Tuesday, 25 September 1984
Seanad Eireann Debate
“welcomes the Report of the New Ireland Forum and accompanying  documents as forming an important contribution to any resolution of the political issues posed by the division of the island and as providing an authoritative basis on which the realities of the political, economic, social and security problems can be considered and resolved.”
Mr. Lanigan: In the absence of the Minister of State, I do not mind commencing. I must make the point that we are here to debate the report of the Forum. It is indicative of the way that this House is treated by the Government that they have not had the courtesy to have a Minister or Minister of State in the House to listen to the debate on the Forum. I do not want to overstate my objections, but it is discourtesy to this House that I do not think we can put up with for very much longer. It is a matter that we should bring before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. If a Minister or Minister of State is not willing to come to listen to the debate on the Forum, it is disgusting. The people should know about it. I am not too sure what the other Members of the House feel about continuing the debate in the absence of the Minister.
Mr. Kiely: I agree with Senator Lanigan that it is disgraceful. We continued to sit after the Dáil rose and we have convened before the Dáil reassembled to convenience the Government and still the Government do not see fit to have Ministers here to deal with the business that they proposed to take.
Mr. O'Leary: On a point of order, I place once again on record the fact that it is not good enough for a Minister to arrive late. The House is entitled to expect that the Minister would be here on time.
Mr. Lanigan: We are debating the report of the Forum against the background of continuing unrest in Northern Ireland. It would appear that even though the report has been published for months there has been no response from the British Government and we are not to have any response for some time to come. We read in The Irish Times of 19 September that we will not have an official British reply before the Summit meeting in November and there will not be any political initiative before then either. Mrs. Thatcher is supposed to have a very busy political calendar and one of her senior officials stated she just had not the time to slot in Ireland in that calendar. That shows her interest in the very serious debate that has taken place over many months on conditions on this island as a whole. She is supposed to be engaged on the Northern question.
It is becoming increasingly more obvious that the British are trying to  ignore the Forum report and that the views and opinions of three-quarters of the people of this island, as expressed by the four democratic nationalist parties in the Forum, are being ignored. Indeed, since the Forum report was issued we have seen the dropping by the British Government of the intention to take Kinsale gas and this fact underlines the lack of commitment by the British Government even to North-South economic co-operation. The British Government, by their action in banning Mr. Martin Galvin from visiting the North, set the stage for what turned out to be a major boost to the morale of Sinn Féin and the IRA and unfortunately set the stage for the murder by a member of the RUC of an unfortunate young man who had gone to a meeting which should not have turned out to be an orgy of official thuggery. Actions such as the actions of that day tend further to alienate the Northern minority and extend the impression that democracy does not exist in Northern Ireland and that there is no faith in the legitimacy or impartiality of the institutions of State there.
British rule in Northern Ireland is in the process of breaking down. An alternative has to be found. In situations of this kind in the past the British have responded by calling an all-Ireland constitutional conference. That is what they should do now, making it clear that their existing role in Ireland is drawing to a close.
To ensure that we have peace and prosperity in the whole island of Ireland, people must have faith in the organs of State and equally it is true that if confidence in the institutions of State breaks down, then society tends to have less confidence in itself and in a future within that society. More and more people try to get out of this type of society. In many cases the only way they can do this is to emigrate. Unfortunately people bring their fears and prejudices with them to their new environment. When one considers the attitude of Irish communities abroad towards the position in Ireland, one can see that emigration does not  make people lose their perceived impressions of the causes of the problems in Northern Ireland.
It has been said that the instability of the state of Northern Ireland is due to the large minority situation existing there but I reject this viewpoint. It must be said that it was not the wish of the minority to be included in this State and, therefore, it is logical that they should try to change the situation in which they find themselves. Most of the minority want to effect this change with the minimum of violence and in their wish for change they fully realise that whatever type of realigning comes about, they want to live in peace and harmony with the majority population. The Forum gave an opportunity to everybody in this island to express their opinions as to how best progress might be achieved in our efforts to bring peace, reconciliation and stability to this island.
I spent the past weekend in Northern Ireland. The people I met and talked with were going about the normal activities that one would expect at the weekend in any big city; nevertheless, we did not have to travel far to see the effects of the many years of violence. One of the most disturbing aspects of my visit was to travel through the working class areas of Belfast, both Nationalist and Unionist, and see the deprivation caused by bomb, bullet and intimidation. It must be said that the drive down the Falls Road with its many barricaded premises, the republican slogans and the very heavy Army presence around the Royal Victoria Hospital did not differ greatly from the barricades and slogans on the Shankill Road but the army presence was not as strong on the Shankill Road. There is no doubt that the commercial centre of Belfast has suffered in its buildings but the human suffering in the main is in the Falls, the Shankill and the many closely knit communities surrounding them. That is Belfast only. We must ensure that in the not too distant future the people of all areas in Northern Ireland can live in peace and harmony. I believe that this objective can be achieved only if the communities  North and South and in Great Britain are truthful and mutually respectful of the needs and aspirations of the others.
Politicians everywhere come in for much criticism and it must be said that quite a lot of this criticism is justified. However, when we criticise politicians from Northern Ireland we must be careful fully to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of these politicians and the situations in which they operate. I have read and heard many criticisms of the role of the SDLP in Northern Ireland politics but must say that amongst the very many political groupings in Northern Ireland they have consistently fought for the people of Northern Ireland not alone as a political party but equally in the fight for equality and the allocation of public funds for jobs, housing, social security and equity for all. What makes them a team apart is that they have not bowed before the threat of the extremists who would see the bomb and the bullet as the way forward, but have stood up in election after election and preached the moderate conciliatory line. I wish that the politicians on the Loyalist side had the courage to fight the extremists who are of their political and religious persuasion.
We now have a new Secretary of State in Northern Ireland and I hope that in this instance he will perform more adequately than those who went before him and that he will not, as Mr. T.E. Uttley suggests, get into the morass into which British politicians before him have got. As he says, the reciprocal service which the Irish perform for us and the benefit of which is their right, particularly by those British statesmen — and they are numerous in every generation to whom it falls to play a part in Irish affairs — is to equip the British, who are immensely proud of their talents in politics, and, in consequence, particularly sensitive to the humiliation of political failure, with the problem which is universally acknowledged — his words — to be insoluble and from the handling of which, however disastrously it may be conducted, nothing but praise can result. Ireland may be the  graveyard of British statesmen, but it is also the highroad to posthumous glory for a British politician. In his words, those who plunge deeply into the Irish bog are revered for their courage and commonly benefit from their ineptitude. If failure results from their exertions, blame attaches to the Irish. If they achieve some semblance of momentary success — a few weeks respite from violence, or the creation of a ramshackle coalition of incompatible people designed to collapse at the first impact with reality — they are praised for having appeased those who cannot be appeased, clarified the inscrutable and generally demonstrated the superiority of Anglo-Saxon common-sense over Celtic lunacy. In general, Ireland has become a theatre in which release of the immediate pressures of opinion on the mainland, British politicians are at liberty to indulge their weaknesses, exhibit to perfection the errors of traditions in which they have been reared and thereby provide case studies in which invaluable lessons about the conduct of British politics can be inferred.
On Friday last, we saw the publication of the Ian Paisley document, Ulster, The Futute Assured and, unfortunately, this document does not give us much hope for advancement towards peace and reconciliation on this island. It is stated quite categorically in these proposals that, as Ian Paisely says, we are aware of a view in some circles that political developments can restore peace in Northern Ireland since it is the same wanton terrorism of the Provisional IRA that denies peace to Northern Ireland. The logic of that theory is that the Provisional IRA's campaign to terror can be assuaged, if not defeated, by the application of some political format. They say this is dangerous nonsense because no political action short of the unthinkable — a surrender to the IRA's demand for a 32-county Republic — will cause the IRA to go away and they say that essentially only military defeat of terrorism will bring peace to Northern Ireland.
I complimented the SDLP earlier on their struggle to maintain democratic, political principles in Northern Ireland  and now, in support of this, the evidence is that in the remarks in the DUP document it can be seen that my criticism of Loyalist politicians was valid in that the DUP are prepared to allow that it is only through military victory that progress can be made.
The Forum Report is quite strong in its condemnation of violence and, indeed, anyone who reads the report will be horrified at the cost of violence in terms of human suffering, economic loss and political instability. I do not think that we should allow this opportunity to pass without reading out the cost in terms of people killed and maimed. We read that 2,300 men, women and children have been killed and that in addition, over 24,000 people have been injured or maimed. Thousands are suffering from psychological stress generated by murder, bombing, intimidation and the impact of security measures. During the past 15 years there have been over 43,000 recorded separate incidents of shooting, bombing and arson and the prison population has risen from 686 in 1967 to almost 2,500 in 1983 and now represents the highest number of prisoners per head of population in Western Europe. The lives of tens of thousands of people have been deeply affected and the effect on society has been shattering. There is hardly a family which has not been touched to some degree.
We also see, as the report properly points out, that the economic and financial costs have been very high. They include additional security costs and compensation for deaths, injuries and considerable damage to property. Since 1969, the estimated total cost, in 1982 prices, is IR£5,500 million incurred by the British Treasury in respect of the North and IR£1,100 million incurred by the Irish Exchequer in the South. Over the past 15 years the violence has destroyed opportunities for productive employment, severely depressed investment that could have led to new jobs and greater economic well-being and greatly damaged the potential of tourism. These further indirect costs in terms of lost output to the economies of the North and  South could be as much as £4,000 million and IR£1,200 million respectively, in 1982 prices. When one considers that the gross national product of Ireland in 1982 was £14,796 million, it will put the amount of money into perspective. We are talking about very nearly 10 per cent of our gross national product being lost because of the problems that we have in the North.
There is not enough time here to go fully into the origins of the problems or to give a full assessment of the present problems. But having said that, it must be acknowledged that the full analysis of Nationalist and Unionist identities and attitudes in the Forum Report is the most comprehensive and fair that most people will have ever read. There were many contributions to this Forum Report which identified that the main elements the Unionists wished to press were their Britishness, their Protestantism and the economic advantages of the British link, and the report from 4.11 to 4.16 deals adequately with the wishes, the fears and the aspirations of both Nationalists and Unionists.
We then come to the nub of the report which is section 5, in which the summary of the realities is laid out and the Forum proposals for the necessary elements of a framework within which a New Ireland could emerge. These include the stated objective that impositions of solutions through violence must be rejected, that political arrangements for a new and sovereign Ireland would have to be freely negotiated and agreed to by the people of both North and South and that the validity of both the Nationalist and Unionist identities in Ireland and the democratic rights of every citizen on this island must be accepted, that there be no domination by one tradition over another and that civil and religious liberties and rights must be guaranteed and that there can be no discrimination or preference in laws or administrative practices on grounds of religious belief or affiliation. New security arrangements must be provided with which both Nationalist and Unionist can identify, and economic and  social standards must be maintained. The parties to the Forum are convinced that there could be major and lasting attractions if the report were adopted, that the historical identity of both sections of the community would be restored, both traditions would rediscover and foster the best and most positive elements in their heritage and that there would be no alienation by either section in an all-Ireland context.
The members of the Forum made the case that the particular structure of political unity which they would wish to see established is a unitary State, achieved by agreement and consent, embracing the whole island of Ireland and providing irreversible guarantees for the protection and preservation of both the Unionist and Nationalist identities. A unitary State in which agreement had been reached would also provide the ideal framework for the constructive interaction of the diverse cultures and values of all the people of Ireland. Constitutional Nationalists fully accept that they alone could not determine the structures of Irish unity and that it is essential to have Unionist agreement and participation in devising such structures and in formulating the guarantees that they require.
In line with this view, the Forum believe that the best people to identify the interests of the Unionist people are the Unionists themselves. I am glad that, probably prodded by the report of the Forum, we have seen published The Way Forward by the Official Unionists and the recent document by the DUP. We hope to have a response before long from the British Government and then the real debate on this issue can begin. We look forward to the day when all the people of Ireland can be represented in the parliament of a unitary State and that the great traditions from which we have all evolved will work to the mutual satisfaction of all the people of this island.
The debate on the report of the Forum is only beginning and while there is much that we would not agree with in the DUP document, there is much that we would not agree with in The Way Forward which has been produced by the Official  Unionists. Nevertheless the debate has begun. The four major constitutional and national parties have come out with a particular report. In this report they suggest that the unitary State is the type of State which would give the best hope for reconciliation on this island. I sincerely hope that the response from the British will not be too long in coming. I sincerely hope that Maggie Thatcher will not just slot it into——
The debate on the Forum will be a continuing one. Unfortunately, it is too late for many people — it is too late for the 2,300 people who have been killed and for the many thousands who have been injured. It is too late also for the young people in the North who have been deeply hurt and who have suffered severely because of conditions in that part of this island. The ripple effect has been seen, and these people will not forget easily the members of their families, immediate or distant, who have been killed or maimed because of the intransigence of politicians both here and in Britain.
My hope is that the Forum will be the basis on which peace can be established; that it will be the basis on which we can go forward on this island; that we can go to the North and South and not see any foreign troops on the soil of Ireland; that it will be safe for Protestant, Catholic, Jew or atheist or anybody to walk the streets of any of our cities in safety and harmony. This is my wish for the Forum.
Mr. Robb: In the 25 minutes available to discuss the response to the Forum, may I start by saying that I welcome Senator Lanigan's far-reaching contribution. I do not agree with all of it, and  that will be apparent, but I hope that I will be able to throw out a few ideas remembering that I come out of the tradition which has to be wooed in Northern Ireland. Out of that tradition I am committed completely to the building of a new society in Ireland in an all-Ireland context. I am an Irishman. Nevertheless, it would be quite wrong for me to be here and not to try to put forward ideas which will help the British ruling establishment to move positively towards a resolution of this conflict which might obtain a response from the people who feel most threatened by the concept of a new Ireland — namely the Irish minority in the Northern Loyalist community. It is in that context that I hope Senators will listen to me and try to be positive in their response to the ideas I throw out which will not be altogether traditional.
I will deal with these first by quoting statements by the Government and Forum in relation to Northern Ireland; second, by discussing the very vexed question of consensus, democracy, self-determination and the meaning of democracy; third, introducing the social dimension; fourth by discussing movement, how we get movement based on democratic principle; fifth, the conditions that need to be considered in order to achieve the willing consent of Loyalists to unity based on consensus and finally, to explore what it is that keeps Britain from moving when an increasing number of people in Britain want to move, and how we as Irishmen can help them to achieve that end.
Both London and Dublin governments have a duty now to break out of ancient moulds and attitudes and to make the imaginative leap of understanding. The moral obligation (is) to put Northern Ireland, its people and their interests first.
The British and Irish Governments must together initiate a process which will permit the establishment and development of the common good between both sections of the community in Northern Ireland and among all the people of this island.
Constitutional nationalists fully accept that they alone could not determine the structures of Irish unity and that it is essential to have unionist agreement and participation in devising such structures and in formulating the guarantees they require...
That is my purpose. The Forum report stresses the need for consent based on consensus; yet it fails to spell out precisely what it means by either of these. There is an impression given by the report that “consent” is being used to defuse Loyalist fears. There is also a simultaneous impression, not surprisingly taken up by Loyalists, given that the context is being manipulated to force Loyalists to yield up this consent.
In our New Ireland group, small and fledgling though it is, we feel that the Forum report does not adequately deal with these matters in respect of what is generally known as the “democratic process”. There is no reference point with regard to what is meant by democracy. Likewise, the failure to indicate the need to qualify the right to self-determination was notable by its absence. Little wonder, therefore, that there was no  attempt to define, let along indicate, the means of achieving or measuring consensus. This was particularly disappointing to our group as we had gone to considerable pains to deal with these matters in our 40,000 word submission to the Forum. Nevertheless, in chapter 5, subsection (9), the Forum indicated that in addition to the unitary state option, two structural arrangements were examined in some detail — a federal/confederal State and joint authority. Subsection (10) states, as we all know:
It is in that context that I hope Senators will listen to me. The report has reference to systems in other European countries which have achieved consensus government in spite of a bitter legacy of feuding in past history. We should not ignore that observation. We therefore feel that in Ireland and even more so in England there is still inadequate appreciation of a definition of democracy or of a need to qualify, as I will explain in a moment, the fundamental right to self-determination and because of this there is no clear understanding of how democracy and self-determination are related to the achievement of consensus.
First, let me deal with self-determination. The United Nations Covenants on Human Rights affirm in Article 1, Clause 1, of both the Covenants that “all peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.
The implication of this affirmation is considerable for the current situation in Ireland. Consider for a moment that Republicans affirm the inalienable right of the people of Ireland to self-determination, and go to Belfast as Senator Lanigan did and speak to the UDA's political representatives or the DUP, and you will find that they affirm the inalienable right of the people of Northern Ireland to self-determination.  The unqualified right to self-determination, therefore, sets us on a collision course and it is a recipe for majority rule. There is no time to go into its evolution in that context.
We in the New Ireland group have concluded that the democratic right to self-determination is, therefore, a recipe for war rather than peace not only in Ireland but in other parts of the world where it has been applied, unless it is firmly rooted in the achievement of consensus and the claims of consensus take precedence over the right of any majority to rule. In our submission we suggested that this should be the basic principle to which all parties in Britain as well as in Ireland might relate. Whatever else, democracy was not intended to underwrite majority rule, either the Irish form of it or the Northern Irish form of it. If the unitary state is meant to be an expression of it, then only the mirror image of Ulster is British. Our conclusion that the right to self-determination depends on the achievement of consensus is supported by the affirmation in Article 1, Clause 3, of the two UN Human Rights Covenants. I quote:
The States Parties to the present Covenants, including those having responsibilities for the administration of non-self-governing and trust territories, shall promote the realisation of the right of self-determination and shall respect that right, in conformity with provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.
Article 16 of the Charter of the United Nations affirms the need “to encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction and to encourage recognition of interdependence of the people over the world.”
In other words, there is no longer any such thing in this global village as absolute sovereignty. The will of the majority is meaningless in relation to the fundamental democratic right of self-determination unless the minority to which it applies has been accommodated with consensus. If the unitary state means  that, then we are in a different ball game. Inevitably in relation to the problem of consensus people ask me what we mean by consensus, what are the means of achieving consensus, what are the means of assessing consensus. Let us deal with its meaning. Any community which can agree on how to govern itself while respecting the fundamental human rights of the individuals in it has a right to self-determination. This would be the ideal basis of consensus, in other words the right to being tempered by the need to belong. In relation to the bitter division in Northern Ireland and the division in this island, consensus, therefore, could be determined in much more basic terms as a state of affairs acceptable to a majority in each of our sectarian communities.
Let us deal with the means by which consensus might be achieved and consider (a) means by which the citizen's opinion is represented. We could explore imaginatively various voting systems expanding beyond proportional representation into the list system used in some European countries, such as proportional voting, straight referenda at various levels as in Switzerland, right down to the Commune and the multiple choice referenda which is being put forward by the Ecology Party; (b) the distribution of social power as between the local community and the central institutions of the State. Encouragement of participation may be only a sop to frustration unless it is accompanied by the power to make such participation effective. This is very important in the micro-scale of the achievement of consensus, and in our submission to the Forum we put forward a ten-point plan to deal with the problem of this central institutional power in relation to the increasing feeling of local community powerlessness. (c) The structures required in relation to the macro-politics of the region and the nation, for example an exploration of the relevance of confederation, federation, consociation, cantonisation, unitary state and so on.
Let us consider means of achieving consensus. In relation to a sectarian headcount separate electoral registers could be used, or alternatively the appropriate  percentage of the vote that would indicate consensus for each of the main options could be determined. Alternatively it would not be necessary to think in sectarian terms if the much more sophisticated method of multiple choice referenda as advocated by the Ecology Party were used. If you can use computers in your home and run the machines outside them there should be no problem in grasping the implications of that in such a war-torn society as ours. If Ireland is to move forward we must grasp the nettle of community and institutional democracy as well as constitutional issues in relation to the question of sovereignty and self-determination.
Now we come to the social dimension. All the fine words contained in the Forum report are unlikely to obtain a constructive response from those to whom they are primarily addressed unless the present administration in the Republic also sets about the task of giving an earnest of its intent to set in motion beyond the New Ireland Forum the creation of a truly New Ireland and unless the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland indicates that it appreciates fully that it has had a role in sustaining the outdated phenomenon of political Protestantism in this country as distinct from imperial unionism, and that it is prepared to take positive steps to diffuse this in keeping with steps which it has already taken.
Much more now requires to be done. In a true marriage of the traditions there should be no second-class partners. It is high time that the wooing partner indicated by action that the constitution of the future must reflect the consensus that must be the basis of any true claim to unity. We must cease thinking of it as a document to reflect any majority ethos. For example, to be morally opposed to divorce and to teach against it is one thing; to enshrine absolutism about the human condition in a man-made constitution dealing with consensus is quite another.
There is, to date, little real indication that the people of the Republic want and will go out of their way to achieve other  than a Catholic Ireland and a Catholic all-Ireland State, that is majority rule brought in under another guise. There seems to be little awareness that current Southern attitudes to family planning and contraception are inconsistent with the blind eye turned to consumer pursuit in a high technology society of exploitation of all the other aspects of the natural world, with ecological destruction on the one hand and population explosion on the other. What evidence was there in the Forum's report to deal with these matters? What evidence was there to show a desire to see the children of Ireland growing together in unity through positive encouragement of inter-denominational or secular schooling where any demand exists for such? What about the stigma of illegitimacy and what about the marginal people as well as the political vocal minorities, the homeless, the unemployed, single parents on low incomes, the travellers and so on? These have been dealt with by Senator Brendan Ryan in a recent issue of the Fortnight magazine. As a gesture to the old as well as to those who have lived their lives in Northern Ireland might it not be possible even now, for instance, particularly when it is topical in Northern Ireland, to offer senior citizens in the North the free travel facilities which exist in the South and that are at present available to your own citizens?
We may or may not agree therefore with the Forum's conclusions. We may pinpoint contradictions. We may deplore the lack of any mention of implications of the new high technology for work, employment, health, education and so on. We may wish there had been some allusion to the other great issues of our time, the problems of ecology and nuclearism. The issue of Ireland in Europe with regard to NATO and neutrality was not mentioned. There was no reference to Community politics and Community power in the New Ireland nor was there any reference to institutional democracy.
One hundred years on from the Land War in Ireland Michael Davitt must be turning in his grave to find no mention of  the use or ownership of land and other natural resources. Horace Plunkett and A.E., George Russell, must be wondering what happened to the spirit of co-operation.
The effect of women's emancipation in a traditionally male-dominated society was omitted from consideration. The erosive effects of political clientelism were understandably not mentioned. In concentrating so much on the constitutional problem an opportunity — to quote Senator Brendan Ryan — has been lost ‘of writing the social agenda of the Ireland of the next 20 years. Yet, in spite of such omissions, and in spite of the fact that the report could obviously not please everyone we were glad of John Hume's initiative in setting it up and congratulate the participants for the resolve shown in the pursuit of their work. We only wish that the Loyalist population could now feel as free and self-confident to embark on something similar by way of response and we believe they should be given the opportunity. Here I make suggestions for movement forward to give them that opportunity. The New Ireland Group would therefore urge the two sovereign Governments as follows:
1. To make a joint declaration of support for the principle of self-determination based on consensus and to indicate that they will act as joint guarantors for any solution based on this fundamental democratic right.
2. In the immediate aftermath of such a declaration to set up a constitutional convention in Northern Ireland, perhaps the last, to which all Northern Ireland's elected politicians would be invited and to set up, at the same time, a Northern Ireland Forum to which the people, other than their elected representatives, would be invited to make submissions and respond to the New Ireland Forum and also to develop ideas about the social, economic and constitutional debate about their future.
3. In practical terms, to define consensus as any solution acceptable to a majority in each of our sectarian communities and to indicate some of the  means by which it might be achieved and assessed.
We will persist in urging consensus for a truly new Ireland, a new society in an all-Ireland context. We believe that if Britain and the Irish Republic, instead of trying to impose solutions were to promote political reality in the place of so much duress and uncertainty, they would set the scene for a new debate based on agreed democratic principle.
The prospect of a new Ireland poses psychological problems with religious and ethnic dimensions for the Northern Loyalist community. In this context let me say that provided we do not bring any imperialism, the British Irish have as much right as the Jewish Irish, the Gaelic Irish or any other form of Irish to make this unique contribution to the creation of a new country provided, as I say, they do not bring imperial attitudes with them. We have had a deep heart-searching in relation to identity and the fears and hopes which many have. In order to engage the group most threatened by change, namely the Northern Loyalists, we who are committed to the building of a new Ireland must consider very seriously the conditions which would make it possible for a new Ireland consensus to emerge. At any constitutional convention in Northern Ireland, or in any Northern Ireland forum, I suggest that the issues I am going to list will have to have priority in the discussion:
1. The designation of “an indefinite transition period” which should challenge those who are keen to establish the New Ireland and would be seen as less threatening to those who have such grave reservations about it.
 5. The question of the federal unitary state idea. That degree of autonomy for a six-county Northern Ireland or a nine-county Ulster that would be required to deal with matters which could not be resolved overnight. In other words, we support, if necessary, a federal system and in it would encourage, if necessary, suitable adaptation of the canton-commune concept of Switzerland.
6. Commitment to associate membership with the Commonwealth of Nations (no longer British) with all the opportunities that imply in relation to the Third World and other non-imperial republics on the lines which we developed in our submission.
8. The encouragement of ecclesiastical initiatives so that the traditional bogey concerning the ecclesiastical outreach of the Roman Catholic church in Ireland, as far as it has created fear and reserve in Protestant consciousness, should be laid to rest once and for all.
9. Through the proposed Anglo-Irish Advisory Committee on economic co-operation, appropriate economic guarantees must be worked out with the aid of the EEC so that the basic standard of living is sustained throughout the transition period.
10. A community charter so that people in communities may anticipate the devolution of power to enable participation to be effective. The New Ireland will be about social space, creative living and meaningful participation.
Finally, may I draw the attention of the House to the five reasons which, in  my opinion, prevent the English people from doing what increasingly they indicate they would like to do, namely, withdraw from Northern Ireland? I think these are important. The first reason is that withdrawal would not be democratic. By taking up our suggestion based on consensus democracy rather than majority rule democracy and by getting agreement of the two sovereign Governments to the fundamental principle to which I alluded, I believe we can deal with that.
The second are strategic reasons. Let us remember that not so very long ago Col. Jonathan Alford, the director of the Institute of Strategic Studies in England, and Lt. General Sir John Farrar-Hockley, who until recently was Deputy Commander of NATO Forces in Europe, indicated that a non-aligned Ireland at peace was of more value in the defence of Europe than an aligned Ireland in which compromise of its neutrality could become a potential source of destabilisation after a settlement and an additional cause of it before one. We are concerned that the English Government seems unable or unwilling to put Irish neutrality into a wider perspective for we believe that the age-old strategic fears of England would best be allayed by an uncompromising commitment on the part of Ireland to positive neutrality combined with a positive commitment by all concerned to a settlement of the Irish question in an all-Ireland context.
The third reason deals with capitulation to paramilitaries. The scenario which would be most likely to provoke a civil war would be one based on unilateral Westminister withdrawal and coincidental support for the take-over of Northern Ireland by the Republic on the justification afforded by the common interpretation of Articles 2 and 3 in its Constitution.
Part of the process which we have outlined would be the inclusion of negotiations of a truce to coincide with the inititation of the Anglo-Irish process in the hope that the political movement which might result could lead to a ceasefire.
The fourth reason concerns hand over  of loyal kith and kin. This is an age old English thing that they have used. The Englishman's desire to be seen before the world as a democrat has always been tempered, particularly among the ruling establishment — I know them well — by loyalty to kith and kin with divide and rule of the rest. This was most clearly demonstrated in the time taken to remove from minority colonial and constitutionally illegal rule to majority indigenous rule in Zimbabwe and compared with the time taken to wrest back sovereignty in the case of the Falkland Islands dispute. By changing the emphasis from majority rule democracy to consensus democracy the kith and kin argument is weakened fundamentally.
The fifth reason deals with the political and social ethos of a new society in an all-Ireland context. Some of us in Belfast who have been thinking about the Ireland of the future in the context of the very fundamental changes that are taking place throughout the world at the moment feel that really at gut level this is what the English Establishment fears most, that they will have an antipathetic society in the island of Ireland which will introduce all sorts of radical ideas into England.
In the New Ireland Group we feel that, when all is said and done, this is perhaps the real cause of anxiety among those who hold institutional power in England. Undoubtedly there will be far-reaching change in Ireland over the coming decades and undoubtedly this will involve a redistribution of political and economic power to cope with a changing world as well as a changing Ireland. These matters, however, will not just affect Ireland. If England would act now — and here I agree completely with Senator Lanigan — to preserve our friendship, then perhaps the relationship might, as time goes on, become more symbiotic than it is at present. In any case, I believe we have much to learn from each other.
Mr. B. Ryan: This is nearly going to sound like the John Robb and Brendan Ryan debate. It was somewhat ironic that  on the day the New Ireland Forum published its report, 2 May, this House was debating Private Members' legislation which I introduced called the Homeless Persons Bill. It was my colleague, John Robb, who drew the attention of the House to the significance of this when he said in that debate:
The New Ireland Forum will be an utter fiasco if it is only a matter of trying to amalgamate traditions and deal with threatened identities and does not deal with the marginal and minority people, giving them a sense of hope and a feeling of new opportunity in the new country to which so many people have addressed themselves in recent months...
To me the Forum report is significant for what it does not say and the people it ignores. There is a presumptuousness about the Government amendment referring to some advertence to the social problems of a New Ireland because there is no such advertence in the report. The people the Forum chose to neglect it chose to neglect deliberately and not because they were not made aware of these problems. If you read through the appendix of the Forum report, for instance, you will find a large number of those groups who are concerned with various minority issues in this country. You will find, for instance, that the Simon Community, the AIM group and, in particular and significantly because of those who were actually organising the Forum, the Northern Ireland poverty lobby: all prepared detailed submissions. All these groups had one thing in common: none of them was invited to make an oral presentation. That in itself was a clear indication of social priorities.
I made a modest contribution and I have the dubious distinction, along with one obscure British Tory MP, of being the only parliamentarian who made submissions and who did not have the opportunity to elaborate upon them either through party groups or otherwise. Something which has been omitted over and over again is the unique position of my independent Seanad colleagues, most of whom incidentally are not members of  parties and all of whom were, therefore, by the deliberate choice of the major political parties excluded from the deliberations of the Forum. In the process the vast majority of the non-Roman Catholic Members of the Oireachtas were excluded from the deliberations of the New Ireland Forum. I think one can draw one's own conclusions from that.
Nowhere in the Forum report is there any significant reference to the homeless, the poor, the travellers, the problems of our old people living alone, small farmers on extraordinarily low incomes, the unemployed — 500,000 people or so who are the victims of our economic circumstances — single parents, the inner city dwellers and so on. You will search in vain for any suggestion that somehow a New Ireland would be of significance to those people. The 1916 Proclamation made at least some reference to the problems of justice for the nation's children. It specifically addressed itself to Irish women in what was a very perceptive comment given the circumstances and the time. The much abused Constitution of 1937 made some obeisance to justice but the Forum report found these things far too peripheral to its major constitutional concerns.
That is not to say that the Forum concentrated exclusively on constitutional matters. It did not. It invited a veritable parade of conservative economists of differing views but of universal conservatism to give the Forum long and detailed lectures on subsidies, debts, liquidity ratios, inter-regional transfers, loan repayments, GNPs, GDPs, and said that any new constitutional arrangement was virtually economically impossible — so much so, that the leader of Fianna Fáil was provoked into casting considerable scepticism on the heads of all economists, dismissing economics as what it veritably is, a ‘dismal science’. Indeed it was one of the most sane things said by any contributor to the Forum. Nevertheless, in spite of that comment sadly the Forum went on to produce paper after paper on the economic implications of this, that and the other, with enormous sums and  figures flying in every direction.
All the time, those who wrote this report forgot something very fundamental, that economics is the servant of society and not the master. We define our society first and then we decide the emphasis on equality, social justice and economic freedom and make the economy match thereafter. This is how, for instance, an impoverished country like Cuba has better medical and educational services than Ireland with three times their GNP, and how Nicaragua, with one-third of what Cuba has, has achieved mass adult literacy in three years because they put social needs first and made the economic consequences fit the social needs. Apparently we choose to do it differently.
It may be of course that the Forum wants to maintain the present social priorities and to keep things as they are. It is regrettable that the Labour Party and the SDLP failed to present their social priorities effectively in the Forum. Even in the twenties, when Cumann na nGaed-heal and Fianna Fáil were at each other's throats in the post-Civil War period, the Labour Party never forgot to argue for the poor who were on the sidelines during the establishment of the Irish Free State. Now it seems that the present dreary social policies must go on: at least nobody who claimed to have a vision of a new Ireland apparently adverted to the existence of these problems. The Republic is now following the North down the road in dealing with the disaffectedly repressive legislation epitomised in my view in what we are currently dealing with in the Criminal Justice Bill.
However much the rioting and all the disaffection in Roman Catholic areas in Northern Ireland is a product of the repressive and divided society, let nobody pretend that it is not also related to the extraordinary levels of unemployment and social oppression of the minority. The Special Powers Act, detention, prevention of terrorism laws, in respect of all of these things the Republic is well down the same road. We do so at our  peril and the social minorities down here are beginning to show some of the restlessness that has characterised a substantial minority in Northern Ireland.
North and South are now united in an equally ineffective and unimaginative response to unemployment. Once again, it is strange that the 500,000 people unemployed were passed over almost entirely by the Forum. They were passed over by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy, too, in their submission to the Forum where they accepted the social agenda of the conservative political parties. They chose to dispute that and they ignored all those who should be their special concern. Both parts of this country have followed effectively the same economic policy in recent years. Both attempted to attract foreign investment, mainly from Europe and America in order to create jobs, to the extent that the IDA in the South and their counterparts in the North actively competed for the same factories and corporations. In the short term, they were successful. They actually did something about unemployment at one stage. Nevertheless, in spite of all that State involvement, when the Ford factory closed in Cork, and when Deputy Bruton, who is the Minister responsible for the IDA was asked what the Government could do, he replied: “The Government, of itself, cannot create a single job. All we can do is create the climate which people will have the confidence in which to invest. The important thing is to get the investment climate right.”
There is an extraordinary similarity between that Government's philosophy and that of the Government which rules Northern Ireland. The Government can do nothing. Private enterprise must do everything and provide work. The Government can only sit, wait and hope. Apparently by their silence, the Forum agree.
That brings me to a group who, in the eyes of the great statesman who drew up the Forum report, are probably without significance, but who because they epitomise the marginalisation of many groups in Irish society deserve to be mentioned. I refer to the cause of the homeless, a  problem which is increased—and I can produce enormous evidence to demonstrate that it is increasing rapidly — because of the other major social problem, unemployment. Irish people north and south, have one thing yet again on which they are united. That is, Ireland is the only part of Europe in which there is no legislative protection for the homeless. When the British legislation was being passed, the Northern Ireland Office vigorously opposed any suggestion that legislation on homelessness should be extended to Northern Ireland apparently, though not explicitly, because they feared that thousands of homeless Paddies would ascend across the Border to avail of what was available North of the Border. Not a single northern MP, as far as I can see from reading Hansard, contributed or even suggested that the homeless in Northern Ireland existed, not to mention had any rights.
The Simon Community produced a detailed submission for the Forum. For all we know, it was ignored. It was not discussed at any stage, to our knowledge. It detailed TB, the isolation, the rejection, and so on, not because this is the biggest social problem but because it is a social problem which crystalises and demonstrates the ultimate consequence of all our other social problems. It produces the final, detailed and most painful manifestations of all our other social problems. The Forum, as I said, was silent on these people. The Forum could have written — Senator Robb by quoting from my article has stolen some of my words, but it is worth repeating — the social agenda of Ireland for the next 20 years. They chose not to do so.
Exactly 100 years ago, when the movement for Home Rule was getting under way, to the forefront of nationalism were the prophets of a socially more civilised society. Michael Davitt, James Connolly, Horace Plunkett and George Russell saw the new Ireland — a term they were familiar with — as providing security for the tenant, a living for the small farmer, advanced health and educational services and the demolition of the slums. They also saw Ireland providing work for its  unemployed from its own resources, be it through Government, industry, private enterprise or co-operatives. They would have been horrified at the idea of a native Dublin Government waiting for the investment climate to be right to do anything about their problem, waiting for the French, the Germans, the Americans and, indeed, the Arab oil barons to rescue Ireland from its own problems. Such an image of independence and of a new Ireland defies my ample range of adjectives to describe.
They struggled for independence, not for any form of dependence, whether direct or indirect. The Ireland of 1880 was locked into a dependence on the imperial parliament and its economy. We thought that syndrome of dependence was broken in 1922, but it was re-established in a slightly more subtle way. The next 40 years could be marked by the beginning of a new struggle to free this country from the dependence mentality, the belief that others, if we stand back and pay them enough, will rescue us from the problems we have created ourselves.
Because of this it is regrettable that all the problems which manifest our failures, our inadequacies in the social area, in the employment area, in the housing area, in the area of so many needs, were dismissed by our constitutional masters as apparently irrelevant to the great task of Constitution building. Because the New Ireland Forum ignored them, I would be of the opinion that the new Ireland, at best, represents the end of the old Ireland. It is regrettable. It is tantamount to a scandal. It is very painful for me to have to stand up here and say these things about what was obviously a very sincere attempt by a large number of people.
A large number of people representing all political views allowed themselves to be hypnotised in traditional lines, in traditional terms, in so-called social realities about what Ireland needed to do. We are a different country. We are a unique country. There is nothing in this document which reflects the real uniqueness, the real creativity, the real imagination  of the Irish people. There is nothing in it which represents the extraordinary generosity, the co-operative movement, the commitment to equality which motivated so many people, which was reflected almost 70 years ago in the 1916 Proclamation. At a time when equality was unknown, when concepts of social justice were regarded as manifestations of Marxism, Irish people, not just people on the left, but Irish people generally, through the 1916 leaders, were talking about it. It is regrettable that the consequence of nearly 70 years of native rule in this part of the island has been to dismiss those social priorities.
The Forum Report is inadequate. It is incomplete because it leaves out all of those who are traditionally voiceless in this country and apparently assumes that whatever the future constitutional structures, they will remain voiceless.
Mr. McGonagle: I should like to begin by congratulating Senator Robb. It must have taken fairly intensive research to produce what Senator Robb has told us this afternoon. I want to point out that I am not here to represent the Forum, although I was a member of it. As a consequence I do not intend to answer any criticism that was made of the report. Obviously the members of the Forum are not of the opinion that they know all the answers. They knew that there would be paragraphs with which people would not agree. They did not say, nor have they claimed, that it was a perfect document to cure all the social, economic and political ills of Ireland. They never said that. If they are deficient, then that is the reason. We tried to promote discussion, more discussion, talk, understanding, moderate approaches, rather than the emotional ones, rather than the gun and the bullet, on a problem that appears insoluble. We did not say we had the answers overnight. It will not be resolved overnight. If the Forum made a contribution towards starting a discussion, we would be satisfied.
If there are deficiencies in the report, there were four political parties involved in it. It might have been much weaker.  Leaving out the SDLP, the three political parties in the Republic are in opposition, even though two of them are in coalition. The report did not come out as weak. It came out as an understanding document, trying to put moderate opinion across, instead of the gun and the bullet. That is what the report did. We want discussion to continue. I am not going to answer any of the criticisms. I will say this. It is right and proper that the report should be criticised. Only by criticism can the report be made more perfect if another one is to be produced. There may be the necessity for a follow-up.
It was a brilliantly conceived idea on the part of John Hume. It was well executed by intelligent men who sat down coolly with a background of bomb and bullet and produced a worthwhile document. It was produced after 11 months deliberations by the four Nationalist parties in Ireland: Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour and the SDLP. It is a document of some historic significance. It cannot and should not be lightly dismissed, even because of its weaknesses. It is not, as the Taoiseach said, a blueprint for a new Ireland rather it is a document which might fit into any future agenda where talks were aimed at securing an understanding of the magnitude of the problem in relation to the North. It might assist in charting the road to peace and stability. What is wrong with other organisations and parties doing something like this in the North? The fact that it was produced by four nationalist parties was not their fault, if fault it was. Had the three Unionist parties — Alliance, the Democratic Unionist Party and the Official Unionist Party — turned up to take part in the talks and produce a report on such a basis, they would have been very welcome. However, it was rather a pity that they were not present. Having said that they were not there and that a report was produced by four nationalist parties, it is worthwhile considering how democratic the document is. It is not a biased and a narrow document. In any case, there may be, and I wish it so, another opportunity when people of all political parties in Ireland may find it possible to take part  in such talks aimed, I repeat, at stability and peace in Ireland. Against the background of disunity, shootings, bombings and general unrest, it was most remarkable that the four parties could actually come up with such a report. As Deputy Charles Haughey said: ‘We have made a serious and sustained effort to study in depth the problem of Northern Ireland and to propound a political solution.’
Democracy and constitutional policies call for examination of the New Ireland Forum report as a basis for further talks towards the restoration of democracy in all Ireland and peace and stability as a logical corollary. Violence has accomplished only the alienation of our people. How do you unite people by shooting them — lonely farmers, members of the RUC or the security forces? How is unity brought about by using this method? Disunity is brought about. These methods will not unite the Irish People but will further divide them. It is quite possible that people will say that what has gone on for the last number of years has made partition probably permanent because the people and democratic parties have said, in no uncertain terms, that it is only by consent that the people will be united. Is this the way you get consent?
The work of the Forum must be regarded as a unique exercise: a positive, well-thought out contribution to progress in a most difficult situation. We in the Forum do not expect everybody, especially those directly concerned, to accept everything that is in the report, but they must surely accept the bulk of the reasoning while rejecting those points with which they do not agree. Other concerned parties and organisations should state their views on the Northern Ireland problem — how they see the future, how to reconstruct something which will stand the tests and bring unity and harmony to the people of Ireland, North and South. We await the British reply.
Mr. J. Higgins: I support the motion and the amendment and while this sounds like a contradiction, it is not because the  basic motivation behind both of them is to appraise and analyse very thoroughly and indeed commend, the New Ireland Forum Report. Like Senator McGonagle I, too, have some reservations about the general tenor of the remarks made by Senator Brendan Ryan. While I am aware that he has a particular brief and that the organisation to which he is aligned — the Simon Community — holds a very particular brief on behalf of the depressed, the lonely and the homeless, it is fair to say that it was not the brief of the New Ireland Forum to take this aspect of social development, desirable and all that it may be, on board.
Furthermore, Senator Ryan to some extent seemed to be oblivious of the delicacy of the situation. What is hoped for ultimately is, as a result of the sanity that would prevail, the dialogue that would result from this document and the convergence of ideas, that we would eventually get the situation that Senator Ryan and the Simon Community — and indeed all of us — long for and yearn for, that is housing the homeless in both communities.
The keen sense of anticipation and expectancy which awaited the announcement of the New Ireland Forum on 2 May was realised. It was an incredible achievement that, within a period of 11 months, the four Nationalist parties managed to produce in 38 pages the main threads and conclusions of a vast amount of written and oral deliberations. It managed, furthermore, to clearly identify the problem. It started from the base from which any good analysis should start — and that is an historical base, tracing back the very roots and ideologies which gave rise to the problem in the first place. It did so in succinct, accurate and very deliberate terms. It managed to maintain the thread of continuity right up to the situation which we have today where we have an unprecedented crescendo of crisis and nothing but crisis management in Northern Ireland to answer it.
I agree with the observations of Senator McGonagle that despite the fact that only the democratic Nationalist parties — Fianna Fáil, Labour, the SDLP and Fine Gael — availed of the options and opportunities to participate in the New Ireland Forum, they must be collectively commended for the manner in which they managed to give what is generally recognised by all shades of opinion as a fairly impartial and unbiased critical analysis. It is a remarkably honest document. One of its primary achievements is that it has for the first time, put the onus on politicians and on the people, particularly those in the Twenty-six Counties — I say this with deference to the Sunningdale Agreement and the discussions which took place leading up to that development — to think seriously and collectively about the problems and the need for consensus.
The general reaction to the report by and large has been good. The stimulating that took place both openly and behind closed doors in Dublin Castle has radiated into the community and has raised a general consciousness on the part of people that they too have a role to play. This is an historic document, as Senator McGonagle has said. The fact that 317 different groups of diverse colours, shades, and ideologies, with different religious, cultural and social backgrounds, thought it worth their while to make submissions to the Forum and that 31 different individuals also thought it worth their while to make oral submissions to the Forum speaks volumes for the degree of seriousness with which its task, its role and its objectives were taken. One hopes, like Senator Lanigan, that the discussions which took place in January of last year with the various political groupings in England will lead to political cognisance on the part of Britain that it has a very vital role to play. Three or four times in the Forum report very strong reference is made to the fact that Britain will have to have a sooner rather than a later input into the solution of this problem. One remembers with a certain amount of trepidation the manner in which the Sunningdale Agreement was pulled down because of lack of willingness on the part of the British Government  to stand up to the then emerging threat of the organised Loyalist paramilitaries in the North. Indeed, it states quite categorically here that it recalled the earlier back-down of 1914, to Unionists it reaffirmed the lesson that their threat to use force would cause British Governments to back down. To Nationalists it reaffirmed their fears that agreement negotiated in a constitutional framework would not be upheld by British Governments in the face of force or threats of force by Unionists. Again, in Chapter 4 of the report it mentions quite clearly that Britain again has a vital role to play. I quote from 4.6:
The positive vision of Irish nationalism, however, has been to create a society that transcends religious differences and that can accommodate all traditions in a sovereign independent Ireland united by agreement.
Northern Ireland has stimulated among Nationalists in both parts of Ireland a new consciousness of the urgent need for understanding and accommodation. Britain has a role here too. I believe that this document has steered a new course but, as Senator McGonagle has said, it is only a starting point. It was set out with a very modest aim and that was to stimulate dialogue between all parties with a view to ending the bomb and the bullet. In this part of Ireland we, now that the critical self-examination and the examination of consciences has got under way, should examine our ambivalence, our attitudes to violence. Until such time as we face up to ourselves and mourn the young RUC man who is mowed down in the North with the same degree of passion and of feeling as we mourn the death of a member of the security forces down here, we will not have faced up to the problem. Furthermore, there is far too much blowing hot and cold about republicanism from different shades of people who call themselves democrats in this particular end of the island. I believe that, collectively, we share a lot of the responsibility for what  has gone on as a result of this ambivalence. I believe that thugs and criminals masquerading as patriots and as Nationalists should be turfed out on to the streets. I believe, furthermore, that we are collectively responsible by at times wittingly and unwittingly subscribing to such misguided nationalism. The person who sells the Easter lily, the pamphlet, or the journal of an illegal organisation, who raises a lusty cheer for the perverted ingenuity of somebody who can detonate a land mine or shoot somebody in the back of the head again, shares exactly the same degree of blame and culpability as the person who pulls the trigger.
This is an historic document which will mark a watershed. I believe that for our part we have begun a process which now must be taken to a conclusion. Hopefully, as a result of the initiative begun in this document, sanity will at some time prevail. Like Senator Robb, I would agree that a lot of the framework of the particular type of New Ireland that will develop will have to be fleshed out. However, the period of transition and many of the other things for which he yearns in terms of action structures will not come about until such time as what is fundamental and what is the basic desire, aim and objective of this document is brought about, that is, fusion and a unison of hearts which can only be brought about by a dialogue. Again, I agree with the sentiments of both the motion and the amendment. Basically, they are seeking the same objective and that is to stimulate dialogue here in this House with a view to evaluating the very valuable merits that are part and parcel of this report.
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