Wednesday, 21 February 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take Nos. 1, 13, 9, 14 and 2. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders that (1) speeches on No. 9, which shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, shall be confined to an opening speech by a Minister or Minister of State, a speech by the main spokespersons for the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats Party and a speech in reply by a Minister or Minister of State and (2) Private Members' Business shall be No. 25, motion re cattle and beef industry, and the proceedings thereon should be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. tonight.
An Ceann Comhairle: Are the proposals for dealing with the matter satisfactory? Agreed. Is the proposal that Private Members' Business shall conclude at 8.30 p.m. satisfactory and agreed? Agreed.
Mr. B. Ahern: I am sure the Taoiseach would agree that all parties believe there is great merit in John Hume's suggestion to hold a referendum North and South. From reports in today's newspapers the British Prime Minister appears to have a much broader concept of the referendum. Does the Taoiseach agree that such a referendum should not be divisive, but should be capable of being put North and South and centred on peace?
Mr. B. Ahern: I am sure the Chair would agree that more than 20 questions on Northern Ireland were taken together yesterday. That is an impossible way to deal with the subject. I would appreciate if the Taoiseach would reply to this one question.
The Taoiseach: Members will be aware that when John Hume first put this proposal I and other members of the Government heartily welcomed it because we believe it is constructive. We believe that if all the people on the island voted unambiguously against the use of violence to solve our political problems it would be clear to those who still retain the option of using violence that they are rejected by all others on the island. That would have considerable moral force. Obviously, one must be concerned about the fact that apparently throughout the ceasefire IRA military structures were fully maintained in  operational order. Punishment beatings were undertaken, individuals were targeted and the entire organisation was kept on a military footing. For peace to take hold there must be an internal rethinking and reorientation within the republican movement to recognise that if the strategy is one of peace only it is not necessary to maintain the military option and all those previously involved in military activity must understand and learn what is involved in pursuing the political path.
It is a matter of regret to me that that re-education and rethinking within the republican movement did not take place and was not led by the republican leadership during the ceasefire. They had an obligation to institute not only a ceasefire but also a re-examination of their entire strategy, which I regret did not occur. I hope a referendum along the lines suggested by John Hume, clearly expressing the will of the Irish people, would result not only in a ceasefire but also in what is necessary to ensure that the ceasefire is genuinely permanent and not tactical, that is a complete and radical rethinking by the republican movement of its methods, approach, political priorities and use of its talents.
Miss Harney: If we have a referendum — I could not object to the proposal put forward by John Hume — then it is important to broaden its scope. It is clear there is no support for violence in this jurisdiction and perhaps we could broaden the scope of the referendum to ensure that the ground rules for negotiations are on the basis of consent, which is important. The Taoiseach referred to the peace strategy but it has to be more than a strategy. There has to be a commitment to peace which cannot be used when it suits and abandoned when it does not suit. It should not be mere tactics or strategy, there has to be a clear commitment that peace is the only way forward.
The Taoiseach: I agree heartily with the Deputy that peace for a political party is never a tactic, it has to be a principle. There must be a full understanding by all political parties that one cannot don the mantle of peace occasionally and drop it when it suits to do otherwise. Peace and the practice of peace have to be a permanent character of a movement. It is for a movement itself to determine how that can be done and the republican movement must truly understand that pursuing a peace process means abandoning once and for all the option of violence. Violence is not an option which can be retained by a legitimate political party for use whenever times get tough. One is either in the peace process or one is not, there is no halfway house or limbo between peace and war. It is very important that the republican movement, which I have no doubt is now deliberating on this matter, recognises this and knows it is the view of all parties in the House.
The holding of a referendum on Cabinet confidentiality will depend on the completion of the drafting of the relevant legislation on which work is being done, the heads having been settled by the Cabinet. The holding of a referendum on votes for emigrants will I expect be considered by a committee of the House on the basis of a paper prepared by the Government setting out the options and difficulties. I do not expect the Government to be in a position to take the matter further until it has had an opportunity to hear the views of the committee on that paper.
Mr. B. Ahern: I thank the Taoiseach for his reply and express my hope that any referendum is centred on peace. The building in of Article 10 of the Downing Street Declaration to a referendum would be divisive and open up arguments about having a vote on decommissioning and other issues,  which is not the process envisaged by John Hume.
Mr. B. Ahern: I have repeatedly raised the publication of a White Paper on foreign policy and in his last reply at the end of January the Taoiseach stated he hoped it would be introduced in the next few weeks. Will we see the White Paper before the end of February?
Miss Flaherty: Does the Taoiseach agree that, despite our great desire for peace, it will only be brought about as a result of political movement? Does he attach equal importance to the second part of John Hume's proposal that following a referendum there is an absolute imperative——
The Taoiseach: Members who were present in the House yesterday will recollect I stated that the purpose of the Government is to set a specific date for all party talks, and this was covered very well in the papers today.
Mr. Martin: It is an objective of the Programme for Government to encourage fee paying schools to enter the free secondary scheme. Under Standing Orders I am entitled to raise objectives which are part and parcel of the Programme for Government.
Miss Quill: Will the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht state if the report of the management committee on the Burren will be brought before the House so that we can debate it? We seem to be moving towards an acceptable resolution——
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