Private Members' Business. - An Bille um an Aonú Leasú Déag ar an mBunreacht, 1990: An Dara Céim (Atógáil). Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1990: Second Stage (Resumed).
Wednesday, 12 December 1990
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Byrne: As I said last night, The Workers' Party do not want to favour Unionist's aspirations at the expense of the aspirations of Northern Nationalists but we would challenge the claim that the majority of Northern Ireland Nationalists share in the traditionalistic thinking of Mr. Haughey's party. Recent surveys have clearly demonstrated that those who put Irish unity at the top of the political agenda are a minority of Northern Nationalists. The predominant objective is a share of power and justice within the Northern Ireland state, together with an institutionalised reflection of their Irish political and cultural identity. These are objectives which many Unionists can accept. Opinion among ordinary Catholics in Northern Ireland has moved beyond the arid territorial nationalism, as expressed by the Taoiseach. Fianna Fáil appear to be as out of touch with the new realities of Northern Ireland as they are with the new and questioning political culture of the South. The Ireland which voted for our new President voted for a pluralist and tolerant Ireland. This is an Ireland which more and more Unionists will learn to respect and trust.
Our Bill gives the parties in the Dáil the chance to demonstrate that the majority of people in the South feel uncomfortable with the aggressive nationalism embodied in these two Articles. There are some expressions of nationalism which do and should embarrass any democrat in this House. There is no need for divisiveness on this issue. Fianna Fáil would do better to follow the realism and moderation of the late Seán Lemass on these questions than the negative and outmoded thinking of their present leader.
I must say I was bitterly disappointed at the contribution by Deputy Ahern. He represents a Border county and areas very close to many sites of unbelievable murderous savagery committed by the maniacal Nationalists of the IRA in our name and, by implication, in the name of our Constitution. He expressed a surprise and, in fact, chided the Protestants of Northern Ireland for not being grateful for our great gesture in removing Article 44 of the Constitution. He said that they put this concession into their pockets and walked away without even saying thanks. He went on to say that this is exactly what they will do if we amend, as this Bill proposes, Articles 2 and 3.
 Does Deputy Ahern really believe that the people of the Republic voted as they did to appease Northern Ireland Protestants and that by removing Article 44 they thought we might have a united Ireland quicker? They did not and anyone who approaches the issue of amending Articles in our Constitution or removing them with the aim of enticing, seducing or fooling Protestants into a united Ireland are being disingenuous and stupid. Was it not Article 44 which stated that the State recognised the special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the Guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens? Was that not offensive and repugnant to the vast majority of Irish people? As the people of the Republic voted to remove Article 44 so they should also be given the chance to amend Articles 2 and 3 and remove the territorial claim not just because it is offensive to Northern Ireland Protestants but because it is offensive to us.
We do not need the clap-trap of Fianna Fáil that the timing is somehow wrong or their style of green politics which, with a wink and a nod, they say to their supporters, “we have the Unionists on the run and if we squeeze them a bit more they will be coming in with us any day now and there is no need for The Workers' Party having debates such as this”.
The inward looking Taoiseach, his party, and their green nationalist approach to Northern Ireland are out of step with the thinking of the men and women of an emerging modern Ireland. The time is right for such a debate. What better time could there be for amending our Constitution that at Christmas? It is a great time to send out the signal that as a country we are awake, alive and happy to move forward into a more understanding pluralist society and world.
Mr. Gilmore: Much of the argument against this Bill has been ambiguous, contradictory, and full of the same kind of double-think, which underlines Articles 2 and 3 themselves. The most common argument is that the timing is wrong. It has been described as “disastrous” by the Taoiseach, “opportunistic” by Deputy Spring and patronisingly put down as “poor political judgment” by both. Let us examine the timing argument.
Almost every single initiative for significant political constitutional or social change here has had to overcome the bad timing criticism. The introduction of equal pay was postponed, votes at 18 was put off and the introduction of contraception legislation was said to be too soon.
The bad timing argument is particularly curious in the context of Articles 2 and 3. The public debate about these Articles has been underway for some time. Several prominent Members of this House have spoken often and at length about the need to change these Articles. I cannot recall anybody suggesting that these speeches, interviews or supplied scripts, some of which were issued over the last couple of weeks, were badly timed. Is it being suggested, that after 53 years, to bring the debate into the Dáil Chamber is bad timing while making speeches outside the House on the same subject is not? What is their understanding of democracy if they disparage the notion of debating in Parliament a topic which is being widely aired in public?
The most serious charge behind the bad timing argument is that the Bill comes in the middle of the Brooke talks  and that, in some way, a debate here about Articles 2 and 3 is damaging to the talks. This argument is strange coming from the Taoiseach, since, as Deputy Spring said last week, he has chosen not to keep the party leaders or this House appraised of the talks.
There seems to be a two-fold argument here. First, that to raise this issue now is, to quote the Taoiseach, “to pre-empt something that may be raised during the negotiations themselves” or, to paraphrase Deputy Spring, “a concession to the Unionists which may be simply pocketed once it is given”, and is, therefore, a bad negotiating tactic.
This line of thinking implies, first, that our Constitution can be bargained for and, secondly, that the approach to the talks is full of suspicion of the Unionist population whom we constitutionally claim to be part of our nation. Is this not simply a more sophisticated version of the not-an-inch thinking which has already contributed so much to the turmoil on this island? Surely it is time to replace the notion of grudging concession with generous gesture?
Far from pocketing the concession, moderate Unionist opinion has already shown in recent weeks a willingness to respond in kind. The Taoiseach claimed here last week, that the secretary of the Ulster Unionist Party, Mr. Chris McGimpsey, had stated on a radio programme that changing Articles 2 and 3 would not matter to Unionist opinion. However, the following morning the same Mr. McGimpsey said on the RTE radio programme “Morning Ireland”:
I cannot really believe that an amendment of Articles 2 and 3 in the Irish Constitution would alter these. Indeed, to the contrary, it's quite clear that such a message, coming from the Oireachtas to the people of Northern Ireland, particularly the Unionists, would help to facilitate talks, would help set preconditions for a situation wherein we can all work together towards an agreed Ireland.
That is far from the bad timing argument. This is the first time in 53 years that  these issues have been debated in this House. Surely it cannot be argued that it is bad timing after that length of time to have a debate about so fundamental an issue in our Constitution?
Dr. Woods: At the outset I want to state that this Private Members' Bill, and its timing, are both opportunistic and divisive. The Government are committed to a process which is based on consensus, generosity and reconciliation. This is the only basis on which a lasting solution can be found to the intractable problem of the partition of Ireland.
Given the delicate situation in Northern Ireland at the moment one must question the wisdom of introducing this Bill at this time. The talks between the Irish and British Governments are at a crucial stage. The Bill, if passed would place these negotiations in grave danger and might well ruin the prospects of initiating a lasting dialogue between all the constitutional parties in all of Ireland.
I know that the Supreme Court decision in the McGimpsey case, in March of this year, has aroused a certain amount of academic comment on Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. This decision declared that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was not in conflict with Articles 2 and 3. It also highlighted the true sense of Article 29 of the Constitution that there would be no change in the status of Northern Ireland, except through consent, because of Ireland's devotion to the ideal of peaceful co-operation among nations.
The decision reinforced the commitment of successive Irish Governments, as reflected in Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, that “any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent  of a majority of the people in Northern Ireland”.
The broad framework of the Government's agenda was outlined to the House last July when the Taoiseach reported on the Government's commitment to developing three sets of relationships, within new structures, that could transcend the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The Taoiseach then said, “There should be three sets of talks within the same timeframe: (a) internal between the political parties in the North of Ireland; (b) North-South between the political parties in the North and the Irish Government and (c) East-West between the British and Irish Governments”.
Unlike the Government's approach, this Bill takes little account of either the political realities of Northern Ireland today or the sensitive political discussions that are going on to bring peace to the whole island.
Last week Deputy Spring correctly questioned the political wisdom of those who would initiate a divisive referendum on this issue at this time. He said that, “any campaign, no matter how well intentioned, would stir up fires and passions that could only do damage to the political fabric of this island”. Deputy Spring should follow his own arguments to their logical conclusion and vote against the Bill. In 1982, John Hume told Dr. Pádraic O'Malley, author of The Uncivil Wars: Ireland Today, that such a referendum would not only be divisive, but also destabilising. Also in 1982, the then Secretary of State, James Prior, stated that repeal of these Articles would not make “any fundamental difference”. Indeed, I would go further, and say that even a proposed amendment would be offensive to both Unionists and Nationalists.
Even if only this amendment was put to the people, it would involve the reassertion of the aspiration to unity and the territorial claim per se. In no way could such a reassertion be seen as a gesture of reconciliation. Piecemeal amendments of these Articles would only encourage the  polarisation and division that the Anglo-Irish Agreement is designed to transcend.
There is only one way in which progress can be made and that is through the integrated approach outlined by the Taoiseach last July. This approach is guided by a concern to build on and extend the framework provided by the Anglo-Irish Agreement and to totally reject violence.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement has an important role in further reinforcing constitutional politics on this island. This proposed Bill would compromise constitutional politics and the agenda which the Government are developing to strengthen this process. The proposed Bill would have an adverse impact on the views of Northern Nationalists. We have to be careful not to repeat the circumstances of the early seventies or to give the men of violence any excuse for their own murderous campaign and at the same time do serious damage to the prospects for reconciliation between the two communities in the North. We have no intention of fuelling violence.
The Nationalist community have a legitimate right to their aspirations. It is a right which, by extension, public representatives of all parties in this House should support. Failure to do so will ensure that both parts of the island will drift further apart.
As the Government seek to transcend the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Taoiseach's approach has been characterised by openness and generosity. He has been careful to complement his discussions with an open and generous invitation to Unionist leaders to meet him, without pre-conditions, both to hear their concerns at first hand, and to achieve what the Forum report ultimately aspires to: peace on this island.
The Taoiseach has also indicated that “in the context of some new all-Ireland arrangement”, a new constitution would, if necessary, be considered. To my mind, this is the statesman's approach. It is an approach that rejects the type of party-political propaganda and opportunism suggested by this Bill. Instead it proposes an approach to the Northern Ireland  problem that is integrated, sensible and realistic.
The Border will become increasingly irrelevant with the completion of the Single European Market in 1992. Already business, agricultural, industrial and tourist interests are looking towards the opportunities we can share in the Europe of the nineties. All the people of Ireland need to work together if we are to survive and prosper in the new Europe.
Political and economic developments throughout Europe are rendering border divisions less and less important or relevant to every-day life. This is nowhere more obvious than within the European Community itself where the trend has now become irreversible.
When the Single Market is finally completed, border controls for intra-Community trade will disappear as will customs checks on travellers purchasing goods in other member states. In such circumstances, the practical implications of crossing borders for citizens of the EC will be eliminated — such divisions will increasingly become mere lines on maps.
The report of the New Ireland Forum was supported by all the constitutional parties of Irish nationalism. The forum reiterated that “a unitary state” should be achieved only “by agreement and consent”. It also reiterated “the irrevocable guarantees for the protection and preservation of both the Nationalist and Unionist identities”.
The Forum showed the consensus among us to listen, to change and to accommodate. The Bill before us seeks to break that broad consensus, and to distract both the Government, and the Irish people, from the broader agenda that alone will bring progress.
Deputy De Rossa has tried to make out that there is a consensus for making a change in Articles 2 and 3 in isolation. In fact, the very opposite is the case. The Labour Party Leader, while giving token support to the Bill, in fact argued strongly and cogently against a referendum, which in the way it was worded could be seen  as writing a Unionist veto into our Constitution.
The only genuine support Deputy De Rossa has got is from Fine Gael, who have changed their policy on Northern Ireland along with changing their leader. Last March, after the Supreme Court judgment, Fine Gael said that this present discussion should be held in the context of change in Northern Ireland and not in isolation.
Deputy Bruton has been making an extraordinary series of statements on Northern Ireland. Last weekend he claimed that there was “no special relation with any community in Northern Ireland and that our concern must be to remove all claims, all historic dreams”.
Dr. Woods: But the Anglo-Irish Agreement specifically gives the Irish Government a special voice on behalf of Nationalists in Northern Ireland, and there is a shared belief on all sides of this House that Irish unity is a legitimate aim and aspiration. In his speech Deputy Bruton appears to be not only abandoning and repudiating the historic dream of a United Ireland, but also the entire thinking behind the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Last night in this House he implicitly accused the SDLP of political immaturity because Northern Nationalists look to Dublin. Even more extraordinary was his comparison of Northern Ireland with Polish Silesia. The clear implication of that comparison is that the partition of Ireland should now be cast in concrete for all time, and that Irish unification  should be definitely renounced. In doing so he expressed himself in terms of his adherence to the two nations philosophy. If this is the spirit in which Fine Gael propose to put the case of amending Articles 2 and 3, it is quite certain that any such referendum would be resoundingly defeated.
There is no objective basis for objecting to our Constitution, which already incorporates the principle of peaceful agreement in the resolution of international disputes in Articles 29. Deputy Bruton is quite wrong in saying that Article 29 does not cover the North. De Valera very carefully saw the question of Northern Ireland as being a dispute with Britain, in other words and international dispute, and that is certainly the way the courts interpret the Constitution today. The Supreme Court was quite adamant that Article 29 on the peaceful settlement of disputes could and should be read in conjunction with Articles 2 and 3. The Provisional IRA derive no legitimacy from the Constitution. The only danger is that they might seek to derive legitimacy from attempts to alter Articles 2 and 3 in a manner that would allow them to claim that Irish nationalism had been abandoned by the constitutional parties.
However, if Unionists have a specific problem in relation to this, let them put it to us directly, when this can be considered in the overall framework of negotiations. It would really be far more satisfactory, if The Workers' Party and Fine Gael, instead of making the Unionist case themselves, were to encourage Unionists to put their case directly to the Irish Government in the context of direct negotiations. This is the context in which all these matters can be discussed. They cannot be dealt with in isolation.
I call on the House to give a clear endorsement of the Government's consensus approach. I urge the rejection of this narrow, divisive and, in the context of the current talks, insensitive and ill-judged Bill. I would go further and call on all the parties in this House to return to the consensus approach adopted in the New Ireland Forum, to refrain from  political confrontation on this sensitive issue and to support the Government in their efforts to bring lasting peace and stability to the whole island of Ireland.
Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley): The Progressive Democrats, since their foundation almost five years ago, have clearly and unequivocally called for the development of a new, relevant and inclusive relationship between the Unionist and Nationalist communities on this island. To us the establishment of peace, tolerance and openness precedes theoretical considerations such as sovereignty, the concept of a nation-state or whatever. That is why we supported the Anglo-Irish Agreement from our inception, not because it was the end point of political efforts but because it offered a starting point for progress.
Articles 2 and 3 of the 1937 Constitution are clearly unhelpful and incompatible from a political point of view with the emergence of tolerance, peace and concord in Northern Ireland. This much was even apparent to the all-party committee which reviewed the Constitution in 1967. To those who feel that 1967 was a long time ago, politically let me point out that it was a time of optimism, openness and confidence in our identity and in our future. It was also only a year after the 1966 golden jubilee celebrations of the 1916 Rising. It is worth pointing out that the then all party committee was established in August 1966 and presented their final report in December 1967. It is appropriate to recall the personnel of that committee which agreed that Articles 2 and 3 needed to be revised. They were: Deputies George Colley, David Andrews, Don Davern, Seán Dunne, Denis Jones, T.F. O'Higgins, Gerard Sweetman, Jim Tully and, I am delighted to say, my now Progressive Democrat colleague, Robert Molloy along with Senators Jim Dooge, Michael O'Kennedy and Eoin Ryan. I might add that Seán Lemass joined the committee in November 1966 when he retired as Taoiseach and played a full part in their proceedings.
 Nothing has happened in the ensuing 23 years to invalidate the consensus which then existed among all the parties in this House to change Articles 2 and 3. Have 20 years of murder, carnage, torture, mutilation and distruction swept away the logic or the merit of changing Articles 2 and 3? Does the political cause of peace demand less generosity or less trust than that offered by Lemass and O'Neill in that period of hope and optimism in the mid-sixties?
I want to state clearly and uneqivocally that Articles 2 and 3, as currently framed, are of no use to nationalism, or to Nationalists, North or South, because they hinder peace and reconciliation with the Unionist tradition on this island. Before considering how they should be revised it is appropriate to review the Articles in their historical context. The plebiscite which approved them was carried by a narrow majority of voters who turned out to vote on the 1937 Constitution. Only 38.6 per cent of the electorate of the then Free State voted in favour; 29.6 per cent voted against and 31.8 per cent abstained or spoiled their votes. Nobody in Northern Ireland was consulted.
Yet this is the mandate offered for a claim of right made in the name of the people of Ireland to the entirety of the island. Article 3 speaks of “the right of the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution to exercise jurisdiction over the whole of that territory”. What right has this House at the level of commonsense, morality or international law to exercise jurisdiction over Northern Ireland? Such jurisdiction as we have can only be exercised in accordance with the Constitution. What right have I, or we, to tell the people of Northern Ireland that they may not have divorce because 38.6 per cent of the electorate of the Irish Free State ordained it so in 1937? We have no such right, politically, historically or legally. The pretensions of Article 3 are as threadbare as they are absurd.
It is well known that Ireland withheld  submission to the full compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in The Hague precisely because the “claim of right” made in 1937 would have been exposed, to our embarrassment, as an international law nullity.
Devoid as they are of any standing in the order of international political affairs or international law, we must face the fact, however, that Articles 2 and 3, as framed, are still part of the Constitution of this State. They have been considered by our courts most recently in the McGimpsey case. It has been said that “the Constitution means what the Supreme Court says it means”. This is true subject to the rider “except when the people decide otherwise”. In that judgment the Supreme Court held that “the reintegration of the National Territory is a Constitutional imperative”, and that Article 2 “consists of the declaration of the extent of the National Territory as a claim of legal right”. If it is a claim of legal right, then whatever the Supreme Court may say about it, it only exists in Irish law. It does not exist in any real sense in the international order, legal or political.
The majority of Deputies and parties in this House clearly support a Constitution in which as presently constructed Articles 2 and 3 have no place. The Progressive Democrats have consistently argued for the inclusion in the Irish Constitution of an aspiration to unity based on the principle of consent. That principle of consent is enshrined in Article one of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, which makes clear there can be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of a majority there. Surely this agreement, signed, ratified and honoured by the Irish Government, being just five years old, is a more positive, realistic and honest statement of the relationship between the Republic and Northern Ireland than the pronouncements of 53 years ago?
The issue is no longer whether Articles 2 and 3 should remain. The majority of the people want them amended, as was demonstrated by the findings of an opinion poll in a paper on Sunday last.  There the response was 53 per cent for amending them, 29 per cent against and 18 per cent undecided. Moreover — and perhaps most importantly — there was a majority for amending them among the supporters of all the political parties. I find that particularly heartening.
The issue therefore, and a very real one it is, is how Articles 2 and 3 should be amended. This Bill, as has been pointed out by other speakers, is not as well drafted as it might have been but, of course, textual problems can always be rectified.
The real decision which most people in this House seem reluctant to face practically is how we set about constitutional reform. Do we, as this Bill suggests, embark on a long series of single issue referenda on different amendments to the Constitution? Or should we not put before the people a reworked Constitution which retains all that is good in the present corpus of constitutional law, but also tackles the many grave constitutional problems which exist, including the matter of Articles 2 and 3?
I and the Progressive Democrats are emphatically of the view that the latter course is the only practical way to deal with the many constitutional reforms that are needed. For instance, there is an urgent need to amend the Constitution still further to deal with the process of European Community intgeration. These are conventions, including a European Patents Convention, for instance, and other Treaty of Rome changes which are likely to follow, which Ireland cannot ratify without further referenda. The Progressive Democrats pointed this out in the context of the Dáil debate on the Single European Act in 1987, and underlined our earnestness by insisting on a Dáil division to make our point. Alas, we were ignored.
But this House and the various parties here cannot go on ignoring the overwhelming case for a radically reworked Constitution. Apart from dealing with Articles 2 and 3 and the constitutional prohibition on divorce, the Constitution needs change in the areas of European  Integration; equality for women; personal rights; the role of the Seanad; the structure of the courts; the role of the Presidency; the rights of children; the reference to capital punishment and the revision of constituencies.
These, and many other improvements and amendments ought to be made, but we cannot embark on a decade of single issue referenda. It would be far better to achieve an all-party consensus than to venture on single issue alterations, which would be divisive, massively time consuming of the whole political process and the effective operation of Government, and, on some issues, would also be doomed to fail, thereby setting back the overall cause of reform.
The Workers' Party deserve our thanks for bringing this issue to the floor of this House. But I am renewing my party's appeal to them not to push the issue to a formal division of the Dáil this evening. I have made crystal clear that the Progressive Democrats fully support the principle of changing Articles 2 and 3. Incidentally, I note, of course, that The Workers' Party do not propose dropping the Articles entirely. I regret that some speakers in this debate have confused and misrepresented the issue by implying that the Bill before us is one that proposed dropping Articles 2 and 3 outright.
I believe that all Irish Nationalists in the Republic and in Northern Ireland are fully entitled to aspire to some form of unification of all the people on this small island. The process of unification is proceeding apace anyway as the Republic, along with Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, and the other member states of the EC pool their sovereignty in the creation of a united Europe.
The Progressive Democrats are not supporting this Bill tonight because we sincerely believe that if this single issue referenda format was facilitated it would be hugely divisive to the country and would afford the Provisional IRA/Sinn Féin movement a heaven-sent opportunity to pose as the spurious defenders of Irish nationalism not only in Northern Ireland but throughout the whole island.
 My goodness, if the issue can be misrepresented even here in the relative calm and quiet of the Dáil debating Chamber as amounting to an abandonment of Irish nationalism, how wild, emotive and even violent would this issue become if taken to the country in its present form? Such a referendum campaign would unleash tribal bitterness, misunderstandings and divisions that would make the elusive quest for peace in Northern Ireland even less attainable.
For these reasons I have restated my profound belief and that of the whole Progressive Democrats Party that amending Articles 2 and 3 should be a part of a comprehensive updating of the whole Constitution.
I note that Deputy De Rossa said last week that this could take ten or even 15 years. I do not accept that this would be the case. Remember the comprehensive 1967 review was completed in just over a year. I have called for such an all-party constitutional review to be set up quickly with expert backing, to report on a comprehensive review of the Constitution with a one year deadline. It has been done before; it can be done again.
Indeed, the irony of the stance of some of the other parties supporting this Bill is an acceptance that the matter does need far more comprehensive consideration. For instance, I note that Deputy Bruton last night called for a White Paper on the matter. We would then have a White Paper on divorce, another White Paper on Articles 2 and 3 and, no doubt, more White Papers on each and every other constitutional difficulty that would arise.
I believe that if all other parties are sincere and committed to constitutional reform on these and other issues, they should acknowledge that the course of action proposed by the Progressive Democrats of comprehensive review leading to reform on an all-party committee basis, with a 12 month deadline, is the best way forward.
 In the negotiations on the formation of the present Coalition Government, the Progressive Democrats were unsuccessful in having this proposal agreed, but we are continuing to promote it and I believe that we can make headway on it, especially in the renewed and welcome climate of political reappraisal that is going on in all the other parties of this House. The Progressive Democrats were the catalyst for all this reappraisal in our five short years and we heartily welcome the spirit of political renewal and reassessment now sweeping the land.
I also believe that given the sensitive and delicate stage of the Brooke initiative in the North, which this Government are so anxious to facilitate and see flower into a meaningful peace process, the timing of this Bill is wrong. I say that not because I believe, as apparently does Deputy Spring and perhaps others, that any change in Articles 2 and 3 should be regarded as some kind of concession to be bartered in peace talks with Unionists. Articles 2 and 3 should be revised because we, the citizens of the Irish Republic, want them changed to reflect our real aspirations as being peaceful in intent and to be achieved only by consent, and not as some crude bartering exercise with the Unionist community of Northern Ireland. I believe that an all-party constitutional review process would unite this House and the country for constitutional change, and would deliver change. I believe that the piecemeal approach will fail in a chorus of recrimination, divisiveness and, maybe, even worse. The Progressive Democrats believe in constitutional change of a comprehensive and sustainable kind. We believe our approach is the obvious course for those who believe in change rather than in appearing to want change.
If I thought for a moment that supporting this Bill was the way to ensure the reform of Articles 2 and 3 and save lives, I would vote for it, but convinced as I am that it is not opportune on its own, that it would probably set the country back and could end in divisive failure, I cannot honestly indicate support for the Bill. Failure to deliver a  change in Articles 2 and 3 in a referendum would be a disastrous setback for peace and a licence for violence and hatred.
This Bill and any other single issue Bill on major constitutional issues is not the way forward. I call on this House to unite in genuine constitutional reform. I seek the building of a political consensus in this House which alone will deliver major constitutional reform.
Let us amend Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution, but let us do the work in a way that ensures success. Let us all sit down together to draw up a constitutional document that reflects the consensus of Irish constitutional thought, rather than stitch, darn and patch a Constitution which in many respects is out-dated and overtaken by events like the emerging United Europe.
I have no doubt that the people want this House to bring forward proposals for change which reflect a national consensus. I have no doubt that they want us to work to build that consensus. Words are cheap; work is hard. This Bill is not the way forward; it could well be the way backwards. Its failure in a referendum would cost lives and set back hopes. Success in a referendum will only emerge from a process built, as far as can be done, on consensus. Let us all begin to work for that now.
Mr. Currie: With your permission, Sir, and that of the House I would like to share my time with Deputy Paddy Harte and Deputy Alan Dukes. I thank them for this arrangement, though it means, unfortunately, that we have only ten minutes each. Let me say also that I regret I did not hear a number of the speeches made earlier, particularly yesterday evening because of my attendance at a meeting of the Anglo-Irish Parliamentary Group which was, of course, a priority. Therefore, I will have to stick to a few fundamental points and seek another opportunity to put on record certain sentiments which I, as someone with experience of Northern Ireland, believe I ought to put on record.
Our total detestation of violence and  our rejection of it as a means of achieving political objectives cannot be restated too often. This debate has provided a welcome opportunity for all of us to put on the record again our total commitment to the principle of consent as the bedrock of our policy in relation to the reunification of our country. I have long experience which I think has thumped some realism into me.
I have a long held view on Articles 2 and 3 which membership of this House or, indeed, my occupation of these benches has not changed. I do not believe that any attempt to remove or even to change Articles 2 and 3 will be successful without the support of Fianna Fáil. If “core values” mean anything any longer, these sections of de Valera's Constitution must represent that tradition and realism dictates they be handled with acute sensitivity, particularly when there is another way.
I have on a number of occasions in the House sought the agreement of the Taoiseach to the proposition that if the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland in conjunction with the Irish and British Governments were to reach agreement and if that package of agreement were to be endorsed by the people in a referendum, then such endorsement would have fundamental implications for Articles 2 and 3. I have been encouraged by the response of the Taoiseach to believe that this proposal could represent a possible agreed way forward. If I am right in this, and I believe I am, then all our energies ought to be focused on creating the conditions whereby the talking process can begin by getting the parties to the conference table as quickly as possible. I hope that will happen and that no excuses will be made or no form of words created or drawn up which will prevent that happening at the earliest possible moment.
Many Unionists have a strong and sincere belief that Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution encourage the IRA and a real anger at what they see as unwarranted claims on the land in which they live. Many Nationalists, on the other hand, see the Articles as a strong  assertion of their right to nationhood and their guarantee that their birthright as Irish men and Irish women will be fully recognised.
I heard Deputy Byrne this evening refer to the fact that many Northern Nationalists seem to be less in favour of the unity of the country than they used to be. There is some support in opinion polls for such an assertion. Of course, a great part of this is because of the sickening brutalities of the Provisional IRA. I believe that if that brutal, self-defeating campaign were to end, the process to which Deputy Byrne has referred also would end. I do not think, however, that any opinion polls of such nature or any clear rejection of the Provisional IRA should obscure one point, that Northern Nationalists are proud of their identity as Irish men and Irish women. They have fought hard to retain that identity as Irish people, and let us make that perfectly clear.
I welcome the fact that from the Fianna Fáil benches there has been a recognition of the place of Northern Nationalists, that they have had to fight for recognition, that they have had to fight for survival and that they have had to fight in order to have their identity as Irish people recognised.
However, I wonder if there is recognition over there of the extent to which certain remarks made by a Government Minister have caused anger and resentment among Nationalists in Northern Ireland. I refer in particular to the remarks of the Minister for Justice when he regretted the fact that “Alan Dukes had to go to Tyrone to find a candidate for the presidential election”. If Deputy Dukes had had to go to Donegal to find a candidate, or if the Fine Gael candidate had been from Galway, or from Cork or from Kerry, all places geographically more distant from Dublin than Tyrone, I wonder if such a remark would have been made.
The Minister for Justice, with the Minister for Foreign Affairs had alighted from a helicopter at Stormont Castle to negotiate with the British Secretary of State. The following day I happened to be  in Dungannon and Coalisland in Tyrone when a number of people told me how much they were angered by the fact that those remarks had been made, and they wondered how the Minister for Justice could negotiate with the British Secretary of State for their rights as full Irishmen in circumstances where the Minister for Justice seemed to accept that Northern Nationalists were less than full Irish people. It was, therefore, with particular interest that I listened to the comments from the opposite bench in relation to this. I could, I suppose, be pardoned for having a certain cynicism because of those remarks.
Both Nationalists and Unionists have an equal right to freely work towards the achievement of their aspirations and the removal of their fears. An agreement in which they clearly concur would clearly be the best way to ensure their objectives. I will be availing of the opportunity in the vote tonight to put on record in this House my total commitment to the principle of consent as the only basis for any policy for changing the present constitutional position of Northern Ireland.
Mr. Harte: I join in supporting the amendment of Articles 2 and 3. In doing so let me say that Articles 2 and 3 should be read in conjunction with Article 1. Article I defines not the Catholic Irish nation nor the Protestant Irish nation but the Irish nation. It also states quite clearly to foreign governments and Westminster that we, the Irish people, want the right to govern this island and develop a relationship with other governments. Article 2 merely states the geographical territory of Ireland. Article 3 states that until such time as there is a uniting of Irish people then laws made in this House will be suspended, and will not extend to Northern Ireland which means we do not claim jurisdiction over the North.
I see nothing wrong with Articles 1, 2 and 3 as they appear in black and white. Neither would anyone else, if the entire country was Catholic. In that case there would be nothing wrong in having a Catholic ethos. We do not, however, have an entirely Catholic nation but one which is  25 per cent Protestant, and that is not the fault of Articles 1, 2 and 3 of the Constitution. Attitudes in this island have destroyed the Constitution. It is amazing that the party that introduced the 1937 Constitution, that campaigned to have it enacted, have not used it to cross the cultural divide in Ireland.
I would not like to read my script out against the clock, it would be difficult to do so anyway so I will try to paraphrase the thoughts in it. I want to say clearly to the House that Fianna Fáil have, all the time, played the Catholic card. During the referenda of the eighties they brought out the Catholic flag. They were against divorce, and they wanted to amend the Constitution to prohibit abortion, not because they were good Catholics but because they wanted to get votes. In the recent presidential election, as soon as Mary Robinson took the lead and was seen as a possible President they said she was in favour of abortion, in favour of divorce, in favour of contraception and of course, below the surface, there were rumours that she and her husband were not living together, all spread by Fianna Fáil. Did they do this because they were good Catholics? Not at all; it was not because they were good Catholics but because they wanted to collect votes to stay in power.
Their priority has always been to stay in power, not the creation of an Irish nation. They have been small-minded in their approach. They cannot understand that there is value in the Protestant ethic in the North. If we were honest with ourselves we would stop playing the Nationalist-Republican / Unionist-Loyalist cards. They are only valid to the point that Catholics are against British Government policy in Northern Ireland and Protestants are in favour of it. To that degree Catholics are anti-British, and only to that degree. To that degree Protestants are pro-British, and only to that degree.
If tomorrow morning, the British Government were to change their policy and favour Irish unity, then I believe the people who are now anti-British would  be pro-British and the people who are pro-British would be anti-British. Until the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, the Protestants in the North believed the British Government was in their corner and was their guarantor, but the Anglo-Irish Agreement made the British neutral, maybe not as neutral as the Catholics would like them to be and maybe more neutral than the Protestants wanted them to be, but neutral. That has been the objection the Protestant community have to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and nothing else.
When Mr. de Valera set out in 1937, and I accuse the Fianna Fáil Party of this, to set up a Fianna Fáil Party he tried to identify what Catholic Ireland would respond to politically. He dressed up his crusade and called it republicanism as if they were all little republicans, when we know they were all intolerant little Catholics. If that picture is hard to see then just look north of the Border.
Mr. Harte: I am talking about Articles 2 and 3. If we find it hard to understand that we should look at what Ian Paisley does in the North. Nobody can identify what Protestants stand for in the North. Nobody articulates the thoughts or the fears of the Protestants better than Ian Paisley, but he calls it Democratic Unionism.
Articles 2 and 3 have become a bashing bowl in the political arena here. People have made up their minds as to what they are about. The Protestants see them as a threat not because of the wording but because of the structures that Fianna Fáil in particular have put on Irish society. The Fianna Fáil Party have misinterpreted the meaning of Articles 1, 2 and 3. They have sold the idea that they are in favour of a Catholic-Nationalist-Republican Ireland, the hyphenated Irish, this new breed, the super-Irish, and if anyone speaks like The Workers' Party, the Labour Party, the Fine Gael Party or  any of any other independent they are in some way inferior. Unless you beat the drum and stick out your Republican chest, you are in some way an inferior Irish person.
Who in their wildest dreams can imagine any Protestant in the North of Ireland wanting to join this State at this time? Is anybody mad enough to think that a Catholic in the North of Ireland wants to join this State at this time? After 70 years of native Government is that not an indictment of this House and of the Fianna Fáil Party who are the major party in this country and who therefore have a greater obligation than any other party to find solutions to the problems by moving to middle ground?
Bishop Cahal Daly presides over the Catholic Hierarchy at Maynooth and the Catholic hierarchy recognise that marriages performed in the Catholic Church can be annulled and that the partners to that marriage can be remarried within the Catholic Church, but the Taoiseach, Deputy Charles J. Haughey, presiding over the Fianna Fáil Party cannot see that. Is it because Fianna Fáil are good Catholics or is it just another manoeuvre on how to collect votes? I will leave that to the House to decide. However, I am encouraged by the voices of the newer members of Fianna Fáil. I sincerely hope they can bring their party into the last decade of the 20th Century because unless we change our attitudes in this House, and in this part of Ireland unless we realise there are two traditions living on this island, unless we can create structures whereby both traditions can find peace and harmony, our contribution is not to peace and harmony but to the continuation of violence. Peace is about far more than asking the paramilitaries to lay down their guns, it is about far more than condemning them for the violence of which they are guilty. Peace is about finding direction to middle ground, not about waving flags or wondering how you will get votes. I want the Fianna Fáil Party to have the courage to come out and say: “This is the kind of Ireland we want the Protestants of the North to live in”.
 I am sick to the teeth, after 20 years of trying to understand what is happening on this island, after 2,500 people have been murdered and about 40,000 people maimed, listening to armchair generals telling us about what should happen. I want to see an Ireland at peace and that can only be brought about by people having the courage to have regard to the views of those on the other side. Peace will not come by way of waving flags and making ourselves believe that because we have been brought up Catholics the only valid opinion is that held by Catholics or that the only valid political opinion is one based on the Catholic ethos. The same criticism applies to the Protestant North in that they, too, have a monistic attitude.
I am continually annoyed listening to people portraying themselves as Republicans and Nationalists, Loyalists and Unionists instead of all of us merely being Irish. We are what we are because of our up-bringing. We who are Catholics will think as Catholics and they who are Protestants will think as Protestants. No one can deny that the religious divide in Ireland is the same line which politically separates us. None of us can deny that there is a religious dimension to all of this and that the Churches have a very major part to play. Politicians are impotent without the input of the clergy of all denominations.
Mr. Dukes: The purpose of this Bill seems to be to make a series of specific statements or to include a series of specific statements in our Constitution. One of them is that we seek the unity of Ireland and of the Irish people by consent, and by consent only. Another is that until that consent has been expressed we do not claim jurisdiction over anything beyond the Twenty-Six County State. Another statement intended by this Bill is that somehow we assure Nationalists in Northern Ireland that we continue to identify with their needs. Another statement the Bill seems to want to make is that we want to assure Unionists in Northern Ireland that we have no aggressive intent, either politically or in any other sense, towards them. Finally it  seems to me having listened to the debate, that the Bill is intended in some unidentified way to demolish any mandate the Provisional IRA may claim to have.
I agree with every one of those statements and I wish they had all been made more clearly, more unambiguously and more definitely by Members of this House and by our whole Oireachtas than has been the case up to now. I believe we need to do much more than that. There may be other nuances of this Bill or of this debate that I have missed and I think I could be forgiven for having missed them because the debate up to now has been somewhat confused and has been characterised by a good deal of posturing and shadow-boxing.
The sponsors of this Bill, The Workers' Party, refused to accept the Fine Gael proposal during the recent Presidential election campaign for a peace pledge. Yet they are now asking us in effect to vote for a Bill which would insert a peace pledge in our Constitution. I am glad we have seen a move towards that peace pledge. The Labour Party, too, refused to go along with that peace pledge during the Presidential election. Yet Deputy Spring now says that he will support the Bill on Second Stage but goes on to say that he would obstruct the Bill on any further Stage. The Progressive Democrats have indicated that they are in favour of changing Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution but, having said that, they run off to shelter behind their absurd contention that nothing in the Constitution should be changed unless everything is being changed.
Single issue referendums, we are told, are divisive and counter-productive. What in God's name would we have to say then about a multi-issue referendum? It is absured to pretend that our Constitution is a seamless web and that nothing can be changed unless everything is changed. It may well be that in any examination of any part of the Constitution we will find that one change gives rise to several more, but let us not fall for this absurd pretence that we  change nothing unless everything is being changed because that is not real, it is not practical. Fianna Fáil, as usual, are trying to be all things to all men in this debate, but end up being not very much of anything.
It has been claimed at several points during this debate that the proposed referendum will be divisive, and that is seen as something undesirable. Should it be? Should politicians — especially politicians — run away from political debate because it shows there are divisions between them? If there are differences of political views on fundamental issues should we not bring them into the open, examine them and why they exist? Should we not try to resolve them instead of running away from a debate simply because it would show that there is a difference of view and divisions between us?
Almost any political debate, by definition, is divisive; we would not have a debate if there were not divisions. I was glad to hear some Members of this House making the point that, if we change our Constitution in any respect, we should change it because we believe the change being proposed is intrinsically worthwhile, has value for us and because the change reflects something that we want to put into effect and include in our Constitution. If we change our Constitution let us change it because it is the right thing to do. Let us not make a change in our Constitution because it constitutes part of a bargain with somebody else. I have heard the proposal that we should bargain with pieces of our Constitution. It was proposed to me that we should bargain with the ban on divorce in our Constitution in relation to Northern Ireland. I reject that.
It is proposed here that we should bargain with a piece of our Constitution in the context of talks about the political future of Northern Ireland. I reject that. If we change our Constitution it should be because we fundamentally believe that the change is required, justified and in the interests of the people whom we represent and whom we want to serve. This  issue in any case will not come to a referendum on foot of this Bill. It is clear that the Government will vote against the Bill. The divisions that have been pointed out in this debate will persist and that, in itself, makes my point that we should not run away from an argument because it is divisive. This House is divisive because there are different views on the issues involved; those differences are deepseated and important and we will not resolve them unless we bring them out in the open and debate them.
A debate on the issue before us is largely irrelevant, that is not to say that I believe the Constitution should not be changed; it must be changed and I hope it will be this is not the way to do it and this is not the time to make the kind of change proposed. We could — and should — have made such a change, or something approaching it, some years ago but when the New Ireland Forum began its work, the framework had changed and it changed still more during the discussions that led to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Indeed the Agreement itself made it very clear, in its very first Article, that consent must underlie any constitutional change in Northern Ireland. From the moment that the New Ireland Forum talks began a focus only on Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution became irrelevant. I will come back to that.
I was glad that Deputy Dermot Ahern recognised — and went so far as to claim credit for — the fact that all the process about which I spoke, the New Ireland Forum and the talks which led up to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Anglo-Irish Agreement itself, followed from something that the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, did in 1980. In many ways, it is one of the tragedies of the recent political history of this country that he has not had the imagination to take credit for one of the very few imaginative things he has done in the last decade in the politics of this country. Unfortunately, Deputy Ahern, who was making an honourable statement, made it for the wrong reasons, he did so in order to try to say that Fianna Fáil do not need to go along with any thinking of the kind that has been brought  out here because they have all the answers, but they are the same old ones which have not worked for the last 70 years.
The New Ireland Forum — and everything that followed it — has put this subject into a totally different context. We do not need a debate on Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution; we need instead to focus our minds on what might be our contribution to setting an agenda for substantive talks on new, political arrangements in Northern Ireland. We should be prepared to say now, with total conviction, that we will be ready to put before the people proposals for any changes in our Constitution and laws which may be rendered necessary by the agreed outcome of those substantive talks. It is clear to anybody who has ears to hear and eyes to see that, if substantive talks take place and produce a conclusion which all the parties in those talks can agree to and work with and for, it will inevitably require changes in our Constitution the laws.
We should be prepared to say, not simply that we think this might require us to change Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution, but that we are prepared to make whatever other changes in our Constitution will be required. That presents us with a far bigger political challenge and makes a far greater demand on our wisdom and commitment to fundamental, civil and human rights on this island, North and South, than the proposal before us. We will not bind the Government to any of this. Let us not be afraid in this House to say what is needed in relation to those substantive talks. We want to see political structures in Northern Ireland that involve all the people in Northern Ireland in shaping their own destinies.
Mr. Dukes: Go raibh maith agat. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an nóiméad sin chomh fada agus a bhí an cúpla nóiméad a bhí ag Teachtaí eile. We need to state that that is what we want to see as the  objective of those talks, not to prescribe a solution but to say that that is the objective. The Nationalists in Northern Ireland feel that very keenly and, let us be clear about it, Unionists in Northern Ireland need to be involved in a real sense in directing their own community to a far greater extent than they can now do, given the political vacuum that exists there. Let us, for God's sake, learn the lesson in this House that over 70 years, talk about ultimate ideal solutions has not worked. The only thing that has made any difference in Northern Ireland — and it has been little enough in all conscience over that time — has been to look at practical steps which can be taken and which will have a political effect.
We need to forget the old jingoistic formulae. They do not work and they have never worked. We need to work for real and meaningful involvement for people in Northern Ireland in the direction of the society in which they live. Until that has been achieved it is pointless to harangue the people of Northern Ireland, Nationalists or Unionists, about any further objectives or ideals. They are better placed than anybody else to go about the business of deciding which choices a reconciled community, at peace with itself, will make its political future.
There has been some debate here whether a decision that we might make, one way or the other, about the proposal before us would change the minds of the Provisional IRA. I do not think that any view we take about Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution — or any other Article — will make a difference to them. They work to a different agenda which does not respect any Constitution. Let that not be a reason for us to make any particular decision in this House.
The proposed change is not really relevant to the framework of today. We need more. The only reason I will vote in favour of what is being proposed is to signal that that is the direction in which we want to point. I hope this House has the opportunity of saying how much further than that our ambitions go for Nationalists in Northern Ireland, for  Unionists in Northern Ireland and for the people of this island.
Mr. Martin: My view and the view of my party is that Articles 2 and 3 are part of the overall equation and that they should be dealt with in the context of a new agreement that would transcend the present Anglo-Irish Agreement. The timing of this Bill is unfortunate given that we have the Brooke initiative, and irresponsible to a degree, because we have had months of exhausting and at times frustrating deliberations between all parties in a desperate attempt to try to get them to the table. There is a general view that if we can get all parties to the table that in itself would herald a new era in relationships between Ireland and Britain, between North and South and between Nationalists and Unionists in Northern Ireland. In that context it is disappointing that The Workers' Party should put forward their amendment now.
There is a very fundamental flaw with the process in that essentially we have here southern politicians endeavouring to decide for Unionist politicians what they should decide for themselves. I acknowledge that Deputy McCartan has said they are open to amending the wording, but there is no guarantee that the wording put forward by The Workers' Party would be acceptable to the Unionists. It still retains the territorial integrity of the State as being the entire island, and so forth. Deputy McCartan said that we should all get together and be open to amendments. Is not that continuing and compounding the original flaw because there is a vital participant absent from that process, namely, the Unionists? We should allow them to come into the scene and give their views and opinions as to what new Constitution they would like to see in a new Ireland. It is commonsense to enter into that process in the context of a new agreement.
The talks are about a new agreement that would transcend the Anglo-Irish Agreement because it is not acceptable to Unionists. It stands to reason that anything that may emerge from the Brooke  initiative would have to be in the context of a new agreement that embraces the three sets of relationships — between Ireland and Britain, between North and South and between Unionists and Nationalists. In the context of the Brooke initiative Articles 2 and 3 of our constitution should be debated and resolved.
At the outset of the debate Deputy De Rossa contended that the Provisional IRA used Articles 2 and 3 as a mandate. That is erroneous. The IRA do not invoke Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution as a mandate for their campaign of violence. They invariably refer to the British presence or historically claim their mandate from the 1918 general election. I take Deputy Dukes' point that they will seek new mandates as we rid them of older mandates. The only way we can outlaw the Provo campaign is in terms of having an all Ireland referendum on any new agreement that might emerge from the Brooke initiative. That would once and for all put to bed the historical argument of the 1918 general election used by the IRA as a mandate for their activity. Any attempts before such an agreement to amend Articles 2 and 3 will give a tremendous fillip to provisional Sinn Féin not only in Northern Ireland but in Southern Ireland.
If one analyses the political progress of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland and how they have garnered support and got people elected to various fora, one will see that they succeeded on a number of occasions because of bungling by the British Government in relation to the H-block and so on. They manage to single out issues and galvanise support around issues that have a broad degree of support among the general public. I contend that a referendum on Articles 2 and 3 would give Provisional Sinn Féin a wonderful rallying point on which to focus and on which to base a political campaign in Southern Ireland. To date they have failed to make any serious electoral inroads in the Republic and an amendment to these Articles would give them a political base.
Deputy Harte should refer to more  recent bibliography on the Irish Constitution and he might take a more balanced view on it. In fairness, Mr. de Valera was not being confrontational in the Irish Constitution of 1937. He was in many ways being conciliatory and he had a problem in Southern Ireland. Articles 2 and 3 were in many ways trying to rehabilitate people who up to 1937 had a fundamental question about the legitimacy of the Irish Free State. Mr. de Valera's motivation was genuine.
The implications for the Northern Nationalist community of any attempt to amend Articles 2 and 3 should not be understated. There is a considerable degree of alienation among considerable numbers of Nationalists from the South. There has been for quite a long time and it would be very unfair of us to understate that reality. We would increase that alienation further if we were to go unilaterally in the direction in which The Workers' Party wish to go.
Proinsias De Rossa: In relation to Deputy Dukes' remark regarding the peace pledge, Deputy Dukes is misinformed. The Workers' Party were not approached by the Fine Gael Party to support a peace pledge but we were asked at a Press conference if we supported it and we said we did but that it was not for us to commit the candidate we were supporting at that time to such a pledge. In fact, that candidate in negotiations with the Fine Gael candidate, did subsequently agree to that pledge.
I thank all those who participated in the debate. In my opening speech I urged that the debate should be conducted in a calm manner, and Deputies generally responded in a positive manner to this appeal. However, my appeal for a rational debate was largely ignored by those who opposed our proposal. I must  except Deputy O'Malley from that picture. Most seemed not to have read my opening speech or even the wording of the Bill. For instance, many Fianna Fáil speakers repeatedly referred to proposals to delete Articles 2 and 3 while our Bill clearly provides for the amendment of these Articles.
The tabling of this Bill by The Workers' Party has already served a very useful purpose in furthering the national debate on these two controversial Articles. Nothing I have heard in the debate has convinced me that the principle or the timing of our Bill is wrong. On the contrary, having listened to six hours of debate, I am more convinced than ever that now is the correct time to confront the issues raised by Articles 2 and 3 and begin the process of changing them to a format which more accurately reflects the views of the people of the Republic and which can make a contribution to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland as well as the establishment of better relationships between all of the people of this island.
There were many issues raised during the debate to which I will not be able to respond in the time available, so I want to concentrate on the more important ones. I want to deal firstly with the criticism made by the Taoiseach and to some extent Deputy Spring regarding the timing of our Bill and the suggestion that a referendum arising from the passage of the Bill would coincide with the Brooke initiative and the current negotiations between Dublin and London and would therefore be unhelpful. The Taoiseach asked on Wednesday last, “Does anyone seriously argue that in the middle of just such a negotiation this country should be plunged into a referendum on what could be a major issue in the talks?”
This is a total misrepresentation of the situation as the Taoiseach, as a parliamentarian of more than 30 years' experience, must know. If our Bill is passed at the end of the Second Stage tonight, which now seems unlikely, this would only be the first of several hurdles to be cleared before it could go before  the people in a referendum. As a Private Members Bill it would first go before a Select or Special Committee.
There is no time limit specified for the work of such a committee and the Government could, therefore, determine progress based on the pace of events within Northern Ireland. When the Committee Stage was finished the Bill would have to come back before the Dáil for Report and Final Stages. The Bill would then have to pass all Stages in the Seanad. When that was complete an enabling referendum Bill would then have to pass all Stages in both Houses of the Oireachtas.
This would clearly be a lengthy process of discussion and negotiation and the suggestion that if the Bill passes Second Stage tonight we would be plunged into a controversial referendum within a matter of weeks at an inopportune time is quite dishonest. To argue, therefore, as the Taoiseach and Deputy Spring did, that a referendum on Articles 2 and 3 could upset either the Brooke initiative or the negotiations between the British and Irish Governments on a new agreement to transcend the Anglo-Irish Agreement simply has no basis.
On the contrary, by passing the Second Stage of our Bill which does not set any date for the holding of a referendum, the Bill could demonstrate to the people of Northern Ireland that we are conscious of their fears and are not going to attempt to impose our will or our State on them. In the present political climate such a move would only help to break the political logjam and foster political progress within Northern Ireland. This was the clear message I drew from my conversations with the people from both traditions in Northern Ireland last weekend.
The Taoiseach devoted a large part of his speech to responding to arguments that nobody made. The Taoiseach quoted Article 29 of the Constitution, our membership of the United Nations, our acceptance of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Helsinki Accord as an indication of the Government's commitment to the principle of a peaceful settlement  of disputes. Nobody that I have heard has suggested that this, or any other Government, would attempt to impose a solution in Northern Ireland by force, or that any Government would use Articles 2 and 3 to justify a military solution. The fact is, however, that there is a force in Irish society which claims to speak on behalf of the Irish people and which is attempting to impose a solution to the problem of Northern Ireland by the use of the most appalling violence. As I said in my opening address, nobody would suggest that if we passed the proposed amendments the Provos would lay down their arms tomorrow. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that changing Articles 2 and 3 to incorporate the democratic principle of consent would clearly demonstrate that we, as a State, are delivering a clear and unequivocal message to the murder gangs that they have no right to kill and murder in our names.
The Taoiseach may well believe that Articles 2 and 3 simply reflect the aspirations of the people of this State to a united Ireland but this is not the way in which they are perceived by many people north of the Border. The Taoiseach said last week that in matters concerning Northern Ireland: “It is not the phraseology that matters but the signals that can be read into the words”. In this case the signals that many people in Northern Ireland, especially those who do not share an aspiration to a united Ireland, read into Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution is one of hostility and aggression. Should we be surprised at this when these same Articles claim that Northern Ireland is part of our State, irrespective of the wishes of the people there, when they claim that this Parliament has a right to exercise jurisdiction over Northern Ireland, and when the claim has been adjudged by the Supreme Court to be a constitutional and legal imperative?
The Taoiseach in his contribution made reference to a radio interview given by the distinguished and, indeed, highly respected Unionist, Dr. Chris McGimpsey, in which, the Taoiseach claimed, Mr. McGimpsey had dismissed  our Bill and “indicated that he is not interested in this particular proposal”. The Taoiseach admitted that he had not heard the interview but that it was reported to him by his colleagues. This shows just how unreliable are those around the Taoiseach or, indeed, suggests that his colleagues only tell him what they think he would like to hear.
I would like to quote what Mr. McGimpsey said in an RTE interview on “Morning Ireland” on Thursday last — the morning after the Taoiseach's remarks. Unlike the Taoiseach I heard the interview but I also took the trouble to get a transcript to ensure that I did not misquote him. What Mr. McGimpsey said in this interview was as follows: “What we should be about here is trying to normalise relationships between the two states and between the two communities in Northern Ireland. To delete Articles 2 and 3 would be a major step towards normalisation”. Later, in response to a question from David Hanley, Mr. McGimpsey said he took heart from the debate, saying that “the campaign must continue and, hopefully, within the next year or so, we will see an amendment and an agreed relationship between the two states”. Speaking last month in Beech Hill College in Monaghan, Mr. McGimpsey said:
Whilst it is true today that the sectarian gunmen in each community within Northern Ireland do not read legal documents before they go out and commit murder in your name or mine, it is clear that the Provisional IRA view the claim in Article 2 as a justification for their sectarian pogrom against Irish Protestant men and women. The removal or amendment of these Articles, as proposed by the Dáil all-party committee in 1967, would be a major step forward towards the normalisation of relationships within this island.
 I should like to turn now to the suggestion made by a number of speakers, including the Taoiseach, that the Nationalist community would in some way feel betrayed or abandoned if Articles 2 and 3 were amended as we suggest. I cannot understand the logic of this argument. The Free State Constitution which preceded the current document has no equivalent to Articles 2 and 3. There was no territorial claim and no assertion of a right of jurisdiction over Northern Ireland. When the 1937 Constitution was adopted did it in some way improve the position of Northern Nationalists? Clearly, it did not. The position of the Roman Catholic minority in Northern Ireland remained virtually unchanged from the establishment of the State right up to the sixties. Articles 2 and 3 did nothing for them and amending these Articles would not threaten them in any way.
Most extraordinary of all is the suggestion that the amendment of Articles 2 and 3 could lead to an increase in support for the Provisional IRA. This is insulting to the SDLP and to the majority of Nationalists in Northern Ireland who have retained their aspiration to a united Ireland while totally shunning the Provisional IRA. The implication is that the only thing preventing Northern Nationalists from supporting the Provos are Articles 2 and 3.
I am most disappointed that the Progressive Democrats have decided to vote against this Bill and I would be very surprised if this decision reflected the wishes of their members. The Progressive Democrats were among the first parties in the Republic to come out in favour of amending the Articles. They were among the first to set the pace for reform but now they have baulked at the first hurdle even though they clearly believe that Articles 2 and 3 should be changed. I would have hoped that they could at least have seen their way to abstaining on the Second Stage vote. This is, after all, a Private Members' Bill and the subject matter was not included in the Programme for Government and a positive  vote or abstention on the part of the Progressive Democrats could not be viewed in the same light as failing to support a Government proposal.
Like the Progressive Democrats I would like to see a comprehensive constitutional reform covering far more ground than Articles 2 and 3 but we will not get it so long as Fianna Fáil are the dominant party in Government. They have given the Progressive Democrats nothing in this debate and Fianna Fáil speakers have poured scorn on questions of constitutional reform, especially on the need for amendments to Articles 2 and 3.
Proinsias De Rossa: In that event, may I say there have been appeals for us not to put the Second Stage of our Bill to a vote. We will not withdraw it. A vote only arises if the Second Stage is opposed by the Government. If the Government and the Progressive Democrats are concerned about wrong messages they can decline to oppose it or to abstain on the vote.
Even if this Bill fails tonight, I still believe it has been a worthwhile exercise, because we have inflicted a mortal wound on Articles 2 and 3 in their present form. It is now only a matter of time before they will be changed.
Finally, what this debate has demonstrated is that while the Taoiseach, and others, have adopted the rhetoric of new thinking, generosity, tolerance and pluralism, much of their language betrays a reluctance to let go of cherished Nationalist assumptions. Deputy Currie has already referred to some of them which deny any validity whatsoever to the philosophy or tradition of Unionism. As the eminent historian, Dr. Roy Foster said in a recent issue of Fortnight Magazine, in an article entitled “The varieties of Irishness”“...one clichè that has now mercifully been despatched is the notion of the hard-headed Ulsterman whose political orientation is supposedly dictated by the interests of his pocket.  The woeful inadequacy of the wishful thinking behind such an analysis is beginning to come into focus”. Unfortunately, that clichè has raised its head again in this debate from the benches of the Fianna Fáil Party. I urge the Progressive  Democrats to change their minds or, at least, to abstain on this vote. I believe the debate we have started here should continue on Committee Stage. I recommend the Bill to the House.
Belton, Louis J.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Higgins, Michael D.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
Browne, John (Wexford).
Connolly, Ger. Foxe, Tom.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Haughey, Charles J.
Kitt, Michael P.
|Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
de Valera, Síle.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Flynn, Pádraig. Morley, P.J.
Noonan, Michael J.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
O'Toole, Martin Joe.
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