An Bille um an Tríú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1971: An Dara Céim (Atógáil). Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1971: Second Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 9 December 1971

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 257 No. 8

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Debate resumed on the following amendment:

Go scríosfar na focail go léir i ndiaidh “Go” agus go gcuirfear ina n-ionad:—

“ndiúltaíonn Dáil Éireann an Dara Léamh a thabhairt don Bhille ar an bhforas go bhféachann sé le leasú a dhéanamh ar an mBunreacht gan trácht ar na [1498] hAirteagail lena mbaineann agus ar shlí atá cintrártha dó sin atá ceaptha in Airteagal 46.1 den Bhunreacht.”

To delete all words after “That” and substitute:—

“Dáil Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill on the grounds that it seeks to amend the Constitution without enumerating the Articles so affected and in a manner contrary to that intended in Article 46.1 of the Constitution.”

Mr. Donegan: Information on Patrick S. Donegan  Zoom on Patrick S. Donegan  When we adjourned last week I was saying I regarded the speech of the Taoiseach when he introduced this particular important matter as one of the most extraordinary performances of any head of State in Europe since the Treaty of Rome was initiated and since various measures were introduced in the various parliaments of the countries now members of the EEC and those who intend to become members. It was merely a Civil Service description of what the legal position is in regard to this proposed amendment of the Constitution.

Other Deputies here saw fit to speak for as long as an hour but they were at all times relevant. Indeed, the debate has been conducted throughout in that atmosphere. The Taoiseach, after all, is the man who would lead us into Europe. He is head of the Government and unless there is a change of Government—I think there will be before it happens—he is the man who will lead us into Europe. He now proposes a change in the Constitution and this will have to be put before the people in the from of a referendum. His decision was, apparently, that he would merely indicate the legal steps that will be necessary. His introductory speech occupies only four columns, two pages of the Official Report, and at the normal rate of delivery in this House it would take only ten minutes.

I hold the Taoiseach was quite wrong in not broadening or going fully into the various aspects of the problem that confronts this country. There is a [1499] situation in which any group in the country who see fit can express any opinion they wish on this matter. Such opinions may be erroneous or they may be correct but if they are erroneous the group who have Deputy Lynch as Taoiseach will not know anything from him of the inferences, the implications of this change in the Constitution. The people will be in the unfortunate situation of having heard people who are ill-informed, or people who might have a vested interest in our not entering Europe.

I regard this as a serious lapse on the part of the Taoiseach. Of course, it has been paralleled on other occasions during the life of the present Dáil when the Taoiseach and other members of the Government have seen fit to be almost insolent to Parliament when introducing very serious measures. They have sought to create a situation in which free debate before the people of the country has been stifled because they have produced Civil Service type statements of extreme gravity. The Taoiseach's speech here has been seriously uninformative. He has not been diligent in his duty to Parliament. He should have given every detail and should have dwelt on every possible consequence so that the people would know how to act in the referendum. He should have given all the details of our prospects on entry to the EEC. Instead, he merely discussed what the Parliamentary draftsman had done and said it was a straight case of “Yes” or “No”.

There has probably been no more complex matter discussed in this House than the question of the EEC entry. The Government have been vehement in their denial of the fact that our sovereignty as a State could be affected. In absolute law that is correct, but at the same time we must think of the wars that have been fought about ideals, about the state which exists when a great nation finds a large number of people on the breadline and in the unemployment exchanges, and when economics have gone wrong. Many wars have been fought when economics have gone wrong. Under international law and under the [1500] Treaty of Rome we will not lose any part of our sovereignty. It is true also that if we become economically involved with the States of Europe any attack, economic or physical, on such States would be a serious matter for us and could result in vast unemployment figures here when our trade has intermingled with theirs. This could happen within a decade of our entry to EEC. It could result in the closing of export outlets which are of vital importance to us. In such a situation on paper and in law, there would be no effect on our sovereignty, but there would be a physical effect on our economy which might be so severe as to indicate to a majority of this House that this country might perhaps have to go to war.

The Taoiseach should deal in detail with all these matters. There is a feeling on the Government benches at the moment that if the wolf is at the door the best thing to do is to stay inside hoping that he will go away. I do not want to overstate the position but to draw attention to these matters which might away the people against the referendum when it comes to a vote. There is no question on the part of the Taoiseach of taking sides in this matter. The Taoiseach is in command and it is his duty to put the case to the people in its entirety. This has not been done. The Taoiseach has confined himself in ten minutes to the phraseology of the amendment and the simple “Yes” or “No”. I am not a lawyer. There are many lawyers in the House, including the Taoiseach himself. I do not intend to deal with the phraseology but I want to emphasise the fact that the Constitution is being amended. I represent 20,000 to 30,000 constituents.

Every Deputy, from the newest arrival to the oldest inhabitant, and from the least verbose to the man who puts most words on the record of this House, has the responsibility of representing such a number of constituents. They are not all educated people who can decide for themselves. Amongst them there are old people who may not have had the advantages of education which we enjoyed and which our children to a greater extent enjoy. I left my children at home this morning. They, in common with children at [1501] school all over the city and from one end of the country to the other, will all be affected by EEC entry. Each Deputy has the responsibility of explaining to his constituents the consequences of changing the Constitution. The changes in the Constitution will change the rights of these children. I picked up my copy of the Constitution and my notes this morning. One of my children asked me what I had, and I told her that the Constitution contained her rights. She replied that she knew her rights and that she would be getting her holidays next week. That simple little event shows us the seriousness of this situation. We are deciding for our young people who have not yet the right to decide for themselves because of the state of the development of their minds. They do not know what sort of country this will be in the future and whether or not the very fortuitous non-intervention into the war from 1939 to 1945 would be possible in a future war. The children do not know whether or not their opportunities for employment will be increased or decreased.

It is unthinkable that a head of State should come in here and read out one paragraph on the Coal and Steel Community, one paragraph on the Court of Justice, one paragraph on the Council and its decisions, and a little on the wording of the amendment to the Constitution, and then sit down. I ask the Taoiseach when replying to examine thoroughly every little detail of what can happen on our entry into EEC. On my judgment, representing 20,000 to 30,000 people, I feel that we should go into EEC but at the same time that the degree of bargaining that has been done by the Taoiseach and his Ministers has not been sufficient. During the sixties I was in Brussels and Strasbourg and I attended a study group in Cannes with other Deputies. During that time the Fianna Fáil Minister for External Affairs, my colleague, Deputy Aiken, spent as long as 87 days in America. Our representative in Brussels was grossly overworked at that time. The then Minister was in Brussels once in the previous four years. He was passing through and spent the night there. Members of the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party [1502] were interesting themselves in the difficulties which would follow on the arrival of freer trade. The Fianna Fáil Government were disinterested. They were more interested in whether China should enter the inner portals of the United Nations building than in whether we should have more trade with Europe.

During those formative years stances were adopted and positions were taken up. During those formative years detailed negotiations should have been carried out. In his ten minute introductory statement to this serious measure which opens the door for the decision of the people, the Taoiseach expressed no opinion except to say in his last sentence: “I recommend this Bill to the House.” On such a serious matter it was very wrong for the Taoiseach to ask for a blank cheque. As somebody said, even if this House has to sit on Christmas Day, it is absolutely necessary for us to debate in detail all the advantages and all the disadvantages. It may be that something which the Labour Party regarded as a disadvantage could turn out not to be a disadvantage. If in his opening statement the Taoiseach had allayed a certain feeling of trepidation on the part of any Member of the House with regard to our economy or the question of employment, I am sure that Deputy would have been overjoyed. On this decision rests the prosperity or otherwise of Ireland for the next 30 years.

I want to deal now with the timing of the introduction of the Bill. It is possible that people might be led astray on the referendum because of the Taoiseach's non-performance. He must get out his pen, do his homework and reply in detail to this debate. There is no proposal for a further debate on the EEC before the House at the moment so far as I know—a full debate with no time limit, and at the proper time. In my view the proper time would be the time arranged between the Whips. This debate should not be acrimonious. We must have constructive criticism so that the people can get the information and make up their minds. Who is making up their minds for them at the moment as a result of the Taoiseach's ten-minute [1503] speech giving the mechanics and nothing but the mechanics of the Bill? Various organisations, some legal and some totally illegal, are expressing opinions in the Press against our entry into the EEC. If ever there was a political sin by omission it was committed by the Taoiseach when he produced the ten-minute speech which he did.

I should like now to say a few of the things I think he should have said. The Taoiseach and his Ministers, particularly the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Finance, omitted to explain to the many decent working people in this country that many of the redundancies that occurred are not attributable to EEC entry or to the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement. Any little word said by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in this regard displayed a certain blankness of mind. It is possible that our accession to the EEC could cause redundancies. A manufacturer here who considers that entry will affect his business seriously, may decide to contract his business instead of expanding it. Therefore, redundancy would be caused. Many companies will have to re-equip themselves for entry and spend large capital sums and seek grants, or do nothing or, worst of all, close their doors. We must face the fact that our entry into EEC could cause redundancies.

As the spokesman for my party on Industry and Commerce I have made inquiries about industries in which there were redundancies. In no case was our future entry into the EEC the cause of such redundancies.

I turn now to other matters relating to the EEC which could confuse the issue for the people. One of these matters is the Bill dealing with value-added tax. Every small shopkeeper in the country as well as every person involved in trade, every purchaser and every consumer is at this stage open to conviction by persons who do not desire us to enter the EEC, that the value-added tax Bill——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I hope we are not going to have a debate on the value-added tax Bill on this occasion.

[1504]Mr. Donegan: Information on Patrick S. Donegan  Zoom on Patrick S. Donegan  I do not intend debating the Bill but merely to point out in passing that persons who will have to vote on this referendum in March or April will, if the Government continue on present lines, have to vote at the same time as the very confusing and bemusing issue of value-added tax is being considered. It is my opinion that that particular Bill should be postponed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  We cannot open up a debate on the value-added tax Bill.

Mr. Donegan: Information on Patrick S. Donegan  Zoom on Patrick S. Donegan  It is of absolute necessity that that Bill be postponed and that the referendum which should be on the question of entry alone would go before the people after there has been full discussion of the matter and when further changes have occurred and further advances have been made in negotiations. So far as the timing of the referendum and its probable results are concerned in the context of political affairs in this country, I said in opening my contribution to this debate that, as a result of our proposed entry into the EEC, there arises directly the question of serious changes in our yearly Budget. When the people are voting on the referendum they must be aware that after we join the EEC, there will be a saving by way of direct agricultural subsidies which, it is estimated, in the Budget of 1973, will amount to £35 million. For the payments that we receive from the common fund of the EEC, we will have to make a contribution towards the EEC coffers. It is estimated that in the first year of membership our contribution to Brussels will be about £3 million and that in the last year of the transitional period, it will be in the order of £10 million. Therefore, there will be an advantage of about £25 million. That raises the question as to when the Government will go to the country. It is my belief that they should go now but I expect they will try to hang on until they can take advantage of that. It is well that we should indicate what are the views of the various parties in relation to the expenditure of the amount of money that will be saved [1505] in this way. So far as Fine Gael are concerned, we agree that it should be spent mainly in increasing social welfare benefits. I shall say no more on that matter at this stage and I turn now to the question of the purchase of land in Common Market conditions, a matter that was not referred to by the Taoiseach.

So far as I can ascertain from the various documents provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs—very helpful documents—we can continue our land division policy here so long as we do not extend to our uneconomic holders benefits that we do not extend to uneconomic holders from other parts of the EEC so long as those persons have been resident here for a certain period. There is another constitutional issue involved here. It would appear to me that if a young man came here from any of the EEC countries and spent five years here as a farm steward and if, at the end of that time he had an uneconomic holding, he would have to be treated in the same way as if he were the son of a man who had been struggling all his life on an uneconomic holding in the West of Ireland. That is a question that should be clarified by the Taoiseach when he is replying.

At this stage I wish to refer to the existing situation in the Common Market. This Bill is for the purpose of having a referendum on the question of whether we should join. The Taoiseach has made great play, mostly outside the House, of the fact that the combined Opposition are divided on the issue of the Common Market. I cannot speak for the Labour Party but my view is that pragmatic practising politicians must now accept clearly that when in the British House of Commons a majority of 112 decided on entry into the Common Market, as far as we were concerned the argument was over. The charge that the Taoiseach makes is nothing more or less than a party political charge. The situation is that the matters at issue are the terms of entry, the terms of entry, for instance, in relation to fisheries, in relation to our sensitive industries, in relation to certain concessions that we should get that Britain could not hope to get. The Taoiseach did not advert at all to what is the most striking feature that should [1506] be put before the people in this referendum. That most striking feature is that there are many sections of our economy giving good employment and were a concession given to Britain then, because of the volume of goods being produced by Britain in that particular section, it would have a serious effect on the economy and the employment of people within the Six. There is no hope of a large economy, such as Britain, getting a concession that would hurt the existing members of the EEC. I get a little irritated sometimes when I hear people speaking of the EEC as if it were a free trade area for the whole world. It is not a free trade area for the whole world. The reason why the vote with a majority of 112 in the British House of Commons changed the whole situation is that we send 75 to 80 per cent of our exports to Britain. We could not afford to pay the common external tariff which would have to be set up against us by Britain whether they wished it or not once they signed accession to the Treaty of Rome. We are weak, we are small. In many of our sensitive areas of employment and industry we are, in relation to the EEC and indeed in relation to Britain, quite insignificant. It would be quite wrong if the entire terms of entry for us, or even a major number of the terms of entry, turned out to be exactly parallel to the terms offered to Britain because it is quite clear that there are many industries here, the produce of which would not, because of their size, affect a Frenchman, a Dutchman, an Italian or anybody else, but if the same concession were given to Britain there would be serious complications and serious unemployment within the EEC.

Similarly, on the question of entry of European goods here, there are the sensitive areas where we depend to a great extent upon our home trade and where the large industries of Europe could put goods in here which would affect employment to a serious degree. Need I mention the sensitive areas? There are footwear and textiles— which present a world problem at the moment and, therefore, slightly different—electrical goods and various other products. I could point to an effort being made at present to defend employment in an electrical goods factory [1507] by providing retail outlets here, an intervention by the Government which I, from this side of the House, stood up and commended. That is to meet the competition of Italians, Dutch, French, and so on. We, because of the smallness of our market and the fact that a flood of European goods to us in the sensitive areas could affect our employment situation, can negotiate and should negotiate terms different from those of Britain, terms which would defend our employment and give time for our industries, State aided, to gear themselves over the next decade to an export situation which would equal the amount of home trade lost before our home market is open completely to continental competition.

On this matter the Government have been too silent. I have adverted to the non-performance of my colleague, the previous Minister for External Affairs, in relation to Europe over the whole of a decade when he nested in the United Nations and was, in four years, once in Brussels and then was only passing through. I have laid it at the foot of the Taoiseach that his responsibility in introducing this Referendum Bill was to convince the people from this House, in which the elected representatives could stand up and make their voices heard, and elicit all the information that could possibly be given, to allow the people to vote freely and informatively on this most important issue.

I conclude now by referring to the political mischief which the Taoiseach, who should be above that, uses in suggesting that the Opposition are split on this matter. This matter is so serious that I speak now without regard for any slight embarrassment I might cause to a few members of the Fine Gael Party. The Fine Gael Party have a number of members who could be described as enthusiastic Europeans —so have the Fianna Fáil Party— people who would almost, as the late Deputy Seán Lemass said on one occasion, “go it alone” which would, of course, be quite ridiculous, but I do use the word “almost”. The great majority of the Fine Gael Party are [1508] determined that they will, by parliamentary question, by their work in this House, by their contacts with the business elements, by their contacts with the trade unions, by their every effort in their political work, see to it that all available information will be in the people's hands and see to it that if necessary we will politically bludgeon the Government into making the very best bargain possible. I have no right to speak for the Labour Party but I see them as a party determined that no job that can be saved will be lost and that every possible new job will be created and that the huge task of doing this will be carried out by the Government until we, the combined Opposition, can get rid of them.

I believe that the difficulties within their party for the last two years with their international complications, have left the negotiators, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the other Ministers, at a disadvantage outside the country and within the country also. There is a political pollution to be cleansed. It is my view that new men could make better bargains. There is on this side of the House, in both parties, a determination that better bargains will be made and there is in these parties better knowledge and appreciation of the difficulties and dangers facing the people. Since the vote in the House of Commons the inevitability of our entry into Europe if the British enter is appreciated. Whenever I went to a fair with a bullock to sell I did not say to a prospective buyer that I wanted the best price nor that, irrespective of price, I was determined to sell the bullock because to have done that would have placed me in a losing situation. That is the position facing the House. What is needed to clear the political pollution is to put men of a different frame of mind—let us not say better or worse men—men who because of their period in Opposition have perhaps had an opportunity to be nearer to the people, in a position to bargain and to see to it that our entry into Europe defends the last job and provides every possible new job.

I make the charge that the Taoiseach in his speech on the Second [1509] Reading of this Bill, and from his exalted position, has not told the people the reasons why we should enter Europe or the reasons why we should not enter Europe. I hope and pray that that omission will be repaired when the Taoiseach is replying to the debate.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  This debate on the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill is of serious national importance. Everybody should consider the proposed amendment. Apart from the misrepresentations on the part of some Deputies and some organisations outside the House, one simple question arises. The Labour Party maintain that there will be unemployment arising from entry to the EEC.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  We are debating a constitutional amendment, with due respect.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  I do not want the Deputy's advice. I was here years before he came into the House and I could give a lecture on Parliamentary democracy to the Deputy who spoke for four hours on the Adjournment debate—a selfish Deputy.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  When was that?

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  On the Adjournment of the Dáil. It is suggested that the Labour Party will oppose this amendment and will tell us that people will be unemployed if we enter the EEC. Is there any grain of intelligence left in those who oppose entry? Is it the suggestion that we should become a dead limb on a tree? I want the people to ask themselves the question: if we cannot sell our surplus products to the EEC countries, will we have to reduce our standard of living? It is inevitable that initially our entry will result in a few people losing their jobs but we on this side of the House are anxious to create jobs in certain industries that may not be able to compete in the Common Market. The most serious question for everybody to consider is, if we do not enter the Common Market, how will we fare as an island in the Atlantic, friendless and alone? Will we be in the position of having to beg the crumbs off the tables [1510] of other countries? On the other hand, inside the EEC we could bargain and will bargain, in the interests of our people. According to the Labour Party, we are going to beg the crumbs off other tables and will have no bargaining position in selling our products to EEC countries. My learned friends of the Labour Party would prefer that we should take the crumbs off these tables.

Our entry into the EEC raises questions of serious national importance and it should be above party politics. It is not Fianna Fáil who want to go into the EEC; it is the whole nation. Every aspect should be considered. I do not like to see this being made a political issue. I would prefer that the people would consider the national implications and would not take the narrow party political point of view. The question is: what benefit will EEC membership confer on our country and on our people? The question must be considered, if we determine to stand alone and not to enter Europe, what will be the consequences for our people. Everybody should ask himself that question. Even the children going to school should ask that question. If the Government proposal is defeated in the referendum, where do we go from there? I would ask the very intelligent people in the trade union movement to consider the matter from every aspect.

I do not want to see anybody losing employment. All my life I have been anxious to ensure that more and more employment will be created. The Fianna Fáil Party have been concerned with the well-being of every section, irrespective of class or creed and have given their lives and their time in efforts to create employment. We are not going to sell what we have built up. We are not going to vitiate the great economic revival and the trade we have built up successfully with other countries.

We cannot go it alone. There are posters on every wall suggesting that we can go it alone and that we need not enter the European Economic Community. Is it suggested we should build a wall around this country? We had some experience of that during [1511] the inter-Party Government. That Government sold our aeroplanes. That Government wanted to build a wall around the country so that nobody could get in or out. Where would we be if we did not trade with other countries? The United States of America tried a policy of isolationism on two occasions when they went against President Wilson and again at the beginning of the second world war. The Americans thought they could go it alone. They got a rude awakening with Pearl Harbour. No country, no matter how big it is, can go it alone. China, realising this, was most anxious for a seat at the United Nations. Large countries cannot go it alone. Neither can small countries like ours. These are aspects which must be considered seriously.

The proposed referendum is not a Fianna Fáil referendum. It is a national referendum. We are the Government and we represent the people and, because we are the Government, we have to give the people an opportunity of voting in this referendum. I welcome criticism and I welcome questions. Everybody should ask questions and everybody should ensure that we make the best possible bargain. Deputy Donegan said that if they were on this side of the House they would make a better bargain. This is a petty approach. If Deputy Donegan has advice to offer and constructive criticism we will listen to it.

This is a national issue. The matters involved are serious matters. The people have complete confidence in the Government. The few will try to smear. The many, fortunately, appreciate the importance of this. I have been a long time in this House and there have always been dissidents in every party. There have always been dissidents in both Fine Gael and Labour. This is nothing new. Human nature being what it is people will always differ. As far as the Fianna Fáil Party is concerned, 99.9 per cent of our party is loyally behind the Taoiseach and the Government in the decisions they are making.

Deputy Donegan gave a trite example of a man going to the fair with a bullock and asking the prospective [1512] buyer: “What will you give me for the bullock?” He inferred that that was our approach to the Common Market. Nothing could be further from fact. I am surprised that Deputy Donegan should take such an unintelligent approach. The Government have expert advice and their advisers, trusted and competent civil servants, will give them nothing but the best advice. The hardest bargain possible will be struck.

I could take Opposition Deputies to task because of statements they have made. This matter must be approached seriously. All we ask is a transitional period which will enable us to gear ourselves to the very best of our ability to meet the competition in the Common Market. Right from 1932 onwards the fight was an uphill one, but the peaks were successfully reached. In 1932 our tourist industry was nil. Today it is worth over £100 million. Our industrial exports are now running neck and neck with our agricultural exports. That is a tremendous advance.

We have never let the people down and we will not let them down now. I appeal to the Opposition to approach this matter seriously and intelligently. It must be considered from the national point of view. The advantages and the disadvantages must be weighed. We cannot go it alone. That is an impossibility. I have cited the example of the United States of America and China.

The Labour Party are worried because people may lose their employment. The Government will do everything possible to ensure that nobody loses his or her job. These I believe are matters of national importance, I could talk for a week on the side issues.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  The same scarcity of information which exists regarding our application on the economic front exists in relation to the constitutional implications which will follow entry. At some stage there was a change in the official attitude as to exactly how the people would be consulted about our application for entry. Some years ago the late Seán Lemass said that if it was found that any of the [1513] Treaty obligations were in conflict with the Constitution as it stands consideration would have to be given to effecting any necessary amendment of the Constitution.

Up until the White Paper was published in 1970 official thinking lay in the direction of indicating to the people the constitutional changes which would follow if we sought entry to the EEC but there appears to have been a change in attitude and the Taoiseach at column 1073 of the Official Report, Volume 257, said:

Some Deputies may ask why the Government did not propose an amendment which would deal, by reference to special articles, with the incompatibilities which exist between the provisions of the Constitution and obligations of membership of the Communities. The answer is that the Government consider that it would not be practicable to do so because the extent to which the Constitution would need to be amended is in the final analysis a matter for decision by the appropriate courts.

An extraordinary economy of information is being used by the constitutional lawyers at the Government's service. Various reasons have been advanced for the lack of information on the economic effects of entry. No reason has been put forward to change the Labour Party's opposition to entry— an opposition which is centred on our concern for employment for Irish workers. No information has been put forward with regard to employment, and a similar disease has struck in the area of the constitutional implications; no information is forthcoming and the Taoiseach has said it is a matter for the courts.

I do not think it is beyond the wit of members of the Oireachtas to say which major areas of the Constitution will be involved if we enter the EEC. The Taoiseach cannot shrug off his responsibility as Leader of this House by saying this is a matter in the final analysis for the courts. In a theoretical sense this may be true but the Taoiseach knows there is a duty on politicians to spell out exactly what changes in our Constitution would follow entry.

[1514] No court in the land or indeed in the international community would suggest that this House does not have that obligation and no court would question the right of this House to point out these changes.

The Taoiseach seeks to evade what is the clear-cut responsibility of a premier in going to the electorate. One may speculate on the reasons for the official change of heart on the way to present our proposed entry to the people. Some commentators suggest that the Government's reluctance to refer to the specific clauses affected may have a great deal to do with the actual clauses in question and the things they say.

For example, Article 5, which states: “Ireland is a sovereign, independent demoncratic state,” was one of the articles which it was stated in the White Paper would need to be amended. These are awkward and probably emotional words against the background of abject, economic dependence on the British market which has been the policy pursued by this and other Governments over the years despite a barrage of public rhetoric to the contrary. It has been suggested by some commentators that the Government would find it embarrassing to have to go to the electorate and explain that these were rather embarrassing words which do not sufficiently describe the contemporary position of the Irish State. That in fact may be true although I do not know why the Government could not go to the electorate and state the exact constitutional amendments that would be necessary.

The Government had two choices: they could have done the honest thing and gone before the electorate and listed the constitutional changes that would be necessary or they could have done something which we suggested a long time ago and utilised Article 27 whereby a Bill can be referred to the people—provided a sufficient number in this House agreed—which would merely state our desire to enter the EEC. Let it be clear, the Labour Party are all for consulting the people but we believe the vehicle of consultation with the people should be honest in intent, clear and unambiguous. Our criticism of the Third Amendment is [1515] that it is deliberately vague and no one can state what in fact the true effects of the amendment being carried would have on the Constitution.

The Government have chosen a means of consulting the people which seeks to cloak the full constitutional implications of entry and we oppose this amendment on that ground. The Labour Party's approach throughout has been for maximum information. We would be departing from that role if we voted for this amendment which appears to go in the direction of total obscurity of purpose. We have looked for maximum information on jobs, on how the economic future of our people will be influenced or affected by entry and we now want maximum information in the area of the constitutional changes that will be necessary.

I would not like it to be thought by anybody that this is a last ditch fight by the Labour Party in defence of the 1937 Constitution, it is no such thing. Instead of marking the high watermark of Republicanism, which many people at the time thought it was and which for years afterwards we were led to believe by ladies and gentlemen opposite that it was, I consider the 1937 Constitution marks a step into medievalism and I certainly do not consider it to be a forward move. By comparison, and many Deputies opposite even realise this, the Saorstát Éireann Constitution was superior to the 1937 document, certainly in terms of a 32-county State. We now know the 1937 Constitution to be a positive bar to any further dialogue with our countrymen in the north-eastern part of the country. Let nobody think the Labour Party is addicted to the erroneous clauses and the sectarian provisions contained in the 1937 Constitution. The 1937 Constitution adopts some features of the Saorstát Constitution and it incorporates certain fundamental rights which we believe it would be wrong to depart from unwittingly or unknowingly and this would be the possible result of accepting the Bill in its present form. There are certain fundamental guarantees in the Constitution that must not be eroded. They have proved useful. This is not due to any [1516] particular virtue of the author of the 1937 Constitution but rather to immemorial common law guarantees dressed up in the 1937 Constitution and on which this Constitution is the sole authority since its enactment and the sole bedrock of these fundamental personal freedoms. Admittedly, the social directives of that Constitution and the policy directives which are not recognisable by the courts are rather dated but they are capable of further development. Other parts of the Constitution have been the subject, in recent years especially, of Supreme Court interpretation which has opened up the possibility of the extension of personal freedom. For these reasons we think it would be wrong and foolish to agree to any large scale erosion of unspecified areas of the Constitution. We saw the method by which the Supreme Court extended rights under Article 43.1 where the State guarantees in its laws to respect and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen. This was used notably in the Ryan case in recent years, in the Philip Clarke case and in other cases to extend greatly the area of individual fundamental rights.

The Bill does not list the Articles of the Constitution which are affected and we may speculate on the reasons for that. Peculiarly, this reluctance to list constitutional amendments and come clean on how the Constitution should be changed, this notable reluctance by the Government coincides with a period when any man with ten followers is talking about changing the Constitution and when not a weekend goes by that the Taoiseach does not talk about his intention to change the Constitution. He does not state the year or the century or give details about the era in which he will go through this Justinian phase of changing the Constitution, but he has made many speeches on the matter in recent weeks. He says he is going to scrap the entire Constitution if he can get a united Ireland; even on the way to a united Ireland he will scrap it in unspecified ways. Yet, he cannot state here clearly where he wishes to change it or list the clauses which require change now.

There is no doubt that the Third [1517] Amendment Bill will alter various sections of the Constitution. As the Taoiseach said, this will be a matter for the courts, and in another part of his speech he said that there is a danger that we might not be able to get all the implications clearly stated in a Bill; technically, we might leave out something. So, there is no doubt that there will be large-scale changes. It appears there is no nervousness about large-scale changes in the Constitution as long as you do not name the exact areas of change. We may speculate on the reasons for the Government's reticence with the electorate and their reluctance to state the changes required.

The Taoiseach says the draft is very narrow, that it could not be narrower, but the Taoiseach has a peculiar view of reality, to put it bluntly. To some extent, he has a schizophrenic approach to truth, a certain gift for interpretation which has served him well in recent years. The draft to us in our naivete appears pretty wide and the second portion to be extremely wide. It validates all measures adopted by the State consequent on membership. For example, it could make lawful otherwise unconstitutional measures which the State was not obliged to adopt but which it could hold where necessary consequent on our membership; for “the State” read “the Oireachtas”.

In regard to that phrase, “consequent on membership”, we recall a period in the courts between 1924 and 1940, and even after that-one recalls Article 44.1 to the effect that no citizen shall be deprived of his personal liberty save in accordance with law—when a long series of decisions equated the word “law” with the actual law of the land. As long as it was law duly promulgated here and clearly put forth from this Assembly the courts said: “That is good enough for us.” The courts said that the Oireachtas was competent to judge. This interpretation was used mainly to bolster up the Offences Against the State Act and various attempts were made to show that the law had a wider significance than simply the law of the land, but those attempts failed. Likewise, in various cases before the courts in the matter of private property, in [1518] the Donnelly case and others of the same sort, there were numerous examples where the courts said in fact that the Oireachtas was competent to judge these social questions.

There has been a welcome change. In recent years we have seen the Supreme Court and the High Court taking on a very creative function that all must welcome and it is true that the whole method of judicial review of legislation has developed well by comparison with the past but there is no guarantee that in the future we may not find the courts once more equating “law” with the law of the land or, in fact, interpreting it in the same spirit as the interpretation of Article 28.3º, namely, “time of war or armed rebellion”. Again on the matter of “measures adopted by the State consequent on membership”, the court could say that these were the decisions that were consequent on membership belonging peculiarly and alone to the Oireachtas. It may seem farfetched but these are possibilities that could come into existence if we pass unspecified amendments to our Constitution.

It would be more honest for the Government—and I do not think any court could question their right to do so—to specify the actual amendments necessary in the Constitution or, alternatively, to adopt the course provided for in Article 27 of putting the matter to the people in a straight “yes” or “no” fashion. We can speculate on the reasons why the Government did not adopt either of these courses and should choose to attempt to cloak the real effect of this Third Amendment to the Constitution. Whether their reticence and reluctance to spell out the implications have anything to do with an early general election, I do not know. It may be an embarrassing thing to say at the beginning of an election campaign that the State is no longer sovereign and independent. However, even though the Government may be contemplating a Twenty-six County general election, it must be remembered that what we are discussing is not a petty political matter to be confused with an election. The issue is too important to be tied [1519] to the fortunes of one political party. The Taoiseach should state the order of priorities: which is the more important, to win an election or bring this country into the EEC.

I am not in the least convinced when the Taoiseach says that the only reasons why the constitutional implications of EEC membership were not spelled out was that this was, in the last analysis, a matter for the courts. Is it not a question, with a general election coming up, of it not being good politics to spell out these constitutional changes? The amendment says:

No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State consequent on membership of the Communities or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the Communities, or institutions thereof, from having the force of law in the State.

The only limitations in that situation would be that the Community institutions can only exercise their powers in ways set out in the three Treaties listed. It is true that these Treaties are concerned with economic matters but we cannot say that fundamental freedoms will not be directly affected. We could say that there will not be any infringement of fundamental personal rights, but these powers in the economic sphere are very wide and open-ended. Reference has been made to Article 235 of the EEC Treaty under which very wide power is provided; and the objectives of the Community, as expressed in the Preamble to the Treaty of Rome, are also pretty wide. Article 235, in fact, opens up the possibility of passing laws in this country which up to now would be regarded as unconstitutional.

The Taoiseach says that the amendment is narrow in that, when we see the growth of political and monetary union among these States, we shall need another referendum. Therefore: “See how honest we have been. See how accurate and fair we have been,” is the attitude of the Taoiseach. I do not know what marks we can give for that. One of the errors of negotiating posture from the very beginning has [1520] been a totally uncritical acceptance of the political implications of joining the Community. Every other weekend Ministers stated their promise to be of good behaviour in any political development of the Community. That might be harmless enough if they confined their remarks to the local branches of their party and if they had kept their mouths shut in Europe or in Brussels. However, at a time when the now members of the Community were anxiously querying the future political developments of the Community, our Ministers were blabbing forth their total commitment to and optimism in respect of an unspecified political charter for Europe.

Of course we were never told what the political implications were from the outset, but that does not come within the ambit of our discussion now. It is a bit late in the day for the Taoiseach to say we shall require a referendum to decide on our adherence to a Community that may sprout a political framework when our Ministers have been saying in Europe and at home for many years now that we are willing and able to accept all the implications of entry, including the political ones. At one stage, if I recall rightly, a Minister, now no longer with us, announced his willingness to accept the military implication as well.

People may say: “This is not a sovereign State so let us not worry about dumping Article 5 which states that Ireland is a sovereign, independent, democratic State.” I do not have much sympathy with some elements of opposition which appear to subsist in a very rarefied atmosphere. The Labour Party opposition to entry has been centred exclusively on the threat to Irish jobs and we admit to all the limitations of that view. We apologise to no one for that particular limitation of our view. After all, who would represent the voice of that large section of the Irish people who are concerned about their jobs in the country if there was not a party in this House to voice that concern?

One of our major criticisms has been the lack of information. In the absence of adequate information on how Irish jobs are to be safeguarded [1521] what other attitude could the Labour Party have adopted but the one we have? People may say that this Article which states that Ireland is a sovereign, independent, democratic State is just a theoretical abstraction. It is true that the horror of our political life has been that the Government have practised a style of politics for years which appears to suggest that, politically, we lead an independent course yet like an old mole burrowing underneath this empty shell of sovereignty the actual reality is that the economy each year was bound that much more firmly to the British economy.

If one looks at any Irish Press editorial at the moment one would think we were in a state of war with Britain while at the same time pursuing in unison with them a step by step approach of entry into the EEC. I just give this as an illustration of the kind of double-think politics practised by the present Government for many years. It is true to say that we did not have a full going sovereignty when the economic dependence of this country on the British market was copper fastened year by year. The Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement was the great riveting job of that dependence. We did not have a true sovereignty against the background of that situation it is true but it is time that the population of the Twenty-six Counties grew up to the implications of the policies pursued by this Government.

Presumably, had there been any independence in our application to join the EEC, we would have accepted the Gaullist offer in the early 1960s for a form of association for at least an independent initiative, but because our application from the outset in the eyes of the Government was simply a gloss of the British initiative we did not accept that Gaullist offer made clearly in the 1960s. Indeed, if the Westminster Parliament in the morning changed their minds in this matter our application would go like the application in the early 1960s went, it would go the way of all flesh. We would call home our people in Brussels and we would have another long sojourn in close unity with the British market.

I accept that British entry means [1522] there should be a relationship with the EEC on the part of this country. The debate should be about the kind of relationship appropriate to our position and that relationship can go all the way up from entry at one end to association and trade agreement at the other. We have seen already what the Swedes and other countries have been able to do in attempting to get an evolutionary character to the agreement they might have with the EEC. Our fundamental criticism has been non-negotiations from the start and seemingly no safeguard for our employment position in membership.

We know there is no regional policy developed within the Community to meet our needs. That may be understandable enough. We know we have no regional policy within the boundaries of the State here to meet our employment needs. In that situation who could look for support for an application to join a free trade entry arrangement where there appears to be no concern either at State level here to frame a regional policy to meet our needs here nor any apparent pressure on the Community in our negotiations for a regional policy geared to meet our requirements?

The onus of proof lies on those who are attempting to bring us into membership to prove exactly how we may save the jobs we have. It is not the Labour Party who are in the dock but those who are seeking to bring us into this larger Community where all, they say, will be milk and honey. On the way to bringing us into this promised land they have also the onus of clearly spelling out the implications of their actions. In this Third Amendment Bill they do not spell out the implications of their actions.

The Taoiseach may be preparing for a general election in which he does not wish to have these constitutional implications spelled out. He obviously thinks it may be embarrassing to say that the State would no longer be sovereign and independent. He has to put up with this embarrassment if there is a general election in the offing. He will have to make up his mind what he wants to do, bring this country into the EEC or have a general election, but [1523] his application may become a casualty of his election ambitions if he tries to combine both. I hope that he can see his way to ensuring that this House can have a united voice in ensuring that the people have, in coming to their decision on the EEC, a document before them which spells out the constitutional implications.

We are not against the idea of a referendum. We want to have the people involved in it as soon as possible. The Taoiseach does not convince me when he says that the courts will finally decide on the implications of our entry, that he is not in a position to list out the actual changes which will follow on our entry. He leaves unstated the actual portions of our Constitution which may be affected. The White Paper early in 1970 mentioned among the provisions of the Constitution which have to be considered in this regard, Article 5, Article 6.2º which provides that the legislative, executive and judicial powers of the Government are exercisable only by or on the authority of the organs of State established by the Constitution and Article 15.2º which vests in the Oireachtas the sole and exclusive power of making laws for the State and provides that no other legislative authority has power to make laws for the State.

In 1970 the White Paper referred to these three obvious Articles but now we appear to have retreated from that position, shrouding our whole purpose in high mystery, putting forward this blanket phrase and hoping that covers our political flanks. I do not think a citizen of a State with a fixed Constitution which incorporates in it certain fundamental guarantees could be happy with an amendment which appears to shroud in mystery the effects of such an amendment on his Constitution. If the Government are anxious to see that the people declare unambiguously for or against entry, it must be clear to them that the present means they have chosen in the Third Amendment will not secure that willingness on the part of the electorate to look at the issue squarely and honestly and to give their verdict accordingly.

Instead, the air will be black with [1524] accusations of sell-out, of dishonesty and duplicity—and political life in this country has enough of such accusations at the moment. I do not see why we should deliberately prepare for a referendum campaign which would be marked by this kind of approach on the part of those participating in it and on the part of the electorate.

As we know to our cost, the Constitution is defective in a number of vital respects. It is a positive obstacle to a further advance on this island towards a meeting of minds and hearts, which is supposed to be the stated objective of all parties in this House. The Constitution has certain positive features; it has taken over certain common law traditions and incorporated them in a fixed Constitution and we would be wrong to depart from these guarantees unknowingly. I made the point that, by contrast, the Saorstát Constitution was framed more in the spirit of a Thirty-two County State than the Constitution of 1937. The latter is a monument to the Twenty-six County State, with its prejudices and pomp of that period. A weakness of the Saorstát Constitution is that it became a creature of Parliament; it did not have the strength of the 1937 Constitution, of the people themselves being the sole arbiters of changes in that Constitution, but there are virtues in the Saorstát Constitution which are not shared by the 1937 Constitution.

Article 46 states:

Any provision of this Constitution may be amended whether by way of variation, addition, or repeal, in the manner provided by this Article.

The whole spirit of Article 46 is that any changes, amendments or repeals should be spelled out. It is clear that the Third Amendment ignores the spirit of Article 46; it does not spell out the changes that are considered to follow on the passage of the Third Amendment.

I had hoped that the Taoiseach could clarify in his own mind what he is seeking to do at the present time. If he is seeking to get a “Yes” or “No” answer on the question of our accession to the EEC, he could use, as we suggested, Article 27, or at least examine our suggestion to see if it is [1525] practicable. Certainly he could consult with his advisers for a better means of reaching the electorate than the one he has chosen. Since all parties are agreed on the idea of a referendum, that the people should be consulted on this supreme issue, the Taoiseach could have consulted in a frank way with the other parties to see if we could have agreed on the means of going to the people in the matter of the referendum.

In recent weeks there has been a spate of suggestions of inter-party discussions—I have suggested one or two initiatives in that regard—but here was an initiative the Taoiseach could have taken to consult with Fine Gael and Labour and see if an agreed document could not have been put before the electorate for their verdict. Instead, we have been presented with a dishonestly contrived Third Amendment to the Constitution. It does not say what changes are intended; the Taoiseach evades his responsibility by suggesting that this is a matter for the courts. I do not think he is discharging adequately his duty as Taoiseach by giving this kind of excuse. It is his job, if changes in the Constitution follow, to list those changes. No court could criticise him for suggesting particular amendments that may be necessary. During the last ten years when we attempted to join the EEC, the debate from the Government side has been conducted on the basis of giving as little information as possible. This has happened in the economic sphere where sufficient safeguards have not been given and the trade unions have complained on numerous occasions about the lack of information on vital questions affecting their membership. It appears the same attitude continues when we consider the political and constitutional implications of entry.

In the political and economic spheres at least, the Taoiseach should come before the House with a document which either comes out clearly and unambiguously on the constitutional implications of entry or, alternatively, looks at Article 27 and comes to a decision about whether we can have a Bill which could go to the people on the basis of whether we wish to enter the EEC. The Labour [1526] Party do not oppose the idea of a referendum but we consider that the conditions of true consultation with the people in a referendum on a supremely important matter are not best fulfilled in the form suggested in the Third Amendment. This is our only reason for opposing it at this stage. Our general approach on the economic implications has been spelled out elsewhere.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan): Any Bill providing for a referendum to amend the Constitution is important and the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1971, is particularly important. Not alone is an amendment of the Constitution at stake but on the decision of the people of this country will depend whether we should enter the EEC. That certainly is the most important decision the people have been asked to make in the past 50 years.

This party believes we should enter Europe because we are convinced that it is economically advantageous for us to do so and because we are also convinced that it is nationally sound for us to enter. It is, therefore, very important that the referendum necessary before we enter Europe should be put to the people in such a way that they will clearly understand which amendments they are being asked to make in the Constitution and what effect a “Yes” vote in that referendum will have for them and for the country.

I propose very briefly to try to convince the House that this country should enter the EEC and I propose to put before the House reasons why I think this Bill as drafted, particularly the Schedule to it, contains a dangerous question to put before the people and contains dangerous provisions which are far too vague, far too far-reaching, and which will have effects that cannot now be appreciated or understood. In my opinion, the result will be that the people will reject this proposed amendment to the Constitution.

I have said we believe that we should become members of the Common Market. In our opinion it is economically wise and even necessary for this country to join Europe. We in [1527] this party have never believed that Ireland could live in splendid isolation from the rest of the world or that the people of this country should be asked to live here in patriotic poverty.

Some people seem to be surprised that Fine Gael agree with Fianna Fáil on the question of joining Europe. To anybody who gives this matter a moment's thought, there is nothing surprising about that. The only surprising thing about this Bill, about the proposal to enter Europe, is that it should be made by the Fianna Fáil Party—that Fianna Fáil should ask the people to enter Europe and to make the necessary amendments in the Constitution to do so. I say that because it represents a rightabout turn on all that that party have been advocating in the past.

One can be accused of going back too far, of raking up old statements made in the past. In so far as I do that, I am doing so only to demonstrate to the people of this country that we in this party have not changed our views about looking beyond the shores of this country, about looking to wider and more profitable markets than that of the approximately 3 million people who reside in this country.

I am not saying that in any acrimonious way, but I think it should be said. The records of this House will show that members of the Taoiseach's party in the past are on record as having said that we could live here, and live well, if every ship was at the bottom of the sea. That could only mean that we in this country could live here without trading with any other part of the world, because when that statement was made the only means of communication or of transporting goods from here to Great Britain and to Europe was by sea. We were also told by a distinguished Fianna Fáil leader that we could do without importing tea, that we could use a light beer instead. I am forced to say that people behave irresponsibly enough in this country after a few beers in the evening and that I should hate to see how they would behave if they had it for breakfast.

[1528] That is what we were invited to do not so long ago. We were also told in the past that this country's cattle trade was not an indispensable part of our economy, that there is no great virtue in the bullock, the heifer, the cow, that in order to maintain or to keep national independence we could get on without the cattle trade. I am putting this on record to show that it is not the Fine Gael Party who have changed in their attitude to seeking better, more extensive markets. That has always been the approach of this party.

As I have said, it is a good thing to see that after all those years Fianna Fáil have come to realise that the policy of Fine Gael was, indeed, the sound policy. It is too bad that it has cost this country so much economically, so much in bitterness, to get that lesson brought home completely to Fianna Fáil.

It would be very regrettable, of course, if the only argument in favour of joining the EEC was the economic one. It must be admitted that if Great Britain joins and we do not join, back we go into the 1930s when there was no market for our cattle except under enormous tariffs and duties. It is not necessary to develop that part of the argument because it stands out. As I have said, it would be regrettable if that were the only argument in favour of this country joining Europe.

I wish to go on record as saying that in my opinion there are sound national reasons why we should join the EEC. In the 1930s when we destroyed this country economically we also, by the policy advocated by the then leader of Fianna Fáil, drove a wedge between the people of the Six North-Eastern Counties and the people of the Twenty-six Counties. We decided that we would live in isolation. The result was that the people of the Six Counties became absolute strangers to the people of the Twenty-six Counties. We were driven apart economically. When there was no reason for us to have commercial communication we ceased visiting the North and the northern people ceased visiting us. We became not alone strangers to each other, but we developed hatred and fears which sprang from ignorance.

[1529] Entry into the EEC will restore commercial inter-mingling between the two parts of our country. The people will get to know each other better and the commercial communication will do more to end Partition than the bombings, blasting and shooting of the present time.

It is significant to hear Mr. Faulkner Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, saying in the Northern Commons yesterday what I am saying now and what I am on the record of this House as having said last year. As reported this morning, Mr. Faulkner said, in a discussion on the White Paper on entry into Europe in the Northern Commons, that when Great Britain and Northern Ireland enter Europe and when we enter that Community there would be more communication between the people of north and south and between the people of England and of Ireland as a whole and that that would lead to a clearing-up of the misunderstandings existing between us. I have not got the quotation and I do not know whether Mr. Faulkner spelled it out or not but he certainly implied that entry into Europe would lead towards a coming together of the people and an ending of Partition. I do not believe a northern politician would have said that in the Northern Commons five years ago. It is refreshing to hear such a statement.

Apart from economic reasons for entry, we have a national incentive in believing that entry into Europe will do away with the Border and make the artificial line between north and south of our country meaningless. From that will come a state of affairs that we all so much wish for and that is a 32-county united Ireland.

It is very important that we should put the question involving whether or not we enter Europe to the people in the clearest possible terms without ambiguity and in a way which will enable them to understand what they are being asked to do and which will enable them, also, to give a clear answer. The history of referenda in this country since the Constitution of 1937 has not been a happy one from the point of view of those who advocated [1530] the change. In 1937 we had a referendum in which the people were asked whether or not they wished to enact the 1937 Constitution. Records show that there was a very small poll. That was the first occasion on which I had any part in a general election as a personating agent. I remember clearly the bundles of constitutional ballot papers which were found hidden under the writing pads in the voting cubicles when the voting was over. The people did not understand them and they threw them away. The Constitution was passed by a small vote of the people. That is not relevant now but what is relevant is that in 1959 the outgoing leader of the Fianna Fáil Party at that time threw his considerable weight behind a referendum, coupling the referendum with his own personal prestige, in order to get the people to change the system of voting and to abolish PR. There were arguments for and against. The people said that they knew the system they had and understood it. They had been told that there were dangers in the system of voting offered in replacement of the existing system and they simply said: “No. We will hold on to what we have. There is too much doubt about this. There are arguments for and against which we do not understand and when we are in doubt we simply say `No'. We will hold on to what we have.” They defeated the proposal to change the Constitution in 1959.

That proposal was repeated in 1968 in a package deal in two different Bills. One Bill dealt with the number of Deputies per so many thousand voters. The other Bill contained a package deal; the straight vote and some sort of a commission to arrange the constituencies. Again the people said: “We do not trust this proposal. It is dangerous. We do not clearly understand it. We are told that, if we accept the straight vote, the Government will get 90 seats at the next election and we will set up here a single party State in which there will be no effective Opposition in Dáil Éireann.”

Many people said, I believe: “That may be so, or it may not be so, but it is certainly an argument being put forward [1531] by people who have given thought to it. We will not vote for a change when we do not understand clearly what the change is all about. We will hold on to what we have.” They did so by an overwhelming majority. That is the record of referenda to-date. The people are slow to change the Constitution, especially if there is anything vague about the proposal, or if there is considerable opposition to it.

Speaking on this Bill Deputy Cosgrave said that this referendum cannot be carried without the support of this party. About that there is no doubt. It is a political fact of life. Unless this party throw their weight behind the proposal to alter the Constitution to enter Europe it will be defeated. It will be clear from my remarks that we believe we should enter Europe. We also believe that the Bill as drafted is much too vague, goes much too far and is unnecessarily far-reaching in its proposals. There are arguments which people who are against entering Europe will put forward in the clearest possible terms to the electors at chapel gates and at meetings. I suppose time will be given to the various parties on television and radio. The same arguments will be put forward there. They will also be put forward in the Press.

I do not want this party to be put in the position of trying to answer arguments against the amendment to which, in fact, there will be no valid answers. Therefore, I appeal to the Taoiseach and members of his party to accept the amendments which will be put down by the Fine Gael Party on Committee Stage, and which will spell out in the clearest possible terms the changes we are making in the Constitution. A trend has crept into legislation in the Oireachtas in my ten years of membership. When a Bill is being put through the House the trend is not to ask for what you want today only, but to stretch out and ask for what may be necessary in the next 20 years. There is a definite trend in legislation here on the part of the various Departments to get more and more control over the lives of the people, to get unnecessary control.

[1532] When the Opposition put forward the argument that such a proposal is dangerous, or that such a section of a Bill is dangerous and opens the way to abuse or the curtailment of personal rights, they are immediately told by the Minister in charge: “You are not approaching it in a realistic way. You know that will never happen.” How often have we heard that from those benches? When the Forcible Entry Bill was being put through this House, we were given an assurance that it would never be used against an unfortunate family man who went into an unoccupied house to provide shelter for himself and his family. We were told that what we were saying about that simply was not true, and that such a prosecution would never be brought. If the reports which I read in the papers are correct, the first case brought under the Forcible Entry Act was brought against exactly such an individual within the past week, against a man who went into a house in order to get shelter for himself and his family. That must have been the case because the Probation of Offenders Act was applied.

The Ceann Comhairle has just taken the Chair and he will probably be wondering what the Forcible Entry Act has got to do with the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill. I am saying that this Bill goes too far and that it follows the trend which I have detected in legislation here over the years of Ministers and Departments taking more than sufficient-for-the-day powers in Bills. I gave the Forcible Entry Act as an example. There is a tendency to take a sledge-hammer to kill a fly. It was apparent in the Road Traffic Bill which provided for arrest without warrant for dangerous parking. It is typical of the very dangerous trend that is projecting itself into our legislation.

It is not surprising that, when we are presented with a proposal to amend the Constitution which the Government think it will be easy to shove across because it is coupled with our entry into Europe, we should find in a Schedule gloriously—dangerously is a better word—vague terms such as this:

[1533] No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State consequent on membership of the Communities...

What in the name of goodness does “consequent on membership” mean? During previous debates in this House dictionaries had to be wheeled in on trolleys. I believe that if the interpretation of this enactment is left to the Supreme Court the ushers will be very busy, indeed, carrying in dictionaries and other heavy books because it will be difficult to explain to the five judges of the Supreme Court what exactly is meant. I would not envy the five members of the Supreme Court having to reserve judgment and having to retire and try to give a reasoned judgment in interpreting this provision of the Constitution, bearing in mind what depended on it. That is the sort of argument that can be put to the Irish people if the question is put to them in this form—if they are asked to decide this question on the Schedule as drafted. I have no hesitation in saying that the people could be terrified sufficiently by those who are violently opposed to our joining the EEC to say “We are not buying a pig in a poke; we will hold on to what we have”.

I am not a Constitutional lawyer and neither have I pretensions to any such status but I am speaking now as a man who claims to have a fair knowledge of how the minds of country people react to politicians and to proposals put to them by politicians. I suggest to the House that it can be and will be argued that if this amendment is accepted, it will then be open to the Government of the day to make such changes as the Community may decide from time to time. That is a blank cheque that could involve us in anything. There are certain Articles of the Constitution that it is necessary to amend. The country will cease to be a sovereign State. That will be hard for many people to accept but if we are to participate in Europe we must accept it as being a realistic fact but Great Britain, also, will cease to be a Sovereign State as West Germany and [1534] France have ceased to be sovereign States in the ordinary meaning of the word.

Another provision of the Constitution provides that Oireachtas Éireann alone shall have power to make laws. binding on the people of this country. That will go by the board. Why not say so? The European Parliament will have power to make laws binding on this State. Why not say that? It is written elsewhere in the Constitution that the decision of the Supreme Court of this country shall be final and binding on citizens and that no appeal shall lie to any other court from a decision of the Supreme Court. That part of the Constitution, too, will go if we enter Europe. It is necessary so to provide because there will be an appeal to the European Court. Why not set those matters out in a schedule and also any others that are necessary and say: “Do you agree on the amendments to the Constitution as specified in the Schedule to the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill?” Why in the name of all that is sensible ask the people to accept that:

No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State consequent on membership of the Communities...

If, instead of “consequent on” there were the words “required by” or “necessitated by”, these words, while they might not be acceptable, would certainly be less dangerous. “Consequent on” might mean that we wanted to give a lead and that the Government could agree to advocate some proposal that would change completely the Constitution of this country but that it would not be necessary. Members of Fianna Fáil have misjudged the Irish people in the past on a question of changing the Constitution. I advise them not to do it again and I want to say that this Party will refuse to be put in a position of arguing in favour of something in which we do not believe and that we will refuse to be put in a position of justifying something that we believe to be dangerous. It is only honest and fair that what is involved here should be spelled out to the people in this Bill [1535] and not in argument and counterargument during the campaign that will precede the referendum. It should be spelled out in this Bill in a way that will enable the editorial writers to say in the newspapers what is involved in the referendum and that anybody who says anything else is not being realistic but is being mischievous.

The newspapers of this country behave in a responsible way and I believe that they would recommend the proposed changes in the Constitution to the people, provided that these changes are unambiguous and absolutely clear. If any particular section of the press of this country were to say to the people: “You are being asked to do something dangerous”, this proposal would have no chance of being accepted. During the past 12 months we have seen the Government reeling under attacks from the press and eventually giving in. I refer to the dole issue in May of this year. The Government do not seem to realise that it is of the utmost importance that this question be put clearly to the people and that it is not put to them by way of a package deal meaning anything or meaning nothing. Anybody who wanted to argue that what we are doing here is scrapping the Constitution completely could so argue. It would take a very sophisticated argument and I should say that the man who gets up and says that the proposal in this Bill is to scrap the Constitution may be going too far but the people will know what he is saying. They will understand him. The constitutional lawyer who gets up to refute that argument will be speaking sophisticated, constitutional language with reference to the Treaty of Rome, the Steel Treaty and all the rest of it and the people will not understand him. If you get that sort of situation you will certainly get the result that the Government rightly got in 1959 and in 1968 in their two previous attempts to change the Constitution. If I were to speak for the rest of the day. I could not say more than argue this simple proposition, that I believe it is essential for this country to get into Europe and I believe that this Bill, as drafted, is the best possible method of keeping us out of Europe.

[1536] For goodness sake, come clean with the people. Let them know what you are asking them to do. Have sufficient faith in them to believe that if you spell out in black and white what you are asking them to do and tell them why you are asking them to do that and show that it is necessary, in simple language, they will go with you. They will not buy a pig in a poke. They have proved that in the past. That is inherent in the Irish approach to elections. They are a bit suspicious of change unless they clearly know what the change is.

In conclusion I want to repeat in general terms that I believe it is in the interests of this country economically to enter the EEC because we will have better markets, a better standard of living and a bigger population here. I believe it is nationally in our interests to join Europe because in doing so we will bring the people of the six north eastern counties and the people of the Twenty-six Counties together and we will be on the high road toward the ending of Partition. But this is a dangerous question to ask the people. It is a cloudy, ambiguous, mixed-up, unintelligent question that it will be very difficult for people who have the interests of this country as a whole at heart to justify before the people and a question that has every chance of being rejected by the people.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  (Dublin Central): The House is discussing probably one of the most important questions that will ever be put to the people. We will be asking the people whether it is their desire and their intention that we should become a member of the EEC or stay aloof and remain an isolated island to the west of Britain.

It is generally accepted by the people, except for some isolated groups, that for the benefit of the country and of future generations we should join the EEC. Having established that, we must move along to this referendum. I believe that technically we could join the EEC without a referendum but I can see difficulties involved with our Constitution afterwards. Irrespective of whether we have to have a referendum or not, I believe the right decision has been taken in asking the people to decide on this [1537] issue. It would be unfair to make a major decision like this, change the whole course of Irish history, without consulting the people. What are we asking the people to do in this referendum? There is no doubt that there are complications, complications as to how it should be put to the people, what is the simple way of putting it. This is one matter which we have to consider and ensure that we do not confuse the people's minds. We are asking the people to agree that:

The State may become a member of the European Coal and Steel Community (established by Treaty, signed at Paris on the 18th day of April, 1951), the European Economic Community (established by Treaty signed at Rome on the 25th day of March, 1957) and the European Atomic Energy Committee (established by Treaty signed at Rome on the 25th day of March, 1957). No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State consequent on membership of the Communities or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the Communities, or institutions thereof, from having the force of law in this State.

We are asking the people to agree that we should become a member of these three Communities — no more or no less. This House would have no right to make this country a member of any other Communities which may be established in the future without going back to the people and asking their permission.

I know the change in the Constitution is a delicate subject for the people of Ireland. This Constitution which was enacted by the people in 1937 is their safeguard and it is something which they cherish very much. That does not mean that it should not be changed from time to time because people are changing, the ways of life are changing. Would anyone think, in 1937 that we would become a member of a European Community, that our voice would be heard in the Commission and in the Council of Ministers? I do not believe that at [1538] that time the people envisaged these developments, that they envisaged that our country would be accepted and that our voice would be heard and that our voice would help to plan and structure the Europe of the future. These things were not taken into consideration at that time. It was never meant that this Constitution or all its Articles were to last indefinitely. I am sure all Constitutions have to be changed with the times. As things evolve we must move along. For that reason it is necessary that every so often we should have a look at our Constitution and see if we are keeping up with the world as it moves forward. Indeed, when we eventually become a 32-county State a completely new look will have to be taken at the Constitution. We will have to frame a Constitution with our northern brethren. We will have to do it in consultation with the people of Northern Ireland, taking their point of view and enshrining in it something that will be acceptable to all. That is for a future day. That day will come. As the Taoiseach has stated, we will be willing at any time to discuss changes which may be necessary to bring about that harmony. What we are asking the people now will have no bearing on these future changes because Northern Ireland and Britain will be joining the Community in conjunction with us. When the decision was made in the House of Commons, by quite a substantial majority, to enter Europe, the argument for our remaining out ceased. It is only right that we should move as speedily as possible and any constitutional amendments that may be considered necessary should be introduced to the House and put before the people in a clear-cut fashion.

A Deputy suggested that the Articles which require amendment should be itemised. This may be a valid point but it must be taken into consideration that this might cause confusion amongst the electorate. At the moment we know that Article 5, Article 6.2º and Article 15.2º require to be amended but what I am not sure of is whether or not at some future date other Articles will be challenged in the Supreme Court. Other actions taken by the Community which will be considered [1539] repugnant to certain other Articles of our Constitution might be challenged. That would place us in a dangerous situation. We must ensure that the question put to the people in the referendum will be acceptable in Brussels and will stand up in our Supreme Court. There is no use in saying that amendments will be brought in if they are not accepted by the Community. The fact of introducing them would complicate the issue. Any change in regard to the proposals put to the people will have to be very carefully scrutinised first in this country and secondly in Brussels so that they will be acceptable to the Community.

I realise that it is difficult to frame amendments but there are many lawyers in this House and you will find that there will be very little change made in what we are putting here when the Bill has been processed through the House. The constitutional lawyers available to the Government and, I have no doubt, in consultation with Brussels, have scrutinised the proposals closely in order to ensure that they are acceptable to Brussels and that at the same time the laws enacted by the three Communities, will be accepted by this country and will not be challenged in our Supreme Court.

It has been suggested that we are reducing our sovereignty. Absolute sovereignty is of little value if the country is isolated from the rest of the world, if one's actions bear no fruit in other European countries. By all means you can keep your sovereignty while other countries in Europe are sharing sovereignty and are progressing in the areas of economics, agriculture, social welfare, regional policies, and enriching their own people and the people of Europe. We can retain our sovereignty and remain completely isolated. The choice is ours to make. Article 5 states that Ireland is a sovereign, democratic State. I believe that Ireland remains a sovereign democratic State on entering Europe. Sovereignty, to a certain degree, is diminished where a country signs a trade agreement with another country. This House can commit the country to a trade agreement at any [1540] given time. You reduce sovereignty to the extent that you give your bond to keep a trade agreement. When we became a member of the United Nations and decided to abide by majority vote, we ceded part of our sovereignty. This is what we will be doing when we enter Europe. We will be entering into a trade pact with other European countries.

I agree that measures taken within the three Communities will be valid in this country but we are confining ourselves specifically to these three Communities and it is only acts which take place within these three Communities that we are asking the people to say should be valid in this country. I cannot go along with the view of Deputy Fitzpatrick that we should spell it out. Already, in the Treaty of Rome, the reasons why the three Articles require amendment are given. It would not be feasible to put the questions in a complicated manner to the people. They must be put in as simple a form as possible and I believe they will be so put as to require a “Yes” or “No” answer. It is the duty of this House, the duty of Deputies, the duty of newspapers to explain to the people what is involved in the question. If there were any other way of putting the question that would be done. The Government are not concealing anything from the people. The people can clearly see the type of Community they are entering. The form of the question that will be put to the people will probably be disputed in this House.

The most important thing is to ensure that the Bill is effective. I was surprised to hear Deputy Fitzpatrick saying that he did not agree with the way the Bill was framed. Last Thursday night I listened to his colleague, Deputy FitzGerald, saying that he had looked at various other forms and he disagreed with Deputy Keating's suggestion of a global amendment; in effect, he said that this was the best amendment with, perhaps, two or three words changed. This amendment is, as far as he could see, the most valid for the purpose of our entry into the Common Market. Fine Gael believe we should go in. They will have some amendments, but I believe there will be [1541] very little change in the amendment before us now.

The Labour Party take a negative approach to the Common Market. They maintain we should not join; we should look for association. I believe that view is shared by very few because more and more people are coming to see the potential. In whatever walk of life they are they realise that the future for us lies with Europe. They know isolationism is no longer possible. That day is gone. The day that is with us is the day of joining with the bigger countries, a union in which we can play a part and share in the benefits.

A business that is not competitive eventually becomes sterile. I have seen that down through the years. A business that is not competitive never expands. Competition is a life force in business. When we enter Europe we will be driven by an outside force which will compel us to expand. Our industrialists, our manufacturers, our agriculturists will have to ensure that they are as good as, if not better than, their counterparts in Europe. They will learn new techniques by joining the Common Market. People will be coming back from Europe with all the latest know-how. This will be an incentive to all.

We are a proud nation and our people will never let it be said that other nations are better than we are. Personally, I think this has come ten or 15 years too late. Had we entered into this Community 15 or 20 years ago——

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  We might have saved the country.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  (Dublin Central): The country is all right. We have saved it for the past 50 years. We will undoubtedly benefit by entering the Common Market. I do not believe in association. That would be a disaster. In association we would have no say in policy. We would not benefit from the common agricultural policy. I am sure Deputy Clinton is interested in it. I believe that, if the issues are put clearly to the people, the people will act intelligently. But the issues must not be complicated or [1542] clouded over. Anything like that would be dishonest. The people must not be misled as to what is at stake. Should we be so unfortunate as to lose the referendum, then those responsible will, I believe, be judged very harshly by historians of the future. We may never again get an opportunity like this. The opportunity for us is now. If we do not accept it we shall be left behind.

There will be difficulties naturally. But everything worthwhile is invariably difficult of achievement. That which is easily come by is rarely of much use. There will be difficulties for some industries. So be it. Other industries will expand. We will have a regional policy and, under that policy, we will be able to industrialise the West. Already experiments are being carried out in southern Italy. There will be a regional policy for Scotland, Wales and parts of Britain. It is ludicrous to think of keeping this country outside the mainstream of economic advancement. Those who think like that have little imagination. I have no doubt as to how the people will decide. Though they cherish their Constitution they will be prepared to change it for the common good, the advancement and betterment of our people.

This is not a political gimmick. This is something above politics. Fine Gael approve of entry. I believe that the people in Brussels will accept this amendment. They will say: “Yes, this will stand up within the Community.” These are the issues as I see them. Some members of this House may try to confuse the people about them and if they do they will be doing a great disservice to the electorate. It is far from true to say we have tried to deceive the people. During the past three or four years at every cross roads, in every public house and in every home the pros and cons of entry to the EEC have been discussed. This is not something which is being put to the electorate at very short notice. The Department of Foreign Affairs has produced and circulated literature about our proposed entry. I believe television should now play its role and put the facts plainly before the people. I do not suggest [1543] they adopt an attitude either for or against entry, but it is their duty to inform the people about this major decision which they will have to take. It is the duty of politicians to explain this amendment to the people because when people are asked to make this important decision they will be making it not only for themselves but for their children and their grandchildren and for that reason the Third Amendment must be explained and truthfully put to the people. We must ensure that this decision will stand up to the test of time. I hope at some future date the Community will not bring in an Act which will be repugnant to a section of our Constitution. If this ever happened we would have failed our people because we will have told them that the amendment would be valid and acceptable by the community at large.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  It would be wrong of me to allow Deputy Fitzpatrick to misrepresent what Deputy FitzGerald said on this amendment to the Constitution.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  (Dublin Central): A Ceann Comhairle——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy should not interrupt.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  (Dublin Central): Could I read an extract from Deputy FitzGerald's speech?

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  It is an unusual procedure.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputy Clinton is in possession.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  I disagree entirely with Deputy Fitzpatrick — for the record it is as well to state Deputy Fitzpatrick, Fianna Fáil, because of the danger of confusion, he having followed Deputy Fitzpatrick, Fine Gael — that the view expressed by Deputy FitzGerald was that this was the only form of amendment that could be put to the people. He did add that of course a few words needed to be changed here and there; these are the few vital words which can make all the difference to the meaning of the amendment.

[1544] I have come in to say a few words on this Bill to amend the Constitution because in it we are taking the first legal steps to enable our people to decide whether or not they want to join the EEC. It has been said before and it is no harm to say it again that this is probably the most important decision that our people will be called upon to make since the foundation of the State. In circumstances of this kind where the matter is of such importance it is only right that we should insist the Government explain the extent of the commitment which they are recommending to the people.

We in the Fine Gael Party — a party which is also committed to the idea of European unity and membership of the EEC — feel we have a grave obligation to press the Government to spell out as accurately as possible the limitations of the obligations to be assumed should the majority of the people say, “Yes” to the question proposed to be asked in the referendum. We feel the wording in this Bill does not spell out or limit in a measurable way the obligations which could be imposed subsequent to the passing of this amendment. Previous Fine Gael speakers have attempted to outline the sort of amendment that would be both clear and definitive. While Deputy FitzPatrick describes this in an offhand way by saying that it might be necessary to change a few words here and there, that can make all the difference. It is the few vague and loose words contained in the proposed amendment which make it unacceptable.

Why should we leave ourselves open to be tied to anything extra by a vague, open-endedness that is completely unnecessary? I am sure it is not beyond the ability of the lawyers attached to the Government and to the various people Deputy Fitzpatrick said are available to them to indicate a way that we could limit in words the obligations we would be entering on as a result of a decision, “Yes” or “No”. This is the only fault we have to find and what amazes me is that no Government speaker has come in before now and said: “We agree; there appears here to be an open-endedness, an undesirable vagueness which we see now [1545] although we did not see it earlier on. We are prepared before the Committee Stage to take another look at the wording of this amendment, make the necessary changes and thereby make it acceptable.” There are limits to which we as a party, committed to membership of the EEC, are prepared to go. We will not ask the people to take a jump into the dark; we will not ask the people to commit themselves in the manner that it is proposed in an amendment which says: “No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State consequent on membership of the Communities or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the Communities, or institutions thereof, from having the force of law in the State.” That involves us in anything the Community would wish to involve us in later should they so desire. Even Deputy Fitzpatrick opposite, I think, would agree with this. Surely that leaves us wide open to anything. He wants to join EEC; he thinks it is a good thing. He thinks it is good for the country. So do I, even though a periodical recently numbered me among those now changing their minds and taking a fresh look at the idea. I am no fool and, as I see it, if Britain enters the Common Market there is no course open to us but to enter the Common Market unless we are prepared to go back to the hair shirt and accept standards of living that our young people will no longer accept, unless we are prepared for wholesale unemployment and emigration. That is what confronts us if Britain goes in and we do not. Our markets will go. What will we do with our agricultural and industrial production? Give it away?

We talk vaguely about trade agreements. We saw what we could do with trade agreements when we were seeking a butter quota in the British market, a very small thing: they decided what they would give and the price they would pay. If we cut ourselves off from this market and from Europe, what can we do with our-production? There is no point in producing if we cannot sell. Where shall we look for jobs? It is said that there [1546] will be a serious risk to many of our small industries and small farmers. Other countries in Europe face this also. I discussed this with representatives of various countries that have already joined and know the consequences of membership and, without exception they all say, including small farmers and small industrialists, that there was an overspill of the extra wealth in all sections of the community. Small farmers were better off and small industrialists, perhaps, had to change from running industries on their own to becoming service industries. There was of course temporary disruption and that will apply here also but it will be nothing to the disruption that will inevitably take place if Britian enters and we do not.

Therefore, the question of whether we should join EEC or not is very important and there is a question that should be put to the people as clearly as possible; that is, what are the alternatives? What are we likely to involve our people in if they say “yes”? I think this Bill proposes the vaguest possible way of putting it to the people. I know there are difficulties about outlining clearly in one amendment what the country is committed to but this Bill, as now worded could commit us to anything. Deputy Fitzpatrick on the opposite side may say that Deputies should explain exactly what is involved and should inform the people of the obligations they are undertaking if they agree to this amendment. With due respect to the Deputy, I say he does not know what is involved and I do not think any Member of the House could say or decide or measure what is involved if we pass this Bill. I am amazed that no speaker has said: “You are right in this; this can be improved and we will improve it” because if they do not — and this is not a threat — the Government could very easily find themselves on their own fighting this Referendum to change the Constitution and enable us to enter EEC. Those would be tragic circumstances for the country as a whole. We certainly cannot ask the people to do something that we cannot explain to them and that Deputy Fitzpatrick cannot explain [1547] even though he pretends that this is quite easy. It is not easy.

I see so many advantages in EEC membership that I support it very strongly regardless of what any paper writes. I see in it something that will bring forward very much the unification of this country. The people of Northern Ireland are hard-headed and they want to know what this means for them economically. They want to stay on the other side of the Border because they feel there is a material advantage in doing so but if these vested interests disappeared, as inevitably they will with the advent of EEC membership for people on both sides of the Border, I think much of the opposition we now know is there would disappear and this will be a very important factor and a very positive step forward in bringing about unification. We should not lose sight of this and it is not unimportant among the many reasons why we should join EEC.

The Government have a very serious obligation to explain to the people that they are not throwing away everything or taking a leap in the dark or being committed to anything. It is the fear of the unknown that would hold the people back and perhaps be responsible for them making a very unwise decision. I have heard great fears expressed for our small farmers and industrialists. There will be initial difficulties but they will be overcome to the definite and positive advantage of this country.

We heard and still hear about fisheries. In my view the negotiations on fisheries are being responsibly carried out. It is very difficult when one is not nearer the scene to decide whether the wisest course was taken in deciding in regard to fisheries that a decision should be delayed until the four applicant countries had joined. If we got away with that we would probably finish up in the best possible position knowing that no decision so far has ever been taken in EEC without unanimity on the part of all the countries involved. I am sure it was on this that our Foreign Minister relied.

[1548] On the other hand it may be that if we had adopted the line taken by Norway and supported them strongly even if we did not succeed in the long run we would have a fall-back to the second position rather than having it as the first position, that is, to wait for a decision until the four applicant countries had joined. The one consoling thing about the stand that has been taken is that the four applicant countries are as one in their opposition to the six-mile limit which EEC sought to impose. There is a very big investment involved for many people in fishing boats and gear and they have been encouraged now for some years past so to invest their money. Having done that, it would be dreadful if they were let down by any deliberate decision of the Government but I am sure this will not happen.

The matter of animal health has to be negotiated. This is extremely important for our sales of livestock and meat products in America in particular and I hope the Minister for Foreign Affairs will be firm on this matter. The horticulture industry is an area of concern but the industry would face a serious crisis if Britain entered the Community and we did not. Even now, the glasshouse industry is in a grave situation and the Government should do something about it.

This debate could be expanded to allow a full debate on the Common Market but it is not relevant now as we have had debates recently on the EEC and there will be further discussions in the future. The matter now before the House is whether this is the best form of amendment to the Constitution that can be presented to the people; is it in the clearest form? Will it ensure we are undertaking the minimum obligations required by the various treaties mentioned in the amendment? We should not take on anything more than is absolutely necessary. Why should the Government ask the people to leave themselves wide open to unspecified changes, as they are doing?

It is stated that no provision of the Constitution invalidates laws enacted or measures adopted consequent on [1549] membership of the EEC. If we accept this open agreement to take anything we will have lost our grip of the situation. The Government should realise the importance of this and the importance of the full support and backing of Fine Gael in their efforts to explain the position to the Irish people and to give their recommendations to them. Fine Gael are as much in favour of joining the EEC as are the Government, but the people are entitled to know about the decision they are making. It should be possible to spell this out clearly and in a simple form but not to use the open-ended words used in this Amendment. In the last analysis the people will have to make the decision and it is our duty to enable them to see where they are going.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach (Mr. Andrews): Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  This measure has been described as one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before this House since the foundation of the State. In common with the Partition of our country, it is the matter which is getting all the headlines now.

The question of entry or non-entry into the EEC is one of the priorities of the Government; so far as I am concerned, the greatest priority is the ending of the cancer of Partition. I had an opportunity of expressing my point of view in this regard during last weekend and I do not intend to repeat it now because it does not arise in the context of this debate, although the matter may have some relevance.

A considerable amount of play has been made on the emotive question of sovereignty. When people speak about selling out on our sovereignty they should be very careful about what they say. It is a generalisation which is meaningless but dangerously emotive. Headlines of this nature have been used on placards and in literature in a dangerous way and I shall do everything possible to ensure that the type of person who produces such slogans is exposed.

However, there are people who are genuinely opposed to entry into the EEC but they do not produce these slogans, or if they do they are prepared [1550] to discuss the matter. They are prepared to state their case fairly and the views of such people should get attention. However, they are not the people about whom I am concerned. There are those who say that Ireland is going to be sold down the river if we enter the EEC; no explanation is given and it is this “fire brigade” mentality I am concerned about. It is our job to listen to the sincere views of those who believe it is not in our interest to join the Common Market and we must try to convince them we are not selling out on our sovereignty.

Fifty years ago we did not have any sovereignty whatever and in the context of a 32-county State we have not achieved full independence yet. Any decision we make in relation to EEC entry will be a sovereign decision by the people of the Twenty-six Counties. It is a sovereign decision, a decision we will be making as Irishmen and Irishwomen on our own account. Whether that decision is “Yes” or “No”, it will be a sovereign decision.

Our commitment to the three Treaties of Euratom, the EEC and ECSC is not, in the first instance, a political or militaristic commitment. We have had no discussions on the question of political alignment within the European Parliament. We have had no discussions on the military aspect of any commitment in NATO. In a very off-the-cuff remark, a personal opinion, because NATO preserves the inviolability of the Border between the two parts of our country, I may say that I do not think we should have anything to do with NATO — if for no other reason than that. However, that is a very off-the-cuff remark. It is a rather general remark. The matter would want to be analysed and considered in depth. My point is that our immediate obligation to the three Treaties I mentioned is economic and social rather than political or militaristic, in terms of defence and so on. These are the matters we should remember when talking about sovereignty.

It is also important to ask, do nations like France, Italy, West Germany, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg [1551] consider that, by virtue of their membership of the Common Market, their sovereignty has been eroded to any great degree? I would say the answer is, no. France has a great tradition in terms of culture and so on. I assume she has also had a great intellectual tradition down through the years. In their own way the French are not unlike us in their love of their country and their love of the independence of their country. They are not unlike us in that regard and we are not unlike them. They are a national minded people, although they are willing to enter into the international arena for the good of their country, as nationalists should be. A narrow type of inflexible nationalism is a bad thing. Nationalism becomes internationalism, I assume, when one brings one's country into an arena of other nations.

Is France selling out on her sovereignty? This is the question that any reasonably-minded person should ask, looking at France and looking at the legacy of de Gaulle. The majority of Freachmen considered him and he considered himself a patriotic Frenchman. Was there any question that the France of de Gaulle was in any way selling out on the sovereignty of the country? The answer is, no. Anybody who suggests that we are selling out on our sovereignty would want to produce facts and figures rather than emotions and slogans. It is false and it is fraudulent to suggest that we are selling out on this term, this expression, sovereignty. If I and all other Members of the Fianna Fáil Party felt that this Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill was in any way eroding our right to negotiate a proper future for our country on behalf of the Irish people we would not subscribe, as we do, to the Bill.

Without going too deeply into the matter again I know that responsible anti-marketeers — and sometimes the word “responsible” in this context can be used as indicating a conservative; I would not consider myself to be a conservative; on the contrary — who wish to put up a reasonable argument against our entry into the Common Market will recognise that we who are [1552] pro-marketeers are as much interested in the future of our country within the Common Market, as they are in the future of our country if they can keep it out of the Common Market. We are all Irishmen and Irishwomen, pro-marketeer or anti-marketeer. We have an equal love for our country. They may think that what they are doing is right. We believe that what we are doing is right, but we are not the merchants or the prophets of the sell-out. That is an unfair and rather insidious way to argue. Emotionalism never solves anything. As one who is inclined to become emotional from time to time I can appreciate that it is an instant thing. It is not based on an adequate judgment. It is a flash, an expression. It does not achieve very much.

Deputy FitzGerald or some other Member of the Fine Gael Party dealt in depth with the expression “sovereignty”, the legalistic and other forms of the expression “sovereignty”. I have not got my notes with me. I have a speech prepared but nobody else offered and I got in. If I can continue until Question Time, I may be able to develop certain points of view on Deputy FitzGerald's contribution.

Deputy Clinton made a very fair point and I should like to thank him for it. He said that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is carrying out the negotiations in relation to fisheries, at any rate, with great responsibility. That is a fair and decent-minded statement. He also said that, although he is a convinced European, he finds it very difficult to accept the wording of the amending Bill. I can appreciate Deputy Clinton's point of view. If the Bill is found to be defective, as well it might be — I have not given it any great consideration in the legalistic sense — there is absolutely no reason in the wide world why the defects cannot be remedied. If Deputy Clinton is looking for an amending Bill with which he could agree — not that it would be amended on that account—he should realise that if there are defects in the Bill as now proposed there is no reason why they should not be remedied and, indeed, will be remedied. I have no doubt about that.

[1553] There is one other matter which should be mentioned. I think it was Deputy Ryan who made the point that this proposal would not get through to the people, that this amendment would not be accepted by the people if the referendum did not have the co-operation and goodwill of Fine Gael. Of course, we wish to have the co-operation and goodwill of all parties in bringing this amendment to the people but, at the same time, I would not consider Fine Gael to be doing any favours for the people in giving their co-operation and goodwill on the matter. Fine Gael have recognised it is imperative that we join the Common Market and that if they voted against our entry in the context of this particular legislation, they would receive a severe backlash from their own supporters. If Fine Gael are saying that goodwill and co-operation comes from their side, they might recognise what they are speaking about.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Lynch  Zoom on John Lynch  This debate has not lasted as long as I anticipated but I think Deputies on all sides will realise that the substance of the Debate on our accession to the European Economic Communities will be on the White Paper. As the House is aware, the White Paper has not been prepared yet. There are many reasons for this, the principal one being that all the terms of accession have not been yet finalised, notably the conditions under which we will seek entry to the Communities in relation to our fisheries and, secondly, but perhaps no less important though not as much highlighted, our animal and plant health conditions and obligations.

The fisheries problem is likely to be resolved by Saturday next. At least, I hope it will be resolved on Saturday when the postponed meeting on fisheries will take place. I hope also that then or very soon afterwards our animal and plant health problems will be overcome. That ought to permit publication of the White Paper during the month of January and I hope it will be possible to have a comprehensive debate on our terms of accession when the Dáil resumes after the Christmas Recess.

During the course of the debate the [1554] suggestion was made that, in a sense, we were putting the cart before the horse in introducing the Bill before the Dáil had taken a vote on the terms of accession. As Deputies are aware, this Bill is an enabling one and following its enactment, the Minister for Local Government will be required to make an Order providing for the Referendum. The Referendum would then take place after not less than 30 days and not later than 90 days. Therefore, the passing of this Bill is in no way prejudicial or influential in relation to the subject matter of the debate but even after the debate on the White Paper, there will be the legislation required to implement the accession agreement so that between now and, I hope, spring, the House will have plenty of opportunities for debating more fully all these matters. This Bill is confined to the constitutional means whereby accession to the European Economic Communities could be facilitated, first, if the terms of accession are agreeable to the Dáil and to the country and also, of course, if the people decide to make the necessary amendments to the Constitution that will enable us to take our part in the Community.

Deputy Keating who led off for the Opposition made rather startling allegations against the Government in relation to the introduction of this Bill. I am not using his exact words but he said in effect that we were destroying the Constitution and were taking away from the people their bill of rights. At this stage I want to say that, assuming the Dáil will accept the constitutional amendment in the terms put forward in this Bill, our courts will still have a say in whatever actions, legislative and by way of Order, that we take, consequent on our membership of the European Economis Communities. It will be a matter for our courts to decide that whatever action we take, legislatively, will be “consequent on” that membership. Therefore, at all times our courts will have that say in relation to actions taken here by way of legislation in respect of our membership of the Communities. Perhaps I can expand on that later but it is better to say that much at this stage.

[1555] Last week when moving that the Bill be read a second time, I mentioned that the purpose of the Bill was to give to the people the opportunity of deciding whether the Constitution should be amended to the extent necessary to enable us to accede to the European Economic Communities and that in making their decision the people would, at the same time, be saying whether they wished to enter the Communities. I do not think any member of the House will object in any way to facilitating the bringing of this important measure before the people. I hope it will be possible to clear the remaining Stages between now and the Christmas Recess so that the Seanad shall be able to take the Bill, if not before Christmas, early afterwards and so that, given the acceptance of the other parts of the operation in this House, the people, in the new year and perhaps by April, if possible, will be able to pronounce on whether they wish to become members of the European Economic Communities. Thereafter there shall be required a considerable amount of legislation for the purpose of implementing the provisions of the Treaties so as to make sure that our legislation accords with Community legislation. It is not certain how this will be done. It may be possible to have a global Bill implemented and, later, to have specific amendments or specific pieces of legislation but whatever way it is done, there will be a long period between April or May and the end of the year during which time further action on the part of the Dáil and the Government will be required. In the meantime one of the main difficulties that people see — and I think this was present in this debate also—in becoming members of the Communities is the alleged threat to our sovereignty.

Debate adjourned.


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