Northern Ireland: Statements.

Wednesday, 27 October 1993

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 435 No. 1

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The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  All Members of this House will, I know, wish to join me in expressing our abhorrence at the appalling [167] death and injury inflicted on defence-less people on the Shankill Road last Saturday and at further sectarian murders in Belfast during the last few days. To all those who have been bereaved and injured in recent days, we convey our deepest sympathies.

I have stated on many occasions that those who perpetrate such actions have absolutely no mandate from the people, North or South, for their vicious campaigns. Excuses such as have been put forward are not acceptable. Tragic civilian deaths on a large scale are the inevitable and direct consequence from time to time of any bombing campaign, whatever the intentions or the warnings.

I can assure the House and people North and South that the Government will continue to take all necessary measures to combat paramilitary violence. Our commitment in this regard is clear and unambiguous. We continue to provide all necessary resources to the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces. The Irish taxpayer contributes three or four times more to the cost of security related to the Northern situation than his or her British counterpart. We have had many successes in recent times in uncovering arms, capable of causing large-scale loss of life and destruction in the North. We will also exercise the greatest vigilance in order to prevent any attacks on this jurisdiction.

We continue to review the effectiveness of the various legal measures in force. In this regard, the Government will shortly introduce measures to amend our extradition legislation. The primary purpose of these measures will be to provide for an amendment of the Extradition Act of 1987 in order to further clarify the circumstances in which offences are excluded from the political offence exception and to deal with issues raised by the judgments of the Supreme Court in the Magee, McKee and Sloan cases.

Security co-operation with the Northern Ireland and British authorities is effective, and the Government will ensure that it remains so. Paramilitary organisations should be in no doubt as [168] to our determination to deal with their terrorist activities in every way open to us.

Northern Ireland has in recent weeks witnessed a serious upsurge in violence from paramilitaries on both sides. Each atrocity provokes a vicious response from the other side, and it seems that there is no end to the spiral of mistrust and hate. People live in fear of answering a knock on the front door or of going about their daily tasks. Can we offer any hope to the people who are trapped in this awful way? Must they and their children face a further 25 years of violence? When the immediate crisis dies down, we still have to face the underlying problems of the situation, and we must never be deflected from our search for peace and political progress.

The people of Northern Ireland must not give way to despair. The vast majority have shown restraint and dignity in the past in the face of provocation. Any other approach would only prolong and aggravate the sorrow and heartache of the past few days.

The Irish Government remains convinced that the problems of Northern Ireland have to be resolved by a process of political dialogue and co-operation between parties dedicated to the democratic process. There can be no other way.

People ask what progress has been made in this regard. It is sometimes forgotten that for some seven months last year a process of political talks was undertaken. For the first time, Irish Government Ministers met with leaders of the Unionist tradition. The issues discussed at that time were not and are not capable of instant solution. Nevertheless, there was progress. Each side went away with a better understanding of the other's concerns than was possible before. These concerns were conveyed with a remarkable degree of goodwill and sincerity and with recognition that the validity of both traditions had to be respected in any eventual settlement. The Government remain firmly of the view that this recognition will have to be at the centre of any solution. As I said recently, both [169] the Unionist and the Nationalist communities have identities and important rights which cannot be ignored. We must all recognise that a broad accommodation of different identities, rights and aspirations can only be on the basis of freely given agreement and consent.

Can we build on the valuable foundation which has been laid? The Irish Government stand ready to do so and to approach talks with an open mind and without pre-conditions. We do not accept the argument that a resumption of these talks would be pointless. Talks are never pointless between constitutional parties committed to the democratic process. I would echo the call of the leaders of the main Churches in Ireland, who have called on political leaders to show courage and vision in the present difficult situation. Both the Tánaiste and I have made clear our openness to dialogue with Unionist political leaders to advance the cause of just and lasting peace. I am convinced such dialogue could also hasten progress towards a permanent cessation of all violence. If Unionist leaders consider that the Irish Government is not fully alert to its views on the issues which confront us all, we stand ready to listen to them at any time and in any place. In the meantime, I have made arrangements to meet the leader of the Alliance Party, Dr. John Alderdice, next week.

There is a tremendous desire for peace among the majority of the people of this country, North and South. The violence is utterly senseless. It will not promote or advance any political cause. It does not serve the interests of any community. It simply inflicts suffering and grief on families and communities across the North. It damages the reputation of this country abroad. It is harmful to our efforts for economic development and diverts vast resources into maintaining security, which could be better used elsewhere.

Ever since I came to office, I have made the achievement of peace my first priority. I am deeply committed to finding a formula for peace, which will allow a process of peace to begin with a complete and lasting cessation of violence. Who [170] can be afraid of peace? What are the fears of people that prevent them grasping the opportunity that may exist for peace? I still await the answers.

We all fervently wish that those engaged in violence would heed the voices of political leaders, church leaders and community leaders, all of whom rightly demand that the slaughter be brought to an end without delay. At the same time, it is the duty of both Governments to do anything and everything in their power, consistent with their long-established principles and obligations, to hasten that day. An absolute commitment to peace is needed from everyone because, unfortunately, the reality is that it is unlikely to come about of its own accord.

When people talk of violence and the search for peace they should always remember that violence is coming from both communities. If we emphasise more violence on one side than the other we will not get the desired result. We want to try to stop the violence on one side in the belief that the public statements of the other side will respond to a cessation of violence.

I am convinced, notwithstanding the terrible events of the last few days, that an opportunity for peace may exist, and, if so, that it must be grasped. The two Governments have a responsibility to ensure that if indeed the opportunity does exist, it is not allowed to pass. The immediate situation in Northern Ireland is threatening enough. We cannot allow a slide into worse violence in the near future. Neither the British nor the Irish Government would be lightly forgiven if either were to ignore or reject a genuine opportunity for peace.

There has been much discussion in recent times of the Hume-Adams dialogue. I would like in this context to salute the courageous role of John Hume in that dialogue and the crucial part he has played in advancing the acceptance of principles, which carried to their logical conclusion should bring about peace.

However, the creation of a peace process has to be more widely based, and to involve the two Governments, conscious [171] of both their international obligations and their wider responsibilities to both communities. Consistent with these, the two Governments must work together to reach a common understanding in their own terms on a framework for peace. Any initiative can only be taken by the two Governments, and there can be no question of them simply adopting or endorsing the report of the Hume-Adams dialogue that was recently given to us and which we have not passed on to the British Government. Much of the current speculation is to that extent inaccurate and has a misleading focus. The British Government has made it clear that it is always prepared to listen to what the Irish Government has to say to it. The Irish Government has been working for some time past on the elaboration of a formula for peace and our view is that both Governments must act and work together.

The Tánaiste will elaborate later on some of the principles involved in the formulation of this peace process. Such a formula would have to take account of many vital concerns on all sides. The purpose of the formula would be to help bring about a permanent cessation of violence and the commencement of a peace process, which would lead in time to a just and lasting political settlement or, in other words, peace in the fullest sense of the word.

I repeat there can be no question of trying to predetermine the future or to impose any particular kind of political settlement, which must be left to negotiations between democratic Governments and the constitutional political parties. There can be no question of tampering with the principle of consent, as set out in Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. But, subject to that constraint, the people of Ireland, North and South, have the right to determine their own future. We are prepared to accept into the democratic process any party that permanently and verifiably renounces violence.

The House will understand that I am not able to say more at the moment. If a [172] peace process is to be advanced great sensitivity has to be exercised. International experience shows that results are best achieved in circumstances of complete confidentiality.

I will be meeting Prime Minister John Major on Friday to discuss urgently the current situation and the best way in which both Governments can advance progress towards peace and the process of dialogue that could lead to a political settlement. In this regard I want it to be clearly understood that I seek a cessation of violence that will transform the atmosphere surrounding both communities in Northern Ireland. In the future I hope a political settlement can be reached that recognises the diversities and different identities and will provide a balanced accommodation for both communities who can live and work out their future on this island together.

Both Government have a duty and responsibility to look on the present situation and to quickly address their minds to what will restore hope and confidence in the democratic process. We cannot hand over the stage to the paramilitaries on either side. Time is not on our side.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I have returned from spending two days in Northern Ireland meeting politicians of the major parties. The image that remains most vivid in my mind from that visit is not that of any of the people I met. It is the picture in the newspaper of a nine year old boy, holding his infant sister, who had lost both parents in the Shankill bomb. That is one of the many images of utter bereavement and loss during the past 25 years. It is the greatest challenge to all of us in democratic politics to find a way to end this violence. Apart from the Shankill bomb, what is particularly dispiriting is that specific threats have been issued to named elected politicians in Northern Ireland during the past few days. That appalling threat struck me during my meetings with a number of the elected politicians. While members of all the main parties were determined to continue with their work, the sense that their loved ones and themselves were at risk of a boot to the door [173] any night and that that could be the prelude to the end of their lives is something that weighs heavily on all the people involved in direct politics in Northern Ireland. Everyone who will speak in this debate will be conscious of that and will want to help those in democratic politics in Northern Ireland.

Much has been said and written about the Hume-Adams process and some of the phrases used in the declarations emanating from the process have been criticised. I am among those who have criticised some of the words used because they are open to an interpretation which is not benign. What strikes me forcibly about what Mr. John Hume is trying to do is his discussions with Mr. Gerry Adams, or Provisional Sinn Féin, is that he is trying to use the language of others to express a more benign and peaceful concept. He is going out of his way to use other people's language, even if he does not particularly like it, in order to try to draw people who are using that language towards peace. The Nationalist tradition, referred to by the Taoiseach, and the Unionist tradition are equally important. We in the Nationalist tradition should make a special effort, as Mr. John Hume is doing in his discussions with Mr. Gerry Adams, to try to use some of the language and the concepts of the Unionists with a view to enabling them to have a better understanding of our point of view and to approaching their point of view on issues where there is potential agreement.

What is particularly worrying is that the agenda in Northern Ireland seems to be created at the moment by those who are involved in or supporting terrorism. We are trying to read their minds and wonder what they will do next. It is unhealthy to allow those who are engaged in terror or who are supporting terror to drive the political agenda or create the political news. It is important that democratic politicians on these islands should recapture the political agenda.

The most recent talks were three-stranded talks based on internal discussions, North-South discussions and interGovernmental [174] discussions. The strands were dealt with in that order. The result was that a framework was not created by the Governments for internal discussions, which unfortunately came to an end without agreement, having gone a long way. In an effort to be helpful and without wanting to be dogmatic, I suggest that the Governments might put the strands in reverse order to see if they can create a framework in which the other strands could work more fruitfully. That would have to continue to operate on the basis that nothing would be agreed until everything was agreed, if there was disagreement internally, whatever was agreed in the first strand would not come into effect.

A slightly contrary point which nevertheless is worth making is that there is a risk in applying to every subject the principle that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. I have no doubt that agreement could be reached on some things which could be put into effect as a confidence building measure without waiting until the entire picture was painted. We should consider that approach to try to make progress on some specifics because there is a need for people in Northern Ireland to see something useful happening.

In my discussions in Northern Ireland over the past two days and in my discussions with people on the Opsahl Commission, I was struck by the sense of utter hopelessness and alienation of people visà-vis politicians. The general public do not see anything happening. Nothing is changing. Belfast City Council is the same as it was 20 years ago and the same sorts of resolutions are being passed. That suggests that there is a case for agreeing even a few small things and implementing them rather than waiting until everything else is agreed.

It is important that we on this side of the Border should recognise that Loyalist violence exceeded Provisional IRA violence in the last year and that Loyalists are on the way to acquiring bomb-making capacity of equal ferocity and terror to the Provisional IRA. It is worth nothing that more Loyalists have been arrested [175] in the last 12 months — 180 loyalists as against 110 Provo bombers or gunmen. That indicates that the security response is matching the situation. That is something that cannot be ignored by those involved in terror or by anybody. The Provos and the INLA must recognise that things have changed as far as they are concerned.

I was surprised that the Provisional IRA could have a one week ceasefire when Mr. Bruce Morrison was here. If they could do that for Mr. Bruce Morrison, why can they not have a one month ceasefire for Mr. John Hume? I know the objective of the peace talks is the total cessation of violence but surely anybody with intelligence can see that the Shankill bomb blew away the prospects of peace along with the unfortunate people who were killed. If the IRA could do it for Mr. Bruce Morrison, as a confidence building measure to show that they are serious about peace, they could do it for Mr. John Hume. I do not have much confidence or trust in the IRA but I put that point to them, if they listen to anything anybody says any more.

In Northern Ireland there is tremendous war weariness among all the communities. In West Belfast, particularly among the families of prisoners, there is an urgent demand for peace. I find it hard to know how people at the Unionist grassroots feel about the Hume-Adams process and I have heard contrary views. I have heard that many individual Unionists are very pleased that an effort is being made and that others have never been more angry, upset, insecure or alienated from the rest of this island than they are now. I do not know what the truth is but it is important that the House should recognise that there is a difference of opinion about this.

The fact that the Provisional IRA placed a “no warning” bomb in the Shankill Road may not be a sign of strength. Perhaps they are under such pressure from the security forces that they cannot adopt the targeted activities they adopted in the past and we are seeing an organisation under severe pressure because of [176] increased intelligence being deployed against them. I hope that is the case. It is important to recognise that the Provisional IRA is funded chiefly by legitimate activities, not by bank robberies. These apparently legitimate activities include the operation of black taxies, pubs and clubs, not all of which are located in Northern Ireland; some are probably located in this State. It is essential that we interdict the sources of funds for the Provisional IRA. That is one of the reasons I have been pressing the Government to introduce legislation dealing with money laundering. It was obliged to introduce this legislation at the beginning of this year but it has not yet done so. It seems that the biggest money launderer in Ireland is the Provisional IRA; it is laundering money raised by way of legitimate activities and directing it towards terrorism. If we can cut off the flow of funds, through effective legislation dealing with money laundering, to various organisations, including the Loyalists who are also deriving most of their income from apparently legitimate activities, we could do more to combat terrorism than the most sophisticated intelligence operations carried out by the Garda and the RUC.

In my conversations in Northern Ireland I was struck strongly by the confidence that the RUC has in the Garda Síochána in terms of the co-operation received. This is well recognised and should be recorded in this House. As I said, the Government can do more. For instance, they could deal with the money laundering problem. In addition, a case could be made for setting up a specialist anti-terrorist unit to operate along the Border with a tighter system of command and control which would enable it to match the speed of response and the more plentiful resources available on the other side of the Border. That might be worth considering.

I have made a few references already to the Hume-Adams process but I should say that there is a risk that the terrorists, in particular the IRA could be put in a win-win situation. If the talks fail they will have gained political recognition and [177] acquired a status and a legitimacy which they would not otherwise have had. If the talks succeed perhaps the Government would start to do the work for them. There is a real risk that the only people who will gain from this process are Sinn Féin. It is very important, from the point of view of everybody in this House, that nothing happens which could be interpreted as a success for those using terrorism because this House was founded on resistance to it.

I welcome what the Taoiseach had to say in one passage of his speech. He said that there can be no question of tampering with the principle of consent as set out in Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. That is extremely important and it puts the Hume-Adams dialogue in context — it is a rock of security for everybody living on this island. This is not the first time the Taoiseach has made this point — that the Government will not depart from the principle of consent in any circumstances. I am sure he speaks for the entire Dáil.

As I said in my opening remarks, I hope in this debate we will try to understand other people's fears. I would like to comment on the fear of Unionists about this process. It should be spoken in this House, not inferred. Unionists are worried that the Hume-Adams process will lead to a situation where the British Government will be persuaded to wash its hands of the problem and stand back from it, that they will be pushed into a position where they will be a permanent minority in the negotiating process; that two years down the road as the negotiations proceed they may find they cannot agree and have to say no. They are worried that at that stage the British, having washed their hands of the problem two years before, would not be willing to re-engage and that they would be cast adrift on the sea where they would be friendless. If we put ourselves in their position we should be able to sympathise with their point of view.

The Unionists also believe that they made a serious effort to table serious proposals about a Bill of Rights to ensure that no legislation could be passed in [178] Northern Ireland unless there was a two-thirds majority. Effectively this would involve power sharing. They got no response during the recent talks. They are fearful that the Hume-Adams dialogue will be used as a means of getting away from an area where progress was being made and the Unionists were making concessions — but not enough — and to put more pressure on them, not because of any inherent objections to the proposals they made but to increase the leverage. This adds to their sense of isolation and they sense that they are being cut apart from the process.

We should take seriously the suggestions the Unionists have been making about a Bill of Rights. The concept could be extended to include community and group rights as well as individual rights and the right to political participation. The great advantage is that this is a Unionist proposal. The sensible response from Nationalists would be to try to use the proposal and advance it rather than simply to say that we should try to put the matter in a different context.

The Unionists also fear that the process will be used as a means of getting away from democratic accountability within Northern Ireland. This was true of many of the parties that I met, not just the Official Unionists. There was a feeling that the assembly had to be the source of democratic and moral authority for whatever executive would operate in Northern Ireland. There was a fear that what the other parties wanted was an intergovernmental institution which would be considered the ultimate source of authority. One of the great strengths of parliamentary democracy is that it draws its legitimacy from the people it governs rather than from some remote institution. They have a strong and valid point in that regard.

Having said that, I say to the Unionists that they should look carefully at the concept of a dual referendum as suggested by John Hume because it would change the entire context in which the traditional Irish demand for national self-determination is expressed; instead of being expressed in a unitary fashion, it [179] would be expressed in a dual fashion. Two legitimate political entities would express a joint national will to determine their future. That sophistry is extremely useful in the sense that the problem would be redefined in a context where it would be possible to find agreement, whereas if one continues to define the problem in a unitary concept one would not find agreement. Unionists should look more seriously than they have to-date at the strong beneficial effects that the dual referendum concept would have and the security it could provide.

As I said earlier in the debate, we should not hesitate to make small progress on small issues because we have not found the key to the entire problem. We should try to make progress in two areas. The RUC complaint procedures are not working adequately. This was very clear in the Opsahl report. Those who make complaints against the RUC are not satisfied. This is not a reflection on the majority of those in the RUC but perhaps on their superiors who have shown hyper-caution and who, for example, do not want interrogations to be recorded, even though this would be of great help in showing that the complaints in many cases are baseless. The Government should try to improve procedures in regard to complaints about the RUC and the British Army. By implication, we should be willing to do exactly the same in our own jurisdiction; we should lead by example, not by prescription in our dealings on this matter.

I appreciate the Chair's tolerance on this occasion in regard to time, and I do not want to trespass on the time of others. I feel strongly that integrated education has a particularly useful role in Northern Ireland. Only 1.5 per cent of the school-going population in Northern Ireland attend integrated schools. I know many of the maintained schools which are nominally Catholic and the State schools which are Protestant are not in fact so but are integrated in many respects. However, much effort should be made on an incremental basis to promote integrated [180] education in Northern Ireland and also to promote joint projects between North and South, particularly in regard to history teaching. It is only if we change people's concepts that we make progress. One of the most unhelpful concepts is the sense that somehow or other the drift of history is on the side of one group rather than the other. There are some Nationalists in Northern Ireland who believe that the drift of history, whether it be emanating from demography or some other source, is on their side. That is a mistake. It leads to arrogance and to misjudgments. There is no drift of history that is on any side. The drift of history has been against everybody for the last 25 years. We, as a people, have gone backwards in the last 25 years. Let us recognise that and try to make a new start.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Every decent and right-minded person is appalled by the sheer barbarity and ferocity of the latest bloodletting and the taking of human life. No cause justifies such carnage and horror. With over 3,000 people already dead, those who plant bombs and pull triggers must now appreciate that murdering people achieves nothing. The photograph of nine year old Darren Baird holding his six week old sister, having lost both his parents and his other sister who had gone to buy a wreath for his grand-father's grave, brought home vividly to all of us the horror of what went on in the Shankill Road last Sunday. It must make all of us, as constitutional politicians, redouble our efforts to find lasting peace on this island.

It is completely false to speak in terms of creating the conditions for violence to end. There are no conditions in Northern Ireland which call forth or legitimise violence. Every murder is a conscious and deliberate choice of the killers and the godfathers who direct their operations. None of them can look to any external justification or explanation for their savagery. Their guilt is entirely their own and the decision to end the violence is in their hands.

Everyone in this House is rightly [181] appalled by the frenzy of violence in Northern Ireland and everyone deeply sympathises with all the victims and unreservedly condemns the activities of the murder gangs on both sides. Likewise, everyone in this House believes in restraint and sees the democratic process as the only vehicle for worthwhile progress in resolving the tragic conflict in Northern Ireland. There is no disagreement in the Dáil on that issue.

What would be worthwhile is a debate on the methods open to democratic and constitutional politicians to achieve progress towards a peaceful resolution of the Northern conflict. That would entail a detailed examination of the content and prospects of the two broad avenues of approach now open. The first is an attempt to achieve an agreement between the constitutional parties within Northern Ireland, mainly the Official Unionist Party, the SDLP and the Alliance Party who, between them, represent 75 per cent of the people of Northern Ireland and all moderate opinion. If the DUP wish to become involved in that process, that is a matter for them, but they should not be accorded a veto on that talks process.

The other possibility lies in what appears now to be the remote likelihood that the IRA and Sinn Féin will renounce violence completely, hand up their arsenal of death and destruction and come into the political process on the basis of ordinary democratic participation. The Hume-Adams process which is addressed to that end has suffered a terrible blow by the clear exposure of the provisional movement's willingness to continue its murder campaign with unrelenting viciousness. Those of us who are willing to go the extra mile to seek out any possible accommodation which would end the killing now know that the provisionals will not renounce violence until they have extracted concessions of principle which are simply not on. If there were ever any reality in distinguishing between the political intentions of the different parts of the provisional movement, one would expect that Sinn Féin could at least [182] moderate the use of violence by the IRA to create some semblance of calm and some impression of the benefits of ending violence and establishing peace.

I welcome the Taoiseach's comments on the Hume-Adams talks. It is important to distinguish between supporting and saluting those who set out to achieve peace and rejecting any report that they might produce. The Taoiseach has this to say on the Hume-Adams talks:

However, the creation of the peace process has to be more widely based and to involve the two Governments, conscious of both their international obligations and their wider responsibilities to both communities. Consistent with these the two Governments must work together to reach a common understanding in their own terms on a framework for peace. Any initiative can only be taken by the two Governments and there can be no question of them simply adopting or endorsing reports of the Hume-Adams dialogue that was recently given to us which we have not passed on to the British Government.

That is the clearest indication yet of the Government's attitude to those talks, although having read yesterday in The Irish Times comments by Gerry Adams in regard to the Tánaiste, I do not think he is in any doubt about the Government's view of that report.

The Progressive Democrates believe that the kernel of a settlement of the Northern tragedy lies in an agreement between the constitutional parties there. As the Tánaiste has stated, the elements of the jigsaw are well known. The areas of broadly available agreement have been well explored and identified. The areas on which further compromise and innovative thinking is needed are also obvious. The Progressive Democrats have a clear view of what must be done to achieve peace in Northern Ireland. First, we must recognise and acknowledge that a lasting peace will not simply happen, nor will it materialise if certain politicians merely repeat, mantra-like, how much they want peace and believe [183] in the so-called peace process. For peace to come about, Governments and political parties and their leaders must be courageous and generous. They must take risks and they must be willing to compromise. That applies to the constitutional parties on both sides in the North. It also applies to the British Government and, not least, it applies to our Taoiseach and our own Government.

I passionately believe that the vast majority of the people of this Republic, of Northern Ireland and of Great Britain want their constitutional political leaders to sit down immediately together and to work out the basis for an equitable, balanced and lasting political solution in Northern Ireland in the wider set of relationships between the people of these islands. From acceptance of that fundamental principle would flow agreement to afford full and equal recognition to the human rights, identity, culture and national outlook of both communities and a power sharing Government arrangement to give institutional expression to this consensus. Following from that settlement too, and forming an integral part of it, there must also be strong North-South institutional links formally and fully to reflect the Irish identity and aspirations of the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland, which would represent no more and no less than the North-British links that reflect the identity and national allegiance of the Northern majority community.

Without closing any door irrevocably on any prospect for peace, serious politicians must concentrate their efforts on viable and realistic political goals rather than illusory and secretive deals which do not correspond to political reality. It is not enough for somebody merely to say they want to be part of the peace process and refuse to condemn violence. That seems a fundamental contradiction in the thinking of Mr. Adams. It seems strange that somebody should carry the coffin of a person who planted the bomb and yet say they want to be part of the peace process. People keep telling us [184] things are different in Northern Ireland, but some things are the same.

I welcome some of the other comments from the Taoiseach. He said: “I would like to repeat there can be no question of trying to predetermine the future or to impose any particular kind of political settlement, which must be left to negotiations between democratic Governments and the constitutional political parties.” I certainly welcome that statement. The Taoiseach went on to say: “There can be no question of tampering with the principle of consent, as set out in Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement”. I also welcome that statement. Unionists have a right to self-determination, and we respect and appreciate that.

I disagree with some of the Taoiseach's comments, for example, on the need for complete confidentiality. I respect that a Government, in negotiating a successful outcome in relation to the difficulties in Northern Ireland, must do so in secret. However, there is a difference between negotiating in secret and informing constitutional parties, particularly their leaders, of the contents of the Hume-Adams report. Given what is happening in Northern Ireland, so much secrecy is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that we do not know what is in the Hume-Adams report while members of the Provisional IRA and the Army council do, as do many members of Congress in the United States. I regret that the Taoiseach has not been forthcoming in briefing Opposition speakers.

It is regrettable too that on the other side the British Government has done a secret deal with the Unionist parties. I hope that nobody's short term political future will jeopardise peace on this island, the possibility of a settlement within Northern Ireland and a solution that involves North-South relations and east-west relations. We have all had enough. Twenty five years after the troubles started there are 3,000 people dead. People of all persuasions, no matter how intransigent they may have been previously, want to see an end to the violence. The message that must go [185] out to the men and women of violence is that we have had enough, that we want to see peace on this little island. Peaceful solutions are being found in countries all over the world and it is not too much to expect that it can happen here too.

I would like to see more openness and more generosity from the Government in relation to Articles 2 and 3. While I welcome the Taoiseach's comments in relation to the forthcoming legislation on extradition, it is ludicrous that there is a distinction between the use of automatic and non-automatic weapons and that some murders can be regarded as political offences. That is not acceptable in this day and age. It is three years since those loopholes have been pointed out to the Taoiseach and his party and I very much regret that we have not yet seen the legislation. I hope it will be introduced soon and I assure the Taoiseach and the Government that my party will ensure a speedy passage of that legislation through the Oireachtas. We need to do this to show our good will, to show the people who are trying to move forward on all sides that the Government is not going to be intransigent and that in no sense is the Government going to play politics or delay on this matter.

I welcome these statements today. I am pleased we do not have to divide on the issue. I felt it necessary to put down an amendment to the Government motion because I believed it did not go far enough. If we had proceeded with the motion in its previous form there would have been a vote. It would have been dishonest of me not to put forward my party's position on these matters. We can give the Government and other politicians the benefit of the doubt, but in politics that is not good enough; we have to put forward concrete proposals. The Tánaiste, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, should spare no effort to bring together the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland because until such time as the forces of moderation come to an agreement, unfortunately there will always be an excuse for the men of violence.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I am speaking in this [186] debate due to the enforced absence from the House of my party leader, Deputy De Rossa, who has made valuable and consistent contributions over the years in relation to peace and democratic politics on this island.

On behalf of Democratic Left, I join in the expressions of sympathy with the victims of the Shankill bombing, with the victims of the subsequent reprisal killings and with the victims too of the one-by-one, tit-for-tat sectarian slaughter which preceded Shankill. I renew here again my party's deep compassion with all the victims of the long quarter century of death and violence on this island whether they be Catholic or Protestant; murdered by loyalist or nationalist terror gangs, or indeed by the security forces; and whether death and injury came to them en masse like Shankill, Warrington or Enniskillen, or in the solitude of their own house or on a country lane.

Once again, this House on behalf of the citizens of this State unites to abhor the massacre, to condemn the violence, to hope for peace and to urge political action, but why does it have to take yet another obscene massacre to bring us a discussion in this House on the worsening situation in Northern Ireland. Since the Dáil reconvened at the beginning of this month, my colleague and party leader, Deputy Proinsias De Rossa, rose every day to ask for a debate on Northern Ireland; for this House to be informed of the Government's position on the Hume-Adams talks and for us as democratically elected representatives of the people to be enabled to discuss Northern Ireland. Does it not speak volumes that the Government ignored the requests of Members of this House for more than three weeks and acceded not to a debate but to a series of statements on Northern Ireland only after the terrorists had spoken through their bombs and bullets? Does this not raise the most fundamental of questions as to who is setting the agenda on Northern Ireland — the terrorists or the democratic politicians?

The Shankill bomb attack on Saturday last was one of the most appalling sectarian outrages perpetrated over the past [187] 25 years of conflict. It is hard to think of a more murderous and provocative act that the detonation of a huge bomb in the heartland of Protestant Belfast, in a Shankill Road crowded with women and children on a Saturday lunchtime. Certainly not since the Enniskillen massacre in 1987 has there been a single act so deliberately designed to deepen the divisions within Northern Ireland and fan the flames of sectarian hatred. The IRA either went into the Shankill Road with the aim of inflicting the maximum number of civilian casualties possible, or else they went in pursuit of their target with total disregard for the civilian casualties that would ensue. The end result was the same. The motive of the IRA makes no difference to the dead and will provide no comfort for the mutilated and the bereaved.

The hypocritical statements of regret on the part of the IRA leadership and the phoney expressions of concern on the part of Gerry Adams will be treated with the contempt they deserve by the majority of decent people on this island, particularly as his real loyalty was demonstrated by his active presence this morning at the funeral of one of the bombers. What the events of last Saturday show is that despite the attempts by themselves, and others, to impart an artificial aura of political respectability on their organisation, the IRA is just another sectarian murder gang, no better or no worse than the loyalist murder gangs who have been waging such a murderous campaign against innocent Catholics. The Provos knew only too well that an act like this was certain to provoke a response from Loyalist murder gangs, as inevitably it did, with the murder of four more people over the past few days. It is part of the perverse strategy of the Provos. They attack in the knowledge that this will in turn provoke further attacks on Nationalists, which will allow the Provisionals to masquerade as the defenders of Catholic areas.

The events of the past few days clearly show that Northern Ireland stands on the brink of a sectarian abyss that could [188] bring violence on an unprecedented scale. We must all be aware of the dangers of “talking up” the current conflict, but it would be equally dangerous to ignore or to downplay the gravity of the situation. Whole communities are being subjected to a reign of terror as the murder gangs target people because of their religious backgrounds or simply because of where they live.

It must now be clear to all rational people that whatever remote hopes there might have been that the Hume-Adams talks might lead to peace they lie buried in the rubble of Frizzells fish shop on the Shankill Road. When the Hume-Adams talks first came to light last April, my party warned that there was a real danger that, far from bringing peace, they could lead to even greater violence. Unfortunately this is exactly what has happened, with loyalist gangs driven to a new murderous frenzy, while the IRA continues to murder and destroy as it has done for more than 20 years.

We have never disputed John Hume's intentions or his personal commitment to peace, but we have challenged his judgment in embarking on discussions with Gerry Adams and particularly the wisdom of agreeing common policy positions with the political leader of an organisation that continues to murder and maim. Despite his best efforts, John Hume has clearly been unable to convince Gerry Adams and his colleagues in the Provisional leadership that the mass murder of women and children is not a legitimate tactic for advancing their cause. In addition, the failure of Gerry Adams to unequivocally condemn the Shankill bombing raises very serious questions about what Mr. Adams has described as his “personal commitment” to peace. The strongest word Mr. Adams could summon up to describe the dismemberment of women and children was that it was “wrong”.

The end result of six months of Hume-Adams talks has been an intensified Provo campaign of violence and a new political arrogance on the part of Mr. Adams. Mr. Adams rebukes the British Prime Minister for being “rude” and he [189] now talks about the agreement between himself and John Hume as “the Irish peace proposal”— although the Irish people have never been consulted and the Irish Parliament is still unaware of its contents. The only development that might have rescued the Hume-Adams process in the aftermath of Saturday's outrage would have been an immediate Provo ceasefire. There is no evidence of this and the renewed Provo bombing campaign in Britain over the weekend indicates that they intend to persist with the tactics that brought such carnage to the Shankill Road on Saturday.

The Taoiseach said last night that the latest round of tit-for-tat murders must not be allowed to dictate the political agenda. The tragedy is that this has already happened. The Provos have been allowed to murder and bomb their way into negotiations with the leader of the largest constitutional nationalist party in Northern Ireland. The policy position of which Mr. Adams is joint author is, apparently, regarded as being worthy of serious consideration by our Government. This has given Mr. Adams and his colleagues a political influence they have never enjoyed before. It allows Mr. Adams to say: “If you accept my conditions, I will go to the Army Council and urge a ceasefire”, the unspoken, chilling threat being, of course, that if you do not accept Gerry Adams's conditions, there will be more violence, more Enniskillens, more Warringtons and more Shankill Roads.

Mr. Adams has gained much from his talks with Mr. Hume. He has gained a degree of political respectability and a centre stage position. Such is the yearning for peace that the Hume-Adams talks have been treated with benign neutrality by the Irish and British Governments and have elicited signals from Unionist politicians that, in certain circumstances, there was a place at the negotiating table for Sinn Féin. What has Mr. Adams contributed to this process? What has he given? Why must peace be the result of the process rather than the basis for building new relationships on this island? Why is there no ceasefire? Either Mr. [190] Adams does not want one now, which would certainly show where he stands, or he cannot deliver a ceasefire, in which case what is the point in continuing to talk to him?

We are all for peace. As the Taoiseach said last week: “Peace — who is not for peace?” But how do we get peace? We appear to be constantly waiting — waiting for the Unionist leaders to come back to Dublin, waiting for the Hume-Adams talks and waiting for the gunmen to give up violence. All the while we are waiting, the toll of deaths continues to mount.

Surely it is the task of democrats to take the initiative in a climate where democracy and tolerance are being swept aside by hatred and revenge. What are we going to contribute to the peace process? It is time for plain speaking and for an end to fantasy solutions which lead nowhere except to the graveyard for more men, women and children. Neither side is solely to blame for the failure of the inter-party talks last year and neither side is exempt from a share in the blame. All sides should reject recriminations about last year's failures and agree to wipe the slate clean and start anew. I agree with Deputy Harney that our task as democratic politicians is to see in what way we can contribute to the process of peace.

At the recent party conference of Democratic Left, Deputy Proinsias De Rossa set out a new democratic agenda for peace which could rally democrats, both North and South. Some of the principle features of the democratic agenda for peace were: a commitment by all participants to establish democratic government institutions in Northern Ireland; agreement to alter our Constitution, including an alteration to Articles 2 and 3; the recognition that Northern Ireland has a right to continue to exist within the United Kingdom; a Bill of Rights that would guarantee equality of citizenship in Northern Ireland and recognise the fundamentally mixed basis of Northern Irish society and politics, and a programme for the regeneration of the Northern Ireland economy, linked to cross-Border institutions to enhance [191] economic, social and environmental co-operation.

He also suggested a number of initiatives to encourage the paramilitaries to come in out of the cold and to promote the de-escalation of military activity by both legal and illegal forces. Bearing in mind that there is a war weariness in Northern Ireland, Deputy De Rossa's proposals included the accelerated releases of prisoners, an amnesty for activists who reject violence, a period during which weapons could be surrendered without penalty, reduced security force activity in areas where paramilitaries cease to operate and civilian observers from the CSCE to reassure communities in flashpoint areas. This democratic agenda could provide the basis for discussions between the democratic parties in Northern Ireland and for co-operation between the British and Irish Governments, because it starts from the basis of reality and does not seek devious routes either to a united Ireland or greater integration with the UK.

The ordinary people of Northern Ireland can make their contribution by rejecting the culture of sectarianism and by taking a stand against all those in their communities who advocate, promote or engage in violence. In the end, primary responsibility rests with the democratic politicians. Above all, we have to face reality. Northern Ireland is a real entity and the settlement of its conflict has to be internal to Northern Ireland. There is no settlement without an internal settlement and grand constitutional arrangements between Governments are meaningless unless they can deliver peace between the divided communities in Northern Ireland.

It is time that we in this House unambiguously rejected unrealistic political demands which are based on grand notions of nationhood, however expressed —“national self-determination”, “a united Ireland” or “union within the United Kingdom”. These are the lofty dogmas which hijacked the modest campaign 25 years ago in Northern [192] Ireland for civil rights and equality of treatment within the Northern Ireland state. Let no one suspect that young Loyalist or Republic terrorists are contemplating complex concepts of nationhood as they set out on their missions of murder. They are driven by nothing more than raw hatred and revenge. It is the lofty national or ethnic concepts, often crafted by polite intellectuals in the comfortable environment of a university common room or a television studio, which provide the cause for the continuing murder. What begins as an aspiration in Donnybrook can often end up as an atrocity on the Shankill Road.

The agenda on Northern Ireland must no longer be set either by the gunmen of whatever origin or by those with unspoken objectives. It must now be set by those who want peace and who are prepared to give up aspirations in order to achieve it. The time to replace old slogans has long passed. Pearse's slogan that “Ireland unfree will never be at peace” has left us with more than 3,000 graves but without peace the people of Northern Ireland can never be free.

Ms Keogh: Information on Helen Catherine Anne Keogh  Zoom on Helen Catherine Anne Keogh  Excellent.

Mr. Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I wish first to put the record straight. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs has met on two occasions in recent weeks to discuss in detail the Opsahl report. Deputy Proinsias De Rossa has made a major contribution at these meetings. There has been a democratic input by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs on this matter in recent weeks. I welcome Deputy Bruton's proposal that this debate should deal with the need to come to grips with the situation and we should avoid rhetoric. Rhetoric in regard to personalities, individuals or group, serves no purpose in this matter.

There has been serious instability in Northern Ireland for 25 years and there is no point in dealing with the politics of the last atrocity. Rather we should deal with the politics of the future, of where we are going.

[193] I welcome in particular the principle enshrined in the Taoiseach's statement that a political settlement must be left to the negotiations between the two democratic Governments involved and the constitutional political parties. I welcome also the further statement that there can be no question of tampering with the principle of consent as set out in Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. That is important because it is a guarantee to the Unionist community in Northern Ireland that no settlement, however it is arrived at or however it is structured, can be reached without their consent. That is fundamental to the whole process.

The next important aspect of the process is to achieve a permanent cessation of violence. That is essential. There is no point in the democratic political leaders and the two Governments engaging in what they see as fruitful talks if the violence continues, if the paramilitaries are rampant on each side. The first and fundamental aim must be to achieve peace, to persuade the leaders of the paramilitary groups that the only way towards peace is through political dialogue and to bring them in from the cold of extremism and violence to the democratic way of approaching problems. That is precisely what John Hume has been engaged in with Mr. Adams in recent months. He should be congratulated and not condemned in any way for his courage and his integrity in pursuing that aim in a selfless manner which is his outstanding characteristic. That dialogue must be maintained because unless the Provisional IRA cease its violence on a permanent basis there cannot be meaningful political discussions.

I appeal to people of a constitutional frame of mind, leaders of the Unionist constitutional parties, to do likewise with Loyalist paramilitaries and to seek talks with them so that there can be an end to their assassinations while, at the same time, the Provisional IRA ceases its bombings and outrages. That is the sensible way forward and we should attune our minds to the fundamental reality that even though ultimately it will be constitutional politicians and the two constitutional [194] Governments who will arrive at the ultimate settlement of this matter, the settlement cannot have any meaning until there is a cessation of violence on the part of the paramilitaries. The paramilitaries must be approached by people of the calibre of John Hume and people of similar calibre on the Unionist side to cease their mindless and hopeless violence.

That is the backdrop to the problem and nobody should be condemned for making an effort on either of these two tiers, the tier of making contact with the men of violence to achieve a cessation of violence and the tier of engaging in political talks with all constitutional parties and with the two Governments. The two processes run parallel but the cessation of violence is the more essential of the two because any progress made by the constitutional elements in this equation will be nugatory and ineffective unless there is a cessation of violence on the part of the paramilitaries.

There is no point imputing a contradiction into this debate. There is no contradiction. If one examines the issue closely there is a clear interface between the approach being adopted by John Hume to Mr. Adams and the approach that I hope will be adopted by the Unionist constitutional leadership to their paramilitaries. There is an interface between that and the ultimate objective of having the constitutional parties involved North and South and the two Governments in London and Dublin come together to reach a final settlement of this matter.

That is the only way forward and we should not be deterred by the appalling events of the weekend. They are appalling but they should not divert us from what should be a positive approach and a positive way forward. No matter how hopeless the scenario may appear to be, that must be the only sensible approach in this situation.

I want to emphasise that there is a fundamental strength in the three strand approach that was adopted by the two Governments in their discussions with the other constitutional parties last year. Deputy Bruton advanced the idea that [195] perhaps one element of the three strands could be discussed before the other two. That may be progressive thought and might be put into action, but they are all part of the problem and, with respect to Deputy Gilmore, there is no point in isolating one from the other. The internal solution to the problems of Northern Ireland is linked to the relationship with the Republic because the community in Northern Ireland that is part of the internal problem, the Nationalist community, have an allegiance to the rest of Ireland. That is part of the problem and, therefore, we cannot separate in any way the internal political problem in Northern Ireland from the problem of the relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Of course, the two sovereign Governments, London and Dublin, must be constantly involved, for obvious reasons and the strengthening of Anglo-Irish relations must continue to be of paramount importance to provide the underlying guarantee and support for whatever agreement is eventually reached. They are the three strands and I do not believe they can be disentangled. They are essential in any rational view of the problem.

It is important to mention that as a result of the Anglo-Irish Agreement there has been tremendous co-operation between the two Governments. They have never been closer in their approach to the problem and there is total security co-operation between the two Governments, particularly between the RUC in Northern Ireland and the Garda in the Republic. I saw that developing as cochairman of the Anglo-Irish Conference and I believe it has been one of the major successes of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. However, at the end of the day, regardless of how close the security operation, regardless of how the two sovereign Governments co-operate and regardless of what agreement is reached between the constitutional parties, the two Unionist parties, the SDLP, the Alliance Party and all of the constitutional parties down here, it will be all to no avail unless the paramilitaries end their violence.

[196] Yet there are voices here who would discourage legitimate politicians who are not involved in Government from approaching these paramilitaries to achieve a cessation of violence. It all fits into a legitmate picture where every constructive step must be followed and there must be a total mobilisation of all leadership in these two islands at political level, at church level, at trade union level, at public opinion level and at a media level. There must be a complete example of leadership which is geared to one objective, namely, to obtain a cessation of violence and so impose on the men of violence, through the persuasion of public will, the overwhelming compulsion to get away from the totally arid policy that they have pursued for the past 25 years. Anybody who can achieve that, or who appears likely to achieve that, should not be discouraged but should be encouraged.

I do not mind if there are failures or if people who approach the Provisional IRA or the Loyalist paramilitaries do not succeed in their endeavour. I welcome the fact that they are trying to achieve something. We must continue in that direction because a cessation of violence must be the secure foundation on which to create the environment for legitimate constitutional politicians, who abhor violence, to work together with the encouragement of the two sovereign Governments to achieve a lasting peace and democratic structures in the North, between North and South and between this island and the neighbouring island, lasting democratic structures to which the public in all parts of this island and in Britain can give adherence and support. That is where we want to go.

Much of that is already written into the Opsahl report — aspects like a basic charter of rights, like partnership government within Northern Ireland, like co-operation between North and South on a permanent institutional basis; aspects like continued co-operation between Britain and Ireland to sustain whatever agreed structues are there under whatever negotiated formula arises from discussions. Much of that is already [197] contained in the Opsahl report, can be considered in detail and, in my view, could form a useful discussion document when talks resume. I hope when talks resume — I will not even contemplate that they will not resume — they will pursue a more constructive path than the talks which unfortunately did not work out last year but which at least brought parties together for the first time.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  A Cheann Comhairle, with your approval, I wish to share my time with Deputy Jim Mitchell.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed. Agreed.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  It is very clear at this stage that this debate is a useful one. Of course, it is all too brief, with us talking about sharing time, having less than five minutes. Since I am sure many others in the House want to contribute we are willing to share time. Nonetheless, it does indicate that in the future the Government should adopt a change of approach in relation to these debates.

While it is quite correct that the Government should not disclose to the House secret diplomacy or terms of negotiations, there should be transparency about the policies of the Government. Indeed, such debates in this House would afford an opportunity for such transparency and constructive debate on those policies. To be honest about it — I shall pass this point very quickly — it is a bit much for a Member of this House to have to accept that we are not privy to the report on the Hume-Adams dialogue when it is made available to people in this country like the IRA. I would hope the Government would understand our sense of frustration in such circumstances. Yet we shall endeavour to be as constructive as we can within the limited time and weighting available to us.

Let me say first that my visit to Belfast over the past couple of days with Deputy John Bruton did convince me, if I needed to be convinced, of the real fear and tension felt by all sections of the community [198] in Northern Ireland. In expressing heart felt sympathy for those who have been victims let us not forget that every man, woman and child in Northern Ireland is affected, that all of them are either victims or potential victims. Therefore our sympathy, support and solidarity must be with all the people of Northern Ireland, who have been on the wrack of violence for the last 25 years. Our sense of solidarity must not begin and end with expressions of sympathy and motions of condemnation of violence. We have Northern Ireland centre stage today. Let us ensure for the future that Northern Ireland is given the utmost priority and undivided attention of the Government and of the Members of this House until such time as we see a just and acceptable political settlement. Until that is achieved it is difficult to foresee an end to violence. Even with its achievement there may remain some rump elements who will, no matter what the terms, refuse to accept any settlement.

Of course, the objective must be to get the broadest possible consensus in support of a settlement and the complete isolation of such extremists. In that context it is relevant to ask: where stands Sinn Féin in relation to a settlement? It represents about 10 per cent of the electorate. Its leaders might be surprised at the number and political background of people who said to me that Sinn Féin should be part of a settlement; yet all were unanimous in rejecting any discussions with them unless and until they completely end their support for violence.

We must have the greatest understanding and sympathy for all the constitutional parties who are trying to preserve the political process under such present difficulties. It is very easy for us from afar to make judgments and cast aspersions on their words and actions. But since all of the pressures on them are so intense, the wonder is that they are able to maintain a semblance of political normality at all. That is why I have been pressing the Taoiseach so hard to have discussions with the Unionist parties. Again, despite his denial of my reference [199] to the frosty reception given the Unionists in Dublin last year, let him be in no doubt that that is how it was perceived in Unionist circles. Therefore, it behoves the Taoiseach to make it absolutely clear that there is a red carpet welcome for Unionist leaders if they come to see him. I do not think a mere general reference to an open door is a sufficient approach on the part of the Taoiseach at this stage. There is ground to be made up and he should know it. The Taoiseach should waste no time in making up that lost ground.

Even in these dark days I think there are a few hopeful signs around. There are some bones of a settlement there. There is some evidence of movement. There was the movement on the part of the Taoiseach in relation to Articles 2 and 3. There is the commitment in relation to extradition. I tabled a Bill before this House three years ago with a view to closing those loopholes. Let us have no more promises on that; let us produce the Bill. I was heartened by the references in Northern Ireland and the acceptance that security co-operation is now at a very high level. While Deputy John Bruton mentioned a few ways in which it might be improved, it is encouraging to hear that acceptance.

Finally, let me say that I think the follow-up here should be a full meeting between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister, not just on the margin of the EC Summit on Friday next, which would amount to perhaps only ten minutes or half an hour. They need a full meeting and need it quickly. I would suggest that thereafter there should be the follow-up of an unrestricted debate in this House to afford us all ample opportunity to debate the issue.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  I am very conscious that this debate takes place at a time of high anxiety in Northern Ireland. I am conscious also that we must be very careful about what we say here. Having said that, I honestly believe that much of what we have heard in this debate so far is the same old candy floss that the people of [200] Northern Ireland, the Republic and of Britain have heard over years, ineffective candy floss. We have had 25 years of violence, yet we are having paraded before us the same old response, as Deputy McGahon said, the same platitudes.

First, I am very glad that we do have an Anglo-Irish Agreement. I am grateful to Deputy Brian Lenihan for having praised it, even though he worked very hard against it when it was agreed initially. But the Anglo-Irish Agreement is an agreement between the two Governments and has greatly improved the relationship between those two Governments. There is need for a similar agreement between the two communities in Northern Ireland. For example, under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Agreement we can see the adept handling of this grave crisis by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, in all his public utterances whether in the House of Commons or on radio or television. I want to congratulate him on that and offer my thanks.

I want to make the point very briefly that the Taoiseach's statement that he has not handed over the proposals or principles of the Hume-Adams talks to the British Government is simply not credible. Sir Patrick Mayhew has been saying the same thing, but both beg credulity. We have Mr. Hume and Mr. Adams seeking an urgent response. Yet Mr. Hume ran off to America before giving our Government those proposals, but returned after ten days or so and then gave them to the Government. Now we hear that the British Government have not got these proposals, yet that Government is being asked for an urgent response. That is not credible. The fact of the matter is that neither the Taoiseach nor the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, is telling us the whole truth nor can they inspire confidence in that respect.

It is entirely appropriate that this debate should take place. It is entirely appropriate, too, that we should suspend even the motion of no confidence in the Government because of the seriousness [201] of the present position. I also want to make the point that I share the very high regard in which Mr. John Hume is held. Mr. Hume has earned that respect. But I have to say that I believe the Hume-Adams talks are wrong. I believe they will lead to a cul-de-sac and I will tell the House why.

First, it is self-evident that anything that bears the fingerprint of the IRA will be met with a very severe reaction on the part of the Unionist community, even without the atrocity of last Saturday having happened. The Unionist community will not react in a way that sets up the IRA, and/or confirms them as being at the centre of events. Second, seeking a pre-condition of a permanent ceasefire from the IRA is tantamount to asking the IRA to go out of existence, because if there is a permanent ceasefire there will be no need for an IRA. They are not going to go out of existence. Third, these talks give the impression that the IRA will be at the centre of events, somehow will play a pre-eminent role, over and above that of the Irish Government and of the SDLP. Of course, that cannot be. For those reasons I believe the initiative has been mistaken and somebody in this House has a duty to say so.

We have had 25 years of deaths in Northern Ireland. In 1971 a hamfisted attempt at internment was tried by the British Government, without consultation. That grave mistake has set back much support for the policy of internment. I should like to repeat what I said on a previous debate on Northern Ireland about four years ago. Internment is an evil proposition but it is a lesser evil than taking the lives of people day in and day out. Internment has to be on the agenda, given the havoc which has continued in Northern Ireland for so long. It does not have to be done in the dark of night or by way of a big round-up but rather it must be under the auspices of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, it must be fairly executed and on both sides of the Border in both communities. Otherwise, if we do not seriously consider that proposal, as de Valera and the former Taoiseach, [202] Mr. Charles Haughey did, we are engaging in candyfloss and more people will die on the streets of Northern Ireland and elsewhere.

Mr. Kemmy: Information on Jim Kemmy  Zoom on Jim Kemmy  I agree with Deputy Mitchell that words in this House can cost lives in Belfast and Northern Ireland today, tonight and tomorrow. I should say at the outset that there are no easy solutions to this problem. If there was a quick fix solution to the problem we would have found it before now. The first thing we must understand is that the problem has been around for centuries. No matter what proposals emerge between the Governments the people in Northern Ireland must creep before they walk. Dramatic improvements cannot be achieved overnight. A solution or a compromise between extreme Unionists and Nationalists cannot be achieved if both insist on being right. The only way forward is through some compromise or on middle ground. As far as I am concerned, people come first. James Connolly once said: “Ireland as distinct from her people means nothing to me”. I agree with that aspect of Connolly's philosophy. We must bear in mind that people come before territory, land or property.

Unfortunately, we in this House and in the Republic often see the Northern Ireland problem through a very narrow perspective. Most parties in this House are chips off the old Sinn Féin block. The term “Sinn Féin” means “ourselves alone”, it is not inclusive, it is exclusive. The Minister's own party, Fianna Fáil means “soldiers of destiny”. I have difficulty in working out a translation of Fine Gael but I think it means “a tribe of the Gael” or “people of the Gael”.

Mr. McGahon: Information on Brendan McGahon  Zoom on Brendan McGahon  A united Ireland.

Mr. Kemmy: Information on Jim Kemmy  Zoom on Jim Kemmy  Is that what it means? It can be very difficult for people in Northern Ireland to understand those titles. We have never said that in this House. Sinn Féin would have meant anathema and death to Unionists from Northern Ireland in 1922 because they were [203] involved in free trade. They were exporting to Britain as it was part and parcel of the economy of the United Kingdom. They were involved in linen, shipyards and so on and were not concerned with tariffs and import duties but rather with being part and parcel of their economy and their future. In many ways the partition was brought about by the economic realities of the time, by the uneven development of business and capitalism in this country.

Since he became Tánaiste eight months ago, Deputy Spring has been attempting to create space for new dialogue. Unless we have new proposals the answer will not be found. We must have new thinking on this problem and the Tánaiste's ambition has been to create dialogue and space in which people can find a way forward through compromise. Unless we have compromise and tolerance no answer will be found to the problem.

I will not funk the issue of the Hume-Adams talks because that would be an evasion of reality. I understand the fears of both the Irish and British Governments about these talks and about being manoeuvred by the principles that emerged from the talks into an untenable and difficult position. The fear of the Irish and British Governments is that they will be manoeuvred by the principles that have emerged from the talks between Gerry Adams and John Hume into a position they cannot defend because of the pressures which will build up. I am opposed to anybody being manoeuvred along those lines. I believe in hope, democracy and compromise.

What is involved here is an attempt to square a circle because on the one hand there is extreme Unionism and on the other hand there is extreme Nationalism and both cannot have their way. We must try to find a formula which will accept the rights of Unionists to remain within the British state. They must be allowed to remain British in the same way as the Scots are Scottish and British and the Welsh are Welsh and British and, on the other hand, to respect and enshrine the rights of Nationalists to a United Ireland.

[204] That ambition and that aspiration must also be enshrined in whatever formula will emerge. That is at the very basis of the problem and unless we can find some formula to accommodate those two viewpoints we are speaking in riddles and not dealing with reality.

I hope representatives of the two Governments will meet on Friday and consider the principles before them from the Hume-Adams talks and that they will issue a statement following that meeting. I would ask that those principles be made available to us for consideration. So far as the Labour Party is concerned we want peace and compromise with justice and equality on both sides. We do not claim domination over anybody — that is not our ambition in the labour movement. In the international movement our ambition is to see peace, tolerance, compromise, co-operation and good will between the two communities. We want consensus and good relations, co-operation and friendship between the Unionists and Nationalists in Northern Ireland not violence, intimidation or blackmail. No cause can justify laying bombs in streets in Northern Ireland, in the Republic, in London or in any part of Britain, in pubs, hotels or elsewhere. That is totally wrong. Mowing people down with a machine gun is totally wrong. My party will always stand against that type of intimidation. Neither it nor sectarian violence will achieve anything.

It makes no sense in today's world to shoot people on the basis of their religion. It is totally wrong and it has nothing whatsoever to contribute to finding a solution to this problem. The violence of the past 25 years has achieved nothing whatsoever. It has polarised communities more than had been the case 25 years ago. It has damaged our economy. The Minister concerned informed us that Border security is costing us £134 million per year. How we can quantify the loss in tourism, industry and jobs? These people are not patriots, they are damaging ordinary people on both sides of the divide. One cannot attempt to quantify the loss in revenue and lives which has taken place over the past 25 [205] years in Britain, Northern Ireland and here. The reality of the modern world is this: if you cannot force your way by force of arms you must attempt to achieve consensus through dialogue and through working together. The reason I came to the House this evening was to bring that message.

These are bleak and dark days of fear and death. As public representatives we cannot shirk our responsibilities. We cannot run away from the issue no matter how unpleasant. We have a duty to contribute to finding a way forward and we must offer hope and goodwill to the people of Belfast city and Northern Ireland. We must reach over the sectarian barriers to ordinary people on the ground of all religious persuasions. They must live and work together to achieve common objectives. We must reach across the gunmen to ordinary people to find an answer to this problem. One side achieving victory and dominating the other is not the answer. We must find a compromise, a middle ground between extreme Unionism and extreme Nationalism. Above all, we in this House must turn our face against sectarian intimidation and violence. The bombing and shooting we have seen in Northern Ireland has no place in a democratic society. In the past the gunmen have ignored our appeals but the time has long passed when violence could accomplish a solution to this problem.

As chairman of the Labour Party, I want the message to go out loud and clear that there is no place on this island for sectarian violence. I appeal to all concerned to work out a solution and above all I appeal to the Government to respond to the Hume-Adams proposals and to make them available to us next Friday so that we can see what is contained in them.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  Sir, I wish to share my time with my colleague, Deputy Deasy.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  That is satisfactory.

[206]Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  I too was in Northern Ireland over the long weekend but on family rather than political business. Fear and foreboding, to an extent I have not encountered before, except possibly in the “murder triangle” at the height of the sectarian assassination campaign in the mid-seventies, is widespread in both sections of the community. There is also, I am happy to say, a greater commitment to peace among ordinary people than I have ever detected before. There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come and it is possible that now is the time for peace. No praise is too great for all those members of political parties who are committed to the constitutional way forward. Members of this House do not know how lucky they are in not having to operate under the pressures on politicians in the North. The pressures on John Hume are almost intolerable and denigration by a section of the media here does not help. Apart from the pressures on him, the pressures on councillors in his party, and on the ordinary men and women and their families living under threat, should underline for us the price being paid for a commitment to peace.

I have not seen the so-called Hume-Adams plan, but I was a member of the SDLP team who negotiated with Sinn Féin in 1988. In the two statements emanating from the Hume-Adams dialogue, I detected words and phrases which I remembered from that time. Indeed, some of these words and phrases could not have appeared in the statements unless matters which had been a source of disagreement five years ago, had been clarified. That is a matter for hope. I have noted with particular interest the expression of confidence by John Hume that the principles agreed on represent the best chance for lasting peace in 23 years.

There are two essentials if progress is to be made. First is the consent of the Unionists on anything relating to their constitutional future, their right to say no as well as their right to say yes. One of the hallmarks of Unionism over the years has been the no surrender mentality, [207] based on the proposition that if they gave an inch they would be forced to concede a mile. That attitude has been reinforced by recent developments and their fear is that everyone is ganging up on them, the SDLP, Sinn Féin, the IRA, the Irish Government and elements in both the US and Europe and possibly even in the British Government. In these circumstances and in the aftermath of the Shankill Road there should be no room for suspicion in the Unionist mind that we would approve of a situation where they would be coerced into unacceptable constitutional arrangements.

The second essential is the cessation of violence. No Government will enter into any arrangments with Sinn Féin without a permanent cessation of violence and it would be an insult to the Unionist community to suggest that their representatives should negotiate with Sinn Féin while their constituents are being murdered by the IRA, particularly after the Shankill Road murders. If the IRA has, as it claims, a vested interest in peace, it should end its murderous and self-defeating campaign immediately.

I have always been a supporter of a bipartisan approach to Northern Ireland. That remains my position, but I have some criticisms which I offer in the most constructive way possible. Any chance of agreement depends on the Irish Government showing the generosity promised by successive Governments to the Unionists but which was so clearly missing when they courageously came to Dublin last year. I did not understand, and I said so publicly, why the Government had difficulty with the words “would and could” in relation to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. If the Government had shown a willingness in the talks with the Unionists to amend, change, subsume Articles 2 and 3 in a wider agreement, I understand from what they indicated since that much more progress would have been made. Generosity should mean generosity.

I understand why the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs felt it necessary to signify a mark of respect to the [208] Unionist community after the butchery of the Shankill Road but I believe the decision to postpone the meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference was a mistake. Terrorists should not be able to dictate the political agenda. The best response to that atrocity would be to bring forward the meeting but certainly not to postpone it. The politics of the last atrocity is not the best basis for political action. I hope this Government will make it clear that terrorists of whatever ilk will not be allowed to dictate the political agenda.

The Taoiseach had some careful comments to make about the Hume-Adams dialogue when he said:

Any initiative can only be taken by the two Governments and there can be no question of them simply adopting or endorsing the report of the Hume-Adams dialogue, that was recently given to us and which we have not passed on to the British Government.

I think I understand what this language means and if so I agree with him, as no Government can hand over its functions to others, and particularly to one so closely associated with paramilitary activity. The British Government clearly does not want the parcel although they know what is in it, whatever they might say.

Principles are to be subsumed. It is stated that the Irish Government has been working for some time on the elaboration of a formula for peace. I believe that is the way forward, but I stress that whatever the Government is going to do, there is now an urgency about it. People talk about a “window of opportunity”. There is a very small window here and it is the responsibility of both the British and Irish Governments to seize the initiative now and take it from the men of violence. The situation in Northern Ireland is so critical that quick action is required.

Mr. Deasy: Information on Austin Deasy  Zoom on Austin Deasy  I thank my colleague for sharing his time with me. I join with others in expressing my abhorrence at events in Northern Ireland over the week-end and at many events over the [209] past 25 years. We are dealing with a great many frightened people on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland. Each community is terrified of the paramilitaries on the other side. That need not be the case. I think politicians have a lot to answer for in opportunistically exploiting people's fears. I do not think we should be afraid to say that the hardline Loyalist politicians by their attitude and intransigence have caused almost if not as much of the misery and suffering in Northern Ireland as the Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin. Mr. Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Féin has disgraced himself most of all in recent days. He disgraced and contradicted himself today by taking part in a peace process while condoning and supporting the people carrying out the atrocities. Such action must be condemned. If we are to have peace talks and a solution to the problems in Northern Ireland, we will have to depend on people with greater courage and integrity than Gerry Adams. However, he is probably one of the most frightened people on this island, probably even more frightened of those in his own element than those in the opposition. We must tell the Paisleys, the Molyneauxs and the other hardline Loyalist politicians that we have had enough and that must be the voice of Thirty-two Counties.

Both past and present Loyalist supporters must tell those people they have had enough of their diehard stances. We must depend on moderate Unionists such a Ken Magennis and people in the Alliance Party and the SDLP. People in the Twenty-Six Counties must stop the double talk, particularly in respect of Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. We have heard a great deal of such talk in the past year from the Taoiseach in this Chamber in refusing to give a commitment to hold a referendum to remove Articles 2 and 3. I accept that would not bring an end to the problems in Northern Ireland, but it would at least give an indication of our goodwill for openness. We must start by taking that stance.

As Deputy Bruton stated earlier, we should have adopted a policy on integrated [210] education 25 years ago. The Opsahl report is excellent and should be debated in depth in this House. It states that integrated education is an integral part of any solution to the problems in Northern Ireland. It proposes that people of both persuasions should be educated together as is the case throughout the world, irrespective of colour, race or creed. It is a damning indictment on us that we have not been able to adopt a policy on integrated education. I was saddened to hear at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs only four weeks ago that the leaders of the various Churches, the Methodist, Presbyterian and Church of Ireland, were willing to discuss the question of integrated education with the members of the Opsahl committee, but when they asked the Roman Catholic authorities to discuss the matter, their request fell on deaf ears. They were given to understand that they were not welcome and that the matter was not open for discussion. There are faults on all sides. We should not condemn people in any one specific area except, of course, the paramilitaries.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I must ask the Deputy to conclude. He is eroding the time of other speakers.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. T. Kitt): Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  I too, am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate on Northern Ireland. This House should reflect on the horrific events in Northern Ireland in the past few days and consider their implications for finding a basis for lasting peace and stability on the island of Ireland, now a more urgent challenge than ever before.

Within the grim litany of atrocities we have seen over the years in Northern Ireland, the slaughter visited on the innocent men, women and children as they went about their business on the Shankill Road last Saturday stands out as an act of exceptional cruelty. We are numbed by the cynicism and depravity of those who would plant a bomb in a crowded shopping area at the busiest time of the week. The certainty of that attack causing [211] death or serious injury to a large number of innocent people in the vicinity was clearly a matter of complete indifference to those who perpetrated and planned it. It was an act with few precedents in the contempt which it displayed for the most basic of human rights, the right to human life. The dreadful violence which has been directed at innocent members of the Nationalist community in the wake of the Shankill bombing has shown an equal disregard for human life. Each of the murders or attempted murders which took place this week added to the toll of suffering for ordinary families in Northern Ireland.

It is crucial that people on both sides of the divide should exercise restraint at this difficult time. Despite the enormity of the provocations they have suffered, it is a time for the most careful reflection on the consequences of violent retaliation. The further escalation of sectarian violence will serve only one purpose, it will reinforce the barriers of fear and hatred which already divide the two communities and make an already tense situation infinitely more difficult. All of us in this House express our deepest sympathy to those whose loved ones were the victims of this week's terrifying spiral of violence. We want to spell out in the clearest possible terms that violence is wrong and is abhorrent to the overwhelming majority of Irish people. It is a profound violation of the right of the people living in this island, North and South, to determine their future on peaceful and democratic terms. It is the most formidable obstacle to the realisation of the dreams we all have, both North and South, for a future characterised by lasting peace, reconciliation and stability.

The Government has set out on the road towards that future and we will not be deflected from it by acts of violence perpertrated by paramilitary organisations on either side of the divide. We have chosen the path of political dialogue because there is no alternative path to peace. Our companions on the way are those who are prepared to abide exclusively [212] by the political process. The condition for participation is, and will remain, a clear and definitive renunciation of violence as a means of pursuing political objectives.

The approach of the Irish Government is to work through the political process with the British Government and the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland for a resolution of the differences which afflict this island. The only way forward is through peaceful discussion of our problems and a collective effort to find answers acceptable to all. There is, and can be, no alternative to political dialogue. The only agreement which can be of any value is one into which all the participants in negotiations enter freely and without pressure or coercion of any kind. No other approach offers any chance of producing arrangements for this island which will bring lasting peace and stability.

Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which was referred to by a number of speakers, makes crystal clear the acceptance by the two Governments of the principle of consent as the basis for any change in the status of Northern Ireland. That is a key component in the Government's position and one which is endorsed without hesitation by John Hume and the SDLP. Those who have expressed fears about the Hume-Adams talks should reflect on the full implications of that shared commitment.

As the Taoiseach stated clearly, the achievement of peace is a top priority for the Government. From the day it took office we have dedicated ourselves unremittingly to the pursuit of peace and stability through political dialogue. We have worked in every way possible to bring about a process of dialogue which might lay the foundations for a fair and honourable accommodation between the two traditions in Ireland. The Programme for Government made clear that in entering such dialogue we would address comprehensively all the relationships involved in an open and innovative spirit, ready to discuss every issue and to incorporate all agreed changes. We will use the process of dialogue to work [213] towards an accommodation between the two traditions in Ireland based on the principles set out in the report of the New Ireland Forum. The Government's willingness to bring goodwill and flexibility in the search for a lasting political solution has been impressed on all the other participants in the process.

It is hoped that the tragic events of the past few days, which have sent a shiver of trepidation throughout this island, will impress on those who are as yet uncommitted to a resumption of dialogue the importance of making the earliest possible progress towards that solution. The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have made it clear that they attach the highest political priority to establishing a basis for a just and lasting peace and a permanent cessation of all violence. That is the context in which the Government has been evaluating the position which John Hume conveyed to us following his talks with Gerry Adams.

Both the Irish and British Governments have a moral responsibility to do all in their power to facilitate the achievement of lasting peace and stability throughout these islands. That responsibility is taken very seriously by both Governments and is a central element of our relationship. There is no question but that the Shankill bombing has dealt a severe blow to the hopes vested in John Hume's talks with Gerry Adams.

The lessons to be learned from the events of last weekend have yet to be absorbed fully. However, one lesson is immediately clear. Those responsible for the Shankill bombing must explain to the Irish people how we are to understand their professions of commitment to a peace process. In this instance actions speak much louder than words. Since last Saturday there is considerable scepticism about the degree of real commitment within the Republican movement to the purported objective of a peace process.

As both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste made clear, the Government wishes to see a total and permanent cessation of violence as a prelude to any peace process. We are determined to work in every way possible to translate [214] into reality the desire of the overwhelming majority of Irish people, North and South, for lasting peace and stability.

Mr. Harte: Information on Patrick D. Harte  Zoom on Patrick D. Harte  In the time available I will convey my thoughts on Northern Ireland. Looking back on the history of Ireland and Britain I cannot help but notice that every time Nationalists or other politicians left the Houses of Parliament violence broke out on the streets. That happened when the old Nationalist Party stopped going to Westminister. It started during the Treaty debates. When Deputies who opposed the Treaty left the House civil war broke out. During the decades when Northern Ireland was under Stormont rule every time a Nationalist MP left Parliament there was street violence. When Westminster prorogued Stormont the UDA came on the streets for the first time to deal with street violence. Therefore, we cannot ignore the fact that there is a relationship between not having a local parliament and street violence.

The sooner there is a local parliament or an assembly in Northern Ireland the better. It is the responsibility of the politicians in the North to establish structures of government that will help both sides govern themselves. That means that the talks must start. If we wait any longer for the talks to start what will happen? The British Government's performance in Northern Ireland during the past 25 years has not been successful. It has been holding the middle of the ring to prevent a civil war. If there was no British presence there would be a blood bath. There is evidence that is the case without my making the argument. Neither the Protestant nor the Catholic communities are satisfied with the British security policy. The Catholic community blame the Southern Government for not co-operating with the Protestant community on security policy.

I do not wish to dictate to people who are in a difficult position in Northern Ireland, living in different circumstances to people in the South. Those who criticise John Hume should ask themselves what they would do in similar circumstances. [215] The difficulties with which he is confronted puts him in a different category to us. If his talks with Gerry Adams are successful he will be the uncrowned king of Ireland, but if they are unsuccessful he will have to carry the can. Judgment on the talks process should be delayed. It depends on one's background whether one is in favour or against the Hume-Adams talks.

The talks must start. If they do not start, the British Government must realise that its security policy is not effective for a number of reasons. It cannot secure Northern Ireland without the full co-operation of the Irish Government and the security forces on this side of the Border. That must be acknowledged. I know many members of the RUC. They are good Christian men. They are trying in difficult circumstances to be the force of law and order. However, it is seen by the Catholic community as being Protestant and is not accepted as the force of law and order. I question whether John Hume, the SDLP Party or any other party in the North could get Catholics to make up 40 per cent of the police force or the Northern Ireland regiment.

There is an obligation on the British Government to protect the lives, limbs and properties of every individual, both Catholic and Protestant, in Northern Ireland. Its security is weak to the extent that it cannot provide protection in the Catholic areas because the Catholic community see the RUC as a Protestant force. It is regrettable that this is the case because many members of the RUC are trying in difficult circumstances to be honourable people and in many cases they are succeeding.

Where does the answer lie? The British Government will not be able to change matters in the next 25 years. They will be no different to the last 25 years unless it obtains the full co-operation of the Government on this side of the Border. I see the future of Ireland as based on security, political renewal and economic co-operation in a new arrangement between the British and Irish Governments. If the British Government wish us to play [216] a full part on the security front it must recognise that we must have a political input. The Catholics and the Protestants in Northern Ireland must be told that they must talk about security and political renewal. The Protestant political leaders will talk about security but not political renewal. The Catholics will talk about political renewal but not security. Both must talk together about security and political renewal. This Government must talk about economic co-operation; and if that means parity with Sterling the sooner the better, because we want trading between communities North and South of the Border.

I do not see any option other than shared responsibility between Governments to ensure the protection of the lives, limbs and properties of people living in Northern Ireland. That is the sole responsibility of the British Government. It is failing in its responsibility in that it needs our co-operation to meet its responsibility. Therefore, I ask the Government to negotiate with the British Government on their shared responsibility to provide protection and stop the present violence.

I do not believe in internment. However, if any one challenges the authority of the British or Irish Governments to share responsibility in respect of Northern Ireland, they should be told bluntly, in unambiguous language, that if they do not behave themselves, whether in the North or South, they will be locked up and will be released when they behave themselves. They will be well treated while interned. The Northern politicians who say they will not share responsibility should be told it is not our choice to share responsibility for the governing of Northern Ireland — we would prefer them to do it — but the politicians have the obligation to find the political structures to govern Northern Ireland. If they cannot agree those structures, regrettably the only option is shared responsibility. I hope the politicians in Northern Ireland find another solution.

Mr. McGahon: Information on Brendan McGahon  Zoom on Brendan McGahon  On Saturday afternoon I was visiting a zoo in Berlin when I heard [217] the news of the massacre in Belfast. My first reaction was a sense of shame and my second was to wonder how Irish people living abroad felt when a massacre on such a scale occurs in their home country. Nearby a German said “Irish scum” and I could not blame him. I hung my head. As someone who has had a grandstand seat and witnessed atrocities in Northern Ireland during the last 25 years, I do not believe there is any solution. The gulf between Unionism and Republicanism is similar to that between a husband and wife who cannot live together. Their aspirations are irreconcilable and the sooner that is recognised the better. In that context I must criticise the Anglo-Irish Agreement. At the time it was initiated it was a laudable document. With the passing of time it has become a disaster, a recipe for much of the trouble that has occurred in the last seven years. We are now reaping the inevitable consequences of the seeds sown in that document which excluded the Unionist voice and gave notice of further impositions on Unionist people, who number one million. The rhetoric and bull which I have heard here in Northern Ireland debates over the last 11 years would make a stairway across the Irish Sea.

The hard reality is that aspirations and appeals for peace and vigils are fruitless. Rhetoric is useless when people are being killed on such a scale. Over 24 years 4,000 people have been buried and over 100,000 people have been injured; many having lost limbs and sight. We need realistic measures to prevent the North of Ireland being turned into a slaughter house, and that is why internment, objectionable though it might be in normal society, is a possible answer, along with capital punishment. People who murder on the scale of the IRA and the UVF should not be allowed to live. They are the scum of the earth and they bring shame on our country internationally. Tough measures must be introduced. Repeated appeals for peace are pointless. The pope came here in 1979 and they did not listen to him. They are not likely to listen to platitudes.

Mr. Adams's action tonight in carrying [218] that coffin is not a peace signal to the Unionist community. Mr. Hume was correct in talking to him but following the holocaust on the Shankill Road last Saturday, he should suspend those talks immediately and talk to the people who matter, the moderate Unionists who have indicated their willingness to talk to constitutional parties.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  I would like to share my time with Deputy Pat Gallagher.

An Leas-Ceann Comhairle:  Agreed.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  Deputy McGahon told us where he was when the dreadful news of last Saturday's bombing broke. It is a bit like the assassination of President Kennedy in that many people remembered exactly where they were at the time of the tragedy. I was addressing a group of Tipperary emigrants in London when this tragedy occurred. Such tragedies affect all sorts of people far removed from the immediate area. We must remember that in mainland Britain innocent English and Irish people are often confronted with bombs, bomb scares and inconvenience and it is only when one is part of it that one realises how serious the situation is. It is very serious for both the British and Irish Governments and for all constitutional politicians. The weekend events have been among the most horrific ever witnessed here. The Saturday bombing and the attacks which it triggered have led to the bloodiest period in Northern Ireland history. The victims of these massacres come from both sides of the community. There is naked sectarianism on both sides. Television and newspapers have carried pictures of children orphaned by people who in order to secure self-determination believe that it is legitimate to bomb and maim.

The events of the weekend have further undermined the Hume-Adams peace initiative. This initiative was on the periphery of dialogue that was going on elsewhere. Many people were optimistic as to the outcome but last weekend the Provisional IRA made the prospect of reaching a solution much more difficult [219] to achieve. The bomb and the bullet are not the instruments of peace and cannot help a peace initiative. The only way to a lasting peace is through consensus and dialogue. Peace achieved through force will not last. That aspect was dealt with in the Opsahl report. Neither side has the power to veto the other, so a forced solution would sink in the sand on which it was built.

Since the formation of this Government, the Tánaiste, Deputy Dick Spring, has worked at developing contacts and relationships across communities and with the British Government. He has put the North of Ireland at the top of his political agenda and at the top of the Government agenda and has repeatedly said that lasting peace can only be achieved through consensus. What future would we have if even a tiny majority believed that violence should be used to secure a political aim? The use of violence to achieve an end would do a grave disservice to future generations. Although this week has been one of the cruellest and most dreadful weeks in our history it tells us that we must continue to work for peace and not be put off our endeavours by the men of violence. Peace can only be achieved by negotiation.

Those who want to achieve peace must lay down their arms so that we can have peaceful dialogue which will take on board the views of the different traditions in the North. We cannot tolerate people who justify the use of violence in order to obtain peace. This Government will remain committed in its opposition to men of violence.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat Gallagher  Zoom on Pat Gallagher  (Laoighis-Offaly): I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate which is taking place in such sad circumstances. In the past I consistently declined to enunciate a position on Northern Ireland. I approach the subject with much interest and with some experience, having been involved for a number of years in youth and community work in Belfast in Nationalist and Unionist areas with Loyalist and Republican [220] people and with young people from the city of Belfast and from my own area in the midlands. My views are formed by my experiences in that area. From that background I find the happenings of Saturday and of yesterday most tragic as I know both areas quite well. Indeed, one of the groups with whom I worked closely is situated on Kennedy Way. I made contact with them yesterday morning and learned that the community there is confused, bewildered and outraged.

One other point is that we should avail of every opportunity to promote the concept of integrated education, not necessarily by scrapping immediately the present structures, to allow young people in places such as west Belfast, in particular, White Rock and Rathcoole, to meet, mix and socialise with young people from other communities. I found when I brought young people from that city to the Republic, Holland or Germany that they quickly discovered they had more in common than they thought, that they formed relationships and got on very well together. However, on their return this was brought to an end very quickly. We should avail of every opportunity to promote the concept of integrated education.

Democratically elected politicians, North and South, must provide leadership. Something must be done in an effort to break the logjam. In this regard, I support the efforts being made by John Hume to break the logjam on the Republican-Nationalist side. No party has done more, particularly at election time, to fight Sinn Féin than the SDLP, yet John Hume has the courage to engage in this process which may or may not work. We should not condemn those who are trying to achieve what we all want to achieve, which is to get the paramilitaries to lay down their arms. We should avail of every opportunity to get them to do this. I appeal to Unionists and to their democratically elected politicians to seize every opportunity on their side to do the same.

Many people have drawn an analogy between Northern Ireland and what is happening in South Africa. In South [221] Africa, people who held diametrically opposed views had the courage to move from fixed positions. I say to the Unionist leadership in Northern Ireland that if they show courage we will support them, that if they argue their case and put their goods in the shop window we will take this into account. If they show courage and take on the men of violence on their own side I can assure them, as a democratically elected politician on this part of the island, that I will be open, understanding, flexible and accommodating.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I am glad to have this opportunity to say a few words in this debate or series of statements, brief though it is. I should start by saying that my party and at least one other in this House tried for several weeks to have a debate on Northern Ireland but we were told that this was not possible because there were very sensitive matters which could not be disclosed to this House and that a debate would be held at some future date. Lo and behold, a debate is being held today which I suppose is welcome but most people are of the view that this debate is being held because bombs went off in Belfast last Saturday and there have been reprisals. That is not the real reason; it is only the superficial reason. The real reason this debate is being held today is that a motion of no confidence in the Government was tabled and was due to be taken today. This is an admirable counter attraction to divert attention from the matters which led to that motion of no confidence being tabled.

It is regrettable that it is only at times like this and in circumstances such as these, following a series of atrocities, that a debate is held here. We are not unique in this. Last Friday there was a debate on Northern Ireland in the House of Commons. They do not wait for atrocities to happen. I saw some of it on television last Friday night and only a handful of members were present. On Monday when the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland had to deal with the tragic and barbarous events that occurred during the weekend the House of Commons was full.

[222] Should we ask ourselves, as Deputy Harney and Deputy Gilmore did earlier in this debate, who is making the running? Is it people like ourselves who are democratic politicians and want to stick to the constitutional path or is it those who reject this? The truth is that it is the latter. I, the leader of my party, Deputy Harney, and others like us in this House are not to be trusted with any information about what arose from the discussions that took place over a period of six months between Mr. Hume and Mr. Adams. As someone who stood in this House and bore the heat of the day from the Provisional IRA and their fellow travellers 23 years ago this year, the brunt of it from the side of the House and quite a bit from behind my back, I resent the fact that I cannot be trusted while Mr. Adams, Mr. McGuinness and the members of the Army Council of the IRA can be trusted and given all the details and issue statements approving it. The first people to be briefed, before the Irish Government or anyone else, were the people who made the decision to place the bomb at 273 Shankill Road last Saturday. They are the people who are given priority while Members of this House who are committed to democratic and constitutional means to change and improve the position on this island are brushed aside because we are of no consequence. For those who choose to follow that path that is a very slippery one indeed.

As we stand here to take part in a meaningless debate to discuss a matter hidden from us, we should ask ourselves what is the effect of dealing with a proponent of violence who refuses to refute or abandon violence. If one deals with and gives credibility to such a person, one is encouraging those of a like mind or ilk on the other side of the divide in Northern Ireland to adopt the same procedures and process. They will say that Gerry Adams is being half accepted both in this country and throughout the world as some kind of quasi-statesman, not because he has a democratic mandate but because he represents at the political level those who have resorted to violence [223] for over 20 years and who have killed and maimed thousands of people. Is this not an encouragement to others to follow the same path and is it not an extremely dangerous course to take? Is it not untrue to say that if an initiative of that kind fails nothing will have changed? I think it is untrue to say that because a great many things will have changed if it fails. This may well happen.

On a number of occasions I have asked in his House for the appointment of a Minister with sole responsibility for Northern Ireland. At the beginning of this month when the House reassembled, I put down a Question to the Taoiseach asking if he would consider doing that and giving some of the reasons I thought it was vital, as a result of my own experience particularly last year at the talks in Stormont, in Dublin and in London where I saw the absolute necessity of having somebody from the Irish Government who had no other distractions. Curiously enough, a Cheann Comhairle, you ruled out my question on the grounds that the Taoiseach had no responsibility in the matter. If the Taoiseach does not have responsibility for appointing Ministers, who does?

I avail of the brief opportunity afforded by this debate to reiterate to the Taoiseach and to all parties in this House the vital necessity of having somebody dealing with nothing except Northern Ireland. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, who at present has responsibility for Northern Ireland, has responsibility for a myriad of functions, including talking, not terribly successfully it seems, to the President of the European Commission at 5.30 in the morning and getting matters rather confused, to say the least, with very serious consequences for this country.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That debate is for tomorrow.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  As I tried to say at the outset, today and tomorrow are inextricably interlinked and if the British Government regard Northern Ireland as [224] of sufficient importance to have a full-time Secretary of State and six or seven parliamentary secretaries, it is not asking too much that the Government of the Republic should have at least one person who has no other responsibilities to take the Northern Ireland brief. The necessity is brought home to us in the vivid carnage, in the blood of people, when we see the events of the last weekend. Even if last weekend never had happened, my suggestion is valid and should be acted on to show that we are serious and will commit ourselves full-time to finding a solution.

Finally, I endorse the suggestion by Deputy Harney that if there are some who will not take part in a democratic dialogue, let us leave them aside for the moment at least and let all men and women of goodwill from parties of goodwill who are prepared to take part in a dialogue sit down and enter into that dialogue. How many more times must the people of Northern Ireland go through not just what they have gone through in the last week but in the last 22 or 23 years?

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  Deputy O'Malley's party has made much of the fact that they are not being allowed in on the negotiations and the text of the documents on the Hume-Adams talks. I would like to remind him that negotiations in the two outstanding areas of conflict, South Africa and the Middle East, have been carried on behind closed doors. In the Middle East they have been carried on in a different country without any of the opposition parties having anything to do with them and I think, and I hope Deputy O'Malley would agree, that they are beginning to reach a reasonably successful conclusion.

James Connolly once remarked that Ireland without its people meant nothing to him. The proclamation he signed in Easter Week called on people not to dishonour the Republic by cowardice and inhumanity. The perpetrators of the Shankill Road massacre are guilty of sickening hypocrisy by claiming to act in the name of that Republic. If the slaughter [225] of women and little children is not cowardice and inhumanity, what is?

It is equally nauseating to hear Loyalist gunmen claim that they are defending the Protestant religion by murdering innocent Catholics, and it was frightening to hear them announcing last weekend that they would avenge the Shankill by targeting the entire Catholic community. There have been over 20 such murders in the recent past and no single one has attracted more than minimum publicity.

I happen to believe that the eventual unity of Ireland, in one form or another, would be the most productive outcome for everybody on this island. However, like Deputy Currie, I am well aware that the majority of people in Northern Ireland would not agree with me, and that is their right. I would like to think that one day they may be persuaded to change their minds, but I will never tolerate a situation where any human being's life is forfeit simply because he or she holds a particular opinion. Right now we must pay more attention to the feelings and the welfare of the people of Ireland and less to the interminable arguments about territory. The feelings of people include a sense of belonging to one tradition or another. It is surely possible to accommodate both but it will probably take at least a generation to wipe out the bitterness of the past 25 years.

It makes me sad that after 25 years of murder and mayhem some politicians are still coming out with the same sterile old statements and all kinds of preconditions before they will be prepared to talk to anybody. Meanwhile people are dying on the streets of Belfast and elsewhere. How can one justify this attitude to the bereaved families of the victims of Provo and Loyalist killers? The latest convenient bogey-man is Mr. John Hume. Like the rest of us, he was aware that for years the countless appeals and condemnations from politicians were completely ignored. Eventually he decided to reach out to at least half of the equation of violence. He began to talk at length to the leader of Provisional Sinn Féin in the hope that he could persuade him that [226] murder and destruction serve no purpose whatsoever. The credentials of Mr. John Hume are unquestioned except by those of opposite extremes. He always argues his case with devastating logic, and it is already clear from the joint Hume-Adams statement that the two men have reached quite a remarkable consensus.

The statement signed by Mr. Adams clearly acknowledges that any agreement must have the consent of the Unionist and Nationalist communities. This is a giant step from the old “Brits Out — wrap the Green Flag around me — United Ireland” solution which took little account of the wishes of Unionists. This statement, together with the guarantees from both Governments, endorses the position that the majority of people in Northern Ireland must give their consent to any new arrangement and that every party at the conference table must have renounced violence as a means to a political end. We have to ask what some Unionist politicians are afraid of when they say they will not talk to Mr. Hume or anybody else representing the Nationalist community. I would like to see Unionist politicians of the calibre of Mr. Ken Magennis, Mr. Martin Smyth, Dr. Ian Paisley or our own Senator Gordon Wilson talking to the UDA leadership in the same way that Mr. Hume is doing with Mr. Adams. A complete cessation and renunciation of violence on both sides will clear the way for calm deliberation. No one has ever been killed by talking. In the present circumstances he who refuses to talk is clearly saying that he is incapable of compromise, even if it means the saving of countless lives and the well-being of children yet unborn.

The late Mr. John Healy had little time for the “play safe” politicians whose idea of leadership was “there goes the mob, I must follow”. It sometimes takes great courage to provide real leadership without looking over one's shoulder. This is the type of leadership recently shown by Martin Smyth and John Hume.

My message to Mr. Adams at this time is to show his good faith by doing his utmost to persuade his friends in the Provisional IRA to bring an immediate end [227] to their campaign without any preconditions. If the Loyalist paramilitaries refuse to follow suit, I do not have to spell out where the sympathies of Great Britain and the rest of the world would lie.

I meant to ask if I could share my time with Deputy Dermot Ahern.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Chair would much prefer that a request to share time would be made at the commencement of the Deputy's speech. I am sure there will be no objection.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  In reply to what Deputy O'Malley had to say, I think it would be morbid in the extreme if we were to debate the Structural Funds today in the light of the situation pertaining on our island in the past few days.

Deputy O'Malley indicated that a Minister for Northern Ireland Affairs should be appointed by the Government. Yet I did not see that point in the Programme for Government which he put in place with Fianna Fáil a number of years ago. During a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs discussion I called for the establishment of a Northern Ireland committee. It is time such a committee was set up so that from time to time issues of importance in relation to the two islands could be debated. I compliment two of the elder statesmen in this Chamber, Deputy Lenihan and Deputy Harte, on their contributions and the views they have expressed. I do not think this debate is worthless, as one or two speakers said. It is an extremely good debate.

Deputy McDowell and myself, together with one or two other Deputies recently attended the British-Irish Association Conference. Deputy McDowell and I were members of a working group of that conference which discussed whether the situation is such in the North that people are crying out for action from the politicians. I was astounded by the reaction of some very distinguished and supposedly expert people on Northern Ireland affairs, [228] people from within Northern Ireland, who said the position in the North is not bad enough to warrant such action. Parallels were drawn with the position in Israel and South Africa and it was stated that if these countries can come to terms with their problems why can we not do the same. I wondered why we were debating the matter if the position in the North was not bad enough to warrant action. I wonder do the people who made these statements at the time feel the same way, given the events of last weekend. It is incumbent on every elected representative on this island, particularly in the South, to constantly seek a solution to the Northern problems. I compliment the Fine Gael Party for going across the Border and meeting with people on both sides of the divide.

Today I took part in a debate with a Unionist from a neighbouring constituency of mine. I am co-chairman of the British-Irish interparliamentary body and it has come to light that the UK is discussing the establishment of a select committee to try to appease the Unionists. Yet the Unionists will not partake in the British-Irish interparliamentary body which was set up not by the two Governments but by the two Parliaments. Even though many Unionists believe in a British-Irish forum, they refuse to participate in the interparliamentary body. I suggest that the Taoiseach and John Major, who will meet next Friday, should encourage the Unionists to join the British-Irish interparliamentary body before a select committee is put in place. That is the ideal forum for them at which to articulate their fears and aspirations with backbench Deputies from the Republic and Members of Parliament from the UK.

Much of the blame for the problems on this island rests with successive British Governments. I was astounded at the suggestion in Mrs. Thatcher's book that at some stage there was talk of redrawing the Border. Thankfully somebody advised that such a course of action should not be taken. That would be almost akin to what is in Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement which, in my [229] humble opinion, is a fallacious article in that it states that the day there is 50 per cent plus one in favour of a United Ireland we will promote, in both Houses of Parliament, legislation to bring that about. I would not like to be around the day that happens because the Unionists, rather than being a majority in the Six Counties, will be, against their wishes, a minority on the island.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Sorry, Deputy, the time has come to call another speaker.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  That is something that must be borne in mind if a settlement is to be reached. Finally——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am sorry, but I have given the Deputy some latitude. There is a rigid time limit to this debate.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  I propose, with your agreement, Sir, to share my time with Deputy Enda Kenny.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  In a very compressed debate such as this it is impossible to set out fully any line of thought. Therefore I will refer to what I said in this House on 1 April last on these issues in volume 429, columns 79-85 of the Official Report. I stand by the views I expressed at that time, one of which is that the two fundamental political aspirations in Northern Ireland are irreconcilable, neither one can be realised without dashing the other. I am strongly of the view that we should stop trying to square that circle because that enterprise is impossible.

The idea behind the three strand talks which broke down last year was that the agreed outcome would be simultaneously put to a referendum of the people on both sides of the Border. In that way the intention would be to make it clear that terrorists have no mandate on any part of this island. That idea was first developed by Mr. John Hume, and its force is immediately clear and evident.

[230] The problem, however, is to know what question to put to the people. If the question leaves open, appears to leave open or can be represented as leaving open the possibility of a United Ireland, even at some unspecified date in the future, the likelihood is that there would be a majority for that question on this side of the Border and a majority against it on the other side. If, on the other hand, the question put to the people maintains, appears to maintain or can be represented as maintaining the union of Northern Ireland with Great Britain, the likelihood is that there would be a majority against that question on this side of the Border and a majority in favour of it on the other side. I am less sure about that than about the first question, but on balance it seems that would be the case. Therefore answering either of those two fundamental questions, or any of their many variants, will not solve the problem.

Politicians who are elected to find solutions to political problems must then ask, if it is impossible to find a way forward by answering either of those questions, which seems to be the case, what is possible? I expressed my view on this matter on 1 April last. Since then we have had the views of the Opsahl Commission and their reflections on the evidence it heard North and South of the Border and elsewhere. I was gratified that the commission, not because it agrees with me but because it is a sensible way to proceed, developed a good deal further along the line of thinking which I put before this House last April. I will quote from the Opsahl report which, if we take note of it, might result in a worth-while solution. It states:

It is evident from the views submitted to the Commission that a parliamentary system of government based on the Westminster model, with its emphasis on majority rule, is not a suitable model for the governing of this fundamentally divided society.

In Northern Ireland, as currently constituted, notions which may be discarded are that:

[231] (a) Northern Ireland is like any other part of the United Kingdom;

(b) the communities in Northern Ireland will agree to independence;

(c) the United Kingdom will withdraw from Northern Ireland under pressure of violence;

(d) the Republic of Ireland will renounce the aim of Irish unity;

(e) Irish unity is a realistic prospect in the foreseeable future.

It also appeared from what we heard and read that:

1. Majority rule in Northern Ireland, whether simple or proportionate, is not currently a viable proposition. The Nationalist Community has no obligation to agree to it and has the critical mass to prevent its imposition.

2. The Unionist community will not accept an administration for Northern Ireland that gives an executive role to anyone outside the United Kingdom.

Those statements are unchallengeable in any political analysis. The Opsahl Commission came to the conclusion that:

The task of creating a government for Northern Ireland within the limits described above should not be beyond the realm of the possible and the practicable. In essence, we consider that provided that Irish nationalism is legally recognised in Northern Ireland, a government of Northern Ireland should be put in place, based on the principle that each community has an equal voice in making and executing the laws or a veto on their execution, and equally shares administrative authority.

This government should be free to discuss and negotiate its relationships, institutional and other, with the Government of the Republic of Ireland.

It is in the context of that exposition that we should seek to find — and where, I [232] believe, we would find — fruitful ground for action by the Governments and the constitutional parties. It is only in the context of an agreement on a formula such as that set out by the Opsahl Commission that we will find a practical means — not perhaps an ideal means — of making it clear that the people of this island want to live in peace and reject the use of murder and terror to achieve any of their aims.

In conclusion, I have to say that any solution or attempted solution which is based on an effort to vindicate either one of the fundamental political aspirations in Northern Ireland seems to fatally lack the conditions required because it will not achieve the agreement which is needed in order to make it possible for constitutional politicians to say beyond any doubt or gains say that the terrorists have no mandate. It is time we started looking along those practical lines for a solution and stopped chasing dreams which are unrealisable.

Mr. E. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I regard the solution to the problems in Northern Ireland as the ultimate challenge to democratic politics on this island. If peace is to be achieved on this island, ultimately it has to be achieved between the Nationalist and Unionist communities. There is some common ground between those two important traditions.

I spent the last two days in Belfast as part of a Fine Gael committee and I have to say that I was saddened and appalled by the conditions in which the people of that city have to live. Equally, I was humbled by the courage and energy displayed by people involved in democratic politics in Belfast and Northern Ireland generally. These people live in terror every day and night. This puts into context the scale of the measures required to bring about a resolution of this problem. Just as the gunmen on both sides of the divide have brought their actions to a new horrible level, the engine of democratic politics must respond at the highest level. The Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister must bring this issue to the centre of the political agenda. There is [233] a deal of common ground between all parties and traditions in this conflict and it is on that common ground that foundations must be built which will eventually enable the men of violence on both sides to be dealt with through the democratic process.

When one looks at the faces and into the eyes of the people on the streets of Belfast one can see the fear with which they live. It is sad that Irish people should have to live in fear of the wrong car pulling up at traffic lights, sudden noises and unpredictable events. If the people in this forum wish to understand what is happening in Northern Ireland and the complexity of life for the people there, it behoves them to acquaint themselves with the situation on the streets. I hope that this debate will give the Taoiseach the impetus to explain the Government's strategy to us prior to his meeting with the British Prime Minister so that we can judge whether or not valid progress is being made.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I wish to share my time with Deputy Micheál Martin.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Dr. O'Hanlon: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  On every occasion there has been a debate on Northern Ireland during my 16 years as a Deputy there has been ongoing violence in the North which has caused a loss of life, injury and suffering in both communities. Not alone must we always condemn violence, but as democratic politicians we must work with more urgency to try to find a solution to the tragedy in the North.

The best way forward is through the three strands of talks — the talks between the two communities in the North, the talks between North and South and the talks between the British and Irish Governments. It is disappointing that these talks have not been resumed, particularly as there is no justification for the delay. A I said in this House in April, I do not understand why the talks cannot resume. Deputy Kenny said that there [234] is much common ground between the communities living on this island. There is no reason these communities cannot sit down and discuss the issues on which there is agreement and leave the more difficult constitutional issues until the end of the talks process.

I fully support John Hume in his peace initiatives. He is a man whose judgment I respect. John Hume has been to the forefront of democratic constitutional Nationalist politics for the past 30 years. I hope he will succeed in his efforts to help create the environment which will bring an end to violence on the Nationalist side. I should also like Unionist politicians to talk to Loyalist paramilitaries in an effort to direct them away from violence, which can only lead to further suffering.

The best way of achieving peace is through the talks at the three different levels. I would question the wisdom of establishing a select committee on Northern Ireland by the House of Commons. I do not understand what role that committee will play in the negotiations. Such a committee will make no contribution to peace in Northern Ireland. Indeed, decisions may well be made by that committee which will frustrate peace. There are many other fora in which this issue could be dealt with — for example, the British-Irish Parliamentary Group. I would like to see the Unionist parties participating in that group.

As a Deputy from a Border constituency, I am very concerned at the misrepresentation about the level of security along the Border contained in the memoirs of the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. She must have known of the commitment of successive Irish Governments, the Irish Army and the Garda Síochána to eradicate terrorism on this island. She must also have known that this commitment cost £450 million per year, which is much more in per capita terms than the money spent by the British Government on security on its side of the Border. I am disappointed she did not recognise, as successive Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland have, the contribution made [235] to security by the Irish Army and the Garda Síochána on this side of the Border.

Having grown up in Northern Ireland and as a Deputy for a Border constituency, I respect the rights of both communities in Northern Ireland. It is very important to stress yet again that the right of the Nationalists to be Irish cannot be disregarded. Deputy Dukes outlined an option which he thought might work. While I would accept that all options have to be examined, I believe that what was decided by the parties in the New Ireland Forum is the best way forward — the right of the people of Ireland, Nationalist and Unionist, to determine their future without any pressure on anyone to participate. Talks between the various parties is the way forward. I would like to see those talks resume as soon as possible so that we might reach a solution to the problems on this island where all the people can live in harmony together.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  A Cheann Comhairle, could you indicate how much time I am allowed?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy is due to conclude at 7.26 p.m.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  I wish to share my time with Deputy Mattie Brennan.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am sure that is satisfactory.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  I appreciate the opportunity which has been afforded to me and indeed to the House to condemn the terrible atrocities that have occurred in recent days. I am somewhat disappointed at the rather divisive note which has entered the debate, first in so far as we had to have a vote on the actual procedures to be adopted and, second, at the suggestion made by Deputy O'Malley that this debate was a counter measure to the vote of confidence and was an attempt to postpone it. I found that suggestion very disturbing and I resent it [236] deeply, because a vote of confidence or any other issues that we have to debate in this House pale in significance in the context of the enormity of the atrocities that occurred in Belfast last weekend. It is imperative that this House would address this issue and join in unified condemnation of what occurred.

I want to take the opportunity of paying tribute to the courage and the enormous contribution which John Hume has made to increasing an understanding of the Northern problem among Southern people and their opinion. Indeed, as a young person growing up — I was eight years of age in 1968 — I had a southern perspective of the ongoing atrocities in Northern Ireland and of the whole issue. My understanding of the problem has been improved enormously by John Hume. He has contributed greatly to moderating opinion on both sides of the Border and we should never forget that. I take him very seriously when he says that he is personally convinced that there was and is a basis for peace in the process in which he engaged with Gerry Adams. I have listened intently to his statements over the past few days and he has repeated that view. He has made comments such as “I am not an idiot, I know what I am saying and I am saying this with total deliberation”. We cannot run away from statements such as those nor can we ignore opportunities that may lie therein. However, in the aftermath of what has happened, to suggest that the British and Irish Governments should make an immediate response is somewhat unrealistic and insensitive to what has taken place.

The only way forward for a formula which has, in the Tánaiste's own words, been “grievously damaged”, is for Gerry Adams to go to the IRA and request a full cessation of all violence. If some agreement or formula is achieved or if there is some understanding of the basic principles, they should put those to the test in the context of a full cessation of violence and Gerry Adams and the IRA should make the first move in that regard. They should not be putting preconditions to the two Governments that if they agree [237] to certain issues there will be a cessation of violence. The responsibility is totally on the Provisional IRA to take that bold step.

If one considers what Martin Smyth has said in the past and certain responses from the Unionist community, and if one considers the British Government's position and the evolution of its policy over the past ten years, it is quite clear that the British Government does not have a strategic or imperialistic approach to Northern Ireland. It is there to facilitate a proper resolution of the problem with a full accommodation of all concerns. Given those objective facts, such a move by the Provisional IRA could assist the peace process.

We should acknowledge also that the Unionists, through the Official Unionist Party, have made considerable attempts in recent times to bridge the divide. They have come to Dublin, they have met with the Irish Government, they have put forward proposals and they deserve a meaningful and sensitive response. I am conscious that within Unionism there is a genuine desire to secure an all-party agreement on Northern Ireland, particularly in relation to the constitutional parties. That desire should be met with a response and that was implicit in the Taoiseach's statement today when he said that the peace process involves a much wider process than the Hume-Adams initiative.

If one examines the contents of the Opsahl Commission report one finds a palpable sense of war weariness among the population in Northern Ireland. People on all sides have had enough and in that context peace initiatives should be proceeded with.

Mr. M. Brennan: Information on Matt Brennan  Zoom on Matt Brennan  I wish to condemn the violence that occurred last Saturday in the Shankill Road in Belfast. I admire the courage of John Hume in speaking to Gerry Adams. The Unionist politicians should speak to the UVF, as Gerry Adams is speaking to the IRA, because everyone must condemn what happened in the Shankill Road last Saturday. The statement by the UVF that they would [238] retaliate for the atrocity was very sad. I want to say to the Unionist politicians that they should talk to these men of violence because as Deputy Enda Kenny has said — he has been in Belfast during the past few days — the people of Belfast are living in constant fear in their homes not knowing when a knock will come to the door. No bolt on a door is sufficient when it can be broken down with a sledgehammer and a 74 year old man can be shot, having been previously terrorised for an hour.

This is the sad reality of what is happening in Northern Ireland today. I want to say to the Taoiseach, who is meeting John Major next Friday, that Mr. Major should be told some home truths about what is happening in Northern Ireland. Do the British politicians realise what is happening in Northern Ireland, or have they any interest in what is happening there? The people in South Africa have come together and next year for the first time both black and white citizens will be elected to the one parliament. Consider what took place between Israel and the Palestinians and what happened when the Berlin Wall came down. But the Six Counties of Northern Ireland have been a problem for years and will continue to be a problem. However, men such as John Hume should be admired as politicians. Now the onus is on the Unionist politicians to speak to the men of violence and, hopefully, end all violence in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  I wish to share my time with Deputy Seymour Crawford.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.

Mr. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  Until Deputy Martin mentioned it a moment ago, I was unaware that Deputy O'Malley had suggested that the debate was being held today so that the Government could have a distraction from the debate on the Structural Funds. It is a thought that occurred to me when I heard this morning that this debate was taking place, given that for the past three weeks Opposition parties have been [239] requesting a debate on Northern Ireland and have been refused such a debate. To quote T.S. Elliot: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason”. Having said that, I would prefer the Government to have this debate on Northern Ireland because it created a distraction from the rightful criticism it will receive over its handling of the Structural Funds issue than for it to be held as a reaction to the violence that took place over the weekend.

Far too often we have come into this House over the past 25 years for debates like this provoked by violence, not just in the North of Ireland but in other parts of Britain and Ireland; we have had Warrington, Brighton, Enniskillen, the Miami showband incident and, as we were reminded yesterday with the resignation of Bishop Edward Daly of Derry, Bloody Sunday over 20 years ago. It has all been words, necessary words of sympathy to people, many of them innocent, with no political involvement, certainly no involvement in violent organisations, who have lost their lves in circumstances in which politicians did not do their duty. We do not have debates in this House when there has not been violence, when we could take a more considered, long term view. Such a view — as was referred to earlier by Deputy O'Hanlon — was taken by the Nationalist politicians on this island when they drew up the New Ireland Forum Report over ten years ago out of which came the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. I think everybody in this House now supports the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

I want to remind the House of the purpose of that Agreement which was contained in its preamble and which contains:

...Recognising the need for continuing efforts to reconcile and to acknowledge the rights of the two major traditions that exist in Ireland, represented on the one hand by those who wish for no change in the present status of northern Ireland and on the [240] other hand by those who aspire to a sovereign united Ireland achieved by peaceful means and through agreement;

“... by peaceful means and through agreement”. That is the solemn declaration by two Governments, endorsed by two Parliaments and registered with the United Nations as an international agreement.

There have been two British Prime Ministers since, first, Mrs. Thatcher — Deputy O'Hanlon referred to her total miscomprehension of what the agreement was about — who understood it to be something to improve the security arrangements between Britain and Ireland. As was pointed out to her on numerous occasions — I have made endless speeches on it myself in this House and outside it — the solution to the problems of Northern Ireland will not be achieved by security means, rather the solution will be achieved by political means and we politicians have a responsibility to devise those means to bring about that solution.

Mr. Major — even though he says no deal exists, nor was any offered or accepted — by his agreement with the Unionists to obtain their support to get the Maastricht Treaty through the House of Commons in July last, and the payoff for that agreement — evidently, the establishment of a committee of the House of Commons on Northern Ireland affairs — has taken a step back from the Anglo-Irish Agreement because he is substituting for that Agreement an integrationist policy on the part of the British Government. The Tánaiste has an obligation to point that out to the British Government. In fact a special meeting of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference should have been called in July last to point that out to the British Government, not that inherently is there anything wrong with a committee of the House of Commons to debate Northern Ireland affairs. But it is the political implications, both in the North of Ireland and in the House of Commons, of the formation of such a committee that [241] amounts to a negation of clauses in the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I believe the Tánaiste has an obligation to point that out to the British Government.

How much time remains, A Cheann Comhairle?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The time available to the two Members concerned expires at 7.38 p.m.

Mr. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  I want to say something about the Unionist-Major pact, something about which this Government should have protested much more vigorously than they did. The other matter is the Hume-Adams talks. Bishop Edward Daly said yesterday — and we should take note of it — that John Hume had moved towards Gerry Adams, that it was now Gerry Adams's turn to reciprocate by moving towards John Hume.

Any elected politician on this island does not approve of what Gerry Adams stands for; they do not support his support for the men of violence. The only credibility he has at present is given him by John Hume whom everybody, Unionists and Nationalists on this island, respect, whose judgment in most matters they share. Therefore, Gerry Adams, if he wanted to retain the cloak of respectability given him by these talks with one of the most respected politicians on this island, has to deliver; he has to deliver a cessation of violence which he says he can do, that his word will be taken by the Provisional IRA and that they will do what he wants. If that is so, he must deliver that cessation in the immediate future and not call on the British or Irish Government to respond quickly to the demands. He has primary responsibility; the next step is his, to call for and insist on a cessation of violence so that the people of this island — and we are all affected by it — can live in peace together. If the politicial solution to the problems of this island had been found a generation ago we would not now be troubled by the amount of Structural Funds from Europe because our economy would have been transformed. However, there is a far better reason [242] that that, there would not now be 3,000 people dead.

Therefore, what is needed are politics and persuasion — persuasion on the part of the Irish Government of the British Government; persuasion on the part of the British Government of the Unionists and persuasion by Mr. Gerry Adams of his friends in the IRA to stop the violence and allow that political process to take over.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  I thank Deputy Barry for allowing me to make a few comments. Like others, I should like to join in expressing sympathy to all those who have been bereaved in the past few days from whichever side of the divide they come. Violence begets violence. Clearly, and very unfortunately, we have seen that to be the case. Having talked to some of my closest friends in Northern Ireland I realise that tensions there have not been so high since the Enniskillen massacre until the past few days. We must keep that fact in mind.

We all appreciate, which has been clearly acknowledged in this House, how much effort Mr. John Hume has put into trying to develop talks with Sinn Féin. Indeed one could not say this evening that there is much difference between Sinn Féin and the IRA when one witnessed the closeness of Gerry Adams today to the man who helped carry out the atrocity that occurred on the Shankill Road on Saturday last. Gerry Adams must clearly and immediately indicate his total rejection of violence in a clearer manner than he did this day if he is to retain any credibility in talks. Some of my own Church leaders, in the persons of the Right Reverend Godfrey Browne and the Right Reverend Jack Weir, also tried to talk to these people and spent a lot of time in that endeavour. Therefore, we can fully appreciate what John Hume is trying to do. He desperately wants peace on this island; we all do.

I appreciate the Tánaiste being present. In the short time remaining to me I want to ask the Tánaiste and also the Taoiseach to be as generous as possible, generous to a fault, in their endeavours [243] to get the talks going again among democratically elected people on this island. Of course I know it will be difficult at times; I know one can encounter small print difficulties but small print is much less important than people's lives. Indeed, what my party Leader did this week, going informally to visit both Unionists and Nationalists in Northern Ireland, is the type of simple, unorganised manner in which much good work can be done. If something like this is not done we will have nothing but anarchy in the future. I would remind the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste — I am aware of the Tánaiste's commitment to the whole process of peace — that we cannot overemphasise the need to be generous to a fault if we are to achieve proper dialogue between the two communities in Northern Ireland and bring about peace. We must ensure that the men of violence on either side do not have hundreds or even thousands of people quietly supporting and advising them that they are doing a good job. One would have to react rather angrily to some of the groups who have come out, even today, to show support for men of violence.

Mr. B. Fitzgerald: Information on Brian Fitzgerald  Zoom on Brian Fitzgerald  I propose to share my time with Deputy Derek McDowell.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.

Mr. B. Fitzgerald: Information on Brian Fitzgerald  Zoom on Brian Fitzgerald  Like the previous speaker I wish to extend my sincere sympathy to the relatives of the victims of the recent outrages in the northern part of our country. When one speaks on the tragedy in Northern Ireland one must be very careful in the language one uses as the matter is not just a political one but a threat to human life. When we speak of human life we speak of all human life — the innocent people caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, the security forces and the many misguided young people who carry out the most atrocious crimes. All of these people have much in common. They all have brothers and sisters, wives, husbands and relations [244] who suffer great grief at the loss of loved ones. No constitutional politician or political party on either side of the political divide in Northern Ireland has the luxury to refuse to sit down and discuss and explore all avenues which could lead to a lasting solution to the conflict.

The British Government also should not allow themselves to be deflected in any way, either by their concern for a majority in the House of Commons or by the threat of further violence from whatever source, in their resolve, together with the Irish Government, to bring about a solution to the conflict. They, too, have an important role to play and they must not shirk from that responsibility where Northern Ireland is concerned.

Politicians in the south must ensure that in attempting to appease the Unionist population they do not appear to alienate the Nationalist community. If that happens, that section of the community will turn to the paramilitaries for protection. We know this because it has happened many times in the past. In addition, we must not forget the level of fear and mistrust which exists along both sides of the Border and which has built up not only during the past 25 years but many years before.

Any effort to bring about a cessation of violence must be welcomed. I, like other speakers, would like to take this opportunity to applaud John Hume for his courageous efforts to bring about a path to peace through his dialogue with Gerry Adams. A significant development on the path to peace is possible arising from this initiative. Perhaps Unionist politicians who have some influence with loyalist paramilitaries should be also open to dialogue in an attempt to convince them that murdering and bombing is not the way to achieve a lasting peace. Politicians must try to move forward from the events of the past few days. It is possible to create a climate in which both the British and Irish Governments can put forward a solution for a lasting peace to the people of this country.

Finally, I appeal to all politicians, and indeed, to certain commentators, not to [245] knock or to be too critical of the dialogue between Gerry Adams and John Hume. We must explore every avenue in order to bring the terrorists and the paramilitaries into the talks process proper. Before this happens those paramilitaries must put their weapons aside so that they can come in from the cold and participate in the process of achieving the lasting peace that everybody is crying out for on both sides of the Border.

Mr. D. McDowell: Information on Derek McDowell  Zoom on Derek McDowell  I wish to join with colleagues on both sides of this House in condemning unreservedly the violence of the past few days and those who perpetrated it. I sometimes feel, as I am sure many others do, that there is something perfunctory or almost a cliché, in the way we condemn violence and the perpetrators of violence. We have to ask ourselves what is the alternative. The moment we stop condemning violence and stop raising our voices to condemn those who perpetrate violence on our behalf is the moment of greatest danger, when — unnoticed perhaps to ourselves — we begin to accept that violence is part of our political culture. That is something we should never do.

I should like to say a few words about the Hume-Adams process. In my view the Unionist people of Northern Ireland have been badly served by their leaders during the past 15 years. By contrast John Hume stands out as leader of constitutional Nationalism who has shown on occasion clarity of vision and great leadership. For that reason many in the Republic and many in Northern Ireland also have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, to hope against hope, to trust his judgment that he was getting it right and that something will come from the process which he and Gerry Adams have initiated. While that hope has taken a battering during the past few days, we still hope something will come from that process so painfully started.

I am conscious too — as I know John Hume and the Tánaiste are — of the dangers involved. Those dangers should be articulated in this House. When [246] Unionists woke up some weekends ago to hear the comments on the RTE or the BBC news that John Hume was to give a report to the Irish Government about the conclusion of his talks with Sinn Féin many felt that this was the ultimate nightmare. The words spoken about the Pan-Nationalist front were suddenly beginning to come true. They saw it as the Irish Government being in consort, wittingly or otherwise, with Sinn Féin and the SDLP, dealing behind their backs with the British Government about their future. I know the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste wish to have no part in any Pan-Nationalist front and neither do I. We have no wish to deal with the British Government behind the backs of Unionists in Northern Ireland. The fact remains that that prejudice is there. The fact that part of this process has been in public, but mostly in private, has helped to fan the prejudices and has led to the perception of Unionists that something untoward was happening that would, in a sense, sell them down the river. For that reason I believe we must pursue that process with greater urgency. We must pursue it with great vigour over the next days and weeks because, as the Taoiseach said this afternoon, time is not on our side. We cannot continue to deal with it in this semi-light for much longer.

The danger in this process is that we will see it as the be all and end all. We must remind ourselves that we have at the table, in so far as negotiations are taking place, the representatives of constitutional nationalism and non-constitutional nationalism in this island, but the problem is largely one between Unionism and Nationalism. Governments have a role, our Government and the British Government have a role but in many ways it is peripheral. We can set the context and encourage and cajole the parties and perhaps, forcefully persuade the parties to do certain things. We can move along the process by taking action but ultimately there will not be peace in Northern Ireland until the people of different identities in Northern Ireland decide they want to live in peace and are willing to be part of a process of [247] negotiation which sets the parameters within which they will live together over the coming decades. That can only happen in the context of talks which involve not only John Hume and Sinn Féin but all parties in Northern Ireland.

I know our Government has been anxiously pursuing an agenda since last year of trying to get the talks going again. It is important at a time when our concentration is being deflected that we keep our eye on that ball and that we bear in mind the importance of getting all-party talks going as soon as possible in Northern Ireland.

Ms McManus: Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  I wish to join with the other expressions of sorrow at the grief of the families whose lives have been devastated in the past few days. These terrible events have resulted in this long sought for debate taking place but it must not end tonight. In the search for peace there is an onus on the Government to pursue public open debate and dialogue on Northern Ireland and dialogue in Northern Ireland. There is an onus on the Government too to set the context for a democratic initiative that is realistic, that rcognises that the State of Northern Ireland exists, that it has existed for a long time and will continue to exist as long as the people of Northern Ireland wish it to be so. The Opsahl report which was debated in the Seanad — unfortunately we did not get the opportunity to debate it in this Chamber — offers food for thought and particularly so on this debate. One point that Torkel Opsahl made is that:

The concept of national self-determination, which is the design behind so much death and destruction in the former Yugoslavia at the moment, is not a helpful one, particularly in a divided society like Northern Ireland.

When John Hume drew up his joint statement with Gerry Adams they agreed that:

We accept that an internal settlement is not a solution because it [248] obviously does not deal with all the relationships at the heart of the problem. We accept that the Irish people as a whole have a right to national self-determination——

We have seen that this so-called right has led people in former Yugoslavia into a terrible destructive war. If we are to prevent a deepening crisis on this island we have to find as democrats a different way from that articulated by John Hume and Gerry Adams. Any effort to draw terrorists away from violence is welcome but as democratically elected representatives we have a responsibility to establish a democratic agenda for peace and not one based on unreal and dangerous principles. The Government must recognise that the efforts to externalise the quest for reconciliation in Northern Ireland by taking power away from the people of Northern Ireland and locating it elsewhere in the hands of the British and Irish Governments is not the way forward. The Government must be humble about its ambitions.

The failure of the Anglo-Irish Agreement should be a lesson that a solution must include those parties who represent the people of the two communities. I am the daughter of an Ulster Protestant and a Southern Catholic. In the debate tonight Members referred to the other side and the concept of “us” and “them”. I do not see it as “us” and “them” because of my family situation and I am only one of many. We all live on a very small island and we need to stop talking about “us” and “them” in those terms and instead see “us” as those who are loyal to democracy and “them” as those who give their loyalty to the gun and to violence and set a difference that is based on reality rather than on something that does not exist. Ulster people are known for their plain speaking and as never before we need to speak plainly to them.

Our Constitution contains an imperative in Articles 2 and 3 which is an obstacle to peace and which no longer reflects the wishes of our people and provides a justification for acts of murder and devastation. One gesture that we can [249] make if we truly want peace is to agree to remove Articles 2 and 3 and their inherent threat from our Constitution. It is time for democrats to clear a space in the jungle to enable the constitutional parties to meet. Our Government must present a different perspective on the future of Northern Ireland from that of John Hume. John Hume is an able and committed representative for his electorate in Northern Ireland but our Government represents a larger community that has a different perspective. The interests and needs of an entire island must not be sacrificed for a Nationalist chimera. To continue with any illusion that the political process needed can lead to a united Ireland is highly irresponsible and destabilising. The Opsahl Commission put forward a concept of a new Government of Northern Ireland based on the principle that each community should have an equal voice in making and executing laws and an equal share of administrative authority. This was a radical proposal but it was found to have the support of over 63 per cent of people in Northern Ireland. In the Republic 86 per cent supported it and in Britain 81 per cent supported this concept. There was no national right to self-determination and no territorial claims; instead it was a radical proposal that ensures power and equality where it is most needed, that is with the people of Northern Ireland.

Over the past 20 years the justifiable demand for civil rights and equal citizenship has been drowned in the Nationalist reign of terror that has only been matched by the crimes of the Loyalist murder gangs. While the horrors of recent atrocities are still fresh in our minds and before they are replaced with other unimaginable atrocities let us state clearly that we recognise reality, that we will support in every way we can the development of democratic structures in Northern Ireland and the establishment of full civil rights for its citizens. This Government bears a grave responsibility to offer support to an internal solution. So far it has failed to face up to that historic challenge. We now have the [250] opportunity to take the initiative. I urge the Minister for Foreign Affairs in particular to make that leap. We can no longer sustain fantasy at the expense of truth. For too long the terrorists have set the agenda. The cost in the ever rising death toll and destruction is getting heavier by the day. If we are to face the deepening crises in Northern Ireland it must be on the basis of democracy not on outworn aspirations that are only an obstacle to building peace and understanding.

Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. Gallagher,: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Donegal South West): I wish to share my time with Deputies Leonard and Kirk.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Gallagher: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  (Donegal South West): Ba mhaith liom eachtraí na deireadh seachtaine a cháineadh. Glacaim leis an deis seo comhbhrón a dhéanamh leis na teallaigh uilig a d'fhulaing caill agus do gach duine agus do gach teallaigh a d'fhulaing caill ó thús na dtrioblóidí i dTuaisceart na hÉireann.

Glacaim leis an deis seo fosta chun a impí ar gach duine dul ar bhealach na síochána. Is léir nach réitíonn an foréigean fadhb ar bith. Tá sin cruthaithe le 25 bliana.

Creidim gur cheart gach deis a thabhairt do na cainteanna idir Hume agus Adams féachaint an mbeidh toradh ar na cainteanna sin. Tá áthas orm, in ainneoin eachtraí na deireadh seachtaine, go bhfuil an tUasal Hume sásta leanúint ar aghaidh leis an formula síochána atá molta acu. Glacaim leis an deis seo fosta a mholadh do na hAontachtóirí dul i mbun cainteanna leis na paramilitigh ar an dtaobh eile.

I join with other Members in expressing my complete and utter abhorrence at the terrible acts of violence which have occurred in Northern Ireland in the past few days, and over the past 24 years. This spate of atrocities has shown a wanton [251] disregard for the sanctity of human life. The majority of people in both parts of Ireland are appalled by the cycle of savagery and want it brought to an end immediately.

More than 3,000 people have died in Northern Ireland in the past 25 years, many more have been injured and some have been maimed for life. Those who died were made up of young and old, male and female, Catholic and Protestant. They were our fellow countrymen and women and each life lost has been as precious as the next. There is no difference between Nationalist and Unionist blood or between Catholic and Protestant tears. Every death through violence, whether it occurs on a lonely country road, a busy shopping street, in a home or in a work place, is a tragedy and an outrage. Every murder must be condemned equally. We must not allow ourselves to be hardened to the horror of violence from whatever quarter it comes.

I condemn all paramilitaries and their organisations. I condemn the IRA whose repeated acts of violence serve only to drive the two communities apart. I condemn equally the sectarian assassins of the UFF and the UVF who together were responsible for most of the killings in Northern Ireland this year.

Violence and sectarianism bring in their wake death, misery and despair and deepen divisions within Northern Ireland and between North and South. It is incumbent on all of us in this House to demonstrate that the political process offers the only way forward. We must show that democratic and constitutional politics alone provide a framework for achieving the kind of progress we all wish to see. All our efforts must be directed towards bringing pressure to bear for a total and permanent cessation of violence and for the establishment of a process which, as the Taoiseach stated, can bring about peace in the fullest sense. We need to create conditions in which agreement and consent can be freely given on all sides to structures which can accommodate on a fair and honourable basis the two main traditions on this island.

[252] The path to peace is through dialogue. The Taoiseach has rightly expressed the view that the problems of Northern Ireland must be resolved by a process of political dialogue and co-operation between parties dedicated to the democratic process. The two Governments have a central role to play in devising a framework which can lead to lasting peace and stability based on freely given consent.

In regard to the Hume-Adams proposals, I want to place on record my deep respect and admiration for what John Hume has done in recent months. He has shown remarkable dedication and courage in his search for a basis for a total and permanent cessation of violence and for the construction of a lasting peace. During the past 25 years nobody has made a greater contribution to the search for peace than John Hume and nobody has done more to re-examine and redefine what our objectives as nationalists should be. He has consistently placed agreement and consent at the heart of the equation. He has made a potentially significant contribution to the creation of a peace process. Such a process will, necessarily, involve the two Governments who, as the Taoiseach stated, must work together to reach a common understanding in their own terms of a framework for peace. The Irish Government has made the achievement of peace its top priority and during recent months we have been working on the elaboration of a formula for such peace.

John Hume realises the political consequences for himself. He deserves the deepest respect of the Irish people for his efforts to achieve peace, not the personal vilification he suffered in recent weeks, particularly from certain sections of the media. I would like to see Unionist political leaders following the example he has set by establishing contact with Loyalist paramilitary organisations for the purpose of persuading them to renounce violence also. No greater service could be rendered to the people of this island, North and South, than if all the men of violence on both sides of the divide laid down their weapons forever and devoted [253] themselves to the pursuit of their objectives by exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

I want to respond to a political point made earlier. For the past number of weeks members of Opposition parties have called for briefings on the Government's knowledge of the Hume-Adams peace initiative. From 1982 to 1987 when the Anglo-Irish negotiations took place, the main Opposition party at that time, the Fianna Fáil Party, were not consulted or informed in respect of the proceedings.

Mr. Kirk: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I wish to share my time with Deputy Leonard.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Kirk: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, for giving me an opportunity to contribute briefly to this debate. I join with other speakers in extending sympathy to the families who have been bereaved in the troubles in the North during the past week. I extend my sympathy also to the many other families bereaved during the past 25 years.

Many efforts have been made to find a solution to the Northern problem but to date those efforts have failed. One could take consolation from a statement made by the late John F. Kennedy in Washington in June 1963 when he stated: “Our problems are man-made, therefore, they may be solved by man. Man can be as big as he wants, no problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.” Those words should inspire people on all sides and provide the basis for a solution. I hope that through discussion and dialogue among the constitutional parties North and South we can find that elusive solution to the Northern troubles so that we might see an end to death and destruction.

Mr. Leonard: Information on James Leonard  Zoom on James Leonard  I want to add my words of condemnation of those who perpertrated the atrocities not alone last weekend but on a continual basis since 1969. I pledge my support to those who [254] have been working for peace during the past number of years with little to show for it at the end of the day.

People on both sides of the community in Northern Ireland are frightened and people in the South are frightened also in case the violence might spread to this side of the Border. Such fear is being heightened by the media in certain respects. A Sunday newspaper recently published an article which focused on an area south of the Border and could have caused great concern to the local people.

I want to add my voice in support of John Hume's efforts during the years. Anybody in a right mind would have to be influenced by those efforts. No one understands the Northern position better or has been as dedicated to finding a solution to that problem down the years than John Hume. If we follow his advice we will be going down the right road.

Members of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body visited the North during the past few years. They met with various trade and commence committees, union representatives, corporate bodies and community groups. Those groups displayed a commitment to co-operation to improve trade and goodwill between the North and the South and this is an area that must be given more careful consideration. Our exports to Northern Ireland in 1990 represented only 3.5 per cent of our gross domestic product and a study revealed that manufacturers in the South sell only one-third as much per capita in the North as they do in the home market while their Northern counterparts only sell one-sixth here. Members of local authorities have a responsibility to co-operate to ensure that violence is reduced.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  This debate arises from the events that caused such horror and shame in Belfast this past weekend. In speaking here, I have a responsibility to speak as openly, as dispassionately and as frankly as I can about the events and what they mean.

In the few days since this House last met, 15 people have died in one of the [255] bloodiest few days in the history of Northern Ireland. Those victims have come from both communities and form a part of the escalating spiral of violence and hatred which must concern us all. I have to say that it is almost impossible to find the words that would adequately describe the revulsion, indeed the despair, that I felt when news of the Shankhill massacre reached me on Saturday afternoon. Yet another place name must be added to the dark history that has been accumulating in the last couple of years alone — another to stand beside names like Warrington, Castlerock and Teebane Cross. Yet another community, with more than its fair share of troubles already, has been added on to the list of those who must cope with trauma and bitterness. Yet more families, to add to the thousands in both communities and from both islands, have been left to suffer the bottomless agony of loss and left with the bitterest feeling of all — that there is no point, meaning or purpose to the violent deaths of their loved ones.

The most savage irony of the Shankhill massacre lies in two facts. First, the victims of that massacre were blown to pieces on the orders of people who believe, or say they believe, in the right of the Irish people to self determination. Second, the people who authorised that massacre are the same people who, just about a week ago, issued a public statement proclaiming their support for a peace process.

There is no one on this island more committed to peace who practices democracy with more conviction, honesty, and integrity, than John Hume. The initiative he has taken, with a view to finding a pathway towards peace, is potentially one of the most significant pieces of the jigsaw of recent years. If the provisional IRA has done nothing else by its actions of last weekend, it has made it far more difficult to find the basis on which we might be able to proceed with and to develop that initiative, combining it with the other elements essential to a lasting peace.

The Government cannot be deflected [256] from the search for peace. We owe it to the thousands of people who died before last Saturday, to those slaughtered on Saturday and on the days since, to the families who mourn them, to the communities who are the poorer for their loss, never to be turned away from the quest. That does not mean, and it can never mean, surrendering or capitulating to men of violence on any side. To do that would be to negate the very democracy that John Hume and many others like him practise with such distinction and courage.

The democratic way forward must be founded on certain key principles. If I attempt here to outline these principles, I do so not in any way to fudge the need for a negotiated and agreed approach. In the final analysis, there can be no lasting settlement except through agreement between the Unionist and Nationalist traditions about how we can share this island which is our common home and where we both have our rights. The British and Irish Governments have major roles to play and major responsibilities, but peace must come finally from within the hearts of the people who live in the shadow of violence. In addition, in setting down principles I am not attempting to lay down preconditions for any negotiation. I make only one exception — the only people welcome at the negotiating table would be those who have foresworn violence. Nobody can be expected to negotiate about their future, or the future of their community, with guns outside the door. Bombs and guns must be set aside if we are to avoid a recurrence of the horror and terror of the Shankill massacre, and the frightening aftermaths on Kennedy Way and elsewhere.

The democratic principles which can underpin a peace process, and which can be combined through negotiation and dialogue to secure sustainable peace, are simply set out. Indeed, many of them are already encapsulated and contained in Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement to which the Irish and British Governments remain fully committed. That Article solemnly enshrines the principle of consent. We can build on those principles [257] by seeing them in the following way. First, the people living in Ireland, North and South, without coercion and without violence, should be free to determine their own future. Second, that freedom can be expressed in the development of new structures for the governing of Northern Ireland, for relationships between North and South and for relationships between our two islands. For many of us, of course, the freedom to determine our own future by agreement should ideally lead to the possibility ultimately of unity on this island. Third, no agreement can be reached in respect of any change in the present status of Northern Ireland without the freely expressed consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland — free as I have said from coercion or violence. Fourth, let us once and for all accept that if we talk about the freedom of Unionists to give their consent to constitutional change, we must also recognise the freedom of Unionists to withhold their consent from such change, unless and until they are persuaded by democratic political means only. Fifth, if we believe in consent as an integral part of any democratic approach to peace, we must be prepared at the right time and in the right circumstances to express our commitment to that consent in our fundamental law. Sixth, even in the aftermath of some of the most horrible crimes we have witnessed, we must be prepared to say to the men of violence that they can come to the negotiating table, that they can play a peaceful part in the development of Ireland's future, if only they will stop the killing, and maiming and the hurting. We will make a place, and we will develop structures, to bring in from the cold those who have lived in the shadow of their own terrorism and we are prepared to begin that process the moment a total cessation of violence makes it possible for us to do so.

The British Government has said repeatedly that it has no selfish or strategic interest in remaining in Northern Ireland. It has said that Britain is in Northern Ireland because the majority of the people of Northern Ireland want it [258] that way, and for no other reason. At the same time, the British Government has said it will not yield to terrorism, nor bargain with it. That is the way it is and that is the way it will remain. I do not believe that the British Government has any objection to or could find anything to argue with in any of the principles I have outlined above. I do not believe that any Unionist could, on calm reflection, find fault with any of these principles. Above all, I do not believe that anyone who claims to be a modern Nationalist or Republican could seriously reject any of these principles. They are more than a basis for peace; they are a basis for people working together for the good and the future of this whole island.

Ireland may remain divided by a Border for years to come. What is vital is that we begin now to find ways of breaking down the barriers that are between us, rather than erecting new ones with more bombs and more atrocities. Many of the activists in the Provisional IRA have been involved in violence and terror for all of their adult lives. Many of them now have teenage children. They have a choice. They can condemn their children, and their children's children, to lives of violence and terror, or they can stop. If they were to stop now, it would re-establish, at least to some extent, the credentials of the peace process that they claim to have publicly endorsed. It would provide hope that politics can replace terror as a means of achieving political objectives. It would free their children from the shadow of the gunman and empower them for the first time in their lives to contribute to the wellbeing of their own communities.

We are at a crossroads. If the horror of recent days is not to be the latest step in an every-rising stairway of violence, then those involved must draw back. They must reflect now on the opportunity that is open, on the possibility that political action is a legitimate alternative for them. We can condemn, and I condemn without reservation the atrocities of recent times, but this is a time to appeal for reason and for hope. If the men of violence would only agree to give peace [259] a chance the political future of Northern Ireland can be utterly transformed. All of us in this House should unite in saying “Do it now”.

To Unionists, I would say that the two traditions on this island can work out a covenant for our own times. What I envisage is a covenant of rights and guarantees capable of being applied by agreement to every part of this island and to every aspect of the relationship between these islands. It would provide an assurance for all time to every citizen on this island — Protestant, Catholic or Dissenter, Nationalist or Unionist — that basic political rights, including political identities, can be enshrined to ensure that nothing, even a change in sovereignty if such were ultimately arrived at by agreement and consent, could undermine them. Any accommodation between the two traditions on this island must be based on the principle that both identities must each have equally satisfactory, secure and durable political, administrative and symbolic expression and protection for their rights and identities. The principle of equal respect for both traditions, of equal expression of allegiance, can be worked out in innovative ways, if we want to do it.

There is a heavy onus now on all democrats. Now is one of those moments in our history when we choose to go forward or backward. As someone who was elected to speak on behalf of a new generation, I say “we must go forward”.

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