1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the Ballymurphy group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6188/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 13 May 2014
1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the Ballymurphy group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6188/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
2. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has spoken to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland regarding an independent panel investigating the deaths of 11 people at Ballymurphy in 1971; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6189/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
3. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has spoken to the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, about an independent inquiry into the killings in Ballymurphy in 1971; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6191/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
4. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the issues he discussed at his meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6192/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
5. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the inquiry into the murder of Mr. Pat Finucane was discussed again with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, at their recent meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6193/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
6. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his discussions with the Ballymurphy massacre families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8939/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
7. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he has raised with the British Prime Minister the proposal by the Ballymurphy massacre families for an independent panel to examine all of the documents relating to the context, circumstances and aftermath of the deaths of their loved ones; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8940/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
8. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach his plans to visit Northern Ireland in the near future. [8943/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
9. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach when he plans to hold the next debate on Northern Ireland in Dáil Éireann. [8944/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
10. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised the Pat Finucane case with the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron. [8946/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
11. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the Ballymurphy murders with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, following his own meeting with the Ballymurphy families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10347/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
12. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach when the next debate on Northern Ireland will be held in Dáil Éireann. [10468/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
13. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has spoken to the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, regarding the request from the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Mr. Peter Robinson, for a judicial inquiry into the secret letters given to more than 180 paramilitary suspects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11532/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
14. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised the need for an inquiry into the Pat Finucane case when he met the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, during the EU leaders' meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12758/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
15. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised the need for an inquiry into the Ballymurphy massacre with the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, when he met him during the EU leaders' meeting on the Russia-Ukraine crisis in Brussels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12759/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
16. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has spoken to the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, about the judicial review announced on 27 February into the Hyde Park atrocity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12777/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
17. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the matters discussed at his meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, in London; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12780/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
18. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the request for an inquiry into the murder of Mr. Pat Finucane during his recent meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12783/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
19. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the programme of wind exports between Ireland and the United Kingdom in his recent discussions with the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron. [13458/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
20. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting in London with the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13459/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
21. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised the Haass proposals during his meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13460/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
22. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised the Ballymurphy massacre case with the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, during his meeting in London; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13461/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
23. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised the Pat Finucane case with the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron during his recent to London; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13462/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
24. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised the refusal of the British Government to provide information on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings during his recent meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13463/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
25. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he discussed with the British Prime Minister the failure to implement all outstanding aspects of the Good Friday Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13464/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
26. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the situation between Russia and Ukraine with the British Prime Minster, Mr. Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13465/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
27. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he discussed Ireland's retrospective debt and the June EU Council statement of 2012 with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13467/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
28. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he had a bilateral meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, when President Michael D. Higgins was visiting London recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17509/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
29. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has received any communication from the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, in relation to an inquiry into the murder of Mr. Pat Finucane; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17517/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
30. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he held a bilateral meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, during the state visit by President Michael D. Higgins; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19918/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
31. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he discussed with the British Prime Minister those outstanding issues arising from the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements which have not been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19919/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
32. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he discussed the response of the Unionist parties in Northern Ireland to the Haass proposals with the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, during the state visit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19920/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
33. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he discussed with the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, the possibility of joint future trade missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19922/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
34. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the discussions he has had with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, on the possibility of a joint Irish-British trade mission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19923/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
35. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meetings with UK political leaders during the state visit of President Michael D. Higgins. [19933/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
36. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has been informed by the British Government of the position regarding the request to hold an inquiry into the Ballymurphy massacre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20854/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
37. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has spoken to the British Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron, or Secretary of State Villiers since it has been confirmed that they do not agree with an independent inquiry into the Ballymurphy massacre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20862/14]Amharc ar fhreagra
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 37, inclusive, together.
These questions concern my bilateral meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, on 11 March in Downing Street and Northern Ireland related issues. I answered a question in this respect on the last occasion in January of this year and at that time and in light of previous representations, I took questions in two groups and on a thematic basis to allow for a structured debate on the issues that were raised by Deputies. However, as it has now been some time since I answered questions in the House on these issues, I have chosen to group the questions together on this occasion in order that a full and timely discussion can be had on these topics of interest.
Recent events have reminded us once again of the complexity and fragility of the situation in Northern Ireland, including the difficulties faced by victims of violence and their relatives. Now more than ever there is a need for maturity, leadership and engagement by all the political parties in Northern Ireland. Recently, I have met Prime Minister Cameron, President Obama, Vice President Biden, Speaker Boehner, Dr. Haass, the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
I spoke to Prime Minister Cameron by phone last Sunday week following the arrest and the questioning of Deputy Adams. We took the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the full implementation of the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements. We and our Administrations will continue to work closely to do all we can to make them work, and to support the political parties in their efforts to build a better Northern Ireland. I also spoke to the Deputy First Minister over the phone that weekend and the Tánaiste spoke to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Deputy Prime Minister Clegg and the Deputy First Minister. Officials contacted other parties.
Turning to wider matters, it is two years since Prime Minister Cameron and I agreed our joint statement setting out a ten year vision for ever closer bilateral co-operation between Ireland and Britain. We met in Downing Street again on 11 March and I am pleased our bilateral economic relations continue to go from strength to strength. There have been significant developments on progressing recommendations outlined in the joint economic study which we jointly published in July 2013. Examples include further collaboration in research and development to maximise access to Horizon 2020 funding, collaboration to unblock barriers to trade in agrifood products, and the sharing of best practice on Common Agricultural Policy implementation.
The successful completion of a joint trade mission, including ministerial representation from Northern Ireland, to the Singapore Airshow and exhibition in February was a unique event which I believe we can replicate in future. Of course, our joint visit to the war graves in Flanders last December to honour Irish and British soldiers who died in the First World War was also significant, being the first such joint event to commemorate the loss of life that occurred. We also had an open and constructive discussion about political, economic and security developments in Northern Ireland, including the issues of victims and of dealing with the past. We re-affirmed the support of both Governments for the full implementation of the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements.
At my meeting with the British Prime Minister we also availed of the opportunity to discuss very wide common interests that we share on the EU agenda, including the spring European Council which took place in March. In that context, I also reminded the Prime Minister of the June 2012 European Council conclusions regarding banking and sovereign debt which remain to be fully implemented, and the implications for Ireland. We also briefly discussed developments in Ukraine which is also featuring very prominently in EU discussions. We acknowledged the ongoing co-operation between the two countries on the reciprocal short-stay common travel area visa arrangements. We discussed the programme of wind exports between Ireland and the United Kingdom. Further analysis by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change has concluded that it will not be possible to put in place an intergovernmental agreement to facilitate green energy export from the midlands by 2020. I regret that it has not been possible at this time to conclude an agreement as envisaged. However, I believe that in the context of a European Internal Market and greater integration, greater trade in energy between Britain and Ireland is inevitable in the post-2020 scenario. The Prime Minister and I remain committed to meeting at annual summits to review and oversee progress in our joint work, and I look forward to our next annual review summit in 2015.
After our meeting I went to the annual CHAMP reception at Westminster which was sponsored by Tourism Ireland, an event which was attended by many involved in the peace process in Northern Ireland. I did not have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Cameron or other UK political leaders during the state visit in April. As I said earlier, the current political situation in Northern Ireland remains fragile. Following my discussions with Prime Minister Cameron in London, I met President Obama, Vice President Biden and Speaker Boehner in Washington over the St. Patrick's Day period. I also met the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in Washington over that same period. We discussed the political situation in the North, including prospects for political talks on dealing with contentious issues and the past. I emphasised the need for courage and leadership from the Northern Ireland Executive and the political parties and said that both Governments would support them in their work. I also availed of the opportunity to meet Dr. Haass in New York over the St. Patrick's Day period to hear at first hand his assessment of the talks process and prospects for further progress between the political parties there. The Tánaiste met the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland most recently in April to discuss the talks and the support which both Governments are giving to the process.
As Deputies will be aware, I met the Ballymurphy families in Dublin in January as part of my series of meetings with victims and relatives affected by the Troubles. The families explained their proposals for an independent panel review of the events that took place in Belfast in August 1971 when 11 people were shot dead. I told the families that the Government supported their case. Following my meeting with the families in January, I wrote to Prime Minister Cameron asking that their request for a limited review be granted. I also raised the matter with him directly at our bilateral meeting in London on 11 March. The decision by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland not to agree to their proposals for an independent panel is something that I regard as very disappointing. Notwithstanding this particular setback, I hope it will still be possible to find a way for the families to get the truth and to vindicate fully the good names of their loved ones. I also recall the suffering of the families of those killed and injured in the La Mon bombing, and I note the Secretary of State's decision not to initiate a review of that case. These incidents remind us of the needs of all those who have lost family members to violence during the Troubles.
As Deputies will be aware, this coming Saturday will be the 40th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. I am deeply honoured to have been invited to the commemoration service. Despite the passage of time, I know that the resulting pain is still being felt by the families of those killed and injured and our thoughts will be with them on this Saturday and indeed every day.
Last summer, I met the representatives of Justice for the Forgotten and the families of those killed in the bombings. I was struck by their unwavering commitment to seek justice for their loved ones. This Government has continually urged the British Government to allow access to documents relevant to these events. I have raised the matter directly with Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Tánaiste has also raised the matter with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
I also raised the Pat Finucane case directly with the Prime Minister. As I have previously indicated to the House, the Government's position continues to be that the British Government should fulfil the commitments entered into at Weston Park, as we did with the publication of the Smithwick tribunal report.
In relation to the so-called on the run cases, Prime Minister Cameron has established an inquiry led by Justice Hallett. In the circumstances, I believe we should await the outcome of this process, and in the meantime, the two Governments and the Executive should focus on the many other important challenges that must be faced.
I expect to host the next North-South Ministerial Council plenary meeting in Dublin on 4 July and plan to visit Northern Ireland afterwards. We had a useful and constructive debate on Northern Ireland matters in the Dáil in February. The date for the next Dáil debate on Northern Ireland remains to be agreed between the Whips.
It is somewhat ridiculous that we are being asked to deal with 37 questions in one bundle. Fifteen of those 37 questions are in my name. This grouping of questions span issues related to the Ballymurphy murders, the Hyde Park atrocity, retrospective banking debt in regard to Europe and the bilateral meetings and so on with Prime Minister Cameron. They could have easily been segmented into those related to the Ballymurphy murders, the Hyde Park atrocity, the Pat Finucane case and other economic issues that are separate altogether. Including the situation in Russia and Ukraine in the middle of this grouping seems to be utterly absurd and ridiculous and brings Question Time into disrepute.
In terms of the questions on the Ballymurphy murders, there is no doubt that innocent people were murdered by British soldiers in Ballymurphy in August of 1971. Forty-three years later, the official account has not been corrected and the families have been denied the right of being told exactly how these murders happened. The British Government, as the Taoiseach said, through the Northern Secretary, recently asserted that there should be no review of the murders because of what she called "the balance of public interest". This goes to the nub of the ongoing detachment and mishandling of the peace process and reconciliation generally. It speaks of a policy that suggests that everything has been achieved, all the big things have been achieved and we do not need to deal with these issues. I met the Ballymurphy group some years ago and it seemed to me that, at the very least, an independent panel of investigators, with some international dimension attached to it, should have been established to report on the murders, such is the appalling nature of what happened.
It needs more than just the Taoiseach articulating here that it is very disappointing that the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said this. Was there any consultation between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Ms Theresa Villiers, MP, prior to the decision not to set up a panel to investigate those murders?
While I strongly support the need for this, it equally has to be said that the family of Jean McConville is also entitled to justice and truth in respect of her murder a year later. Both cases show that different sides are trying to be selective in their approach to the past. The British Government will pursue one case but will say there is no need to deal with the murder of 11 people in 1971 because of some obscure balance of public interest reasons. Likewise, I do not believe one can deny the family of a mother of ten who was murdered in 1972 the right to truth, justice and information, and yet Sinn Féin would probably want that denied.
The breakdown of the Haass talks is related and the decision to take a hands-off approach to that up to now has failed. I see from recent comments that that has been accepted and that there is a need for intervention. What steps does the Taoiseach intend to take regarding the Ballymurphy question? How does he intend to get the British Government to change its mind on pursuing the establishment of an independent panel to investigate the murders?
Regarding the Boston College tapes of interviews relating to the McConville case, a disturbing trend is emerging whereby those with anything to do with the Boston College project are being labelled as touts, and as greedy and reckless. A hate campaign is being developed by foot soldiers within the Sinn Féin movement, as far as I can ascertain, to target people. Regardless of whether one likes it, I believe the people involved in the Boston College project saw it as an historical project. They did not envisage the British prosecuting authorities seeking release of the tapes, Boston College being acquiescent, to say the very least, in opposing that until it was forced into a position where now certain tapes relating to the prosecution of that case have been released.
Now a hate campaign has developed where those responsible for conceiving the project and doing the interviews are being targeted in language that is very dangerous. The Taoiseach might have seen recent articles in which Mr. Ivor Bell is called the "Boston tout". People are under pressure to come clean about the contents of the controversial Boston tapes. It is very sinister and almost sets people up for attack. It makes people very insecure and anxious. There should be no toleration of it. It is extremely important that it is nipped in the bud and that all responsible people would deal with that. I ask for the Taoiseach's comments on the implications of that.
The families of the four soldiers who were so barbarically killed in the Hyde Park bombing felt very let down by the trial's collapse. That anger and frustration is completely understandable. The Northern Ireland Attorney General, Mr. John Larkin, actually expressed the controversial view at the time, which I feel inflamed the situation then, in requesting legislation to allow for an amnesty in certain cases. Following the Weston Park talks, the Northern Ireland authorities and the British Government were developing legislation, in essence to facilitate the on-the-runs but also to facilitate official state forces - British soldiers and police officers who had committed crimes. Ultimately, Sinn Féin opposed the bit that would have disallowed, in essence, prosecutions of British soldiers who had been involved in Bloody Sunday or the Ballymurphy killings. Officially, therefore, the legislation did not materialise.
Will the Taoiseach outline how the Government views those issues in terms of the past, the prosecuting of various cases and those who are on the run? How does the Government propose to deal with that contentious issue? Has there been any discussion of the Hyde Park bombing case and related matters with the British Prime Minister in the various meetings the Taoiseach had with him? Does the Taoiseach believe there should be a general amnesty? Is that now the Government's position regardless of the perpetrators of a particular crime or should justice continue to be done in those cases?
Where does the Taoiseach see the role of victims in the overall hierarchy of these complex and difficult issues? Invariably when proposals are made, the views and perspectives of victims seem to matter the least. The families of the victims believe they are the last to be consulted by those devising the various plans and approaches. Will the Taoiseach deal with those questions initially?
Does the Taoiseach have any further developments to outline on the need for an independent inquiry into the Pat Finucane case? Did the Taoiseach discuss it in his recent meeting with the British Prime Minister?
The two remaining issues are unrelated. Will the Taoiseach outline any discussions he had with the British Prime Minister on the situation vis-à-vis Russia and Ukraine?
With permission, I might come back to the retrospective debt issue because I do not believe it falls into this particular group of questions. If I get a chance I would like to come back on that matter, if appropriate.
I thank the Deputy for his comments. On the previous occasion, we split these questions into Northern Ireland and issues related to the Prime Minister. Two of the 37 questions grouped together related to Ukraine and Russia and I did not refer to those in my reply. Perhaps I should have put those two as a subsection. As I have told the Deputy before, I am willing to have Taoiseach's Questions in a priority questions system for Deputies if they have a particular issue they wish to raise.
I had quite an emotional meeting with the people from Ballymurphy. They expressed their case with clarity on behalf of those who were shot and died at the scene or later. The effect was no different, in the sense of their being citizens, than those who lost loved ones in the Kingsmill massacre or the relatives of those who were killed at the cenotaph in Enniskillen. When one speaks to them all, irrespective of their background or their creed, the loss is the same. The young lad, who is now a an adult, obviously, told me that he saw half his father's head blown away while standing beside him. For him that is an end-of-life picture he will carry with him all the days of his life. The pain of those from Ballymurphy was palpable. There was a very emotional charge from them about the issue that arose over those few days.
I know Deputy Martin has visited Ballymurphy before. Deputy Adams has been there many times. It is my intention to visit the location with the relatives on the next occasion I go to Belfast. In the next few weeks we should have an opportunity to have an all-party motion about Ballymurphy. I presume there would be no disagreement on this as there was not with the Finucane case. We can draft that motion in consultation with the Opposition leaders. We should do this to show solidarity with the relatives. I was disappointed by the response of the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It was not the full-blown Saville-type inquiry that was being sought here. It was not some sort of endless tribunal but a short-term limited analysis and investigation, as happened in the tragedy at the football match abroad a number of years ago. It may be possible to come back to that again.
In respect of Jean McConville, I agree with Deputy Martin's sentiments here. I will not stray into the area of Deputy Adams's arrest or the questions he was asked over the number of days he was in custody. Deputy Adams may wish to comment on that himself but I was struck by the argument, and the force of argument, of the McConville children. From my knowledge of the IRA and the way it operated when it was in existence in its cell formations, clearly somebody ordered that a number of men to go to the McConville dwelling, take out Jean McConville screaming in front of her family, abduct her, instruct that somebody drive her to a location and that there she be executed and buried. Her body was not found for very many years afterwards. That family was orphaned of their mother and the children were left in that sorry state and still bear that pain. I am quite sure information about Mrs. McConville's abduction and the ordering of her execution is more than likely available. It points out the difficulty and the complexity of dealing with issues of the past. This family deserves closure.
As I understand this, the number of people who have been questioned about this is six or seven - Deputy Adams will know that - and that one of those is being charged with conspiracy by association. Whether that moves through to the PPS to a further stage is something that I cannot predict. I think everybody in this country is haunted by the picture of Jean McConville and a number of her children - that black and white photograph - which has appeared thousands of times over the years. I know from meeting people who have lost loved ones at sea or whatever, through a tragedy or just an accident, that a sense of closure, not being able to say where they are and who was responsible and that justice be seen to be done is very powerful.
I agree with a comment made by Deputy Martin in regard to the Boston College tapes that there seems to be a sort of campaign that these are not valid, authentic or real contributions. Somebody who knows something about this said to me that some of the contributors were either dependant on alcohol or requiring of substance use all the time. I suppose the old saying in vino veritas is still valid. These are part of, and a background to, the problem we have with the past and the legacy of what that means. I share Uachtaráin Higgins's response, when commenting on this, I think, in Chicago, that nobody should be above law and that we cannot have one law for one and a different one for somebody else.
If the gardaí did not have the intelligence and communications they have available to them and the sharing of knowledge with the PSNI, this incident at Finnstown House recently could have been very serious, with the possibility of international repercussions for Ireland of the most serious kind, and the loss of life.
The issues arising over the last period in regard to the question of the past, parades and so on goes back to a comment made by the Tánaiste that there is a short opportunity after the electoral process is finished here and before the marching season gets into full swing in which we should perhaps refocus on what it is we may be able to do here. When I look at what is happening in Derry and I see the excitement, the expansion of the economy, the jobs being created and the view of the future where people really want to get on with the business of providing for their children, opportunities and so on, I see a difference between that and what is happening in places in Belfast. That is regrettable. I saw the television pictures, and Deputy Adams was involved. Perhaps there is an opportunity here to refocus, as two Governments, to help the Northern Ireland Executive and the parties in Northern Ireland. President Clinton said that we have to finish the job, it cannot be finished for them, it has got to come from inside and we have to give them all the encouragement we can.
I raised the question of the Pat Finuncane case again directly with the Prime Minister. He knows my very strong view on this and I said that to Pat Finucane's wife on a number of occasions. I know that people will say it is not just good enough to raise it. What else can one do here? Is there a facility that we can use or work with, perhaps to move this forward? These are serious matters and I would like to think that, in respect of Ballymurphy, we could frame a motion here which would be acceptable to everybody in the House in the next short period and have that debated.
In regard to the McConville murder, all I can say is that the information available now to the PPS and the people interviewed, and taking that against the background of these Boston College tapes, this may be progressed. I feel for and admire the courage of the McConville children who from their knowledge of so many years ago of the people who might have been involved gave that to the PSNI. I think that has been reflected by all parties. Anybody with information should do this.
I have spoken to Deputy Adams before about the disappeared and the best knowledge available to those who were involved in IRA activities at the time to pinpoint where the remains of those people are. Even after all the years, it brings a sense of closure to find those remains so that those who are left behind can actually say where they are.
To start with, I welcome the Taoiseach's willingness to go to Ballymurphy, his support for the families there and the notion of putting together an Oireachtas motion. That is good but I have to say that these issues are more serious than to have the Taoiseach or, indeed, Teachta Martin swapping anecdotes, no matter how serious and genuine they may be, about what is happening in the North and the suffering of victims' families. Of course, the suffering of all of the victims is the same. The family of an IRA volunteer, of a British soldier, of an RUC officer, of a UDR officer and, most particularly, of civilian feel the same way and I say that as a member of a family which has buried two family members. One was a victim of loyalist butchers - a young man coming from a traditional music session was left in a quarry after being stabbed to death - and the other was my brother-in-law who was shot to death by the British Army. I have been shot myself, although I do not see myself as a victim.
I think the Government needs to go a little bit further than what the Taoiseach's responses have been. It is a tendency in here all the time to talk about the need for all the parties in the North - it is a refrain from Fianna Fáil and the Taoiseach's Government - to engage.
Both the Taoiseach and Teachta Martin know the leadership role played by Martin McGuinness in the North. We know that the problem is that the Unionists, for reasons I have articulated in the past which I understand although I do not accept, are the ones who do not want to engage fully. The Taoiseach also knows that Sinn Féin has signed up for the compromise proposals of Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan. He should also know that the British Government has not signed up to them. If he wants to know why Peter Robinson or Mike Nesbitt have not, it is because David Cameron has not. We know from our experience in the process that Unionist leaders, notwithstanding the support for all of these moves by Unionist grassroots, will only move when a British Government lets them know that there is really little other option and that has not been the case.
My arrest has brought some of these issues into sharp focus but I have come to the House and asked for a rational and reasoned debate on the past. I have asked for us to set aside our partisan views and willingness to score points on a party-political basis. The Taoiseach referred to Ballymurphy. I am from Ballymurphy. It is where I live. My home is not in the Ballymurphy estate but it is in the townland of Ballymurphy. I am there nearly every weekend. Most of my family still live there. The people who were killed are my neighbours. These are real issues for someone like me. The thing about Ballymurphy is that the people there look to the Government to do something about it because they know that the British Government will not do anything about it. The British Secretary of State made it very clear that there was a one-sided approach to deaths in which the state was involved. She made those remarks recently. The question to the Taoiseach is whether the Government got notice of the remarks she made and what he did when he was told she would make such a statement. The Secretary of State also dismissed, as the Taoiseach noted, any notion of an inquiry as sought by the people of Ballymurphy or any notion of an inquiry into the La Mon House Hotel firebombing by the IRA. Did the Government get notice of it and what did it do on foot of that? If the Government did not get notice, why was that the case? Why was the Government not told? These are hugely important and significant statements.
The Secretary of State also said just last month that no one could plausibly argue that the institutions must be set in stone for all time. She said that her government would welcome moves that facilitate a more normal system at Stormont that allows for formal opposition; in other words – majority rule. Did the Taoiseach get notice of those remarks? If not, why not, and what was the response of the Tánaiste?
The Guardian broke a story about the Prime Minister, David Cameron, hosting the DUP leadership at an engagement in the garden of No. 10 Downing Street. The Guardian described it as Mr. Cameron playing the "Orange" card, the suggestion being that he is trying to make sure that there is some courtship of the DUP should he require it following the next election. That happened with John Major which famously led to the entire collapse of the process. He wished to ensure there would be Unionist votes for his government. The British representative in the Northern part of our country said that the institutions are not set in stone, that there is too much of a focus on killings by the state, and she dismissed a cause to which the Taoiseach has given his support. What did the Taoiseach do about any of that?
The Good Friday Agreement is the people’s agreement. Perhaps the Government does not have any investment in it but I guess the Taoiseach voted for it and Fine Gael and Labour came out in support of it. Under the terms of the Agreement the Government is the joint guarantor along with the British Government. I have worked with more taoisigh on this matter than anyone else in this Dáil. With one or two exceptions I have found that taoisigh are very deferential to the British. They behave as junior partners. I accept that one has to raise an issue at a meeting but where is the proactive strategy? What is in place in terms of the recognition now that the process might be in some difficulty? All of these things are very predictable. What is needed is a political and diplomatic defence of the peace process led by the Government. The big shift in Sinn Féin, which many historians missed, was when we recognised the responsibility of the Government to be in the lead against and with the British Government in terms of trying to carve out a peace process.
The Taoiseach noted the 40th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. The British Government persistently and consistently rejected any motion, appeal or responsibility it has to provide information on those matters.
I return to the issue of victims. I will conclude on this matter. Irish Republicans have acknowledged many times the hurt caused during the war. I would welcome if Teachta Martin said “This is Sinn Féin” but he uses sleveen, sleekit, weasel words such as “It appears to be Sinn Féin”, “As far as I can see”, “It appears to me”, and “As far as I have been able to ascertain”. Let me be very clear about this; all the victims deserve justice – every single one, particularly the victims of the Irish Republican Army. I say that as a republican because I cannot rail against injustices inflicted by the British or others if I do not take the same consistent position in terms of those who were bereaved by people whose legitimacy I recognised. Both the Taoiseach and the leader of Fianna Fáil recognised the legitimacy of the IRA cause, but in another decade. Somewhere along the line they became revisionist on the issue. I wish to be very clear that, first, it is the right thing to do morally; second, it is the right thing to do for the peace process and; third, I understand because I am from that community. That is where I come from.
Having said all of that, we need to straighten out these issues. The peace process cannot be allowed to meander. The road has too many pitfalls. There are too many powerful elements on the fringes of nationalism, within unionism and the British system who want to derail the process and build obstacles to it. For all the issues pressing down on the Government and all the pressing economic issues that impinge upon people’s lives every single day, the people of this island, the diaspora and the international community believe in the peace process so we need to be proactive and pre-emptive. The peace process is in trouble. Graphically describing the distress of victims will not assist although I do not for a moment impinge upon the Taoiseach’s right to do that. What is the Taoiseach’s plan and strategy for holding the British Government to account? I have given him three examples of the British Government stepping right outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement of which the Taoiseach is a co-guarantor. I asked the Taoiseach if he had prior notice of the remarks and if not, why not, and what was his response to them.
I thank Deputy Adams for his contribution. Everybody can agree that the suffering of all victims is the same.
Therefore they deserve justice and for the truth to emerge in respect of each of their sad and tragic cases.
It is true to say that Sinn Féin has signed up to the Haass talks and that other parties have not. Therefore when two parties such as these have a disagreement about an issue the question is whether one can bring them closer together where they can both agree on what the fundamentals of it might be. When I went around the corner in the little town of Windsor on the occasion of the visit of the Uachtarán what struck me was the streetscape. Having equal status and being of equal size with the Union Jack was the Tricolour, on every lamppost outside the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II, which is a strong signal in its own way.
Without issuing any plamás for the Ceann Comhairle, he has done a great deal of work, along with the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, William Hay, MLA, in putting together something people thought might never happen in North-South parliamentary dialogue. I know from reports that where matters were deemed not to be talked about, both of them, as leaders, brought about great understanding in so many ways. This is part of the strategy, Deputy Adams, to see if we can deal with the issues of the past, flags and parades. To coin a phrase they are not going to go away and it is a case of trying to inch forward.
When I spoke to Dr. Haass in New York he was not without hope of being able to resurrect some elements of this and that it might be possible to bring a conclusion to some pieces of it. I understand that he will come over to receive the peace prize in Tipperary later on and that he might make further remarks about this.
I recall being in the United States in 1984 after the New Ireland Forum when all the parties were there with one exception. It was Seamus Mallon who raised the question that the Sinn Féin Party was not there and asked who formed the party. I recall his words very clearly. He stated they were his neighbours in Markethill to whom people might have to give a hand with a tractor as the case might be. As Deputy Adams stated, the people in Ballymurphy are his neighbours but so also are the others.
I was informed of the intention of the Secretary of State to issue a statement about not going ahead in respect of an inquiry for Ballymurphy. I was informed of it late the night before and I did not have a copy of the statement. One of the senior officials at my Department informed me the Department had been told and it was related to it that the Secretary of State intended to issue the statement. It may well be some more detail might have been made available to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Secretary of State is in regular contact on these issues with the Tánaiste as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. I cannot confirm this to the Deputy now but we can check it later.
There is nothing to stop the Prime Minister hosting occasions in the gardens of Downing Street for groups of people. The Deputy states it is political with regard to dealing with the Unionist parties. People were speaking down here about Deputies Adams and Martin getting together at one stage. I do not suppose it was just for discussions, but that is neither here nor there and it is not for me to comment.
I hope the institutions are not set in stone because if they are not set in stone then there is a possibility of change and if there is a possibility of a change, or change of heart, then some of these issues of the past might be able to be moved forward and dealt with. The Good Friday Agreement is the Agreement of the people and all parties here. All parties, in fairness to them, made their contribution over the years in some small way towards the production and process of the Good Friday Agreement becoming a reality, irrespective of what Taoiseach stood here or what party they represented. In their own way they made some element of progress, perhaps not as much as people might have liked at the time, but individually and collectively the Oireachtas and the governments here were amenable to moving the situation in Northern Ireland to a point where we could get agreement.
I know Sinn Féin stated it is a big change when governments are in the lead, and of course it is a true statement of historic fact that the people in a different decade, and now a different century, did support the campaign but it had the legitimacy of the people's endorsement. It was a very different matter to what was the subject of the so-called war by the IRA which did not have the legitimacy and backing of the people and resulted in soldiers, members of the Garda and innocent civilians here being blown asunder also. The Deputy is not coming from the same base in making that point.
The peace process cannot be allowed to be static and nor can we have a situation where a blockage of politics disallows the next generation to move outside that and move on ahead. This is why I am happy to state I was in Donegal yesterday where we examined the question of the Peace Bridge as being symbolic of the new movement ahead. It is a €15 million development of a new science collaboration between the institute of technology in Derry and Letterkenny Institute of Technology with facilities of 50,000 sq. ft. and 20,000 sq. ft. This is the future. In the case of Derry it is a very progressive forward-thinking outlook for the people.
I also like to think the engagement that is genuinely going on between Ministers on a very regular basis is productive and is part of the process of people being able to work together on a range of issues in the interests of North and South, our peoples and our economies. It is the politics of this which are the issue.
I am willing to listen to valid suggestions as to how, when the current electoral process is over, we might be able to move forward again in respect of the three issues Dr. Haass was dealing with. It is not for the co-guarantors, either the Government here or the British Government, to say to the parties in Northern Ireland they are the elected representatives of the people and now they must do this, because this will not work either. If both Governments were to lead to a situation where it goes on interminably this would not be satisfactory either.
President Clinton stated very clearly that he was here 20 years ago when the peace process was put together and that the parties must finish the job. On behalf of the Government here let me state we are more than willing to support the initiatives of the parties. I take it the Deputy has signed up for the Haass talks. He might differ on other opinions with the other parties. At the end of the day, and I see it in Europe on a regular basis where there are disagreements on other matters, compromise and agreement on fundamentals are what make the difference.
I wish to make straight remarks and not weasel words. One of the questions I put to the Taoiseach was that the past is a key issue, but what is going on right now with regard to the past is, in my view, reprehensible. A hate campaign has developed against those involved in the Boston exercise. Those involved, those who did the taping and contributed to the tapes, genuinely believed they would not be released until after the participants were dead. Sinn Féin has an issue with this as do others but it is unacceptable that on the front page of the Sunday World one reads that Boston tout Ivor Bell is under pressure to come clean on the contents of the controversial Boston tapes.
There is graffiti now on the walls in the North about the touts, the informers and the greed. The salaries of those who actually did the interviews is out as though it represents some astronomical amount of money and that it was all for greed. Comparisons are being made between those who were involved in the project and those who cracked under pressure in Castlereagh and became informers and who were dealt with by the then IRA.
One gets good cop and bad cop all the time. On the one hand, one gets the nice presentation but on the other hand, this is going on right now. I have been contacted about this and people are worried about their lives. People are worried about the security aspect to it. It should be condemned and Sinn Féin should make sure that anyone associated with the party who is involved in this regard should stop and cease, no matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient it is. While the leader of Sinn Féin will accuse others of revisionism, I put it to the Taoiseach that it is absurd revisionism to suggest that any just war was going on over those 30-odd years from 1974. Many ex-combatants would say there was no justification, in retrospect, for anything that went on after Sunningdale. There was no great war, there was a war and terror and people were killed who did not need to be for far too long. It went on for years and years and now we all are being cosied to accept language around conflicts, war, sides and all that. Too many appalling atrocities were carried out that cannot be justified in any shape or form.
Moreover, I make the point to the Taoiseach that the peace process belongs to the Irish people, not to the Taoiseach, to me or indeed to the Sinn Féin Party. Yet, when someone gets arrested who the Sinn Féin Party does not like getting arrested, its members will organise protests outside the police station as they did in the case of the prominent arrest of one of its members with regard to the McCartney murder, when 300 people turned up outside a police station and when a member of the policing board, namely, Gerry Kelly, said this was an outrage. When they want to threaten the peace process, they will do it. The same happened in recent weeks, because Sinn Féin did not like a particular arrest. The peace process now was under threat and policing support was under threat. One cannot have it both ways; one either supports it or one does not. One cannot just switch up, switch off or switch down the temperature when it suits and the temperature was switched up deliberately two weeks ago. No one should be under any doubt or illusion about that. The mask slipped for a few days but it did so deliberately. The word to the authorities was were they to keep going, they would not have a peace process. Were they to keep going, they would not have support for policing in Northern Ireland.
My final point to the Taoiseach is to ask him whether he has concerns regarding victims of republican paramilitary violence in unsolved cases. I do not refer to recent cases but to other cases and the victims believe these cases never will be solved. They believe it would be too politically inconvenient to solve them and to bring people to judgment in respect of them. While this may or may not be true, that is the view of quite a number of victims. They believe some of those cases will never be dealt with properly by the authorities because it would be too politically inconvenient to so do.
Briefly, and I wish to come back to the Taoiseach's remarks, no one involved with Sinn Féin is engaged in the graffiti, the wall daubing or the perceived or real threats against anyone. This is extremely clear and I condemn these threats and everyone has stated more times than enough that people must be able to go about their business without any fear of any threat whatsoever. Moreover, for the information of Teachta Martin, the Haass proposals include the right of families to seek legal redress if they wish and Sinn Féin supports that concept. One must understand here that there are multiple narratives. In the same way as there are the Fine Gael, Labour Party and Fianna Fáil narratives, in more recent times there are the Sinn Féin and the republican narratives, as well as Unionist, British Army and IRA narratives. We would get some sense of our history were we willing to lay all those narratives side by side as opposed to undermining any of them. Moreover, for the record, no generation of the IRA had a mandate, not in 1916, not during the Tan war and not during the Civil War or since. However, every generation of the IRA had sufficient endorsement of enough people to continue, including in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s until thankfully, the war was brought to a close.
While the Uachtarán's visit to Britain was taking place, which I welcomed and in which Martin McGuinness also played a key role, I told the Taoiseach in this Chamber that we needed peace on the streets as well as the big houses and I repeat that point. I agree with the Taoiseach that all Taoisigh and all Governments have played their role in this ongoing peace process. I have acknowledged this and I commend them all. In response to my question, the Taoiseach replied that while he was given notice, he did not have the detail as to what Secretary of State Villiers was going to say but that perhaps someone in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade may have it. Was the Government given notice of my arrest? I ask the Taoiseach to revisit his response to my question on whether he was given notice about what the British Secretary of State was going to say because this, as well as the Taoiseach's response to it, shows where the Government is failing. I say this in the most fraternal and positive way possible, because I want this peace process to work and will do everything possible to make sure it does so. I ask the Taoiseach to reflect on what I have said. In addition, was the Government given notice of my arrest?
In respect of the notice from the Secretary of State, as I told the Deputy, I know I was informed late in the evening that it was the intention to issue a statement not approving of an investigation into Ballymurphy. I will have to check for Deputy Adams to ascertain whether the copy of the statement was submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or to the Department of the Taoiseach. As for when I first learned of the Deputy's arrest, he answered questions here - sorry, he asked questions, he was going off to answer questions - on the Wednesday. I remained in the House myself for quite some time and on my way out, someone stopped me in the corridor over there and said an arrest had taken place. That was the first I heard of it and so I cannot confirm to the Deputy whether notice was received. I do not think it was but I will advise the Deputy on that.
I might note that at least we now know the IRA has gone and that the army council has disbanded and we know there was no just war here. I spoke by telephone to the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, on the Saturday during which the Deputy was in custody. I told him that if the position was that he believed there is a cabal operating within the PSNI and that this was the dark side of the PSNI, I chair a committee down here whose purpose is to put in place a statutory independent authority for the Garda Síochána following a Government decision. One issue that always is held out is one should consider how matters are structured in Northern Ireland, where there is an oversight and overseeing responsibility for the ombudsman. I suggested to the Deputy First Minister that if it was his belief, this having been told to him by very senior personnel within the PSNI as he said himself, that there is a dark side and a cabal operating therein, the test of the authenticity of the oversight review is then vested in the ombudsman's office and that he should make a formal complaint. I am not sure whether the Deputy First Minister wishes to do that but if there is an issue in this regard, that is where the oversight review is lodged.
I must state that when I saw the people presenting and preparing the mural of Deputy Adams in Belfast, as is their right, comments were made there by some people to the effect that "We have not gone away". Who are the "we" and to whom they were referring when they said "We have not gone away"? These clearly are supporters of Sinn Féin and I am unsure what interpretation to put on this. I hope we can move this forward. Certainly, I assure the Deputy that from the point of view of the Government, there certainly is no lack of interest in this regard. Both Governments will be happy to co-operate with, work with and encourage the parties if they can see there is an opportunity to move forward any of these issues to a point where a better outcome can be achieved.
Nobody wants to see a return to what went on before. Nobody wants to see gardaí in the Republic having to evacuate innocent people because of a live bomb and a timer or people being evacuated anywhere else. We want to leave those days behind us and it behoves everyone to so do. That bears repetition. With the agreement of the other leaders, I will frame a motion in respect of Ballymurphy in the next while for their consideration.