Seanad Éireann - Volume 96 - 09 October, 1981

Constitutional and Legislative Review: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved on Thursday, 8 October, 1981 by Senator G. Hussey:

That Seanad Éireann notes with approval the views expressed by the Taoiseach in the course of an RTE radio interview on 27 September, 1981, on the desirability of creating within this island conditions favourable to unity through a reconciliation of its people and towards this end of undertaking in this State a Constitutional and legislative review.

Debate resumed on the following amendment:

To delete all words after “Seanad Éireann” and substitute the following:

“solemnly declares its support for the Constitution of Ireland and the assurance it contains for the dignity and freedom of the individual and the attainment of a true social order;

repudiates the Taoiseach's deplorable and unfounded allegations of sectarianism in our laws and in the administration of our affairs;

condemns the Taoiseach's divisive statements which have damaged the cause of a united Ireland based on reconciliation and a respect for the many different traditions in this island;

re-affirms its conviction that Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution express the unalterable aspiration of the great majority of the Irish people to the unity of Ireland.”

—(Senator E. Ryan.)

Mr. B. Ryan: I was listing when we adjourned yesterday a number of areas [107] in which I felt immediate legislative or administrative reform was possible to improve the conditions of minorities existing in this country. I was taken unawares by the adjournment, so if there is a slight repetition, perhaps the Chair will forgive me. The areas that I had mentioned I will not go over. One that I would like to bring to the attention of the Seanad, because it pertains to the rights of minorities, is the application of the planning laws. I suggest that if a group of black people who had a particular set of common convictions occupied a house in Dublin and the local residents objected and An Bord Pleanála ruled that, because that group of people had a common objective in life, it required permission for a change of use, we would all scream racial discrimination.

That is precisely what is being done. When a group of homeless people moved into a house in Fairview, they made no structural changes. They were a self-governing community who chose to live together. The local people objected and An Bord Pleanála ruled that that was a change of use and, therefore, required planning permission. As far as I am concerned, that is a blatant discrimination against a minority and does not reflect well on our capacity to deal with minorities. That has been the theme of my address.

I do not propose to go on much longer on it other than to say that I do not believe all the changes I suggested would persuade anybody in Northern Ireland to consider re-unification. What I believe they will do is begin to demonstrate to ourselves whether or not we have the capacity to be generous with minorities and begin to educate us about the need for generosity towards minorities and the need for understanding of groups, large or small, who differ from the accepted consensus. Of itself that would probably be a useful exercise but it is the necessary starting point for any reforms we wish to make which would make this into a genuine pluralist society.

I will conclude by explaining briefly my attitude to the motion and amendment.

[108] As regards the amendment, my views on Articles 2 and 3 I would take from James Connolly, which is that Ireland without its people means nothing to me. Therefore, I have no strong views on territorial claims because I am not particularly concerned whether we get another 1,000 square miles or another 10,000 square miles. It is the welfare of Irish people that I am concerned about and on any attempt to make emotional capital out of Articles 2 and 3 in either direction I would not feel myself obliged to vote. Therefore, on that ground I could not support the Fianna Fáil amendment.

On the question of a true social order, I do not understand what that means. Without any offence being given, it seems to me to have implications of a philosophy of the 1930s which I thought we had all abandoned. I do not know what a true social order is: I do not believe there is a fixed true social order. I could not support any motion which suggested that there was some kind of true social order which might be embodied in our Constitution. In my opinion there is no such thing.

When it comes to the motion in the names of Senator Hussey and Senator Ferris, the motion as it stands is fine. If I could judge this motion in terms of our Taoiseach, whom I have known for a considerable number of years, I would have no trouble in accepting it. My problem is that I have not yet worked out—I say this with all respect to the Members of this House—whether the Taoiseach's policies and personality represent the views of his party or whether they are merely an aberration that will pass with time and then Fine Gael will resume their traditional views. Therefore, I would be very unhappy at this stage if I had to associate myself with a motion which set in train constitutional and legislative reviews which might well be influenced by at least two members of the Cabinet to whose views I am diametrically opposed. I have already mentioned the Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism. I cannot, and I will not, forget the record of the present Minister for Posts [109] and Telegraphs when he was responsible for our prisons. I would not be happy if the views of those people were to become the consensus view of Fine Gael and therefore the dominant views in the Government on matters of constitutional and legislative reform.

My view is that what has been proposed is a good idea. I will wait and see whether that good idea is as generous in its continuation as it has been in its initiation. Therefore, I will not vote for the motion; neither will I vote for the amendment because my view on our two major political parties for some years has been that they have not been generous in responding to the innate generosity of the Irish people. They have not been generous in responding to the innate kindness of the Irish people of which anybody in my position is fully aware. I could not trust either of them at this stage to initiate the kind of review of our constitutional and legislative procedures in which I would have faith. Therefore, I cannot vote either for the amendment or for the motion.

Mr. Lanigan: I am not too sure what exercise we are going through here today and what type of exercise we went through yesterday. I noticed one of the headlines in the paper this morning which said that we have a rejuvenated Seanad and this was written by a person who last week would have led the Irish people to believe that we all should have been led in here, with a remedial teacher on one side of the wheelchair, a doctor with his oxygen mask on the other and these pundits in the press pushing us.

The press seem to have pushed us into this debate. It started off on radio: I presume that next week somebody else will come in here and propose that we adopt whatever is being said on “News-night”, “Today Tonight”, “The Frank Hall Show” or whatever. What is the meaning of the debate? It has broadened into every aspect of Irish life. It has been broadened by Senator Ryan. It has been broadened by everybody who spoke and I presume that when the Taoiseach comes [110] in here this afternoon he is going to propose that he give a State of the Nation speech because every aspect of Irish life is being covered and every aspect of Irish life can be covered by him in his reply. Therefore, we will not know until he speaks what kite he is flying.

Some of the kites he seems to be flying are kites I would not like to fly. His attitude towards republicanism seems to be an attitude that if you are a Protestant you are a good republican and if you are a Catholic you are a bad republican. He mentions Tone and Davis the whole time, particularly Tone. He does not mention Pádraig Pearse. He does not mention Connolly. He does not mention any of the people who went out in this part of the island in 1916 or since.

A former Senator, Frank MacDermot, in the introduction to his biography stated that Theobald Wolfe Tone met his death at the age of 35. He had a political career spanning nine years, three and a half years of which were spent abroad. Mr. MacDermot stated:

The fact is more striking when it is considered that he had little contact with the mass of the Irish people, knew nothing of their language or culture, that he disliked priests and clergy and the Papacy, and that he himself records his several attempts to enter the service of the British Crown.

Mr. MacDermot further stated:

The popular notion of him as a steady and consistent republican followed the tradition which he strove at the end of his life to establish, but it cannot be reconciled with the facts. His career up to 1795 is full of fluctuations and it is perhaps significant that he abandoned, unfinished, his attempt to write a narrative of it. His inconsistencies do not prove that he was a mere self-seeker, but they do reflect his impatience, impair his authority, raise doubts as to his wisdom, and suggest that fear of poverty and obscurity played a larger part than might be desired in moulding his thought and conduct.

[111] Yet we are going on a crusade following a man of that nature.

Mr. Quinn: Did he go to Bodenstown?

Mr. Lanigan: I am just wondering if the Taoiseach when he was speaking considered the implications of the word “crusade”? There have been many crusades fought down through the years and most of them ended up in death and destruction of a horrific nature. I suppose he may have been thinking of Father Peyton who runs a crusade on a different level. That is possibly the type of crusade that the Taoiseach would like us to embark upon.

Yesterday much was made of Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution and of Article 41. Much of the remainder of the Taoiseach's speech seems to have been glossed over nicely by the Senators on the other side. From his replies to Gerard Barry it would appear as if he feels that the nationalist people of Northern Ireland do not matter at all. He was asked by Gerard Barry how it was that in respect of Ian Paisley, who brandished gun licences on a hillside in Northern Ireland and who talks darkly of what might be done with guns he was able to welcome him and say “Come and see me and we will go and see you”, but that when Owen Carron looked for an interview with him he said “No, Owen Carron is a murderer”. Whatever Owen Carron might be, he represents the majority feeling of the people of the nationalist part of Northern Ireland. If we are going to have any reconciliation in this island it will have to be between the people of the North and the South at all levels. That is something we will all have to consider when we are talking about reconciliation. There can be reconciliation only if it is reconciliation between all sides.

Again, when the Taoiseach was asked about changing the Constitution he stated that the State in the thirties, forties and fifties became more and more a sectarian State. I grew up in the forties and fifties and I do not think anybody in this Chamber could say that in the thirties, [112] forties, fifties and sixties there had not been advancements.

I remember a time in the forties when you would not talk to Protestant neighbours and Protestants would not talk to Catholic neighbours. That attitude has disappeared in Ireland to a large degree, not because we have a Constitution or because of the lack of a Constitution or because of provisions in the Constitution which Protestants might not agree with. It disappeared because the Irish people to a degree matured in a modern society. The society of which we are part is a ball ring. Each legislative process has been changing every year, but according to the motion one would imagine that the Dáil and Seanad have not proposed any amending legislation over the past 30 years.

This is not true. The Constitution itself has been amended through the years. The Constitution has been proven to be a document which has been relevant to the Irish people at all stages since 1937. We are told that if Articles 2, 3 and 41 disappear there will be a better chance of reconciliation between the Northern people and the Southern people. Article 44 stated that the Constitution recognises that the Catholic Church had a special position in Irish life. It has. The next section said that the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian, Methodist, Jewish and The Religious Society of Friends in Ireland congregations, every church in Ireland at that stage, had their place in the life of Ireland. Those provisions were got rid of, but they made no difference to the attitude of the Protestants of the north to us. Did it bring the unity of this country any closer?

It has been said that if we change the Constitution the Northern people will be more inclined to come in with us. Yesterday we had a group of employers down from the North and they said that it would not make one bit of difference what we did with our Constitution—it would not alter their attitude towards unification of Ireland. The people of the North change when it suits them to change. In December 1972 Paisley pointed out in an interview [113] with The Irish Times and The Irish Press that the Republic's Constitution of 1937 was sectarian, and indeed if the whole Constitution, which he dubbed theocratric in a Roman Catholic context, were changed there could be good neighbourliness in the strictest sense of the word. On the day after the Taoiseach's speech last month, he said the proposal to remove sectarian elements from the Republic's Constitution was a political sop to the British Government and was an attempt to show the acceptable face of Dublin at the next Anglo-Irish talks. It is significant that after Dr. Paisley had made his statement in December 1972, one Fine Gael Senator, now a Minister, Deputy John Maurice Kelly, took it upon himself to reply to Paisley and said that he did not believe the Bannside MP. He went on to say that the day he saw Protestants in the North vote for a united Ireland he would begin to think about changing the Constitution of the Republic.

An Cathaoirleach: Would the Senator give the reference?

Mr. Lanigan: It is How Stormont Fell, by Henry Kelly, page 108. The attitude of Paisley has changed, but it has hardened, even though we are talking about changes in the Constitution. I do not think that the changes in the Constitution will make one bit of difference. What we have to do down here is to ensure that the people of this part of the island can grow in stature in themselves and through the law. The people Senator B. Ryan was talking about who cannot get the bare necessities of life in this island are more important at this instant than anybody else.

Look at a widow or a deserted wife today. Before she gets a deserted wife's allowance she has to prove that she has done everything possible to pursue her erring husband. A wife with two kids gets £34 a week and we expect her to travel to England, America or Australia to prove that she cannot find her husband. This is ludicrous in this day and age, and we are talking about amending the Constitution. [114] Talk to that woman about the amendments she needs and she will say she needs a deserted wife's allowance, that she does not want divorce. We have women who have been deserted, who are living in houses that are owned by their husbands and cannot get title to the houses and they are under threat of eviction daily from both building societies and local authorities because they have no title to the homes they are living in. We know of situations where civil servants desert their wives but can still claim the children's allowances and keep the children's allowances if they sign a document saying they are giving it to their children. That type of amendment to the legislative system is needed before we start thinking about the Constitution.

The political aspirations of the Irish people in general are that we want not a 32-county Ireland but a unity of purpose in the whole island. The political situation makes no difference to me. As Senator B. Ryan said, it is people who count and if we can have a reconciliation within this island of all the viewpoints, whether Catholic, Protestant, Scotch, Irish, it does not make any difference, we might evolve a political system which would help all the people. Let the Government sit in Athlone or Belfast or Belmullet or Cork, it makes no difference — a political system does not make that much difference. At this stage it would be detrimental to the purpose of Irish unity if we got rid of Articles 2 and 3. If they were removed from the Constitution word would go out that the Irish people are no longer interested in a self-governing community within the whole island of Ireland.

As to Article 41, there is a lot of work to be done in the area of family law before we start thinking about getting rid of Article 41. If you go through the country at present you will meet many people who are separated, who have been deserted, both husbands and wives, and the first priority in 90 per cent of those cases is not divorce and re-marriage. In 50 per cent of the cases they might consider re-marriage, but in possibly only 10 per cent would any re-marriage take place [115] anyway. We must amend the social legislation so that these people can be helped. If we get the social legislation into order then the people of the North can look down here and see that there is a social order down here in which they could live. But until we create it for ourselves there is no point in changing the Constitution and expecting that by changing the Constitution we will get a change of heart from the people of the North.

On the point of the crusade, the Republican crusade that the Taoiseach feels he should embark upon, listening to the people here from both sides of the House yesterday, there was no indication from any of them that there was a need to start up a crusade to amend the Constitution or to change our attitude towards anything.

Everybody has a different aspect of life in Ireland to talk about and discuss. I do not think the consensus in this House would be that we should agree with what was said by the Taoiseach in his radio interview. When Senator McGuinness said that as a Protestant she did not really see the need at this stage for an amendment of the Constitution probably she was voicing the consensus of most of the Protestant community. We will all have to live together. We must ensure that our laws give us the protection we need to live together in harmony and peace on this part of the island. After that we can start talking about tinkering with the Constitution. If the Constitution has to be changed, I am sure this House and the other House will not be slow to do so.

Mr. Staunton: A Leas-Chathaoirleach, I should like to start by congratulating you on your appointment as Leas-Chathaoirleach of this House and Senator McDonald on his appointment as Cathaoirleach. There is absolute unanimity in this House about the suitability of both Senator McDonald and your good self for the positions to which you have been appointed unanimously. I feel it will result in a certain measure of accord during the lengthy tenure, I hope, of this Seanad.

[116] This debate is serving a very useful purpose for a number of reasons. Some of the contributions have tended to stray from the purpose of this debate and the broad intentions of the Taoiseach in suggesting that this discussion should take place. Fundamentally the Taoiseach's approach to this issue is that in 1981 we should have a reappraisal of the issues relating to the ultimate unity of this island. It is relevant to attempt to look at where we stand today on this issue of Partition 60 years later. We have had a disastrous partition of this island which at this time is developing a certain type of permanence. In the early years subsequent to 1921 Partition was considered by most people to have a certain impermanence about it which would float away resulting in unity in this island. This was the attitude through the twenties and thirties, up to and including the new Constitution of 1937.

We have to look at the timescale since we achieved independence. The timescale shows that when the 1937 Constitution was adopted in a referendum we were 16 years removed from independence. Now 60 years later we are about four times more distant from 1921. If we look at this issue of ultimate unity negatively and say that after 60 years unity is not on, and if we give up the ghost on this aspiration of the vast majority of the people in the Republic of Ireland, what are we going to do? We will do absolutely nothing and make no change in the Constitution. We will be unyielding in our approach and see the consolidation of Partition on this island. Irish unity will become a type of nationalist pastime instead of a serious nationalist objective. We will have a cosy State, with the usual noises about unity, until the end of time. Because of all this and because of the original divisions between the political parties there is a danger of stereotyped attitudes developing in this debate. We are talking about an issue which has a much broader background than the specific views of any political party in the Republic of Ireland.

In the broadest sense, if we look at the aspirations of those who sought unity in [117] 1916 and 1921, and in 1937 at the time of the de Valera Constitution, are we not in a most appalling mess? I am not suggesting we should take the responsibility for that mess. Fundamentally the responsibility rests with Great Britain who is responsible for Partition and the maintenance of an appalling regime in Northern Ireland for 50 years. While we might have some minor blemishes in the Republic, let us be frank in talking to our colleagues in the northern part of this island about the problems that exist in the administration there.

The question of sectarianism here is a very minor issue if we look at this Constitution and the areas to which the Taoiseach referred. I do not believe for one second that the Taoiseach was referring to sectarianism as something which is rampant here. We are referring to the minutiae in one or two particular areas which might be thought to be an impediment to unity. Let us broaden this issue of sectarianism and put it into perspective.

This country is not in any sense in isolation when we talk about matters relating to sectarianism. Even Britain, for example, with its mother of Parliaments, has an established church. Many Scandinavian countries, supposedly liberal, have a system under which citizens are automatically born into the Lutheran church and are considered to be members until they resign from it. We see fundamental Islamic states developing at a great rate in the Middle East. Putting it into perspective, of course we do not have a sectarian Constitution, but there are these impediments in relation to which movement by this State could be helpful in achieving the ultimate unity which has to be our national objective.

We have had a great number of passionate discussions on the 1937 Constitution. Looking at it more dispassionately 45 years later, it is fair to say that in the broadest terms that Constitution has served us very well. That was a rather remarkable achievement in the sense that it was a Constitution for a relatively new State, with 50 Articles of which only three or four have been in any way controversial [118] in a span of 40 years or so. This reflects the success of that Constitution. Let us pay a compliment to it today. Having said that, it is now 45 years later and we must examine critically all the issues in this State which relate to unity. In the debate in the Dáil on Bunreacht na hÉireann 1937, Deputy MacDermot talked about the very issues we are discussing today and was prophetic to my mind in one or two paragraphs which, with your permission a Leas-Chathaoirleach, I should like to quote.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: May we have the reference?

Mr. Staunton: The reference is columns 69-70, Volumes 67-68 of the Official Report. I quote:

Now I come to the question which interests me most, and that is the question of the unity of Ireland, which all of us here in this House have agreed to be the paramount issue in our politics, and in that regard I feel compelled to take the view, and to ask the House to take the view, that the Government, in this draft Constitution has misused a great opportunity. It is not of course that any legislation here could immediately solve the problem of partition; that problem can only be solved by inducing the Northern Unionists to give their first allegiance to Ireland — to put peace, dignity and happiness of Ireland before any other loyalty. For this to be possible, we have to offer them an Ireland in which a place can be found for their traditions and aspirations as well as for ours. Until we are willing to do this we are partitionists at heart, no matter how loudly we shout about unity.

That was in 1937, 16 years after the partition of this country; about 45 years has passed since then and in many respects we have been going backwards rather than forwards.

There was another section in which he addressed himself to the issue of the Catholic Church in this country, which is worth quoting also:

[119] Thirdly, and less importantly from the Partition point of view in my opinion, there is a clause in this Constitution about the special position of the Catholic Church. I confess that this clause appears to me to be entirely without meaning. No preferential treatment is in fact being given to Catholics or Catholic institutions as compared with other religions. Some people, apparently, think that it is the business of the State to declare that one religion is true and others are false, but the clause in question does nothing of the kind. It merely states that the Catholic Church is the guardian of the religion which holds the allegiance of the great majority of our people, and that special position, if it be a special position, would apparently have to be accorded Presbyterianism, Mohammedanism or Buddhism if it happened to be the religion of the majority. If equal treatment for all religions by the State is heretical, then I am afraid that this Constitution is as heretical as its predecessor.

The point there is that the article relating to the Catholic Church has, of course, been removed by referendum. Some years ago the late Cardinal Conway said he would not give two whits if it was removed. It was not really an issue but it is an example of an article in the Constitution which could provide antagonism and which might be an impediment to unity. It was not an article which gave any privilege because the Protestant Church and Judaism were mentioned in the same section but it was the type of impediment which, in psychological terms, could be a barrier. The Catholic Church had no objection to it going and the majority in the Republic saw that it was sent packing when it went before them. These other issues relating to Articles 2 and 3 could be in the nature of impediments, to which we should address ourselves at this time.

Looking back to the Constitution of 1937 it is interesting also that there was no massive consensus in the Twenty-six Counties, which is now the Republic of Ireland, concerning it. It is interesting to [120] note that in the voting which took place in the referendum on that Constitution 685,000 people voted for it, 527,000 approximately against and over 30 per cent of those eligible to vote did not vote. So a substantial minority of the Irish people voted for that Constitution at that time. It was not a passionately-held consensus view.

In so far as the Constitution is concerned, we come next to the appointment of the Committee on the Constitution and the report issued by that committee in December 1967. The composition of the committee is extremely interesting. It was a bipartisan committee of the Oireachtas, Members presumably speaking for themselves, but the membership included George Colley as chairman, David Andrews, Seán Lemass, Robert Molloy, Michael O'Kennedy, Eoin Ryan, present leader of Fianna Fáil in this House, and the late Don Davern. These people, in the broadest objective sense before the emergence of recent problems in the North, addressed themselves to the Constitution. As Senator Dooge mentioned specifically yesterday, this committee recommended changes in Article 3 of the Constitution. He gave a quotation yesterday so I will not bore the House with further quotations but there was a suggestion for altering Article 3 where we talk about territory and the possessing of territory without reference to people. I think Senator Ryan made reference to it and I find myself in agreement with him. I am much more concerned about unity of purpose and unity of people than I am about any territory. The suggested draft by this committee of the Oireachtas between the representatives of the three major parties, would have amended Article 3 to say that “The Irish nation hereby proclaims its firm will that its territory be re-united in harmony and brotherly affection between all Irishmen”. It is a more acceptable form of wording than the harshness I detect in the present Article 3.

In section 9 of their introductory report the committee state:

While there may be no need to [121] depart from the existing principles of the Constitution, the matters with which we deal in our report are of importance for the future good government of this country. Indeed many of them are of such significance that it is our earnest wish that every citizen, and particularly every public representative, will analyse most carefully the arguments for and against the propositions which we have considered. To ensure the widest possible circulation of our report we recommend that an adequate number of copies be published without delay and that the sale price should be nominal. In order to facilitate the reading of the report we have consigned as much of the data as possible to the annexes.

The point is that there was a consensus developing in the Oireachtas about the need for change. The broadest terms of the Constitution had been acceptable. It was a very successful Constitution when one looks at the instability there was in this State in earlier years, a Constitution with 50 Articles of which we are talking about only two or three.

Politically there was a consensus about the need for change relating to the specific articles of the Constitution which the Taoiseach discussed in the radio programme we are discussing today. I am saddened that there is not the same consensus in the Oireachtas in 1981. I would take no pleasure whatever in attempting to achieve changes in the Constitution without that consensus but if it is necessary it may have to be done. For me the achievement of a consensus in an area such as this is well worth striving for so that leadership in the broadest sense across the political spectrum is seen to be unanimous about the need for certain change. I do not believe that the Taoiseach is attempting to hand down the policy, or is arbitrarily saying to the Irish nation, “You must accept this Article or that Article in this framework.” He is merely seeking a debate on this issue. I would imagine from his nature that he would be very conciliatory especially in so far as the major Opposition Party are concerned in an attempt to get the type [122] of consensus which would make this issue much more valuable than a one-sided attempt.

The Taoiseach has been criticised by Opposition Members and in particular by Senator Eoin Ryan, a man whom I normally admire, but who on this occasion made a speech less worthy of his normal talents. The Senator concentrated on Articles 2 and 3 to the exclusion of every other issue. There was a misinterpretation of the objective of the Taoiseach and for that reason we have to go back to look briefly at what the Taoiseach was talking about in his radio interview. He expressed the personal view that he believed we would be better as a country without Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. He did not say that the Government are seeking to remove the relevant Articles, he merely said he was seeking a debate on the matter. He said, in answer to a question: “As I have always said when asked that question, they should not be.” In other words, they should not be in the Constitution. “If they could be removed, I think it would be helpful.” Further on in the interview he stated and these are the facts which have been misinterpreted:

I am not going to rush into a referendum, before people have time to think even about the realities I am putting to them.... If an opportunity arises and I feel there is sufficient support, and a possibility I can win people to that, with or without Fianna Fáil, if I think there is, and that such a referendum might be successful on the Constitution, not just Articles 2 and 3 but on the Constitution... To go for a referendum which would be defeated would... be counter productive.

I think that is very relevant. The scope of this debate is much wider than the specific Article. There are many ways, for example, in which a referendum might take place in a much broader sense, in which if possible we might seek some type of consensus as in the Committee Report on the Constitution, 1967, to seek an alternative wording. There are other options also. I do not normally agree with the Reverend Ian Paisley but I agree with him on the point that it may be no harm, [123] in the light of recent months when there would seem to be the possibility of change in British attitudes, to think aloud in the Republic of Ireland on the lengths to which we would go to seek this unity at this time. That could serve a certain useful purpose.

I regret that there is apparently this weakening of the resolve for change in the Fianna Fáil Party. It is regrettable that there is, without any question, a difference in attitude from that expressed by very strong members of that party to the committee in 1967. Of course we have seen a great deal of water go under the bridge since. We have had the most traumatic happenings in Northern Ireland. Undoubtedly these events are having a very subjective effect. I do not want to be critical of the Opposition Party for their attitude, that is their business, but I believe it is based on subjective reasons rather than on an objective analysis of the issue. I regret that the door seems to be shut so totally on these issues and that there is not the receptiveness there was some years ago to look in an open-minded way at these issues.

Again I want to refer to Senator Eoin Ryan's speech in which he suggested that the deletion of Articles 2 and 3 meant that the Government or this country had no longer an aspiration to or a belief in the unity of this country. This is absolute nonsense. There is no such implication whatever. I want to take particular exception to his remarks when he suggested that the Taoiseach under-estimated the patriotism of Fine Gael supporters. Let me repeat the phrase, “an under-estimation by the Taoiseach of the patriotism of Fine Gael supporters.” There is an implication there that members of the party of which I am a member in subscribing to this openness of attitude are in some sense less than patriotic. I can only treat that remark with the contempt that it deserves. It is the kind of attitude we had in previous generations, in the twenties, in the thirties and to a degree in the forties. It is an attitude which I thought went out 20 or 30 years ago, so I will not even comment on it other than [124] to take exception to the point he was trying to make.

Again to come back to Senator Ryan's point, while a flag is important, in the context of Northern Ireland we have to have a system of Government under which there is even-handed treatment for all the citizens of that part of this island. That is fundamentally extremely important and even more important than unity under a flag. It is interesting when you look back to the debate in the early twenties on issues relating to the unity of this island to consider the strands of Unionist opinion in that age. Of course there was a unity of Ireland before 1921 but it was a unity under Britain and a unity which is completely unacceptable to Republicans. Subsequent to that, unity of all of Ireland was unacceptable and obnoxious to Unionist opinion and we had partition in this country. It is interesting to look at the different stance of the principal Unionist figures in the early twenties. Carson while he was a magnificent advocate of the Unionist position was equally passionate in seeking the unity of this island and his attitude was entirely different from the attitude to Government on this island by people like Craig, for example, and Brookeborough whose visions were much narrower and related to holding what one could on part of this island.

So it seems to me that if we are to get back to discussing these issues in the broadest possible terms we have to do it dispassionately and to get away from the passions of an earlier age. We have to see what we can do to play a role in this area in which there has been this entrenching of attitudes, this narrowing of attitudes, this sense of getting further away from the objective than we had 50 to 60 years ago. In that sense I support with full commitment the approach of the Taoiseach and the approach to this debate in the broadest sense possible to seek this fundamental reappraisal of these issues that may lead to the achievement of the aspirations of all of the people in this country.

Mrs. Honan: If I were asked what would be the very best subject on which to [125] start the new Seanad and to get the most publicity, media and television coverage for the new Leader of the House I would have picked the Constitution. The late chief, Éamon de Valera, would feel great that the Coalition Government, having sat down for days perhaps—I am not saying together but separate members—decided this is it, this is the subject matter we take. The Taoiseach and Senator Hussey decided that this was the best subject and in doing so sought to take the minds of the people from the state in which the Government have Ireland after only three months in power, The carryon, the madness and the disagreement within that Coalition Government we are all well aware of, not just here in this House and in the other House but in the nation as a whole. So it was good tactics to take the Constitution here today, to get all the media coverage and to take the people's minds from prices and so on, and also from the goods that were to be delivered immediately to the nation and its people by the magnificent Coalition Government just formed. Great talk I am quite sure, but I am sure also the Taoiseach had to sit down to talk over the Constitution for quite a while with our new Leader of the House, Senator Gemma Hussey, whom I congratulate on taking the leadership of this esteemed House after such a short time in public life. I congratulate Senator Hussey also on picking the book of the bible of the late Éamon de Valera to commence her opening day.

Now the confusion: the way this debate has drifted is magnificent. We came in here with the impression that we thought we knew what the Taoiseach had said but now I do not know if anyone knows what he said or what he meant to say. Now Senator Staunton has just said it was the Taoiseach's own thinking. But the people down the country thought what he said was that we must take a look at Articles 2, 3 and 41. In doing that and in doing away with them — or trying to do away with them — we are talking about a Twenty-six County Ireland. This is where I am confused. He says that after debate and so on perhaps Articles 2 and [126] 3 may be removed and then he talks about a united Ireland. The Taoiseach cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Ferris: It is quite clear if you read it.

Mrs. Honan: I am glad that the Senator even knew what he thought.

An Leas-Chathoirleach: Senator Honan should be allowed to continue without interruption.

Mrs. Honan: The Constitution of 29 December 1937 expresses the traditional aspiration of our people for national independence, the unity of Ireland and the right of its people to enter in and determine and maintain relations with other nations as they see fit. The Constitution left the Irish people free at all times to be the judges of where their interests lay. Deputy FitzGerald, our Taoiseach of today, would have the Irish people believe that it was the Irish Constitution rather than the British Government that created Partition. Let there be no confusion on that. The damage which he is doing by painting a picture of a sectarian state and the attempt to smear the name of Éamon de Valera is disgraceful, and to attempt to call the Irish people sectarian is also wrong. The record of the Irish people cannot be questioned. To quote the Taoiseach, “I want to lead a republican crusade to make this a genuine republic. I am committed passionately to a united Ireland established on the principles of Tone and Davis.” He saw fit not to mention Pearse.

Senator Ferris yesterday asked about our promises to get votes. I would like to ask Senator Ferris if his Coalition Government, which he played a very prominent part in forming, have fulfilled even one of their promises. For example, where is this money for married women? They knocked me down at the polling booths, pushing their prams in on top of us to get the £9.60.

Mr. Ferris: Give us time.

Mrs. Honan: Senator Ferris should [127] have told the people that before they went to the polling booths.

Mrs. G. Hussey: We did.

Mrs. Honan: Does Senator Ferris support the speech of his leader, Deputy Michael O'Leary, on Article 41?

Mr. Ferris: You heard my contribution yesterday.

Mrs. Honan: On the one hand he says the majority of Irish people would favour a change and at the same time the Tánaiste was quick to attack Fine Gael on divorce. It is time that the Fine Gael and Labour Senators said, loudly and clearly, where they stand on the changing of Article 41. I would like to hear Senator Howard and Senator Carey from my constituency of Clare say where they stand on the issue of divorce. We already know Deputy Flanagan. Everybody knows my stand on it. We rurals, small-minded as we are sometimes and not knowing too much, should stand up and be counted in our constituencies. We will see then how many votes we will get the next time whether we stand for the Dáil or Seanad. Éamon de Valera was the man responsible for Dr. Douglas Hyde being our first President. Erskine Childers, T.D., Minister and President of this nation, was a member of Fianna Fáil. Robert Briscoe, T.D., Lord Mayor of Dublin, was a member of Fianna Fáil, as is Ben Briscoe, T.D. and Alderman of Dublin. Who has the right to call that party with that record a sectarian party or to say that their former leader was sectarian? Because of the achievements as a result of the Constitution even my esteemed friend Senator McGuinness said she would not like to see it go. How right she is to be proud to be a Protestant and we should remember her contribution here yesterday and on television last night. She did ask for change but she made it quite clear that she was not voting for the motion of the Taoiseach.

It is quite easy to put down flowery phrases on paper and tell the nation to get out there and debate this, but what are [128] the Coalition Government doing? They are trying to get a feedback, to know what the grass-roots attitude would be before they go any further. I have been a long time in public life and they have not conned me anyway.

The tone of this debate changed yesterday. Senator Dooge, who has now taken his seat in an indirect way in the Cabinet and who was a very esteemed Member of this House with my husband, had a lovely way of putting it when he swung the whole debate over. We are not changing Article 1 or 2 or 3. We are not talking about change, we are only sitting down and having a little chat and then we will have a review of the whole thing. It was magnificent, a great performance. Am I supposed to go out and say that I am sorry I am a Catholic, I am sorry I am Irish, I am sorry I am Gaelic, because Fine Gael, Labour, or Fianna Fáil will not make me change from what I am, what I was or what I continue to be?

There is just one point before I finish. The Fianna Fáil policy under Éamon de Valera, Sean Lemass, Jack Lynch and Deputy Haughey is a united Ireland by peaceful means — a 32-county Ireland. Let there be no confusion. There has been no change in the attitude of the party into which I was born, to which I belong and which I will remain in until I die. Mr. Prior recently made a move to try to help, and I ask Mr. Prior to continue. I ask the British Government to make an announcement of a withdrawal of the troops from Northern Ireland whether it be in five, ten or 15 years. An announcement is all this nation and the nationalists of the North want. We do not want blood. All we want is a declaration that the British troops are to be taken out of the North and then everything will go on. I will finish by saying to the Taoiseach that you can fool some of the people some of the time but you will not fool all the people all of the time.

Mr. Quinn: A Leas-Chathaoirleach I rise to speak in favour of this motion. At the outset I congratulate yourself on being elected unopposed to the position which you hold. I would like to endorse [129] fully and generously the strong comments made by my two Labour Party colleagues Senator McGuinness and Senator Harte. You are a welcome occupant of the Chair, Sir. I would like to welcome also to this House the Minister of State at the Department of Education. It is appropriate that he is here to listen to this debate because so much of what we have to do relates to educating the minds and hearts of all of the people or, having regard to the last contribution, to most of the people. I should apologise for some bad habits I acquired from the previous House which I attended for the last four years and there may be a certain carryover for some time before I get rid of them. In the meantime the House will bear with me from time to time if I lapse into the Lower House interjection. What is the purpose of this debate?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Senator cannot refer in any disparaging way to what happens in the other House.

Mr. Ferris: Even if he accepts responsibility.

Mr. Quinn: I refer to the disparaging way in which one loses position in the other House. Let us be quite clear as to what the words of this motion are about. We are asking this House and Fianna Fáil, the Republican Party, to give support to the desirability of creating within this island conditions favourable to unity through the reconciliation of its people. That is what we are asking and Fianna Fáil are going to oppose the desirability of creating conditions favourable to unity through reconciliation. The need for this debate and for such a move has been recognised not just by this Government but by successive Governments. The most recent former Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, stated on taking office within the Fianna Fáil Party and subsequently becoming Taoiseach, that his overriding priority was to resolve the problem of Northern Ireland. It would appear from the amendment that Fianna Fáil have tabled and from the contributions that have been made to date that they no [130] longer share that view and no longer share the priority that the Taoiseach and current Leader of the Opposition gave to the question of Northern Ireland.

I also want to deal with the reason why people in the South should and must be concerned with the problem of Northern Ireland. There is a prevailing view, referred to as the two nation theory, which argues essentially that we should accept the historical division of this country and get on with the business of trying to run affairs in the part of the island to our own liking and to establish cordial diplomatic relations, for want of a better word, with the other part of the island which would be recognised as a separate state or a separate nation. The historical analogies that are made to support this view relate to the reconciliation between France and Germany, Spain and Portugal and so on. I reject that view because the problems of Southern Ireland in its politics, in its economy and in much of its social legislation cannot be adequately or sufficiently resolved until such time as the situation in Northern Ireland is itself resolved. The need to resolve the problem of Northern Ireland has become acute over the last ten years in particular, but it was always there from the enforced Partition of this country in 1920-22.

The people who argue the two nation theory fail to recognise that the impact of the destabilised society that Northern Ireland has become by virtue of its own internal contradictions is costing the South an enormous amount of money in terms of public revenue for security and that we are foregoing much potential revenue in the form of tourism or industrial development because of the unstable nature of Northern Ireland. It is, therefore, extremely important that we attempt to establish conditions favourable to the unity of all the people of this island because there is a direct material motivation and reason why this State, this House and this part of Ireland should do so. We in the South simply can no longer afford — arguing from a purely personal, selfish point of view — to have the cancer that is rampant in Northern Ireland continue endlessly because it is [131] damaging to the health and welfare of this part of the island in so many ways. I will not take up the time of the House by trying to enumerate them. Most people, I think, would agree with that observation. It has in one sense fundamentally distorted the kind of politics we have had in the South, to the detriment of the welfare of ordinary people. I do not think we will get the sort of politics that the people need until such time as the question of Northern Ireland can be satisfactorily resolved from everybody's point of view.

I accept the view that has been put forward by a number of people on the other side of the House that, irrespective of what we in the South do with our Constitution, it will not influence hard-line Unionist opinion, represented most vocally by Dr. Paisley. I accept that no matter what we do that hard-line opinion on its own would not necessarily be changed or significantly influenced.

I am surprised that Fianna Fáil have not seized this opportunity to avail of such a debate and to participate constructively in it in such a way as to influence London in the context of resolving the problem of Northern Ireland. It is the Fianna Fáil Party, under the leadership of Deputy Haughey, which has consistently said that the key to the problem resides in London and that London must be convinced of its obligation to remove the veto and to ensure that the re-unification of this country can take place. What better way of influencing the people whom Fianna Fáil regard as having the key to the resolution of this historic problem than to open up with the generosity implicit in the terms of this motion a debate on the nature of our society and the way in which its Constitution relates to the people in terms of 1981? What better way of influencing not just London but Washington and the countries of the European Community that to state that we are open to a review of all the institutions embodied in our Constitution, all of the legislation embodied within that Constitution, with a view, first and foremost, of signalling our intention of being open and ready for [132] the unification of this country on terms and grounds that would be acceptable to all reasonable people?

I share Senator Honan's view that you cannot please all the people all of the time and I do not think that we will win the support of all of the Unionist people in Northern Ireland. We do not have to win the support of all Unionists; we simply have to win a majority of that view. We have to ensure that that minority who dissent from the process of unification will be protected as a minority under the framework of that Constitution.

It has been illuminating to hear Senator Staunton read out the results of the poll which endorsed this Constitution. One would think, listening to some of the Fianna Fáil speakers, that it was a unanimous document not even voted upon but simply proclaimed by the late Chief, Eamon de Valera. It is quite clear from the statistical records given to the House today by Senator Staunton that, in fact, the 1937 Constitution did not get the majority of the then adult suffrage. That is the first and most compelling reason why this motion should be passed by the House and why such a debate is relevant in terms of the re-unification of this country.

The debate is now a triangular debate between Belfast, Dublin and London. It is evidence of this part of the island's goodwill to resolve the problem that affects not just the Twenty-six Counties, and not even just the Six Counties, but the two States of Great Britain and Ireland. The move that this debate can create will go a long way towards creating positive opinion in London which will it is hoped push towards the re-unification of this country within the lifetime of all the people in this House.

There is, however, another reason why we should have such a review and it does not relate to the question of Northern Ireland per se. This Constitution was drawn up in 1936. The first drafts were probably drawn up in 1934 and 1935. Most, if not all, of the social thinking implicit and embodied in it presented at [133] that time the prevailing social views of the Roman Catholic Church in the State and the theoretical social views of the Vatican at that time, which basicially can be described as a corporate state attitude.

In many ways the thinking of the Constitution embodied that kind of thinking which was prevalent before the war, particularly in Catholic countries and among Catholic theologians and social scientists. There was nothing necessarily wrong with that happening. It is inevitable that any Constitution drawn up at a particular point in time in history would reflect the prevailing view dominant at that time and would be so designed as to meet the needs of the people in that society at that time in history. However, is anybody in the Fianna Fáil benches seriously saying that this country has not moved since 1936, or that there has not been significant social, economic and political change since then? If they accept that there has not been any change, it is a massive indictment of their many, many years in office. If they do accept that there has been change of a significant kind, then surely the Constitution, which must by its nature be an organic document reflecting the image of society for which it was designed in the first place, must itself be changed? Surely they must accept that because they have, on three separate occasions, brought in amendments which got the approval of the majority of people here and on two other occasions brought in amendments which did not get that approval.

They have recognised the principle that the Constitution is not a fixed document, because on three separate occasions they sought to change it — in the EEC referendum, the adoption referendum and the joint referendum on the votes at 18 and the special position of the Catholic Church. Where is the logic of the Fianna Fáil position? They cannot argue that the Constitution is fixed, immobile, a holy writ which cannot be changed on any occasion. The late Chief, Eamon de Valera, on his exit from party political public life, on his way to Aras an Uachtaráin, attempted to change the [134] Constitution by trying his own undoubted popularity to an attempt to switch the voting system from proportional representation to the straight vote.

Fianna Fáil consistently and over a time, by their actions as distinct from their words in Opposition — and we respect that words said in Opposition sometimes can be said with one's hand on heart, but it is by actions rather than by words that they wish to judge us and we shall so judge them — have admitted the principle that the Constitution is not a fixed document, that it is subject to review and that it should be reviewed from time to time and, when found necessary and wanting, it should be changed. Are the Fianna Fáil Party now saying that they are not in favour of changing the Constitution to facilitate the position in which conditions favourable to the unity, through reconciliation, of this island could be brought about? Is that the message from the Republican party? If so, it is a very strange one. But, then, this morning has been a time for strange messages.

I listened with a certain degree of surprise, and then horror to the contribution from Senator Lanigan. I still recall that the party of which he is an esteemed and honourable member pay a visit once a year to a graveyard in County Kildare. The Senator forgot to do it this year, because he was so busy electioneering. However, he made amends and went to Bodenstown in September. As far as I can see, along with Padraig Pearse, Theobald Wolfe Tone has become a retrospective card carrying member of one of the Fianna Fáil cumainn.

Professor Murphy: He does not go to Mass, though.

Mr. Quinn: He seems to have been excommunicated very much from the party here today by Senator Lanigan. I am wondering if that view is the view shared by the other members of the united monolithic Fianna Fáil-no-divisions party. If it is, it is something that the troops out in the field would like to hear and maybe Scéala Éireann will [135] advise them, in due course, as to the change in party lines and people will not need to go to the discomforting difficulty of getting through Sallins to Bodenstown. It is not our most easily accessible graveyard. Sometimes they might find themselves in the company of other people who revere and respect Theobald Wolfe Tone and whose views they might not like to share.

Senator Lanigan gave the House another extraordinary insight into Fianna Fáil's political analysis. The record may prove me wrong, but I wrote down carefully what he said at the time. He stated, in relation to the views of the nationalist minority in the North that, as far as he was concerned, “Owen Carron, MP, represents the majority view of the Nationalist population in Northern Ireland”. That may have been an oversight or misstatement. Senator Lanigan may have been referring to the by-election result in Fermanagh South. If this is the view of the Fianna Fáil Party, and, presumably, he spoke on their behalf, I am wondering if the largest political party in Ireland who have laid holy claim to the virtues of Republicanism are now so astounded that others in this House or country might claim similar allegiance to the principles of republicanism, that they have become totally confused in their party political position.

We have Tone being similarly abandoned and somebody who regarded not just the Taoiseach but also the Leader of the Opposition as Free State traitors was quoted as stating that all elected southern politicians were Free State traitors and that he had no time for them. It was on that basis that the Taoiseach rightly refused to meet Owen Carron, MP. Fianna Fáil had clearly accepted in the past the principle that the Constitution should and could be amended.

I have argued so far about the desirability of its being amended in the context of creating a debate which would influence London, Washington and Brussels in such a way as to enable us, as must be done, to convince London to break the double veto that the hard-line Unionists [136] have consistently exercised in Northern Ireland.

I want to move to my second point, and I will not take too much time of the House. There is a pressing need in this State to reform the Constitution which no longer fits the needs of the Irish people in terms of 1981, because instead of it becoming and remaining what it should be, a framework for the guarantee of human rights and liberties, it has actually become an impediment to the achievement of those human rights and liberties. I will give two specific examples. The first is the question of Article 41 on the position of marriage and divorce. The Labour Party have been castigated wrongly on the question of divorce, but one can accept that that is the rough and tumble of political life. For the benefit of the House and those Senators who may not have heard us clearly in the past, let me state what party policy is on this question.

The Labour Party fully support the institution of marriage and the family. We also recognise that some marriages irretrievably break down and that when that happens there is a need for the civil contract originally drawn up between the two contracting parties to be properly terminated in order that the welfare of the two partners and their children can be secured legally within the framework of this Constitution. To that extent we are in favour of divorce. We are as much in favour of divorce as doctors are in favour of death, because doctors have to sign death certificates and we want to enable the courts of this land to terminate a contract which has been terminated by the two persons. To accuse us, as we have been accused, of somehow attacking the fabric of society and the institution of marriage and the family because we recognise the breakdown in some marriages — fortunately a minority — is to similarly accuse the medical profession of being in favour of deaths because they sign death certificates.

Any politician who does “clinic” work knows in his heart and soul that Irish marriages are breaking down, that it is a rural and urban phenomenon, and that it is affecting all income groups and all [137] classes. It is, in my view, an inevitable product of the liberation of women, particularly in the paid work place. I do not for one moment think that my mother's or my grandmother's generation had some secret remedy for a successful marriage that has somehow eluded us. Bad as we may be, we have not deteriorated to that extent. The unique and significant difference is that 20 or 40 years ago a woman who contracted an unhappy marriage — or a husband for that matter, but the vulnerable partner was undoubtedly the woman in most cases — simply had no economic independence of her own to establish an independent place of residence outside that house. Therefore, a separate life outside the marriage home simply was not economically possible.

Due to the reform legislation brought in by the Coalition parties in their all too infrequent periods in office the economic independence of many women is now protected by law. Those women who in my mother's generation simply suffered in silence now have the chance, economically, to have lives of their own. At present, neither they nor their children have protection in the Constitution to do so legally and they should not be regarded, as they frequently are in law, to be criminally bigamists.

The Labour Party are in particular very much in favour of civil divorce in this country. The present situation favours the rich at the expense of the poor. It is the wealthy husband who, with the help of conniving solicitors domiciled in Britain, can get a paper divorce in that State which is recognised here. It is the wealthy middle class families who can sustain the long struggle through our marriage tribunal courts and all the way to the Vatican, who get annulments and can then get married here. The not so well to do — the lower income group — do not have that privilege. Therefore, there is discrimination enshrined in that Constitution as a result of the prohibition in Article 41 which prevents all the people having equal rights.

In case many people do not fully understand [138] my party's position on this subject, let me repeat it. The Labour Party are in favour of the removal of the prohibition in Article 41 which prevents any law being enacted in this State which could lead to the dissolution of a valid marriage. Our society has moved on. The reality is that some marriages, fortunately still only a minority, break down and there should be some legal way of terminating them.

The other reason I want to argue for the change of our Constitution relates to the question of property and land ownership and the balance between public benefit and private rights to property. We are currently the most rapidly urbanising country in Europe. The recent census shows that the population has risen very fast, and in some parts of the country it is increasing at a totally unprecedented rate. The current estimate is that the greater Dublin area is probably increasing at the rate of 25,000 to 35,000 people per annum, and Dublin is not the fastest growing area. Many smaller towns which were relatively static in terms of suburban growth from 1890 right through to 1950 have now started to grow at an enormous rate. This, among other things, is changing many patterns in our society, but it is creating enormous demands for land for urban expansion and development. It has been suggested that to introduce a Bill which would control land — and the price of that land — required for urban growth would be unconstitutional. There is the serious point of view — I do not necessary share it but it seems to hold sway with many lawyers, urban specialists and people who draft various kinds of legislation and in particular I refer to the two officials who were on the Kenny Committee and who signed the minority report — that this House could not bring in legislation to enable any urban area to acquire agricultural land at its existing use value for conversion into urban use on the grounds that such acquisition would be a gross interference with the right to private property and would, therefore, be unconstitutional.

If the House will bear with me for a few moments I want to pursue this in [139] some detail. Over the last couple of weeks we have seen controversy in the newspapers about the extraordinary potential value that can be added to land that is changed in its zoning from agricultural to urban use. Its value can be increased by a factor of ten. Under the present Constitution conservatives who hide behind that particular clause state that someone who has the good fortune to own land that is being zoned from agricultural to urban use is perfectly entitled to reap the entire benefit of that value on the grounds that he is a private property owner and is protected by the Irish Constitution.

This results in the community having to pay out that money and in valuable capital cash not being available for other infrastructural services, housing and basic needs. The result is that most of our new urban areas are totally substandard by any measure. There are not sufficient facilities of one kind or another. There certainly are not sufficient recreational facilities and there is considerable emotional and medical distress caused by their incomplete nature, leading in many cases to marital breakdown. I do not believe that the late Chief or the people who voted for this Constitution in 1936 designed it for a new Ireland, an urbanised Ireland, which they could not have foreseen in 1936 and in which at the end of this century 80 per cent of the people will live in urban areas as against 20 per cent at the foundation of the State. I do not believe those people were voting to create a new generation of landlords who would reap the harvest of enormous wealth on the value of land, wealth for which they did nothing themselves to create.

We are talking about the added value given to land because of its rezoning. A proposal to pay the land owner the value of what he or she actually holds as distinct from what it might become under rezoning is, by a majority conservative viewpoint in this country, deemed to be unconstitutional. That argument and view have prevented the Department of the Environment from drafting any legislation based on the Kenny Report. The [140] Kenny Report, as the House may know, was submitted to the previous Coalition Government in March 1973 and it has stayed on the shelf because of the conservative opposition hiding behind private property clauses in this Constitution.

I would argue that that part of our Constitution, and Article 41 dealing with the question of the family, need to be reformed and looked at now. There are other aspects of that Constitution that could be changed as well and I am sure other speakers will refer to them.

This debate should be conducted on two levels along the lines that have been suggested by me and the other speakers — first, to create the favourable conditions to which the Taoiseach referred and, particularly, to impress and to create that favourable condition in the minds and the hearts of the people in London whom the Fianna Fáil Party, particularly the Fianna Fáil leader, feel have the key to the solution to the historic problem of the division of this country. Such an undertaking, entered into wholeheartedly and generously by all of the political parties of this country, would go a long way to impress the leaders in London, who for the first time are seriously considering removing the Unionist veto. Such an undertaking, if entered into generously by Fianna Fáil, would go a long way to influencing significantly the minds and the hearts of the politicians in London of both political forces to come to the table and to bring about the kind of change that all of us want on this island. Therefore it is very sad, particularly for me since I come from a republican and a Fianna Fáil household, to hear voiced in this House the crude opposition for opposition's sake that we have heard today and yesterday. It is sad that a party with the following which the Fianna Fáil Party have, should on such an open-ended motion be so miserable, mean and so against the possibility of conditions for the re-unification of this country. I would ask them to reconsider. They will have more than their fill of issues on which to attack on party political grounds. They will have their chances to [141] attack us on economic issues, political, agricultural or industrial issues. This is far too important to be playing the kind of party politics we have heard today. There is no serious intellectual content in the arguments that have been put forward. Their very actions over the years have totally contradicted what has been said to date. Their desire to change the Constitution on five separate occasions — three times successfully and twice unsuccessfully — make nonsense of the idea that this is holy writ from the late Chief, and it is not up for change. Not only are they doing damage to their own tradition — and it is a good tradition in many respects in Fianna Fáil——

Mrs. Honan: Why did the Senator change?

Mr. Quinn: I changed because, regrettably — and Senator Lanigan gave voice to it now — Fianna Fáil retain the word “Republican” only in brackets but not the heart of the substance. That is why I changed. Regrettably Senator Lanigan put it on the record of the House today. I would appeal to the Fianna Fáil Party not to play party politics on this issue. We have seen in Britain that they were able to achieve a bipartisan approach to the question of Northern Ireland. During the previous Coalition administration an attempt was made to get all-party approval in this House and in the other House, and when Deputy Jack Lynch was leader of Fianna Fáil there was a considerable measure of support for the line adopted by him on the question of Northern Ireland from the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party. What we are doing today is not all that different from the line adopted by Jack Lynch or Seán Lemass. The support that the then Opposition parties gave to the then Fianna Fáil Taoiseach was constructive to the extent that the Taoiseach of the day could say to London or to Belfast: “We are united in the South in our desire for unification, we are united in our desire to be open and constructive.” This amendment will not help that process. It goes totally against the tradition of bipartisanship [142] that has existed in the past in this House. I would appeal to Fianna Fáil, on the grounds that they will have many other opportunities to play party politics, to think again and to withdraw this amendment. They would be seen as acting constructively in doing so.

This debate is important. It is not a diversion or some kind of media trick designed, as Senator Honan suggested, to enhance the reputation of the Leader of the House. The Leader of the House does not need that kind of support. She is well capable of enhancing her own reputation. This is not a diversion from the serious economic difficulties that confront this State and the solution or the conclusion of this debate will not, as a result, resolve those economic difficulties. There are people who think that the North has nothing to do with them, who hold the two nation theory and consider it is part of the other nation and they do not want to be influenced by it. Let those people realise that in every aspect of our economic, political and social life on this part of the island, the failure of the democratic political forces to bring about a just society in Northern Ireland since 1922 has had direct and disastrous effects upon political life in the South. Until such time as the people with political power and responsibility in Belfast, London and Dublin arrive at some kind of framework that will be an acceptable solution for the majority of people, we will not be able to get down freely to resolving successfully the problems that confront so many of our people in the South.

Professor Murphy: A Chathaoirleach, I hope you will extend some latitude to me, first of all, in that I want to say one or two things which more properly relate to yesterday's business but I was not quick enough off the mark on your election, Sir, and on the Order of Business. Ba mhaith liom do ghradam nua a thraoslú leat agus go marir, ar feadh tamaill ach go h-áirithe. Tá a fhios agam chomh maith gur toghadh Séamus Ó Doláin mar Leas-Chathaoirleach. De réir mar a chuireas aithne air is é is mó an meas a bhí agam air agus is breá liom é a fheiscint sa Teach seo arís.

[143] May I ask you, Sir, to respectfully consider one procedural suggestion I am going to make at the outset. It struck me that the only source of acrimony emanating from the Chair in the last Seanad was in connection with the matter of deciding whether or not a motion was to be taken on the Adjournment or whether in one or two cases, I think, the exceptional Standing Order 29 was or was not to be waived. My point is that on those occasions the Chair's decisions were given without any reasons. While there is nothing in Standing Orders to say that the Chair needs a reason, it seems to me to add to the resentment and irritation felt by Senators that a reason was not given. I leave it at that point.

An Cathaoirleach: Good, many thanks.

Professor Murphy: On the more general matter of the Order of Business, I want to say how pleased, and astonished, I am that the Seanad has taken off with a dramatic bang, that there is, I hope, a new departure which will be kept up. I know the new Leader of the House felt very frustrated when she was here on the Independent benches but no fault attaches to the former Leader of the House because Senator Eoin Ryan did his very best to comply with our requests. However, there was a certain inertia against which he was powerless. I am very pleased that we begin with such substantial matters and that more of the same is promised. I do not think the Seanad can ever aspire to being too much. It is not, after all, like the Third Estate in 1789 — from being nothing proceeding to be everything. We cannot purport to be in any sense a House of Representatives, but there is no reason why within the terms of the Constitution we should not be playing a greater role. Why, indeed, if there is constitutional change considered in every other respect should that not apply to the sections concerning Seanad Éireann as well? I see no reason why the House should not be democratised in terms of its franchise, as far as possible.

[144] Senator Quinn's effective contribution to the motion makes me begin at the end rather than at the beginning because I would like to support his plea to the Fianna Fáil Party to consider what a dramatic impact it would have if they decided to support the motion. I suppose I might as well be talking to the wall as I was in 1979 on the Bill dealing with family planning which has indeed a great relevance to what we are talking about here today. Then I suggested — the present Leader of the Opposition was in the Government seat — that if Fianna Fáil were true republicans then they would not dream in the year 1979, after ten years of Northern strife, of introducing a Bill which was, and remains, clearly denominational, which favours the particular sexual morality advanced by one church and frowns on other methods of family planning, so that citizens who do not accept the morality of one church are branded as seedy, suspect and second-class. On that occasion I asked Fianna Fáil that perhaps they might consider the implications of the term “republican” in its true sense.

I begin by congratulating the Taoiseach, in his absence, though I owe him no allegience whatsoever. It seems to me that he deserves congratulations for, first of all, at considerable political hazard within and without his own party, taking the first initiative in terms of all-Ireland politics since Seán Lemass. I listened to his remarks on radio. In some respects they struck me as naive, as selective and as unrealistic; but I could not help but be impressed also by his courage, his vision and patriotism and his willingness to lead. In the motion yesterday on the death of President Sadat I suggested that one of the few essentials of leadership is the willingness to lead. Deputy Garrett FitzGerald, it seems to me, is willing to lead on this particular issue. It has been a trait conspicuously absent in our Taoisigh since Seán Lemass. There was a suggestion of fresh air about that interview, an air staled so often on that same Sunday programme by the kind of bland platitudes we have come to expect from politicians. I do not know whether any young [145] people were listening, whether they listen to anything any more on RTE 1 or on Radio 1 or whether if listening they thought this debate had nothing whatsoever to do with their concerns. But there must have been some young people who caught an infectious whiff of the enthusiasm and the sincerity which the Taoiseach expressed that morning. It may not have been politics — to adapt a wellknown maxim — but it was magnificent.

The accusation of being diversionary has been made since then — not least, indeed, by Senator Honan here. Perhaps it was. Deputy Garret FitzGerald, in addition to the qualities which I discern in him, is also a politician, and perhaps there is a hint of diversionary tactics about it. Personally, I do not believe there was, but really it is a bit rich for Senator Honan to suggest that this is somehow unique to Deputy Garret FitzGerald. It seems to me that the Fianna Fáil Party are preeminently quick at playing the diversionary tactic. They are no mean hands at playing the green card. I have no doubt that it will be trotted out again on Sunday. It was a change for once to see someone playing the green, white and orange card.

I have some reservations about the Taoiseach's remarks. It grated on me somewhat that he referred so often to what Tone and Davis would have wanted. There were excessive references to those two long deceased gentlemen. I derive wry amusement from the alacrity and dogmatism with which non-historians tell us what personages of history would have wanted or what particular movements teach us. Curious thing, one never hears a historian saying: “The lesson from is” or “History teaches us” and so on.

In this case I felt this about reflecting on Tone and Davis in that connection. Senator Lanigan again raised the ghost of Tone this morning. Tone had his own virtues but the historical Tone bears little resemblance to Patrick Pearse's Tone or Deputy Garret FitzGerald's Tone. There are several Tones in fact. A colleague of mine has remarked — I am only sorry I [146] have to attribute the witticism to somebody else, Dr. Thomas Dunne in the history department in UCC — very perceptively: “Níl aon Wolfe Tone mar do Wolfe Tone fhéin.” It was a deft and strategic role for the Taoiseach to steal some of the thunder from Bodenstown. Tone had his own virtues and his own patriotism but in many ways he would today find us, as he found in his own time, the totality of the Irish nation quite strange to him. He knew nothing of Gaelic Ireland, cared not at all for Irish music. “Strum, strum and be damned”, he said irritably at the great Belfast Festival of 1792. Despite the cliché that he put his trust in the men of no property, this was an isolated phrase from a man who very much favoured the men of property, whose political motivation in fact was less nationalist than wanting to get his middle class into the power and property owned by the Ascendancy, and to that end he wanted a union of Irishmen. Even that union of Irishmen for him did not really include the Protestants of the Established Church, whom he detested. As for really thinking about a plurality of cultures and religions, that was not on Tone's cards at all. In the last decades of the eighteenth century he believed that religion was a “goner”, that it was superstition in any case and that priestcraft was inevitably doomed under the rays of the Enlightenment. He was a very, very strange man, very different from the glib references which roll on all our tongues.

Thomas Davis was a man of considerable vision also, but a man of a lot of confusion to boot. Some of his lines could indeed stir us in this debate: “Orange and Green will carry the day. Oh let the orange lily be your badge my patriot brother, the everlasting green for me and we for one another.” Splendid stuff but then, as now, far removed from the harsh realities. Davis, by the way, was not a republican at all. He was dead before the particular movement to which he belonged lurched to the left under the impact of the Second Republic in France and the Great Famine in this country.

[147] All of this goes to show that we are far too fond of invoking historical mythology to suit our purpose; we are all good historians. We are far too dominated by the dead. One might say that we are more influenced by “necrocracy”, by the “necrocratic” tradition, than any other country. Seriously, some at least of the tragic split in the Civil War in 1922-23 was due in some measure to the fact that that generation and those Treaty debates and subsequently were dominated by the ghosts of 1916, by what Patrick Pearse would have said or would not have said, by McDonagh's “bony thumb”, in Yeats' famous phrase.

I do not think this should be the criterion for our activities here and now. We should not really be too concerned about what Tone would have felt, or Davis would have wanted, or Pearse would have said, or how Connolly would have reacted. We should stop using skulls as ideological footballs. We should leave the dead to the historians. It may be somewhat of a paradox, but as a historian I was always greatly touched by Arthur Griffith's passionate cry from the heart during the Treaty debates — “Is there never to be a living present? Is there never to be a living present, only a dead past and a prophetic future?” Thomas Paine, in another country and in another age, put it very well when he said: “The most insolent and fatuous of all tyrannies is the presumption and vanity from governing beyond the grave.”

The immediate context of the debate is the radio interview with the Taoiseach. He has drawn coals of fire on his head by his implication that ours is or has been a sectarian State. Senator Honan referred again to that this morning, as indeed Senator Ryan did in his opening statement. The implication is refuted in the Fianna Fáil amendment. Strictly speaking, Senator Honan and Senator Ryan are right in their objection to the Taoiseach's use of the term and, as I recall, to Senator Hussey's opening statement yesterday, because a sectarian state the Twenty-six counties has not been in the proper sense of the word “sectarian”. I have not [148] looked in the Oxford English Dictionary for this one but most of us would agree that a sectarian state is one where the powers that be practice active discrimination against those of another denomination. In that sense it is, of course, Northern Ireland that has been sectarian from its institution up at least to the fall of Stormont. I do not believe that the Republic has been sectarian in that sense. Senator Hussey listed out a whole lot of areas which she thought proved the sectarian nature of the State. I was frankly quite surprised to see sectarianism turning up from under every stone. The State here was never overtly sectarian or overtly clerical. The correct word to describe the nature of the State, which was used for the first time in the debate by Senator Dooge, is “confessional”; perhaps “denominational” might suit as well. That is to say, the colour, the tone and the ethos of the State were shaped along the lines of the prevailing denomination. That is very different from being sectarian. In fact, from the foundation of the State, Protestants and other non-Catholics were treated extremely well — and by Mr. de Valera — particularly in certain areas. I am thinking of education, for example. In some cases in that area they have been treated and still are being treated exceptionally well.

But of course the Protestants themselves in this State were content to accept the prevailing denominational ethos as the price to be paid for a cosy and quite life. I have spoken up for Protestants over the last ten years constantly and I sympathise greatly with their quite extraordinary state of fear over the last several months. It is alarming that, let us say over the summer months for reasons into which we will not go, there were Protestants who expressed their fears to me of the direction in which they thought the State was turning. They expected something of a pogrom, incredible as it may seem except to those of us who will recall that something of the guerilla warfare in west Cork was itself a little of a Protestant pogrom. So I have spoken up for Protestants. I listened with great sympathy to people who rang me up to say [149] “I am glad you have said such a thing”, and I said “Who are you?” and they would not give a name. The atmosphere of fear was quite extraordinary.

I do not want to berate them or anything of that kind, but I sometimes think that if the State has been denominational and if we have done things we should not have done, some of it is the fault of the Protestant minority themselves. Despite Yeats' great claim “We are no petty people”, they did not really take any great interest in the separate fortunes of this State from 1922. They should have pulled their weight more and perhaps all of us would have been a bit better. But it has been a confessional State; it has been a denominational State in that the State has been fairly closely associated with the Catholic Church in all kinds of ways since its foundation. It has not been formally so, of course, because there is too much of the parliamentary and constitutional tradition in our history to mean that there would be any full identification between Church and State. But if one looks at things like the Eucharistic Procession of 1932, if one looks at the messages sent by incoming Governments of whatever party colour to the Holy See, one will find this idea that the Head of Government should somehow express his filial homage to the Holy See. Obviously he should not have done anything of the kind as the Head of a Government of a State which is supposed to be nondenominational. To a surprisingly late stage in the sixties, heads of government did not attend the funerals of Protestant dignatories in the sense of participating in the obsequies themselves. Let us not think that these were the faults of any particular party. This was a particular kind of culture which politicians inherited.

The Taoiseach drew up Mr. de Valera's attitude to the appointment of a librarian in County Mayo. It might be noted for the record that the reason why his political opposite number — I think it was General Mulcahy who was the appropriate Minister at that time — in Cumann na nGaedheal wanted to keep Miss [150] Letitia Dunbar Harrison in office was not because he was somehow inflamed with non-sectarian zeal but because he did not like the action of the Mayo County Council in suspending her. It was a government versus local government dispute rather than anything else. Poor Miss Letitia Dunbar Harrison was eventually transferred, I take it with full pension rights and so on, to an Army barracks where it is presumed the denizens were too corrupt to be corrupted by a Protestant librarian.

That is not an isolated incident. When Fianna Fáil were trying to come to power in that remarkable turnaround — they came into the Dáil in 1927, and had power by 1932 — one of the techniques they used to move forward was to represent themselves as just as Catholic as their opponents if not more so. Seán T. O'Kelly claimed in the course of those years that one of the virtues of Fianna Fáil was that “it represented the big element of Catholicity in the Irish nation”.

In his Saint Patrick's Day address in 1935, Eamon de Valera spoke about the long and historic allegiance of Ireland to the Holy See and said: “Ireland still remains a Catholic nation.” On the other hand, to balance the record, Eamon de Valera stood up against the boycott in Fethard-on-Sea in 1957 when other politicians were not so brave. We must remember also that John A. Costello stubbornly persisted that he would be loyal to his bishops, a statement which he uttered in 1951 and again in subsequent years, and one of the previous leaders of the Labour Party, still happily a Member of the other House, in 1953 declared that he was a Catholic first and an Irishman second.

There is an undeniable pattern of statement, mood and feeling here. That is the kind of State we had. It is a confessional State. Perhaps it is loosening out.

It was a confessional State because of one very simple reason. The State was confessional because the nation was perceived as Catholic. Despite one level of lip service to a secular nation according to the secular principles of Tone, Davis [151] and the others there was another level at which people felt themselves in their guts to be the Irish Catholic nation. The State which emerged from 1922 to perhaps a decade ago was the political reflection of that Catholic nation. It could be seen in various legislation, too tedious to repeat, over the years. I have referred to the Family Planning Bill but of course there were others brought in by all parties. They all add up to this confessional and denominational picture.

When the Unionists who came down to Dublin yesterday described the southern State as theocratic, they were way out. We should have no hesitation in denying charges which are either out of date or perhaps were never true. A theocratic state is a state dominated to a large extent by a Church, where the Church dominates over the state. That has never been true in the history of modern Ireland even in its most clericalist years. Eamon de Valera always drew a very fine and, in his fashion, tortuous line between what influence the Church should be allowed to have in moral matters and the spheres where he would not tolerate the threats or influence of bishops and otherwise.

Some of the defects of that statement issued to the press, and some of which we heard on radio and on television yesterday — I saw the full script which Mr. McCartney and his colleagues delivered — were that a lot of that script was outdated if it was ever true. That script and their statements made no reference whatsoever to their Ayatollahs who in some ways are even more incredible than ours ever were at their worst.

What of our Constitution? I would like to make a declaration of my own political faith. My only allegiance is to the State where I was born. I have no allegiance whatsoever to wider concepts of communities, certainly not to Brussels. I have no interest in territorial expansion or insular completion because I think half of the feeling of disappointment among what I might call our people in 1921, and afterwards when the Boundary Commission collapsed in 1925, was that it denied [152] the people's concept of a complete island. This goes very deep to the heart of what you might call our geo-political psychology. I have no particular interest in extending this State to include the whole island. I have no particular interest as the cliche goes, “seeing a united Ireland in my lifetime”.

I do not think — we come to Article 1 of the Constitution in this case — there is any inherent right of this island to be a self-contained geo-political unit. I do not think it follows that because it is an island it should be one. Certainly that was the instinctive assumption of our fathers and grandfathers. When the idea of Partition was first raised people like John Redmond and others across all the shades of political opinion were outraged at the physical decapitation of the island. We have grown up enough to know that that does not really matter any more. As a number of speakers have said, all the people in this island are bound together. Some of us might say we are tragically imprisoned together by the circumstances of history and geography. As Senator Ruarí Quinn said, we cannot take refuge in a cosy two nations theory. A settlement of the conflict is primary in my view and the political form it takes is secondary.

I put this question indirectly to Fianna Fáil. Suppose by the grace of God, and by, for once, the skilful intervention of the British Government or some other factor, that within the present boundaries of the Six Counties of Northern Ireland peace could be established and some kind of understanding reached between the communities with some promise of permanence, would Fianna Fáil, or would we be content with that? I certainly would. To ask for more would be an impertinence from anyone living in the security, cosiness and homogeneity of the Republic. The political form the settlement takes is secondary. I think the first thing we have to do in the state, since it is we who are making the approaches, it is we who are professing unity by consent, is to disown any pressure on the people whom we want to come with us into a united Ireland.

[153] Deputy Brian Lenihan is one of the most frequent spokesmen in the debate on the other side at the moment. One of the things he keeps on saying is, “We will go in for the bargaining and we will put our Constitution up for discussion when we get around the conference table”. The flaw in this argument is that it assumes the other crowd are also waiting to get around the conference table and to do their own wheeling and huckstering, but that is not so. The other crowd are totally hostile to it. It behoves us to reject everything that smacks of pressure on that community if we are serious about unity by consent.

Since I am declaring my political faith, and since I have been asked about this on numerous occasions, I want to make reference to two personalities, one a former Member of this House, the other a present Member of the Dáil. I have admired Conor Cruise-O'Brien's incisive ananlysis of our confusions and ambiguities over the years, but I have also differed with him on some fundamentals. One is his mistaken interpretation of history. The reason I took public issue with Conor Cruise-O'Brien in 1977, when nobody in Fianna Fáil was anxious to confront him, was that basically he is indifferent to nationalist feeling and nationalist emotion. In other words, I believe in Irish nationality: I am not sure if Conor Cruise-O'Brien does or if it means anything important to him.

The other person for whom I have great regard is Deputy Jim Kemmy who, against considerable odds, flouted nationalist sentimentality by declaring himself unambiguously to be a two-nation man and to ask for the revocation of Articles 2 and 3. I admire his courage but I think he is wrong in his conclusion. The posters which he shows at his meetings of socialists against nationalism represent a green bloc, a grabbing hand against an orange bloc north of the border and then the legend “Hands off the North”. This is far too simplistic, as Senator Quinn has already pointed out. Above all, it fails to take cognisance of the national aspirations of the Northern Catholic. All Deputy Kemmy and his [154] followers say airily is, “Ah, but we will give them full civil rights within the United Kingdom” but that is not what they want. We cannot then accept that approach because it is too simplistic. So, like Senator Quinn, I cannot accept the full blown two-nation theory.

This debate is already under way. It is too late now for Senator Ryan or Deputy Lenihan to say it is divisive, it is far better not to talk about it. It is already under way, and a good thing too. One of the plagues of this country has been the kind of attitude “I must not talk about it, it might do some harm”; the attitude has been “Keep your mouth shut, you will never get on”. I never had any time for that mealy-mouthed nonsense. I believe everything should be talked about openly all the time. The debate is under way, inside and outside these Houses, and we have to ask ourselves in the context of the debate some very fundamental, serious and painful questions which up to now have been dodged and shelved.

The first most fundamental question — it relates to the Fianna Fáil amendment on the Order Paper which speaks of an unalterable aspiration to Irish unity — is if this is really true. Do 70 or 80 per cent of the people of the Twenty-six Counties really want a united Ireland? If so, for what reason do they want it? Is it some kind of residual, sentimental sense of one-nation Ireland that it would be grand to have unity? What price are they prepared to pay for it? Are they even prepared to debate it? Fianna Fáil claim with some substance to be not simply a party but to represent the nation and, as a historian, I recognise a certain truth in that. If Fianna Fáil are not even prepared to debate unity, which is what this comes down to, how can the people as a whole be expected to face up to the issues involved? The question has never really been put to the people whether they are serious about wanting unity.

Once upon a time some of us liked to think that it was only a few Orange bullyboys, only a few Protestant bigots, who were opposed to the idea of a united [155] Ireland but, in the proper and useful illustration which history affords, at every election since 1886, at the various tests of public opinion which have been held, there is unalterable opposition in the Unionist community, master and Jack, industrialist and worker, to the idea of a united Ireland. We should accept that.

The question I want to ask is, why? This is not so obvious a question as it sounds. If we are pursuing reconciliation, then it is basic to what we are about to inquire if the Northern Unionist is against a united Ireland because of his British allegiance and identity, out-of-date as that may be in relation to Great Britain itself. Is he against unity because he is British or because, being Protestant, he fears and still fears, as the statement last night made clear, that Home Rule is Rome Rule? If the first answer is correct, that the Northern Protestant fears unity because he is British, then the prospect before us is bleak indeed. If it is the second, then I think we have some hope. The answer may lie in the fact that there is not a monolithic bloc, that there are different layers and different classes of Unionists. Some of them are unalterably British in their sentiment, others say, “In the present circumstances given that we are being increasingly isolated” — and they are, the Ulster Protestant is the most pathetic victim of the present troubles in my view — “we are willing to consider alternatives”.

One of the questions brought up here and elsewhere was, if we scrap Articles 2 and 3 and replace them by an aspiration, does that mean that Northern Unionists will still be saying “They are simply trying to catch us that way”? The suggestion has been made here that if we replace it by something like what the 1966-1967 committee said, “brotherly harmony in aspiration,” the Northern Unionists will still be immensely distrustful. I do not think that is so. Though some papers this morning regarded the visit of these Unionist gentlemen as constituting a rebuff to the Taoiseach's move, nevertheless it was clear they had no objection to the substitution of something [156] like an aspiration to unity instead of the territorial claim which, in their view, constitutes a threat in Articles 2 and 3. It is not just a choice between keeping Articles 2 and 3 and waiving our aspirations to unity. They can be very usefully replaced.

We should not be too dispirited by the expected ritualistic denials or rejections of Mr. Molyneaux and the Reverend Ian Paisley to the Taoiseach's radio interview. It is to be expected that many politicians will recoil from the unfamiliar and from the strange — and with great respect to my friends in Fianna Fáil, I suggest that their fearful and passive reaction to the Taoiseach's initiative is the Southern counterpart of the Unionists' “No surrender”. What a tragedy it is that we have gone backwards so much since 1967. What a testimony it is to the reactionary nature of the last 14 years in every sense of the word.

Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.

Professor Murphy: I will not detain the House by recapping what I said before lunch. I should like to go on to reflect on some implications of the visit and statement of the Unionist delegation who came here yesterday. I have referred in passing already to this rather curious delegation. I was thinking at lunch that they reminded me of the kind of delegation one reads about in the classics coming to see an occupying power or pleading their case on behalf of an unspecified body of people. We do not know how representative they are. It strikes me that they are very much related to a particular secure class of people, but their visit is very welcome. I do not regard their remarks and their attitude as a rebuff to the Taoiseach's initiative, because I did not hear the Taoiseach saying at any stage that his initiative was meant to lead to Irish unity. It was meant to lead to Irish reconciliation, a very different thing. The clear message of the delegation was that, while the removal or replacement of Articles 2 and 3 would not lead to unity, nevertheless they would be very welcome and to [157] that extent they are to be seen and would be welcomed as a means towards reconciliation.

In other respects, however, the statement and script which the delegates delivered seemed to me to be extraordinarily defective in their outmoded perception of the Twenty-six County scene which they still seem to think of in terms of being a heavily confessional atmosphere of the forties and fifties and in their omission of any reference whatsoever in their remarks to the Catholic minority, the treatment of the Catholic minority at the hands of the Unionists and the aspirations of that Catholic minority. There was no realisation, it would seem, of their own vulnerable position at the moment. With one major British party now committed to Irish unity, another new group being extremely favourable, and elements even within the Conservatives making the same kind of noises, the Northern Unionists are in an extremely vulnerable position, which makes the Taoiseach's initiative all the more timely.

There was one thing they brought up and emphasised which we should all be clear about. If we are to remove or replace Articles 2 and 3, it should not be for the wrong reasons. Mr. McCartney and his friends seem to think that, if you take away Articles 2 and 3, this will remove the ideological, I might say theological, justification for the activities of the Provisional IRA. They seem to imply that the removal of Articles 2 and 3 would be a grave blow to the morale and the psychology of the Provisional IRA. Let us be quite clear about this. There are good reasons, in my view, for modifying or replacing Articles 2 and 3, but they will make no difference whatsoever to the attitudes and activities of the Provisional IRA, for the very simple reason that the Provisional IRA, and their predecessors before the 1969 split, never took any notice of what our Constitution said, despised the Constitution and the institutions it represents.

The Provisional IRA depend for their motivation on a semi-mystical invocation of an elitest conspiracy of history. In their [158] own view, the Provisionals represent a semi-mystical Republic which was betrayed in 1921-22 after which there were no legitimate institutions to represent the Irish people. So, whatever we do with the Constitution, the Provisionals will simply say: “There; the Free State traitors are betraying you, the Irish people, once again.” They might well make capital out of a divided referendum campaign true enough.

The Northern Unionists were singularily unperceptive in their understanding of the psychology of the Provisionals. Nonetheless, they took an important step. Their very coming to Dublin to talk to the Taoiseach and the Leader of the Opposition in itself constitutes a recognition of the interlocked affairs of the two parts of this island. What they were really saying to us — apart altogether from their references to the Provisional IRA — was: “If you remove these Articles it might help us to breathe a little more freely.” That is an important point. It might be a help towards better relations and, they suggested, towards an internal settlement.

In discussing these matters there are very few people in this island who earn more respect, who have more stature, than John Robb. Over the years, without ever abandoning his position as one of his own in Belfast, and the great reputation he has deserved for his own special skills, he has somehow been one of the few Northern Protestants to project himself to us as well. We should pay particular attention to what he says. In the precise context of using Articles 2 and 3 to contribute to a Northern settlement, John Robb has something to say to us, and he has said it more than once. He said that if you get something like a British initiative together with a Dublin initiative but with a drawing off of pressure from Dublin, then you will have maximum conditions for an internal settlement. In a lecture he gave in Longford on 28 January 1979 and reported in The Irish Times the following day, which has not at all dated with the passage of time, he said that if the Republic would forego all claim to jurisdiction over Northern [159] Ireland the people of the North could debate in convention freely — that is if the British were prepared to arrange this — without duress or uncertainty their future as it relates to the island of Ireland, if they could be sure that the Republic had no intention of absorbing the North unwillingly into a confessional State but would gladly participate in an all-Ireland convention at some time in the future to create a new nation. That is one of the precise contexts in which the modification or replacement of Articles 2 and 3 could be very useful.

If there was a referendum in the morning I would vote for the removal, or more particularly, the replacement of Articles 2 and 3. I find them offensive in their present form. I am not at all convinced by Deputy Brian Lenihan's repeated insistence that they represent only an aspiration. If one looks at the way the Constitution begins with the Preamble which refers to “We, the people of Éire” and acknowledging their indebtedness to our “Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial”, it is readily evident that what is being talked about in the Preamble is the Irish Catholic nation. The Constitution moves quickly on from there to assert the inalienable rights of the Irish nation. Quite clearly it is not the Irish nation. It is the Irish Catholic nation. Then the Irish Catholic nation angered at the denial of the territorial completion of its vision in 1920-25 says: “We want our six counties back. This Government have at the moment only jurisdiction over the Free State area but that does not mean we should not govern the whole of the island”. I cannot see how any objective and sensible person can interpret these Articles as other than territorial and tribal. That is why I could not possibly support them as they are nor do I see the changing of them as an abandonment of our own dreams of national unity.

I do not think reconciliation has anything to do with territory, tribes, majorities or percentages. As has been said very often here it has to do with minds [160] and hearts. Articles 2 and 3 as they stand are in direct conflict with that other much vaunted aspiration which we have had repeated over the years in all parties, that we want unity by consent. One cannot have Articles 2 and 3 and at the same time say that one wants Irish brotherhood and sisterhood and unity only by consent. I submit too that Articles 2 and 3 are in direct conflict with the symbolism which is enshrined in Article 7 which says that the national flag shall be the tricolour of green, white and orange — a symbolism glowing with promise in 1848 when the Young Irelanders brought the flag back from the second French Republic but now, alas, tarnished and faded, a flag which is for many people in this island no more than a sectarian rag, but for us it is still unity by consent symbolised every time we look at it and it is in direct conflict with the territorial claims of Articles 2 and 3. Remember that Northern Unionists find Articles 2 and 3 offensive not simply in themselves but because they are embedded in a Constitution which is confessional. It would be bad enough, so to speak, if they did not want our jurisdiction and we claimed it but worse still if we claimed it in the name of our ethos over them. The suggestion has been made here that there is no need to review the Constitution. I advance one important need why it should be reviewed and that is that our own people's understanding of the affairs of this island has changed enormously since 1937. It is true to say that when that Constitution was promulgated in 1937 the great majority of this State, provided they reflected on these matters at all, would automatically think, “This is an incomplete State, there are a few difficult bigots in the north-east part of the island but that will soon be put right if the British would only go away”. In the last ten years we have come to an enormous and difficult understanding of the complexities of the problem and because our perceptions are different from the people who drafted the Constitution that seems to me to be a very strong reason for reviewing it.

Moving away from Articles 2 and 3 to a more general consideration of constitutional change which is envisaged in the Government motion, the point has been [161] repeatedly made by Opposition spokesmen that the present Constitution has served us well, that it is not only the Constitution as a document in isolation which should be considered but the judgments that have become an organic part of it over the years, the court interpretations of the Constitution which are now part of it, and as Senator Ryan claimed yesterday these should not be lightly abandoned. It is of interest that the lawyers who speak in the debate seem to agree with his judgment. The lawyers have a particular affection for the Constitution in the way in which it has organically grown. I understand that and accept that a great majority of court judgments on the Constitution have transcended the confessional limitations of the Constitution as such. There have been however, and it is only fair to recall, one or two very Catholic interpretations of the Constitution in the so-called Tilson case and in another judgment delivered by Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy some time in the forties. The details are to be found in John Whyte's indispensable book on the Church and State in Ireland.

Nevertheless, I accept the concern of lawyers and others that we should not readily abandon a Constitution which they say has proved its worth in establishing human rights and which has become even more valuable and transcended its limitations by court interpretations. Surely it does not require our present controversial, cumbersome, excessively pretentious document to guarantee our human rights. The individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution and upheld on interpretation by the courts are the legacy of western civilisation, of the best of British law, of the best of Christian civilisation. It does not require that they should be set for all time in the particular sociological language of the thirties and forties. It is not as if the Catholic Church through its senior personnel is on one side saying we must keep this marvellous Constitution. Not at all. The present Cardinal said that he would have no objection to a different kind of Constitution. The late Bishop Birch — a most respected and sensible member of the [162] Hierarchy — used to say that he thought the present Constitution too long and too pretentious and that a short document would serve us better.

Nevertheless, the Constitution is seen by many of our people as protecting their religious and spiritual heritage. I can give you a concrete and painful example of my own experience in that regard. I was recently leaving hospital after a visit when a woman accosted me, in the sense of common assault I hasten to add, shrieking like a harpy, “Hands off our Constitution,” and suited the action to the deed by digging her claws into my elbow — fear of the unknown I would suggest. She felt somehow that I was a threat to her particular world of spiritual and religious heritage. Fear of the unknown is a bad thing and the Fianna Fáil attitude compounds that fear by its dinosaur attitude to the consideration of this motion.

That woman probably believes that marriage and the family are protected by the Constitution, but let us recall that the Catholic Church no longer requires that the State through its Constitution and laws should enshrine specifically Catholic values. Would the institution of marriage be at great risk if the ban on divorce were lifted? In my view a vibrant religious community and a vibrant religious life have nothing to fear from laws and constitutions which may be indifferent or hostile. Indeed, such communities and such a religious life may have a lot to gain from an indifferent or hostile Constitution. The experience of Catholic Poland under a Communist regime for the past 30 to 40 years proves that. After all, according to our own received accounts of our history, when were our ancestors ever more religious in their practice, more devoted to their ancestral faith than during the days of the Penal Laws? The ideal condition for any church whose eyes are fixed on the things of the other world is to live and teeter on the verge of persecution most of the time.

Could I say also — and here is the positive side to our discussion of differences with our Northern brethren — that [163] the people of Northern Ireland and ourselves have in common a certain legacy of family values, that there obtains, North and South, a certain attitude towards public morality and family life which is rather different now from that obtaining in Great Britain. We have the situation where in Northern Ireland there is provision for divorce, but there is no suggestion that family life has suffered enormously from the existence in the law of provisions for divorce. I do not believe that constitutional change necessarily threatens any part of our heritage. There is one Sunday columnist who constantly talks about any move in this direction as being a sell-out to secularism and to consumer liberalism. I do not see that that is so at all. I do not regard the proposed constitutional changes as a sell-out. The only sell-out I have seen in recent years has been the constitutional change which in effect gives carte blanche to the European Economic Community to decide our economic destinies.

The most important reason for considering afresh our Constitution is not however the alleged obstacle to unity and reconciliation in Articles 2 and 3, or even the unsatisfying nature of Article 41 to many people regarding marriage and the family. The most important consideration is whether the Constitution is an adequate or suitable instrument for achieving social justice and the common good. I do not know whether the framers of the Government motion deliberately omitted any reference to Northern Ireland but it is interesting that the motion can be read purely as a reference to the reconciliation that is needed in our own community, between our own alienated classes of people. We may well include as part of the debate the question of whether the Constitution has suitably served its purpose in this regard, whether it has been an effective instrument for achieving social justice and the common good. The opponents of the motion have made much play of the fact that the Constitution has served us well, that it has in itself and through the interpretation of the courts upheld individual rights. But, [164] as the Constitution uses the phrase in the Preamble, has it really promoted a “true social order” and the common good? This is very central to the Government motion. In this island more people have to be reconciled than Northern Protestants and Northern Catholics, than Northern Unionists and Irish Nationalists. People have to be reconciled who with alarming rapidity in the last decade have been alienated from each other by appalling differences of living standards and lifestyles and opportunities for self-fulfilment. Senators Ryan and Quinn have touched on this matter also.

Let me put it another way. Éamon de Valera, who has been mentioned more than once in this debate, had not one but several attitudes towards Northern Ireland. From the inception of his career in 1917 to his retirement from active politics in 1959, and even through the years of his impeccably detached Presidency, Éamon de Valera made hundreds of speeches on Northern Ireland both here and abroad, and there is no particular consistent thread running through those speeches except, perhaps, a persistent misunderstanding. In his saner moments on that matter he would say that what we should really do is to take care of our own affairs so well that in the end they will be attracted to us. In the classic phrase: All we have is Sparta; let us embellish it. We did not. The question is: does the Constitution prevent us from embellishing it? Does it prevent us from taking the social and economic paths to reconciliation among our own people? Is the common good being frustrated and negatived by, for example, the private property section in Article 43? The private property clauses in the Constitution, as Senator Quinn pointed out, have been invoked to protect vested interests. They are still being invoked. During the last several months, in a kind of indirect way, in a suggestive way, it has been seen that they must also protect the gains of millionaire speculators and must stand over the scandal of deals in lands vitally needed by the community.

May I take that particular point just a [165] little further? I suggest that the Constitution is now so hopelessly dated in this particular respect of private property that it could well stand as an important region in itself for constitutional review. I challenge anyone in this House to differ from my interpretation of what private property was originally intended to mean in the Constitution.

Again, consider the historical context. In the thirties the fashionable world for Catholic sociologists was all about distributing property in the widest possible manner so that everyone would have a piece of property. A wild dream, you might say, but that was the approved attitude of most Catholic sociologists. People who remember reading, for example, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, will recall that this was very much the fashionable talk of many Catholic intellectuals in England as well. The name given to that concept of private property was “distributism”. It was the very antithesis of the idea which arises from the fundamental notion of capitalist private property, namely, that you had the right to make as much money as you could provided you were cute enough to do it — an attitude, unfortunately, still widely prevailing in this country. Private property in the Constitution is property in the small, distributive sense of the word, the kind of property that is necessary, but no more, to complete your personality. Who in 1981 is going to interpret private property in that way? I do not think that anyone is going to. Therefore, we either have to have it clarified that it will be interpreted in its original Thomist distributive sense or else we have to change the concept completely to subserve the common good. That is very typical of the way in which the Constitution is a dated document. Social reform and the common good are really a more important objective of constitutional review than Articles 2 and 3, than trying to ensure, as a friend of mine observed facetiously, that we should so change the Constitution and our laws that one day Dr. Ian Paisley will consider himself to be an honoured guest in Croke Park, provided, of course, the matches are played on Saturdays. A gibe [166] perhaps and a jest, but it reminds us of something else important.

I agree with and support the Taoiseach's initiative, but I pointed out that perhaps the Constitution should be reviewed for less obvious reasons than Articles 2, 3 and 41. Perhaps a change in popular attitudes and an education of public opinion is even more important for reconciliation than constitutional and legislative review. I would like to see Dr. Paisley in Croke Park, but before that is possible popular attitudes have to be changed and clarified. That is a task for all of us, for anyone who considers himself or herself to be influential in forming public opinion. We must learn to separate the various strands of our heritage which have been meshed together by unfortunate historical circumstances. Senator Tras Honan said this morning with pride that she has no intention of making any apology for being Irish, Catholic and Gaelic. Neither have I, but I regard it as almost a matter of life and death to put these different heritages now in absolutely separate categories.

We can no longer accept the cosy equations of our ancestors a hundred years ago. If you read a Catholic newspaper of the 1880s you would see a great triumphalism from bishops and laymen about the Irish Catholic nation, and Faith and Fatherland, and so on. That was all very well when they were not faced with our terrible dilemmas. No longer can we identify Irish and Catholic. They must be separate things in future. If I may go along with the now fashionable habit of quoting myself, as I said a couple of years ago giving a lecture, Faith and Fatherland are monstrous Siamese twins and must be separated if we are to survive in this island. Fatherland must not be tied to any faith, and to be Gaelic in the sense of being immersed in Irish language activities and cultures should not necessarily be equated with being Catholic or with being a physical force nationalist.

In other words, these different strands must not be so associated as to be objectionable to people who might otherwise accept them. With great respect to the Taoiseach, whom I am willing to praise [167] in his presence as I did in his absence, he, unfortunately, is one of those who uses a facile equation which is no help to any kind of penetrating analysis of our problems, namely, in the past he has used Gaelic and Catholic as if they were synonymous, as if they were somehow equally objectionable to Northern Unionists. I regret to say that Senator Hussey in her opening speech yesterday seemed to suggest that the Irish language was something which was alien to Protestants. Looking at history I can see no reason why our language, our music and our games in themselves were ever divisive forces and they need not be now. Some of the criticisms I have been making of these institutions, particularly, the Gaelic Athletic Association, have been misunderstood by people who claim that I am hostile to the Gaelic Athletic Association. I want to ask the Gaelic Athletic Association to separate themselves from things with which they have been, so to speak, accidentally mixed up and which are offensive to a large section of people in this island. I do not see why this cannot be done provided we educate ourselves to an understanding of the mixed-up historical circumstances. The Irish language was never intrinsically repugnant to Protestants. The Gaelic League when founded received quite an enthusiastic response from many Southern Protestants and even a mild interest from Northern Protestants. There was an association called Cumann Gaodhalach na h-Eaglaise, an association of Protestant clergymen set up to encourage and foster an interest in the Irish language. But we must consider that interest in that fell away as the Protestant community found themselves alienated from the physical force nationalism of 1916 and after. These are great social and cultural treasures that we have and can play an important role, perhaps more important eventually than laws and constitutions, in reconciling all our people.

I have one last word on the Constitution. Article 1 begins with the phrase “the Irish nation.” I do not believe there is any such thing as the Irish nation yet. [168] There was a Gaelic nation; there was a Protestant nation, which had the arrogance to style itself as such by contemptuously ignoring the silent Catholic majority in the eighteenth century; there was and still is a popular and vibrant Catholic nation. But there is no Irish nation encompassing all of these traditions. Perhaps it is very fanciful to think that we can eventually realise it, but if we are even to begin to do so we must put aside our fears immediately. It is fear that inspires the Fianna Fáil amendment to this motion.

I use the word “tribe” without any offensive connotation. A tribe is the exact description of what we of the majority tradition are at the moment. We have the cosiness of the tribe and very often the smugness of the tribe. We have the joys of the tribe, but we must aspire to be more than the tribe. Those who oppose the Taoiseach's initiative, I suggest, are members of a tribe who fear they are under siege. He has by his courage asked us to take the first tentative steps towards an Irish nation that never has been yet and that may well be in the far distant future. For that reason from an entirely independent standpoint I support the motion.

Dr. Whitaker: Fáiltím romhat fhéin ar ais sa chathaoir. Ba dhuine cothrom, caoin, cineálta, ariamh thú. What the Taoiseach said in his radio interview on 27 September was a courageous, timely and helpful contribution to the process of reconciliation in Ireland as a whole. I support the motion fully in the terms in which it is expressed though, like others, I do not agree with all the Taoiseach said or implied. However, no one who heard him, indeed no one who knows him, could doubt his sincerity and patriotism. It is salutary to acknowledge from time to time that there are faults on our side. This is not only good for the soul but also for the healing process in this island. We can differ in our degrees of openness about our shortcomings, or even in our perception of shortcomings, but in no sense can the Taoiseach's [169] remarks be justifiably criticised as national abasement or sabotage.

On the whole, in my opinion, the 1977 Constitution was well conceived and drafted and has served very well the people of this part of Ireland. It is not without some blemishes, some things that need to be remedied, but perhaps I am somewhat insensitive when I say that I do not see the Constitution in its present form as being in any general sense sectarian. It is true, as the Taoiseach said in his interview, that the Constitution is imbued with the ethos of the majority in this part of Ireland. But provided we make sure that this is a broadly Christian rather than a narrowly Catholic ethos, is it not natural and appropriate that this should be so? I do not know how pluralistic we want to be. To the point of being completely secular? I doubt this and personally I hope not.

It is right and timely to reconsider our Constitution and laws in the light of the changes in political and social conditions and attitudes over the past 44 years. We have done that from time to time but we need to do it afresh and in a comprehensive way. Until the Attorney General has reported we will not know exactly what are the reforms proposed for our consideration. I confess I am somewhat of a conservative in constitutional matters and I am not persuaded at present that radical constitutional revision, as distinct from certain amendments, is an urgent necessity, either in the interests of society in this State or as a help towards reconciliation and possible union with the Northern Ireland community. I do not see that the Constitution as such, as such I say, grievously suppresses or limits any civil and religious liberties which Northern Protestants hold dear.

My personal belief is that it may well be more important and fruitful in the immediate future and, at any rate, I hope that there will be no deflection from this, to pursue steadily a programme of correcting the grave weaknesses in our own economic structure. I recall that the first political gesture of rapprochement between North and South was made at a time when the Northern Ireland Premier, [170] Terence O'Neill, was impressed by the economic and social progress we had been making here in the sixties under Seán Lemass. We were winning respect and even arousing a little envy as an efficiently managed entity. Growth, efficiency and progress are things that impress our hard-headed Northern neighbours. Unfortunately, as we all know, neither economy, South or North, is in good shape just now. Freedom to manage our domestic affairs, a reputation for good management and our right as an independent State to be represented directly at international councils, were amongst our most attractive assets in Northern eyes 15 years ago.

I believe, too, that one must not overlook the possibility of strengthening the cultural bonds that bind us in so many non-political and non-contentious ways with the Protestants as well as the Catholics of Northern Ireland, the oral traditions, the folk music and other aspects of the heritage which we share.

Senator Murphy referred to the collaboration of Protestants in the early days of the Gaelic League. He could well have gone back further to remind us that it was Protestant gentlemen of early 19th century Belfast who first founded societies to preserve and teach the Irish language and safeguard the old manuscripts. It was a Northerner, Bunting, who wrote down the music at that last gathering of harpers in Belfast in 1792 and who organised the widespread collection of Irish music and song. What a tragedy it would be if the Irish language were allowed to become a divisive element, if it were seen, as I am afraid it is in danger of being seen, as the exclusive property of Republican extremists. This and other arrogant debasements and distortions of genuine nationalism were condemned in a powerful and courageous speech made by Senator Murphy a couple of months ago. The speech also dealt with the hunger strike. Now that the strike is mercifully over, it is vital that politicians move constructively on to the scene because an appropriate political settlement of the Northern Ireland problem is the only alternative to murderous anarchy. [171] Before I revert to the subject of constitutional and legal change, I would like to stress that other matters also need to be reconsidered in any effort to improve relations with Northern Unionists. Some of these matters come within the domain of the Churches rather than of Parliament, for example, religious segregation in the schools in all parts of Ireland and the obligation of conscience laid on the Catholic partner to a mixed marriage.

To return to the question of constitutional and legislative change and without as yet the guidance of the review which has only just been initiated, one may divide the possible reforms into two categories — a first category of reforms suggested by broad principles of fairness, toleration and personal freedom and rights, a category of reforms of concern primarily to those living in the present State but of possible value also in moderating suspicion or antipathy among our Northern neighbours and a second category of reforms, those expressly directed to influencing the attitudes of the Northern majority.

Let me take this second category first. In it feature prominently Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. Whatever about the original basis of Article 2, as interpreted a few moments ago by Senator Murphy, I find it difficult, looking at Article 2 with present day eyes, to see anything wrong with it. It defines the national territory — not, be it noted, the territory of the State. Surely today at least, whatever we thought the Irish nation was in 1937, it would be utterly illogical for us to consider it now as not embracing the people of Northern Ireland with whom we want political re-integration. Surely they are regarded by us as part of the Irish nation, though not yet united with us politically. What is wrong with asserting the claim of Irishmen, North and South, whether or not they agree to political unity, the claim of Irishmen as against all others, to possess between them the whole of Ireland and govern it without let or hindrance from any other state? Would this view not square with such unity solutions as confederation or federation, not to mention the idea of two independent states? [172] I note that the Constitutional Committee of 1967 did not propose any change in Article 2.

I move on to Article 3, which anyone who reads it calmly will see is not content just to express an aspiration. It asserts, in very blunt language, the entitlement of the Government and Parliament of this State, even in a partitioned Ireland, to rule Northern Ireland. This is, to say the least, an unrealistic presumption and it is — it must be acknowledged to be — a considerable irritant in relations with Northern Protestants.

I have expressed publicly already several times my view that we in the Republic must adapt our unity aspiration to the realities of a complex situation. I have said that too many people in Northern Ireland still think that the people of the South want to dominate them in a unitary and Catholic Republic and, I might add, a Gaelic one as well. They need to be assured that our aspiration to unity shelters no desire for domination and would be satisfied by agreed all-Ireland arrangements not involving jurisdiction over our fellow Irishmen. The wording of Article 3 of our Constitution is quite unfortunate in this respect. The Article, I know, has been defended as a necessary rejection of British sovereignty over part of Ireland. Even viewing it as no more than an assertion of aspirations — and I think it is more than that — it would, in my view, be politic to dispense with it if there were any sure and unambiguous way of doing so, or at least to rewrite it in terms of aspiration rather than entitlement. The Article could, of course — we all agree — be most easily dropped in the drawing up of a Constitution appropriate to an agreed all-Ireland political settlement, if ever we get that far.

Now a few words on the first category of possible constitutional and legal reforms. It is obvious from the debate that one of the major areas here is family law. Before one considers constitutional change there is much scope for purely legislative change — for instance, to bring State law on annulment at least into [173] line with Canon law, to make legal separation more readily available and to strengthen the financial and other protective provisions for the separated spouse and children. Marital breakdown, admittedly, is a growing and serious problem, but must we deal with it by allowing divorce? Will removal of the constitutional prohibition on the dissolution of marriage lead to less or more marital stress and breakdown? I have not come yet to a final view on this. I take very seriously the injunction which is common to the marriage ceremonies of Catholics, Protestants and Dissenters — whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder — and the mutual promise of the parties in all these cases to be faithful until death. My disposition would be to go ahead quickly with every other means of easing the difficulties of those whose marriages seem to have irretrievably broken down and I will keep an open mind about removing the ban on dissolution of marriage until all the facts and arguments are exposed and we have some definite proposal before us.

It was mentioned here a few times that it is possible for rich or clever people to circumvent the constitutional ban on divorce by becoming domiciled in another state and having divorce decrees of that state recognised here. I am not a lawyer. I do not know how that procedure escapes the negative reach of the paragraph in the Constitution immediately after the one that prevents laws being introduced to dissolve marriage — the paragraph which appears on the face of it to say that we will not recognise here foreign divorces granted to our nationals.

The law — in this respect I have to say the law, because I am not sure whether it is the Constitution or statute law which is in question — should be more tolerant towards illegitimate children and, if necessary, the Constitution should be amended to allow for the adoption of legitimate children. Generally, I have sympathy with the view expressed here that the rights of the child need to be raised a little. They are somewhat too [174] subordinate in the present Constitution to the rights of parents.

The 1979 legislation on contraception is seen by the Taoiseach as a sectarian measure. I regard it as a liberalisation compared with what went before, but it imposes impractical and inappropriate burdens on the medical profession in an area primarily of private morality. Personally, I would not be unhappy to see the legislative controls abolished, other than some provision directed towards ensuring that abortifacients will not be available freely in the guise of contraceptives.

The constitutional protection of private property also needs review, as various Senators have pointed out, so that, for instance, effective restraints may be placed on the inordinate private profit that can be made out of land required for housing and other community needs.

While I do not wish to derogate from the honour, respect and recognition due to great men of the past or of our own time, I have, I confess, an instinctive reaction against the “Leader” principle — Führer Prinzip as it used to be called. I share the admiration expressed by the Taoiseach for certain liberal sentiments of Tone and Davis but I have an innate resistance to being committed beyond my own present day judgment to what any of our great patriots have said in their time and circumstances. I do not believe that anyone who respects his own responsibility and independence would accept being bound by every pronouncement of even the most respected Irishmen of the past. I do not think that they would want to imprison us in a straitjacket of this kind. In any case it is our duty and our dignity as human beings to think for ourselves. As long ago as 1971 I said in Irish and in public:

Indiaidh an iomláin, caithfimid ár n-intinn féin a dhéanamh suas agus is beag an meas a thuillfeadh aon duine againn muran túisce a sheasfadh sé lena thuairimí féin ná tuairimí duine ar bith eile, seachas an t-aon duine amháin ar Dia é chomh maith — losa Críost.

[175] To sum up, I should like to draw upon what I wrote recently in an article which considered the way forward in our relations with Northern Ireland and outlined the basis for a political settlement. I think precedence must be given to establishing an acceptable political system in which the Northern Ireland community can live constructively in peace, precedence for that over any wider or more long-term national aspiration. The one need not exclude the other — quite the contrary. I said in that article:

Since we rely on the assent of the majority in Northern Ireland to any all-Ireland political settlement, we in the Republic have a responsibility to create conditions favouring acceptance by that majority of an Irish alternative to continued membership of the United Kingdom.

I believe the proposed review of our Constitution and laws, as well as the joint studies already under way, may help to point the way. I said in my article that already we have advantages connected with sovereignty, fiscal freedom and international status which many in Northern Ireland would probably wish to enjoy and which would offer them more scope for their genius and skill. I said we need also to do more by a liberalisation of our attitudes and by social, business and cultural contracts, supporting in this context the work of Co-operation North, to provide evidence of our respect and friendship for Northern Ireland Unionists. I said that a sense of community would be fostered by a deeper knowledge of the distinctive and varied cultural heritage we all share on this island. I said that effective economic and social development also needed to be organised. An upsurge in goodwill and confidence and a stimulus to enterprise and investment, both domestically and internationally sponsored, would be the first fruit of political stability based on an acceptable settlement of the Northern Ireland problem.

The Taoiseach: First, I wish to apologise for the non-availability of the transcript [176] of my broadcast remarks yesterday morning, contrary to arrangements I had made, or thought I had made. Secondly, I wish to apologise for my absence earlier today and I regret not having heard all the contributions. I am grateful to those who have contributed and, perhaps especially, to the Independent Senators whose views merit respect from all sides of the House. I am grateful also to the Seanad as an institution for the opportunity it has provided in order to discuss the issues I have chosen to raise at this time.

We are now embarked on a fundamental debate. The issues before us are no less than the identity, the hopes and the destiny of our people, what we are and what we hope our children to become. These are, of course, the perennial concerns of all communities. For us, they have been brought into critical focus by a conjuncture of events and issues which have become matters of great concern to every citizen in this State.

The debate which commenced formally in this Chamber yesterday has, of course, been in progress for at least a generation at one level or another among our people, whether in the formal sessions of our democratic institutions, in informal gatherings or in the private consciences of almost everyone in this island. As opinion — public, media and political opinion — in Britain is showing signs for the first time of coming to grips with the real issues in Northern Ireland, the time has come for us to consider the possibilities in this State. To flinch from them now would be tantamount to saying that we are afraid of the future and that would be unworthy of a people who, throughout their difficult and frequently unhappy history, have never lacked courage or imagination, even when they lacked opportunity.

We should be grateful that we have the opportunity to solve our problems. That opportunity, for which another name is freedom, is provided by the present Constitution of the State. Our State is remarkable in several respects. That it emerged from war and crisis and that it [177] survived and grew through its first years is an enormous tribute to its founders, in whom I include the second Government as well as the first Government. The Government of the day, the Opposition and the Irish electorate showed impressive maturity and steadiness during the debate from which the 1937 Constitution emerged and surely no one of whatever particular persuasion in this Assembly would suggest that our people are less mature today or that they are less capable of taking the great decisions which were entrusted to them a generation ago.

Since 1937, the State has continued to develop both internally and externally and it can be said that we have become today a modern European country with many of the problems and expectations of our fellow Europeans. This achievement undoubtedly owes much to the de Valera Constitution and I would like to acknowledge today that many of the attractive features of our institutions are a monument to his efforts. The Constitution of 1937 has proved to be in many respects a strong and enduring charter of the rights of the people and has provided a foundation for stability and social order despite many serious challenges down the years. Its human rights clauses, vindicated and applied on an ever-widening scale by our courts, have protected our people against many unintended but nevertheless potentially serious inroads into their freedom by Executives and Legislatures of all parties, which in their enthusiasm to achieve economic or social objectives, have from time to time ignored without evil intent certain basic rights of our people.

And in case my remarks on radio have created the mistaken impression that my own interest in constitutional change is somehow motivated by partisan political concerns, let me say that I fully accept that, inasmuch as the ethos of the religion of our majority is excessively enshrined in our institutions or exemplified in the acts of Irish Governments over the years, this side of the House also bears considerable responsibility. None is free from a share of the blame.

[178] Neither did I have in mind, when I proposed this debate, that there was anything fundamentally wrong with the value system of our people. There is not; and, what is more, I regard the pride which we can take in our traditions and history as one of the foundations of national solidarity. Our people have nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, the construction out of the tragic history of this land of a viable, stable and developing democracy is an achievement of which many in this State are not sufficiently proud. It is an extraordinary achievement for which we have not, I believe, demonstrated adequate gratitude to the memory of the men and women of all political affiliations whose life work it was in the early decades of this State.

But the Constitution, for all its merits, is not holy writ, although I have the impression that one of the Senators opposite referred to it as “de Valera's bible”. Perhaps I am misinformed. We have made several changes in it already. It was originally itself a result of a quite fundamental constitutional change. The cohesion, solidarity and stability of the State derive from dynamic, not fossilised, institutions. That is not to say that I would wish to see the Constitution changed merely for the sake of change. I do believe, however, that our Constitution should accommodate the important external and domestic changes in our national situation since 1937. Our Constitution should, moreover, have deleted from it any defects which experience had shown it to contain. In a series of referenda on our Constitution the people have demonstrated that they understand these principles completely. That should give us, the legislators, added confidence in facing this debate.

Because of my own belief in Republican principles and my commitment to the goal of Irish unity to be achieved only by consent, I believe that our Constitution should today be broadly in a form that would be appropriate to this island in today's circumstances had the British never made the tragic mistake of partitioning Ireland. This, if we believe in the [179] aspiration to national unity — as I myself do with a passion which some in recent days have criticised as out-running political prudence — should be the acid test of our constitutional provisions. But when have we sought to apply it? Never seriously, up to this time; and it was frustration with the subconscious partitionism of this failure that more than anything else motivated me, inspired by the commitment to Irish unity inherited from my parents, coming from totally diverse backgrounds, towards a political career which I started in this House 16 years ago. In these terms our Constitution is undeniably defective.

Let me say that I am disappointed by the attitude adopted by the Opposition in this debate. It is not consistent with the position adopted by that party's leaders and spokesmen over many years. In launching this initiative I was in fact inspired by what many leaders of Fianna Fáil had said in the past on this issue. I am not ashamed to say so.

But, before referring back to these sources of inspiration, let me for a moment go back to the root of the matter — the circumstances in which our present Constitution came into existence. They were explained frankly by Mr. de Valera in an interview with the late Michael McInerney some years ago. He told Michael McInerney, as reported in The Irish Times — and his explanation was confirmed according to the author of this article by other Ministers of that Cabinet — that “the first, the central and supreme purpose of the entire exercise of the new Irish Constitution was to complete the national revolution in so far as the 26 Counties were concerned, to obtain the voluntary and firm declaration from the Irish people of the independence and sovereignty of Ireland.”

All else, Mr. de Valera went on to say, had to be subordinated to that central purpose, and compromise with the Church was all important to nullify its opposition. If the Church came out against the Constitution the whole aim would be defeated and the referendum lost. De Valera had to stress that central [180] purpose several times, and explained the tactics which naturally followed. The Republican dream, he said, had to come to life, somehow, even, he implied, although it is not stated in the interview, in a partial or defective form.

Mr. Seán MacEntee, happily still with us, the sole survivor of the First Dáil, elected 63 years ago, and a man whom I would wish to see honoured in some special way by this, the Twenty-Second Dáil, told Michael McInerney that in 1937 Fianna Fáil was most unpopular with the Hierarchy. He said:

We had a very hostile Hierarchy, and they were very anxious to ‘get at us’. We had indeed only one supporter among the bishops, Dr. Dignan. We simply had to protect our flanks. With his ‘special position’ proposal, de Valera produced yet another example of ‘his genius for the empty formula’. The Church accepted the compromise but its total insistence for a complete ban on divorce was conceded almost without Cabinet debate, though in the years that followed some Ministers did regret that they had not given it more consideration.

Mr. Costello, later to be Taoiseach, urged moderation in relation to Article 41 on divorce, as did Frank MacDermot and Dr. Howlette, but without success.

In his public statement in the Dáil as to the rationale of the new Constitution, Mr. de Valera disclosed very frankly the extent to which he had found it necessary to modify his Republican principles in order to secure that the Constitution would not be opposed by the Catholic Hierarchy. In words which, as Michael McInerney pointed out, echoed quite remarkably Craigavon's “A Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people”, Mr. de Valera told Deputies who objected to what they saw as sectarian elements in the Constitution — Deputies like Frank MacDermot — that they failed to recognise one obvious fact. He stated:

The fact is that 93% of the people here and 75% of Ireland as a whole, belong to the Roman Catholic Church and believe in its teachings. The whole [181] philosophy of life of the people comes from these teachings of the Catholic Church. In a democratic society we are ruled by the representatives of these Irish people, by the Dáil deputies and the Government Ministers.

I have no desire to express a historical judgment on this statement or on the circumstances explained to Michael McInerney that led the then President of the Executive Council to speak in these terms, which were far removed from those of the great Republican tradition which for many people then and subsequently Mr. de Valera had incarnated. It is sufficient to say, first, that one must, on reflecting on what happened then, have regard to the prevailing atmosphere of that period, over a quarter of a century before Vatican II, an atmosphere which affected in various degrees the attitudes of all parties, not just Fianna Fáil, to the task at hand; and, secondly, that I do not believe that either the Catholic Church leadership of today or the politicians of today or the people of this State today would, if a Constitution were now being enacted, wish to see it imbued with the specifically Catholic ethos, which is so divisive vis-à-vis our million Protestant compartiots in Northern Ireland and the much smaller number of Protestants and members of the Jewish community in this part of the island.

Mr. de Valera's successor, Seán Lemass, had his own views on the Constitution, which he expressed trenchantly to Michael McInerney, complaining that the Constitution had acted as a “straitjacket,” preventing many ideas from being implemented because of the new property safeguards and the attitude to the North. He tried, but failed, to end the practice of describing the North officially as “The Six Counties” and to use the description “Northern Ireland” instead.

I recall an incident in my own journalistic career about 20 years ago when I wrote an article for The Sunday Press about the Northern Ireland issue expressing views not unlike those I have been [182] expressing recently. I referred to “Northern Ireland” and that paper changed that to “Six Counties” throughout the article. That seemed to me to be a degree of journalistic licence which I could not tolerate and I wrote to the features editor saying that if he wished me to continue to contribute I should be grateful if he would publish a letter in which I could vindicate my use of the term “Northern Ireland”, citing Seán Lemass as my authority. This letter was published and I continued to write for The Sunday Press. This, incidentally, led to a situation where, when canvassing for membership of this House, I met a councillor of my own party who promised me his vote with enthusiasm. Half an hour later he asked me if I were a member of Fine Gael, saying that he thought I belonged to Fianna Fáil because I wrote for The Sunday Press. Then he said “Now I can vote for you with a clear conscience”.

Mr. Lemass went on to say: “After all there will always be a Northern Ireland Government. It will have far more powers than it has now and would have its own laws on Education, divorce, birth control and other fundamental rights including personal rights and religion.” “Changes in the Constitution”, he told this correspondent, “also are necessary here and, in fact, the Constitution should be changed every 25 years at least as our society develops into a modern state”.

In 1966 Mr. Lemass was succeeded as leader of the then Government and of Fianna Fáil by Mr. Lynch. He in turn expressed his openness to change in our present Constitution in the present context of a divided Ireland when in the Dáil on 28 July 1970 he said: “In so far as there are constitutional difficulties which are legitimately seen by people to be infringements of their civil rights, then their views are worthy of intensive examination and we should try to accommodate them in our Constitution and in our laws.” And some months later, at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis of 20 February 1971, he quoted his earlier statement adding:

It was the great Protestant patriot [183] Charles Stewart Parnell who said, ‘No man may set a boundary to the march of a nation’. Despite the terrible events of the last two years the South is moving, not towards combat and harshness, but towards a new and hopeful vision of peace and progress for everyone in all of Ireland. Where it can be shown that attitudes embodied in our laws and Constitution give offence to liberty of conscience, then we are prepared to see what can be done to harmonise our views so that, without detracting from genuine values, a new kind of Irish society may be created equally agreeable to North and South.

Those were the words of the leader of Fianna Fáil addressing their Ard-Fheis.

No one could misinterpret those words which so clearly spell out the willingness to make change in our Constitution within the framework of the existing State, not waiting until reunification would come about, for he went on to indicate how this action might lead to progress towards subsequent unity, by adding in the very next sentence: “Then the whole nation in extension of Parnell's statement, could begin to remove barriers to its progress and develop the ability and willingness to accommodate the best in its laws and practices and its religious and cultural traditions”. I echo those words. I endorse them. I share the views of those two leaders of Fianna Fáil as they expressed them and I wish they were shared and expressed today by that Party.

Still quoting Mr. Lynch:

We wish to extend an olive branch to the North and we wish the North to accept it. If this means that we must grasp some nettles which sting our pride then we will readily do so if the result be a just and lasting peace throughout our island.

I, too, believe, like Mr. Lynch and Mr. Lemass, that we should grasp these nettles. I think I have said enough to indicate that [184] my proposal for a review of the Constitution and legislation is nothing new — it is merely a reiteration of the views expressed by leaders and, indeed, members of Fianna Fáil down the years, from the time when Mr. de Valera was constrained by certain pressure to enact a Constitution with marked confessional elements right down to our own day.

I turn now to the argument that changes in the Constitution and in our laws would make no difference to the situation in Northern Ireland, a traditional argument that has been frequently expressed, indeed, in informal debate on this subject over many years past during the decade of violence that we have seen.

First, and here I share the views expressed by other Senators, we need to review our Constitution for our own sake. We have to do this for one purpose, to give us a Constitution which would reflect the pluralist ideal which underlies all true republicanism and has done so ever since Tone first gave it expression. We need to review it too for practical reasons expressed in this House because it contains clauses which prevent us from legislating in the public good, whether it be in the interests of children — the adoption of illegitimate children; if there is a constitutional obstacle there, as some people believe, and I hope there might be some way around it — or whatever other areas there may be to deal with property speculation. In fact, one of our problems, although, curiously enough, people have not seen it this way, is that we are now in serious difficulty for domestic, economic and social purposes because we are having considerable difficulty in finding ways of dealing with these problems without amending the Constitution. Individual amendments put forward on these issues might not necessarily secure support but we cannot go for a new Constitution incorporating all these changes, all those that were put forward, big and small alike, in the 1967 report and others that have become necessary since then: we cannot put them forward in a new Constitution unless we face the issues I am asking the House, and the country, to face because if we did [185] so we would either have to enact an Article 2 and an Article 3, throwing them in the face of every Northern Unionist or change them, and we have not been willing to face that latter alternative. So we cannot change anything in our Constitution that might be controversial and Articles 2 and 3 have now become an obstacle to the domestic development of our Constitution, badly needed for social and economic purposes.

Second, I reject the argument that it would make no difference in Northern Ireland. Such an argument can be made only by those who have had little or no contact with the Protestant people of Northern Ireland and who see them as one million extremists. Of course constitutional change, designed to make this a pluralist society, and at the same time to remove what all Unionists see as a claim on their territory, contained in Articles 2 and 3, will not convert a majority of Unionists to a united Ireland overnight or perhaps in the decades to come. But it would, by reducing the pressures that give rise to their siege mentality, open up the possibility of easier dialogue between them and the Nationalists in Northern Ireland and, with respect to a minority of Unionists which I am convinced would grow over time, it would remove an obstacle to the contemplation of a new relationship with this State based on the common interests we share and in the context of an Anglo-Irish relationship so structured as to enable Unionists to retain their sense of a British-Irish identity, and citizenship of the United Kingdom if they wished to do that.

It is fair to say that the Unionist group who came to see the Leader of the Opposition and myself yesterday in response to my initiative on our Constitution did not arrive here bearing any gifts of conditional offers of unity if only we would change our Constitution. They were concerned simply to tell us why they were Unionists and why they thought changes in our Constitution and laws might promote better North-South relations without political strings. Let me say that I admire the courage they showed in coming here. Actions of that kind are not [186] always popular in Northern Ireland in these days of polarisation, and unpopular actions in Northern Ireland can sometimes have very tragic consequences. They had nothing to gain by coming here. What they had to say, however uncomfortable for many of us, represents a major element in their community's view of our State. It is good that we should know it and take it into account in our approach to this whole problem.

Leaving aside the obvious fact that their tradition in Northern Ireland has itself an inglorious record to look back on as far as civil rights for Catholics are concerned and that has to be said — one for which, of course, these particular gentlemen carry no personal responsibility — some of their views were ones which seemed to me, and I am sure to the Leader of the Opposition also, to be a little unrealistic. Thus their contention that the removal of Articles 2 and 3 would in some way help to reduce the violence of the IRA seems to imply a belief that the IRA derive some sense of authority for their actions from our Constitution when, in fact, they reject it and refuse to recognise our democratic State established by that Constitution, have extended their campaign of sectarian murder even to a Protestant Member of this House, the late Billy Fox, and shoot our gardaí when intercepted in robbing our banks and post offices.

But whatever we may think of that particular argument put forward by these Unionists we must be prepared to listen to this authentic voice of Unionism, and to note carefully what has been said to us and to respond, to the fullest extent possible, to their genuine concerns and preoccupations. Can we ignore, after all, coming from such a source, such statements as this: “If there is to be hope that the two traditions in Ireland might ultimately meet upon the same road, the first steps, however faltering, must soon be taken”. Can people deeply concerned to remove obstacles to reunification ignore such statements as — I quote again from that document: “Those parties or groups who allege that there is no requirement for constitutional change both relating to [187] the territorial claim and the creation of a pluralist society, must face the challenge head-on and accept that this means their endorsement of either partition or the unification of Ireland by force.” Note those words carefully; I believe they contain much truth. By adopting a “No Surrender” attitude on the details of our Constitution and laws we, who reject violence, would in my view effectively be endorsing and ensuring the permanence of Partition.

I certainly cannot in conscience ignore the call to my Government that if we are sincere in wishing to lay down foundations for the future peaceful co-existence of the two traditions in Ireland, then we must ensure that the Republic emerges from what the Unionists describe as its “irredentist and theocratic chrysalis into the sort of egalitarian State in which Tone, Davis and Connolly might have been content to live”. Incidentally, the voice of social conscience heard in this House yesterday and today from the newly-elected Senator Brendan Ryan, finds an echo in the language used in this sentence by the representatives of Northern Unionism.

Finally, can any of us be indifferent to the claim on our emotions contained in the use by this group, coming from a tradition so different from ours, as their epilogue, of the verse of Thomas Davis:

What matter that at different shrines

We pray unto one God?

What matter that at different times

Our fathers won this sod?

In fortune and in name we're bound

By stronger links than steel;

And neither can be safe and sound

But in other's weal.

That last line was prophetic indeed — as if Davis foresaw that a time would come when both traditions in this country might be simultaneously threatened, as we are both today, by a revolutionary movement intent on establishing [188] throughout this island an evil military dictatorship, whose method of ruling this country are foreshadowed by their kangaroo courts, their shootings of their own colleagues and co-religionists, their ruthless elimination of all who stand in their way, be they police or politicians, or ordinary Irish people eating or drinking in a restaurant or a pub.

I could quote other evidence, a huge volume of it, for the proposition that, if we make a move towards putting our house in order, this could set off a train of events in Northern Ireland that would transform the face of politics in this island. I never visit Northern Ireland when I do not meet Protestants who either in some cases want to see a united Ireland, or in other cases more numerous recognise that it is going to come about in time, and would like to see a settlement reached now — if only we would make the first move. These are of course a minority of the Protestant community, too small a minority today to influence the outcome of a decision on a new relationship between North and South within the context of an equally new Anglo-Irish relationship, which my predecessor as Taoiseach, the present Leader of the Opposition, must be given the credit for having attempted to initiate.

It is our job in the South to create those circumstances where that minority among Unionists grow and whereby the people of Northern Ireland may ultimately give their consent to a new and peaceful arrangement in Ireland.

But that consent will be given ultimately by a majority in Northern Ireland that will comprise the great bulk of the Nationalist community and a proportion — between one-quarter and one-third — of the Unionist community. It does not require a majority of the Unionists — or perhaps I should say more precisely the Protestant community to give their consent. It requires that a fraction, a quarter or a third, give their consent together with the great bulk of the Nationalist community. It is towards that fraction that we should be directing ourselves rather than imagining that we have [189] to convince every last hard-liner before there can be movement towards the two parts of Ireland, together.

There is, to my mind, a serious misunderstanding in the idea proposed by some, that change in our Constitution should be, as it were, withheld from the Protestant majority of Northern Ireland and from our own people here until the Northern Protestants are prepared to consider it as an attractive feature of an eventual solution “package”.

This is a tragic fallacy. It implies the extraordinary illusion that the Unionists and Loyalists of Northern Ireland are really as eager as we are for Irish unity. Would that they were. It is a tragic fallacy because its persistence as the grounds for refusal in the South to confront the difficult problem posed by our Constitution in relation to Northern Ireland, are to an important degree responsible for the persistence of instability, conflict and suffering in Northern Ireland. The heartrending human tragedy of Northern Ireland should not be treated as a counter in some political calculation.

Some months ago I said that if elected Taoiseach I would ask each and every one of our citizens to help me to help solve the problem of Northern Ireland. I said that I would ask everyone to make a great gesture of friendship and hope to the people of Northern Ireland. In asking all our people to consider the problems of our Constitution in relation to Northern Ireland, I am asking them to consider seriously their personal responsibility and their personal opportunity to help resolve the conflict. I do not believe that when they have reflected on the issue in this sense they would wish their Government to adopt what is objectively a cruel, misguided, bargaining strategy, one sure result of which would be, to my mind, the deeper entrenchment of Partition.

It is, of course, true that it is Britain, not this State, that was ultimately responsible for Northern Ireland and for the years of sectarian discrimination against the minority in Northern Ireland. Britain has never discharged its responsibility in [190] Northern Ireland in a satisfactory way, so far as we are concerned. It is our hope that the British will, like ourselves and many politicians in Northern Ireland, wish to take advantage of the present opportunity to promote political progress in Northern Ireland. That is our hope. But the record of centuries of British involvement in Ireland shows that, despite intermittent goodwill and effort, London inevitably and perhaps understandably always puts British interests first. Partition and, more recently, the collapse of the power-sharing Executive are tragic examples of this system of priorities. What I am trying to say is that, while we in Dublin are of course only too eager to work with the British Government and the political leaders of the two sections of the community in Northern Ireland to help devise a solution which will ensure peace and reconciliation, we here owe it to the people of Northern Ireland, whom we regard as fellow Irishmen and Irishwomen, to play our part in lessening the tensions and improving the relations between the South and North.

Why should we not do so? Coldly and publicly to tell the majority in Northern Ireland that we will not consider our Constitution until they are reduced to making terms with us across a conference table would be to ensure that they would never sit across that table.

I would like at this point to ask those who reject my initiative to explain — as they have not yet attempted to explain — just what is their strategy to secure movement? They reject violence. They accept the principle that unity can come about only with the consent of a majority in the North. How do they plan to secure this consent sooner than it might be secured by following the route I have sought to trace? On what conceivable grounds do they put forward the thesis — implicit in their combination of an aspiration to unity and a determination to take no action to change anything here before the negotiating table is reached — that by virtue of our doing nothing, the day of unity will be brought forward? In logic, in commonsense, they must before this debate concludes, tell us what [191] is their strategy to achieve the objective we all share. It is simply not good enough to reject a positive proposal — a proposal which they themselves and their past leaders advocated some years ago — and to put nothing in its place. This is not even verbal republicanism, it is silent republicanism — silent as the grave as to the means to be adopted to make progress towards our goal.

The reasoning put forward in opposing a reframing of Articles 2 and 3 is contorted to the point of total unintelligibility. First, we are told that, whereas it was a good thing to propose a change in Article 3 in 1967, before violence started, it is a bad thing to do so now, after 12 years during which 2,150 people have died in Northern Ireland — and many others here and in Britain, let us recall. But we are not told why what was good in 1967 is bad now. We are not told why changes in our Constitution advocated by past leaders of Fianna Fáil, are now anathema. And on Articles 2 and 3 we are told that they do not stake any claim to the territory of Northern Ireland, but represent only an aspiration to unity. This, as Senator Whitaker has just indicated, without using these words because he was more courteous, is palpable nonsense, because Article 3 refers explicitly to “the right of the Parliament and Government established by the Constitution to exercise jurisdiction over the whole” of the national territory — defined in Article 2 as “the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas”. A claim on the territory of Northern Ireland could hardly be more explicitly stated — and the fact that this language is used in connection with a self-denying ordinance involving the non-exercise of this alleged right does not take away from this fact one jot or title.

It is this explicit claim of a right of this Twenty-six county Parliament and Government to exercise jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland, including Northern Ireland, that represents such a stumbling block to progress towards Irish unity — because it sticks in the throats of every Northern Unionist and gives power to [192] their more extreme leaders to compete in demagogy as they rant against this claim.

The assertion that these Articles do not represent a claim to a right to exercise jurisdiction over Northern Ireland is not only nonsensical on the face of it — the words assert that claim — but is flatly contradicted by others who assert with equal insistence that this is a claim and that it is vital that we should not abandon it. This double line of contradictory argument serves only to convince even Protestants with goodwill towards us that we are hypocritical and dangerously ambiguous on this issue.

If the view on this issue — however contrary to the obvious meaning of the words it may be — were correct, and this is not intended as a claim on territory but only as a statement of an aspiration to unity, why in God's name can we not agree to rephrase it as an aspiration, more especially because, if we did so, we could at the same time take the opportunity to state explicitly that it is an aspiration that we wish to pursue only be peaceful means and, perhaps, to provide also for an upward delegation of functions to an all-Ireland authority, should agreement be reached on such a delegation at any point in the future?

The curious feature of Article 3 in its present form is that it seems almost to seek to deny the possibility of our moving towards an all-Ireland authority by virtue of the limitation it imposes on the application of the laws of Ireland. I have to say that Article 3 as at present drafted may not in fact constitutionally preclude such an upward delegation of authority in respect of certain functions, but it would surely be more sensible to see if we could make positive provision for such an eventuality. For one cannot rule out the possibility that, without prejudice to what might ultimately emerge in the long run, agreement might at some stage be reached on the two parts of Ireland doing certain things in common — such as establishing an all-Ireland court, which the Opposition in past debates, with reason, have advocated as a more effective method of dealing with cross-Border [193] violence than the existing legal arrangements, which were the most we were able to secure at Sunningdale.

I would like to see us able to reach agreement on a new form of Articles 2 and 3, which would remove what Unionists find offensive and at the same time provide not an obstacle but a positive mechanism for moving towards all-Ireland activities if and when we can secure agreement from a majority in Northern Ireland for their establishment, even if at first on a limited and piecemeal basis.

Do the Opposition contend that such an objective as this is to be rejected out of hand, that it is wrong to raise such an issue for discussion? I can scarcely believe, especially against the background of commitment by successive Fianna Fáil leaders to an open approach to constitutional change, that such a negative stance to a constructive initiative, designed to open the road towards progress in the direction we all want to go, would at this late stage be taken up and maintained. I would beg the Opposition to reflect further on this.

With regard to the elements of our Constitution which appear to me to be sectarian or, if the word is preferred, “confessional”, they represent a small but nonetheless significant part of the Constitution. Tackling them would still leave intact 95 per cent of the document — and 95 per cent of the case-law built up around it. I checked with Deputy John Kelly's book last night to arrive at the latter percentage. I am going on the number of pages he devotes to the relevant Articles as against the rest of the Constitution. I detect an unwillingness on the part of the Opposition speakers to reject out of hand an amendment in this area. Last night on television Deputy Lenihan went to endless lengths of prevarication to avoid rejecting a change in Article 41.3.2 dealing with the ban on the dissolution of marriage.

The directive principles of social policy in Article 45, which have no binding force and which reflect out of date pre-Vatican [194] II thinking in the Catholic Church, can hardly be regarded as sacrosanct. They could be omitted without loss. Is there anyone who would contend to the contrary? Our Unionist visitors yesterday raised also the question of Article 42 dealing with education, as did Senator McGuinness, yesterday. While I recognise that the phrasing of this Article was, in Senator McGuinness's words, “coloured by Catholic thinking”, I feel that it would be useful if some indication could be given by those who are concerned about this Article as to how they see it either as being responsible for clerical control of education, as the Unionists seem to argue, and argue in their document presented yesterday, or as otherwise threatening the rights of minorities, be they religious minorities or a minority who seek to establish an inter-denominational or non-denominational school.

I ask that question in all seriousness because when this point was raised with me yesterday by the Unionists, I read through the Article and I could not see exactly where the problem was. I could see where the wording of the Article came from, I could see the echoes, but I could not see exactly the problem it creates. There is a problem in education that antedates the Constitution, I think. If there are reasons for changing the wording of Article 42, which are not clear to me, I would be open to any serious views put forward on that subject.

I would like in connection with this question of sectarian or confessional elements in our laws to refer to several comments that have been made upon them by different groups or individuals in authority in their own areas. One such comment came from the Church of Ireland's Role of the Church Committee which, following a meeting with the All-Party Committee on Irish Affairs in January 1974 made a written submission to the committee. In that submission the Role of the Church Committee said that, while the Southern minority had always accepted the institutions born of the Treaty, a younger generation of Protestants then felt that they were entitled to exert pressure to have removed from our [195] Constitution and legislation any features that exhibit symptoms of a denominational character. The Role of the Church Committee said:

The developments in the North have given a sharper relevance to the demands on the part of Southern Protestants, but we insist that changes should be made on their own merits and that they ought not to be used as counters in North/South negotiations.

Later in their submission the Role of the Church Committee said that in addressing Southern politicians they felt it important to stress the point that if those politicians wished to improve North/South relations they should endeavour as far as possible to see situations through Northern Protestant eyes. This is precisely what I have been trying to do for decades past and what I had in mind when I spoke on the RTE “This Week” programme on 27 September. Until we do that we will never resolve this problem.

More recently His Eminence, Cardinal O Fiaich, in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph in 1977, said that he was:

“... all for complete separation of Church and State.... It is good for the State and the Church .... There would be no thundering from Armagh. On moral questions the laws of the State would be made by the legislators, and churchmen should not in any way try to bring pressure to bear on them”.

He went on to add very significantly:

Southern politicians should have been working for the past ten years on a constitution which would be acceptable to both Protestants and Catholics.

I accept the rebuke coming from that source. I feel the rest of us, in this House and in the other House, should do so also.

Bishop Cahal Daly, in his article on violence in Ireland, said:

With reference to a pluralist society, the New Ireland we hope to create for the 32 counties will be a pluralist society. [196] It could not be too often stated that a pluralist society is quite distinct from a secular society. A Christian society can be and should be pluralist. A secular society cannot be, as such, a Christian society. What we should be seeking now as the blue-print of a new society are the Christian principles common to all our Christian traditions in which we can agree, rather than some colourless de-Christianised, aseptic formula which will offend no one because it will leave all completely uninspired, unchallenged and uninterested. There is no reason why we cannot shape an Irish Ireland large enough in mind and spirit to encompass all its diverse religious, cultural and political traditions in creative tension, rather than mutually destructive discord; an Ireland deeply Christian with a Christianity which remembers always that the greatest of all Christian things is love.

I endorse that vision, and share the viewpoint expressed a few minutes ago by Senator Whitaker on this matter.

Finally, to those who suggest that what I am proposing would represent in some way a betrayal of Northern Nationalists, I have to answer that they seem to know little of the attitude of the party that represents the vast majority of the Nationalist population. That party, the SDLP, at the 1977 conference called on the Irish Government to spell out the economic, social and political implications of the claim to unity which they said was interpreted by many Unionists as a form of threat. That is the voice of the Northern minority. I am not betraying them. I am seeking to implement what they have asked us to do. The SDLP on that occasion asked for a commitment from the then Government that would clearly demonstrate that they were prepared to accept the sacrifices involved in real unity, including the social changes which would demonstrate that Irish life is not dominated by any one section or tradition.

And, with reference to my own recent initiative, I quote the reaction of the [197] party's chairman, Seán Farren, who welcomed my initiative, saying that his party had always “been in favour of politicians and opinion-leaders in the South conducting a public debate on the kind of Ireland which could form the basis of a united country.”

He said: “These people had a clear responsibility to show what the Irish unity aspiration meant, particularly in terms of accommodating the different cultural and religious traditions in Ireland.” Inevitably, he added, my contribution to the debate would meet with opposition “from predictable Unionist and reactionary nationalist politicians in Northern Ireland. The negative and destructive stands of these politicians only perpetuate division and contribute nothing to a solution to our tragic situation.”

Why, I feel constrained to ask, have some speakers in this debate felt it necessary to associate themselves with what the SDLP Chairman has described as “predictable Unionist and reactionary nationalist politicians in Northern Ireland”? Why choose such strange bedfellows? Why go back on what Fianna Fáil leaders have said so frequently in the past? Why has the concept of “No Surrender” and “Not an Inch” now been imported into our politics in this State? Surely the Opposition do not want to become what they never were in the past, the mirror image of intransigent Unionists? Surely they do not want to impose a second veto on progress towards a united Ireland, based on our doing what is in our power in order to set in motion a process of change here, from which changes in Northern Ireland, and in British attitudes too, could flow?

If it were the case that the manner in which I launched this initiative has anything to do with this reaction, I would most sincerely regret it. I chose to raise this issue in a broadcast because I felt that I could convey the depth of my feelings on this subject, and the strength of my commitment, a passionate commitment as I said on that occasion, to the achievement of Irish unity, best in a direct communication to our people, [198] rather than in a speech in one of the Houses of the Oireachtas or to some meeting or conference. I mean that in no way in contempt of either House but, inevitably, speaking here one is communicating indirectly with our people.

Mr. Quinn: That is an argument for live broadcasting.

The Taoiseach: It is a strong argument for broadcasting significant debates in the Houses of the Oireachtas. This is not the first time I have said that. There were other occasions when I and others spoke about this for the impression that comes through in cold print is quite different from the impression conveyed in the House and received by those listening on both sides.

This decision on my part carried the risk that, as I would be speaking extempore — the story that I produced a bundle of notes at this point of the interview is a myth; I had one blue sheet of paper in front of me from the outset which listed some of the legislation we shall be bringing in during this session, because I feared that I might forget some of the Bills if I had not this reminder — and listeners will remember the interviewer tried to stop me reading that list — that I might express myself imprecisely, or make some reference that might, without intention, offend. I felt the risk worth taking, given the advantage of being able to speak directly to so many of our people on a matter so close to my heart, but I recognise that as a result I did not express myself with as much objectivity as would have been desirable about the responsibility for the present confessional or sectarian character of parts of our Constitution, laws and practices. In a more considered presentation I would have added — as Senator Hussey very properly did in opening this debate and as I said earlier — that all parties share in different measures responsibility for the present situation. If I gave the impression in my broadcast that only Fianna Fáil were responsible, it was wrong of me to do so.

We are not a sectarian people and none [199] of the language on the provisions of our laws, least of all of our fundamental law, the Constitution, should make it possible to suggest otherwise. We may fail individually from time to time in according to those who differ from us the tolerance of opinions to which as free men they are entitled. But when we fail we know we fail and that our failure is one of failing to reach the highest standards which the best of our traditions — Christian, humane, liberal Republicanism — demand.

If our Constitution excessively reflects the ethos of the majority in this State, if it makes anyone legitimately feel a stranger in his own country, it is an imperative of this time in our history that we act to correct what we may think wrong. Sixty years of self-government during which this Republic as a sovereign independent State has rightly earned an international reputation for civilised government has brought with it increased maturity and awareness of their responsibility among our citizens. That maturity is demonstrated by the openness of the public discussion which has begun here. That openness cannot be circumscribed by any consideration that the ill-disposed may misrepresent any admission of sectarian, or, perhaps a better word, confessional — I accept Senator Murphy's word as better reflecting the much less extreme form this has taken in our State by comparison with Northern Ireland — elements in our laws as equivalent or comparable to the acutely sectarian or discriminatory practices which marred in the North for so many years the treatment of the minority community there.

History is now to be made by us, the living generation of Irishmen. The time has come, in Arthur Griffith's words as quoted by Senator Murphy, for us to have a living present and not just a dead past and a prophetic future. The leaders of the past, to whom we look back in gratitude for inspiration, used language which sometimes reflected the fact that they were addressing what were then a subject people. We must understand the language they used in the context of that condition of subjection. We have [200] marched on, step by step, from the earliest days of the State and now we enjoy the full reality of political independence. We are subject to none, but accountable to our own consciences alone.

Politically speaking, the tradition which led to our independence was the tradition of republicanism and the proof of the success of the independence movement is the existence today of the institutions of this State. We have provided by a law enacted by the people's authority that the description of this State is the Republic of Ireland. To that State and to the institutions of the Republic we all owe and must give loyalty. The democratic processes which have led to the fulfilment of our political freedom are the foundation of personal liberty which Irish citizens and their families enjoy and cherish.

We must not lack civic courage in the defence of our institutions and there must be no holding back in our commitment to that defence. If our institutions need reform to strengthen their ability to serve our people, they must be reformed. If our institutions need alternation by purging from the elements which give spurious authority to those who by their disgraceful action in fact repudiate the living Republic of today, purged of these elements they must be. We are talking of life and death and of the right to make war. No one has the right to make war on behalf of the people of this Republic except those elected by the people to Dáil Éireann. It is the agreed position of the three parties represented in the Oireachtas that we do not wish to force the minority in the island of Ireland into the Republic and I would recommend to the people of this State that we explicitly renounce the use of force as a solution to the problem as we could do were we to revise the wording of the Constitution.

The pluralist society we envisage must fully and unequivocally accommodate the continued identity of the Unionist minority. The Republic we have is the Republic our fathers fought for, Senator Ryan's and my own amongst thousands of others, but in shaping it now to make [201] patent the equality of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter so that they may enjoy the common name of Irishman, history requires a place for those who wish to continue their connection with the neighbouring island.

Our 60 years of independence have added enormously to our experience. We cannot complain of inflexibility in others and be inflexible ourselves. We cannot respond to one shriek of “No Surrender” with another. Moreover, we must, in Senator Murphy's words, cease to be a necrocacy. If I have contributed to necrocratic trends by invoking excessively the names of past national figures, I regret this and shall try to do better in future. In saying this I am responding to Senator Whitaker also.

Peace, reconciliation and stability are what we and the people we represent want, and however long or patiently we must work to achieve these aims, that work must be done. The benefits for all the young throughout the island could be immeasurable. Where could we not go if all of us in this island worked together? And can we doubt that if Davis, Tone and Parnell and others were alive today in the new conditions of the eighties, they would strive just for this — peace, reconciliation and stability. Let us make the Republic a better place, and the name Republic a worthy symbol for the future unity of the Irish people.

Mr. T. Hussey: I should like to offer you, Sir, my congratulations on your election as Cathaoirleach. I should like also to congratulate Senator Dolan on his election as Leas-Chathaoirleach. I know both of you will carry out your duties impartially and will lead this House fairly through the debates we will be engaging in.

Like my colleagues on this side of the House, I oppose this motion which asks us to approve the views expressed by the Taoiseach in the course of an RTE interview on 27 September. We are not sure if those views are the personal views of the Taoiseach or whether he was expressing [202] the Government's views on that occasion. However, in the course of the discussion on a radio programme on 28 September, Senator Gemma Hussey said that the Taoiseach was expressing views and speaking in a personal capacity. Perhaps we could have clarification of this point because I consider it to be an abuse of this House to ask the Seanad to convene to discuss the private personal views of the Taoiseach on any matter. On the other hand, if the views the Taoiseach has expressed are those of the Government, we have every right to discuss them and to approve or reject them as the case may be.

The motion before the House is not specific, and in that regard it is a break with precedent. In my opinion, the Seanad are being asked to engage in partisan political propaganda. I have a feeling that the debate has been an effort on the part of the Government to take the people's minds away from the economic problems facing them and which the Government seem powerless to resolve. Senator L. Ryan asked what relevance the motion has for the thousands of people in the dole queues and for whom the prospects of employment under this Government look very bleak indeed. What consolation has this motion to offer to the people in many industries around the country on the brink of collapse because of the monetarist taxation policies being pursued by the Government? What has it to offer to the countless young couples throughout the country striving to put a roof over their heads but who cannot hope to achieve their life's ambition because of high mortgage interest rates and spiralling inflation?

Has this motion any comfort to offer to the farming community whose incomes have dropped by more than 50 per cent in the past five years and who now find that many of them are on the brink of bankruptcy? People in receipt of social welfare benefits are expected to survive on paltry pensions and allowances when the Government's economic policies are driving inflation through the roof.

Is it any wonder that those people feel [203] betrayed by the Government who promised so much in their election manifesto last June and who, instead of delivering on those promises and tackling the serious economic worries facing the country, are wasting the time of this House debating an issue which is of no public interest? Would it not be more fitting for the Taoiseach to launch a crusade on behalf of the young unemployed, to try to get them secure employment at home?

It is obvious the Government are more concerned with what the Northern Unionists think of us than with the more mundane problem of providing jobs for our young people and keeping inflation and prices under control. There is not a public demand at present for a change in the basic construction of the Constitution. The Republican status of the State, national sovereignty, the supremacy of the people, the fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, association and religion, were all part and parcel of the nation's struggle for independence, and it is not surprising that people regard such things as unalterable. The Taoiseach seems to think that altering our Constitution particularly Articles 2, 3 and 41, would encourage unity. I do not accept that. Indeed, I am convinced that if we gave the Northern Unionists the job of writing our Constitution to suit their own desires and aspirations they would still find fault with it and still not want to join us. For so long as the British guarantee remains their loyalty will lie with Britain.

Articles 2 and 3 are a valid statement of our aspirations to unity. They are not a territorial claim. These two Articles set out the de jure position of the Irish nation, that the national territory consists of the whole of the island of Ireland, and the de facto position that the laws passed by the Oireachtas have effect only in the Twenty-six counties. These aspirations are dearly held by the vast majority of Irish men and women, and no Government has the right to ask them to change and to drop these aspirations. Even if the two Articles were to be deleted, would not our aspirations in regard to unity and the national territory still be the same? [204] Mr. Prior, the new Northern Ireland Secretary, said in one of his press interviews that the Northern problem is an international issue. If Article 2 were removed we would be withdrawing the issue from international level, and to my mind the Taoiseach or Government who would do that would be guilty of national sabotage. Why is it always we in this part of the country who are expected to surrender the principles which we hold dear? If we surrender these principles before any plan for national unity has been prepared we will be going to the bargaining table in a much weaker position.

The Taoiseach gave the impression that sectarianism is widespread here. That was unjustified, because he knows well that sectarianism does not exist in such things as education or employment. If the Taoiseach is not satisfied with the provisions of the 1979 Family Planning Act he has every right to introduce new legislation. Any proposal his Government put forward will be studied carefully by Fianna Fáil, but I want to state clearly that we do not think there is need for a change in the Constitution to deal with that matter.

The real division will arise in the Taoiseach's Cabinet, as it did on a previous occasion when the then Taoiseach and some of his Ministers voted against legislative proposals introduced by his own Government. The deletion of the Articles referred to in the motion would be a sell-out on the generations of dead Irish men and women who through the centuries fought by every means to achieve a free united Ireland. Therefore, I ask the House to support the amendment in the name of Senator Eoin Ryan and to reject the motion.

Mr. Carroll: If I thought for one moment that by identifying with the motion I would be supporting the idea of a referendum on the abandonment or modification of Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution, I would vote against it. If I thought that by supporting the motion I was also supporting a narrow review of the Constitution merely in the context of Articles 2 and 3, I would vote against the [205] motion. If I thought that by supporting the motion I was contributing even unwittingly to a deferment of consideration of or decisions on matters of other major moment in our social and economic situation, I would vote against the motion. If I thought that by identifying with the motion I would be taken as subscribing to all the views expressed by the Taoiseach in his radio interview, I would vote against the motion.

I do not interpret the motion in that way at all. I look on it in its literal sense and I accept that the objective stated there is to have a review of the Constitution and the legislative situation to determine if changes can, should or might be made which would have agreement within our society and which could contribute positively towards the re-unification of our country and the reconciliation of our people. Surely a review is something we should all accept at appropriate intervals. If we do not review, how can we measure how we are progressing, if at all? Political parties review; trade unions review; employer organisations review; cultural organisations review. How can we determine what yardstick we should use to assess the success of the original objectives of any organisation or any institution of the State unless we review? I am not trying to determine or interpret what the appropriate period should be for the review. Surely this is determined by other factors in society. The very pressures which bear on all of us in our different walks of life contribute towards the need for review.

The best argument I heard for the need for a review was made by Senator Hussey. She asked what relevance has the Constitution to the plight of 130,000 unemployed people. She went on to ask a number of other significant and salient questions as well. I agree with her. How can we answer that question unless we review the Constitution in this context? Have we succeeded in discharging our responsibilities within that Constitution? If we are satisfied from examination and review that we have, there is no problem. Surely all of us agree — and Senator [206] Hussey confirmed this — that we are not satisfied. There are major areas within our social and economic situation which need urgent attention. That is why I made the point that if this turned out to be a red herring vis-à-vis our economic and social problems I would be very annoyed and I would vote against it. I do not believe that is so. It is important in the review that we should have regard to the point made yesterday by Senator Robinson that as of now the Constitution is not factually accurate. It makes statements which are not sustainable, for instance, in regard to the power of the Supreme Court and the power of the Dáil and the Seanad. They have to be re-appraised or re-evaluated in the context of EEC membership. The Constitution will have to be adjusted, or adapted, or modified to accord with that new situation. Otherwise we are merely using words and leaving them there because we do not want to go to the trouble of getting involved in an exercise which by its very nature should point up all the other problems we should attend to within our responsibilities under the Constitution.

I accept part of what the Taoiseach had to say. If we look at the Constitution things we may not dream of at this point may well surface to the point where we would need additions to the Constitution to ensure that aspirations can be realised. I should like to emphasise some of the points Senator Robinson and Senator Ferris made. In the areas of unemployment, standard of living and related matters, we have a major responsibility to see how we are faring within our obligations under the Constitution. It does not end there. We have to think about the 1906 Act. We have to think about our responsibilities to each other in the factions we represent. Senator Hussey talked about unemployment and what has happened in the past 11 or 12 weeks. What has happened over the past three or four years? We had a national understanding freely entered into which assured people looking for jobs that they would get the jobs in a certain order, on a certain time scale. That did not come to pass. Our problems are not just those [207] of today. They have arisen over the past 20, 30 or 40 years. No Government can claim to have done a better job than another. They followed one another in such a sequence that it was almost impossible for any one of them to have a proper programme of economic planning and social development. I am not commenting on the matter of the sequential development, but it raises problems at a time when we are all trying to face reality. There is no point in trying to throw the blame back on those who went before us. None of us is without stain in this regard, irrespective of what areas we come from.

I am a little concerned about one aspect of this debate. I am not too sure that we are starting the right way. The contributions from the two sides of the House and from the Independents may be contributing unwittingly to a polarisation of views which could be picked up outside and become the theme of the debate rather than the much broader picture that should be painted to enable ordinary people to be more meaningfully involved in the discussion. The Taoiseach said — and he repeated today — that he wants to involve everyone in the debate. How do you do that? By standing up here and in the Dáil and repeating the old cliches, the old statements? Or can we find some new way of getting out to the people outside and talking to them? We should not be dishonest in stating that the people out there all understand what we are doing. They do not. Many people are so concerned with their everyday problems that they do not know much about the Constitution apart from the Article about treating all the children of the nation equally and something about the family situation. They have heard that discussed in the past year or two. There are other Articles in the Constitution they may not have heard about because they were not discussed or debated. Many of them have not had the opportunity to read the Constitution for good reasons. We should not think that we are articulating a view which already exists in such abundance that we need to make only judgments here and there are then [208] go back to the people for advice. We have to find some mechanism, some way, to get this debate back out there in a manner that will involve the ordinary people who have such pressures on them that if you have to talk to them about the Constitution they say: “For God's sake, what about my bills on Friday? What about the kids getting in to school? What about my grandfather, or grandmother, or father, or mother, waiting for a bed in a hospital?” There are many problems which occupy people and tie them up — real problems, not just problems of academic interest, real, everyday, hard problems.

I would suggest that it is not good enough to call upon the Attorney General to undertake a review, no matter how valid the idea of the review is. He is cloistered by the very nature of his professional occupation. We have to find a way of involving people who in the ultimate will be the ones who will make the decision and who will be directly and immediately concerned with whatever we do about the economic and the social policies, and the whole inter-weaving of the cultural, economic and social order of the northern and southern scene. That is my reservation. I hope that some way will be found to get this debate out there in the open without having a polarisation of views which will create the climate in which the subject will be further discussed.

Mr. Ross: I do not wish to sacrifice the independence which I so carefully cultivated by saying that I was most impressed by what the Taoiseach said and that I agreed with virtually everything he said in his speech. I intend, like one of the other Independents, to vote for the Government on this motion. Two of them I gather intend to abstain. In order to balance it, I will probably have to vote against the Government in about half a dozen votes in the next six months.

The Taoiseach: Do not feel obliged.

Mr. Ross: I found the attitude of this side of the House very depressing to say [209] the least. I found the retreat into tribalism by Fianna Fáil divisive and an entrenched attitude which was a direct mirror image of the extreme Unionists' position in Northern Ireland, which was very depressing.

There was a very significant word in the amendment which they proposed: the word “unalterable” which I find arrogant and aggressive. They are making a prediction about the aspirations of the Irish nation in the future which no party and no person has a right to make. There is no way we can tell what the nation's aspirations will be in the future. I wish politicians from all sides of the House would go to Northern Ireland. I was elected from Trinity College, Dublin University, and one of the particular responsibilities and peculiarities of this constituency is that we have at least 10 per cent of our electorate in Northern Ireland. As a result of this, when everybody else in this House was tramping the boreens of Kerry, Galway, Mayo and Cork, I was in Derry, Belfast, Fermanagh and all over Northern Ireland trying to get votes. As a result, I hope I can express the reactions of the people in Northern Ireland to this initiative and the feelings that they have.

Initially, the reaction which I have had from my constituency is extremely encouraging. I was very pleased to hear the Taoiseach say something about cross-Border incursions. This was the only mention in this debate which was an acknowledgment that cross-Border incursions are a real problem to people in Northern Ireland. They really feel very strongly about this and they blame us for it. It is something which we must do something about. The answer may not be extradition. I think it probably is. The answer may not be an all Ireland court. But it is a problem which, with Articles 2 and 3, we really ought to tackle. It is a running sore.

I welcome this initiative. It is the first essential move in the field of self-examination, an art in which we have been conspicuously unskilled since the foundation [210] of the State. For too long it has been the so-called intransigent majority in Northern Ireland which has been blandly blamed for the troubles of this island. For too long we have piously failed to consider as worthy of thought any criticism of ourselves, our laws and our Constitution.

Our Constitution and legal framework in some ways bear as equally intolerant and illiberal a stand as that system of which we have been so critical at times in Northern Ireland. As a new exercise in self-analysis, this is a refreshing approach. A constitutional and legislative review towards the end of reconciliation is long overdue, but a review is not enough. The so-called crusade rings of a noble mission and a great debate. We need more than that. We all remember — it has been mentioned in this debate many times — what happened to the recommendations of that All-Party Committee on the Constitution in 1967 on which there were many people from this side of the House. This time we need real commitment from the Government, a commitment to a referendum on divorce, a commitment to a new Family Planning Bill and a commitment to a referendum to abolish Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. A great debate would be absolutely fruitless, although a possible diversion from the pitiable state of our economy, unless the Government now lead from the front by putting the issues to the people and campaigning for active support for their initiatives. The danger is evident that the Taoiseach will test the water, find it lukewarm and funk the referendums.

The question of whether the minority feel discriminated against has two answers: like many questions in this country, one is “yes” and the other is “no.” The well-off among the minority here find little practical difficulties with the two issues which are most commonly associated with the discrimination against them — divorce and contraception. They can circumvent the law. In that case I believe it is and must be a bad law. It is equally true to say that those less well-off among the minority — I do not think we [211] should just say Protestants, there are all sorts of other minorities — who in all conscience believe that they have a right to both divorce and contraception have found in many cases that they are not available. In practical terms the end of Article 41 on divorce will be of far greater benefit to the poor who are stuck with their unhappy marriages than to the better-off sections who have habitually been able to afford to establish residence in Great Britain and there obtain a divorce which the Government tolerate.

Similarly, contraception and the availability of contraceptives have never posed a problem to the more prosperous. The lack of them has produced many unwanted children and the consequent insoluble social problems among the poorer members of the minority and the majority. In this sense, the law has been blatantly sectarian and has reflected the teachings of only one church. Until the introduction of the last Government's Family Planning Bill, the same ambiguity existed towards contraception as existed towards divorce. The same blind eye philosophy that has permeated successive Irish Governments' attitudes to divorce — forbid it but tolerate it in another form — apply to contraception. Contraception was morally wrong, but if your conscience permitted it the Government graciously agreed not to interfere with your use of them, which was not a particularly generous gesture towards religious tolerance if no contraceptives were available. The last Bill in reality inherited similar double thinking. The same fawning deference was paid to the wishes of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy in the drafting of that Bill as was paid to the dictates of Archbishop McQuaid in the framing of the 1937 Constitution. How then can we blame the majority in Northern Ireland for seeing the hand of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy in our laws and Constitution?

A clear distinction must be drawn between the extreme Loyalists, whose hostility to us is permanent and implacable, and the moderate members of the majority to whom we should hold out our hand in friendship. There is a mistaken [212] misapprehension among many people that there are no moderate members of the majority. There are and, as the Taoiseach quite rightly said, if we want unity we do not have to convince them all, we have to convince only a small proportion of them. It is indicative of their attitude to us now that very few of them are interested in unity at all. The amendment of our laws and Constitution will not appease the hostility of the extremists, nor should this be our aim in any change in Articles 2 and 3. It should be realised that the extreme Loyalists regard Articles 2 and 3 and the absence of extradition as gifts from the gods in the propaganda war against the Republic. It is a very useful leverage for them that we have Articles 2 and 3 because they can point the finger at us. In fact, the extreme Loyalists would be very disappointed if we got rid of Articles 2 and 3 and introduced extradition. Necessary changes should be made here not to appease them but because Articles 2 and 3 are wrong and aggressive in themselves — and our position on the extradition of terrorists from Northern Ireland is another case of our blind eye attitude.

There is a large body of moderate Unionist and Nationalist opinion in Northern Ireland many of whom I, and my University College, represent. Since the Taoiseach's interview on RTE I have been in touch with many of them to test their reaction. I found the response to be universally favourable and many of them regard this as the most significant statement from a Southern politician in their memories. This welcome has been extended in my constituency across the religious and political divide. In the last year many of these people who hold the shrinking middle ground in Northern Ireland have been pushed closer to the extremists' camps by the consistent politics of pressure, both internally from the hunger strikers and externally from us. They see Articles 2 and 3 not as an obstacle to unity, they do not aspire to it at this stage and never have done, but as an aggressive territorial claim which is forcing them back into a siege mentality. The abolition of these Articles would [213] undoubtedly diminish the defensiveness of their outlook and contribute to a weakening of this siege mentality. They would feel less threatened.

If the abolition of Articles 2 and 3 would appear in Northern Ireland as a major step towards the cessation of the cold hostility, a change in our stand on extradition would have an even more positive impact. Both contribute to the genuine mistrust which many in Northern Ireland feel towards the Republic, and they have justification. A refusal now to change Articles 2 and 3 will appear as a retreat into the hostile poses of former years. A reluctance now to hold a referendum on divorce would be interpreted as an attempted advance which is once again being stopped in its tracks by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. Governments here have consistently called for a united Ireland while ignoring the existence of over one million people who oppose it. Their views are not sought, although they would represent over 25 per cent of such an entity. It often seems that they do not exist.

Their second real grievance is their belief that our hostility manifests itself in our duplicity towards the treatment of fugitive offenders who are wanted for crimes committed in Northern Ireland. I believe from my own experience that this is the greatest single sore souring our relations with the majority in Northern Ireland. It is a greater sore than Articles 2 and 3. If we are serious about reconciliation and good neighbourliness with them, we must no longer hide behind our Constitution as [214] an excuse for our refusal to extradite terrorists on the run, nor should we cite the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act as a means agreed between Great Britain and Ireland to solve the problem. It has scarcely been used at all. It has certainly not been effective in fulfilling its original purpose, namely to bring to justice those who have crossed to the safety of our side of the Border after committing terrible crimes in Northern Ireland. Tell the beleagured people of Fermanagh, tell the long-suffering people of Tyrone and South Armagh that any incursions from our side of the Border will see the offenders dealt with under the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act and they will not be provided with any reassurance. This Act has not protected them for the last eight years and it offers them no protection for the future. Can anyone in this House assure me that the murderers of Sir Norman Stronge and many other people in Northern Ireland are not moving freely unmolested in our territory because the law is inadequate to deal with them? How then can moderate opinion in Northern Ireland be convinced that the Republic is a friendly neighbour when they see terrorists apparently immune from arrest once they cross the Border? It is futile to explain legal niceties to them by saying that not enough evidence is produced to warrant arrest and conviction under the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act.

Debate adjourned.

The Seanad adjourned at 5 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Thursday, 15 October 1981.