Seanad Éireann - Volume 110 - 27 November, 1985

Anglo-Irish Agreement: Motion.

Mr. A. O'Brien: I move:

[184] That Seanad Éireann welcomes the Hillsborough Agreement and calls on all persons of good will to work for the success of this initiative in the interests of peace and stability in Ireland.

Is mian liom-sa mar Ultach fáilte a chur roimh an Chomhaontú Angla-Éireannach a shíníodh i gCromghlin ar an 15 Samhain, agus comhgháirdeas a dhéanamh leis an Taoiseach, an Tánaiste, an Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha agus le gach duine a chabhraigh leo an obair stairiúil seo a thabhairt chun críche. Tá an comhaontú seo molta cheana ar fud an hÉireann, san Bhreatain Mhór, in Iarthar na hEorpa, sna Stáit Aontaithe, i gCeanada, san Astráil, sa Nua-Shéalainn, agus i ngach áit ar domhan go bhfuil meas ar chearta an duine aonair ann.

As an Ulster man I welcome the agreement signed in Hillsborough on 15 November. I congratulate the people whose work brought it about. The purpose of the agreement is to bring peace and stability to Northern Ireland and to preserve peace in these islands. The British Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, displayed a keen awareness of the serious problems that exist in Northern Ireland and the alienation of the minority. She displayed a probing perception of the causes of that alienation and backed up her views with the courage of her convictions. It is not in mortals to command success but the diligence, dedication and understanding of the two teams who drew up the terms of this agreement deserve success in large measure. Their efforts have won the approval of heads of government in western Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and of people all over the world who respect the dignity of man.

No Member of this House condones the violence that has gone on in the northeast corner of this island for the last 16 years. We all know that terror exists there, that fear gnaws daily at the hearts and minds of men, women and children during their waking hours and all too often invade their dreams. Over 2,000 people have been brutally murdered and [185] over 10,000 people have been seriously injured. People have been murdered on the streets of cities, towns and villages, on roads and laneways of rural areas. People have been done to death in their homes, often in the presence of their children. People have been murdered on their way to or from work, in hospital wards, on the way to or from places of worship, at church doors and even inside the walls of buildings dedicated to the worship of Almighty God. People of all ages from infancy to advanced old age, have been done to death, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter; people elected by the community to represent them and whose interests were confined exclusively to minding their farms and their businesses in the hope of earning a good living for themselves and their dependants. Every death and maiming brought in its wake grief, sorrow and suffering and very often bitterness. This bitterness was used by manipulators to fan the flames of hatred.

Representative democracy was a target of the terrorist too. John Taylor and Bernadette McAliskey whose political views are diametrically opposed shared the evil attention of the would-be assassin and shared in miraculous survival. Austin Currie's wife and family were terrorised a number of times in their home in Coal-island. Gerry Fitt, a man who rendered sterling service over a period of years to the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland, had his home attacked by howling mobs and was forced eventually to leave Ireland with his wife and family and settle in England. The Reverend Robert Bradford was brutally murdered in a clinic where he had come to give advice and help to his constituents. Mr. Norman Strong, a man far advanced in years, was brutally murdered in his own home. Mr. Edgar Graham, a young public representative of much promise, was savagely done to death.

Senator Billy Fox, a Member of this House, was brutally murdered in a farmyard in his native County Monaghan. He had devoted the short years of his adult life to bringing communities together, building bridges in the hope and belief [186] that people of different communities and persuasions could live together in harmony and peace. Those whose vested interests lie in terrorism and anarchy take a fiendish delight in wiping out good people who work for good relations. I will cite only one more instance in the long litany of terrible deeds that have occurred in the North of Ireland and occasionally with an overspill into the Republic and indeed at times into Britain. A teenage boy, a native of County Laois, who worked as a helper on an oil lorry went to a telephone kiosk in the town of Belturbet in County Cavan to tell his mother that he was well. As he opened the door of the kiosk a terrorist bomb blasted him to pieces. Does anybody who lays claim to the attributes that put man on the highest plane among God's earthly creatures attempt to justify or condone an act so foul?

In that part of Ireland for many years terror has reigned. A knock on the door or window pane can indicate that violent death is only seconds away from a father or son of the household. The wife and children or parents of the victim will be the terror-stricken witnesses of the cold-blooded murder of a loved one. Add on to this list of infamy the cruel extortion of protection money, knee cappings and executions and we have the sickening scene in its gory perspective.

Determination to end this terrible state of affairs sent the former Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, to meet the British Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, to seek a solution and bring this horror to an end. A similar determination to end this reign of terror moved the Taoiseach, Deputy Dr. Fitzgerald, to establish the Forum, where churchmen, statesmen and leaders of public opinion North and South were brought together and given the opportunity of explaining why in their view this terror should be so prevalent and what possible solutions might be. The Forum discussion increased the determination of the Taoiseach still further to pursue negotiations with the British Government. After a lot of diligent effort negotiations got under way. Thankfully, they resulted in the Anglo-Irish Agreement being [187] signed in Hillsborough a short time ago.

All along there were two great problems. One was that the Unionist majority in Northern Ireland believed that it was the intention of the Irish Government and the people in this part of the island to coerce them and bludgeon them into a united Ireland. That is not the intention and that is clearly stated in the agreement. The agreement ensures that as long as the majority in the north-eastern part of our country want to preserve the link with Britain that link will be preserved. The second problem is to find an effective way of ensuring that the very considerable Nationalist minority in the North of Ireland are given their fundamental rights. The agreement guarantees these rights. It guarantees not to attempt to coerce the Unionist population and guarantees that every effort will be made to ensure that the Nationalists are afforded rights as citizens.

The agreement states unequivocally that the two Governments who sign the agreement will respect the will of the majority. Intelligent people who study the terms of the agreement dispassionately and objectively cannot deny this clear fact. It is one of the twin pillars on which the agreement is built. Rabble rousers and short-sighted people are already howling words of incitement such as “treachery”, “betrayal” and “sellout”. They are howling these inciting, emotive words with no justification. Emotive words like these are calculated to delude the masses and arouse their passions. Men in fury do not think clearly. They are easily conned into supporting demagogues and, unfortunately, easily incited into violence. There are many people of the Unionist tradition, people of clear minds and a strong desire for peace and stability, with a keen sense of fair play, who must see that the agreement points the way to peace and stability. It is true that these people missed an opportunity some years ago of saving the power sharing executive set up after Sunningdale when the former Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, and the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Ted [188] Heath, showed great vision and understanding.

The ending of the power sharing executive led the wreckers to gloat over their success. That success turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory. It has brought much suffering and bloodshed to the Six Counties. It has resulted in a further alienation of the Nationalist minority. Years of privilege and power have developed in some Unionists an overbearing arrogance that denied Nationalists a way of life based on the fundamental assumption of the equality of individuals and of their equal rights to life and liberty, including liberty of thought and expression and the pursuit of happiness.

These fundamental rights were denied for years to a considerable minority comprising about one-third of the total population. These people of the Nationalist community do not bear any mark of subservience and servility and they claim the right to be treated as full citizens. The Anglo-Irish Agreement assures the Government of the Republic a voice in ensuring that the Nationalists will enjoy the benefits of full citizenship and the right to cherish and work for the ideal of a united Ireland.

The majority in Northern Ireland should know one of the major lessons taught to us by history: people who lose hope of gaining their fundamental rights by constitutional means are often forced to take up arms. There are in Northern Ireland today young people who have despaired of success attending the constitutional efforts of the SDLP. These people have been driven in frustration and lack of hope to take up arms. Hopefully one of the major achievements of this historic agreement will be to stop that trend and to reinforce the position of constitutional parties and, please God, to eliminate violence. This, when it happens, will be a major achievement.

The Taoiseach has outlined in his speech in the Dáil the difficulties that confront the carrying out and the implementation of the agreement signed in Hiilsborough. We hope that a sensible approach on all sides will result in a vast improvement in the relations between [189] the communities in the North and bring violence to an end. To the words spoken in the other House by the Taoiseach I would like to add the words spoken by Abraham Lincoln on an historic occasion in the history of the United States. He said: “The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise to the occasion. As our fathers knew we must think anew and act anew”. Mar fhocal scoir, a Chathaoirligh, tuigeann gach duine go mbeidh deacrachtai len a bhfuil i gceist an comhaontú a thabhairt i bhfeidhm ach, le cúnamh Dé agus le deathoil na ndaoine, Thuaidh agus Theas, beidh linn agus beidh síocháin linn.

The Taoiseach: I would like to thank Senator O'Brien for his appreciative comments and for his moving words which-will, I am sure, set the tone for this debate. He has reminded us of the appalling tragedies that have occurred and in particular of the litany of attacks on and murders of elected representatives that have occurred during the past 15 years. It is against that background that we have to debate and discuss the agreement that has been reached between the Governments of Ireland and Great Britain. I know the discussion in this House will follow the tone which Senator O'Brien has set.

Since the agreement was signed we have seen reactions from around the world, most of them overwhelmingly positive. Reaction in Ireland on the part of Nationalists has also been predominantly positive. I am glad that Nationalists in the North and in the South have scrupulously refrained from exaggeration of the content of the agreement. Those constitutional Nationalists who have expressed concern about aspects of the agreement have moreover done so in a restrained and relatively open-minded way.

Reaction from Unionists has been, on the whole, negative. This was to be expected. Unionists, like the Opposition in this State, were understandably concerned about the secret nature of the lengthy negotiations. Although it was necessary that they should be secret, it was perhaps unfortunate that they were [190] so long. It is clear that it will take some time for Unionists to realise that the agreement does not threaten or diminish their rightful position, that it provides reassurances about their future which are significant and solid and that the agreement provides real benefits to Unionist interests as well as to the interests of Nationalists.

I am deeply concerned, of course, about the strength and tone of the reaction from the Unionist side. I regret to say that ordinary Unionists have been systematically misled by some of their leaders since Hillsborough. The agreement has been in some cases presented in a way which cannot be described as other than inflammatory. Misrepresentations have been expounded on public platforms, on television, on radio and in the press about the content of the agreement and about the commitment of this State to help to ensure the security of ordinary people in Northern Ireland.

Let me say in complete sincerity and with all of the authority at my command that this Anglo-Irish Agreement does not threaten the interests of the Unionist people. It does not weaken the commitment of the British Government in Northern Ireland; on the contrary, for the first time it removes uncertainty about the British position as it does about the Irish position. The agreement does not involve the Irish Government in the executive decision-making of Government in Northern Ireland. It creates a framework within which Nationalists can for the first time begin to identify but which does not itself involve the Irish Government in any system of dominion over Unionists.

What the agreement does is to recognise that there are two conflicting identities in Northern Ireland and that they must both be catered for in the structures and processes of Government. The agreement takes literally nothing away from the rights of Unionists: Northern Ireland continues to be governed, as Unionists still wish, by the British Government. What the agreement does is to add a significant Irish Government dimension to the present government of [191] Northern Ireland. The British Prime Minister and I hope and believe that in making these arrangements we will, while taking nothing of any substance away from the existing legitimate rights of Unionists, add a dimension which will help to reconcile the minority and allow them for the first time to participate fully in the affairs of Northern Ireland without prejudice to their aspiration or indeed to our aspiration to Irish unity.

It is absurd and it is offensive to represent this State and our people — as we have been represented — as hostile to the interests, including the security interests, of the Unionist community. Only a day after these wild accusations were made in Belfast, an attempted prison escape in Portlaoise reminded the whole world of our commitment and effort to confront and deal with those whom the Unionist people rightly regard as their enemies, the Provisional IRA. Those foiled by our security forces in their attempts to escape were members of the Provisional IRA who had earlier been apprehended, charged, convicted and locked up by this State, most of them for offences in this State but some for offences in Northern Ireland and one indeed for an offence in Great Britain itself.

The agreement itself provides specifically for closer security co-operation. We are utterly committed to this co-operation. Our commitment is to protect every innocent Nationalist and Unionist man, woman and child in this island — without exception. While I can understand that Unionists might, in a moment of emotion and confusion, criticise the agreement for implications which they mistakenly read into it, it is not acceptable that our State and our security forces who have sacrificed life and limb in their opposition to subversives, should be so falsely and so unworthily traduced.

It was also distressing to hear long-serving politicians uttering words, only thinly qualified by circumlocution, which effectively threatened violence against innocent people in this State, innocent [192] shoppers visiting the North and honourable public servants carrying out the tasks set for them by the British and Irish Governments. These words did not represent the decent man and woman of the Unionist tradition — of that I am absolutely certain. These words only demeaned those who uttered them.

In this part of Ireland the people, while they have consistently deplored the excesses of Unionism in the treatment of a minority, have always recognised and taken a vicarious pride in the great qualities of Northern Protestants — their loyalty, their probity, their humanity, their capacity for honest hard work. We do not regard Unionists as our enemies; we wish to regard them as our friends. As we have said repeatedly, we would reject with outrage any suggestion that we seek or have sought through this agreement anything for Nationalists beyond justice and equality.

At this point I want to make one thing absolutely clear. The agreement and the communique stand on their merits. There are no secret agreements and no hidden agendas. When we started this negotiation both sides insisted that this was the principle on which they were acting and both have fulfilled this understanding in complete good faith. Let there be no ambiguity on this crucial point. The transparency of the agreement is an essential prerequisite to its future acceptance by the parties most intimately affected.

Let me now add that both sides are determined that the agreement will work. That was demonstrated as clearly yesterday in the House of Commons as it was in the Dáil last week when we addressed ourselves to this accord. We will implement all parts of it wholeheartedly, we and the British Government. No one should imagine that we will do less.

Having expressed the just resentment which we feel against the groundless abuse hurled at us by some Unionist leaders, I want to ask ordinary Unionists to read this agreement, which has been published in Northern as well as Southern newspapers. They will see, if they read Article 1 in particular, that, while as Nationalists we retain our aspiration to [193] Irish unity achieved by free consent and agreement, we repudiate formally, and do so now in an international agreement, any question of seeking the unity of this island otherwise than with the consent of a majority in Northern Ireland.

This is no longer just a unilateral commitment of a British Parliament which because of the nature of the British Constitution cannot bind its successors and cannot, therefore, offer a total re-assurance to Unionists who have feared that Northern Ireland might at some time be forced into a United Ireland against the will of a majority in that area. It is now a binding commitment in an international agreement. In time Unionists will see through the fog of confusion being generated around this agreement and will come to understand the value to them of what has been done. This is not merely an assurance of good intentions. It is a commitment that this State will not be a party to any attempt to constrain the people of Northern Ireland against the will of a majority to any change in the status of Northern Ireland. Unionists who, following the publication of the Forum report, criticised that report because the Forum did not acknowledge the current reality, which is that a majority in Northern Ireland are against change, should be reassured by the acceptance of that fact by our Government in the context of the re-affirmation of the principle of consent being required for any change in the status of Northern Ireland.

I want this message to get through. I want it to penetrate the emotion and the fear into which some political leaders in Northern Ireland have sought to plunge the Unionist population in the period before and immediately after the signature of this agreement. And to those Unionists who believe that we are seeking a role in Northern Ireland akin to that of a Trojan horse, I ask them to read those sections of this agreement, which have been included in it on the proposal of our Government, providing that, if devolved Government within Northern Ireland can be agreed upon, the Inter-Governmental Conference now being established shall no longer have any competence in those [194] areas affected by devolution. I have been very struck in the week or so since the agreement was signed by the repeated expression of views by Unionists both publicly and privately that the agreement in some way is going to be inimical to devolution, that once it is signed and once we have a toe in the door we will not take it out, that once it is signed the SDLP will no longer have an incentive to participate in devolution. This is absolutely false. We have designed the agreement to provide an incentive to devolution. The SDLP, through its leader, John Hume, in the House of Commons yesterday, committed himself firmly to this. He held out to Unionists across the floor of the House of Commons the hand of friendship and offered to sit down with them and work out with them, now or at any time, how such devolution can be secured. The belief that in some way this agreement is an obstacle to devolution is absolutely false. It is designed to have the opposite effect and that commitment has been given by our Government and has been given by the Leader of the SDLP. That, too, needs to be made clear.

I want to say to the Unionists of Northern Ireland, as someone who has always been concerned for both communities in that part of the island, that what has motivated me, and our Government, most powerfully towards seeking and securing this agreement with the British Government has been the objective of ending the alienation of the minority in Northern Ireland. We have sought this for its own sake because that alienation reflects the effects of injustices, injustices over many decades, but also because, if that alienation can be ended, the terrorists of the IRA, who are the scourge of the minority population, the Nationalist population themselves, and who have also the objective to maim and murder members of the Unionist community in the hope of bludgeoning them into submission, will suffer such a profound rejection among the minority in Northern Ireland that those terrorists will no longer be able to continue their bloody campaign.

The Northern Ireland poll published in [195] The Sunday Times of 24 November shows that whatever misgivings ordinary people may have about this agreement — and it is natural that they should have some misgivings — half of the Nationalist community and one-third of the population as a whole in Northern Ireland believe the agreement will draw support away from the men of violence. That is precisely the hope and belief the British Prime Minister and I want to give to ordinary people in Northern Ireland. I know we can build on this new hope and belief and can create a basis for political progress. The reaction, as I have learned of it, among the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland reflects already the kind of movement we have sought to induce. The reports we have had directly from people on the ground show that the Nationalists recognise the value of what is being done, that they wish to respond to it and, that just as we hoped would be the case, many people who have allowed themselves to be drawn to support Sinn Féin as a political party at election time have reconsidered their position. Many of them have come individually to members of the SDLP to say that they think this is a good agreement and that their support for Sinn Féin is something which they will now look at again. Already, the first effects of what we sought to achieve are being seen on the ground.

Through this agreement all the people of this island, together with the people of our neighbouring island, Britain, can join together, not merely to confront terrorism by measures of security — though this we shall do together by joint action of the most effective kind — but also, and in the long run perhaps more importantly, by undermining the very basis of support for these evil men who seek to destroy society in Northern Ireland. Their objective, as we in this State know well, is ultimately to destabilise our State also and to establish throughout this island the kind of reign of intimidation and terror which they have already brought to bear in many parts of Northern Ireland. We shall fight the battle [196] against these terrorists to the utmost of our power, for ultimately our survival as a democracy is at stake as well as peace in Northern Ireland. In this we — and I believe in saying this I speak for all parties represented in the Oireachtas — make common cause with all the people of Northern Ireland of both communities who abhor violence and terrorism; and I ask them to make common cause with us.

The Nationalist minority in Northern Ireland, led by John Hume, Seamus Mallon, Austin Currie, Eddie McGrady, Joe Hendron, Senator Brid Rogers and the rest of that courageous team, upon whom the survival of the democratic system in that part of our island has depended for so long, are now sustained by the knowledge that henceforth the Irish Government will be playing an effective role in removing the causes of Nationalist alienation, and will be playing that role not from a distance, but in Northern Ireland itself, in its capital city Belfast. The leaders of the Nationalist people in the North have given their wholehearted support to what we have done in negotiating and signing this agreement.

But they, and those whom they represent, are potentially at risk if this agreement is successfully misrepresented or widely misunderstood amongst the Unionist community, enabling evil men — and there are just as evil men in that community as in the IRA and INLA — to incite violence against the Nationalist minority in the weeks and months ahead. That is why we must try to convey our convictions, and our sincerity, to the Unionist people of Northern Ireland. That is why I have taken some of their leaders to task for their misrepresentations of this agreement.

The Government, together with the British Government, have sought painstakingly, employing every resource of knowledge and imagination they possess, to find the optimal way forward between the dangers that beset us on either side: the danger of Nationalist alienation overflowing into such widespread tolerance of or support for the IRA as to risk [197] an escalation of violence by the terrorists of the persuasion; and the alternative risk of so destabilising the Unionist population as to create the danger of an escalation of violence by the other terrorists in the loyalist camp. I believe we have, together, come as near as is humanly possible to achieving the right balance at this time.

Before coming to the actual content of the agreement, let me now go back a few years to the origins of the process which culminated at Hillsborough on Friday week. I need not recount to this House the history of the years from 1969 onwards, filled with dramatic and tragic events. Let me start with the failure of the power-sharing experiment that was the product of the tripartite Conference at Sunningdale. The years that followed the destruction of that unique attempt to bring representatives of the two communities to work together in undertaking devolved executive functions in Northern Ireland, led to a vacuum. Repeated attempts were made by successive British Governments, almost half a dozen I think, to fill this vacuum, but all of them failed. And with each failure the alienation of the minority from the system of government of Northern Ireland intensified. Faced with the resolute refusal of the political representatives of the Unionist majority to contemplate any form of participation in executive power for the representatives of the minority, an increasing proportion of that minority began to despair of the constitutional process itself. And increasingly those who retained faith in constitutional politics looked towards this State to find some way to break this deadlock.

The Hillsborough Agreement rests on twin pillars — the maintenance of the aspiration to Irish unity, as a legitimate objective of Irish Nationalism on the one hand now recognised formally as such by the British Government in this binding agreement and the acceptance of the need for the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland for any change in the status of that area on the other, also recognised formally in this binding agreement. These pillars are the [198] construction of successive Governments and not this Government alone, as we have made clear. Upon them we have built a firmer and wider stage on which political leaders in Northern Ireland will have a better chance to find agreement.

It was the clear view of this Government from the outset and is a view that I formed myself during 1982, that in the situation that had come into existence in Northern Ireland by the end of 1981 it would be impossible to end the alienation of the minority from the structures of Government and from the security and judicial systems, unless there existed within the structures of the Government of Northern Ireland a significant role for the Irish Government, towards which the Nationalist minority in Northern Ireland look — just as the Unionist majority look to the Government of the United Kingdom.

It was in that conviction that I proposed the establishment of the Forum, a concept which indeed had been put forward by John Hume some months earlier at the end of 1981 in a slightly different form. It was on that basis the Forum was established. It was on that basis that the Forum worked and it was on the basis of the conclusions of the Forum, the principles set out in paragraph 5.2, that this agreement has been brought up. As I pointed out in the other House, and I shall not repeat it here, almost every word of those principles drawn up by the four Nationalist parties, set out in paragraph 5.2, are to be found in the preamble to the agreement. The preamble to the agreement is based most closely on those principles.

It says much for the combined wisdom and generosity of the four Nationalist parties, working together on the Forum that the principles they devised and which they proposed as the basis for progress — indeed the only actual proposals set out in that report, if the report is carefully read they can be seen quite clearly — have stood the test so well that a British Government have been able to agree with us on a binding international agreement, the preamble of which is based so completely and almost verbatim on the [199] principles established by the four Nationalist parties. That achievement has been underestimated. I do not think people, even in our own country, yet recognise just how well the Forum worked and just how far we went towards redefining the objectives of Irish Nationalism and the means of achieving them in a manner that made progress possible, whereas up to that time, because we had not thought through our position, we had not created a basis upon which it was possible for an agreement to be made so that progress might be achieved in bringing the minority in Northern Ireland into the system from which they have been alienated for the last 65 years.

I believe the debate which has so far taken place inside and outside the Dáil has shown that people, especially young people, are impatient with legalistic arguments that are strained beyond anything that could be regarded as sensible and which ignore the practical need to bring improvements in the lot of all the people of Northern Ireland. Yet, I want to make it clear that the Government have been authoritatively advised that Article 1 of the agreement is entirely constitutional, and of course it goes without saying that the Government would not otherwise have entered into this agreement.

We are dealing, and we have to deal, with the facts, the fact is that no sane person would wish to attempt to change the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of a majority of its people. That would be a recipe for disaster and could, I believe, lead only to a civil war that would be destructive of the life of people throughout our island. All parties in the Dáil and Seanad repudiate violence, or the threat of violence, as a means of attaining our national aspiration. Nonetheless, the value of this affirmation in this agreement, as approved by the Dáil and by the Westminister Parliament as it will, I believe, today, and then ratified, is not to be underestimated as an eventual stabilising factor in the Northern Ireland situation, whatever [200] may be the turbulence that exists at present in one of the communities there on this subject.

This affirmation involves no diminution of the Nationalist aspiration, which has indeed, as I shall have occasion to point out later, been incorporated specifically in the third paragraph of the preamble to this agreement, and has been given formal recognition there by the Government of the United Kingdom. For our aspiration to the political unity of this island is, as a matter of political and moral principle, conditional on the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. We do not, and could not, seek to attain this aspiration against the wishes of a majority of the people of that part of our island, as was recognised by Deputy Haughey and his Government in May 1980.

But while this provision in the agreement diminishes in no way the Nationalist aspiration to unity, and, of its very nature cannot affect our Constitutional position, the third clause of Article 1 of the agreement advances that aspiration significantly. For in that clause, the British Government, as well as the Irish Government, declare that if in the future a majority of the people of Northern Ireland clearly wish for and formally consent to the establishment of a united Ireland they will introduce and support in their respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish. I would refer Senators to the words used by the British Prime Minister on this point in the House of Commons yesterday, which were significant in their formulation. The commitment in this clause to introduce such legislation is the first clear affirmation in any binding Anglo-Irish Agreement since 1921 that Britain has no interest in the continuing division of this island and that its presence in this island, undertaking the responsibility of government in Northern Ireland, continues solely because this is the wish of a majority of the people of that area, and will not continue beyond the point where that consent is changed into consent to Irish unity.

A major part of the negotiations with [201] the British Government was devoted to the result contained in Article 2 (b) of the agreement in which the British Government accept that the Irish Government will put forward views and proposals on matters relating to Northern Ireland within the field of activity of the Conference, in so far as those matters are not the responsibility of a devolved administration in Northern Ireland. The British Government agree moreover that, in the interest of promoting peace and stability, determined efforts shall be made through the Conference to resolve any differences. The range of issues that are within the field of activity of the Conference are described in the communiqué as political, security, legal, economic, social and cultural, namely most of the matters in respect of which the public authorities of a State exercise responsibility.

When the new Inter-governmental Conference meets at ministerial level, as it will soon do, it will be presided over by an Irish Minister designated as the Permanent Irish Ministerial Representative, and by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Senators will be aware of the decision to designate the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Barry, as the first Permanent Irish Ministerial Representative and Joint Chairman.

Senators will also be aware that within the framework of this Conference other Irish or British Ministers may hold or attend meetings as appropriate; that when legal matters arise for consideration, the Attorneys General may attend; and that Ministers may be accompanied by their officials and their professional advisers so that, for example, when questions of economic or social policy or co-operation are being discussed, Ministers may be accompanied by officials of the relevant Departments, or when questions of security policy or security co-operation are being discussed, they may be accompanied by the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána and the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. And the Conference will, of course, be serviced [202] on a continuing basis by a secretariat to be established by the two Governments, in Belfast, where the Conference itself will normally meet.

The terms of reference of this Conference, as set out in Article 4 of the agreement are that is shall be a framework within which the two Governments work together for the accommodation of the rights and identities of the two traditions which exist in Northern Ireland, and for peace, stability and prosperity throughout the island of Ireland by promoting reconciliation, respect for human rights, co-operation against terrorism, and the development of economic, social and cultural co-operation. Those terms of reference represent a noble aspiration. The objectives are ones to which all civilised people can give their adherence. The importance of this Conference can be seen from the fact that those are its terms of reference.

The responsibilities of the Conference will extend to the whole range of matters mentioned earlier. Both Governments support the policy of devolution of certain matters within the powers of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on a basis which would secure widespread acceptance throughout the community, namely on a basis of power-sharing or participation at executive level. To the extent that devolution on this basis proves practicable, and I hope and believe it will, the Conference will obviously not have to concern itself with these matters. But should it prove impossible to achieve devolution on a basis which secures widespread acceptance in Northern Ireland, or if devolution once achieved is not sustained, the Conference will be, or will once again become, a framework within which the Irish Government may, where the interests of the minority community are significantly or especially affected, put forward views on proposals for major legislation and on major policy issues which are within the purview of the Northern Ireland Departments and which remain the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

We strongly hope that devolution will be achieved on a basis of widespread [203] acceptance across the two communities. If it is achieved, we will gladly withdraw from the devolved areas. It is important to understand, however, that even in the event of devolution the Conference will still be concerned with issues of particular interest and sensitivity to the Nationalist minority in Northern Ireland. These include measures to recognise and to accommodate the rights and identities of the two traditions, including measures to foster the cultural heritage of both traditions, measures to protect human rights and to prevent discrimination, changes in electoral arrangements, the use of flags and emblems, the avoidance of economic and social discrimination and consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of a bill of rights in some form in Northern Ireland. It will consider the security situation in Northern Ireland, both addressing policy issues, and considering serious incidents and forthcoming events, including parades and marches. It will also be concerned with the relations between the security forces and the community, establishing a programme of special measures to improve these relations, with the object, in particular, of making the security forces more readily acceptable to the Nationalist community.

The communiqué issued at Hillsborough makes clear that at its very first meeting the Conference will be considering the application of the principle that the armed forces, which include the Ulster Defence Regiment, operate only in support of the civil power, with the particular objective of ensuring as rapidly as possible that, save in the most exceptional circumstances, there is a police presence in all operations which involve direct contact with the community. The Conference will also at this first meeting consider ways of underlining the policy that the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the armed forces in Northern Ireland, discharge their duties even-handedly, and with equal respect for the Unionist and Nationalist identities and traditions which are now given equal value and to both of which equally the institutions, [204] including the security forces in Northern Ireland, must apply themselves.

Moreover, the Conference may consider policy issues relating to prisons, as well as individual cases involving prisoners, so that information can be provided or inquiries instituted.

All these matters, together with the possible harmonisation of the criminal law applying in the North and in the South respectively and measures to give substantial expression to the aim of ensuring public confidence in the administration of justice, considering inter alia the possibility of mixed courts in both jurisdictions for the trial of certain offences, will be the responsibility of the Conference, and will under the terms of this agreement remain so, even in the event of devolution.

At its first meeting, the Conference will also consider its future programme of work in all the fields — political, security, legal, economic, social and cultural — assigned to it under the agreement. It will concentrate at its initial meetings, both on ways of enhancing security co-operation between the two Governments, and on relations between the security forces and the minority community in Northern Ireland, as well as seeking measures which would give substantial expression to the aim of underlining the importance of public confidence in the administration of justice. The communiqué adds that in the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland, the two sides are committed to work for early progress in these matters, and against this background I have said that it is the intention of my Government to accede as soon as possible to the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism.

Other matters covered by the agreement include the functions of our Government with regard to putting forward views and proposals on the role and composition of a number of bodies in Northern Ireland, including the Police Authority for Northern Ireland, the Police Complaints Board, the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Fair Employment Agency and the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights.

[205] Also included is the whole area ot cross-Border co-operation, not merely in relation to security, but also in relation to promoting the economic and social development of those areas of both parts of Ireland which have suffered most severely from the consequences of the instability of recent years. Provision is made for the two Governments to consider the possibility of securing international support for this work, and this aspect of the agreement has already attracted interest and a promise of tangible support from the Government and Congress of the United States. Other indications of similar interest have come from a number of other Governments in Europe — both in the community and elsewhere in western Europe — and from other countries overseas.

There are two other matters to which I must refer before concluding this analysis of the agreement. These are the provision for a review by the two Governments of the working of the Conference at the end of three years, or earlier if requested by either Government, to see whether any changes in the scope and nature of its activities are desirable, and the indication, for the first time, of a readiness by both Governments to lend support to an Anglo-Irish parliamentary body of the kind referred to in the Anglo-Irish Studies Report of November 1981. This last matter is, or course, one for this House itself, and Dáil Éireann, to consider. There is evidence already from the debate in the British House of Commons that there is a will to give consideration to it in that body as I am sure also in the House of Lords.

There are indications of widespread support in the British Parliament for the establishment of such a body and there have been for some time past. They found vocal expression yesterday and I am sure the same will be true today. I would hope that in the period ahead our two Parliaments can agree on such an initiative, which I believe will be a constructive development for it will give to the Opposition parties and to parties in Northern Ireland, in addition to the two Governments, [206] a role with respect to the whole range of Anglo-Irish relations, including naturally those to which I have just been referring.

I should tell the Seanad that this agreement will enter into force on the date on which the two Governments exchange notifications of their acceptance of this agreement, which will follow shortly after the approval of this agreement here and at Westminster, where the agreement is now being debated, a debate which will conclude today. Like all international agreements this one, must, of course, be registered with the United Nations under the mandatory requirement of Article 102 of the charter of that body.

This agreement is not an end in itself. It is a framework for progress, which must be worked with understanding and goodwill by all parties to it, if we are to achieve the results of which it is capable, namely, an end to the alienation of the minority in Northern Ireland from the processes of government, and progress towards peace, stability and reconciliation between the two communities in this island which have been for so long so bitterly divided. I have no illusions, and would not wish by any word of mine, or by omission, to convey that I have any illusions about the difficulties that this will entail. In many ways this agreement represents not so much the culmination of a process of intricate and complex negotiation — although it is that, of course — as the beginning of a difficult, and — let us face it — even dangerous, process of implementation.

Quite apart from the normal hazards that such a process will inevitably face, given the room for legitimate divergences of views on how various issues and problems should be handled, there may well be deliberate attempts to contrive situations that will test the capacity and the will of the two Governments to agree on how contentious matters should be dealt with. We have seen signs of these attempts. It will require not merely good faith, which I believe exists on both sides, but good judgment and good luck to withstand the pressures to which this process will be subjected. I can understand that [207] some people including Senator Robinson have doubts about this difficult enterprise and where these doubts — clearly true in her case — are genuinely felt they must be respected by us all. But so much hangs on the joint ability of the two Governments to resolve these issues that, with God's help, we must, I believe surmount all these obstacles.

Before I conclude, I would like to say something about the roots of the problem this agreement has set out to treat. In somewhat different ways, members of both communities in Northern Ireland, whose memories go back beyond the beginning of the present cycle of violence, have suffered over many decades from the situation in which they found themselves following the events of 65 years ago.

Northern Nationalists from 1920 onwards found themselves part of a State with which they could not identify and the institutions of which were alien to them and appeared in many ways to be designed to make them strangers in their own land — in the island in which their ancestors had lived for several millenia. Nationalists suffered from a sense of second-class citizenship, and were discriminated against in housing and employment, in ways that drove many of them to withold their allegiance from the system of government and others to emigrate, who might, in different and more equitable circumstances, have been able to remain in their own land.

But Unionists suffered also albeit in a different way. Of course, for half a century they controlled the levers of power, and those levers were moved so as to ensure for that community a dominant position in the society of Northern Ireland. That this happened reflected however — and we must have sufficient insight to understand this — a sense of fear leading to a siege mentality, arising from finding themselves in a corner of an island in the greater part of which the Nationalist population, after centuries of subordination to external rule, were at last accorded the power to which their numbers were entitled. In a sense, unlike [208] many people in this part of Ireland, the Unionist population of Northern Ireland never really accepted psychologically the division of this island; they never felt secure about this division, or accepted in their heart of hearts that it afforded them the protection which they felt they needed against an ethos which to them was alien, and appeared threatening.

These fears diminished them; it led them into ways of thinking and of acting, that did less than justice to the fundamental generosity of spirit which they share with those on this island who belong to the other, Nationalist, tradition.

These are the facts. It is our task, and we now have an opportunity to undertake it, to attempt to heal these divisions, to remove the alienation of one community, and to still the fears of the other. This is an opportunity we should grasp. Towards that end I believe that we must tackle aspects of our constitutional laws which represent an impediment to the establishment here of a pluralist society upon which basis alone we can credibly propose to Northern Unionists in time a coming together in peace and by agreement and free consent of the two parts of Ireland. I shall have occasion to return to this matter again. It is one on which I have already in October 1981 presented my views to this House. It is in this spirit that I commend the Hillsborough Agreement to the Seanad.

Mr. Lanigan: I move amendment No. 1:

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

“having regard to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland;

recalling the unanimous Declaration of Dáil Éireann adopted on the joint proposition of An Taoiseach, John A. Costello and the Leader of the Opposition, Eamon de Valera, on 10 May 1949 solemnly reasserting the indefeasible right of the Irish Nation to the unity and integrity of the national territory; [209] recalling that all the parties in the New Ireland Forum were convinced that a united Ireland in the form of a sovereign independent state would offer the best and most durable basis for peace and stability;

reaffirming the unanimous conclusion of the report of the New Ireland Forum that the particular structure of political unity which the Forum would wish to see established is a unitary state achieved by agreement and consent, embracing the whole island of Ireland and providing irrevocable guarantees for the protection and preservation of both the unionist and nationalist identities;

while recognising the urgent need that exists for substantial improvement in the situation and circumstances of the nationalist section of the community in the North of Ireland and approving any effective measures which may be undertaken for that purpose, refuses to accept any recognition of British sovereignty over any part of the national territory;

and requests the Government to call upon the British Government to join in convening under the joint auspices of both governments a constitutional conference representative of all the traditions in Ireland to formulate new constitutional arrangements which would lead to uniting all the people of Ireland in peace and harmony.”

We abhor violence just as much as anybody else on this island abhors violence. We are very cognisant of the fact that many thousands of Irish men and English men have died in the North of Ireland over the past number of years and that many thousands of people have been maimed in both mind and body. We have cried with the relatives of people who have died and been maimed. We do not in any way condone the violence of the various militia whether they be [210] Nationalist or Unionist. Nor do we condone the institutionalised violence of the State in Northern Ireland by her armed forces, police or part time militia or her violence towards the Nationalists in not giving a reasonable place in the areas of housing, employment and general social matters. We admire the efforts made by Nationalist politicians over the years to overcome the men of violence in their community. We respect the stance they are taking on the Hillsborough Agreement. We want emphatically to state that we will not hinder in any way the implementation of this agreement nor will we give any help to the men of violence by word or deed if they attempt in violence to overturn the agreement. We will not encourage the men of violence who have threatened the participants in the joint secretariat.

The very emotional speech of Senator O'Brien left us in no doubt as to the human tragedies behind each and every act of violence. The people of the North of Ireland have suffered for far too long. We, just as everyone else who were involved in this series of negotiations, hope that the agreement will be successful. Nevertheless the various elements which make up our amendment address themselves more realistically to the solution of the problems of the people of Northern Ireland and provides a more realistic approach towards the realisation of the aspirations of the Nationalist people in the whole of this country than does the agreement signed by the Taoiseach, Deputy Garret FitzGerald, and Prime Minister, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher. This agreement which was signed with such pomp and ceremony and which has been sold with all possible expertise by a British propaganda machine which for the past number of generations has been seen to work totally against the interests of the Nationalist people of Ireland. The Irish Government also mounted probably the largest ever PR operation on behalf of this agreement.

Lebanon has been written about as a fractured country and also as a fragile democracy. Unfortunately these appendages [211] could be added equally to the Irish situation. We indeed have a fractured country in Ireland and all our efforts should be addressed towards mending this fracture. But, of course, this agreement does not bring the mending process forward but reinforces the cracks and introduces elements which will put further strains on all of the community in Northern Ireland.

The Northern State has been put forward for many years by the British Government as being an integral part of the greatest democracy in the world but everyone now realises that she has not been able to effectively bring Northern Ireland into the democratic process because she has never given the Nationalist population in Northern Ireland a proper place in the social, economic and political life of that state. How fragile a democracy we have in Northern Ireland is again brought to the fore by virtue of the fact that the wishes of the Unionist people have been totally ignored. Even though we do not agree with the attitude of the Unionists towards their Northern neighbours of the Nationalist persuasion nor with their intransigent attitude towards movement on the political front which would create conditions which would give them a major role in the government of a unitary state we nevertheless must take their aspirations and political stances into account if we are democrats and if we are to have a genuine attempt to bring forward a realistic resolution of the Northern Ireland problem.

It has been suggested by many commentators that opposition to this agreement based on constitutional grounds are invalid and for some reason should not be raised in debate on this issue. It is our view, and indeed the view of many constitutional lawyers, that this agreement calls into question the very right and legal basis of our Constitution. The whole document contains acceptance of British sovereignty over Northern Ireland, of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom and that what must be done is to smooth out the difficulties which the British Government [212] encounter in ruling that part of our country which they consider as part of their kingdom. Commentators, both here and abroad, and Government spokesmen, both in Ireland and in Great Britain, allude to the fact that this agreement because it is to be registered at the United Nations is a binding legal document and that it gives the Unionists a guarantee that they did not have before. The agreement created binding legal obligations. Unless we renegotiate article 1 the Irish State precludes itself from ever raising the issue of Irish unity at an international conference or judicial tribunal in the future.

It is suggested that this agreement gives guarantees to the Unionists that they did not have before. If this is so it means that the British Government must have found some flaw in her own constitutional position in the North, as she has always said that constitutional change could not take place without the consent of the majority of the people in the North of Ireland. The situation of course, as far as the Irish Government is concerned, has changed utterly with the signing. Our Constitution is quite simple in its langauge and quite specific in what it says in that the national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and territorial seas. This agreement confirms the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom and this will seriously damage in the eyes of the world Ireland's historical legitimate claim to the unity of her territory. If there is anyone who is in doubt that this is not so, even the most cursory glance at all newspaper and magazine reports at local and international level would confirm our fears in this regard. Indeed in the final sentence of the Taoiseach's speech it is further confirmed when he said that now he must address himself to constitutional changes, constitutional changes which he said that he had already initiated in 1980. This is the kernel of the argument that we are putting forward. It would seem again that this agreement attempts to override the constitutional position on unity as it effectively gives the Unionists a veto over any changes, [213] whereas it takes away from the Irish people the right to challenge the agreement in court. In the London High Court this week it was stated that an international treaty could not be challenged through court procedures.

The agreement for the first time gives a legitimacy to the partition of our country and this is recognised by the Government in the Republic. The guarantee of the British to the Unionists has been reinforced by the Irish Government and the Government is also endorsing the British military and political presence in Ireland. In an indirect way the agreement overrules totally the results of the New Ireland Forum debate. The New Ireland Forum was established in 1983 with the express purpose of finding a way in which lasting peace and stability could be achieved in a new Ireland through the democratic process. The views of all the democratic parties in this country were contacted, even though some did not respond, and many thousands of excellent documents were placed before the Forum. The position of all the people in Ireland was addressed and their fears and hopes were taken into account when the final document was produced. It stated that a united Ireland in the form of a sovereign independent Irish State to be achieved peacefully and by consent was the best and most durable basis for peace and stability and that a unitary State would embrace the whole island of Ireland governed as a single unit under one government and one parliament elected by all the people of the island.

The Forum took into account the need to accommodate both Nationalists' and Unionists' traditions but this agreement fails in the most basic way in that the wishes of neither Unionists nor Nationalists were properly addressed nor were the aspirations of the majority of the people in Ireland considered. Since this agreement was signed nothing has changed for the Northern Protestants, who will keep insisting on the maintenance of the union with Britain. Indeed this situation has been well stated by them in the past number of days. This intransigent stance of the Unionists should have been well [214] known in advance and, of course, if the Unionists should decide not to take part in the various organs of State in the North it will become more and more difficult for the Government in Britain to maintain any semblance of a democratic State in the North of Ireland.

One of the main problems that we see when we analyse the documentation on the agreement is that article 5 (a) states:

The conference shall concern itself with measures to recognise and accommodate the rights and identities of the two traditions in Northern Ireland, to protect human rights and to prevent discrimination. Matters to be considered in this area include measures to foster cultural heritage of both traditions, changes in electoral arrangements, the use of flags and emblems, the avoidance of economic and social discrimination and the advantages and disadvantages of a Bill of Rights in some form in Northern Ireland.

There is nothing in the article which gives much hope that we will see advancement in these areas. It equally states in 5 (b) that:

The discussion of these matters shall be mainly concerned with Northern Ireland, but the possible application of any measures pursuant to this Article by the Irish Government in their jurisdiction shall not be excluded.

This gives a peculiarity in rights in the sense that it mentions such political items as changes in electoral arrangements. I just wonder how can changes in electoral arrangements in the South of Ireland be discussed between the Governments of Great Britain and Ireland in some form in the North of Ireland. In this clause we have the very laudable aspiration of having measures included to foster cultural heritage of both traditions.

Article 5 (c) again places major doubts on the reason for having this agreement signed as it makes it quite specific that if it should prove impossible to achieve and sustain devolution on a basis which secures widespread acceptance in Northern [215] Ireland, the Irish Government then may only put forward views on proposals for major legislation and on major policy issues which are within the purview of the Northern Ireland Departments and which remain the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. This section adds nothing to the situation as it exists at present as this has been happening through ministerial meetings on a regular basis over many years.

Again one of the flaws in article 6 is that while it mentions all the areas which have been of particular concern to the Nationalist population — fair employment, human rights, equal opportunity, the police authority and the police complaints board — the Irish Government may only put forward views and proposals on these matters and will have to say in their final composition.

One of the major problems that we see with articles 5 and 6 is that these are all items which any democratic Government should have been dealing with without the need for the very minor intrusion of another government into these matters. We would have gone along totally with these aspects of any agreement between the Governments. If teeth had been given to the Irish Government in these matters the Irish Government could have ensured the fair and equitable operation of all the bodies mentioned at articles 5 and 6.

Article 7 is to be the kerbstone or foundation stone of this agreement. It is in the three areas mentioned in this section that the greatest difficulties arise. Of course, the British Government would like to have their responsibilities in the area of security policy, relations between the security forces and the community and prisons policy shared with the Irish Government because it is in these areas that Britain has shamed herself before world opinion. A nation which has proudly boasted of its interest in democracy, its adherence to a pluralist and nonracial society, has never given a semblance of justice to the Nationalist minority in the North. We have, for example, the Diplock courts and the treatment of [216] Irish families in Britain as recently highlighted by the Maguire family case. The Irish Government will now have responsibility with Britain to set up a programme of special measures to improve relations between the security forces and the community, in particular with the object of making the security forces more readily acceptable to the Nationalist community.

The Irish Government are going to be put into an impossible position in this regard or into a position which, it could be said, was paralleled in Britain when the community policing effort was set up. This has been seen to be an abject failure in the areas of the greatest social deprivation in Great Britain, the areas of high unemployment, of racial discrimination and bad housing. Parallels with the conditions of Nationalists in Northern Ireland abound.

Article 8 is an article which has been a hobby horse of the British Government for years, particularly in the areas of extradition and extra-territorial jurisdiction between North and South. We have heard bleatings from all sides of the political spectrum in Great Britain that we are the harbourers of murderers and criminals of all types. But there has never been an acknowledgement that the crime detection rate in matters of a political nature in the Republic is infinitely better than that which pertains in Northern Ireland. Recently, when in a massive burst of publicity a criminal was extradited in the middle of the night, even the judge in a judicial system which has disgraced itself again and again could not accept the trumped up charges levelled against him and he had to be re-extradited to the South. We will see the British Government trying to get changes made in our methods of policing which will have nothing to do with our normal practice methods but to bolster up the disgraceful lack of competence and credibility of the Ulster police forces.

There has been no change in Fianna Fáil's attitude to this agreement since the signing, nor will there be. We fully recognise that Nationalist politicians have given a certain degree of welcome [217] to this agreement. We have no quarrel with them for being of this opinion. But, of course, we do not belong to their party nor do they belong to our party. We must protect very carefully our heritage, handed down to us by our forebears in the party, and pass to the next generations a party which has as its main aim the reunification of the people of this island in peace and harmony embracing all the people of the country from whatever background they come. We would be delighted if we could stand up and genuinely support this agreement. We would do so if we saw that it would lead to peace, stability and reconciliation. We would have absolutely no hesitation in agreeing if there were going to be, amongst other things, the disbandment of the UDR, the ending of supergrass trials, the banning of plastic bullets and the end of strip searching. It would be easy for us to stand up here today and agree with the vast majority of political pundits and a large number of the public and give this agreement an approval which it does not deserve. It was important that in this debate that some, if not all, of the pitfalls of the agreement were placed on record. We will never sacrifice the entire basis of constitutional nationalism on the altar of an agreement which breaches sovereignty and legitimises partition and the British presence in Ireland. I move the amendment.

Mr. Lynch: I formally second the amendment and reserve the right to speak at a later stage.

Mr. McGonagle: On behalf of the Labour Party I welcome the Anglo-Irish Agreement, 1985, now commonly described as the Hillsborough Agreement. It is a sincere effort to break out of a seemingly impossible political situation riddled with the violence of the bomb and the bullet, murder and cruelty. It would be a very wise man indeed who could cliam that the agreement has all the answers to the terrible problems afflicting the people of Ireland. It should be regarded as a start of a process, a means towards an end, the objective peace and [218] stability. When the critics have finished — and constructive criticism is always welcome — there is this to be said that the weight of responsibility of both Governments, Irish and British, is so great that after these 16 years of apparent political stagnation to do nothing could only be described as an act of criminal negligence.

The first significant element I see is that the agreement was entered into freely by both Governments. The element of duress was and is absent. For that reason alone it is worthy of closer consideration than it is now getting. This applies more especially to the Unionists' examination of it who apparently feel most deeply offended by its terms. The second point I would make is that it is quite clearly aimed at the restoration of democratic values and standards in Northern Ireland and within that territory whatever about the overspill into the Irish Republic. I would seriously suggest that it should be regarded as a joint operation undertaken by both Governments confronted with the erosion of democracy by violence. Destabilisation is the objective of those who use violence for political ends.

After the nightmare of 16 years all the people of the North should welcome the offer of assistance from the Irish Government in a joint effort with the British Government to set going a process to restore democracy to Northern Ireland. It is not and it should not be interpreted as a process leading to a united Ireland. Read properly this matter is dealt with by the application of the principle of consent, agreed and spelt out time after time by all constitutional parties in Ireland. Unionist leadership approaches are less than responsible. Their political supporters are not made fully aware that the agreement contains British and Irish guarantees. Unionist leaders complain from time to time about the lack of consultation. They are now consulting with their political camp followers and they are not telling the truth. The British and Irish guarantees are very simple. They follow the pattern of the Northern Ireland Constitutional Act, 1973:

There shall be no change in the position [219] of Northern Ireland unless and with the consent of the majority of the people.

That phraseology has been amended in the phraseology now used in the terms of the agreement because of the deficiency in so far as it failed to state clearly that a mechanism would be set up and effective legislation would be introduced to implement the wishes of the majority. It may well be that that is what the Unionists are afraid of. The Unionist leadership will not say that that is what they are afraid of for the very simple reason they would appear to be inconsistent, having claimed a democratic head count, in looking for a referendum and then to say that they would not accept that mechanism to be set up by both Governments to implement the desires of the majority.

I might add a note of warning. That should be looked at very closely. Whether a majority decision is in accord with agreement and consent. If these guarantees mean nothing to the Unionist leadership they might mean something to their people, provided the trouble is taken to explain what the guarantees mean. It is with regret, therefore, that I see the Unionist leadership on a course which seeks in their words “to make Northern Ireland ungovernable”. This can only lead to disaster and the worsening of an already bad situation. They are now persisting with this attitude on the same road as the men of violence — destabilisation.

I have read and reread the agreement and nowhere can I find a diminution of that section of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act, 1973, Part 1, under the heading “Status of Northern Ireland”. All these truths must be repeated and reiterated so that they get through in case there is a distance, a gap, between the Unionist leadership and the Unionist people. I quote: “It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom...and no change unless by the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland.” That is contained in [220] the Northern Ireland Constitution Act. 1973 which, I take it, the Unionists and their leaders accepted.

Furthermore, the constitutional political parties involved in the deliberations of the New Ireland Forum — Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fáil in the South and the SDLP in the North — have made it abundantly clear that any proposals towards a new Ireland, a unified Ireland, cannot be envisaged without the consent or agreement of the Unionist/Loyalist people of the North. There has to be a British and an Irish guarantee. Never were the two guarantees so plainly and clearly put. The Leadership of the Unionists are not putting these guarantees to their own people.

Article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement states:

(a) affirms that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of the majority of people of Northern Ireland.

I do not apologise for reiterating. These are the truths that are being withheld from the Unionist people by their leaders. This latter affirmation that I reiterate is now a joint guarantee — Irish and British — to the Unionist/Loyalist people of Northern Ireland. The peace-loving Nationalist communities North and South — and this is very important and significant — have also agreed to this commitment. We who aspire to the unification of the people of Ireland accept the principle of consent as the only basis of reconciliation, peace and stability.

Like my trade union and Labour colleagues, I am appalled at the waste of lives and resources arising from 16 years unrest and instability against everything we have stood for: the overall betterment of the working people of Ireland and the community at large, North and South. How much better off would we be if all those wasted assets were to be devoted to creative projects, the provision of work and the essentials of civilised living.

Fears held by Unionists that, despite the joint affirmations referred to, the physical presence and a say, by way of [221] representation on the part of the Irish Government, in the administration of the North would, in some way that is not clear to me, mean eventually a united Ireland are not well founded. They are not founded on fact and are unreasonably held when one considers that the agreement is regarded as an international treaty which cannot be lightly set aside.

The main thrust of the agreement is the restoration of democratic values and institutions so that people of both traditions will give their support and co-operation, provided these same institutions are seen to be activated in the service of all the people without bias or discrimination, on the basis of equality and fairness. The Unionist spokesmen face a test, one of leadership, to lead away from the rocks of destabilisation and anarchy on to the eminently sensible course of the restoration of true democratic values as envisaged in the agreement. They spurn the offer of assistance from Dublin at great risk. A joint operation is much more efficient than two separate operations. Closer co-ordination, better communications, less room for misunderstanding and a united effort out of these joint operations — that is what the Anglo-Irish Agreement means in the face of evil men pursuing destabilisation in both parts of the country, as already referred to.

Public debate and discussion are well under way. The problems — identified and agreed for resolution by political and peaceful means — as falling within the framework of Anglo-Irish discussions and decisions have, with notable exceptions, been accepted. The agreement is the result of those discussions.

The main theme is one of reconciliation, good faith, and again, in the words of the Taoiseach “no victors, no losers”. Hard nosed politicians and cynics will no doubt sneer at such sentiments while, at the same time, producing no solid alternatives. Indeed they are to be seen running away from the problems, deserting in the face of responsibility.

Since the terms of the agreement were freely entered into, I am taking it that [222] the Irish Government representatives volunteered to take part in the Intergovernmental Conference and face the responsibilities attaching to its membership and its operation by dealing with political matters, security and related matters, legal matters including the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. Of course, there are risks. There never was an operation like this without risks. It requires courage to face the risks. It requires support for the courageous men or women who are going to be involved in the physical presence in Northern Ireland.

I am sure serious thought was given to the risks involved, political and otherwise. In the interest of the end result — peace and stability in Northern Ireland — it matters little which side, the Irish or the British, are carrying the major portion of risk. I am not going to have a balance to weigh which shoulders are carrying the heavier risks. What matters is that both have stated firmly and without ambiguity what action is to be taken jointly. A courageous effort is required, one that should commend the respect and support from all concerned, especially the Unionist and Nationalist people of Northern Ireland who have borne the full force of the brutalities unleashed by undemocratic and unjust activities for 16 years.

Is it too much to ask that the proposals in the agreement get the full co-operation of all the people in the North for the three year period set out in Article 11? At the end of that period or earlier, as stated, a clearer picture of the effects of the work of the Conference should be seen. Then judgments may be made on the basis of whether or not progress has been made. It would appear to me that this is the sensible course of action.

I would remind those politicians of the North that one of the basic reasons underlying the agreement is that it has failed to produce an acceptable administration for Northern Ireland, some of whom promoted the collapse of an agreed administration in 1974. This is not to say that the opportunity to produce an administration [223] by way of devolved powers is not there. I quote from the preamble:

Reaffirming their commitment to a society in Northern Ireland in which all may live in peace, free from discrimination and intolerance, and with the opportunity for both communities to participate fully in the structures and processes of Government;

The following are words from Article 4:

It is the declared policy of the United Kingdom Government that responsibility in respect of certain matters within the powers of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland should be devolved within Northern Ireland on a basis which would secure widespread acceptance throughout the community. The Irish Government support that policy.

Those are words out of the agreement.

One may well ask at this stage, what do the Unionists find offensive? What is wrong with the agreement as an experiment? What is wrong with their thinking and reasoning qualities that they can actually dismiss with emotional phraseology efforts to bring peace and stability and democracy to Northern Ireland? There are then two developments, (1) the Inter-governmental Conference and (2) a devolved government for Northern Ireland. To put it briefly, the sooner the Northern politicians examine and deal in a responsible manner with the impediments to a devolved government and have it set up the sooner the Inter-governmental Conference will be reviewed in a new and healthier setting. The question of transfer of powers to the devolved government from the Conference, obviously, will come under review in that context.

In the context of the phraseology, the question of devolved government is dealt with in Article 5(c) and Article 10(b) which states:

If it should prove impossible to achieve and sustain devolution on a basis which secures widespread acceptance [224] in Northern Ireland, the Conference shall be a framework...

In other words, if devolutionary government fails to emerge the Conference continues to implement the proposals contained in the agreement in toto without having to transfer any of the responsibilities to such a government simply because it does not exist. If it does not exist the failure is on the politicians, the Unionist politicians, to face up to the situation.

I refer to these sections of Articles 5 and 10 to emphasise the commitments by both sovereign Governments which may not be fully understood by the people and which, in my view, point up the urgency and sense of responsibility and seriousness in the wording of the agreement. Drawing on my experience as a trade union and Labour activist all my life in Northern Ireland, and having had the unique experience of various public posts in Northern Ireland as an officer of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, and my former position as president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and working with my trade union colleagues North and South for the betterment of the Irish people, for the democratisation of institutions, I call on my trade union friends to continue with their efforts to promote understanding and dialogue at this time. Their voices are weighty and responsible. They will be heard and should be heard.

To the men of violence I say, “Can you not see that you have deepened divisions and probably created a permanent partition more solid than any Act of Parliament? You have entered the political arena, an eminently sensible step, and it should follow logically that you give up coercion by the gun. Your fellow Irish men and women in the North, the Unionist/Loyalist community have demonstrated firmly that they will not be gunned into a united Ireland. If they were to be so coerced can you not see that it would not be unity freely expressed?”

Finally, to my colleagues in the constitutional political parties, all of us. Labour, Conservative, Nationalist, [225] Republican, Socialist, North and South I say, political democracy has to be defended. None of us dare run away from that challenge.

Mrs. Robinson: Members of the House will know that the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement led to my resignation from the Labour Party of which I was a member for nine years. As a consequence I have changed sides of the House and speak once more from the Independent benches. It might, therefore, seem strange that I should begin my contribution to this debate by paying tribute to the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Barry, and their negotiating team for the untiring work and sustained efforts which they brought to bear on the negotiation and conclusion of the Hillsborough Agreement. I accept totally their motivation and commitment and that they believe this is a framework for creating peace and stability. That motivation and commitment was very clear in the fine speech made by the Taoiseach in this House today. Certainly, the agreement has broken the old mould. Nothing will ever be quite the same again in relations between the two Governments or in relations between the northern and southern parts of this island.

Before commenting further on the Anglo-Irish Agreement it is necessary for me to explain why I find I cannot endorse the agreement as a framework which could bring peace and stability to Northern Ireland and, furthermore, why I felt I had to go a further step and resign on the issue. Since my election in 1969 I have been particularly concerned with developments in Northern Ireland and I have had many occasions to participate in debates in this House, and elsewhere, on the subject. In my contributions I laid emphasis on two main factors, the importance of bringing about the necessary changes to the Constitution and social legislation in this part of Ireland in order to create a more pluralist and open society and, secondly, the importance of ensuring that any political developments affecting the North were brought about [226] with the involvement of the two communities there. I, therefore, warmly welcomed the initiative taken by the Taoiseach in October 1981 to launch the proposals for a constitutional crusade, and, as he mentioned, he launched them here in the Seanad. Indeed, I very much welcome the conclusion to his speech to the House today in which he departed from the published script, and indicated that he intends to relaunch or to take up that campaign.

I also supported the approach to the New Ireland Forum adopted by the Tánaiste, Dick Spring, in his opening address. I want to quote one part of it in which he said:

Broadly, I hope that the New Ireland Forum will work to create a programme for political development which will have cross-community support, and will unify Irish people in a tolerant and caring society.

I was privileged to participate in the deliberations of the Forum. Indeed, I asked to be included in the Labour group because I was very concerned about the potential dangers of a Nationalist Forum. I believe that the Labour group in the Forum played a significant part in ensuring that the final text — whilst clearly identifying the preferred options of the four Nationalist parties who participated — left the door open for consideration of other options if a fourth option proved to be a realistic framework for securing peace and stability in Northern Ireland and on the island as a whole.

Following the publication of the Forum report I became deeply concerned about two developments. First, the Taoiseach indicated that he regarded any constitutional or social change in the Republic as requiring to be placed in cold storage pending the outcome of discussions with the British Government on the Forum report. Secondly, those discussions were much more protracted, secretive and inter-Governmental than might have been anticipated. Gradually, but unmistakably the approach was taking shape. The same Garret FitzGerald who had objected publicly to the approach [227] adopted in the communiqué between the then Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, and Mrs. Thatcher in 1980 as constituting an attempt to resolve the Northern problem by the two sovereign governments over the heads of the communities within Northern Ireland was locked into secret negotiations to do precisely that.

Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien summed it up somewhat sharply when he said in The Irish Times of Tuesday, 19 November:

What distresses me is that what has been obtained by Garret FitzGerald is that at which Mr. Haughey is aiming: a deal between Dublin and London achieved over the heads of the majority in Northern Ireland against their known wishes, and to be imposed on them against their will. That is the deal that Mr. Haughey is aiming at, and that is the deal that Garret has got. I thought it was a rotten deal, while Mr. Haughey was trying for it, and I still think it's a rotten deal, even though it is Garret who has got it. It is rotten, and extremely dangerous, because it sets up rules for governing a population which are known to be repudiated by the representatives of the population.

The position was, if anything, worsened by the fact that the SDLP were known to have been kept informed by the Irish Government whereas the Northern Unionist parties were kept in the dark as, indeed, was Deputy Haughey and the largest party in the Republic. As tension mounted in the final weeks before the agreement was signed I tried, together with others in the Labour Party, to have the matter debated. It was on the agenda for successive parliamentary party meetings but, for a variety of reasons, it was not discussed. Eventually, the party leader indicated that he would consider it undesirable that a parliamentary party debate take place at that very late stage but he was available for private discussion with individual members of the parliamentary party. I accepted that offer and had a lengthy private discussion with the party leader at which I voiced many of my concerns. I felt I was listened to but [228] none of my fears were allayed. On the contrary.

In particular I expressed the belief that the framework proposed in so far as I knew it, would have all the weaknesses of the Sunningdale arrangement and none of its strengths on the ground in Northern Ireland. I pointed out that the Sunningdale Agreement had been acceptable to Brian Faulkner and a whole section of Northern Unionist opinion but that this arrangement would be unacceptable to all sections of Unionist opinion and not just to extremists.

When I read the text of the Anglo-Irish Agreement it confirmed my worst fears in that regard. It is true, as the Taoiseach has emphasised, that Article 1 (a) does affirm that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, but the problem is that the status of the people of Northern Ireland has been changed by this agreement without their knowledge, involvement or consent. The status has been changed by the manner in which they are now to be governed. The status has been changed by the clear indication in Article 1 (c) that there is no British interest in the North and that the British Government would introduce legislation as soon as a majority consents. As the Taoiseach pointed out, that is the first time that this has been so explicitly stated.

James Prior, in his contribution in the House of Commons yesterday, admitted that there was a change in the status of the majority community in Northern Ireland. He did not say that there was a change in the sovereignty of the British Government. That is a different matter. But there is a change in their status and I think it would be better for us to recognise that. If we recognise that there has been a change in their status we may understand some of the anger, bewilderment and resentment that the change has been brought about without either their involvement or consent. There is some point — it is not a complete analogy — in the argument they make that there would not have been a change in the [229] government of Scotland, by having devolution to Scotland, without the consent of the majority, or there would not have been devolution to Wales. It is not a precise analogy but it is close enough.

Another aspect of the text of the agreement is the importance of a four letter word. It is the four letter word “deal”. The agreement empowers the Inter-governmental Conference to “deal, as set out in this Agreement, with (i) political matters and (ii) security and related matters.” I find it difficult as a lawyer to think of a less precise legal term. The word “deal” as far as Dublin is concerned may have a very different significance from the word “deal” as far as London is concerned, which may be different again from the perspective of the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland and necessarily very different indeed from the perspective of the Unionist parties within Northern Ireland. Shakespeare might have said, “to deal or not to deal, that is the question”.

There is another matter in relation to the agreement which I want to comment on. I do not see any merit in the assertion by Deputy Haughey and, indeed, by Senator Lanigan here today, that this agreement infringes the Constitution. I note that Fianna Fáil are not prepared to test that in the courts. They are not prepared to put it to the test. It is not an argument which would stand ground and is not one which would be supported by constitutional lawyers. However, I feel that the agreement raises in a very direct way the question of the existing constitutional claim contained in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. In so far as the Taoiseach has so clearly stated prior to his speech today, and in his speech in this House, that he recognises the fears of the majority community, is he prepared to take steps to allay those fears by proposing an amendment to the wording of Articles 2 and 3? That, of course — as the House well knows — was recommended by the all-party committee on the Constitution in 1967. Would it be something that could be contemplated now? We need to ask ourselves that. Would it be possible to carry a constitutional [230] amendment changing the wording of Articles 2 and 3 in recognition of Northerners fears? I would suggest that it is not only in the North that attitudes have become more polarised.

Despite my grave misgivings, as I have outlined, about the wording of the agreement, it was a very serious and lonely step to disagree publicly with my Government not only on an internal matter but on the conclusion of an international agreement. I sought to disagree from within by expressing my views both at the Labour Party parliamentary meeting on Saturday 16 November and at the subsequent joint parliamentary meeting later that day. My views were clearly not popular and were heard in silence. However, I was very upset by the subsequent report of that joint parliamentary party meeting conveyed to the media, which clearly stated that the Anglo-Irish Agreement had been approved and endorsed unanimously by all present. This I could not accept. Nor did the gravity of the situation, and my deep fears relating to it, allow me to remain silent.

It was extremely important in my judgment to bring home to people here how unacceptable the approach and framework were to the bulk of the majority community in Northern Ireland. Having spoken out publicly and tendered my resignation I was surprised in fact at the response I received, in particular from those who contacted me either by telephone or by letter from Northern Ireland. The vast majority of those who contacted me were not Unionists or Unionist supporters but ordinary private citizens from the majority community who welcomed my stand because they were so convinced that the Hillsborough Agreement cannot work. These were private letters but it is important that the substance of them should be known to a wider audience and, in particular, to Members of the House.

The following extracts are a fair sample. A letter from woman in Stranmillis, Belfast, dated 18 November 1985 stated:

I am writing to thank you for your [231] resignation! I find it ironic that, in the present circumstances, the only effective representation I have should be through you.

You are, of course, absolutely right: people like myself who have lived and have roots in both parts of the country and have never voted Unionist, are totally, and I fear irrevocably, alienated by the way we have been treated by both British and Irish Governments.

We are bound to ask ourselves what sort of State we are living in where:

1. The wishes of probably 80% of the electorate (including Sinn Féin!) are over-ridden;

2. An agreement is reached with another State without consultation with the elected representatives of those who will have to live (or die) with the consequences;

3. The terms of that agreement are announced to the press before the electorate or their representatives are informed;

4. The composition, agenda and even meeting place of the new body are kept secret;

5. Any form of vote or referendum from those most deeply affected is ruled out in advance.

I have never taken part in any public demonstration, political or otherwise in my life but unless, as seems unlikely, there is some change in approach during the next two days, I — and I suspect many like me — will join whatever protest is organised next Saturday...

Professor Dooge: On a point of order, there is a division in the other House and Senator Robinson might prefer to interrupt her speech so that the Taoiseach will be able to hear all her contribution.

Sitting suspended at 12.35 p.m. and resumed at 12.40 p.m.

[232] An Cathaoirleach: Senator Robinson has approximately 15 minutes.

Mrs. Robinson: I had been referring to some letters which I received, the substance of which I wanted to make known to Members of the House, the next letter is from a clergyman in County Down and is dated 19 November 1985. I will just quote the relevant part. He says:

I would not describe myself as a Unionist, and I have tried to look at this business rationally and as a Christian. And I do not doubt Garret FitzGerald's good intentions. But I know the Ulster Protestants pretty well. And how the presence of Peter Barry in Belfast (“helping to run the country”. — Mr. Noonan) is going to promote either stability, security or reconciliation, I find very hard to see...of course, if the purpose of the business is “to get a foot in the door” (Séamus Mallon) or to “extend the dominion of the Irish Government” (today's Irish Times Editorial) then it may achieve something, but I fear that it will hardly be stability, security or the real unity of Irish people.

As I say, I was surprised at the fact that, although the majority of the letters I received were from the majority community, they were from people who expressly said that they were not Unionists or had never voted for the Unionist parties.

One contact from a Unionist source is worth mentioning. I was telephoned by one of the two Unionists who came to give evidence at a public session of the Forum, Christopher McGimpsey. Indeed, I recall questioning himself and his brother on behalf of the Labour group on the day that they did come so very courageously to the Forum. In his telephone conversation, which went on for more than half an hour, he welcomed the stand which I had taken and confirmed that in his view the Anglo-Irish Agreement cannot provide a framework for creating peace and stability within Northern Ireland. He also made it clear that he is more fearful and apprehensive than at [233] any time since 1974 because he foresees the possible emergence of the paramilitaries within his community and the worsening of violence in Northern Ireland. He is determined to do everything he can to try to open discussions on ways of avoiding this outcome and he was extremely anxious to see what basis there could be for discussions to avoid the worsening of a situation which already gave him cause for alarm.

As I read the correspondence and listened to the moderate voices in Northern Ireland expressing such deep dismay and apprehension at the proposals in the Anglo-Irish Agreement, I was reminded of the comments of Thomas Johnson, who served as the Parliamentary Labour Party's first leader in Dáil Éireann from 1922-1927. These comments were made when he was writing on Partition in 1949:

You have, following the prevalent loose habit, referred too often to “Orange bigotry” as being equivalent to the Protestant opposition to unity. My experience of the North...is that the majority of the people who now support partition or who in the past opposed Home Rule are not and were not Orangemen, nor does that term “bigot” as commonly used, fairly describe them. No doubt the Orange Order provides for militant organisation but I have reason to believe that its numerical strength has been greatly overestimated. It was the great body of Protestants — who were not Orangemen — who responded to the call of Covenant Day in 1912 that must be recognised as providing the ultimate opposition to reunion. And so it is today. And it is a mistake to class them as Orangemen; they do not like it but would accept the name rather than disown it under the taunts of their critics...I think that at the back of the mind of the Northern Protestant is the belief that the influence of the Catholic Bishops and Clergy on political and social policy is dominant in the 26 Counties and if partition were abolished would dominate political and social policy in the 6 Counties also. At [234] any time up to 15 or 20 years ago I would have refuted this assertion so far as my experience and knowledge of Free State affairs enabled me to judge. In recent years, however, the revival of militant Catholicism-Catholic Action has changed the picture.

Can we really say that the position is all that different today following the recent Pro-Life Amendment campaign and other factors, such as the emergence in a number of our hospitals of ethical committees reflecting Roman Catholic teaching or the policies, recently announced, that Catholic national schools are to employ only practising Catholics, or the refusal by some health boards to accept directives from the Minister for Health relating to the position of comprehensive services in the area of family planning?

Up to now I have been talking about the situation immediately prior to the agreement, about the approach adopted and about the text of the agreement itself. I want now to look to the future. As I said, I believe that the Hillsborough Agreement has broken the old mould and that nothing will be the same again. That is a very signal achievement, and it can be acknowledged as such. Pride can be taken in having broken the old vicehold which we were in.

However, for the reasons I have outlined, I do not accept that the detailed framework proposed under the Hillsborough Agreement can bring about peace and stability and provide a possible way forward. Therefore, I would hope — as I know others who have contacted me would hope — that there will be a certain flexibility of approach, a maturity based on the confidence which both Governments can have that they have the support of their Parliaments. What is needed perhaps particularly on the part of the Irish Government, is a generosity of spirit that may come from a recognition that it is perceived that the Nationalist have “won” under this agreement. That may, of course, be denied. The Taoiseach made it clear on the day the agreement was signed that there were no winners or losers. But one has to look at the situation [235] as perceived within Northern Ireland, and that is the general perception. That fact makes it all the more necessary that the approach adopted should not be one of confronting and hammering the majority community on all occasions, but rather of seeking to create the conditions and the possibility for constructive dialogue.

What has been achieved by the Anglo-Irish process, culminating in the Hillsborough Agreement is the confirmation of a new and closer relationship between the two Governments. That relationship can continue to have full validity without it being necessary — immediately or perhaps at any stage — to implement in full the detailed framework of the Inter-governmental Conference. It is true, as Senator McGonagle emphasised in his contribution, that the Hillsborough Agreement does provide for possible devolution of some of the powers, but it does not provide for devolution of all powers to the two communities in Northern Ireland in a way which would phase out the Inter-governmental Conference. That is not what is envisaged. The Inter-governmental Conference would retain jurisdiction in the most sensitive areas, including security. It is not, therefore, a question of phasing out the inter-governmental element in favour of devolved power.

I would certainly share the desire of the Taoiseach and of Senator McGonagle and others that it might be possible to devolve powers to an administration within Northern Ireland. That is extremely important. It is probably a prerequisite to creating conditions of stability. But I cannot see the question of devolved powers discussed within this framework because the framework itself is so unacceptable. I am in the position, therefore, of making a plea to both Governments to recognise how much they have achieved; to take proper pride in what they have done but to be prepared — in the interests of promoting constructive discussion — to be mature, and wise and generous enough in spirit to consider other possible approaches.

[236] I would like to make it clear, lest I be misunderstood on this, that I share the view which has been widely expressed that the Unionist leaders have been their own worst enemy. There is no doubt about that. As the majority population, who have down the years wielded power within Northern Ireland, they have been very ungenerous; they have been very unimaginative; they have not been prepared to create the conditions for promoting peace and stability. They are, to a very real extent, the authors of their own misfortunes.

That having been said, we now have to create a method of living together on this island. It is fair to say that the Unionists in particular, and the majority community as a whole, have received an enormous cultural shock from this Anglo-Irish Agreement. It is fair to say, as so many of them have said, that it was worse than their worst fears and that they were very fearful about it in advance. I believe that they are now potentially open to hard, tough talking. They may be ready at last to participate in an administration which would involve them, because they would be involved in the kind of administration it would be. I have no illusions about the difficulties involved in commencing discussions of that kind. I take some support, however, from the fact that the parties in the Assembly did try. In September they went to Mrs. Thatcher with what are known as the Catherwood proposals. These proposals went further than the Unionist parties had gone up to then in seeking, at the last minute, to come forward with proposals for devolved government. From what I have seen — which is only newspaper reports of the Catherwood proposals — they would not be anything like comprehensive enough or far-reaching enough in their scope, but they would provide a potential basis for discussion.

I firmly believe that we cannot make progress — we cannot create conditions for peace and stability — unless we do so with the involvement of the majority community. You could sum up the problem of the last 16 years in Northern [237] Ireland by saying it stems from the alienation of the minority, and the refusal by that minority to give consent to the form of government under which they had to live. Are we going to substitute an alienation of a majority for an alienation of a minority? Is that going to give us peace and stability? Is that going to be the basis on which we can try to make progress?

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator has two minutes left.

Mrs. Robinson: Finally, for those who have to look behind any decision taken on principle for possible personal motives, I would say this: I do not play politics with peoples' lives or peoples' futures. We face possibly the most difficult and serious challenge in the country since I entered this House in 1969. My only concern was to create a greater sensitivity and awareness in this part of Ireland about the views and apprehensions of the majority community.

If a vote is called, I will not oppose the motion but nor, for the reasons I have given, can I endorse the agreement as providing a framework to create peace and stability. I can only say of my resignation that, if I had to do it again, I would do it with even more conviction; but I did it in the hope that it may be of some modest help towards creating the conditions for genuine discussion of a framework for peace and stability.

Mrs. Rogers: Perhaps the real significance of the agreement which was reached at Hillsborough between the two sovereign Governments and the achievement it represents can best be appreciated when it is set against the events of the last two decades and the situation which obtained in Northern Ireland before that.

I speak as an Ulster woman born and bred on this side of the Border — a Southern Northerner, as I am called very often in the North. When I moved into Northern Ireland 25 years ago the appalling situation of the Nationalists was only then brought home to me from my own experience [238] when I was brought, very starkly, up against it. We need to remind ourselves of just what that situation was. Nationalist areas were deliberately starved of employment prospects. Catholics suffered from blatant discrimination in jobs and housing. They were discriminated against in every area that impinged on their lives. In the town of Lurgan, where I live, a block voting system ensured that a 40 per cent Catholic minority was totally excluded from any participation in the town council, whereas in Derry with a Nationalist majority a gerrymander system ensured that the Nationalist majority became, in the council, a minority. Complaints about injustice were dismissed by an entrenched Unionist majority at Stormont, while the sovereign parliament at Westminster refused even to discuss these matters.

It was indeed a hopeless situation then. At that time I was privileged to have known two courageous people from Dungannon, a doctor and his wife, Con and Patricia McCluskey, who quietly set about the “Campaign for Social Justice” to highlight these injustices and to force from government the changes which were needed in Northern Ireland. In those days it was neither profitable nor popular to stand up to be counted on the side of justice. Those who considered themselves then to be true Republicans looked askance at Catholics who were merely interested in justice and were not demanding Irish unity. That says a lot about certain definitions of Republicism. As we discuss this historic agreement it is appropriate to pay tribute to the McCluskeys of Dungannon and to the courageous band of people who gathered around them in those days and to the many hundreds of civil rights activists who emerged in the late sixties committed to the achievement of justice by peaceful means. The opportunities now presented by the Hillsborough Agreement would have been beyond their wildest dreams. I say “opportunities” because we still have much work to do.

Why do I say this. I say it because this is indeed only a beginning. It is not a final [239] settlement of the Irish question nor is it meant to be. It is not a grand solution to all our problems. I say it for a number of reasons but above all else because the agreement creates for the first time a framework within which the Nationalists in Northern Ireland are given equality of status with the Unionists. That is the only position from which true reconciliation can be achieved and justice and peace established.

Concern has been expressed about the Unionist reaction. Concern has been expressed particularly by Senator Mary Robinson for whose views I have the greatest respect. It is a concern we all share; it is a concern that is shared by the Government, by the SDLP. It is a concern that is very deeply shared by the Catholics of Northern Ireland because some of the irresponsible statements we have heard in recent weeks lead, as they know, to dire consequences for them. The fact that the Unionist reaction was entirely predictable does not alter our concern, nor change the fact that any change from the status quo has always met with the same negative response. How sad it is for the proud, Protestant tradition in Northern Ireland that not one leader has yet emerged who can do justice to that proud and sturdy tradition and stand on his own two feet.

This agreement seeks to and has the potential to bring about structures which allow all the people of Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant, to take charge of their own destinies; structures which can reflect and respect our differing aspirations and ethos — the only structures which can offer peace, stability and hope to the battered communities of the North. Yet it is presented to Protestants by their leaders as an attempt to force them, willy-nilly, into Irish unity. Sentences from statements by Irish politicians are picked and used out of context to prove this point whilst the categorical and oft repeated assurances of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and of my own party leader, John Hume, are deliberately ignored. I repeat that coercion and unity [240] are irreconcilable concepts. There is no desire in this part of Ireland to take over the North. Forcing the Northern Unionists into a situation of Irish unity against their will is as unthinkable as it is illogical.

The interpretation of Irish unity by Unionists leaders over the years as something which threatened the ethos and the rights of Protestants, was possible only because Irish Nationalists failed to spell out the true meaning of unity. The report of the New Ireland Forum has thankfully brought that situation to an end. I would like to salute all the Nationalist parties who participated in the Forum for taking on that essential task. Unity in diversity is what Irish Nationalists seek. A fundamental requirement of that unity is consent and that has been spelled out in the Forum and it is spelled out again in this historic agreement. The Hillsborough Agreement very clearly follows the principles of the New Ireland Forum report. It is clear, therefore, that the fears which are being whipped up — irresponsibly in my view — are without foundation. It is totally understandable that Protestants who have witnessed the slaughter of their friends and relations over the last decade in the name of Irish unity have difficulty in looking coolly or logically at an agreement between both Governments in the present climate. I disagree with Senator Robinson's views of the present situation. I do agree that Protestants are frightened; I agree that there is confusion and I agree that that confusion and those fears are being whipped up unnecessarily by leaders who ought to know better.

An Cathaoirleach: There is a vote in the other House.

Mrs. Rogers: What is the procedure?

An Cathaoirleach: The House will adjourn for five minutes.

Professor Dooge: I think we might now have the support of the Taoiseach on the proposition that I have been making for some 20 years in this House that the Minister in the Seanad should be permanently paired.

[241] Sitting suspended at 1.05 p.m. and resumed at 1.15 p.m.

Mrs. Rogers: I was referring to the remarks of Senator Robinson who mentioned Article 1 (a). I am not a lawyer but to me the English language is the English language and if somebody says that the status of Northern Ireland cannot be changed without the consent of the majority, I take that to mean what is said. With regard to the letters and feedback which she has got from the North, it is interesting that all of the letters were from the majority community. They do express a feeling which we know exists. A letter from one particular lady stated that she had never, despite her many years in Northern Ireland voted Unionist — I do not know if she had ever voted at all and I would regret if she did not — she then stated that she had never taken part in any demonstration. For my part I have taken part in many demonstrations in Northern Ireland. I was moved to take part in those demonstrations, not because I enjoyed them but because it was the only way — peacefully — that at one stage I saw that injustices could be highlighted and justice could be brought about in Northern Ireland. I wonder if that lady and people like her had joined us in those demonstrations would we be in the position that we are in today. I do not say that with any sense of rancour whatsoever.

The feedback which I have got in Northern Ireland from the Nationalist community to this initiative has been totally positive. People who up to now have been cynical about politics and the possibility of progress are beginning for the first time to have hope that they can get justice, hope that there can be progress. There is not within the Nationalist community in the North any sense of having achieved a victory. From that I take comfort. There is just a sense of at last being given a place in the sun. I would like to refer to a piece in The Irish Times the other day where a Presbyterian minister from Northern Ireland seemed to be saying the opposite to what the letters that Senator Robinson received were [242] saying but who stated, interestingly enough, that because of the views he was putting forward he could not give his name. I think there are other Protestants in Northern Ireland who hold the same view as that Presbyterian minister. Those people should be encouraged by us and by both Governments, by committing ourselves to the process and by showing these people that a process which is fair and equitable can succeed and will succeed.

Those who take the view that the agreement goes too far because of the rejection of it by Unionists might look at the record of the last few decades. Unionists and others have complained about the lack of consultation. The question is, if they had been consulted would there have been an agreement? I am afraid that the answer is there would not have been an agreement. Do we need to be reminded that in the late sixties and early seventies the reforms — not constitutional changes — introduced as a result of the civil rights movement, basic reforms to deal with injustices to Catholics within the Northern framework, were opposed tooth and nail by Unionists leaders. Eventually the reforms had to be imposed against the will of the Unionists by the sovereign parliament.

I say that with sadness, but that is a fact. During the last 15 years we in the SDLP have tried to reach accommodation with our Unionist fellow countrymen based on the principle of equality, respect and recognition for both traditions and the answer has always been “No” — “No” to Sunningdale, “No” to devolved power sharing in the 1975 convention, “No” to power sharing at the Atkins Convention of 1980, “No” to power sharing in the present Assembly and now “No” to the Hillsborough Agreement.

Reference has been made to the eleventh hour attempt by Unionists to persuade the world that fair play is now on offer to Nationalists within the North. Power sharing was not an offer, as I understand it, in the Catherwood proposals. [243] As for “some type of power sharing”, there is no such thing as “a type of power sharing”. Either you have power sharing or you do not. Power is shared at top level between the two traditions or it is not; and, if it is not, you do not have power sharing.

If anyone believes that fair play is on, I invite them to look at the record of Unionist-dominated councils up to this very day, Craigavon, Armagh, Cookstown, Dungannon — I could go on. They are the living proof that any change towards justice and equality is not possible within the framework of Northern Ireland. To give an example, in the last 13 years Craigavon council, on which I now have the privilege to sit, has given to the SDLP two committee chairmanships out of a possible 78. Their record of sectarian discrimination has been recorded by the Ombudsman, the Fair Employment Agency and the courts. The Southern Education and Library Board looks after the educational needs of a large area including the council areas of Armagh, Craigavon, Dungannon, Banbridge, Cookstown, Newry and Mourne. All of these councils nominate representatives to the board, 14 in all. Every council with a Unionist majority — and in some cases a very slim Unionist majority: in the case of Dungannon it is fifty-fifty — have returned a 100 per cent Unionist representation to the Education Board.

I take some pride in the fact that the only council which is dominated by the SDLP, that is Newry and Mourne, has returned three Nationalist representatives and one Unionist. That leaves 14 places in all with three Nationalists and 11 Unionists. The temptation was very strong to my colleagues in Newry and Mourne, in order the redress the balance, to send four Nationalist, but they did not give in to that temptation. Therefore, any improvement for the Nationalist community has been opposed by Unionists over the last number of years and the only way that improvement has been achieved has been by action taken over their heads and without their consent. I refer to the setting up of the Housing Executive, the [244] Fair Employment Agency and the other aspects of reform which have improved, to some degree, the lot of the people in the North, particularly in the housing area. Of course, let us remember those things were achieved, not by violence, but by the sheer hard grind of political work of parties like my own who worked for those changes and achieved them.

What has now happened in the North as a result of this agreement is that the equality which Unionists have failed to give Nationalists has been given to the Nationalists without the consent of Unionists and, in all honesty I cannot say that bringing justice and equality to one community can be regarded as unjust to the other: it is a matter of equalisation.

Given the situation of deadlock resulting from the failure to get Unionist agreement for any political progress and the implications of that deadlock for peace and stability, we in the SDLP asked in 1979 that the two sovereign Governments responsible for the lives and well-being of the people of these islands should accept joint responsibility for the establishment of political progress. In 1980, when the present Leader of the Opposition and the then Taoiseach, Deputy Charles Haughey, successfully initiated the process which elevated the problems on to a new plane, the plane of the Anglo-Irish framework, we welcomed that because we recognised it as the beginning of a process which held out, for the first time in years, the hope of making real progress. At the same time we recognised that this was but the beginning of a process. If there is anyone in Ireland, North or South, who believes that the complex British-Irish problem, involving the bitterness and divisions accentuated by years of violence and oppression, can be resolved overnight or by any one dramatic gesture or initiative, they are, in the words of my eminent leader, “wired to the moon”.

The resolution of the bitter conflict of centuries, because that is what it is, can be found within the context of the problem, the British-Irish context. The Hillsborough Agreement has created the proper framework within which all of us [245] can work to tackle that problem. There has been much talk of the risks involved, the risk of increased violence — and of course there is always that risk — the risk of that violence spilling over to a larger extent than before into the South. But surely the alternative for both Governments, which was to do nothing, carried equal if not greater risks both in the short and in the long term, because the failure of political leaders to provide a political way forward would inevitably lead more and more people to the view that politics cannot resolve problems and would attract an increasing number of people, and not just young people, to the view that the only way to bring about change is through violence. We all know what that would mean for the divided communities on this island.

Could I deal with the suggestion which has been made that somehow or another to support this agreement is to renege on the aspiration to Irish unity? I want to state, as a member of the party representing Irish Nationalists in the North — Nationalists who have suffered for years because of their refusal to become Unionists or to eschew their aspiration to Irish unity — that it is unthinkable that I or my party would support any agreement which places roadblocks in the path of Irish unity. I hardly need to remind this House that my political colleagues have suffered greatly in the last 15 years because they were not prepared to give up or to stop working for the aspiration — and our dearly held aspiration — of Irish unity.

We have been told of the risk of responsibility without power. Again, I am not a lawyer; I have read the document carefully; I have read the remarks of Professor O'Connor of Cork University in The Irish Times last week and I do recognise that the agreement which has been signed leaves a legally binding obligation on both Governments to resolve differences in the interest of peace and stability. That is an internationally legally binding obligation. The only reason to feel that the Irish Government and our representatives in the North, working, in co-operation with the Irish Government, [246] would fail, can come only from some sense of inferiority complex about our own abilities. The old cry “You cannot trust the British” has been heard. The question is: can we not, for a change, trust ourselves and trust our own ability? I think it is time to shed our inferiority complex.

Ireland is a country which has taken its place in the international community in which it is highly respected. If we cannot sit down with the British and work out our differences and work out the very difficult problems that face both of us, then we do not have the confidence that we should have in ourselves. Of course, there will be hiccups; of course there will be disagreements; of course there will be problems and there will be very big problems, but they can never be resolved if we do not have the will and the courage and the confidence to tackle them as equals with the British Government.

There will, of course, be those who purport to be defenders of the Nationalist minority who will engineer situations designed to further destabilise the Northern Protestants and to ensure that this agreement fails, to make the Northern Protestants feel that no matter what you do it will not bring peace. We are quite convinced that those attempts will be made. But that is not going to put us off, because those who have most to lose from the success of the agreement are those who thrive on conflict and division and who, therefore, have to fear and resist true reconciliation. I hope that all people of goodwill in the North, Protestant and Catholic, will recognise such attempts for what they are, if they come about.

I should remind the House that the SDLP, through their leader, John Hume, yesterday in the House of Commons, and before that on television, have made it clear that we are prepared to discuss devolution of power to a Northern Ireland power-sharing assembly and that that power would then be taken from the conference. I disagree totally with Senator Mary Robinson when she states that all the power of the conference ought to go back into a power-sharing devolved institution in Northern Ireland. That [247] would fail to recognise the Irish dimension to the problem, the need to give the Irish people in Northern Ireland an all-Ireland dimension with which they can identify. It would, therefore, have the same flaw as any proposal which would fail to recognise the identity of the Unionists.

I would like to thank the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the negotiators for the patience and commitment which they have shown during the last 18 difficult months of negotiation. They were protracted and difficult negotiations. We in the North have watched, sometimes with a little fear that things might go wrong but always with a little hope that the commitment of which we were aware would bring about an agreement which we could use as an opportunity for making progress. Thankfully that is now the position. We in the SDLP will work within the new arrangements. We are aware of the difficulties. We are prepared for the setbacks. If they come, they will not be the first setback we have had to face. But what we do need is the goodwill of all the people of Ireland, Protestant and Catholic, North and South, who would like to see an end to the violence, who would like to see reconciliation and peace on this island. We face a great challenge in working together with our fellow nationalists from the Irish Government in this situation. Much work has to be done. We may or may not succeed. But there is one thing which we have no right to do. We do not have the right not to try.

Mr. Lynch: As the seconder of the amendment I join with Senator Lanigan in reaffirming our party's commitment to the establishment of a United Ireland by peaceful means. Senator Lanigan recalled that in 1949 Dáil Éireann, by unanimous declaration, solemnly reasserted the indefeasible right of the Irish nation to the unity and integrity of the national territory. It is the duty of an opposition party to oppose, where that is necessary. In this case we believe it is the duty of our party to point out clearly [248] and definitely our concern and opposition with particular reference to article 1 of the agreement and many other aspects of it.

It did not surprise me or any member of our party that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was announced in a battery of worldwide publicity. However, the publicity and the particular twist given to our opposition to aspects of the agreement, which is soundly based, simply astounds me. If the Taoiseach and the Government wished to have an agreement established in unanimity why was our party leader not consulted or his views sought on matters during the discussions that took place prior to the agreement being signed? Did the Government not want to put forward the views of the largest, single political party in the Republic? Did they not want to share our views despite the fact that worldwide publicity has highlighted the agreement as a major breakthrough? Many people, people who have lived and hoped for peace and stability in this country, have grave inbuilt fears and doubts concerning the agreement. Many people have asked the questions: was it timed with deliberation, was it timed in such a way that nearly anything would be accepted at this particular time? There is a grave fear that people's imagination might run away with them, after the loud applause with which the agreement has been greeted. It was stated prior to the agreement and after the agreement was signed that civil war politics would not be allowed to enter into this debate. I hope they will not but we must always remember that the problems we are confronted with today are the direct result of British colonial history. These are facts from which we cannot run away.

The Taoiseach in his speech here today has asked us to support the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which has been skilfully sold around the world as a great breakthrough, bringing, at last, a final settlement to the Irish problem. If this was the true position we in Fianna Fáil would support it. Unfortunately far from being a great advance it prevents a final settlement because it silences world opinion which was always on our side and by [249] removing national and international pressures for a united Ireland through political agreement. It is now the duty of Fianna Fáil to oppose this agreement. I oppose it and support our motion. We cannot forget the past no matter how much we look forward to the future. Our predecessors for over 700 years fought for a united Ireland while Britain for the same 700 years fought against a united Ireland and by sheer superior force insisted on dominating Ireland. To suggest that this agreement confirms that this self-same Britain has no interest in maintaining Partition reveals the incredible childishness of the present Irish Government.

With regard to the agreement, if it were even a fifty-fifty agreement we could approach it in a different light but it is not. Significantly there are 13 articles, unlucky 13 as far as I am concerned. Only two of these articles give any possible gains or improvements.

Article 1 legitimises the Unionists and copperfastens Partition. It purports to give us a united Ireland if a majority in the Six Counties, not the 32 Counties, clearly wish for and formally consent to a united Ireland. As the dogs in the street know, the Unionists will never clearly wish for a united Ireland, so Partition is copperfastened.

Fianna Fáil, on the other hand, have been urging Britain for years to name a date for the withdrawal of their troops and their guarantee so that real worthwhile negotiations with Irish guarantees will persuade Unionists in their own better interests — national and international — to consent to a united Ireland even though in their hearts they clearly would not wish to do so.

Article 2 of this agreement gives the Irish Government an input of views and proposals, but only in certain matters and the decisions will be made by Britain.

Article 3 is a long-winded propaganda type exaggeration of its last line saying the conference shall meet at ministerial or official level. What is new about this? Fianna Fáil initiated these meetings years ago and they have continued ever since.

[250] Article 4 will promote reconciliation, human rights and co-operation against terrorism. We have always done so. It offers devolved responsibility, but in certain matters only and provided it would secure widespread acceptance. It limits our input into devolution to putting forward views and proposals relating to the minority community only. Our views affecting the majority community cannot be raised at all. Perhaps the Taoiseach would elaborate on this aspect when replying to this debate.

Article 5 appears to encourage discussions and remedies of a general nature. I welcome that. However, I see risks in including changes in electoral arrangements and the use of flags and emblems. Does it mean that we could see electoral changes in places such as Monaghan, Cavan, Donegal or other Border constituencies? Could it mean that we will be forced to fly the Union jack over the GPO?

Mr. O'Leary: What total nonsense.

Mr. Lanigan: Read the article.

Mr. Lynch: Read the article. I would ask the Taoiseach to elaborate on that question when he is replying to the House.

Mr. O'Leary: Is it in order for me to call the Senator a fool?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: No.

Mr. O'Leary: Well then I will not.

Mr. Lynch: The Senator had better not.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator O'Leary will have to withdraw that remark.

Mr. S. O'Leary: I will withdraw it. I did not call him a fool.

Mr. Lynch: Article 6 gives us an input into the role and composition of the various bodies and boards. [251] Article 7 commits us to improve security and improve relations between the security forces and the community in such areas as crime, crime prevention, schemes involving the community, which really means organising Nationalists into neighbourhood watch schemes. This would be a recipe for disaster as the situation stands at present in the Six Counties. It commits us to consider similar measures in the Republic, which would be a further disaster.

Article 8 commits us to yet more security measures in the enforcement of the criminal law. I have never heard of difficulties in the enforcement of the criminal law, as we know it, so this article must refer to political offences. Our Government undertake to give substantial assistance to this aim and, irrespective of international law or our constitutional law, will establish mixed courts in both jurisdictions for certain offences, meaning political ones.

There will be a new policy on extradition and territorial jurisdiction. This is the old military solution of ill repute once again; but this time it will have the Irish Government's approval, assistance and responsibility.

Article 9 deals with more security. We are virtually amalgamating the Garda Síochána and the RUC, including groups of officials, which presumably includes all civil servants and public service employees.

There is some merit in article 10, which gives us an input in matters in co-operation — although I am not in favour of seeking or accepting millions of dollars to create the illusion that this is at last a final and satisfactory settlement of the Irish question and that we have been compensated for the centuries of great loss to this country. By all means let us co-operate in economic development but let us not ask for or accept ransom money.

Article 11 gives us some hope by giving either Government — hopefully, a Fianna Fáil Government — the right to review and alter the terms of this agreement.

[252] As we see it this agreement will not help to end Partition. There is no British commitment to withdraw her troops or a commitment to work for or promote a united Ireland. There is no commitment by the Government of the day to work for a united Ireland. How could there be when some of the leading Fine Gael Deputies blatantly declare they have no interest in the politics of the past and claim that this is the attitude of today's Irish youth. How could the Labour Party have a commitment to work for a united Ireland when their leader declares that the Irish claim to a united Ireland is just a dream, a fantasy.

Mr. M. Higgins: I think the reference should be supplied.

Mr. Lynch: Unfortunately, this agreement of 1985 is not a fantasy but an actual agreement elevated to the respectability of being registered in the United Nations' records.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator could you tell me what you are quoting from please.

Mr. Lynch: I am not quoting at the moment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Tánaiste's remark.

Mr. Lynch: It was stated in something I read and I am sure it can be checked out. I cannot quote it at the moment. If the Government were sincere with regard to our party's stand on this agreement may I ask why was the Fianna Fáil Party not consulted? If you want to go further, why were Sinn Féin or the Unionists not consulted during the negotiations?

I support our amendment and reiterate that while recognising the urgent need that exists for substantial improvement in the situation and circumstances of the Nationalist section of the community in the North of Ireland and approving any effective measures which may be undertaken [253] for that purpose, we refuse to accept any recognition of British sovereignty over any part of our national territory. Unfortunately this agreement recognises that. I have to vote against the agreement and support our amendment.

Mr. McDonald: I welcome the Taoiseach to the Seanad today and above all welcome the most encouraging speech he delivered to the House this morning. I hope and pray that his generous invitation to all the people of good will will be accepted and that people from all traditions will resolve to endeavour to make this agreement the new cornerstone on which to build a society of peace and a society of prosperity and a new era of hope, a new era of promise, a new era of sharing a better life for which we pledge to work together.

The Unionist leadership bellows out the old catch cry of “not an inch”. It is indeed well matched by the Leader of the Opposition and the Fianna Fáil Party who have opted to retain the emerald green clichés in preference to a formula of hope. All that is required is that this agreement be given a chance and that people representative of all the parties on the island should start to trust one another and should commence to work closer together in the interests of the common good. I do not think it is sufficient to be complacent about the course of contemporary Irish history over the past decade or so. People who are putting their necks on the line are doing so in order to make an attempt to remedy the present situation and I think their efforts must be lauded and given a chance.

We can differ in our degrees of openness about the shortcomings of this agreement or even in our perception of shortcomings but in no way can the Taoiseach's remarks or statements be justifiably criticised as national abasement or sabotage or in any way contrary to our Constitution. Last weekend we saw leaders of the Unionist parties re-echoing the old slogan that the Republic is harbouring political criminals and terrorists. I want to assure all concerned that the only terrorists enjoying secure harbouring in the [254] Republic are safely reclining, indeed at considerable expense to our tax-payers, in Portlaoise jail.

In case anyone is in any doubt to the origins of those prisoners more than 80 per cent of them can be described as citizens of Northern Ireland. Whether they can be described as loyal citizens I would not like to say because I have listened to a Northern Ireland public representative on television declaring himself to be a loyal British citizen and in the same breath describing the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in a most insulting invective that not even the terrorists in Portlaoise jail have matched to date. I would like to express my admiration for the governor and staff of Portlaoise jail for yet again being more than a match for the best that those men of violence can throw at them. Their dedication and their eternal vigilance deserve the thanks of all peace loving people and indeed all of us who recognise and respect our Constitution as enacted in 1937 and amended on a number of occasions since.

I find great difficulty understanding the reasoning of Unionist politicians especially who refuse to confer or talk with other parties. They constantly call for a change in the status quo, that is the status quo of murder, arson, robbery, bombings and intimidation, and yet they are opposed to anyone who attempts to improve the situation. Sunningdale was an important experiment and it was not given a chance by the Unionist parties in Northern Ireland. The Hillsborough Agreement is yet a small step but a significant step forward for this island and I congratulate the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Barry, and the Tánaiste on their achievement in having the Hillsborough agreement signed and their achievement of having so many people and bodies, governments and parliaments, focus so much attention on the problems of Northern Ireland.

Never before has there been such a thorough examination of the problems of the Six Counties and indeed this week and last night on radio and in the papers [255] today we see the UK parliament are dealing with the problem in great depth. It would appear that the agreement will be endorsed by a massive and a record vote in the Commons later today. That in itself will be an indication of the relief felt by so many public representatives in these islands. At least something is being done and steps have been taken and an important agreement has been reached and at least people of goodwill are attempting to take positive action to redress many wrongs that people have had to put up with for decades.

It is good that something now is being attempted. The agreement has received support and goodwill from many friendly governments, from the President of the US and the leaders of Congress in the US senate, from the Secretary General of the United Nations, from the President of the Council of the EC and the other member states of the European Community and from many other countries in Europe and in other parts of the world. There has been such a flood of goodwill from people genuinely wishing for the succes of the Hillsborough Agreement that it augurs well for some progress being made on this score.

We are all aware that advancement on this important topic is one of the fondest wishes of the Taoiseach. I was reading through the Official Reports here of October 1981 when he launched the crusade which some people thought was completely dead but at the same time when we look at the progression that has been made via the Forum or now via the historic Hilsborough Agreement the Taoiseach's efforts are worthy of bearing successful fruit. I hope that we shall soon see the establishment of the Anglo-Irish parliamentary body to assist in the great work of implementing the agreement. There is certainly room for that. From the contacts that we have had with the Anglo-Irish parliamentary association and indeed other bodies there is a very definite role that the parliamentary body can play in assisting in this work, and I believe that together we can improve on the present situation.

[256] It is also appropriate to note that to date no single person has said that the situation in Northern Ireland is acceptable to any sector of the community. Nobody is advocating that the status quo is satisfactory or should remain as it is. All the Unionist parties call for peace and stability. It is not good enough now in 1985 to shout and beat drums. If we want a better quality of life, peace and reconciliation, harmony and safety, freedom from violence, intimidation, injustice of every kind, then we must hold out the hand of friendship and be prepared to work together for those aims. We have got to learn to trust each other and to attain the common goal. If we want that we must be prepared to work for it.

I am convinced that the Hillsborough agreement is the vehicle that will advance this island on the road to peace and stability and unity of minds and hearts as a pre-runner to unity of the island itself. Past generations of Irish men and women have all left their mark on history. They all tackled the problems of their time and generation. In the main most advantages were taken. It is left to this generation to improve the present lot of the citizens of this island as a whole. This generation must play its part for Ireland and her people. We play a significant role in the European Community. We play a generous role in the peace-keeping forces of the United Nations presently in Lebanon and in other parts of the world. It is appropriate that our Government should make a positive contribution to solving the problem, if possible, or to improving the situation in Northern Ireland which is much nearer home.

Reading through this agreement great thanks are due to our negotiators for the advancements they have made and the fact that once this agreement is approved by the House of Commons in London today we will have a ministry working and sitting in Belfast assisting in ensuring that there will be equality and justice in striving towards a peaceful settlement for the community. This is a tremendous breakthrough. It is something that past politicians over the last decade would not [257] have readily envisaged. Even for people who are not enamoured of parts of this agreement there is sufficient in it for all people of goodwill to give it a chance and see can we improve the situation and ease the lot of so many people who are bedevilled by uncertainties and fear of injustice in all its forms.

In conclusion I again compliment the Taoiseach and his Ministers, the civil servants who have carried out the negotiations and say to the people of Northern Ireland: let us work together to ensure that this island of ours will be a better place for all of us to live in peace and harmony and in friendship together. As we have seen over the last ten to 15 years as we have become very deeply involved in the work of the European Economic Community, in many areas the importance of international boundaries or borders has diminished. Flags, banners and emblems are not as important as they were ten to 15 years ago. It is only by working together that we can have complete faith in one another, complete respect for the views of our neighbours. I am confident that the Hillsborough Agreement gives a great ray of hope to people in all part of this island. I would look forward to a very positive response from people who want to put their trust and hope in the future of a very peaceful island as a whole.

Mr. T. Hussey: Since the trouble in Northern Ireland started some 15 years ago there have been many calls for political initiatives with a view to bringing stability and peace with justice to the Northern community. Over those years the whole world has witnessed the rioting, the bombing and the murder as both communities were driven apart by men of violence. That violence has persisted right up to the present time. A generation born after 1968 have had to live with it day in and day out. Those involved in this campaign can put forward many arguments in favour of or to justify their violent action. The Nationalists want to get rid of the British presence in Northern Ireland and aspire to the eventual unity of this island. The Unionists on the other [258] hand want to maintain the union with Britain and their wish is for no change in the status of Northern Ireland. The reconciliation of the two communities is the greatest need at present and the creation of a situation where they can live and work together in a position of trust and mutual understanding. Even though at times that may seem impossible to achieve, nevertheless all parties should work for it. Agreements, like the one we are discussing here today, may seem very insignificant in view of the enormity and the tragedy of the Northern situation. I sincerely believe that it is a step in the right direction and anything that can be done to help or to improve the situation of the Nationalist community in the North of Ireland will have our full support. Indeed, we have stated that in our amendment because they are the people who have been downtrodden and discriminated against not just for the past 15 or 16 years but for generations. However, we cannot accept the abandonment of our claim to Irish unity or the recognition of British sovereignty over the North of Ireland which is involved in this agreement.

The agreement will help to bolster up the existing political structure in Northern Ireland, which in itself is the cause of the trouble and is the source of violence and instability and always will be as long as it remains. The British guarantee to the Unionists has always been a major stumbling block to progress and as long as that guarantee remains Unionists will defy any move towards reconciliation or unity. That is why I fear that this agreement is not going to work because the Unionists are determined that it will not work and they will do everything in their power to ensure its downfall. Sunningdale is a good example of what Unionist intransigence can achieve. It will take determination by both Governments, but especially by the British Government, to see this agreement through. If the British Prime Minister shows the same determination that she showed during the Falklands crisis and the miners strike in Britain then there would be some hope for this agreement. But otherwise I am [259] afraid that it would be doomed because Unionist intransigence will ensure its failure.

The security area is one that has caused most worry to the Nationalist population ever since the troubles began. There has been a feeling of injustice, anger and resentment with the operation of the security forces. There is nothing in this agreement to allay that fear or resentment. Even the UDR, which is a discredited force, remains unchanged. I am afraid that our Government will be placed in a position of having to accept responsibility for this unsatisfactory security apparatus without having any control over it.

In conclusion all people of goodwill will support the efforts of both Governments in helping to reconcile the two major traditions in Northern Ireland. We on this side of the House will not be found wanting in this regard. This process of reconciliation was initiated by a Fianna Fáil Government and will have to be continued by successive Governments until the time arrives when both communities can live and work with one another in peace and harmony. When the review of this agreement takes place in three years' time many of the reservations expressed by the Fianna Fáil Party will be justified. Those reservations could have been ironed out in advance if the Government had showed a willingness to consult with the main Opposition party and keep them informed of developments. The same criticism could be levelled at the British Government in relation to the Unionist parties in the North. If that type of consultation had taken place you may have had a different agreement, but at least it would be acceptable to all the communities both North and South.

We have seen in recent times a degree of co-operation between public representatives in the North and South and particularly in relation to EC problems where all members were able to come together and find a motion for a certain item because it affected both communities. I would love to see that kind of [260] action continued right down along the line. It is only a very small beginning but at least it can be built on and I hope that the bridges that are being built today in Northern Ireland can be improved on and that we can all see over the years the peace and harmony that we all desire so much develop and grow in strength in Northern Ireland.

Mr. M. Higgins: It is very useful to come immediately after what is one of the more constructive speeches of the Opposition on the agreement so far by Senator Hussey. I compliment him on that. Since the publication of the Anglo-Irish Agreement there has been much speculation both on the process that led to the agreement itself and on the implications of the agreement for this island, both North and South, and on the neighbouring island. I will begin by stressing the positive features of the announcement of the agreement as I see them. Principally, these are that the agreement went some way towards filling a political vacuum and that everybody who had been commenting on the North and who was anxious to see a resolution of the problems which have led to so many killings and maimings and general insecurity and loss of life were anxious to see some formal political realisation of the problem. In that sense the agreement has constructively gone some way towards the filling of the vacuum. It is appropriate that I should pay tribute on behalf of the Labour Party to all those who worked for the attainment of that progressive achievement both in terms of the politicians involved and the civil servants.

There is a second positive aspect to this agreement as one reviews the reactions to it, that is, it has concentrated the minds of politicians in assemblies in Northern Ireland, in the Dáil and Seanad and in Great Britain on the question of Northern Ireland. I have long held the opinion that what one could have offered for a certain period was a constructive silence on issues of the North because very often affairs within Northern Ireland have been very badly damaged by [261] speeches made from outside that were not built on an appreciation of the problems in Northern Ireland. We will have to move beyond this; because, if there was to be a break in the cycle of the loss of life, the number of people being injured and the security in which people want to live their lives in peace, there needed to be a political response.

It is a scandal that so many people within the Dáil and Seanad have not visited Northern Ireland more frequently. I suspect some have not been in Northern Ireland at all in their lifetime. Equally, I found very little above the level of insult in the attitudes I recall hearing on so many occasions from senior politicians in the British House of Commons and the House of Lords on what they call the Irish question. Let me put it as simply and constructively as I can by saying that they were either ill-informed or not interested or both.

In relation to Northern Ireland if you want to look, as I will in a moment, at some of the character of the reaction, there too there has been a realisation that was not present at the time in 1973-74 of the publication of documents both by the Official Unionist Party and the Alliance Party that matters had changed and were going to change one way or the other.

The positive side of this agreement has been to emphasise the necessity for filling the vacuum; and whatever its problems it has in itself gone some way towards filling that vacuum. The negative sides of the agreement, if they are to be assessed, are probably characterised equally by what has been unleashed by way of reaction, North and South. In relation to the North the most serious reaction has been the statement by many people within moderate Unionist opinion that they intend to support the demands and claims being made by what would be regarded as the more strident positions of Jim Molyneaux and particularly Ian Paisley. In that regard we need to try to address that much more seriously than we have so far. There is no point in imagining that that fear does not exist or, more importantly, that the possibilities of fomenting and amplifying on that fear do [262] not exist for those such as Ian Paisley and others.

Secondly, there has been an attitude in the South which, I regret to say, has been one of the replacement of a constructive debate on the content of nationalism by an irredentist and sometimes irresponsible and uncritical nationalism. I want to spend a little time on that because we really need to dispose of those two negative spheres more constructively than we have so far in the time immediately following the agreement. For a start it behoves us to remember that the language of this agreement and the debate on it so far is very much the formal language of politics. It is a formal language developed and offered within constitutional assemblies, but those people who have visited Northern Ireland will readily realise that the kind of reconciliation that the previous speakers, for example, were referring to can only come about between communities, between the politics if you like, developments within the politics of people.

There is a great deal of work to be done. A great flaw in consideration of what has been regarded as the Northern Ireland problem within the assemblies of the Republic since the foundation of this State is that the language of politics very often descends into being a rhetoric. I ask myself the question when I hear the word “unity”: to what does this unity refer? Does this unity refer to a unity of peoples? Is it referring to a unity of territory? Then, again, is it something that is to be created, two different parties having come together, or is it really a victory for one tribal assertion over another? You have to ask the question what is meant by unity? Is unity a mere consequence? Is it a piece of political rhetoric? I would hope, and many people on both sides of this House who have contributed over the years would hope, that the Anglo-Irish Agreement should be seen as part of a process of unity.

If it is to be a process of unity must we not then ask ourselves the question as to the circumstances in which this agreement was launched. I was in Belfast on the morning after the agreement and The [263] Irish Times of that Monday morning had carried a minor headline on its front page “only practising Catholics to be hired in Catholic schools”. I asked myself a question. I was trying to judge reaction to the agreement. I can tell you that the reactions at breakfast time where I was staying to the front page of The Irish Times were quite direct and honest. They felt that this is the kind of society into which they are going to be integrated without consultation, consent or consideration of their freedom. There is a great deal at stake. Behind all the language and the rhetoric are two opposing views of mankind as Unionists see it. It is an old argument and one without validity but that does not mean that it is not held by serious people in the majority in Northern Ireland and that is the question that there are two different conceptions of human freedom involved in the Southern State and in what they have regarded as their State.

In the first they would argue that the individual though frail can achieve anything, unencumbered by the State or by formal religious institutions, for example, and they would argue that around this had been built what they call the values of the Northern Ireland community, the majority community. They see this expressed in politics where their hegemony has been exercised so appallingly against the minority. We will come back to that. They see it exercised in religion, in culture but the one thing most in common in the response to The Irish Times subheading was that they see it as an erosion of freedom. Under the second conception of humanity that they see to be the ideology of the Southern State the individual is presented as frail, as darkened, as one that cannot be trusted to exercise decisions in the realms of politics, of culture and of religion.

Thus I must say that I share the feelings of the Taoiseach when he says that he wants to regard this agreement as part of a process, a framework for further progress if you like. I would say to him how can you do that if you do not recognise [264] the dangers that stand in the way if you are not willing to criticise the denominational character of much of our life here in the South.

When we look at education, to which I have referred, when we look at health, at the symbolic canopy that is stretched over this country, at the fudging of the issue of civil divorce upon which W.B. Yeats, one of our predecessors, spoke here so eloquently so very long ago we must ask ourselves the question, if we are to build on the agreement and regard unity as a process, how we can look differently at the things I mentioned. They are things to be held in the hand, cards to be played at the final stages of discussion on unity. They can be regarded, on the other hand, as issues of human rights, the genuine aspiration of people who want to participate in their society here in the South and who want not to be excluded. When we look at our own society — and I am not being disloyal in doing this — we could do a great deal towards eroding the suspicion that exists of the Southern State if we regarded this agreement as a departure point for our own criticism of our institutions. I no longer speak of participation in this regard because we are very far away from it historically in our own country.

I now like to speak of exclusions. I list all of these — exclusions of workers from decisions in relation to their workplace; of parents from decisions in relation to education; of patients and citizens from qualifications of health care that are provided, comprehensive exclusion from many features of life to which we should address ourselves. The Taoiseach is right to use words like “framework” and I would use the word “process” because we can do much to erode the fear and therefore erode the possibility for the conflation of that fear in Northern Ireland by showing our own willingness to look at the perceptions that we have and hold in our own State.

There are many ways of looking at this agreement. One could look at it through the eyes of Margaret Thatcher. I do not share the view of those who think that [265] there is an automatic advantage in Mrs. Thatcher's personality in delivering a solution to the Anglo-Irish problem. There is merit in looking at the agreement from the Unionist point of view if you are to understand their fears and their reaction and to understand such gestures as might now be made towards allaying some of those fears and towards incorporating their view in what might take place.

You could look at this agreement from the point of view of Fianna Fáil. I regret many of the speeches that have been made by suggesting that you can more or less keep aspiring in a rhetorical sense to unity without having the guts or the courage to take on the kind of state that is required in the wake of such unity. If it is to be pluralist, well then let us hear the agenda for pluralism and if people want unity in a shorter term than this agreement and describe the agreement as a sell-out I certainly am interested in hearing what procedures they have in mind for the attainment of unity in the shorter term. I am very much interested in hearing what kind of society it will be after unity takes place. How will they answer this question of whether or not it is necessary to have some kind of transcendant view of society that goes beyond both denominations' aspirations if we are going to have any significant progress.

This neatly brings me to a point which I do not want to appear to ignore — the great loss it is to the Labour Party that Senator Mary Robinson has decided to resign from that party because she fears, as she put it herself, that the Unionist reaction is revealing, that the Unionists have suffered a loss of status without consultation and without sufficient consideration. I regret the departure of Senator Mary Robinson from the Labour Party. I believe that history will record that she has been the woman in the modern period of Irish history who, since she first came into this House, has forced Irish thinking on all of these issues I have been speaking about. It is Senator Robinson who has led the case for the rights of women in Irish society, for equality, for reform of the civil arrangements that make civil divorce necessary. It is Senator [266] Robinson who was responsible for making a major contribution on the Labour Party's behalf to consideration of the European Community, for forging along in areas such as family planning, for suffering — as I recall very well — in the Seventies a hate-mail by the sackload from fundamentalist bigots who would claim to be Irish Nationalists of some kind, God help them, when she pioneered the family planning demands during the Seventies. She has been to the forefront in fighting for an agenda that would have made this a caring, socialist and, indeed, liberal and humanitarian society. I differ from her in the seriousness to some degree with which she views the agreement. She stresses that she hopes she is wrong and that she misinterprets the consequences that will flow from this agreement. I deeply appreciate her reservations and particularly her fear that, rather than mitigating violence, the Unionist irredentist position will now lead to an escalation of violence.

That having been said, however, it is very hard to participate in or approve of the process which led to this agreement and then seem to disapprove of the consequences of such a process. It was obvious that the process of consultation was going to lead somewhere. It is difficult to envisage proper circumstances that could have involved a constructive consultation with Unionist opinion. Having made those differences with Senator Robinson clear, I want very much to agree with her that we must now build a situation which will try to harness the goodwill and constructive spirit of moderate Unionist opinion along with Nationalist opinion in Northern Ireland.

In that regard, I think there are three main fears which exist in Unionist eyes. They are that the Southern Government have been manoeuvring, since the establishment of this State, to force the Unionists, whether they like it or not, into a United Ireland not of their choosing. In that regard we must stress the consensual basis of the agreement. Having said that we stress the consensual basis of this agreement, we should realise equally that in the end we have to get below the [267] formal language of politics and try to make some appeal or some connection with the genuine feelings and fears that exist within communities in Northern Ireland. In that regard I confess to be coming more of a pessimist. I feel that the formal language of politics is growing every day more distant from the real fears of the people, both North and South. These fears are expressing themselves in a social and economic way. If there are many years and generations of unemployment it is only logical to accept that the bitterness that is based on economic circumstances, and all the social deprivations that flow from unemployment, will more easily lend itself to the apparent only real division that takes place, be it on the basis of religion or constitutionalism, or on the basis of whether one is with the crowd that are winning or with the crowd that are losing in the community.

Formal politics in Ireland, as in Europe and in many other countries, has almost in it a tacit language of murder. People speak of defeating the opposition, of annihilating the opposition, of wiping out those with opposing views, of winning— and there is an opposite side to this, of losing, of being defeated, of being forced out, and so on. When you think about the significance of that, and that all that passes as a package of language and as the definition of democracy as we practise it ourselves, we must ask ourselves questions about all of that. Is democracy not judged in the end in terms of how it is exercised fundamentally and in terms of whether it is exercised properly or not? Is it not about the way that the majority treats the minority, the minority having appeared not to be able to assert their viewpoint at a particular moment?

The whole tragic history of Northern Ireland has, as Senator Robinson has alluded to, been one in which the majority had a very shaky basis of legitimacy, based ultimately — and this has to be recognised — on principles of colonisation in its historic sense and exercising that hegemony in a way which appalled outside observers, but which excluded [268] very comprehensively the minority from participation in the State. As the Northern Ireland statelet lost more and more any shred of legitimacy we were forced into the chaos and the vacuum which preceded events for the last 15 or 16 years. I welcome the waking-up of some Unionist opinion. But one might ask was it not a pity that the document to which reference has been made already, the Catherwood document, the consideration of the position of the minority, was not available in 1974. One thousand people have died since that time.

If we look at the other fear that exists, I think we can do something about it. It is that the arrangements at Hillsborough have led to some kind of informal joint authority. What do we mean by joint authority? Here, backing up every assertion in the name of the Republic of Ireland, is the character of the Republic of Ireland's State itself. I cannot for the life of me see how people can go North to a new council in Belfast and claim to be speaking constructively in a post-Hillsborough atmosphere unless they are committed to having referenda down here on issues like civil divorce. Are we going to fall into the trap and say, “We are keeping these in our back pocket as secret cards to play in the negotiations which have really started with the Hillsborough process”? To behave like that would be totally irresponsible. We must recognise that the Anglo-Irish Agreement, when all of its articles are taken together, describes a process that deals not only with Northern Ireland but deals with the Republic of Ireland and deals with Britain. It deals with Britain's attitude towards both parts of this island and it asks for a reconsideration there. These have been neglected aspects of the agreement.

In relation to things we can do, we should give prominence to the reciprocal aspects which the agreement makes possible. It is equally important that we be seen not to be moving a veto from the majority to the minority and that we would use our influence with the SDLP, on whose behalf Senator Bríd Rogers has spoken earlier, to ensure that there is not [269] exercise of the veto in such a way as to make reconciliation between the communities impossible. It is equally important that we think about the procedures that will be further down the line in the institutions in Northern Ireland which will allow for adequate and meaningful participation. In relation to the whole question of the British-Irish relationship, we should seek to develop this greater awareness that will have been released in Britain now on the question of Ireland.

To conclude, may I move towards what I think is the greatest fear that exists? The greatest fear that exists is that Mrs. Thatcher may prove to be too strong for those who do not want to analyse what is meant by political strength. I said there were different ways of looking at this agreement, first — which I feel is obvious from my own perspective — that one has to look at the agreement from a socialist perspective. I deplore what Margaret Thatcher has done in Britain. I deplore both the circumstance and the consequence of her victory over communities such as the miners in Great Britain. I am not one of those who believe that you can suspend the requirements of democracy for a great period and pay excessive adulation towards the so-called strength of a political leader. I am sure we would all not wish Margaret Thatcher's strength to be such that it would lead to the situation where the Unionists declared UDI — the three letters no one has wanted to use since this agreement was signed.

What would be the attitude of an Irish republic then? What would be the attitude of an Irish republic towards the northern minority? What would be the position of the northern minority? What would be the relationship between all of the parties involved as the colonising power has done, like so many other colonisers historically, washed its hands in the end and left behind the legacy of inter-community tension, strife, killings, maimings, and so on. I think we must see past the facile attraction of any strength in Mrs. Thatcher. We should moderate our admiration and just be pleased to accept that there has been a growing awareness in Britain of what is a complex [270] problem and an issue that has divided these two countries.

If we have a contribution to make, our contribution should be very much one of asking how we can best help ourselves by beginning to genuinely regard this agreement as a stage within a process. If it is a stage within a process I think we must ask what is the agenda for our own actions. It is insulting to the majority in Northern Ireland to say that those of us who want the benefits of medicine and science in hospitals available to women are not asking that for the Unionists in Northern Ireland. We are asking it as citizens in the Republic. If a republic means anything it means that one is entitled to education, and not merely Catholic education, and health, not merely Catholic health care. It means that one is entitled to law in the area of matrimony that is not simply the expression of the canonical code and demands of one denomination. It means also in relation to the symbols of the State that if one is pluralist and if one does not want to be accused of being denominational one must start disassembling all the symbolic hegemony that we have given to our denomination, and to this symbolic expression to the caving-in of a republic. It is not a republic when it denies so many individual, social and civil rights. People have spoken about the Unionist being shocked. Let us be shocked ourselves into action and into announcing and completing an agenda for civil, political and legal reform in this part of the island, an agenda that will make us less a threat to those whose fears will be exaggerated by irresponsible people.

Mr. Fitzsimons: One word that comes to mind when I begin to deal with this agreement is “dichotomy”. More simply I see it as a parcel with two wrappers, one wrapper for the Unionists and another for the minority in the North. It is important that we peel off the cover and examine the core of the parcel. I do not find it easy to do that. In spite of what has been said by Members who find it rather easy. I feel that we are inclined to listen to our [271] own thoughts. I believe that the agreement has to be sold, which is a colloquialism for saying that it must be put in a way that will be accepted. I agree that this is important. I recall a draper I knew who had a reputation for being a good salesman. It was said that if he had a coat that was suitable for a plump man and if a plump man passed the door he would sell him the coat, but if a man called who was not plump he has a way of gathering up the coat at the back to let him feel it was a good fit. It was his job to sell and he was a good salesman. I think the Government have the same responsibility in this situation.

I do not doubt the sincerity or the enthusiasm of the Taoiseach but, like other Members who have spoken before me, I doubt his belief that it will be the success that he makes out. I say that fully realising that it is easy to be critical. I remember on one occasion when I was inspecting a house I condemned a wall because it was not built in a certain way. The mason took the trowel and handed it to me and said “you build it correctly”. I am sure that the Government and the Taoiseach might be tempted to take that view, but at the same time it is the responsibility of the Government and of the Taoiseach to govern. I am sure they do not resent fair or constructive criticism. That is what I intend to present.

This agreement has been put forward as having no losers and no winners. That could be correct in the sense that if it is successful, and peace and stability ensue, everybody will win. I think it is wrong in the sense of the preverbial “not an inch” of the Unionists. With the metric measurement it may be “not a centimetre” or “not a millimetre”. I believe that some way must be given. The Taoiseach put it in a very quaint way — and I hope it is correct — when he says that what will happen is that another dimension will be added. It is wrong to sell this as an innocuous exercise. It is a mistake to present it in the light that nobody stands to lose. It underrates the intelligence of people, as Senator Robinson mentioned, because of what is involved [272] and because of many other reasons including all the time that it took to achieve this agreement. It is wrong to undersell the agreement.

I believe it is an agreement that Unionists may feel rubs their noses in the dirt but Nationalists believe delivers nothing. One aspect of that may well be what has been referred to already — the meetings in Stormont. Would the meetings be any less effective if they were held in Dublin or London? I do not know, but I venture to say they would not. There are positive and negative elements in the agreement, and to what extent one or other of them will win out only time will tell. It is necessary to stress the predominant negative elements, while wishing the positive elements well, and hoping and praying for the success of the agreement.

In this respect I wish the Minister, Deputy Peter Barry, and his team well in the difficult work ahead. The Minister is the first permanent Irish ministerial representative and joint chairman. The situation is desperate. Part of the amendment refers to recognising the urgent need that exists for substantial improvement in the situation and circumstances of the Nationalist section of the community in the North of Ireland and approving any effective measures which may be undertaken for that purpose. This is a matter of life and death in many instances. None of us would wish to trivialise the enormous gravity of the situation or to undermine any success that may be possible. It has been said that distance insulates us from a personal understanding. Senator Michael D. Higgins said that there may be many Members who have never been in the North. I will say with regard to the North that I do feel that many of the members of the community there are sucked involuntarily into sectarian vortices. Against their will, if they do not fit into one camp they are taken as belonging to the other. We must have a feeling for fair play and for the underdog, which is represented by the minority in Northern Ireland.

I know we are not — and I am not personally — involved in the North. Perhaps it is easy to talk in that situation. I [273] have close relations in the North, like many Members here. I have many friends and have spent many holidays outside Warrenpoint in my youth and as a young man. I recall Warrenpoint in the early Fifties and the jungle of concrete walls that represented the remains of billets for the American and British soldiers. I have taken part in their amusements there. I have cheered the County Down football team long before Down became a potent force in football. I have met members of the majority religion on social occasions and I would have no complaints about their behaviour. Around that time it seemed that their “brew” as they called their dole, was giving frugal living to very many people. In the main most people were in a better situation then they were in this part of our country. The view of the majority at that time was that, having the means of a decent living, education and the necessities of life, that was enough. Of course, it was not enough. The minority wanted to take their cultural place, and that was important. It is important to remember, for example, that if, as in a family situation, the victimised partner is prepared to put up with anything, there would be no need for divorce. The same applied in the North of Ireland.

It is important that we all explain our particular stand with regard to this question. I want to say that I am a total, committed pacifist. I am that way by nature. If I were to pass over a rabbit on a road I would involuntarily shudder. At my age the futility and sadness of violence become underlined. Death and violence in the North is our greatest tragedy. This is explained very well in the Forum report. I am not going to go into it in any detail. It is explained in paragraph 3.21 of that report: “The most tragic loss is that of the deaths of over 2,300 men, women and children”. During the past 15 years there have been over 43,000 recorded separate incidents of shootings, bombings and arson, not to talk of the psychological and other damage that has been caused.

This violence is, in effect, caused by Partition, an arbitrary and artificial [274] border. Paragraph 3.2 of the Forum report states:

The intention underlying the creation of Northern Ireland was to establish a political unit containing the largest land area that was consistent with maintaining a permanent majority of Unionists.

Page 12, paragraph 3.14 of the Forum report states:

The present crisis in the North arose when non-violent campaigns in the late 1960s for basic civil rights and for an end to systematic discrimination in the areas of electoral rights, housing and employment were met with violence and repression.

Now, with the recognition for the first time of the legitimacy of Partition by this Government, it seems that this gives an advantage to those who do not give this recognition and resort to violence. It is important to recognise the limitations of the agreement because otherwise failure would bring despair with the dwindling of hope.

The constitutional case has been already referred to and I do not intend to go into it. I will leave that to the lawyers. Serious reservations have been expressed in this area. It seems that we are taking on responsibility with no effective power. The word “consultation” has come up very often. I have failed to find the word “consultation” in the agreement or in any of the communiqués. Perhaps I am wrong, I hope I am.

This Anglo-Irish Agreement, 1985, will be registered at the United Nations. That ties us into something and gives us no benefit in return. It is at the discretion of England to decide. We cannot appeal to the United Nations because this is expressly excluded.

With regard to security, many people feel we are already spending too much on security and far more per capita than Britain — one and a half times more. Now we are tied down to more expense in this area in order to cope with a problem that was created by England. This consultancy role means that we are taking [275] on responsibility for the Diplock courts, supergrass trials and many other areas with which we would not want to be associated and which are reprehensible. The final decisions will be made by Britain.

There might be some reason — and, indeed, there would be every reason, I am sure — in having an Irish judge in the North, but I feel it is ridiculous to have a Northern judge in the 26 Counties. The Taoiseach told us here today, and he has repeated, that this is a possibility and I understand that this is in the area of the Special Criminal Court. There is no reason to have a British judge in our courts. We have no problem in this area. This is putting the two administrations on the same level, on the same footing, which is wrong because the Northern Ireland administration has failed. We have a right, on behalf of the minority there. That is our right. Therefore, I can see sense in having an Irish judge in the North, but I would be totally against having a British judge in this country.

The whole approach of the Taoiseach and others in regard to this agreement — and it has been repeated many times — would seem to be that it was based on good faith. There are many people who would say that on historic grounds. These people should have their heads examined. From the Treaty of Limerick to the 1922 Treaty, the Boundary Commission and even Sunningdale — because Sunningdale was to be registered with the United Nations but was broken by England before it could be registered — we have consistently had a problem about England delivering. The only exception that I can recall would be the Land Acts and the setting up of the Land Commission in 1881 and the consequence of that. The only difference in this situation is the British Prime Minister, the Hon. Margaret Thatcher. Senator Michael D. Higgins said that he would not regard this as of any great consequence, but that is the only difference — someone who will keep his or her side of the bargain. There were at least ten months of public relations by this Government with regard [276] to this. Emissaries went to Australia, to America, the European countries and even to the European Community looking for support. I believe that this was necessary but there are many who believe that it was an effort to sidestep the Irish people into believing that they had something special. Indeed, it has been said — I am not saying it — that the whole thing could have been settled by a few telephone calls. It was drawn out to give the impression that the Government were fighting for something special.

Another thing I would like to mention is that a few months ago the Government announced that there was an arrangement for an imminent UDF attack and I believe several hundred gardaí were drafted into the border and to special defence situations. The troops were taken to the Border as well, We were told that it was being watched day and night. However one individual that I know drives down there regularly told me that he drove through at that time between different dates on different days between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and he saw no gardaí. At the same time there was an article in The Irish Press to the same effect: that there were people who felt it was a propaganda exercise.

There are some people also who have said rather cynically that there is an Irish version of this agreement to convince people who might need conviction in that area. Again, I do not subscribe to it myself; but it has been represented to me. I had always been led to believe that Britain's guarantee to the North was the one thing certain parties, including the SDLP, felt should be removed. This again is referred to in the New Ireland Forum report, page 17, paragraph 4.1:

The present formal position of the British Government, contained in Section 1 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act, 1973, is that the only basis for constitutional change in the status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom is a decision by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. In practice, however, this has been extended from consent to change in [277] the constitutional status of the North within the United Kingdom into an effective unionist veto on any political change affecting the exercise of nationalist rights and on the form of government for Northern Ireland.

This guarantee and this veto about which there was such complaint now becomes part of an agreement. To some extent I can sympathise with the point of view of Senator Mary Robinson with regard to the Unionists, but I would point out they were asked to take part in the Forum and they refused. As has been asked already, why were Fianna Fáil not kept informed of what was happening, the largest political party in this country? I feel they should have been involved or at least kept informed, because apparently President Reagan and “Tip” O'Neill and many other heads of state in different places were prepared to come out to support this agreement. Again, there are many people who feel that they could not have known what was in the agreement at the time that they spoke in favour of it; but, if they were kept informed, why were the Fianna Fáil Party not kept informed?

With regard to our responsibility in this agreement by being partners, what happens if there are murders in the North and hunger strikes unto death? Do we not take some responsibility, some moral responsibility in that area? There are positive and negative points but I must at all times remember that the first aim of the Fianna Fáil Party is to secure the unity and independence of Ireland as a republic. Perhaps we are in a singular position when the media and so many others are in favour of this agreement. It is not the first time the party stood alone; and, if we have to stand alone we must. If there is some good in the agreement, perhaps it is bought at a very great price. Indeed it may be too high a price.

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator has two minutes left.

Mr. Fitzsimons: There are some other aspects I would like to take into consideration but, obviously, time is running out. [278] It is regrettable that a considerable section of the people in the North are led by bigoted clergymen, clergymen who teach the Bible, which tells us to turn the other cheek. They want others to turn the other cheek. They are not inclined to do it. I welcomed very much the three representatives of the Protestant, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches on the television on Sunday, Dr. Gallagher, Rev. Bob Cobain and Canon Elliot. They spoke with feeling, with compassion, with love. It was a welcome change, in spite of the publicity which had been given earlier in the week regarding these Churches. They gave a very memorable performance. There are many thousands of decent Unionists in Northern Ireland. I recall a visit to Belfast about three years ago when I had a problem finding my way out of the city. A motorist who was driving alongside me realised I was in some difficulty. He opened his car window and asked me where I wanted to go. He indicated for me to follow him. He took me through the city and left me on the road for home. That has never happened to me in Dublin.

This agreement has many positive and negative elements. I sincerely hope that it will succeed. I feel deeply about the situation in the North of Ireland. I feel deeply about pluralism. I would like to go into that area of it and to discuss it. It is dealt with in the Forum report: that when the times comes we will have unity in this country and we will reach an agreement that will accommodate the views of all people on this island North and South. I wish the agreement success.

An Cathaoirleach: Before I call on Senator Eoin Ryan, I want to point out that I am breaking the procedures slightly today, with the consent of Senator Deenihan, who is allowing Senator Ryan in at this Stage. Senator Ryan has been ill and we all are delighted to welcome him back.

Mr. E. Ryan: Thank you for that indulgence and for the fact that my colleague on the other side is making it possible for me to speak.

[279] We have two propositions before us today, a proposal by the Government to welcome the Anglo-Irish Agreement made at Hillsborough, and, on the other hand, we have the Fianna Fáil amendment, suggesting in general that a conference be called of interested parties to discuss new structures leading to a united Ireland. I think we must be realistic in accepting that the only real option before us at the present time is the Hillsborough Agreement. I would be very pleased, indeed, if it were possible to have a conference as suggested in the amendment, but I have to face up to the fact that there is not the slightest possibility of the British Government agreeing to such a conference at the present time. And, even if a conference was called, I think it is inevitable that the Unionist parties — the Official Unionists and the DUP — simply would not take part. They would quite simply say that they were not interested in a united Ireland and that they were not prepared to have any part in a Conference to discuss such structures.

So, we have to decide whether we want to support something which has no chance of being implemented in the immediate future, or, on the other hand, to welcome an agreement which has been made and which has a very distinct possibility of being implemented. Consequently, whereas I have no objection to the Fianna Fáil amendment, whereas I agree in principle with the aspirations it contains, I have to realise that to support that amendment, and possibly by so doing to defeat the Government proposal, would be to put back any possibility of making useful progress in Northern Ireland at the present time.

Turning then to the agreement which has been made in Hillsborough, one of the principal objections to it, I would say the only really important objection to it, is that in some way it is contrary to the Constitution. I have read the agreement very carefully several times and I can see nothing in it which is repugnant to the Constitution of this country. If there was anything in it repugnant to the Constitution, I most certainly would not support it. It is laid down in the Constitution [280] that the national territority consists of the thirty-two counties. However, the Constitution recognises that for the present we are not in a position to exercise jurisdiction over the six Northern conties. As well as that, on a number of occasions in recent years — for example, in the 1980 meeting between Deputy Haughey and Mrs. Thatcher we have agreed that no attempt would be made to achieve a united Ireland except with the will and wishes of a majority of the people in the Six Counties. Again, this concept is incorporated in the report of the New Ireland Forum. It is, in fact, very much a characteristic of that report that nothing would be attempted without achieving consent, without achieving the agreement and co-operation of the people of Northern Ireland.

What has this agreement done? It has merely recognised the fact, having stated what the aspirations of this part of the country are and having recognised the aspirations of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland, that no attempt will be made to change the status of Northern Ireland without the agreement of a majority of the people in Northern Ireland.

But, in addition to that, we have a declaration, agreed and signed by the British Government, that, if a time comes when a majority, however made up, of the Six Counties are in favour of coming into a united Ireland, the British will cooperate in achieving and implementing this departure from the present situation. This solemn declaration and agreement by the British Government is something very useful, indeed, and something which has never been stated in the same terms before.

So, it has been agreed by both Governments that what will be crucial to any change of status is the wishes of the people of the Six Counties; and, as I have said, this has already been agreed in numerous statements by succesive Governments of this country and in the New Ireland Forum report. I see nothing new in this. I see nothing different. I certainly see nothing in this which is contrary [281] to the Constitution. And if there is anything in it repugnant to the Constitution, then I think it is up to those who hold that view to test that position in the courts. It would be quite irresponsible for any important body of opinion in this country to hold the view that something was repugnant to the Constitution and not have this tested and decided.

Having said that, I believe that the status of this country is not affected by this agreement. We are not in any way copper-fastening the situation of Partition. We are not giving away anything, or doing anything which will prevent the eventual attainment of a united Ireland. That being the position as I see it, then I think we should look at what we are gaining from this agreement and what, in particular the people of the Six Counties are going, because, for them, it is a very important agreement. And, because of the fact that SDLP have given it very strong support it proves to me that this is something which may be of great importance and benefit to the Nationalists of the Six Counties. If the SDLP did not think that this was the case they certainly would not be supporting it. There is nobody better qualified to assess the situation than John Hume, Seamus Mallon, Austin Currie and the other leaders of the SDLP. They have fought the battle, the constitutional battle, for the nationally-minded people in the Six Counties for the past 16 years. They have experienced at first hand all the problems and injustices, all the tragedy and sadness of the people of the Six Counties. They know what needs to be achieved and they believe that this agreement will be of help in ameliorating their situation. There is no use in anybody in this part of the country pretending that we are more in touch, that we know better than the SDLP exactly what the problems are, what the experiences are, and how useful this agreement could be in helping that situation. We must be very much influenced by what the SDLP think about this situation.

So what can be said about this agreement? On the one hand, it has been said that the agreement means nothing, that [282] it is merely an agreement by the British Government to consult with the Irish Government; that no power is given to the Irish Government; that the British Government is merely obliged to listen to our views, but is under no obligation to do anything about them. This is, to a considerable extent, true; although the agreement stipulates that “in the interest of promoting peace and stability, determined efforts shall be made through the Conference to resolve any differences.” But the agreement is, in my view, one with great potential, great potential indeed for the Nationalists in the Six Counties.

Objection has been made to this agreement by Senator Mary Robinson because the Unionists were not consulted. Does anybody believe that, if they had been consulted, they would have taken part in the consultations, that there would have been any use whatsoever in discussing this matter? The attitude would have been, from beginning to end, that they would not go along with anything of this kind that was proposed in this agreement. Their attitude would have been a totally negative one, as it has been on so many occasions in the past. One has only to look back to perhaps 20 years ago, the time when the original efforts were made to get justice in the North, when John Hume and Austin Currie and people like them started first, and consider what could have happened at that time if the Unionists had been a little more generous, more understanding and more willing to give on basic injustices of that kind. They could have done a great deal during the intervening years if there had been anything but a negative attitude, a “not an inch” attitude on their part. They did not do so and one has to realise that in the present situation, even if they had been asked to take part in the negotiations, their attitude would have been equally negative.

I cannot blame the British Government, or the Irish Government, if they did not attempt to bring the Unionists into these discussions. In any event, it is clear that in this situation the discussions [283] were between two sovereign Governments, between the Government in Dublin and the Government in Westminster. This agreement is an agreement between these two Governments. It concerns the power of these two Governments. It concerns the way in which this power is exercised. Whatever consultations might or might not have taken place, in the long run it was the two Governments who had to decide what could and should be done, and that is, in fact, what has been done.

The need for an agreement of this kind is a very simple one. The need is to give some kind of representation, some kind of say to the minority of the Six Counties in the administration of justice, in the administration of the security forces, in the general administration of the province. Nobody can deny that up to now the minority got a very raw deal, that their point of view was seldom represented, or was seldom listened to with any real sympathy or concern. It was very important, as the British Government realised eventually, that their point of view should be adequately represented and implemented in the system of government in the Six Counties. Because, if their point of view is not represented, if they are not listened to, if their concerns are not taken seriously, then the sense of lack of identity becomes more and more serious. They are drifting away from any feeling of identity with the administration in the Six Counties and, if this goes on any further, it seems inevitable that they will gradually drift towards the men of violence.

This agreement is important because it may help the Nationalist minority to consider it possible that they will get a fair hearing, that their point of view will be put forward in the administration of affairs in the Six Counties; that the excesses of the security forces, and in particular, the UDR, will be curbed; that the RUC and the British Army will not display the partisan approach which they have often shown in the past. If this can be achieved, then there will be a very big change in the attitude of the Nationalists. [284] If the courts can be reformed in such as a way as to avoid the appearance of bias in favour of the armed forces as opposed to the Nationalist minority, then again that will give confidence to the Nationalists in the North and it may help a great deal to undermine the influence of the men of violence.

This agreement is an agreement which has great potential. I say great potential because I recognise that is it very largely dependent on the goodwill of the British Government and, of course, on the goodwill of the Irish Government. But it has great potential. If the two Governments, and the British Government in particular, are absolutely sincere in their desire to listen to the problems, to go out of their way to avoid the injustices which have been suffered by the minority in the past, a great deal will be achieved.

Of course in the end, it could be an agreement, which might not live up to expectations, which might turn out to be useless. This is something I think we have got to take a chance on. In a situation like this, I think we have to assume a certain amount of goodwill; we have to make it plain that we have the goodwill, that we expect goodwill from them, and if that goodwill is forthcoming, then an agreement of this kind can achieve a great deal. So, to put it very simply, I think this agreement is one to which it is worth giving a chance.

And finally, I would say to the Unionists, if they object to the administration of Northern Ireland as initially provided for under the agreement, they have the option of a devolved government in which they would play a major part in a power-sharing administration. This is an eminently fair arrangement, an alternative which should be extremely attractive to them if they find the present one intolerable.

There is nothing further I wish to say in the limited time available. For the reasons which I have outlined, I believe this agreement should not be opposed and in the circumstances I could not, in conscience, accept the recommendation of my party to vote against it.

[285] An Cathaoirleach: Before I call on Senator Ferris I would like to thank Senator Deenihan for accommodating Senator Ryan by giving his turn to the Senator.

Mr. Ferris: The motion in the name of the Leader of the House and myself which welcomes the Hillsborough Agreement and calls on persons of goodwill to work for the success of this initiative in the interests of peace and stability in Ireland is a reasonable motion. First, I want to commend all those who have been involved in the long discussions which were begun by Deputy Haughey in May 1980 and were continued by the Taoiseach, Deputy Garret FitzGerald, the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Barry, and a most excellent team of civil servants on both sides of the divide which culminated in the Hillsborough Agreement. The Forum report, which was the basis of the continuation of the discussion, on page 30, section 5.8 states:

Constitutional nationalists fully accept that they alone could not determine the structures of Irish unity and that it is essential to have a unionist agreement and participation in devising such structures and in formulating the guarantees they required. In line with this view, the Forum believes that the best people to identify the interests of the unionist tradition are the unionist people themselves. It would thus be essential that they should negotiate their role in any arrangements which would embody Irish unity. It would be for the British and Irish Governments to create the framework and atmosphere within which such negotiations could take place.

Section 5.9 of the Forum Report went on to say:

The Forum in the course of its work, in both public and private sessions, received proposals as to how unionists and nationalist identities and interests could be accommodated in different ways and in varying degrees in a new [286] Ireland. The Forum gave careful consideration to these proposals. In addition to the unitary state, two structural arrangements were examined in some detail — a federal/confederal state and joint authority—....

We know, from the summit of 1984, the response of the British Prime Minister to those suggestions. This takes us to section 5.10 of the Forum report which states:

The Parties in the Forum also remain open to discuss other views which may contribute to political development.

I take it that section 5.10 which was subscribed to by all the nationalist participants in the Forum report gave the basis and the groundwork for reaching this kind of agreement. It is my contention that any persons of goodwill whether they are Unionists or Nationalists must accept that this agreement is a first step. We all admit, and it would be naive to accept otherwise, that it is a first step. We also accept that it is a vital step in trying to ensure that peace and stability in the Six Counties will follow. It is imperative also that time must be given to remove the genuine fears and that in some way this can be called a victory for either side. In that regard I would like to commend Bishop Cathal Daly for his statesmanlike statement of last night in which he called on people from either side not to claim it as a victory or as a loss but to look at it as a first step towards evolving some kind of peace and stability in Northern Ireland. If we accept that, then let us look calmly at the actual agreement and parts of the agreement that we feel are important. Article 1 of the agreement says:

The two Governments

(a) affirm that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland;

(b) recognise that the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland is for no change in the status of Northern Ireland;

[287] (c) declare that, if in the future a majority of the people of Northern Ireland clearly wish for and formally consent to the establishment of a united Ireland, they will introduce and support in the respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish.

It is the first time ever in the history of our State that we have the British Government agreeing, and we hope that they will agree by a vote in the House of Commons tonight. If this agreement is seen to be working and if at any time in the future a consensus comes about in the North of Ireland then there is a commitment from both sides to a united Ireland. That is very important. That is the de facto situation and any other suggestion to the contrary would be unfair. I quote from Mr. Haughey's speech of 21 May 1980 following his meeting with Mrs Thatcher. The joint communiqué stated:

Any change in the Constitutional status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of the majority of the people of the North of Ireland.

First of all in the terms of this discussion there was obviously a consensus among Nationalist politicians, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and the SDLP. That is exactly how we perceive the situation as it is at the moment.

The second article is also very important from our point of view. I want to commend the Taoiseach in his final efforts to ensure that it was based in the North of Ireland so that Nationalists could identify with it. It states that if this Inter-governmental Conference meets on a regular basis they would deal with:

  (i) political matters,

(ii) security and related matters;

(iii) legal matters, including the administration of justice;

(iv) the promotion of cross-Border co-operation.

While agreeing that this is a very wide-ranging [288] area of Irish involvement in the Six Counties, if we accept that it is, then we can understand immediately why the Unionists are so concerned and why they ignore the assurances I have referred to in article 1. The Unionists have had difficulties in accepting at any time how any Irish Government should have an input into these particular areas and we feel that they should be. From our point of view, as Nationalists living in the Twenty-six Counties in a privileged position almost, we consider it is essential that these areas are covered.

I am sure all of us Nationalists in this House are united because of the discrimination that has been exercised for years and years against the minority in the North of Ireland. That discrimination of course, as we all know, is now a matter of history. It culminated in the civil rights movement and then led on to the atrocities of Bloody Sunday which was commemorated throughout the country. It was commemorated particularly in the Twenty-six Counties where we had large masses of people walking on the streets carrying black coffins to signify the deaths of these people. On that occasion I found that instead of going down that road I arranged an ecumenical prayer service in the small village of Bansha in County Tipperary as a contribution towards trying to understand how atrocities like that could happen and praying so that peace would eventually come to that torn part of our country. It was inevitable also that a political situation which excluded the minority could not and would not continue. It is a matter of record that since those tragic days following the civil rights movement the SDLP through the democratic and political means available to them have tried to advance the minority representation in the Six Counties.

Unfortunately men of violence, and we all know who the men of violence are and their commitment to the destruction of this State as well as the Six Counties, have created havoc over the past 15 years leading to the death of almost 3,000 men, women and children, to the injury of about 25,000 other people, to the destruction of property, to the disruption [289] of trade, commerce, tourism and all the other cross-Border dealings we have with our neighbours. The additional budgetary cost involved, for this State in particular, in the areas of security — and these costs are documented in the Forum — running to billions of pounds all mount up to a situation which the Government, whether it is a Fianna Fáil Government or a Coalition Government, could not just stand idly by but had to do something. I am satisfied that in this Anglo-Irish Agreement a delicate balance has been achieved by both Governments. To achieve these objectives the balance in this accord has received worldwide support. In the United States, where we often looked for sustenance on this question and indeed where the men of violence have been successful through Noraid and otherwise to get funds to supplement their campaign of terror, we got support. It was forthcoming on this occasion from the President of the United States, from the Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill who is one of the best friends of Ireland in America, from the Friends of Ireland Association which is a joint body in this country, from Senator Kennedy and many other leading politicians on the American side of the water.

We have also had tremendous support throughout Europe, including our EC partners. Perhaps it is because of this level of support that the Unionists want to unite themselves in total opposition. We looked with dismay at evidence of their opposition when they came out on to the streets and paraded and marched. I would remind the House that the Unionists in the North have always preached the logic of majority rule thereby never wanting to concede an inch. Not an inch has been their catch cry for a long number of years.

I would also remind the House that the Unionists rejected Sunningdale. They also refused to participate in the Forum discussions, with the exception of the Alliance Party who although not involved directly certainly kept themselves briefed on the periphery of the Forum discussions. Now the Unionists have refused to accept the majority decisions of a [290] democratic parliament in Westminster. This point was brought home last night by John Hume in a debate on television following the first day of debate in the Commons. He cannot understand why people who aspire to democracy and to majority rule tend to disobey the actual majority rule of Westminster of which they want to be a part. Their majority obviously in the Westminster Parliament has been reduced to a minority.

Having put that on the record I feel we all have a responsibility, and I today from my side of the House appeal to the Unionists to give this agreement time to achieve some of its objectives. In time the situation in the North of Ireland could improve for all its citizens whether they are Unionists or Nationalists. All of us have a major responsibility in keeping up a dialogue with the North of Ireland, with Unionists, Nationalists and people of moderate views. We should use every opportunity to reassure them in their doubts. Otherwise there is a risk to the actual effective working of this Inter-governmental Conference.

In my own constituency of South Tipperary, in the town of Tipperary, there are proud traditions in the area of nationalism and the fight for freedom. I do not have to mention for the record of this House the stalwarts that have gone before us who tried to ensure that the Twenty-six Counties had its rightful place as a free country. They played a major role in the War of Independence. They have addressed themselves to this dialogue that I am talking about. They have arranged a peace festival and a peace discussion forum called the Tipperary Festival of Peace. In the first year in which that was run the Alliance Party was represented by Sir Oliver Napier, the SDLP was represented by Senator Bríd Rogers, a well respected Member of this House, Fianna Fáil was represented by Deputy Niall Andrews; Deputy Jim O'Keeffe, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs represented the Fine Gael point of view, and the chairman of the Labour Party, Senator Michael D. Higgins also participated, together with Seán Mac Bride who [291] is internationally known for his efforts in peace, having won the major peace awards in the world, both the Lenin and Nobel Peace Prizes.

This year we had the Attorney General, Mr. John Rogers, giving the constitutional line, Fianna Fáil were represented by Deputy Haughey's adviser, Dr. Mansergh, the SDLP had Alvar McGuinness down, the Unionists on this occasion were represented by Frazer Agnew and Brendan O'Reagan represented the Co-operation North. This forum was chaired by personalities from RTE, John Bowman, Michael Ryan and others. We have set up a forum in the South in which people can talk to one another. Admittedly, Mr. Agnew discovered that many of his points of view were not accepted but at least it was a process of dialogue. I am hoping that other areas throughout the country will follow this and continue this dialogue. That is the only way we can convince people that we do not want to bomb a million Protestants into the sea. We do not want to overcome them by force or take anything against their will. If they seriously sit down and look at the terms of this agreement we should be able to convince them that there is no need for those fears.

I hope that this type of dialogue that has been initiated in Tipperary will continue, particularly during the period of the Inter-governmental Conference so that the deep divisions between the communities North and South can in some way be reconciled and so that we together can chart a better way forward economically, socially and culturally. Let us try to unite the people of Ireland first and I think all other unities will follow. This could then lead to a devolution in the North of Ireland, a power-sharing devolution which is one of the options that the Unionists can take if they want to go down this road. They have since made a submission to the Westminster Parliament that they would now consider a devolution. That then could unite democratic politicians of all shades of opinion. In doing so, I honestly feel that they [292] could isolate the men of violence and the paramilitaries on both sides of this question. There are paramilitaries on the Unionist side as well as on the Republican side.

The position of the Labour Party in this regard is a matter for public record. I have total and complete confidence in the line that was adopted by our party leader, Deputy Spring, the Tánaiste, at the opening session of the New Ireland Forum and indeed throughout his whole participation in and leading up to this agreement. We in the Labour Party are totally committed to a peaceful solution to this problem. I believe that the Hillsborough Agreement is a major step towards a peaceful, non-violent solution to a problem which has bedevilled both communities since, and even before, the last all-Ireland elections of 1918. They led afterwards to the political system in 1920 — a system which still exists — under the constitutional arrangement by Britain resulting in the arbitrary division of the country and the electoral area manipulation that went on which secured a majority in electoral terms for the Stormont regime. Fianna Fáil have committed themselves publicly in the Forum and elsewhere. I have no doubt whatsoever that that is their view. They have also committed themselves to a peaceful settlement. They said this in paragraph 5.4 of the Forum and I quote:

Among the fundamental realities the Forum has identified is the desire of nationalists for a united Ireland in the form of a sovereign, independent Irish state to be achieved peacefully and by consent. The Forum recognises that such a form of unity would require a general and explicit acknowledgment of a broader and more comprehensive Irish identity. Such unity would of course be different from both the existing Irish State and the existing arrangements in Northern Ireland because it would necessarily accommodate all the fundamental elements in both traditions.

Having said that and on the record of their own contribution, I find it difficult [293] to understand their total opposition by voting against this agreement in the other House. I accept immediately that they had a major constitutional role to play in ensuring that the best possible deal was got from the Nationalist point of view and that was a very important role which strengthened the hand of the negotiators. Having put down the amendment as they did in the other House which has been repeated in this House and when that amendment was lost I felt that the Fianna Fáil Party should have abstained on the positive resolution. That would have been, in my opinion, in line with the way they have been thinking. For that reason I commend Senator Eoin Ryan for the courageous stand he has taken on this. He is a man of clear thinking mind who knows exactly the rights and wrongs and what the possibilities of any move in this area would be.

There is a positive side to every action by political parties North and South of the Border. One positive factor in the way the Opposition have handled this matter is that it might in some way appease the doubts of the Unionists. But it would have been more rewarding for all of us if we could all have been united as Nationalists and have a Nationalist approach along the lines expressed after the Sunningdale Agreement of 1974. Let us be in no doubt, if we agree that we can only have a peaceful settlement by consent then let us agree that this Anglo-Irish Agreement is a formula for this consent. Shouting from platforms and waving of flags, whether they are Tricolours or Union Jacks, has never brought this tragic situation one day nearer to being resolved.

Last Saturday's demonstration in Belfast was — and these are the views that were expressed by Senator Mary Robinson when discussing the agreement — frightening. There was a spectacle of bands parading through the streets, flag waving, flag burning, the burning of effigies and the usual rhetoric that we have been listening to. If the maximum amount of attendance recorded at the demonstration is the correct one — and there are varying views on the numbers [294] of people attending — it certainly would still only represent something like 10 per cent of all the Unionists. That must act as an incentive for all of us to ensure that behind these masses of parading Unionists there are moderate people who will sit down and judge for themselves. This is a time for the Unionist leadership in the North to show leadership.

We must first of all accept that initially there was disagreement, but through a process of dialogue in the Forum and now in this accord this agreement has been reached between two sovereign Governments to set up a structure which is new. It is imaginative and indeed complex and, if given time, could lead to the unity of people and the unity of purpose. When I talk about unity of people North and South I must pay tribute to the trade union movement in particular who have, to their eternal credit, always managed to unite members of the trade union movement who ignore the border. There was always the united trade union movement starting with the Belfast Trades Council in 1881 leading to the setting up of the Dublin Trades Council in 1885 and the Trade Union Congress in 1896. I sincerely hope that their example can be followed by political representations North and South, thus leading to a better Ireland in which everybody can maintain their identity and aspirations, achieve their own political aims and also have total political freedom and religious free dom.

Irish people have been successful politically in doing this in the various democracies throughout the world. Many of our people who have emigrated or their descendants have been involved in democratic politics throughout the world. We have managed to reach a consensus in other areas. Let us now try to reach a consensus ourselves in a very delicate area in which all of us aspire to a peaceful solution to the problem and in which all politicians North and South should work ceaselessly towards achieving. This Government with the British Government, and with the support of all free thinking people and people who want to commit themselves to goodwill, look [295] forward to the arrival of that historic day for this country. I look forward to the successful operation of this Inter-governmental Conference.

It would be remisss of me if I did not wish Deputy Peter Barry good luck and safe journey in the task which he must do in the North so that Nationalists can identify with him and can see that this Government have a responsibility to ensure that the discrimination that has gone on for so long will be eased in some areas, particularly in the area of security. If that happens and if Unionists can be assured that their situation is not compromissed in any way, this will have been a major achievement for this Government and all those involved in it should be commended by us.

We look forward to a report within the next two or three years on how the agreement is working. Then we can be critical of any areas of it which at the moment look all right, but possibly could be difficult when in operation on the ground. I do not think anybody will for a moment concede that there will be areas which will not be difficult. Some areas will be almost impossible, but if we approach it in a spirit of goodwill I am sure that the Minister, our permanent representative in that Inter-governmental Conference, will have the will of the people behind him and, indeed, their best wishes for his success in trying to achieve a peaceful settlement in the North.

Mr. Ellis: It is fair that we should take a long and hard look at the agreement that was signed at Hillsborough. There is no doubt that many of the people up and down the country expected much more from this agreement. I was saddened to hear a Government Minister last week describe himself as a political agnostic as far as Northern Ireland was concerned. It grieves me because I feel that at least as Irishmen we should all be committed to the unification of our country. Let us be from Larne or from Cork, we are all Irish and of Irish descent. Let us be [296] Unionist or Nationalist, we are all Irish. There are but a few sporting organisations in this country who maintain that position by acting on a national basis, North and South.

Looking at this agreement from my own political point of view and from my background as a Nationalist and as a democratic Republican, I have not reconciled myself with article 1. It states that the Governments:

(a) affirm that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland; (b) recognise that the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland is for no change in the status of Northern Ireland.

While the British guarantee is available to Northern Unionists you will not have any political movement from that section. Two Governments from outside deciding that they will do what they can from outside Northern Ireland with regard to reconciliation is foolish, because the main people involved as far as Northern Ireland is concerned are the Northern Unionist and the Northern Nationalist population.

As far as this agreement is concerned, there is not any forum in which those two sections can be brought to sit around the one table to express their views. What we see from the Inter-governmental Conference is that it will deal with political matters, security and related matters, legal matters, including the administration of justice and the promotion of cross-Border co-operation. The idea is that all political groupings in the North express their views to this Inter-governmental Conference. I hope that Nationalists and Unionists would both be invited to express their views with regard to the future of our country. The British Government's attitude was already expressed by the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in yesterday's House of Commons debate when she stated “We are not on the slippery slope to Irish unity”. She is not recognising that the only way that you will ever see peace is [297] by means of a united Ireland, an Ireland where everybody would have the same opportunity and the same chance. While present institutions are maintained in Northern Ireland, Nationalists, in my opinion, would not be given a fair crack of the whip with regard to what is available to them there.

I look back to the situation which emerged following the struggle of 1969 and look at what was said then by a former Taoiseach, a former leader of our party. He said that there was no use in pretending that the incidence of discrimination in the North was fragmentary and rare and that, therefore, all that was required now was the elimination of minor irritations. In my opinion, minor irritations since then have become running sores. We have seen people divided, we have seen communities divided, and we have seen a major division being put between Nationalists and Unionists. The net result is that we have seen very militant organisations rise on both sides. We have seen the paramilitary take away much of the middle ground which was there some time ago. I would hope that after this agreement we would not see any more of the middle or common ground that was there taken away from either Nationalists or Unionists who are prepared to use democratic means to resolve the Northern Ireland situation.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: For the record were you reading from the report?

Mr. Ellis: I was reading from the speech of the former Taoiseach, Mr. Jack Lynch, at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis on 20 February 1971.

When we look at what is now happening I believe that the British Government are using the proposed agreement that was signed at Hillborough to cover up many of the misdeeds to which they have been a party down the years in Northern Ireland. When you look at what has happened in Northern Ireland in the past ten years you begin to wonder how the British can accept the principles that I [298] except our Government will be putting forward to them in the Inter-governmental Conference. With regard to security in Northern Ireland I believe that our economy is not in a position to provide armed defence and security for Northern Ireland. If you take the amount of the national budget that goes on security it is in my opinion appalling that we have to maintain a Border which we do not recognise. I feel that the British Government should be paying any expenses that are incurred by this State in trying to provide defence and security on this side of the Border.

When you look at what has happened in Northern Ireland in the past number of years, when you look at the prison system in Northern Ireland, when you look at the treatment that is being handed out in British jails and in Northern jails to people who are there — some of them on hearsay evidence — I would have hoped that when this agreement was being signed the Government would have stressed to the British Government the need for the abandonment of the policy of informer trials. It appears to me and to many other Nationalists many of the people who have been imprisoned on the word of those informers may have been unjustly imprisoned. Yet, they have no courts of appeal and they must accept their fate as of now.

I said earlier that I feel that this is an attempt by the Government to try to bring reconciliation into the Northern situation. I hope that it will succeed but from my point of view, and living as I do, quite close to Northern Ireland and being a frequent visitor to Northern Ireland, with many friends in Northern Ireland, I feel that it is not going to be acceptable to either the majority of Nationalists or the majority of Unionists. I feel that it will further alienate the two cultures and two groupings in Northern Ireland. Indeed, I would love to be able to come to this House and say that I fully agree with everything in the agreement. I would love to be able to say that I believe that it could work at all ends as far as the British and Irish Governments are [299] concerned. When you look at the proposals and the guidelines within which it is proposed to operate the Inter-governmental Conference I begin to wonder at the Irish Government being asked to oversee decisions that will already have been taken in Westminster or by the Government in Downing Street, implemented in Northern Ireland.

I know that the Minister responsible, Deputy Peter Barry, will do his utmost to see to it that the aspirations of this country and of the majority of the Nationalists are protected as far as possible, but I feel that as his role is more or less classed as advisory he will not be in a position to safeguard the interests of Northern Nationalists. I would like to point out that for the past number of years we have seen that major industries which have come to Northern Ireland have not found their way to Nationalist areas. The Nationalists have not found themselves in as good a position as some of the more Unionist areas in regard to job opportunities.

I feel that the role envisaged for the Government with regard to the security forces will need to be monitored very closely by whatever delegation is sent to Belfast. I hope that the first aim of the Government here will be the total disbandment of the UDR. This is a force which no Nationalist can co-operate with. We have all had the experience at various times in Northern Ireland of being stopped and questioned by the UDR and found that the questions were put in a very unfriendly manner — to put it mildly. While we might not like to accept it, the courtesy which is displayed by the British Army is much superior to that which is shown by the UDR.

We must look further than this agreement to see what can be done about bringing about the unification of our country. As I said earlier we must see to it that no more of the common or middle ground which might exist between Nationalists and Unionists is eroded. Personally, I would not like to see any of the Articles of our Constitution being eroded by any action taken by the Government. [300] It is important that we should show the hand of friendship to our Unionist colleagues in Northern Ireland. It might be a good idea if we invited those same Unionists down here to see how we conduct our business. After all, some of them came by night at one stage. We would now like to see them come here and talk to us across the table, to explain their fears and their worries with regard to any move which will be made towards the unification of our country. It would be a good idea if the Government or the Minister for Foreign Affairs would invite those Unionists down here to talk to the constitutional politicians on this side of the Border.

I could go on and on as far as this agreement is concerned. It is important that we should not allow any of our aspirations or any of our ambitions to be removed by this agreement. We all aspire to the hope of a united Ireland by peaceful means. We do not want to see anybody use paramilitary organisations or others to destabilise the situation either North or South. As long as you have alienation, either of the Nationalists or of the Unionists, you are going to have problems. We should see what comes from the portions of this agreement with which all of us can concur and we should be given an opportunity in both Houses within 12 months to review the progress that may be made. Further to that, it should be reviewed on an annual basis in relation to what progress might be made with regard to the inter-governmental talks.

When it comes to policies in regard to security, relations with the security forces and prison policies, we should stress to the British Government our fears, our worries and our condemnation of some of the things which have gone on for the past number of years. It is time the informer trials were scrapped; the strip searching that takes place in Armagh prison and other prisons should be stopped and the other infringements which may be made against basic human rights in Northern Ireland must be stopped. That is all I want to say. I support certain sections of the agreement but, in principle, [301] I will be swayed by my conscience and by my belief that this agreement is not workable as far as the majority of people in both communities in Northern Ireland are concerned.

Mr. Hourigan: I would like to welcome very positively and warmly and without any qualification this Anglo-Irish Agreement which we are debating in this House today. It is interesting to note that the speaker who preceded me, Senator Ellis, quoted at some length the remarks of a past Taoiseach of our country, Mr. Jack Lynch, who is on public record as being totally and completely in favour of this Anglo-Irish Agreement. It is encouraging and interesting to have the former Taoiseach, Mr. Jack Lynch, quoted in this House by Senator Ellis today.

As was stated by other Senators, I too want to extend congratulations to the Taoiseach, Dr. Garret FitzGerald, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Barry and the Tánaiste, Deputy Dick Spring, together with all the Cabinet and I suppose more especially from the rest of the Cabinet, the Minister for Justice, Deputy Michael Noonan, for an excellent result from a very difficult series of negotiations carried out over a long period of time. We are all aware of the very difficult and almost impossible obstacles our negotiators were faced with in trying to evolve an agreement which was going to be of some relevance and acceptable to the people.

The agreement before us is a definite milestone in the history of our country. We have for a long time awaited such a significant breakthrough. It is very encouraging to note that this agreement has been the culmination of a long series of discussions and talks between the British and Irish Governments. Already the point has been well made as to why the discussions should be confined to the British and Irish Governments. I do not intend to go over that ground again except to say that I agree totally with the point of view expressed: that there was no point in having parties involved in discussions who would not in any way contribute in a meaningful or helpful [302] fashion towards a worthwhile solution as a result of such discussions.

It is relevant for us to recognise that this agreement is of course not fully what Nationalists would want: neither is it fully what Unionists would want, to put it mildly. Let us acknowledge that it is an agreement between two sovereign powers who had to have regard in a very clear sense to the aspirations, the thoughts, the beliefs and the views of people throughout this country in the various parts of the island of Ireland. It is disappointing, to say the least, to note the reaction from the Unionist leaders to this agreement so far. We recently had a demonstration. But, as was pointed out, even accepting that the attendance there was as great as was quoted, it would still represent perhaps only 10 per cent of the total Unionist population. Nevertheless, I would say it is quite important that we would endeavour in every conceivable way to convince, persuade and get across our message to all the Unionists in Northern Ireland that this agreement is not a takeover bid. It is a positive agreement, geared completely towards operating a better and more equitable system than obtained in the past.

All of us in this House, I hope, would like to look on this agreement as the beginning of progress and co-operation between the people living in the two parts of this island — in the first instance, co-operation between the people living within Northern Ireland and co-operation between the people North and South as well. We all hope it is the beginning of a greater evolution and a greater measure of solidarity which will ultimately reach the climax we all desire — the reunification of our country. We must appreciate that for the last 55 years or so we have had nothing but stagnation in the Northern situation. It did not stop at stagnation. We had serious unrest causing serious loss of life. We are very fortunate now that we have the first positive breakthrough since the twenties.

The agreement sets out to cover the political area, security and related matters, legal matters including the administration of justice — a matter to be greatly [303] welcomed — cross-Border co-operation, which would include joint security, economic, social and cultural matters. Provision is also made for a review of this agreement after a three year period or sooner, should either of the Governments desire it. So, on an ongoing basis this agreement will be reviewed and monitored. I am satisfied that under the careful guidance of Deputy Peter Barry, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, we will see progress as time goes on. The time has arrived when it is not basically a question whether this agreement contains all of what we desire from a Nationalist point of view or all that is desired by any other party within the island. The big question lies in the operation of the agreement and in the ability of the agreement to operate. I am confident that with the absolute, resolute approach being adopted by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mrs. Thatcher, coupled with the determination and the resolute approach that is being and will be adopted by the Taoiseach, Deputy Dr. Garret FitzGerald the agreement will succeed. However, in order to have it succeed, the determination of these two Prime Ministers must be supported by goodwill and help at every conceivable level and by the ordinary rank and file.

Serious developments since 1969 brought about a situation where we were at a major cross roads. If we did not have an agreement such as this we were likely to see an escalation of violence to an even greater degree. We have heard the statement of fact that more than 2,000 persons have been killed — murdered — in the last 16 years and that more than 10,000 persons have been seriously injured. People were highly frustrated with lack of results in political involvement. For that reason I hope that this agreement will help to reduce violence. It has been said that violence could escalate; but I hold the view that, on balance, the agreement will do a great deal more to placate people, to reduce the risk of violence in the future than if the agreement was not there.

It is important to note, as has been [304] stated, that the positions of the Unionists and the Nationalists have been well catered for in the agreement. The position of the Unionists is such that they are assured of Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom as long as the majority want that situation. The Nationalists are assured of the re-unification of this country when the majority in Northern Ireland vote for it. I believe there are two very positive guarantees for the two parties in Northern Ireland. The fact that so many wrong doings took place in the past is an argument in favour of the need for an an agreement rather than an argument against it, as some people would seem to suggest. The participation which we have had in the New Ireland Forum by the various parties was a recognition of the need for some form of arrangement or agreement. This brought about a new momentum at a time when matters were getting progressively worse. It is important to quote the following from the Forum report:

Britain has a duty to respond now in order to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland are not condemned to yet another generation of violence and sterility.

That is a very important quote from the New Ireland Forum report; it sums up a great deal.

It is also acknowledged by the Forum that there would be some reconciliation between the communities in the North before any reconciliation between the two parts of Ireland could be achieved. The same would apply in the context of this agreement. Reconciliation within Northern Ireland is the basic bottom line and is the most important immediate objective to work towards. The various parties that participated in the work of the New Ireland Forum committed themselves to a process directed towards the objective of bringing about an agreement such as we now have. I do not believe that anybody expected the agreement to be as forward-looking, as advanced and as acceptable to the majority of the people in the island of Ireland. I believe the majority of Nationalists in the country [305] are clearly and positively in favour of this agreement. We would like to have greater solidarity from all political parties in the Twenty-six Counties in support of this agreement, but I am satisfied in general that the majority of the ordinary people who live and work in this island with Nationalist aspirations do support what is set out in that agreement. Their concern, which is my concern, is that the agreement would work. It is a matter of determination to ensure this agreement operates. There is no attempt behind the agreement to wrap up the Northern question and to impose solutions on the people in the North. The decision with regard to the future destiny of Northern Ireland lies with the people there. The majority will decide their ultimate position and final destination.

I could go on for a long time talking about the rights and wrongs of what happened over a number of years, but that is irrelevant. I, in common with many others, condemn outright the many atrocities that have taken place. The minority were subjected to situations which were intolerble in the last number of years. For that reason it is a breath of fresh air that we have an agreement here under which in the future we will have an influence on what happens in Northern Ireland. That is extremely important in regard to the many crucial areas, such as law and order, the administration of justice, cross-Border co-operation and so on. It is a matter of great encouragement to note the very positive support the SDLP have given to this agreement. People like John Hume, Seamus Mallon and many others have given absolute support. Senator Bríd Rogers, earlier in her contribution today, and yourself, Acting Chairman, made very positive points and have spoken from personal experience. That is what matters in the long run. John Hume recently said that a recognition of diversity is a prerequisite to political unity. In other words, if you do not recognise that there is diversity of interest and opinion there is no way you can go about solving the matter and reaching a political solution. The SDLP, in common with the Irish Government [306] and Nationalists generally, are totally committed to the concept of a united Ireland but are realistic enough to know that this situation cannot be achieved easily or lightly and may take a little time yet to arrive at.

The people of this island have paid a very bitter price for the failure to accept the differences that have existed in the whole area of culture and traditions over many years. If there had been a greater acceptance of these positive and definite differences it would have helped enormously. There is now a greater acceptance by the people of these differences. Cross-Border co-operation is one of the areas that will be attended to by this agreement and is of extreme importance, embracing as it does the entire economic, social and cultural areas. We are talking about a situation which involves an entire economic and social dimension at either side of the Border, and the sort of assistance that is guaranteed to help to alleviate some of the problems caused in the most affected areas in recent times is very encouraging.

When one talks of assistance I must say that I welcome the measure of support that is forthcoming for this agreement from America and various European countries and many other places throughout the world. The support is not just a verbal expression of support but is backed up with definite financial help. It is very encouraging that this help will be very forthcoming.

It has already been stated, but I would like to repeat it for the purpose of emphasis, that there have been many inequities in the Six Counties of Northern Ireland over a number of years. The minority took the treatment that was meted out to them and had very little redress. Now we can look forward to the future and to a change in that position.

I am well aware that the SDLP tried on several occasions for an accommodation situation whereby they, in conjunction with the other political parties in Northern Ireland, would work together. I am also aware that all the efforts of the SDLP at that accommodation process were unsuccessful. This is something to be [307] regretted. The SDLP are to be congratulated for their untiring efforts over many years to try to bring about by constitutional and political means a solution to the problem and did not resort, as many other organisations both North and South of the Border resorted, to measures of violence and so on. The reforms in the North that have been achieved in advance of this agreement have been achieved through the efforts of SDLP and their very positive approach on political lines. This agreement is now seeking a greater measure of justice and equity for all the people of the island. That is one of its basic objectives. I believe that the bringing about of that greater level of equity will lessen the risk of violence, North and South, and that is something to be welcomed. Of course, the question of devolution of power is important and it is clearly and categorically stated that if there is a devolution of power the two Governments will support that devolution quite fully. That is something that is worth noting.

There are many areas in which, fortunately, people have worked together. The area of sport is an example. A person from Belfast, Jackie Kyle, a very renowned rugby player, was idolised by people right through the island. In more recent times, Barry McGuigan, from southern Ireland, was a hero in Belfast. There are many points that one could raise but I am conscious of the time factor. For that reason I will wrap up my remarks as hastily as I can. The behind the scenes people contributed in no small measure to the bringing about of this agreement. They are to be congratulated and complimented for their untiring efforts. I would like, finally, to appeal to the Unionists who are opposing this agreement to give the agreement an opportunity of operation, to monitor it very closely and to bear in mind that there is no question of any takeover of their situation. They are guaranteed a say in their own destiny in the long term. Let me also say that the aspiration to a united Ireland remains no less than it was before.

[308] It would be my hope, therefore, that we would all — political leaders, political representatives and all political parties — join together and make sure that this agreement works. This agreement must not be made a political football. We must in no way tinker with the lives of people either North or South of the Border — a border that, regrettably does exist in our country. I would appeal to all concerned to make sure that politics are left aside and that people address themselves more positively to what the agreement includes, to making sure that it works, that improvements required are made and that we move from that point forward.

Professor Hillery: The agreement before us represents a modest step in the process which was started by the leader of the Fianna Fáil Party, Deputy Charles Haughey, in 1980. Both traditions in the North have rights and aspirations. The minority in the North aspire to a united Ireland and this aspiration is shared by a majority of all the people who live on this island. The Nationalist aspiration of unity can only be achieved by agreement and by peaceful means.

As the Fianna Fáil amendment points out, there is an urgent need to improve the situation and circumstances of the Nationalist section of the community in the North. We approve of any effective measures that may be undertaken towards that end. There is, however, substantial alienation among the minority community because they feel they have not enjoyed equal treatment in the areas of law and order and human rights in particular. If the terms of the agreement, when implemented, help to redress these immediate problems, then such progress, if it occurs, will be welcome. Article 1 of the agreement, as is now well known has implications, as my party see it, for the sovereignty of Ireland.

The centrepiece of the agreement is the Inter-governmental Conference. Only time will tell how this political experiment will work out in practice. While the agreement does not alter the legal sovereignty of the British Government [309] over the Six Counties, it does impose legal obligations on the British Government in respect of political matters, security and related matters, legal matters including the administration of justice and the promotion of cross-Border co-operation. Thus article 2 (b) of the agreement legally underpins the right of the Irish Government to put views and proposals on matters relating to the North before the Conference and, furthermore, imposes a legal obligation that “in the interest of promoting peace and stability, determined efforts shall be made through the Conference to resolve any differences.” It is clear from the agreement that if differences cannot be solved jointly by the representatives of the Irish and British Governments in the Conference, then it will fall to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland or the British Government to make the final decision on these differences. This assumes, however, that when the Irish Government bring forward views and proposals on matters relating to the North, the British Government representatives will negotiate in good faith. If they do not so negotiate, there is the obvious risk that the Irish Government representatives will have responsibility without power. It is vital that the Conference, when in operation, be seen to give equal treatment to both traditions in the North. If it is not so perceived, then the experiment will surely fail and the entire process of Anglo-Irish negotiations will receive a grave set-back and, in so doing, will give a boost to those who believe in the bullet and the bomb. There is a clear responsibility on the shoulders of all parties in the Dáil, Government and Opposition alike, to closely monitor the operation of the Conference so as to ensure that it actually lives up to the stated objectives in the agreement.

It will be clear from what I have said that I favour the positive aspects of the agreement, but I have reservations about its potential in practice. This agreement offers no solution to the basic problem of Northern Ireland. It is a modest attempt to address the Northern problem by political means and, from our viewpoint here [310] in the Republic, we must ensure that Britain does not sell this agreement abroad, through its massive diplomatic machine, for more than what it is. The Northern problem is a legacy of Britain's imperial past and the British Government must continue to bear considerable responsibility for the problem until a final solution in the form of a united Ireland is achieved in justice and peace.

If the Conference is to have any prospect of working, those who have legitimate grievances must be prepared to use it. As far as the Nationalist community is concerned, one would hope that those people who already support the SDLP would have the confidence to bring their grievances to the Conference for settlement. Even more important, however, is that those Nationalists who perhaps through disenchantment over the years with constitutional politics, do not support the SDLP will also have the confidence to channel their grievances to the Conference. The IRA, through the bomb and the bullet, offer no solution to the Northern problem, other than a miserable trail of chaos and destruction. It is vital, therefore, that the Conference be seen to offer a real prospect of dealing with genuine grievances so that the alienated minority will actually use it. In this context one must welcome the fact that security and related matters will be dealt with by the Conference on a regular basis. The structure and operations of the security services in the North constitute one of the main reasons for the alienation of the minority community.

Article 7 of the agreement would seem to recognise the gravity of this problem. It says that the Conference shall consider security policy, relations between the security forces and the community, and prisons policy. Furthermore, this article says that the two Governments agree that there is need for a programme of special measures in Northern Ireland to improve relations between the security forces and the community with the object in particular of making those forces more readily accepted by the Nationalist community. The need for such a programme to improve relations is of the utmost [311] urgency and importance. If this Conference is to succeed it must be seen very quickly to tackle this particular problem effectively. An essential component of such a programme will be the restructuring of the security system. In particular the operation of the Ulster Defence Regiment is a source of special worry to Northern Nationalists. Prisons policy is another vexed area. The Conference will have the authority, and I hope it uses it, to consider policy issues relating to the prisons. It is to be hoped that individual cases will be brought to the attention of the Conference for resolution and that, where appropriate, the Conference itself will institute inquiries into aspects of the prison service.

Article 9 is concerned with cross-Border co-operation. I want to put on record that successive Irish Governments have invested heavily and have provided wholehearted cross-Border co-operation on security matters. This has been done at a heavy cost to the Irish taxpayer. Our efforts should be fully acknowledged on both sides of the Irish Sea and in the North in particular. It is encouraging to hear that the Chief Constable of the RUC will travel to Dublin very shortly to meet the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, with a view to further enhancing cross-Border co-operation on security matters. The same urgency and goodwill will have to be brought immediately to bear on the work of the Conference if it is to stand any chance of success, especially in the security area.

The Conference, according to the agreement, shall also be a framework for the co-operation between North and South concerning cross-Border aspects of economic, social and cultural matters. There is considerable scope for co-operation in these matters which could be mutually beneficial. It is a matter for regret that the gas line to Northern Ireland was shelved. This should never have happened. The Conference could now provide the medium to revive this deal. The Northern Ireland gas industry is on its knees. The gas pipeline could well prevent the disappearance of that [312] industry. There is a real prospect that the recent discovery by BP in the Celtic Sea, off Cork, will prove a commercially viable gas field. If this is so, then the North of Ireland gas line could provide a market for our gas reserves. I would urge that the Conference place the gas pipeline to the North on its agenda as quickly as possible. The ESB inter-connector to the North of Ireland, now out of action due to terrorist activity, provides another example of potential cross-Border co-operation. To the extent that the Conference may succeed in its objective of restoring peace, then the electricity inter-connector presents a further example of most desirable cross-Border co-operation, if the terrorists' activities can be reduced or, better still, stopped.

No discussion on this agreement would be adequate without paying tribute to the imagination, resilience and sheer determination of the public servants who made up the negotiation team on the Irish side. Their knowledge and their skill have contributed enormously to the Anglo-Irish negotiations which have been under way for some years. If the Conference is to succeed, the same determination and other qualities will be necessary as never before from Irish public servants. I hope that the Irish team of civil servants who will staff the Secretariat of the Conference will succeed in their task and I wish them well.

We in this country are fortunate that the promotion of a peaceful solution in the North has been supported in an explicit way by powerful international politicians. The speaker of the US House of Representatives, Mr. Tip O'Neill, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Daniel Moynihan and Governor Carey spring to mind, together with many other American politicians whose interest in and commitment to a peaceful solution on this island is greatly appreciated. Needless to say, I wish to include here the President of the United States, Mr. Reagan, who recently visited our country and who feels so proud of his Irish roots. That visit must surely have brought him nearer to the problems facing this island, from which his forebears emigrated. We [313] also have political friends in Europe and in other parts of the world. The proposed international fund to help employment and economic development will be most welcome. For the minority in Northern Ireland, this aid will be a great boost to a community who have suffered generations of second-class citizenship. It will help the Unionist population too in that what is largely a run-down economy.

I have the highest respect for the SDLP. I wish to salute the courage, intelligence, resilience and leadership of John Hume, Seamus Mallon, Senator Bríd Rogers and their colleagues in the SDLP. Many of them have sacrificed virtually everything in the cause of peaceful political progress in Northern Ireland. Their careers and their families have often had to take second place to the ideal of peace and progress which they have constantly pursued. They have accepted this agreement and, particularly for their sakes, I hope it succeeds. It is obvious that the Unionist population greatly resent the fact that they were excluded from the negotiations leading to this agreement. It must be said, however, that they had decades in which to give a real say in government to the minority population. They did not give them such a say. They did not take up that challenge and that opportunity.

It is in the interest of Unionists and Nationalists alike that there should be a return to peace, order and stability in Northern Ireland, It is my hope that the Unionists, especially those of moderate opinion who feel threatened at the present time, will come to view the conference as a place where they, together with Nationalists, can bring their legitimate grievances for resolution.

As I said earlier, there is concern within my party about the sovereignty of our country under the terms of this agreement. As a thinking Nationalist I welcome the positive elements in the agreement. Only time will tell how it will work out in practice, but I hope it will succeed.

Mr. Conway: May I congratulate Senator Hillery on his fine speech. It is [314] fitting that Senator Hillery should deliver such a speech. I commend him on it. It centres exactly on what we are all here today for. Naturally, I am particularly proud to be a member of the Labour Party, the oldest party in the State, founded by Connolly and Larkin, founded on a combination of republicanism and trade union traditions. Connolly said that this country was a country which without its people meant nothing to him. He did not talk about the various communities. He talked about all of this State, all its people, North and South. As a member of the Labour Party I wish to add my voice in welcoming this Anglo-Irish Agreement. I wish to place on record the part played by the Tánaiste and leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Dick Spring, and the part played by the Labour Party and its members in the new Ireland Forum which led up to this agreement. I wish also to express our thanks to the Taoiseach, Deputy Dr. Garret FitzGerald, for his part in the agreement. As Senator Hillery has said, the part played by the SDLP and their courageous leaders, John Hume, Seamus Malon, Austin Currie and Senator Bríd Rogers in the new Ireland Forum and also in this agreement was considerable. The SDLP have displayed great leadership and statesmanship and deserve from all sides of this House our deep appreciation.

Since 1921, only two attempts have been made to help the Northern Nationalists — the Sunningdale Agreement in 1974 and this Anglo-Irish Agreement. This agreement has no winners and no losers. It will allow Nationalists in the North of Ireland, who have suffered so much discrimination as a community — discrimination unequalled in any other country in Europe — to hold their heads up high and to live the proud heritage that has always been theirs as Irish people.

Sheehy Skeffington once said in an open letter to Thomas MacDonagh a long time ago: “In order to achieve any purpose whatsoever one must internally train and discipline oneself”. In order to achieve this agreement we must internally train and discipline ourselves, North [315] and South — Unionist and Nationalist, Catholic and Protestant — to sit down together and examine the many things that unite us instead of harping as we have in the past on the few things that divide us. We have many things in common as Irishmen and Irishwomen. We have a united rugby team, boxing team, massive business connections both North and South, many social committees both North and South, many people from the North who come on holidays to the South, many Southerners who go to the North on their holidays — many things that unite us and so very few things that divide us.

It is fitting therefore, that all the major parties of the British Parliament have endorsed this agreement. The United States, through President Reagan and Tip O'Neal, have endorsed this agreement. They have said that they would ask the Senate of the US to vote millions of pounds to the North of Ireland so that industry and work would start once again. That commitment is not a shallow one. It is a real commitment of hard money to come to the North of Ireland to give jobs to Catholics and Protestant there. The EC Commissioner has welcomed it. Many heads of European countries have also welcomed the agreement. I welcomed the coming together in the Forum of all the constitutional Nationalist parties on this island, North and South, for the first time in 64 years with the noble objective of securing peace and stability in the North of Ireland and in healing the centuries old divisions between the Unionists and Nationalists, between Catholics and Protestants.

The attempt, therefore, by this Government to tackle this problem, however daunting, will be seen by historians in the future as one of courage and good faith; and no other act more readily justifies the involvement of my party in this Government than their effort to bring an end to the senseless divisions which for so long have divided the North of Ireland. The Tánaiste and leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Dick Spring, at our annual [316] conference in Cork this year, said that our consistent position since the foundation of the State has been opposition to violence. This has always been the policy of the Labour Party. It has not always been to our advantage in electoral terms, but it has been the proper action of any democratic party. The Labour Party's decision to enter the Dáil in opposition to the first Cumann na nGaedhael Government set this country on the road to democracy. While others have been ambivalent in their attitude towards democracy, the Labour Party, above all political parties in this country, have committed themselves to the ballot box, dialogue and reconciliation as the road towards a peaceful solution of our problems.

Our resolution has been unwavering. Successive Labour leaders, from the time of Tom Johnson onwards, never used language or slogans that could inflame people's passions into violence. No leader of our party has sought political advantage out of the misery of the people of the North of Ireland. During his opening address to the New Ireland Forum, the Tánaiste referred to the 1980 Labour Party programme and quoted section 3, which stated:

In accordance with its philosophy as a socialist party, the Labour Party pledges itself to the elimination of all sectarian law, constitutional provisions and practices, both in the North and in the South, which are a major factor in dividing the working class, and deplores all appeals to sectarian passions and violence.

That remains the Labour Party's position, and the furtherance of those goals was our contribution to the Forum. It would be well to remind all concerned that, while the unitary state is the preferred option of all parties, other options have not been ruled out and, most importantly of all, in section 5.10 the parties in the Forum also remain open to discuss other political views which may contribute to political development.

That sentence is of immense importance. It shows that we are not prepared to foreclose any option that could bring [317] about peace in the North of Ireland. Any avenue will be entered into and any path pursued in our quest for peace. Having said that, let us not pretend that the problem will be solved by this Government alone. The Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 is the direct outcome of the New Ireland Forum deliberation. Even those of the Stalinist Left who criticised and derided the Forum as a concept, because they could not share in its vision, have now belatedly welcomed its attempt to bring peace and stability to the North of Ireland. It is sad, therefore, that Fianna Fáil, the largest Nationalist party in this country, have weakened the Nationalist cause by opting out of supporting this agreement for what can be seen as a narrow party advantage. Let us always remember the Irish proverb: “There is no strength without unity”, the wisdom of which has so painfully been brought home to us time and time again in our history when we allowed ourselves to be divided by factions and played into the hands of the enemy.

For the first time ever in our history Britain has declared, in article 1 (c) of this agreement, that if in the future a majority of the people of the North of Ireland clearly wish and formally consent to the establishment of a united Ireland she will introduce and support that wish in parliamentary legislation. This will have international support because it will be formally registered with the United Nations and even if a future United Kingdom Government wished to reverse it, that could not be done. The 1974 attempt failed in the face of Unionist violence. The latest effort should not be sabotaged by short-sighted Nationalist divisions. Let us again remember the proverb: “It is the wedge of the elm that splits itself”.

I appeal, therefore, once again to Fianna Fáil to support this agreement. Slogans that were fashionable from the 1920s to the present time will not solve the problems of the years ahead. After all, it is where we started that counts in regard to where we will end up. There is an old Chinese proverb, which is very simple but very direct: “The journey of [318] a 1,000 miles begins with one step”. That step has been taken with courage and commitment by all sides so that in the long term there can be peace in this country. Let us join the long haul of this country towards peace and reconciliation.

Dr. O'Donoghue: I imagine the first reaction that would strike many disinterested observers in the aftermath of this agreement is the enormous torrent of words that it has spawned and the amazing range of contradictory claims and statements that have been made about its likely consequences. Indeed, you are tempted to think that so many of the words flowed so quickly that they must have been the product not of any attempt to analyse and explore the agreement itself but of preconceived attitudes and opinions. That is summarised in the phrase: “I have my mind made up, do not confuse me with facts”. I do not wish today to embark on an analysis of the agreement itself for reasons which I will try to make clear as I progress.

If I take up the other points made in order to feature the extraordinary range of opinions which have been expressed: on one side it is regarded as a loss of Irish unity, as a sell-out of the traditional case, as a weakening of our — in some sense — traditional claim for reunification and so forth. On the other side we have heard references to the agreement as writing the political obituary of Northern Ireland, to it being a betrayal of the Unionists, to it being a loss of sovereignty on the British side. What an extraordinary range of opinions. I suppose the other equally extraordinary claim of feature is the confidence with which claims are made as to the likely consequences of the agreement. We had all varieties of likely consequences to it having no effect, to it helping to resolve the conflicts in Northern Ireland, to it aggravating the situation and so on.

The most useful observation I can make on that aspect of the comments and the observations is that in reality nobody knows what the future of Ireland — Northern Ireland especially — is going to [319] be. Nobody can tell how events are going to unfold in the north-eastern part of the country. If we come to debate this agreement and specifically if we are asked whether or not we wish to support or reject it, we must base our decision not on some prediction as to its likely consequences but rather on some other attitude, some other set of values. It is right to say we are primarily relying on our own judgments born of our own perceptions, of our own hopes, admittedly in part, and of our own belief in the way in which progress can be made in such a difficult area.

I hold the view that the agreement deserves support not because it necessarily holds out a solution to the — we know — complex and difficult problems of Northern Ireland but because it gives the people there some opportunity to break out of the stalemate; to come out of the entrenched positions which have divided that community for so long, which have seen the perpetuation of mistrust and suspicion, fear and in some cases hatred in that community. We know, if there is to be any worthwhile future for Northern Ireland, that at some stage, by some means, we must initiate a process of reconciliation, some movement that can help people to start overcoming the differences and the divisions among them and to start shaping an environment in which they can live in peace and harmony with one another.

Some people take the view that we must try to accomplish that process by the giant leap forward, that we must think in terms of all or nothing. I cannot subscribe to that view. It is not to the best of my knowledge the policy of either the parties forming the Government nor was it in the past the policy of the main Opposition party as I understood it. Instead for many years now successive Irish Governments have operated on the notion that the way forward in Northern Ireland was to begin with some modest arrangements to move forward, if you wish, cautiously, falteringly perhaps, to accept that there would be no overnight development that would produce a [320] peaceful, united Ireland. Instead the process, the way forward, had to be along the lines, first of all, of helping to heal the wounds within the community itself, helping to establish the structures in which most traditions within Northern Ireland could participate and gradually then evolve in a way which would finally arrive at a more stable, durable political arrangement for the whole of the island whenever and in whatever form that overall political arrangement would emerge.

That is my general attitude towards this agreement that I see as consistent with the policies of successive Irish Governments. It is certainly consistent with my own views and for that reason I welcome the agreement. If I had any lingering doubt whether or not it should be supported on these terms because of some of the reservations or rejections that have been raised against it, I look to the attitude adopted by the leaders of the constitutional democratic Nationalists in Northern Ireland, the members of the SDLP party. They have been so strong, so positive in their support of the agreement that I am certainly satisfied beyond any reasonable doubt that this does offer a better prospect than trying to continue with the awful stalemate that has existed in Northern Ireland effectively since the collapse of the Sunningdale Agreement over ten years ago. I welcome the fact that the British and Irish Governments have managed to come to an accord in which they can both commit themselves to supporting and assisting in whatever way possible the process of restoring some stable peaceful environment within Northern Ireland.

Moving on from that the other main argument I want to develop is about sovereignty. Many of the objections to the agreement both in this part of the country and in Northern Ireland have been based on the argument that it weakens sovereignty, that there is a loss of sovereignty either by the Irish Government or by the British Government or both of them. We have to face up to that argument straight away and I certainly take the view that yes, I would say straight out: “That is [321] right; there is a change in sovereignty. It does alter the sovereignty of both of the Governments involved, and so what, because it seems that the essence of sovereignty in any state is that it represents the power of the people acting through their democratically elected representatives to act in the best interests of their people.” If you take that view, you say to yourself sovereignty then is not something which remains static, permanent, inviolate, never to be altered to cope with the circumstances of a changing world. On the contrary, if we look at the world around us what do we see? First of all, we see as a general international trend that the sovereignty of every nation has been diminished in the post war world. Even the two major international powers have recognised in the past few weeks that some of the issues which confront them require the ability on their part to come to some sort of agreement or understanding, if you like a willingness, to refrain from using their independent power of action in certain circumstances. This is part of a general movement because, in effect, the growing interdependence of the modern world has meant that every nation, large or small, recognises that the only successful way forward to resolving complex problems is to find some basis of international accord. We have been part of that process for many years now, the obvious example being our membership of the European Communities. We freely joined the European Communities over a decade ago, recognising that it involved using our sovereignty, changing the circumstances in which our sovereignty could be exercised, not taking it away but altering the circumstances and form in which it could be used.

The European Communities movement was founded by nations which themselves had been divided by bloody conflict several times in this century and who had come to recognise that the best way forward for their peoples was to, in effect, find some way of sharing or combining the exercise of their sovereignty so that they could never again either stumble into conflict through misunderstanding [322] or be forced into conflict because it was seen to be the only way in which they could resolve a dispute where one party would have to beat down the other party in order to arrive at some sort of stable outcome. Let us remind ourselves that that is ultimately the only alternative method to solving a complex problem. If you cannot resolve it by some process of painful, painstaking and peaceful negotiation, exploration and building cautiously step by step until you have established a sufficient foundation of shared behaviour the only alternative that history points us to is the domination of the more powerful party. We have all seen where this can lead us.

To those people who make the argument of sovereignty I say to them to spell it out fully as consistently as possible. The only people who have been consistent in this respect are the people who opposed our entry into the EC on the grounds that it would diminish our sovereignty. I recognise that there are people who genuinely opposed this European movement because they saw this diminution in the freedom of action of future Irish Governments. So be it. In a democracy it was a legitimate opinion which they were entitled to hold but not one which was held by the majority of people. I find it very difficult to accept the reasoning of people who apparently are willing to pool their sovereignty in a European framework but erupt in some form of opposition or anger if they are told that they might have to develop a shared or pooling of the use of their sovereignty in an Irish context. Their commitment within Europe is much more far-reaching than their commitment within this Anglo-Irish Agreement because at this very time as we know within the European context the member states are discussing proposals that would lead to a fuller political union within Europe.

The Leader of the Government parties in the House has chaired a committee which has dealt with many of these proposals which are being seriously debated, and rightly so, within the European context. Let us not cod or confuse ourselves in this area of sovereignty. The stark [323] reality of the modern world is that every nation has come to recognise that if we are to be able to live in peace with one another we must learn how to exercise our sovereignty in a pooled, shared or joint arrangement. This is what is happening on the widest international stage and in Europe. I would like to think that this is what we are now talking about happening in a very modest way on this island that we all would like to see able to function in a peaceful manner. We should deal with argument of sovereignty on its merits. I would hope the viewpoint I express will find wide support.

To young people especially I would say that there is no need to get trapped into tortuous repetition of every page of history. Nor is there any need to allow yourself to be shackled by the outmoded ideas or the legal formulae of earlier years — see them for what they were. They were the responses of people in the circumstance of their time; they represented their best efforts to deal with the issues as they saw them but they were not tablets of stone handed down to be permanent solutions for all time. They were simply the best available outcomes, if you like, they were the stepping stones of their day. When we come to confront the issues of our time we must approach them taking account of the circumstances and adopt a realistic approach to the possibilities that are open to us.

In this context the agony of Northern Ireland has gone on long enough. We have seen the virtual paralysis and stalemate, resulting in the perpetuation of violence for more than a decade and we have seen very little hope during that decade of any form of constitutional or peaceful political process being initiated. If we are now offered the prospect, however modest or limited it may be, and if we see the people who have suffered most expressing their wish to have that agreement supported, namely the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland, the wellbeing of the people of Northern Ireland should be our first concern. We should give them our full support in so far as we [324] can do so. Our aim should be to help them shape the new environment that, hopefully, will bring them peace and progress.

Progress in Northern Ireland is not going to spring from any verbal formula; it is not going to be resolved by another torrent of words. Eventually, if there is peaceful progress, it will come from the actions of people. In a democratic society we know that politicians, legislators like ourselves, have responsibilities of leadership. Our words — although the words themselves do not solve things — can influence behaviour; they can stir up emotions or they can be used to help recognise the merits and demerits of the various issues that arise. In the circumstances of the time it should be our desire to help re-establish a peaceful process of reconciliation within Northern Ireland, to restore harmony to that divided community and assist, in so far as we can, in building new sets of institutions which will help them to come together and in this way to initiate a new phase of peaceful movement. Who knows where that peaceful process will end? I would rather that we try to embark on that process with some element of hope than consign ourselves to the grim alternative of stalemate and presumably the despairing resort to continued violence. For that reason, therefore, I welcome the agreement. I do not, as I said, propose to embark on a discussion of its merits and demerits because, as I have already indicated, there is already a sufficient spread of opinion on that and those opinions themselves will not contribute to the solution that we all seek, namely, the initial restoration of peace and stability and the development of a process which can lead not only to some political stability within Northern Ireland itself, but also to the emergence of some broader long term set of political arrangements that will incorporate the people of the island of Ireland as a whole.

Mrs. Bulbulia: We are, indeed, fortunate in this House that so many of us are being given the opportunity to place on the record our reactions to this historic [325] agreement. I would like to thank the Leader of the House and his opposite number for so arranging the debate that we all, as far as possible, have this opportunity. I am delighted to be able to place on the record my wholehearted welcome to this historic breakthrough which could influence the future of every man, woman and child on this entire island.

I would like to congratulate most warmly all of those involved on both sides and, in particular, to pay tribute to the Taoiseach, Deputy Garret FitzGerald, to the Tánaiste and to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Barry, who, together with expert teams of public servants, masterminded a complex, intricate and finely-balanced agreement which is unique. It certainly struck me when I heard the statement that there is no precedent for this type of agreement elsewhere in the world. Enormous tribute is due to those who single-mindedly pursued this goal. I thank them on my own behalf and because I am fortunate to be able to speak in this House of the Oireachtas, I thank them on behalf of the entire Irish people.

The aims of this Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 are to promote peace and stability in Northern Ireland, having to reconcile the two major traditions in Ireland, creating a new climate of friendship and co-operation between the people of the two countries and improving co-operation in combating terrorism. All of these aims I feel are ones with which any thinking, civilised person must concur. The nightmare of violence, mayhem, intransigence, alienation has gone on for far too long — over 60 years in fact — and it demands a political initiative. Many people when they speak of the violence and tragedy of Northern Ireland tend to concentrate on the political turmoil and upheaval of the last 16 years, but it must be remembered that this has been going on in fact for 60 years or more.

My own family history — if I might interject a personal note here — was influenced by the earlier spate of troubles in the 1920s. My Belfast-born mother and my grandfather and grandmother and [326] other children in the family were forced to flee south when their business premises in Cooper Street, off the Falls Road, came under siege in mob violence in the early 1920s. They left their blazing premises and moved south and re-established themselves in Sandymount in Dublin. I am aware, as I speak, that the course of so many individual families' lives has been affected to a greater or lesser extent by the turmoil and the unrest in the northern province. This cannot be allowed to continue and it demands a political initiative.

This Government was not found wanting and a major part of the Coalition term of office has been devoted to the Northern Ireland situation. We all know that two and a half years ago the Forum was established. This coming together of constitutional Nationalists aimed to create a positive focus and synthesis of views. At the time many observers, political pundits and commentators regarded this Forum with cynicism, and some regarded it with a bored indifference. When the Forum actually reported many dismissed its findings as irrelevant and assumed that the process had come to a halt, to rest on its aspirational laurels. In fact, those who believed in it now find their belief vindicated and those who felt otherwise are now rapidly reviewing the situation with hindsight, because the Forum succeeded in coming to terms with many very difficult and painful realities which had not been acknowledged before and because they had not been acknowledged they had not been stated. I was interested to see that an editorial in the Financial Times which was reviewing the Hillsborough agreement stated: “the Forum was the turning point” because it provided a solid basis for negotiations with Britain.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: What is the date please, just for reference?

Mrs. Bulbulia: I regret I have not got the date, but I will endeavour to find out. What this Forum did was to provide a very solid basis for negotiations with Britain. [327] It gave the Northern Nationalists hope but that hope had to be given substance. It presented the Unionists with the considered consensus constitutional Nationalist view. It is a matter of deep regret that it was not found possible, on the Unionist side, for them to make their contribution to the Forum. How much richer it would have been and how very much more we would have avoided some of our difficulties of today if this had been the case. In a painstaking, deliberate fashion the Government set about the business of building on that sure Forum foundation. There were difficulties and setbacks. Perhaps the most celebrated of these was the Chequers Summit. It was indeed something of a debacle and one from which a lesser political figure might not have emerged. Not so the Taoiseach, Deputy Garret FitzGerald, who faced an uncertain and politically unpopular task of picking up those bits and pieces after the Chequers debacle and pressing ahead with the negotiations. This unswerving commitment is one which historians will surely recognise and which ordinary men and women will learn to respect and be grateful for.

The agreement deals in particular with the status of Northern Ireland and the establishment of an Inter-governmental Conference in which the Irish Government will put forward views and proposals concerning stated aspects of Northern Ireland affairs, in which the promotion of cross-Border co-operation will be discussed and in which determined efforts will be made to resolve differences between the two Governments. As soon as the Irish and British Parliaments have approved the agreement, arrangements will be made to hold the first meeting of the Conference. On the Irish side it will be led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Barry, and I would like to take this opportunity to wish him and, indeed, Mr. Tom King on the British side well in their endeavours. It will be a sensitive but a most significant undertaking and they deserve the good wishes of all people of goodwill on this island.

It is understood that as a priority the [328] Conference will consider relations between the security forces and the minority community in Northern Ireland, ways of enhancing security co-operation between the two Governments, seeking measures which would give substantial expression to the aim of underlining the importance of public confidence in the administration of justice. In the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland the two sides are committed to work for early progress in these areas. It is important that some work of substance should come from the Conference as quickly as possible. It is my earnest hope that this would be so.

Our debate here this evening is taking place against a background of implacable Unionist opposition. This was finding expression yesterday and, indeed, this evening in the House of Commons debate on the agreement. I very much regret that it was not found possible to include political representation from the Unionist side in the negotiations which led up to the agreement. I suppose it is evident that this was so because of past intransigence and unwillingness to participate and to share and to accommodate. Most people who have spoken in the debate in this House to date have had to sadly recognise the fact that the prospect of having the agreement which we now have would not have been so had there been that kind of participation.

The very fact that the Unionists were not consulted or made part of the agreement has had certain inevitable consequences. I very much hope that when the initial shock has been absorbed more moderate leadership will look favourably on the positive aspects of what is contained in the agreement. It is really rather sad that Unionist — and I mean “Unionist” with a capital U — leadership is of the quality which we see demonstrated nightly on our television screens. It gives an impression which is not so, that every Unionist voter in Northern Ireland is opposed to this agreement. I know for a fact that that is not so. I hope that more moderate groups, like the Alliance Party, will find it possible to come forward and to see the good in this agreement and [329] that they will make a decision to regard it positively, co-operate and to work with it because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

The possibility of unrest and even violence in the short term is disturbing and it is certainly something which none of us would wish to see. While that kind of response is utterly predictable from the more extreme elements, I am concerned that more moderate Unionists are giving expression to feelings of deep unhappiness and what they describe as cultural shock. It would indeed be utterly tragic if hostile reaction was to overwhelm the agreement and set it at nought. For this reason it is vital that our Government and, indeed, the British Government stand firm and that they get the support of all people of goodwill on this island. It is a time for courage and a time for resolution as well as being a time for unity. It is a great pity that the Fianna Fáil Party did not find it possible to be generous in this regard and to give the agreement endorsement. However, one has noted a substantial moderation in tone when contrasted with their earlier reaction and, indeed, a slightly more conciliatory attitude.

I thought it was significant to see Senator Eoin Ryan make his contribution to this debate this evening. When one thinks about it, he left his sick bed, he came to this House and put on the record his support of this agreement. I was very moved by his speech because he represents a tradition within the Fianna Fáil Party. He also represents a continuity in that his son is a member of a local authority and, no doubt, looks forward to a political future. Senator Eoin Ryan found it possible to support this agreement and to show the necessary flexibility and courage and pragmatism. I salute that type of honesty and integrity.

It is heartening to note that virtually all political commentators, journalists and leader writers have praised the ingenuity of the agreement and have wished it well.

It is clearly recognised that what is now all important, on a practical level, is how well this agreement will work on the ground. Clearly, it is important that there [330] should be early manifestations of its working, and I approve of the suggestion which has been made by Fr. Denis Faul of Dungannon that there should be early release of large numbers of suitable prisoners, both Republican and Loyalist. With Christmas approaching, this would be a timely gesture and one which would please both sides and, therefore, promote this accord in a positive practical light. It would also have the effect of undermining the paramilitaries who will seek to destroy this agreement at all costs. We have to bear in mind that there are people out there who are opposed to this agreement and will do all that they can do to wreck it. As the Taoiseach said this morning in his speech, it is important that the Government would not be provoked in any way by such forces.

It is important that the Conference should quickly get to grips with the Diplock Court structure, with the super-grass situation and, indeed, with strip-searching, about which there is a motion on the Seanad Order Paper. All of these are sensitive, contentious areas which need to be attended to. I could not speak in this debate without saluting the SDLP, who have carried the banner for constitutional nationalism in Northern Ireland against great odds and at enormous personal sacrifice. People such as John Hume, Seamus Mallon, Austin Currie, Joe Hendron, Eddie McGready and our own distinguished Senator, Bríd Rogers, deserve our support and encouragement at all times. The fact that they have found it possible to be part of this agreement is significant and important and is a very strong reason why all constitutional Nationalists should lend it support.

I think it is necessary to consider the Ireland that we now live in and the fact that young people today and, indeed, a younger breed of politicians are not prepared to retreat into the cant and the balladeering and the stock-tribal phraseology of the past. It is sterile, it has been abortive; it has produced nothing of value. We need a new way forward and this accord and this agreement has provided us with a framework for precisely that kind of progress. I am sick of cant [331] and tribalism and I am so proud to be part of a party which, together with Labour, has produced this Anglo-Irish Agreement.

We have a task to do also in this part of the Republic. I was very heartened to hear the Taoiseach this morning, in an unscripted addendum to his speech, advert to the fact that he would take up the process which he initiated in this House in October 1981, which was then called the constitutional crusade, to which so many Senators in this House gave strong allegiance and, indeed, a wholehearted welcome. It is necessary that we would have legislative honesty in this part of the island. We should make the necessary changes, first, because they are right and proper in themselves, but also because we should view any legislation we embark on in the context of the island as a whole.

There is no point in prating about unity unless we are prepared to follow through with the kind of constitutional reform and the kind of legislation which will find a welcome in the entire island, North and South. It would be an earnest of our intent. We must, without haste, set about the business of building a generous, pluralist society in which Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter will feel equally at home. We cannot afford any longer to have an ethos here which is alien to so many people in Northern Ireland who are Irish people. We cannot subscribe to legislation which makes them feel alienated. We cannot countenance a Catholic State for a Catholic people no more than we can countenance a Protestant State for Protestant people. We have a responsibility, therefore, in the South to lead in this area and to get speedily beyond the merely aspirational. I look forward to movement of that sort.

In concluding, I once again say how very much I welcome this agreement and I pay tribute to all involved and, in particular, to the public servants, who very often are unrecognised and unthanked in our society. They did trojan work in this regard and served us all magnificently. This is a start. It is a stepping stone in [332] our time. We need it and I hope earnestly that it succeeds.

Mr. Cassidy: I want to make a short contribution on this very important item before us today. First of all, I want to start, as many previous speakers did, by complimenting the SDLP for carrying the banner for so many years in the North. I want to say that in my short time as a Member of this House no one impressed me more than former Senator Seamus Mallon in his time in the House. I had the pleasure of being one of the few Members of either House who helped fight the last general election in the North on behalf of the former Senator Seamus Mallon. I look forward in the future to helping him personally, to carrying the flag and to promoting in any way I can that great politician, whom I respect as one of the greatest on this island.

Having said that, I want also to acknowledge the contributions made in this House by Senator Rogers, Senator Stephen McGonagle and Senator John Robb, who are Members from the Six Counties. The Taoiseach and members of his Government have been long enough in the Oireachtas to understand well that a desire for national unity by peaceful means lies at the heart of Fianna Fáil as a political party. These are the aims for which my party was set up and to which I subscribe. These are aims for which people strived through centuries of oppression and have caused many rebellions and blows for freedom. It is very sad for people of this island to learn of the confirmation by this Government of the Partition of our country in a treaty with the United Kingdom Government.

A major point in this whole matter is that it is a signed treaty and not just a statement of intent or the type of political communiqué which follows meetings of leaders. It is a treaty which creates binding legal obligations, not just for the present but for the future. This is of paramount importance when one considers that in article 1 the Irish Government give the United Kingdom an acknowledgement of the union of the Six Counties within the United Kingdom [333] itself. This is in direct conflict with the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland. Unless article 1 is renegotiated, the Irish State and the Government representing that State will be prevented from raising the issue of Irish unity at any international conference or at any judicial tribunal anywhere in the world.

This agreement legitimises the Partition of this country and endorses by its nature future British military and political policies. The Government have made a major concession of principle and have surrendered a right to sovereignty. I find it impossible to detect any positive aspects for either the Nationalist population, the Irish Government or the country as a whole.

Fianna Fáil have been criticised for opposing this treaty in advance. I refute this and remind our critics that in the weeks leading up to the Hillsborough Treaty our party restated the fundamental aims that guide Fianna Fáil and advised the Government that Fianna Fáil would go so far and no further in our acceptance of any treaty between Britain and Ireland. Our amendment last week confirms this attitude by, on the one hand, welcoming any progress between Ireland and England but, at the same time, opposing these articles of the treaty which, in our view, do not bring the day of unity very much closer.

In London earlier this week a High Court judge defined the Hillsborough Agreement as a treaty that, once accepted by both Parliaments, would be binding in international law. This, in effect, means that the Government have given international legitimacy to the Partition of the island of Ireland. Recent opinion polls have shown, both sides of the Border, that, while people will accept any movement towards progress in the Six Counties, there is an overwhelming majority who think this treaty will change very little. Therefore, we now have a situation where an Irish Government are locked into the discredited political and judicial system that operates in the Six Counties and are thereby responsible for the activities within that system and yet have no power to change events while at [334] the same time accepting the British view that the Six Counties will remain part of the United Kingdom.

The argument that this will last so long as the majority wish it to last is a silly one in the context of the structure of the Six Counties, which was initially set up in such a way as to ensure a Unionist majority. I, therefore, cannot accept that the arguments put forward by Fianna Fáil in advance of the treaty were being anything other than a realistic appraisal of the consequences ensuing from signing a treaty such as that at Hillsborough, in return for some vague input which stops at consultation and does not include any input in the decision-making process by Members of this House. For the first time an Irish Government will now have to accept responsibility for the security policies of the UDR, a judicial system which sentences young men and women to long terms of imprisonment on the word of supergrasses and a prison system which condones the ultimate indignity of strip searching. All this and more will now fall into the Government's lap without the British conceding that we have any right in the development and execution of such questionable policies.

I would like the House to consider the following scenario. A young man is shot in suspicious circumstances by the security forces anywhere in the Six Counties. The police acknowledge that he had no political involvement. The UDR commander in the area states that the young man was armed. What will be the response of the new Minister designate, Deputy Peter Barry? Will he protest? Will his protest be listened to? More importantly, how will the Nationalist people of the North react if the people who pulled the trigger are not brought to justice? The evidence to date is that the British will not prosecute. So much for an input by the Irish Government. What have we given in return? A confirmation that this discredited and undemocratic statelet will be allowed to go its own way.

I think this Government, and indeed, any Irish Government, should continually [335] repeat the message to the British and more especially to the Unionist population of the Six Counties that Border security has placed an intolerable financial burden on our resources and that we resent being told that we are not doing enough or that we are a haven for subversives. Tell that to the prison officers in Portlaoise jail or the wives and families of Garda and Army personnel who give their time night and day in order to protect the citizens and institutions of this State.

Another aspect of this agreement which concerns me is how will the Irish Government make their presence felt in the whole area of security? For example, will there be an immediate proposal that the Prevention of Terrorism Act will be repealed, an Act which is anti-Irish and which, to date, has caused considerable inconvenience and annoyance to many thousands of Irish people, yet as a result only .2 per cent of those arrested under the Act have been convicted? This Act is a barrier to good relations between Britain and Ireland as any Irish person who has had the indignity of being singled out from among other EC travellers at British airports will testify. Will the Irish Government ask for the immediate halt to strip searching of women prisoners in Armagh jail? Only those unfortunate women know how sordid this practice is. The horror stories coming out of Armagh jail about strip searching has caused an outcry among all decent people and is an abuse of human rights from a Government that boasts of being civilised.

At our recent National Youth Conference, a motion from the young members of Fianna Fáil calling for the immediate end to strip searching was passed without dissension. That is why our party believe that the best way to encourage the British and Unionists to look at the concept of a unitary State in which the Unionist tradition would be guaranteed and where the issue of the Border would be taken out of Irish politics and Anglo-Irish relations, thereby starting out on a road to eventual peace and stability in our country. It is my view that the real reason [336] why the British Government are so keen to ensure the success of the agreement is that it commits the Irish Government to support British security policies North of the Border.

The British Prime Minister has stated repeatedly since the agreement was signed that its main aim is to smash terrorism. I am sure that I am speaking for the vast majority of people this side of the Border when I state my rejection of the allegation that we are not doing enough to end violence. The policing of the artificial Border between North and South, a Border set up and maintained at the insistence of the British, is costing this State almost £200 million a year. Can you imagine to what better purpose this money could be spent in improving our roads, building houses or creating jobs for our young people who are emigrating in their thousands from our shores?

I am not suggesting, as others have done, that we should remove or threaten to remove our Garda or our Army from the Border. I am conscious of the security that is being provided for our residents in Border towns and villages. Our party believe that the beginning of a long term solution to the Irish problem is the calling of an all-party constitutional Conference. This Conference would include elected representatives of the British and Irish Governments and from the Nationalist and Unionist parties in the Six Counties. This would be an opportunity to discuss for the first time in realistic terms the future of Ireland as a unitary State. Since the Hillsborough Treaty it has become fashionable to accept the Articles on the basis that anything which brings peace and stability to the Six Counties is to be welcomed. Fianna Fáil's view, indeed stated policy, is that the Six Counties is not a credible political entity and that any proposals to bring both sides together within the North is doomed to failure.

In every generation the Unionists have refused even to talk about partnership. To a Unionist progress means the status quo, no change, no surrender, not an inch. The evidence of the last few weeks suggest that the Unionist mind or at least the Unionist leadership is once again [337] turning away from dealing realistically with the situation in the North. This treaty provides for an Inter-governmental Conference which is supposed to create the climate where Unionists and Nationalists will sit together in a Six County assembly. If this happens, then the Inter-governmental Conference no longer will have any say in these areas to be governed by such an assembly. This, in effect, means that the Irish Government, by signing the agreement, is proposing that eventually, and they hope sooner rather than later, a devolved Parliament will operate once again in the north-eastern part of this island.

History has shown that such proposals will be doomed to failure and will not contribute anything to the long term stability of this island. As the Hillsborough Agreement stressed the ending of terrorism, let the British first show their goodwill in releasing from jail all those innocent people who have been charged with alleged acts of terrorism since 1969 and convicted under the Diplock Courts. On a wider level, will the Minister, Deputy Peter Barry ask that the Birmingham Six have their case reopened in the light of new evidence, surely one of the great miscarriages of justice in British legal history? On this point despite the excellent work by the British TV programme “World in Action”, the silence from the British press has been deafening.

Then there is the Annie McGuire case, a woman who came to this House last week asking that we seek a commitment from the British Government for a retrial again based on new evidence. Finally, what of the conditions of Irish prisoners in British jails many of whom are kept in high security prisons confined like animals up to 19 hours a day. These cases may not be popular issues but they are about human rights and unless and until the British Government recognise that by their activities in these areas they have built a bridge for better relations between the people of Ireland and Britain, then there is little hope of any good coming from the treaty as I see it.

Mr. Howlin: I would like to join with [338] other Senators in complimenting the managers of this House, the Leader, Deputy Leader and Leader of the Opposition for facilitating so many Senators and allowing a broad spectrum of views to be expressed on one of the most important issues we have had to address since I became a Member of this House some three years ago. I speak as the youngest Member of this House echoing the view of a new generation of Irish people and of Irish politicians, a new generation that is tired of the well used slogans, weary of bigotry and sickened by unrelenting violence and, above all, a generation that is hungry for peace.

The message of young people is a simple one. We have seen and experienced the results of violence. It is now time to give peace a chance. That is a cry from the heart not alone to the Members of this House but as the terms of the motion says “To all persons of goodwill”. It would be only with the wholehearted support of everybody on this island that a resolution of the horror of Northern Ireland will be finally arrived at. The dust has finally settled to some small extent on this historic agreement. In the past week we have all had time to reflect and to ponder on the contents of the agreement and to argue out the likely consequences. Many people in this House have given expression to the scenarios that they depict as being the consequences likely from this agreement.

The ordinary people of the Twenty-six Counties have already endorsed this agreement. Whether you judge by the yardstick of recently published opinion polls or, probably a far more accurate yardstick, which is the yardstick of walking the streets of our towns and villages, of meeting the ordinary people and asking them what is their opinion. My experience in Wexford in the last week has been that the vast majority of the people of this country have the single view: “Thank God for some movement, thank God for some initiative and in the name of God give it a chance to bring some relief to people who have suffered enough”.

Young people in particular have an [339] awareness for peace. No previous generation has been as preoccupied with the concept and the notion of peace because they realise in a way that previous generations did not know how fragile life is on this planet. This view is evidenced by the tremendous support for the peace movement, for CND, and for the cause of nuclear disarmament. Young people are acutely aware that we live daily in the shadow of a nuclear holocaust. That is all the more reason why they focus on the troubles in the north-east part of our country.

Young people are cynical about the old war cries which seem and sound so hollow to us now and which, unfortunately, have been re-echoed in this Chamber this evening. For young people these war cries are a product of an age gone by and are no longer relevant to their needs and their perceptions of the Ireland they want to live in and hand on. Unfortunately, the war cries and the war drums have reappeared in the wake of this agreement. They have appeared from some predictable sources and from some sources that would be less predictable.

Much is expected of this House and the other House and of all the individual Members of these Houses. We are the elected representatives of the people of Ireland. We, therefore, have a special responsibility to protect and foster the democratic system and to see to it that that system is strengthened not only here but wherever we can plant the seed of democracy. We must do nothing that would weaken democracy but rather seek to ensure that the rights of democratic participation are enjoyed by all people everywhere.

This agreement is to my mind a milestone. It is a historic new beginning. It allows the time and the confidence for people of this island to grow, to know and to trust one another. The process of reconciliation will be neither swift nor easy. Prejudice and fear are difficult things to dislodge. It is most difficult to shed the tribal instincts of one's upbringing, tribal instincts that affect us in the [340] South of Ireland as deeply and profoundly as it does the warring factions in the North.

This agreement poses a challenge for all of us, for some of us an extraordinarily difficult one. For it to succeed, we must, above all else, be honest. This agreement was based on a recognition of reality, not on some semantic concept of the island as we would like it or some fictitious notion of Nationalism or Unionism or of the island we would like had we a magic wand. The realities that exist must be faced and it is incumbent on us to deal directly with them, to cut to the heart and not indulge in fantasy. There was, therefore no shadow boxing by the participants in the discussions that led to this agreement, no shadow boxing designed to present many faces at once. It acknowledges that we who are of the Nationalist viewpoint have no designs on Unionist territory or on the Unionist people. Without their consent there will be no united Ireland. Any other position would be absurd. What sort of unity can there be without the unity of peoples? Therefore, there must be no coercion, either of the violent kind or any hidden form of coercion. The Unionist majority in Northern Ireland already feel threatened. Their fears, which I accept as real and sincerly felt, must be addressed and placated by us who wish to embrace them as brothers.

The challenge facing us is to create a genuinely pluralist society which would allow people of every political and religious persuasion, and of none, to feel at home in this community. In my view much remains to be done by us in these Houses of the Oireachtas to bring that about. The debates which have taken place in this House and in the other House in recent months would not always have shown us to be a tolerant people. Those who espouse a united Ireland must also espouse tolerance and pluralism, because that is the only path that will lead to a united Ireland.

Too often in our public affairs we lack the commitment to change. Instead, we justify the often quoted foreign view of us as being a society which is restricted [341] and Church dominated. It is for this reason that I considered it unfortunate that guidelines for the recruitment of national teachers to primary schools, the vast majority of which are Catholic, would contain specific requirements on religious practice. Of course, the Catholic Church has a right to see to it that religious instruction would be part of the school curriculum. Of course, Catholic parents have a fundamental and basic right to know that their children will receive instruction in the Catholic faith. But must every single teacher in every Catholic school in the State — and they constitute the overwhelming majority of national schools — be practising Catholics? I have known many excellent, conscientious, hard-working teachers who enjoyed an excellent rapport with children, who were excellent teachers and whose behaviour was a model for any child to emulate. Some of them had not got deep religious commitments, were not practicing their religion. Must they be put out of our schools? Must they be rejected for lesser teachers on interview panels? They have a place in our education system. They have an immense contribution to make in forming the minds of future generations of Irish people, who must be tolerant in order to create a pluralist society where people of all traditions and all religious persuasions can live in peace and prosperity.

It is, indeed, unfortunate that these guidelines should have been issued and sad that they came to be highlighted against the back-drop of this particular Northern Ireland initiative. For make no mistake about it, they are already fuelling the flames of fear among the Unionist people of the North, while at the same time they cause not a little concern for those interested in civil liberties here in the South. This is not one issue which has come to public prominance in the last week, although I believe there are many other issues which need to be addressed. It is for this reason that I welcome the unscripted remarks of the Taoiseach this morning in saying that the constitutional crusade is not dead and buried, that we must again actively address ourselves to [342] breaking down the barriers to participation in our society by some sections of our community. If we are sincere about pluralism, if we truly desire a united Ireland, then we must be prepared to be courageous and demonstrate visibly that no member of a minority Church or of a minority tradition need have anything to fear from the institutions of our State.

The advent of the Hillsborough accord underlines afresh the need to be at least sensitive to the wishes of our Northern brothers and sisters and requires those of us who describe ourselves as Nationalists to do a great deal more than be merely sensitive.

I come from Wexford, a county which is as far removed geographically from Northern Ireland as you will find on this island. It is a county which has endured more than its fair share of economic woes in recent times in terms of job losses, factory closures and recession. For these reasons one would fairly expect that the issue of Northern Ireland would not be high on the political agenda in my county. I can truly say that the publication of this agreement has captured the imagination of the people of Wexford. They, like the majority of people throughout the Republic, seek a movement in the deadlock of conflict which has characterised Northern Ireland for 16 years. They, too, are aware not alone of the cost in terms of lives of the continuing carnage but also of the economic consequences to this island as a whole from Armagh to Wexford and from Kerry to Donegal. Each county has lost jobs and revenue from this conflict, whether it is the foreign industrialist who shies away from Ireland because of the television image of violence being portrayed of this country and decides instead that it is safer for him to invest his money in Scotland, Puerto Rico or Spain; or whether it is the foreign tourist who scratches Ireland off as a possible destination. I am glad to see the presence here of the Minister of State for Tourism, who is only too aware of the economic consequences of this conflict in tourist terms. The real economic result for us all has been very great.

The division of Ireland, and the social [343] unrest and violence which have resulted from it, has stunted the natural economic development of this island. We are undoubtedly very much the poorer today because of it. It is in the economic area that the cross-border co-operation envisaged in the Hillsborough Agreement can be most effective and most beneficial to all our people. We are a small island. Rationalisation of resources and utilities makes obvious economic sense here. We have a common economic basis within which agriculture predominates. Co-operation at European Community level between Irish representatives North and South has already been of great value and has laid down clear pointers for the future.

We have far more in common than has ever divided us. Given goodwill and a fair wind, the reality would become clearer to us all that our future lies together. That is a slow process, a slow process of weening trust and confidence and one that involves the shedding of the sloganisms, the balladeerings and the rantings. As a Socialist, I am opposed to barriers being placed between peoples. I firmly believe that contact brings understanding and understanding leads to trust. Once trust is established between peoples, then the environment is created for peace and development. That seed has now been planted and needs desperately to be nourished — and we all have a part to play in its growth.

I have spoken much about the Unionist people of Northern Ireland and their position. They have reacted very strongly against this agreement out of fear, a fear that I hope can be allayed. I would also focus on the Nationalist community, the minority community in Northern Ireland, who have endured so much not alone in the last 16 years of violence but for many decades since the partition of the island. They have suffered clear discrimination for decades and have been second-class citizens in their own land. Many of them have become embittered and hardened by their experiences and have turned to the bomb and the bullet for redress as the only expression open to them to hit [344] out in their view. No doubt many of them would regard it as smugness it not indeed arrogance for me to pretend that I can understand their position. How can I appreciate what they have endured from my safe home in the south-east? In truth I must confess that I cannot. I cannot fully understand and empathise with them although many families from every corner of Ireland have been touched by the “troubles”, my own family among them. But I do know that violence begets violence in a continuing cycle that profits no one. To those who would wish to strike back, I repeat my appeal to give this deal a chance.

Some Senators have spoken against this agreement on the ground that it weakens our constitutional position or indeed that it is repugnant to the Constitution itself. This argument has already been shot down by eminent and respected laywers whose opinions I value and accept. We listened to the contribution of Senator Cassidy who concluded that this agreement legitimises Partition. He again and again used what could only be described by me as emotional buzz-words that are designed to bring out the most basic depths of nationalist reaction, emphatically recounting a treaty which obviously has emotional connotations for all Nationalists.

I believe that the issue of Northern Ireland is the most sensitive on the political agenda for us as Irishmen, not least because in the past words have cost lives. It therefore, behoves us all to act with great care in all we do and all we say on this issue. I wish to join with other Senators who complimented those people who made this agreement come about: the Taoiseach, Deputy FitzGerald, my party leader, the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Barry, and the dedicated and superbly competent team of civil servants who have worked on this package and this agreement for more than 12 months. They deserve our compliments and our gratitude for their service to Ireland and for their courage in seeking to bring about movement in this deadlock and to begin the process of [345] reconciliation. I am deeply proud of their work and their achievement and I am confident that history will judge them kindly.

Another group of people whose courage I salute are those who have guarded constitutional nationalism in Northern Ireland for many years at great personal cost. The SDLP have been and are in the front line. Their's, therefore, is a voice that I would listen to and a voice that I would respect. Their support for this agreement underlines to me the value and merit of the agreement and the worth of it. It makes it all the more sad that the Fianna Fáil Party could not bring themselves to lend their support as a major Nationalist force to this agreement.

When the constitutional Nationalist parties of this island joined together in the New Ireland Forum a process was commenced which acknowledged that something must be done to bring about relief in Northern Ireland. I believe that this agreement is the concrete result of that realisation. All of us who share this island have a part to play in bringing about peace. To do nothing, because that option seems safer, is to abandon that responsibility. The die is therefore cast, the risks are real and frightening but the potential is also significant. Two sovereign Governments have freely entered into this agreement and now seek the support of Parliament here and in the United Kingdom. They have shown that they are both firm in their resolve that this agreement will be allowed to work and that resolve and determination augurs well for the future.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Daly): The Senator has two minutes left.

Mr. Howlin: There will be no winners and no losers in this agreement and in many ways it is but a small step, as many people have underlined. A small step maybe, but each step across a minefield is fraught with danger. Each step is a step towards safety and a gamble with death. Let each of us do what we can to guide our country and all its people to safety, [346] to peace and to prosperity.

Mr. Loughrey: The motion proposes that this House endorse the Anglo-Irish Agreement and calls on all persons to work for the success of this initiative in the interest of peace and stability in Ireland. The amendment proposes, and I do not want to read it all, many loose words that can only cause impatience among the people of the North whose main aim, and I stress it, regardless of what side they come from, is to bring about an improvement in their normal living standards. Their normal living standards are not normal in any sense.

My own reading of the agreement and the preamble to the agreement appears to be just as important if not more important than the agreement itself. I would summarise the agreement as being action where no action prior to this was taking place. If we accept that action is better than inaction, that this attempt at improving the lot of the people of the North is better than all the empty rhetoric which we have had to listen to since the foundation of the State, then we cannot but support the agreement and therefore cannot but support the motion. Let us examine the preamble and weigh the agreement against it.

Paragraph 1 says:

Wishing further to develop the unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation between their countries as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Community.

When this country was sadly burdened by emigration the young people in my area did not have to sit down and bother themselves with passports, visas or work permits when proposing to visit England. They did not visit England out of pure curiosity. They visited England, Scotland or Wales at that time to earn a livelihood. If employment was there, employment was given. If it was not there, social welfare was given. If they chose to remain there for a period a vote was given. This was the unique friendship that existed then and continues to exist between our [347] two countries. We must do everything to try to improve on this unique relationship.

Paragraph 2 states:

Recognising the major interest of both their countries and, above all, of the people of Northern Ireland in diminishing the divisions there and achieving lasting peace and stability;

I come from roughly 35 miles from the Border. I have not directly felt the overspill of Northern Ireland. Despite that proximity, in listening to the last Senator who lives many miles further away from it, we have not felt directly, but indirectly, the loss of tourism. But can we judge, from my distance from Northern Ireland or from Senator Howlin's distance from Northern Ireland or any other person living in the South, what the existence of the Northern Ireland Nationalist or Unionist is. The Nationalists are aggrieved, and rightly so, because they have been treated as second-class citizens. They have been discriminated against in jobs and in housing. They feel that they cannot co-operate with the system of Government or with the security forces. As long as that feeling exists among Nationalists then division will exist in Northern Ireland.

Senator Bríd Rogers, in her very able and in-depth contribution, outlined the situation that exists on many local councils and committees in Northern Ireland where the Nationalist elected representative is omitted from all sub-committees and school committees of Unionist-dominated councils. I condemn this. It is absolutely wrong. I come from County Donegal, where after the last local elections, the majority party on that council aligned themselves with men who have refused to condemn violence, North or South. I gather that they may soon be invited to join the major Opposition party within the next few weeks. These people who have refused to condemn violence have, with the main Opposition party on our council, created an artificial majority and, as a result, all members of my party are omitted from all committees [348] in County Donegal. I condemn the fact that the Nationalists in Northern Ireland are left out of all committees in the North. I condemn also the fact that the Fine Gael Party in County Donegal are likewise left off all committees in that county. Paragraph 3 acknowledges the two traditions in Northern Ireland. However, in acknowledging those who aspire to a sovereign united Ireland, I acknowledge only those who so aspire by peaceful means and through agreement.

Paragraph 5 rejects the promotion of political objections by violence. I must refer again to Donegal County Council where there are those who have publicly refused to condemn violence. Recently there was the incident of a bomb on Lifford bridge, which, thankfully, did not cause any loss of life or limb but did cause severe structural damage to many homes and caused great hardship to many occupiers. In an ensuing debate on that act members of Donegal County Council — not just Sinn Féin members — refused to condemn that violent act and refused to condemn violence in general. Yet some of those people are presently being invited to join the main Opposition party.

Paragraph 6 recognises that a condition of genuine conciliation and dialogue between Unionists and Nationalists is mutual recognition and acceptance of each other's rights. The Nationalist community in Northern Ireland have the right to be treated equally with their Unionist counterparts. That is a basic right. This agreement proposes to give to the Irish Government, through its Minister for Foreign Affairs, a watching brief on the rights of the minority in Northern Ireland. It is my contention that this will be the biggest single contribution towards bringing about peace in Northern Ireland that we have had for quite some time. The men of violence on the Nationalist side in Northern Ireland have played on the grievances of the Nationalist community and on the fact that the Nationalist community have no confidence in Government structures and therefore have no ear to listen to their problems. It is hoped, now that the Irish Government will be represented, that the Nationalist [349] community will have that ear, that they will therefore turn away from violence and, in doing so, render not only their own lives but the lives of their fellow Unionists safer.

Paragraph 7 respects the right of each entity in Northern Ireland to pursue their aspirations peacefully and by constitutional means. That is to say, it recognises the right of the Nationalists to strive towards a united Ireland by any means that are constitutional and, at the same time, the right of the majority to strive to retain the union by means that are equally constitutional.

Paragraph 8 re-affirms the commitment to a society in which all may live in peace without discrimination and intolerance and participate fully in the structures and process of government.

Paragraph 8 summarises the wishes of the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland, Nationalist and Unionist. On Friday, 8 November, prior to the publication of the agreement, I called on all sections of political opinion to give a reasoned and responsible response to whatever agreement might come about between the Irish Government and the British Government. It has caused me deep distress that the Leader of the Opposition not only did not give a reasoned response to the agreement when published but seemed to be determined to scuttle the outcome of the talks in advance of whatever agreement might be arrived at. It would seem that nothing was acceptable to him unless achieved by him. He used words that were intemperate, emotive and at times ugly, such as “sell out” and “betrayal”. Thus, before he knew — on his own admission — what the agreement, if any, was to contain, he was prepared to condemn it.

Yet the same Leader of the Opposition said in 1981 that an immediate solution to such a long-standing and important issue was not possible but steps could be taken then to establish a framework for a solution. Efforts had been made to achieve precisely that objective. He spoke of the outcome, before he even knew what that outcome was, as being of little consequence, a matter which could [350] have been arranged over two phone calls. At the same time he went on to express fears of bombs going off in Dublin city. How in all honesty could one treat the negotiations that were going on so dismissively as to suggest that they might have been done over a couple of phone calls and at the same time to attach to them such grevious importance as to suggest other outcomes as I have outlined. I would remind the House that this was done before he even knew the contents of the agreement.

The leader of the SDLP, John Hume, had laid it on the line and said that anybody expecting Irish unity as a result of the current Anglo-Irish talks was “wired to the moon”. It would appear that some members of the Opposition party had their own lunar modules ordered. Reaction to the agreement, when published, was even worse. Deputy Haughey spoke of the cause of nationalism being sold out, pledging that the Fianna Fáil Party would never abandon Irish nationalism. Was there a suggestion that anybody on this side of the House had abandoned Irish nationalism? Let it be put on record that the Taoiseach, despite ongoing insults from the Leader of the Opposition, following the post-Forum, television appearance of the Prime Minister of Great Britain had the foresight and the maturity to remain silent in the face of the most humiliating insults. A lesser man might have stormed out from the negotiating table and played to the empty, hollow cheers of the gallery at home. The fact the he resisted this temptation distinguishes him as a politician of passionate commitment to a cause which, since the State was founded, has produced in others nothing more than shallow rhetoric and verbal republicanism.

Fianna Fáil's opposition to the agreement, while predictable under Deputy Haughey's leadership, was nevertheless despicable and has posed yet another credibility problem for that party, in view of his stand in 1980. There are many in Fianna Fáil — and some of them have been forced to leave Fianna Fáil recently who do not agree with Deputy Haughey on this issue, especially at grass roots. [351] Regrettably, their views, and indeed the views of those who represent them, will not prevail. It is a shame that the only thing that will reverse Deputy Haughey's reaction to this agreement is a reversal at the opinion polls. Realism in this House or in the other House or indeed in his own parliamentary party where he was pleaded with to accept and attach more significance to it would not have the same effect but only a reversal of the opinion polls would have changed his mind. It is shameful that when leadership was required from the Opposition party it was not forthcoming, certainly not from the leader himself but from his own grassroots.

I live convenient to Northern Ireland. I am only 35 miles from it. Yet we have not suffered the immediate fall-out. We do not know what it is like to live within Northern Ireland and to suffer the atrocities that have been perpetrated there. As I have said at the outset, there is action in this agreement which sets up some structures whereby the viewpoint of the minority in Northern Ireland, the Nationalists, can be made known and to some degree safeguarded. If this agreement has a net result of letting the Nationalists of Northern Ireland have an ear to which to talk and if this results in them turning away from violence, and that is what we hope for, then it should be welcomed.

Despite all the aspirations that we or others may have north or south of the Border to unity, there cannot be any unity unless there is unity among people. We have been asked not to indulge in any triumphalism. If this agreement, rather than what it is, was an agreement whereby this country became a united Ireland without a united people even then I would not be tempted to indulge in any triumphalism. As it is there is no room for triumphalism but only for reasonableness.

I ask, even at this late stage, the Opposition and in particular the Leader of the Opposition to be reasonable. This evening's news from the House of Commons indicates that there will be a [352] majority of over 500 in that House supporting the agreement. When we needed total unanimity on this side, that unanimity was not there. Even at this late stage I ask for it. I ask that the Unionists might listen to the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Dr. James Mehaffey. While he has criticised in some way the manner in which the agreement was reached, recognising the anxiety and the deep frustration that many people in Northern Ireland felt concerning the agreement and its potential repercussions, he also urged the members of the Protestant community not to over-react in the situation. He made these comments after the Church of Ireland bishops announced on Wednesday that they will be seeking a meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, and the Taoiseach, Deputy FitzGerald, to express their opposition to the agreement.

In a statement the bishops said they were acutely aware that major decisions involving the vital interests of many people had been made in secret without full and open consultation with those most directly affected. They said such a process inevitably created resentment and deepened division and mistrust. Pointing out that they shared with all people of goodwill both north and south the desire to see peace and mutual understanding developed and strengthened, they acknowledged that the purpose of those involved in the formulation of the agreement was to deal with the long-standing political and community divisions. They, nevertheless, urged Mrs. Thatcher and the Taoiseach, Deputy FitzGerald, to view very seriously the sense of insecurity and lack of trust that arises for future relationships and structures.

The Church of Ireland leadership stated that the Anglo-Irish Agreement will be the subject of searching scrutiny and earnest debate in many places at many levels. They also stated that this necessary debate should be conducted in a manner that refrains from inflammatory words or actions which can only have the effect of increasing bitterness, division and suffering in a land where during the [353] last 16 years they ministered to so many people in their pain and grief. The bishop asked everyone to pray that all may have a sound judgment in this matter and contribute to a more peaceful co-operative relationship between all people of goodwill in this island. I would appeal to the Unionists to answer the call of Bishop Mehaffey. He is a reasonable man. We must all be reasonable. We must give up this empty rhetoric that I have referred to.

On the day that this agreement was published, in an ensuing issue of The Derry Journal, which is published in Derry city, on Friday, 22 November 1985 reference was made to the Unionist dilemma. That editorial refers to Bishop Mehaffey's statement and asks all Unionists to listen to that statement. In the same issue there is a photograph of two young girls, the twin three year old daughters of Mr. Kurt Konig pictured shortly after his killing. Do these three year old girls understand the empty rhetoric of our playing with words and empty formulae? Will they understand, years later, if somebody says to them, do you realise when you were three years of age your father was murdered because there were differences of opinion as to the meaning of words and what might result? I can say that unity of this country would not matter one single iota if we could not have unity of people that will bring about the cessation of this type of barbaric act.

We are living on one island. The hatred in Northern Ireland and the energy contained in that hatred should be turned into creative energy. Let this agreement be a step, if not to a united Ireland — I am not concerned that it would be such a step — at least towards peace in Northern Ireland. Would it not be nice if the millions of pounds promised to us from across the Atlantic were to come now to a peaceful Northern Ireland where people were prepared to work together side by side, Protestant and Catholic, Nationalist and Unionist, for the betterment of themselves, for their own standard of living and for their children. We support this agreement regardless of what the agreement [354] itself will bring about. The fact that it is an attempt to bring about peace warrants the support of this House and I earnestly urge that the agreement be given that support.

Mr. Kiely: I wish to speak on this very important motion. I speak in favour of the amendment. I have a copy of the agreement. I do not agree with article 1, sections (a) and (b), which states that the two Governments:

Affirm that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of people of Northern Ireland; recognise that the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland is for no change in the status of Northern Ireland.

I think, as do many more Members of the Fianna Fáil side of the House, that Partition has been copperfastened and the credibility of constitutional Nationalists severely undermined. Instead for the interim period the Irish Government will have an advisory role in helping the British Government to administer the Six Counties. We do not believe that the Irish Government have acquired any permanent role of substance in the affairs of Northern Ireland. The averment of our right to national unity and our opposition to extradition is based on assumptions about Unionist attitudes, which have been proved time and time again to be incorrect and naive. I fear that the Secretariat and the Conference will be powerless and without influence. Yet, the Irish Government presence in Stormont will provide blanket approval for the administrative practices and decisions of the Northern Ireland administration. I fear also that the Irish Government have been set up by the British to carry much of the responsibility and unpopularity of the present regime — especially if there is intensification of repression by the security forces — without possessing any positive authority.

Article 1 of the agreement gives no commitment to a united Ireland. I would like to see a declaration by the British [355] that they believe it would be in the best interests of all sections of the communities of both islands if Ireland were to be united on terms acceptable to all the people of Northern Ireland. That has been the position of the Nationalist party, the position of Fianna Fáil, down through the years. They would have wished the British Government to make such a declaration. The SDLP also suggest that the British Government should make such a declaration. Actually, I am surprised that the SDLP are in favour of an agreement that is copperfastening Partition. Indeed, the British Government, following the partition of this country, recognised that eventually the country would have to be united. Had such a declaration been included in article 1 it would have been a positive step in that direction. What we need to realise is that Britain has been in this country unwanted for the past 800 years or so. She never has been and never will be accepted. Nor has Britain — and this is rather unique in the world — really assimilated the Irish people into her jurisdiction, despite all the years of occupation, despite teaching us her many ways. She has treated us abominably over these centuries. By that treatment and the manner of her operation here she has created an inferiority complex atmosphere. My desire for a united Ireland and my belief in nationalism influenced me to join Fianna Fáil. One of their aims was a united Ireland. It also influenced me to join the GAA, because the GAA do not recognise the Border.

It is a pity that a lot of our national traditions and values are being ridiculed, especially by the media and television. The GAA had sound principles about things and still the media and television actually influenced them a lot in the change. Some think it is a change for the better; I do not think so. We should stick to our traditional values. We should not abandon them and we should not pay a price for uniting Ireland.

What will this new agreement do with the UDR or the RUC? Will there still be [356] discrimination against the minority in the North? Will this new agreement abolish rubber bullets? Actually, William Whitelaw stated that they are too dangerous to use in racial distrubances in London. They are dangerous and they should be abolished. Will Deputy Barry, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, be able to ensure that rubber bullets will be abolished? What about the 84 per cent rate of unemployment in Divis flats and the Lower Falls Road? Will the people there get equal opportunities to seek employment? Is this discrimination going to end? Also, the payment of debts is of concern to those people on dole in the northern part of our country, in the partitioned part of Ireland. What about the security forces? Will they still be non-Catholic and non-Nationalist? I do not think that Catholics or Nationalists can join the security forces or the RUC. It would be dangerous and definitely it would not lead to stability and peace.

There are a lot of things that are unworkable in this agreement. There is discrimination; there is harrassment of Nationalists in the North. I brought in a motion, that was supported by Senator Deenihan, on 2 May 1984 in connection with the occupation by the British Army of Crossmaglen GAA grounds. I quote from what I said on that occasion, that Crossmaglen representatives met a previous Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy G. Collins in connection with compensation for the damage being done to the grounds. They met the Northern Ireland representative on several occasions but when they seemed to be meeting with some success there was always a change of personnel and the whole procedure had to start all over again. I said that it was necessary that the Minister get personally involved in ensuring that justice is done for Crossmaglen GAA Ranger Club and the Crossmaglen people, and that the harrassment and intimidation of members be eliminated. I know the present Minister for Foreign Affairs was instrumental in getting compensation for the damage done to the grounds; that he followed up the work of his predecessor, Deputy G. Collins. [357] But compensation is not what they want in Crossmaglen or in the GAA; they want complete evacuation of the ground. There is intimidation, I know, and I have it from people up there. I was in Crossmaglen recently and I know that the situation has not improved. Will this agreement improve the situation in Crossmaglen? They own the field and still they cannot use it; the British Army are still in occupation of it. What the British Army are doing to the GAA Club in Crossmaglen and expecially to the people in that area is completely unconstitutional.

I remember on that occasion that the Minister of State, Deputy John Donnellan, who stood in for the Minister who was out of the country at the time, said the problems affecting the GAA grounds at Crossmaglen could be solved if approached in a sensitive and understanding way. He said that a satisfactory response from the British authorities which would meet the GAA's concern would be a particularly appropriate gesture in this, the centenary year, and would help to improve community relations in the area. The Government will continue to work for such a response, he said. That was last year. As I have stated there is no improvement in the situation. I know that from people on the ground. In order that we would have peace and stability in that area it is necessary to withdraw the British Army from Crossmaglen grounds.

I abhor violence, and stability is something I would like to see in Northern Ireland. It would be great if this agreement would bring that peace and stability, but I have my grave doubts. We are a Nationalist party and, while we are not here to expound nationalism, we are here at the same time to spell out what we stand for. We should not be asked to deny the existence of the fundamentals which form the very basis of the Fianna Fáil Party and all they stand for. It is wrong to ask us to do that. It is not so much that it is a price we cannot pay, but we sincerely believe that to do so would be to depart from the fundamental principles [358] and betray the founders of our party, Fianna Fáil.

There are reasons which I quoted that I think this agreement will not work. I express deep reservations about this agreement. However, at the same time, I would wish it well and I am hopeful that it will definitely contribute to peace and stability in that troubled area of our country. I think the North belongs to Ireland and it should be Ireland. What the agreement should be doing is definitely looking for a unitary state which would eventually be the only way of solving the problem of Northern Ireland and restoring peace and stability to that community.

Mrs. McAuliffe-Ennis: The Anglo-Irish Agreement when studied is one of the most significant movements to be made in addressing the problems of the people of Ireland since the Sunningdale Agreement in 1974. This agreement iterates Nationalism in a coherent, logical, practical and humanitarian fashion. It differentiates between the nationalism of the gunman and the constitutional Nationalist position. It enunciates a will to establish unity, unity among the people of Northern Ireland, and to restore peace and stability by democratic means, and by so doing is an instrument for the defeat of the forces which exist on destabilisation and violence. The issue of a united Ireland is encompassed as a legitimate aspiration of the constitutional Nationalists North and South of the Border. But, wisely, it is not part of this process. The issue of a united Ireland is correctly one which may, or may not, arise according to the will of the people of Northern Ireland if and when they choose to address this issue. This is the guarantee. Neither the British Government nor the Irish Government will force the issue of a united Ireland. Unity will emerge only with the consent and at the behest of the people who have the ultimate rights in this area — that is the people of Northern Ireland.

In the context of what I have said, the position adopted by Fianna Fáil is worthy of comment. Fianna Fáil have made many and varied declarations which I fail [359] to comprehend, which range from statements that no moves should be made until all parties concerned agree to sit down and co-operate, to calling it a PR exercise and to calling it an experiment. The facts state and history state that all parties would not agree and therefore this first statement cannot be realised — history has proved this to be the case: they would not co-operate. Nor indeed is it an experiment. It denigrates the whole process to call it a PR exercise. It is an initiative of courage backed by a sufficient commitment and determination to achieve positive results. The positive results are not seen or perceived to be triumphalism or victory but as a people working and living together in harmony and with mutual respect.

Why did Fianna Fáil reject the agreement? Why did they try to amend it? Why did they differentiate or remove themselves from the position of the legitimate constitutional Nationalists in Northern Ireland by submitting an amendment? Given that unless dialogue and peaceful initiatives are to succeed, then the future of democracy is at stake, why did Fianna Fáil choose to put so much at risk? Was it a position of opposition for opposition's sake, or was it that they do not support any initiative except on their terms? Or was it a mistaken position which once taken, they chose to live with, be it right or wrong? I suspect strongly that the latter is the case. This makes one all the more sad.

There are many people in Fianna Fáil who do not agree with the stated policy of the party: they have stated this in the Dáil, in this House today and publicly. I offer them now a word of caution: they risk being seen as a party of dangerous idealism which, by implication, is supportive of those who are in the business of destabilisation of the democratic process, notwithstanding what Senator Lanigan said earlier in the debate. The consequences of this implication being taken up or believed are great not only for the people of Northern Ireland but also for the people here in the Republic and for Fianna Fáil.

[360] The Unionist politicians of Northern Ireland have also failed in their duty to their people. Surely the purpose of any political party is to analyse in a critical fashion any proposals from Government, or in this case Governments, before adopting a position of opposition? The case has not been truly presented by the Unionist politicians to the Unionist people. Never before has the position of the majority view been so well protected. The Anglo-Irish Agreement not only reiterates the British guarantee in terms of the will of the majority but also encompasses an Irish guarantee to the same effect. This is true democracy and it is what differentiates between those who subscribe to rule by the gun and those who fully respect the view of the majority and accept that view. Under these terms only can children play, men and women work and people go to their homes at night in peace and security.

The SDLP is a party of courage, grit and determination; it has survived years of intimidation and it can now say to its people: “We have achieved agreement that your rights must be recognised, that your views must be taken into account and we now have a mechanism to ensure proper representation of your views within the democratic process.” They know the true position because they live the reality of life in Northern Ireland. They live the reality of the threat of the gunman and the obduracy of those who will not change. They live the reality of a factual border, not only between North and South but between the people of the Six Counties. They live with and support wholeheartedly the reality that unity of spirit and mutual respect are the real borders to be crossed. They approve this agreement as a step towards achieving that unity, while accepting in a truly democratic way the majority view.

People all over the country are talking about this agreement. Many do not understand the details of it, but most agree that it must be given a chance. More are cynical and sceptical as to whether it will succeed or not and, sadly there are those who do not want it to [361] work. This latter category are, thankfully, in the minority. I say to them here today that it is not a question of whether it will work or not; it is instead an agreement that has to work if this island — and in particular Northern Ireland — is ever going to achieve a peaceful way of life.

I salute the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the SDLP and all the people involved in this process. I salute, too, the British Government. They have all decided to work together despite the risks and the pressures saying “what will be will be” and “We must stand aside and leave things as they are” are over. Win or lose, the politicians have responded and have given what they are charged to give — leadership to the people.

Mr. Deenihan: While the agreement is not all that I would wish, it has some welcome features. It should be welcomed by all Nationalists and by all the people on this island who agree with peace and stability. It is, as the former Taoiseach, Mr. Jack Lynch says, a positive and constructive step. The agreement recognises the rights of the two major traditions — the Nationalists and the Unionists. Of course, the rights of the Unionists have always been recognised by the British Government and now Westminster will be formally recognising the rights not only of the Northern Nationalists but also the right of the Dublin Government to intercede on their behalf.

In the past when our leaders tried to help our beleagured brethern in the Six Counties, they have often had to suffer the indignity of being treated contemptuously by being told to mind their own business. Lloyd George, Ramsey MacDonald, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee and Harold MacMillan all told Eamon de Valera at one time or another — and in one way or another — that what was happening in Northern Ireland was none of Dublin's business. Prime Minister Edward Heath reiterated this message in a telegram to Mr. Jack Lynch in August 1971. On the eve of her first formal meeting with [362] Deputy Charles Haughey as Taoiseach, Margaret Thatcher told the House of Commons that the affairs of Northern Ireland were a matter for the people of Northern Ireland, her Government — the Westminster Parliament — and no one else — in short what was happening in Northern Ireland was none of his business. As a result of this agreement, however, no Taoiseach will ever again have to endure that indignity suffered by Mr. de Valera, Mr. Lynch and Deputy Haughey. Now, albeit belatedly, the British Government have formally acknowledged that what happens in the North is our business and, with the ratification of this agreement, we are to be accorded more than a mere consultative role. With this agreement the British Government have declared that there is no British interest, strategic or otherwise, in being in Ireland and they have promised to bring forward legislation to establish Irish unity if and when a majority in Northern Ireland so wish. This goes further than any previous statement by any British Government on this issue.

The road to this agreement has been a long one, which was begun when Seán Lemass made his historic trip to Belfast. Although the present Fianna Fáil leader is now trying to undermine the agreement, he does deserve much credit for it. After all, it was he who first persuaded Margaret Thatcher to start the talks which have led to the agreement. In fact, he actually helped to write the final document which incorporated virtually verbatim his assurance that any change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of the majority of people in Northern Ireland.

We all realise, and indeed so does much worldwide opinion, the blatant disregard which Unionist leaders have shown for the rights of Nationalist people in Northern Ireland over the years. One of those Unionist protesters photographed in the daily press was the late Lord Brookeborough's widow, but she made no protest when her husband, as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, apologised to Stormont because one of [363] the 13 messenger boys employed by the Parliament happened to be a Catholic.

When playing Gaelic football I frequently visited the Six Counties and witnessed at first hand the alienation of the Nationalist people. Their sense of alienation, may I add, was not only from Stormont and the British authorities but also from politicians in the Twenty-six Counties who used the plight of those Nationalists as a political football to cover up for the political realities in the South. This is not the first time the Unionists have accused the British Government of betraying them. The same kind of opposition was heard in 1921 following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which was concluded with representatives of the Dáil on behalf of the Thirty-two Counties. It did allow for the Six Counties to withdraw, but in that event the contiguous Nationalist areas were supposedly to be transferred to the South. It was envisaged that Nationalist areas like Derry city, South Down and South Armagh and counties Fermanagh and Tyrone would be transferred to the Twenty-six Counties. Edward Carson and Captain Craig opposed the Treaty in much the same way as Ian Paisley and Jim Molyneaux have been doing lately. The founder of Fianna Fáil also opposed the Treaty; but he did so because it prescribed an oath for Members of the Dáil, not because it allowed the Unionists to partition this land. “The difficulty is not the Ulster question,” Mr. de Valera told a secret session of the Dáil. “As far as we are concerned this is a fight between England and Ireland. I want to eliminate the Ulster question out of it.” Consequently, even though he really did not like the Treaty's “explicit recognition of the right on the part of Irishmen to secede from Ireland” he was still prepared to accept the partition clauses of the Treaty I quote: “We will take the same things as agreed on there ... let us not start to fight with Ulster; let us accept that, but put in a declaratory phrase which will safeguard our right.” In short, we should be advocating acceptance of the actual existence of Northern Ireland but not [364] formally accepting and acknowledging its right to exist.

This thinking later formed the basis for Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution, which have been referred to previously by many speakers. Article 2 asserts our claim and jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland and Article 3 stipulates that our Constitution and laws will apply only to the Twenty-six Counties pending the ending of Partition. Nothing in the Hillsborough Agreement contravenes those principles of the founder of Fianna Fáil. If Deputy Haughey seriously believed in the spurious objections he has made to the agreement on constitutional grounds, he would challenge them in court. But, of course, he knows there is no constitutional basis for his objections.

Article 2 (b) of the Hillsborough Agreement clearly states that:

There is no derogation from the sovereignty of either the Irish Government or the United Kingdom Government.

This article guarantees our constitutional position. We still have our claim to de jure sovereignty over the whole island. In real terms, that declaration is about as empty a formula as was the oath that caused the Civil War.

For years our Government did little more than encourage Northern Nationalists to reject integration in the Six Counties and demand unification with the rest of the island. When those Nationalists were discriminated against southern politicians merely exploited the issue to cover up their own social and economic failings while they did little for the Nationalist people of the Six Counties. No real effort was made to bring international pressure to bear on Britain to have the discrimination stopped. The reason for our inaction was simply that we did not want the discrimination to end, because as long as Nationalists were being discriminated against they would be discontented with British rule and would naturally aspire towards Irish unity.

This narrow-minded policy was the result of our own dismal lack of self-confidence. Our leaders simply did not [365] believe that we could build a State which could attract a contented Nationalist population, much less the Unionist population of Northern Ireland. As one who grew up in the more optimistic years of the sixties, however, I am convinced that we can build such a State by working together for the betterment of the country without the narrow, petty, party political sniping which is, unfortunately, frequently to be heard in this House.

Less than 150 years ago the potato crop failed and our people starved. We have come a long way since then. Each year our people become more and more educated and most of them now see through the sloganising and empty formulae of the past. Anyone doubting this has only to look at the swing in the latest public opinion polls. As I said earlier, I am not totally satisfied with the agreement. There are some aspects of it which I would rather were left out and others which I would like to see included, but I know it was not possible to conclude an agreement which would satisfy everyone.

The most disappointing thing to come out of the agreement, however, has been the destructive attitude adopted by the Fianna Fáil leader. Why has he acted in this way, one may ask. One explanation was put forward by Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien in his Irish Times column on 19 November 1985. “Mr. Haughey was the first to woo the Iron Lady,” Dr. O'Brien wrote,” but it was Garret who won her. Mr. Haughey is jilted, spurned, upstaged and has his clothes stolen. No wonder he seems a little put out.”

Finally, I would like to say that the most satisfactory aspect of the agreement is the opportunity it affords to end the violence in Northern Ireland which has cost us so dearly. In addition to the dreadful loss of life, both in the North and in the Twenty-six Counties, our economy has suffered enormously with much-needed money being diverted to security. Our tourist industry, which boomed in the sixties, has been thrown into a state of virtual permanent depression. Now we have a chance to rectify this situation and work towards a new Ireland. I feel that all constitutional Nationalists in this country [366] on both sides of the Border should join together and give this agreement the chance it deserves.

I would like to compliment the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Foreign Affairs for the skill and patience with which they have conducted these negotiations. I believe they will go down in history as being the people who made a major contribution towards the establishment of permanent peace and stability in our country. Again, I appeal to the people who oppose this treaty to think again in the interest of the future of our young generation. To me, as a former history teacher, our young generation are not concerned as much about a united Ireland as perhaps the younger generations of the twenties, thirties, forties and fifties. What they need is peaceful coexistence in this country to ensure that employment opportunities are created and that they can live in peace. As one of the younger Members of this House I see enormous potential in this agreement and I believe that for the sake of the younger generation it should be given every support and every opportunity to succeed.

I would also like to praise the stance taken by the SDLP as regards the acceptance of the agreement. Seamus Mallon may have more extreme views about a united Ireland than John Hume. We must compliment him on his courage and his team play. If constitutional politicians on both sides of the Border played together as well as Seamus Mallon has done with John Hume for the same purpose, I believe that ultimately we would win the day. As long as there is dissension and divisions here in the Twenty-six Counties we will never arrive at our ultimate goal — the unity of the people of this country.

Mr. M. O'Toole: I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on the motion before us this evening. I want to say immediately that I will be voting against the motion. In doing that I will be doing what I sincerely believe to be right. The agreement, in my view, will damage our constitutional position. Article 2 of the Constitution states that the national territory [367] consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas. I believe this agreement contravenes that part of our Constitution. No constitution received the international admiration that ours did since the time of its inception. Ghana and other States copied the fundamental basis of our Constitution.

We are an island and since our Partition in the twenties there has been discrimination. This led to the civil rights campaign that brought the people of the Six Counties on to the streets and later on brought the escalation of violence. Were it not for the partitioning of this country that violence would not have escalated to the degree it has done over the years.

People may say that we on this side of the House are intransigent in our stance on this issue. I would welcome any agreement that would have any hope of working. I would give this my whole-hearted support if I felt it would bring about in the Six Counties the peace that the people in that area, all sections of the community, would welcome and which I would welcome. I am not so naive as not to know the fear and terror with which the people in Northern Ireland live. Any breakthrough to bring about peace in that part of the country must be welcomed. While I disagree with the agreement on the constitutional side, I realise that the SDLP, after long deliberations, have decided unanimously to support it. I wish them luck in what it might achieve. However, as a legislator on this side of the Border, I must consider what it means to our people down here. It might be well to reflect on what the British Prime Minister said: That, until the majority of the people in the Six Counties agree, there is no chance of a united Ireland coming about. I wonder does anybody ever think that the people in Southern Ireland should have a say in their own territory and land. Has it ever been considered that, although the majority of the Irish people — rather than the majority of the Six Counties people — agree to a united [368] Ireland, we just cannot have it if the people on the Six Counties do not agree?

I had great admiration for 90 per cent of the Nationalists of this State who sat down together for 18 months and listened to each other's views in the first positive way since the Treaty in 1920. It was the first major positive approach to bringing about peace in the whole of this island. The Forum, with 90 per cent of the elected Nationalists of this island, sat down together and reached an agreement on what their priorities would be for the future of this nation and the future of Northern Ireland. That was the greatest breakthrough we had and I believed that what was agreed in the Forum would be the ideals and the priorities that any Government from this side of the Border would be pursuing in any Anglo-Irish negotiations that would take place. I believed that that would be the priority, even if we had a change of Government, that this was the kernel decision that came out of the Forum, that this was what would be pursued. This is not what is being pursued in this agreement and that is why I feel I will have to oppose it. It is not the view of 90 per cent of the Nationalist elected people of this country. I wish it well in any way that it will being peace and stability to the people of Northern Ireland but as long as the Unionist establishment continue to enjoy massive British military, political and economic support we cannot expect them to show any real interest in dialogue.

They did not show it after the Sunningdale Agreement and they are not going to show it now either. They did not show it after the Forum and at no time, no matter what agreement comes on the mat, it is the tradition of the Unionist people to disapprove of the requirements of the majority of the Irish people.

Speakers from both sides have not got emotional here today. I respect their views. I will refrain from becoming emotional on this issue. I regret as most of the Irish people regret that our neighbours across the Border have been assassinated and that thousands have been killed as a result of violence that has been brought about by the establishment [369] of an artificial Border in this country and preference was given to one side of the community in Northern Ireland over the other. Until the civil rights movement in 1968 the Catholic minority did not get justice. How is it that on this side of the Border we can live together, administrate together, legislate together, intermingle together, and marry together with all sections of the communities? All denominations living on this side of the Border have lived together in peace and harmony. That does not happen in Northern Ireland. Until the preference that has been given to one section of the community over the other has been removed, there will be no solution. The continued stabilisation of the artificial Border has cost this part of the country millions and millions of pounds in tourism, trade and in every other way. Until the two Governments agree on positive legislation that will bring about the unification of this country I can see no peace on the horizon. A unified approach and a unitary State is the only solution. I would not be against giving the agreement a chance to work if I felt that any positive results would emerge from it but I cannot see any positive results coming from this Anglo-Irish Agreement. Rather I have fears in my heart about a further escalation of violence as a result of the introduction and implementation of this agreement. I would regret it if that were to happen because anything that would bring peace to that part of the island would be welcomed by every individual.

I sensed some artifical projection of this agreement. As a legislator I had not got the agreement but, while I had not got it in Mayo, before it was dry in Hillsborough it was in the hands of people in the United States and all over the world with a view to its projection. That was very artificial. You do not comment on any agreement, and especially if you are a legislator, until you have read it and examined it. The media were quick off the mark. Before the ink was dry in Hillsborough, as if a button had been pressed somewhere near Hillsborough when the agreement was signed, the whole network of the media got underway [370] to do one thing only, and no dissenting voice was heard from all the media that went into action on that pressed button effort at that time. That gave me an indication that it was an artificial response to the agreement before the legislators in the South or indeed most other legislators had got the full script. That put a doubt in my mind that it was artificial. I hope I am wrong but I have to mention this in passing. I feel it was artificial and orchestrated in some way or other. It could not have happened except by satellite and by an organised effort that that type of support would be forthcoming in such a blasting voice internationally. There must have been some method of pre-notice or orchestration prior to the signing of this agreement.

We, on this side of the House, had to wait until we got it in piecemeal fashion from the media. Some of us who were reluctant to speak on it until we got its real framework were wise. People who had to speak earlier with just what was coming across in the media might not have been in a position to speak fully about it. Now the dust is settling somewhat. All we can do is wait and see whether this agreement will bring about one remnant of peace. If it does that and saves even one life across the Border it will be an achievement. I fear that it will not save even one life across the Border, but if it does and brings any type of peace and security, it will be an achievement. It is not necessarily to curtail any militant group as against another. If there is to be any curtailment of the activities of one group then it should be an overall curtailment of all unofficial groups who have been in operation in the Six Counties, on a retaliatory basis rather than on any other basis. Indeed it is known that you do not have to do anything wrong in that part of the country to have some member of your family assassinated. It is a retaliatory method which has been used by various military groups in the North. That is a very bad situation and indeed our elected members are not at all secure or safe in carrying out their duties as legislators. I would condemn all those types of organisations that are trying to [371] use one side or another for the further escalation of violence. I condemn any of these organisations in the strongest possible way. We must have a blanket control to ensure that further escalation does not take place.

It must be said that the Northern people have suffered and suffered. It is only when you are close and know what is happening internally that you realise the absence of peace, the fear, the lack of freedom of movement, the fear even to contact one's neighbour in the ordinary course of one's duty. That is a sad situation to have on this island. It behoves this Government or any other Government, with the British Government, to bring about a positive political solution to ensure peace in Northern Ireland. How long will the people of this nation have patience and continue to wait in the absence of any positive political move from the two Governments to bring that day about? They have waited for over 65 years now and they have not got any political initiative which would give that peace in Northern Ireland. Until you have a complete and united Ireland with everybody working with the one aim, under the one national Government, you will never have peace.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Senator has one minute to conclude.

Mr. M. O'Toole: I am not rejecting in full this agreement. I wish it well if it can do any good for that part of the country. I do not think it was the right way to go about it. At the Forum 90 per cent of the Nationalist people sat down and reached a decision. The pursuance of the ideals of that Forum should have been the way to approach this. I know the British Government threw that out very briskly.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I made a mistake. I rarely admit when I make a mistake but you have seven or eight more minutes.

Mr. M. O'Toole: It is seldom you make a mistake. I will conclude because I know [372] there are a number of speakers wishing to make a contribution. I disagree with the agreement from the constitutional aspect and I will be voting against it but if anything good can come out of it I wish the agreement well.

Mr. J. Higgins: There have been times over the past 16 or 17 years when I have genuinely felt ashamed to be Irish, when I have read, when I have looked at on television, when I have heard described on foreign media the various acts of barbarism and atrocities and sadism which have been carried out in this country in the name of a cause. I have blushed and as I said at the outset, I was genuinely ashamed of being Irish.

I believe we in this Chamber today are endorsing a measure which is a positive definite measure towards a redress of the situation in Northern Ireland. I have listened with considerable interest as the debate fluctuated from one side to the other in the Dáil, as the debate has been carried on in public and, in a large measure, to the debate that has been carried on in this House today. To me, to this side of the House and to the majority of people, thankfully, in this country, our bottom line, our safety net, our guiding principle and our barometer has been that if it is good enough for the SDLP, who are the people who have borne the heat of the kitchen with such resilience and patience in the past then it is good enough for us, certainly it is good enough for me.

I might justifiably ask, as has been asked so often in the recent past since this agreement came to light, who are we in the South of Ireland to parade our nationalist credentials as being superior to the Nationalists in the North? I would charge anybody who deigns to speak down here for the Nationalists in the North with being guilty of audacity. It is tantamount to an act of treason against the John Humes, the Seamus Mallons, the Austin Curries and the Bríd Rogers.

I listened to a lot of ambivalence in this debate. I heard Senator Cassidy launch into his contribution by praising the Social, Democratic and Labour Party, by [373] pointing out the strong affinity between himself, on a personal basis, and Mr. Seamus Mallon, by hoping again that that affinity and relationship which existed when Mr. Mallon was a Member of this House would be resumed at a future stage, and by endorsing everything the SDLP had stood for. Then, on the other hand, he launched into a quite vicious attack on this side of the House for the manner in which this whole agreement had been undertaken and resolved. There were many emotive phrases used and words such as “betrayal”. I would say that the people who are guilty of any betrayal in this country are those who would undermine the effort which has been undertaken. No Nationalist aspiration, no constitutional provision or guarantee has been undermined. No one has compromised nationalism, patriotism or republicanism. We have here something that is a mere glimmer, a mere flicker, but it has promise, it has potential, it has a future. It is something, as has been acknowledged on all sides of the House, that has to be worked at. It is something fragile, it is something that has been resolved after a lot of continuous, tentative, delicate negotiations, something I am sure that at times went near the brink of breaking down but something, thankfully for the cause of sanity, which came through and developed. It emerged in the form of a very positive document.

As was said by Deputy Hugh Coveney in the other House, apart from the SDLP I use as my gauge, as my meter, as my barometer, the reaction of the man in the street. Thankfully, when the opinion polls were published recently, the man in the street endorsed this particular agreement wholeheartedly. It shows that the man in the street is thinking, that John Citizen is not interested in infinitesimal definitions or in subtleties or in legal jargon. No matter what derisory comments come or from where, this is a gigantic step forward. It has already been said numerous times that it is a considerable advance when one sees it in the perspective of a telegram sent 12 to 14 years ago by a former British Premier to [374] a then Irish Taoiseach telling him to mind his own business and that Britain would not tolerate intervention by a third party into the UK's internal affairs. We have gone a long way. All the verbiage, flag waving and violence have failed. They have failed to achieve anything. By this we now have a team, a secretariat, a Conference and a Southern Minister in Belfast as a guarantor of the rights of the minority community. They are there not by stealth but by right. They are there because they are recognised as having a right to be there by virtue of a treaty undertaken by two sovereign Governments and lodged with the United Nations by way of guarantee.

I would ask the other side of the House and the people who would riddle this particular agreement and treaty with criticism to honestly advance for us in this House, seeing as we are debating the merits and demerits of this treaty, to enumerate for us, let alone evaluate for us, the various steps or measures of positive advances that have been made by anybody in the South of Ireland in relation to achieving (a) the uplifting, support and securing of the rights of the minority community in the North and (b) in relation to advancing what is the aspiration of all of us some day down along the line in the future after peace, stability and sanity have been restored, unity? If there is one thing that galls me it is the attempt very often by politicians to wrest unto themselves the Nationalist card, to create the impression that any one side has a monopoly on nationalism or republicanism. People from this side of the House, when violence was justified and in vogue, were not seen to be wanting. I would point out that the father and mother of the present Taoiseach were in the GPO. The father of the former leader of this party, Mr. Liam Cosgrave was sentenced to death but had that sentence subsequently commuted. Our pedigree, lives, heritage, allegiance, and record on this side of the House is fine, noble and stands the proof and test of time. But I would point out that those were different circumstances in a different day. The barbarism [375] perpetrated today in the name of nationalism bears no equivocation.

Looking at the amendment that has come from the Opposition one notes that Fianna Fáil remind us that in 1949 the then Taoiseach and Opposition leader reasserted the integrity of the Irish nation to unity, the integrity of the national territory and that there is a preference for a unitary state in the Forum report. As has been asked today by Senator Eoin Ryan from that side of the House, in the name of heavens how can you possibly hope for a constitutional conference bringing together the British, ourselves, Unionists and the Social Democratic and Labour Party when there is something here which falls far short of that, rejected, rebuffed and used as a rallying cry to bring thousands of Unionists on to the streets of Belfast. This is a golden opportunity to endorse a positive advance and to get back to the days of the bipartisan approach to the North of Ireland. The breakdown of that bipartisanship has been the greatest tragedy for the Nationalist cause, the Nationalist people and the Nationalist minority in the North of Ireland.

We have gained in this document a constitutional advance, not alone a toehold but a constitutional foothold in the North. There is also the consequent and inherent obligation that we as people down here living in a stable safe community, complacent in the relative security that we have had to stretch out over the heads of the Unionist tribal leaders to the ordinary people in the North of Ireland to try to get across to the moderate and decent Unionist people — and there are moderate, middle of the road, non-militant Unionist people in the North — to point out to them that we do not mean to threaten and harm them. That in the event of whatever devolved solution comes along the way or whatever eventual parliamentary tier develops or in the event of unity, that we have no desire good, bad or indifferent to trammel, quench, nullify and negative their heritage, traditions and cultures.

It is obligatory on us from now on that [376] we should undertake positive programmes in this direction. I have spoken in this House on several occasions about the various twinning operations that take place between towns in the Republic of Ireland and towns on the continent of Europe with a view to promoting cultural exchange, better understanding and the long sought aspiration of full integration into Europe. If we can do it on such a large scale on a town by town, village by village basis, in rural Ireland with the mainland of Europe surely we are capable of making a first advance in that direction with our brethren in the North of Ireland. While the Unionist people are being whipped up into a frenzy of emotion by their leaders, nobody can honestly say that these leaders find themselves in this situation other than by their own fault. They would have been consulted. They should have been consulted but consultation was not on by virtue of the many shots that were fired over the bow of Margaret Thatcher over the past year since negotiations began.

Despite the fact that there are divisions in relation to what is or what is not in this agreement, to the subtleties or the language they are in, to the eventual determination of a long term aspiration towards unity or otherwise one of the heartening aspects of the debate is the determination from all sides of the House that violence is totally out and never justified. For my part I have always adopted as my adage the words of Daniel O'Connell who said freedom is not worth the shedding of a single drop of human blood. That would be very much the principle on which I would base my whole attitude towards nationalism, republicanism, unification and this document. I do not think that I am any less a republican or a nationalist because of that.

We have a determination here on both sides of the House to see an end to violence. We also have to end once and for all the blowing hot and blowing cold about republicanism. Politicians in the South will once and for all have to stop clouding in a veil of gymnastics their attitude towards violence. The days of ambivalence and double thinking are over. The [377] days of somebody being all things to all men and using the four green fields today and some other conciliatory slogan tomorrow are gone also. We must remember that this campaign of violence over the past number of years has left many a house widowed and many a family orphaned. I mourn for the sons, daughters, wives, widows of British army people just as much as I mourn for the children of Garda Reynolds, Garda Morley, Garda Byrne and Garda Fanning, people who lost their lives at the hands of gunmen. To me, human life, irrespective of the badge or the emblem, is sacred. We also have another obligation and that is to educate people who fall for the easy catch-cry and to try to get across to our misguided brethren on the other side of the Atlantic that by pumping dollars, pounds and pennies into the coffers of such organisations they are aiding, abetting and putting the hand on the trigger. They are equally as culpable as the person who pulls the trigger, launches the rocket or detonates the landmine.

I started my contribution by saying that there were times when I was honestly ashamed of being Irish in view of some of the atrocities that have taken place. But too often in the past it has become the practice that it has been too easy to raise a lusty cheer in a public house for the perverted ingenuity of somebody who could detonate a landmine, shoot somebody in the back of the head or maim somebody by way of kneecapping. The ambivalence has got to end. The days of the selling An Poblacht, the easy cheer, the slogan and the catch-cry have to left aside. They are part of our past, for better or for worse.

My immediate reaction on hearing the agreement was one of disbelief and pride. It was disbelief that we could have achieved so much in view and as the sequel to the “Out, Out, Out” comments approximately 12 months ago. I was heartened, relieved, gratified and, might I say, delighted when within an hour of the agreement being signed the world media, foreign leaders, the man-in-the-street all endorsed the agreement virtually unanimously. [378] But I was saddened that the main Opposition party, the party that subscribed to bipartisanship, the party that started this whole process, should have seen fit on television and since the initial denunciation by the Leader of the Opposition to condemn this as being a sell-out. I cannot help remarking that I get the impression at times that one feels, as has been acknowledged in newspapers, that the clothes have been stolen and that the republican card, which was the monopoly of a particular party, had been taken away. It is not that we see it as our monopoly either. We would much prefer to see it as a monopoly of nobody but as the shared aspiration, the shared target and the shared programme of both parties. I sincerely hope that before this debate ends, approximately this time tomorrow evening, there will be a change of heart and that many of the pious aspirations that are coming from the other side of the House like: “We wish it well but...”, “We hope it succeeds but...” and “We think it is good, but...” will be put into the positive formula of voting for the proposal.

May I say that we should wish Britain well in this, too, because it is Britain's underpinning of this agreement and the manner in which it is implemented in the North which will ultimately determine whether or not it is going to succeed. But I believe there is a fixity of purpose on the part of the British Premier on this occasion which was sadly lacking and, might I say, cowardly lacking in the event and in the case of the downfall of Sunningdale. We are two nations that have proud and individual pasts. We bear a certain amount of grudges determined by history. We are two nations that have more in common possibly than any other two nations on earth and we can forge individually but in co-operation together a great future for both of us within the European Community. Hopefully, this agreement will be the breakdown, the dissipation and the dissolution of many of the old suspicions and tribal differences that sadly divided us. But, as has been acknowledged, we have got to work [379] at it.

While I was saddened by the contributions from the other side of the House and particularly on the part of its leader, I got the impression that there was a certain mollifying in between. One noted again that there was a certain hardening of the line here today, but to me one of the most gratifying experiences was to listen to the contribution of Senator Eoin Ryan who made a special point of coming from his sick bed in order to underpin his endorsement of the agreement. That to me is a positive indication for the future because Senator Ryan's pedigree, like that of many of us on both sides of the House, is a proud one and one that must be respected. Hopefully, it will be the starting point in a gradual u-turn towards sanity, bipartisanship and acceptance of this agreement.

No matter how you try to deride this agreement, it is a considerable break through. We have a Secretariat, a Conference, an Irish Minister. We have relegated the role of the Ulster Defence Regiment to that of a mere back-up role as ancillary to the defence forces and to the police force. I believe that the balance is right. An indication that the Government and the British Government have got the balance right is given by the two polarised views — that of Provisional Sinn Féin and the the Provisional IRA, on the one hand, and that of the ultra extreme Unionists on the other hand. Both are unanimous that this agreement is bad. When you hit middle ground in such company it is an indication that the balance is right.

I was appalled by some of the hob-lawyer comments from people. I heard Senator Cassidy say that it was legitimising Partition and that we have surrendered our sovereignty. He talked about contrived and hypothetical situations, about where would Peter Barry be in the event of such-and-such happening. I have no doubt, based on Deputy Peter Barry's record as Minister for Foreign Affairs and his handling of the Northern situation thus far, that the Northern Nationalist community can rest assured they have [380] an advocate and a guarantor of supreme quality. I would again refer to the point made by Senator O'Toole when he hinted that the response from the other side of the Atlantic ocean from the United States was a quick and artificial response, that they were primed in advance, that the button on the computer was pressed, that they had some advance notification that other people in other places did not have. I would point out that a former Minister for Foreign Affairs, the deputy leader of the Opposition party, made a point of going to the United States and making contact with Tip O'Neill even before we ever knew what was in the agreement, to ensure that the document would not be accepted and would be rejected, rebutted and rebuffed. We are also led to believe that Jacques Chirac was contacted with a view to sabotaging the agreement when it would eventually emerge.

I am also delighted that Deputy Mary Harney, erstwhile on the other side of the House, decided to have the courage of her convictions and to walk the line in support of the agreement. To me it is refreshing and it is an indication that all is not lost. To me the final irony occurred today when Deputy Seán Doherty was a party to voting for the expulsion of Deputy Mary Harney from the Opposition party. That was very much a bottom line.

This is a good agreement. It has to be worked at. It is a glimmer; it is a start. In ainm Dé, let us all give it a chance.

Mr. Durcan: I, too, would like to contribute to this debate and in doing so I would like to express my warm welcome for the Anglo-Irish Agreement signed at Hillsborough earlier this month. I congratulate the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the officials on the Irish side for the work, dedication and commitment they have shown in relation to this matter over many months. I also congratulate and commend the British Prime Minister and the British Ministers and officials involved in this process. Somebody said here this morning that the signing of this agreement broke many moulds. The [381] most important mould of all that has been broken in recent months has been the achievement on the Irish side in getting across to the British side the need for serious consideration of the problems which we on this island face. It is important that we as Irish legislators recognise that willingness on the part of the British to be open in considering the problems which we experience and also to commend them on the determination which they have shown in recent days in the face of much provocation. I hope that the ground which has been prepared will now be sown upon and that the seeds sown by the two Governments will in time bear fruit.

Article 1 of the agreement is particularly important in terms of breaking old moulds and of putting into written form what is an existing situation. That is the affirmation, firstly, in the form of an international agreement by both Governments that the status of Northern Ireland would only be changed with the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. Secondly, the recognition that the present wish of that majority is that there should be no change in the status of Northern Ireland. Thirdly — and the most important of all — the declaration by the two Governments, and particularly the declaration by the British Government, that, if in the future the majority of the people of Northern Ireland clearly wish for and formally consent to the establishment of a united Ireland, the British and Irish Governments would introduce and support in their respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish. The affirmation, recognition and declaration contained in article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement represents the greatest mould breaking of all by the two Governments.

If one were to examine with care the preamble to the agreement, certain aspects are important, and it is important to dwell upon them. First, there is that part of the preamble which states:

“wishing further to develop the unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation between their [382] countries as friendly neighbours”

and then goes on to say that the Governments agree as follows. We in this country too frequently ignore the fact that there are far more matters which unite us with the British than divide us. We forget the fact that that unique relationship referred to in the agreement is built upon a language that is commonly used and spoke in both countries, that the people of both countries are island people, that we have developed a peculiar relationship through oppression and being oppressed, that we have a unique relationship by virtue of the emigration and immigration of people from one island to the other, that we from this island have played such a major role in the development of parliamentary politics on the other island, particularly between 1800 and 1922, and that we on this island have given so much to the people on the other island in terms of the development of medicine, their armed forces and indeed the common literature which we share.

Another part of the preamble that I would like to dwell upon is the part which states:

Recognising the need for continuing efforts to reconcile and to acknowledge the rights of the two major traditions that exist in Ireland, represented on the one hand by those who wish for no change in the present status of Northern Ireland and on the other hand by those who aspire to a sovereign united Ireland achieved by peaceful means and through agreement. It is important that we recognise the fact that there are two traditions and that we are aware of the development of the two traditions in the two parts of this island since Partition.

The third aspect of the preamble, which is most important of all, is the final paragraph, which states:

Reaffirming their commitment to a society in Northern Ireland in which all may live in peace, free from discrimination and intolerance, and with the opportunity for both communities to [383] participate fully in the structures and processes of government.

The importance of that last paragraph lies in the fact that various political structures which have existed in Northern Ireland since the foundation of that entity have failed to make available within them a place for all sections of the community to participate in government with one honorable exception, namely, the Sunningdale power sharing executive. The old Stormont certainly did not give the opportunity to all sections of the community to participate in government. The situation existing since direct rule does not give that opportunity either. Certainly, one cannot have a normal political process if one section of the community is to be removed from that process.

The Governments of the two countries have a joint interest in achieving peace. Great Britain, the Irish Republic and the Six Counties have all in their own differing ways suffered by the non-existence of peace and by the escalation of violence. We suffer whether that violence is by way of injury, death or imprisonment. The fact that it is necessary to have legislation such as the operation of the Offences Against the State Act in this jurisdiction and the fact that it is necessary to have a Prevention of Terrorism Act in Britain indicates that the political process is not working. These facts ensure that the well of bitterness which has developed in the two jurisdictions is becoming deeper, and as long as that happens it will be more difficult for the political process to operate properly.

The agreement has been criticised by people from the Opposition benches on the basis that it in some way damages the sovereignty which we claim to have over the Six Counties. It has been attacked by people on Unionist benches, both parliamentary and otherwise, on the basis that it damages the sovereignty which the Westminster Parliament claims to have over the Six Counties. We have to ask ourselves the question: “What is sovereignty?” To me sovereignty seems to be [384] the ability of a people to govern themselves effectively. That ability and the effectiveness of that determination is diminished by violence because that violence in turn breeds political instability. That violence emerges when people are murdered, injured, imprisoned or subjected to legalised injustices. This agreement if anything ensures that the sovereignty which we claim here is protected and fulfilled to its full extent. The same can be said for the British side. In the past 16 years since the commencement of the present troubles we have seen a gross diminution of the type of sovereignty I have mentioned. The only way we can restore that sovereignty effectively is by political movement and by the development of political structures. For that reason, I welcome the development of the Inter-Governmental Conference idea contained in article 2 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Article 2 (a) specifies that the Conference will deal on a regular basis with

(i) political matters; (ii) security and related matters; (iii) legal matters, including the administration of justice; (iv) the promotion of cross-Border cooperation.

By dealing with these matters, an atmosphere conducive to the production of political normality will come about. Another argument which has been put forward against this agreement with some force today by some speakers is that it in some way copperfastens Partition. I reject absolutely that argument. It was Michael Collins who said in relation to the 1921 Treaty that it was merely a stepping stone. As we reflect on the events of recent weeks, we must conclude that the stepping stones which were created by the 1921 Treaty certainly were not walked upon or used by the politicians who controlled this State thereafter. If anything, we, in the Twenty-six Counties, are more partitionist in our attitudes than the people in Northern Ireland or in Great Britain.

It is certainly true to say that in the thirties, forties and fifties we developed a political and economic system which [385] was absolutely geared to Partition. The first real non-partitionist was Sean Lemass. He walked across the Border because he did not recognise the Border. He recognised the fact that to achieve what he believed as being the ultimate politically, one had to achieve an openness of mind and a meeting of people. It is unfortunate that the attitude he adopted at that time has not been followed through by people who are now members of his party.

Senator O'Toole spoke earlier about the need for political initiative. He mentioned that we had been waiting 65 years and little had happened. It is interesting to reflect upon the fact that the four legislative political initiatives which have occurred in the past 65 years were motivated in essence by this side of the House — the 1921 Treaty, the 1949 Declaration of the Republic, the 1974 Sunningdale Agreement and the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement. In making remarks about Partition and partitionist attitudes, we must all point the finger at ourselves. I, certainly, point a finger at myself on the basis that I, as a west of Ireland man, know far too little about the Six Counties. This applies to many people living there. We must from here on in be more open in our attitude to the Six Counties and to the people of varying traditions living there.

I agree with the point made by Senator Higgins about the twinning of towns North and South. This is one way in which we could achieve an understanding of municipal and economic structures within towns in the North. I would hope that people in urban areas in the Twenty-Six Counties would be motivated to move in that direction.

We have a duty to be responsible. The Government of the day now have a basis upon which they can proceed. They must be determined in using that vehicle. I am confident that the Minister-Designate with responsibility for the Inter-governmental Conference from the Irish point of view will do that. His bravery and determination in this regard must be commended.

[386] An Cathaoirleach: There is a division in the other House. The Senator may wish to await the Ministers return.

Mr. Durcan: I will continue. I would like to see the Inter-governmental Conference examining, as a matter of urgency, the operation of the court system in Northern Ireland. I would like to see them examining as a matter of urgency the operation of the prevention of terrorism legislation and the operation of normal policing in Northern Ireland.

There are other areas where the Inter-governmental Conference can operate in a manner that will be effective. I can give one example in the area of tourism. I would like to see the establishment within the island, of perhaps an all-Ireland tourism board. I would like to see maximum co-operation between North and South in the area of tourism. We, in the South, can play a very effective role in helping to develop tourism in Northern Ireland and thereby help the economy of Northern Ireland.

I also believe that the Opposition must be responsible. Now is not a time for easy political decisions. It is not a time for internal party political bitterness but for openness and responsibility. Above all, it is time for firm leadership within every political party in this State. Varying views have been expressed in some political parties. I would hope that the leadership of those parties can accommodate itself to the varying points of view which have been expressed. I am sad, as an Irish parliamentarian, that people are being expelled from the Opposition Party because they express support and accord for this agreement.

Finally, I must say that in relation to responsibility the British Government must be responsible too. The indications are, that in seeing to the implementation of this agreement and in seeing it as a vehicle upon which a future can be built, the British Government will act constructively. We all remember very well the collapse of the Sunningdale Agreement when the British Government of that time refused to act constructively, responsibly or in a determined way. My [387] hope and my prayer is that the present administration in Britain will not act in that manner but will allow development on foot of the agreement reached at Hillsborough.

I conclude by saying that we all have a duty to stand firm. We, on this side of the House, representing a very staunch section of political nationalism in this part of the island, have stood firm. I would hope that the parliamentarians of other parties down here would act likewise. We have a duty to stand with our parliamentary colleagues in the SDLP in Northern Ireland who have been in the firing line for the past 16 years, who have experienced at first hand the problems of the violence and of the tragedy that exists there. They are the people who, on an individual level, have been subjected to harassment and, have seen the mayhem caused by the violence. Our duty is to stand with them. They have given their support to this agreement. They are judges whose views must be respected. Above all, we must be unequivocal in our attitudes to violence and to constitutional politics. There has been far too much ambiguity among certain politicians in the South. Some politicians here have done many U-turns. Now is the time for standing firm. I fully support the Anglo-Irish Agreement, 1985.

Professor Dooge: On a point of order, since the Minister who is attending the House is still at a division in the other House, Senator Mullooly might like to wait until he comes back before making his contribution. It is his decision.

Mr. Mullooly: I do not mind. I welcome the opportunity to make a contribution to this debate. I support the amendment tabled by Senators Lanigan and Ryan. It is an excellent amendment. I ask all persons of goodwill to study this amendment closely and to consider its contents carefully.

I wonder how many Senators on the other side of the House have read and studied the Fianna Fáil amendment. It is not a negative amendment; it is a positive one. It calls on Seanad Éireann to do two [388] things. First of all, it calls on the Seanad to refuse to accept any recognition of British sovereignty over any part of the national territory. Secondly, it asks Seanad Éireann to request the Government to call upon the British Government to join in convening under the joint auspices of both Governments a constitutional conference representative of all the traditions in Ireland to formulate new constitutional arrangements which would lead to uniting all the people of Ireland in peace and harmony.

The wording of the amendment begins with a reference to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland. I am pleased that this reference to these two basic and fundamental Articles of the Constitution is contained in the amendment. There are people here who need to be constantly reminded that Ireland's right to sovereignty, independence and unity is inalienable and indefeasible and that it is enshrined in our Constitution. The amendment goes on to recall the unanimous Declaration of Dáil Éireann — adopted on the joint proposition of the then Taoiseach, Mr. John A. Costello, and the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Eamon de Valera, on 10 May 1949 — solemnly reasserting the indefeasible right of the Irish nation to the unity and integrity of the national territory. This declaration was worded as follows:

Dáil Éireann

SOLEMNLY RE-ASSERTING the indefeasible right of the Irish nation to the unity and integrity of the national territory;

REAFFIRMING the sovereign right of the people of Ireland to choose its own form of Government and, through its democratic institutions, to decide all questions of national policy, free from outside interference;

REPUDIATING the claim of the British Parliament to enact legislation affecting Ireland's territorial integrity in violation of those rights, and;

PLEDGING the determination of the Irish people to continue the [389] struggle against the unjust and unnatural partition of our country until it is brought to a succesful conclusion;

PLACES ON RECORD its indignant protest against the introduction in the British Parliament of legislation purporting to endorse and continue the existing partition of Ireland, and;

CALLS UPON the British Government and people to end the present occupation of our six northeastern counties and thereby enable the unity of Ireland to be restored and the age-long differences between the two nations brought to an end.

That resolution on Dáil Éireann represents the only declaration of policy in regard to partition adopted by it since the Constitution was enacted by the people on 1 July 1937.

The amendment, too, recalls that all the parties in the New Ireland Forum were convinced that a united Ireland, in the form of a sovereign independent state, would offer the best and most durable basis for peace and stability. It proceeds to reaffirm the unanimous conclusion of the report of the New Ireland Forum that the political structure of political unity which the Forum would wish to see established is a unitary state, achieved by agreement and consent, embracing the whole island of Ireland and providing irrevocable guarantees for the protection and preservation of both the Unionist and Nationalist identities. Having stated this, the amendment then goes on to recognise the urgent need that exists for substantial improvement in the situation and circumstances of the Nationalist section of the community in the North of Ireland. It makes it very clear that we in Fianna Fáil approve of any effective measures which may be undertaken for the purposes of achieving improvement in the situation and circumstances of the Nationalist section of the community in the North.

The background to the problem of Northern Ireland goes back a long way [390] in history. For a long number of years two communities with separate and conflicting identities and loyalties have existed side by side in the North. The present conflict dates from the time of the enforced political division of Ireland. During the period since 1920 the Irish identity of the minority Nationalist community in the North has been essentially disregarded. Although the Unionist population is a majority within Northern Ireland, it is a minority within the whole island. For this reason the Unionist community has always felt that its British heritage is under threat and, on account of this, that its status is under threat. In order to bolster itself up it has tended to shape the political, the civil, the judicial and the security institutions of the North entirely according to its own ethos and in a way that has excluded the Nationalist community from full participation in the institutions which exist in Northern Ireland.

The Nationalist community in the North have become progressively alienated from the political and administrative framework in Northern Ireland. Indeed, many of them have become alienated from democratic politics there. Ever since the present troubles in the North began I, like every other right-thinking person, have wanted to see stability and peace with justice brought to Northern Ireland. I welcome the aspects of this agreement which may help to improve the position of the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland and, indeed, to alleviate their situation. The fact that the SDLP have accepted this agreement indicates that the Nationalist community in the North sees good in this agreement and believes that it will give them a measure of equality that they have not had heretofore. The present system of the administration of justice in Northern Ireland and the structure and operation of the security services there need to be radically changed. Whether that will happen under this agreement remains to be seen, but I certainly hope that it will.

The agreement begins with a preamble incorporating a joint statement of objectives. [391] This preamble begins by referring to the unique relationship between the peoples of both countries. It recognises that both countries and, above all, the people of Northern Ireland have a major interest in diminishing the divisions there and achieving lasting peace and stability. The preamble then goes on to refer to the major traditions that exist in Ireland. While violence as a means of promoting or pursuing political objectives is rejected, the right of each community to pursue its aspirations by peaceful means is recognised. I can say without any hesitation that these aspects of the preamble have my full support.

However, as other Senators said during the debate, this agreement is a binding international agreement. It is not simply a joint communiqué issued by the two sovereign Governments. It is a solemn agreement between those two sovereign Governments. It has binding legal obligations on both Governments, not alone for the present but also for the future. It is very important to remember this as we examine and consider each section of the agreement. It is the duty of the Opposition party to examine carefully every section and every line in this agreement. In this context I certainly see nothing wrong with Members on this side of the House expressing reservations in relation to certain sections of this agreement. I feel they would be failing in their duty as legislators, as public representatives and as Members of the Opposition if they were not to give expression to those reservations when they genuinely feel they have reservations about certain aspects of the agreement.

I have serious reservations about section A of the agreement. Section A is headed “Status of Northern Ireland”. It contains article 1 of the agreement. I will try to outline as briefly and as simply as I can why I have reservations about this article of the agreement. Down through many centuries the vast majority of Irish people opposed British rule in Ireland. Britain persisted in seeking to conquer, dominate and rule Ireland. The 1916 Proclamation referred to the fact that in [392] every generation the Irish people asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty, but because Britain was a powerful, colonial power every effort by the Irish people to free themselves was defeated. It was not until just over 60 years ago that Britain was at last forced to relinquish her military and political occupation of the greater part of the island of Ireland. However, following the Treaty of 1922, British occupation of six of the nine counties of Ulster continued and the unnatural division of this island, which we refer to as Partition, was imposed against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the Irish people.

It is my understanding of the situation that since then no Irish Government has ever conceded that either Britain, or a small minority on a part of this island, had any right to partition the island of Ireland. I believe that the vast majority of the Irish people accept, and have always accepted, that the claim of the Irish people to unity is a legitimate claim. Like the vast majority of Irish people, I have never accepted as legitimate the British claim to sovereignty over a part of this island. It is my belief that this is the only position which is consistent with Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. The fact that Partition exists and that the six northeastern counties have for over 60 years been a separate political entity does not alter this situation. Neither does the passage of time alter these facts.

Article 1 of this agreement would appear to accept that British sovereignty exists over a part of the national territory and that we accept it. It would appear to recognise the legitimacy of British rule in Northern Ireland and would also appear to concede that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom. It seems to me to accept the legitimacy of a British administration in that part of this island. Finally, it concedes to the Unionists a veto in relation to the eventual reunification of Ireland. For these reasons, I cannot see how article 1 can be consistent with the Constitution.

Professor Dooge: Is it article 1 (a) that [393] the Senator is taking exception to? There are three sections (a), (b) and (c).

Mr. Mullooly: Article 1 (a) mainly. In my view also it is a contradiction in terms to accept the right of Northern Ireland to continue to exist as a political entity and to suggest at the same time that the goal of Irish unity can be legitimately pursued. I have tried to outline as well as I can why I have reservations with article 1, mainly with article 1 (a) of the agreement.

I will now move on to article 2. The establishment of the Inter-governmental Conference is central to this agreement, but this conference will have no executive role. Article 2 lays down that the conference will be concerned with Northern Ireland, with relations between the two parts of the island of Ireland and that it will deal, on a regular basis, with certain matters. The matters are four, as outlined in Article 2:

  (i) political matters;

(ii) security and related matters;

(iii) legal matters, including the administration of justice;

(iv) the promotion of cross-border co-operation.

The Irish Government will put forward views and proposals on matters relating to Northern Ireland in so far as these matters are not the responsibility of a devolved administration in Northern Ireland. Under this article, the Irish Government will be able to put forward views and proposals on matters relating to Northern Ireland but decisions on those matters will rest with the British Government. This is confirmed by the last sentence of article 2, which states:

There is no derogation from the sovereignty of either the Irish Government or the United Kingdom Government, and each retains responsibility for the decisions and administration of government with its own jurisdiction.

We will have a situation where the Irish [394] Government will be jointly responsible for putting forward views and proposals, but the British Government will have sole authority in relation to the making of decisions and the implementation of those decisions. However, the Irish Government will have to jointly share the blame for any decisions which go wrong. It is as if two people decided to form a partnership and go into business and both made the same capital investment in the business and both decided to meet regularly to discuss the business and to listen to each other's views and proposals in relation to the business. Yet, one of the partners would have sole responsibility for the taking of decisions and the implementation of these decisions in relation to the business. If the business succeeds, certainly both share the profits and there is no problem but if the business gets into difficulties, both share equally in the losses and the problems that result from the failure of the business. In such a situation I would see the public having very little sympathy with the partner who did not participate or who was not involved in the decision-making process.

Certainly, I can see the same situation arising in relation to decisions of the Inter-governmental Conference which do not work out. Articles 2 and 3 of this agreement put a responsibility also on the Irish Government to assist Westminster in bringing about a system of devolved government in Northern Ireland. If devolved government materialises, the role of the Conference will be greatly diminished as all devolved matters will be removed from the field of activity of the Conference and will no longer be matters for consideration by the Conference. Therefore, if devolution is achieved, it would appear that the Conference will become almost totally irrelevant.

Having said that, I wish the Conference success in its deliberations. I believe that it is the genuine desire of the vast majority of people that it will address itself seriously to the many reforms which are required in many areas of life in Northern Ireland. Articles 5, 6, 7, 8 and [395] 9 cover the main areas which will be considered and dealt with by the Conference. I have no doubt that the Irish Government will put forward many proposals in relation to desirable reforms in all these areas. However, as I have said earlier, the final decision in relation to what action will be taken is at the discretion of Westminster.

I sincerely hope that decisions will be taken which will reduce violence and improve the situation for everybody in Northern Ireland, Unionist and Nationalist alike. In the final analysis the success of the Inter-Governmental Conference and, indeed, the very survival of this agreement depends mainly on the sincerity and determination of the British Prime Minister and the sincerity of her Government. Already she is on a confrontation situation with the Unionists. This was the position that Mr. Harold Wilson was in after Sunningdale. We all know what happened. Will it be different this time? Will Mrs. Thatcher show the same toughness in the face of the Unionists that she showed in her dealings with the Argentinians and with the coal-miners? Only time will tell. If she does not, then Hillsborough will go the same road as Sunningdale.

I believe that we should recognise here this evening that it was the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party who started the process of discussing the totality of relationships between the two sovereign Governments. The valid reservations which the party now have about aspects of this agreement have been misrepresented as total opposition to the agreement. That is not so. Nobody in this party wants in any way to obstruct or impede this agreement or prevent it from working in so far as it attempts to improve the position of all the people who have had to endure so much over the last 16 years.

Finally, I wish to pay a tribute to the SDLP. Many tributes have been paid to the SDLP during the course of this debate. For many years that party has been recognised as the authentic voice of Northern Nationalists. They know all about violence and bloodshed in the [396] North. They support this agreement. The fact that they support this agreement has been used by some people to suggest that Fianna Fáil should also support the agreement. Fianna Fáil and the SDLP are two separate political parties and each party has the right to make its own decision. Certainly, the SDLP deserve all the tributes that have been paid to them. They have refused over the years to yield to the men of violence. They have played a tremendous role in the politics of this country in those difficult years and I sincerely hope that their expectations in relation to this agreement are realised.

Mr. Cregan: I am in local politics since 1979 and I am in national politics since 1972 and little did I think when I entered politics that I would see an Anglo-Irish Agreement. I would like to take the opportunity of congratulating all on their achievements — our Taoiseach, our Tánaiste and our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Barry, a Cork man and a representative of the city of Cork. I wish him well in the very tough task ahead of him. Before anything ever happened in Northern Ireland that I was aware of, in other words, before 1969, I always said that there was one nation that should not have been on the face of the earth. I shall not mention the nation but certainly, the impression will be clear from what I am saying. I have read of and questioned the many deaths for which many deaths that nation was responsible during the Second World War but after 1969 I apologise, I realise that under no circumstances have I any right to question any other nation having regard to what I saw happening in our own nation. We were quite prepared over the past 15 or 16 years to go into a dining room and eliminate a person irrespective of who he was, in the presence of his children, wife or family. Little did I think that such would ever happen but it did.

Little did I think we would see an Anglo-Irish Agreement in my time. Massive strides have been made over the past few years. I did not realise a month ago that we would have even the right to question Britain. No more than a short [397] few years ago that other nation, Great Britain, told us that we had no right to question. Now we have that right and speak on behalf of the minority in Northern Ireland. We in Southern Ireland, are now asking if what we are doing is the right thing or is immoral. When we think of the many people who have unnecessarily lost their lives, the many Irish people, nearly 3,000 of them — we must remember that in the region of 270 British soldiers died — we must ask, who is winning. What I am saying is that, irrespective of whether those who died were Loyalists, Nationalists, Provisional IRA or whatever, most of them were so dedicated that it would be much better for us if they were still alive on this island. The British have now readily admitted that they are quite prepared to say it is one Ireland if we say it is one people. There is nothing wrong with the island of Ireland. There is something wrong with the people. That is the problem and we have nobody else to question even at this stage. The British Government no more than two weeks ago, readily admitted that if there was consent by the majority of people in Northern Ireland they would have no objection to eliminating the Border.

Where does the responsibility lie now? It lies with all the people of Ireland. The Taoiseach and many other speakers over the last ten days emphasised very strongly the need to make sure that we adopt an easy line. Mr. Gerry Fitt a great, dedicated man of the Northern Ireland people admitted in the House of Lords that it is easy to dig a trench. He said that the vast majority of Unionist people in Northern Ireland want to live in peace and do their day's work and look after their families. This is a second step after 1921 and what was said then by Michael Collins. It is a step forward. I did not think three years ago or even a year ago that I would see anything like this. We now have the situation where two Governments, who were battling with each other a few years ago, saying “no, no, no” and “out, out, out” are now saying “yes”.

Look at the welcome the agreement received internationally in America, [398] Australia and elsewhere. Yet somebody here tonight in the Seanad said that it was a set-up. What a mentality. Are we really saying that we want to lose more Irish people because we do not agree whether or not there should be one island? There is no problem with the island of Ireland. There is a problem among our people and that is what we must look at. Over 3,000 Irish people whether Unionist, Nationalist, Catholic or Protestant are now dead. Are we right in saying that more people should lose their lives?

Am I a different kind of Nationalist if I say that we should think one way rather than another? I am as good a Nationalist as and probably better than most. Indeed, many of my friends and relatives died for Ireland. They differed in outlook but at the same time they fought and died for this island. Under no circumstances will I admit that we should suffer the loss of a single person because we want a true Ireland. We have a true Ireland but we are not all of the same way of thinking and we never will. People differ even in this House and if we do not recognise that we recognise nothing and we deserve nothing better. The Nationalist people who suffered so much for nearly 65 years in Northern Ireland should not suffer on. These people have been in the front line when I, like many others, said nothing.

Like many other Senators, I readily admit that for a long time I did not even recognise or speak on the question of Northern Ireland. I did not want to know about it. We have now a moral responsibility. But whether a person is a Unionist, Nationalist, Catholic or Protestant, I have no right to say that he is wrong and I am right. We must listen and we must debate and we must ensure that we get together to debate it with people who are living on this island. Even if we do not agree, we should debate again and again if necessary because we have no right to say that any person should lose his life any more.

Many people who had great Nationalist ideas died for their beliefs. They wrapped themselves in blankets and died for their beliefs. We must never forget that. Would that we had these men today [399] working for the good of all Ireland. That is what we should be talking about. We need to get together and work out how best to bring this country into the twenty-first century.

The British Government said last Friday week that if we could get together and agree they had no objections. Yet there are people who still say they have objections. No, they have not. They readily admitted that if there is an agreement between all the people of this island and the majority of people in Northern Ireland, they wished them luck. We have the commitment of not only the British but of other nations that if we can reach agreement they will help out in any way possible. Look at the opportunities that present themselves if only we can talk.

I beg of people to consider the matter sincerely not for their own political motivations or their own ideas. We all have ideas but the problem is many Irish people who are thinking one way or the other think the other side is not as good. We have no right to say this anymore having regard to the agreement. I never thought that was possible. I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. Many people who are a long time in public life readily admitted not only in this House but in the other House that things developed so much. I am very proud that we have people of the right calibre in our Government and, indeed, on the other side of the House and also the SDLP who work in the forefront of the troubles in Northern Ireland. I congratulate each and everyone of them because what they have gone through over the last 16 years is literally unbelievable. They are the people we should show respect for.

People have lost so many dear ones, their children, their husbands and sons. Should we allow that to continue and not question and debate it? We have no right to say that. We have no respect for one another if we say that that situation must continue. They have not said that they want something different from us. They have not said that they want another part of Ireland or that they want nine counties [400] instead of six. They have not asked for anything extra. They have asked for less. Do we really think as some people, particularly in the Opposition, that we can take over, that because the island is one the island is sound. That is not realistic thinking. There are three quarters of a million people who ask if we are doing the right thing. Let us prove to them that we are prepared to do the right thing, that we are prepared to talk and that we recognise their priorities, their religions and their sincere belief in unionism. Let us prove to them that it is better to be with this country than with the United Kingdom, and that is not an easy thing to do having regard to our mentality. I am not for a moment suggesting that this agreement will go the whole way but it should be worked properly, and thought out properly, as the Taoiseach emphasised and as indeed, did the people from across the floor.

Let us take the example of Mr. John Hume, a man who has put so much work and taken so much interest in this. He has said it is a way forward. These people had the right to say they were not getting enough. They had the right to say, that they were not going to give in because they had lost too much. Probably the vast majority of Nationalists want to be a part of the whole of Ireland. At the same time, it is true to say that some of the Catholics in Northern Ireland are prepared to say they would vote for the Unionists. They did so. The figures show it. Are the vast majority of Nationalists prepared “We go at any cost”? Indeed, they are not prepared to say that.

We must bring about a situation where we are seen to debate the issues. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has put much interest into ensuring that the minority interest in Northern Ireland will get consideration. At last, that is now recognised. Only two years ago we thought that, even after 65 years, the minority there were not getting proper recognition. There were many wrongs. There was gerrymandering. They were not recognised for jobs or for proper housing. Now under this agreement, however, we can, at ministerial level, put forward the [401] case for the Nationalist minority in the North.

I, like everybody else, dream of the day when we will have a thirty-two county Ireland. But under no circumstances do I want a child of 18, a girl of 20 or a man of 40 to die while I down here dream about a united Ireland. We now have an agreement. We have people who are so dedicated and interested that they are prepared to debate the issues in order to try to save these lives. I have discussed this agreement with the ordinary people, particularly in Cork. I am proud to say that everybody — indeed, people who are very republican-minded — said to me: “Dennis, we have to give this a chance. We must recognise that something is now being done by both Governments. The recognition is there internationally, so we must give it a chance”.

We are not looking for glory. Nobody wants to see bonfires burning. Nothing like that has happened. Yet this has been a massive step forward. But there is a cautious view in regard to what is happeneing in the Six Counties. One hundred thousand Unionists were in Belfast last Saturday. We must recognise that. What the vast majority of people in Cork and everywhere else are saying to me is this: “Let us tread easily. Let us make sure we recognise that they have their rights, but we are glad that at last the rights of the minority have be recognised. That is something”. In the last week we saw some deaths — unfortunately, some more Irish deaths — brought about by one group against the other. We must get our act together as a people and we must be prepared to recognise that we have to progress gradually to ensure that we do not tread on anyone's toes.

There is concern among the Unionists because of this agreement — small blame to them. But the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the leader of the SDLP have asked us to read the agreement properly. We do not wish to interfere. We only wish to ensure that the minority people will get their rights.

I would ask that when people are speaking in this debate they make sure [402] we do not bring about a situation that makes us seem we are glorifying in anything. We have no right to glorify any more, because we have lost 3,000 people and they have lost about 270 soldiers. So, who is winning? Now we have an opportunity to say we do not want any more loss of life. At the same time, I recognise the sincerity and the feelings of the people affected.

Finally, the agreement in regard to devolved government is a good idea. I would hope that in 12 month's time we will be a little further on.

Mr. Smith: So far in this House, this morning and this afternoon, everybody who contributed has tried to approach this question in a reasonably sensible and unemotive way. Perhaps on too many occasions in the past some of us have tried to say or suggest that all the right is on one side and none on the other. I would hope that the Seanad, in relation to this agreement, would continue to discuss it as openly and as fairly as possible, bearing in mind that the civil unrest and the wretched problems which have afflicted the Northern part of our country for so long now and which are so deep, and that we would try to take any step forward which would make the lives of the people in Northern Ireland more palatable and bring about a situation where the two traditions could live in harmony and build a prosperous community. Twenty one per cent of the people in Northern Ireland are unemployed. We have devastation, the deaths of thousands of people. We have a road strewn with difficulties of one kind or another. Even in these recent days the absolute intransigence of the majority of the population, the Unionists, indicates how difficult it is to find a new road, to find scope for further agreement and to try to work out an ultimate agreement which would not only bring the two communities in the North together but would bring all the people of this country together in a united Ieland.

We have tried to approach the process of negotiations first in relation to this agreement in a much more constructive [403] way than has been attributed to us in the media. If we reflect on the last week we will have to accept that some of the more euphoric statements which were made in relation to the success or otherwise of this agreement only tend to alienate further the majority population in the North. That of course is not the only consideration. The fact that the signs and the marks which are indicated all through the negotiations by the leader of our party should have been accepted as a help to the Government in the negotiations. It is regrettable that, in relation to matters pertaining to Northern Ireland which is so sensitive an issue and which has proved to be an intractable problem, the relationship between the Government and the leader of the Opposition was such that little or no contact or indications of what was actually being discussed or negotiated were made available to him or to our party.

I regard the question of Northern Ireland, in some ways above politics, as most serious; far too many lives have been lost. Each of us could mention a litany, a procession of situations that developed up there which would be no help to this debate but which indicate how serious it is. Therefore greater effort should be made by the Government parties in particular, and that would go for any Government now and in the future, to have the main leader of the Opposition involved as far as possible so that there could be greater unanimity and a greater input by all of the interests in the country to try to bring about a healing process in this strife-torn part of our country.

It is regrettable that quite a number of attempts have been made to place Fianna Fáil in the position of obstructing some aspects of this agreement. I want to put it on record if it needs to be done again. As far as we are concerned we welcome those aspects in this agreement which will tend to help the nationalist population. We will support in every way that we can and with whatever means at our disposal all aspects of this agreement. We will welcome every stage of it which helps to reduce tensions and improve the position [404] of the minority population in the North who have for so long been deprived of their just and natural civil rights. That has been made clear before. It needs to be put on the record again because a number of commentators have in some ways tried to place our party in the position of not wanting to move an inch in this regard.

There is no harm in admitting that I have no difficulty in saying that as far as I am personally concerned there are aspects to this agreement which are positive and which mark a change in the relationships between our Government and the Government of the United Kingdom, which have within their scope the capacity, provided they are properly understood and provided that the British leader and the British Government stand firm in relation to those aspects of it, to make progress. On the other hand we have signalled our own doubts. Perhaps these may ultimately have to be left to judicial process or review. There may well be a reduction in our sovereignty as a result of this agreement. We have to bear in mind also that while we support in every way the positive aspects of this agreement, we have a consultative role on extremely sensitive areas in relation to the administration of justice in the North.

I want to ask one or two questions of the British Government. We have had discussions and have taken the British Government to the European Commission on Human Rights. We have supported commonly held views in relation to certain aspects of discrimination as to how matters in justice, education and job opportunities are discharged in the North. I do not believe for one moment that it has to take an agreement between the Irish Government and the United Kingdom Government or an international agreement signed on the charters of the United Nations to bring about change or amelioration in the situation in regard to supergrass trials, people being imprisoned for four or five years without any charges being brought against them and other matters relating to the operation of justice in the North.

[405] In the light of the staunch if not ferocious opposition from the Unionist parties to this agreement — and this is not in any way to deride or to say that we have all the answers or that the Government did not try from every aspect to get the best possible deal — is it not possible to incorporate some of these changes in the agreement now? By doing so we would be acknowledging that we were going to have great opposition to the agreement from the Unionists. Therefore we would be duplicating and triplicating that opposition if we tried to make gradual changes perhaps small in character but because they would be repeated at regular or irregular intervals we would be calling that opposition to us in a way which, perhaps, would have been no more intense if this agreement carried within its character some of the changes which have been called for by European and world opinion in relation to the maladministration of affairs in the North.

Those changes should not be left to be decided now when we have a consultative role with no authority behind it and may have to carry blame across the face of the world for matters which may go wrong and which could have been implemented outside of this agreement. If that were done it would not only change the character in the face of this agreement as far as we are concerned and indicate a more positive response from the UK Government, but it would take whatever intense pressure was against it all at the one time rather than have repeated strikes, repeated efforts, new elections and all that seems likely to happen. We could have a piecemeal, slow, gradual process which time and time again would call these animosities out on to the road.

Therefore in relation to this question, I do not know from my own experience if it would have been possible to achieve, I would have infinitely preferred if the scope of the agreement and the intentions which I support and which we will acknowledge and help all along the way had greater depth at this stage. They would be there to show and to prove the intensity and the belief behind the agreement. I do not share the view that [406] it takes an international agreement to undo some of the wrongs and some of the maladministration that has been practised in the North for so long. Indications are now that changes will be made.

Secondly, because of the fact that this agreement will become an international agreement, I would like to question how much this ties the hand of an incoming Government who might want to approach renegotiations or new negotiations from a different point of view. It has been put to me, and I am no expert on legal matters, that it could well prove impossible or extremely difficult for an incoming Government to make the type of changes which may well seem necessary because of the international status which this agreement has been accorded. I would like if this matter could be spelt out and the detail of it put before the House. There is no question of outright opposition. There is no question of any obstruction by Fianna Fáil. There is no question of us not acknowledging the genuine attempt that has been made but it would be remiss of us if we did not point to the areas where we see difficulties in the future and where we would want, if given the opportunity, to make fairly substantial changes and would not want to have the legal chains bound so tightly that they could not be loosened.

I want to speak for just a few minutes on other aspects which perhaps do not come immediately within the ambit of the agreement but which at the same time signify a fairly great reluctance on the part of the British Government to use their powers in a way which would benefit the North of Ireland, the Border counties and this country as a whole. I can recall a few years ago negotiations on farm prices where I sought to have a certain measure introduced for this country. The argument was put up by Peter Walker, as Minister for Agriculture at that time, that he could not agree because it would not apply to Northern Ireland. At that juncture I proposed that it would apply to all Ireland and that proposal was agreed. In a great many instances the opportunities for a united effort in terms of a 32-county agricultural policy should [407] be clear to many of us because of the difficulties relating to the Border, the smuggling, the trafficking and the illegal processes which operate there.

There was reluctance on the part of the British Government heretofore and this is why I tend to question a great deal of the euphoria which attaches to this agreement. Why has it been so difficult when it is stark nakedly obvious that the approaches for the whole country, in terms of getting regional aid, in terms of getting social fund aid, in terms of agricultural schemes which are operated and could be operated on a 32-county basis, are frustrated because of the obstructionist policy of the British Government in EC negotiations? These advantages would lie not only for the south of the country, not only for the Border areas but also for the Six County areas as well. Statistics are readily available on the economic damage that is done by the Border, particularly in the Border counties. Any improvement that can be made in these areas should be made. These are the kinds of signs which I would like to see coming forward and which would prove to me that all of this is worth while.

From the papers, from radio and television I have learned about the amount of aid that is going to come from the United States. It is costing £100 million for this small country to try to secure that Border at times when many of these security forces are needed in the cities and sometimes in the rural areas all around the country. We have a massive investment which we cannot literally afford on the security of that Border. A legitimate long term or short term interest in trying to have the country reunited, not in terms of just land but the people of the country, has to be, must always be and is the prime objective for our party and indeed for many other parties in this country. It is only the bringing together of the people of all the communities which is the real unification of our country.

As far as most of us know this is a new experiment. It has not been tried in any other part of the world. It obviously has [408] positive characteristics. It depends heavily on the commitment of the British Government. We have to be extremely careful in how we deal with the consultative aspect of this agreement. There have been unfortunate instances in the past where we have been outmanoeuvred in terms of negotiations with the UK Government. In this case this agreement has been surrounded by goodfaith. There needs to be a lot of it. We need, as well as looking towards our own political objectives and our own aspirations for the country, to somehow find fairly quickly a way to break through this intransigence. I am reluctant to call it intransigence because I do not want to add to the already difficult situation in which the Unionists find themselves.

But there are some hard facts that they have to take on board. That is the degree that this agreement tries to redress some of the difficulties and some of the discriminations which attach to the Nationalist population. The Unionists were not anxious to consider the plight and difficulties of the Nationalist population and hence we had the abolition of Stormont. They cannot now have a situation there they refuse to accept the democratic wishes of the United Kingdom Government and at the same time want to have continually available to them the economic support which is so necessary for the North from that same Government.

Regrettably there are fears which have been built up and which have been deliberately fostered by some politicians who believe that to some degree this agreement brings further powers or a consultative role to the Government in the South in relation to affairs of the northern part of the country. They want to seize this opportunity to ensure that it fails. Whatever doubts we may have with regard to the agreement we have lived for a long time with these tragedies. We would want to try to help in every way that we could to break down the barriers which the Unionist population see in this consultative role for the Irish country. We would hope that our negotiators, and they have our good wishes, will go there in good [409] faith, not to take over any control in relation to matters which are outside their jurisdiction at the moment. We cannot live with a situation where the majority of the Unionists want ultimately to accept no change unless it is the change which they perceive and which is the only one that they will accept.

I support what has been said by other speakers in the House about the consultative role which the Unionists sought in relation to this agreement to which they are now objecting to because they did not have that role. Surely all the evidence that is available over the years and everything that they have tried to achieve since the agreement demonstrates that had they been consulted there is no way that any agreement, however small, would have been reached and therefore it has regrettably to be imposed. Nevertheless, that being the situation we have to try by every means at our disposal to break through those fears because all of us have a vested interest in progress being made. For far too long not enough progress has been made in relation to this matter. We do not want to travel further down the road of death and strife and difficulty. There must be moderate people within the Unionist population who are infused and inspired with ideals other than ones which have to end up in threats and in demonstrations of power and strength which cannot lead this country anywhere fruitfully in the end.

I would like to believe that when this matter comes for discussion again in this House progress can be reported. I have expressed doubts about aspects of the agreement and I am entirely satisfied that matters have been left unattended up to now by the British Government and I would prefer if they were incorporated in the agreement. It would demonstrate a more positive approach by them and steps would be taken on matters which have been widely discussed, not only here but in other parts of the world.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Senator has two minutes to conclude.

[410] Mr. Smith: Have I exhausted my time?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator Dooge might help me here. It was decided on the Order of Business not to call another speaker after 10 p.m.

Professor Dooge: Under the order made this morning Senator Smith is entitled to complete his 30 minutes tonight.

Mr. Smith: I have a difficulty in relation to that. I was wondering if it would be possible to resume in the morning?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Your 30 minutes will be up at 10 p.m.

Mr. Smith: That solves that problem. I will conclude by saying that this is the first time I have had the opportunity in the Seanad to discuss Northern Ireland. I would have liked if we had more time to discuss more aspects, not only of the agreement but some other positive measures which we would suggest in relation to steps that could be taken to help towards the healing process in Northern Ireland. As one who has some doubts about the agreement, I am still prepared and would be anxious to give it every chance, to give it every support and to do whatever we can from the Opposition benches to help the agreement in the positive measures which it can implement down the road to support and help the Nationalist population. In doing that we must work equally hard towards reconciling the differences between the two communities. We must not alienate the Unionist population, but work towards bringing them with us in the steps that will be taken for the future.

Debate adjourned.

The Seanad adjourned at 10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 28 November 1985.