Dáil Éireann - Volume 342 - 10 May, 1983

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Review of Constitution.

1. Mr. De Rossa asked the Taoiseach if he has yet completed his consultations with the Leader of Fianna Fáil regarding the proposed review of the Constitution which he referred to in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 1 of 15 February last; when proposals for the review will be laid before the Dáil; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Taoiseach: I have not discussed the question of a constitutional review with the Leader of the main Opposition party. I have, of course, had discussions with him and with others, including the Deputy and his party Leader, on the initiation [590] of consultations on the manner in which lasting peace and stability can be achieved in a new Ireland, through the democratic process.

Mr. De Rossa: In response to a question I put to the Taoiseach last February he indicated that he would like to discuss a review of the Constitution with the Leader of the Opposition. In the light of the remarks made by the previous Taoiseach he gave us a clear understanding that consultations were to take place with Deputy Haughey——

An Ceann Comhairle: A question, please, Deputy.

Mr. De Rossa: ——on a constitutional review. Is he now saying he has decided against this constitutional review?

The Taoiseach: I did not give a clear indication and I went on to refer to discussions that I might hold with the Leader of the Opposition. I should add that I fully adhere to my view that it is necessary to have changes in the Constitution both in relation to requirements within the State and with a view to the reconciliation of the major traditions in Ireland. In regard to the latter aspect, I believe it is highly desirable to proceed as far as possible by agreement between all the parties in Dáil Éireann. The Government wish to expand the area of consensus and hope that the work of the New Ireland Forum will achieve that objective. In the meantime the question of proceeding with the constitutional review will be kept under consideration.

Mr. Mac Giolla: How does the Taoiseach manage to introduce the forum into a simple parliamentary question about constitutional review? How does he propose to relate this question to the proposed forum on Northern Ireland which, from the consultations we had with him, had no bearing whatsoever on the constitutional position? Will he explain that relationship?

The Taoiseach: I should have thought it was fairly evident, given what I said [591] about the constitutional review when I first raised the matter in September 1981. I still believe it will be necessary to make changes in our Constitution but, as I said in a radio interview recently, I do not want to intrude that into the discussion in the forum context because we are trying to seek a measure of agreement on what would be a possible model for the future. I went on to say in that radio interview that I do not want to bring forward any proposals now, or to raise issues, which might make it more difficult for the forum to do their job this year.

An Ceann Comhairle: A final supplementary.

Mr. Mac Giolla: I want to make this clear. Am I to take it from the Taoiseach's reply that the subject under discussion in this forum is a new Constitution for this State or for the whole of Ireland? If not, then the forum bears no relationship to the question put down by Deputy De Rossa or if it is, the House should know what precisely is the purpose of this forum.

The Taoiseach: I am not clear if the Deputy is being deliberately obtuse or is pretending to be, but it is clear to anybody who has followed events in the last couple of years that our immediate concern is to achieve the greatest measure of consensus possible in the forum as to possible ways of proceeding within this island towards securing peace and stability. If at this point I were to take further action with regard to the constitutional review which was a matter upon which the major Opposition party found themselves in disagreement, that would prejudice the possibility of co-operation in the forum and I will do nothing to prejudice that co-operation which, I am glad to say, we have secured.

An Ceann Comhairle: This is the final supplementary.

Mr. De Rossa: My question related to a promise given to this House that there would be a constitutional review and that [592] the Taoiseach would consult the Leader of Fianna Fáil to see how that review could be carried out. Now we are told this review is not going ahead but we will have the forum which is a much broader——

An Ceann Comhairle: A question, please.

Mr. De Rossa: ——platform than this House. It includes people who are not Members of this House. Does the Taoiseach intend now or at any time in the future to engage Deputies in a review of the Constitution?

The Taoiseach: My inclinations and wishes in that respect are well known. I said in February that I would like to discuss the matter with the Leader of the Opposition and that I might do so. Since then we have reached agreement on the establishment of the forum and to pursue the constitutional review at this time could make it more difficult to maintain and develop the consensus which has emerged. Therefore, I feel it appropriate to leave the question of the constitutional review to one side during the relatively brief period of the life of the forum while leaving it open to revert to the matter at that point. I will not be dragged into anything to prejudice the success of the forum and the achievement of the maximum degree of agreement within that context.