Thursday, 23 October 1980
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Lenihan: : The evidence available to my Department of the associations that have existed between Noraid and the Irish National Caucus casts doubts on certain activities of the latter organisation. However, it is true to say that there are, among members and supporters of that body, many fine people who are not aware of its undesirable associations.
Mr. Blaney: : May I take it that apart from associations, as the Minister put it, between members of both these organisations there is no basis for the kind of slanderous accusations made against the caucus?
Mr. Lenihan: : No, certain activities on the part of the caucus gave rise to an association with Noraid in the past. Noraid undoubtedly has been a fund-raising organisation for the Provisional IRA. At the same time I hope—and this was the main thrust of my appeal in New York recently when I spoke to the sensible members of the New York Irish community—that people will become aware of the futility of following a course of violence in regard to Northern Ireland and the importance of co-operation with the Government in seeking to ensure unity through peaceful and political means.
Mr. Blaney: : Would the Minister either produce the goods or cease to denigrate an organisation that is doing excellent work merely by referring to associations? It is not fair or good enough and what the Minister has said does not get away from the fact that these people have been accused in the wrong.
Dr. FitzGerald: : Can I help the Minister by reminding him of what is in his files? Perhaps he is not aware of the fact that, of the three founder members of the Irish National Caucus, one was registered as the official agent of Provisional Sinn Féin in the United States and another is the gentleman who accused our Government of sending Special Branch men across the border to murder Catholics nominated by the SDLP with a view to stirring up sectarian violence. These are the people who founded the Irish National Caucus. Would the Minister agree that there is adequate reason for being suspicious of an organisation of this kind?
Mr. Lenihan: : I was trying to get across to Irish-Americans recently, when I used the occasion of my visit to the UN to speak to representatives of the community in New York, that it was time to move away from negative attitudes towards positive attitudes. A most responsible Irish-American newspaper, the Irish Echo about a week ago headlined their editorial “Charting a Positive Course” and they supported a positive attitude in this matter. We should not have the old rows and arguments continuing indefinitely among the Irish-American population. There are so many fine and good people among them and they want to help and we want to help them.
Mr. Lenihan: : That is the situation, yes. Let us be realistic about it. It is really a question of information, education and talking to Irish Americans to persuade them that we have a democratically elected Government here who are pursuing a course of action that we hope will secure peace by political means and that for those people to row in behind that would be the sensible and constructive approach preferable to the negative approach of seeking to support elements who are trying to destroy all democracy in both parts of the country.
Mr. Cluskey: : Is the Minister saying to the House after a very successful campaign by the Irish Embassy and staff in Washington under the last Administration and under this Administration despite the attempts of the Taoiseach to disrupt that in conveying in very clear, unequivocal terms the true nature of this organisation and their support for the men of violence operating in this island, that now they are not aware of the views of the Irish Government regarding the activities and purpose of this organisation?
Mr. Lenihan: : Deputy Cluskey may not appreciate that I regard an Irish Minister going to New York to seek peace and reconciliation among Irish-Americans there in support of the legitimate policies of an Irish Government as carrying out his function.
Dr. FitzGerald: : As the Minister says there are many good people associated with the Irish National Caucus who are unaware of its true nature. Why in his speech did he not refer to this body as the Taoiseach and all previous Taoiseachs and Ministers have done? Why in his speech did he avoid this question? Would he like to quote from his speech any reference of a specific character to the Caucus and Noraid?
Mr. Lenihan: : I said in my speech, and this was re-echoed in the editorial of the Irish Echo which is a moderate middle-of-the-road, responsible Irish-American newspaper which came out strongly in favour of the positive approach that I adopted——
Mr. Lenihan: : ——that the vast majority of Americans of Irish descent and the other friends of Ireland in this nation agree with us that unity is the only long-term answer, and that the vast majority also agree that only peaceful political means will achieve this long-sought unity. I go on at the end of the speech to refer to the Taoiseach's speech in Cork in which he referred to the organisation.
Mr. Blaney: : A Cheann Comhairle, it is you I am addressing. I have a question down here which has not been answered. It has been flogged across the House by  two people and I have not been allowed to come in at the end of it. I am not disputing your ruling, I am disputing the incongruity of the situation. The question is not answered except, with your permission, to denigrate further the people who have been——
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