Seanad Éireann - Volume 140 - 07 July, 1994
Northern Ireland: Statements (Resumed).
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: I welcome the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs to the House. I now ask him to address the House on this important matter.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring) Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring)
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): I am pleased to make the occasional visit to the House; I try to avoid being here on a permanent basis.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: A number of people thought you would like it. What panel do you have in mind?
Mr. Spring Mr. Spring
Mr. Spring: Maybe this House is better than no House.
I welcome the Members' decision to make provision for an exchange of views in Seanad Éireann on the situation in Northern Ireland. Indeed, I am grateful the House has given me this opportunity so that, on behalf of the Government, I can share with Members some reflections on the present position on Northern Ireland and our hopes as regards future developments.
Indeed, there have been many days of horror and grief since the outbreak of violence 25 years ago. However, the recent killings in Louginisland touched a particular and deep chord among the Irish people. The victims were ordinary people from a quiet rural community watching Ireland's opening match in the World Cup. Their killers did not even have the courage to face them directly. They shot six innocent people in the back, one of them 87 years of age, for no reason any of us can understand, except perhaps simple malevolence and evil.
Every political leader on this island, North and South, knows of the deep yearning of our people for peace and for  an end to the sickening cycle of carnage and death. All of us know, because we hear it every day, the demand of our people that those of us in positions of leadership meet the challenge of achieving peace in Ireland and so end the corrosive and poisonous violence that has brought so much suffering.
Escaping from the shackles of the past is not easy, but that is essentially what will be required if we are to achieve a measure of consensus, however limited, acceptable to both traditions in Ireland. Such a consensus cannot be sought on expectations of sudden conversion of unionists to nationalists, or vice versa. The different perspectives on core constitutional and political issues are very deep. We must instead take our diversity as a reality and a potential enrichment and seek to devise a framework that, for the first time, adequately manages the absence of constitutional consensus through new and imaginative political structures. Such structures, if they are to succeed, must ultimately win the acceptance of both communities in Northern Ireland and both parts of this island.
The task of creating a new beginning for relationships is no easy one. The perceptions and aspirations dividing the two communities in Northern Ireland are, after all, of the most fundamental kind. As Richard Rose wrote at the start of the troubles:
...for almost a century, a choice between alternative constitutions and national loyalties has been the central choice facing the voters of Northern Ireland...elections have been concerned not so much with which party should govern but rather with what country Northern Ireland belongs to...
It is well to face these issues clearly for it is this stark and emotion laden disagreement from history which we must confront and try to resolve if we are to devise new arrangements that one or other side will not reject as unworkable or unacceptable or both.
The Joint Declaration agreed between the British and Irish Governments last December confronted this reality directly  and clearly. The Declaration sought to take the language of potential victor or vanquished out of the vocabulary of Irish politics by defining a clear and unambiguous set of principles that safeguard the fundamental rights and aspirations of both traditions. It recognises that the future of Ireland is for the Irish people to decide without external impediment, but it also recognises that this right of self-determination must be exercised with and subject to the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland.
It is because extremes of constitutional doctrine bequeathed by history to both sides continue to be dangerously at play on our island that paramilitaries in Northern Ireland claim the right to kill and destroy. The principles in the Declaration were designed to transcend and supersede rigidities of traditional doctrine and dogma on either side. For that reason they will retain their lasting validity, regardless of whether the paramilitaries accept them.
The Government has, nonetheless, felt it right to do all in its power to answer any genuine points of misunderstanding or confusion concerning the Declaration held by either republican or loyalist movements. The choice is now theirs as to whether to put away their weapons of death or to continue poisoning and infecting this island with a culture of violence generating a destructive and uncontrollable dynamic of its own.
We are promised that the Sinn Féin Party will soon make a decision on the Declaration. There is not a great deal more I can usefully say at this stage to the republican movement, other than to again ask that they ponder well and deeply the choice before them. The president of Sinn Féin has said on several occasions in the past that he accepts that the unionist community cannot be coerced into a united Ireland. It would be a black irony if nationalism, which suffered so much from coercion in the past, were now to become advocates of it against another Irish tradition. Even if such were to come about, it would never get beyond the stage of being an  unworthy doctrine. To speak of achieving a united Ireland by coercion is a contradiction in terms.
If that is so, does the republican movement now truly accept that the consent of a majority of the people in Northern Ireland will be required and must be freely given before there can be a change in the present status of Northern Ireland? Above all, what possible alternative can there be to a free partnership between both traditions in Ireland on terms which are honourable to both and do not violate the basic principles of either? It is on that fundamental question that the republican movement must make a decision.
If the answer accepts the need for consent, then the use of violence for political ends becomes utterly without purpose or meaning. If the answer is no, then the republican movement will doom itself to even further isolation and continuing rejection by their fellow Irish men and women who in their overwhelming majority wish to enhance, and in no way diminish, the role of consent in our relationships.
The Northern Ireland problem is rooted in the fundamental reality that the strict adherence to past constitutional doctrines on either side allowed each community the opportunity, and in many ways the incentive, to ignore the reality of the other. Each built walls and barricades of strongly held but, in the end, deadly certainties revolving essentially around the supreme but ultimately simplistic issue of whether the Border should remain or go. Each tradition in Ireland too often saw the other only in ways compatible and convenient to its own myths. From this failure of the unionists and nationalists to address fully and realistically their relationships with each other sprang the nightmare of the past quarter of a century.
In the Joint Declaration the Government agreed that it would, as part of a balanced constitutional accommodation, put forward and support proposals for change in the Constitution which would fully reflect the principle of consent in Northern Ireland. Constitutional principles  are not abstract or general statements existing in detached isolation from the lives of those to whom they are applied. They uniquely embody beliefs and hopes and, as in Northern Ireland, can become symbols and codes for aspirations and convictions, either strongly cherished or deeply rejected.
The challenge and the hard task facing us in both parts of Ireland remains how to accommodate the constitutional viewpoints and political aspirations of two differing sets of identities and to do so in a way that is acceptable to all. We must transcend the false notion that one tradition can have the substance of its aspirations endorsed while the other should remain content with only an abstract or theoretical acknowledgement of its legitimacy. To seek to build a new way forward on such foundations would be a profound self-deception on all our parts and would be foredoomed to failure.
Both Governments are at present making every endeavour to agree a framework of possible new arrangements which we hope might be acceptable to all sides as an honourable and fair accommodation. The role of the two Governments is central to this task of charting a new path for change for, as I have recently stressed, anything that is unacceptable to either Government is, by definition, unlikely to command support across both communities in Northern Ireland.
It will, of course, ultimately be up to the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland as to whether agreement on new structures can be completed and successfully implemented. I hope and believe that we can succeed in taking advantage of our common, overriding interest in peace by making common cause to reach an honourable accommodation that advances the welfare and prosperity of all the people of Ireland, and, above all, that enables the two traditions that share this island to live in harmony.
The two Governments cannot force or coerce the parties to agree a new set of arrangements and, in the end, it will be their decision as to whether we in Ireland  can succeed in transcending past fears and uncertainties. What the two Governments can and must do, however, is to use all the resources at their disposal to seek early agreement on a new set of arrangements that place neither community in a position of privilege or special status against the other. In a telling phrase, the historian ATQ Stewart said that the essence of the Northern Ireland question is that “two diametrically opposed political wills must coexist on the same narrow ground”.
In such a psychological climate of confrontation it is all too easy for any change in the political landscape, however limited, to be interpreted by one or other side as anathema or a betrayal. Given this reality, the choice effectively becomes either resignation to a limbo of sullen and permanent antagonism or the imaginative use of statesmanship to offer an honourable way out.
Many in the political leadership of the unionist community understand, even if they do not often articulate, this reality. The measured and judicious response of Mr. Molyneaux and others to the Joint Declaration offers ground for hope regarding the outcome of future dialogue. The construction of a political framework which both sides can accept as legitimate and fair would be made substantially easier if there is a willingness to accept and state openly that the cement of a new order has to be consent, partnership and a sense of common ownership regarding any new institutions.
There is a great deal on which both traditions in Ireland can build and much on which we already agree. We agree on the fundamental position that a change in the status of Northern Ireland can only take place with the consent of a majority of its people. We agree that differences between the two traditions can only be accommodated by mutual agreement and accommodation and that any new institutions must, as a fundamental component, reflect this.
It must now surely be as clear as day to all sides that any new arrangements can only be based on the fundamental  and core reality that the two communities must live together on a basis of equality and mutual respect. It is equally obvious that such an outcome cannot be achieved if constitutional or institutional change is perceived by either community as vindicating or assuring its position at the expense of the other. The absence of consensus in Northern Ireland, by definition, requires a framework that takes account of this, and that provides respect for the ethos, aspirations and rights of each tradition.
Communities, like individuals, have a continuity of self-definition embracing past experiences, present perceptions and expectations as well as future hopes and fears. It is neither possible nor practical to ask either community in Northern Ireland to wipe the slate clean and pretend that past hurts or wounds did not happen, or to expect that historical fears or antagonisms can be simply put to one side. I profoundly believe, however, that if we approach our task with wisdom and humility we can together and with imagination reach agreement on new arrangements and structures based on respect for the integrity and self-worth of each community.
In 1933, at a time of deep doubt and despair, Franklin Roosevelt said that the only thing Americans had to fear was fear itself, the fear “which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”. A generation drew inspiration and encouragement from these words.
Liberation from deep fears and insecurity is the binding prerequisite for any true healing. It is that search for liberation from fear on our own island that is embodied at the core of all the principles outlined in the Declaration and which must now, carefully and with balance, guide the construction of new constitutional and institutional arrangements.
Unionists and nationalists have, after all, to share this island. We have no realistic choice but to seek to respect the other's position and to appreciate as worthwhile and valid the aspirations of the other. We have to learn to accept that although we will not agree on some  things, the views of each tradition are fully legitimate and must, therefore, be fully acknowledged. We have, however difficult this may be, no realistic choice but to seek to live in partnership and equality and, in doing so, to understand that diversity can be enriching rather than threatening. I believe that, whatever the difficulties and challenges yet to be faced, we can succeed in this task.
There are deeper links and bonds than we sometimes think between both parts of Ireland. It is in all our interests that any new structures must not only incorporate equality of expression and treatment between both traditions in Northern Ireland but also, as a necessary and central dimension, provide a framework for the overcoming of divisions and the promotion of harmonious relationships on the island as a whole.
There are economic imperatives affecting both parts of Ireland and harmonious co-operation and partnership, especially in the context of the Single European Market, can only be to the benefit of all the people of the island. The development of co-ordinated policies and practices can be developed to maximise limited resources and to utilise the shared features of the two economies. The full benefits of co-operation will yield enormous assets if we have the courage to act imaginatively and work together.
We live on an island of relatively limited economic resources and are faced with a range of opportunities and challenges which we can address much more effectively acting together in partnership and co-operation. There is, for example, considerable potential for tackling unemployment in both parts of the island by enhanced cross-Border co-operation. The expansion of trade and economic co-operation would clearly do much to develop the untapped potential in both economies.
Co-operation in the different economic areas at home and abroad can harness all the energies and resources of this island for the common good. Working together, we can help generate significant new employment and business opportunities  that will help improve the material welfare of everyone, North and South. Our starting point has to be that the welfare of one part of the island is ultimately indivisible from that of the other.
Our shared challenge, North and South, remains how to free each other from the mistakes of the past. We have no choice but to meet this challenge. That reality alone may offer the greatest hope for our success.
Mr. Manning Mr. Manning
Mr. Manning: I thank the Leader for arranging this debate. In welcoming the Tánaiste to the House, I compliment him on what was an eloquent address. Last December we had great hopes and expectations after the signing of the Downing Street Declaration. Sadly, in the period since then very little of a positive nature has occurred or, if it did, it was not apparent to those watching Northern Ireland and those living there. On the surface, things seems to be worse now than they were last December. We are still awaiting a response from the IRA and Sinn Féin to the Downing Street Declaration. Even yesterday's statement by Mr. Adams gave little hope for believing that we could expect a response soon or that it would be particularly positive. As the Tánaiste said, we have seen an increase in atrocities, including the appalling sectarian slaying in Loughinisland during the World Cup. We have had tit-for-tat killing on an appalling scale. We have had the Dublin murder and the threat of further bombings and shootings in this part of the country. Unfortunately, both Governments have been distracted by their own internal problems and, to a great extent, have not given Northern Ireland the priority it deserves. We have seen an almost total stalemate in relationships between the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. So, it is very difficult to perceive any of these factors as constituting progress since the signing of the Downing Street Declaration.
From the point of view of both Governments and political parties, there can be no further excuses for inaction. The European elections are over and no new elections are likely for the next two years.  So, if there is to be political progress, uninterrupted by electoral considerations on either island, the time is now clear for talks and actions to take place. Governments and parties rarely have such a clear avenue open to them in terms of an absence of electoral considerations as both Governments now appear to have. Of course, strange things can happen but both Governments now appear to have a time frame which is clear of impending elections.
Likewise, Sinn Féin and the IRA have had more than enough time to give a definitive response to the Downing Street Declaration. In addition, they have had some significant sweeteners, including the ending of section 31, the US visa for Mr. Adams, extensive behind-the-scenes consultations, clarification and an enormous amount of encouragement from all sections of the population. There really is no excuse for them not to give a definitive response one way or the other. Personally, I am not very hopeful about the nature of that response but I hope I am wrong.
Friends of mine in Northern Ireland tell me that there is a genuine desire for peace among significant sections of the IRA and Sinn Féin community, but so far, sadly, we have not seen this desire manifest itself in any concrete form. The IRA has continued its campaign of murder and bombing with little let up thus giving, in a sense, its own response to the earlier efforts of the president of Sinn Féin. For those reasons I believe that the response of the IRA will not be positive. If it is not, we cannot allow ourselves to be played along like gullible trout while the IRA follows its own perverse agenda and blocks progress among other groups towards some sort of settlement.
When we met here after the Downing Street Declaration on 22 December 1993, I supported the Taoiseach, as did everyone in this House, and applauded him on what he had done. We believed that the Government had made a very courageous breakthrough. More than that, the Downing Street Declaration seemed to give Sinn Féin a way off the hook and  into the political process. But while so many on the Government side then saw the Declaration as the end of the problem, I did not. I said that the euphoria of that moment should not blind us to the fact that we were at a beginning and no further. Looking back now, eight months later, we are still only at the beginning in spite of all that has happened. I said then also — and I am glad that the Tánaiste emphasised this in his speech today — that the one inescapable fact was that any lasting settlement must be underwritten and made effective by the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. That is why nothing we do should be allowed in any way to undermine the leaders of those parties.
The process will stand or fall in Northern Ireland, not here and not in London. If it cannot work in Northern Ireland then it will not work. If it is to work in Northern Ireland, the constitutional parties must be given every help and we must encourage them to resume their negotiations. Unfortunately, and in spite of the Tánaiste's encouraging words today, we have gone back rather than forward since then. There has never been so little talk between the parties or such little encouragement, until this morning at least, from the two Governments to get the parties back to the talks, which had made real progress before they broke down. There seems to be a clear lack of urgency in the Government's current approach to the problem. It gave priority to bringing the IRA into the negotiating process. Having done that, it seems to have put other avenues of approach on the back burner and has allowed the refusal of the IRA to respond in a positive way to cloud it to other possibilities which might be pursued. As a result, there is, I believe, a dangerous vacuum at the heart of the Government's Northern policy at present, which is not helped by the various domestic problems of both Governments. Because of this, they are allowing the situation to drift dangerously.
The worst thing that can happen in the situation of drift is that the two Governments hang around waiting for something  to happen, hoping that the IRA will eventually come on board. Every day without a sense of Government urgency and without activity and new initiatives puts less pressure on the IRA and contributes to the growth of loyalist terrorism.
The Government must reorder its priorities. Of course it must continue to try to persuade the IRA, it must keep the lines open and try to exploit the strong desire for peace which we are told exists in the nationalist community but we must not allow this concern dominate the attempt to bring the IRA on board or distort Northern policy as it appears to be doing at present. We should remember that all previous Governments of this State focused primarily on how to get the constitutional parties to agree on structures of government. If that no longer appears to be a priority, it should become one again.
A great deal of progress was made in the past, more than for which credit was ever given. It was slow, unspectacular progress, the sort that is at the centre of consensus building but which does not result in dramatic, miraculous formulae or instant solutions. Progress will only come from slow, detailed talks, concessions all round and a willingness to concede, not just on ultimate objectives but to the sincerity of the other side, and to concede that not all wisdom lies on our side and that we, as well as the unionists, carry our share of historical baggage.
There is increasing evidence — the Tánaiste adverted to this — of a new openness on the part of the Official Unionist Party. There is a sense that it realises that things can never be the same again and that it must accept a new order. There also appears to be a willingness on the part of significant sections of its leadership to look at new ways in which the political structure of Northern Ireland can be ordered in a manner which provides for fairness, the right of both communities to express their identities and harmonious relations between both parts of this island.
 It is possibly because unionist politicians usually appear to be negative and ungracious in the way they phrase much of what they say that the real sea change which I believe has occurred is often lost on many of us down here. The Official Unionist Party knows that no British Government will tolerate a reversion to the old ways. Enough people in that party know that if they want to be part of a modern Europe they must accept pluralism, tolerance, fair play and full civil rights for all. They must accept that communal tensions can only be handled through tolerance and accommodation and not through the domination of one community by the other. These principles are now widely accepted within that party. Many of them could have been put into effect if the last set of talks had come to a conclusion. One way or another, these principles are a good starting point and are endorsed by the leadership of the Official Unionist Party.
The same cannot be said of Ian Paisley and the Democratic Unionist Party. A very interesting book published this month by Professor Steve Bruce of the University of Aberdeen provides a detailed study of the development of Ian Paisley's party and the loyalist paramilitaries over the past 25 or 30 years. It provides a frightening picture to all of us of the extent of their alienation and the way they see themselves as a community and a way of life under threat with no friends anywhere to whom they can turn. It is very easy for us to dismiss these fears and point to the years of domination during which they displayed no accommodation or understanding to their Catholic neighbours but we will not make progress until we get to the bottom of these fears, realise they are genuine and seek to see how we in this part of the country, as well as the nationalist community in Northern Ireland, can understand and, through understanding, seek to find some sort of accommodation. Just as we strive to protect, enhance and give recognition to the Irishness of the nationalist community, we must also recognise the integrity of the Britishness of the loyalist community. It sees itself as  a beleaguered, isolated civilisation under threat. Mr. John Hume and the SDLP have always accepted the right of the Protestant, unionist tradition to the fullest possible recognition.
It is surprising, when one talks separately to John Hume and the unionist leaders, to see how little difference there is between them on most of the fundamental problems and the willingness of each side to accept at this point — this was not always the case — the aspirations of the other. This is why any progress at present must have at its centre the bringing together again of the constitutional parties into meaningful and serious discussions. If this happens I believe many of the present logjams can be broken. The failure of the talks so far has given an enhanced status and centre stage position to the paramilitaries on both sides. If the political process is seen to work and the constitutional politicians are seen to be listening, talking to and accommodating each other and making progress, pressure will come on the IRA and the other paramilitaries.
Yesterday, when Mr. Gerry Adams outlined a list of grievances of the nationalist community in Northern Ireland, he said that the IRA campaign was not a central issue. If he expects to make progress in righting these grievances, surely the place to air them and seek redress is within the political framework and process. As long as the violence continues, the righting of these grievances will not be addressed as fully as it might.
I say to the Government — I am glad the Tánaiste emphasised this — that every encouragement must be given to the constitutional parties. Pressure must be put on them to give way where that will mean progress. I am not saying the Government should have a single strand policy on Northern Ireland but that the parties must be central to any policy. The intergovernmental talks must continue and the work towards a framework must proceed and the sooner this is available for discussion the better. Efforts must be made to win over the paramilitaries. The alleviation of specific injustices must continue  to be addressed, especially in cases where discrimination continues to exist. We must have greater cross-Border co-operation and more meetings between ourselves and our opposite numbers in Northern Ireland. At the centre must be the attempt to get the constitutional parties talking to each other again. I am glad the Tánaiste gave this priority and I hope this will be translated into effective action before long.
Mr. Lanigan Mr. Lanigan
Mr. Lanigan: I am delighted that, at the end of this session, the role of the Seanad is to highlight the situation in Northern Ireland and on the island as a whole. It is significant that the debate is taking place at a time when the world is becoming a very contradictory place. Nationalism, ethnic cleansing and religious domination are becoming the dominant features of life in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. Dominance of one group by another is coming very much to the fore. We in Ireland are trying to remove the dominance of one ethnic group and to bring a balance which will accommodate all sections of society in Northern Ireland.
When we listen to the arguments, we realise that people can only make peace with their enemies; they cannot make peace with their friends. We have to continue to talk to people who might have been perceived as our enemies in the past because it is only by talking to our enemies that we can make certain peace ensues.
This year we have seen remarkable progress in South Africa in bringing together two seemingly intransigent peoples. They have made unbelievable progress towards the beginning of a country in which all people can live in peace and harmony. However, we see ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and the rest of the former Yugoslavia and attempts are being made all over the former USSR to cleanse out those who are different from the dominant forces.
It is people and not land who make countries. It is people who count. When we talk about the dominant forces in Ireland, we are talking about the people  of Ireland and not the land of Ireland. It is unfortunate that “Protestant”, “Catholic” and “dissenter” are the three dominant words used. There are people other than Protestants, Catholics and dissenters on this island and they too have to be brought into the equation if we are to forget past atrocities or prevent future atrocities.
Relationships must be built up slowly. There are no instant solutions; there is no instant solution to the problems of Northern Ireland. The Irish or British Governments or the political forces in the North of Ireland should not go screaming to the media every day that progress has been made today which will lead to a better future. It is only by discussing the matters fully, in private in the main, that progress can be made. Too often there have been leaks to the media which inhibited progress. It is not right for the people who are discussing the situation to run to the press on every occasion.
The situation in the Middle East would not have been resolved were it not for the fact that all the discussions took place in a quiet atmosphere away from conflict and media attention. The ring of steel which the Israelis put around themselves to keep out their neighbours, the Palestinians, has now been breached but would not have been breached if there had been public statements every time a little progress had been made.
Those who say that the Irish Government is not making enough progress at present do not seem to realise that day to day contact is being made with the people who are involved in this conflict. That day to day, painstaking contact is necessary. It is not the banner headline which brings peace but the 12 and 15 hour discussions between officials, Ministers and the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland, Britain and here.
We must give our full support to the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. There should be no prevarication about this. Nationalist and unionist politicians should be given every  support so that they can make progress for their own people in the North. If we do not go along with the constitutional politicians in the North, we might as well forget our own constitutional situation and allow the non-constitutional elements down here to take over.
Paramilitaries in the North do not play a part in the resolution of the problem but rather exacerbate it. Instances such as Loughinisland have done nothing to further the loyalist cause but have sickened the good, decent people of Northern Ireland on all sides. Equally, when the IRA commits acts of violence it does not progress the cause of nationalism but exacerbates the situation.
Sinn Féin is a constitutional party and we must admit that it represents a large proportion of the people of Northern Ireland. I believe they are honest in their attempts to bring the IRA into a situation where there could be a ceasefire. There should not be any conditions attached to a ceasefire. A ceasefire means giving up the armed struggle — if it could be called that. In 90 per cent of cases, it is not an armed struggle because if it was there would have to be two sides. If one group goes in with guns and shoots the people in a public house, bar, hotel or any public place, it is not an armed struggle but an atrocious act of cowardice.
We must commit ourselves to following the line the Government has taken. I ask the Opposition not be so carping in suggesting that this Government is not doing enough or is not open enough in its attempts to resolve the problems. I do not think any Government since the State was founded has done so much to resolve the differences which exist between the various strands of opinion on this island or to bring together these varying strands. The Tánaiste and the Taoiseach have done more than any other leaders in this country to attempt a resolution of the situation in the North.
This is a matter of human beings against human beings and not domination of land or the South over the North. We are talking about the resolution of human problems in the North  of Ireland. We can only pray that the violent people in the North will realise that each time they fire a bullet it causes ripples which spread and which make it harder to achieve a place of peace in the North.
The economy of this country is important, but it is not as important as bringing together people from all sides of the political divide, North and South. I am glad we are able to have this debate this morning because, at the end of the session, it is just and right that we bring the situation in Northern Ireland to the fore. If we find a resolution to the problems in Northern Ireland, we can achieve everything we want.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: I welcome the opportunity to speak today. I wish the Cathaoirleach well this summer and I thank him for his assistance during the year.
The Irish soccer team returns from the US this morning and I take this opportunity to wish them well. I would also like to say how proud most people on this island are of their efforts in the World Cup. It was emphasised in the past few weeks that the Irish team, while not representing the whole island, comes from a small population base. In that context, it is difficult for people to understand why on such a small island, violence, hatred, carnage, murder and destruction continue. When foreigners visit Ireland they see the beauty and potential of the island and experience the friendliness of the people, yet they find it difficult to understand why this destruction continues.
The people, the structures and the political beliefs which have been dominant, have not united the people or increased and encouraged understanding. Many political beliefs, the fears therein and the fears they generate have added to the present situation.
Time and time again this morning Senators and the Tánaiste spoke about the two communities on this island. There is a third community and it annoys me when people refer to nationalists and unionists. Many people on this island are in the middle and do not want to be referred to as either. It is that community  who will bring peace and understanding to this island. As long as we continue to refer to two communities, progress will stagnate and we will not achieve peace.
There is co-operation between the police forces, North and South, which proves that co-operation and understanding can exist. As regards sport, someone from the North was appointed to the board of the new Horse Racing Authority last week. There is also co-operation between North and South in relation to rugby and the GAA. People with a particular interest come together to further that interest, be it sport or otherwise. There is also a cultural and a historic connection between North and South. I plead with politicians to be extremely careful when speaking about the two communities because, as I said, there is a third community.
The tragedy in Loughinisland, County Down, proved beyond all doubt that people in a small community can be united and have things in common. Loughinisland is a small village in a farming community where people worked together to help one another. That was emphasised time and time again. The people of Loughinisland never believed such a tragedy would occur in their small community where everybody got on well with their neighbours. Yet this atrocity was committed in a village where people lived in harmony to cause hatred, fear and mistrust. The biggest danger to terrorists is co-operation, understanding and a lack of fear between people. That is the path to progress in the North and on this island. It emphasises the need for leaders from all political parties in the South, the North and in Britain, to be extremely careful.
There is always an opportunity to hype up a situation and to say we have done something historic or that we are the first to do something. That is not the approach to adopt. People must be cautious and careful and they must understand that there is deep rooted fear on this island.
Ms O'Sullivan Ms O'Sullivan
Ms O'Sullivan: I welcome this debate and I thank the Tánaiste for arranging to be in the House to lead it.
 In a situation like this one of the first questions we ask ourselves is, what is the point of talking? What advances can be made by talking about Northern Ireland, using the English language, each in our own different way, to edge forward to an inclusive and peaceful solution to the conflict? We wonder why we talk, what good are words and what can they do to influence the perpetrators of acts of violence which occur in Northern Ireland which are totally separate from the normal life of the people. However, words are important in the context of Northern Ireland.
The subtleties of language can make all the difference; words can be used to make different myths out of the same history. Different communities view the same historic past, but see different things. This is reinforced by the separate life experiences of these communities. The Tánaiste put it well this morning when he said, “They can ignore the reality of the other.” This was also expressed well by Senator Manning when he spoke about the fears of supporters of people like the Reverend Ian Paisley and the DUP. Those fears are based in the fact that they see history in a different way. Their reality is different to that of the other community because of the way they interpret history. It is essential that we have dialogue if we are to make progress.
In that regard, it is useful to look at the Opsahl report. We had a debate on Northern Ireland this time last year following the report of the Opsahl Commission which reflected the views of people throughout Northern Ireland. There were 554 submissions to the commission which expressed a strong desire for dialogue and, in practically all the submissions, there was an overwhelming desire for peace.
As long as people are locked into separate loyalties and see each other as the enemy, they find it difficult to condemn their own terrorists even when they do not support violence and have a strong desire of peace. They are worried about betraying their own side. Fortunately,  as other speakers have said, there is a growing number of people on both sides of the community divide who have the courage to go beyond that and put their shared humanity above everything else.
Our humanity must be placed above our loyalties. We must be unequivocal in asserting that the taking of a fellow human being's life is always a betrayal of our own humanity. As other speakers have said, the appalling betrayal of humanity in Loughinisland has brought that home to us again. Senator Belton described very well how that peaceful community was absolutely shattered by the calculated act of going into that pub and shooting people who had their backs to the guns.
People in Sinn Féin and loyalist paramilitary supporters who believe violence should end must have the courage to act and get out of the straitjacket. I support what Senator Lanigan said about the ultimate responsibility of people in Sinn Féin and on the other side who believe that violence must and should end. I hope they will have the courage to act on it.
The Opsahl report pointed out that Northern Ireland has for a long time lacked a framework to support constructive dialogue and political progress. This framework has been made possible through the Joint Declaration of the British and Irish Governments last winter within which words can become the vehicle for progress rather than the reinforcement of prejudice. It is an opportunity which has to be grasped even if the extremists on both sides cannot or will not grasp it.
The framework provides space for the two communities to move closer and listen to each other. It provides the opportunity for respect for the diversity of differing traditions. It is only right that the British and Irish Governments have come together and assumed responsibility for finding a solution, because the problem is rooted in the historical relationships between Britain and Ireland and the ineffectiveness of past attempts to give the people in Northern Ireland the right to express their identities in a positive way.
 This framework has to be based on consent and this point has been made over and over again during the last six months. It must be based on what has been described as parity of esteem which means that each tradition has equal esteem and equal rights. The Tánaiste in addressing the Fordham University Law School on 27 June stated:
The idea that one tradition can have things its own way leaving the other side to like it or lump it is effectively dead.
He went on to say:
In the interests of a better future for all, both Governments are seeking ways to strike out boldly for a new arrangement in which both traditions can rediscover themselves and each other.
The use of language is such an important factor in the hope for peace, it is absolutely essential that both Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution and the Government of Ireland Act in British law are scrutinised and open to change. If words are used to strengthen the myths which separate the communities in Northern Ireland, they can only be destructive.
Both Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution and the Government of Ireland Act fail to reflect the aspirations of the two communities. Neither of these legal frameworks embrace the rights and identities of both communities. If we are to move closer to a solution, we must have a non-threatening framework which allows movement without the fear of losing all. Other speakers today have expressed that very well.
People want a wider sense of identity. Senator Belton put that very well when he spoke about people who have a sense of identity other than the straitjacket of one community or the other. Human beings are complex and cannot be simply defined within a narrow description. Unfortunately in the past, many people in Northern Ireland have been pushed into these two fairly simplistic identities which do not embrace the complexities of our humanity.
 The Government must progress the agenda while leaving the door open to people who still follow the anti-democratic agenda of violence and coercion. I support what Senator Manning said about the position of the SDLP and the Official Unionist Party. Both have been very positive and we have to build on that positive attitude. Even if the extremists on both sides are not ready to participate, we have to make progress and we should not wait.
More and more people are convinced that this is the only way the politics of fear can be lifted. This is only a beginning and it will take time for communities to learn to trust each other but this is the only way forward and the only hope. Senator Gordon Wilson expressed this view a few weeks ago on the Order of Business when he said that we are at a turning point and that we must turn in the right direction. If we do that, the potential which the Tánaiste outlined at the end of his speech in economic development as well as social cohesion will be realised.
Dialogue within an inclusive framework can be positive rather than negative. It will focus on progress rather than on looking back. That is the real hope for political progress in the near future.
Dr. Henry Dr. Henry
Dr. Henry: I welcome the Minister to the House and the Tánaiste's statement on this important day. We were talking last night about the proliferation of arms. It is terrible that most conflicts in the world are inter racial, inter-tribal or inter religious. It is particularly sad that on this small island we should have a sectarian conflict.
There is an important lesson for us when we look at Northern Ireland. When we ask people in Northern Ireland to be tolerant of each other, we too must be careful about being tolerant. Tolerance is a two way process and it is important that those who ask for tolerance for minorities are tolerant.
There are some religions, including some denominations of the Christian religion, which are more authoritarian than I would like. However, it is  extremely important to remember that these denominations have deeply committed followers and we should express our tolerance for them. We are entitled to object if we believe they are impinging on us but we are not entitled to deride their convictions. When we speak we should be careful to show tolerance in all directions.
Our historical divisions and the problems in Northern Ireland are sadly still all too obvious. Perhaps we should spend some of this summer trying to improve our relationship with various members of the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. There are three months ahead of us. There are lovely places in Fermanagh and great summer schools in Antrim. We will all be welcome to go to Belfast to meet members of the constitutional parties there. I suggest that all members of the Seanad should try to make at least one or two visits to Northern Ireland to show that we really are interested in them and that this is not just rhetoric.
It is disappointing that the great hope we had at the end of last year for progress towards a non violent situation in the North has not been realised. I gravely doubt if members of some of the political non-constitutional parties in Northern Ireland are capable of bringing those involved in violence with them. There is a tremendous investment in violence in Northern Ireland and there is also tremendous status for those involved in it. It will be extremely difficult for them to come back from the edge because they do not know how they will fare if they do. They now have positions of power and of status and are capable of terrorising whole communities. The lack of progress on that front should make us more determined to increase our efforts at making contact with the constitutional parties. As we break for the summer I ask that we should give some of our time to making contact with those in political parties and non-political institutions in Northern Ireland. The train fare to Belfast is money well spent.
Mr. Wilson Mr. Wilson
Mr. Wilson: Until this morning I  understood I would have ten minutes to speak but I now know that it is only seven and I shall have to speak quickly. I wonder if I should bother because having listened with great interest to the Tánaiste one would think that he and I had colluded — I know what I want to say and much of it agrees with what he said.
I speak as a Member of the Irish Parliament and as someone deeply wounded by the hatreds of Northern Ireland. I am proud to be British and Irish. I realise that to some of my colleagues in Oireachtas Éireann this dual identity is surprising or, even, incomprehensible. I assure them that this dual identity is honestly held and honestly defended. I say this as someone who loves Ireland and who knows the Republic almost as well as he knows the North and who loves both.
I am Irish; I have been on both sides of the Irish fence — I was born in County Leitrim and I earned my living most of my adult life in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. I do not see these places as being foreign to each other. I believe passionately that we are all the same people but we quarrel and we have quarrelled tragically. I know; I lost a daughter.
It seems to me that there are two essential identities in Ireland and beyond that a strange and not quite yet born other identity. In an odd way we are all Irish, although some of my northern countrymen deny Irishness. I regret this denial but it is a fact of life. In Dublin I have been reminded of a personal childhood awareness — an awareness to which I was not, as a youth in Dublin, fully sensitive — that there was a southern pride generally unselfconscious, innocent and, perhaps, unintentionally insensitive to northerners, orange or green.
I spent my formative years in the 1940s in the city of Dublin — a city I have always loved. This biographical fact makes me strategically unusual much as the killing of my daughter Marie makes me an involuntary witness, among too many others, to the griefs of our island. Furthermore, I have spent my life earning  what I hope was an honest living at the edge of the Union, among people who love that British Union deeply. The people of Ireland must come to terms with the proposition that there are a million people on the island who honestly believe that the proposition to claim Britishness and Irishness at the same time is a contradiction in terms.
Ulster Protestants commonly both love Ireland and are loyal to the Crown, and there are a million people in Northern Ireland who do not want constitutional involvement in the governing of Northern Ireland by the Irish Government. I welcome — and they will — the statement yesterday by the Tánaiste that this Government does not seek joint authority. Another four million people on the island reject that loyalty. I have been impressed by the pride that southerners have developed in their State, the legitimacy of which State they have accepted, much as they may grumble about it.
North and South, Catholic and Protestant, we will have to accept that an emotional and mental gulf lies between the Ulster Protestant and the Irish Catholic. We must also accept that partition has, in a strange and unexpected way, worked to a degree. It has divided North from South if that is what it was intended to do. Southern Protestants are not as northern Protestants; they accept the democracy of the Irish Republic. Similarly, northern Catholics are not as southern Catholics and have not the latter's sense of autonomy and, to an extent, the all too common southerner's incomprehension of his northern brethren, regardless of religion.
Whatever the trendy commentators may say, identity and religion lie behind our common agony. There are Irish Irish and there are British Irish, and both these loyalties must be acknowledged and somehow reconciled. I have always believed that the Sunningdale agreement of 1973, betrayed by what some would describe as a cowardly British Prime Minister, was the right model. Give Ulster power sharing self-government subject to overseership of London and Dublin. Let my fellow Ulster men and  women learn self-government much as the people of the south have learned it at such terrible expense over two generations of independence.
We can talk about there being two nations in Ireland but I am not sure about that. I am sure, however, that religious belief lies at the root of one of our ancestral conflicts. Many of my fellow Ulstermen believe that Catholicism is an imperialist religion that wishes to gobble them up. In the past this may have been true but it is evidently no longer the case. We have done terrible things to each other; in the name of our respective loyalties a great gulf of mistrust has developed through generations yet we share the same piece of earth. Many strive to reach across in understanding, hope and love to those whom history has separated so bitterly.
In that spirit I again appeal to all paramilitaries to give peace a chance. The world is changing; Europe is changing; Britain has changed and so too has the Irish Republic. Indeed, over 25 years, Northern Ireland has also changed, in one way out of all recognition. The management of change for a constructive outcome is vital. People need to find a new self confidence and society must promote the dignity of each member. In short, we must share what we have with each other today and, believing in a future, conserve for tomorrow.
To look forward to such a time challenges us to build on firm foundations but we will never do this as long as paramilitary violence for political purposes continues. Such violence has bred counter violence so that the truth about one another continues to be obscured, and obscured it will remain until the paramilitaries lay down their arms. Then we may learn how futile the labels were for in truth there is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that it ill behoves any of us to raise arms in anger against our neighbour.
Violence causes resentment, bitterness, anger and revenge; it also causes remorse and psychological torture in those who perpetrate it — the awful knock, knock, knock of conscience  which, this side of repentance and penitence, makes it impossible to live again with oneself. All men and women are different; each is unique yet all are part of the same humanity under God. In hurting others it follows that we are also hurting ourselves deeply. To say that violence is necessary in the promotion of a noble cause is absurd. We have only to consider the examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. That said, it is wrong for the rest of us to adopt a “holier than thou” attitude by condemning on the one hand and, on the other, washing our hands of the violence we condemn as if we had no responsibility for it.
In demonstrating that our condemnation has not always been evenhanded we also expose to ourselves that many, perhaps all of us, contain unresolved elements of our bitter conflict deep within ourselves. With such an objective in mind I appeal to terrorists to desist from further violence so that we may all create something better together.
People have been broken by despair heaped on top of anguish. There is deep sadness and collective communal sorrow for so much hurt ostensibly on behalf of or against the interests of one side or the other. It is long past time that the energy directed to the promotion and suppression of violence was redirected. To fire relevant hard-hitting questions at one's own community and tradition requires far more courage than to fire bullets or plant bombs. Let those who carry arms lay them down. Let those who carry prejudice lay it to rest. As the founder of our shared Christianity would have urged, let us reach across to one another and embrace.
Mr. Dardis Mr. Dardis
Mr. Dardis: As always on these occasions, I am reluctant to follow Senator Wilson, given the authority which he can bring to these matters and his depth of personal experience and Christianity.
As in November when the House debated Northern Ireland, I welcome the tone and content of the Tánaiste's address this morning. It would be difficult  for anybody to disagree with its sentiments or aspirations. However, I am pessimistic about the future of peace on this island and the future of Northern Ireland itself.
My pessimism is founded very much on the fact that when looking back at the proceedings of the House over the past year, as I did this morning, I found little evidence of real progress towards the genuine objective of peace, which we all share. Other than the single greatly significant achievement of the Downing Street Declaration, which defined the relationship between the two islands and between Northern Ireland, the South and the other island, I find little to encourage me. The declaration cemented the rights of the majority community in Northern Ireland in the sense that it could withhold its consent from the right to self determination of the Irish people. The Tánaiste re-emphasised that aspect this morning, as did my party leader when she spoke about this matter on the Adjournment of the Dáil last week.
My pessimism is founded on the fact that we are still confronted with the question of how we are to achieve the peace which we all so earnestly desire. It is also founded on the fact that the slaughter seems to continue endlessly, despite the progress made with the Downing Street Declaration. Once again in the House we have been forced to condemn yet another slaughter. Loughinisland is reminiscent of Le Mans, the Shankill, Greysteel, Enniskillen, Teebawn and Darkley in that another six innocent people watching a football match were blown away. In that context, one wonders how much progress has been made because the graveyards continue to fill.
In these circumstances, how can we be given any grounds for optimism, hope and reconciliation? The single most important way we can be given those grounds is through the cessation of violence. It is striking that this message, which was enunciated in the House in October, is the consistent message of Seanad Éireann in all debates on this matter. Our appeal is to the men of violence, of whatever complexion, to end the  violence. My message of October 27 last has not changed: stop the killing now, and put away the bombs, the bullets and the guns because that is the only road to peace. This House must keep repeating that message as often as required to all paramilitaries.
In addition, there will be a place at the table for those people in the event not just of a cessation of violence but of a verifiable disarmament following the cessation of violence. We are tired waiting for the response we expected from Sinn Féin. As we wait, the graveyards continue to fill. We were promised a response from Sinn Féin after the European elections. Those elections have come and gone and I hope the response will come before the end of this month.
While we awaited the response, we removed section 31 and gave freedom of the airwaves to people to preach a message which I find unpalatable. There was no concession given in return. Mr. Adams went to the United States where he preached his gospel of violence under the mask of peace. There was no concession in return. Mr. Adams, and his colleagues, wanted clarification of the Downing Street Declaration and they got it. Again, there were no concessions. Mr. Adams became socially acceptable and somebody who should be included in “Who's Who”. He became somebody who should write in the columns of The Irish Times, as he did yesterday, but there are no concessions. How much more is required before we get the response for which we all hope and wait? We need to hear that response and hear it now before the graveyards fill once more. We need some evidence of some reciprocation from that quarter.
The effect of all of this, as I discovered during the European election campaign when I debated some of these matters with people from Sinn Féin, is that they consider it their peace process. In their eyes, they are responsible for it and in some respects the constitutional politicians are deemed to be marginalised. In their eyes, we are intransigent and preventing the peace process from taking place. We should put the responsibility  where it lies, with the people who carry the guns and plant the bombs and those who control the people who plant the bombs and carry the guns.
In this event, our response as constitutional politicians should be quite simple. As enunciated by Senator Henry, we must talk to each other as constitutional politicians at every opportunity and in every fora afforded to us. We must see and talk to people in Northern Ireland as often as possible. If they receive invitations to come to the South, I hope they will accept them. There is much in that type of ordinary, every day contact which can promote peace and reconciliation. Northern Ireland requires its own constitution and Bill of rights, although that is secondary to the need to talk and the forum for peace and reconciliation of which we heard earlier.
I cannot express the sentiments voiced by Senator Wilson so eloquently but I share them. There must be a fundamental change to generosity. I spoke previously about the need for unilateral acts of generosity, which are important. This generosity can replace hatred. This generosity is at the heart of our Christian religion and if we profess that religion, as we claim, I cannot understand how we cannot bring it to bear on our discussions of this matter.
Language in this context is most important. In the past, the Seanad has debated this matter in a moderate tone, and language was controlled. I earnestly appeal to the Taoiseach to be most careful in the language he uses. When he goes to the United States, as he has done, to talk about matters, such as joint authority, I ask him to realise the significance of the words being used. He must be most careful because the misuse of words can lead to more deaths and the filling of more graveyards.
In that context, the remarks of Mr. Peter Robinson about some members of the Irish football team should not have been made. They were highly offensive and racist. Even in the worst excesses of the Boer laager in South Africa, I do not think I would have heard such words.  That too can inflame passions and lead to more deaths and graves.
We are almost in the same position as October and November. I wish to repeat what I said on November 25, although, to be fair, the Tánaiste comprehensively addressed this point this morning. We must recognise the legitimacy of the Britishness of some people who live on this island just as there is legitimacy in the Irishness of others. We are confronted with the problem of resolving that fundamental conflict.
Mr. Maloney Mr. Maloney
Mr. Maloney: I thank Senator O'Kennedy for allowing me to share his time. I welcome the Minister and I welcome the Tánaiste's speech. I also congratulate the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach on their work since they came into office towards resolving the situation in Northern Ireland. The Tánaiste is trusted by the people in Northern Ireland and both he and the Taoiseach have done more to bring this matter to a head over the last two years than many others did before them.
I am a regular visitor to Northern Ireland. Before 1969 I spent a lot of time there, as did most people who live in Border counties. There were strong commercial links between Donegal and Derry. Northern Ireland was also the most obvious place to go for clothes and dancing. At least one could get a packet of condoms in Northern Ireland — they were not available in Letterkenny. That is probably why there were not the same problems in Letterkenny or Donegal at the time as there were in the rest of the country. Both sides mixed well, playing football and so forth. It was a lovely atmosphere in which to grow up even though there were troubles then within Northern Ireland.
The civil rights movement was making progress. The B Specials were abolished and one man, one vote was introduced. The Provos saw that progress was being made so they got involved and created the murder and carnage we have lived  with for the last 25 years. What have they achieved in 25 years? Very little.
The Joint Declaration was a step forward and an opportunity for the two communities to examine their position. It was an opportunity for Sinn Féin to get off the fence and do something. The declaration put that organisation in a spot. It had to look at itself and see where it was going.
Senator Henry referred to the lack of awareness in the southern population about the situation in Northern Ireland. I have been in the Seanad for over a year and I am amazed at the lack of knowledge among Members of this and the lower House about Northern Ireland. It is unbelievable. I agree with Senator Henry that southern people must go to the North, see the place and meet the people. The people in Northern Ireland do not have horns — they are nice, decent people. I have gone there on my holidays for years and I enjoy going there. The people are wonderful but there is a lack of awareness among people here.
We hear people speaking on behalf of the nationalist cause and sometimes they do not even know what they are talking about. They talk through their hats to please an electorate they might have at home. They should not do that. I have lived with this for years in Donegal where people have played the nationalist card or the unionist card. It has done nothing but created more mayhem. We talk about the Peter Robinsons and the Paisleys in the North — we have our own in southern Ireland.
With regard to the Hume-Adams document, I do not believe there is such a document. However, at least Hume and Adams met and had an opportunity to talk. It set the agenda for what was to come. Sinn Féin has a serious problem with the Joint Declaration. I have spoken to people in Northern Ireland. Parents of prisoners and of young people who have given their lives for “the cause”, as they call it, want the conflict to end. Sinn Féin is under extreme pressure. I meet members in the streets of Letterkenny and in Northern Ireland, I visit Derry and Belfast and I talk regularly to people I have known for many years. It is wrong  for people to say that nothing has been achieved since December. Those people should give the declaration a chance. I believe Sinn Féin is coming on board because it is under tremendous pressure. The one thing Sinn Féin does not want is a split in the movement. Nobody here would want that movement to split either. I urge people to give the declaration a chance and not to inflame the situation.
One can look at the examples offered by Derry and Belfast. People should visit Derry city and see the changes that have taken place there. Derry had major problems with bombings and killings. It rarely happens now. It is a tremendous and vibrant city where the unionists and the nationalists have worked together. One seldom hears of bombs or killings in Derry now. People are working together and the city is doing very well commercially and otherwise. Most of the violence is now confined to Belfast. There are major problems in that city. There is massive extortion and gangsterism there. Sinn Féin's problem is to try to do something about that.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs is one of the better committees established recently. It is a forum in which we can influence issues. Northern Ireland politicians have come down to talk to the committee. The unionists and the DUP are not prepared to come down so we should go up to the North and talk to them there. We must be tolerant and make efforts to meet and understand them. O'Neill, Lemass and other leaders did so. We should grasp that nettle and work together for the benefit of this country.
Mr. Ross Mr. Ross
Mr. Ross: I welcome the last speech and its unusual emphasis on the need for us to understand what is happening in the North.
Recently I was talking to a senior Member of the Oireachtas about Northern Ireland. He asked me how often I visited the North and I told him I visited it frequently because I have constituents there. I am one of the few Members of this House who has constituents in  Northern Ireland. I asked him the same question and he told me that he had never been there in his life. This man — and that is as far as I will go in identifying the person involved — has been voting on Northern Ireland issues for many years in this House and in other fora in this country. He did not have to be guilty about anything but his reply emphasised to me the depth of ignorance that exists in this House and throughout the south of Ireland about what happens in Northern Ireland.
Senator Maloney's remarks are important. It is important that we go up there more often and that we understand what is happening there. It is also indicative that there are many other people in the same category as the person to whom I was speaking.
I agree with much that the Tánaiste said. I echo the appeals, particularly from Senator Wilson, for moderate language. While I welcome the Tánaiste's speech, it was limited. I understand the sensitivities of making a speech which is aspirational in nature and demonstrates many good intentions. However, it does not tell us much about Government policy. It does not tell us what the Government is doing to improve the situation except that it is waiting for Sinn Féin. I would like to have heard much more about where we will go from here rather than the Government sitting on the slightly withering laurels of the Joint Declaration. While the declaration was welcomed by everybody in the Oireachtas it now looks slightly frayed and needs reinforcement. Peace has not broken out and the response of those at whom this declaration was aimed has been disappointing. Matters have got worse and there has not even been a cynical IRA truce yet, although we have expected one on several occasions since December. The false dawns seem to occur almost on a monthly basis.
One of the real problems with current Government policy is encapsulated in a phrase the Tánaiste used in his speech. He referred continually to “the republican movement”. This phrase is particularly offensive when used to denote the  Provisional IRA. For some extraordinary reason, in recent months the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach consistently refer to “the republican movement” as if no one else in this country is part of that movement.
In my understanding that was an honourable movement for many years. Now we have allowed Sinn Féin/IRA to hijack this title and be called “the republican movement”. The Tánaiste should have referred to them as terrorists because my understanding is that the Tánaiste is a member of the republican movement, in that he is a republican, as is the Taoiseach. However we have allowed Sinn Féin's language to insinuate itself into our speeches and that is a pity.
In the last six months Sinn Féin has gradually gained a degree of respectability. That is a dangerous development and it is killing people while gaining that respectability. It is good that Senator Dardis has said this and called a spade a spade.
This Government has held talks with Sinn Féin/IRA and its intermediaries. Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, 1970 was repealed in January this year and Mr. Adams and his friends are regularly to be heard on the airwaves and writing in The Irish Times. This would not have happened a year ago. Earlier this year Mr. Adams was granted a visa to visit the United States in what has turned out to be a terrible mistake. That could not have been done without the support of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Government, the SDLP and certain powerful elements in the US.
The final development, which one hopes is embarrassing to the Government, is Sinn Féin spokespersons on RTE giving plaudits to the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds. They say they do not approve of what certain people were saying but what the Taoiseach was saying was highly constructive. That is a poisoned chalice; supporters of terrorism praising the constitutional Taoiseach of the day. This is not something the Taoiseach should welcome but he will have to live with it because he is allowing these people to  dictate policy although Sinn Féin, the political wing of the IRA, only represents 2 per cent of the people here.
There is an alternative to waiting for Sinn Féin. Undoubtedly the Government is genuinely seeking peace but it is not enough to wrap this mantle around them and tell people not to rock the boat. At some stage the policy must be analysed and it must be decided that Sinn Féin has been given enough time and alternative action must be taken.
It is perfectly legitimate now to reexamine section 31 and to consider internment for people on both sides of the Border and both sides of the political divide. Would the Loughinisland and Shankill bombs have happened if internment had been in existence? We have to ask ourselves this question. We must examine Articles 2 and 3 and the need for what Senator Dardis called unilateral acts of generosity. These are important if we genuinely want peace. We must consider our role in the Anglo-Irish process, whether we will be constantly and solely the representatives of nationalists in that structure. We must ask if we should proceed more quickly with internal talks and what we see as the ultimate solution in Northern Ireland.
Mr. O'Brien Mr. O'Brien
Mr. O'Brien: I welcome the opportunity to discuss the ongoing tragedy of Northern Ireland and I sincerely hope that in the time provided today some contribution, however small, can be made to the solution of this terrible conflict, which has brought so much suffering and pain to the people of the Six Counties and occasionally to people in the Republic and in Britain.
We should stop and take a fresh look at the problem, perhaps for the first time. It concerns a small number of people — 5 million on this globe. My colleagues and I are these people, living on this island we all profess to love. We are part of the problem and we must be part of the solution. Some of our people, Catholic and Protestant, see the way forward through the barrel of a gun. It must be our responsibility to lead all our people through the righteous path to peace, harmony  and brotherly and sisterly love. As Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote in his essay, “The Isles of the North”:
Let these islands become once again a bastion of Christianity which will show the right way in a very troubled world.
As an Ulster person, I empathise with my neighbours across the Border who live their daily lives in constant dread of violence and destruction. Loughinisland is the birthplace of Saint Macartan, the patron saint of our diocese of Clogher which straddles the Border.
Along with the good people of that place, I admire those giants among men who daily, honestly and fearlessly, act as a beacon for us all amid troubled waters. I speak of Christians like Mr. John Hume, Fr. Denis Faul, Mr. Ken Maginnis and Dr. Robin Eames. Senator Wilson and his good wife have been and continue to be a constant inspiration to us all. They have shown us the way.
The Provisional IRA and the Ulster loyalists are of us and cannot be ignored. However, they must be convinced their way is not correct and that there is a better one. Charles Stewart Parnell once said that no one can stand in the way of the onward march of a nation. The British Government has stated that it will not stand in the way. We should continue the talks process. Despite our disappointment that the violence has not yet ended in response to the Downing Street Declaration, peace may still be achieved through this historic initiative. The Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, has given a personal commitment to the search for peace. From the time he became Taoiseach, he and the Tanáiste, Deputy Spring, have given an opportunity to all sides, which they never had before, to solve the conflict in Northern Ireland with honour and dignity through negotiations, while protecting their wider responsibilities and obligations.
I urge the Tanáiste to call for the reopening of closed Border roads which greatly inconvenience the residents of Counties Cavan, Monaghan, Louth, Leitrim and Donegal and across the Border.  I compliment the Government on its continuing efforts to achieve peace and I urge those involved to match the commitment of the Taoiseach and the Tanáiste so that Ireland will achieve a peace based on justice and equality, not on domination or a denial of rights.
Mr. Sherlock Mr. Sherlock
Mr. Sherlock: When I spoke during this debate three days before Christmas I described the Downing Street Declaration as offering a unique opportunity to secure peace and to promote political progress in Northern Ireland. I said it provided what was, perhaps, the best prospect of peace in more than 20 years and I warned that if the opportunity was spurned by the paramilitaries, the prospects for the people of Northern Ireland would be bleak. At that time there was a new sense of expectation and hope that the people of Northern Ireland might at last be freed from the endless cycle of violence and viciousness which had destroyed many lives and scarred many more. There was optimism that the Downing Street Declaration would provide a framework within which the democratic political parties in Northern Ireland would be able to develop structures capable of winning cross community support.
Six months later there is a real sense of disappointment because little progress has been made. The paramilitaries, Loyalist and Nationalist, continue to reach new depths of viciousness. Sinn Féin and the IRA continue to equivocate and have yet to respond to the Declaration. The failure of the two Governments to follow through on the unique momentum for peace created by the Declaration has caused a political vacuum which the paramilitaries are only too happy to exploit. If the project is not to flounder, it is essential for the two Governments to act quickly to regain the political initiative. The Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister, Mr. Major, are entitled to praise for the manner in which they negotiated the Declaration. However, they deserve little credit for the way they have allowed the situation to drift since then. For more than six months they have  appeared willing to put the efforts to find a political solution in cold storage.
While we awaited a response from Sinn Féin and the IRA, Mr. Adams and his colleagues went through a phoney process of seeking clarification from the British and consulting with their own members. They got the clarification and time for consultation which they required. Later this month Sinn Féin will hold a special conference at which, we are told, it will make a final decision. However, the indications are that it will not give a clear response and that we will probably have more equivocation. The conference will not clearly accept or reject the Declaration, but it will probably fudge the issue to further delay the process. This is the clear message contained in the detailed statement issued by Mr. Adams this week.
It also seems clear from Mr. Adams that the IRA will not reject violence or agree to an extended cease-fire. A clear message must go out from this House, the two Governments and all democratic parties on this island that the period of waiting for a response from Sinn Féin is over. It knows what is expected of them and if it wants to be part of the political process, it must reject violence as a weapon used to pursue its political objectives. There can be no place for it at the negotiating table if it is not prepared to accept this.
The two Governments must act to restore the political momentum. The meeting in Dublin later this month between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister offers the ideal platform to relaunch the Downing Street Declaration. Despite what happened, it still has the support of the vast majority of the people on this island and offers the best prospect for progress. Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Major must take urgent steps to facilitate dialogue between the democratic parties in Northern Ireland. Both sides must moderate their political objectives and be willing to compromise. This is the only basis on which progress can be made. In the final analysis, the two Governments cannot impose a settlement  on Northern Ireland and the main responsibility for finding a way forward rests with the people there.
Mr. O'Kennedy Mr. O'Kennedy
Mr. O'Kennedy: I address the House today as a republican of deep conviction from a proud and honourable republican tradition. The republican philosophy is based on the recognition of diversity and respect for the individual rights of every citizen in common cause and understanding. A republican must be deeply conscious of his inheritance, but even more conscious of his obligation to bring about understanding, harmony and equal opportunity for all, particularly for future generations on this island. By definition, that potential can only be realised in common cause and common action. There must be no domination or no feeling of threat, but a mutual respect and determination to advance the cause of our people from every tradition and background.
The Protestant Orange tradition has at various stages in our history shaped the paths of this island in a vital and dynamic way. It is essential that those of us who belong to a different tradition recognise and respect that, but we must also proclaim our confident conviction that it can make an even more positive and dynamic contribution to the future of this island.
Many years ago the founder of our party called on the republican movement to lay down its arms and to work in common cause for the advancement of the interests of the people of Ireland. In this jurisdiction, our political experience has fortunately matured to the point that we can and do respect the divergence of opinion from those who have inherited traditions from people who differed fundamentally in the past. Our political structures today in this jurisdiction, while deriving to some extent from the divisions of civil war have matured to the point where we have political parties and groups of widely different political and economic philosophies who can work together in democratic determination to advance the interests of all of our people.
It must be asserted and understood by all without any qualification that there  can be no threat, there should be no fear and there can be no domination by one group over another in any future political arrangements on this island. We in the South have no right to make a claim over our fellow Irishmen in the North and we make no such claim. We only make one claim: to work constantly and diligently, at home and abroad, for the advancement of the interest of all the people on this island in harmony and understanding.
Irish people of whatever tradition have won respect and affection throughout the world for their contributions to the well being and advancement of many countries. It is time we challenged ourselves in this generation to do precisely the same at home, recognising the huge potential there is for economic and social advancement and justice in the confident belief that we have the personal resources and the confidence to achieve a great future through whatever structures can be agreed for all of the people of Ireland.
It is essential for our fellow Irishmen in the North to understand that no government and no political party in the South is trying or will try to undermine the rights of any elected representatives in the North. However, it is equally important to recognise that for too long life and business has been far from normal in the North, even with the benefit of millions of pounds poured into the economy there from the United Kingdom.
Our membership of the European Union is a new and vital force in the economic development of this country. We must be ready to share with our fellow Irishmen in the North equal rights to representations at all levels in that Union, whether it be at the level of the European Council, the European Commission or the European Parliament. Clearly, they do not have that under the current political arrangements and we see the effects, particularly in agriculture, tourism, fisheries development and business generally in Northern Ireland, because that opportunity is not now available to them.
 An agriculture policy that is linked to that of the United Kingdom poses major problems for the simple reason that the overall policy of the United Kingdom is not geared towards the agricultural structures in Northern Ireland. Even in terms of market opportunity, their product is associated with Britain, sometimes to their detriment as with the BSE issue at the moment, by association with a British image on European and world markets.
While we may not have achieved our full potential in the fishing industry, for instance, a major new programme for infrastructural developments for ports, harbours and modern well equipped fishing boats has been an important feature of our development in recent years, whereas the great fishing tradition in the North, in ports like Kilkeel, for instance, is now not being developed to anything like its full potential. The training facilities and the quota allocation for our fishermen contrasts very favourably with those in the North of Ireland where the quota has now been reduced by 19 per cent in the Irish Sea.
One hardly needs to state the obvious in relation to the tourism potential of this country, North and South which, if properly developed through co-ordinated programmes and common action, will realise a major new potential for all of our people from the Glens of Antrim to the Dingle peninsula.
The political representatives in the North should understand that our first interest is to support them in establishing whatever political forum is acceptable to them in Northern Ireland. We must have the same normal healthy political activity in the North as a first step towards realising the full potential, not only of the North, but of the whole island. Co-operation in marketing and training programmes in the hotel catering industry and across the spectrum of economic life North and South can only operate to the advantage of all.
To achieve this it is time that the arms were laid down in the North in this generation in the same way as they were in this jurisdiction almost 70 years ago. The potential together is enormous. It only  remains for us to make that renewed commitment on the basis of mutual respect and confidence to advancing the future of all our people. The young people of Ireland, North and South, deserve nothing less. There must be no more killing. There must be no more tragedies. There must instead be a truly common determination to work together to realise the full potential of this island and to lay the basis for a worthwhile and prosperous future for all our people, with a well educated and idealistic core of young people. The potential for this island as a whole is enormous. It only remains for us in common purpose to realise that potential for the betterment of all the people of Ireland, North and South.
Mr. Cotter Mr. Cotter
Mr. Cotter: I welcome the opportunity of contributing this morning to this debate. I thank the Tánaiste for opening the debate. His speech was quite interesting but while there was much analysis of the differences between the two communities in the North, and there was some discussion about ways in which progress could be made, the speech was devoid of any landmarks that we could point to as resulting from the peace initiative which is getting quite old at this stage.
The speech is probably most noteworthy in so far as to me at least it signifies the end of the peace initiative. There is very little of the old rhetoric that we were used to up to a few months ago. There is the almost unique acceptance at this stage by the Tánaiste that whereas Sinn Féin are expected to make a decision shortly, he does not seem to hold out much hope for that decision to be the one we have been looking for. My view at the time was that the Government had taken a step too far.
Whereas the Downing Street Declaration and the peace initiative were very worthy and had unanimous support in the Republic and much support in the North of Ireland as well, the communities in the North could not respond in the way they were expected to. The table on  which Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution and the Government of Ireland Act, 1925 were placed was an unwelcome one for both sides of the divide in the North. They were not able to approach that table without seeing it as a threat to their very existence. Those of us, like Senators O'Brien, Gallagher and myself, who live on the Border are very conscious of that.
I am sorry to say that what I felt on that day when I was handed a copy of the Downing Street Declaration has come true. The IRA and Sinn Féin have been playing a wonderful game of political football with the declaration since it was announced. They have been offered centre stage, they have been put back on the airwaves here and they still will not say that they do not support violence. When asked, they will be ambivalent about it, will talk around it and will not face that question. Undoubtedly, Sinn Féin still support violence as a means of achieving the ends which we all want.
Six months later clarifications have been offered them and we now have an eerie silence which frightens me. The European election is over, and Sinn Féin has gained much in the past six months but offered us nothing in return. I always thought the generosity we expected and wanted from that source would not be forthcoming. I found an acceptance of that fact from reading between the lines of the Tánaiste's speech this morning. Although the Governments have offered much, they have received nothing but a slap on the back of the hand. Where will the two Governments move from here? Should they return that slap? It would be the natural reaction but we will have to wait for the outcome.
The political vacuum may now be worse than ever. The constitutional politicians have been sidelined and the paramilitaries have taken centre stage. Indeed, signals are coming from many places to prepare for Doomsday. Dublin business people were called together by the Garda to prepare and teach them what to do if they found a bomb, as widely referred to in the national media. Anybody reading that would surely take it as a signal to prepare for a situation  which is not of the kind we want. People's lives will be put at risk, and in some cases, lost, like in 1974. The current situation is worrying and the political vacuum beginning to develop is unwelcome.
One aspect convinced me that there could not be a meeting of minds in the North. Although we live in close proximity to each other, we are not able to do business in a normal way. It is claimed that at least 70,000 jobs would be created if normal business was done. I ask the Government to bring about unity in industry and commerce. It could certainly go some way towards achieving that. The daily contact between people buying and selling goods and trying to fulfil each other's economic needs would go a long way towards establishing regular contact and a greater understanding between them. I hope the Government will achieve that and bring about those minor aspects which must be put in place before another major step is taken. What happens if one reaches too far and fails in a major initiative? The British and Irish Governments must face that fact.
I wish the Government every success in its continued efforts in trying to solve this problem. It will have our support and I hope there will be some success at the end of the day.
Ms Gallagher Ms Gallagher
Ms Gallagher: It is difficult to put the problem of Northern Ireland in a nutshell, in fact, it is impossible and should not even be attempted. Therefore, I will only deal with certain aspects of it in my brief contribution.
I wish to refer to Senator Ross's contribution, part of which unfairly criticised the Taoiseach and Tánaiste especially when he referred to “republican movement.” That term is a broad one and used to take in and declare all shades of republicanism. Of course, Senator Ross may have his own agenda on this matter, as in many others. However, it is unhelpful to have politicians such as the Senator, and there are a few, criticising politicians who are working extremely hard to achieve something and gain and make efforts at getting peace in Northern Ireland.
 Senator Ross also operates as a journalist, if that is what one would call his work. I find it surprising that a liberal argues against lifting section 31 of the Broadcasting Act. I believe in free speech and democratically elected politicians should be allowed to speak and be heard, and thus be criticised and examined by others, where warranted, rather than protect them in a shroud of mystery. It appears it would take little for certain politicians to gag everybody and throw them in prison. Not only are such suggestions unworkable, they achieve nothing and add fuel to the fire.
I thank the Tánaiste for bringing this debate to the House and his speech was as thoughtful as ever. With reference to Senator Cotter's comments, I was not expecting any surprises. The Minister is doing a marvellous job in tackling the question, it is not a one man show and the Minister depends on others to make progress. Anyway, there are no prizes for novelty and we should aim for practical results.
Many people switch off their televisions when politicians refer to Northern Ireland. This happens, despite the fact — possibly because of it — that our Tánaiste and others have grasped the nettle and begun to work towards having real talks. In fact, the recent moves have caused those with an interest in violence to worry. Sadly, their response has been to commit even more violence. What has been gained by killing fellow men, women and neighbours and shooting an old man in the back while watching a football match? Nothing. What killer can be proud of their actions when they witness the heartbreaking cries of the relatives of the dead? It seems that those involved in the killings do not wish to achieve anything. Cynical I may be, but I fear that both sides prefer the status quo.
Whatever the legitimate aims, ideals and beliefs of unionists and nationalists, those recruited into terrorist activity have a frightening lack of knowledge of the realities. They eat and regurgitate slanted and twisted morsels of history. Those in positions of authority on both sides feed  on that ignorance and use it to man their terror machines. Consequently, the terrorists and sympathisers include a large number of young people, unemployed and those without purpose. They are then given an elevated status, importance and role by becoming active in the awful activities that keep the troubles going. I recently saw a documentary on Northern Ireland, which showed the 12 July celebrations of some years back. Unionist supporters threw an effigy of the Pope on top of a bonfire and were screaming all kinds of comments. An American journalist asked them to explain why they were doing this. Sadly, they gave few reasons. It is mainly due to practice and history, with little understanding. It is easy to get foot soldiers.
Therefore, while a political solution is necessary, so too is cultural and social development. The housing apartheid of Northern Ireland must be dismantled by the housing authority by whatever means necessary. Dividing people only increases their fear and facilitates the killings in a practical way. Schools must also be integrated and the religious bodies on both sides must accept this. The young children of Northern Ireland never get a chance to look across the fence. They grow up with slanted views and dangerously blinkered vision. How can peace be achieved between the two communities when they are so physically and psychologically divided?
Furthermore, I fear that many politicians in Northern Ireland have failed their people. Some have, to a greater or lesser degree, settled into their respective battle positions and refused to budge. Are they cosy in their compliance and fear change? Its political system, of course, does not facilitate democratic involvement and this feeds the problem. Those democratically elected have a duty to take on board whatever may be necessary to work towards peace and I urge them to do so.
The people of Northern Ireland want and deserve peace. The politicians, terrorists, sympathisers and all members of the community which make up Northern  Ireland have a role to play in bringing about a day when those living north of the Border can stop looking over their shoulders and learn to live and work together.
Peace will not be obtained easily. It must be worked for by all. Those with legitimate grounds for complaint must learn to talk to the other side. Pride, belief, history and fear must be put aside and not allowed to act as barriers to progress. It will not be easy for many, yet it must be done.
Too many politicians have got themselves into bunkers where they feel they will lose face if they sit down to talk with the other side, but give in and talk they must. The people of Northern Ireland have the intelligence to appreciate their efforts in doing so. They have been let down badly by those who claim to represent them. In this respect, leaders on both sides appear intransigent, as they present lists of uncompromising demands which they insist must be dealt with before they will talk.
What right have those people to set down such obstacles? In the sure knowledge that others die while they play their negotiating game, they treat Northern Ireland as a game of chess, but the people are the pawns. How can they behave this way? Why do they not ask the ordinary people on the ground what they want? Then, and only then, will they hear the deep cry and plea for peace.
Mr. Neville Mr. Neville
Mr. Neville: I thank the Tánaiste for attending the House. He has used this House on numerous occasions to speak on this issue. The Seanad is uniquely placed to deal with the issue and has always addressed it in a positive and constructive manner.
One may be excused for despairing when considering 25 years of death and suffering endured by the people of Northern Ireland. The recent killings in Loughinisland horrified all decent thinking people. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland summed up the situation when he asked the killers how they would tell their children what they achieved for  the people whom they presumed to act for.
How will such people explain that they defended their position and heritage by shooting a man of 87 years of age in the back? How can they justify this action? How can they have respect for their heritage, which is a proud one, by perpetrating such acts? They are damaging themselves, their tradition, their people and all on this island. No logic can be applied to acts of this kind, no matter what side they originate from.
On the Order of Business of the House, Members regularly condemn violent incidents and death in the North. At times this condemnation can appear rather tiresome, but it must never become so and people must never cease to condemn individual acts of atrocity in Northern Ireland. Every avenue must be used to condemn these acts because in not doing so a level of tolerance of violence is introduced within the nation. This must never happen as there is no level of violence that is tolerable regarding the situation in the North.
In finding a solution to the problem it is necessary to seek more tolerance from all sides of the divide in Northern Ireland, and tolerance from our side of the unionist tradition in the North. In this respect, there has never been a greater level of co-operation and tolerance in Europe, which was the cockpit of wars for centuries. Ireland is the last black spot within the EU which is continuing old traditional hatreds and wars.
Something can and must be done. Everybody is seeking a solution, but nothing appears to be happening. The Joint Declaration was welcomed by all. It appeared to be a framework for a settlement, and may still be if it is used. Those who need to use it most of all, the terrorists and those engaged in violence, the IRA and the Sinn Féin Party, must be urged to look to the declaration as a means to solving the problem.
Sinn Féin and the IRA have cynically used the declaration to obtain a level of credibility which they did not have previously. They have played the declaration in the same manner as playing a  salmon, and have used it to gain credibility throughout the world. The visit by Gerry Adams to the USA must be viewed in this context, and this week it has been announced that he has a mention in Who's Who. It is disturbing that somebody who leads and promotes violence has obtained that level of credibility. While the declaration has been cynically used in this way, the will of those who encourage Sinn Féin to accept the declaration must be understood.
It must be recognised that there are divisions within the IRA regarding the acceptance or non acceptance of the declaration. These divisions call for leadership, and there is a time when it must be shown on this issue. Right must be recognised, and those within the IRA who believe that the declaration is a medium for changing history and developing relationships between the communities in Northern Ireland must, now give leadership and accept it.
Despite the atrocities there must not be despair. Support must continue for those who strive for a lasting settlement. Many on this island believe that a solution can never be found. Some believe that violence, killing and prejudice is endemic in Northern Ireland. Many speak of an acceptable level of violence. However, there should be no tolerance for any level of political or sectarian violence. It must be eliminated and appeals must continue to the good, tolerant and upright people in both communities to influence the men of violence to lay down their arms. In this respect, there must be a belief that ultimately peace will and must be achieved. If the cold war can end so dramatically, and if the Israeli and Arab leaders can embrace, surely a solution can be found to our problems on this island?
The Government should not wait any longer for a response from Sinn Féin and the IRA to the Joint Declaration. Dialogue must be established with all sides in the North with a view to establishing structures which will bring both communities closer together. The way forward is with the people of Northern  Ireland through the appropriate structures.
There should be a greater knowledge and understanding by people in the South of the situation in Northern Ireland and of its unionist and nationalist traditions. I have visited Northern Ireland regularly over the past ten to 15 years, most recently some months ago. It is important that people visit the North. Senator Ross highlighted a prominent politician who has never visited, which is unfortunate. All people, including political parties, should promote visits, dialogue and exchanges with the people of Northern Ireland.
Over the past ten years I have been involved in a unique relationship between the Fine Gael Party in north County Cork and the SDLP in south County Down. The level of understanding of the situation in the North which was developed by those involved in this process which included meetings with unionists, was most positive. Such activities provide an insight into the difficulties in the North and into the possible solutions which might develop. I congratulate the Tánaiste and Minister of State on this debate. We should have regular debates on this issue because this unique forum can play a positive part in developing attitudes and solutions to the Northern Ireland problem.
Seanad Éireann 140 Northern Ireland: Statements (Resumed).