Tuesday, 9 December 1980
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Lenihan: The Deputy will recall from previous replies I have given on this matter that the British and Irish Governments have agreed to refer the delimitation of the Continental Shelf to an independent settlement of disputes procedure  in the form of an ad hoc arbitration. I should stress that the delimitation embraces a very large area extending over the entire extent of the Continental Shelf contiguous to Ireland and Britain, consequently the arbitration will not be dealing only with Rockall or any other feature in isolation, as the Deputy's question suggests, but will adjudicate on all relevant matters affecting the delimitation of the shelf between the two countries.
As I have previously stated, the agreement to submit this matter to arbitration was subject to the two Governments having agreed on the terms of reference of the tribunal, its composition and other related matters. To this end negotiations at official level are continuing between the two Governments.
Of the different options open to the two sides, ad hoc arbitration, which was first proposed by us to the British Government in April 1976, offers the most appropriate form of procedure for settlement of this issue. However, as the Deputy will appreciate, ad hoc arbitration by its nature means that there is no existing institutional or procedural machinery which the parties can have recourse to, consequently a great deal of work must be done before the arbitration proper commences. The Deputy can be assured that my Department, in co-operation with the Attorney General and other interested Departments, is giving this matter the highest priority and that it is progressing as rapidly as is prudent given its complexity and importance.
Mr. Lenihan: We are currently holding meetings to get the terms of reference established. In fact, there was a meeting in Dublin as late as 1 December. I hope to get the tribunal in operation in the first half of next year. We have recruited advisers of international repute to advise us on the composition of the tribunal and on the terms of reference. It will be some  time before its findings are published. We are talking about two years after that in terms of time scale.
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