Wednesday, 14 March 1973
Dáil Eireann Debate
The Taoiseach: I beg leave to state for the information of the Dáil that I have informed the President of the fact that the Dáil has nominated me to be Taoiseach and that he has appointed me accordingly.
Before I proceed to item No. 5 on today's Order Paper, the approval of the nomination of other members of the Government, I would request the permission of the House to move three items at the conclusion of the discussion on the nominations. These items are motions for: (1) leave to introduce a Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill, which I am advised should be considered before the 31st March; (2) leave to introduce certain Supplementary Estimates and (3) the nomination of a person to the office of Comptroller and Auditor General which has been vacant now since the 15th January.
I should also announce that I propose to recommend Deputy Declan Costello for appointment as Attorney General. I have decided he will not engage in private practice while holding the office of Attorney General and he concurs in that view and will so act.
I should say that it is proposed, after the Government are appointed, to examine and consider the possibility of creating Ministers of State who are not members of the Government. This is not a promise but an undertaking to have the matter considered and, in conjunction with that, to consider probably some of the recommendations that were considered earlier by a Committee that was established.
At this stage I should like to say a word of thanks to Deputy J. Lynch, the Leader of the Opposition, for his courtesy, during the transition period since the election, when he was Taoiseach in facilitating and arranging the orderly transfer of information concerning Government affairs. I say that on my own behalf and on behalf of all my colleagues. I wish to include in that the other Ministers and Departments that were involved.
Mr. J. Lynch: While formally opposing the nominations just made by the Taoiseach, I should like to make a few general comments. As I have indicated already, I extend to the Taoiseach our congratulations on his appointment and wish him well in a general way. I do not think it could be expected of me that we would wish him well in a narrow, political way although there are certain political problems which he and his Government will have to face and which we regard as having in common with him and his Cabinet and in which they will receive our full support.
I congratulate the individual Ministers who have passed the post. To the extent that there may be some square pegs in round holes we hope ultimately to plane them down somewhat to see if we can make them fit better.
Mr. J. Lynch: I would like to take advantage of this occasion to congratulate my own party on the magnificent results achieved in the election, returning as we did 69 Deputies and achieving a higher poll on this occasion than we did on the last occasion. However, one cannot count only first preferences in the system of proportional representation which operates in this country; one must also take into account the distribution of the later preferences. Both, as a package, form the system of proportional representation as we know it. On the last occasion it operated somewhat in our favour. On this occasion it operated against us, especially in a few particular instances.
Now they have given that Coalition a majority, small though it may be. They have also given them a mandate. As I said before outside this House, the new  Government will be given a fair chance to carry out the mandate given to them by the people and to fulfil the promises that they made to the electorate in advance of the election. Having been given that chance, I can assure them that they will have no easy ride. We intend to be a fair, constructive, vigilant and disciplined Opposition. We did not enjoy that latter quality in the Opposition that faced us. We will support what is good, if and when proposed by the new Government. We will oppose whatever we regard as bad. We will certainly criticise any ineptitude and any delay that may be forthcoming from the Government benches.
The most immediate problem facing the new Government will be the publication in some days' time—I do not know exactly when—of the British White Paper on Northern Ireland. I was glad, as has been acknowledged by the Taoiseach, to facilitate in so far as I could the Taoiseach and his deputy with whatever information I could make available to them and to help in the arrangements that were made for an early meeting with the British Prime Minister. I felt this was not only important but absolutely essential in present circumstances.
Speaking of the Northern Ireland situation, I welcome the evidence of initial dialogue which now seems to be taking place among the leaders of different sections of the community in the North. To meet, to talk and to thus try to understand is, I believe, the only way to any lasting peace in this situation. In this context of dialogue there is one element of the Coalition who claimed a special position in this respect. The Labour Party by reason of their contacts, as they claimed, with trade unionists in the North of Ireland felt that they could promote better dialogue. Now that they are part of the Government they are in an even better position to do so and, if their assertion is well founded, my party and indeed all right thinking people will hope that further progress can be made in this direction.
This Government take over at a time of great opportunity notwithstanding three and a half or four years of much political difficulty,  especially in relation to the Northern Ireland situation. They are taking over too, I might add, after over a decade of great and sustained economic and social growth. I hope to demonstrate this in a short time if any of the Deputies opposite think I am asserting what is not correct. During those four years continuous contact has been maintained by the outgoing Government with the British Government—indeed with the two British Governments, the Labour and Conservative Governments, with which we had anything to do. That contact was maintained at all levels and right up to the dissolution of the Dáil. I believe that, as a result, the knowledge of the British Government and of the British Labour Opposition of the Northern Ireland situation is now much better than it was four years ago and in the years before that —or at least it has been contributed to to a considerable extent. Above all, they know from us, and I am sure they will have heard from the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, what solutions we think are likely to work in this situation. It will be the Government's duty to see that the right solutions are brought forward and I can assure them that as long as they carry out that duty they will have our unqualified support.
I should like to say very sincerely to the majority of the Unionist community, and here I should like to address them directly: I believe deeply that the dreadful things which have happened recently, the sectarian assassinations and intimidations, the hatred displayed in the desecration of churches, do not in any way represent your feelings and do not have your assent, though they may be carried out by people who think that they act in your name and in your interest. I would ask you most sincerely in return to accept that the aims of those who plant bombs, who kill and maim and destroy in the name of Irish unity, these are not our aims and do not have our assent. However they try to rationalise what they have been doing, we reject their outlook and repudiate their actions. They claim to be devoted to the ideal of a new Ireland but their new Ireland is not and cannot be ours.
 Whatever it might seem to offer, the vision of the future they propose to you, that is to the Unionists, and to us, is wholly discredited by the means they use to bring it about. Each community now fears that whatever settlement is reached will establish it as a permanent and permanently disadvantaged minority. One community fears that any settlement will reestablish it as a permanent and alienated minority in Northern Ireland, the other that it will be sold out and submerged against its wishes in an Irish Republic. The British Government in the proposals of the White Paper——
Mr. J. Lynch: In the first instance this has not been handed out to the press. These are notes I made earlier today, interspersed with interlineations, and if this is the kind of note on which Deputy Thornley wants to start the new Dáil then I reject it.
Mr. J. Lynch: The British Government in their White Paper proposals face the difficulty that whatever they do may confirm the fears of one or other community. I submit that this is properly the business of the incoming Government. I ask the question: is there any way out of this dilemma? It should be clear at least that there is simply no hope of creating now, after 50 years of failure, a new and stable Northern Ireland in which the present minority will accept that status permanently and abandon their aspirations. I believe the British Government would be wrong to see any hope of a settlement on this basis.
The British Government know where the outgoing Government stood in relation to the White Paper proposals. I believe that where we stood was along much the same lines on  which the incoming Government stand on these proposals and I have no doubt that the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste informed the British Prime Minister of where they stood as well. I think it should also be clear that there can be no hope of stability or peace in any settlement which would try to impose a united Ireland, a settlement under which the present Unionist community in the North would become, or feel themselves to be, a disadvantaged and dissident minority. May I say, with the deepest sincerity, that this is not our aim and that we too no less than the Unionist community would reject this as a settlement. Neither approach I have mentioned could prove stable or lasting because either would create a dissatisfied and alienated minority and we cannot afford to do this again in Ireland. There is, therefore, I believe, only one long-term solution to the dilemma in which we, and I mean all of us, find ourselves in this island. It is to work towards an Ireland where there will be no politically disadvantaged minority, where the existence of diversity will not be a basis for minority alienation and consequent political instability, but a source of richness and strength. In such an Ireland diversities and differences between traditions and religious groupings would remain but they would enrich our society and not divide it and they would be less important to all than their common status as Irish men and women.
I simply say that this dark cloud has overshadowed much of our thinking and actions in recent years. It is our firm belief that the policies we pursued and the actions that were taken in relation to the Northern question represented the only same path towards a new Ireland in which all Irishmen may live and work in peace and harmony.
With an incoming Government interest naturally centres on future prospects rather than on past performances and this is probably especially true in the case of the present Government. Here we find them having committed themselves fully to a detailed programme of action, with  some aspects of which we disagree. Whatever the future may bring, it is also appropriate to dwell for a few moments on the past since it is the performance of the outgoing Fianna Fáil administration that has laid the solid foundation on which the new Government hopefully will build.
When Fianna Fáil took office in 1957 emigration was at an appalling level of 60,000 per annum; there were almost 100,000 people unemployed and the economic collapse was so severe there was widespread despondency and even despair for the future of our country. In the 16 years that have elapsed since then the picture has altered dramatically. Emigration has been brought to a halt so that for the first time since the Famine there is a steady increase in population, living standards have improved by more than two-thirds and the results of this improvement are to be seen everywhere in vastly improved social welfare benefits, in record levels of house building, in better educational opportunities for all and in the more extensive and improved health services that are available.
All of this social progress was made possible because of a solidly based economic development, a development that has seen our industrial base transformed from an unhealthy dependence on a heavily protected home market into a competitive exportoriented sector that can look forward with confidence, along with the equally dynamic and expanding agricultural sector, to the challenge and opportunity of participation in the new Europe created by our membership of the EEC.
These are achievements of which any administration can be proud and we in Fianna Fáil are proud of our 16 years of stewardship. We are proud, too, of our record during the last four years of our term of office when we were faced with some of the most difficult and intractable problems ever to confront an Irish Government. In the economic sphere we had to tackle the most severe peace-time inflation ever experienced, an inflation that was accompanied by a dangerous rise in  the incidence of strikes and other forms of industrial strife. In dealing with these problems we created new machinery in the form of the Employer/Labour Conference and the National Prices Commission that not alone helped to overcome immediate problems but, more important, created the framework within which satisfactory long-term solutions to these problems can now be found.
The work of the Employer/Labour Conference in producing two national pay agreements was of major importance not alone in helping to moderate inflationary pressure but in demonstrating that constructive dialogue was superior to suicidal strife as a method of tackling and resolving the complex issue of pay levels. In the field of prices the work of the National Prices Commission was seen as a realistic way of trying to control prices in that it commanded the support, by their co-operation in it, of representatives of trade unions, housewives and business firms. At this stage I should like to pay a tribute to those who contributed not only to the Employer/Labour Conference but also to those who contributed by participation in the National Prices Commission.
The success of these actions on prices and incomes can be judged not alone on the falling off in the rate of inflation, which is now more than 2 per cent below the level of two years ago and is still falling, but also from the fact that the British who have been suffering from the same kind of problem of severe inflation and its associated industrial strife are now setting up prices and incomes machinery that is very similar to that set up by us.
I have already referred to the problem the Government faced in the Northern Ireland situation. Our approach towards the Northern problem was founded on the same attitude as our approach to the other problems to which I have referred, such as inflation. In every instance we refused to seek instant popularity by responding to the emotion of the moment. Instead, we sought to identify the policies that best represented the true interest of the Irish people. Having determined these  policies we pursued them resolutely and sought to win public support and understanding for them. Through such action we believe we have helped to build a more mature and deeply-rooted democratic approach to political questions. It is our intention to continue this approach from the Opposition benches.
We fully recognise the task of building a new Ireland is far from complete and that it calls for further enlightened action in the political, legal and economic spheres. Any policies of the new Government that will result in further progress towards this goal will have our support and approval. Similarly, policies that help to promote full employment or foster social progress, or which help to strengthen our role in the EEC, will receive our support. We will not oppose merely for the sake of opposition but, equally, when in our view the policies of the Government are unwise or run counter to the interests of the people then they will receive total and unrelenting opposition from us.
Here I feel bound to say that, in our view, the new Government have not made a very auspicious start. We regard many of their pre-election promises as misguided and ill-conceived. For example, their proposals on social welfare spending, the removal of VAT from food and the rates reform are not the best way of dealing with these issues, because we believe they do not give benefit where it is most needed. The Fianna Fáil proposals on these matters are not only less costly but they also gave greater benefit to those in greater need.
Mr. J. Lynch: We will continue, therefore, to press for the adoption of our own policies as being generally socially more desirable, the more desirable way of tackling these questions — and I think we would expect the Labour Party in particular to have regard to our proposals.
We are serving fair warning that we intend to oppose all policies which we believe are inferior to ours, and we will attempt to have our better alternative policies adopted in these fields. In  Government we pursued these policies which helped to unite rather than divide our people and, in that process, we tried to initiate the wider degree of public participation and involvement which is an integral part of present day democracy. In Opposition we propose to continue this approach so that, whatever capacity the people will require Fianna Fáil to serve in, we, in Fianna Fáil, will continue to serve the people of Ireland in their best interests.
It is now, Sir, 25 years and 25 days since the first Coalition took office in this country. It was my first time coming into Dáil Éireann and I remember well the words with which my predecessor finished his speech on this motion.
We are leaving you this country in good shape. There are problems to be faced. Some will be difficult of solution and some will tax the ingenuity and the ability of the Government to the limit; but intrinsically the country is all right. That is the way you are getting it. Make sure that you hand it back that way.
Mr. Blaney: I rose but the Chair did not catch my eye. I am sorry if I appear to be interrupting the Taoiseach but I was on my feet when he got up. In so far as the new Government are concerned might I say at this stage that it is my hope that the Government now composed out of what was mainly a bad Opposition will perform a little better as a Government and, might I say at the same time to the Government who have just gone out of office, that I hope they will be a better Opposition than they lately were a Government? I say this not with any rancour. While it is said, probably with some truth, that the people get the Government they deserve, I add a little addendum I have believed for the past ten or 15 years: a Government are only as good as their Opposition. So I say to the Government: “I hope you are a better Government than you were an Opposition” and I say to the outgoing Government: “I hope you are a better Opposition than you were a Government”, in which event we may get better government for our people.
With regard to the promises made by both sides in the election, when they outbid each other, I wish for all of our people that the promises made by both the present Government who were then the Opposition and the Opposition who were then the Government may be fulfilled. If so would we not have a great time for ourselves for the next four or five years; we would be living in a land of milk and honey. But we know from past experience of promises made by one to outbid the other, that very often it is very difficult to produce the goods.
Only a few hours ago I heard a Member of the House, who is now a member of the Government and who was asked what he might do—the rumour being that he would be in the Government, which turned out to be true—saying: “Let us wait and see what is in the money bag.” This is the reality which the Government and the Opposition now face tonight. Approaching Budget time this is the reality with regard to the fulfilment of promises made to catch votes in an  election, hastily called and not too well calculated. I venture to suggest that before many months have gone by, it will be clearly seen that none of the promises made by either of the parties was capable of being implemented in full without damaging the economy and the financial structure of our country.
Let me say to the new Government that, so far as my voice or my support in this House is concerned, as has been mentioned by Deputy Lynch, the Leader of the Opposition party, where they are proposing to do what I consider to be good they will not be opposed by me for the sake of opposition, but where they are proposing to do that which is not good, they can be assured of the opposition not only of my vote but also of my voice in the House.
In addition, leaving aside the very difficult and very important domestic problems and the promises, there are a number of matters which I want to bring to the attention of the new Government here and now which I consider to be above and beyond and of more importance than all of the domestic issues we will be discussing over the next few months. I want to know is there a possibility that with this new Government we can have the repeal of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act which was put through here some time ago and which, by its very operation since then, has actually demonstrated that it was not necessary and that it can only make for problems and difficulties that need not otherwise arise?
Some members of this new Coalition voted for that Act and some against it that night. Can we at least have the honesty from this new Administration that it will be applied to those who may be a threat to our institutions and not to those who are not? I asked that when it was clear that it would go through that night and all I got was that these things would be done at the drop of a hat. I asked what about dropping the hat but it did not drop since and the man who was going to drop it that night is not here now to say whether it will be dropped. He is not now either in the House or in the Government.
 May I also put to the new Government my fullest conviction and belief that all collaboration or co-operation, whatever you like to call it, with the occupying forces in the six northeastern counties of this country should cease? It is not as an Irish Government should behave that this should go on. Finally, on the same problem, and at this very important juncture in our history could I ask, indeed, implore even, the new Government to get it through to Mr. Heath before it is too late, before the ink is dried, that all this talk about getting together in the Six Counties to solve their problems, or for Dublin or Belfast, Unionists and Nationalists, to come together cannot possibly bear any real fruit unless Great Britain declares her intention to get out? That is so true that any effort that has not got that as a basis cannot but lead to failure, and failure in present circumstances can be so grim as not to bear thinking of.
Therefore, I sincerely ask the Government to reiterate that wish on our part as a reality that cannot be ignored. Any other sort of fiddling around in the White Paper will be merely papering over the cracks which will only explode again in even worse form than we have known up to now. I can only say to the new Government that if they can do something in this respect then truly they will be fulfilling in the minds of many people in this country their most important role for whatever length of time there is left to them as a Government.
The Taoiseach: This Government are well aware of the magnitude of the problems which affect the country and it was in order to deal with a number of these problems—not all of them—that we published our statement of policy prior to the general election. The people endorsed that policy to which we rigidly adhered during the course of the campaign. We never pretended, and it is obvious from the nature of the various matters included in it, that it will be implemented overnight, but we took what we considered was the proper order of priorities and we hope that with the support of the majority of Deputies and the co-operation which  has been offered by the outgoing Taoiseach on behalf of Fianna Fáil to take the necessary action in respect of a number of these matters.
The first major economic matter will, of course, be the introduction of the budget which we hope it will be possible to do at a reasonably early date. This Government were founded in a spirit of co-operation and I believe that that spirit of co-operation will influence their work and guide their activities. We will seek the co-operation of the groups of citizens in the community who have come together to further a particular improvement in dealing with their social ills. We will seek in addition the co-operation of the trade unions and the employers in order to bring greater harmony to our industrial relations. We will also co-operate with farmers' groups and vocational interests with a view to increasing living standards for all our people, and with regional groups who are rightly concerned to diminish regional inequalities which exist.
In that respect we hope to avail of the advantages of EEC membership and the prospects of assistance from the regional development funds within the EEC. We will also seek the co-operation of those members of the Northern majority who share a common Christian heritage with us and whose opposition to violence is as firm as ours in seeking justice and peace for all who live on this island. We will also seek the co-operation and assistance of the minority in the North of Ireland.
The co-operation we will work for and hope to get is necessary because our concept of government is a democracy without limits. It is neither narrow nor confined. Merely ruling with a parliamentary majority does not necessarily achieve democratic aims. What we aim to achieve is to build a society in which power is shared and in which decisions are arrived at after consultation with those who are most affected—where authority, of course, exists but where it is seen to be benign because it is recognised as being just. We will also need co-operation if we are to move towards the sort of society we hope to achieve, based on the proposals  set out in our statement of policy to reform our health and social welfare legislation, our rates of benefits and administrative procedure, to reform industrial relations, local government and education, to remedy the social ills which still affect many sections in our community, such as defective housing, runaway inflation and lack of adequate employment as well as recent other inequalities to which I have referred.
We will not operate by government decree as we do not claim any monopoly of wisdom, but we will consult and seek advice before we act. But act we will. For too long difficult decisions have been postponed and inaction and inactivity, while in certain circumstances that role might produce passing political advantage, do not achieve or secure the national advantage. I have mentioned and I want to repeat now—I welcome the statement of the Leader of the Opposition in this respect —that we seek the co-operation of our fellow Irishmen in the North, Protestant and Catholic, Unionist and Nationalist. We hope we are beginning a new era in the politics of the Republic. We are obviously on the threshold of a new start in the affairs of the North. We should recognise that these developments will result in substantial improvements but they might well result in a breakdown of law and order and in an even more serious situation than has existed there.
We will endeavour to see clearly ahead within the limitations of the knowledge available to us and of the practicalities of dealing with the problems that exist. There must be justice for the minority of the Six Counties, and this means the establishment of institutions which through the operation of power-sharing will obtain and will be accepted. There must be direction by peaceful means for a genuine union of the Irish people.
There must be co-operation through a Council of Ireland of the two parts of the island for the social, economic and political betterment of all our people. Our policy is pacification and reconciliation but it must be reconciliation based on the recognition of rights and of their protection and  assured implementation for there is no meaningful or enduring peace without justice. The policy of realism must, in all parts of Ireland, press home its advantages over the policies of myths and catchcries. What is Ireland but the people of Ireland, all the people in all parts of Ireland? The first reality to be served is the reality of their welfare and their interest.
There has been talk, in relation to the North of Ireland, of the Irish dimension. This is something important and real. We must also recognise that Ireland has a European and a British dimension. God has interlocked the destinies of the peoples of these two Western Islands and they are now set on a new career of progress and development in the context of Europe. Indeed, in economic affairs, it is still true as it was in Grattan's day. This Government will be concerned with the happiness of all Irishmen whether they reside at home or abroad.
Fifty years of self government have seen much progress and a great growth in maturity and we can look forward with judgment, discretion and, I hope, moderation and responsibility, as well as enthusiasm at the prospect of helping to guide and accelerate these developments. I believe one of the clear decisions of the electorate in this election whether they voted for the present Government or the outgoing Government was that a majority of the people, irrespective of party, rejected voices from the past counselling extremism, doctrinaire solutions and violent ways as a method of solving the problems of the present or the future.
The Taoiseach: Good relations between and concern for all the peoples with different traditions in these islands is the stern imperative of modern statesmanship. Undoubtedly, there is a British interest in Ireland and an Irish interest in Britain and we should have a frank and mutual recognition of these interests as well as our common interest and common new role as members of the European Economic  Community. I hope that this Government will be indelibly marked with justice demonstrated by a concern for the people and by the enactment of good laws governing the relations of the people with each other. Above all, the first requirement of justice is that order and security are maintained and preserved. That is in the forefront of our policy; that will remain the keystone of Government action and Government aim. What sort of society is there if violence is tolerated, not merely political violence but every other sort of violence, if violence is allowed to lead to loss of life or limb or liberty and the obscenity of war— scarred streets and a cowed and intimidated community seeking an existence on the edge of the abyss of anarchy and civil war? Patiently and wisely I hope, peace must be sought and established and with it the stimulation, hope and joy which the eager search for justice may bring on a generous scale.
The Leader of the Opposition promised that Fianna Fáil would be a constructive Opposition. He said they would not oppose for the sake of opposition. I am glad he has profited from my good example in the seat opposite. This Government has been described as one of many talents and commentators and informed writers have been  unanimous in their speculation on at least a majority of the members who would form the team. They all agree that it is a talented team. I need hardly say that I am glad to have got a place on it.
I think we face the problems of the future in the knowledge that we have considered over a long time the questions which affect so many sections of the community, the question, above all, of our relations with our kith and kin in the North of Ireland, in both communities there. We must recognise that if peace and reconciliation are to be achieved this must be based on the acceptance and recognition that rights will be guaranteed and assured for both sections—for all sections in the North of Ireland.
We shall endeavour as a Government to bring our views on these matters to bear on the British Government recognising that it is in the British interest as well as in the Irish interest and, indeed, in the European interest that all our people should live in peace and in harmony. We have published our policy and this is the team which, with the support of the Dáil and the co-operation of the Opposition, will implement it. Seo chuige in ainm Dé.
Burke, Joan T.
Clinton, Mark A.
Conlan, John F.
Cooney, Patrick M.
Dockrell, Henry P. Malone, Patrick.
Murphy, Michael P.
O'Sullivan, John L.
Reynolds, Patrick J.
Donegan, Patrick S.
Esmonde, John G.
Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan)
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Harte, Patrick D.
Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
Jones, Denis F.
Kyne, Thomas A.
McDonald, Charles B.
McMahon, Larry. Ryan, John J.
Brady, Philip A.
Burke, Raphael P.
de Valera, Vivion.
Fitzpatrick, Tom (Dublin Central).
Gogan, Richard P.
Healy, Augustine A.
Kitt, Michael F.
Lalor, Patrick J.
Lemass, Noel T.
Wilson, John P.
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