A New Framework for Agreement: Statements (Resumed).

Wednesday, 1 March 1995

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 142 No. 3

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Mr. McGowan: Information on Paddy McGowan  Zoom on Paddy McGowan  I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words on the Framework Document which is of paramount importance. It is the most important item on the political agenda, North and South. I do not share the gloom expressed by many sectors, especially in the North of Ireland, and I live very close to the North. I am a member of a cross-Border group that has been in existence for 18 years and I know where we can co-operate. I have a document, drafted before the Framework Document, entitled: “North-West Region Cross-Border Group — Shaping the Future Together”. As I said, that group is 18 years in existence so the outcry over North-South institutions has a very hollow sound to me.

Eighteen years ago, three local authorities on the northern side and one on the southern side, in County Donegal, came together and formed a cross-Border group. There were a lot of difficulties and a lot of mistrust. We wanted to have a balanced approach. We had six members from Donegal County Council, two from Derry City Council, two from Limavady Rural District Council and two from Strabane District Council — six members from each side of the [342] Border, representing 280,000 people in an area that had been severely affected by the Border trouble and had been almost brought to a standstill when small businesses, from the petrol station to the shirt factory — were almost completely wiped off the map. In that environment, the four local authorities felt an obligation to get together and work together.

We could not get any Unionist to join our cross-Border group. Nevertheless, we went ahead and eventually we were approached by the three local authorities on the northern side to see if we would mind if they increased their numbers by one for every local authority. Donegal County Council's representatives agreed to three members from each of the local authorities on the northern side to accommodate an internal political arrangement within those local authorities. Soon after this, we were approached again to allow the three local authorities on the northern side to increase their numbers by one. Donegal local authority agreed, thereby giving four members from Derry, four from Limavady, four from Strabane and six from Donegal — 12 against six. We had no difficulty in agreeing to that. That request from the three local authorities on the northern side was to accommodate the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party. We now have a cross-Border organisation which is working perfectly and is recognised and participated in by people of all shades of political and religious opinion.

We have a document, fittingly called: “Shaping the Future Together”. We have had many meetings and we have established a trust — total trust — because we recognise that the problems on the northern side are no different from the problems on the southern side.

When I read in the Framework Document the provision for setting up institutions — and I hear an outcry against those institutions — I ask myself if this is kite-flying, brinkmanship or political manoeuvring. I do not accept that the Unionists will not ultimately join in the [343] Framework Document discussions. I believe that the hard line Unionist is a very clever politician and an astute operator and, however it might appear at the moment, I have several indications to confirm my beliefs. Yesterday, the European Commissioner for Regional Policy was in the North of Ireland to announce funding for the Border region; he was invited to Belfast, even though the funding is for the Border region. The three MEPs who were part of the delegation that met the Commissioner were Mr. John Hume, Dr. Ian Paisley and Mr. Jim Nicholson. Nobody from the Border region was there. However, I look at all the barometers that are there. Those three MEPs had no difficulty whatsoever in coming together where it was fundamentally important for them to recognise each other and being part of the process of meeting the Commissioner to announce funding for the cross-Border area. Unfortunately, we have a small problem and it is one we can put right, and that is that nobody south of the Border has yet met the Commissioner who announced that funding for the cross-Border region. Nevertheless, I believe that matter will be resolved.

President Robinson said yesterday that there were genuine fears held by the Unionists in the North. I am sorry but, with respect, I have to disagree.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  Senator, the President is above debate in the House and by precedent and tradition we do not normally make references like that in the circumstances.

Mr. McGowan: Information on Paddy McGowan  Zoom on Paddy McGowan  I respect your views, a Chathaoirligh, but the President's statement appeared in the public press and if I am not entitled to refer to it——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  We have Standing Orders and rulings of the House in this regard.

Mr. McGowan: Information on Paddy McGowan  Zoom on Paddy McGowan  I accept your guidance on the matter, a Chathaoirligh. [344] There are no genuine fears among the Unionists at present. There may be political movement and brinkmanship, but there are no genuine fears because there is nothing in the document about which any reasonable person could be afraid.

I received an invitation, dated 23 February 1995, from the chairman of Strabane District Council, who is a Unionist representative, inviting me to participate in a conference which is being organised in the North of Ireland. In his letter he states:

We see your role in a cross border context as being essential and central to the development of our mutual interest. With that in mind, I am writing to cordially invite you to chair one of our key sessions at the conference.

I have been identified with a political party for long enough and if a Unionist chairman in the North of Ireland sees fit to invite me to chair a conference then there is not a major problem.

The Unionists are clever and astute enough to make the best out of the Framework Document. They would be right to do so, because Britain owes the people of Ireland, and especially the people of the North of Ireland and the Border counties, a lot. Britain is largely responsible for creating the situation and has now recognised that the best way forward is to encourage all of those involved in the political process. North and South, to come together and solve the problem on the island of Ireland. Any reasonable person would understand that there is no future in Europe for two sections of a small island who engage in fighting and killing each other. It will take years and millions of pounds to rectify the deprivation which has been caused in the Border region and to put the island, especially the North of Ireland and the area south of the Border, into a position to compete in Europe.

Recently I attended the launch of a boat in Killybegs costing £32 million. The boat was build outside the country, in Norway. The owner of the boat had another boat which was taken to the [345] shipyard in Belfast to be repaired. However, some misguided hard line Unionist maliciously damaged the boat and it had to be towed out of the shipyard to a Norwegian port. The owner then sold the damaged boat and bought a new one for £32 million. It was tragic that it was not recognised that the shipyard in Belfast, which is under severe economic constrains and finding it difficult to maintain employment, could be building boats for the fishing industry in this country.

How short sighted can people be and for how long, given that customers for fishing boats are forced to go outside our own island to have them built elsewhere? Issues such as this must be spoken about, and loudly enough to register with those who are so narrow minded and bogged down in the past. They must be told that their future is in total co-operation — economically, politically and every other way — on this island.

There is a future, and hopefully we will encourage all those who are now opposed to debate to come together and negotiate, whether it takes a year or two years. I have confidence that trust will be established and that the people in the North and the South, Unionists, Nationalists and those of every persuasion will ultimately reach an agreement. I am satisfied that this will happen in the near future.

Mr. Cotter: Information on William Cotter  Zoom on William Cotter  Like all in this House and the other House, I welcome the publication of the Framework Document. It is good that we have unanimity on the document as it provides a solid foundation for progress.

I remember exactly where I was when the IRA ceasefire was announced. I was many miles away from this House and the country; I was in Africa during the summer holidays working with the Rwandan refugees. I was working in a part of Zaire where there were no communications whatsoever, but a rumour filtered around our camp that peace had broken out in Ireland. We rejoiced, but we were so busy that our [346] rejoicing had a short life. We went back to work, but we were very happy and, although we could not confirm it had happened, we immediately believed that the ceasefire was true. When I came home a few weeks later I discovered this to be the case and I found that most people in Ireland had been quietly rejoicing over a period of a few weeks.

The rejoicing was somewhat restrained, and when the Framework Document was published last week by the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister there was, once again, a great sense of relief. Peace was still holding and we had a new document which brought with it new promise. Although the reaction from the Unionist side was somewhat harsh, most people have made up their minds that this was to be expected. It did not mean that the document was to be torn up and thrown away, but that it will at some stage in the future form the basis of talks.

There is a certain restraint on the rejoicing of people at present because of their concerns. Most people in the South of Ireland, especially those in the Border counties, understand some of the intricacies of what is happening in the North and most people see that the Unionists are genuinely afraid that what they have will be taken away from them. They are afraid that somebody will take over the house and throw them out into the yard. By contrast, the Nationalists need a new status; and the frustration which they felt, and which eventually led to warfare in the North of Ireland, must be removed.

The huge challenge facing everybody at this stage is how to bring the opposing forces together. How does one reconcile a set of aspirations on the one side which is entirely different from a set of aspirations on the other side? There is not much we can do in the South except to try to set in train a chain of events which will lead to talks between all the parties involved in the North of Ireland and our own involvement at a later date.

Over the centuries people in the North have developed very well defined [347] intellectual positions, as those us who live on the Border are very conscious. However, as Senator McGowan mentioned, we are also aware that there is a great desire among the ordinary people in Northern Ireland, on both sides of the divide, for economic progress through co-operation. I want to see, for the people whom I represent, a system worked out in the North where that co-operation can flourish and where we can join hands and climb the mountain together. No matter how steep the mountain is, if we join hands we can get to the top by pulling one another along.

I firmly believe that dialogue will begin within a reasonable period of time. With the Framework Documents and all the other documents produced by the Unionists and others on the table, there is at least a basis for discussion. I am convinced that once those discussions begin we will end up with some sort of an agreement whereby we can all live on the island in peace and harmony. People see the alternative to that as entirely out of the question; nobody wants to return to the days of bombs and bullets.

I have lived on the Border for the past 29 years and I know many families who have been bereaved by bombs and bullets. I have seen the bullet marks on the walls of the square in Crossmaglen. That is a terrible intrusion into the lives of ordinary people which must never be allowed to happen again. I believe that most people who are familiar with that do not want to return to it, which the opinion poll last weekend verified to some degree. Therefore, I have huge confidence that talks will begin and that they will be fruitful.

I am not that concerned about what agreement will emerge at the end of the day. I will leave it to people at a different level to work out exactly what they want in that respect. I want people who have been deprived for years to have the ability to co-operate and to build good, decent lives for themselves and their families. I am almost certain that [348] we will have that within a short period of time.

I am satisfied that the Governments in London and Dublin have done a great amount in the past. Seán Lemass took the first faltering steps when he visited Belfast. That was a momentous event at the time and created ripples in the North which eventually led to the downfall of Terence O'Neill. It was a huge risk to take which had its price. We have come a long way since then. Former Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, together with the members of his Government, managed to put together the agreement which brought about a power sharing executive in 1974, which was also a momentous event at the time. Of course, it did not last; but if it had not happened we would not have had the Framework Document today. At a later date Garret FitzGerald jumped into the breach and in 1985 we had the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It did not achieve everything it set out to and probably could not have done so. However, without it we probably would not have had the Framework Document either. All of those steps were necessary to prepare people and to move them an inch at a time, which was, in effect, what happened.

The Governments in London and Dublin have done a great amount, but I ask them to prove that they understand what has happened in the Border counties and in Northern Ireland since this State was founded. If they do understand they will respond in a very positive way, which is very different from the way which they are indicating at this point in time.

People should realise that the development of the Border counties has been held back at an incredible rate, not just since 1969 but since the State was founded. The normal crossing of county boundaries was not possible in the Border counties. I remember the time when one needed a bond for one's car in order to cross from the South into the North. This was very tedious and prevented people from crossing. That was before the Troubles, so there has [349] always been restricted movement of people in the Border counties. Therefore, development was restricted, as anybody who knows the area can verify.

When the Troubles broke out and bombs started exploding everywhere, people stopped travelling between the North and South. Although the Border was opened when we joined the EEC in 1973, we did not have the movement of people which other counties had. There was some exchange of ideas, local spending and tourism, but not the normal quantity. Development in the Border counties is light years behind the development of the rest of this island and the rest of the United Kingdom. That is why I am asking the two Governments to show that they understand what has been happening in the North and how to move the process on.

It is not good enough for the peace dividends to roll in from America, Europe and elsewhere; there must also be a movement within Ireland to make a huge investment in the areas which matter. The people on the ground must see the results of what has happened. As our development is so far behind, in order to bring us up to date we will have to have a large injection of funds. Local authorities, in particular, cannot find matching funds. If we are offered grants we cannot take them up. I ask the Governments to look at that and to provide matching funds for local authorities so that we can see a change on the ground within a very short period of time. It is the Government's duty to do this. It is not enough to be part of talks and to be in a position to support development without supporting it in the most practical way, which is with money.

Many business people, whose markets were reduced because of the Border and the lack of co-operation between the North and South, are also in difficulties. The normal grant aid which applies to the rest of Ireland is not suited to the Border areas. I ask the Government to show that it understands what is happening and to put together a new type of package to regenerate the Border [350] counties. When I see that, I will say that they understand. I will continue to harp on that issue until the Government acts upon it.

For example, we will get some Structural Funds under the operational programme for tourism. Because of how it is structured, hotels with 20 or 30 bedrooms can apply for grant aid — they have already done so because the final application date was yesterday — but smaller hotels cannot apply because they are outside its terms. As there has been no tourism whatsoever in the Border counties in the last 70 years, how can we develop tourism? We will not be able to do so unless we receive a set of operational programmes which reflect reality on the ground. I ask the Members of the House to understand my points and support me.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  I understand Senator Bohan wishes to share his time with Senator Ormonde. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Bohan: Information on Eddie Bohan  Zoom on Eddie Bohan  I welcome Minister of State, Deputy O'Shea, to the House. It is the first time I have had the opportunity to contribute in his presence. He is a former Seanad colleague and I am happy he is here.

I congratulate both Governments for publishing the Framework Document, which hopefully will be studied carefully and at length by our political parties. There is now an historic opportunity to take the gun out of Irish politics forever and to achieve a new and farreaching political accommodation in Ireland in a transformed atmosphere. The aim of both Governments is an agreed Ireland. where the principle of self-determination is balanced by the requirement of consent. There is now a clearer realisation than ever before of the futility of attempting to resolve the differences between our two communities by force or by coercing one community into a mould set by the other, whether in Northern Ireland or Ireland as a whole.

The Framework Document is essentially the same as that negotiated by the [351] previous Government, except with no specifics on proposed constitutional changes. I wish to pay a special tribute to former Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds and the courageous, risk-taking role he played in his energetic pursuit of peace. He was ably supported by the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, and it is a matter of regret for so many Irish people that others drove a wedge of suspicion and jealousy between them.

Deputy Reynolds was trusted by all sides, a unique achievement. He had many social and business contacts in the North which were invaluable in establishing contacts on both sides of the political divide. He established a rapport with John Major and got him on side. This was another unique achievement, particularly at a time when the British Prime Minister was in some difficulty at Westminster and needed the support of the Unionist MPs. On these two prongs, he worked with patience, perseverance and tenacity to establish the realisation that peace in our time was possible. The talks process, which should be inclusive, should start straightaway. Nobody loses by talking; everybody gains from peace.

Miss Ormonde: Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  I also welcome the Minister to the House. I am always pleased to see someone from my home area in authority. It makes me feel good when I realise that Waterford people are not so bad after all.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to express my views on the Framework Document. It has been very well received and is one of the major documents of our time. I wish to acknowledge the work of the previous Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds. Without his tenacity and approach to peace, the end of violence may not have happened. I also acknowledge the roles of the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, John Hume and Gerry Adams. It has been a long process but it all came together in the last year through the work of these people and people across the water, including the Prime Minister, Mr. John Major. It is great that we are here [352] tonight discussing this historic document.

The Framework Document is a set of proposals on ways to reflect the two traditions in the North of Ireland and on how best to reconcile the diversity which has existed for the past 25 years. I have no doubt, from talking to people from the North and to my colleagues, that there has been a great change in the last six months. We hear of people going to the North and talking about how wonderful it is to go shopping there again. This is a prize example of how far we have moved in the last six months, but what do we do now?

As has been stated many times, we must have dialogue. We must sit around the table and talk. This process began with the forum, which started last October. When we first went into the forum, we were all daunted by the number of groups from the North. We were also apprehensive because we did not know these people. We wondered how we should react and how we should put our presentation together. After a couple of meetings with the Sinn Féin and the Alliance Party delegations, I found that I was totally in harmony with them.

I was able to discuss matters with them and understand how they felt. The forum is a prize example of how we can get together around the table and try to resolve the differences which have existed over time.

How can this document be implemented? Institutions will be established which will have common interest and advantage. They will be of mutual benefit to all concerned. The areas of common interest include agriculture and fisheries, trade and tourism and education. This will have huge potential for co-operation between North and South. We should try to get people to understand how communities and institutions in small work areas. As I have stated many times, small is beautiful. Things can be done in a small way in each community, through the schools and our language. The area which provides most hope is music which has the power to bring everybody together. The [353] question of how symbols should be treated in the future also arises. These matters will be considered when we examine how best we can integrate without losing our own identity.

We must respect and have a feel for the other point of view. This poses the biggest fear for Unionists and I hope we can finds ways which would enable them to come to the table. One member of the Unionist party, Mr. Roy Garland, visited the forum. He came in a personal capacity to explain his feelings. We hope he will be the first chink in their armour and that others will follow. The Unionist leaders have become so entrenched that we must find ways to get them to the table. I believe this is the way forward. We cannot go back to the gun. If the Unionists do not come to the table, the problem will remain. This is a very sensitive area. The Framework Document is the way forward. We must also have an intergovernmental approach, where the two Governments will sit down and oversee areas where dilemmas may arise in terms of reflecting the ethos of the other party. As a member of the forum, I am very pleased to be in a position to contribute to the process of peace and reconciliation. The concept of coming together is in itself very small step but if it is done in a way that people can understand, they will relate to it.

Mention was made of putting various cross-Border projects into operation. When money comes from Europe people do not understand how it should be spent or how programmes can help to bridge the gap between Unionist and Nationalist. We have to start with community orientation. That came through strongly from the various submissions presented to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. They felt the approach should be from the ground up. It was clear these people want peace and to have their differences acknowledged. Nobody wants to destroy another's identity.

All we want is consensus, trust and an air of confidence to build up that trust. The full implications of this document [354] and the approach the intergovernmental conference will take are matters for the future. All we can do is take one step at a time. The Unionists should not fear that they will be dragged into a united Ireland in the near future. We are talking about peace and reconciliation and cross-Border co-operation. There are many areas at which we should look but taking matters one step at a time, which is what we are doing, is the only way we will get a permanent peace.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Gerry Reynolds  Zoom on Gerry Reynolds  I wish to share my time with Senator Taylor-Quinn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Gerry Reynolds  Zoom on Gerry Reynolds  I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on the Framework Document. I compliment the politicians and civil servants who have been involved in this process over the last number of years and have brought it to this historic stage. It would be remiss of me not to mention to role played by the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds. While many people thought the Hume-Adams negotiations would not lead to any substantive issues being dealt with he, as Taoiseach, always felt that further progress could be made, and that is what happened. I also thank the Tánaiste, who has been there through all these negotiations and has played an important and pivotal role. I also thank the present Taoiseach, who has played a very important role in bringing forward the publication of the Framework Document.

The Taoiseach, Deputy Bruton, with the British Prime Minister, Mr. John Major, published the Framework Document last Wednesday, 22 February. The document has been two years in the making and marks the next succeeding step in a gradual attempt at a resolution of the problems in Northern Ireland. Much has already been written and said about the document, with the benefit of selective leaks prior to the full publication. Now that it has been fully published. the document's full meaning and [355] input can be understood and appreciated.

The document commences with the headnote “A shared understanding between the British and Irish Governments to assist discussion and negotiation involving the Northern Ireland parties”. These words speak for themselves; discussion and negotiation are to be encouraged. Paragraph 1 opens with the statement of a goal; “to remove causes of conflict, to overcome the legacy of history and to heal the divisions which have resulted.” It may be stated that the roots of the problem in Northern Ireland are obvious and well documented. Nonetheless, they must be identified and restated with a view to tacking them.

The following paragraphs in the document express the mutual regrets of the respective Governments for the often tragic events of Anglo-Irish history. The Joint Declaration is acknowledged and the cease-fires are welcomed as a vital ingredient in the search for agreement. The search for agreement is the common theme running through the document.

The immensity of the task at hand is nowhere under-estimated. The document acknowledges that there are strongly held positions on both sides, a fundamental absence of consensus about constitutional issues and deep divisions on both sides over their views on the present status of Northern Ireland and any future relationship with Ireland and Britain. The ground rules in search of agreement between the Governments are agreed as the principle of self-determination, the principle of consent, the observance of exclusive democratic and peaceful means and mutual observance of respect for both traditions in the North.

Under the heading “Constitutional Issues”, the document acknowledges that “Given the absence of consensus and depth of divisions” an agreed new approach on both sides is required. Clause 16 states:

[356] ...the British Government recognise that it is for the people of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parties respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish;

The Irish Government accept that the “agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland” is a prerequisite to any solution. The agreed new approach to looking at the deadlock in the North of Ireland is suggested through the implementation of interlocking and mutually exclusive institutions on three levels; structures within Northern Ireland, North-South institutions and East-West structures. The structures in Northern Ireland will depend on the co-operation of elected representatives exercised in the spirit of cross-community co-operation.

The North-South institutions are to cater for political, social and economic relationships between North and South. The provisions given under this heading of the document stress the practicality of North-South interaction on this small island. The specific provisions as to how this interaction will occur are exploratory and suggestive given that the document is as yet but a framework for discussion. They do, however, give a new dimension to the status quo on Northern Ireland. The underlying theme of this section of the document appears to be that there is much to be gained for all sides in the mutual recognition of political, social, economic, cultural and geographic co-operation between the North and South.

The East-West structures are to be a forum involving both British and Irish Governments and Northern Ireland parties to pursue agreement and reconciliation in the North. An intergovernmental conference will be set up to monitor the progress of the agreement in Northern Ireland.

Under a heading entitled “Protection of Rights” it is acknowledged that there [357] is a large body of support, transcending the political divide, for the comprehensive protection and guarantee of fundamental human rights. The document advocates the political representatives in both jurisdictions in Ireland to adopt a charter to protect the rights of free political thought, freedom of religion, the right to pursue democratic politics and change, the right to live where one chooses and the right of equal opportunity and social and economic activity.

In conclusion, the document urges the search for agreement underpinned by peace. A new political accommodation is the inestimable prize which will transform relationships in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and between both regions. The document acknowledges that the issue of sovereignty has been symbolic on one community dominating the other. The purpose of the document is to provide an equitable and fair set of ground rules so that if any changes occur, both sides will be able to accept them without fear or prejudice. If the majority of the population of Northern Ireland choose to preserve the union, there will be provision for the Nationalist aspiration to be acknowledged in the framework proposals and if, in the future, the majority in the North choose to opt for a united Ireland, the Unionist aspiration will be similarly acknowledged.

The Framework Document brings home the realisation that whatever the future holds for Northern Ireland in terms of its union to either Britain or Ireland, agreement before change is a better option than change before agreement.

As a Border county representative, I think the atmosphere transcending the whole of the North of Ireland and the island of Ireland has seriously changed since the cease-fire. All political leaders in the North and here must show great courage over the next number years to bring peace and political uniformity to Northern Ireland. I have no doubt the will is there. It will take time; but we, as politicians, should help and encourage all sides to come together to discuss the [358] Framework Document because the parameters laid down are helpful. I look forward to a fitting end to the problems in Northern Ireland over the next number of years.

Mr. Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  I join with other Members in welcoming the Minister to the House and in congratulating those involved in the publication of the Framework Document. It is an important and historic document which provides the opportunity for people to enter into discussions without any preconditions. It is the culmination of much political activity which resulted in a number of measures being put in place before a Framework Document could be produced.

The Joint Declaration by the Irish and British Governments was important. It would not have been possible without the knowledge and information both Premiers — the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, and John Major — had that matters could be progressed further. All those involved at that time and previously — some are unknown because they are not public figures — played an important role in initiating dialogue and discussions which brought about a situation where the two sovereign Governments could decide on a document laying down the initial framework for what has taken place over a period of 12 months.

The resolve and, indeed, the single-mindedness of the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, during those 12 months must be admired and complimented. Many, including some in public life, for a long time doubted his ability to see this through, to see the guns silenced and our republican brethren brought to the negotiating table; but he persevered and achieved a result. Looking at the other people involved in that process, it would seem that he had most to lose at that time in so far as he was the leader of Government here, although most of the violence occurred in the North. It took great courage for Deputy Reynolds to put himself out on [359] a limb, but it paid handsomely when peace was eventually achieved.

I compliment John Hume for his trojan work over the years in trying to achieve the situation which exists today. We must acknowledge that Gerry Adams, as President of Sinn Féin, moved the process forward. He was able to convince those in his organisation, the Irish Republican Army and its leaders to lay down their weapons and support Sinn Féin's initiative.

The final cog in the wheel was the UK Premier, Mr. John Major. The special relationship which developed between John Major and Albert Reynolds over many years played no small part in this process. There was an understanding between the two men on issues relating to Northern Ireland. They moved the situation forward and we now have the Framework Document, which had been spoken about for many months. In the autumn many people, including some republican leaders, said that perhaps the Framework Document could be left aside and that direct talks could be entered into, because they feared it might not be produced. At that time the then Taoiseach resolved to publish the document. He and his officials played an important part in the preparation of that document, although he was not there to see it completed. I congratulate those who took that final step and published the Framework Document, including the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, who was involved in discussions from an early stage.

Now that there is a Framework Document, people must sit around a table and discuss the issues which are important to them. That is the most important issue before us today. In our capacity as public representatives we must always try to be accommodating and ensure that what we say is helpful rather than divisive. We must appreciate the fears on all sides. We must be particularly conscious of the fears of the Unionist community, who over the years have in some ways backed themselves into a corner. Unionist political [360] leaders are now finding it hard to move forward.

Some have said — they may be right — that Unionist leaders are to some extent out of touch with the public, including perhaps those who elected them. If that is the case it is time for them to review the situation. We do not want to aggravate or polarise any of the communities in the North, particularly the Unionist community. If there is to be a final settlement on the Irish question it must accommodate Unionists.

There may be major benefits if the Unionists' fears can be addressed and a proper accommodation for Republicans, Nationalists and Unionists can be set down in a further and final response to this Framework Document. This country can then go about its business, take its opportunity for development and expansion in economic terms with a united front and take its proper place in Europe.

All the European structures are supportive of this opportunity for peace and stability and their long term gains for this island. Our representatives at European level must always promote that concept, and the advancement of the peace process should be top of their agenda. The USA, through the Clinton Administration, has played a major part. It would appear that there is an organised approach to bring stability to the peace we treasure so much and which we have had for the last few months.

We now have an opportunity to ensure that the hand we extend to our Unionist brethren is a genuine hand of friendship across the divide which has kept us apart for so many decades. If we can explain that there is an opportunity for friendship and development we can go forward. The opportunities that will be available, not only to this generation but to following generations, cannot be measured. The North and the South working in co-operation can make this island a better place in which to live.

[361]Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  I welcome the opportunity to speak on this historic document and I welcome that the negotiations have concluded in its publication. I compliment the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste for bringing this to a conclusion so shortly after the formation of the new Government. We should also recognise the role played by the former Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, and the courageous steps he took in relation to the process at a time when many in his own party and elsewhere felt that it was not possible to proceed so rapidly with the peace process.

Mr. John Hume and Mr. Gerry Adams also played a pivotal role in Northern Ireland in bringing about the peace. The paramilitaries on the loyalist side must also be complimented in responding to the IRA's laying down of arms, which eventually brought a cessation of violence in Northern Ireland. It took a lot of courage, skill, discussion and negotiation by all concerned before the Framework Document could appear. Those behind the scenes, in particular, the Irish and British Government officials who worked so tirelessly, must be respected for their great work.

We now have the Framework Document, which, as the Taoiseach said, is a discussion document. It has been presented and all parties are invited to partake in discussions. Nobody should attempt to make political capital out of the document. It is a matter of peace, of life and death, and we must recognise that after 25 years of terrible atrocities and loss of life everybody must be responsible in their approach and presentation.

We are at a stage when discussions will commence. I say to the Unionist community in Northern Ireland that the Irish people are not anxious to have a united Ireland; their first priority is to have peace on the island. We must recognise that peace is central. We in the South must recognise that the Unionist community is fearful; it feels under siege and powerless and that it has been let down by the British Government. Some of them would trust [362] the Irish Government quicker than they would trust the British Government. We must also realise that the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland was for generations deprived and discriminated against by the Unionists while they were in government in Northern Ireland.

The Unionist community must recognise that there has not been a government in the North because they could not self-govern and the result was direct government from Britain. While the Unionist community would have concerns in relation to the North-South bodies, it must recognise that when there was a Government in Northern Ireland the Nationalist community did not get fair play. The interests of the Nationalist community need to be recognised; and, insofar as that must be done, the North-South body offers some protection to the Nationalist community. One could say that this is compensation for the Irish Government proposing to hold a referendum in relation Articles 2 and 3.

The Unionist community is represented in the British Parliament. They must recognise the fears that exist in the Nationalist community, as the Nationalist community must recognise the fears that exist in the Unionist community. There is a particular responsibility on the leaders of all the political parties. Like the parties in the South, a certain amount of political play takes place and one party is watchful of the other. One party wants to see who will move first on any aspect of the framework discussions. I compliment Mr. Roy Garland, who presented the Unionist view to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. It was a courageous step for him to take and I hope he will be the first of many others to do so.

There are four Unionist parties in the North with varying views and it is important that each of them reviews the situation and realises that there is a fine opportunity for them to bring peace to this island and with it economic development, co-operation and goodwill, if they appreciate the value of the document.

[363] There has been a lot of argument about the difference between a nation and a state. I hope that Fianna Fáil in Opposition will not make a political football of Article 2 and the concepts of nation and state. We all recognise that a nation is a people with a common culture, language, religion and background. We also recognise that a state is a piece of land which is politically divided. We all know that nations transcend states and that states are capable of incorporating more than one nation. The Framework Document clearly lays the ground for accommodating and recognising various people. The fundamental matter for all parties concerned is respect — respect for each other and for the varying viewpoints that exist.

I hope that, as time goes on, all members of the Unionist community will involve themselves in discussion and in at least commenting on the Framework Document. It is pointless to say that discussion cannot go ahead at this stage — it must go ahead. There is a document there for discussion and the political leaders of the two Governments must proceed. They must continue to forge discussion and encourage communication between all parties within Northern Ireland, between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, between Southern Ireland and Britain and between Britain and Northern Ireland.

I am pleased to note that within this document there is an important role for the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Irish Government and the North-South body to deal with the challenges and opportunities presented by the European Union. It is important to recognise that we as an island can benefit jointly from the European Union and that we should work together for our mutual benefit and development. In addition we have the establishment of the parliamentary forum, which is a very important proposal, and the continuation of the intergovernmental conference structures. The establishment of these two bodies and the continuation [364] of the intergovernmental conference is extremely important.

The communication between the two Governments and between the Northern Ireland Assembly, if and when it is established, and the southern Government will continue. I believe communication, dialogue and constant consultation can keep peace in this country. We must recognise that it is a very delicate matter and that the people of Northern Ireland still have great fears and concerns. We must appreciate the difficulties that the leadership of the Nationalist communities and the leaders of the paramilitaries on the Unionist side had in bringing about the peace. We must recognise and respect the fragility of that peace. Everybody has a responsibility to ensure that peace continues and becomes not just a cessation of violence but a permanent peace process, that proper institutions are put in place and that everybody is respected and recognised for what he or she is.

Mr. Mulcahy: Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  I thank the Minister for taking the time to come in to the Seanad to listen to our contributions on this very important document. I will try in a broad sense to put this Framework Document into some type of historical context. I advance the thesis that the Framework Document, although it is very welcome and modem in one sense, is not saying anything new, because there can be found throughout hundreds of years of history reverberations or deliberations on the three relationships identified as the three strands in this document. However, I will skip through centuries to the Government of Ireland Act of 1920. The heading of the Act is:

An Act to provide for the better Government of Ireland.

Section 2 of the Act states, and this has what is by now an almost familiar ring to it:

With a view to the eventual establishment of a Parliament for the whole of Ireland and to bringing about harmonious action between the [365] Parliaments and Governments of Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland and to the promotion of mutual intercourse and uniformity in relation to matters affecting the whole of Ireland...

It is obvious that as early as 1920 it was thought in the body politic and in the English House of Commons and House of Lords that new structures had to be evolved for the governance of Ireland. Obviously, the events of the last few years are startlingly important. To trace the document's recent lineage, we can go back to the original declaration between the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, and former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher in 1981. Then there was the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1986, the Downing Street Declaration of 1993, the ceasefires of 1994 and now this new Framework Document.

It is perhaps a mistake to try to read the Framework Document in isolation from the Joint Declaration, but there is again a historical reverberation that I would like to allude to in trying to place the Framework Document in context. In the Joint Declaration of 1993 the Prime Minister, on behalf of the British Government, declares that they have no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland. That was recognised at the time as a very firm and ringing declaration and it does not come as news to anybody here or in England that this was a change of attitude.

I am reminded of a passage from this excellent book, the Oxford Illustrated History of Ireland, edited by R.F. Foster, where the editor is describing the start of the Norman invasion at the beginning of the thirteenth century. He says

...the truth is, the purpose of English involvement in Ireland was beginning to change from acquiring lordship over men to colonising land. The end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth centuries saw the last decades of a medieval population explosion in Europe which caused not [366] only land hunger and migration but high food prices and low labour costs.

There was very clearly from those times a selfish colonial strategic interest on the part of the English in Ireland. The change in attitude from that position that has come about in the Downing Street Declaration is tumultuous.

A New Framework for Agreement is by and large an excellent first step in examining ways in which people can cooperate on these two islands. As I said at the beginning, it is perhaps the first time that people of responsibility have sat down in a mature and measured way and had a dialogue as to how best to manage co-operation. The very basis of any human co-operation is dignity between people on a one to one basis. The type of co-operation envisaged in this document is co-operation at an institutional level in the three strands already mentioned. An outright rejection by the Unionist population of not just this document but of any form of co-operation with the South would be a travesty and reveal the existence of a time warp.

The ordinary people of Ireland, North and South, want co-operation and peace. There are enough guarantees contained in the Downing Street Declaration and in the Framework Document in terms of the consent.

The Framework Document follows a very fine line of Irish Parliamentary involvement. Daniel O'Connell was a Member of Parliament. There was also Parnell and de Valera. We now have people who may or may not be of that stature but who have certainly risked a great deal. People have spoken of risk in relation to the last Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. John Major. There certainly was risk. Before the ceasefire was declared last August, the then Taoiseach might have been politically up a gum tree if a ceasefire had not happened. We have performed our bit and the boot is now on the other foot. It is time for Mr. Major to take the courage which he undoubtedly has and convince [367] the people of Northern Ireland that their best future lies in the lines of co-operation as envisaged in this new Framework Document.

The only specific point I will make about the document is on the question of East-West structures. Policing is kept within the confines of these structures. I would say to the Government and the British Prime Minister that the issue of policing by consent in Northern Ireland is an absolutely vital matter. This was the subject of a recent debate in the Law Society in UCD. An excellent paper on the topic was delivered by Mr. John Kennedy, the auditor of the society. This issue is critically important. If I were to be critical of any aspect of this document it is that there seems to be an overreliance on the policing aspect of Northern Ireland and the East-West structures. The people of Northern Ireland themselves and perhaps of all of Ireland have to become very much involved in the policing of Northern Ireland.

There has never been an intention on the part of any of the founding fathers of this State to coerce anybody into a united Ireland. In the Dáil debates in 1937 Eamon de Valera stated that

I think there is no doubt about it that the vast majority of the people in this island would claim that the nation and the State ought to be co-terminous.... We have the moral right, under those conditions, to claim authority over the whole State.

He stated that it was only in this part that “we have effective jurisdiction, but we have the moral right to claim authority over the lot”. There was no attempt at that stage in the formation of this State to say that there was going to be coercion of the majority population in Northern Ireland. I stated at the beginning of my contribution that the Framework Document is a restating of what we always knew. I do not recall people in the parliamentary tradition in Ireland ever saying that the majority of the people in Northern Ireland were [368] going to be coerced into a united Ireland but it is good to now have that stated absolutely.

The European Union is mentioned frequently in the document. European law is supreme over Irish law. The Maastricht Treaty makes it very clear that we are not just citizens of a State which is a member of the EU but are citizens of Europe. The Unionists should be reminded that they too are citizens of Europe. Karl Marx spoke of the withering away of the State. I believe that in our lifetimes we will see the withering away of the State as we know it and will be citizens not just of Europe but eventually the world. Only when that happens will those artificial divisions between us finally come down. I commend this document to the Seanad.

Mr. Byrne: Information on Seán Byrne  Zoom on Seán Byrne  At this point we should all be careful of what we say. The issue is at a very delicate stage. We have had 25 years of violence and loss of life. The economies of both northern and southern Ireland have been affected by this and many jobs were lost. Thanks be to God we have had peace in the last six months and we hope this will remain. I pay tribute to the former Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, for the major role he played in bringing about that peace, along with Mr. John Hume, Mr. Gerry Adams, the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, and the British Prime Minister, Mr. John Major. I wish the present Taoiseach and his Government every success in their negotiations in the weeks and months ahead in the national interest. We are all pleased that the peace has lasted; and may it last forever so that generations to come will never see such trauma, violence, injury and lack of jobs, with families being torn apart.

We hope to see the day when there will be more co-operation between North and South to make this island a better place in which to live and in which our young people can earn a livelihood. I wish the negotiations every success in the area of North-South institutions. Together, through cross Border [369] co-operation, we can achieve a great deal in Brussels in areas such as business and tourism. There is a long hard road ahead. I hope common sense will prevail on all sides in the negotiations because nobody wants to see a return to the sad situation we had for 25 years.

We must all be careful of what we say while the Government is trying to bring people together around a table to set guidelines for the future on North-South institutions, policing of the North or whatever the subject may be. It could be dangerous if any of us were too loose in our statements.

It took a great deal of negotiation and courage to bring about the peace initiative. The former Taoiseach had great courage. Many people thought peace would not come about; but he was convinced it would, stuck to his belief and brought it about. We should all be very thankful to him and to the others I mentioned. We should cherish the peace and build on it. If something goes wrong, the last stage will be worse than the first. Peace is a wonderful achievement. I thank the former Taoiseach and the others I mentioned and I wish the Government every success in the national interest in the weeks and months ahead. I hope that on this island we can all live in peace and create jobs for our young people.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  When it is proposed to sit again?

Mr. Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  It is proposed to sit again at 10.30 a.m. tomorrow. I congratulate everybody who contributed so positively to the statements on the Framework Document.


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