Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 18 Dec 2003

Vol. 577 No. 5

Independent Monitoring Commission Bill 2003 [ Seanad ] : Committee and Remaining Stages.

Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

Section 1 states:

"Agreement" means the Agreement between the Government and the Government of the United Kingdom establishing the Independent Monitoring Commission, done at Dublin on 25 November 2003.

Regarding the very important issue of arms and their use, no party – I emphasise no party – has used its influence more and to greater success than Sinn Féin in addressing this issue. It was not the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, or his colleagues in the Progressive Democrats who took the risks or made the difference. His moralising and his lofty lecturing carried and still carries no weight in the achievement of all that has been achieved in recent years. The Deputies representing Sinn Féin in this House are among those who have taken the greatest risks and are here because of their commitment to political address of the differences and difficulties that have bedevilled us as an island people for generations.

Is this germane to section 1?

Section 1 concerns matters of interpretation in the Bill.

Acting Chairman

Perhaps the Deputy will address them.

My clear understanding is that what we are looking at here is a proposition that runs contrary to an international agreement between the two sovereign Governments endorsed overwhelmingly by the people of Ireland. The proposition before us in the Bill runs contrary to the essence, the letter and the promise of the Good Friday Agreement.

I have made these points very clearly to the Minister. I reject his remarks not accepting the right to have an alternative view, a different vision and a different opinion. He labelled my contribution as untruths. That is not the case. Time will tell which of us was reflecting on the factual interpretation and understanding of what is involved in the Bill before us.

The Minister is right in that it is about ending all paramilitary activity, but it is also about an ending to the imposed militarisation by the British Government of the lives of ordinary citizens and of whole communities, an ending of oppressive legislation and a new and shared beginning that is respectful of all mandates, which was not in evidence here on Second Stage.

I proudly stand before the Minister and state that I disagree with him fundamentally on this proposition. I state further that section 1, which claims to offer an interpretation of what is before us, fails to reflect the reality that is at the heart of this Bill endorsing British legislation that gives ascendancy and power to the British Government beyond the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and beyond the terms negotiated by representatives of the Irish Government, the British Government and all those parties who were a party to the Good Friday Agreement, including the negotiating team of the party I represent here. I indicated I will be opposing the passage of the first section.

Acting Chairman

These are just definitions.

In commenting on the definition, is it an omission that it does not state clearly that the Bill is a distortion of the Good Friday Agreement, voted on by referendum across this island? I wonder whether it should state that the Bill undermines the intention of those who voted for that Agreement. Those who voted were way beyond the realms of support from my party or the Government parties. Nevertheless, the intentions were still the same, that a framework was built through negotiation and endorsed by the people. That is being lost through what is happening here with this legislation. It is a distortion of the Bill that the definition is not stated clearly.

In so far as we are talking about section 1, I do not see any objection to the terms of section 1 by either of the two speakers who have spoken against it. I should say this for the record. I offered the Deputies from Sinn Féin the opportunity to deny in the course of this debate what I said earlier about where their loyalties lie. At the first available opportunity, although they choose to dilate another subject far beyond section 1, they have signally chosen to remain silent on that fundamental issue, from which I draw the conclusion that I was right and they were wrong.

He would of course.

Acting Chairman

Section 1 deals with interpretations and definitions. I am sure there will be another opportunity for the Minister and honourable Members to discuss the matter.

Question put.



Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Crowe, Ferris, Morgan, Ó Caoláin and Ó Snodaigh rose.

As fewer than ten Deputies have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 68 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Question declared carried.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

In the course of his last contribution the Minister demonstrated once again that he believed he had Sinn Féin over a barrel. That is a foolish notion on the Minister's part and he should be very careful because he is the only one looking over the barrel and he might fall into it. We in Sinn Féin are democrats and are committed to the sovereignty of the people and to the democratic institutions established by them. If the Minister has not heard this from a Sinn Féin spokesman before, I state it clearly in my seventh year in this House, those institutions include this Dáil and the institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement. I wish to make that patently clear to the Minister.

Section 2(1) of the Bill states that the commission is "independent in the performance of its functions". As I said on Second Stage, nothing could be further from the truth as the Minister knows all too well and he knows my points are valid. Any concept or construction which seeks to hold a party accountable for actions by others and subjects that party to sanctions runs contrary to democratic norms. There is no independence in that. Elected representatives get their mandate from the people, no less than the Minister. The idea in this proposition that the British Government has a right to disenfranchise a section of the electorate by virtue of the unilateral powers vested in it by this Bill is contrary to the notion of independent action and is a travesty of democracy.

I have great respect for many on the Government benches, whom I know personally and who are highly committed to their constituencies and are proud of their service to the Irish people. I acknowledge that they serve the people but they do not fully understand or appreciate what this Bill will do. We are almost lone voices on this matter. I invite them over the Christmas break to sit down, analyse and study carefully what is involved in this because the only 50-50 position between the Irish and British Governments on the Independent Monitoring Commission is the cost. In each of the elements negotiated the British Government has taken the lion's share.

That is outside section 2 of the Bill. We are dealing with section 2.

I am speaking about independence. Section 2 covers the status of the commission and the affirmation in the first part of that claims independence. There is no independence, as the Minister knows well, because he has given the British Government the power of unilateral action over the involvement and participation of democratically elected voices within the Northern institutions. If the British Government acts on the basis of recommendations or reports from the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission and gives effect to its power and powers of sanctions as now vested in it by the passage of this legislation, it will be in clear breach of the Agreement.

The Minister should mark my words because every avenue will be explored to ensure that a defence is presented in support of the democratic right of all elected voices on this island to properly participate within the institutions and structures guaranteed by the Good Friday Agreement. The British Government has usurped the Agreement and in signing an agreement with the British ambassador, the Minister is complicit in accommodating that, with a Bill complementary to one already passed by the British Parliament. How many of the Deputies here have had the opportunity to study the so-called Northern Ireland (Monitoring Commission) Act 2003 and recognised the dangerous powers it vests in the British Government?

The Deputy is speaking outside the confines of section 2.

The notion in section 2 that the Independent Monitoring Commission is "independent in the performance of its functions" is a contradiction with the entire establishment and setting up of the commission and the powers involved in both sets of legislation presented at the British Parliament and now being forced through this House under guillotine. That is the reality. I reject the incorporation of the second element in this Bill on Committee Stage.

I call Deputy Morgan.

Could I contribute on this Committee Stage?

Surely the Deputy has a right to speak?

I understood the Minister to have a right of reply.

No. This is the Committee Stage.

If other Members offer they have the right to speak.

I will call Deputy Morgan but if the Deputy wishes to give way to the Minister as there is only one minute remaining that is for him to decide.

If there is only one minute remaining that is another question. How independent is this independent monitoring agency?

Deputy Ó Caoláin has already asked that question.

How independent is the information and where will it find that information?

Hear, hear.

Will it come from the Northern Ireland police service, MI5, MI6, or from a host of British intelligence agencies? Does anybody know apart from a few Deputies in this House? There are some here who would happily abide by information from those sources but the majority know how those agencies behave and have seen the handiwork of their agents over many years. A recent example of the spin and the stories for which these agencies are responsible—

That is not relevant to section 2 of this Bill.

I am talking about the issue of independence. We were told by various governments, based on information they received from security sources—

It is now 2.30 p.m. and I am obliged to put the question.

—that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction but obviously as we now know Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction. On the basis of that information the entire peace process—

I ask the Deputy to resume his seat and allow me to put the question in accordance with an order voted on by the House this morning.

I am now required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That in respect of each of the sections undisposed of the section is hereby agreed to in Committee, the Title is hereby agreed to in Committee, the Bill is accordingly reported to the House without amendment, Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed."

Question put.



Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Crowe, Ferris, Gregory, Finian McGrath, Morgan, Ó Caoláin and Ó Snodaigh rose.

As fewer than ten Deputies have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 68 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil. A message will be sent to the Seanad acquainting it accordingly.

Question declared carried.