Thursday, 30 May 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
4. Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the implications for the peace process and Anglo-Irish relations in view of the mishandling of the Anthony Duncan extradition case. [11335/96]
5. Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs whether all arrangements have been concluded for the organisation of all-party talks on 10 June 1996, with a view of ensuring that the talks are fruitful and productive as well as inclusive and designed to lead to a comprehensive political settlement. [11336/96]
12. Miss Quill asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the arrangements, if any, being made to keep Opposition parties informed of developments in the run-up to elections and all-party negotiations. [9197/96]
16. Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he holds Sinn Féin responsible for the actions of other organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11187/96]
23. Mr. Molloy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the arrangements being made by the two Governments for the appointment of a chairperson to Strand II of the substantive all-party negotiations commencing on 10 June 1996. [8107/96]
33. Mr. Clohessy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the Framework Document, drawn up by both Governments, will be central to the all-party negotiations. [10419/96]
41. Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether only the IRA can make the decision for the restoration of the IRA ceasefire; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11188/96]
42. Mr. Molloy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the measures required, arising out of all-party negotiations, to ensure that an ultimate agreement arising out of those negotiations is not dominated by one side or another. [9201/96]
45. Miss Harney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the need for a separate strand in the forthcoming all-party negotiations to deal with the issue of decommissioning. [10210/96]
48. Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the importance he attaches to ensuring that Sinn Féin participates in the all-party talks, thus ensuring Sinn Féin makes its distinctive and necessary contribution to the negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11280/96]
49. Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the parties that have been invited to participate in the round table negotiations due to be held on 10 June 1996; the procedure that has been adopted for such invitations to issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11282/96]
50. Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the parties he has had consultation or dialogue with in order to carry out preparatory work for the all-parties talks due to be held on 10 June 1996; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11283/96]
52. Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the likely time schedule for the outcome of the all-party negotiations to be submitted for approval to the public by referendum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11285/96]
As regards the prospective talks, the Ground Rules for Substantive All-Party Negotiations, which were published by the Irish and British Governments on 16 April following consultation with the political parties, set out the best judgment of the two Governments on the most suitable and broadly acceptable ground rules for the basis, participation, structure, format and agenda of the negotiations. While they establish the basic parameters of the negotiations, and set out some fundamental principles which must be respected, the details of a number of important matters remain to be resolved, as is signalled in the Ground Rules themselves.
At the opening plenary session a comprehensive agenda for the negotiations will have to be agreed by the participants and other procedural questions resolved. The manner and format in  which the International Body's proposals on decommissioning can be taken forward —“without blocking the negotiations”, as the British Prime Minister put it — has also to be agreed. It is self-evident that the decommissioning question does not fit within any of the strands. This alone would suggest that special arrangements should be put in place to deal with it. How precisely this is to be done is a matter which remains under intensive consideration. In addition, the chairing of the various elements of the negotiations, where an independent chairperson will be required, has to be decided.
The two Governments have been working intensively together on these outstanding questions, with a view to preparing the ground for early decisions on them either before the negotiations or during the opening plenary session, as appropriate. Following a meeting of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 22 May, the Secretary of State and I met informally in Dublin on 28 May and we plan to meet again on Tuesday next, 4 June, in London. I hope Deputies will accept that it would not be appropriate for me to disclose at this stage the detail of our discussions, but I can assure the House that every effort is being made to ensure that all of the preparations necessary to promote comprehensive, inclusive and meaningful negotiations will have been completed by the appropriate time.
While it is for the two Governments to offer co-ordinated leadership, the success of the negotiations will also depend on the determination of the parties to take part in the negotiations constructively and in good faith. Discussions, consultations and contact with the parties on the negotiations in fact began last year, immediately after the issue of the November communiqué. These continue, at ministerial or official level, as convenient and appropriate. In this process we have had meetings with all of the leading parties, with the exception of the Democratic Unionist Party. Most recently, the Government last  week had useful meetings with the SDLP and the Alliance Party.
The Ground Rules state that the negotiations will involve the participation, in the appropriate strands, of representatives of both Governments and all those political parties operating in Northern Ireland which achieve representation through an elective process and which, as set out in the communiqué of 28 February 1996, establish a commitment to exclusively peaceful methods and which have shown that they abide by the democratic process.
Following the elections which are taking place in Northern Ireland today, the Secretary of State, after consultations with the Government, will formally invite all parties which meet the foregoing criteria to nominate their teams for the negotiations. It seems probable that ten parties will secure representation through the elections.
The position in relation to Sinn Féin was set out in the February 28 communiqué, repeated in the Ground Rules paper, and has been reiterated by the Taoiseach and myself, in this House and elsewhere, on numerous occasions. Both Governments hope that all political parties with an electoral mandate will be able to participate in all-party negotiations. Both Governments are also agreed that the resumption of ministerial dialogue with Sinn Féin, and their participation in negotiations, requires the unequivocal restoration of the ceasefire of August 1994.
I acknowledge that Sinn Féin has its own electoral mandate, which will presumably be confirmed in today's elections. It is also essential, both as a matter of principle and as a practical requirement for success in the negotiating process, that all the participants should show a common commitment to the purely peaceful and democratic resolution of the issue. A continued IRA campaign of violence would inevitably undermine the credibility of any Sinn Féin commitment in this regard.
I also acknowledge that it is for the IRA to decide whether to restore its ceasefire. I very much hope they will do  so, and enable Sinn Féin to participate in the negotiations. If the IRA fails to take the decision to restore the ceasefire and to allow Sinn Féin to participate in the negotiations, it will mean that the republican viewpoint will not be represented in the comprehensive round-table negotiations for which Sinn Féin have been calling since August 1994. This would plainly contradict the logic of Sinn Féin's own political analysis.
In the negotiations, the Government's approach will be based on the Framework Document. While it is intended as an aid to negotiations and not as a rigid blueprint to be imposed, both Governments have stated that it sets out a realistic, balanced and achievable framework for agreement.
I share the view that it is essential that an ultimate agreement arising out of the negotiations is not dominated by one side or another. I have said frequently that a solution will never be found in terms of victory or defeat. Clearly, all of the institutional arrangements to be negotiated will require careful balance and appropriate safeguards. The negotiations will operate on the basis of consensus, and will proceed on the principle that nothing will be finally agreed in any strand until everything is agreed in the negotiations as a whole. Perhaps most important of all, the outcome of the negotiations will be submitted for public approval by referendums, North and South, before being submitted to the Oireachtas and the Houses of Parliament for ratification and the earliest possible implementation. Therefore majorities in both parts of the island will have to support the settlement which has been negotiated.
No timeframe has been set for the negotiations, although the British elections legislation provides that the forum will cease to sit at the end of May 1997, with the possibility of an extension until not later than May 1998. As the Taoiseach indicated in the House on 21 May, “it might be useful if all the participants could agree a tighter timeframe on an  indicative basis”. Following the conclusion of the negotiations, the referendum to be held in this jurisdiction would be organised as quickly as the legislative and practical requirements would permit.
The Government is prepared to make arrangements for the regular confidential briefing of the Opposition parties during the negotiations and I would invite the relevant spokespersons to discuss the matter in detail with me.
Mr. R. Burke: I thank the Minister for his final remarks and I will follow up the matter with him. In the context of the Taoiseach's reply to my party leader on Tuesday, it is important he envisages that, with a renewed IRA ceasefire, the forum will continue its work, providing an opportunity for formal and informal talks between parties and with parties from the Northern forum.
Is the Minister satisfied that the peace process and, in particular, Anglo-Irish relations have not been damaged by the Government Press Secretary's briefing the weekend after the collapse of the Duncan extradition case which implied that the fault lay on the British rather than the Irish side? Despite the fact that the matter was discussed in the House of Lords on 2 May and received wide publicity on Sky television and in British print media, this impression was allowed continue for six weeks. Does the Minister expect us to believe the mishandling of the Duncan extradition case did not damage Anglo-Irish relations?
Mr. Spring: Deputy Burke can believe what he wishes and form his opinions on the basis of information available to him. I can only inform him of my experiences in recent weeks. I attended a meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference, co-chaired by the Secretary of State, and had an opportunity to meet him in my Department last Tuesday. The matter was not referred to at either meeting in that context. I am sure  Deputy Burke is aware from his experience in the Department of Justice that 99 per cent of extradition cases are not debated in the public arena and there were difficulties about an extradition case when he was on this side of the House. The current case has been well aired and replied to in detail by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice. As I stated in my reply, this case has not damaged Anglo-Irish relations and will not deter either Government in their pursuit of what we want to achieve in the all-party talks commencing on 10 June.
Mr. R. Burke: Is the Minister satisfied with the way the Government Information Services handled this case? Is he satisfied that Anglo-Irish relations have not been damaged by the implication, which remained in the public arena for up to six weeks, that the mishandling of this case happened on the British side?
Mr. M. McDowell: Did the Department of Foreign Affairs arrange for personnel from the Irish Embassy in London or elsewhere to attend the House of Lords debate on this issue in Westminster? Was that Department briefed immediately or did it inquire in Dublin as to the state of affairs of this controversy? While I acknowledge the Minister said the Secretary of State did not mention this case to him at the two meetings, did his Department receive representations at any stage from the  British side on the matter? Did his Department seek an explanation or briefing from the Garda, the Department of Justice or the Attorney General's office about the true position or are we expected to believe that personnel in Iveagh House, like in all other Departments, simply saw no evil, heard no evil and kept their heads down for the six week period?
Mr. Spring: I do not have details of who attended the debate in the House of Lords but, if the Deputy wishes, I will furnish them to him. When debates on Irish matters are discussed in the House of Lords or House of Commons it is normal practice for representatives of the Irish Embassy to attend. Deputy McDowell does not have experience of Government. He was not a Member of the House when his party was in partnership with Fianna Fáil in Government. If he had that experience he would know that Ministers have line responsibilities and it is important that they are allowed carry out their functions. That is the way Government should operate.
Mr. M. McDowell: I did not get a straight answer from the Minister as to whether his Department received representations from the British, made inquiries in Ireland or sought to acquaint itself with the full facts of this case at any time during the six week period it rumbled on?
Mr. Spring: I had intended to reply to that aspect of Deputy McDowell's three -pronged question. To the best of my knowledge, representations were not received on the matter. Again, it is a functional matter for the Department of Justice and I assume all representations would be received by that Department.
Mr. R. Burke: The Minister's lack of curiosity on this extradition case beggars belief. Be that as it may, I accept what he told the House but, again, it is a case of failure to act. His line responsibility lies with Anglo-Irish relations. There would have been a person from the Irish Embassy in the House of Lords during that debate and the matter would have been followed up by the Department of Foreign Affairs with the Department of Justice to know what was going on.
The Minister stated that the ground rules document was published in April, following the original statement of 28 February, and I accept that discussions are ongoing at present. It would have been much better for all concerned if the questions of venue, agenda, chairman of the various strands and so on were handled well in advance of the commencement of the election process rather than afterwards. The talks are due to commence in ten days, but a venue has not been arranged for the forum on which people are voting today.
Mr. Spring: The venue for the forum is a matter for the British Government and I am sure they will provide one. As the Deputy was involved in the 1991-92 talks, he will realise that crucial issues are invariably settled towards the end of negotiations. The elections are taking place today. The process is well in hand and in a state of preparedness for 10 June.
Mr. R. Burke: Senator Mitchell's knowledge and acceptability on this matter are well known. Will the Minister assure the House that Senator Mitchell and the American administration will play a major role in the talks process on 10 June?
Mr. Spring: Senator Mitchell will not represent the American administration, but he will play an important role. On  many occasions I have been loud in my praise of Senator Mitchell and his colleagues in preparing the decommissioning report, which will play a central part in the negotiations that will start on Monday week. Senator Mitchell will play a very important role in that regard and I have absolute confidence that he will carry out that role as he has done in the past.
Mr. M. McDowell: Bearing in mind it will be two years tomorrow since the Minister assured me that nobody could participate in the forum in Dublin Castle unless they had disarmed completely, even allowing that he will be slightly more flexible in reply to this question, does the Government consider it adequate that the participants merely commit themselves to consider the issue of disarmament in the context of all-party talks, or is it the Government's position that, in addition to considering the issue they must also, at some stage during the process, engage in some level of disarmament?
Mr. Spring: Deputy McDowell must accept that when I answered questions almost two years ago nobody would have believed a ceasefire was possible in Northern Ireland — the Deputy certainly would not have believed it — but that did happen through a great deal of hard work. The Taoiseach dealt in detail with the question of decommissioning on Tuesday last and we are ad idem on that issue. Differences have existed between the Governments and the various parties in regard to decommissioning, which is a central question. We have made it very clear from the start that we want weapons out of Irish politics, North and South, but people have missed the fact that decommissioning must take place on the Loyalist as well as the Republican side. If we adhere to and strictly follow the Mitchell report, we will find a solution. Nobody has said that the Mitchell report is not the solution.  The key to the solution is to set up a fourth strand or a sub-committee on decommissioning to consider it while the substantive political negotiations are taking place. At the end of the day it is quite simple: on the one hand substantial political progress would be made in meaningful negotiations, on the other there would be a commitment to the Mitchell principles and the sub-committee on decommissioning would get down to the nitty-gritty of decommissioning, the modalities, verification and so on.
Mr. R. Burke: This side of the House fully supports that approach. As a party we accepted the Mitchell report in advance of its publication because we believed it was important that Mitchell be given support in preparing the report and that all sides should sign up for it. The tragedy is that all sides, including the British Government, did not sign up for it at an early stage, but better late than never. I trust that the aim of everybody in this House is to ensure that the bomb and the bullet is taken out of Irish politics for good, and the Mitchell report has a key role in that regard,
I was glad to hear the Minister say that the Government considers the Framework Document as central to the solution while recognising that domination should play no part in the solution and that there must be safeguards. There is no question of domination in the Framework Document and it provides for many safeguards. Will the Minister confirm that both Governments will submit the Framework Document to the agenda of the talks on the first day?
Mr. Spring: The Framework Document has been agreed between the Governments. In regard to the plenary session of the talks, we have to agree the agenda. We made it very clear that all sides are entitled to bring forward proposals and I am sure both Governments will bring forward the Framework Document as part of the agenda for the talks.
Mr. R. Burke: It is important that the Government brings forward the Framework Document, which is central to a solution. The British Government and the Taoiseach do not seem to have the same commitment to this matter as the Minister. We take it the Framework Document will be on the agenda on the first day. In regard to the three strands, I welcome the commitment that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. That was the basis of the talks in 1991 when I was involved in them. Is it still the view of the British Government and the participants in the talks that nothing can be agreed until everything is agreed, in other words, that an internal solution will not be acceptable?
Mr. Spring: Given the interwoven and complex nature of the Northern Ireland problems that must be addressed in the three strands and the sub-committee on decommissioning, if that is agreed, it would be virtually impossible — I think no party would accept it — to have a formulation other than nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. To the best of my knowledge — I am slow to speak for the various parties who will participate in the negotiations; they will have to speak for themselves during the plenary session — all parties accept the reality of that statement. It is the only way to proceed in the negotiations and I am sure it will be adhered to by all.
Mr. Spring: The Deputy will appreciate that I can speak only on behalf of the Irish Government. The negotiating team on behalf of the British Government will have to speak for that Government. Certainly in our dealings with the British Government, that is accepted between us.
Mr. M. McDowell: When the Minister said this would apply to the three strands and to the sub-committee on decommissioning, I take it he was not suggesting that “nothing is agreed until  everything is agreed” applies to the decommissioning process.
Mr. R. Burke: The question of a timeframe was referred to by the Minister. Will he elaborate on his thinking in that regard? Does he envisage a timeframe of six months or nine months? The crucial questions that must be dealt with are cross-Border relationships, relationships between Nationalists and Unionists within the North, the executive powers and the contents of the Framework Document. There are two principal questions to be dealt with and if there is agreement in principle on those the rest will fall into place very quickly.
Mr. Spring: I would be slow to put a limited time frame on the negotiations. The Deputy will be aware from experience of the 1991-92 negotiations that they were open-ended. One would have a much clearer picture within, perhaps, two months of opening negotiations as to the amount of work that can be undertaken and how fast it can be accomplished. It will take a considerable period of time to establish trust between the parties on the basis that there will be meaningful negotiations and that all parties want to find a solution. The various parties can then consider a timeframe. I would like to see the work done at the earliest possible time. All the research has been done and the facts established. We need now to get the parties to sit across the table to overcome the distrust and bitterness that have existed in Northern Ireland politics for many years and see if we can work together.
Mr. R. Burke: It is my party's wish that there will be a large turnout in the Northern elections, that the results will reflect the views of the people and that strong teams with proper mandates will be elected. We also hope that between now and 10 June the ceasefire will be restored so that Sinn Féin can take its place at the negotiating table. As the  Taoiseach says, if it is part of the problem then it must be part of the solution. The same applies to the loyalist parties. We hope the all-party talks will provide a solution so that all people can live in peace on this island and there will be peace between the two islands.
Mr. Spring: I welcome the Deputy's remarks which probably reflect the views of all sensible people. We want inclusive all-party talks and we have made it very clear that for Sinn Féin to be at the talks the ceasefire must be restored. Without the restoration of the ceasefire it is unlikely that other parties will engage in the difficult question of the decommissioning of arms. It is very important for Sinn Féin to be at the talks on 10 June. We want to have comprehensive all-party negotiations in which all strands of opinion from the Nationalist-republican and Unionist-loyalist sides are represented at the table. I hope anyone who can influence those decisions between now and 10 June will do so in order that we can set about solving this crucial problem.
Dr. McDaid: We all hope Sinn Féin will be at the negotiating table on 10 June. Has the British Government discussed with the Minister its position vis-á-vis Sinn Féin in the event of the IRA heralding a resumption of its ceasefire via another spectacular incident, as it invariably does?
Mr. Spring: I can deal only with the realities as they confront us. If a ceasefire is declared within the next few days I sincerely hope there will be no other action which would undermine what we are trying to achieve. I think Deputy McDaid shares that view. The position of both Governments on how parties qualify for inclusion in the talks has been made very clear. We want all parties to be at the table. Regardless of the debate taking place within Sinn Féin or the IRA, it is in everyone's interest that no spectacular incident takes place between now and 10 June, so that  people can come to the table. Already people who have been involved in violence on both sides have difficulty in coming to the table and we must overcome that without any further difficulties.
Mr. Callely: I am disappointed the Minister took 11 questions with Question No. 4 which deals with the mishandling of the Duncan extradition case. Some of the other questions deal with separate issues and I would like the Minister to give me straight answers to them. The Minister said there must be a restoration of the ceasefire if Sinn Féin is to participate in the all-party talks. He did not give me an answer to my Question No. 16 which asks him if he holds Sinn Féin responsible for the actions of the IRA. Will he give me straight answers to Questions Nos. 41 and 47 which ask him if the IRA is ultimately responsible for its actions and to Question No. 50 which asks him the parties with whom he has had consultation or dialogue in order to do preparatory work for the all-party talks? Will he also clarify the position on the time schedule for putting the conclusions of the all-party negotiations to the people by way of referendum?
Mr. Spring: If the Deputy has a problem with the way I answered these questions then we can discuss that matter. However, all of them relate to the Anglo-Irish talks, the Northern Ireland peace process and the implications of certain things on those issues.
Mr. Spring: On the question about Sinn Féin and the IRA, I will outline the position of this Government and previous Governments which included Deputy Callely's party. Successive Governments have operated on the practical assumption that Sinn Féin and the IRA are closely interrelated in terms of ideology, strategy and, to some extent, personnel. The opening of ministerial dialogue with Sinn Féin and its inclusion in the forum came as a consequence of the 1994 ceasefire. While there are distinctions to be made, it is realistic to regard them as broadly part of the same movement.
Mr. Callely: I take it from his reply the Minister holds Sinn Féin responsible for IRA actions. Last week in reply to a question from me the Taoiseach clearly indicated the IRA is solely and ultimately responsible for its actions. The Minister referred to previous Governments. In fairness to them, previous Governments achieved much, for example, the cessation of violence in August 1994 and the signing of the joint declaration. I do not want to borrow the phrase “not worth a penny candle” but everyone is aware of the importance of having Sinn Féin at the all-party talks, If the negotiations are to be conclusive in terms of developing the peace process it is important that all parties are at the table. The Minister and Taoiseach are singing from the same hymn sheet in terms of the importance of having Sinn Féin at the all-party talks but it does not add up if the Minister holds Sinn Féin responsible for the actions of another group and the Taoiseach believes the IRA is ultimately responsible for its actions. I would like the Minister to clarify the matter for me. Maybe I am missing something.
Mr. Spring: The Deputy should read his party leader's speech to the House  following the ending of the ceasefire and subscribe to his party's views on these matters although he seems to have problems with them. The Taoiseach and I are singing from the same hymn sheet in terms of these matters. The Deputy should also look at the approach adopted to the IRA in the 1940s by the former Taoiseach, Mr. de Valera, and the consistent approach taken by Governments in the Republic to Sinn Féin and the IRA. Since the foundation of the State——
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