Private Members' Business. - An Bille um an Aonú Leasú Déag ar an mBunreacht, 1990: Dara Céim. Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1990: Second Stage.

Tuesday, 4 December 1990

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 403 No. 4

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[995] I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time”.

Is cinnte de thairbhe an Bille seo atá Pairtí na nOibrí ag moladh chun Airteagail 2 agus 3 a leasú go ndeanfaí ionsaithe mí-ionraice ar Phairtí na nOibrí taobh istigh agus lasmuigh den Dáil. Ar an ábhar sin ba mhaith liom a shoiléiriú don Dáil, ach go háirithe don phobal i gcoitinne, cén seasamh fadthéarmach atá ag an Pairtí i dtaca le haontu na tíre.

Tnúthaíonn Pairtí na nOibrí le haontas pobal an oileáin bhig seo. Tá sin ráite againn an oiread sin uair go gcuireann sé ionadh orm go bhfuil aon duine in amhras faoi. Ach de réir cosúláchta tá siad ann. Arís tá amhras ann faoin chineál aontais atá i gceist againne. I ndiaidh na díospóireachta seo tá súil agam nach mbeidh amhras ar bith ann a thuilleadh i dtaobh na ceiste seo. Ba mhaith linn poblacht daonfhlathach soisialach, tuatach, frith-sheicteach a chruthú ar an oileán seo.

Aithnímid an fíor thraidisiún Poblacht-ánach a shíolraíos ó Tone, na hÉireannaigh Aontaithe agus a lucht leanúna, a chuir béim ar aontas an phobail agus a dhiúltaigh don easontas a bhí agus atá préamhaithe sna reiligiúin éagsúla. Sin traidisiún Pairtí na nOibrí — aontas. Ach ní féidir an t-aontas sin a bhaint amach — aontas an phobail nó aontas na tíre — mar a dúirt Teachta Dála Tomás Mac Giolla chomh fada siar le Bealtaine 1972 sa Charraig Mhór, Contae Thír Eoghain — le pléascadh agus dúnmharbhú nó trí chogadh seicteach a thosú sa Tuaisceart. Bhí sin fíor beagnach fiche bliain ó shin agus tá sé lán chomh fíor an lá atá inniú ann. Ar an dóigh céanna, agus sin an fáth a bhfuil an Bille seo os ár gcomhair, ní bheidh aontas ar bith ann choíche muna dtagann sé go daonlathúil. Agus caithfidh an Dáil seo aitheantas a thabhairt don fíric sin.

Is iomdha uair le linn na fiche bliain atá caite gur cháin gach páirtí sa Dáil an feachtas dúnmharaithe sa Tuaisceart. Bhí sin ceart. Ach ní leor é. Cén fáth? Ní leor é de bharr an tuigbhéail is féidir leis na Sealadaigh agus a lucht tacaíochta sa [996] bhaile agus thar lear a bhaint as Airteagail 2 agus 3. Bheadh sé bómánta nó bíthiúnta ag an Dáil seo gan sin a aíthint. Agus tá dualgas orainne go léir gan aon leithscéal a thabhairt dona dúnmharfóirí, ó thaobh ar bith, leanstan leis an scrios agus an ár sa Tuaisceart. Sin má táimid i ndáiríre faoi aontas a chothú go daonlathúil. Tá fhios agam go maith go mbeidh Baill ag éirí in mo dhiadh ag rá nach sin an chiall cheart atá leis na hAirteagail seo. Impím orthu machnamh bomaite agus a gcuid focal a thomhais sa dóigh nach gcuirfear oiread is órlach le feachtas nimhneach, dúnmharach na Sealadach. Nuair a deirim sin níl mé ag tagairt don “chiall dleathach” a bhaineas le hAirteagail 2 agus 3 ach don tuigbheail mórálta, polaiticiúil, mar a chítear dúinne é, agus, creidim, do mór fhurmhór phobail Thuaisceart Éireann. Agus mar an t-aon pháirtí amháin sa Dáil atá eagraithe fríd an Tuaisceart, creidim gur chóir don Dáil éisteacht go cúramach leis an méid atá le rá agam fiú muna n-aontaítear go hiomlán leis.

Dar le hAondachtóirí sa Tuaisceart, agus tá sé intuighte tar éis na mílte dúnmharaithe agus gortuithe ón Abercorn i mBeal Feirste go Inis Ceithlinn, go gcruthaíonn Airteagail 2 agus 3 “spás poiblí” do na Sealadaigh agus ar a bharr sin go gciallaíonn sin go dtugann an Stát seo tacaíocht mhorálta don fheachtas atá dírithe ina éadan.

Aithníonn Páirtí na nOibrí (agus is é seo tuigbheáil na nAondachtóirí chomh maith), nuair a deir na Sealadaigh “Brits Out” go gciallaíonn sin “Protestants Out” go háirithe, agus gach duine eile nach bhfuil sásta luí síos roimh na Sealadaigh agus glacadh lena gcreideamh fuilteach nimhneach náisiúnta atá siad ag brú ar mhuintir na tíre seo le fiche bliain. Tá dualgas orainn an rosc catha gránna sin a dhiúltú go glan díreach agus go macánta.

Sin é díreach an cheist atá romhainn: an bhfuilimid a dhul a leigint do na Sealadaigh an “spás poiblí” sin a choinneáil agus a leathnú nó an bhfuilimid a dhul a dhiúltú aon láidreacht, aon dóchas, aon tacaíocht a bhaint as Bhunreacht Stáit seo Phoblacht na hEireann. Ba chóir go mbeadh sé ar gach Teachta Dála an cheist [997] sin a fhreagairt agus fios aige nó aici muna leasaimid an Bunreacht go nglacfaidh na Sealadaigh leis go bhfuil an Dáil seo taobh thiar dá bhfeachtas gránna. Ní áibhéil ar bith é a rá go bhfuil súile na tíre in a iomláine orainn ag an phointe seo.

Agus ní áibhéil ar bith é ach an oiread cúrsaí an Tuaiscirt a chur i gcomparáid leis an Ghearmáin díreach sul a dtáinig na Nazis chun cumhachta. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil Hitler Éireannach ar an taobh líne ag fanacht le na sheans; is é atá i gceist agam meon-aigne na bpáirtithe polaitíochta i dtaca leis an “spás poiblí” a luaigh mé cheana, agus cé chomh toilteanach agus atá siad a chinntiú nach mbeidh seilbh ag na Sealadaigh ar an spás sin a thuilleadh. Ba é sin tragóid na Gearmáine sna triocaidí nuair a theip glan ar na páirtithe daonlathacha seasamh le chéile le chinntiú nach mbeadh todhchaí ar bith ag Nazism sa spás poiblí. Caithfimid foghluim ón stair sin. Is é mo bharúil, a Cheann Comhairle, muna dtaispeánaimid do phobal na hÉireann anois go bhfuil na ceachtanna staire foghlaimthe go maith againn nach fiú dúinn bheith ag gol agus ag mairgneach nuair a tharlaíonn uafás eile sa Tuaisceart. Caithfimid Airteagail 2 agus 3 a leasú. Tá sé d'oibleagáid orainn seasamh leis na daonlathas.

This is, without doubt, an historic occasion. First, it is the first time for more than 50 years that the question of Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution has been debated in the Dáil, and second, because potentially there are sufficient Deputies in this House convinced that they should be revised and amended.

I know that these Articles provoke strong emotions both among those who want to see them changed and among those who would wish to see them stay as they are, and the experience in this House in the past decade has been that the question of constitutional change has always produced extremely heated exchanges. That, in itself, should not be an excuse for dodging issues. Regardless of our views on the outcome of previous referenda, the fact is that the process of debate helped us all to reach a clearer [998] understanding of each other's position and strengthened our democratic process. It is my earnest wish that the debate on our Bill should be conducted in a calm, rational and reasonable manner, free of rancour or bitterness. The debate will be watched carefully, not just on both parts of this island but also in Britain and throughout Europe. The manner in which the House conducts this debate over the next two weeks and the fate of the Bill thereafter, will be a fair measure of our maturity as a Parliament.

Our purpose in tabling this Bill was not to embarrass either of the parties in Government, to drive a wedge between them or to bring about the collapse of this Administration. If this Bill is passed I do not consider that it should be viewed as a defeat for the Government but rather as a victory for reason and reform.

It is now 53 years since what is known as de Valera's constitution was debated by the Dáil and then approved by the people in a referendum. The late Seán Lemass was quoted as saying that our Constitution should be changed every 25 years “as our society develops into a modern State”. Even if there were peace in Northern Ireland and even if these Articles did not cause offence to so many people in Northern Ireland, there would still be, after more than 50 years, a case for reviewing them anyway. But the continuing Provisional IRA murder campaign with the clear evidence that the existence of Articles 2 and 3 in their present form constitute an impediment to political progress in Northern Ireland, provide compelling reasons why the revision of these Articles can no longer be deferred.

I believe the time is right. I believe the public mood is right. I believe Members of this House on all sides must face up to their responsibilities to give political leadership. We must lead public opinion and not wait to follow it.

Some people might feel it is ironic that the only party in this House which is itself organised on a 32-County basis and the only party which has elected representatives on both sides of the Border should be the one which is introducing legislation [999] to tackle Articles 2 and 3. I do not consider it ironic at all. The unity of our party and the all-Ireland nature of its organisation is based on the free will and consent of our members. If unity of this island is to come about, it must be on the basis of the free will and consent of all its people. There can be no other way. I believe also that the fact that we are organised in both states gives our party a particular insight into the problems of Northern Ireland, a unique ability to view issues from both sides of the Border, and a special appreciation of the way in which Articles 2 and 3 are perceived in Northern Ireland.

Social and political conditions on both sides of the Border have changed dramatically since our Constitution was adopted. The Constitution was drafted within 15 years of a bitter civil war, when the memory of what many people considered to be the betrayal by the Boundary Commission was still fresh. It was the decade of the economic war, and Britain still occupied a number of ports in the Twenty-six Counties. The Constitution was put before the people at a time when most people considered that Partition would be a temporary phenomenon, which would not last for more than a few decades at the most.

De Valera's document was seen by many as a “constitution-in-waiting” for an all-Ireland state. Those who drafted it could not have foreseen the way in which events on this island would evolve. But we have the benefit of more than 50 years hindsight, and we should use that experience to enable us to redraft Articles 2 and 3 in a manner which would make them more acceptable to all of the people of this island.

There was then and there has been since a number of voices which spoke out against Articles 2 and 3. The Leader of Fine Gael at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, W.T. Cosgrave, described them quite accurately as “make believe”. The then Secretary of the Department of Finance, J. J. McElligott, said of them that they were [1000] a fiction “which will give offence to neighbouring countries with whom we are constantly protesting our desire to live on terms of friendship”. “It is not clear” he said, “whether we are on safe ground in claiming sovereignty and jurisdiction over land recognised internationally, de jure and de facto, as belonging to another country”. Mr. McElligott displayed considerable foresight when he expressed the view that “these Articles will not contribute anything to effecting the unity of Ireland, but rather the reverse”.

The 1967 All-Party Committee on the Constitution adopted what was for its time a remarkably progressive attitude. While they made no rcommendations with regard to Article 2, they recommended a total rewriting of Article 3, doing away with all the self-deception about “re-integration of the national territory” and the right of the Dáil to exercise jurisdiction over Northern Ireland. The wording they proposed for Article 3 was: “The Irish nation hereby proclaims its firm will that its territory be united in harmony and brotherly affection between all Irishmen”. The committee included such distinguished Fianna Fáil politicians as the former Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, George Colley, as well as the current Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy O'Kennedy, and the current Minister for Energy, Deputy Molloy. It is a great misfortune that the then Government did not act on the committee's recommendation.

Credit must also be given to people like Deputy Jim Kemmy who for many years, along with people like Senator John A. Murphy, chipped away at the phoniness represented by Articles 2 and 3, and the courage of the Progressive Democrats has also to be acknowledged. In their draft constitution published in 1988, they proposed doing away with Article 2 and in regard to Article 3 recommended a wording similar to that proposed by the 1967 committee.

An editorial in The Irish Times, published at the end of 1987, to mark the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution, spoke for a growing [1001] number of people when it said of Articles 2 and 3:

It is a claim which is expressed in a dangerously simplistic idiom, in terms which are suggestive of a desire for conquest, subjugation indeed, and which can have no place in the dialogue which must come about with the Unionist majority in the North. The concept of territorial occupation, of the Gall flying to the sea before the conquering might — military, social or cultural — of the Gael may well have had its place as part of a necessary political or cultural mythology in 1937. It has none today. And it contradicts the declared desire of the great majority of people on this island for the achievement of unity by peaceful means alone.

It is clear therefore that for a number of years there has been public opinion in favour of changing — in one way or another — Articles 2 and 3. What has given the matter new urgency is the judgment of the Supreme Court in the McGimpsey case delivered on 1 March, which described the territorial claim in Articles 2 and 3 as a “constitutional imperative”. Defenders of Articles 2 and 3 have tended to say “well, they should not really be taken at face value, they do not really constitute a territorial claim over the North, they are really just an expression of the desire of people down here for unity. They are only an aspiration”.

This theory has been blown out of the water by the Supreme Court judgment. What the court found was that Articles 2 and 3, as currently worded, constitute a claim of legal right over Northern Ireland and that not only have the Government a right to pursue this claim but were obliged to do so — irrespective of the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland. Writing in The Irish Times, following the judgment, the distinguished law lecturer, David Gwynn Morgan said that the significance of the judgment was that it meant that the Government lacked the capacity to renounce the de jure claim to Northern Ireland. He also said: “If these [1002] Articles are matters of law, then an Irish government is simply not legally competent to reach certain kinds of agreements with the unionist majority,” adding that the net result is that the Government are rather constrained in any future bargaining with the Northern majority.

In my view the Supreme Court judgment has provided the most compelling argument for not deferring any longer decisive action to amend these Articles.

There is a number of reasons for changing Articles 2 and 3. The most important is that in their present form they are an impediment on the path to peace on this island. Many people in Northern Ireland, including Unionists, consider the present bald, territorial claim contained in these Articles to be arrogant and offensive. In their present form the Articles assert the right of the people of the Republic of Ireland to impose their will on the citizens of Northern Ireland, without any reference to the democratic rights of these people. These Articles are viewed by many people in Northern Ireland as a political pistol pointing at their heads. They lead to suspicion and distrust of this State among the Unionist community there.

It is not just a handful of Unionist “backwoodsmen” who find these Articles offensive. Progressive, modern, forwardlooking people like Christopher and Michael McGimpsey, who travel regularly to the Republic and who want friendly relations between all of the people of this island, have urged politicians in the South to stand up and be counted. Serious Unionists, such as Ken Maginnis and Frank Millar have pointed to them as an obstacle to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. The Presbyterian Synod last March, speaking for its members not just in the North but throughout the entire island, expressed a desire to see Articles 2 and 3 changed.

We should try to see it from the point of view of Unionists. Let us suppose the United Kingdom had a written constitution, and that it had in it an article which said that the national territory of [1003] the United Kingdom consisted of Great Britain and Ireland, its islands and territorial seas. Let us suppose that it had a further article which said that pending the reintegration of this national territory, and without prejudice to the right of Westminster to pass laws for all of the island of Ireland, its laws would apply only to Britain and Northern Ireland. Just imagine the sense of offence, outrage and indignation that this would provoke in this State. Let us suppose further that the Law Lords ruled that this was not just an aspiration but a “constitutional imperative”, how would we react?

In bringing forward this Bill The Workers' Party do not claim to have any monopoly of political wisdom or ideas about ways of helping political progress in Northern Ireland. After all, it was Seán Lemass who first put political realism about Northern Ireland on the political agenda in this State back in the sixties. He recognised, as had Parnell before him, that Irish nationalism had to come to terms with the fact that a million or so Ulster Protestants were deeply committed to their allegiance to Britain. It was Lemass who took the important symbolic step of going to Stormont to meet the then Unionist Prime Minister, Terence O'Neill, in 1965. It appeared to many at the time as the beginning of the end of the cold war between the two states that had lasted since partition. Subsequently, as I pointed out earlier, he was a key figure in the 1967 Committee on the Constitution.

It was unfortunate that the committee's recommendations proved too visionary for many Members of the Dáil and in particular of the Government party. As the Northern Ireland state slid into chaos and violence more traditional voices drowned out those who were arguing for modernisation and rationality in our attitudes to Northern Ireland. Now 23 years on, Stormont has gone, many significant reforms have been introduced although much remains to be done, the Unionist monolith has splintered, a new modernised and sophisticated nationalist party has emerged in the SDLP and we [1004] have had the Report of the New Ireland Forum and the Hillsborough Agreement. Such radical changes have had their pathological dimensions as well — the forces that are prepared to kill and maim to maintain a constituency for the traditional zero-sum ideologies of fundamentalist nationalism and “not an inch” loyalism.

Our progress is aimed at building on the undoubtedly positive things that have occurred in both states and which the recent Presidential election has symbolised in such a graphic way. In Northern Ireland the Secretary of State, Peter Brooke, has got much further along the road to getting inter-party talks off the ground than many sceptics had thought possible. We need to recognise and give some credit to all the political leaders involved in these talks. In particular we should acknowledge the distance the leaders of the two main Unionist parties have come since their early response to the Hillsborough Agreement. We in The Workers' Party have always argued that Unionist politics is more complex and divided than is often thought the case down here. If political progress is to be made in Northern Ireland everything possible should be done to strengthen the forces of compromise and accommodation in the two communities up there. The Anglo-Irish Agreement was an attempt to strengthen the forces of compromise and accommodation in Catholic politics and it succeeded to a degree in this. It was also designed to sidestep the Unionist veto. We feel that the economic effects of Thatcherism undercut the Agreement's aims to a substantial extent and that a much more thoroughgoing set of reforms in areas like the economy and security are necessary. Nevertheless we feel that as well as addressing the alienation of Catholics from the state in Northern Ireland responsible politicians down here need to address Unionist alienation and their fears about their future.

These fears are not irrational or products of bigotry as far as the majority of Protestants are concerned. In large part [1005] they are the products of the most sophisticated terrorist organisation operating in the world at the moment, the Provisional IRA. Since the middle of the seventies the bulk of the victims of this organisation's campaign have been Ulster Protestants — ranging from the so-called “legitimate targets” to millworkers, electricians, Border farmers and their sons, and men, women and children who committed the crime of attending a Remembrance ceremony.

Down here the true enormity of what the Provisionals have been doing and are continuing to do to Ulster Protestants only comes home with one of their horror spectaculars like Enniskillen. We need to remember that the slow drip-drip of almost daily murders goes on and has gone on for two decades. Given this and the generalised Protestant feeling that the Hillsborough Agreement has been imposed on them, the degree of flexibility that Unionist leaders are prepared to show is quite remarkable. We need to acknowledge, strengthen and encourage that flexibility. We need to demonstrate to the Unionists that our priority is the accommodation of diversity on this island and that we are under no “constitutional imperative” to pursue unification against their wishes.

Just as we would expect them to accept and respect the legitimacy of Irish nationalist political and cultural aspirations, we in this State need to show that we respect their British political and cultural aspirations. Our proposal aims to build on the revision of Irish nationalist aspirations which is implicit in the Report of the New Ireland Forum and in Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. We need to end the double-think in our political culture on the North so clearly embodied in Articles 2 and 3. We do not suggest that this would turn Unionists into Irish nationalists; that would be patronising and arrogant in itself and, anyway, that is not our purpose at all. What it would do is to remove one significant contribution to the siege mentality in the North. It would greatly assist those, and they are a growing number, who are arguing for an end to the politics [1006] of siege and the beginning of a new politics based on an historic compromise between nationalism and unionism.

There are those who argue that our proposal is a betrayal of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland. Are they seriously suggesting that the great majority of Catholics in Northern Ireland see the present Articles as a defence of their interests? For 30 years, from 1937 to 1967, the values of de Valera's Constitution remained intact as did the system of Unionist one party rule in Northern Ireland. In 1967 the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was formed. Within two years it had produced more positive changes for Northern Ireland Catholics than decades of verbal republicanism and anti-partitionism from Southern politicians. Rather than these Articles helping Northern Catholics they have been of a negative, destructive contradiction with the most rigid and unsavoury aspects of loyalism. Successive Unionist Prime Ministers and subsequent Loyalist demagogues have made much of the aggressive claim on Northern Ireland embodied in our Constitution. The Articles have only served to homogenise and consolidate Unionist opinion behind reactionary leaders. The great majority in Northern Ireland, Protestant and Catholic, have an interest in undermining this negative confrontation between Nationalist rhetoric and Loyalist intransigence.

Those who claim to speak for a Northern Catholic community, supposedly united in defence of Articles 2 and 3, ignore the evidence of surveys, for instance, the recent British Social Attitudes Survey, which showed that only a minority of Catholics in Northern Ireland saw Irish unity as a practical solution. Researchers from the centre for the study of conflict at the University of Ulster have just published a report on “Violence and Communities”, which includes a survey of political attitudes from which they concluded that “there seemed to be little real demand for a break in the link with Britain” among the Catholic population. The study shows that the primary objective of most Catholics in Northern [1007] Ireland is a share of political power and justice within the State rather than the high-faluting, bombastic, exaggerated perspectives of some politicians who seem to believe in some transcendent final solution to the Irish question. To try to use Articles 2 and 3 as a bargaining counter to get Unionists involved in talks with the Southern Government — aimed at sliding them out of the United Kingdom — is simply unrealistic; it is a recipe for continued political stalemate in the North.

We are not suggesting this as a way of placating Unionists and ignoring Nationalists. We believe that the claim is undemocratic and poisons relations between Unionists and Nationalists throughout Ireland. The Unionist case against these Articles is a just one. It is only those steeped in the zero-sum polarities of northern communalism who see justice for Unionists on this issue as a betrayal of Nationalists. The changes we recommend would represent an important step to political honesty about Northern Ireland down here and help to advance the incredibly complex and difficult process of political accommodation in Northern Ireland.

Primarily, however, Articles 2 and 3 should be changed as I put it at our last Ard-Fheis “as a matter of basic good neighbourliness and for the health of our own political system”. While the vast majority of people of the Republic unequivocally reject the Provisional IRA and their murderous activities, the Provos and their fellow travellers cite Articles 2 and 3 as part of their perverse mandate, and to justify their claim that they seek only to complete unfinished business. Again nobody would suggest that if we pass the proposed amendments, the Provos would lay down their arms. But changing Articles 2 and 3 in the way we suggest would clearly demonstrate that the people of the Republic are saying to the murder gangs: you have no mandate to operate in our names; you have no right to make war against the people of Northern Ireland or Britain.

In this context it was significant that, [1008] when we published our Bill last week, the only public criticism of it came from the Provisionals. Those who believe that the Provos attach no importance to Articles 2 and 3 should read the comments of the Vice-President of Sinn Féin, Mr. Pat Doherty, quoted in the Irish News of Friday last, 30 November. Articles 2 and 3 he said:

reflected the desire for a united and independent Ireland, the wish of the majority of the people of this country...

This is the language which the Provos use to back up their claim of a mandate from the Irish people for their murderous activities. By amending Articles 2 and 3 along the lines we suggest we will further undermine the Provos claim to a mandate.

I want to turn now to the detail of our proposed amendments. In relation to Article 2 we are proposing the inclusion of an extra sentence, which incorporates the sentiments of Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, viz:

This shall not be held to mean that there will be any change in the status of Northern Ireland other than with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

This formula was suggested some months ago by the President, Mrs. Mary Robinson. I do not believe there will be any great controversy about this proposal. When the Dáil adopted the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985 it accepted this principle. When Fianna Fáil came into power in 1987 and agreed to operate the Anglo-Irish Agreement, they also accepted this principle. The effect of incorporating it into Article 2 is to modify what the Supreme Court recently described as a constitutional imperative to pursue unity.

The formula we are suggesting for Article 3 is somewhat similar to the proposal made by the All Party Committee on the Constitution which reported in 1967. As recommended by the 1967 committee it drops the claim of a right by the Parliament of this State to exercise jurisdiction over the whole island. Unlike [1009] the committee's recommendation which spoke of unity of the nation, our proposed new wording speaks about unity of the people of Ireland. It proclaims the firm wish of the people of this State “that the people of Ireland be united in peace, harmony and by consent”.

We are putting forward these proposed amendments in the belief that they would be acceptable to the people of the Republic. We are not claiming any absolute infallibility in relation to the proposed wording. If people have suggestions to make as to how it might be improved, we are quite prepared to consider them, provided they are consistent with the objectives I set out earlier.

Only the most uncompromising, militant Nationalists now suggest that Articles 2 and 3 should not under any circumstances be changed. But there are two principal arguments which I anticipate will be put forward against this Bill. One is that Articles 2 and 3 should only be revised as part of a total review of the Constitution. The other is that the Articles should only be amended as part of an overall settlement to the problem of Northern Ireland.

My party's concerns about the 1937 Constitution are not limited to Articles 2 and 3. There are many other areas we would like to see addressed. There is, of course, the constitutional prohibition on divorce. We are now one of the few countries which refuses to give those whose marriages have irretrievably broken down the opportunity to remarry. In the past few weeks there has been a groundswell of opinion — extending even into the heart of Fianna Fáil — in favour of looking again at that constitutional prohibition. In time there will, I am certain, be a similar groundswell in favour of reviewing the unnecessary, divisive and sectarian amendment which was inserted in 1983. There is the whole question of the guarantees in regard to private property which have been cited by successive Governments as a reason they cannot move to end the relic of mediaeval times — ground rents. The Preamble is particularly out-dated and anachronistic. There are many other issues.

[1010] I would like to see a totally new Constitution to guide this country into the 21st century. I would like to see it done by consensus, but how long would that take? Our record as a Parliament is not good. Relatively non-controversial legislation, like the Children Bill, was first published in 1985 and is still not enacted. How long would a new Constitution take — five years, ten years, 15 years? I do not believe we can wait that long to address Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. The other shortcomings of our Constitution are not claimed by the Provisional IRA as part of their mandate for their terrorist crimes, are not providing an impediment to peace and progress in Northern Ireland; Articles 2 and 3 are. Their impact is so damaging we cannot wait for a new Constitution to address them.

The Taoiseach when questioned in the Dáil, has expressed the view that Articles 2 and 3 should only be addressed as part of an overall settlement of the Northern Ireland problem. This is asking people of Northern Ireland to give the Irish Government a blank cheque. It is asking the people of Northern Ireland to accept that a state which has no great record of any generosity towards the rights of minorities in its own midst will be generous towards them. It also ignores the priority that if we do not now address Articles 2 and 3 then there may well be no settlement in Northern Ireland.

A Cheann Comhairle, “new thinking” has swept the world in the past few years, new thinking which has seen the end of the Cold War, de-escalation of the arms race and demolition of the Berlin Wall, to give but a few dramatic examples, but we cannot honestly applaud such developments internationally and yet ignore the necessity for a major re-examination of our own attitudes and traditions. “New thinking” does not demand that to meet our traditional position. Shouting old slogans for a united Ireland and surrender must be looked at in a new, cold light. They have badly served the people of this island; indeed they have served them murderously.

[1011] We must remember that Northern Ireland is populated by real people, with real fears, hopes and expectations, which in most respects are no different from our own concerns about jobs, wages, health, education and a clean environment, but there is one significant difference apart from the differing political traditions. That difference is the daily fear of the death squads who roam the towns, cities and countryside, who callously murder, who regard compassion as a sign of weakness and describe it as “bleeding heart liberalism”, and who regard compromise as treachery. They are driven by their own heroic self-image and believe they are fulfilling the “historic destiny” of the Irish people. We can strike a mortal blow against this philosophy of death by tackling Articles 2 and 3, by questioning the political culture that underpins them.

I will conclude by quoting a statement made by our former President, Dr. Patrick Hillery, earlier this year when he was speaking at a function organised by the Economic and Social Research Institute. He said:

There is never any dearth of people who are eager to advise caution, to postpone the initiation of change, to avoid breaking old moulds, to wait until this or that until finally the great enthusiasm which is there could be dead and what should have been today's initiative is deferred for another generation.

We should not allow that to happen in this House over the next two weeks.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  New thinking has indeed swept the world and it would seem new thinking is not entirely alien to Deputy De Rossa. In one sense we should accept that this proposal, coming as it does from The Workers' Party, is indicative of the kind of change we should all welcome in this country. A little over 15 years ago the party who have put forward this proposal operated at a somewhat different level. Then Sinn Féin, that party were part of a movement that did not recognise [1012] political debate. That party did not recognise that discussion, debate and logical exposition of the facts was the sole way forward in a civilised nation. That party then had some difficulty in recognising this sovereign Parliament. Indeed, it is worth while putting on the record that that party had some difficulty in recognising Bunreacht na hÉireann itself——

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Why did somebody not advise them?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  If a recent report in one of our more serious Sunday papers is to be believed, these views have not entirely been rejected by The Workers' Party or at least by associates of that party. In Belfast it would seem, according to these reports, that they are not entirely weaned away from the idea that disputes can be settled by physical force. Of course, these are not the first such allegations that have been associated with The Workers' Party or their associates. One is mindful of revelations not too long back on an RTE programme which have never been convincingly rejected or rebutted by that party. Without dwelling too long on this point, it strikes me that if the expressions of peace and logic which have of late emanated from The Workers' Party and their concern for the Constitution as expressed here tonight are to be taken at all seriously, then The Workers' Party contributors later in this debate might take the time to assure those of us who are truly concerned about peace and reconciliation that they will use their good offices with fellow-travellers in Belfast and elsewhere to ensure that those fellow-travellers at all times act peacefully and in accordance with the law.

I make these points not to hurl bards idly across this Chamber because I welcome the distance Deputy De Rossa's party have come. It is very welcome and it is to be hoped other people in the North of this island in the not too distant future will traverse that same distance.

[1013]Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  The same distance as the Deputy's own party?

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Not in the past 15 years. Since the McGimpsey judgment a good deal has been said and written about Articles 2 and 3.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  We can continue the banter if the Deputies wish. Not all that has been said has been accurate and certainly much that has been said has not been helpful. The long term aspiration of any nationalist politician is a united Ireland. We may occasionally differ on some aspects but in so far as any nationalist politician is concerned a united Ireland is our long term aim, Ireland as an island in which all traditions of this country can find expression by agreement in common accord and in peace. Those who believe this can be achieved by violence are hindering progress along that road. Those who propose specious solutions to intractable problems do not help progress either. More importantly, the proposers of specious solutions to complex problems by snapping energy, deflecting the ongoing debate and giving the wrong signals to one side or the other of this complex issue can prolong the search for peace and reconciliation.

The opening Articles of Bunreacht na hÉireann are by no means unique. Similar Articles and similar expressions are to be found in other constitutions. Indeed, it would be a very odd constitution that failed to indicate in some way the meaning of the nation. The opening Articles of our Constitution report in writing in the basic law of this State an aspiration which has been nourished by nationalists for countless generations, that this island embraces the whole island of Ireland.

Perhaps the most apposite and appropriate parallel is to be found — appropriate this week above all — in the German basic law of 1949, the constitution of the Federal Republic. The opening phrases of that document provide that the entire German people are called upon to achieve in free self-determination the unity and freedom of Germany. As has [1014] frequently been pointed out of late, the provision did not mean that the Federal Republic threatened in any way the rights of the people of the German Democratic Republic. The aspiration, expressed in the form of a clear and unequivocal legal imperative, was never taken as the basis for any illegitimate use of force, nor was it ever proposed by the people of West Germany that they could use force on the basis of this aspiration against their brothers and sisters in East Germany. The claim was not used as the basis for attack on agreements that had been reached by East Germany and its neighbours on the thorny issue of borders. The claim in no way impeded progress towards the unity of the German people which has recently come about and which we all celebrate. In other words, an exact parallel claim has none of the influence that was suggested here tonight by Deputy De Rossa.

The real and only impediment to unity on this island over the past 45 years has been an intractable attachment to ideology on one side or the other. In a sense there is a parallel here between ourselves and the Germans because there the only impediment in the past 45 years was an intractable attachment to an ideology. As it turns out, that ideology was until recently espoused by Deputy De Rossa's own party. There is surely some irony here that the two issues which have contributed so much to the division of people both in Ireland and in Europe, the use of violence to settle disputes on the one hand and the espousal of an ideology as a panacea for all ills, could until so very recently be associated with the proposers of this Bill.

I suggest that the proposition embodied in this Bill should be rejected for many reasons. There are, it seems, five or six specific reasons that can be identified as to why this Bill could, at this stage, be potentially dangerous. First, I believe that unilateral thinking on the Constitution would be, at the very least, unhelpful and, in all probability, harmful. Second, I believe that the Bill as formulated would represent, if carried through in the manner envisaged, a [1015] shameful abandonment of the Nationalist people of Northern Ireland. They too have an aspiration. Third, I believe that it would have no impact whatsoever on the promoters of violence, and perhaps this is the most important reason of all, because if there were any reason to believe that the people who promote violence would in any way be influenced by this, then my attitude would be different.

No matter how well meaning, there is a danger that this debate could be portrayed as suggesting that we in this part of Ireland are in some way equivocal on our commitment to peace. For our part, we on the Fianna Fáil side have reiterated on dozens of occasions our commitment to unity only through peaceful settlement. Yet, I suspect that in some quarters, particularly some Unionist quarters, this debate could be conjured up and portrayed as something which it is not — and I am not suggesting that that was Deputy De Rossa's purpose or that of his party in putting the issue forward for debate at this time. I am merely suggesting that it is a danger that lies there.

The fifth problem I have with the Bill is that there is a related danger that by having this debate now we could be contributing to the very sterility of politics in the Six Counties which we must all abhor. Is it helpful, I ask, at a time when efforts are being made to woo people into talks, to effectively signal to them that something can be done or might be achieved by holding back on talks? Again, I am not suggesting that that is Deputy De Rossa's purpose, but it is certainly one construction on the debate which I can foresee.

The final grave difficulty I have with this debate is that it has the potential for great divisiveness, particularly in a referendum campaign which would inevitably follow from it. Deputy De Rossa referred to our President and the very fine article on this specific issue written by her in The Irish Times on 21 April where, in addition to the portion quoted by Deputy De Rossa, she recognised:

[1016] However, there may be a serious risk that any referendum on Articles 2 and 3 held in the present climate could highlight divisions, exacerbate fears and prove to be counterproductive.

I too have that fear that a referendum could produce those unwelcome side effects.

The Constitution — any constitution — is, of necessity, a complex thing. A constitution, after all, is a treaty by a people to itself and it must cover all aspects of life within the state. Tinkering with one part, particularly in a matter as important as the one under discussion, is seldom the right way to achieve progress. Until recently this too was the view of the major opposition party. It would be interesting to receive some information from contributors in Fine Gael later as to why they seem to have changed their views in this regard.

There is no doubt in my mind that progress can be recorded in the years ahead — and not too far ahead — with the dismantling of the Border which sunders the two parts of this country. When consensus is reached on this matter then, in the words of the New Ireland Forum, the building of the new Ireland will require the participation and co-operation of all the people of Ireland, and it will also require an entirely new constitution. At that stage, as the Taoiseach himself has reiterated on many occasions, the new arrangements or structures which might be agreed for Ireland as a whole would clearly require an entirely new constitution. At that stage not only Articles 2 and 3 but all other Articles would have to be put up for discussion.

In our discussions we must also bear in mind the position of the Nationalist people. Like the Unionist people, they have their sensitivities about which we must be conscious. I know the importance which is attached by that community to the legitimate and democratic wish for unity by consent. I note too that the amendment proposed would be perceived by many in the Nationalist community as a tendency on our part to drift away from that aspiration, as a move [1017] towards a kind of creeping partition which would be deeply disturbing to the Nationalist community. We must bear in mind that there are those who would portray the proposed amendment as an abandonment entirely of the Nationalist community and who would seek to exploit the situation and to confer legitimacy on the men of violence.

It is another great fear I have that, however well meaning the proposal, were we to act on it, it would inevitably be abused by the armchair generals who show no regard whatsoever for law and show no regard for our Constitution but would certainly show an interest in abusing a well meaning proposition such as this.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  Would it be in order for me to ask the Deputy a question?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy De Rossa knows we do not have that mechanism in this House.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  But it is a question of logic.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Deputy knows, just as he would not like interruptions when he is making his contribution, that Deputies should not be interrupted.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  I am not interrupting.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  I am never shy of interruptions from Deputy De Rossa. I find his questions always eminently answerable. However, I may come to the point he has in mind. There is a related point on which I would like to dwell briefly here. When people propose amending or dropping Articles 2 and 3 as a means of helping the sensitivities of one sector in Northern Ireland, as a recognition of the sensitivities of Nationalists, why do they not propose or demand that the counter aspirations, the Unionist aspirations, should similarly be treated? In his contribution Deputy De Rossa was very [1018] generous to the Unionist aspirations and he referred only to the most uncompromising and intransigent Nationalists as taking the views I am taking. The reality is that intransigence is not the monopoly of one side of this divide in Northern Ireland.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  I did not say that.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  The argument is often put forward that Articles 2 and 3 in their present form in some way legitimise actions which could not be condoned by any civilised person. This line of argument ignores the existence, for example, of Article 29. When the Articles are read in conjunction with Article 29 it becomes clear that Bunreacht na hÉireann can never be invoked to justify the use of force to achieve the purposes of Articles 2 and 3, and there is no party in this House, no matter what side they take in this debate, that would accept for one minute that force should be used against our fellow Irish men and women to achieve the purposes of Articles 2 and 3. The means by which unity may be achieved are clearly delimited by Article 29. That Article lays down the obligations that affirm Ireland's dedication to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation and to Ireland's adherence to the principle of a peaceful settlement of international disputes.

So far as violence from one side of the division is concerned, that is, the violence of the Provisionals and of the murder gangs who masquerade as Republicans, Articles 2 and 3 are of very little consequence. They are in the same position as official Sinn Féin and its armed offshoots were a few years ago before official Sinn Féin became The Workers' Party. They do not now recognise our Constitution and they can claim no legitimacy for their actions from our Constitution. Indeed, I can envisage the perverse situation arising — and I think this is the point Deputy De Rossa is getting to — where the removal of the delimitation of Articles 2 and 3 or any tinkering with those Articles, no matter how well meaning, could be portrayed by [1019] the men of violence as a way of arguing for additional support for their particular viewpoint.

If Articles 2 and 3 were adjusted or abandoned in isolation it is probable that the Provisionals would preach with renewed vigour that they were the sole defence left to the nationalist people, that they were the last line of defence for the nationalists' aspirations and the dream of unity. I would not for one moment accept, no more than would any other Deputy, that they would have any right to put forward that lien of argument, but it is not improbable that one could see this debate producing that kind of reaction among those people.

I have no doubt that a unilateral amendment of these Articles would be exploited by the armchair generals to their own ends. Of course violence does not come from one side only. Murder is not the sole prerogative of those who label themselves republicans. Some of the more heinous crimes committed in the North of Ireland have been committed by those who label themselves loyalists. There is even less chance that these would be dissuaded from their bestiality by anything we do here in regard to Articles 2 and 3.

Each time there is a debate on Articles 2 and 3, no matter how well meaning it is, it is inevitably taken in Northern Ireland as signalling some doubt as to our dedication to the course of peace. The actions of all the major parties here belie any such suggestion. At the risk of repetition it is worth again recording the extent of our commitment to peace and progress. We have paid a heavy price. In economic terms the additional security costs to the Exchequer from the Northern Ireland troubles are estimated from 1969 onwards to have been approximately £1.5 billion. Adjusted for inflation, we are talking of additional costs in the order of £2.5 billion for security as a result of the troubles of the last 20 years.

There can be no doubt that our security forces have prevented even greater loss of life and carnage by their continuing [1020] success in intercepting and seizing very substantial quantities of arms, ammunition and explosives intended for use by one or other party in Northern Ireland. In so far as the Fianna Fáil Party are concerned, our commitment with regard to security is freely given in the common interest of society, North and South, to ensure that the forces of terrorism, whether of domestic or international origin, will not prevail. In Government we will continue to commit the resources necessary to combat those who seek to achieve their aims by violence.

We have invested more than simply money in the pursuit of the solutions to this problem. As Deputy De Rossa said, over the last decade a considerable amount of political time and effort has been invested in the issue. The Summit in Dublin Castle in December 1980 between the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, and the British Prime Minister gave new momentum to the efforts of the two sovereign Governments in London and Dublin to try to address the problems jointly and to find a common way forward. There followed a period in which various aspects of the current relationship between the two countries were examined in depth.

In 1983 the New Ireland Forum brought together constitutional nationalist politicians from all the major parties in Ireland and explored the possibilities for advancement at that stage. It is interesting to remind ourselves that far from proposing any dismissal of Articles 2 and 3 the New Ireland Forum recommended:

The particular structure of political unity which the Forum would wish to see established is a unitary state, achieved by agreement and consent, embracing the whole island of Ireland and providing irrevocable guarantees for the protection and preservation of both the unionist and nationalist identities. A unitary state on which agreement had been reached would also provide the ideal framework for the constructive interaction of the diverse cultures and values of the people of Ireland.

The whole island of Ireland is mentioned [1021] there. That, at that time, had the agreement of all the major constitutional nationalist parties on this island.

Following the Forum we saw in 1985 the conclusion of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I freely admit that the Agreement did not fire Fianna Fáil with the same enthusiasm that it did other parties in this House and in Government at the time. However, in Government, in spite of the doubts that we had, we actively and in good faith operated the Agreement to the fullest possible extent and the fullest possible advantage. In terms of political will, financial investment or political sacrifice, nobody on this island, however much ill will they may bear successive Governments can say that they have been wanting in terms of their desire and commitment to the peace process.

My final concern is that discussion on amending Articles 2 and 3 is no mere academic process. I feel very strongly that any referendum on these Articles could well put a wedge between all sides of the community. It will certainly put a wedge into the consensus that exists in terms of the peace process. It would open up divisions and it could give rise to elaborate fears. In the end it could easily be counter-productive. Were we to have a referendum, could we guarantee its success?

Occasionally when a cause is labelled as liberal or progressive it is difficult to suggest that there are counter-arguments to that cause. I make no apology for supporting the constitutional requirement to seek unity just as I reject unreservedly any idea of seeking to achieve unity by force or of imposing the jurisdiction of this State on the people of Northern Ireland. The whole movement of political development in Europe is towards unity and the breaking down of barriers. We witnessed the unification of Germany last week which many thought impossible. Countries of east and west in Europe which had been locked in confrontation are now choosing co-operation and friendship. Momentous changes are taking place, changes which everyone recognises will be of immense benefit to the people of Europe. Why should we [1022] on this island be left out of the historic movement that is taking place? Surely we can find some way of living together, some means of holding a dialogue involving all of our different opinions and beliefs.

Mr. McGahon: Information on Brendan McGahon  Zoom on Brendan McGahon  But you have to give something.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  At a time when the other nations of Europe are putting behind them age-old enmities, is it too much to ask that we do likewise? It is sometimes difficult to argue a case against the majority but if I believed that enacting the proposal before us would save one life or that this Bill could bring logic to the situation in the North of Ireland, my arguments would have been otherwise. I do not believe Deputy De Rossa has produced one shred of evidence to suggest that peace, progress or harmony would necessarily flow from his proposition, no matter how well meaning it is.

Mr. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  A Bill to amend the Constitution is a serious matter. As Deputy Roche has just said, it is a treaty between a people and a Government. It should be treated by the Oireachtas as being extremely serious, especially when it is brought in by a constitutional party. I regret very much the language used by Deputy Roche in his contribution. It was not a proper contribution to a debate on this subject. I cannot see the Government taking this debate seriously. As I have said, a Bill to amend the Constitution is a serious matter but yet the Government's opening speaker on this Bill — I do not mean any disrespect to Deputy Roche — is a backbencher, not a Minister of State, not a Minister with responsibility in the field of Northern Ireland like Deputy Collins and not the Taoiseach.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Is the Deputy saying that Deputy Roche is not entitled to speak?

(Interruptions.)

[1023]Mr. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  May I crave your protection, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Barry is getting assistance, or presumed assistance, from his own side and that, of course, is bringing interruptions from the other side. Could we ask that Deputy Barry——

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The sequence was otherwise.

Mr. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  With due respect, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the sequence was otherwise.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  On a point of order, can we take it that if a backbencher of a party interrupts a speaker or offers support, the speaker is not entitled to the protection of the Chair?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy De Rossa apparently listens to himself. If he listened to me he would have heard me say that the Chair had heard what presumed to be helpful contributions from his own side and which were bringing provocation from the far side. I was asking both to desist. Deputy Barry, without interruption.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I heard you say that, apparently, it was all right for them to interrupt on that side because there had been an interruption on this side.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  If Deputy De Rossa puts his own warped interpretation on things that is not my business.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I think, Sir, it is not in order for you to make a reference like that about any Member of the House, to refer to a warped interpretation on the part of a Member.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I am——

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I have been in this House for 21 years and I have never [1024] heard an occupant of the Chair refer to a Member of the House in those terms. I really feel, Sir, that you should withdraw that remark.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I will do no such thing.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  To refer to Deputy De Rossa as putting a warped interpretation on something is disorderly on the part of the Chair.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I will not take any interruptions from the Leader of the Fine Gael Party, and, if you continue to interrupt, I will ask you to leave.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  It is outrageous conduct. We are entitled to an impartial Chairman.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  That is what I am and if you can show otherwise, Deputy O'Keeffe, please do so.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This is absolutely appalling.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Chair will not take any badgering from Deputy Bruton or anybody else. Deputy Bruton can launch into any attack he likes but I will not take any interruption from him.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  On a point of order, Sir, is it not the case that you referred to Deputy De Rossa as putting a “warped interpretation” on something? Do you feel that the word “warped” in this context is proper terminology for you to use?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I do, of course, and if Deputy Bruton had the same knowledge of the English language as I have he would know that there is nothing wrong with the word “warped”.

Mr. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  I think you meant that there was something wrong with it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  There is nothing unparliamentary about the word “warped”.

[1025]Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  On a point of order, as the Deputy referred to, I want to register the strongest possible protest to the language you used in relation to my point of order when I felt you were not giving the speaker the protection to which he was entitled.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Chair gives protection to every speaker — without any consideration as to what side of the House he or she comes from — but, in so far as the first interruption came from that side, I registered it. That was all.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  On a point of order——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Barry, without interruption.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is this the 20th century?

Mr. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  With regard to the exchange which has just taken place, the first interruption, which I clearly heard, came from Deputy Dermot Ahern——

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  I make no apology for it.

Mr. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  That is confirmation of what I just said. The next interruption came from this side of the House and the Chair then said Deputy Ahern interrupted me because he was provoked by a backbencher on my side of the House. Deputy De Rossa pointed out the incorrectness of that interruption but when he was told that it was a warped interpretation I am obliged to join the other speakers who wish to protect Deputy De Rossa and to say that the Chair did not use fitting language.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I do not know whether you were present earlier on, Deputy Barry, when the Deputy on your side of the House interrupted Deputy Roche.

Mr. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  Is that what you were referring to?

[1026]Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  The Chair is shifting his ground.

Mr. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, you are letting yourself down very badly.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Chair never lets himself down. The record will show that Deputy Bruton apparently thought there was something very unparliamentary about the word “warped”.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  There was, in the context in which you used it.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  On a point of order——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  There is no point of information or order. The Chair has indicated how it feels and unless you have a precise point of order——

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  I want to make the point that Deputy Barry called into question Deputy Roche's right to speak in this House and he should withdraw that remark.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  That is not a point of order.

Mr. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  I certainly did not. I just indicated the lack of seriousness with which the Government are approaching this Bill because they did not put in a Minister or a Minister of State to open the debate. They put in a backbencher but I specifically said that that was no reflection on the Deputy concerned.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  That was a fair comment.

Mr. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  Deputy Dermot Ahern is a good contributor but it is not fitting for the Government to put in a backbencher on a serious debate like this. I will now return to the Bill.

The view of the Fine Gael Party — which has been my view for many years —is that Articles 2 and 3 of Bunreacht na hÉireann expressed a political aspiration [1027] rather than what is now being interpreted as a legal imperative for the unification of Ireland. The change of mind in the Fine Gael position was brought about by the judgment handed down by the Supreme Court last April. There was a general understanding that Articles 2 and 3 should be read together because Article 3 somehow diluted Article 2. Of course, they are all subject to Article 29 quoted earlier by Deputy Roche.

Fundamental to this understanding was the view that Irish unity would come about by peaceful means and only by consent. That is now the position of both major parties in this country and has been the case for a number of years. The name of the party of which I am a member is Fine Gael — United Ireland Party; the attitude of the Fianna Fáil Party to a united Ireland is well known and it has been reiterated here tonight by Deputy Roche. It is dangerous for anyone in this House to start throwing stones from the glasshouse they now inhabit. That applies to Deputy Roche and the difference between his party and mine is that we recognised many years ago when the first Treaty was accepted that the north east of this country could not be coerced into becoming part of the then Irish Free State. We recognised that very early on and I am glad that other parties have come round to the same point of view. However, I do not intend to accuse any party in this House of taking a long time to come to that point of view, I am very glad they have now joined us. For that reason, the contribution of Deputy Roche was most regrettable. That is why we adopted a less militant form of nationalism than that of Fianna Fáil.

For the past 20 years we sought a political accommodation which would end violence and begin the process of reconciliation and normalisation of political life in Northern Ireland. This was prompted initially by the chilling scenes on television at the end of the late sixties of the violence in Northern Ireland. As Deputy De Rossa said, the civil rights movement achieved more for the Nationalist people in Northern Ireland, brought the problem [1028] to the attention of the world and did more in two years than all the rhetoric engaged in for the previous 40 years.

Unfortunately, in the intervening 20 years the former Taoiseach, Deputy Liam Cosgrave, said at one stage that the violence of one organisation was killing the desire among people down here for unity and bringing in a partitionist mentality which was very clearly evident in the recent Presidential campaign. We were asked if we had to go to County Tyrone for a candidate and that type of attitude is particularly regrettable from a Government Minister. It is an attitude which contradicts their claim that they want unity. It was against that background that we participated in the Sunningdale talks on power sharing; that we proposed and participated in the Forum for a New Ireland and that we negotiated the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The Sunningdale Agreement, the report of the New Ireland Forum and the Anglo-Irish Agreement categorically underline our contention that the unity of Ireland will only come about with the consent of a majority of the people in Northern Ireland. In the Sunningdale Agreement, December 1973, the Irish Government stated that they:

...fully accepted and solemly declared that there could be no change in the status of Northern Ireland until a majority of the people of Northern Ireland desired a change in that status.

The Forum report, May 1984, reiterated this point by asserting:

attempts from any quarter to impose a particular solution through violence must be rejected along with the proponents of such methods. It must be recognised that the new Ireland which the forum seeks can come about only through agreement and must have a democratic basis.

Finally, in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of November 1985 the Irish Government

affirmed that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a [1029] majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

The real significance of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was the commitment given by both Governments, particularly the Irish Government, that there would be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. The other significance of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was that for the first time in 60 years the Irish Government got the right to have a say in the affairs of Northern Ireland. In spite of all the violence that had been used and all the rhetoric that had been poured out throughout the years the agreement gave the right to the Irish Government to speak on behalf of the Nationalists in Northern Ireland. It gave the right to the Irish Government to put forward views and proposals to promote peace and reconciliation on the island and in Article 4 it imposed an obligation on both Governments to bring forward proposals about devolved Government in Northern Ireland.

This was a sea change because only three or four years previously the UK Prime Minister had said that no Irish Government had a right to have any say in anything that happened in the North of Ireland. Within three years of that, this solemn agreement had been signed by both Governments, lodged with the UN, recognised in international law and for the first time in 65 years we had the right to have a say in what was happening in Northern Ireland.

Another point about the Anglo-Irish Agreement was that it did not propose nor did it anticipate that there would be instant solutions to the problems. It formally committed both Governments to a steady course towards seeking the goal of peace and stability. Without that agreement the talks that are now taking place could not have been initiated. Hopefully they are leading towards peace and stability.

It is disappointing that the proposed participants in those talks have not yet sat down. I was encouraged by what the Taoiseach said today in that regard, that [1030] he is not pessimistic about the possibility of the talks taking place. However, being “not pessimistic” is not enough. Besides the rights which the Governments have under the Anglo-Irish Agreement, they have obligations. One of the obligations of both the British and Irish Governments is to use their influence through the Anglo-Irish Conference where these matters should be discussed, to bring those people to the talks. It is not enough to say that there are obstacles on the road to talks. It is the responsibility of Mr. Brooke and the Minister, Deputy Collins, to get the obstacles removed and to get the talks under way for the same objective Deputy De Rossa wants to achieve by amending Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution to ensure that we will have in the North of Ireland communities that can live in peace and reconciliation with one another.

These views which were held strongly by Fine Gael for 70 years did not mean that at any stage we were unconcerned with or indifferent to the injustices suffered by the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland. We always sought to improve the conditions which the Nationalist people lived in, while we worked towards the solution of eventual reunification. We could not say to them “you suffer on until we get an ideal solution”. We had to take a step by step approach of doing something for them now rather than getting everything for them at some unnamed date in the mystic future. Both the Sunningdale and the Anglo-Irish Agreements sought to redress the injustices suffered by the Nationalists and to bring about reconciliation between both communities with the intention of allowing all the people both North and South, to live in peace.

Of course what the IRA have done in this regard is the absolute opposite to what we are trying to achieve. They want to maintain the divisions between the Nationalists and Loyalists on this island. The parties in this Dáil, in the Parliament, and the signatories to the Sunningdale Agreement and to the New Ireland Forum, want to find an accommodation with the people in Northern [1031] Ireland. However, the Supreme Court judgment in the McGimpsey case in March of this year characterised the reintegration of the national territory as a constitutional imperative. The implication of that judgment is that it is not merely a political aspiration but that the Government of this State have a legal obligation to pursue a united Ireland, whereas my interpretation of the Constitution was that we had to build a State here that was economically attractive and a society that was based on the notions of pluralism and Christian democracy to encourage people of the Loyalist tradition to join with us of the Nationalist tradition to work together in a federal or unitary state where they could enjoy civil and political liberties, and to which they could give the allegiance they now give to the Crown.

In that regard the New Ireland Forum was a watershed in the evolution of politics on this island in that The Workers' Party who were not members of the New Ireland Forum but from what Deputy De Rossa has said, would have supported it, the Labour Party, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Social Democratic and Labour Party in the North of Ireland, the major voice of constitutional nationalism in the North, have all said formally to Unionists for the first time in over 60 years, that they had a right to be on this island, a right to be what they were and that our only interest in them was to find a way to work with them so that we could live in peace and harmony together in the future. Unfortunately, the judgment handed down in the McGimpsey case could be interpreted by the Provisional IRA as giving the right to achieve by violence what the vast majority of the Nationalist people both North and South have said they want to bring about by peaceful means. That is what has changed the attitude of the Fine Gael Party towards Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution.

Earlier Deputy De Rossa quoted Mr. Cosgrave as saying that these Articles were a fiction. That was true, and that was the interpretation of most people —[1032] that they were an aspiration and had no legal effect. That changed last March as a result of the Supreme Court decision in the McGimpsey case. That is why this party have changed and why we will now support a Second Reading of this Bill proposed by The Workers' Party.

Debate adjourned.


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