Dáil Éireann - Volume 677 - 11 March, 2009
Northern Ireland: Motion.
The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
The Taoiseach: I move:
That Dáil Éireann:
utterly condemns the murders of Sapper Mark Quinsey and Sapper Cengiz Azimkar in Antrim, and of Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon, as well as the injuries inflicted on others in those attacks;
expresses its deepest sympathies to the families, friends and colleagues of the dead and injured;
affirms that the groups responsible for these atrocities have no mandate or support whatsoever from the Irish people;
 reaffirms its unequivocal support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Síochána in their efforts to apprehend the perpetrators of these evil crimes and to combat the groups who organised them;
stands united together with the Irish and British Governments, the First and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, the members of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, democratic representatives and all the people of this island, and friends of Ireland around the world, in full support of the democratic institutions and in absolute opposition to violent attempts to undermine the peace process; and
resolves to remain steadfast in upholding the democratic will of the people to live together in peace.
I thank the House for the opportunity to speak on the current situation in Northern Ireland. It is important that the voices of the democratic representatives of the people are heard loud and clear at a time when the democratic institutions which have been established by the Irish people are being challenged by a tiny and unrepresentative group of evil people who have no mandate and no support for their actions. Those actions are futile and tragic. The people to whom I refer cannot and will not succeed. This debate, and those taking place in other democratic assemblies, makes that abundantly clear.
On behalf of the Government and all Members of the House, I express our sympathies to the families of those who were killed and injured in the recent attacks. I send my deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of Sapper Mark Quinsey, Sapper Cengiz Azimkar and Officer Stephen Carroll. This week, there are grieving families in Birmingham, London and Banbridge. There are deeply traumatised communities in Antrim and Craigavon, which have once more seen evil rise in their midst. They are all in our thoughts and prayers.
I also send my best wishes to those who were injured in the attacks, including a young teenager from Antrim and a man who came to these shores from Poland to make a better life for himself and who now lies critically injured in hospital. We pray for their speedy recovery and offer our support to their families and friends at this difficult time.
We had hoped to never again witness events such as those that occurred this week. The murder scenes, the increased security and the grief of those who have lost a loved one to mindless violence conjure up images of a dark past we thought we had put behind us. We are absolutely determined to ensure that there will be no going back. I assure the House that, despite all of the successes of the peace process, the Government and the Garda Síochána have continued to commit significant resources to the fight against the dissident groups. The Garda has had many successes in this work. As the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, stated, the work of the Garda in this area has saved lives. The work of the Garda will continue and will be intensified in order that justice will be done and that this evil will be rooted out from Irish society, North and South.
The Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Justice, Equality and Law Reform met the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and his security Minister at Hillsborough last night. They reviewed the latest situation and ensured a continuance of the closest possible political and security co-operation between the two Governments and our law enforcement agencies. The Garda Commissioner will meet the Chief Constable of the PSNI tomorrow. Co-operation between the police forces on this island has never been closer. They are working hand in glove to apprehend the killers and to combat the organisations who planned these murders.
The unity of this House is mirrored by a unity within Northern Ireland, between North and South and between Britain and Ireland. In recent days, I had discussions with Prime Minister  Gordon Brown, First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. My ministerial colleagues are in ongoing contact with their counterparts in the British Government. We are also in touch with all of the political parties and all of our friends across the community in Northern Ireland. Everybody is absolutely united.
The people and all of their democratic representatives reject this violence. We will overcome the evil and unrepresentative minority that wants to drag us back to the past. If anyone doubts our unity or our resolve, they should listen to the debate in this House and that taking place in the Northern Ireland Assembly. If anyone thinks that Northern Ireland has not changed, they should examine pictures taken yesterday of the First and Deputy First Ministers with the Chief Constable of the PSNI. If anyone hopes to drag us back to a time of hatred and division, they should hear the clear message given by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. It was a message of hope and determination and also one of support for our democratic institutions and for the forces of law and order. It was proof, if such were needed, that we are not going back to the bad old days.
In recent days, the eyes of the world have once more turned towards our small island. They have seen images that may have seemed drearily familiar. However, they also seen something else, namely, an unprecedented coming together of all of the traditions on this island and all of the people of this country. Furthermore, they have seen an island resolved to be reconciled, not divided.
In the words of the motion before the House, we stand “united together with the Irish and British Governments, the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland, the members of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, democratic representatives and all the people of this island, and friends of Ireland around the world”. We also stand in support of the democratic institutions and in absolute opposition to violent attempts to undermine the peace process.
Next week, the eyes of the world will once again be upon us as we celebrate our national day. I will be in America with the First and Deputy First Ministers and we will once more give that united message of peace and resolve in the face of this threat.
I reiterate the words of the motion that this House will pass today. Those words speak more loudly than any act of mindless violence. The Irish people are united. Our peace process and our democracy are unshakeable. I commend this motion to the House.
Deputy Enda Kenny Deputy Enda Kenny
Deputy Enda Kenny: I thank the Government for accepting the suggestion I made yesterday that the House should pass an all-party motion condemning the recent murders and that a clear message should be sent out on behalf of every Member that this kind of heinous crime will not be tolerated on the island of Ireland. I wish to acknowledge the presence of the British ambassador in the Distinguished Visitors Gallery. I thank the Taoiseach for agreeing to this debate and I congratulate him on the positive way in which the Government approached the preparation of the motion before the House.
I am sure Members share my sense of revulsion at the cowardly murders of three members of the security forces in Northern Ireland in recent days. Our thoughts and sympathies should rightly be with the families of the victims — Officer Stephen Carroll of the PSNI, Sapper Mark Quinsey and Sapper Cengiz Azimkar. It is horrific to think that certain persons were given an instruction to deliberately assassinate members of the security forces who were going about their legitimate duties. As stated yesterday, the predetermined nature of these murders indicates that they were carried out by very evil people with warped minds. Those who carried out these atrocities have absolutely no mandate for their actions. They clearly and openly defy the expressed will, through the ballot box, of the people of Ireland, North and South, to leave  violence in the past and to live together in peace. In their actions they attempt to threaten the democratic process itself, and this cannot and will not be tolerated. These activities have no place in this country.
These are testing times for the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland. I commend the leaders of the parties in the North on their firm and composed response to these murders. I welcome the response of the representatives of the loyalist paramilitary groups, who said they do not intend to take retaliatory action. I also welcome the meeting today between the Ulster Political Research Group and the Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Hartley. These developments represent a new maturity in the relationship between the representatives of the communities and send a signal to their respective constituencies that their leaders are committed to working together for the betterment of all the people and communities of Northern Ireland. I acknowledge the strong and clear stance taken by the Sinn Féin leadership and, in particular, by Mr. Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister, who have demonstrated their party’s adherence to its decision to leave the armed struggle in the past. I also acknowledge Deputy Ó Caoláin’s consistent remarks in this regard.
I urge all parties to continue to appeal to their supporters to co-operate fully with the police investigations in order that those responsible can be brought to justice and suffer the full rigours of the law. I urge the Garda Síochána and the security and intelligence forces in this jurisdiction to provide every possible assistance to the investigation so there can be no suggestion that any of those involved in these murders can hope for refuge in this State.
I have raised with the Taoiseach for some time the growing threat posed by dissident groups. The recent decision of the PSNI Chief Constable to bring in outside assistance from MI5 was a clear signal from him of the increased risk of attacks of this nature. The media reports today that a large bomb has been prepared by the Real IRA for an attack in Britain underline the need for a strong security response. The murders are appalling but this business of preparing bombs for use in Britain just cannot be contemplated. I hope the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for Defence will not hesitate to use their respective security and intelligence services in ensuring justice is done as quickly as possible.
I am also concerned about reports that the Real IRA is actively recruiting new members from this jurisdiction. This was brought to my attention yesterday. It is essential to ensure that young men, vulnerable in many respects, are not lured into these organisations by some romantic notion of Irish republicanism and the continuation of an armed struggle. To achieve this we must continue to highlight in any way we can the necessity of implementing in full the Good Friday Agreement in order that people will understand and see that co-operation and power sharing are the way forward. We must ensure that it is considered both the normal and effective way of delivering for everybody. We must also ensure our security forces have the necessary resources to monitor the activities of the dissident groups in this State. A concentrated effort to disrupt their recruitment methods and other activities will prevent other atrocities being carried out.
Fine Gael, as always, stands ready to support the forces of law and order in confronting this threat. As I said yesterday, while there are many issues that divide the Government and Opposition, the Taoiseach can rest assured that in dealing with this matter and on his journey to America next week, he will have the full support of this party in respect of whatever action the Government must take. I am pleased to support the motion before the House as it represents a clear and unequivocal statement of democratic Ireland’s rejection of these attempts to plunge this island back into dark days of conflict, mayhem and murder.
In this month, the eyes of the world will be on our country, as we prepare for our national day. Ireland is one of the few countries that has a national day. I hope that in passing this  motion the Dáil is strengthening the message that the Taoiseach and Ministers need to deliver in the course of their international duties, which is that all the people of Ireland want to live in a country of peace, harmony, unity and strengthened resolve to build on the potential of the Good Friday Agreement, which so many people through so many walks of life for so many years worked so hard to implement.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore Deputy Eamon Gilmore
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: On behalf of the Labour Party, I support the motion proposed by the Taoiseach.
Last January in the Round Room of the Mansion House we celebrated the 90th anniversary of the first Dáil, which was the exercise of a democratic mandate, under universal suffrage throughout this island, calling for self-determination for the Irish people. Those who gathered in the Mansion House on 21 January 1919 had a true democratic mandate for their actions. They were entitled to the loyalty of those who accept basic democratic principles. We in this House, as successors of the men and women of the first Dáil Éireann, enjoy the same mandate, grounded on the consent of the people.
Last June we marked the anniversary of another momentous occasion, the tenth anniversary of the referendums North and South on the Good Friday Agreement. That was the first time since the general election of 1918 that a popular mandate was again firmly secured throughout this island. The mandate was for peaceful co-existence and for co-operation to build a better future for our children on this island. Every Irish man and woman with any sense of respect for the ideals of popular sovereignty and democratic rule must recognise that this Oireachtas and the Northern Ireland Assembly owe their existence to the settled will of the Irish people.
The outrages of this week, the bloody murders of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar and of Constable Stephen Paul Carroll, were offences against three men, three mourning families and three circles of relatives and friends. They were also offences against the two young men who were seriously injured and their families and friends. However, these murders are more than that. They are nothing short of acts of treason against the Irish nation. These crimes are anti-national, anti-patriotic and anti-republican, because they display nothing but contempt for the settled will of the Irish people.
There is nothing noble or patriotic about these groups. We know that there are links between what are called “dissident” republican groups and criminal gangs involved in the drugs trade in this jurisdiction. They support each other, exchange weapons and provide logistical support for each other. These groups are simply criminal gangs who wrap the national flag around themselves in a futile attempt to provide some veneer of justification for murder. The police and prosecution authorities will have support from every part of the House in hunting down the offenders and bringing them to justice.
The crimes came as a profound shock to many of us in this part of Ireland. We must admit, perhaps, that Northern Ireland and its ongoing security concerns had dropped down the public agenda here. If so, we cannot blame Sir Hugh Orde, who only last week warned of the danger of an imminent attack from dissident republicans. We also cannot blame the Independent Monitoring Commission, which published its 20th and latest report last November and highlighted the threats posed by dissident republicans. The IMC gave a warning that was grim, timely and, it turns out, well-founded. According to its report:
Three things are clear. First, in the six months under review (and indeed in the weeks following the end of that period) dissidents — mainly CIRA and RIRA — have been especially active. From May to the end of the period under review there was a more concentrated period of attacks than at any time since we started to report on them four and a half  years ago. We believe that dissidents have also been undertaking planning and preparation for other attacks. Second, if it were not for the fact that the police on both sides of the border have been successful in disrupting dissident operations and arresting suspects, the number of reported incidents would have been higher. Thirdly, dissidents have turned their efforts more directly to trying to kill PSNI officers, using a variety of tactics and methods.
The commission said that the Continuity IRA had not only undertaken direct attacks against members of the PSNI but had also engineered public disorder, with a view to exploiting the exposure of police officers which it expected to result from it. In addition, it indicated that the organisation had continued to seek to enhance its capability and continued to plan and take part in a range of serious criminal activity, including drug dealing, robbery and tiger kidnapping, extortion, fuel laundering and smuggling. Last July it threatened that staff of the UK revenue and customs and of the Northern Ireland vehicle licensing authority would be targeted if they continued to help the PSNI.
The IMC’s final conclusion was that the Continuity IRA remains active, that it focused particular efforts on attacks on members of the PSNI which could have resulted in the loss of life, that it continues to try to enhance its capabilities through recruitment, training, the acquisition and manufacture of weapons and raising funds, and that it is engaged in the same range of serious criminal activity as before. It indicated that, “The organisation remains a very serious threat.”
We owe it to the police and security services and to their families — to every inhabitant of this island, North and South — to do everything possible to destroy this organisation root and branch. In seeking to do so, the PSNI has a potential advantage that was not available to its predecessors. As the first Garda Commissioner, Michael Staines, put it, “The Garda Síochána will succeed, not by force of arms or numbers, but by their moral authority as servants of the people.” The same principle holds true of policing services everywhere.
Under the Patten reforms the PSNI has become a transformed service, with a transformed mandate. It enjoys increased acceptance and support throughout the community. All democratic public representatives, North and South, must do everything possible to further develop that community support. The tactics of the Continuity IRA cannot prevail against a service supported by the community it serves.
The parties in the Northern Ireland Executive, together with the two Governments and all the parties here, must now confront the growing perception that the absence of progress on the devolution of justice and policing has created a political vacuum, or may have caused disaffection among republican supporters, which the dissidents think they are able to exploit.
Given that there were two separate attacks, involving three murders in the space of 48 hours, there must be a danger that the people of Northern Ireland are now facing a concerted campaign of murder and violence. One of the main concerns, particularly in regard to the Antrim attack, was the way in which it was carried out. I would never want to use the word “professional” in regard to such loathsome murderers, but the manner in which the killings were carried out suggests a level of expertise and experience that was not evident in attacks carried out previously by that group. It suggests that it may have acquired either new recruits or new expertise, which has given it a new capability. Perhaps the Minister responding to the debate might indicate if there is any intelligence available to suggest that is the case.
The objective of those who carried out those attacks is clear. They want to turn back the clock. They want to see Northern Ireland plunged again into sectarian conflict. They want to bring down the Assembly and the Executive. They want to again see the political parties in Northern Ireland at each other’s throats. They want to deprive communities in Northern  Ireland of civilian policing. They want to see the British army back on the streets of Northern Ireland. They must not be allowed to succeed. All democrats, North and South, Nationalist, Unionist and other, must stand together in the face of those attacks and ensure this tiny and unrepresentative minority are not allowed to usurp the will of the overwhelming majority of people on this island.
Finally, in paying tribute today to British army sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar and police constable, Stephen Paul Carroll, we should also acknowledge the deaths of the approximately 3,500 people who died in a futile campaign of violence that went on for approximately 30 years. It left a terrible legacy in terms of the numbers dead and wounded and communities scarred by violence.
The negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement offered a new dawn of hope. The progress in the years after the Agreement was painfully slow and frustrating, but the institutions in Northern Ireland have shown a new resilience in the face of those attacks. The way in which the parties in the Assembly stood together in condemnation of those attacks provides real grounds for optimism. Those groups must not be allowed to rob the people of Northern Ireland of the better future they all deserve.
Deputy John Gormley Deputy John Gormley
Deputy John Gormley: I was in Wexford at our party conference late on Saturday night when I learned of the brutal murders of Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar. I was at home with my family late on Monday night when I heard of the brutal killing of Stephen Carroll.
I use the names of those men here to again put them on the record of Dáil Éireann. I do it to remind myself and all of us that, first and foremost, we are talking about human lives. We are talking about the deaths of men who were husbands, sweethearts, sons, brothers, cousins, neighbours and friends. We are talking about the callous taking of human lives. We are talking about so many others close to those men whose lives are now blighted and who are in our thoughts as we share their sorrow. This morning, with a heavy heart, I read the words of Stephen Carroll’s wife, Kate, when she spoke of how her life is now destroyed. The grief and sorrow she and the other bereaved families are suffering requires no further explanation.
The attacks on Saturday and Monday nights were not just attacks on the security services. They were not just attacks on the police service nor on the British army. They were attacks on our communities, our cousins, brothers, sons, sisters and grandfathers. They were cowardly and callous attacks on everything the people on this island, and in these islands, have worked to create over the past decade, namely, a peaceful society in Northern Ireland that provides everybody living there with opportunities of dignity, equality, prosperity and safety.
Monday night’s attack in Craigavon has killed the first member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland since that organisation took over from the RUC. The PSNI was established following the Patten report with a mandate to provide a police service that could enjoy the confidence of everybody in the community. Under Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, it has met its responsibilities well and is staffed by officers hailing from backgrounds that fully reflect the diversity of the people that call this island home; Catholic and Protestant, Northern and Southern, Polish and Chinese.
Saturday night’s attack in Antrim was no heroic act. It was inspired neither by freedom, nor borne out of inequality. It was a cowardly slaughter of two young, unarmed soldiers living their daily lives, taking delivery of their dinner on an otherwise unremarkable weekend night. Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar were not figures of hate in the community in which they were stationed. They were there doing their jobs. Constable Stephen Carroll was shot in the head with a sniper’s bullet while responding to a resident who had her windows broken. He was,  like the dedicated members of our own Garda force, working to keep his community safe. He was simply doing his job.
Despite the challenges and the ongoing frustrations that prevent an inclusive and integrated society from fully developing in Northern Ireland, there is a sense of normality now in everyday life that gives comfort to communities that have lived through decades of horrific violence. It is the very ordinariness, the mundane nature of two young men paying a delivery man for pizza on a Saturday night, of a policeman responding to a call from a homeowner with a smashed window, that the psychopaths who committed these murders are fighting against.
There is an obligation on all of us to help end that division and to establish one society in the North in which everybody feels at home, and a community of ideals and aspirations on this island of which everybody is proud to be part. There is also an obligation on us to have politics which address the bread and butter issues, the ordinary and sometimes mundane things which are central to all our lives and to bring about a society in which the murderers of Mark Quinsey, Patrick Azimkar and Stephen Carroll enjoy neither refuge, nor support nor tolerance.
In Wexford on Saturday night, when news of the murders of Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar came through I was with party colleagues from all parts of the island of Ireland. The Green Party members who travelled from various parts of the North had come to Wexford to debate the real issues of life in a region which had emerged from a 35-year nightmare of violent strife.
As we salute the memory of Mark Quinsey, Patrick Azimkar and Stephen Carroll here, let us redouble our resolve that there will be no return to the darkest days of our recent history. I would like to commend the role of our colleagues in the Sinn Féin Party who have stood solid in the cause of peace. I hope all of us here and, in particular, the parties of Northern Ireland can unite in this political crisis and that democracy and the Good Friday Agreement will triumph.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: On behalf of Sinn Féin, I unreservedly condemn the three killings by the so-called Real IRA and the so-called Continuity IRA and I extend sympathy to the families of those killed. I reiterate the determination of Sinn Féin to ensure that those responsible will not succeed in undermining the peace process nor divert us from the peaceful and democratic pursuit of our republican objectives. These killings have no legitimacy and no moral or political basis.
Tá Sinn Féin ag tacú leis an rún seo. Sinn Féin fully supports this motion. Níl bealach ar bith eile os comhair phobail na hÉireann ach bealach na síochána. Níl cead ag mion-ghrupaí dul i gcoinne na straitéise síochána a bhfuil tacaíocht aici ó phoblachtánaigh ar fud na hÉireann agus thar lear. Leis an fhírinne a rá, is grupaí frith-phoblachtánacha iad agus tá siad ag dul i gcoinne an phróisis síochána a bhfuil tacaíocht aige ó mhuintir na hÉireann.
The tiny splinter groups that carried out these murders are pursuing a militarist agenda, primarily designed to justify their own existence and perpetuate their own factions. They are totally divorced from republicans throughout Ireland and abroad. They have nothing to offer but misery in their attempts to drag back into conflict the communities they falsely claim to represent.
We have seen a process of demilitarisation in the Six Counties as a key part of the peace process. The British army was taken off the streets and its numbers in the Six Counties were significantly reduced. Barracks and posts, including those along the Border, have been closed. What will these attacks achieve, apart from grief to families and renewed fears among communities? They will serve only to delay the ongoing process of demilitarisation and may lead to the deployment of more rather than fewer British troops.
 Remilitarisation is what these groups want, but they should not get what they want. These groups will not succeed in their attempts to derail the peace process, which has the full support of the overwhelming majority of the Irish people and of all political parties.
I commend the First and Deputy First Ministers and the Executive in the Six Counties for the leadership they are giving. The best response to the events of recent days is to carry forward with even greater determination the politics of partnership and peace. The actions of these factional groups have no popular support. Rather than hastening the day of Irish unity and national independence, they try to undermine the only strategy currently on offer that has the potential to deliver our republican objectives. However, they will fail in that effort to undermine the republican peace strategy.
We in Sinn Féin remain resolute in our commitment to achieve our stated goals by peaceful and democratic campaigning. This approach has the support, and indeed the growing support, of the Irish electorate, North and South. Those who want to turn back the clock would do better to turn over a new leaf and, if they are sincere in their stated wish to end the British presence in Ireland, invest their energies and talents in positively working for that objective.
The objectives of Irish unity and freedom can only be achieved by the united and concerted effort of all republicans seeking to persuade people of all opinion, including those who have been traditionally hostile to our goals, of the good sense and the tremendous opportunities that can and will flow from the reunification of Ireland and the establishment of a truly pluralist, inclusive and democratic republic across the whole island of Ireland. Irish republicans will not be diverted from the peace strategy we have adopted democratically and pursued successfully.
There may be some who, while not supporting the groups who carried out the killings, may baulk at the condemnation of the killings, in particular the killings of members of the British army. Those killings were wrong, and I want to make that clear here today. They were wrong because they were in breach of a peace process entered into in good faith by Irish republicans, a process out of which came all-party negotiations and all-party agreements which, while falling short of our ultimate objectives, are respected and upheld and adhered to by Irish republicans and endorsed by the majority of the Irish people.
The Irish Republican Army leadership and volunteers have long since declared that the war is over. The unrepresentative factions, who do not deserve the name “republican”, are engaged in a futile effort to reignite conflict and resume war, but they will fail. They are, in the case of the so-called Continuity IRA, the remnants of a group that departed from mainstream republicanism as far back as 1986. In the case of the so-called Real IRA, they had their genesis in those who departed early in the peace process.
What their history has been since then, I do not know. However, this I do know. They can only continue to exist by exploiting the gullibility of young people who have no concept of what real repression and conflict are like. They seek to blind those young people to political realities, including the progress made by their own communities in recent years and the tremendous potential for future progress, including their own potential if they engage positively in peaceful and democratic political activity. Splinter groups are trying to turn back the clock to conflict. Once again, I emphasise, they will not be allowed to succeed.
During the development of the peace process, securocrats within the British system attempted to thwart progress because their existence depended on the continuation of conflict. I have no doubt that there are still people within the British system who would also like to turn back the clock, to justify their own existence and to perpetuate their militarist organisations. This must not be allowed to happen either.
 It is vital that all responses to these killings are strictly within the law, compliant with human rights obligations and carried out by the PSNI. The need for effective, efficient, non-political and community-based policing is even greater now. The British Army, MI5 or any other covert force should have no role in this response and, in fact, no role in Ireland at all.
In conclusion, I join with others here in stating that these killings will not derail the progress made in the past decade and a half, but will renew our determination to advance the politics of peace and partnership, democracy and equality.
Deputy Micheál Martin Deputy Micheál Martin
Deputy Micheál Martin: The unity of purpose evident in what all speakers have said in the House sends a clear signal to all that, in the words of the motion, “Dáil Eireann stands united together with the Irish and British Governments, the First and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, the members of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, democratic representatives and all the people of this island, and friends of Ireland around the world, in full support of the democratic institutions and in absolute opposition to violent attempts to undermine the peace process”.
This reaffirmation of the primacy of politics and the unassailable strength of the peace process is what all of us should carry with us from this debate today. It will underpin our resolve as we continue, undeterred, to sustain and strengthen the peace we have built on this island and to work together to build a better society, North and South.
By contrast, the murderers who have this week brought bloodshed back onto the streets of our country have thrown down a blatant and arrogant challenge to the overwhelming majority of Irish men and women who want to build on this island a sovereign, democratic Irish Republic, embracing all the people of our nation. We seek a republic absent of sectarianism, a republic in which people of all backgrounds and traditions can feel equally at home and where people can express their identity free from fear or intimidation.
In 1998, the people of Ireland, North and South, voted by a majority in favour of the Good Friday Agreement. This was the first occasion since the general election of 1918 — the election at which the people selected the representatives who sat in the first Dáil — on which all the people of this island voted on the same day on the issue of their constitutional status.
The Good Friday Agreement provided an agreed basis for addressing partition and clarifying the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. Under its terms, the British Government has entered into a binding international treaty obligation to withdraw from Northern Ireland, if and when a majority of the people in Northern Ireland should ask it to do so. At the same time, the Irish people, North and South, accepted that Northern Ireland remains in union with Britain unless and until the majority in the North desires otherwise. Currently, a majority in the North wishes to remain in union with Britain. That majority, and not the British army, comprises the British presence in Ireland. The people who make up this majority are not aliens. They are Irish men and women who, like all of us on this island, are immigrants by descent or birth.
When the people of this island voted by an overwhelming majority to adopt the Good Friday Agreement, they endorsed the common recognition by the Irish and British Governments that is “the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose”.
It falls to our generation of Irish republicans to convince those in Northern Ireland who currently support the union with Britain that their future is best secured in a closer accommodation with the majority with whom they share the island. We have accepted the right of a majority in the North to say “No” but we will not cease our efforts to bring them with us through peaceful and respectful persuasion.
 Murder wins no converts to the republican cause. On the contrary, it serves only to alienate, entrench division and give new life to sectarianism and intolerance. It was wrong to murder two young British soldiers doing nothing more than taking delivery of their Saturday night dinner. It was wrong to shoot down a Polish pizza man and his Irish colleague who were doing their best to earn an honest living. It was wrong to kill an Irish policeman seeking to protect the vulnerable members of his community. Their murders were callous and cowardly. These dreadful and cynical acts were entirely wrong in every sense. However, to claim to have carried out these wicked deeds in the name of the Irish Republic is more than wrong; it is a betrayal. Let there be no doubt or delusion; those who this week claimed to kill in the name of the Irish Republic served only to betray the Republic and the nation on which it is founded.
The sad truth is that those who resort to the gun and the bomb in the name of republicanism do not have the stomach for the long haul. Their vision is so clouded by hatred, so distorted by the shadow of the heroic gunman, that they are unable to see that resorting to short-term gratification through violence and the mantra of “Brits out” will never deliver the republic they claim to espouse. An Irish republic worthy of the name needs to be constructed on the solid foundations of friendship, tolerance and inclusion. Our republican flag stands not for conquest, but for peace and reconciliation between the green and orange.
The modern republican vocation requires stamina, patience and forbearance. It obliges us to jettison old resentments and to live with our neighbours as they are rather than as we would wish them to be. We who seek to build this modern republic must respond to this week’s betrayal by recommitting ourselves to our goals. We must reject violence, hatred and intolerance. We must renew our determination to build a better, fairer, more peaceful and prosperous Ireland. We must strive even harder to work the institutions established by the Good Friday Agreement and to co-operate with the British Government to that end. Above all, we must refute any attempt to re-open wounds on this island that are still in the early stages of healing.
The republican road will be long and, most likely, tortuous. Some or many who walk this path may not live to see this new land. However, violence offers no short cuts. It will simply bring us back to where we started — a black and dismal place to which we must never return. The only way to a modern Irish republic runs across the high ground of peace and friendship between the people of this island and the peoples of Ireland and Britain.
At this difficult time, I salute the party leaders in the Assembly for setting aside party politics in order to send a clear and united message both of condemnation for what has occurred and determination that it will not prevent Northern Ireland from continuing on its current path towards a better and shared future. I pay particular tribute to the First Minister, Mr. Peter Robinson, and the Deputy First Minister, Mr. Martin McGuinness, who have shown great leadership, dignity and resolve in this very difficult week for Northern Ireland. In particular, their joint appearance yesterday with the Chief Constable sent a powerful signal that both communities in Northern Ireland stand together in rejecting violence and criminality and in opposing any effort to undermine the extraordinary progress that has been achieved over the past decade.
I am proud this House has so clearly expressed its solidarity with the Assembly and the people of Northern Ireland. The fact that all parliamentary representatives on this island have spoken with one voice underscores the fact that those who committed the attacks in Antrim and Craigavon represent no one but themselves. They are a tiny minority on the fringe of society who would seek through their murderous acts to drag Northern Ireland back to the darkness and despair of violence and fear. They will not be allowed to subvert the expressed will of the people of the island to live in peace and partnership.
 The Government has, of course, remained in close contact with the British Government throughout this week. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and I met the Secretary of State, Mr. Shaun Woodward, and the Minister of State, Mr. Paul Goggins, at Hillsborough last night to discuss the matter. We took the opportunity to express in person the Government’s condolences for the loss suffered by the PSNI and the British army and to emphasise that the thoughts and prayers of the Irish people are with the bereaved and the injured.
Co-operation between the Garda and the PSNI has been excellent and they have had considerable successes, although this can be cold comfort at a time like this. The Chief Constable and the Garda Commissioner will hold a meeting this Thursday to discuss how best to continue to work the current arrangements effectively and maximise co-operation in dealing with the dissident threat.
I emphasise the importance of the discussion we have had in this House today because it has underlined the primacy of politics at this difficult time for Northern Ireland. The Governments and the political parties will remain steadfast in demonstrating daily the strength, stability and effectiveness of the power-sharing institutions and the political and democratic process. The message that goes out from this House today is that those who seek to subvert the will of the people will not succeed because we — the people of these islands, whatever our political, religious or community identity — will not let that happen.
Question put and agreed to.
Dáil Éireann 677 Northern Ireland: Motion.