side should turn it into a cherry-picking exercise. The Joint Framework Document should not be perceived as an a la carte menu, after all it is the result of two years' solid discussion and negotiation and represents the considered views of the respective Governments on the best way forward. Much emphasis has been placed on the fact that it is not to be considered a blueprint but, surely, it deserves very serious consideration since the best brains on both sides of the Irish Sea, within our respective Civil Service administrations have worked on it carefully over those two years? That is not to say that there cannot and should not be give and take in all the discussions on this document; I accept that there should — and will be — give and take.
After 25 years of violence in the North — preceded by 50 years of Unionist control at Stormont, having presided over a sectarian regime so bad it had to be abolished — it is not unreasonable to say it is time now for the Unionists to agree to something that someone else, in this case the Irish and United Kingdom authorities, advances as their point of view. I appeal to the Unionist leaders to follow the lead of their own people — I understand the reaction on the streets and within their communities in the North since the publication of the document yesterday was: "We have the peace, we now have the framework document, let us read it, study it and not say "no" merely for the sake of it."
It is imperative that we grasp the fact that the minutiae of the document are not cast in stone. On Tuesday as last minute preparations for the publication of this document fell into place, the Ulster Unionist Party issued its alternative policy document. As mentioned already, all opinions are to be welcomed.The document has at its core that it does not exclude discussion of other documents. It is important that the Unionists have not said they will not talk. It is important that we should encourage them to talk. On the question of talks and who should talk, our Government has an important role to play as a persuader.
In the three strand process, the first of the three relationships, strand I within Northern Ireland, culminated with the publication of an internal framework document yesterday morning. The move now is towards finalising strand II, the relationship between the North and the South. The areas listed in the document include, among others, agriculture, transport and industrial development. Tourism was omitted, but I am sure that was an oversight. The importance of the EU aspect of these matters was emphasised.We have common interests and concerns at EU level in agriculture, fisheries and other areas regardless of whether we come from the North or the South.
It must be emphasised that the strand II process concerns discussions between Northern parties and the Irish Government.The UK Government has no direct role in the strand II process, it is a North-South issue. It played a vital role in strand I, but the Irish Government was involved in the North-South relationship. For that reason and because of the framework elements referring to strand II and North-South institutions, the Irish Government should act as a persuader through its contacts with the Unionist and loyalist communities, Sinn Féin and the SDLP to secure the greatest level of acceptance of this document.
What happens next following the publication of the document? The British and Irish Governments should encourage progress. My party leader yesterday welcomed and applauded the balance in the document. We are concerned that constitutional changes to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution, changes to section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act and the 1973 British legislation were not published at the same time as the Framework Document.It would be preferable if all those matters were on the table and available for discussion at the same time. It is important to remember that Fianna Fáil demonstrated vision and courage yesterday by laying out in the speech delivered by our party leader precisely our views on the addendum to Article 2 of our Constitution and the stated recognition of the question of consent in respect of Article 3. Article 2 states: "The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its island and the territorial seas." The addendum should state: "and is the shared inheritance of all the people of Ireland in their diverse identities and traditions". It is a pity that was not spelt out yesterday. On Article 3, we recognise the consent factor while stating our legitimate national objective of a united Ireland.
There was a total misrepresentation of our position in the editorial ofThe Cork Examiner this morning. While the remainder of the media got it right, I strongly suggest that the editorial writer The Cork Examiner should read my leader's speech yesterday. We are willing to make ourselves available and brief him or her on it. The article referred to a return to irredentism, but my leader specifically ruled that out in his speech; obviously it was not read by that editorial writer.
The Framework Document is a very important one advancing the work done since 1991. At this stage the two Governments must play the role of persuaders.If the Framework Document was merely a document about talks it could have been published years ago. We all recognise that the Framework Document is a considered view as to the best way forward and the two Governments must stand over that view. The ideas in the document are workable, not exclusive of any other thoughts and are worthy of serious consideration and agreement. From all sides, North and South, we must discuss, promote and sell the concept and the benefits to be gained from peace to those who have been so far reluctant to discuss the document and the way forward. I encourage all on the two islands to start the process of talks.
I wish to share my time with my two colleagues, Deputies Bell and Gallagher.
Sharing time is permissible in this debate.
I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this important debate, a significant element in the ongoing peace process. I welcome the publication of this historic document.It will make an enormous contribution to the establishment of lasting peace. The last six months have shown that the majority of decent people north and south of the Border want the ceasefires to be copperfastened into a just and lasting peace. The document published yesterday is first and foremost a consultative discussion paper. It clearly states that there will be no joint authority by the Irish and British Governments over Northern Ireland. The proposals will not predetermine any outcome of the talks process. No section of the community in Northern Ireland will be coerced into a new political situation.The document is based on consent and the process can only succeed if that concensus is upheld.
As the co-ordinator of the Labour Party's delegation to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, I understand the most successful method of achieving any type of success is through dialogue. The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, in existence since last October, illustrates that progress can only be achieved when all parties enter into meaningful negotiations and discussions.I hope the Framework Document will stimulate widespread discussion and public debate throughout the length and breadth of this island. I urge all those who have an interest in this process to read the document in a calm and measured frame of mind. When the document has been read and digested, I believe it will draw all political parties in Northern Ireland to the negotiating table as a just and lasting settlement can only be achieved when all parties enter into genuine and meaningful talks.
I assure the House that the Labour Party will continue to play a full and complete role in the ongoing peace process which is now entering a new and crucial phase. Labour is committed to establishing a just and lasting peace which recognises the rights of all people on this island.
During the past two years we witnessed dramatic changes which many of us would not have countenanced in our wildest dreams. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to my party leader, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, who during the past ten years has made an enormous contribution towards the achievement of lasting peace on this island. He played a major role in the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Downing Street Declaration and, of course, the Framework Document. It would be remiss of me not to mention the contribution made by the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, and my constituency colleague, the Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton, who also in their efforts helped to bring about this hopeful chapter in Irish history.
The Irish and British Governments have met the challenge and they are at one on the need to establish a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. I commend both Governments for the efforts and work they have invested. The challenge has now been firmly placed with all the politicians on this island but, in particular, with the politicians of Northern Ireland. It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that no vacuum is allowed during this crucial time. I shudder to think that we could return to the bad old days — even though it is only six months ago — where political stagnation was the so-called norm. This vacuum could only lead to a return to violence and more misery for the families in Northern Ireland.
The Irish Government, for its part, has signalled that Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution are not written in stone. I believe this will go some way towards alleviating the fears of people from the Unionist community. The Government has said it will bring forward changes to these Articles as part of an overall agreement. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, clearly acknowledged that last night. Likewise, the British Government has stated that it has no selfish, strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland. This statement will offer a certain degree of hope to the vast majority of the people in the Nationalist community who aspire to a united Ireland. The British Government has also said it will bring forward the necessary legislation to put this aspiration into law. Such legislation could only be brought forward by the British Government on the basis that the majority of people in Northern Ireland are in favour of such a change.
So far some of the reaction to the Framework Document has been very positive. As Deputy Burke stated, I also have been heartened with the initial response of the Progressive Unionist Party, the Ulster Democratic Party and Sinn Féin. All these political parties said they are prepared to read and consider the document in its entirely, before making any judgment on it. It should be noted that these same groups have been to the forefront of the conflict during the past 25 years. If they are prepared to examine the document I cannot understand why the mainstream Unionist parties cannot approach the Framework Document in the same manner and, indeed, desist from using emotive language such as "Ulster is on a war footing". The ordinary people of Northern Ireland have had enough bloodshed and hurt and they want no more of it.
I firmly believe the Framework Document will be the bridge to the next stage of this delicate process. I want to see the community rebuild itself in the context of a lasting and just peace which respects the rights and wishes of all the people on this island.
I thank my colleague for sharing his time with my colleague Deputy Pat Gallagher and me. As one who has lived and worked on the Border for the past 50 years and as one who worked in Northern Ireland as a senior union official of the largest trade union in the country I consider this to be a joyous occasion. At last we have been able to produce a document which should be examined seriously and conscientiously. Even extremists on both sides of the community in Northern Ireland have to accept it is well thought out and deserves all our gratitude. In that context I pay tribute to the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, who made an enormous contribution to getting the peace process on the road and also to Mr. Hume and my colleague and party leader, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring. Effectively, the latter was the link between the two Governments as he was involved in both the discussions of the previous Government and this Government.I also pay tribute to the Taoiseach who took over at a very difficult time when the negotiations were at a delicate stage and who has shown courage and initiative in a quite but positive way.
Those of us who have lived and worked on the Border will know the damage that has been done in the Border areas due to the conflict of the past 25 years. Unemployment levels were out of all proportions. This is one of the largest unemployment blackspots in the country, much of which is due directly to the violence in Northern Ireland. There were differences in taxation, VAT and so on but the violence did not encourage people and foreign industrialists to come to the Border areas. In fact it gave every encouragement to some foreign industrialists to move away from the Border areas and from my own county in particular.
There is no doubt that if the peace process continues and we finally succeed in reaching an agreement which is acceptable to both communities in Northern Ireland, and by agreement with the Irish Government, we can create 50,000 to 60,000 additional jobs in the Border region. Every opportunity is being given to the local authorities, trade and industry by the USA, Canada, Australia and the EU. Plenty of money is available to create employment and to improve and restructure what has been destroyed in the Border areas but it can only be done through the peace process. Those moneys will not be available if violence recommences.
We have to take into account the huge cost of Garda and military involvement to Irish and UK taxpayers. That money could best be used to improve social welfare, to assist in further job creation and to repair county roads and so on. The Garda, which have for the past 25 years been engaged in cross-Border activity, could be redeployed in urban and rural areas throughout the country where crime has increased substantially.
Having listened to the media last night and this morning one would think there was only one side to this document.At one stage I had the impression that I was reading the wrong document with the result that I had to read it again. Spokespersons for some sections of the communities in Northern Ireland certainly must be reading a different document. There is no doubt that some of the guarantees in the document would not have been acceptable in the Republic 25 years ago. Both sides have had to move, and will possibly have to move further to achieve permanent peace.
As a trade union member, I attended meetings in Unionist areas, in companies where 95 per cent of the workforce were Unionists, people who, on a daily basis, had the Union Jack displayed in the workplace and on their machines. However, I always found there was a common bond, the trade union movement which set the example for a 32 county arrangement. Such an arrangement exists in the ICTU, and unions North and South work in harmony irrespective of a person's religion or beliefs. That example also exists in rugby and boxing, a sport in which I was involved. There was never a problem with boxers from the South fighting in the King's Hall in Belfast and boxers from the North fighting in the National Stadium in Dublin. Similarly, there was no problem with Northern rugby players playing in Landsdowne Road and elsewhere in the Republic. There are many fine examples of successful co-operation between North and South and perhaps some of our Unionist friends in Northern Ireland will follow the example of boxers, rugby players and trade unionists.
I am involved, as are some of my colleagues, in many cross-Border organisations.For many years we have been co-operating in trying to build better infrastructure, roads, sewerage, water and other activities along the Border. We now have two choices: to go down the road of peace or to go back down the road of violence, I hope we will choose the road of peace.
(Laoighis-Offaly): I thank my colleagues, Deputies Fitzgerald and Bell, for sharing their time with me. I spoke previously in a debate on Northern Ireland and at that time, as a person who does not live in a Border area, I expressed a reluctance to get into the deeper and finer political issues. In my work before I became a Member of this House I had much contact with groups in the community and voluntary sectors, not only in the Republic but in areas around Belfast. I pay tribute to the many groups and organisations in that sector which down the years, even in the worst days of the troubles, fostered co-operation and contact between ordinary people, north and south of the Border.
Well deserved tributes have been paid to political leaders from many parties on this island, in Britain and even overseas, who helped us get to the stage of publishing the Joint Declaration and the Framework Document. I pay tribute to the ordinary men and women who kept the contacts open during the years at community level and in voluntary and sporting organisations. Regardless of the progress made by political leaders and the agreements at political or intergovernmental level, unless there is understanding among the people at ground level, no solution will work.
The fact that the views of ordinary people in Northern Ireland are being considered is due in no small way to the contacts that have been built up throughout the years. Groups and individuals had an opportunity through the Opsahl Commission to record their views on the future of Northern Ireland. Many organisations have been assisted through Co-operation North and the International Fund for Ireland. Deputy Bell mentioned the work done by the trade union movement in fostering co-operation, North and South, and dealing with issues on a common basis. Many business and economic organisations in trade, industry, agriculture, tourism and fisheries have shown that common interest can be identified and worked on. This is an area that can grow organically, where people can learn over a period of time to recognise their common interests and take action, whether within this island, between Ireland and Britain or in the European forum. I appeal to both Governments to continue to do everything possible to foster growth and co-operation in this area.
Governments in the Republic and Britain have committed budgetary funds over a period of years to assist this process. Governments in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have also given support by way of funding. I appeal to all these Governments to continue their support and foster co-operation so that, as well as progress being made at political and intergovernmental level, ordinary people can learn to live and work together and further their common interests through co-operation and mutual understanding.
I wish to share my time with my two colleagues.
I think that is satisfactory.
I welcome the publication of the Framework Document which is long overdue. While I concur with many of the remarks of other speakers about the various people who have had an input to this process, it should be acknowledged that many unsung heroes were involved in the peace process down the years. From time to time we find it difficult to mention Gerry Adams, Mitchell McLoughlin and Pat Doherty of Sinn Féin and Father Alex Reid from Clonard Monastery who was one of the main movers in the process. Tributes should be paid to them and to people such as Reverend Roy McGee, Billy Hutchinson and David Ervine who have taken incredible risks in the cause of peace. Without their input we would not have reached the stage where we have had six months of peace.
It is only people such as myself and Deputy Bell who live in Border counties who realise the incredible significance of peace to the people not only on the northern side of the Border but also south of the Border. I have always lived within sight of the Mourne Mountains and it is incredible that for the last six months people on the other side of the water from my house are living in peace. Previously there were daily explosions and shootings within earshot of my home, but that has now stopped. We have moved on as a result of the efforts not only of politicians and high profile people but also ordinary people.
In the last couple of hours Fianna Fáil has been accused in certain circles of being irredentist. That flies in the face of what our Leader has clarified on a number of occasions in recent weeks, that irredentism is dead; long may that continue to be the case.
To a certain extent, those who criticise us have failed to realise and accept the incredible contribution made by Fianna Fáil to the process. Events would not have reached this stage without the efforts of former Taoisigh, Deputy Albert Reynolds, Charlie Haughey and the Fianna Fáil Party generally.Fianna Fáil has not been given enough credit for the way in which its ideas and aspirations have evolved and for the way in which it has set about achieving them. There was a time when some members of Fianna Fáil, other parties and the general public would have said it should not be left to the people of the Six Counties to decide the constitutional situation on the island, that one person's consent is another person's veto and this is one of the key issues which has dogged the process. Fianna Fáil has shown that it has no problem with the principle of consent being built into the Constitution. However, this does not mean that someone can keep saying "no" to progress. This is one of the areas on which people have held the line. While we agree with the need for consent, it should not be applied in such a way that people can continue to say "no". Unlike some members of my party at the time, I supported the Anglo-Irish Agreement, not necessarily because of what it contained but because it was the first time a British Government — I pay tribute to Mrs. Thatcher in this regard — told Unionists they could not say "no" all the time. I welcomed that change of attitude by the British Government.
It is inevitable that there will be some sort of settlement. Ordinary citizens, particularly those who lived with violence, will do anything to maintain peace. However, this is not to say that we should reject our ideals. People may castigate my party but the reality is that Fianna Fáil's input to the process is very important. It was the main architect of all the political developments and it responded to the mood of ordinary people. It has an extremely important role to play in any future developments and the Government must bear this in mind.
Like my constituency colleague, Deputy Bell, I look forward to the establishment of cross-Border bodies. However, while everything may be fine on paper — Fianna Fáil was one of the architects of the document — overcoming the bureaucracy in Departments is another matter. I have had much experience of this during my time as a councillor and Deputy. While politicians may be in favour of co-operation, if the will is not there within Departments then it will not happen. This is an obstacle we must get over. I hope the cross-Border bodies are successful. The need for such bodies was shown recently by the fishermen in Kilkeel who have their opinion on how the country should be governed and who were adamant that there should be co-operation in the fishing industry.
I welcome the Framework Document which represents not only the culmination of two years work but the culmination of many years of painstaking work between both Governments and the various parties and personalities in the North. I compliment all those involved in the process, particularly the former Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, who made a significant policy judgment that the peace process should be accelerated in parallel with or in advance of the talks process. He took this key strategic decision in the knowledge that peace would transform the climate for talks and the building of political institutions which would consolidate a political settlement. He was on his own for much of that journey.Given his traits, he was the right man in the right place at the right time.
I very much welcome the emphasis on a North-South body with executive powers. While much of what is contained in the document will take some time to bring to fruition, there is much we can do now to build bridges between the North and South. One of the great tragedies of this conflict is that there are not enough exchanges between the North and South. More politicians should travel North to meet people with differing political views. Recently Deputy Dermot Ahern, I and other Deputies met a number of Unionist politicians. We were put into one room and told to write on the blackboard our spontaneous views of Unionism and loyalism.Deputy Enda Kenny said we would not last too long when they saw what we had written. Likewise our Unionist colleagues were writing their views of us on a blackboard in another room. Afterwards we discussed the myths and misconceptions which had been created about each group, and managed to correct some of these. The lesson I learned from that visit is that we need more of these exchanges in order to break down barriers and create a new understanding.
Both Governments should set up a special fund to assist exchanges not only on a political level but also on a community, voluntary, sporting and cultural level. For the past 25 years the Between organisation in Cork under the leadership of Criostóir De Baróid has organised holidays in Cork for loyalist and Nationalist children, from working-class areas of Belfast, some of whose parents are in prison. Thankfully the Department of Foreign Affairs has consistently supported that initiative. It has come under attack from time to time and has been undermined by certain establishment figures in the British Government and, unfortunately, the European Commission.I wish to express my support for it. It is important to recognise an organisation such as Between that has soldiered on for many years doing its best to assist people in the areas of conflict and build bridges. People from different communities were together in Cork summer after summer. Co-operation North has also been doing extremely good work.
In almost every local authority in the country there are committees to twin with cities and towns in Europe to foster understanding. Why not have twinning committees to deal with the North, without prejudice to constitutional or political issues? We need to be proactive in helping schools and sporting clubs to travel North and to support exchange visits. The only way to build true harmony, peace and unity is through people getting to know each other more and being happy in each other's company, thus getting rid of the myths and misunderstandings.
Education offers particular opportunities, especially within the broader European context. Schemes such as the Socrates programme which facilitates exchanges in higher education and secondary schools should be used. The Commenius strand of the Socrates programme offers particular opportunities for exchanges involving young people. The community employment initiatives such as Youthstart, Horizon, which deals with the disabled and disadvantaged, and the NOW programme all provide opportunities for funding and assisting exchanges between communities North and South. I urge the Government to promote that. A fund should be set up immediately by both Governments to fund groups to be proactive in this regard.
I support all the views expressed. We live in extraordinarily historic times. The Framework Document produced by the British and Irish Governments is one of the most significant documents ever produced between two sovereign governments. Its impact could be extraordinary if all those who can be a party to discussions take up the challenge which has now emerged.
When one looks back over the years we can see how far we have come. If people in Bosnia, Israel, Palestine or wherever there is conflict were at the point we are now at and had a document of such magnitude, I wonder how they would feel or what they would give to have available real and serious discussion documents.
I want to address my remarks in particular to the strand one framework produced by the British Government. I want to say to a new generation of politicians that they have a right to lead their people. They have a right to have their own assembly or parliament. This island needs a new generation of active, vibrant and committed people who will enter public life. That opportunity, in the widest context, is now being presented to those in Northern Ireland on all sides of the community. While many leaders there who have been involved for many years and have brought the process to its present point will have a role to play, the possibility of an assembly of 90 members necessitates substantive young figures being available in all parties, representing all shades of political opinion, who should take up the challenge. They should not be smothered by those who have led and who would seek now to prevent the process moving forward on the basis of the Framework Document. They have a right to lead their people, a right to be involved in public life. They have a right to have a voice on a wide range of issues — economic development, education, health — to take up those challenges and to play a part in what can be a tremendously dynamic future for this island and, in particular, for those in Northern Ireland.
I think of people like Gary McMichael who at least has the capacity to stand back and not make knee-jerk judgments or give instant reactions. He comes from a section of the community that has suffered greatly and I can compare it to Gerry Adams's community on the other side. It is interesting that those who have come from the deepest roots of violence are those who are now most realistic and honourable in demanding of themselves and those whom they seek to lead that dialogue and discussion and all the other challenges be given an opportunity they have not been given in the past.
I echo what my colleague, Deputy Dermot Ahern, said about the contribution of this party to what has happened over the years. In joining this great party one of the key elements in my decision was that I had been saying we needed somebody to emerge who could grapple with the problem. That happened. I saw that this party was not looking backwards but had the intent, vision and ability to look to the future and make a contribution. It has done so and will continue to do so.
A Russian who sought asylum in America but never forgot his own country said, "Let man's petty nations tear themselves apart, my land's only borders lie around my heart". In many ways that can signify the point we are at. I use those words to appeal to all not to look at land borders but to look to themselves and their own abilities and drive for the great challenge and opportunity that now faces us all.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Derek McDowell and Deputy Jim O'Keeffe.
That is satisfactory.
I join with other speakers in welcoming the Framework Document for peace in Northern Ireland. It is extremely important and welcome. For the last number of years I have represented the people of Cavan and Monaghan at national and local level. We have lived in the Border region in the shadow of the violence of Northern Ireland and we are fully aware of it. The consequence of rejecting this framework is a return to the violence of the last 25 years and nobody wants that. Peace and the freedom for people to go about their business is something that people want to keep and will keep if they are allowed.
It behoves all of us to play our part and to be constructive and encouraging. Comments and remarks made off the top of the head will not be good enough —"not an inch" or "not enough" will not do. The people will not have it. Speakers here talk of the "ordinary people on the ground" and I understand the context in which that is meant. However, we are all ordinary people. We are not extraordinary because we are elected here. None of us has a solution to any problem, but by putting our point of view we can encourage debate and bring about solutions.
The solution to the problem of Northern Ireland is within our grasp but it will take time. It will not happen in the next month, six months or 12 months, or indeed the next year or five years, but we can work towards common ground and a common bond. I am convinced of that. I am prepared to say that peace will last because the people want it to.
I listened with interest to Deputy Martin who made relevant comments about the interaction of people North and South, which has never been more important. There are misconceptions and as a public representative, I could count on one hand the number of times I have been in Northern Ireland in the past ten years, but since the ceasefire, I have been there on many occasions — to Lisnaskea, Enniskillen, Armagh and Derry, which I have not visited for many years. I am, however, no different from my friends and neighbours in County Cavan, the Border regions and elsewhere.We stayed away from Northern Ireland because we were afraid we would be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That is no longer the case.
People can move freely across the Border to Northern Ireland andvice versa. We must also encourage people from Northern Ireland to come to the South. That is something which is gathering momentum each day. There is an establishment in my native village of Butlersbridge where people stop to break their journey when travelling to and from the North. There has been a significant increase in the number of Northern Ireland registered cars stopping there.
When I was a young man 20 to 25 years ago Protestant and Catholic neighbours lived and worked together — as they still do — and when there was a ceremony, a Protestant wedding, for example, Catholic neighbours who were invited went to the hotel, but not to the church. In the case of a Protestant funeral, Catholics went to the church, but did not go inside. The same was the case with Catholic weddings and funerals. That barrier was broken down in the 1960s by two clergymen, our administrator, Fr. Gargan, and Canon George Miller, the Rector of the Protestant church in Cavan, who is still hail and hearty. They saw the futility of neighbours standing outside each other's churches and decided it was not good enough. They encouraged people to enter each other's churches. Now we attend functions organised by the various churches for the upkeep and repair of Catholic and Protestant churches. Both communities rightly support the upkeep of those churches. What is happening in counties Cavan, Monaghan, Louth, Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal could also happen in Fermanagh, Armagh, Derry, Down and Antrim. The same barriers exist in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics or what we refer to as Unionists and Nationalists. Misunderstandings result in fear and it is only when people come together to mix, understand each other and show there is no need for fear that we can work together and built a better country. That will only happen if there is interaction and that is why I support Deputy Martin.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 brought major benefits to the North and Border regions. The by-product of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the International Fund for Ireland, brought about major improvements that generated activity which created jobs and wealth. The by-product of this agreement can bring continued peace and prosperity. That is what we are striving for. If we work together, we can achieve that. I hope there will be a fair distribution of further funding in the Border regions. Members may say Deputy Boylan is being parochial, as usual, but I represent people who have suffered as a result of violence because we have lived in its shadow. We seek a fair share of the £80 million earmarked under the Delors package and whatever else is allocated. It must be additional to existing funding, not a substitute for it. People can be assured that that finance will be put to good use to rebuild the corridor from Donegal to Louth which has been devastated because of a fall in business and commercial activity due to the troubles. Unless we are given a fair share of the funding, a corridor of poverty will be created which will result in further problems. We should not allow that to happen. I welcome this document which represents a golden opportunity which will be grasped by the people if politicians, North and South, have the courage to lead them to implement this agreement so we can live and prosper and develop this country.
Tá an-áthas orm an seans seo a beith agam chun cúpla focal a rá sa díospóireacht tábhachtach seo. I join with colleagues in welcoming the publication of the document and in congratulating those who played a part in putting it together over the past two years. I acknowledge the contribution by the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, and the Taoiseach, Deputy Bruton, and I know the House will forgive me if I pay particular attention to the contribution made by my party leader, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring.
In some ways the Labour Party is in an almost unique position in this House and, indeed, on this island in the contribution it can make to the resolution of the problems in Northern Ireland. It is a party which has no genesis in the problems of this island — it played no part in the Civil War and has not attempted to define its political priorities in terms of wrapping flags around it. It is a party which has defined its political priorities in the welfare of individuals — people as people, irrespective of their religion or national identity. That has been a source of strength to the Tánaiste and the Labour Party in the contribution it has been able to make. I would not attempt to suggest that it is the only party in that position or that the Tánaiste is the only political leader in that position.
It was not before time that the document was published. It was a pity it was delayed by circumstances which were nobody's fault. The delay created fears which were entirely unjustified. Some fears among the Unionist population were deliberately stoked up not least by the premature publication of part of the document a few weeks ago and the editorial spin put on that leak byThe Times. We must see the unfortunate reaction of some Unionist leaders partly in that context. Nonetheless, I am disappointed that Unionist leaders reacted the way they did.
The Unionist population — I must be careful how I say this — has not always been well served by its leaders or had the leaders it deserves. This is a time when it needs good leadership. The Unionist and Protestant people of Northern Ireland are a proud people with a proud tradition and have a good case to make. It is time for them to make that case but they cannot do so by simply uttering the word "no" time and again. Some politicians in Northern Ireland believe the word "no" is a sufficient policy. It is clear that it is not.
The Unionist people have seen the benefits — as we all have — of peace over recent months. It is a benefit which is clear to anybody who visits Belfast or other centres in Northern Ireland. This is an opportunity we cannot easily let go, one which people in Northern Ireland will demand that politicians grasp. The people of Northern Ireland will demand that politicians address the issues involved, make their case in negotiations and do not simply say "no". In that context I welcome the publication this week of the Unionist document as their contribution to be considered during the talks and negotiations that will take place in the next few months.
There is consensus that the way forward is based on the three strand talks process. In relation to strand one — internal structures within Northern Ireland — there appears to be something approaching consensus among the parties on the basic principle that institutions must be such that all or the greater number of people in Northern Ireland should be able to identify with them. Institutions in themselves are not sufficient. There will have to be changes in other important aspects of life, such as economic and social development. In working class areas which have been touched by the troubles people do not identify with any institutions of State. They consider they have been alienated by local government and the State. That matter needs to be addressed by providing economic assistance for these areas.
The question of policing has to be addressed. In Lansdowne Road last week firm action was taken by the Garda which meted out harsh treatment to English thugs who were misbehaving. There has been little criticism of the treatment meted out on that occasion for the simple reason that we felt this was merited and it was our police force that was involved. They act with our licence, agreement and consent. Sadly, this is not the case in Northern Ireland where significant sections of the population do not identify with the RUC or see it as their police force and are therefore not willing to give it their consent in conducting normal policing work. We need to make progress on this issue.
The issue of the protection of rights, including the rights of minorities, is dealt with at some length in the document.I welcome the commitment to provide for a covenant which will set out the rights that attach to each and every individual in Northern Ireland. The document sets out these civil rights and states that the same rights would attach to any minority on this island even in the context of a changed political or constitutional framework, for example, a united Ireland.
On constitutional issues there are two important concepts, the first of which is the concept of balance. The British Government has agreed to return sovereignty to the people of Northern Ireland and to amend the Government of Ireland Act. In turn, we will seek to implement what is set out in the Downing Street Joint Declaration which states essentially that we have no territorial claim of right. This is an important shift from the concept of the nation based on territory to one based on people. We have seen just how far definitions based on territory have got us in the Europe of the 1990s; we do not have to look further than Bosnia and Eastern Europe to see painful and bloody examples. We must move to a concept of the nation based on people and acknowledge the right of individuals to their identity and traditions.
I thank my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to speak in this debate. Paul Arthur, professor of politics at the University of Ulster, summed up the position in Northern Ireland recently when he said, "If there was ever an example of political ambiguity, Northern Ireland stands as the supreme visual aid". As the problem is complex the solution must also be complex. The Framework Document published yesterday will form part of the solution and the process leading to it. There is no quick fix. Infinite patience will be required on the part of all concerned.
The reaction of the Unionists was predictable. It will take them some time to come to terms with the principles outlined in the Framework Document. I was worried about the reaction of Fianna Fáil yesterday, in particular the concluding comments of Deputy Ahern. He should not draw a line in the sand in relation to constitutional change. We had our troubles in the past with document No. 2. The right approach is to set out the underlying principles and to discuss how best we can give these effect in the Constitution.
Archbishop Eames who has played an outstanding role in Northern Ireland in recent years was calm and balanced in his comments today when he said that the Framework Document represents a genuine effort to find a balance. This gives us cause for hope. This is indicative of the leadership he has been providing.I urge everyone on this island to adopt a similarly calm approach, to study the document and in due course to give a reasoned and balanced response. If we do this we will find that the Framework Document forms part of the solution and that we can all contribute in bringing the process to finality.
As well as asking people to study the Framework Document and the document produced by the British Prime Minister dealing with internal structures we should commit ourselves to studying carefully the documents produced by the Unionist parties. We should be prepared to discuss them all together.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Hilliard.
That is satisfactory.
The purpose of the Framework Document and the accompanying document published by the British Government is to establish a new dispensation in which peaceful political, social and economic development can proceed on a democratic basis. As a result of the cessation of hostilities by the paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland we can use these two documents as a basis of discussion and negotiation leading to a final agreed settlement between all the parties involved and the two Governments. It is important to emphasise that there is no blueprint which will be imposed on anyone; rather we should proceed on the basis of discussion and negotiation. I appeal to all the parties involved, in particular the Unionists, to consider the matter in that context.
The document is based on the concept of the totality of relationships — the relationship between this country and Britain, the relationships within Northern Ireland and the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic. I was present in 1980 when the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, and the then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, first established this concept. This document marks the culmination of that process. We must consider all aspects of the problems in Northern Ireland and on the island as a whole in that context. This is as valid now as it was in 1980.
The two elements on which we can achieve success in reaching a peaceful settlement and permanence for the totality of relationships are the principle of concurrent self-determination and the principle of consent in regard to the majority of people in Northern Ireland. Self-determination on the part of the people, North and South, can be expressed in their decision after democratic agreement is reached by both Governments and all the parties in Northern Ireland. That expression of self-determination will incorporate the principle of consent as regards the majority in Northern Ireland who will have to consent to the agreed peaceful arrangement for the future. That is elementary and it carries the provision of support for all traditions on this island, North and South.
An important aspect in this is the concept agreed between the two Governments with regard to the sovereignty of the people. In Britain, there was a traditional territorial concept of sovereignty which grew out of the old rights of the monarchy in Britain. That concept of sovereignty has been outdated, as far as Britain and Ireland are concerned, since we joined the European Community together in 1973. For the past 20 years the two Governments have shared sovereignty with other European countries within the European Union. This concept of the sovereignty of the people underlines the constitutional basis of this agreement.
The British Government is committed to the repeal of section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. Side by side with that our Constitution which, in this respect, was well ahead of its time in emphasising people sovereignty, refers to the people of Ireland. Articles 1, 2 and 3 deal with the Irish nation. Article 1 states: "The Irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right to choose its own form of Government ...". Article 2 states that the national territory of that Irish nation consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas. That should not be interfered with in any way and does not take from the right of concurrent decision by the people of Ireland, North and South, because we are talking about two different jurisdictions, a Northern Ireland jurisdiction and the jurisdiction in the Republic. That does not take from our right to state, in an article of our Constitution, what the Irish nation consists of. We regard the Irish nation as the people of Ireland and the people of Ireland have a right to express, in concurrent referenda, their approval or otherwise of the peaceful settlement that is reached.
For the first time in its relationship with this island, the British Government has decided that the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, represents an oldfashioned version of sovereignty dating back to the times of the monarchy. It is now willing to delete its sovereign claim to control of Northern Ireland from the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. That is vitally important. With the elimination of the British Government's sovereign claim to Northern Ireland and our right to claim sovereignty in Northern Ireland, the two Governments are entering a new relationship in which they both acknowledge the Irish nation as one composed of people with diverse traditions. That is acknowledged in the proposed addendum to Article 2, which was the position when we left office last December. I cannot understand why we do not reiterate that basic tenet which is favourable towards the acceptance of the package as a whole.
When we left office in December last year — I understand this is still the position although the Taoiseach appears to be coy about stating it — the position was that Article 2 would remain as it is. It is important to say that because there is little point in getting into a sterile debate on it or on its wording. If it is acknowledged that Article 2 should remain as it is, that the national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas and relating to the Irish nation referred to in Article 1, that is an acceptable proposition to both Governments. That has been acknowledged but for some reason the Taoiseach is reluctant to say that; he is being coy about the matter.
Of course, there is an addendum to that which emphasises the people involved. The addendum makes clear — and I quote exactly what was agreed in December, which I understand remains the agreed position — that in addition to the national territory consisting of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas, "It is the shared inheritance of all the people of Ireland in their diverse identities and traditions".That is making our definition of "nation" a pluralist one. It is a perfectly acceptable proposition and does not, in any way, frustrate the right of people of another tradition within Northern Ireland to decide their position if the principle of consent is written into the Constitution, which it is proposed to do and which we believe gives a balanced constitutional accommodation to the whole matter. In addition to the principle of self-determination on the part of the people North and South, the principle of consent will be clearly written into Article 3.
I cannot understand the Taoiseach's coyness in this regard. Deputy Bertie Ahern raised this matter yesterday but no satisfactory response emerged. The reason I place such emphasis on it is that I do not want commentators here, North and South, and in Britain to enter a futile debate on this particular matter. Let us clarify the matter now and move on to the important aspects of the totality of relationships that are included in the remainder of the two documents. The British document is primarily concerned with the important aspects of the new Administration in Northern Ireland which will be run on a partnership basis with a sharing of responsibilities between the two traditions. It is obvious we cannot go back to the old, crude majoritarian system which caused the downfall of Stormont, that is agreed by everybody.
Power sharing can emerge and has proved a practical proposition in South Africa, for example, where it is the fundamental principle underlying the Government of Mandela and de Klerk. I will not dwell on the British document. Agreement can be reached on specific powers, the system of election, allocation of responsibilities and so on as long as it is done on the basis of parity.
The Framework Document also deals with the question of North-South institutions which will operate in the framework of a North-South body with certain political, social, economic objectives that are agreed between all parties North and South as suitable for co-operation. Much play has been made of this by certain Unionist critics but if they stand back and look at it sanely they will see it is only common sense. I hope that common sense will be an increasing ingredient in all discussions and negotiations on this matter and that we will get away from megaphone diplomacy and other factors of verbal conflict that have bedevilled relationships in Northern Ireland and between Northern Ireland and ourselves. It was the realisation that they were in a verbal cul-de-sac that led the people towards the imperative of peace and brought the paramilitaries to declare ceasefires last autumn.
I am very interested in North-South institutions and common areas of action particularly in the social and economic fields. People, such as representatives of the loyalist working class in Belfast, who experience serious problems on the ground, see the benefits of this and have been most forthright in supporting it. It is heartening that those at the coalface realise that the problems facing the working class people on the Falls Road, on the Shankill Road, in east and west Belfast are precisely the same and can be dealt with by joint executive action to further development and by joint authorities that will help to remove deprivation in Belfast and Dublin.
It is important that there will be a permanent intergovernmental conference established between the London and Dublin Governments to supervise and underwrite the situation. That is a very desirable guarantee and is in accordance with the spirit of the totality of relationships. All of this will be done in the context of the European Union in which Ireland, North and South, and Britain have many mutual interests.
I thank Deputy Lenihan for sharing time with me. I welcome the Framework Document and wish it well. I would be surprised if all the political parties do not sit down together and discuss their principles and beliefs. This is a discussion document so nobody should have any fears. The one certainty is that all people want peace to continue and it is important to build on that. I hope the British Government will lead the way in helping to achieve a permanent peace.
These discussion talks will be difficult, we should agree to differ but work together where there is agreement for the common good of all and for a permanent peace. I hope the people of Northern Ireland will be clearly advised before the referendum, as that is the people's choice. It is my wish that the outcome of the discussions would be a democratic administration to look after the affairs of Northern Ireland in future years in the interests and beliefs of all the people living there.
Cross-Border joint business enterprises can be developed for the good of all in the context of the European Union. Whether there is a unity of people in Ireland in the future is a matter for the people to decide freely and I hope they will as it will be in the interests of the next generation. I thank the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, for the excellent work he has done for peace. The success of these discussions will now depend on trust and respect for one another's religious and political beliefs.
I wish to share time with my colleague, Deputy Costello, and Deputy Eric Byrne.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
Women in Northern Ireland were crucial to the bringing about of the ceasefire and they are crucial to its maintenance and consolidation.Political parties ignore this crucial role of women at their peril. Women in Northern Ireland may not be very active in the formal political process but they are active in the informal process, voluntary and community groups, reconciliation activity and the development of better community relations.
The Framework Document is a product of the formal political process. Unfortunately, many people in Northern Ireland are, and have always been, alienated from that process. Many of those people are, however, engaged in what might be termed the informal political process. They are involved in voluntary and community activity and women's groups. The importance of this activity should not be underestimated. Reconciliation is more likely to be achieved through this informal process alongside the formal political process.
Voluntary and community groups — of which women are usually the majority and the leading activists — have already been actively involved in cross-Border contacts, for example, the Focus on Children project which focuses on children North and South and meetings of the women's representative groups from both sides of the Border. A number of such meetings took place the year before last and this year. They have already discovered that they share common problems. This activity needs to be encouraged and built on in order to ensure that the peace dividend extends to all sectors of society.
The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation held a session on social and economic reconstruction on 20 January. I know that many people found this to be a very thought provoking session of the forum, because it gave a voice to many of those who have not been heard very much in the past 25 years but who have suffered in ways which do not always attract the kind of attention usually given to the violence there.
These are the people who must now be no less affected by the peace. If the first instalment of the peace dividend is to be felt in any particular quarter, it should be in those deprived areas, which include both sides of the community divide in the North. Participants at the forum session, especially those representing voluntary groups and bodies, were especially anxious to emphasise how peace offers them the opportunity to reach across the sectoral barriers and develop or begin to develop a new cross-community culture in Northern Ireland.
This is something we must not only welcome, but encourage in every way possible. I very much hope that the maximum amount of funding from the increased resources the peace process has already attracted will be channelled in this direction. I am particularly pleased that the Combat Poverty Agency at my suggestion has put in place a contact between community groups North and South and has received a special allocation of £200,000 for this in this year's budget. This is in addition to the inclusion for the first time of community groups in funding allocations for INTERREG projects. It is a positive manifestation of the active support needed by community groups and cross-Border contacts in this area and between women. What is needed, as the forum discussions showed, is an integrated approach to social and economic development and one that gives as much control and responsibility as possible to local communities. We have many good examples of this approach in the South. Targeted measures to tackle problems of disadvantage affecting women, the long term unemployed, marginalised groups and young people were emphasised at the forum. There is a large network of voluntary and community bodies throughout the island which can do much to bridge the North-South divide, as well as the divide within Northern Ireland.
Voluntary and community groups have been working hard in Northern Ireland for many years to bring solace and comfort to those whose lives have been affected and diminished by the violence. What they need now is an opportunity to show what can be achieved in terms of personal and community development when there is peace and when that peace is supported by structures that command respect across the community divide.
It has been said that after 25 years of bitter conflict it may take another 25 years to heal the wounds. However long it takes, let us see that the healing process gets all the attention it requires and deserves from now on. Peace does not just happen. After 25 years of violence it must be nurtured, encouraged and built up in every way possible. This is what the two Governments have been engaged in for a considerable time and what everyone in the House wants to encourage.
The Framework Document is the product of a lengthy, unique and sustained effort by the two Governments to reach an understanding of the many complexities involved in the Northern Ireland conflict. Working closely together towards that understanding is what made it different from earlier attempts. Its purpose was to produce an agenda that is neither orange nor green but a comprehensive and inclusive set of ideas, proposals and challenges which address the issues and target all the obstacles and difficulties.
I know that it has not been welcomed by everybody in Northern Ireland but when those who have criticised it read it again, when they have talked and discussed it with others, especially with neighbours and acquaintances who may not share their views, they will see that it is something new and different and does what it sets out to do. It provides the shared views of the two Governments on what is now required to get discussions and negotiations going and sketch possible outcomes, bearing in mind the entrenched positions which some parties in Northern Ireland have as starting points.
Peace makes everything possible but it does not make everything happen. Women were the essential component in getting peace and saying to the paramilitaries on both sides: "We have had enough". While women are not involved to any great extent in the formal political process they are the key to making the peace last within the community and this is crucial to the success of the process which has commenced.
I thank Deputy Burton for sharing her time with me and I, in turn, will share mine with Deputy Byrne. I welcome the document and congratulate everyone involved with its delivery. I see a continuous thread of progress from the Sunningdale agreement of 1974 to the Anglo-Irish joint sovereignty agreement of 1985 to the Downing Street agreement of 1993 which contained the basic principles of consent, self-determination, respect for different traditions and peace by dialogue.In the Sunningdale agreement we have the North-South strand, in the Anglo-Irish Agreement we have the east-west strand and in the Downing Street Joint Declaration the emphasis was placed on Northern Ireland.
The Framework Document fleshes out the principles agreed in the Downing Street Joint Declaration — to create new structures and institutions in the context of the overall three strand approach, to encompass the totality of relationships through dialogue with all the political parties and to arrive at a resolution through negotiation. Twentyone years have elapsed since we had limited democratic structures on the island and it is time that we had elected representatives and a new assembly with a charter or covenant for all the people, particularly the minority grouping.
The British and Irish Governments have agreed to relax their territorial claims, the British Government through amending the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, or bringing in new legislation and the Irish Government through looking at the Constitution with a view to modifying Articles 2 and 3. We cannot do other than that if we accept the principle of consent. It is a natural continuation of the principles enunciated in the Downing Street Joint Declaration and I am happy to see this area developed.
The cutting edge of the document is the North-South strand. This offers the greatest scope for work and action on the ground where we can co-ordinate, consult and establish joint programmes and policies. We can work together for the betterment of the island internally, within the EU where there is great scope for joint activity and globally where we should harness the Irish diaspora.I have great hopes for the proposed new body.
The question of mutual recognition of teacher training and qualifications, North and South, is raised in the document.There should be greater co-operation between third level institutions. There are great opportunities for peace studies. The teachers' unions North and South have worked closely together on international bodies. I was invited, as part of an all Ireland group, in 1990 to talk to the former Eastern European countries, including Russia and Romania and explain the kind of system we operate here. The concept of teachers' unions and their role in society does not exist in those countries. We did that jointly but it is a shame to have to say there was minimal co-operation when at home on this island of ours. There is enormous scope for development there and I should like to see such transpire.
This is a good document which will enable much progress to be made. Its content affords much scope in that it provides the bricks and mortar for creating new structures and relationships between the two communities. I recommend it wholeheartedly to the House.
In the aftermath of the First World War the French Prime Minister, Monsieur Georges Clemenceau, said it was easier to make war than to make peace. I think he said also that peace demands courage, compromise and, very often, a willingness to face what may be unpalatable realities.
The principles enshrined in the Joint Framework Document are deceptively simple, yet are crucial to any understanding and constructive dialogue between the different traditions on this island; often it is comforting to seek refuge in the certainties of bigotry rather than confront the possibilities of tolerance.For example, the fears on the part of the Unionist community are understandable and must be addressed with sympathy and understanding rather than exasperation.
The Joint Framework Document provides a basis on which all of the relationships involved can be addressed in a fresh, innovative way, in that it enshrines the principle that any future arrangement should respect the equal legitimacy and value of both traditions on this island. It is worth noting that, in our submission to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, Democratic Left pointed out that ultimately what divided the people in Northern Ireland was national allegiance rather than religion, race or ethnicism. That really has been recognised and addressed in the document launched yesterday. Both Governments took a great leap of faith — reflected in the British Government's pledge to amend or replace the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 and, of course, in our Government's pledge to introduce and support proposals for constitutional change in order to implement the commitment contained in the Downing Street Joint Declaration.
The proposals for the establishment of North-South institutions, catering for political, social and economic interconnections also reflect the reality of the place of the island of Ireland within the European Union today, which I believe will be of benefit to all of the people on this island. It is sad to reflect that the ordinary people have borne the brunt of the polarisation for far too long. I argue that peace offers a chance for a new kind of unity, not merely territorial or political, but one of purpose aimed at eliminating unemployment, poverty and disadvantage from this island as a whole.
The Framework Document represents a beginning rather than an end, forming as it does the basis for dialogue. In that regard we welcomed the publication yesterday of the proposals of the Ulster Unionist parties for a Northern Ireland Assembly. I urge all concerned to study and reflect on its contents, ascertaining how they can be used to make further progress. There is now an unprecedented chance to replace the politics of the ultimatum with the politics of dialogue. All parties owe it to future generations to take part in that dialogue. The document enshrines the principle of self-determination, not the simplistic versions touted in the past, but a version which recognises that self-determination is a day-to-day matter rather than a mere once-off political decision or vote. Self-determination affords people power over their lives. over their respective neighbourhoods and communities. That is the self-determination I believe is facilitated in the proposals embodied in this document.
Those who believe that peace can be prescribed like aspirin have complained that the Joint Framework Document is short on specifics, thereby missing the whole point, in that it seeks to facilitate rather than prescribe; its proposals are not written on tablets of stone; all parties are free to put their proposals on the table, to sit around and talk at that table.
It is important that Members of this House should endeavour to reassure the people of Northern Ireland, the Catholics and Protestants of both the Nationalist and Unionist traditions. It is important that we do not, and never have intended to, force-feed the people of Northern Ireland against their will. It is important that all sides, in particular the Unionists, who have expressed most concern to date, understand that we respect their views, but we ask that they respect and wish for us that which we wish for them, that is to respect our honesty in the formulation of this document.
I wish to share my time, with the permission of the House, with Deputies Brendan Smith and Kirk.
That is in order.
The publication yesterday of the Framework Document by the Irish and British Governments represents a further important step on the road to a just and lasting peace on this island. Obviously, it builds on the progress made by the Downing Street Joint Declaration, the ceasefires declared by the paramilitaries on both sides of the political divide and the establishment of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. Furthermore, it is designed to assist in the talks process, representing the only democratic method of achieving a lasting settlement of matters at issue on this island and between the Irish and British Governments.
We, in Fianna Fáil, welcomed the document as a balanced, even-handed one which represents reason, sense and compromise. It does not represent a victory for any side over the other or abandonment by any one side of its rights or obligations. Most important, it places the future of Northern Ireland in the hands of the people of Northern Ireland. As is now recognised by both Governments, those people have the right to determine the future constitutional status of Northern Ireland without any impediment by selfish, strategic or economic interests on the part of the British Government.
The future development of Northern Ireland must encompass recognition of the fact that there are two communities, with two traditions, on this island; it has long been recognised that that is so. The ideal of all Republicans is that of Wolfe Tone — to substitute the common name of Irishman for Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter. That is our ideal, a valid and legitimate one, based on the belief in the Irish nation. That belief in the Irish nation has been asserted and reasserted by generations of Irishmen and, in deference to previous and future generations on this island, no Irishman has the right to abrogate that ideal. It is the right of every person born on this island, or born of Irish parentage, to be a part of the Irish nation; that is their birthright, not a gift to be given or taken away. Of course, the modern Irish nation is not homogeneous; it consists of different identities and traditions, each legitimate, each entitled to the respect of the other.
Our Constitution reflects that belief in the Irish nation and also draws a distinction between the nation and the State. Our laws have force within the State, not within the nation. This was explicitly recognised by former Chief Justice T.F. O'Higgins in the Supreme Court in Re Article 26 of the Constitution and the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Bill, 1975 when he stated:
The national claim to unity exists not in the legal but in the political order and it is one of the rights which is envisaged in Article 2 and is expressly saved by Article 3. Article 3 states the area to which the laws enacted by the parliament established by the Constitution apply. The effect of Article 3 is that, until the division of the island of Ireland is ended, the laws enacted by the Parliament established by the Constitution are to apply to the same area and have the same extent of application as the laws of Saorstát Éireann had. The area to which the laws of Saorstát Éireann applied was... undoubtedly the area now known as the Republic of Ireland.
It has long been accepted by all democratic Irishmen that the legitimate ideal of a united Ireland can only be achieved by consent and agreement. We have no objection to the principles of self-determination and consent being incorporated into our Constitution in the context of an overall settlement. We can have no objection to our clearly stated views on consent and reconciliation being reflected in the Constitution. We can have no objection to our view that the national territory is the shared inheritance of all the people of Ireland in their diverse identities and tradition being incorporated into Article 2 of the 1937 Constitution. That represents Fianna Fáil's long held position, but I stress it does not represent an abandonment of the Irish Nation or our belief in it. Our position on this has been made clear time and time again. We believe in unity by consent, we do not believe in abandoning the concept of the Irish nation.
It is unfortunate that the Framework Document has been dismissed in some quarters without having been read. That reflects more on the people who have made dismissive comments than on the Framework Document. It must be acknowledged by all sides that the Framework Document is an integral part of the continuing wider peace process and that there can be no going back. If some people on this island live in a time warp or believe that the clock can be turned back and that there can again be Unionist majority rule in the North of Ireland, they had better know that they are in the minority, not only on this island but on the neighbouring island. There can be no going back.
I take this opportunity to say that Irish nationalism has developed and matured considerably. It has adapted to changing times and differing circumstances.It is high time that some of those involved in the Unionist cause should adapt their stance to the changing circumstances of today in the interests of the children of tomorrow. There is no point now in looking back, it is time to look to the future. There is no point in trying to stir up enmities within the Unionist population for political or populist purposes. We are talking here about human life and the future of this island. The sooner those involved in vitriolic attacks on the Framework Document and on those who hold an opposing political view are stopped the better.
I welcome the publication of the Framework Document and I take this opportunity to compliment all the Ministers and officals involved for their strenuous efforts. It is a further important stage in a long process of negotiation between Irish and British Governments and within political parties North and South.
My one major reservation about it is the possible lack of clarity on the possible changes to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. Our party Leader, Deputy Ahern, made the Fianna Fáil position very clear yesterday. Fianna Fáil's attitude to changes to Articles 2 and 3, in Government and in Opposition, reflects clearly the view of the majority of the people in this State. The Irish people will only accept balanced constitutional change and I am aware from contacts from within my Border constituency of Cavan-Monaghan and in neighbouring Northern countries that this is very much the viewpoint. Deputy Reynolds's argument in February 1992 for constitutional balance as between Articles 2 and 3 of Bunreacht na hÉireann and section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, is a valid basis for discussion by both Governments and all political parties. It has long been accepted that the will of the majority of the people of this island would not be imposed on the people of Northern Ireland without their consent. The appropriate balanced constitutional changes must maintain, as Deputy Ahern said, "the integrity of the nation as set out in Article 2". I believe the Government, in the Joint Framework Document or simultaneously in a separate document, should have clearly laid down the paramaters of change that it would be willing to put before the Oireachtas for consideration and subsequently for decision by the Irish people.
In the past 18 months we have witnessed major decisions like the Downing Street Joint Declaration, the cessation of violence and the establishment of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation.The establishment of peace after 25 years of violence, bloodshed and more than 3,000 deaths created a totally new climate, not just for Northern Ireland but for all of this island. I am sure everybody in this country is grateful for the single-minded determination of Deputy Reynolds in his role as Taoiseach in advancing the peace process. As one who travels regularly in the Six Counties, particularly in my neighbouring county of Fermanagh, I have witnessed at first hand since September the peace dividend, namely, the constant green light at the permanent checkpoints, the scaling down of security and a new lease of living in that area.
The Government in September 1994 stated that the communities in the Border region needed to have visible signs of the peace dividend without delay. They rightly pointed out that the opening of closed cross-Border roads would be a priority and I welcome the progress being made in this regard. However, I must express serious disappointment at the lack of funding provided by our Government towards the re-opening of those Border roads. I emphasise to the Government that it is practically pointless to have Border crossings re-opened if it is not possible to gain access to those crossings due to the impassable condition of the relevant link roads. The Department must fund the upgrading of those roads leading to the Border crossings.I refer particularly to roads in the Swanlinbar area of County Cavan. We are witnessing the substantial upgrading of roads on the Fermanagh side. There has been talk about parity of esteem and equality and surely this is the opportunity for the Government to give our people living in rural Border areas a decent road network. People are well aware of the serious infrastructural problems facing Border counties, particularly the totally inadequate road network.I instance Aghalane Bridge, which effectively puts an end to the N3 outside Belturbet on the Fermanagh border. The funding being provided by the European Union must be additional to the funding committed in the operational programmes of the various Departments. In the past we have had too much substitution and no additionality.
I welcome wholeheartedly the commitment by both Governments in the Framework Document to the establishment of new institutions which will be vital for the promotions of economic growth within the island of Ireland. Co-operation in the agricultural, tourism and transport areas will be beneficial for my home area and for the entire country.I hope that the proposed cross-Border bodies based on the local authority network will have a direct and meaningful access to the new institutions.
I am disappointed that the tourism potential of this island is not targeted more positively in the document. We are all aware of the need to build on the strength of our natural resources both North and South. A concerted Border areas investment programme is needed now. The climate of peace will be strengthened by the Government addressing forthwith the major infrastructural deficiencies of the southern Border counties. It is essential that a senior Government Minister should chair a top level committee of senior Government and public service personnel to oversee a programme of investment by Government Departments and State bodies and ensure that the funding is additional and not a substitution. We need a focused approach involving the whole State sector. I trust the Government will not adopt a minimalist approach, about which we have been warned by the European Union.
We have an excellent food industry in the Cavan-Monaghan area and I ask the Department of Enterprise and Employment and Forfás to build an advance factory in Cavan geared towards the food industry. Attention must also be given to the establishment of an information technology centre. Such an approach is our only hope of inward investment. The people of the Border region have a strong work ethic and investment by the public and private sectors will be justified.
I thank my colleagues, Deputies O'Donoghue and Brendan Smith, for sharing their time. I am pleased to have this opportunity to make brief comments on the Framework Document published yesterday.
The publication of the Framework Document has been the culmination of much painstaking work on the part of many people. The whole process of edging forward progress in the North has been very slow. The publication of the document is satisfying in that real and tangible progress has been made. The Framework Document provides the opportunity for all political parties to participate in meaningful dialogue and to put in place as quickly as possible structures which will be acceptable to both traditions in the North. We would be very foolhardy if we thought those structures could be put in place over-night.It will take time. The polarisation of the two communities in the North is deep-seated and entrenched. People, in general, in the North have a sense of pragmatism and realism and when they see the opportunity now presented after so many years of bloodshed and violence, I believe they will grasp it firmly.
The proposals contained in the Framework Document are the culmination of work which started many years ago. I will not refer to all those involved but history will judge favourably those who have contributed to the publication of this document. Fianna Fáil in Government and now the rainbow coalition, combined with the Conservative Government in Britain, have succeeded in identifying the trust which I hope will bring together the two traditions in the North.
If we are to create the type of environment in which progress can be made it is important to look at economic development. The South may not fully appreciate the development of the infrastructure in the North in which a tremendous amount of money has been invested. While there has been a dramatic change in the industrial base in many ways it is no different from ours. Their unemployment problem is related to lack of investment because of the troubles in the North. It may call for a special initiative in the trading area. There may be a case for the introduction of an arrangement similar to that which the Caribbean islands have with the United States for the six northern counties and, indeed, the six counties south of the Border. This would mean duty and tariff free access to the entire north American market for industrial output from the existing base. Future industrial development there could mean ready assess to a US market.
Clearly, this is an area which would have exceptional attractions for investors from Japan who wish to get their products into the United States or to United States corporations who wish to avail of a production base in Europe to export back home to the huge market. If we could create that type of environment it would accelerate the process of coming together in the North. At the end of the day if people get employment their attitude changes dramatically.
I represent a Border constituency and I am closer to the North than most Members. A significant number of unemployment blackspots were in a pivotal position in regard to the northern troubles during the past 25 or 30 years. If the employment levels in those areas had been higher would we have had the same degree of violence and trouble during that period? I hope that question can be addressed in the context I am talking about. Various ideas are being discussed including the question of providing money under different headings, from the Delors package, the IFI or other sources. There is need for a greater co-ordination of these funds to ensure we maximise the benefit not alone to the six northern counties but the six counties immediately south of the Border.
In County Louth we have been at the coalface of the problem during the past 25 years. Louth has been a receptacle for people who have been displaced in the North because of the troubles. In the main they have come to live in Dundalk and Drogheda and to a lesser extent in areas such as Ardee. Finding their economic and social niche in areas such as County Louth has resulted in a certain amount of social upheaval. It takes time for people in those circumstances to integrate. I am sorry my time is limited as this is a subject on which we could speak at length but I appreciate that other Members wish to contribute.
I wish to share my time with Deputies Bree and Dukes. It is timely to reflect on the historic achievements in respect of peace on this island in the last 12 months or so. I congratulate the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and their respective teams, not only during the last few weeks but over the past couple of years, as well as former Taoisigh and Ministers for Foreign Affairs during the past ten years, who have endeavoured to achieve a peaceful settlement in this island, often in the face of great odds and seemingly with little result for their efforts.
The Framework Document gives us all time to reflect on what has happened over the past 25 years, to consider it against the backdrop of what might have happened in different circumstances and to remember that a new generation is growing up, that has lived with war and violence for 25 years. It gives us time to reflect on the economic impact on the economies of Britain and Ireland. It gives us time to reflect on what the alternatives might be, where we might have been if we had not gone down the road of violence. Public representatives here and in the North should examine the position and ask how best we can contribute to what is envisaged in the Framework Document and in the various other aspects of the peace process. Not only is it useful but it is imperative that we examine constructively and in a balanced way the options before us.
It is also a time for innovation. As the Taoiseach and British Prime Minister said yesterday it is a time for those who are not in agreement with all aspects of the peace process to date and particularly in respect of the Framework Document, to put forward their own proposals. If they wish to improve the position they now have an opportunity to put forward their own proposals in a meaningful manner in a framework which will have an impact and will take account, to a large extent, of the fears which both sides hold and have expressed from time to time.
It is also a time for those who have agreed with the process to date to move their influence a stage further — to influence those around them, whether Nationalists, Loyalists or Unionists. It is a time for those who have seen what the violence has done, over the past number of years, to use their influence on those around them in a peaceful and meaningful fashion with a view to ensuring we do not travel along the same course again.
I have been a Member of the House for a number of years and it is clear we have matured in the past ten to 12 years. When I came here first it was not unusual for inflammatory speeches to be made at sensitive moments, which were not helpful to the process in which we are now engaged. We have matured a great deal in this part of the island, and I am quite certain the same applies to the other part.
This is also a time to reflect on the enormous benefits that can accrue to both parts of this island, more especially to the northern part, as a result of pursuing the object of peace within the Framework Document. At this stage it may not be possible to identify all the beneficial aspects but it is up to us as public representatives, in all parts of this island, to try to bring that about.
I hope this Framework Document gives us an opportunity to give peace a chance and in the course of that we might even give rhetoric a rest. That was not always the case. I hope, as a result of the progress made during the past 12 months, bearing in mind the difficulties over the past 25 years, that we may go down that road.
As a Member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs it was my privilege some time ago to meet Lady Faulkner and I marvelled at the way that woman, who has seen so much history unfold before her, who, with her husband and family, has been deeply involved in it and has paid the price, has shown an interest in the well-being of the country. I hope we can take an example from people such as her and proceed along the course of peace that has been charted.
I welcome the publication of the Framework Document and like the great majority of people on this island I recognise it as an historic development in the process of building peace in our country. I take this opportunity to thank and pay tribute to all who have been involved in drafting and preparing the document, including the Taoiseach, Deputy Bruton the former Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds and in particular the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dick Spring.
The Joint Declaration acknowledges that the most urgent and important issue facing the people North and South, and the British and Irish Governments, is to remove the causes of conflict, overcome the legacy of history and heal the divisions which have resulted. Both Governments are aware that the approach in the Framework Document presents challenges to strongly-held positions. However, a new beginning in relationships means addressing fundamental issues in a new way and inevitably requires significant movement from all sides. It must be emphasised that this Framework Document is not a rigid blueprint to be imposed but rather it sets out a realistic and balanced framework for agreement which can be achieved, with flexibility and goodwill in comprehensive negotiations with all the relevant political parties.
The publication of this Framework Document is a clear indication that partition as we have known it has failed. The fact that the UK Government has reiterated that Britain has no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland is to be welcomed.
At a time when people are engaged in a process of healing and understanding, peace must be based on truth, justice and charity. Without these, political agreement would almost certainly be impossible. While paramilitary organisations and political parties associated with them have indicated their regret and remorse over their contribution to the deaths and suffering of innocent people, the reality is that the British Government has been slow to acknowledge or apologise for the deaths and suffering of innocent people it has caused. In this context, I welcome the statement in the Framework Document that both Governments recognise that there is much cause for deep regret on all sides in the long and often tragic history of Anglo-Irish relations.
In this period of transition, if we are to overcome our past, we must come to terms with it and we can only do that if we know the truth about it. The victims of State violence and the public have a right to know the truth about the actions of the State and its agencies in terms of human rights abuses. We owe this to the victims and their families.
The peace process is now entering a new and crucial phase. We all realise that both communities in Northern Ireland have suffered more than enough, and this Framework Document attempts to reach out to both. As we have pointed out before, this cannot be done by picking and choosing among democratic principles. If some are acceptable, all must be acceptable. The right of the Nationalist community in the North to continue to pursue the entirely legitimate aspirations to unity by democratic political means cannot be suppressed. At the same time, we must continue to send a message to the Unionist community that we are prepared to ensure that their rights and identity are fully represented and protected in any settlement we make. We cannot coerce Unionists into abandoning their rights and identity. We have to find ways of including them in any settlement, in such a way as to provide the kind of guarantees they need and to which they are entitled.
The Nationalist community, having suffered decades of injustice, can no longer be ignored by any administration.They have rights too, including the right to an even-handed system of justice, to expect they will not be discriminated against because of religion or where they live, and the right to pursue the historic goal of Irish unity through democratic means. These are rights that must always be defended.
Now more so than ever, community reconciliation is necessary to address the legacy of the past. This in essence means changing relations of privilege, discrimination, oppression and ascendancy.It also means confidence building measures to minimise the inheritance of bitterness. Almost everyone in the North has a family member, relation, neighbour, friend or workmate who has been murdered, maimed, jailed or harassed by one paramilitary group or another or by State forces over the past 25 years. We cannot expect that bitterness to disappear with a political settlement, but people need to be assured that in a new Ireland there must be no retribution, no guilt, no settling of old scores, no "reverse" discrimination to compensate for discrimination against Nationalists in the past.
I particularly welcome the inclusion in the Framework Document of suggested North-South institutions. There are many areas where we can improve co-operation in terms of agriculture, fisheries, industrial development, transport, energy, trade, education and economic policy.
It is said that politics is the art of compromise, and as we know compromise is never easy. The Framework Document is about compromise and in this case compromise must be striven for. The grace and courage of the people in both communities, particularly those who have had to cope with tragedy, must be matched now in political terms by all their representatives.
The compromise for which we are looking rests on the fundamental idea of equality — nothing else and nothing more. We want to help to build structures based on equality of esteem and respect between both traditions; we want to build relationships between North and South that reflect the equality of our aspirations.
As Nelson Mandela approached the whites and Zulus in South Africa, we have to go to our Unionist fellow countrymen and women and engage with them as to what kind of Ireland we want, even if many of them do not want to hear it. We have to give them guarantees about their rights, their religious and cultural beliefs, their living standards.We have to make clear to them that we are not interested in erasing a line on a map and pretending that everything will sort itself out thereafter. We must say to them that we are sick to the back teeth of tribal politics. We are still liberating ourselves from the remnants of a narrow, suffocating, Catholicdominated confessional State as they must liberate themselves from notions of a Protestant State if they are to have any hope of engaging with reality in a world approaching the third millennium.We want peace, progress and a secular State. They may not respond in the way we would like. Some may want an independent "Ulster", once they realise, as many of them already have, that the British ruling élite has already withdrawn from Ireland psychologically and is seeking acceptable ways to do so politically. That does not matter. At least, once they engage with us it means they have started to move away from tribal politics.
The Framework Document is positive and balanced. It offers to everyone living in Ireland, in particular in Northern Ireland, the prospect of lasting peace and justice. It creates in short a "table" where all can sit down and negotiate the future without loss of principle or damage to basic concerns. For all of us who seek Irish unity the reality remains that unity can only be achieved by those of us who favour this outcome, persuading those who do not, peacefully and without coercion or violence. In short, the search for Irish unity must become for all of us a search for unity of hearts and minds, for unity of purpose, and not merely a search for unity of territory.
I heartily endorse the welcome given to the Framework Document and I fully agree with the sentiments of congratulations expressed in this House and elsewhere to everybody involved in its preparation. I would like to add similar sentiments in regard to the unilateral document produced at the same time by the British Government, because the two documents together form a very important whole.
The documents present the Governments' views and they are very much documents for discussion. It has been clear for a long time that the issues raised in those documents have to be discussed, and the sooner that is done and we arrive at conclusions the better. I do not know, nor does anyone else in this House, what will be the conclusion of such discussions. I hope the outcome will be an arrangement along the lines of that set out in the Framework Document and in the British Government document. It is important that we set that ambition in context, and I suggest a very clear context for that. If the discussions we would all like to see take place were to eventuate in a set of arrangements such as those described in the Framework Document and the British Government document, we should make clear that we would be prepared to envisage those arrangements continuing in force for a considerable time, possibly even for a whole generation.
When it is in place for a lengthy period will we have a political system in Northern Ireland and on this island which has a framework — I use that word advisedly — which will be found to be acceptable. It will take at least a generation for those habits of political action to become embedded in people's customs. We can say with some confidence what is involved because it took us 50 years, if not longer, to get used to the idea of working with institutions we gave ourselves in 1922. It will take at least that long for those habits, customs and instincts to become rooted. It is important for us to say that there will be no outside pressure on the people living under those arrangements to change them unless and until they decide that is what they want.
The Framework Document contains a number of elements which each group in the political process in Northern Ireland will find congenial and very much to their liking and other elements about which each group will have some reservations. It is the process of balancing the give and take which will determine whether talks on these proposals are successful. At the end of the day the system will have to get bedded in and there should be a clear consciousness that it will not be interfered with before the people who make it work for themselves and their governance decide that they want to change it. The flavour of the Framework Document and the UK document is very positive and open. Even those who find substantial parts of them uncongenial must now recognise that they will have to deal with these uncongenial proposals sooner or later, and sooner is better than later.
I regret that already there is a note of discord in the debate. The Fianna Fáil position on Article 2 of the Constitution is extremely ill advised and will prove seriously counter-productive in further discussions. I listened very carefully to the remarks of Deputies Ahern and Lenihan about the addendum to Article 2. As I understand it, this addendum, which I find rather meaningless, was communicated to the British Government before the collapse of the previous Government and is not agreed.
Yesterday Deputy Ahern referred to the integrity of the nation as set out in Article 2 of the Constitution. I invite him to re-read the first three Articles of the Constitution which give no definition of the nation. That may have been deliberate at the time and whether or not this was the case, it is now wise. Deputy Ahern referred to citizenship, which is a different idea to that of a nation. Many people in Northern Ireland do not feel part of an Irish nation and do not necessarily want to be part of such a nation. As long as they have the conviction — which they will be given by the position being taken by Fianna Fáil on Article 2 — that we are trying to manoeuvre them into being part of a nation to which they do not feel they belong, then they will be suspicious and difficult and will refuse to talk.
Mr. Adams's statement yesterday to the effect that the one island ethos is gaining ground will prove to be counter-productive to this process. We should be very conscious that we are now entering what is probably the most difficult part of the peace process, the part which requires political ingenuity and imagination.The morally difficult decisions have been made with the ceasefires, we now have to deal with the politically difficult ones. This is where we require a great deal more courage than has been shown by this type of spacious argument about Article 2.
I wish to share my time with Deputies Haughey and Blaney.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
Like all Members of the House and all citizens, North or South, I welcome the Framework Document. We have come a long way in the past four-five years in bringing about peace on this island. In this context, I commend the efforts made by the former Taoisigh, Charles Haughey and Deputy Albert Reynolds, and the Taoiseach who has continued the work begun by his predecessors. We also owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. John Major who took courageous decisions in the face of enormous pressure, especially in recent times and the threat of his Government being brought down by individuals who did not think a settlement which would be acceptable to all could be achieved while he was in office.
We can now wake up in the mornings without fearing to hear about another atrocity in the North. Instead we can look forward to hearing positive news on the economic front etc. This shows that there is a willingness among the paramilitary organisations, the Unionists, the Nationalists and the people who have been on the fringes of democratic politics for many years to bring about a lasting settlement. The Framework Document does not seek to coerce one side or the other; rather it will give people room to negotiate. Previously many organisations in Northern Ireland, especially Nationalist ones, felt alienated, that they had been forgotten not only by people in the South but by their fellow citizens in the North. There are ghetto communities on both sides in the North, and no one should try to tell me there are no poor Unionists. Anyone who looks at the situation in the North will see there are ghettos in both communities.
I disagree with Deputy Dukes's comments about Deputy Ahern's speech. Last night and this morning Ken Maginnis clearly stated that the addendum proposed to Article 2 does not pose any threat to the Unionist people in Northern Ireland. I welcome the proposal to set up a Northern Ireland parliament which I hope will co-operate with institutions in the South. This will give people and marginalised groups on all sides an opportunity to get involved in politics at a national level. People who are not members of either of the main groupings in the North may get involved in local politics but they do not stand a chance of getting involved in national politics.
Paragraph 47 of the document states:
In the event that devolved institutions in Northern Ireland ceased to operate, and direct rule from Westminster was reintroduced, the British Government agree that other arrangements would be made to implement the commitment to promote co-operation at all levels between the people North and South. ...
That is what the document is about. There is an opportunity here on an economic level to bring about an improvement in the quality of life and the standard living of people in Northern Ireland. People have seen the benefit of peace for the past six months. The economic benefit to Northern Ireland has been enormous; it is only a fraction of the long term economic benefit that could be gained. The Delors package and other initiatives are helping to remove the deprivation of Northern Ireland and the Border areas of the past years due to the terrorist activities in the North. When these funds come to be spent I hope consideration will be given to the six southern counties which have suffered greatly as a result of the troubles in Northern Ireland. The American Senator Mitchell paid a fact finding visit in the past week and that will be of benefit when disbursing these funds.
We must all give this document our full support as politicians. Our party leader drew a line in the sand with regard to Article 2 of the Constitution and put down a marker which many would have preferred had been put down by the Government prior to the publication of the document in the form of the amendment they hope to bring forward.
I welcome the publication of the Framework Document and fully support it as a document for further discussion and consultation. It brings together the peace process which has been under way for some months and the political process which will now commence in earnest. I pay tribute to the Government for finalising the Framework Document in the past few weeks. When the previous Government left office in December it was, I understand, 90 per cent finalised and, therefore, the previous Government must also be congratulated. I wish to record my appreciation to those involved in the peace process. Gerry Adams played a major role; he commenced the process in the Republican movement almost ten years ago. I would also mention John Hume who showed tremendous courage by involving himself in the Hume-Adams talks and was vilified at the time for so doing. Deputy Albert Reynolds and the British Prime Minister, John Major played an important role. Others behind the scenes, such as Dr. Martin Mansergh, Fr. Alex Reid and many others, will have their roles recorded by history and the part they played recognised. In 1980, as Deputy Lenihan mentioned this morning, the British and Irish Governments recognised that a solution to the Northern Ireland problem would involve the totality of relationships within these islands. That concept is firmly recognised now in the Joint Framework Document — the North-South relations, the relations between the two communities in Northern Ireland and the relations between the two Governments.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement was also important in the process. The principle of consent was established and adopted. Nevertheless, the Fianna Fáil view was that it could never be a final solution. The publication of the Framework Document demonstrates that that agreement was inadequate. The Anglo-Irish Conference is being retained according to this document and that is good. It also imposed institutions and arrangements on the Unionists without any consultation and that was a flaw as far as the Anglo-Irish Agreement was concerned. All those involved in the preparation of this Framework Document recognise that the Anglo-Irish Agreement needed to be replaced. This document is not afait accompli, and this time all will be persuaded to become involved and all concerns are to be addressed.
Over the years Fianna Fáil has changed and responded to new circumstances.The Anglo-Irish process is an evolving one. We have accepted the principle that a united Ireland has to be achieved by agreement, with consent and by peaceful means. That is one of my primary objectives in political life. Fianna Fáil supports the balanced constitutional changes recommended by both Governments to recognise these recent developments.
Article 2 of the Constitution must remain in place. It states that the national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas, and there is a reference to the nation in that Article. The British Government put great pressure on the previous Government to drop Article 2 but without success. This Government recognised Fianna Fáil's bottom line. The addition of an addendum suggesting that the island is the shared inheritance of all the people of Ireland, involving diverse identities and traditions, recognises the reality. The birthright of an Irish citizen remains. The addendum recognises the need for a more pluralist definition of the nation, and recognises the different traditions. The emphasis is now placed on the concept of the nation and not on the concept of the State.
Article 3 involves a recognition that the reintegration of the national territory remains a legitimate national objective.This is as it should be. Nevertheless, the principle of consent is now firmly established and this should now be accommodated in an addendum also. Nobody is in the business of coercing anybody. Major change beyond that proposed by Fianna Fáil would be difficult to sell to people in the South. Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, must go. As we on this side of the House have always said, constitutional change can only be brought about in the context of an overall settlement. The Government has fudged the issue of constitutional change and this is a bad negotiating strategy. The Government is now open to constant pressure from the British Government. It should state its position on constitutional change and put forward its position.
I welcome in particular the establishment of cross-Border institutions which are recommended in the document. Local authorities should also be given a major role. I support all those groups bringing about communication between the people of this island such as the Glencree Reconciliation Centre. I support the call for new imaginative ideas from our politicians to accommodate the proposals in the Joint Framework Document.
In the short time available to me I will skip the niceties about who should be thanked — they go without saying — for the work put into the production of this document. I welcome it in the sense that it was so long in coming and more was built up around it than it ever could obtain.
The structures mentioned in the document — North-South, east-west and in Northern Ireland — show a great deal of imagination, but also show the cleverness and the complexities that only the British and Irish civil servants combined could put together. We will be talking about it and teasing it out ten years from now and we still will not quite know what it was, is or will be.
I will deal with the basic issue of constitutional status and constitutional issues. It is notable about those paragraphs in the document that there is an extraordinary reaching out to assure the Unionists of their future and well being. It ignores that it is they who have brought about the situation which culminated in 25 years of mayhem and war as a result of 50 years before that of discrimination and intimidation with their partisan police force, the B-Specials, backed up by the occupying British Army when and if necessary. In the late 1960s the Nationalist people could take no more and took to the streets — we all remember Burntollet Bridge and Craigavon Bridge. They would not have succeeded but for the new element of television. The paper wall was no longer able to contain the scandalous treatment the minority was receiving in the Six Counties over the previous 50 years. The war since then was caused by the Unionist majority which incidentally was contrived on the first day by a count of heads. The Six Counties with that contrived majority are now giving equal status to the rights of a minority which has been bruised, bloodied, bent, but unbroken over the years since partition.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Downing Street Joint Declaration and this document place great emphasis on balanced accommodation. It seems that balance began yesterday, not when the trouble began 70 years ago. The belief expounded in the three documents is that the will of the Irish people as a whole will determine their future, but a veto is installed in all three documents. This is hard to take and will not result in a lasting peace, whatever about the interim peace we have at present.
If we continue double talking in terms of giving all the people of Ireland the inalienable right to self-determination, we cannot overwhelm that by saying that less than 20 per cent of the island's population may say otherwise. We cannot have it both ways. The Six Counties, with its contrived majority which has intimidated and discriminated down through the years, continues. According to the latest statistics, the ratio between the two communities is 57:43. Where are we going? Who are we satisfying? It is like asking President Mandela to give back to the whites in South Africa the powers taken from them. That is what is being said here as regards Nationalists and Unionists in the Six Counties, in that we must give the majority, contrived as it was, powers to ensure that it can secure its position. The majority was never under threat, nor is it, but it perpetrated the scandalous treatment which caused the past 25 years of war.
Many of them are dead.
Many are dead on both sides. The attitude seems to be that balance starts from today's situation, not from yesterday's. That is not balance, because the situation has been unbalanced for 70 years. We cannot build on this to create an even handed approach. In the document under Constitutional Issues, the democratic wish of the majority is referred to many times, but Nationalists are mentioned only once when their traditions are referred to.
It is strange that we are discussing the rights and concerns of Unionists who have blackguarded Nationalists over the years. We are confirming a situation whereby they will maintain that role in the future despite the complexities in the proposals for cross-Border and east-west structures. We cannot and should not interfere with Article 2 of the Constitution until section 75 of the 1920 Act is removed. If that does not happen, we are merely prolonging the agony with a little break in between because there will not be a lasting peace. I have no doubt about that. I am aware of what takes place there, I belong there, I have contacts there and I have more dealings with Unionists than any other Member.
Does the Deputy want peace?
I do not know what is bothering Deputy Broughan, but if he gets a chance to speak perhaps he might tell us. I have more of an interest and a concern in achieving a real peace — my time in the House will show that — than almost any other Member. From my experience, I do not believe there will be a lasting peace if we give up our rightful claim to the Six Counties because we can then be told that we have no right to interfere on behalf of the minority who we should protect, like the people here.
Ar dtús ba mhaith liom cead a fháil mo chuid ama a roinnt leis an Teachta Broughan.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
Ba mhaith liom, cosúil le gach cainteoir eile, fáilte a chur roimh an doiciméad a foilsíodh inné agus comhghairdeachas a dhéanamh le gach duine a raibh baint ar bith acu leis — Rialtas na hÉireann, Rialtas na Breataine, na státseirbhísigh, an Taoiseach, an t-iar Thaoiseach, an Tánaiste agus gach duine eile. Sílim gur céim ar aghaidh é sa phróiséas atá ag dul ar aghaidh ó Ráiteas Shráid Downing bliain ó shin agus, roimhe sin, an Chomhdháil Angla-Éireannach. Sílim gur céim mhór ar aghaidh an doiciméad a foilsíodh inné.
This document cannot be seen as the final solution to the Irish question. It must be seen as a document for consultation and discussion. It is an agreed framework resulting from the deliberations and hard work over the past two years of the Irish and British Governments, their officials and civil servants. Its main objective must be to get all parties, all shades of political opinion, engaged in talks and discussions with the ultimate objective of establishing a permanent peace.
Our greatest failure since the establishment of the State has been our failure to get all parties engaged in talks. Unfortunately, there have always been empty chairs. Republicans and Nationalists of various hues have not always been at the conference table, while Unionists have almost never been there. We have never succeeded in getting everyone round the table at the same time to discuss the future of this island and of its people. The success or failure of this document will rest on its ability to achieve a genuine and comprehensive round table conference where all strands and shades of political opinion, North and South, are represented.If it succeeds in achieving that, it will be a success. If not, we must get back to the drawing board once more.
It is now 24 hours after the publication of this document and I am reasonably confident that success is more likely than failure at this stage. The document has already got widespread and cross-party support in this House and in the British Parliament. In Northern Ireland, it has been greeted positively by many parties, including the SDLP, the Alliance Party, Sinn Féin, the Workers Party and others. The reaction and attitude of the Unionist population is crucial for its success. It is encouraging that it has not been completely dismissed by all Unionist politicians.I wholeheartedly agree with the statement of a senior Unionist on television yesterday who did not commit himself on the document because he had only read it three or four times. He said he would need to read it 20 times before he could decide whether he was for or against. At least he agreed with Deputy Blaney in that regard. That is the attitude we should adopt; people should not give their verdict before they have an opportunity to read it. It should not be left to the politicians alone, North or South, to judge the document. It is widely available and people should study it calmly and in depth before rushing to pass judgment on it.
In the past the reaction of many people to similar proposals was in line with their prejudices and preconceived ideas. We cannot remain cocooned any longer; we must open our hearts to new ideas and adopt fresh attitudes if we are to break free from the logjam and political inertia. This document presents us with the best opportunity in 70 years to do this.
Like Deputy Blaney, I am a Donegal man and an Ulsterman. I usually spend a few hours each week in Northern Ireland. There is a perceptible air of hope and optimism since the peace process commenced about six months ago. It is a new experience to see families walking in the streets once more, visiting shopping arcades and carrying out ordinary everyday activities without the need for security checks, body searches and electronic scanning. This is something we take for granted in the South but for an entire generation in the North such ordinary, everyday activity presented great danger and, unfortunately, led to injury and even death. One of the great dividends of the peace process is that the atmosphere of suspicion and uncertainty has been dispelled and that there is now a tide of trust, understanding and co-operation throughout the community. This document is designed to provide a framework within which the peace process can be strengthened and made permanent.
The people of County Donegal have always had strong links with Northern Ireland. For generations Derry was our natural city and Donegal its natural hinterland. Derry was also the port of departure for thousands of people from Donegal on their way to Glasgow and other parts of Scotland. That is where they said farewell to their kith-and-kin and where their hearts lifted on their return; they were following in the footsteps of Colmcille who left 1,500 years before.
Donegal was the natural holiday destination for thousands of people from Northern Ireland. Its tourism industry was booming in the 1960s before the violence commenced. Towns such as Rathmullan, Ramelton, Portnoo, Dunfanaghy, Gweedore, Rossnowlagh and Bundoran prospered. Our hotels, guest-houses and chalets were filled from Easter to October. Unfortunately, when the violence commenced 25 years ago the effects were sorely felt throughout Donegal. If the peace process continues the dividend will be just as significant.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people in the South do not consider Northern Ireland as a holiday destination.How many people from Dublin or Cork can say that they visited Northern Ireland? How many have visited the Giant's Causeway, Bushmills, Ballycastle, the Glens of Antrim from Cushendun to Cushendall and the Ulster Folk Museum? Northern Ireland has so much to offer, yet few people have ventured there. Is there a better way to get to know our land than visiting these places and their people in their own homes and localities?
I hope this document will bring all parties and shades of political opinion on this island together. If this can be achieved the peace process can be made permanent and allow us an opportunity to get to know our country and its people. The ultimate aim is to allow us to live in harmony and peace together on this island.
I was interested in the comments of the Father of the House, Deputy Blaney, who invoked the name of Nelson Mandela whose hallmark was his extreme generosity in creating structures to accommodate the Nationalist minority in South Africa who at one time exercised power over the majority. The Deputy ignored the major opportunity to pursue development that would be presented by a North-South body and the co-operation between the people on the entire island which could flow from it. At times he sounded like a dinosaur and echoed the comments yesterday of one or two other dinosaurs in Northern Ireland.
In his bookStates of Ireland published in 1972 my predecessor in Dublin North-East, Conor Cruise O'Brien concluded that the fundamental problem in relation to the holocaust of violence and terror then engulfing the country was that politicians, especially those in the South, had lost the key to the solution to the national problem which he identified as the principle of consent of the governed and the right to self-determination for all the people who live on the island. He wrote that the problem was not how to achieve unity but how to share an island in conditions of peace and reasonable fairness.
He went on to argue that the great political figure in the first 30 years of the Free State, Eamon de Valera, held the key in his hand on 22 August 1921 when he told the 2nd Dáil that he was prepared to consider the principle of self-determination and consent because if the South used force it would have made the same mistake as England had made in Ireland; de Valera indicated that in certain conditions he would understand if any Irish county wanted to secede if it was not prepared to give its consent.
As a Labour Deputy, I am deeply proud of the role played by my party leader, the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, in the recovery of the lost key to the problems on this island. In the 14 years he has been leader of the Labour Party he has embodied the great principle of James Connolly "Ireland without its people means nothing to me". With his key advisers he has relentlessly and patiently sought a solution based on the key principles of consent and agreement and the need to bring the violence to an end once and for all. He has been Tánaiste in three Governments and has resolutely — and sometimes painfully — slowly pursued his vision of an Ireland in which all the people and their traditions are accommodated.
He was one of the key architects of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in which the aspirations of the Northern minority were finally recognised through the establishment of the intergovernmental conference and London's acceptance that it would abide by the wishes of the majority in Northern Ireland if they wished to be reunited with the rest of the country. On his return to Government in late 1992 he resumed his ceaseless search for peace in Ireland and in his speech in the Mansion House in March 1993 he called on all the parties to the Northern Ireland conflict to accept reality and agree to new political arrangements. He said that each act of violence was the ultimate expression of contempt for the rights of the other community.
These themes were echoed in his powerful address at the 1993 Labour Party national conference where he stunned the audience by reading out the names of 25 innocent people from Northern Ireland who had been slain in the early months of that year. His massive contribution to the Downing Street Joint Declaration has been acknowledged.Paragraph 4 of that Declaration lays down the right to self-determination of all the people of Ireland.
That Declaration also embodied the Tánaiste's six principles which he outlined in an earlier speech, namely, freedom of political thought, freedom of expression, religious freedom, the right to pursue democratically national and political aspirations and constitutional change by peaceful means, the right to live where one chose and the right to equal opportunity. The Tánaiste has tried to create a background whereby we can move on to achieve a comprehensive peace for our country. His reward has been the IRA ceasefire of August 1994, the combined loyalist military command ceasefire in October 1994 and this Framework Document.
I wish to pay tribute also to the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, whose imaginative, daring and businesslike qualities helped to bring together the various elements in the peace process.I wish to pay tribute also to the Taoiseach who, when in Opposition, made one of the best speeches I have ever heard in this House on the day of the IRA ceasefire. When one is paying tribute to those involved in this peace process, one must pay special tribute to John Hume who has been the voice of peace and constitutional progress for all Irish communities, but particularly communities in the North, over the past 25 years. His deep awareness of relationships between the various communities in the North and throughout the island has played a fundamental part in the peace process.
The Framework Document offers a great opportunity for all the peoples on the island, North and South, and for the people of Britain. It should not be seen as a threat to any group or community. I agree with Deputy McGinley that there should be a sense of urgency in regard to round table discussions involving all parties in Northern Ireland. In that way they can work out a comprehensive and accommodating settlement.
The guiding principles of the Framework Document are the rights of self-determination, the consent of the Governments, exclusively democratic means to pursue political objectives and full respect for the rights of all. In paragraph 20 the British Government reiterates that it has no strategic or economic interest in our country and it will act in a facilitatory and supportive capacity as we work out our fundamental relationships for the future.
I recognise this document presents a great challenge to the people of the North. On a recent visit there, one of the main complaints of Unionist politicians, and also some Nationalist politicians, concerned what they regard as the number of non-elected bodies in the North, of which there are approximately 150. Building on this document, there is now an opportunity to replace those bodies with a democratic assembly, possibly along the lines of the Strand One document, which will give them a clear input into future developments. I welcome the projected framework for a North-South body and there are many areas in the consultative and the Executive process where both communities can work closely together.
I say to our fellow countrymen and women in Northern Ireland that this document should be seen as a platform on which to reach a lasting and comprehensive settlement which is what everyone in this House desires. It is not a threat to them or their freedom in the future.
Tá mé ag labhairt anseo thar cheann an Chomhaontais Glais, The Green Party, agus seo ár gcuid tuairimí i ndiaidh foilsiú An Framework Document.
The publication of the Framework Document is welcome and not a minute too soon. Its delay brought about a deluge of leaks and speculation which resulted in fear and suspicion among some Unionists. I urge the Government not to confuse my solitary presence in Dáil Éireann with the potential of the Green parties, North and South in this island and in England, Scotland and Wales, to offer new and alternative ways to build on the peace.
Since 1983 my party has worked with Northern Greens and with Greens in England, Scotland and Wales and we have had a common position on Northern Ireland. That should be examined closely so that we can continue to build on the consensus we have achieved up to now.
While the general thrust of the document is in the right direction and marks an advance on both the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Downing Street Joint Declaration, we remain disappointed with the fact that it is rooted in the majoritarian principle. It is as if the authors were prisoners who succeeded in removing one brick in the wall of their cell, can now see where they should be going but as yet do not have the means to get there.
There are two fundamental flaws in the document. The first is its basis in majoritarianism and the second is its excess of detail. In a framework document intended to set parameters there was no need for it to move beyond first principles. Not only has it moved far beyond the statement of first principles, but every step it has taken away from them has been a step back to traditional models of decison-making based on the majority vote whether within referenda or weighted majority systems. A statement of first principles could have begun with the statement in paragraph 12 that the absence of a democratic consensus, a norm in democratic society, is absent in Northern Ireland and that the principle task of the peace process is the construction of such a consensus.
In regard to power sharing, the document rightly points to the divided nature of Northern Ireland society and recognises the two political, cultural and national identities. The document, however, seems to offer models which have caused partition in countries such as Czechoslovakia and civil war in Bosnia. Technical fixes such as weighted majorities superimposed upon a constitutional status fixed by simple majority voting could institutionalise the divide and plunge the North into a crisis as deep as the one from which it is now emerging.
If the Governments had instead focused upon the need for innovation in decision-making, particularly in advanced democratic procedures, and insisted upon the need for proportionality both for the election of parliaments and governments through a mix of PRSTV and the matrix vote, together with the need for a consentually agreed new Constitution arrived at by referendum, without spelling out the final detail, there would have been less to disagree with in the document.
Tá sé an-thábhachtach a thaispeáint go bhfuil tuiscint agus comh-thuiscint sa taobh seo tíre do dhaoine ó thuaidh, mar shampla do na daoine atá ag plé le Meánscoil Feirste. Tugann seo seans don Rialtas anseo a thaispeáint go bhfuil siadsan i ndáiríre mar gheall ar an gcomh-fhreagairt chomh maith leis an gcomh-thuiscint atá acu don mhionlach ó thuaidh.
Is ball de mhionlach mé féin ar an dtaobh seo den tír agus tá áthas orm a rá gur thaispeáin an Roinn Oideachais tuiscint dom nuair a bhí mé mar Phríomh Oide i scoil bheag i mBaile Brigín. Impím ar an Roinn Oideachais anseo ní amháin tuiscint a shoiléiriú ach cabhair de shaghas éigin a thabhairt do Mheánscoil Feirste chomh fada agus is féidir ó thaobh airgeadú agus ó thaobh cabhrach de gach saghas eile.
Faoi láthair tá an scoil sin i mbaol dúnta. Is de bharr mí-thuiscint atá an baol sin ann — mí-thuiscint ó thaobh na n-údarás ó thuaidh, i Sasana agus go deimhin anseo. Rud praiticiúil gur féidir linn a dhéanamh ná an scoil a airgeadú gan fanacht nóiméad ar bith eile.