Ceisteanna — Questions - Northern Ireland Issues

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 713 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 131 Next Page Last Page

  1.  Deputy Eamon Gilmore  Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   his plans for commemorative events for the remainder of 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23280/10]

  2.  Deputy Eamon Gilmore  Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   if he will make a statement on his speech to A Decade of Centenaries: Commemorating Our Shared History for the Institute for British-Irish Studies at UCD on May 20 [23281/10]

  3.  Deputy Eamon Gilmore  Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   the discussions that have taken place with the social partners regarding the establishment of a North South consultative forum, as first proposed in the Belfast Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23284/10]

  4.  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   if he will outline the commemorative programme envisaged as arising out of his speech to the Institute for British-Irish Studies in UCD on 20 May 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24333/10]

  5.  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   the discussions he has had with trade unions and other non governmental organisations regarding the promised establishmentof the all-Ireland consultative civic forum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24334/10]

[301]

  6.  Deputy Eamon Gilmore  Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   if he will make a statement on his meeting on 1 June 2010 with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland [25050/10]

  7.  Deputy Eamon Gilmore  Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   if he will make a statement on his meeting on 3 June 2010 with representatives of the SDLP [25051/10]

  8.  Deputy Eamon Gilmore  Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   if he will make a statement on his meeting on 3 June 2010 with representatives of Sinn Féin [25052/10]

  9.  Deputy Enda Kenny  Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   if he will report on his meeting with Sinn Féin on 3 June 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25053/10]

  10.  Deputy Enda Kenny  Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   if he will report on his recent speech at the Institute for British-Irish Studies conference at UCD; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25059/10]

  11.  Deputy Eamon Gilmore  Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   his response to the publication of the Saville report on Bloody Sunday; if he has discussed the report with the British Prime Minister; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26317/10]

  12.  Deputy Eamon Gilmore  Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   if he will make a statement on his meeting on 16 June 2010 with relatives of those who died on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 [26497/10]

  13.  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   if he has had discussions with the British Prime Minister on the Saville report on Bloody Sunday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26498/10]

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I propose to answer Questions Nos.1 to 13, inclusive, together.

The report of the Bloody Sunday inquiry was published on Tuesday, 15 June. I met with families and representatives of the victims of Bloody Sunday on Wednesday, 16 June and congratulated them on the success of their long and difficult campaign. As Deputies will be aware, we will have an opportunity in the House next week to have a detailed discussion of the report.

I met with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, on 2 June and congratulated him on his appointment. The Secretary of State stressed the commitment of the new British Government to the Good Friday Agreement and all that has followed and to continued close co-operation between both Governments.

On the morning of 3 June, I received a courtesy call from the former First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive, Dr. Ian Paisley and his wife, Baroness Paisley. Later that day, with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, I met with an SDLP delegation led by the party leader, Margaret Ritchie and which also included Northern Ireland Minister for Social Development, Alex Attwood MLA, and the MPs for South Belfast and Foyle, Alasdair McDonnell MP and Mark Durkan MP.

I also met with a Sinn Féin delegation led by the party leader Gerry Adams and the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness MLA. It also included the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture, Michelle Gildernew MLA.

At both meetings I congratulated the MPs on their recent electoral success. We reflected on the outcome of the recent election, with a particular emphasis on the positive results that saw all constituencies returning pro-Agreement representatives. I also briefed the party delegations on the Government’s initial contact with the new British Government and looked forward to [302]my first formal meeting with the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, which will take place later today.

We identified a number of new challenges and opportunities following the Westminster election and the successful completion of the devolution of policing and justice. These include working together to deal with the economic crisis, with a more ambitious approach to co-operation in delivering improved public services on an all-island basis against a background of fiscal restraint, North and South. We also discussed the increased interdependencies between both parts of the island in the economic sphere and the need to proactively develop the island economy. I also emphasised the need to continue to develop relationships with unionism, including in the context of the forthcoming commemorations, following on from my recent speech on the subject of a shared history. We also discussed the shared concerns of the Government and the Northern Ireland parties on the situation in Gaza. The publication of the Saville report into the events of Bloody Sunday was also discussed.

During 2008, the Government consulted with the social partners and various cross-Border and North-South groups on the establishment of the North-South consultative forum. Following on from this, we formally communicated our proposals to the Northern Ireland Executive on the role, format, membership and operation of the forum.

On 15 October 2009, the Government facilitated a consultative conference in Farmleigh involving the social partners and other civil society groups from across the island. I gave the opening address at that event. Participants from across the island came from all traditions, including representatives from business, the trade union movement, agriculture and the community and voluntary sector. There was a wide-ranging discussion on the role of civil society and its capacity to contribute meaningfully to cross-Border co-operation. There was strong support for further such engagement to explore specific areas for co-operation, North and South, at the level of civil society.

Following on from the October event, a second consultative conference took place in Dublin on 26 May. The event was well attended, with over one hundred representatives from civil society from both parts of the island in attendance. The Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive, Martin McGuinness MLA, addressed the conference. There were presentations and discussions on the key themes of the conference: sport and young people, and innovation.

I addressed a conference organised by the Institute for British-Irish Studies in University College Dublin on 20 May last on the theme, A Decade of Centenaries: Commemorating Our Shared History. I am arranging for Members of the Oireachtas to receive a copy of my speech. The conference was also addressed by the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure in the Northern Ireland Executive, Nelson McCausland MLA.

In the course of my address, I set out the principles which will guide the Government’s approach. We want to see full acknowledgment of the totality of the island’s history and the legitimacy of all the traditions on the island which draw their identity and collective memory from our shared history. We want the process of commemoration to recognise the totality of the history of the period and all the diversity that this encompasses. We believe that mutual respect should be central to all commemorative events and that historical accuracy should be paramount. Based on those principles, we will engage in a programme of outreach to all those who are interested in commemorating our history, in all its dimensions, with pride and respect. That will, of course, include all of the political parties on the island, as well as leaders of civic society and cultural institutions. The parties in the Oireachtas have already been working [303]together on these issues through the all-party Oireachtas consultation group on the centenary of the Easter Rising.

In 2010, the Government commemorated the 94th anniversary of the Easter Rising on 4 April, Easter Sunday. The first annual commemoration in memory of Daniel O’Connell took place at the refurbished Glasnevin Cemetery on Sunday, 19 May. On Sunday, 16 May, the annual famine commemoration was held in Mayo. The annual national day of commemoration to commemorate all those who died in past wars or in service with the United Nations will take place on Sunday, 11 July, at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

Latin American countries celebrate the 200th anniversary of their independence this year. Many Irishmen and women were associated with the achievement of independence, including Admiral William Brown, the “father of the Argentine Navy”. The Government, in accordance with established precedent, acknowledged the significance of this anniversary and the links that Ireland has with these countries by sending the Irish Naval Service vessel, the LE Niamh, on a ten-week mission to Latin America, visiting Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico. The voyage will also include the first transit through the Panama Canal by an Irish Naval Service vessel. The LE Niamh is due back into Cork on 14 July.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Taoiseach has taken questions Nos. 1 to 13 together. These cover a wide range of issues, including commemorations, Northern Ireland and various meetings he has had or will have. With regard to his meeting with the British Prime Minister later today, can he tell the House what matters he expects to discuss with Prime Minister Cameron? On behalf of the Labour Party, I wish him well in those discussions. Is it his intention to discuss the Saville report on Bloody Sunday and what views will he express to the Prime Minister on it? Does he intend to have any discussion with the Prime Minister in respect of the security situation in Northern Ireland and, in particular, the activities of dissident republican groups? Recently, a large bomb, which, fortunately did not go off, was detected in Aughnacloy. This activity is a worrying development. Does the Taoiseach intend to have any discussion with Prime Minister Cameron on the implications of yesterday’s UK budget for Northern Ireland, both in respect of public expenditure in Northern Ireland and in respect of the future of the tax regime, particularly with regard to VAT and corporation tax?

On commemorations, I read the speech the Taoiseach gave recently and welcome its contents and the approach outlined with regard to how the decade of commemorations should progress. However, while I know that in an address of that sort not everything can be included and there can be omissions, I was a little surprised that there was no reference to the 1913 lock-out, an event in the labour history of this country which should be remembered and reflected upon. I was also surprised that there was no specific mention of the first Dáil. I appreciate we commemorated the first Dáil recently, but in the context of the centenary commemorations, it should be included. The Taoiseach referred to the all-party committee. I understand the committee does not meet regularly and the most recent meeting was last December. Does the Government intend that the commemorations that are due to take place over the course of the next decade will be organised and managed on an all-party basis?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The meeting this afternoon will be an opportunity for me to meet the new British Prime Minister in a formal bilateral meeting. I met him informally at the European Council meeting and referred to the statement he made in the House of Commons on the Saville inquiry report. I told him that what he said and the spirit in which he said it was appreciated by the families and I commended him in that respect. The issues that will emerge will include those relating to Northern Ireland, the general bilateral relationship between Britain and Ireland and any European issues of concern to us that we wish to discuss. That will be the general context of the meeting.

[304]I thank the Deputy for his comments regarding my speech on 20 May. I did not set out a comprehensive list of what is to be commemorated, but simply indicated to the British-Irish studies group that issues such as the First World War, the establishment of the State, their own rising and similar matters were all issues that would be commemorated and that we would seek to address them in as inclusive a way as possible consistent with historical accuracy. Various traditions place varying emphasis on various issues, but we should seek to commemorate these traditions in a way that is mutually respectful of our shared history. On the question of the all-party committee, I understand it is concerned with the commemoration of the Easter Rising and does not have a wider remit. Any input parties wish to have on these matters over the next decade will be appreciated and welcome.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I thank the Taoiseach for that reply. He has said he is open to suggestions from all parties on commemorations and I would put one suggestion to him. One of the things that is missing from our historic records is a definitive list of all of those who were killed during the period from 1916 to the end of the Civil War. There are various lists such as members of the security forces, volunteers or innocent people who were killed for one reason or another. However, there has never been a compilation of the names of all of those who were killed during the period. I suggest that in the context of that commemorative period, a definitive list should be drawn up of all those who were killed.

With regard to the North-South bodies, the Taoiseach has referred to civic discussions that have taken place between representatives of civic society North and South. The Good Friday Agreement proposed the establishment of a North-South civic forum. Is it intended to establish that forum on a structured basis and when might that happen? I understand some progress has been made with regard to the establishment of a North-South parliamentary body and I am aware a meeting was held in Belfast on that last Monday. What is the latest position with regard to the establishment of a North-South parliamentary body?

  11 o’clock

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I note what the Deputy had to say regarding the period 1916 to 1922 and will inquire whether something can be achieved on that matter in the context of the commemoration and the issues that will arise in the course of the preparations for it. On the North-South civic forum, we have been seeking the establishment of this forum for some time and there has been much work and effort to generate enthusiasm on both sides for the establishment of such a forum. We continue to work on this. A North-South Ministerial Council meeting will take place soon and these issues will arise, with a view to trying to get people to commit to the establishment of these bodies, which are mentioned in the Good Friday Agreement.

As for the establishment of a North-South parliamentary body, the Ceann Comhairle and the Speaker of the Assembly have been working to ascertain how quickly that can be moved along. While it is a matter for the Oireachtas and the Assembly to bring that about, the Government obviously is encouraging of its establishment as soon as possible. I understand good progress has been made but I have not received an update on the Monday meeting.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  As has been indicated, the coming decade from now until 2020 certainly could be regarded as a decade of many historic milestones, including a series of centenaries. I refer to the centenaries of the aforementioned great lockout in 2013, the Easter Rising in 2016, the Sinn Féin general election victory in 2018 and the first meeting of Dáil Éireann in 2019. These are all important centenaries. An bhfuil clár cuimhneacháin á ullmhú ag an Rialtas do na hocáidí sin uilig?

[305]For Sinn Féin, and I expect for all parties, these centenaries do not simply represent a recall or a commemoration of great historic events. They are of course occasions that can offer an opportunity to assist progress towards the full achievement of the goal of those generations who were the front-line participants in those major historical events. Certainly for them and for me, that goal is a truly independent and united Ireland, a united people — I lay particular emphasis on that — and a Republic worthy of the name across the 32 counties of Ireland. One should not ever feel that referencing, promoting or encouraging this is in any way to deflect from the importance of reconciliation and the building of mutual respect. The two are not mutually exclusive and it is about encouragement and about working and developing relations and understandings.

While this is only a suggestion on which no major work has been done, when considering the individual centenaries to which I have referred, such as, for instance, that of the great lockout in 2013, would it not be appropriate to have made progress on legislation providing for mandatory recognition of trade union membership by 2013? Would this not be a highly valid and appropriate achievement on the centenary of the 1913 lockout? Will the Government consider such a process? We in Sinn Féin and others have argued for this repeatedly and I moot the idea with the Taoiseach this morning.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Can we have a question Deputy?

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  It is a question. Moreover, as we enter this decade of centenaries that ends in 2020, which will mark the centenary of the partition Act that divided our country, would it not be appropriate for the Government to consider preparing a Green Paper on Irish unity? Again, in the spirit of what I have already indicated, this would be an appropriate contribution. I refer to planning in a systematic and structured way towards the achievement of a united Ireland, including, very especially and importantly, a dialogue with all views across the island of Ireland and, clearly critically, with those who have not held to a Nationalist or republican outlook throughout all these years. If we are to achieve the unity of the island and the unity of people to which I referred, we must embark on such an engagement. We should do so not in any weak, nervous or uncertain way, but with the certainty of what it is we hope to achieve——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I ask the Deputy to put a question, please.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  ——will represent for all the people who share this island today.

Does the Taoiseach agree that addressing Irish unity over the course of these centenaries and in advance of the centenary of the first Dáil threatens no section of the people on the island of Ireland and does not in any way take from the agreements that have been entered into, namely, the Good Friday Agreement, the St. Andrews Agreement, etc.? Rather, it recognises that both provide for progress to be made on the basis of consent, for which I again assert my support.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  As I outlined earlier, the entire purpose of the commemorations is to signify the significance of these events in the history and evolution of the society and political arrangements we have in this country and how we have developed them thus far, where they have a contemporary resonance. Its purpose for the current generations is to try to put this into the context in which we live today. The entire idea of commemoration is not to be a prisoner of one’s history but to use and learn from history to be creative about how one can solve the problems of today and how one can draw inspiration from those founding fathers of the country in its modern manifestation as a result of the independence movement. On the other hand, [306]others in this country served in the British Army during the First World War, many of whom were of Nationalist outlook and many of whom understood at the time that they were contributing to the prospect of providing a greater degree of autonomy for the country. Obviously, the impact of the 1916 Rising and the resulting raising of national sentiment brought about the struggle for independence and the outcomes that derive from it, which unfortunately found our country divided again and which perhaps dominated our politics for far too long.

Commemoration is not about returning to the divisions of the past. It is about recognising and respecting all those who were part of our national life at the time and who did things, as they saw it, by their best lights. It is about so doing in a respectful manner to recognise there are other traditions that played their part as they saw it. Moreover, one must recognise and respect the fact that many paid the ultimate sacrifice. This is done every year at the national day of commemoration, at which an inclusive opportunity is provided to commemorate everyone who died in past wars or while serving with the United Nations.

The question of initiatives on issues such as what one wishes to do with the labour laws or how to promote unity by consent is separate from the commemoration process itself. The commemoration process is about commemorating those significant events, applying them to the context of our times with regard to what can be learned for the future and drawing inspiration from the self-sacrifice of those who were at the centre of those events. The question of other political initiatives for contemporary times are a matter for this House and do not have to be intertwined. The Government seeks an inclusive approach, while recognising that people come from different perspectives on this issue. Although it is not a question of ending up with something that is bereft of meaning or substance, at the same time it must be done in a way that is responsive to the sensitivities of others.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  To take up from the Taoiseach’s response, I would have thought that the questions and the manner in which I posed them reflected some of the points indicated in his response. The point at which we disagree is that there is no interrelationship and the Taoiseach spoke of not being intertwined.

I believe they offer opportunity. That is the point; that they are not moments in time of themselves. Does the Taoiseach not agree they can be part of a process in terms of progress on the rights of workers, the rights of citizens to national rights and to the hope and achievement of those national rights within their lifetime? That is something which means a lot to me and to many people, not only those whom I represent but those whom I know across a range of political opinions. I acknowledge that. We should not be afraid to address the bigger issues that are important to people. Does the Taoiseach not agree that we have a responsibility to ensure that politics addresses those issues and that a vacuum is not created that others would all too willingly seek to fill? What is important is to prove the primacy of politics and political address on major national questions that remain to be addressed. The way to do that is through dialogue and developing understanding.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Does the Deputy have a question for the Taoiseach?

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  It is a question. I believe that this decade of centenaries offers such an opportunity. I invite the Taoiseach again to reconsider same.

The Taoiseach responded earlier to the question on the consultative civic forum. I would welcome progress in that regard. As a member of the North-South Parliamentary Forum working group I record my appreciation of the efforts of the Ceann Comhairle, the Clerk of the Dáil and the representatives of all parties. We had a further meeting, our first joint working [307]group meeting, on Monday in Stormont. All one can say in that respect is progress is being made. I would wish to see similar progress at least being made on the consultative civic forum.

The Taoiseach is about to depart for his first meeting with the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. I too wish him well, as he is representing all of us in that engagement. Given that the Taoiseach has not raised this matter with the former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, since this House passed an all-party motion two years ago next month on 10 July 2008 on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and seeking address in terms of the Saville report referencing the terrible events of January 1972, I ask that he would accept and correct the fact even now late in the day and that he would raise the issue with David Cameron in the hope of furthering the proposal to have an inquiry established led by an independent, international judicial figure to investigate fully the facts behind the tragedies that were visited on the people of Dublin and Monaghan town on 17 May 1974. I put it to the Taoiseach that that is something he must do. I appeal to him to use the opportunity and to start the process of raising that matter now in a real and concerted way.

With the impending cessation of the funding stream to Justice for the Forgotten, will the Taoiseach restore that funding commitment, as it is the only group representative of victims of the conflict functioning, operating, campaigning and working tirelessly in this jurisdiction? The comparable groups representing hurt communities north of the Border continue to secure funding from the British Government. Surely it cannot be lost on the Taoiseach that that is a very stark contrast between the approaches of both Governments? I appeal to the Taoiseach to recommit the funding stream to Justice for the Forgotten to allow it to continue and I hope one day soon to conclude its important work.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I responded to the last question during a previous Question Time. The situation has not changed in that respect in terms of the reply I made on that occasion.

The opportunity for discussion today relates to developments in Northern Ireland and to the bilateral relationship between this country and Britain in general. I wish to begin the political discussion and set up the relationship in a way that will enable us to make progress on a range of issues.

On the question of commemoration, initiatives that have certain perspectives have intrinsic merit in their own right based on the current contemporary situation and then there is the question of how we use commemoration in as inclusive a way as possible. That does not in any way indicate a reticence on our part to promote our own political solutions to the general matters that are under discussion, but the purpose of commemoration and what we are trying to achieve while doing so with pride and historical accuracy and giving due tribute to those whom we commemorate is to do so in as inclusive a way as possible. There are other issues, initiatives and times for us to engage in other aspects of how we can promote the political philosophy we espouse.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Will the Taoiseach not raise the Dublin and Monaghan bombing motion with the British Prime Minister today? Surely that is a straightforward question?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  We must keep moving.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  That was a reasonable expectation when we supported the all-party motion in the House two years ago. I regret that the Taoiseach has never raised the matter with the British Prime Minister since. It defies credulity. It is an absolute scandal if on the one hand——

[308]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  We must move on. I have a number of other speakers offering.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  ——the Taoiseach will attend the meeting to address worthy issues such as the Saville report on the events in Derry in 1972 but he will not address the terrible atrocities that were visited on this city and my home town two years later in 1974. It defies understanding.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  I need to move on.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I again appeal to the Taoiseach to raise this matter with the British Prime Minister today and continue to do so until we realise the hope and expectation of the motion agreed in July 2008.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  As I indicated to the Deputy a number of times the matter has been raised by the Government on a number of occasions. I have no problem dealing with those matters. I just do not wish to pre-empt the discussions I am about to have.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I wish to ask the Taoiseach three questions. First, I wish him well on his first formal visit to Downing Street to meet the British Prime Minister. In light of the budgetary announcement yesterday by the Chancellor who indicated that there would be a specific review of the corporation tax rate in Northern Ireland, will the Taoiseach raise that with the British Prime Minister? The implications for enhanced co-operation in terms of trade North and South is an important element. The Taoiseach is aware that the Chancellor did indicate a reduction of 1% for each of the next four years in respect of corporation tax on mainland Britain and that the situation in Northern Ireland would be subject to review. Does the Taoiseach intend to raise the matter in light of economic co-operation on the island of Ireland?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  With yesterday’s budget the question of the economic and trade relationship between this country and Britain, which is an important one for both countries, is something I am sure will emerge in the discussions. There is a specific commitment in the programme for government agreed between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in the aftermath of the British general election to examine the question of corporation tax rates in Northern Ireland. That is an issue the British Government will consider and I will endeavour to glean from the Prime Minister what the approach will be on the matter.

Given the economic relationship and the impact of the UK budgetary decisions on Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland and the need, as co-guarantors of the Agreement, to encourage co-operation between the Northern Ireland Executive and the Government in terms of how we can work more effectively together, there is serious potential that has not yet been realised in respect of the level of co-operation that can take place where the political will exists and where the mutual benefit is obvious, in particular, in the constrained economic circumstances in which we find ourselves. Efforts have been made by both the Northern Ireland Administration and Irish Government to identify sensible co-operative projects in which we should be engaged given the very serious impact of the recession on the Exchequer.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I thank the Taoiseach for that response. He is aware that Mr. Paterson was interested in this question prior to his appointment as Northern Ireland Secretary of State. I would like the Taoiseach to raise with the UK Prime Minister the economic progress of the island of Ireland.

Bearing in mind the publication of the Saville report, its clarity and the apology by the UK Prime Minister to the people for what happened on Bloody Sunday, the fact that the inquiry [309]cost £200 million speaks for itself. Since the publication of the report, there has been much comment on what should happen in respect of other incidents that occurred, both North and South. I do not always agree with Deputy Ó Caoláin but we were party to the all-party motion, which I still support, and I share his views in that regard.

Does the Government have a view on whether there should be a system or facility to bring a sense of closure in respect of other incidents? I am not saying there should be an equivalent of the Saville inquiry in each case, but one should remember that sorrow and pain were inflicted on hundreds of people on both sides because of the loss of loved ones. In a number of these cases, people are still exceptionally sensitive about the fact that they do not know where the remains of their loved ones are or about the difficulties that arose because of their loss. Does the Government believe there should be an international view on this or some mechanism whereby people involved could tell their story, or have it told? Is it the view that there should be other inquiries? The cost could be horrendous. We want to focus on the future while remembering the past, which is what the Taoiseach was saying in respect of the commemorative events. Does the Government have a view on how issues of recent years, other than that of Bloody Sunday, should be dealt with?

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Eames-Bradley process concerned how one deals with the past. It needs to be revisited again and people need to consider how this can be done. There is no doubt that there are many people who have not been able to find a means to move on after tragedies were visited upon them. To find a mechanism that would be regarded on all sides of the community as appropriate and which would give them an opportunity to find a way to move on is difficult, not only to conceive but also to execute and bring to fruition.

Various mechanisms have been used that would help people with historical inquiries, etc. People have been able, in a private way, to obtain facts about the circumstances of the death of a loved one, thus enabling them to move on. They find this helpful. Therefore, there is an individual way to proceed. Whether there can be a wider societal effort to deal with these matters has been exercising the minds of many for a long time. A model that would meet with the approval of all has evaded everyone thus far. The Eames-Bradley report is the most structured response we have seen to the issue. Perhaps it can be revisited now in the aftermath of the Saville report as a means of dealing with the wider and more general issue to which Deputy Kenny referred.

Deputy Enda Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  I thank the Taoiseach for his reply. There is a possibility for progress through that mechanism.

In Belfast on Monday, I met the Secretary of State and leaders of most of the parties for an up-to-date review on the current position. I also met representatives of Co-operation Ireland. Its chief executive, Mr. Peter Sheridan, gave a very fine presentation on what the organisation is doing to point vulnerable young people in communities in a different and better direction. I understand the première of a movie that the organisation made on gangs and their impact will be in the ODEON this Friday. The point being made was that the Governments on both sides should not pull out of the programme too early because recruitment is taking place again on both sides of the divide. The Government should be very cognisant of this. I was informed that the term “dissidents” is a misnomer because it puts people into a particular category and ascribes to them a certain way of life. The term is not reflective of the reality of what can happen. People should be diverted from its use and they should use instead “anti-Irish” or another such term.

Perhaps the Taoiseach will review the involvement of the Irish and British Governments in the programmes that are paying dividends. Co-operation Ireland, for instance, must do con[310]siderable fund-raising itself to keep the programmes in place. The Government should not withdraw from the programmes too soon. We all support the peace process and the institutions and platforms, but peace lines are being built again and significant elements of social housing are segregated. Clearly there is a rising number involved in dissident activities. The Aughnacloy and Dundalk bomb factories are clear evidence that there is no longer just talk but a movement towards practical destruction, with all its consequences. Younger people who get sucked into this whirlpool at an early date could well be encouraged in time not to go down that road through the programmes in place. I strongly suggest to the Taoiseach that the Government review its participation level in the programmes, which pay dividends. It is of interest to the Government and everyone else that an escalation of violence not happen in the future. Perhaps the Taoiseach would like to comment on that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Department of Foreign Affairs has been involved for many years in liaising with all the community groups and Co-operation Ireland in respect of how they can assist with the rebuilding of communities in a divided society. It is a great challenge and it will continue. I take the point that the Deputy made that it is important that we continue to determine where we can assist, logistically and possibly financially, with the well-established projects, which are responsible for a lot of good work on the ground.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I will be very brief and concentrate on one group of questions the Taoiseach answered on commemoration. I read his speech and welcome it as a contribution to the debate. It has a few rhetorical flourishes,——

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  They were to get the Deputy’s attention.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  ——which I am sure were welcomed also. With regard to the intention of the speech, which was to make the case for an inclusive version of commemorations, I suggest that, in regard to Britain and Ireland, the greatest case for inclusion has been made in Britain by Mr. Eric Hobsbawm, for example, in respect of the working people who died in war. In Ireland, there is a case in the new history for the working people who took part in the War of Independence and Civil War and who were victims of many of the actions. The same holds true for those who took part in the Great War of 1914-18. I welcome the Taoiseach’s reference to this. The project of inclusion should not be confined to constitutional statements.

The next part in the preparation of this inclusion is the making available of the archives which would be of considerable benefit to the people the Taoiseach was addressing, both on the British and the Irish sides. The other part of it is the Irish in this period who served abroad in international institutions and who continued to do so. In other words, the commemoration should be about not necessarily the heroism of war as if it was inevitable but also those to whom I referred.

It would be absurd to go through the period without celebrating the context to which the Citizen Army addressed itself, to which Seán O’Casey addressed himself — the slums and so forth — and the socioeconomic generations that were lost before the founding of the State and that continued to be lost. I am making a case for inclusion widely defined to include the socioeconomic aspect to which, for example, the democratic programme of the first Dáil was addressed.

Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Most of the commemorative events deal with our political past. I am sure the Taoiseach is aware that this year is the centenary of the foundation of the ICA, which is an important organisation in this country. Has the Government identified any events that would celebrate the centenary of the ICA or are there any plans to do so? It is important [311]that we should mark this event and as far as I am aware, there is no event of any significance that marked the establishment of this important organisation that has done so much for the women of this country, both urban and rural.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I will address Deputy Deenihan first. I understand that there was a significant event held at Dublin Castle when the Government made those facilities available to commemorate the anniversary the Irish Countrywomen’s Association was celebrating. I agree it is an important organisation that has reflected the societal and social changes in terms of the participation of women in our society to a far greater extent than the traditional role that they played in the past.

Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  I appreciate that. If possible, the Government should do more than that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am sure the organisation has centenary events arranged for the course of the year and I am not aware that there have been suggestions of insufficient support from Government where appropriate. That is all I can say about that at present.

On the matter raised by Deputy Higgins, I agree it is not a question of simply commemorating the events themselves in a suitable political context. There was a strong social aspect to all of this and there is a need to use commemoration as an opportunity to enhance Irish social history and labour history. These events are opportunities to emphasise those aspects as well as the political aspects. I have no difficulty with that. Often I have felt it is important that people understand the social origins of the revolution as well as its political outcome.


Last Updated: 31/03/2011 17:07:22 First Page Previous Page Page of 131 Next Page Last Page