Wednesday, 29 November 1972
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Ryan: asked the Taoiseach whether he will bring to the attention of the United Nations Organisations, the Council of Europe and the European Economic Community the action of the British Government in proposing to hold a plebiscite in Northern Ireland on the attitude of the inhabitants of that area towards the Republic of Ireland and the possible extension of the Republic's jurisdiction and responsibilities without having first obtained the consent of the Parliament of the Republic to the form, content and timing of such a plebiscite and without giving any indication to the Republic of the process by which sovereignty would be transferred in the event of the plebiscite indicating a vote favourable to a transfer or a sharing of sovereignty.
Mr. Ryan: asked the Taoiseach if, having regard to the growth in propaganda hostile to the Republic of Ireland being disseminated throughout Northern Ireland and Britain since the British Government's promise of a border plebiscite, the Government will now take new and more  effective steps to correct the harm caused by such propaganda.
The British Government's proposal to hold a plebiscite in Northern Ireland and my views on the matter have been very widely publicised. Interested Governments and international organisations are well aware of the position. I can assure the Deputy that the Government keep the effectiveness of our information services under constant review.
Mr. Ryan: Would the Taoiseach agree that it is peculiar behaviour, to say the least of it, for one sovereign Government to propose within what they claim as their domain a question affecting the responsibility of another sovereign Government without consulting with that other sovereign Government on the matter? I take it the Taoiseach agrees with that expression of view.
Mr. Ryan: Could the Taoiseach give an indication of the time at which he first learned of the particular question proposed? I am not concerned with the statement made last March, but I am concerned with when the British Government gave any subsequent clear indication of their intention to carry through the generalised promise of last March into a legislative form.
The Taoiseach: It would be very hard at this remove to remember exactly when. I know that within a day or so of the announcement of the terms of reference our Ambassador received an intimation of their content. When I say “terms of reference”, I mean the questions to be put. Our Ambassador received information of their content as a matter of courtesy and almost at once he passed that on here. I got a draft  some hours before their announcement. I think the first clear indication of the British Government's intent to go through with the plebiscite was the introduction of the Bill in Parliament recently. I had been given no specific indication before that.
Mr. Ryan: Would the Taoiseach agree that what began four years ago as a campaign to obtain civil rights in Northern Ireland has, particularly as a direct consequence of British Government action, now been converted into what seems to be an international controversy between Britain and Ireland? This being so, would the Taoiseach consider making direct and immediate representations to the organisations I mentioned, the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Economic Community, but particularly the Council of Europe and the United Nations, both of which exist for the purpose, amongst other things, of bringing about a friendly settlement between member nations?
The Taoiseach: I doubt if the subject matter of the questions put in the plebiscite would come within that definition—in other words, that a conflict of the nature that one or other of these organisations could resolve existed. Again, as I said already, I think the Deputy has raised a very good point but, candidly, I do not believe it would be productive to bring the matter before any of these organisations.
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