Government Policy on Northern Ireland: Motion (Resumed).

Thursday, 28 January 1988

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 118 No. 6

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Debate resumed on the following motion:

That Seanad Éireann calls on the Government to clarify its policy on Northern Ireland.

Professor Eogan: Information on George Eogan  Zoom on George Eogan  I do not in any way wish to detract from the terrible events that have been taking place in the North of Ireland. It is, indeed, a place of primary strife and it is a place where the inhabitants, whether Nationalist or Unionist, have been demeaned and humiliated. Nevertheless, a solution to the problem is not as great as it is sometimes portrayed. For instance, England itself has had to cope with bigger problems such as decolonisation in Kenya and in other African countries. It is, indeed, important that not only should the Government but all of us clarify our policies and our attitudes, to the problem. I hope my comments are in order as I am not presumptuous enough to advise the Government about clarifying their position but at least I hope I can clarify my own to some extent.

There is a problem to be solved in all of this country and in trying to solve any problem we should use as much common ground as is possible. Fortunately there is plenty of this to build on. Contrary to some opinions, a partitionist mentality is less common in the minds of more people than is sometimes thought. For instance, there are a very large number of bodies throughout the entire country and among those one may mention the GAA, rugby and other sporting organisations, all of which work on a 32 county basis. So do the Churches. In addition, there are other [893] bodies, notably scientific and cultural, who work on an all Ireland basis with benefit and reward. These various bodies and organisations demonstrate that on a national basis work of this sort is not by any means unusual. These organisations and others I have not mentioned take all of this for granted but unfortunately it is my experience on some occasions that some Government Departments are less conscious of this and are more reluctant to engage in enterprises that may involve an all Ireland component.

Looking beyond that issue we have to take into account that there is another partner. This partner is a very important one as it is the sovereign power in control in the northern part of Ireland. It is Britain. With regard to Government involvement and the clarification of their involvement, one thing that is clear is that Dublin is often called on by the British literally to come to its aid in the administration of the North. Governments have indeed been doing this not only at great financial risk but possibly at psychological cost. Despite this and the presence of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Dublin can only play a role. It is largely a case of responsibility without representation. The events of recent days, such as the Stalker-Sampson report, emphasise this and demonstrate a strange attitude by England to justice and to the sensitiveness and concern of the Irish Government. The Government must ensure that they have a primary role to play and this must not be marginalised in any way.

In moving towards or even considering a permanent solution, it is important to look at the problem in the North of Ireland in a wider context. I am saying the obvious when I say that this century has witnessed profound changes in Europe and beyond. Part of this is the concept that it is wrong for one country to control another. This concept has been put into practice by many European powers. Many did it because they had no other choice. In Europe this brought into being many new independent States at the end of World War I. As a consequence [894] there were also many new interesting political developments such as the emergence of Yugoslavia with its diverse cultures, religions and languages. This development gathered even greater strength in the aftermath of World War 2 with the wholesale abandonment of those vast and far flung overseas possessions in five continents by west European powers. Coupled with this was the integrity of the new states and their unity. In this connection it is interesting to observe that the question of unity on a pan-national scale is being seriously considered in western Europe by the EC. We need not confine our thinking to the winding up of the west European colonial possessions or even to the emergence of a new EC state. Already there is a sufficient and an efficient working model in place. This is in Scandinavia. Today we generally look upon Scandinavia as a group of tranquil lands, a paragon of parliamentary democracy where people enjoy the highest standards of living in Europe and where inter-state conflict has been eliminated. This was not always so. It was only within this century that matters were resolved. Just like us in Ireland Scandinavia had its partition problem. I know it was a couple of centuries or more ago when southern Sweden was part of the kingdom of Denmark. However, we need not go back as far as that but rather look at events in the 20th century.

For instance, Finland was for long dominated by powerful neighbours on both sides. This country only emerged less than 70 years ago as an independent state, but the process involved revolts and wars including a civil war in 1918-19. Furthermore, as Finland had been formerly a Swedish possession there was a considerable Swedish element in the country. There is still a large Swedish speaking population in Finland but, despite that, the Finns and the Swedes arrived at a meaningful and a proper solution to the matter. This enabled Finland to emerge as one of the important countries in Europe at the moment.

Norway only achieved its independence from Sweden in 1904. When the independence movement in that [895] country got seriously under way, there were rumblings of war in certain quarters in Sweden but wisdom prevailed and Norway then embarked on a very fruitful independent course. It is also of interest to mention that this development with Norway also bore fruit in Sweden as it led to the establishment of parliamentary government. Denmark, too, has settled its problems as is clear from its relationship today with Iceland and Greenland.

What I would like to say — and I am not advising the Government how to go about it — is that it might be interesting if the Government would consider some of these parallel developments which had fruitful results. The Scandinavian experience has shown that, without outside interference, a country can emerge which is more habitable for all its inhabitants, where cultural differences can provide strength not cleavage and where a willing commitment from all its peoples can lead to a stable society working for the common good and thereby producing a more comfortable and rewarding life for all.

To achieve some of these things as the Scandinavians and other countries have done, we need optimism. Unfortunately, sometimes when we discuss Northern Ireland we do lack optimism and we see too many snags. I believe that, with optimism and goodwill, there is no reason why Ireland could not achieve the same advances as, say, the Scandinavian countries, not necessarily at some vague and distant time in the future but much closer to hand and thereby allow this country to embark on an equally fruitful period of peace and prosperity, which unfortunately has eluded us up to the present. In doing all this one need not just solely think in terms of financial rewards, as such, but what is even more important and more exciting is the emergence of what one might call a new personality in Ireland where both common experience and to some extent diversity can encourage us to move forward into a better age.

Mr. Robb: Information on John DA Robb  Zoom on John DA Robb  The Anglo-Irish Agreement was predicated on the understanding that Northern Ireland is [896] composed of two identities of approaching equality in numerical strength and that hope for constructive dialogue moving towards peace, justice and reconciliation depended on acknowledgement that each community has rights equal to the other with regard to self-expression and equality of opportunity. With this understanding, the two Governments chose on their terms to be guarantors of what they considered to be such rights. The achievements in this respect are listed in the letter to The Times of 7 October from Deputy Dr. Garret FitzGerald and the lack of achievement in this respect is listed in the replies from Mr. John Taylor, M.P. and Fr. Desmond Wilson on 15 October.

There remains, therefore, a great deal to be done. Fair employment must be tackled by adequate legislation. The MacBride principles, of which I am a sponsor, should be rendered redundant by appropriate legislation at Westminster for fair employment with goals and timetables. Equally important should be the maximising of the support of the European Parliament on the one hand and of those claiming the moral high ground in the USA on the other for more employment in parallel with sound legislation for fair employment. We should leave no pretext for exploitation by anyone in the United States of America motivated to use the MacBride platform for personal political aggrandisement or for the purpose of destabilising further one of Europe's most socially deprived areas.

Then there is the question of the prisoners. It is vital that the role of prisons and prisoners in Anglo-Irish relations is understood and there are many lessons from the past. An indication of such understanding should suggest that prisoners, whether English or Irish, should be allowed to serve their sentences in their home country.

In education, while acknowledging parental rights of choice, it is important that the two Governments should encourage, wherever possible, truly integrated forms of education so that never again in Ireland will it be said that one half does not know how the other half [897] lives. What hope do our children have of growth in unity if we do our damnedest to keep them apart? Separate denominational education is certainly not the cause of our dilemma, yet integrated education is most certainly part of its solution. Let us, therefore, ask the Churches what are they up to as, on the one hand, the Church to which I belong, the Presbyterian Church, retains those Articles in the Westminster Confession of Faith so insulting to the Catholic people while our mother Church, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, dispensed with them, and not before time in 1986. Let us also ask, however, our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in Ireland why it is that those who in the past rightly resented being designated as second class citizens are not now doing much more to eliminate the second class status which you confer on your Protestant and other brothers and sisters at the time or the inter-marriage of other Irish traditions with yours.

With regard to the burning question of justice and its perception, constant monitoring of the effects of special powers and the need to reduce non-jury trials to a minimum must be pursued. There should be no place in the future of constructive Anglo-Irish evolution for insensitive attitudes bordering on arrogance such as those shown towards Ireland by the Trawsfynydd decision capped so quickly by yet another unsatisfactory chapter in the “Stalkerisation” of justice. Nevertheless such unworthy developments in England should not become a pretext for anything less than the fullest possible co-operation in Ireland with Irish security forces in all legitimate action against those who seek political change by deliberate killing.

In the political climate created by the agreement we in Northern Ireland have been challenged as never before to face up to our contradictions and in so doing to face some unpalatable realities. This has had the effect of generating fresh constitutional debate in which the Task Force report and more notably the Commonsense document have played a not insignificant role. The recent talks [898] between Mr. Hume and Mr. Adams must be viewed in a constructive light if we are ever to have hope of engaging constructively the marginalised political force encapsulated by Sinn Féin. In this respect, no elected representative of the people should be denied access to the media and we should not be denied the right to interrogate such people on the media. Dialogue means dialogue; violence means violence. Few, if any, of our Irish traditions have not violated others and if the people, especially the Churches, call for dialogue, is it not important that there is dialogue with those whom they perceive as sinners as well as with the converted?

Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act is an anachronism. No solution in Ireland can be successful it it ignores the tradition which has sprung from the 1790s, reemerging in the 1840s and the 1860s, finding political expression in the emergence of Sinn Féin in 1905 and obtaining political justification from the landslide victory of the general election of 1918. With the residual legacy of the Irish historical conflict there will never be a ceasefire without some agreement on amnesty and without also a test of bona fides on all sides, an agreed de-escalation with both sides reading the signs in the hope of finding the trust on which a trial of truce followed by a ceasefire may be arranged. Such things cannot be achieved by refusing to talk, however unpalatable such talks may be for many of us. While I could put forward a sound argument to the Provisional IRA for a ceasefire, this is not the place, nor is there time to do so.

If the Anglo-Irish understanding is to develop constructively it must now seek to achieve what thus far it has manifestly failed to do, to respond to the legitimate call from ordinary Unionist people for a say in the determination of their future, a say denied to them not just because the agreement was carried through over the top of their heads, but because of the failure on the part of their representatives and leaders to engage in constructive and imaginative debate concerning the increasingly untenable position into [899] which over 20 years they have led their followers.

We have only to reflect on the outcome of the Northern Ireland Assembly 1974, the Convention 1975, the Round Table Conference. Where were the imaginative Unionists at the time of the New Ireland Forum who could have rocked the Forum by presenting some new vision of Irish participation in archipelago confederation as distinct from Northern Irish Unionism? What about the possibilities offered by the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council, forerunner to the Anglo-Irish Conference? What about the role of 15 Unionists to one Nationalist at Westminster? While it is easy to point criticism at the leaders we must not, however, lose sight of the ordinary people and that is what the Governments should now address themselves to, by involving the most vulnerable and most marginalised in the democratic process.

I would, therefore, like to see, under Article 11 of the agreement, that the stage be set for far-reaching dialogue between the people of Northern Ireland and their representatives about our future and to promote such dialogue in as far as it is possible in a climate of reality. Put bluntly, “reality” would suggest that the people of Britain are not all that anxious for Westminster to rule here indefinitely except in as far as they are not prepared to be seen to capitulate to the Provisional IRA. The people of the Irish Republic are not all that keen to be lumbered with our problems at present, in part, perhaps, for fear of the IRA and the people of Northern Ireland in both traditions and communities show little enthusiasm for rule from Dublin, yet have to suffer paramilitary violence and State “Stalkerisation” as part of their day-to-day experience.

We, therefore, believe that both Britain and Ireland — this is the belief of our group — should affirm jointly the right of all peoples to self-determination in accordance with Article 1, Clause 1 of the UN Covenants and, in accordance with the motion put down in my name so long ago under Item 32 on today's Seanad [900] Order Paper, the Governments should further affirm that the right to democratic self-determination is rooted in the achievement of consensus and, as Item 32 advocates, to press urgently for a suitable definition of consensus and also for a wider publication of the means of achieving it and the methods of assessing it.

By making such a joint affirmation the people of Northern Ireland would be invited to conduct their debate divorced from the uncertainty previously sustained by the rival and conflicting claims of London and Dublin, yet in the knowledge of the prevailing attitudes of the people of both Britain and the Irish Republic. The two Governments should then act as joint sponsors of a process of dialogue and debate which would involve the people of Northern Ireland as well as their representatives and the Governments should agree to act as joint guarantors of the outcome of such process, provided it conforms with the principle of self-determination based on consensus.

I would, therefore, advocate that, using the list system to achieve the widest possible representation, an election take place to a forum in Northern Ireland to which the representatives would invite the people of Northern Ireland to make submissions both oral and verbal as regards the social, economic, political and constitutional problems that beset us, and also invite those outside Northern Ireland to make submissions, too.

In the second phase, after the completion of the forum, the representatives should be encouraged to go into convention, first, to clarify the meaning of consensus and to research the methods of achieving it and means of assessing it and, secondly, to consider the constitutional options and all qualifications of them before presenting them to the people for their choice in a preferendum — the multiple choice referendum as devised by the Ecology Party. It is at that stage that our New Ireland group would be promoting the vision of a new Ireland worthy of our people opening up, with suitable safeguards, exciting new possibilities.

Finally, politics alone are in themselves [901] inadequate to resolve this ancient dilemma. Unless we can evolve a much more courageous and imaginative way of exorcising guilt and resentment for attitudes and actions in the past collectively as well as individually, it is unlikely that we will ever free Ireland or Northern Ireland from the curse of division. In short, if the religious traditions in Ireland are to redeem themselves for their contribution to the split in Irish consciousness, if we are ever to build a new society in which all our traditions will complement each other, the church leaders should be urged to indicate much more courageously and imaginatively their responsibility for what they have allowed to develop over generations in their name. Without the promotion of a process of atonement among the Irish people, all else will be in vain. We need ecclesiastical initiatives as well as political ones.

In J. C. Beckett's History of Modern Ireland we read:

It is a proverb of old date, that the pride of France, the treason of England, and the war of Ireland, shall never have end. Which proverb, touching the war of Ireland, is likely always to continue, without God set in men's breasts to find some new remedy that was never found before.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. F. Fahey): Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  I would like to speak on behalf of the Government to the motion under debate. The motion has proved far more timely than anticipated, although I would like to take strong issue with the terms of the motion in the sense that there is no lack of clarity in Government policy on Northern Ireland.

I welcome the action of the University Senators in asking for a debate on the North. The question of the North is one of the most important and, indeed, grave issues facing Ireland today. It has deeply affected every generation since the foundation of the State. It has provoked terrible dilemmas and deep disillusionment. It has raised questions of a most fundamental [902] kind about what we are and to what we aspire. The range of views expressed during this debate is testament to the divergence of approach on the best way forward for the country on the issue of the North. It is also a measure of the energy and commitment of politicians of all shades to find an approach that is not only morally right but capable of achieving an advance in the cause of peace. Only that combination of effectiveness and justice can guarantee a sustainable solution.

There has inevitably been criticism of the Government in this debate. The Government have been criticised for ambivalence, for dragging their feet on the Anglo-Irish Agreement: they have been accused of pragmatism, lack of consistency. The Government's adherence to the view set out in our Constitution that the Irish nation consists of all who share this island, that, in other words, unity is our goal, has been critically examined. The aspiration to territorial unity has been damned as a Utopian will-o'-the-wisp which serves only to encourage terrorism. The Government's espousal of the Irish people's aspiration to unity has been discussed as irrelevant to the people's real concerns, as an old stale cliche of our unattainable objectives. There was a bewildering range of recommendations. The Government were recommended to do more, to do less, to do nothing at all.

While the Government have addressed themselves with tenacity and vigour to the problem of the public finances, they have diminished neither their attention nor their commitment to assisting in the resolution of the problems of the North. Our approach has been described as pragmatic by several speakers in the debate. We would not necessarily view that as a criticism. There is nothing wrong with adopting a realistic pragmatic approach provided it is based on sound fundamental principles. The Government's overall aim and the objective of the Fianna Fáil Party since their foundation is the reunification of the national territory. The unity we seek is the unity of all the people of this island. The Government [903] reject any attempt to conceal or camouflage this aspiration by abandoning the concepts enshrined in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. In short the Government are fully committed to the achievement of our aim of Irish unity through peaceful, constitutional means.

Unity for us is a legitimate and honourable aspiration which is deeply rooted in our sense of nationhood. To surrender that aspiration would serve only to undermine our guardianship of Nationalists in the North and close off an avenue through which peace can come to this island. In pursuit of our search for a solution to the problem of Northern Ireland the Government are continuing to actively pursue the Anglo-Irish process. I believe that whatever our divisions on specifics of policy may be, there is general consensus among Members of Seanad Éireann that this approach is the correct one and, indeed, the only one likely to achieve results. The Anglo-Irish process was, of course, established at a historic meeting in Dublin Castle in December 1980 between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher. It was a recognition that only in this context could a solution be found and that the problem of Northern Ireland was, and continues to be, an irritant and an impediment to achievement of fully satisfactory relations between our two islands.

It is in the interests of both countries that we have as close and friendly a relationship as is possible. The Government are dedicated to good relations based on principled co-operation. This process has served as the overall framework for successive Governments since 1980 in their approach to this problem. I am sure that the Government can count on the support of all Members of Seanad Éireann in this regard.

When the Government took office it made clear the areas which it saw as priority, namely the end to discrimination in employment, improved cross-Border social and economic co-operation, reforms in the administration of justice and the improvement of relations [904] between the security forces and the Nationalist people of the North. The achievement of fair employment in Northern Ireland is a matter to which the Government attach the highest priority. The existing situation in which the unemployment rate for Catholics is twice that for Protestants is, by any standards, intolerable. After more than 60 years of being second-class citizens in the job market Nationalists are impatient for, and insistent on, change. We share their sense of urgency and we have repeatedly emphasised that determined and far-reaching measures must be given legislative effect at the earliest possible time. We have presented views and proposals in this area to the British authorities and we are anxious that the substance of those views should be reflected in the draft legislation currently under preparation.

The Government are committed to enhancing cross-Border economic co-operation as a means of improving the economies of both parts of this island, and because co-operation in this area would itself generate further co-operation and mutual understanding it was discussed at the conference meeting in July of last year when it was agreed that future contact between those concerned at ministerial and official level in both Governments would take place. A number of such meetings have taken place in this context and several are intended on industrial matters, including science and technology. The potential for cross-Border social and economic co-operation will also be explored in the north-west study which both Governments have agreed to commission.

The need for satisfactory security co-operation between both Governments was most dramatically underlined by the size of the arms shipment on board the Eksund. I believe that in the aftermath of events such as the Enniskillen massacre and the horrifying kidnap of Mr. John O'Grady, there is universal recognition in this State that violence by any and all sides has no place in the resolution of the problem of Northern Ireland. If there has been any beneficial outcome from those horrible incidents it is the [905] commitment of the two communities in the North to see an end to this type of activity. The futility of violence of this kind has been shown in stark reality and these events have brought it home in dramatic fashion to many people who may not have seen it clearly before this.

The Government also attach great importance to the need for RUC accompaniment of the UDR. The policy that the RUC should accompany all UDR patrols which involve direct contact with the community has been agreed by both Governments. The Irish Government consider that the rate of progress towards full implementation of the policy has not been satisfactory and we wish to see, and are pressing for, a significant acceleration in this regard. This is a matter of particular importance which reflects a long-standing concern of the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland.

Prisons policy is another area to which the Government attach great importance. We consider that it is essential that the British Government should ensure a prisons policy in Northern Ireland which is as liberal and humane as possible. We were encouraged in this regard to note that our concerns have been reflected recently in the significant increase in the number of people granted Christmas parole in 1987. Even more crucial, however, is the problem of young people being held at the Secretary of State's pleasure and of those serving life sentences. It is imperative that in the special circumstances obtaining in Northern Ireland, the most flexible and humane approach possible be adopted by the British authorities in relation to the life sentence review process and the setting at an earlier stage of dates of release for those serving intermediate sentences and, indeed, the whole question of remission for all categories of prisoners.

The House will be aware of the statement issued by the Government on Tuesday following the decision announced by the British Attorney General on Monday that there would be no prosecutions in the wake of the Stalker-Sampson inquiry [906] because of what he termed “considerations of national security”. The Government's position on this most important issue was set out in further detail in the Taoiseach's statement in the Dáil today. All Senators will be aware of the deep dismay of the Government at the British decision and of our request, because of the serious implications of the British Attorney General's statement for public confidence in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland and for cross-Border security co-operation, for an immediate special meeting of the Inter-governmental Council for the purpose of clarifying the issues involved.

Preparations for this meeting are now in train, and pending its outcome I would not wish to comment further on the matter beyond reiterating the utmost seriousness with which the Government view the entire matter. I feel sure that our concern is shared by all Members of this House. In our day-to-day policy dealings with the British Government on Northern Ireland, the Government are fully committed to utilising all the mechanisms at our disposal to secure benefits for the entire population of Northern Ireland and in particular for the Nationalist population. The present inequalities suffered by Nationalists not only offend against the principles of natural justice but are not, and cannot be, in the long term interest of any section of the population in the North.

There is no doubt that the old order in the North is changing. There is overall movement for change and with goodwill and commitment on all sides we can progress towards a more equal and just society. I believe, however, that it is only honest to admit that progress has been more difficult and at a slower pace than we would have wished. There are, nonetheless, areas where progress has been achieved and we welcome this. The House can be assured that the Government will take every step necessary to ensure that this progress is built on and developed to the maximum degree possible. Policy on Northern Ireland is in sure and committed hands.

[907]Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  It needs to be clarified which part of Northern Ireland we are talking about. Is it Tyrone, Donegal, Cavan, Armagh, or where? I suppose the motion does not refer to Donegal, Cavan or Monaghan, the three counties in the northern part of Ireland that have, like the other twenty-three counties in the Republic been free from British domination. I presume this motion refers to the other six counties in the province of Ulster. The British Empire once covered one-seventh of the surface of the earth but the sun has long since set on that empire and its only possessions at this time are a few far-flung islands, one group, namely, the Malvinas, which give the British a spurious claim to a large tract of Antarctica and its last colony in this part of the world, the six occupied counties of the province of Ulster.

Incidentally it is interesting how the British refer to this colony by calling it the province of Northern Ireland which, of course, it is not. The Six Counties form an integral part of Ireland and they have, yet to be freed from British occupation, for occupation it is. The British keep there a huge army backed up by massive reserves. It is the place which had for many years a puppet government, a place in which there was widespread discrimination against the Nationalist population, a place where people held for questioning were subjected to most violent and severe forms of torture, a place where the security forces operated a shoot-to-kill policy, a place where murder by the security forces goes unpunished. In the words of a Taoiseach, it is a failed entity. Senator Murphy, in opening up this debate, said he now totally rejects the concept of a united Ireland.

Professor Murphy: Information on John A Murphy  Zoom on John A Murphy  That is right.

Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  That is his privilege. I can assure Professor Murphy that I do not share his views and that his views are not shared by the members of the Fianna Fáil Party. I believe that we have not only a right but a duty to free the Six Counties and to try by all peaceful means at our [908] disposal to reunite this small island of ours. As a first step there must be a British withdrawal. Those who claim that there would be a bloodbath forget that there was a permanent bloodbath there for the last 20 years.

British motives for staying in the Six Counties are not moral. They are purely mercenary. Holding the Six Counties and sponsoring the orange state prevents the united Ireland which might develop a real independence from British capitalism. One may argue that the British guarantee, namely that Northern Ireland shall remain a part of the United Kindgom for so long as a majority of the elected there so desire, makes Northern Ireland an international issue, where it is blatant interference by the United Kingdom Government in the affairs of a neighbouring country. In the United States, Senator Edward Kennedy apparently sees it in this light. In May 1979 and subsequently he suggested that as a first step to a settlement of the Six Counties problem the British Government should withdraw the guarantee, although Unionists dispute this view.

The fact remains that Britain in 1921 refused to coerce the one-fifth of the population of Ireland who opposed a separate Irish State, but had no qualms about coercing the one-third of the population of Tyrone, Fermanagh, Derry, Armagh, Down and Antrim who opposed partition. The final arbiter, it can hardly be denied, was force. British guarantee means that force would be applied by Britain on Irish politics when and as required. The present debacle over the Stalker affair illustrates precisely what I mean. I do not speak here as a Government spokesman. I have no mandate to state Government policy but I have a mandate from those whom I represent, and I have checked their views, and I can assure the House that the aspiration towards a reunited Ireland is widely held. I wonder if anyone suggests that we should forget what the British have done to us down the ages.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I do. Of course we should.

[909]Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  We will never give up our “silly” claim to those counties currently occupied by her Majesty's armies. As long as any part of Ireland is unfree we will never forget our Fenian dead. The ideology of Irish nationalism will continue to ripple the political waters until its concept of nationhood is achieved, when the people of all Ireland can live as citizens under their own government and their own State. If you were abroad and you met two men, one from Portavogie and one from Killybegs you would know immediately they were Irish and that is the way they would be treated in the country they were in. One might have a British passport. I would say to you that they would be unmistakeably from the same country.

In a united Ireland, as outlined in the report of the New Ireland Forum, both great traditions in Ireland would have to be respected and given free expression. I believe that these two traditions are not Nationalist and Unionist. They are essentially Catholic and Protestant. I would like to make a rather radical suggestion. Catholics who give allegiance to the Irish State also give allegiance of another kind, namely, religious allegiance to another head of State, namely, his Holiness the Pope. I would see no difficulty in those of a Protestant tradition giving allegiance to the Irish State and like Roman Catholics giving religious allegiance to another head of State, namely the British monarch. Perhaps the suggestion might point the way towards a future solution. Catholics and Protestants would have their religious traditions preserved while at the same time would have their secular aspirations taken care of by the State to which they give their secular allegiance. Perhaps then we could finally live peacefully as one nation free to pursue our own destiny and free particularly from interference by our near neighbours.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I certainly do not wish to be contentious, but I greatly deprecate the remarks of the speaker immediately preceding me, Senator Lydon. It seems to me that the most dangerous and inflammatory thing we can do is to go [910] back to the cheap rhetoric of gloating over the demise of the British Empire. The British Empire is long gone. We should live in the present. We should understand what the realities of this country, North and South, are. Speaking as a member of the Anglican Church I can assure the Senator that nobody in his right mind would take his suggestion as other than deeply insulting and if I feel that down here, I can assure you the people in the North of Ireland would feel it a hundredfold. I hope he will have the gentlemanliness to withdraw that remark which I found deeply offensive.

With regard to the North of Ireland and reunification of this island that seems to me to be a perfectly legitimate aim. The Government have expressed it quite rationally, quite reasonably. I do not have the kind of doubts about the Government's policy on Northern Ireland that some of the other people seem to have. It seems to be reasonably clear. What worries me is the lack of clarity in the British Government's attitude. I understand that we will have an opportunity to discuss what has been properly described as the “Stalkerisation” of justice in the North of Ireland later on this afternoon.

I would, however, like to address myself to some of the remarks made earlier by my distinguished and valued colleague, Professor Murphy, when he said he has put himself on record as saying that he now totally rejects the concept of a United Ireland and continued, “I am suggesting that my position is as patriotic as those who prattle empty rhetoric about a United Ireland”. Indeed; but it is not an attitude that I share. I happen to agree with the character of Sean O'Casey, Seamus Shields, and I recommend his very sane words, taken from the “Shadow of a Gunman” where it says “I am a Nationalist myself right enough. I believe in a United Ireland but I draw the line when I hear the gunmen blowin' about dying for the people, when it is the people that is dyin' for the gunmen”. If any of the gunmen, or if any of those who tacitly use the cloak of respectability to support them, would like to know what the effect [911] is of their policies in this island and particularly in the south of this island, in the Republic, I can inform them, because an attitude survey was done by the Market Research Bureau of Ireland covering the years 1983 and 1987, and the kind of inflated rhetoric we have heard has had this effect.

In 1983, 39 per cent of people in the Republic thought that the expectation of a united Ireland was completely unrealistic, that it would never happen. In 1987 it was 49 per cent. In 1983, 9 per cent of the people thought it would take 100 years to unify the island. Now 11 per cent of people think it will take 100 years. Sixteen per cent thought it would take 50 years. Now it is 13 per cent who are that optimistic. In 1983, 17 per cent thought it would take 25 years. Now 9 per cent think it can be achieved in that timescale. In 1983 nine per cent thought ten years might do it. Now it is 7 per cent. About 10 per cent have not changed their opinion at all. That is the effect of what we have seen going on in the North. That is the test of whether the bomb and the bullet and dangerous rhetoric actually work. If you want to know about aspirations towards a united Ireland — and Senator Lydon is perfectly entitled to speak about the aspirations of what he regards as his constitutents by which I presume he means the county councillors for he does not have the kind of constituency that Members of the other House have.

The county councillors of the Fianna Fáil Party may have a particular attitude, but the plain people of Ireland have a slightly different and shifting attitude. In 1983 76 per cent of the people in the Republic thought that a united Ireland was at least something to hope for. By 1987 that had gone down to 67 per cent — a remarkable shift in attitude. Even the perception of what an Irish nation is has altered. In 1983, 63 per cent of the Irish people thought that the Irish nation constituted 32 counties. We are now down to 56 per cent. In 1983, 34 per cent thought it was only the 26 counties; now it is 38 per cent. “No opinion” has changed [912] from 3 per cent to 6 per cent. Those figures — it seems to me — indicate a very clear change in attitudes on the part of people down here.

I also accept that there is serious concern and I very much welcome the Minister's statement. I welcome the strong line being taken by the Government on the refusal to publish the Stalker report. These matters, taken together with what seems to be clear evidence of miscarriages of justice in the British legal system, cause great concern. It is quite painful for me — because my father was English. I was brought up to have respect for the British legal system and to think it was one of the finest in the world. When I hear people like Lord Denning appearing to imply that, in order to find Irish people innocent, it would be necessary to find British policemen guilty and, therefore, this is a serious obstacle to the implementation of justice, I am very worried indeed. I am also very worried by this continuous presumption of guilt — the guilt of Irish people — not just in Britain but also in this country.

I attended a debate recently and I was most interested and moved to listen to an ordinary, peace-loving woman who appeared to have no spite or revenge about her, Mrs. Annie Maguire, speaking. I noted that just before she spoke, one of the Irish daily newspapers described her as “Bomber Annie”. I think that is most regrettable. So we have quite a job to do. Rather than a lot of rhetoric, we could all do with cultivating the art of listening, not just listening to ourselves but listening to each other, although sometimes it is good to listen to yourself. I wish some of the reverend gentlemen I heard speaking in the North of Ireland last 12 July had listened to themselves because it seemed to me that they had not fully understood the implications of the language system they were using.

I would agree with Senator Lydon on one thing. That is the use of the word “province”. It is very interesting. I heard several clergy refer to “our province”. What is it a “province” of? It certainly is [913] not a province of England. If it is a province of anything, it is a province of the island of Ireland and there is at least a geographical coherence about the notion of the completeness of Ireland as an island. I believe that the positive way forward for this Government and for anybody who really loves this island is to concentrate not on the things that divide us, whether it is the Fenian dead or collapse of the British empire or the battle of the Boyne or any of this hogwash — I do not want to know about it at all — but to concentrate on the practical issues that unite us.

We are supposed to believe that the Northern Protestants are pragmatic and practical. I would like to see some more evidence of it. With regard to the things like the Common Agricultural Policy, for example, there is a clear identity of interest between farmers North and South. Why do they not realise and why are they not honest about it and why do not their politicians reflect it? I know that in Europe some of those representing dyed-in-the-wool Unionist constituencies are quite capable of behaving reasonably with regard to some of these economic issues. Why do they then trot back to Belfast and pretend that we are all devils with six heads down here? It is unrealistic. We must continue to push these areas of co-operation as hard as we can. The same applies to integrating as far as possible the electricity generating grid. These are non-contentious issues by and large. Let us hope that the IRA will not try and blow up these installations.

I would like to address myself a little bit to this problem. I believe that North and South one of the most intractable problems this island faces is unemployment. If we could co-operate and attempt to win as much as possible in the way of investment and employment in this island North and South, we would go a long way towards solving this problem, and the IRA know that perfectly well. That is why they specifically targeted employment exchanges, large industrial complexes. They feed on unemployment so we should, North and South, be attempting to ensure the employment [914] levels are maintained as far as possible.

I do think, however, that it is a little bit odd to hear people being so high minded and so critical about John Hume — a man I must say I admire very greatly — meeting Gerry Adams. I have no time whatever for Mr. Adams, none in the world. However, it seems to be all right for the British Government to meet these people when they so desire. Why do people not worry about that? Mr. Adams I understand — and I am prepared to be corrected on this — is an elected representative. We hear a lot about a la carte Catholicism and, frankly, considering the table d'hôte version, I would practically have to go for a la carte if I were a member of the Roman Catholic Church. It seems to me that what we have here is a la carte democracy. If somebody is elected, you may not like it. You may, in fact, wish that the people did not elect these people at all, and I certainly do, but if they are elected it is outrageous to criticise another elected person for speaking to them. I hope John Hume said to Mr. Adams the kind of thing that I would very much like to say to him and that I think the vast majority of the people in the Republic would like to say to him.

I would also like to refer to the fact that Senator Murphy mentioned that the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, said in an interview that Anglo-Irish relations will never be correct as long as Northern Ireland remains unresolved and he wonders what the Taoiseach means by that. It would be impertinent for me to interpret the mind of someone as canny as the Taoiseach but I think I have an inkling of what he means. I do not want to use phrases such as “occupation” or anything like that, but when you have an island in which there is a divided jurisdiction with a foreign country having the governmental powers in that area of the country, it is not a normal relationship. One would hope that it might, at least gradually, begin to change. I certainly hope that gradually it might begin to change.

I feel that Articles 2 and 3 are an obstacle because they are slightly absurd and we simply do not have jurisdiction there. The Government know that. They [915] have themselves consolidated this view by increasing the strictness of the tariff barriers quite recently so if they actually believe we have jurisdiction, why are they themselves treating it as a foreign country? I would like to say one final thing with regard to discrimination. Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland have been discriminated against. I wish the Government here — if they really take seriously the claims to the whole of Ireland — would feel that they were representing also the interests of the Unionist population. They should not simply all the time say “we are representing the Roman Catholic population”. If any member of the Government, including the Minister or Senator Leydon, wants to know about discrimination do not look just to how we treat the Protestants down here. I know them very well: they are a small group, articulate, well heeled and mealymouthed, so there is no problem about looking after them — 3 per cent. If you want to know about discrimination, join the 10 per cent of homosexual citizens in the country who can tell you all about discrimination.

Professor Murphy: Information on John A Murphy  Zoom on John A Murphy  Once again I have to point out this does not represent any change in allegiance. It is simply that I have not any watch at the moment. A peculiarity about Leinster House is that the clocks are all in the wrong places. In the visitors' bar only the barman can see the clock and in this House only the Cathaoirleach or the Leas-Chathaoirleach can see the clock.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  The Senator can be assured that the Cathaoirleach will remind him when his time is up.

Professor Murphy: Information on John A Murphy  Zoom on John A Murphy  Could I now waste a little more time by bringing to the Chair's attention that the report of last week's debate has me reported as saying in response to Senator Lanigan's observations when he said I implied anyone who disagreed with my views was either a fool or a knave “You are one” attributing [916] these words to me. I want to make it clear that there must have been some misunderstanding by the otherwise extremely efficient and courteous reporting staff because I certainly would not make an intervention like that. For one thing, when I want to insult people I exercise considerably more finesse than that phrase attributes to me.

An Leas-Cathaoirleach:  I take it the Senator is aware that he can make a correction for the bound volume if he so desires.

Professor Murphy: Information on John A Murphy  Zoom on John A Murphy  That is right but I just want to draw attention to it here. I am very glad that I sponsored this motion. Perhaps the contribution was not as extensive as I would have liked but we got a fair response to our motion. I would like to refer to what some of the contributors said. I do not see any point in the proposal made by Senator Ross and echoed by Senator O'Callaghan, that we should have an all-Ireland poll on the question of unity. After all, this is the same category of pointlessness as having a Border poll. We all know where everybody stands. Securing an arithmetical majority is as pointless as it was in 1918 and from the point of view of the problems of unity the 1918 election was indecisive though it gave a majority landslide to Sinn Féin.

I was disappointed by Senator Lanigan's contribution. It seemed to reiterate all the most stale clichés in the Fianna Fáil vocabulary and to point up one of the unpalatable truths about this country, that public rhetoric is miles away from the developing reality. It is not true simply on the question of the North but in everything else as well. There is a kind of public facade, a pretence that things are so when, in fact, they are widely different. For Senator Lanigan to pretend that there is a national consensus now for unity does not hold up anymore, as Senator Norris's remarkable statistics demonstrated.

Senator O'Callaghan's analogy with the Palestinians is an exaggeration. I do not think that British rule in Ireland in [917] the 20th century, whatever its effects and its stupidities, can remotely compare with the Stalinist treatment by Israel of the Palestinians since 1948. Senator O'Callaghan's contribution in other respects was inaccurate. He spoke, for example, of Catholics not having a vote. It was unfortunate — and I will say no more about it — that he used words like “anti-Irish” and “Quisling”. That kind of personal abuse does not get us very far.

Senator O'Toole's contribution was necessarily curtailed and I understand that he is not able to join us at this point. Today we listened to Senator Eogan who said a lot of very interesting things. He made the valuable point that in many ways we do have a common island and we have lots of cross-Border activity from sport, to banks, to Co-operation North and so on and all that is eminently desirable. I am saying that if we gave up the territorial claim, if there was an agreeable political framework in the North, then all of these activities would be immensely more attractive to the Unionist population because all the suspicion and all distrust would be much allayed. As things are, everything is overshadowed by the territorial claim, everything is seen as a stalking horse for unity, even such a progressive and a commendable institution as Co-operation North.

Senator Eogan's reference to European background is also important because the comparative analysis is always useful, though I could not quite see what these developments in Scandinavian countries and so on have to offer to us in this situation. I incline to the view that the Northern Ireland situation is sui generis, is unique, and that comparisons with other countries may be interesting but they do not get us all that far. I was in large agreement with Senator Robb's contribution. As I understand it, what Senator Robb is saying is essentially what I am saying: “take off the pressure, Dublin; take off the pressure, London. We have to do it ourselves with your goodwill but not with your pressure”. I am in total agreement with that.

I come now to the Minister's contribution. [918] Life is always full of surprises; I was expecting something totally bland. It began with some bland statements like, “the Irish nation is all who share this island”— I wish the Constitution said so: it does not say anything like that. The Constitution does not refer to another phrase used by the Minister, “the unity of all the people of this island”. From there on the Minister's statement went towards answering some of the questions contained in my motion. It spelled out day-to-day Government policy. It does not agree with my position. I did not expect that it would but it was a great deal better than I expected.

Senator Lydon's contribution was very little different in its rhetoric from the Provo position. He used works like “occupied”, “freed from occupation” and “British occupation”. He never mentioned once that the real British in the North, as James Molyneaux said long ago, are the Unionists. “We are the British,” said James Molyneaux, “and we have no intention of getting out”. Senator Lydon did not address himself to that problem.

I share Senator Norris's ultimate position on this. When I say that I now am against the whole idea of territorial unity what I mean, of course, is that I would love to see a united Ireland. Would not everybody from the tradition from which we came? It would be, apart from anything else, an emotionally fulfilling concept but I hold the view that at the moment the aspiration to a united Ireland is insincere, the territorial claim is counterproductive. It is a barrier to peace and understanding and we do not need it anymore because if the Anglo-Irish Agreement could be implemented properly — and we must continue to put pressure on the British to work it properly — then that agreement gives us that role of being guarantors and of being supervisors, as it were, to discharge our obligations to the people of Northern Ireland. It is because I believe the territorial claim is desperately counterproductive and a continual source of supicion that I think it would be in the national interest to drop it totally. A [919] united Ireland, if it ever comes, will come at the end of a long process. It will certainly not come at the beginning. It will come as a result of peace and reconciliation.

When I seem to criticise Fianna Fáil I criticise those elements of Fianna Fáil who will not examine the question as it is being painfully revealed now before their eyes. In that respect they share the same mentality as Messrs. Paisley and Molyneux who now want, apparently, a resurrection of the old Stormont. What they had to say in the last few days of the talks with the Northern Ireland Office is a sure proof that like the Bourbons they have forgotten nothing and learnt nothing. Einstein said something profoundly true about the dilemma of the world in the nuclear age. “Mankind”, he said, “will have to learn new ways of thinking if it is to survive”. I suggest that in Ireland, if we are to survive in terms of peace and reconciliation, then we must learn new ways of thinking.

Question put and agreed to.


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