Seanad Éireann - Volume 98 - 22 July, 1982

Order of Business.

Mr. E. Ryan: It is proposed to take Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6, 4, 5, 7 and 8 and to break at 4 p.m. to take No. 8. It is not proposed to break for lunch.

Professor Murphy: On the Order of Business, may I suggest that this House express its abhorrence of the savage slaughter carried out in London last Tuesday and that it puts on record its profound sympathy with those involved? Some days ago on the Order of Business Senator West proposed that we express our pleasure at the great performance of the Northern Ireland soccer team in the World Cup. It is sad that, following the same precedent we have today to deal with a very different and tragic matter. It is said that expressions of shock and sympathy at outrages like this are useless, but what choice have we? If we are silent it will be regarded as being despairing and fatalistic. That we must never be.

The Provisional IRA in their statement following the atrocity in London on Tuesday spoke about the sovereignty of the Irish people. Their “Irish people” is a mystical entity. They have no respect for flesh and blood Irish people. It has been said that they represent a new kind of republicanism, a new kind of unscrupulous Irish nationalism. I wish that was so. There is a malign strain in Irish republicanism and the only thing that marks off [1273] what happened in London last Tuesday from things attempted in the last century is simply that the Provisionals have at their disposal the cruelty of modern technology. Their purpose is to embitter Anglo-Irish relations, to revive the dying embers of Anglophobia and to embroil our Government in conflict with the United Kingdom.

The aim of terrorists is to create terror. They want to have their way by putting the fear of God in people and by putting pressures on people in Government to yield to their will. They must not be allowed to do so. Public opinion must take every opportunity to express itself as I hope the House will today.

Expressions of sympathy, such as I hope the House will back, are of no use unless we encourage positive developments and positive political stirrings, no matter how imperfect they may be; no use, unless we have the courage to face up to questions which have hitherto been taboo questions, no use if we keep on indulging in cheap irredentist rhetoric for political purposes and no use if we threaten unilaterally to slacken Border security. If we slackened Border security we would be cutting our own throats, literally. Make no mistake about it, the only reasons why the Provisionals do not engage the Army and the Garda in our State is for purely strategic reasons. They cannot carry on the so-called liberation struggle on two fronts. When they get their way in the North by such horrible deeds as last Tuesday they will not bow out gracefully and hand over to the Government in Dublin. Their avowed aim is to destabilise, which is a euphemism for “to destroy” this State. We are their next target. Some of the shock and horror we all felt when we heard the news we were feeling ultimately for ourselves and for our children. We can indeed adapt the poet's famous line and say: “Ask not at whom the Armalites point, ask not for whom the bombs explode, they explode for us.”

Dr. West: I would like to support Senator Murphy's well-chosen words. This House should express abhorrence at the [1274] crime perpetrated in London on Tuesday and sympathy for the victims and their relatives. We should pledge our determination to do everything we can in concert with the British authorities to bring these criminals to justice.

Mr. P. Reynolds: On behalf of the Fine Gael Party and on my own behalf I would like to add my voice to Senator Murphy's well-chosen words. I certainly offer our sincere sympathy to the immediate relatives of the people who have been killed and seriously injured. I come from a part of the country from which emigration is high. Unfortunate people who emigrated from my county will suffer because of this unfortunate incident last Tuesday which should never have happened.

Mr. Ferris: On behalf of my party I should like to be associated with the condemnation of this savage and dastardly act carried out in London with such a dreadful loss of human life and, indeed, animal life. A short time ago when we debated the question of extradition I pointed to some desperate acts carried out by people who claim to be Irish and purport to do these deeds in our name. Since the foundation of this State no Irish man has stooped to such a cowardly, terrorist act with such dastardly consequences. We must join together to condemn these acts and not allow this kind of intimidation to prevent joint efforts to reach a solution to this problem. Terrorists like these have no support or even justification for their deeds. Indeed, the cause they purport to serve will never be served like this. Our efforts in peaceful discussions over the past decade to find a solution to the problem have been set back by this act. It is a tragedy that these people should try to undermine the democratic political institutions of the State. I join in the condemnation of this terrible act.

Mr. Mallon: I join in the condemnation of this particularly obscene slaughter of people going about their recreation and their business on a fine day. There are two elements to the tragedy. One is that a very dramatic event of this nature captures attention not just in Britain but [1275] throughout the whole world. It is tragic, however, that the catalogue of killings one by one in the North of Ireland does not grab these headlines, the type of killings which have resulted in almost 3,000 people dead on a normal scheduled basis, without publicity, and without dramatic effect. We should bear that in mind. While recognising the dramatic and obscene nature of this act, we must also relate it to all the other killings within this island.

Perhaps I could extend the quotation from John Donne which Senator Murphy used and plagiarise it, as he did, by saying that no island is an island. This particular killing brings that home to us very much. What happens within this group of islands will have an effect, be it in Britain, the North of Ireland or the South of Ireland. If no island is an island, surely no part of an island can be an island. As I said in the debate on extradition, in the last analysis there is no security solution to the problem; there is no military solution to the problem; there is a political solution to the problem. Unless we try consciously and with all determination to get that political solution, unfortunately the circumstances within which this type of act can be perpetrated will continue. That is a harsh reality. It is a harsh fact, but it is one which we as politicians must face up to.

While recognising the way in which people have felt revulsion at this killing, and indeed by the other killings which have taken place over this past 13, 14, 15 years — you could say 60 years; indeed, you could extend it to say 800 years — we must also realise that our job as politicians, as people who represent constituencies within the whole of Ireland, is to work towards a political solution which will make it irrelevant for the people who did these deeds to operate, which will show that the political process itself is working towards a solution. I keep repeating the fact that, while the political process is failing to find a solution to our problems, while the political process is seen not to be terribly interested in finding a solution to our problems, the situation is wide open to the gunmen and the [1276] bombers. If that has any political relevance to us, apart from our revulsion at the deed, surely it must be that the united aim of all the political parties, the legitimate political parties in this island, must be to find a solution which will not be confined simply to one little part of these islands, but which will recognise the fact that, however much things change in the future, we are linked together.

Our problems can only be solved by a concentrated effort within the type of Anglo-Irish framework which will prevent not just the killings and the slaughter in the North of Ireland but what has been happening in the North of Ireland for so many years.

I repeat that no part of this island can be an island. No part of a solution can be confined simply to one part of this island. Unless a solution is found, we will have to continue for another ten, 15 or 20 years to make these condemnations which become almost ritual. Until we work for and find a political solution, there will be no let up because we will leave the way wide open to the men of violence. We will stand condemned if we do not work wholeheartedly in conjunction with all of the other factors involved towards finding a lasting solution. Could I emphasise that again? A settlement is not what is being sought because settlements are, by the very nature of the word, temporary. What we want is a lasting solution which will recognise the needs, requirements, fears and aspirations of all sections of the community within this island, a solution which will last and make this type of slaughter a bad dream.

Mr. Ross: A Chathaoirligh, it is appropriate, since this is the only House of the Oireachtas sitting at the moment, that you should have allowed these contributions on the Order of Business. I regret that they had to come from the Independent benches and that they did not come from the Government. These vile murderers who commit these crimes are claiming to act in our name. It is important that we pass this motion unanimously so that the people of the United Kingdom and people of Ireland know that we dissociate ourselves from them.

[1277] I am a little tired of people shedding crocodile tears over murders. It is very easy to condemn murders time after time. It is a very easy way of absolving oneself. Time and time again Ministers, parties and bodies condemn murders and say they are wrong. When it comes to action, we are found lacking. We are very good with words. In this House two weeks ago all the political parties decided to funk the issue of taking action on this very subject, and avoided having a vote on this important matter. If these men have any sense they will have crossed the Irish Sea by now, because they will be much safer here than they would be in London. There is a great deal of ambivalence in this House with people standing up and saying how dreadful these murders are but are not prepared to do anything about them.

Mr. Robb: I should like to endorse the words of my colleague, Senator Mallon. Perhaps above all the people in this House I have had cause to see the end result of the type of carnage which was described so graphically and vividly in the national papers only two days ago. I well remember ten years ago being moved to become politically involved in the situation in Northern Ireland from the evidence before my eyes following the Abercorn disaster in Belfast.

I should like to pursue the matter a little further than that and to say that, while such acts as these are totally reprehensible to all men of humanity, it ill behoves any of us to stop at the point of condemning them. We must all do as Senator Mallon suggested. As Irishmen, North and South, of whichever tradition we belong, we must seek a solution which will endure and which will have the possibility of relegating this barbarous activity to the history books once and for all.

I seriously indict both the London and Dublin establishments for their failure to deal with this last element of the Anglo-Irish dilemma. This violence has continued since the shooting in Belfast on 14 August 1969. I remember going home after a most terrible night with the first 13 bullets in bottles. In my opinion it is an international disgrace that the combined [1278] minds, hearts, actions and thinking of the people living in this island and living on the other island across the water, through their Governments, have not yet produced a resolution to this age-old problem which will allow us to move about Northern Ireland in peace and will also encourage us to focus on the real and great social issues which at present confront all the people of Ireland, both North and South.

Mr. O'Connell: For somebody who is not normally at a loss for words, this situation is one in which words are almost inadequate. I do not want or intend to get into an argument with Senator Ross on the question of extradition. I would merely like to point out that we will have to get things done. It was the opinion of this party that extradition as such is not an effective solution and that the other measures we proposed in its stead would have a much more adequate response in action to the situation than extradition itself.

Two points I would like to make very briefly are — first, that violence is no moral solution to any of the problems which face the human race. When that violence is directed cold-bloodedly and with deliberate forethought in order to create publicity and is directed at innocent victims and bystanders, women and children going about their normal business, then there is less morality about it. Secondly — and this is something we in this House have a particular duty to emphasise and to underline — those who claim the right to carry out acts of this kind are acting without any mandate whatsoever, be it legal, constitutional or moral, and if we continue to tolerate a world in which people can act in this way, the future is bleak indeed. I would like to associate myself with Senator Murphy's remarks and hope that we can look forward to a world that is more ordered, more peaceful and just.

Mr. Smith: I, too, condemn this cowardly and dastardly action which all right thinking Irish people, and people all over the world, should condemn. I also support Senator Mallon because in my opinion it is not enough to condemn those [1279] actions; we must seek a solution to this old problem. This kind of action should force governments and the people of this island to work together towards finding a lasting solution. In the absence of finding a solution some people perpetrate acts in the name of this country, and in the name of all Irish people, which none of us could ever stand over and within our limited powers we should work towards resolving this problem. Let us hope we will not be faced with another ten or 20 years like the last decade or with the tragedies experienced here by people in the North and by those living across the water.

Mr. B. Ryan: Of course what happened in London was an obscenity, but as, I suspect, the only Member of either House of the Oireachtas who questioned the principle of armaments, armies and militarism, I believe there are a couple of things which need to be added to what has been said. I have publicly articulated the philosophy that joining any army, legal or illegal, brutalises the person who does so. I believe all warfare is cowardly, dastardly, brutal and obscene, and not just terrorist warfare. It is worth recalling that there is no weapon, no device, no technique which is available to terrorists which has not been initially devised, planned and conceived by the legitimate armed forces of countries and parliaments who quite rightly denounce terrorism and terrorist activities. All warfare is wrong. All warfare is an obscenity. It is an attack on humanity, and it is one-sided and unbalanced to identify the activities of terrorism as being in a particular way obscene. They are no worse than the plans, schemes, tactics and weapons that every legitimate armed force in the world has at its disposal and is willing to use.

While what was done was an obscenity, may I urge that reaction to it will not produce yet again excesses by security forces North and South of the Border and in Britain which will inevitably bear heaviest on the unfortunate community in Northern Ireland, who have to carry the burden of having these so-called liberators in their midst and in addition have [1280] to carry the burden of security forces who are anything but sensitive to their needs? What was done was obscene, wrong and callous but the reaction must not be to make the lot of those who have suffered most in Northern Ireland tragedies — and everybody has suffered — suffer more in the name of a law and order solution which will not work and which has not worked to solve anybody's crime problems, North or South. What happened in London was wrong, but it was only one more manifestation of the obscenity that is all war, illegitimate or legitimate.

Mr. E. Ryan: Sympathy and horror have already been expressed by the Taoiseach and by leaders of the other parties. Their views, and the views expressed here today, have the support of the vast majority of the people of this country, and certainly have the support of the people on this side of the House. We are all outraged by the appalling events which happened in London a few days ago and we offer our sympathy to all those bereaved. Everybody agrees that not only is this or any kind of violence not a solution to the problem but it makes the problem far worse each time something like this happens. We are all satisfied that violence is not the answer but we must all acknowledge that to find an acceptable solution is very difficult indeed. We must continue our efforts to find a solution by peaceful methods and no matter how difficult it may be or how long it may take, it is our duty, as members of political parties, to endeavour to find an acceptable solution.

I must reject the suggestions that have been made that in some way by not taking certain measures, the Government are at fault or are indirectly responsible for what happened. Once again extradition has been pulled out of the hat as being the magic formula that will bring an end to violence. It is not a magic formula and we discussed that at some length a few weeks ago. As I said then, if I thought that extradition was the answer then I would have to consider it very seriously. It is not the answer; it will not stop violence. On the other hand, every possible [1281] avenue must be explored to find a solution, to find a way of stopping violence and bringing to an end the unhappy situation which exists not only in the North of Ireland but exists for all of us on this island. I support the expressions of sympathy and I hope a solution will be found.

Order of Business agreed to.