We now proceed to No. 57, statements regarding the terrorist attacks in the USA, to conclude at 10.00 p.m., if not previously concluded.
Terrorist Attacks in the USA: Statements.
On 18 September, all parties came together in a specially convened session of Dáil Éireann to convey our sorrow and outrage at the tragic events in the United States. Our collective voice expressed in very clear terms where the Irish people stand in the face of the outrages committed in the United States on 11 September.
History tells us that often out of great tragedy comes courage, a determination to rebuild society, to establish the democratic rule and to bring evil men of violence and terrorists to justice. In the past weeks, since the terrible events in the United States, we have seen the courage of President Bush and the American people. The trauma they have suffered is clearly enormous. So many families have been bereaved and must now face the reality that their loved ones may never be recovered from the scenes of the attacks.
Many families in our country have also endured enormous loss and suffering. The list, published on Monday of Irish people and those of Irish descent declared dead or missing makes sombre reading. No policies or Government actions can relieve their sense of loss and the vacuum now in their lives. We again extend our sympathy to the bereaved and commend all the American emergency services for their unrelenting work in the scenes of devastation.
Our task now is to ensure, through enhanced and sustained international co-operation, that no people, whether Irish, American or other nationalities, will have to experience this trauma again.
I very much welcome the determination of the United States to put in place a global response to global terrorism. In doing so, it has sought and deserves the support of all nations dedicated to the principles of democracy and to combating this terrible evil.
We all understand and accept that those who directed the attacks on 11 September and those who are intent on further such deeds must be pursued. It would be naive to believe that dialogue and discussion are realistic options in the face of terrorism which is intent on savage and destructive assaults on innocent people. There is no doubt they will try to strike again and no one can know where this might be. People prepared and determined to behave in this way must be stopped in their tracks.
The United States has already declared its intention to take military action to this end. Under the UN Charter every member state has a right to self defence. It is clearly the wish of the international community that any action taken should be based on clear evidence and be proportionate, measured and focused on the pursuit of justice and the sources of terrorism.
None of us can be indifferent to the effects of military intervention in Afghanistan, however well focused. Everyone in this House wishes to see civilian casualties avoided. The avoidance of civilian casualties is also manifestly in the interests of the United States.
The Afghan people have suffered the ravages of internal wars and a prolonged famine. Ireland will play its part in helping to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people. The announcement this week of an additional aid package of £2.8 million brings the total emergency assistance provided by Ireland to Afghanistan this year to some £4 million. This is the largest ever aid package provided by the Government for a single emergency.
Military action alone cannot succeed in combating terrorists and their supporters. Multi-layered responses that work to eliminate the roots of terrorism must also be pursued. It is at times such as these that the need for strong international organisations is all the more apparent. Global terrorism is a threat to international peace and security. International institutions, particularly the United Nations and the European Union, are essential in pursuing the multi-layered approach we all agree is necessary.
This week Ireland assumed the chair of the UN Security Council. We will hold this important position for the next month. While the Minister for Foreign Affairs will outline in more detail our response and the agenda we will pursue at that forum, I can assure the House that we will discharge our responsibilities to the maximum of our energies and capabilities. The United Nations must be the very cornerstone of the global response to these appalling atrocities.
The day after the attacks the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1368. This resolution was unequivocal in its condemnation of the attacks and stressed that those responsible for aiding, supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of these acts will be held accountable. Last Friday the Security Council adopted a further resolution, Resolution 1373, which builds upon Resolution 1368, and provides additional measures to improve international co-operation in the fight against terrorism, including measures to suppress the financing of terrorism. Ireland was involved in a constructive way in the drafting of this resolution and as chair of the Security Council during the coming weeks we will be actively involved in advancing and monitoring the implementation of this important measure.
No country can stand to one side in the face of international terrorism. Ireland has, is, and will continue to play its part to the fullest in tackling this most dangerous scourge. We have indicated to the United States that, in common with a wide range of states across the world, we will allow overflight and use of Irish airports by American military aircraft. This move is entirely consistent with our responsibilities as a member of the family of nations comprising the international community. I also believe that the vast majority of Irish people and Members of this House support this measure as a concrete indication of where we stand on the issue of international terrorism. The Minister for Foreign Affairs will give further details of our co-operation in this area and of his meeting last week with Secretary of State, Colin Powell, in Washington. In taking this step under Security Council Resolution 1368, it should be clear that Ireland is not participating in any war and the question of Dáil assent does not therefore arise.
To fully assess the implications of the terrorist attacks, an extraordinary meeting of the European Council took place in Brussels on Friday, 21 September. At that meeting, which the Minister for Foreign Affairs also attended, the Council agreed that the fight against terrorism will be a priority objective of the European Union. The extraordinary meeting of the Council called for the broadest possible global coalition against terrorism under the aegis of the United Nations. Solidarity is shown by actions not words. This horrendous attack is proof, were it needed, of the vulnerability of all our societies to ruthless terrorists.
In the short-term we agreed that the European Union would co-operate with the United States in bringing to justice and punishing the perpetrators, sponsors and accomplices of the 11 September attacks. We recognised that a response by the United States would be legitimate on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 1368 and that actions may also be directed against States abetting, supporting or harbouring terrorists. We agreed that member states are prepared to act according to their means with the United States.
That extraordinary meeting of the European Council also agreed that top priority would be given to the introduction of a European arrest warrant to replace the current system of extradition between member states and the adoption of a common definition of terrorism. The Council also agreed to implement, as soon as possible, the full package of measures agreed at the European Council at Tampere in 1999.
There is an urgent need to identify suspected terrorists, terrorist organisations, or organisations supporting terrorists throughout the European Union. The sharing of information will be critical if we are to safeguard our citizens. All useful data regarding terrorism will be shared through Europol and a specialist anti-terrorism team is to be set up within Europol. This team will liaise closely with its United States counterparts.
A number of international conventions aimed at addressing terrorism already exist but not all have been implemented. Security Council Resolutions 1368 and 1373 call on member states to become parties to and to fully implement these conventions and the European Council has supported their implementation by all EU member states as quickly as possible.
In the context, the House will wish to note that the Government yesterday gave authority for Ireland to become a signatory to the International Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Funding. It is clear that cutting off the supply of funds to terrorists is a crucial element in combating terrorism. As long as there are funds available and directed to those who wish to destroy the fabric of our society, the fight against terrorism will not be fully effective. I have also asked that the highest priority be given to the ratification of other outstanding terrorist conventions.
The new realities that now exist require effective and standardised air security measures. These must be introduced to ensure aircraft can no longer be hi-jacked and used as missiles of destruction. The European Council has thus requested the Transport Council of Ministers to take all necessary measures to strengthen air transport security.
I have no doubt our membership of the European Union and the sensible, stability-centred policies that have been put in place within the framework of our membership will enable us to weather the economic turbulence which may now face the world. Thanks to economic and monetary union the countries of the euro zone are more sheltered from the shocks associated with monetary fluctuations. The introduction of the euro on 1 January next will give Ireland a key competitive advantage at a time when it will be most needed.
The short-term effect on the airline sector in particular has been severe and has forced very difficult decisions on Aer Lingus along with most other airlines. There is to be a debate tomorrow on the impact on Aer Lingus and this matter will be addressed in detail on that occasion.
The ESRI and the Central Bank, along with other economic commentators, have prepared a range of different scenarios and projections, with different assumptions being made on exchange rate movements, interest rate changes and other factors. The Government's initial priority is to analyse international and domestic trends continuously and methodically. We will also focus on maintaining competitiveness and discipline, accepting that we are now in a period of some uncertainty and unpredictability. This will afford us the necessary space to respond in a manner that is most appropriate to a sudden or unexpected change in circumstances. The House can be assured that the Government will consider very carefully all relevant circumstances and scenarios in the context of Budget 2002.
We need to retain confidence in the Irish economy and our achievements of the last decade. Economic growth this year will still exceed that of our European Union partners while unemployment remains at a record low. While not complacent about the short-term threat we face, I am confident that the Irish economy is fundamentally robust and that our foreign direct investment is appropriately mixed and balanced to weather the uncertainties which currently exist.
The events of 11 September sent shockwaves around the world. The unimaginable sight of airlines full of passengers being used as flying weapons signalled the beginning of a new order of global terrorism, a terrorism that is utterly ruthless and willing to go to extreme lengths to achieve its goals. The attacks on the United States have clearly changed the context in which emergency planning must be done. Therefore, a review of the structures under which emergency planning is conducted has since taken place in my Department. As a result of this review the Government has decided that there should be an office of emergency planning led by the Department of Defence and with the involvement of the Defence Forces. That office, consulting with other Departments and agencies, as appropriate, has been tasked with preparing plans to meet these threats from global terrorism. The Government has also decided that the emergency planning office should have an oversight role in relation to planning for peacetime emergencies to make maximum use of resources and to ensure compatibility and co-ordination between plans prepared for peacetime emergencies and for emergencies arising from terrorist threats.
It is important to emphasise that there is no reason to believe Ireland is a target for international terrorist attacks. The most important defence against any attack is detection and prevention by the security forces. I have been assured by the Garda Commissioner and the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces that all necessary resources are being deployed to this end.
In the current climate there is understandable concern and anxiety among Islamic communities who do not support or have any connection with terrorism. It was with a view to underlining the importance of making this distinction that I paid a visit on Monday last to the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh. The Muslim community who accorded me such a warm welcome made abundantly clear their abhorrence of terrorism and of the attacks on the United Sates.
In our world the use of the superlative and hyperbole has become commonplace and there is always the danger that threats of truly awesome significance will be understated, but there is no understating what happened on 11 September. Moreover, any repetition would cause immeasurable damage to the world financial system, democratic values, global co-operation and the ability of the human race to look forward with confidence. This is why we must play our part in every way we can and to the fullest. We must not fail in our fight against world terrorism.
It is entirely appropriate in the week in which the General Assembly of the United Nations is considering the responses which should be made to the atrocities in the United States on 11 September that this House should have the opportunity to continue the debate initiated at the special sitting of the House on 18 September last. On that occasion we formally conveyed our sympathy and made clear our solidarity with the United States as it seeks to come to grips with the most appalling act of international terrorism. This is an occasion for more specifics and for the Government to outline its exact position in detail.
I regret the Taoiseach has not used this opportunity to inform the House in detail of what the Government proposes to do and what our precise foreign policy is in the new world situation created by the events of 11 September. It is important that the House be fully informed of the background and be given the opportunity to discuss and debate the detailed positions the Government proposes to take. It is not good enough that the Taoiseach should use a photo opportunity to say that the Government will give the United States refuelling and over flight facilities. We need to know exactly what this entails and how it fits into the redefinition of Irish foreign policy brought about by recent events.
In my statement on 18 September in the Dáil, I emphasised the importance of the United Nations as providing a cornerstone for our foreign policy. The only basis for the conduct of international relations is the rule of law and the United Nations is the only organisation that provides the framework and the structures for dealing with the problems which the world now faces. I note Ireland's support at the United Nations Security Council for Resolution 1368 and Resolution 1373. I commend the Government for its input into these resolutions. The Taoiseach will agree that they represent only the beginning. As the Mayor of New York, Mr. Giuliani, said during his address to the UN General Assembly earlier this week: "This is not a time for further study or for vague directives. It is a time for action."
Ireland is a member of the committee of the Security Council which has been set up and tasked with monitoring the implementation of Resolution 1373 which was passed on 28 September. All 189 member countries of the United Nations are now required to report to the committee within 90 days on steps they have taken to implement the resolution. The resolution requires, inter alia, that governments deal with the financing of terrorism, the exchange of intelligence between countries on the organisation of terrorism, the introduction of effective border controls to deal with the movement of terrorists and tackling the links between terrorism and illegal drug trafficking and other organised criminal activities.
To give credibility to our activities on the monitoring committee, the most important and urgent thing is to ensure Ireland is fully compliant with the relevant United Nations conventions, protocols and resolutions. Some of these conventions, protocols and resolutions create difficulties for us which can only be overcome by enacting domestic legislation. However, I assure the Taoiseach, given the gravity and urgency of the situation, that the Fine Gael Party will be fully and constructively co-operative.
As a helpful starting point, the Taoiseach might indicate before the debate concludes this evening what, if any, conventions, protocols and resolutions we need to ratify to be in full compliance with the Security Council resolution. I am aware, for example, that Ireland has not yet ratified the statute on the International Criminal Court or the Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, although the Taoiseach appeared to indicate that we would do so in the near future. The Taoiseach might also indicate the steps the Government proposes to take to bring Ireland into line and the time frame likely to be involved.
The least we might do, given our current Security Council role, is to give the best possible public example to our fellow members in the United Nations. In 90 days the Taoiseach should circulate Ireland's response to Resolution 1373 to the House and arrange for it to be debated in detail. It seems that many of our positions consist of freely giving advice to other people on how to act without making any attempt to comply ourselves. I need not remind Members of the House that there is a terrorist problem on this island and that the resolution in question requires us to take certain specific action and to state publicly what that action is within 90 days. I am seeking a commitment from the Taoiseach or the Minister for Foreign Affairs that within 90 days the action being taken by the Government will be laid before this House and that we will be given an opportunity to debate it.
It would also be helpful to have a statement from the Taoiseach explaining what is now meant when the Government talks about neutrality as an element of Irish foreign policy. There is considerable public confusion on this point and much of it has been created by the conflict between what Fianna Fáil says when it is in Opposition and what it does when it is in Government. In Opposition, Fianna Fáil opposed any link between Ireland and the Western European Union. In Government, Fianna Fáil took the first step to bring us into a relationship with the Western European Union by seeking and obtaining observer status. In Opposition and in its election manifesto in 1997, Fianna Fáil solemnly declared that Ireland would not participate in the NATO led Partnership for Peace without first putting the matter to the people in a referendum. In Government, Fianna Fáil back tracked on that commitment, did not hold a referendum and joined the Partnership for Peace, a NATO led grouping.
Is it any wonder there is confusion about what is meant by neutrality when this Government is in office, especially when we speak of Fianna Fáil neutrality? Lest there be any doubt, I wish to make it clear that Fine Gael supports Ireland's participation in Partnership for Peace and Ireland's commitment to work with our partners in the European Union to achieve a common foreign policy. It is not enough for the Taoiseach or the Minister for Foreign Affairs to say that we are not neutral when it comes to international terrorism. That is a given. Could we say anything else other than that we are opposed to international terrorism? That is not a definition of neutrality. The Taoiseach has an obligation today to state in unequivocal terms what is now meant by Irish neutrality against the background of the events of 11 September last.
We need to know what the Government means by neutrality as an element in Irish foreign policy. It is important that the implications be spelled out fully and unambiguously. I hope the Taoiseach will arrange to do so in his concluding remarks to this debate or that he will arrange for an appropriate Minister to give us the details he, the Taoiseach, failed to give the House. It is the least the Irish people deserve as we move into an uncertain international future. Unless we know where the Government stands on this fundamental issue, we have no way of assessing or measuring our foreign policy decisions. This is not about soft talk to please American public opinion. It is not about photo opportunities. The events of 11 September were cataclysmic. They should generate change and the Taoiseach should spell out the manner in which Irish foreign policy is changed. Mere window dressing and lip service is not sufficient.
It would be inappropriate to deal with the topic of terrorism without referring to the murder last Friday night of the Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan. I am sure I speak for everybody in the House when I convey to the O'Hagan family and his colleague journalists our deepest sympathy at this most appalling and brutal killing. All the indications are that the murder was carried out by a loyalist paramilitary terrorist group. I condemn terrorists from that source as strongly and unequivocally as I have condemned terrorism from the republican side.
At a time when the peace process is under threat, I once more call on the leadership of Sinn Féin and the IRA. The Good Friday Agreement is the property of the Irish people who have, in referenda North and South, supported its implementation. I accept the bona fides of the Sinn Féin leadership, particularly the bona fides of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. I acknowledge the work they have done in recent years to move away from the use of violence to achieve political objectives. It is surely possible for them to take the remaining steps to save the agreement. Unless there is movement on decommissioning and progress towards the acceptance of the new policing arrangements, it is difficult to see how the carefully crafted structures of the Good Friday Agreement can survive. This could well be the last opportunity for many years to have in Northern Ireland devolved government structures to which everyone can give allegiance.
Those of us who have been in the House for some time recall with regret the collapse of the Sunningdale Agreement in 1974. There has been a long gap between the collapse of the Sunningdale Agreement in 1974 and the putting in place of the arrangements flowing from the Good Friday Agreement, which are very similar to what was lost when the Sunningdale Agreement failed. Even though the Anglo-Irish Agreement was successfully negotiated and signed in 1985, it did not provide for devolved local political activity.
It is against this background that Sinn Féin should redouble its efforts to ensure the survival of all the institutions of Government, so carefully negotiated. These institutions, Anglo-Irish, North-South and devolved to Northern Ireland, are already seen to be serving the interests of all the people of these islands.
The atrocities of 11 September are likely to have a great impact on the Irish economy. Already we have seen the difficulties created in the aviation and tourism sectors. The predictions for other sectors are not good, given the reality that our open economy is heavily influenced by the United States economy. It is, however, important to make the point that the deterioration of the Irish economy did not begin on 11 September, nor was it caused by the events of that day or by other events outside our control. The downturn in the Irish economy was already becoming evident four to five months before the events of 11 September. The Exchequer figures published yesterday confirm that the serious downturn started earlier this year. Its immediate cause has little to do with external factors. It has been brought about by the Government's incompetence and mismanagement.
The Government has demonstrated extraordinary incompetence in managing Irish economic success. Despite the increase in prosperity, our health system is worse than it was in 1997 and any statements to the contrary by the Taoiseach do not stand up to scrutiny. Waiting lists for many of our flagship hospitals are longer, delays in getting treatment are increasing, medical and nursing staff are under severe pressure and vital services have declined. The Ministers for Health and Children and Finance are in public disagreement, the Tánaiste proposes a solution which has not yet been costed or discussed by the Government and the Taoiseach, as usual, stands back, defends and shows no leadership. This is a failure of management and of Government.
Despite the increase in prosperity, inequalities in our education system are greater than they were in 1997. It has taken court action by some to get the Minister for Education and Science to act. Again, the Taoiseach's leadership was notable by its absence. This is a failure of management and of Government. Secondary education is under threat from the middle of this month. The statement by the Taoiseach today that the Estimates are being drawn up on a "no policy change" basis casts serious doubts on the commitment given by the Minister for Education and Science to persons who believe their cases are similar to that of the Sinnott family.
Despite the increase in prosperity, our road and transport systems have dramatically deteriorated. Gridlock is everywhere on our roads and our rail system is a disgrace. Dublin Airport is a painful joke. The Tánaiste was, for once, right in her assertion that we have a Third World infrastructure. This, too, is a failure of management and of Government. There is no leadership, competence or attempt to address the issues. I am reminded of the Guinness advertisement which asks, "How did you stand on the surfboard after 15 pints of stout?" The Government was riding the wave of a strong economy, but it is not in control of it and its incompetence is being illustrated now when there is an economic downturn.
I will not continue to embarrass the Taoiseach with a litany of his failures. Suffice to say that the Government induced weaknesses in our economic performance which have left us vulnerable to the economic aftermath of 11 September. Now that the dark clouds are overhead I hope it is not too late to ask the Taoiseach to take all appropriate steps to protect those sectors of our economy which now find themselves particularly exposed. Tourism and travel are deserving of particular support, not least because they bore the brunt earlier this year of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. It is in the national interest to take all possible measures to ensure the healthy survival of these vital sectors of our economy. I ask the Taoiseach to ensure that even if it requires derogations from Brussels, all appropriate measures are taken.
Tomorrow, in the House, I will deal with Aer Lingus. We face a period of considerable uncertainty on the international political, security and economic fronts. Where the Government's response is effective and well thought out it can be assured of support from the Fine Gael benches. Where we are in agreement with Government policy we will say so and give whatever backing is appropriate. I ask only that the House be kept fully informed and given the opportunity to debate significant moves the Government may feel obliged to take. Where it is necessary to oppose we will do so without apology.
The events of 11 September have shown that no one is immune to the threat of terrorism. Only a concerted response by the world community will enable us to face up to this threat and deal with it. Let us hope that by working together internationally and domestically we can minimise the chances of another such event and deal with its adverse consequences in a way which will lead to the recovery and restructuring of our economy.
The world is still reeling from the appalling carnage visited upon New York and Washington on 11 September last. The pure hatred that motivated that appalling crime against humanity has stunned the world. Tuesday, 11 September 2001 is a day that no one will forget. The images of that day are seared on the minds of people across the world. Since this House last came together to respond to that act of terrorism the real human cost has emerged. Over 6,000 families have lost a loved one. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to them as they try to piece together their shattered lives.
The strong historic and family ties that this country has with America and with the city of New York, in particular, have, if anything, been made stronger by this horrific attack. It is a small, but significant example of the futility of terrorism. It is a clear demonstration of how humanity rises above the hatred and fanaticism of a small self-appointed gang of murderers and finds common cause in adversity.
The citizens of this island have shown common cause with the people of New York and Washington, and with those who lost their lives aboard the plane that crashed in Pennslyvania. They have responded with revulsion to the attack on innocent civilians, going about their day's business. There can be no room for ambiguity in terms of our condemnation of this murderous assault on the United States.
It is now three weeks since terrorists unleashed their evil plot over the skies of New York and Washington. To date the response of the United States to this barbarity has been rational and restrained. One could understand a nation and a people so brutally attacked wishing to strike out, yearning for retaliation. Wiser counsel has prevailed and it is to be hoped a more targeted and ultimately more effective response can now be agreed and implemented.
There is a challenge facing the rest of the world. There should be no revenge at this attack. Revenge will debase us. The challenge facing us is far greater.
Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, said to his Labour Party conference yesterday:
I believe their memorial can and should be greater than simply the punishment of the guilty. It is that out of the shadow of evil should emerge lasting good, destruction of machinery of terrorism wherever it is found, hope amongst all nations of a new beginning where we seek to resolve differences in a calm and ordered way, greater understanding between nations and between faiths and above all justice and prosperity for the poor and dispossessed, so that people everywhere can see the chance of a better future through the hard work and creative power of the free citizen, not the violence and savagery of the fanatic.
These are interesting and appropriate words for they recognise that we, in the West, must change our ways too. They present a challenge to the United States, in particular. They represent a direct call, as I see it, for that country's new policy of unilateralism. It is call on the United States to make common cause with the world, rather than seeing it solely in terms of friends and enemies, black and white. It is a call for an end to the cynical realpolitik of the Kissinger era. It is also a call for proper and full engagement in the United Nations. It must mean the reform of the UN, an organisation which is showing its age, particularly the Security Council, which was established in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War and is in urgent need of reform. Far too much power to veto humanitarian or military action in the name of human rights is in the hands of a single state. People have died as a result, while we sat back and watched. Nothing undermines the authority of the United Nations more than such events. My colleague, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, will return to this issue in detail later in this debate.
The enemy faced by the civilised world is chameleon-like and presents few identifiable targets. It operates through a system of sleeper agents that transcend national borders and has the capacity to defy the tools and tactics of conventional armies. An organisation such as that headed by Mr. bin Laden is vulnerable to combined international action on financing, recruitment and other proven anti-terrorist measures. A full-scale military assault, such as that launched by the United States in the wake of the embassy bombings in Sudan and Tanzania, may play directly into the hands of the extremists.
For the Labour Party, the goals of the new campaign against terrorism are clear. Those who planned and assisted in the perpetration of this brutal crime must be identified and brought before a court of law to face justice. The organisation which provided the infrastructural support and the ideological rationale for the assault must be pursued in every corner of the globe, its leaders and lieutenants brought to book and the organisation itself rendered useless. We have espoused key principles that must inform the response to this barbarity. It should be remembered that principles, centred on the protection of innocent life and adhering to the standards of international law are two key areas that divide the civilised world from the band of fanatics that launched this attack.
The danger of unilateral action is that it has the capacity to sunder the broad alliance against a common enemy, created by diplomacy in recent weeks. For many nations, the nature of the response to the attacks on the United States is of critical importance. Any action launched in response to the 11 September attacks should be consistent with the mandate of the UN, so that it may be emphasised as an international response. It is vital that all nations support action against international terrorism.
There are broader issues at play. Pakistan could suffer significant internal chaos if unilateral action without the broad support of predominately Muslim states is undertaken. Mr. bin Laden, the Taliban and their allies across the region are adept at playing on the fears of local communities. The campaign against terrorism will not be advanced by a military action that alienates large sections of Muslim opinion in the region and presents a propaganda opportunity for terrorists.
The second principle advocated by the Labour Party is that the protection of civilian life must be foremost in any planned response. At my party's conference last weekend I quoted from an e-mail recently received by a friend from an Afghan man exiled in the United States. The man said it is not that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity, but that they were the first victims of its perpetrators. The Taliban, he said, were a "cult of ignorant psychotics". I believe he is right, as the Taliban runs one of the most brutal regimes in the world, without regard for basic human rights or the fundamental tenets of international law. I welcome yesterday's commitment from the British Prime Minister, in his speech to the British Labour Party conference, to support the people of Afghanistan. People outside the West are aware that, as often as not, the actions of the West do not always match its fine words.
Repression and violence are the hallmarks of the current junta in Kabul. If it were overthrown tomorrow, it would not be a day too soon. We must not, however, equate the Taliban with the people of Afghanistan, who have suffered appallingly during the past 20 years. The devastation inflicted on the country by the Cold War-fuelled civil war, which followed the Soviet invasion, has remained. While thousands of Afghan citizens eke out a miserable existence in refugee camps, even more of them face the prospect of malnutrition and starvation within Afghanistan. The humanitarian crisis facing the Afghan people has been rendered more acute by the terrorist acts of fanatics three weeks ago.
The Labour Party criticised the Government's unqualified offer of the use of Irish airports to the American Government. We cannot give a blank cheque for the use of force. Our arguments, as I have stated, are based on both moral and strategic grounds. Let there be no confusion. I share the same goals as enunciated clearly by the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the United Nations yesterday. I do not believe, however, that unilateral military action, which places the lives of innocent Afghans at risk, should play a part in the international campaign against terrorism. The Government was wrong to offer this blank cheque, especially as it did so without either informing or debating the proposal in this House. There was an opportunity to do so when we returned for a special debate to express sympathy to the people of the United States.
While the Labour Party has been critical of this aspect of Government policy, it fully supports other initiatives taken since 11 September. In particular, I fully supported the Taoiseach's recent visit to the Islamic community in Dublin. The attacks on the United States had nothing to do with religion. They were a world away from the rich and proud history that Islam has brought to this world, especially to European civilisation. Unfortunately, a tiny minority in society are so blinded by prejudice that they cannot see this reality. The Taoiseach did a good day's work by meeting and supporting the Muslim community in Ireland at this trying time.
The diplomatic challenge faced by the Government centres on Ireland's presidency of the UN Security Council. There has probably never been a more critical time for the UN in living memory, so our role is of vital importance. We should use our position to retain the broadest possible support against terrorism and to ensure that future actions have the backing of the United Nations. The scale of the attack on the United States has implications across the globe. Concerns about a global economic downturn and the implications for airline companies are two which come to mind. Later this week the Dáil will debate the situation faced by Aer Lingus.
There is one impact on Ireland to which I wish to draw attention. One of the most soul-destroying experiences of my life was to see the scourge of heroin take a grip on working class communities in Dublin during the 1980s. It was no coincidence that the widespread availability of heroin on the streets of Dublin and every other city in western Europe coincided with the civil strife which followed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the forced exile of the Shah of Iran. Opium is a cash crop and its mass production financed disparate bands of rebels and profiteers when civil society collapsed in Afghanistan. Iran provided a route for this heroin out of the region and onto the streets of our cities. There is a real danger that the current turmoil in Afghanistan will again result in western Europe being flooded by cheap heroin. It is truly a global trade. We have already lost too many lives to this pernicious drug to allow another generation become addicted. I urge the Government to refocus the efforts of the Garda and the Customs and Excise on stemming the tide of heroin that reaches our shores and causes havoc in communities where it takes a grip.
Three weeks after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsyl vania, shock and disbelief have given way to a mixture of outrage and deep sadness. The magnitude of the carnage is difficult to absorb. That we do not yet have a definitive death toll speaks for itself. When he visited ground zero in New York, my colleague, Deputy Cowen, confirmed that television cannot encapsulate the sheer horror of 6,300 people buried in the carnage of a site which is a graveyard. The world and its history were changed before our eyes in just 30 minutes on the morning of 11 September. We have known a fair share of wanton destruction and dastardly attacks on human life in this country. Our hearts have gone out to the victims, their relatives and friends and to the American people whose friendship we have always cherished. As time passes we hear more and more personal tales of tragedy, of fortunate escapes and of examples of enormous bravery. We can only imagine the horror and the suffering involved. The real solidarity displayed on our day of national mourning is testament to just how important the links between this country and the USA have been for generations past and for the present generation in terms of the importance of US investment in our country today.
Ireland is seeking to play its part in efforts to respond to the immediate terrorist threat by co-operating in police investigations and by opening our airspace and airports to aircraft operation in pursuit of UN Resolution 1368. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs said yesterday, Ireland is not neutral in the struggle against international terrorism.
The worldwide economic repercussions of 11 September are still being assessed. It is still too early to estimate a value of the losses to our tourism industry but there is no doubt the impact will be substantial in the short-term at least. In March this year I spoke here about the possible devastating impact on tourism if foot and mouth disease had spread to this country. Back then I thought that was the biggest setback that could befall the tourism industry, at least in one year. Unfortunately, just six months later we are facing potentially a far more serious threat to our fastest growing market.
Last year, Irish tourism generated £2.26 billion in foreign revenue and provided jobs for 150,000 people. Of the six million tourists we welcomed here, 1.1 million came from the United States, earning almost 700 million euro for our economy last year, 25% of our total tourism earnings.
Some 300,000 US visitors would have been expected to holiday here in the last four months of the current year and already Bord Fáilte expects considerably less than half this number to travel. The 2002 performance will depend on the US response to the attacks and its aftermath but in the light of the reaction by air carriers over the past three weeks we can expect a dramatic fall off in US visitor numbers next year and an inevitable knock-on effect on air travel generally across all markets. Our experience of the Gulf War at the beginning of the last decade suggests that it could take as long as three years to recover that market.
On the other hand, in the decade since the Gulf War, Ireland as a tourism destination has been strongly established in the United States market. This was achieved through highly effective marketing and dedicated effort over the years by Bord Fáilte, Aer Lingus and more recently by US carriers serving Ireland. In that context and bearing in mind the strength and resilience of the US economy we must think in terms of recovery and that is why we must maintain our presence in that market and prepare for better times. In particular, the maintenance of existing US gateways, developed at considerable expense over the years by Aer Lingus and other airlines, is critical to our performance in the immediate and long-term. My Department and Bord Fáilte are working with the Department of Public Enterprise and the air carriers to identify air routes of greatest strategic importance for Irish tourism.
However, there is no doubt that the recent terrorist attacks will lead to the first annual decline in visitor numbers for more than a decade. In the coming weeks we will need to monitor the nature, extent and duration of the response to this terrible atrocity and gauge what further impact it may have on people travelling. Unlike the foot and mouth crisis there is no incubation period, no date after which we can give the all clear and no specific deadline to start the recovery process. The fact is that at present Americans are afraid to fly and we do not know how long it will take for confidence in air travel to be regained. We must be patient and position ourselves to take advantage of the inevitable recovery, whenever it happens.
In the meantime, given the changed environment, it is vitally important that there is a root and branch reassessment of our tourism marketing strategies, including how and where we focus business, so that the substantial Exchequer funding already allocated for this area under the national development plan has maximum impact. In the short-term we will need to increase our focus on Britain, continental Europe and of course the domestic market. This work is now under way.
Since 11 September, both I and officials of my Department have met senior management of both Bord Fáilte and Tourism Ireland Limited, the new all island tourism marketing company, and a high level delegation from the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation, ITIC, to take stock of the situation. Last Thursday, Bord Fáilte and Tourism Ireland Limited confirmed that it was urgently re-examining, in consultation with the tourism industry and through the Tourism Marketing Partnership structure, their respective marketing programmes and plans for the remainder of 2001 and for 2002. Bord Fáilte announced a £750,000 programme of additional immediate measures for the British and Irish markets. Meanwhile, the new chief executive of Tourism Ireland Limited is already spearheading the review of marketing plans for 2002 with the intention of making a major announcement early next month in conjunction with the launch of a new advertising campaign for the island of Ireland. These moves have been welcomed by ITIC.
The Government is also very conscious of the important link between competitive air access and future tourism flows. An interdepartmental working group of senior officials which met today is considering options and proposals that would promote low cost access. The Government is happy to look at all proposals from the aviation sector that will give access to new markets. Given the changed circumstances, it is also important that we bed down as a matter of urgency the process of institutional change now under way in the tourism State agencies which have remained unchanged in structure since the early 1960s. It is also crucial that an orderly handover of responsibility to Tourism Ireland Limited is completed well in time for the 2002 marketing season. I welcome the initial positive expression of support from the Council of CERT and the board of Bord Fáilte to the proposed creation of a new integrated tourism development agency. My intention is that we have in place strong structures to implement our medium term plans for international marketing, product and human resource development, as contained in the national development plan, to help the tourism industry meet the major challenges that lie ahead.
The tourism sector is characterised by its partnership approach to the development of the industry. Its success over the past ten years is in no small part due to that partnership approach. Most recently that partnership dealt very effectively with the foot and mouth crisis. I am confident the same approach will see this most resilient of industries through these most challenging times.
Deputy Noonan, at the end of quite a good contribution, unfortunately became somewhat political.
We are politicians. That is our job.
He stated that the downturn for this economy started some four and a half months ago and that this Government had to accept the blame, in some way, for the downturn in the American economy and the foot and mouth situation.
The Irish economy.
Yet even without these matters, economies such as those of Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia and practically every European country are faring much worse than we are. He mentioned the area of health as an example and waiting lists in particular. He should recall that when he was Minister for Health and Deputy Quinn was Minister for Finance, they cut investment in the waiting lists from £12 million to £8 million in their short period in power. Can the people of this country possibly trust the Deputy on the issue of health? That is the question the people will have to answer at the next general election. They have set themselves up on pedestals as angels of some sort, but the Irish people must decide who to trust to bring them through this era of turbulence. Would they prefer a competent Government to incompetent angels? I believe they would prefer the former, as they have indicated over the past four years.
I wish to share time with Deputy Coveney.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
It is important that we do more than express our support for and sympathy and solidarity with the American people and all those involved in the fight against international terrorism. There is a danger that we will simply make the right noises and consider that to be sufficient. There is also a danger that we will feel we have played our part through our chairmanship of the UN Security Council. There is a duty and responsibility on all countries to do what they can to ensure those responsible for the horrific acts of violence of 11 September are brought to justice and we must do all we can within our domestic jurisdictions to prevent further acts of terrorism. The Government will be judged in accordance with these criteria, not on its fine words and flowery phrases.
On the issue of making our airport and intelligence facilities available, it would have been utterly ridiculous for Ireland to have been the only country in the western world not to share such facilities in the fight against international terrorism. Such a course of action would have been quite unacceptable. However, the Government is to be criticised for the almost casual manner in which the Taoiseach made the announcement on this serious matter. I do not concur with those who state that the decision necessitated a Dáil motion pursuant to Article 28.3.1º of the Constitution as we were not involved in a declaration of war and were not participating in any war. A special sitting of the Dáil was convened on 18 September and it was entirely inappropriate that the Taoiseach did not outline his intention to make these facilities available during his address on that occasion.
The announcement should have been made as part of a package outlining our areas of priority in dealing with this international crisis. I made it clear that I wanted to see a major focus on the humanitarian aspect of this crisis and welcome yesterday's announcement by the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Donnell. I hope it marks the spearheading of an approach to dealing with the humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan. We must also focus on the sequestration of assets and I have promoted the establishment of an international criminal assets bureau in which I hope Ireland will be instrumental.
We must identify the action we ourselves can take to address these matters and the Government has been found wanting in this regard. Flowery prose is not sufficient. Last June, the people of Ireland approved the establishment of an international criminal court, provided the necessary constitutional framework was made available. Legislation is required for us to ratify the court's establishment. On 27 June, I tabled a parliamentary question on this issue to the Minister for Foreign Affairs to which he replied that the necessary implementing legislation was being prepared by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and would have to be passed by the Oireachtas. He stated that the early ratification of the Statute of Rome to enable Ireland to ratify the court remained a priority for his Department. One would think that such a priority would result in the inclusion of the necessary legislation in the Government's legislative programme published after 11 September at a time when one might have expected that priority to be heightened.
The legislative programme is divided into three parts, the first of which outlines Bills expected to be published before Christmas, but the implementing legislation is not included therein. The second section outlines the heads of Bills approved by Government for which texts are in preparation and it is expected that this legislation will be published in 2002, but the required legislation is not included in this section either. The final section treats of 57 Bills for which heads have yet to be approved by the Government, but, again, the legislation in question is not included. By its fruits shall the Government be known. There is popular support for the ratification of the Statute of Rome to enable the establishment of the International Criminal Court, but the Government has not taken the necessary legislative steps to facilitate this. I demand this be done as it is the very least we should do at this stage.
I want to address the reports that associates of Osama bin Laden were issued with Irish passports under the passports for sale scheme. I feel very strongly about the abuses which occurred under this scheme between 1988 and 1994 which I have highlighted on many occasions. I have made it clear that the law was flouted in the issuance of such passports until 1994 when Máire Geoghegan-Quinn took over as Minister for Justice and issued guidelines on passports which were subsequently followed. I want to know how Sheikh Mahfouz was issued with 11 passports during that period. No satisfactory answer has been provided to this question and it is now all the more critical that this issue be addressed in the light of the fact that this man is a brother-in-law and associate of bin Laden's. I want to know the circumstances in which the passports were issued and whether they have been withdrawn. I also want to know whether the naturalisation processes have been rescinded.
We will discuss the issues confronting us in greater detail in coming months. The Government will be judged on the actions it takes in response to this crisis. The Government must define what it means by "international terrorism". To me, terrorism is the same whether it occurs in Omagh, County Louth – where arms dumps will ultimately be located – or Canary Wharf. We must pursue the fight against domestic terrorism, republican or loyalist, to the ultimate degree. I mention the loyalists, in particular, arising from the recent murder of Martin O'Hagan. I am concerned that at times people appear to have a sneaking regard for those involved in terrorism. That was certainly the case in the past, although I hope it is no longer true. We must be absolutely clear that terrorism of any kind is unacceptable, a view endorsed by the Irish people in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement.
The issue of neutrality was referred to. There is great ambiguity on this matter, particularly in the Fianna Fáil Party. The time is ripe when those ambiguities should be resolved and it is now opportune for the Government to issue a White Paper on the matter. I will conclude on that point and leave the remaining five minutes to my colleague, Deputy Coveney.
I thank Deputy Jim O'Keeffe for sharing his time with me. The shock, the horror, the anger and the deep sense of sadness that most people in Ireland have felt since the US atrocities of 11 September will make that day an unforgettable one for us. The scale and impact of the world's most powerful, prosperous and secure nation being attacked in its capital and commercial centre by such a grotesque and barbarous act of terror against innocent people, quite simply numbed me as in disbelief I watched events unfold on live television. People in Ireland have shared some of the grief, given the loss of life of Irish citizens, including cousins of a member of my political party. With generosity of spirit our people have express sympathy to all American families that have suffered loss or injury.
Three weeks have now passed since this attack. In this house we have a responsibility to show leadership and direction in how we should respond to the events of 11 September. America and her military allies have declared war on international terrorism. However, I am relieved they have shown restraint, so far, and are considering an appropriate and effective response with set goals and targets. Clearly there is an acceptance at present among NATO members that the building of a world alliance in the fight against terrorism is all important and that the slaughter of innocent civilians in any military response may add to suffering and to the threat of further terrorist activity rather than reducing it. A US policy of restraint and caution has resulted in a move away from a situation whereby a clash between east and west, or Islam verses the democratic world, could develop into a reality that certain evil people would wish for.
In this context, Ireland can play an important role, as the country holding the chair of the UN Security Council for the next month. The Security Council has already passed a resolution, unequivocal in its condemnation of the attacks, which stresses that those responsible for aiding, supporting or protecting the people responsible for these atrocities must be held to account. Any country or group of countries has the right to defend itself under the UN Charter, and the US clearly intends to do this by declaring war on terrorism. However, Ireland's role can be a significant one. As chair of the UN Security Council, we can promote co-operation and consensus building between nations, which is all important to ensure that internationally acceptable decisions are taken in the response to this atrocity. I wish the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Brian Cowen, well in his crucial role as chairperson and I can assure him of very constructive support and advice from my party, should he look for it.
I welcome the Taoiseach's statement this evening, outlining Ireland's commitments to co-operate with international efforts to seize funds used to sponsor terrorist groups. I also welcome the fact that we have decided to offer the US military the use of Irish airports for refuelling. However I would have been more comfortable with this decision if it had been debated in detail by this House before a decision was made.
Along with our international obligations, the tragic events in the US also require leadership at home on this island. We must ensure that the 15,000 strong Islamic community, for example, is not victimised because of ignorant or biased attitudes in certain people who may link them to events in the US because of their skin colour or religious beliefs.
In relation to terrorism itself, unfortunately we are all too familiar with the destruction, hatred and deep sorrow which is the result of terrorist activity in pursuit of an objective. There is no longer an acceptable or credible argument that can be made which promotes the continued existence of private armies in a functioning democratic state such as ours. Political parties backed up or supported by private armed groups need to make a choice now. We voted, North and South, in the Good Friday Agreement, to reject emphatically the further use of violence in pursuit of political objectives. If we have learned anything from the tragedy and pain in the US it is that the distinction can no longer be made between freedom-fighter and terrorist in a free and democratic state such as the one we live in. I appeal to those in political parties linked to armed paramilitaries, whether they be loyalist or republican, many of whom I believe are committed to a new way and to democracy, to break those links and to encourage the decommissioning of arms. Perhaps then the very dark clouds of 11 September will have a small but very significant silver lining for this small island.
I wish to share my time with the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy. In the aftermath of the appalling attacks against the people of the United States, the protracted humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has received renewed international attention. The world is now having to contend with a crisis of international terrorism, on the one hand, alongside a looming humanitarian disaster.
In focusing on the humanitarian dimension, we should recognise that there have been many contributory factors and that these date from long before 11 September and its aftermath. Twenty-three years of conflict have been aggravated by the last three years of severe drought. This has created a legacy of suffering, uprooted families, human rights abuse, poverty and starvation for the Afghan people. Even without the repercussions of the dark events of 11 September, the prospects for these people were being worsened by a threat of nature that is the oncoming bleak winter during which temperatures plummet to below minus fifteen degrees and entire localities become inaccessible. The international community effectively has until the middle of November to put the necessary emergency stocks in place before winter sets in. We must reinvigorate our efforts of last year when wide-scale starvation was averted through the assistance which Ireland and other donors provided. It is essential that we build rapidly on the incremental success of aid agencies, including Irish NGOs, in restoring essential food supplies to Kabul and other locations. In briefing the Minister for Foreign Affairs last Monday in New York, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that three to five million people are likely to starve unless food supplies get through in the near future.
In early September, the World Food Programme launched a US$151 million appeal to meet existing emergency needs and the onset of winter in Afghanistan. More than 700,000 people were already uprooted within the country, with in excess of 3 million more scattered into neighbouring countries. These figures have been increasing. We know, from the work of Irish NGOs and other aid agencies whom Ireland Aid supports that families have been struggling to survive in Afghanistan and selling essential items such as blankets and livestock to obtain basic food items or seed. This means that families have already undermined their ability to survive the harshness of winter in their struggle to survive the drought of summer. In purely material terms, therefore, their ability to cope with the adversities of winter is already diminished.
The Government has been responding with continued emergency assistance. The package of £2.8 million which the Government announced this week is the biggest ever for a single emer gency. This reflects the enormous gravity of this crisis. It reflects also the importance which the Government and Irish people attach to finding a lasting solution to this protracted humanitarian tragedy. Last October, we decided to support the work of the World Food Programme, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent and Christian Aid Ireland in Afghanistan and to give ongoing priority to what was then called a forgotten emergency. We provided initially £1.6 million in support of emergency programmes and this week we have added £2.8 million. This brings our assistance to Afghanistan to a total of £4 million during 2001. These accumulated responses are a tangible expression of our international humanitarian commitment. They represent a determined effort on our part to address the acute humanitarian problem. We are seeking to do this in a manner which, in co-operation with the international donor community, can be of enduring benefit for all the people of Afghanistan and can help to build a lasting peace and stability there.
I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the United Nations, Red Cross, Red Crescent and Irish NGO communities which have maintained their humanitarian commitment to Afghanistan, even during those times when their work went largely unnoticed. The Government is happy to have been able to support them in that endeavour and to be able to help them in meeting the latest challenges which they face in delivering help to those who most need it. The latest aid package is divided equally between NGOs, including GOAL, Trócaire, Christian Aid Ireland and Concern, and the international UN and Red Cross agencies.
Our aid continues to meet a broad range of immediate, basic needs, including emergency feeding and drought assistance, mine victim support, health, water and sanitation. This aid is aimed not only at those at risk within Afghanistan, but also at those refugees gathering on the borders. The emergency assistance unit of Ireland Aid is in regular contact with those NGOs and members of the UN and Red Cross families which are being funded. These implementing partners are also being given additional flexibility to make the Irish response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan all the more effective. The gradual return of international aid workers who had been relocated for safety reasons is warmly welcomed and the Government will make every effort to ensure they can continue to do their work in safety. Along with the gradual resumption of food supplies, this has the potential to restore the effectiveness of those programmes which local supporting staff had, with inspiring courage, been striving to maintain in the absence of the foreign workers.
The Government is taking all appropriate action to support an effective humanitarian response to the ongoing needs of the people of Afghanistan which can have lasting effect. The main priorities of this strategy are: resuming essential food and other supplies to the hundreds of thousands at risk within the country; ensuring essential aid gets to those in most need before winter and that those delivering it have unimpeded and unhindered access; and keeping borders open in order that aid agencies and their staff can respond effectively to any deepening of the refugee crisis.
In addition to pursuing these issues bilaterally and at UN level, the Government will also raise them at the special meeting of EU Development Ministers which has been called for l0 October. This will discuss how the European Union can best respond to humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and how development support can create the necessary conditions for a lasting, inclusive peace in that country.
Some 4 million in humanitarian relief has been made available by the European Commission. This is in addition to that being made available by Ireland and other member states and to the 23.3 million already provided by the Commission this year. This represents a total commitment by the European Commission of 27.3 million so far this year.
The World Food Programme appeal which was made in early September recognised that well over five million people were at risk. During this week's meetings of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, with key humanitarian players in New York even higher figures were being quoted. To put this in perspective, this would be an emergency five times that of the refugee crisis which arose in Goma following the appalling genocide perpetrated in Rwanda in 1994. This would, as then, have enormous regional and international repercussions.
Having been there for those suffering in the Great Lakes region during that terrible crisis, post-genocide, it is only right that we should be there for those innocent people suffering in Afghanistan as we try to resolve the first major international crisis of the new millennium.
The brutality and wickedness of the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September were an affront to humanity. It is very difficult, so close to the event, to assess the full economic impact of the terrorist attacks in the United States. However, one thing is clear. The short-term impact will be to reduce economic activity, both globally and in Ireland. It will add to economic uncertainty and volatility for the period ahead.
Even before the terrorist attacks, the major world economies, the United States, the European Union and Japan, had already slowed significantly. Commentators have remarked that this was the first time since 1982 that all three major economic areas were underperforming at the same time.
There is no doubt that the impact on the US economy of the attacks will be substantial. However, the extent and duration of the impact on the United States will depend heavily on the effect on US consumer confidence. The latest figures from the United States show a continued fall in consumer confidence there.
Oil prices are also likely to play an important role in the world economic outlook. While Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have both given assurances that any disruptions to oil supplies will be neutralised, if oil prices were to rise sharply, then this would have a negative impact on all the economies of the world.
Due to these uncertainties and the unknown impact on the world economy of any military response, commentators differ on how long any potential rebound in the United States might be delayed. However, it is not expected before mid-2002 at the earliest.
As regards the impact of the attacks on Europe, a slowing of economic growth must be anticipated. However, the effect is likely to be less severe in the European Union than elsewhere in order that it can return to sustainable growth levels. The increasingly open nature of the Irish economy has, if anything, made us more dependent on developments in the world economy than before. Therefore, by impacting on the world economy, the terrorist attacks will obviously have unfavourable implications for us.
We, in Ireland, had already expected to be affected by the US slowdown. The latest tax figures published yesterday confirm that the Irish economy is slowing. Tax inflows to the end of September show an increase of 2.2% over receipts in the same period last year compared to a budget target of 12.5% over the 2000 outturn.
The main effect of the US developments will be felt in 2002. Private sector leading indicators, tax revenue and housing data had already indicated that there would be a reduced carry-over of growth from 2001 into 2002. The main channels through which the Irish economy will be affected will be exports and investment.
As regards exports, the United States accounts for almost 18% of our exports and there is no doubt that our exports to the United States will be affected. If we regard tourism as an export, the effect on Irish exports will be greater still. A key risk to the export outlook would be a sharp and significant fall in the value of the dollar and sterling against the euro which, if it occurred, would impact on our competitiveness at a time when wage increases remain high. The US slowdown had already led to some weakening of the dollar and sterling against the euro. Continued weakening of the dollar and sterling would make Irish exports less competitive and reduce export growth further. That is the reason we must ensure wage and cost developments generally do not add to our exposure on the competitiveness front. We need to adapt our expectations to the new economic environment.
Minister, time is very limited. Deputy John Bruton wants to know if you will concede for about 30 seconds?
Do I have much time left, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle?
We will give you injury time.
May I clarify if it is the Minister's policy that we should continue to have the euro comparatively weak against the dollar? Is that something he favours?
It has never been my policy to have a weak or a strong euro. It is a function of the markets as to how the euro performs against all currencies. The Deputy will have noted during the years that I have never given any views on how I expect the euro to go for obvious good reasons.
I am glad I asked the question because the Minister sounded as if he was favouring a weakening euro.
No, I was just pointing out the obvious. If the euro was to—
The Minister is above pointing out the obvious.
The Minister to continue without interruption.
I was pointing out the obvious in that if the dollar and sterling were to weaken against the euro or if the euro was to appreciate against the dollar and sterling – whichever way one wants to look at it – that, too, would have a negative impact on Irish exports.
Foreign direct investment from the United States, in particular, has been one of the main driving forces behind our record growth rates of recent years. Employment in IDA assisted firms represents 8.5% of total employment. The ICT sector is also of particular importance for Ireland as it accounted for almost 40% of Irish exports and 6% of total employment in 2000. Job losses had already been increasing significantly in this sector before the US terrorist attacks. We had already expected a reduction and delay of foreign direct investment and a negative impact on the ICT sector due to the slowdown in the United States. The attacks on 11 September will now only further reduce and delay investment from there.
As regards the impact of the attacks on Irish inflation, in the short term weaker global demand and lower Irish growth can be expected to have a dampening effect on inflation here. Interest rates and oil prices have already come down. If the global downturn were to be accompanied by a depreciation of the dollar and sterling against the euro or further reductions in euro area interest rates, there would also be further beneficial implications for inflation.
Growth in Ireland this year will be lower than had been previously forecast, both this year and in 2002. The resulting lower tax receipts will reduce our room for manoeuvre on the budgetary front. Recent events underline the need for a prudent approach to the public finances, particularly over coming months in order to ensure the economy weathers the present global difficulties. However, I have no doubt that the Irish economy is in good condition and that with the right approach we can pass through the short-term difficulties with which the global environment has presented us. I am confident that in the medium term, as the global economic environment improves, we can return to acceptable levels of economic growth which will benefit all of us.
I was in the United States last week. I believe the American people are willing to make very large sacrifices in their attempt to eliminate terrorism. The initial feelings of vengeance that were voiced by some politicians have subsided and have been replaced by a quiet, deliberate determination. The outpouring of American patriotism is truly impressive to behold. There is a sense of a coming together among the American people, based on their allegiance to their institutions, which is truly admirable.
This is no Vietnam, there is none of the moral doubt that existed about that war from its outset. There is, however, among many thinking Americans, a considerable remaining doubt about the exact war aims that are being pursued in this war. Is it directed only against those responsible for these attacks and their accomplices? Is it directed against all terrorist networks – including those uninvolved with the 11 September attack, or is its further objective one of changing the Government of Afghanistan? I am not sure that the American people are yet clear as to whether all three objectives are America's war aims or whether only the first objective applies.
War aims must be clear from the outset if the country waging the war is not to sink into a bog as casualties mount. Broadening war aims to include all terrorist networks, including those not involved on 11 September, could involve attacks on a long list of countries. The United Nations Security Council's Resolution 1368 calls on states to bring the perpetrators of the 11 September attacks to justice. That is clear. The resolution also calls on those responsible for harbouring or aiding the perpetrators to be "held accountable". That is not quite so clear. The latter part of the resolution is the presumed legal justification for military attacks on Afghanistan, if these are to take place, and for Ireland making its airports available to that end.
Authoritative evidence should be made public as to the involvement of bin Laden with the attack on America. In his speech yesterday, the Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, referred to evidence involving bin Laden with other terrorist attacks, but did not produce evidence in regard to this attack. It is clear that bin Laden is being harboured by the Taliban regime, but for an attack on Afghanistan to be justified the evidence of his involvement with the 11 September attacks should be made public first. Protecting sources is not a sufficient excuse for not making the information public.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 sets out an attempt at a global response to global terrorism. It contains an agenda of action – including exchange of information, actions to prevent terrorism, and ways to deal with asylum seekers in that context – and establishes a committee to report back to the Security Council within 90 days. The resolution, however, does not deal with three important matters. It does not deal with the harmonisation of extradition rules, it does not contain a definition of terrorism, either in legal or political terms, and it does not deal with the failure of some countries to submit to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court or to ratify existing conventions on terrorism. The Government and the Minister for Foreign Affairs should use their position on the United Nations Security Council to remedy these deficiencies in Resolution 1373 at the earliest opportunity.
If we have no definition of terrorism, how can we wage war against it? If we have no common extradition rules, how can we interpret the words of the UN resolution relating to harbouring the perpetrators of the attack of 11 September 2001? These are real questions to which answers should be made available by the United Nations.
The British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, yesterday told the Taliban it should surrender the terrorists or surrender power. That is a very succinct war aim. However, it suggests that Britain at least is prepared to become involved in the Afghan civil war if bin Laden is not surrendered. This could be a long war. The terrain is unfavourable to the sort of intervention on the ground that would be necessary to make the Taliban surrender power.
Deputy Quinn of the Labour Party has said that he opposes the granting of use of our airports to United States forces. His position is very different to that of Mr. Tony Blair. Ireland should grant use of its airports but, while it may not be legally required to do so, the Government should do so on the basis of a resolution adopted by this House which would set out in explicit terms the war aims Ireland is prepared to support. In this instance, there are war aims we should support and we should support them perhaps to an even greater degree than merely granting the use of our airports. We should support a war to achieve the extradition of the 11 September attackers and their accomplices. However, the inclusion of wider aims such as dismantling terrorist networks not involved in the events of 11 September is premature. In addition, changing the Government of Afghanistan is not an appropriate war aim on its own account.
We should put our own house in order before we emote about terrorism in other parts of the world. The retention by the IRA of its private arsenal, in defiance of the will of the people and as a continuing threat to others, is terrorism by any definition. The Irish Government and security forces now know the location of the IRA's arms. If these are not handed over in the five week period remaining after the suspension of the institutions, they should be seized by the Garda and the Army. It is simply not acceptable that IRA arsenals should be tolerated on the sovereign territory of this State. The existence of such arsenals – regardless of whether the weapons they contain are currently in use – is, in itself, a terrorist threat. Our security forces know the location of these weapons and they should go and get them if the IRA does not hand them over.
Last Thursday evening I stood on ground zero in lower Manhattan, New York. Up until three weeks ago, this had been the site of one of the great landmark buildings of the world; a centre of global enterprise with an international work force, a commercial united nations. What I saw, through the hazy smoke of the fires which still burned below ground, was an enormous mound of twisted steel and broken rubble under which were buried the bodies of more than 5,000 human beings.
It was for me a traumatic, emotional and deeply saddening experience. Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer immensity of the destruction to property but even far more shocking was that on this spot, on that terrible Tuesday morning, thousands of innocent people going about their daily business had been slaughtered in the name of an evil hatred.
More than three weeks on from the attacks, the scale of the devastation is still only being guessed at. Estimates of the number of people killed in the World Trade Center are still imprecise. The figures are being revised downwards but, sadly, not by much. The number of Irish casualties is still not known precisely. My Department currently lists five confirmed Irish fatalities with eight people still missing. Sadly, other Irish citizens, not yet notified to us, may have been caught up in the tragedy.
There were, tragically, very many Irish-American casualties of this atrocity. The human aspect of its impact on the Irish-American community was brought home forcefully and poignantly to me last Sunday when I attended the memorial service at the Holy Trinity Church on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The congregation, made up of Irish, Americans, and those who are proud to be both, was united in its grief as the names of the dead and missing were individually called out in the church by their families and friends. I have never felt the bonds between our two countries more strongly and I assured the congregation, on behalf of all of us, that Ireland stood solidly with them at this terrible time.
Throughout my visit to New York and Washington, I was particularly touched by the heartfelt appreciation of the immense and ongoing efforts of the staff of our consulate general in New York, our embassy in Washington and consulate general in Boston to assist Irish citizens caught up in the terrible events. I had the opportunity to thank them in person on behalf of the Government and I know that the House will wish to join me in acknowledging their contribution which is in the best tradition of the Irish public service.
What happened in the United States on 11 September 2001 has truly global implications which affect each and every one of us in one way or other. At the most immediate level, we have the sense of living in a less secure world. Nobody can guarantee that the terrorists will not attack again. Nobody can say with any certainty where any future attacks would be targeted. Nobody can predict what means of attack the terrorist might use. Those who appear to be behind the attacks of 11 September have struck at targets in a number of different countries, with no regard to the number or nationality of those who they murdered.
We are already beginning to feel the tangible economic impact of what took place on 11 September. Business confidence has been shaken, international travel has fallen off and in Ireland, the tourism industry has experienced the direct impact of the atrocity. Given the commitment of the United States and its friends not to give in to terrorism or to give comfort to those who would seek to terrorise them, I hope they will show the necessary resilience in bringing things back to normality as quickly as possible.
However, there is a less obvious but more fundamental implication for what has happened. The international community has experienced a direct assault on the universal freedoms and values on which our increasingly global society is based. The terrorists who struck on 11 September exploited many of these freedoms – freedom to travel, freedom to seek employment, freedom of financial movements – to build up their networks for their attack on the free world.
The international community has no option but to respond to this challenge to our security, our prosperity and our fundamental freedoms and values. In doing so, we must seek to uphold these freedoms and values and, thereby, bring stark relief to the differences which divide those who uphold our values and those, hiding in our midst, who would seek to destroy them.
The Government will ensure that Ireland plays a part commensurate with its commitment to an international order based on liberty, justice, respect for human rights and the rule of law. This carries a particularly direct responsibility during October when we hold the Presidency of the UN Security Council. My primary purpose in travelling to Washington and New York last week was for detailed discussions, in advance of our Presidency, with members of the Council and others on how we can address the urgent challenges which confront us.
Yesterday, when I addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations, I argued that the fight against international terrorism needs to take place on three levels. First, as member states of the United Nations, we must do all we can, in accordance with Resolution 1368, to bring to justice the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of the attacks of 11 September and to prevent further such atrocities. Second, we must combine in a longer-term initiative to defeat the monster of international terrorism by choking its funds, cutting its supply of munitions and technical support and denying it the bases from which it plans and prepares its actions. Third, we must redouble our efforts to put an end to the many conflicts and injustices, which, while they can never, ever justify the horrors of 11 September, are exploited by the terrorists to garner support for their warped philosophies.
As I said in this House on 18 September, we must restore the primacy of the concept of compromise. Where compromise is absent, conflict, violence, misery and death occur. I am convinced that no other way offers us the potential to make significant progress in the many disputes which plague our world, whether they are in the Middle East, the Balkans or in African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. This search for a spirit of compromise is at the core of our approach to conflict resolution.
Since 11 September, we are in a different world. The political, economic, financial and humanitarian impacts are already being felt world wide. There are few certainties any more. We have been challenged as never before to produce a new and better world, a world where our guiding principles of justice and peace have surely been reinforced, albeit through a tragedy of appalling proportions. We must now focus, in common and collective action, on the fight against the scourge of terrorism. The Security Council moved quickly and effectively to respond to these challenges, through its Resolutions 1368 and 1373.
During my visit to the US I met many determined people ranging from political leaders and diplomats to firemen and police officers. I took great comfort and strength from their determination. If the international community can find the collective resolve, it can use this opportunity to reinvigorate the system of international co-operation. We can bring about just solutions to the conflicts which scar our world and bring justice to those who struggle to maintain their very existence.
The European Council which met on 21 September gave a clear political impetus to confronting the challenge of terrorism. Urgent work is under way in various Council formations to evolve concrete measures for consideration and adoption by the European Council in Laeken next December. European Union dialogue with the US is being intensified. We are ready, with our partners, to take whatever action is necessary to ensure international peace and security. In this regard, the Government has already decided to accelerate work on the signature and ratification by Ireland of existing international anti-terrorism conventions.
My meeting with the Secretary of State Colin Powell on 26 September primarily focused on actions to counter terrorism in the aftermath of the attacks on the US, particularly through our joint efforts in the Security Council. We also reviewed the situation in the Middle East and in Iraq. I took the opportunity to update the Secretary of State on the Northern Ireland peace process and to express appreciation for the strong and continuing support of the United States. We both agreed there is an urgent responsibility on all sides to live up to their obligations and to ensure the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
Colin Powell expressed his appreciation of Ireland's solidarity and support, reflected in the national day of mourning, – and in the Government's offer of over flight and other facilities. He offered his condolences in respect of Irish victims of the terrorist attack. For my part, I expressed the profound sorrow and regret of the Irish people at the events of 11 September. I offered the support of Ireland for the efforts of the US Government to build an international coalition to deal comprehensively with international terrorism. I formally conveyed to the Secretary of State the Irish Government's offer of over flight and landing facilities.
Secretary of State, Mr. Powell, told me the US Government was enormously gratified by the support of bodies such as the Security Council, UN General Assembly, the EU, the organisation of Islamic states and a wide range of countries. Support for the campaign against terrorism would be varied but the US welcomed support according to each country's ability to offer it. The Secretary of State was very clear in his perspective that the international campaign against terrorism would be multi-faceted. He was equally clear that any military response should not be seen as a clash between Islam and the west. The vast majority of Muslims world wide were just as horrified as anyone else at these atrocities.
The Secretary of State, Mr. Powell cited President Bush's determination to engage in a long-term campaign against terrorist networks located in many countries. He regretted the Taliban regime's failure to respond to the demand of the Security Council to hand over Osama bin Laden. He assured me that if military force is used, it will be careful and calibrated. I emphasised to the Secretary the imperative, as Ireland saw it, that any military response be measured, proportional and avoid as far as possible the risk of inflicting civilian casualties.
It might be useful to recall the comments of UN Secretary General Annan yesterday when he was asked if more consultations were needed before any US military strike. The Secretary General said that the Security Council resolution had described the attack as a threat to international peace and security and had reaffirmed the right of individual and collective self-defence. Mr. Powell also fully acknowledged the concern of the entire international community with regard to the humanitarian situation. He noted that the US was the largest contributor to the humanitarian relief efforts in Afghanistan.
During my visit to the UN, I held discussions with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, other senior UN officials, heads of delegation of other SECCO members and heads of the UN oil-for-food and office of Iraq programmes. Following on from Resolution 1368 of 12 September, the Security Council on 28 September unanimously adopted Resolution 1373 after two days of negotiation. The resolution imposes obligations on member states under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and particularly emphasises measures that must be taken to combat the financing of terrorism. Member states are obliged to criminalise the possession or collection of funds for terrorist acts and freeze the funds, financial assets or economic resources of those who commit, participate in or facilitate terrorist acts and to report on actions taken to those ends within 90 days.
We will do all in our power to ensure that the committee to be established to monitor the implementation of the resolution by all member states is operational as soon as possible. In this regard, I hope that it will be possible to reach an early agreement on the structure and chairmanship of the committee. I assure the House that Ireland played a full role in the intensive discussions on the drafting of this resolution, in particular in seeking to ensure that the necessary balance was struck between the need, on the one hand, to tackle terrorism more effectively, but not, on the other, at the expense of the observance of fundamental human rights. Our efforts received the commendation of several council members following the adoption of this resolution.
The UN Security Council has been demanding the closure of terrorist camps in areas controlled by the Taliban for the past three years. The Security Council has also been demanding that Osama bin Laden be handed over for trial. The council has been rebuffed in both these demands, despite the imposition of stringent sanctions by the international community against the Taliban regime. Those who committed these acts of terror and those who supported them can no longer be allowed to defy the will of the international community.
The Government is extremely concerned about the plight of the Afghan people. There are already millions of Afghans living as refugees in neighbouring countries or as displaced persons in their own country. They are the victims of drought, civil war and, in some cases, the Taliban regime which controls 90% of the national territory. The current crisis is causing further population movements out of the major cities and towards the frontier.
Over several years Ireland has consistently sought to highlight the humanitarian situation of the Afghan people at the UN. In part due to our efforts, the Security Council has decided to keep the situation under constant review. Let there be no doubt as to those primarily responsible for the hardship imposed on the Afghan people. The UN Secretary General has firmly laid this responsibility on the Taliban regime.
A £2.8 million grant aid package for Afghanistan was announced on Monday by the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell. This package, the largest ever for a single emergency, will continue to support the work of Irish NGOs and the main international agencies in responding to the crisis in Afghanistan. Along with the £1.2 million already provided since January, this brings the total assistance provided by Ireland Aid for Afghanistan in 2001 to £4 million. The Government stands ready to consider further assistance in the light of developments. We do not see any alternative to a long-term and permanent political settlement in Afghanistan. We will ensure that this objective remains to the forefront of international concern and efforts during Ireland's presidency of the Security Council in October.
There is concern about the impact and implications of a US military response. The US shares with all states the inherent right to individual or collective self-defence, recognised under Article 51 of the UN Charter. It has suffered a vicious attack, the latest and by the far the most deadly in a long series of attacks on US targets. It believes it may be the subject of further attacks planned and controlled by persons who are sheltered and sustained by the government or de facto authorities of another state. There can be little doubt that action by way of self-defence is justified under international law as long as the response is proportionate.
In offering over flight and refuelling facilities to states whose forces are engaged in bringing to justice those who carried out or assisted in the dreadful attacks on the United States and are seeking to prevent further such attacks, Ireland is living up to its responsibilities under Resolution 1368, as now reinforced by Resolution 1373. It can be seen as a tangible expression of our solidarity with the American people in the face of the terrible unprovoked onslaught of 11 September. Our offer to a country and a people who have in difficult times in the past supported Ireland is both right and honourable.
Concerns have been expressed that this might mean that Ireland will soon be involved in a war. This is not so. We continue our policy of military neutrality. We have not joined any military alliance and we are not committing Irish troops to action. The Government is simply acting to assist a concerted international response to deal with appalling acts of international terrorism pursuant to UN resolutions. Most emphatically, Ireland is not neutral between freedom and terrorism. We have never been neutral in the face of international terrorism or in our unambiguous support of the United Nations. The offer of facili ties was not raised in the special Dáil debate on 18 September for the simple reason that the Government, in a fluid and fast evolving situation, was still considering the options open to it at the time of the debate. It used the opportunity of the special European Council to formally announce its offer. No discourtesy was intended since no decision had been taken at that stage.
If innocent lives are to be protected, it is necessary to stand against those with intent to carry out indiscriminate acts of terrorism. However, the Government expects any military response to be proportionate, measured and focused on the pursuit of justice. The Government will monitor the situation carefully and will continue to pursue a multi-faceted response to the current crisis. This will involve direct assistance in efforts to bring to justice those behind the attacks on the US, co-operation in efforts in the UN and EU frameworks to combat international terrorism and determined efforts to address the conflicts and injustices on which terrorism preys.
We will support action in conformity with the UN Charter or in pursuit of Security Council Resolutions against those who planned, supported and carried out these attacks. The US Government has made clear that it is embarking on a long and difficult campaign which will be pursued on a wide front, using diplomatic, military, economic and police assets. It has recognised the need to build the support of a broad, international coalition to act in a targeted manner and to offer clear justification for any action.
Since the dreadful attacks of 11 September, intensive efforts in various fora have been under way to improve the methods and responses available to the international community in combating terrorism. Ireland has been, and will continue to be, in the forefront of these efforts in the Security Council and with our partners in the European Union we will play our full and active part in this critical international effort.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Dukes.
The outrageous terrorism visited on the United States last month illustrates how frail can be the security we take for granted. This is as true for Europe as it is for the United States. We live in a changed Europe which is no longer bitterly divided between two blocs. It is increasingly coming together in an enlarged European Union. This Union has security needs and Ireland has a role to play in meeting and shaping these needs. On this issue, sloganeering and playing on the fears of people has been a substitute for policy advocacy in Ireland for too long. Our neutrality to which the Minister has just referred may now leave us vulnerable to attack. Can we defend American interests in Ireland, which are also Irish interests, from terrorist attack? I doubt it, but we have an opportunity to participate in building an EU defence entity which would reduce our vulnerability. Europe is moving ahead on security co-operation and Ireland will face crucial decisions about what its role should be. It is time to stop pretending these issues are not on the agenda. If we put the issues openly to the people and allow for reasoned debate instead of fear-mongering, we might bring about EU security and defence structures which serve Ireland's and the EU's best interests and more people might vote in EU referenda.
Fine Gael favoured joining Partnership for Peace through the front door and not through any side door entrance while the public looked the other way. We set out our position in the 1996 foreign policy White Paper and we published policy documents on PfP in January 1998. We have also set out our policy on future EU security. The time has come for an open debate on Ireland's role in the evolving European security architecture. It is wrong to suggest that consensus exists on this issue. We have been given a warning by what happened in New York and it is time we took that warning seriously.
Serious unrest in the Balkans has seen tens of thousands killed, injured, raped and ethnically cleansed. The view from the UN, where Ireland is a current member of the Security Council and has just taken the chair, is that Europe must take the lead role in resolving conflict on its Continent. What will be Ireland's role? Should it be to demand that someone somewhere do something about events, such as the mass murder in Srebrenica, as long as they are Dutch, German, American or British? What role does Ireland want to play in the Europe of the 21st century? Fine Gael believes Ireland should play a pro-active role, setting out our vision for the future rather than leaving it to others to set the agenda.
The precedent of EMU, whereby the rules have been set by those willing to participate initially with all future members having to adhere to these rules, is a model likely to be repeated in relation to future security and defence arrangements. For this reason, it is in Ireland's interest to consider now what we want for Ireland and for Europe. It is time for us to become one of the architects in designing future European security and defence structures. Otherwise, we will be vulnerable. We have not served the best interests of the public by serving our own interests in this House and pretending there is a definition of neutrality to which we all subscribe.
Our attention might concentrate on Article 5 of the Western European Union Treaty which states that if any of the high contracting parties should be the subject of an armed attack in Europe the other high contracting parties will, in accordance with the provisions of Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, afford the parties so attacked all the military and other aid and assistance in their power. The effect of this Article 5 commitment is that an attack on one Western European Union state must automatically be met with all the military and other aid and assistance in the power of every other Western European Union state. If such an article was incorporated in a future EU treaty, every state which had signed up to the treaty would automatically lose its right to decide whether to become involved and would be bound by these provisions. It may be that not all EU members would sign up for treaty defence provisions from the start but just as in EMU, the rules will have been cast in stone and changing them later would be extremely difficult. If Article 5 could be incorporated as a protocol in a future EU treaty, it would mean that certain member states would, through the use of the protocol, come to the defence of another member state if attacked only by their own decision which had been explicitly taken, that is, not automatically. This would ensure that existing EU neutral states would have their positions safeguarded to the greatest extent possible, as would other EU states if they wished to exercise the protocol option.
Our concern in Ireland should not be to shirk our responsibilities or to refuse to come to the aid of another EU partner state. Our wish should be that partner states would choose to come to our aid if we find ourselves in need of assistance. Who would have the capacity to intercept aircraft used as missiles to attack the International Financial Services Centre? We do not have such capacity. Our concern should be to ensure that if we assist a partner state, it will be by our own decision rather than as a result of automatic provision.
A future EU common defence policy or common defence entity which could be constituted as a regional organisation under the UN Charter could be based on the following principles: adherence to the fundamental principles of the United Nations; a commitment to the vigorous pursuit of the goal of universal nuclear and biological disarmament and to a solemn undertaking by the European defence union acting as an entity not to use nuclear or biological weapons; a commitment to mutual defence and support among all EU states, based on Article 5 protocol arrangements for those states which do not want to make this an automatic provision; a commitment as a priority to the provision of resources to UN mandated peacekeeping and peacemaking operations and to the Petersberg Tasks of the Western European Union, that is, humanitarian aid, search and rescue, peacekeeping and peace enforcement, including tasks of combat forces on a case by case basis; and respect for the right of other member states, if they so wish, to be involved in other military alliances, such as NATO.
Fine Gael believes that by advocating a European defence entity now based on the principles I have outlined, and with an Article 5 type commitment as a protocol not a full treaty provision, we would win a measure of support across the Union which would ensure good prospects of implementation. Furthermore, we believe that by being up front at home and by putting the issues clearly before the people here with provision for twice annual debates on common foreign and security policy and related issues, we will serve the best interests of the people. It is time to stop making security and defence policy by stealth because that is the way to guarantee that Irish neutrality will be ended on the least favourable terms for Ireland and on the rules written by others. Let us be open with the people and let us put the issues clearly before them. What happened in the United States could happen in Europe. European security is of direct concern to us as evidenced by the special European Council last month. We should stop behaving as if it is not.
We are all deeply saddened by what happened in the United States. I cannot add any words to the condemnation and concerns already expressed by other Members of the House. We must stop fooling ourselves and the people. The security of this State is of concern to this House. We must learn from what happened in America because we are vulnerable. We need security arrangements and we should not apologise to anyone for making the necessary arrangements.
I want to put on the record that I share fully in the expressions of outrage at what was done on 11 September and the expressions of sympathy, solidarity and support to Americans and the many other people who suffered in many ways on that day.
The four hijackings that led to that slaughter were planned with great care and deliberation and with the full knowledge of what they could do over a long period. They were carried out by people who were clearly determined that they were going to succeed in the enterprise in which they set out. One group appears to have been partly frustrated only because a few brave individuals took responsibility on themselves. It is chilling to read what has emerged so far about the nature of the relationship between the people who were involved in carrying out these acts. Our response to those acts must be framed in the light of the nature of the attack and the attackers. It would take more time than I have at my disposal to develop that point fully.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs identified three levels of response: bringing the perpetrators to justice, defeating the monster of international terrorism, and putting an end to conflicts and injustices that breed this kind of terrorism. However, that is a great deal more than any action or set of actions that can be put in place in a year. It is dangerously unwise to use language such as "defeating the monster of terrorism". No single action or series of actions will put an end to terrorism. I do not want to be a pessimist but we must be reconciled to the fact that we will need careful and active counter-measures in place for quite a long time to come.
The response of the civilised world, of all religions and of none, to these acts cannot be a response in kind.
That is right.
If the civilised world responds in kind, the terrorists will have won by bringing us down to their level. Our response must be measured, judged, proportionate and targeted. While it is a hard thing to say, the first part of that response must be to use persuasion, in so far as possible. In the present case, that does not mean that the civilised world has to send a constant stream of emissaries to Kabul or Kandahar to seek the handing over of Mr. bin Laden, or anyone else against whom there is evidence. That procedure cannot go on forever, but it must be undertaken.
Any further measures that are taken must be targeted, proportionate and above all must seek to avoid inflicting the kind of suffering that was inflicted on people in New York on 11 September. While that response needs a great deal more parsing and analysis, we must accept that combating terrorism is not the work of one year or five; it will take far longer. The fight against terrorism has so many facets that we could spend a long time discussing ways of accomplishing it.
One essential element has to involve structures through which perpetrators can be brought to justice. Although we agreed not so long ago, by referendum, to set up an institution that has the jurisdiction to do that, I regret we have not yet legislated for it. I also regret that the country which has suffered most cruelly from these latest incidents of terrorism, refuses to participate in setting up that jurisdiction. The cruel irony is that the country currently most under attack is not lending the necessary support to putting in place the jurisdiction to deal with the perpetrators of such attacks in a proper, civilised, democratic and humane manner. We must not ever lose our civilisation and humanity or our adherence to the rule of law.
Although events may have moved on, it is essential that everything done in response to these attacks, and to any such future attacks, must be done firmly under the aegis of the United Nations. The European Union should be better organised to co-operate in that matter but I will not discuss that point now. I wish the Minister for Foreign Affairs every success in his period of chairing the Security Council because there will be an enormous burden upon him. He will endeavour to bear that burden and his intention will be to steer a course through these turbulent times that will be productive and will maintain the values of civilisation which the UN was set up to preserve.
We already know that the instruments at our disposal in the United Nations are, in many ways, sadly deficient. It is an irony that only an few months after the people of this country refused to ratify a European Union treaty that might have helped the EU to move along this path, we may find ourselves in a position where key actions that perhaps should be taken by the United Nations, could well be frustrated by the operation of a veto of one of the permanent members of the Security Council. I hope that does not happen because the United Nations is our only bastion against both terrorism and inhumane over-reaction to the threat that terrorism poses.
I wish to share my time with Deputy O'Malley.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
It is appropriate that the House should meet to discuss what the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, has described as this defining moment in history. I join all my colleagues in the House in renewing our condemnation of the barbarous acts committed in the United States of America and also in setting out our determination to fight against terrorism of all kinds, both international and at home.
As the Taoiseach said on 18 September, it is important that Members of this House have the opportunity, on behalf of the nation we represent, to express our sorrow and outrage at the terrible and evil events that have occurred in the United States. The passage of time since those terrible events has only deepened the horror which we all feel about them. We have seen and read of the devastating effect which the terrorist acts had in the United States. We have seen and heard the traumatic effect this devastation has had on the families and friends of those who lost their loved ones.
Like most people here, I have not seen the scene of the devastation but I have heard the Minister speak of the appalling sight of the wreckage of the World Trade Center in which are entombed the remains of more than 5,000 people. As the Minister told the UN General Assembly yesterday, it is out of this wreckage and this appalling destruction of human life that we, the people of the United Nations, must seek to rebuild the moral authority of the UN.
We in Ireland have an important role to play in this regard. Ireland is not part of any military alliance, but we cannot be neutral in the fight against international terrorism. Ireland, as a member of the UN Security Council, fully supported Resolutions 1368 and 1373 which classify the terrorists attacks of 11 September 2001 as a threat to international peace and security. These resolutions gave the United States a mandate to defend itself in a targeted and proportionate manner by bringing to justice those who planned, perpetrated and assisted in these outrages, and who continue to threaten international peace and security.
Resolution 1368 called on all states to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of those terrorists attacks, and called on the international community to redouble its efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts.
Ireland will play its part in responding to the immediate terrorist threat by co-operating in police investigations and opening air space and air ports to aircraft operating in pursuit of Resolution 1368. We would be in dereliction of our international duties if we failed to support the UN mandate in this way.
A further example of Ireland's commitment to the fight against international terrorism is our support for the UN convention on the suppression of the financing of terrorism. This convention requires countries to make it an offence in their national law for any person directly or indirectly, unlawfully and wilfully, to provide or collect funds with the intention or in the knowledge that they are to be used to carry out terrorist acts. Terrorism cannot survive without financial support and this international resolution aims to cut off that support. Ireland fully supports this approach. We all must do our utmost to cut off financial support for international terrorism wherever it may exist.
The UN must play a key role in responding to this terrorist attack. We would all urge the United States to take advantage of the possibilities offered by an international organisation such as the UN for the suppression of international terrorism and international crime. I join all Members in expressing our support for the Minister, Deputy Cowen and his officials over the next month as Ireland assumes the Presidency of the UN Security Council.
I take this opportunity to pay my respects to the victims of this appalling atrocity and to their families and friends throughout the world. While we have seen the pictures of shattered buildings, we can only imagine the devastation in the hearts of the families and friends of those killed and injured in these appalling atrocities.
The Government is also concerned that there should be no more innocent victims of this struggle against terrorism. The Afghan people, who are already suffering terribly from the effects of drought, civil war and political instability, are not to blame for the action of international terrorists and must not suffer the consequences. Millions of Afghans are already living as refugees in neighbouring countries or as displaced persons in their own country.
Ireland has consistently sought to highlight the humanitarian situation of the Afghan people at the UN Security Council and recently announced an additional £2.8 million aid package for Afghanistan. This package, the biggest ever for a single emergency, will continue to support the work of Irish NGOs such as Concern, Trócaire, GOAL and Christian Aid and the main international agencies in responding to the crisis in Afghanistan. With £1.2 million already provided since January, this further announcement brings the total assistance provided by Ireland Aid for Afghanistan in 2001 to £4 million.
We cannot ignore the implications of the situation in the USA for events throughout the world and, in particular, in our own country. One might have hoped that the tragedy in the USA would have helped to bring together conflicting parties in other countries to resolve their difficulties in a peaceful, non-violent manner. Unfortunately this does not seem to be occurring in some cases and, for example, today's news from Israel and Palestine is not encouraging.
In Northern Ireland we are facing a breakdown in the political structures which threatens to undermine the achievements which have been made over the past few years. The danger in the North has always been that a breakdown in the political process would lead to a return to escalating violence. In recent months we have seen what can happen in the absence of political leadership with the appalling threats to young children in Belfast and the recent tragic murder of Martin O'Hagan. However, because of an abject failure in political leadership by politicians on both sides, the political structures in Northern Ireland may collapse in the coming weeks. All of us on these islands need to consider this issue very carefully in light of the tragic events in the United States of America and ask ourselves if this is the direction in which we wish to go.
The attacks in the USA have been a defining and historic moment for us all. We must all work together to ensure that terrorism is suppressed both nationally and internationally and to ensure that these events cannot happen again.
I spoke on this topic at today's meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. I do not wish to repeat my remarks, but rather to expand some aspects of what I had to say.
It is important that the Government and this House should be seen to take whatever legislative steps are necessary to support the strong feeling throughout the world towards the suppression of terrorism and attempts to control it by financial and other means. At the meeting I asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs which conventions concerning the suppression or combating of terrorism have not been ratified or put into force by Ireland. The Minister told me that the information would be included in his written reply to a parliamentary question today and he was good enough to send the reply to me. However, the contents are disturbing as Ireland has not ratified and is not a party to more than half of the 12 conventions regarding this topic. I am amazed at this. I have just come from a Whips meeting which discussed the most mundane business for next week and the following week. I would have thought this is the kind of legislation which is necessary.
We have a difficulty in that we often cannot ratify these conventions unless we pass legislation. It is often the case that, for technical reasons, we cannot ratify these conventions by simply passing a motion of the Dáil. If they are to be incorporated into Irish law it can, apparently, only be done by way of a full Bill the preparation of which seems to take an inordinate amount of time.
Ireland is not a party to the following conventions: the Convention on the Prevention and Pun ishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Personnel – New York, December 1973; the Convention against the Taking of Hostages – New York, December 1979; the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation – Rome, March 1988; the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms on the Continental Shelf – Rome, March 1988; the Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of Detection – Montreal, March 1991; the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings – New York, December 1997 and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism – New York, December 1999.
I would have thought that all of these conventions cried out for ratification by Ireland and it makes us look somewhat foolish in the climate post 11 September that we have not done so. Even if the events of 11 September had not happened, this country and island have been subject to terrorism for a long time. We now know that this terrorism of the home-grown variety has major international connections and connotations. Sinn Féin/IRA is in open consort with the FARC guerrillas in Colombia and with ETA terrorists in Spain. From its point of view it has had the good fortune in that for a long time its chief quartermaster and the supplier of most of its arms and all its Semtex was Colonel Gadaffi of Libya. It was not averse to having suitable international connections with other terrorists or those who would supply terrorists. However, for some time it has apparently been the official policy here to indulge these people rather than to ask them to do what is right.
The Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, stated that the peace process in Northern Ireland was in grave danger of breaking down because of a lack of political leadership on all, or both, sides. I do not think that is true. If it breaks down, it will do so for one simple reason and that is that Sinn Féin-IRA will not decommission its weapons and explosives. We should not delude ourselves into thinking that it might break down for any other reason because that is what is at the root of it. The Irish and British Governments have bent over backwards in the past three years to implement every line of the Good Friday Agreement not just in the letter, but in the spirit in a way that could not have been envisaged when it was drafted and signed. It has been implemented on all sides except by the IRA. We should not gloss over that fact. We are entitled to ask why it retains a private army if it is a democratic party, as it claims to be. Not alone has it a private army, but we learn that in Kerry, at least, it has a private police force also. We are asked to look the other way because the culture of the moment is to gloss over this and to indulge these people continuously while they run rings around the Good Fri day Agreement, acting in defiance of the overwhelming view of the Irish people, North and South. I ask the Government urgently to bring in whatever proposals are necessary, either by way of motion or legislation, to ratify the seven conventions to which we are not party. At a time like this, not to do so would show that we are only paying lip service to those who died in America, and to the United States in telling them that we will support them in their efforts to bring the perpetrators, and those behind them, to justice.
I remind this House that on this island there are people, who describe themselves as democrats, but who, on an almost nightly basis, engage in the mutilation and torture of people with whom they disagree. There is an organisation, headed by Sinn Féin, which decides whether an Irish citizen is entitled to live on this island or be banished from it. There are several dozen people, particularly young men, who are banished for what is described as anti-social activities, which are frequently simply because they got into an argument with a member of Sinn Féin in a pub or some such place. The sooner that we face up to the degree of racketeering which leads to vast sums of money being raised and spent by Sinn Féin in ostensibly a democratic cause, the better. We should call a spade a spade for a change.
I welcome the opportunity to say something on our current position on the events of Tuesday, 11 September. Over the weekend, the Labour Party conference passed a comprehensive motion dealing with those events which condemned unequivocally the recent terrorist attacks in the United States, expressed its admiration for the heroism of the emergency services and also called for a multi-lateral response to them. It continued in detail to justify that position. I will say a few words on why we hold these views.
In some of the speeches earlier, I was glad to note a change in emphasis. It is accepting that language is very important. For example, in the Minister's speech the word "campaign" occurs. There is an enormous difference between a war on terrorism and a campaign against terrorism internationally. A campaign against terrorism internationally can include such measures as closing off the financial sources for international terrorism, the sharing of information, the prevention of terrorism and, in addition, can speak about how people who differ in terms of culture, religious beliefs, or in how they believe their economies should be organised, can live with each other. A campaign to eliminate terrorism is important. It is very different from a war. A war, of its nature, in terms of international law in terms of the international institutions, presumes that the enemy can easily be identified, that military forces and resources can be amassed easily, that the target can be defined and that one can estimate if one is achieving a victory or suffering a defeat. It is also very important in relation to the status of international law itself and the inter national instruments. Thus, it has been generally assumed that nations can identify an enemy and declare war on another nation. It is also, in a separate development in international law, and endemic in the forces that led to the founding of the United Nations, that the right to self defence exists. It is there before sovereignty was exchanged with other sovereignties at the time of the founding of the United Nations. It precedes the United Nations. It is established within the UN Charter, but what is important is that the force and authority of the institution is built on multi-lateralism. It is, therefore, not academic at all. One speaks about a multi-lateral approach towards combating terrorism, which is able to deal with the length of time that is required and the diversity of sources in which terrorism resides.
It is also important to state, as a spokesperson on foreign affairs of a party of the Left, that the Left has always condemned terrorism because historically it has led to a reaction which has justified counter-reaction leading to further repression which in turn leads to further restrictions. It is frequently the hope of terrorists to force such a response to enable them to escalate their attack on civil society itself. It is, therefore, important that the character of the response to an act of terrorism is one that does not deliver any bonuses to terrorism itself, any partial victories. This is extremely easy to say but difficult to achieve. It is, nevertheless, necessary to say it. It is very important to put not just the events but also the reaction to them in a proper context.
Having said that, one must take account of the emotion, the grief and the horror that was visited not just on 6,000 people but on all of their families, relatives and those who were defiled by having to look at the circumstances in which people were forced to try and save their lives from buildings that were attacked by civilian aircraft turned into a missile of destruction. That must be taken into account. I was moved by the relatives of those who lost people in the Twin Towers of New York. One woman from Galway, whose brother was lost, said that the last thing she wanted was an act of retribution because it would do nothing for her grief. When one has said that, it is very important to try and see how our actions are best construed.
One of the things that is important as we take the chair of the United Nations Security Council is that we use our efforts there to try to restore the United Nations' authority. Some incredible things were said since the horrific events of Tuesday, 11 September, such as that people should lash out quickly. Others have said the United Nations is useless, while others point to the horrific events in Srebrenica. The problem about all that is the United Nations is the only multi-national institution we have. We had the League of Nations after the first world war and the United Nations after the second world war. About ten years ago we chaired the Security Council of the United Nations. The United Nations is the institution we need and it has been weakened by those who have not supported it financially and by those who have put obstacles in its place. When one looks at the balance of the United Nations itself with its 189 members in the General Assembly and its Permanent Members, an unreformed Security Council with five Permanent Members in the Security Council, has frequently weakened the will to reform that has existed among the General Assembly itself.
I hope we will use our time on the Security Council to make the case for reform of the United Nations so that this veto will be eventually eliminated. Even the concept of a Permanent Member should be eliminated. If one takes the contradiction that is at the heart of the weak United Nations seriously, it is that the countries that have joined, have joined it in terms of an act of sovereignty but at the same time they are contributing to something that is to be the potential for some kind of multi-lateral security. At the same time then, the Permanent Members of the Security Council have an inordinate influence. The Security Council itself under Article 24 administers the work of the United Nations on behalf of all of the members.
There is need for a reform and to ensure the lead role of the United Nations as a multi-lateral institution in dictating the responses and also organising a campaign against terrorism internationally. There is also a need to restore the authority of the international community in other areas that are sources of conflict. I mean very specifically, in relation to the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which originally were development institutions formed after the Second World War and which were envisaged as reporting to the economic committee and in turn to the Security Council of the United Nations.
There is a need to build the authority of the United Nations. I criticise the decision of the Taoiseach to ignore this House of the Oireachtas and to instruct the Minister for Foreign Affairs to offer the use of our airports. We did so without anything being specified in relation to what actions were being supported. Were they of a multi-lateral kind or of a unilateral kind? Were they ones that had guarantees in relation to the lives of civilians? Were they proportionate? Where was the guarantee of that? One could list the questions to be posed. These questions are not academic. I stress that in relation to the fall-out from all of that very interesting discussion, the issue is a very much bigger one than the issue of ignoring the Oireachtas.
Here an infamous role is regularly played by the media. I suggest that the media take the time to read the Charter of the UN. The UN was formed to build peace in a world that had been wrecked by war. They should also realise the significance of putting as a sub-title "America at war", "War against terrorism".
War is what is in Article 28.3 of the Constitution. If one was to uncritically join up in that response, one would place oneself in the position of having made a frail Article 28.3 and its requirements of accountability to this House. A campaign is what is required. There are considerable risks in unilateralism. There are people who are being coy about these issues. Nothing could justify and nothing does justify or ever will justify the actions that took place.
Equally, respect for human life is indivisible and there are parts of the world to which we did not turn our attention sufficiently and where a weak multi-national institution like the UN has been blocked. That the state of Israel has ignored the regular resolutions of the United Nations has been disastrous. Equally, if one is speaking about the Middle East being restored to peace, it means that both sides must have a respect for UN initiatives. That has been made difficult. I remember visiting Gaza in the early 1980s and seeing young children playing at the edge of a sewer with their grandmother looking on – three generations since 1947 in conditions that were unliveable. These neglected sources of conflict in the world are in Gaza and also in Africa.
Our uncritical participation in a world economic order that condemns 1.4 billion people to living on less than 70 cents a day; this kind of world in which one can ignore conflicts in particular places, accept trade talks such as the Uruguay Round where a continent like Africa loses $3 billion worth of trade, where six months ago, the price of coffee was $1.26 a kilo and is today less than 80 cents, a world where people are condemned to poverty – these are the seed beds from which terrorism comes.
Bin Laden is a terrorist who was originally funded by a power that sought his assistance in releasing the people of Afghanistan from Soviet occupation. I say to the Minister, bin Laden's allies at different stages included the people in the Northern Alliance. What would our position be now if we were asked to support an initiative that favoured putting the Northern Alliance in the place of the Taliban? It would be a nonsense to suggest that suddenly the Northern Alliance has become respectable when it is clear that there is no evidence for this.
There is a fundamental in relation to civilian life. We have accepted it in Iraq. I have rejected it and others have rejected it, that the children of Iraq are regarded as hostages for the actions of Saddam Hussein. I recall the ambivalence too when in this House I condemned Saddam Hussein way before the Iraqi war, for his action against the Kurds. I did not get that much support because he was by then being supplied with mustard gas by France and Germany. We must realise that if we are to say we are to take up a strong position in responding to actions, we must be sincere. The militarists want to use the word "war" for everything and I say to them that a world which in 1995 had $864 billion spent on weapons of destruction and in the same year $15 billion was spent on the four main preventable diseases, is a world that is indefensible.
I am not saying any of this to justify the loss of life of anyone in New York, Pennsylvania or Washington. We must think it through and that is why multi-national responses are important. In Afghanistan, where bin Laden hides out, it is 170 in the list of 174 countries in the United Nations human development report; it has a minimum of 750,000 adults and children who have lost limbs. When I saw that figure – 10% of the land mines of the world – it reminded me of Cambodia.
We are faced with choices. Do we have a patient response that stresses multi-lateralism, that stresses the role of reform of the UN, that speaks of these issues that are happening in the world in less militaristic language? We must also realise that if we are to defend life and defend civilian life, we must do so in an undivided way across the planet. To put it in context, from 1945 – just before the UN was formed – to 1993, 150 million people have died from preventable diseases, many of them children. From 1945 to 1993, 23 million people have been lost through military action. There has been a decline in terms of the £15 billion spent on the four preventable diseases. We are invited to increase the £864 billion being spent on weapons of destruction. The reality, as the founder of UNESCO put it, is that "War begins in the minds of men." That was his phrase in the generic sense of including women. Peace also begins in the minds of people.
We must be careful in our language and what we are doing. There is nothing macho, realistic or better about talking about going to war. There is nothing lesser, weaker or no sense of people wringing their hands on the sidelines about talking of a new response. It is a secure world that addresses these structural problems that will create the atmosphere in which we will make the actions of the terrorists impossible.
Many important points have been made. We have said for so long that we could not interfere with international capital movements, thus, we could not openly ask about international armaments and their movements through Switzerland and elsewhere. Now we have been forced to do so because the terrorists are using the conduits at which we could not look. We could have done this in regard to the international drugs trade and the armaments trade. I hope our response to this matter will lead us to encourage the United States to embrace multi-lateralism and that this will encourage others to link the issues of aid, trade and debt towards a more secure world that will make terrorism impossible.
I wish to share my time with Deputies Healy, Ó Caoláin and Joe Higgins.
That is agreed.
The House is united in condemning unequivocally the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States. Those who carried out these atrocities must be brought to justice. There are clear differences on how this is to be achieved. A quick fix military solution is not the answer. Already we see in Afghanistan a looming humanitarian crisis. This is because of the threat of war and the influx of refugees into Pakistan. If a direct attack were to take place in Kabul or elsewhere, we would see a worsening of that humanitarian crisis and a spiral of violence. Many young people would join the fundamentalists and become the type of terrorist we all despise. We need to be aware of this.
It is unacceptable that we are a party to that sort of violence. The House should give its assent to the use of Irish airports. Deputy Sargent who tried to raise this issue today should not have been thrown out of the House for trying to assert his democratic rights. There has been no vote and there will not be one at the end of these statements tonight. I ask the Minister, Deputy Cowen, to cast his mind back to the Gulf War. I have a copy of The Irish Times of 17 January 1991 and at that time there was great concern about the use of Irish airports. The House was recalled and there was a vote. The Labour Party and The Workers' Party insisted there should be a vote as otherwise such a measure would be seen to be unconstitutional.
The Constitution is clear on this matter. Article 28.3.1 states that war shall not be declared and the State shall not participate in any war save with the assent of Dáil Éireann. Article 29.1 states that Ireland affirms its devotion to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations founded on international justice and morality. We should respect the Constitution. We should respect the Members of this House. I am not saying that those of us who are opposed to the use of Irish airports would win such a vote, but for our voices to be heard properly, for people to realise there are Members who are opposed to this and for the Constitution be fully respected, we should have a vote on this matter. I believe that this matter will be challenged in the courts and, if so, it will be interesting to see how they will interpret it. This situation needs to be addressed.
Deputy Michael Higgins said that words are important. I believe that too. I ask the Minister to be careful in his use of words. He used the phrase "we cannot be neutral against terrorism." Implicit in that is the suggestion that those of us who want to uphold Irish neutrality are somehow soft on terrorism. That is not the case. I ask him to be careful in that regard as there are many, including some members of his party, who do not want Irish airports to be used in this way. Such people are not soft on terrorism. This is a breach of neutrality.
We must also be careful about what we say about the United Nations. The Minister has quoted over and over again Resolution 1368 of 12 September 2001. This is a resolution, not a UN mandate. The resolution is clear. It states, ". take all necessary steps to respond to terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 and to combat all forms of terrorism [these are the key words] in accordance with its responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations." Article 51 has been quoted again and again. The key words in that article are, "until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security." The Security Council can do that under Chapter 7 and give a mandate for armed force under Article 42, but has not done so. We need to be clear that in terms of international law we are not behaving properly.
Given the Minister's experience of terrorism in his own country, he can play a constructive role now that he has taken the chair of the UN Security Council. That experience must be brought to bear. When I hear George Bush talking now about a Palestinian state, that is encouraging. Those noises need to be made and that signal needs to be sent out. This crisis can only be solved, as Deputy Michael Higgins said, multilaterally by dealing with the core issues on a diplomatic front and with the benefit of better intelligence.
We have seen how it was very difficult to defeat terrorism in our own country by military means alone. In terms of the Real IRA, some progress has been made in infiltrating that organisation. I was surprised when I heard that the United States does not have the wherewithal to send people to Afghanistan who can speak the language. That is a deficit. There is a call for an instant reaction, but that will not work. The Minister, in his role on the Security Council, can play an important role.
Thousands of innocent people died for political purposes in the terrorist incidents in the United States on 11 September. Everyone in the House unreservedly condemns those incidents and the perpetrators of those atrocities must be brought to justice. Achieving justice is key to ensuring the prevention of such outrages in the future.
I want to focus on the question of the need for an international criminal court. The Serb leader, Slobodan Milosevic, is currently before the international court for war crimes. An inquiry is also proceeding into the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry. The perpetrators of that atrocity, including the political figures who gave orders, must end up before an international criminal court and the same applies to the perpetrators of the atrocities in the United States.
The attacks on 11 September were crimes against humanity and demonstrate the need and rationale for an international criminal court. Since 1998, 139 states have signed the treaty that would establish that court. Convincing the rest of the states to become party to that treaty must be a priority for Ireland and the United States, particularly for Ireland since it is chairing the Security Council for the month of October. Ireland must ratify the statute of the International Criminal Court and seek its ratification by other countries, including the United States. However, an international system of justice must be seen to be fair if it is to be effective in defeating terrorism. Israeli leaders who killed 17,000 civilians in the terrible bombing of Beirut and organised the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian families in the Sabra and Shatila camps by militia must also face the international courts. States as well as individuals must be answerable. Selective justice will breed new terrorists.
The recent renunciation by the Bush regime of the Kyoto treaty on global warming and the treaty restricting ballistic missiles is worrying. The attitude of the United States and Israel to the recent conference on racism, chaired by Ms Mary Robinson, is also a cause for concern. There is a suspicion that the US military industrial complex is deliberately creating the political conditions for major expansions of arms production and using the outrage against innocent civilians to silence all objections.
The launch of a war on the impoverished and hungry Afghan people involving considerable loss of civilian life is surely not the answer to terrorism. The institution of an international system of justice to which individuals and states will be accountable is the key to eradicating terrorism.
I wish to put on record an emergency statement adopted by the Sinn Féin Ard-Fheis last Saturday. The Ard-Fheis condemned the horrific attacks on the USA on 11 September and sent deepest sympathy to President Bush and the people of America and joined with them in solidarity at this time of sadness at the terrible tragedy and loss of life in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. It stated that we who have looked to America for support and help now stand with all those who have suffered. In particular, it paid tribute to Irish America for their support and huge generosity to us in our search for peace and justice in Ireland and noted with particular sadness the deaths of those from that community.
Those responsible for the attacks on the USA should be brought to justice before an international court established by and responsible to the United Nations. There is growing opposition in Ireland and worldwide to a retaliatory war. We are being offered a choice between total support for the as yet undefined war on terror by NATO and its allies or support for those who carried out the atrocities in the USA. This is a false choice. We should not give unquestioning support to whatever military action may be taken by NATO. The offer of facilities at Irish airports to NATO forces represents a clear violation of our military neutrality.
It is right that we should not be neutral in opposition to those who carry out such atrocities, but that should not translate into support for military alliances which are at this moment preparing for war. Like other Deputies, I question the constitutionality of the Government's decision to give NATO aircraft access to Irish airports when Article 28 of the Constitution states that the State shall not participate in a war save with the assent of the Dáil. I urge the Government to reconsider and reverse this unwise and, possibly, unconstitutional decision.
I welcome the Government announcement of aid for Irish organisations in the USA, working with survivors and the bereaved, and for Afghan refugees. I acknowledge the work of the Irish Consultate General in New York in assisting the injured, the bereaved, those whose relatives are missing and those in Ireland seeking information and help.
I must refer to the scurrilous attacks on Sinn Féin which, disgracefully, have been made by some political opponents in the wake of the atrocities in the USA. I will not dignify with a detailed response those who would use such a tragedy in a petty, party political effort to stem the electoral growth of Sinn Féin. The Irish people see these anti-republican attacks for what they are, cynical and opportunist. We will not be diverted by such tactics, be they from Deputy O'Malley or anybody else.
The most important thing we, in Ireland, must do in the aftermath of this tragedy is redouble our efforts to make our peace process work. There will be other occasions to discuss the current grave difficulties in the process, but it is the responsibility of both Governments and all parties to make progress possible.
(Dublin West): The Socialist Party and our international movement, the Committee for a Workers International, have trenchantly condemned the atrocity carried out in the United States on 11 September. The condemnation of international terror by the United States Government, the British and some other Governments, however, and their declaration of war on terror reek of nauseating hypocrisy. They have no moral authority to condemn terror because they have routinely deployed state terror themselves or sponsored state terror by others in pursuit of economic and political objectives that facilitate primarily the powerful multinational corporations which operate from these western countries, international capitalism as it were.
Successive United States Administrations have for generations propped up, financed and facilitated murderous dictatorships in Central and South America and other regions which pillaged the wealth of their societies and imprisoned, tortured and slaughtered countless thousands of innocent citizens. In Chile the CIA organised the overthrow in 1973 of a democratically elected government. Mr. George Bush says he is pursuing a war against those who have murdered thousands of innocent people, people whom his Christian church would call the innocent children of God. However, what of the innocent children of Iraq? Are they the children of a lesser God? They must be in the eyes of Mr. Bush because his Government continues to visit painful death on thousands of them by the sanctions that deprive them of medicine, nutrition, clean water and sanitation. That is terror of the most atrocious kind.
The United States and British Governments are leading the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his organisation, al Qa'eda. They brought that organisation into being. Now that it has turned on them, their grotesquely deformed creature is to be destroyed. Mr. Blair is leading the charge. Mr. Blair is a sanctimonious hypocrite. Two years ago he had a notorious international terrorist, a proven mass murderer, in his custody – Mr. Augusto Pinochet of Chile. Did Mr. Blair then lead a crusade to have this mass killer brought to justice? In fact, Mr. Blair's Government did everything possible to get Pinochet safely out of Britain and back to Chile. Why? It was because Pinochet deployed his CIA sponsored terror in defence of the interests of the American and British multinationals and of the Government of the United States.
Those who carried out the atrocity on 11 September most likely emanated from the poisoned situation in the Middle East. Does anybody believe that a war in Afghanistan will resolve that situation? It will simply make it worse. It was reckless and irresponsible of the Irish Government to offer Irish air space and airports for what the United States might do. This offer must be withdrawn.
Terrorism does not in any way advance the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Its effects are reactionary. One consequence of 11 September is a discussion of plans by governments, including EU governments, that will have the effect of attacking civil rights and the right to protest. In particular, the massive and peaceful movement against global capitalism may be under threat. That will not be tolerated.
Empowering people through mass movement to change the world is how the tyranny brought about by global capitalism and the poverty and horror it entails can be challenged and overthrown. The principles of democratic socialism, where the fruits of the earth are equally deployed among the peoples and national oppression is removed for all time, are how we will create a world where both the state terrorism of the United States and Britain and the horrific terror of 11 September will be eliminated for all time.
I join Members in offering my sympathy to the people who were bereaved by the dreadful act of terrorism on 11 September. We listened to some Members speak tonight about state terrorism. The people who left their homes and families on that morning were not state terrorists. They were people who believed in democracy and were part of a democratic state. No person who has an ounce of humanity could justify this act of mass murder by international terrorists.
This action appears to have been planned on an international scale. The approach taken by the United States since the attack has been commended throughout the world. A powerful state with enormous military power has shown immense self-restraint and inspired all other democratic states to come together in an alliance against international terrorism. The League of Nations and the United Nations have been mentioned. Perhaps it is now time for all countries to come together and form a new alliance against international terrorism. The willingness of terrorists to commit suicide in order to slaughter fellow human beings is a new departure. All countries which believe in human values, the sacredness of human life and the democratic process should come together to wipe out the evil organisations which are now flourishing.
Irish born people have lost their lives in the attacks in the United States. I sympathise with my colleague, Deputy Gerry Reynolds, who lost two cousins and with all the other Irish families which have lost loved ones. The victims of this mass murder came from 60 different countries. We could never have imagined that such an awful thing could happen and we feel that the world will never be the same again. We can no longer travel in a relaxed manner and an air of suspicion now prevails throughout the western world.
I wish the Minister for Foreign Affairs well in his role in the United Nations. Our role in that organisation is an honour for Ireland, but we take up our responsibilities at a critical stage in the history of international affairs.
I sympathise with all those who lost loved ones and compliment the security forces, police and fire service on their wonderful work. We must not forget the work of the police and emergency services which faced acts of terrorism on our own island during the past 30 years.
I speak on this issue with a different perspective from many of my colleagues. I was unfortunate to be in Manhattan on 11 September when this terrible atrocity took place. It is very difficult to describe what happened to people who were not in the area. I was on my way to meet two of my first cousins who worked in the World Trade Centre and was 15 or 20 blocks away at 11 o'clock when the buildings collapsed. I will never forget the fear I experienced and the mayhem I saw. People covered in dust, with terror in their eyes, ran, although they did not know what they were running from. I ran for my life that day. I felt the terror of not knowing what was going to happen or whether I had experienced an earthquake or a terrorist attack. Some hours later, when I discovered what had happened and thought things through, I knew the chances of my cousins surviving were very slim.
I know the Dáil was recalled while I was in New York and thank the Minister for Foreign Affairs for his kind words of sympathy to my family. They were greatly appreciated. The national day of mourning in Ireland was also appreciated by people in New York.
I wish the Minister for Foreign Affairs well in his position as president of the United Nations Security Council. I hope he will have the wisdom to organise a multinational response against the terrorists who organised this heinous crime and use his influence to ensure the innocent people of Afghanistan do not become pawns in the war against international terrorism. It will be difficult to find the perpetrators of this crime and impose retribution on people who are not known. I hope the actions taken by the United Nations Security Council and the Government of the United States will be carried out with an emphasis on bringing the terrorists who caused this crime to justice.
While I was in New York for a second time for the service for one of my cousins the Minister for Foreign Affairs visited the site of the World Trade Center. I went there last Saturday and know the Minister was visibly affected by his visit. It is difficult to explain to people who have not been there just how bad the situation is. If this is war, then it is a dreadful thing and every action should be taken to prevent anything like this happening again in our lifetime. To bring into perspective the way in which this has affected the Irish community, 2,000 of more than 7,000 people presumed dead are Irish-Americans. Approximately 15,000 children in the New York tri-state area have lost a parent. More than 70% of those missing, presumed dead, are aged between 22 and 40. They represent the brains of the higher echelons of finance, law and other professions. It is difficult to attend services where there are no bodies to bury and where families are attempting to come to terms with the facts. I was struck by the ages of those attending the services for lost friends or colleagues, as they were young, professional people. A tragedy like this, visited on this our country, would be inexplicable and difficult to understand.
My two cousins who died left two widows. One of them had two children, one aged three years and the other just 18 months old. His wife is seven months pregnant. My other cousin had three daughters, aged 11, nine and seven. Kieran Gorman, originally from Sligo and a neighbour of my colleague Deputy Matt Brennan, left two children and his wife is pregnant. It is mind-boggling and difficult to get one's head around the fact that there are more than 6,000 similar stories. It has had a dramatic effect on me. I gave interviews to radio and television stations and to the press when I was in New York to try to explain the feeling on the ground to people in Ireland.
The people of the United States are looking for security. They do not want their Government or armed forces to go to Afghanistan to kill innocent and defenceless people. They want to know their Government will pursue the terrorist cells that are sleeping in the United States. If US forces go into Middle Eastern countries like Afghanistan, will there be further terrorist attacks on the United States? American people are afraid and they want their country to be secure. I hope the wisdom and patience shown by the Government of the United States so far will continue.
I take this opportunity to show my appreciation of the work being done by members of the Irish Consulate in New York and by the staff of Aer Lingus. The courtesy, compassion, understanding and efficiency displayed to Irish families in a similar position to my own by the staff of the consulate and Aer Lingus was a joy to behold. It is wonderful that such professional people are working for our country abroad.
There are a number of other issues I will address. There can no longer be grey areas as regards terrorism in this country. Sinn Féin must ask the IRA to decommission its weapons. There can be no more appeasement of terrorism, whether it is perpetrated by loyalists or republicans. This needs to be dealt with immediately.
There is a great deal of cynicism about politics in this country. The crimes in the United States bring into focus that politics is a noble profession. We need young, articulate, bright people in this House and in the political process. I hope the cynicism that has been expressed in recent years will be shaken by this terrible atrocity. Strong decisiveness, justice, wisdom and leadership are needed in the political life of the Western world. I hope the number of fatalities will motivate young people to become involved in politics in all Western democracies. It is important that the cynicism that exists is stopped.
I wish to share time with Deputy Matt Brennan.
I join my colleagues on all sides of the House in condemning the terrible atrocities in the United States on 11 September and in sympathising with those who have suffered.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about nuclear emergency planning. This House and this debate represent the correct forum to do so. Deputies are aware of my record on nuclear issues because I come here at regular intervals to account for my stewardship, which is as it should be. I have raised the profile of Ireland's anti-nuclear policy at every available opportunity. I have done so in this House, in the Irish and foreign media, in Brussels among our European Union partners, in Paris at the International Energy Agency, at meetings of OSPAR and at the United Nations. I have missed no opportunity to press our case with British Ministers both face-to-face and in writing.
I have broadened and deepened our understandings with like-minded countries and built strong personal relationships with key Ministers from some of them. I have vigorously opposed the growing lobby by the nuclear industry to allow it to expand into developing countries under the name of climate change and Kyoto. I have raised awareness of that aspect and have repeatedly challenged at international fora attempts by the nuclear lobby to link nuclear power with sustainable energy sources.
I make an important political point. The awful events of 11 September have highlighted new risks which were hitherto undreamed of. There is a huge onus on the countries that have populated the planet with nuclear facilities to protect their installations from attack. They have an absolute duty to do everything possible, irrespective of the cost. It is unthinkable that new installations should be authorised before these issues have successfully been addressed.
As colleagues are aware, the United Kingdom Government announced today that it will go ahead with the commissioning of the MOX plant at Sellafield. The decision is difficult to comprehend, especially in the light of recent tragic events. The rationale for nuclear energy should undergo a serious re-appraisal. It is a minimum expectation that countries with nuclear installations should consider the full implications of recent tragedies and the real and present safety and security dangers. A decision has been made that now, more than ever, must be questioned. The proposed plant has been the subject of frequent strong exchanges between the two Governments for many years. It is the subject of arbitration proceedings initiated by Ireland against the UK under the OSPAR Convention. When we initiated the arbitration process, we specifically asked that no decision to proceed would be taken while it was in progress and today's decision is contrary to that request.
There can be no doubt that nuclear safety is a legitimate concern for countries that have chosen nuclear power. Close proximity to installations fully justifies concerns relating to plant operations, storage of waste, discharges into marine and terrestrial environments, the transportation of nuclear fuel and reprocessed materials and the threat of a major nuclear accident. This country's next step is to pursue legal options. I understand it will take months for the plant to be commissioned, so I will use that time to oversee the completion and processing of all legal options to bring this unacceptable decision under scrutiny, under both EU and UN law. This process is well advanced, and the matter is moving on to a higher legal level.
Emergency planning in Ireland for nuclear accidents or incidents is a normal function of Government, but naturally attention becomes much more focused at times like this. Our national emergency plan in the event of a nuclear accident is the product of years of learning and review. It is not the plan of any one Minister and therefore not my plan. It represents the accumulated input of Ministers who had responsibility for energy over many years. It was improved dramatically after the lessons from the Chernobyl accident and the monitoring stations around the coast in particular are a direct legacy from that time. Likewise, the current plan, published in 1992 has been undergoing review and testing over the past two years and an up-dated plan will be ready for publication towards the end of the year. The international planning background and early warning systems have also been strengthened since Chernobyl.
The threat posed by a serious nuclear accident comes directly from the radioactive materials emitted in the atmosphere. The scale of the release will be directly related to the scale of the accident. What happens after that is determined by the prevailing weather conditions, such as wind speed and direction, and rainfall. The latter can have a major influence on depositions of radioactive contamination.
Under international and bilateral arrangements we will be warned promptly of any serious incidents. The primary route is via the Garda communications centre but there are personal contact points as back-up. One member of the senior management team of the Radiological Protection Institute is permanently on call to make the initial decision about triggering the emergency plan.
What happens next is that the emergency response co-ordinating committee goes into immediate session in a central control room. Armed with information from the RPII and other agencies – notably the meteorological service, because prevailing weather conditions will play a vital role – this committee, with representatives of key Departments and State agencies, will decide on and co-ordinate the implementation of counter measures and public safety advice.
Providing accurate information and advice to the public is a major concern. If there were a nuclear accident for instance in Sellafield, it could take anything from hours to days for radioactive materials to contaminate Ireland, depending on weather conditions. Information will be released throughout the course of the emergency by the RPII using national radio and television and the Internet. The public should stay tuned to bulletins which will provide information and best advice on a frequent basis.
The national plan as it stands, while giving basic advice to the population, is, like any other emergency plan, a document setting out who is responsible for what, detailed institutional prescriptions as to who does what, how key people are to be contacted and mustered, where they assemble and what their roles will be. It includes information gathering, sampling of air quality and the natural environment and, most importantly of all, communicating with the public.
If there is an incident and if the wind is blowing in our direction, the contamination will take some period of time to arrive here. That period can be estimated and taken advantage of. We can identify the areas most likely to be affected, as it would be unusual if the entire country was similarly affected. There will be time, for example, to get animals indoors and perhaps to take some limited steps to protect their feed in order to protect the food chain. I know the notion has been derided, but the most practical step an individual can take is to shelter from contamination; the more layers of shelter the better. All these matters and more are dealt with in the plan. The Departments and agencies directly involved have their own sub-plans setting out actions and responsibilities in their respective areas.
Now to the new plan. I have spoken about a fact sheet. As I said already, any emergency plan is institutional in nature and not of specific interest to the population in general. It is, however, possible to condense the necessary advice to citizens into a short document and produce it on both sides of a single laminated page. A draft of this fact sheet already exists and we will distribute that to every household when it is finalised. We decided this some months ago and the full plan itself will be published and available by the end of the year.
I express my deepest and heartfelt sympathy with the families of the thousands of victims of these atrocities in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. The date of 11 September will forever remain in the mind. It is a day that marks an attack not just on America but on the civilised world as a whole, on democracy and on the many nations, such as ours, whose people have emigrated to the United States for work and a better way of life.
Many of the victims of this barbaric attack were Irish or of Irish descent; 2,000 Irish people or people of Irish descent lost their lives. As we know, 45 million Americans claim Irish as their ethnic group. We in Ireland have deep personal and family links with the United States over generations. There are very few people in this country who do not have people in America. We have many other ties with America in investment, industry, trade and politics but it is this special and unique relationship between our people that bonds our two countries and that is why we in Ireland feel their loss so greatly and personally.
Ireland now takes over the chair of the UN Security Council at a most difficult and challenging time and I wish the Minister for Foreign Affairs well for the next 12 months. I hope everything goes well for him. We must strengthen our intelligence efforts against terrorism and emphasise the importance of a genuine European judicial area. It is essential that Europe be effective in fighting the threat of terrorism.
We must have confidence in the ability of the American Government to make the right decisions and to ensure innocent civilian casualties are avoided in this war. We know the extent of the support the United States has given the peace process in Ireland. The Taoiseach has, on our behalf, expressed our solidarity with President Bush, Congressmen, Senators and the entire American people, sentiments I reiterate. I pay tribute to the rescue workers, particularly the fire-fighters, police, doctors, nurses and paramedics as well as the voluntary workers trying to find their loved ones. Many rescue workers unfortunately lost their lives and as a former emigrant to the United States I know of the many Irish people in both the fire and police departments in America.
Ireland has suffered more than most at the hands of terrorism and we must play our part in the fight against this evil. There can be no justifi cation for cold-blooded murder and it is important that we in Ireland make our contribution to the international efforts such as those of the UN and through our relationship with the United States.
A neighbour of mine, Kieran Gorman, is one of the men who is missing in New York. He was on holidays in Ireland and he returned to America on Monday 10 September, the day before the horrific accident. He went to work on 11 September and he has been missing since. I sympathise with his young wife, who was home on holidays with him, and his two children. I also sympathise with his mother Ann, his sister Ann-Marie and his brothers Eamon, John and Michael. He played football for Sligo and for his local club at home but he is now one of the thousands missing in the rubble of the twin towers. He was a hard worker and loved working in America but his ambition was to return to Ireland in a couple of years.
I also wish to sympathise with a neighbour of mine whose son, who emigrated to the United States as she herself had in the 1960s, was lost in this tragedy. This is a tragedy for the families of Irish people and those of other nationalities who were lost in the horrific events of 11 September.
People love to travel to America. I visited the Twin Towers in New York on two occasions and was impressed, as were many others, by their beauty. Who would have believed that so many lives would be lost there?
I wish to share time with Deputies Crawford and Kenny.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I welcome the opportunity to contribute, however briefly, to this important debate. The horrific scenes from New York will change people's lives forever. We now know that international terrorism has the capacity to inflict damage of unimaginable proportions. Nobody could have foreseen the recent atrocities. Terrorism on that scale can only be defeated through the closest co-operation at international level. It will involve intensive intelligence and security co-operation, coherent diplomatic and political strategy and co-operation between financial institutions to stop the flow of funding. It may also involve focused military intervention.
If the campaign against terrorism is to be successful, it must be carried out under the auspices of the United Nations with the widest possible participation of the international community. I concur with the comments made by Deputy Michael D. Higgins who stated that in order for it to be effective, the campaign against terrorism must also respect the principles of international law and show particular consideration for innocent people who may be caught up in any military response to terrorism. The clearest demonstration of success in the fight against terrorism would be the bringing before the International Criminal Court of the people who planned the outrageous events in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
On a wider front, the international community must respond with effective policies to the great pools of human misery and despair which provide a support base for terrorists. Ireland should provide a substantial sum of money – perhaps of the order of £10 million – towards the plight of refugees in Afghanistan. I acknowledge the contribution of more than £2.5 million, but, given our crucial role as chair of the UN Security Council which will allow us to play a very significant role in the weeks and months ahead, the figure should be increased.
The single most important contribution we at home can make to the defeat of international terrorism is the withdrawal of support for terrorist groups on this island. We must reject without ambiguity or ambivalence the IRA, UDA, UVF, Real IRA and other terrorist groups which have brought nothing but suffering and misery to Irish people. The time has come for all such groups to disarm and disband. Security and intelligence services here must pursue a vigorous policy to discover and destroy illegal arms dumps, some of which, I regret to say, are located in my own constituency of Laoighis-Offaly. I urge people throughout that rural, two county constituency to offer their full co-operation to the Garda as there is no room for ambivalence on the issue of terrorism.
There must be maximum co-operation at international level to stem the flow of money, arms and logistical support to terrorist groups. I listened with interest to the Minister of State, Deputy Jacob, refer to his famous plan, copies of which should be immediately laid in the Oireachtas Library and distributed throughout the country.
Is that the iodine plan?
Those of us who cherish freedom and a civilised way of life must recognise that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
I condemn without reservation the atrocities in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on 11 September and sympathise with the families of the people who died in the Twin Towers, on the aircrafts and in the Pentagon and those of the members of the police and emergency services who died in the rescue attempts. According to Deputy Gerry Reynolds, up to 7,000 people may have lost their lives.
I thank the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Irish Consulate and other associations and individuals in the United States who made information available speedily and kept us apprised of the position. Many of us envisaged a worse outcome, although that is not to detract from the sadness of people such as Deputy Reynolds who lost two cousins in the disaster.
The murder of Martin O'Hagan in Lurgan is a further terrorist atrocity which must be condemned. The United States has been very good to Ireland during the years, but particularly during the peace process. Like the United States and its allies, we must do all we can to deal with terrorism. I wish the Minister for Foreign Affairs well in his activities and discussions in the coming month.
It is important to target bank accounts and other means through which terrorists are funded. The Fine Gael Party has condemned all manner of violence during the years and has not done so as a means of political opportunism or because we want to safeguard funding from the United States or elsewhere. We have condemned atrocities such as the Omagh and Dublin-Monaghan bombings, together with other acts of terrorism throughout the world. The USA, Britain and their allies now have an opportunity to ensure terrorism, wherever it exists, is dealt a death blow. Democracy is the way forward. Those who signed up to the Good Friday Agreement did so because they wanted to go down the road of democracy. The United States, which was very helpful during the process, will watch with interest to see whether all the terms of the Agreement are fulfilled.
The issue of decommissioning has not been addressed in any serious way by any of the paramilitary organisations. Unlike others, I have never had any hang-ups about the decommissioning issue as I believed matters would be rectified over time. However, I had a major hang-up about those who were in jail for committing heinous crimes being released. The people who signed the Agreement which resulted in their release must now address its other terms. While armaments in bunkers may not currently be in use, they are dangerous and must be destroyed. It is important that those who are aware of the location of arms dumps provide that information for the authorities. If that does happen voluntarily in the near future, the forces of law and order in this country must deal with the matter if we are to avoid further heinous crimes being committed in future.
Once again, I sympathise with the families of those who lost their lives and with those injured in the recent atrocities. We all hoped Omagh would mark the end of the atrocities in Northern Ireland and can only hope the recent dreadful deeds in the United States will bring those who oppose terrorism together to ensure it is rooted out.
We must also look at the roots of terrorism and make sure we play our part in rectifying the wrongs of the world.
I recall being a member of a European delegation to America in the early 1980s. During a security briefing in the Pentagon, I asked what would happen if somebody tried to fly a plane in here and the answer given was "Let them try". A reporter in Time Magazine recently wrote: “If you want to humble an empire, then strike at its cathedrals.” This is what happened in
the single greatest act of terrorism the world has ever seen, when the symbols of world trade were demolished in New York on 11 September. In the midst of all the grief, depression and poignant pictures, I am reminded of the words of a 68 year old man who made his way down from one of the top floors and spoke to his son, a journalist, who wrote in The Observer that, until the day he dies, he will remember the faces of the firemen, young, strong, committed, dedicated and going up to certain death while everybody else tried to make their way down in fear and confusion.
This country has a unique opportunity, in chairing the UN Security Council, to influence world events at this time. Ireland was given this opportunity because of its reputation as a politically neutral country – politically neutral, yes, but not in spirit or, indeed, in participation or action. Ireland should press for a truly massive humanitarian response to what is about to happen, both as a role model for the future and in relation to other current problems in locations around the globe.
I support all the efforts to deal with terrorism, but there are also lessons to be learned in this regard. Maybe it is possible to bomb Afghanistan flat, decimate the Taliban and allow another regime to take up office, but if a suicide bomber walks into a restaurant in Hollywood next day and blows up another American icon, then the same paranoia will occur all over again. The problems and the root causes of all this must be examined. I was a member of a delegation which visited Jerusalem and the West Bank last year. There is no shortage of child suicide bombers lining up, because they and their people have lived in abject squalor for the past 50 years. When Israeli sewage and Israeli rubbish is left on the streets or when those people are moved at somebody's whim so that houses can be built, it is no wonder that the element of deep frustration manifests itself in the only way that is possible to people who have nothing left. I heard the former Israeli prime minister Netanyahu say "Arafat is our bin Laden, it's time to stop looking for the needle in the haystack – take out the haystack". Deputy Cowen, a man of considerable political skill, has an opportunity to let the US understand that, in this time of world crisis inflicted on all peoples as a result of what happened in America, there can be a new understanding of the root causes of this terrorism in some other countries – perhaps because of elements of foreign policy over the years. In relation to the oil for food programme in Iraq, despite Hussein's refusal to allow inspection checks for nuclear weapons, there should be a clear position on humanitarian relief. Ireland could lead on this issue. We, among other nations of the world, do not want to see children die of disease and malnutrition. There should be humanitarian expeditions, to ensure practical effect is given to that part of the programme which gives sufficient money to the Iraqi nation to allow hundreds of thousands of young people to live.
I hope there will not be ongoing threats of further incidents at the end of this year. While American people are very patriotic, they are also paranoid. Where 50 jets per day once travelled the Lockerbie run to the US, there are now three or four. Buildings are being evacuated every day in the US because of false alarm calls. This is a time of great crisis. In addition to the necessity to deal with terrorism in all its forms, in so far as that is possible in the long-term, Ireland's chairmanship of the UN Security Council can point out the necessity for understanding and the necessity for education and show that as a politically neutral country, we can be at the forefront in demonstrating that the world is a good place to live and that humanitarian relief can be effective in saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of children. People should no longer have to look aghast at television pictures of the faces of poverty, children maimed by land mines and refugees fleeing in terror. We have an enormous capacity to do a great job. Our reputation is quite disproportionate to our population. I hope our role in the Security Council will bear fruit in a truly global sense at this awful time for humanity.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Michael O'Kennedy. On many occasions in the past 30 years in this House, we had to condemn atrocities of all kinds which resulted in the killing of innocent people. During these debates, I realised how difficult it was to put into words the feelings of horror and anger that we all experience in the aftermath of such appalling events. Tonight, as we discuss the outrageous terrorist attacks of 11 September on the United States, it is even more difficult. It is hard to comprehend the unbelievable callousness of the perpetrators, the scale of the destruction and the enormous number of innocent lives so cruelly lost. Almost 7,000 ordinary people – mothers, fathers, sons and daughters from more than 80 nations – were obliterated in a very short space of time. The world has never witnessed anything like this previously. Civilised people everywhere condemn it in the strongest possible terms and must unite to ensure that it does not happen again.
Ireland has always enjoyed the strongest possible links with the United States. Since the attacks, these economic, social, cultural and historical ties have been revisited and articulated and are clear for everyone to observe. Nobody in this country can now have any doubt that the USA has our total support at this time in defending itself and defending democracy generally throughout the civilised world.
It has been said – and it is undeniably true – that September 11 changed everything. The world, in many respects, is now seen differently. Globalisation is now a reality for everyone. Ter rorism is now clearly seen as an international phenomenon which has to be tackled by governments collectively, with a consequent loss of some of the civil liberties which we previously enjoyed. Local peculiarities in various countries, including this one, can no longer be tolerated in this new world. The attacks on the USA and the changed international situation which this has brought about, leaves loyalist paramilitaries, as well as Sinn Féin and the IRA, with serious dilemmas. Members of the IRA were trained in middle eastern countries and their arms have also come from that area. As we know, three suspected IRA men were recently arrested in Colombia, with the suggestion that they were helping FARC guerrillas there. Against that background, the IRA still refuses to advance its obligations to decommission, as it is obliged to do under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. It is not surprising, therefore, that the US administration is reviewing its attitude to Sinn Féin. More importantly, however, in view of the changed international circumstances, many in this country are also becoming increasingly critical of, and impatient with Sinn Féin, having regard to the current deadlock in the peace process.
The issue of Irish neutrality has once again been raised in the context of this debate and, as always, some confusion has arisen in this regard. However, the position is clear. Irish neutrality means the avoidance of military alliances. It does not, and did not ever, mean this country opting out of international affairs. Our participation in the United Nations, Partnership for Peace, the EU rapid reaction force and peacekeeping throughout the world generally is evidence of this.
It must also be said that we have always accepted agreed United Nations resolutions and sought to implement them. This has resulted in our making available our airports and airspace to other countries and that is the case on this occasion as well. We are all not neutral against terrorism, that is, we do not support terrorism. That is obvious. A new type of war has been declared – a war on terrorism – and we should fully participate in it. That does not necessitate us joining a military alliance.
The response of the United States to date has been the correct one. Statements from the US Administration have been measured and well thought out. Consultations have taken place with NATO countries and other countries as well as the United Nations in relation to this situation. There has been no indiscriminate and impulsive response resulting in the killing of innocent people. The talk now is of a clear, focused, proportional and targeted response against the terrorists and the undemocratic rulers who harbour them. I welcome that. In all this discussion too Ireland has called for a massive humanitarian effort to get under way in Afghanistan. I welcome this also.
I take this opportunity to wish the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, well in his endeavours to bring about peace and stability in the world in accordance with international law in the difficult weeks ahead as Ireland takes over the chair of the United Nations Security Council.
I make the observation, in the first instance, that the matter as described on the Order Paper is inappropriate because it refers to statements regarding the United States situation. It is much bigger and broader than that. While the United States of America and its people may have been the most direct target and suffered directly as a result of this latest atrocious action on the part of the terrorists, it is, nonetheless, an issue that affects, not only the United States, but all of us. This country particularly has reason to be indebted to the United States. The irony is that if one was to select a city in which to attack the peoples of the world, one would select New York because it has always been the haven for the oppressed, the deprived and those who have had to flee various regimes for one reason or another. To that extent, what happened in New York underlines our interdependence and vulnerability and requires us to take a common action on a range of fronts. I would like to address some of those points at this stage.
In the first instance, it is not just a matter, simply, of support. Although I did not see the programme last evening, I am told that a retired chief of staff in this country said that Ireland is not a powerful nation in this issue. How wrong he was. He could not have been further from the truth. We are a powerful nation, but powerful only in relation to the principles and consistency we have always followed and should follow. Power is not, in this instance, our influence to be determined by our military strength or armaments. It is up to us, the political representatives of the people, to repudiate statements of that kind and indicate that our power derives from something much stronger than guns and armaments – it derives from the obligations and respect we have and the positions we have followed during the years.
In this connection, our authority, and our obligation that derives from it, has always been based on principles. Before this horrific event in New York, the Minister outlined the priorities for Ireland during our presidency of the Security Council and our membership. Not surprisingly, those priorities were disarmament, which has always been one of our constant priorities, and fundamental human rights, which means protecting, advancing and enhancing the rights of every citizen, particularly those who have been deprived for one reason or another – deprived wretches who always suffer whenever military firepower is brought into play. Finally, let us never forget in this context – the Minister has underlined this also – that fundamental rights are universal and indivisible. Whether we see what happens to the poor children in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq or wherever, if they are deprived by any international actions, that is an offence against the family of nations and the principles for which we have stood.
If there were two things that struck me about the awful scenes in New York – I left here that very day and when I arrived in France I saw these awful scenes – one was the sheer horror of planes literally being torpedoed through the workplace of people in New York and the awful unthinkable consequences of that awful horror, while the other was the elation, the celebration visible on the streets of many of the Arab countries with youngsters jumping for joy, burning American flags and the effigy of the American President. That raises a question. Why are we not asking why is that a spontaneous response of these people to the United States of America and its President? That is where we have a special obligation.
When I look at this question of common action against terrorism, we have to be consistent, effective in whatever way is required, particularly in relation to our position at home. There can be no ambiguity. As far as all of us are concerned, if there was never a question of decommissioning in the Good Friday Agreement, those who claim to be entitled to sit as political representatives have no right to claim that if there is somewhere behind them an army or an illegal force of weaponry that gives them a different influence, a vicious influence that the rest of us in political democracy do not call on. Therefore, it is way beyond time that any illusion about this link has to be totally and utterly rejected. Condemnation of what we have been condemning here should also be directed directly, consistently and constantly against those who perpetrate those events as well.
We have to have consistency in relation to human rights whatever actions we take now. Let us not forget the scandal about which some of us in this House and at the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs have talked for some considerable time – the unspeakable scandal of the export of armaments to various repressive regimes and freedom fighters, if such one calls them. It is a terrible irony that the sources of some of this awful suffering and fundamental madness of one form or another have benefited, and not in the too distant past, from weaponry and armaments supplied to them by the western nations – our partners. The questions were not asked when Iran and Iraq were being supplied with armaments by our partners. In one case, when one of our partners was supplying both sides in that war, who asked the questions? Did we care about the children who were being deprived, destroyed by that? If these tragic events that have come on to our screens and have hit one of the most welcoming cities in the world for all the peoples of the world do not now make us think of our obligations as a community of nations consistent with what we have always adopted at the United Nations, then we will not have learned a lesson.
We, in the West, have a lot to answer for. We have to answer for the supply of armaments to those people now because they were against the former enemy, the communist regime or whatever and for the supply of support for the most genocidal regimes of recent times, that of Pol Pot, because it was against the Vietnamese. All of these inconsistencies must be faced, in addition to facing up to whatever direct action must to be taken.
We must recognise above all else that one man's holy war is another man's total and utter abomination. While we may all recall sayings such as "God save Ireland, say the heroes", etc., we must be conscious that we need to understand what goes on in the minds of people who think their God justifies their actions and calls on them to destroy what they see as repressive regimes.
I was particularly interested in what Deputy Kenny said. While I was in France I had the opportunity to read a number of extracts from statements made by bin Laden during the past five or six years. He regularly signalled that because the United States was lining up behind what he saw as an Israeli regime that was repressing the Palestinian people, it was now a legitimate target. In his eyes, it was part of the evil he perceived.
There can be holy wars for various causes, but the only cause that will stand the test of time and will vindicate the concept of justice is that based on the principles we have always followed. I hope and I am confident, particularly in light of what the Minister has already done at the United Nations, that the unique role and responsibility with which we have been presented will be discharged. Action may be needed to deal with terrorism in one form or another, but the one action we should seek in order to lay a firm and permanent foundation for the future is action against injustice throughout the world and a vindication of the fundamental rights of all peoples. If we achieve this, we will, I hope, never again witness the insane reactions we have seen in recent weeks.
In all my years in this House, I cannot recall any other occasion when I agreed 100% with every word uttered by Deputy O'Kennedy. In itself, that is an interesting comment to make on the thought process in which we are all engaged.
What happened in the United States on 11 September was historically abominable and appalling. It was premeditated mass murder on an unprecedented scale and it has shaken all of us to the core. Many people in this House and elsewhere have stated that these dreadful acts have changed all. Nothing remains as it was before the unspeakable barbarism that was carried out in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. What do we mean when we say that all has changed? What radical reforms will come to pass in response to this palpable evil? For every nation, people and parliament, this question is real and urgent.
There must be a concerted and strong action against international terrorism. All of us face the same threat of attack and those who have no regard for human life – not even their own – must be called to account for the murderous deeds that were carried out. This must be done within the rule of international law, however, otherwise we will descend to the same level of anarchic barbarism that we so vociferously and rightly condemn. That will be no easy achievement, it will be no simple or cost free action. It is not a matter of issuing a summons to bin Laden, his cohorts or his fellow travellers, particularly because he is comforted and cosseted in Afghanistan by one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, namely, the Taliban. The latter's record on human rights and on the oppression of women has probably been unsurpassed during the past 100 years.
The Taliban is worthy of our total condemnation for its actions in relation to its own people. However, if it harbours mass murderers then it must also be called to account. The people of Afghanistan are themselves victims of the Taliban. As one commentator stated, they were its first victims. It has also been stated by many people that any response must be measured and proportionate. What does that mean? We must remember that people's systems of measurement might be quite different. The Afghan people must not be made to suffer any more because they have already endured more than is bearable from the vicious regime that is the Taliban. They must not suffer further on foot of the righteous anger felt by the international community.
As previous speakers indicated, so far, the United States has been responsible and measured in its approach. Many believed that the American people would demand instant retaliation and that the current American Administration would pander readily to that demand. However, that has not been the case. In fairness to it, the current Administration in the US has sought to build an international coalition to engage in a common operation which will, I hope, be carried out within the framework of international law.
International action must go beyond even the issue of terrorism. That is a strand of opinion that has resonated through many of the contributions made during the course of this debate. If any good is to come from these awful events – it is strange to talk of good coming from such awfulness – it must do so through international action and the reform of international relations. Such relations must be reformed and strengthened. That old Irish maxim "Ní neart go cur le chéile", is a truism. The rule of civilised law must prevail in the world. It has not prevailed. What has happened for many hundreds of years is that the might has always been right and the weak have always been victims of the strong, who often pursued their proxy wars to the detriment of the innocent.
The international rule of law can prevail when international structures are built strong enough not only to be heard but also to enforce the rule of law. Those of us who support and endorse the United Nations can no longer allow that organisation to be a voice of reason on the sidelines, to be disregarded by the strong whenever their own personal or political interests require it. There must now be a genuine new moral order. That is not a fanciful idea, but it is a tall order and some would say an impossible dream. Drawn up by the framers of the League of Nations and the builders of the United Nations in the aftermath of the Second World War, this ideal can become a reality.
I add my voice to the expressions of sympathy extended to our colleague Deputy Gerry Reynolds on his family's loss. I strongly concur with the final comments he made during his contribution. It must be difficult for him to be in any way dispassionate in a debate of this nature. However, his final comments were in support of democracy itself. That is a clarion cry which we need not only to repeat, but to enforce because cynicism is rife among those who reflect and commentate on politics and the activities of Members and the general public. Our democracy is far from perfect, but it is a heck of a lot better than any alternative on offer. Our democracy is fragile. Faith in our democratic institutions can be shaken to its foundations as readily as the twin towers in New York. Those of us who are democrats and attracted to the honourable and noble profession of politics need also to defend loudly our democratic institutions in a time of cynicism and fear.
I refer to Ireland's response. The Minister announced following his meeting with the Secretary of State that the United States would have access to Irish airports and airspace. I regret that offer was made without reference to the House. There are differences of opinion on that matter within parties as well as between the Government and the Opposition. However, there should be a respect for the House by allowing for such matters to be debated here. I also read in the newspapers that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform attended a Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting and agreed up to 40 measures that will impact on our citizens. Opposition spokespersons on justice have no notion about what is contained in those recommendations or decisions. The new justice committee which was established to be more proactive in terms of the rights of Parliament has not and will not be consulted on these matters, many of which are to become law before the end of the year.
Those of us who talk about democracy and its institutions must respect the House and the will of the people, whether we agree with it, as voiced by the disparate voices in the House, all of whom have a validity by dint of their electoral mandate. I want a debate on all these matters and the House to be respected. Respect for the House has been absent in the initial responses of the Government. I regret the series of decisions taken. They were not shared with the House in the special session that was held. It was disre spectful to the Members who were excluded from expressing their views on this important decision to recall the House for 90 minutes. A Government that is endorsed and strengthened by the views of the House is stronger when it presents its case at any international forum.
Fundamental issues are being decided in the justice package, including ones which have long been fraught with difficulties in Ireland such as extradition, the concept of investigative detention, which is common in other jurisdictions within the European Union, and personal freedoms and privacy in the areas of communication, travel and so on. These are not minor matters which can be ignored in the context of this awful tragedy. They must be debated carefully and fully, otherwise at the end of the day the terrorists will win if freedoms that are the very characteristic of a free and open society are trampled on.
The Deputy should conclude.
I understand I have another two minutes. Is that correct?
Questions are to be taken at 9.35 p.m.
It is 9.33 p.m. according to the clock behind you.
I am going by the clock in front of me. It is now 9.35 p.m.
Perhaps by tomorrow you will synchronise both.
The Minister has taken up his role as chairman of the UN Security Council. I wish him well and hope he will map out a unique, distinct and clear voice for Ireland in the difficult days and weeks ahead.
There will now be a question and answer session with the Minister for 25 minutes.
I am interested in what the Government plans to do in regard to a number of issues in the fight against terrorism. I refer to UN Security Council Resolution 1373, which requires all member states to freeze without delay funds and other financial assets and resources of persons who commit or attempt to commit terrorist acts. Bearing in mind the "collection" of funds by terrorist organisations through tobacco and alcohol heists in recent times, what steps will be taken by the Government pursuant to the UN resolution, for which it has responsibility, to implement the provisions of the resolution?
I refer the Deputy to paragraph 6 of the resolution under which it was decided to establish in accordance with rule 28 of its provisional rules of pro cedure a committee of the Security Council consisting of all the members of the Council to monitor implementation of the resolution with the assistance of appropriate expertise and call upon states to report to the committee no later than 90 days after the date of adoption of the resolution and thereafter according to a timetable to be proposed by the committee on the steps it has taken to implement the resolution and paragraph 7, which directs the committee to lineate its tasks, submit a work programme within 30 days of the adoption of the resolution and consider the support it requires in consultation with the Secretary General.
The monitoring committee is in the process of being established. It will set out the work programme and what is expected of member states under the terms of the resolution. Subsequently, deadlines will be decided by the committee regarding whatever information is required from each member state. The purpose of the committee will be to paint a picture for the Security Council. It will not take over the role of the Council. Although it is a committee of the whole, it will set out what is required of all members logistically in terms of the information needed and so on. It will then report to the Security Council. I must await the establishment of the monitoring committee before I can give accurate and detailed responses to it.
The Minister has his chairman of the Security Council hat on, but my questions are addressed to him as a representative of the Government. How will the Government react to the UN resolution? I understand the establishment of the committee from the Security Council perspective, but is the Minister not aware that the resolution, for which he has responsibility, involves each member state freezing without delay funds of terrorist organisations? What proposals has the Government to implement the provisions of Security Council Resolution 1373 in regard to freezing and otherwise seizing the assets of terrorist organisations? Is any estimate available of the extent of such assets? Are the whereabouts of the assets known? Will the Minister confirm that, apart from reporting to the Security Council on the steps being taken, a report will be made to this House on what steps are to be taken by Ireland to implement the resolution? I also ask the Minister to confirm that such a report will be available to the Dáil before it is brought to the UN Security Council. This would enable the House to input its views on the report.
The Dáil will be kept informed in the usual way. It will be involved in terms of its usual question and answer sessions and committee work. This resolution arises out of Resolution 1368 where the terrorist acts of 11 September were regarded as threats to international peace and security. The resolution is primarily directed at the terrorist organisations that were involved in those attacks.
There is a recognition that we do not have a definition of terrorism per se in the UN conventions. There is a draft convention on terrorism. This is an Indian initiative but it is still at draft stage because it has not proved possible for 188 countries to reach a common definition of terrorism. In national legislation in the past, we named organisations and decided that they were engaged in terrorism. It was decided through our national laws how, for example, people who were members of the organisations would be indicted. In that instance, the word of a chief superintendent was sufficient.
In the first instance, the monitoring committee must be set up and it must set out the modus operandi of what is expected of member states. I assure the Deputy that Ireland will do everything in its power to comply with whatever is required by the monitoring committee in terms of its interpretation of what is necessary. The resolution is primarily, although not exclusively, directed at those organisations that were responsible for the terrorist acts on 11 September. Until that detail is available, we will comply in the normal way.
Can I take it from the Minister's reply that no work has been done in terms of the freezing of assets of terrorist organisations in this country and that there is no intention of doing any such work until such time as the Security Council sets up the monitoring committee?
The Deputy can take it that this country was very much involved in the drafting of the resolution and we support it unequivocally. As soon as the terms and width of the resolution are determined for us by the monitoring committee in terms of what is necessary, we will comply with it. I again say to the Deputy that this resolution arises from Resolution 1368, which is specifically directed at the threat to international peace and security that the attacks on
11 September represent.
Is the Minister satisfied that what is afoot is a campaign in pursuance of the principle of the United Nations resolution rather than a war? Was it on that basis that he decided Article 28.3 of the Constitution does not apply? The atmosphere and language used at the time was one of war and there was no indication from the Minister or the Taoiseach that the offer was being made in pursuance of the United Nations resolution with guarantees.
In terms of the Belgian Presidency's condemnation of Signor Berlusconi's remarks that Christian civilisation was superior to Islam, have his comments been criticised by all the member states of the European Union? Has the Minister had an opportunity to discuss with Signor Berlusconi's representative the possible appalling effect of the Italian Prime Minister's remarks?
I have not had that opportunity. I did not see the statement from the Belgian Presi dency, but the Presidency usually speaks on behalf of the member states – 14 in this case. While I await confirmation of the translation, I would not subscribe to the premise that one civilisation is superior to another.
In relation to the terminology being used, as I stated at a meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs today, the offer to the United States authorities does not mean Ireland is at war. Under Article 28.3.1º of the Constitution, war shall not be declared and Ireland shall not participate in any war save with the consent of Dáil Éireann. The Government is only acting to assist a concerted international response to deal with appalling acts of international terrorism. While this has been described in some quarters, as the Deputy adverted to with understandable emotion, as a "war against terrorism", the question of Ireland participating in a war does not arise in the current circumstances.
Will the Minister clarify that the offer of any facilities does not include, for example, unilateral activity in support of the Northern Alliance? Arising from the European Council, there have been some reports that the co-ordinator of European foreign policy, Mr.
Solana, had talks with former King Shah in terms of providing an alternative to the Taliban government.
I cannot speak about Mr. Javier Solana's discussions. There is a European Council of Ministers meeting next Monday and I will be better placed after that to give a view on the matter.
We are not assisting the Northern Alliance in terms of our compliance with UN resolutions. We are supporting efforts to bring the perpetrators of the 11 September attacks to justice and to prevent further acts of terrorism as per Resolution 1368. The Taliban is clearly not committed to the UN in any event. Aside from these attacks, the UN Secretary General has reported to the Security Council about the need for a comprehensive approach to Afghanistan that would involve trying to set in place some form of dialogue that would allow for transitional arrangements to a more representative form of government and the need for the international community to assist an economy that has collapsed. This situation is very much on hold at present as the concern of the Security Council and the United Nations is to see if the Taliban will finally accede to a Security Council resolution which for the past three years has called for the hand over of bin Laden. The Deputy will be aware that the Pakistani Government was asked by the United States to act as interlocutor for that purpose since 11 September. However, it has proved unsuccessful.
Does the Minister think we have sufficient influence on the UK Government to get it to change its decision this evening to establish a nuclear reprocessing facility at Sella field? Does he accept that Ireland is the country that could be most affected by any untoward incident in Sellafield? If we have any influence with the UK Government, we should use it to get it to change that decision.
The matter would be best directed to the Minister for Public Enterprise. However, I noted the comments of the Minister of State regarding the work that has been done by successive Governments to try to build a legal case to challenge any decision that would mean further prolonging operations in Sellafield. Any request for further details on that would be best directed to the Minister in a parliamentary question.
I am concerned that the decision made this evening to establish a reprocessing facility is not in Ireland's interest. I referred to the International Criminal Court earlier. When will Ireland ratify it? It is not under the ambit of his Department but, in terms of giving it priority, the decision of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform not to even include it in the legislative programme for the next two years is outrageous. Will the Minister indicate a date on which Ireland will ratify the Rome Statute to establish the International Criminal Court? Does he accept it is an essential part of the apparatus to bring international criminals to justice?
Given that the referendum was passed by the people recently, legislation is required to enable Ireland ratify the statutes. I have been in contact with the Attorney General and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform with a view to a Bill being put before the House as quickly as possible. Complex issues are involved but they will be addressed in light of the seriousness of the situation in which we and the rest of the international community find ourselves. Some 60 ratifications are required for the ICC to commence its functions. The aim of the Government is to be among those 60 ratifying states.
The priority should be the legislative programme, but that is not the case. In my speech today I raised the issue of the 11 passports issued to Sheikh Mahfouz, who is an in-law of bin Laden and a known international crook and who has now been exposed as being an associate of the number one international
terrorist. Can we do something to remedy that outrageous decision to issue those passports? Can they be withdrawn? The Minister may say they could now be out of date. However, I am more interested in the naturalisation process. Can we withdraw the Irish citizenship and naturalisation offered to them in the early 1990s when the law was totally flouted and when decisions were made which were so suspect they are now before the Moriarty tribunal? Can we withdraw them as part of our campaign against international terrorism?
I am glad to take the opportunity in respect of my Department's responsibility to put on record that there is no record in the Passport Office that passports were issued to Sheikh Mahfouz or any of his family members. I understand a parliamentary question has been tabled by Deputy O'Malley to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform about naturalisation or citizenship being granted. That matter will be taken up in that reply.
I call Deputy Joe Higgins.
I am talking about the citizenship issue.
That is Deputy Jim O'Keeffe's seventh question. I have called Deputy Joe Higgins.
On a matter of clarification, the Deputy made the point about withdrawing passports. No passports were issued.
I have called Deputy Joe Higgins.
The Minister is evading the point.
With respect, I am not evading any point. The Deputy made a statement in the House today and at a committee meeting about passports which were issued.
I am here to assist, not to get into a confrontation with the Deputy. I am trying to provide the facts as best I can and as the Deputy asked me when he left the committee. No passports were issued. As regards the naturalisation issues, they will be the subject of a reply to a parliamentary question tomorrow and available to everyone. It is not a question of evading anything.
(Dublin West): The United States alleges that the atrocity of 11 September and the murder of thousands of innocent people is the responsibility of Osama bin Laden and an organisation, al-Qaeda, which is based in Afghanistan. As chairman of the Security Council of the United Nations, have the grounds for this allegation been revealed to the Minister? Has he asked for the grounds for this allegation? Does he agree it is a reasonable demand that the grounds for this allegation should be published and brought to the world's attention?
Has the United States asked for the use of Irish airports in any circumstances in which the United States might be taking military action following the events of 11 September? Has the Minister or any of his representatives discussed this with any representatives of the American Government? What arrangements, if any, have been or will be put in place?
When I spoke earlier I referred to Mr. Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, who has set himself up as the bounty hunter in chief in the search for Osama bin Laden. Does the Minister understand my cynicism about Mr. Blair's position, given that two years ago he had a mass murderer, Augusto Pinochet, in his custody and moved mountains to ensure he was returned safely to Chile? Can the Minister understand the cynicism of people like myself about these leaders of the western world who have set themselves up as the arch enemies of international terrorism, yet have facilitated horrific terror? Since coming to power only four years ago, Mr. Blair's Government has facilitated the Indonesian regime by arming it with weapons which resulted in the slaughter of people in East Timor. Mr. Bush, and the United States, has also armed other regimes which inflict terror on their people. Can the Minister understand how I, as a socialist, cannot take seriously their claims to be champions against terror?
I ask Deputy Howlin to put his question and the Minister can then deal with the two questions together.
(Dublin West): There is plenty of time.
There is not as there are only four minutes remaining.
I am glad to have the opportunity to ask my question. As regards the package of measures for which this country will legislate, will the international covenants and conventions we have yet to ratify, namely, the five of the 12 which pertain to this area, receive priority or will the justice package which has been agreed by the Home Affairs Council receive priority? How will the House be briefed not after the agreement to put specific measures in place, but before Ireland's commitment to particular measures is agreed? How will the Government address the democratic deficit we have identified in relation to these matters to ensure the greatest democratic scrutiny of any fundamental changes, particularly in areas of civil liberties, that might flow from our response to the atrocities of 11 September?
The date 11 September means that priority must now be given to the legislative arrangements which must be made in terms of international agreements which have been signed by us and which are awaiting ratification and which in the normal course of events would come through the system. There is a need to prioritise to some extent a lot of that work, particularly in relation to the international convention on the financing of terrorism which was identified by the Government at this week's meeting as one which requires a lot of prioritisation, which it will receive.
As regards the justice and home affairs issues, I understand the Opposition spokespersons' concerns in these matters. It is a matter for the work of the committee system and I am sure they can be worked out in some way. Whether it is totally satisfactory is always a matter of contention. I would like to see an opportunity being afforded to the Members of the House who are interested to voice their views on many of these questions. There is a time factor involved in terms of my Department in detailed procedures. The European Council committed itself to provide a package of measures for consideration by the European Council at Laken in December. There will be less time than would normally be available which will require us to organise our time as best we can in the House and the committee system to give these matters the type of attention they all deserve.
As regards justice and home affairs, there are different common law systems, civil law systems and written and unwritten constitutions and the attempts to codify these areas can cause difficulties. I know that when the initial agenda items were considered by the Justice and Home Affairs Council as a result of the special European Council meeting these matters were put down to let people know there is detailed work to be done to ensure we cover all aspects of the concerns the Government and the Opposition have about these issues.
As regards Deputy Joe Higgins's points, I am sorry I cannot explain the Deputy's total cynicism about a lot of things. There has not been a request on foot of the offer which has formally been made to America, in detail, substance or in a particular case about overflight or refuelling facilities, as yet.
As regards the question of evidence being available, it will be important with regard to the prospect of maintaining international support for any military option – should one be used – that it remains within the international legal framework and must be proportionate and targeted. In the words of the US Secretary of State, it will be careful and calibrated. The international coalition will be best preserved by making sure that as much evidence as possible can be made available. The intelligence considerations are obvious. We continue to keep in touch with the American authorities to be briefed by them, as fully as possible in the circumstances, about their thinking and where this intelligence will finally bring them. A number of the hijackers have been identified by video and other evidence. The people who boarded those flights were identified as trained associates working under the Al Qaeda network. They are well known members of Al Qaeda of whom the undoubted leader is Osama bin Laden. Based on his public pronouncements in the past, including interviews he has given, it would appear, even on the basis of what is in the public domain, that Mr. bin Laden and his associates have a very serious case to answer.