No. 39 – “Cementing the Peace – The Role of the Republic’s Government and People”
Tuesday, November 28th, 2000
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
Brian Hayes, TD (Fine Gael, Spokesperson on N.I.)
Cllr. Brian Fitzgerald (Ind. Member of Meath Co. Council)
Micheal MacDonncha (Sinn Féin; Dail Secretary to Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin, TD)
Dr. Martin Mansergh (Fianna Fâil; Special Adviser to the Taoiseach)
Dr. Gerard Hogan, S.C. (Lecturer in Law, Trinity College Dublin)
Chaired by Roy Garland (Member of UUP; Irish News Columnist; Co-Chair, Guild of Uriel, Louth)
Introduction: Roy Garland
Addresses of speakers
Questions and comments
Appendix A: Biographical notes on speakers
Appendix B: Principles Underlying the Good Friday Agreement and the Commitments made by the Irish Government – A Summary
Roy Garland (Guest chair): “Good evening and thank you very much for having me here. The subject tonight is to me a very important topic. The whole image of the Republic and the contribution of the Republic is of vital importance. I must say, personally, understanding something of the difficulties and the realities on the ground, it’s sometimes difficult to see what can be changed, but I know that on the ground in the North there are great difficulties in coming to terms with the Republic. I came from a family who originated in Co. Monaghan, and before that Co. Louth, but despite that, my father seemed to have vowed from about 1930 that he would never cross that border. I grew up with that. Actually he did cross the border about 1930, and I have a picture to prove it – I came across it about a year or two ago, of my mother and father in Monaghan. But his impression of what happened was such that he determined never to cross that border, and certainly I was brought up with that. And the feeling then of coming across the border – I mean it’s quite a miracle I suppose that I’m here tonight! – was that I was coming into an alien environment which was foreign to all that I understood. When I first came across in the 1960s, till I went home, I was uneasy and there was a great sense of relief when I got back across that border. That may seem strange to you. Today I feel at home down here – there’s no sense of that at all. You might wonder how that happened but part of the reason was finding friends here, and also relatives as well .. and beginning to feel at home here. There’s something like that has to happen before we really find a new way forward. We really have to make friends with each other and respect our differences. … Now we have a lot of speakers tonight, each one with something to say of great importance. Our first speaker is Brian Hayes, TD, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Northern Ireland ..
1. Brian Hayes, TD (Fine Gael)
“Thank you Roy. I never thought I’d live to see the day when I’d be calling Roy Garland “Chairman Roy”!. I’m delighted to be here in Co. Meath this evening….. I’m delighted to have the invitation from the Meath Peace Group to speak at one of your meetings. I have to say when I was appointed party spokesperson in June, the very first group to come to see me and to give their position on the whole issue of Northern Ireland and the emerging peace process was the Meath Peace Group, and I really appreciate the contact I’ve had with the Group since then. I very much appreciate the fact that all of your meetings are recorded, and we know exactly what we have said, and we know the views of other colleagues at meetings like this. When I came into the position of party spokesperson … it provided me with a marvellous facility of reference for various different political views on the situation in Northern Ireland, and I just want to thank the Meath Peace Group for that…”
Changing people’s perspectives and breaking down years of prejudice
“..Tonight’s theme for discussion goes to the heart of what the peace process is all about, in my view. While the Good Friday Agreement maps out a new political architecture between Britain and Ireland, between North and South and crucially within Northern Ireland, the objective of the peace process is ultimately about changing people’s perspectives on one another and breaking down years of prejudice.
“The peace process is crucially a process that must involve, by its very definition, a change in attitude here in the Republic to Northern Ireland and to Britain. Too often people in this country forget their role and responsibility in cementing the peace which has been established over the past decade or so.
Guarantors of the Agreement: “I think the first responsibility for Southern society, at this difficult time in the peace process, is to demand of both governments and all political parties that the Good Friday Agreement be implemented to the letter. The joint referendum which took place in May 1998 has changed the direction of Irish history for ever. That referendum, which was so unanimously supported here in the Republic, albeit with a woefully bad electoral turnout on the day, has given a clear expression of support for the inherent compromise and agreement which was arrived at during the multi-party talks. It is the responsibility therefore of all politicians, be they in Government or in Opposition to act as constitutional guarantors for the Agreement that has been delivered.
Defence of the Agreement: “I believe the Agreement is not a stepping stone as some would see it, nor an expression of the status quo. It is in my mind, the fundamental position of this generation of Irish people in their efforts to find lasting peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland, and between the islands of Britain and Ireland. The defence of the Agreement and the demand that it be fully implemented must become our primary responsibility as politicians and as the wider public here in the Republic.
Current impasse: “The current vacuum that has been created since the last Ulster Unionist Council meeting cannot be allowed to continue. I believe that it is imperative that a solution to the current impasse be resolved as soon as possible. Those of us who are pro-Agreement political parties either here in the Republic or in Northern Ireland have a specific responsibility to find common ground between each other and crucially to understand the inherent dilemmas that exist for each other’s party. The Good Friday Agreement is not an a la carte menu. Political parties cannot pick and choose certain parts of the Agreement to the exclusion of others. If demilitarisation is an important part of the Agreement from a Republican viewpoint so is decommissioning from a Unionist or Constitutional Nationalist perspective.
Historic shift: “Too often in recent Irish, and for that matter British, political history, policy on Northern Ireland is governed from the viewpoint of articulating the demands of one community over those of the other community. In this scenario it becomes the responsibility of the British Government to speak on behalf of Unionists and the Irish Government to speak on behalf of the Nationalists. I believe that the Good Friday Agreement has changed that orthodoxy forever. And in changing that, I believe the Good Friday Agreement now requires each government to underwrite and guarantee the demands of each community in Northern Ireland as reflected in the Agreement. That is the historic shift that has taken place, in my view.
Reconciliation: “Outside of making the Agreement work and delivering its real benefits to the people of Ireland as a whole, I believe that there are many things in the Republic that we can do to promote the twin objectives of peace and reconciliation. There are aspects of reconciliation which are difficult to deal with. There is even great difficulty in establishing an agreed version of events – and we’re seeing that at the moment in respect of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry in Derry, and there are other examples of where we cannot come to a definitive agreement as to the awful events that have occurred in Northern Ireland and here in Ireland for so long.
Victims of violence: “There is the question of how the victims of violence may be remembered. What would be a fitting memorial? Could cross-community support be reached in terms of a sharing of remembrance? I think both governments, together with the Northern Ireland Executive, should establish a representative committee in order to bring forward proposals in this specific area of remembrance. I am strongly of the opinion that the dead must be remembered so that the living may have some peace”
Exchange of State visits: “At the wider level of reconciliation between Ireland and Britain, I think the time is now right for a formal exchange of State visits between Ireland and Britain. Such an exchange of visits, properly prepared, could be very significant at the symbolic level.
Role of people: “Reconciliation of course is not just a matter for governments and for politicians. It is a matter for each and every one of us as citizens. At the most basic level of all we should all at least encourage our fellow-citizens to visit Northern Ireland on a regular basis. On my first speech in Northern Ireland, in Ballymena, to an economic conference there some months ago, I was astonished at the fact that so few people in the business community had actually made that journey to Belfast or to Ballymena or wherever. And the same is true in Northern Ireland. I think there is still a considerable amount of disconnection between Northern Ireland and the Republic which must be overcome if reconciliation can be brought about.
Trade: “I was astonished to discover …. that we have less trade from the Republic to Northern Ireland than we have, for instance, between the Republic and a country like Switzerland, which is outside the European Union and is geographically a considerable distance from Northern Ireland. Those are the kind of barriers that have to be broken down.
Cross-border links. “ We should encourage every organisation of which we are members – be they sporting, cultural, educational, professional, to make contact with equivalent groups in Northern Ireland. I think it would also be useful if national organisations and representative bodies set an example by designating one official with responsibility for developing cross-border links. Each local authority in the Republic should also be encouraged to designate an official with similar responsibilities.
Education links: “I also believe the Department of Education and Science should be encouraging a major exchange programme at second and third level. Funding should be provided for a specific post of responsibility in this area in each second-level school and a special annual allocation of funds could be provided for schools to encourage cross-border links. I recently called on the Department of Education & Science and the Department of Higher Education in N. Ireland to develop an Erasmus programme, allowing college students to spend a year or a term being educated in either jurisdiction. This happens on a regular basis with most EU countries, but it has not happened between the Republic and Northern Ireland. It should happen…
Sectarianism and the role of churches: “Sectarianism is a major factor influencing politics in Northern Ireland. The Christian churches have a deep responsiblity to eradicate sectarianism. All the Christian churches need to examine their respective positions and church practices in order to eliminate all traces of sectarianism. I think it would be useful if all the Christian churches abandoned theological language which questions the integrity and belief systems of other churches. They should witness to their own beliefs rather than defining themselves by negatively categorising others.
Changing mindsets “Advancing reconciliation on the island of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain will require a significant change in our thinking and in our approach here in the Republic. Over the years we have allowed ourselves to become alienated from the people of Northern Ireland – Unionist and Nationalist alike. We have become comfortable with ourselves, with our own way of thinking, with our own state. This has got to change if the Agreement is to be successful. If we are to advance the cause of reconciliation we need to leave our comfort zone and we need to change our mindset. If we are to help heal the divisions on this island we need to reach out to both communities in a spirit of openness and of generosity.
Diversity of Irish history: “At a deeper level, I also think we need to open up our minds to the many different stories that form part of our own history here in the Republic. Irish history is not just a single story of Catholic Nationalist oppression and a struggle for emancipation, justice and freedom. That story is certainly a major part of our history. But there are many many other stories. The Protestant churches, for example, have made a major contribution to the Irish state and to the development of this Republic. We are inclined to ignore, for example, the fact that Republicanism is a child of the radical Protestant thinking over three centuries ago.
Diversity of Irish nation: “Another major element of our history is the intermingling of the populations of Ireland and Britain and the specific links between Ulster and Scotland. Many people of Ulster, from Donegal to Belfast, feel a closer affinity with Scotland and with Glasgow and Edinburgh than they do with Dublin or with Munster.
“To illustrate this point I would just like to name some leading politicians – past and present – and ask you to reflect on the origins: John Hume, Gerry Adams, Dick Spring, Erskine Childers, Eamonn de Valera, Douglas Hyde, Ian Paisley, John Bruton, Garret Fitzgerald, David Trimble, Mary Robinson – a fine mixture of Norman, English, Scottish and even some Spanish blood. My point here is that it is the variety and difference which make up modern Irish history and the modern Irish nation. We have to celebrate that difference and that variety.
Irish in Britain: “At a different level we can contrast the great emphasis we place on Irish-America and the little attention we give to the Irish in Britain. We go to great effort to trace and celebrate the Irish origins of various American presidents. We made no such effort when James Callaghan – the Labour Prime Minister – became Prime Minister of Britain in the 1970s. When it was established that John Major had an Irish grandmother there was no response. Tony Blair’s mother was born in Ireland and he spent his childhood holidays with his mother’s people in Co. Cavan. We don’t hear the Taoiseach and Tony Blair on a Roots expedition to Ballyshannon or indulging in beery bonding sessions in pubs in Donegal!
“In particular we in the Republic of Ireland have airbrushed out of history the enthusiastic participation in British Empire culture of Protestant and Catholic alike at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. That participation can be seen in the thousands of men who fought in both World Wars.
“Let’s embrace our history in all its diversity while at the same time never being prisoners of our past. By embracing the diversity of our past we will be much better placed to welcome the diversity, ethnic and otherwise, which will certainly be the future of this island in the next hundred years. Thank you”
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you very much, Brian. Embracing diversity can be enjoyable as well as painful. The other night we had a meeting not too far from here, with representatives of the Independent Orange Order. It was quite painful at times – even for people like me … because they’re coming from such a diverse background – very hardline unionists, evangelical and fundamentalist. We would really have to have an open ear to hear. But in the exchange I’m convinced that people begin to hear an echo and people begin to change. So there is room for greater opening and for new developments when we listen and when we contribute. Our next speaker is Cllr. Brian Fitzgerald of the Meath Co. Council…
2. Cllr. Brian Fitzgerald (Meath Co. Council):
“Good evening everybody. I would like to welcome our guests to Co. Meath, in particular I would like to welcome Roy. When we were having difficulties some years ago in trying to get somebody from the unionist tradition to speak at the Forum [Forum for Peace and Reconciliation], it became extremely difficult, but we were put in touch with a man named Roy Garland who courageously came at the time, but many more came thereafter…
Good Friday Agreement: “I suppose I was no different to very very many in this country who for many years had aspired to having a united Ireland where we would have all of the people North and South, irrespective of what religion or none, that they would come together and work together for one on the island. Unfortunately over the years, that did not materialise. But, following the Good Friday Agreement when we all went out in our thousands and thousands to vote for it, maybe it was somewhat less than a united Ireland. But I think, in the words of Senator Maurice Hayes speaking in another context, I suppose 100% of nothing means nothing but 90% of something means a lot. I believe that that Agreement gave us some hope for the future of bringing all of the people on this island together, even if there was, and would continue to be, a territorial problem.
Complacency in the South: “However, I think we would have to ask ourselves in the South what has been our interest, and .. I would be speaking here to people here who have continuously tried to build bridges between all traditions on this island, that is the Meath Peace Group and the very many people who are here tonight that have continuously come and have involved themselves in many many projects in trying to build the peace..Unfortunately the vast majority of people in the South of Ireland don’t give a damn about the North of Ireland – and that’s the reality we have to face, and it’s a sad one. I think I’ve contested 8 elections of one sort or another since 1982. I don’t believe in all of that time that it has been mentioned 5 times on the doorsteps – the issue of Northern Ireland. If there is a certain level of violence, which goes beyond a certain level of maybe acceptable, unfortunately, violence, yes there is an initial outpouring of grief… but by and large people have become very comfortable and very complacent about the whole issue of Northern Ireland and the implications. But, if a bomb goes off in Dublin, or the threat of a bomb in Dublin, everybody gets very interested. And I think that’s something that we have to ask ourselves – why? … Because quite frankly people just don’t care in the South at the present time. Now that might be a bit provocative to say here at this meeting, but it’s a reality that we have to face and it’s something we should give great consideration to.
“I think it’s unfortunate, but there is a certain amount of complacency on many many issues. There is a certain level of violence which is continuosly accepted, and it’s being accepted here as well. I don’t believe that anybody has the right to become judge and jury – and executioner in many cases – without recourse to the law of the land. .. It’s becoming acceptable – it’s been acceptable in the North of Ireland for many years and it’s also being accepted here. I think that’s unfortunate. People are saying to themselves “I’m all right – I don’t want to know about somebody else’s problems.”
“And I think there is this element of greed about, that we only care for ourselves and not for everybody.
Contribution of Irish Government: “Notwithstanding all that, the government of today, and the governments of the last number of years, have put tremendous effort into building peace on this island. They probably have devoted far more time than has been good for themselves as a government, from a government point of view, insofar as they may have neglected other issues. But they have made enormous contributions as indeed have many of the political parties, including, and in particular, Sinn Fein, who have been extremely courageous over the last number of years in trying to bring people with them to end the continuous violence which we had become accustomed to – and long may that remain.
Decommissioning impasse: “Unfortunately we appear to be running into crisis after crisis, and this is something that we have to address. I believe that we here in the South should perhaps start setting a tone, condition thinking as to what way we should address those issues, to make it easier for people to accept. Obviously the famous “D” word – decommissioning – is going to continue to give us problems and there will be a continual crisis in the North if the Unionists are threatening to pull out unless the IRA decommission.
“I think we have to ask ourselves “will they every decommission?” Personally I don’t believe they will – that is not to say that they will ever use their arms, their guns or bomb-making material again. I sincerely hope that they don’t and I believe they won’t. But if we are continually to wait for them to decommission, and creating a crisis, everything else is being neglected. I believe it is time for a certain amount of honesty to come into the debate, and say, “sorry we are not in a position to decomission, we won’t use the arms”. So let’s manage that problem, let’s deal with that problem, and see how we can deal with it in the best interests of the whole Agreement and all of the people on the island. I think that’s something we should ask ourselves and ask the people who are involved, and ask the unionist community will they accept that, and on what conditions will they accept that, rather than continue to harp on and harp on and stumble from one crisis to another.”
If the Agreement collapses “…I have a lot of time for Trimble. I was one of the first to meet him when he was first elected leader, and I wouldn’t say I was his number one friend at that stage. I haven’t met the man since, but I have a lot of admiration for the courage shown ever since he was elected. But if the Agreement collapsed as a result of Trimble walking out of it, or being forced to walk out, where do we go from there? I’m old enough to remember what happened when Sunningdale collapsed. We had 26 or 24 years of the most horrible violence ever witnessed on this island. That’s what we had – do we want to go back to that?. And there’s not much point in us running to the Brits and asking them to sort it out at that stage, there’s not much point in us running to America, and asking Bill Clinton, who will no longer be there, to help us with our problems.
“The problems will be ours, and the only people who can resolve those problems are ourselves, and I think this is something we have got to start planning for, and I’m not so sure that we are preparing people for that…
Need for patience: “Notwithstanding all that – and maybe I have been speaking on some of the negative areas – there are a lot of good things happening. A lot of people are becoming impatient because they are not happening fast enough. But I believe they have to happen on a much slower basis, and the reason that things have to happen on a slower basis is that there is considerable hurt on all sides. Even in here, I’m sure that all of you have had some experience of where somebody has done something horrible to a friend or another person and it could be generations before the hurt leaves that family. Don’t forget we were still fighting the Civil War up to the last 20 years – the hurt that it caused. Can we honestly expect the hurt of the last 30 years – on all sides – just to disappear and for people to say it never happened.
North-South co-operation: “So we must take things a little slower, but we have plenty of opportunities, and I believe they are being availed of. I know from one area I’m involved in this county – the health area – there is tremendous cooperation going on between the North and South health authorities, in a nice quiet way, because if they were publicised too much they wouldn’t happen, but they are happening in a quiet way and people are becoming accustomed to working with one another. The same thing can happen in tourism and will, when the new tourism company forms – it will give people an opportunity. It’s happening in many areas of commerce, it’s certainly happening in the environment – we had the Minister for the Environment from Northern Ireland in our own county only a month ago – he addressed Meath County Council.
Schools: “There’s tremendous effort being made in the schools – we had a group here from Belfast only last year with the Dunboyne children. We met the Dunboyne children the other day and they told me they had been back up in Belfast. This is happening. Our colleague here from Kilbride [John Keaveney] – he has been working on that for years. That’s the type of building that must happen – but it’s slow, it cannot happen as fast as people would like.
Sporting organisations: “In the areas of sport we have to try and work with the young people on all sides. Perhaps we should start asking ourselves a few critical questions in relation to sport. What are we doing here? I think the sporting body which I have spent all my life in – the GAA – has a serious question to ask themselves over the coming months – they’ve asked themselves several times but they’ve never answered it. I don’t see why any person should be deprived from playing Gaelic games, just because they do a certain job. I could never subscribe to that – they’ve hedged on it but it’s an area that has to be dealt with.
All-Ireland teams: “We have got to look at areas where there are all-Ireland teams – where you may have people coming from both traditions playing on them. Is it right that people have a difficulty with the emblem that they have to wear – is it right that they have difficulty with the anthem they have to stand to, is it right that they have a difficulty with the flag?
“We have to look at those areas – there was an attempt to look at them. We talk about them in a Northern Ireland context, but we have to try, if we are to bring people together, we have got to look at it from a sporting point of view – and I believe it is one of the best healers we can have.
So I think there are many areas, but I believe we have got to shake ourselves out of the complacency which we have – or appear to have in this part of the island.
Conclusion: “So I would hope over the coming months that the Good Friday Agreement will get stronger, but people will have to be more patient, and we in the South will have to become more active, and try and set a tone, condition people, and try and work with people, and not be pushing too hard. I would again like to compliment the Government, and Martin Mansergh here, who has done a tremendous amount of work over the years, with different Taoisigh and different governments, in trying to build a relationship on this island, and to try and get the British Government to understand the difficulties that we have on this island, and long may he remain! … Thank you.”
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you very much Cllr. Fitzgerald. I suppose one of the things that strikes me is the emphasis in part of your speech that there’ll be no decommissioning – at least that’s what I took out of it. I suppose it depends on what you mean by decommissioning, because it is my understanding that Sinn Fein accepts decommissioning – that is putting out of commission – and certainly in that sense decommissioning, I understand, is acceptable. Whether it is acceptable to the Unionists or not is a different matter. But maybe our next speaker will enlighten us on that issue. Micheal MacDonncha of Sinn Fein will now speak in place of Caoimhghin O Caolain…
3. Micheál MacDonncha (Sinn Féin)
“Thank you. If I could start by thanking the Meath Peace Group for the invitation to speak here tonight. I want first to apologise on behalf of Caoimhghin Ó Caolain, T.D., who was the invited Sinn Fein speaker but he is recovering from an injury at the moment …..
Dedication: “In the spirit of what earlier speakers have been saying In relation to the diverse traditions on this island, I would just like to dedicate my remarks this evening to a friend of mine who died yesterday – Jack Bennett, formerly assistant editor of the Evening Press in Dublin. He came from Belfast, from a unionist background. In the 1940s he joined the Young Communists in Belfast. He became an Irish republican as well as a socialist and moved to Dublin. He was a founder member of the Wolfe Tone Societies in the 1960s and a founder-member of the civil rights movement. He played a major part in intellectual and political debate in the 1970s …
“For me he was someone who was formative in my political thinking. He wrote a very influential book called “Freedom the Wolfe Tone Way”…. I think it is fitting that I would remember him when I speak this evening.
Republican perspective: “The theme tonight is the role of the Republic’s Government and people in cementing the peace process. Brian referred to how perhaps people in this State had become “comfortable” with our own state here. From the republican perspective that I come from, we were never fully comfortable with this State, less so of course with the six-county State, but this State for us certainly was not the state that in our view the men and women of 1916 sought to achieve, and subsequently the War of Independence. Our independence had been limited, and the hopes of those who took part in the revolution in the early part of the century had been dashed by the Treaty and the tragic Civil War. I think it’s important that that republican perspective, which is also one of the political traditions on this island, is also taken into account.
Need for more active engagement: “I think the theme of the role of the people in this State is extremely important and I don’t think it has been sufficiently addressed right throughout the peace process. I must say since I started to work in the Dail in 1997, I was somewhat depressed by the infrequency and the quality of debate on the peace process that I found there. Apart from the few members in each party – and I include every party in that – and some of the Independents in the Dail and Seanad, with those few exceptions there seems to me to be a general lack of active engagement. Now that’s distinct from interest, of course there’s an interest, and there is a limited engagement. But I think what public representatives in this State need is a very very active engagement in the process, and unfortunately I don’t see that across the board. There is still a sense among many that the peace process is something “up there” which does not directly affect the lives of people in the 26 counties, and by extension the lives of the people who vote for elected representatives. Of course this is grossly mistaken because the success of the peace process is inextricably bound up with the future of every individual on this island.
Legacy of closed doors in the South: “I think the situation has improved vastly since the start of the peace process, but I have no doubt that the lack of full engagement with the peace process among many parliamentarians… is a legacy of what happened in this State during the conflict. Going back on some of the remarks that Brian Fitzgerald made – I don’t think it’s enough to say that people simply switched off – we need to look at the reasons for that. The role of successive governments and their attitude to Northern Ireland had a major bearing on the public mindset. I think that the political establishment in this State in effect closed its doors on the North. Successive governments here made their priority the consolidation of their own position and they avoided too great an engagement with the problem, and indeed, in extremes, they resorted to a repressive response in their own jurisdiction.
“We only have to look at the censorship laws which we had in this State for a very long period indeed. TV and radio broadcasting was directly politically censored in this State for a longer period than than it was in the North of Ireland, and in Britain. This obviously had a huge impact also, not only in not allowing people to hear the views of Sinn Fein and broader republican opinion, but in also closing the entire issue down to real debate which included all strands of opinion.
Dublin and Monaghan bombings: “I think the doors were also closed to people in this State who suffered from violence inflicted either by the British forces or loyalists. I recently read Don Mullan’s book on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. The book shows clearly how the families of the 33 victims and the injured were abandoned in an appalling fashion by successive governments in this State. In the wake of the bombing the then coalition Government of Fine Gael and Labour blamed republicans, not for the actual bombing, but they blamed them for creating the situation which led to them. They chose to close their eyes at that time to the involvement of agents of the British armed forces in this atrocity which was the biggest single atrocity in the conflict, the next being of course the dreadful Omagh bombing of a couple of years ago.
Implications for Southern State: “When you examine the evidence in the Dublin and Monaghan bombing case, it’s quite clear that the case was closed down. Reading Don Mullan’s book, which I would recommend people to do, I think the reason it was closed down by the establishment here was not because there was seen to be collusion between British forces and loyalism, because I think that is now widely accepted. I think it was closed down because of the implications within this State, because, if you read the evidence – and there is a lot of evidence which will come out, especially if there is an inquiry into this – there were within the Garda Siochana people who were working directly for British Intelligence at that time. Now we don’t know the full extent of that, and we don’t know the extent of the knowledge of governments here about what was going on at the time. But the implications were and are clearly huge. Indeed as Don Mullan himself has said, the implications for Anglo-Irish relations of the Dublin and Monaghan case are even more profound than those of Bloody Sunday. I thought it was interesting that Brian Fitzgerald said that maybe people turn off when they hear of violence in the 6 counties or in Britain but they turn on when it’s on their own doorstep in this State. But here was an example where we had a dreadful atrocity in this State and the reaction of the State itself was far from one of real concern for its own people.
Need for full inquiry: “I believe then, that one of the essential things that has to be done arising out of the peace process… is for a full cross-jurisdictional inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and also into a number of other fatal events in this State where evidence points to the hand of British agents. That case is to go before the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Women’s Rights. But I believe whatever the outcome of those deliberations there needs to be an inquiry.
Offences Against the State ActsReview Group: “I was the author with others of Sinn Fein’s submission to the review of the Offences Against the State Acts. In the Good Friday Agreement – the wording is there in the handout for tonight’s meeting – the Government here gave a commitment to review and, where appropriate, to set aside this legislation. In my view, action on this aspect of the Agreement has been far too slow, there has been a lack of real public debate and public engagement on this. In fact in 1998 the Government actually strengthened the Offences Against the State Act. It has intitiated no real debate on the legal and political effects of this body of legislation which has been in force continuously in this State, with major implications for civil liberties, since 1939. Now I have no doubt that the Committee is doing pretty good work, hard work I am sure. But I think we need to see more evidence of its deliberations.
“And one thing I would like to see, for example, would be hearings on this issue around the country. Because there are a lot of people with stories to tell. And again, to add in another strand of opinion, one which doesn’t often get heard, at the time when we were putting together the Sinn Fein submission on the Offences Against the State Acts a number of people came to me, people in their sixties and seventies. They had been interned without trial in this State in the 1950s and, under the Offences Against the State Acts, were excluded from employment by the State. They were people who couldn’t get jobs in the civil service afterwards, some of them lost teaching jobs. There are a body of people such as that, people whose story again has not often been told and which needs to be factored in as part of the resolution of the outstanding issues.
British legislation: “I think the failure so far to deal with this issue of contentious legislation in this State has also hampered the ability of the Government here to deal with the failure of the British Government to repeal its own repressive legislation. I think the Government here has placed itself in the position where it cannot credibly address the issue of British legislation when it has very similar legislation on its own statute books.
Current impasse: “Now that brings me directly to the current issues that are causing huge difficulties in the peace process.
Policing: “Firstly, of course the issue of policing. In the context of the body of legislation that has been there right since the foundation of the Northern State in 1922, one of the things that we in Sinn Fein said when the Patten Report was published and when we had considered it, was that we would give this report a fair wind, that it was clearly a compromise, it was clearly not all that we in Sinn Fein wanted to see. We wanted a more comprehensive approach but it was a compromise which we were prepared to assess and prepared to work with the outcome if it was implemented in full and if, crucially, the legislation which had built up since 1922 in the North and variously amended and so on, was addressed. That hasn’t been sufficiently addressed either, and that is also part of the problem in terms of the policing issue.
North-South Ministerial Council: “We have a situation now where in effect the North-South Ministerial Council is suspended because David Trimble has refused to nominate duly elected Sinn Fein Ministers. There is, I have to say – and I would represent a body of opinion in Sinn Fein – a deep unease and a deep disappointment and scepticism about the role now of David Trimble. The question is raised: is the difference between David Trimble and Jeffrey Donaldson now merely a tactical difference in terms of ridding the situation of those parts of the Agreement which they do not wish to be associated with? I think it is unfortunate that David Trimble has allowed himself to be led, in effect, by the “No” camp in his own party. It would be my view that he hasn’t mobilised the large body of opinion that is out there within civic unionism which backed the Good Friday Agreement. In all this delaying which we have seen over the past few months in particular, the position of the unionists has been bolstered all along by the British Government, and I think in particular the role of Peter Mandelson has been very negative.
Opinion-formers: “In the context of what we’re addressing tonight, these are all points and issues which the Irish Government needs to give a lead on, because, whether we like it or not, the reality is that from the very beginning, the initiative and the drive in the peace process has come from the nationalist parties in the North, initially Sinn Fein and the SDLP. In the context of the start of the peace process – if you look back at the very start, in 1992/1993 – in terms of opinion in this State and so-called opinion-formers in this State, if you look at the villification which John Hume suffered at that time because he engaged with Sinn Fein. And the so-called opinion formers who were doing this villification – these were people who had had a huge influence on public opinion in this State in terms of the North for a long number of years. And again it points to the type of opinion-forming that had been going on, the type of stuff that people had been subjected to through a censored media for nearly two and a half decades. But as I said, the driving force throughout this has been nationalist Ireland, for want of a better term – the Irish Government, Sinn Fein and the SDLP.
“We have an Agreement now, and the Agreement contains within it many elements, and the core of the Agreement is about equality, and the difficulties, when you boil them down, are the reluctance of large sections of unionism to come to terms with the need for equality.
Decommissioning: “I think the issue of decommissioning is just a symbol of that. I would agree with Roy’s definition of decommissioning – to me it’s taking arms out of commission, it’s putting them beyond use, and ensuring that they are not used. And if you look at the past few years in terms of the ceasefires, and the fact that they have been maintained, if you look at the engagement that the IRA has had with the De Chastelain Commission and with the arms inspectors. If you put that in its historical context, I think in effect we have decommissioning, we have arms put beyond use, and I think we do have a serious intent by Republicans to continue that process and to engage in that process, and the raising of this issue continuously is not really, in my opinion, about the issue itself, it’s about reluctance to see change.
Increasing and enriching contacts: “.. I would totally agree with all the previous speakers in terms of the need to increase and enrich contacts between people in all parts of this island. I was just reading the Senate debate which was held last week on the peace process and one senator had met a loyalist leader and his partner, and she had never heard of Co. Clare! We hear examples of that all the time – the same happens in the other direction. Many people in this State are unaware of the realities in the North, they’re unaware even of the geography of their own country. I think we need to be doing as much as we can to increase contacts and to increase interchange between people in every part of this island.
“And I think the Agreement itself – the institutions established under the Agreement – have huge potential to actually achieve that if they’re worked and if they’re fully implemented. I know people involved in the Intertrade Ireland – the all-Ireland trade body – which has done a huge amount of work and which has had a roadshow going around the country in the past few months. And again that has built up and increased contacts. So I think we have huge obstacles, we have huge difficulties, but there is on the part of the vast majority a goodwill, and a willingness to engage if they’re given the opportunity. That’s why I commend the Meath Peace Group for your work over the years and for your continual work, for building on what we have achieved and helping us to continue to achieve much more. Go raibh maith agaibh.”
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you. I think Micheal is saying that there are many hurts to be addressed, and of course there’s hurts on both sides of the community. And unfortunately when one side express their hurts, the other side feels even more hurt. But it is important that people get together and express their hurts together. In that context, over a period of time – it’s a long long process, and maybe we’ve tried too much too soon – but certainly those of us in the unionist community who have listened to the republicans, I think have heard the hurt. I feel sometimes we are too much caught in the hurt to move on. It’s very very difficult. We need to find partners right across the board, and I think that’s what we are doing in the Meath Peace Group tonight. We’re moving on now to Dr. Martin Mansergh who has played a major role in the peace process, and I think he is increasingly appreciated for the role he has played…
4. Dr. Martin Mansergh (Special Adviser to An Taoiseach)
“I would like to thank the Meath Peace Group for this invitation. I recall a very constructive and informative debate about this time last year on the Patten Report on policing. .
Public’s interest: “The public’s interest in and expectation of progress remains an important spur to continued effort to overcome difficulties that continue to face the peace process, even though we are, all told, significantly further forward than this time last year. I do feel that a lot of the public do care and are interested, and I must say I don’t feel discouraged by indifference or apathy, I think enough people do care.
Problem-solving: “It is tempting to express frustration and impatience at this or that party or government for delays or foot-dragging, but evenings like this are an opportunity to appreciate the reasons for the difficulties, and some of them have already been spelled out. Not only are there few glib answers, but many of the plausible ways forward are on closer examination, for one reason or another, not feasible. While we must never lose sight of the moral inspiration of peace and accommodation, it has never been the case that one more political sermon would solve the problem, however good it might make the speaker and some of the listeners feel. The emphasis must be on understanding, problem-solving, and the patient defusing of potentially dangerous situations. Parties should also resist the temptation of being too self-righteous, eager to point out the defaults of others without acknowledging their own.
“Democratic Governments can, generally speaking, do what people will allow them to, and will respond to. The clarity of public opinion in the Republic on the subject of peace, and the willingness to sacrifice cherished positions in order to move forward, has been crucially important and amply demonstrated. Those who want to frustrate peace and drive us all back to war have negligible support and absolutely no mandate in this jurisdiction. But it is important not to make unrealistic demands that would drive one or other party back into the trenches.
Absolutism as a cause of conflict: “We should never lose sight of what is visible throughout history – that moral or political absolutism can be a cause of conflict. There is a Manichean strand of opinion that hates any form of constructive ambiguity, and that in many ways is more comfortable with eternal conflict that demonstrates clearly who is good and who is bad. In relation to Northern Ireland, there are few blameless parties on this island, even if people differ as to how the blame is apportioned. When the conflict of the last 30 years is finally and safely far behind us, we will have leisure to identify more of the shining knights. There is also an unfortunate style of negotiation that tends to believe that hardballing works best all of the time. If one looks at other areas, say European negotiations or social partnership ones, where a more flexible style is the norm, it can achieve better results and avoid unnecessary crises. From time to time, we have to stand back and take a strategic view of what is the best way forward, and where people’s best interests lie.
Role and contribution of Irish Government: “As a representative of the Irish Government, I want to focus mainly on its role and contribution, which I would see under three headings.
1) First of all, we are, and have been for some time, a partner of the British Government in seeking a settlement of the Northern Ireland problem within a broader framework and in upholding that settlement now that we have one.
2) A second and related role, which is sometimes disputed, is to act in the manner that was formalised in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of putting forward views and proposals on issues as they affect the interests of the minority or Nationalist community.
3) Thirdly, the Government acts on behalf of the people of this State, reflecting both their ideals and their interests, which include peace, stability and reconciliation on this island; good relations based on a mutual respect between the two islands; a closer and more structured form of North-South co-operation; and a rapprochement between the two main traditions on this island.
Recognition of role of Irish Government: “If one asks how conflict broke out in the first place, it was adherence in a divided community to a strongly majoritarian form of devolution, with no alternative or cross-community coalition and scant regard for minority rights. It was not democracy in any real sense of the term. The civil rights campaigners took to the streets, because there was no effective constitutional channel for a redress of grievances. In 1969, the UK Government did not accept that the Republic’s Government had any right to make representations, which it considered unhelpful interference in their internal affairs. Repression and revolt became mutually reinforcing, and the constitutional opposition of the SDLP, while correct, was a stony path. Only gradually did the British Government come to realise that the role of the Irish Government was essential, that unilateral initiatives did not work, and that the only way forward was partnership, without prejudice to sovereignty
“The peace process originated within Nationalist Ireland, but to come to fruition it needed to be adopted by both Governments. Persuading the Major Government to accept the approach of the Downing Street Declaration or the Framework Document was no easy task. While in theory it might have been better if the partners in the North could have agreed amongst themselves on a way forward out of major difficulties, this has rarely been a realistic expectation. The Unionists tend in the first instance to look to the British Government. The SDLP and Sinn Fein look to the Irish Government.
“But that is not the whole story. The Good Friday Agreement and subsequent developments would not have been possible unless the British Government had been able to listen to Nationalists, or, conversely, unless the Irish Government had been able to come to some important understandings with Unionists.
“Of course, the US President, Bill Clinton, and Congress, and the President’s envoy, Senator George Mitchell, have played a hugely important role as guarantors of fair play, and I am delighted that President Clinton will be paying a final visit as President to Ireland next month.
Aim of Irish Government: “Since the first meetings with Sinn Fein in 1988, the Irish Government’s aim has been to establish a democratic consensus among Nationalists and beyond, as opposed to a Pan-Nationalist Front where Nationalists would fall in line with the militant wing of the Republican Movement to force the issue, and where in the last analysis the requirement for majority consent could be overriden.
“To the extent that it was mostly members of the Unionist community who were at the receiving end of the IRA campaign, and understanding that this was deeply damaging to hopes of seeing the country gradually grow closer together, the Government and the SDLP between them helped Sinn Fein to persuade the Republican Movement to try out the political alternative and to lift a counterproductive and misconceived physical and political siege.
“Maintaining the peace, getting parties to the negotiating table, negotiating an Agreement and then implementing it have all proved arduous tasks.
“The areas in which the Irish Government have been most directly involved have generally turned out the least contentious. The constitutional accommodation, which I would argue was more symbolic than legalistic in character, was accepted and endorsed by the people. The North-South bodies have been established and are functioning well. If a problem has arisen in relation to the nomination of Northern Ministers to Council meetings, it is for reasons extraneous to their functions. The Agreement does state that participation in the Council is “one of the essential responsibilities attaching to relevant posts in the two Administrations”, and that the functioning of the different institutions is “interdependent and interlocking”. I think that all speaks for itself.
Policing: “The Irish Government is deeply committed to the new beginning in policing. We were fully supportive of the Patten Commission and its Report. We understand the strategic significance of the Patten reforms, not just for policing and the replacement of paramilitarism as a crude substitute for law and order in certain areas, but also for the stable functioning of the institutions under the Agreement. While we were not happy at certain stages of the process at what seemed to be important departures from the spirit of Patten, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen, has maintained a spirit of constructive engagement throughout in pursuit of the best possible outcome, which is, as Chris Patten put it in a statement to the Belfast Telegraph this afternoon – “the new beginning for depoliticised policing” with “the most rigorous system of independent civilian oversight of the police in the world”. But in the last analysis it is not the Irish Government but Northern Nationalists who will decide whether to join and support the police or not.
“The Secretary of State Peter Mandelson accepted last week that until the implementation plan is known it would not be reasonable to expect the SDLP or Sinn Fein to finalise their position. Support for the police will mean a dramatic break with the habits of the past, in a situation where, politically and otherwise, people’s instinct has been to watch their back. Failure to have a positive overall outcome on Patten would be a very serious development indeed, so it is very important to keep options open.
Decommissioning: “Progress is also needed on putting arms beyond use. The two arms inspections were a very important step forward, which should not be belittled. Meaningful engagement with de Chastelain is also required. The Irish Government, going back to 1993, always saw decommissioning as part of a wider process of demilitarisation. Both processes have been complicated by the activities of dissidents, and by the investment of too much emotional significance in the process of disarmament, on all sides. They are contributors to democracy and normalisation. They are not about a military victory or defeat, neither of which occurred. The legitimacy or otherwise of taking up arms is not affected either. People’s views and convictions about the violent campaign of the last 30 years are not likely to be altered one way or the other, either by decommissioning or the absence of it.
Determination of the two Governments: “The shadow of an approaching British General Election makes it more difficult for parties to take a strategic long-term view. To do any good, it is first necessary to survive politically, and, as 1996-7 showed, a pre-election period is not one where parties are naturally inclined to take big political risks. Yet the Agreement puts Unionists more in charge of their own destiny than any alternative. Nationalists need the Agreement to start building the closer relationships and the trust that they desire, which are the indispensable foundations of going further in due course. The danger is that brinkmanship, induced by internal tensions and pressures, may temporarily derail the functioning of the institutions. But no one should underestimate the strong determination of the two Governments to stick to the Agreement and see it implemented.
Attitudes to Unionism: “Before concluding, I would like to deal with criticisms that surface from time to time of attitudes in this State to Unionism. I would want to begin by stressing the positive. The rapport between the Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, and David Trimble, has no precedent in the history of this State or this island. They may not always agree, but they try to understand each other, and co-operate for the wider good. The same goes for loyalists. Bertie Ahern was the first and only Taoiseach to receive the Rev. Ian Paisley, albeit as a Church leader, in Government Buildings. When Bertie Ahern and David Trimble meet, they represent the two main traditions in Ireland.
Cultural initiatives: A number of cultural initiatives have been undertaken on this side of the border – work on the Boyne site, also the furbishment of First World War memorials in Inchicore and at Messines in Belgium.
But it is unrealistic to expect either Government to be entirely neutral on the Union. Successive British Prime Ministers have made it clear that they value the Union. The Taoiseach is head of Government of a State that was formed as a result of the democratic desire of the Irish people over 80 years ago to govern themselves and to leave the Union. A political leader who wants to unite the people of Ireland in peace needs to know where he is coming from. The Nationalists of Northern Ireland were deprived of the opportunity to participate in the Irish State, or in an Irish State. Our state may have had many shortcomings, particularly from a Unionist point of view, but perhaps also from a Nationalist one. But today there is a new dispensation, an historic compromise, a new constitutional order or balance, which satisfies many of the basic needs of both Unionists and Nationalists. We must hold on to these gains and build on them at all costs. Thank you.”
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you Dr. Mansergh, you’ve given us a lot to think about, and we’ve a long way still to go. Our next speaker is Dr. Gerard Hogan….
5. Dr. Gerard Hogan, S.C.
“Thank you very much. May I say immediately it is a great pleasure to be invited once again to speak at the Meath Peace Group. .. I propose to focus on the legal and constitutional dimension of the Republic vis-a-vis the entire peace process, and to that extent, I hope Mr. Chairman you’ll forgive me if following pedantically perhaps the theme of the evening I focus pretty well on what is happening in the Republic.
“When in the 1970s we first began in this State seriously to confront the reasons for division in Ireland and our own role therein, the conventional wisdom in many quarters was that progress towards some form of unity might be possible if two conditions were established. First if there was constitutional change, and secondly, if there was significant socio-economic change in this State, and in particular if living standards in the Republic were to approach those in Northern Ireland. Now, as far as the latter is concerned, I suppose some people, perhaps many people, would say that there has been very significant socio-economic change, perhaps not as much as many people would like, but nonetheless living standards in this State are at least approaching those prevailing in Northern Ireland, and perhaps some people might argue that living standards now in the Republic are higher than those in the North. But at least there is not I think now the significant gulf between living standards, social services, tax rates and so forth, such as prevailed at the onset of conflict in Northern Ireland.
Constitutional change: “As far as the other issue, the Constitution, is concerned … the particular criticism focussed on a number of significant provisions, provisions that were thought to grate on Unionist and Protestant sensibilities, that were thought to be too unbalanced and reflective of irredentist views in this State.
“There were three provisions in particular to which many people objected. The first, lumping them together, is Articles 2 and 3. Now as we know following the Good Friday Agreement, Articles 2 and 3 were recast, and I don’t think any fair-minded Unionist could take objection to the new provisions of Articles 2 and 3.
“Secondly, there was the special position of the Catholic Church in Article 44. That was deleted as long ago as 1972, overwhelmingly – I think the percentage in favour of deletion was in or about 85%. Now, as it happens the provision in Article 44 which simply recognised the special position of the Catholic Church also acknowledged the position of other minority churches which were named – the Church of Ireland, the Jewish community and so forth. We now know, from Government records, that it was the minority churches who were far more satisfied with that particular compromise in 1937 than the Catholic Church was. It’s ironic in a way that afterwards, that that particular provision of Article 44 – which in a way was no more than constitutional window-dressing – that there were so many people who objected to it by the 1970s. But in any event because it was considered to grate on Unionist sensibilities, as a gesture I suppose, it was dropped following the referendum in 1972.
“The third provision to which I think unionists could fairly and legitimately object was the ban on divorce, and, as we know, that was changed in 1995 and came into effect, following a challenge, in 1997.
Objections Unionists might have: “If one looks beyond that, and looks at the rest of the Constitution, it’s very difficult to see what any fair-minded Unionist could reasonably object to. True it is, they might say that it is drawn up from a republican standpoint – republican in the true sense of the term – that it doesn’t have any recognition of the monarchy, it reflects the traditional Nationalist values. Well I can’t gainsay that, no more than the Constitution of the United Kingdom reflects traditional largely English-orientated values with the Crown as the symbolic Head of State. But in terms of substantive provisions, it’s hard enough to find anything in the Constitution to which fair-minded Unionists could reasonably object.
“I myself can only think of two to which perhaps some objection might be taken. The provisions of the Preamble may be said perhaps not to give sufficient credit to traditions which are other than Nationalist and Republican. It is a pity – and I’ve said this to Dr. Mansergh before – I think it is a pity that in the constitutional changes in 1998 that the opportunity was not taken, not simply to reform Articles 2 and 3, but to make a significant gesture in respect of the Preamble.
“The other provision is in relation to Article 8, dealing with the status of the two languages, Irish and English. I was a member of the Constitution Review Group in 1996 and we recommended that the two languages should have equal status, and in fact I think with hindsight there is one further change we ought to have suggested in respect of Article 8 and that is to give some recognition to the position of Ulster-Scots. I for one would gladly do that. But beyond that it’s very difficult to see what specific objection can be taken to the Constitution
Record on human rights protection: “In particular I can’t accept for a moment, and it’s a matter of some annoyance to me – as somebody who’s never voted for Fianna Fail in my life, I think I can say this – I can’t understand the frequent objections that are made from the Unionist community on the one hand, and from what I may call civil libertarians on the other in this State, to the provisions in the Constitution, and the suggestion that the provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights are superior to those in the Constitution. This is a matter that one could argue about for a long time… but I do think in this State we can take justifiable pride that, outside of the United States, we are the country with the longest tradition of judicial review of legislation. In addition, we were the first country to sign up to the European Convention on Human Rights to allow individual petitions by our own citizens in this State to the European Court. We did that in 1953, and since 1953 we have lost only 6 times! I know the United Kingdom is a much bigger State than us, and we have to make due allowance for that, but it’s interesting, I checked on the European Court website before I came out, and I saw that the United Kingdom had lost 6 cases in September of this year, and the UK, along with Italy is by far the worst offender before the European Court of Human Rights.
Valuable constitutional tradition: “I don’t say that to pat us on the back and to denigrate the United Kingdom, but I do say that one has to be fair-minded about our constitutional tradition. It’s a very very valuable tradition, and I would defy anybody to point to instances where they can say that the provisions of the European Convention on Human rights are in any real respect superior to any individual provision in the Constitution. One could perhaps argue about individual clauses, but one can equally riposte by pointing to the [provision?] in the Constitution and our own constitutional tradition which are significantly superior to the provisions of the European Convention, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights.
“So I can’t for a moment accept the contention which I am beginning to see over the last few weeks that suddenly because the UK has incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law – and this came into effect in Britain from the 2nd of October last – that somehow in this State because we haven’t got around to doing that yet, that there is some major gap or lacuna in our law. Quite the reverse, I think that our tradition in that regard is equal to any member state of the Council of Europe, and our record before the European Court of Human Rights is proof positive of that.
International comparisons: “A small point, perhaps, but it’s nonetheless illustrative: most people here, I would imagine, would say that a country such as Sweden is regarded as a beacon of liberality, of fair-mindedness, of humanitarianism and social reform. But it’s interesting that the Swedes were the second country after us to sign up to the European Convention, by allowing these individual petitions, a few months after us in 1953. Admittedly they have a population of maybe twice ours, but they have lost 34 times before the European Court, and, as I say, we have lost on only 6 occasions. Now I don’t say that with a wish to pat us on the back or to be complacent but I do think, in any assessment of the constitutional protection and the protection of fundamental rights in this State, there has to be a fair-minded evaluation of the merits of the Constitution on the one hand and the European Convention on Human Rights on the other.
Foresight of 1937: “Unfortunately this debate has become politicised, and, wearing my lawyer’s hat, as someone with no particular reason to defend Mr. de Valera back in 1937, but I have to give him great credit for his enormous foresight and his enormously skilled legal team. They were way ahead of the posse in 1937 in what they drafter. And the funny thing is is that it was so sophisticated, it was so avant-garde that the Opposition who were looking for things to try and attack it, their major concern in 1937 was that somehow the President would be a Fuhrer or duce type leader, and when the referendum went to the plebiscite in July 1937, the great charge of Fine Gael was “beware of the President”, and I think we’ve learned to live with the President ever since!
“If I could move on just to two other topics. The first is a number of other commitments that this State has undertaken vis-a-vis the Good Friday Agreement.
Human Rights Commission: “One is in relation to the Human Rights Commission. Now it’s true that Northern Ireland is ahead of the game, as far as that is concerned. They have a very distinguished Human Rights Commission – it’s been up and running since early 1999 and it’s fully functional. At the moment the Government has appointed a President of our Human Rights Commission, and we’ve a Human Rignts Act, but the Commissioners have to be appointed. But again may I say, without wanting to pat the Republic on the back with a view to casting aspersions on what has been done in Northern Ireland, that in my respectful opinion the provisions in our Act are superior to that in Northern Ireland for one particular reason, in that the Human Rights Commission down here will be empowered of its own bat to take cases in court on behalf of persons where it feels their rights are being infringed in some way. That is a critical power to give to a body such as a human rights commission. We have given it, in Northern Ireland they don’t have it. I don’t want to claim brownie points for that, but, while we are a little behind what is being done in Northern Ireland, the legislation is, in my respectful opinion, somewhat superior.
Offences Against the State Act: “The third point is in relation to the review of the Offences Against the State Acts. I’m slightly compromised in that I am a member of that review group. We had expected to have our report out before Christmas, but unfortunately our Chairman, Judge Hederman, suffered an accident about a month ago and that delayed our work, but I can assure you our report is imminent, and I imagine it’s going to be published in the new year.
“Again, I’m somewhat compromised in what I can say, but there will be a thoroughgoing review of the Offences Against the State Act, in all its dimensions from first to last. While there are certainly provisions of that Act that would not survive challenge in a modern era, I think it’s also proper to point out that some of the criticisms of the Offences Against the State Act are somewhat misplaced. For example, before 1998, the Omagh bombing, the maximum power of detention under s. 30 was 48 hours. It can now be extended for another 24 hours by a District judge. In European terms, surprising as it may seem, that is not a particularly long period with which to detain somebody following an arrest. Again, for example, it might surprise you to learn that in Sweden you can be detained for 8 days for an ordinary crime. In the Netherlands, another bastion of liberal democracy, one can be detained for 10 days. So I think one has to put some of those provisions in the Offences Against the State Act in perspective. I’m not saying that significant change isn’t called for, and the report will recommend significant change, but, as I say, we are going to have a report fairly quickly.
“In conclusion, I can say that I believe that whereas the Republic still has a lot to do, on the human rights front its tradition has been very very good. There had been some aggredious failures. The ban on divorce, in my view, was an affront to civil liberties, and was a real denial of the civil liberties of minority religious groups in this State, and to that I think this State can plead guilty. And there are a number of other instances. But on the whole the tradition has been a very laudable one, and one of which we can be justly proud.
Cultural rights: “I don’t think that there are any significant human rights lacunae in this State. I’m not saying we couldn’t do more, and I’m not saying the Supreme Court couldn’t be more dynamic, but if we have a lacuna, it’s not as such in the human rights area, but if we have a lacuna vis-a-vis Northern Ireland it is in the area of what we might term cultural rights. I think that one has to acknowledge that we don’t have a sufficient understanding or appreciation of the Unionist tradition. .. Speaking purely for myself, I would have loved to have seen the Orange Order march in Dublin this year as they had promised. I don’t believe that there was any significant opposition to that march. I welcome what Dr. Mansergh has just said about the various steps that the Irish Government is taking. I belive they should go further and, for example, consider declaring the 12th of July to be a public holiday. I think it’s through steps like that that we could show in a tangible way that we appreciate the cultural rights and interests of the Unionist community. But on the narrow issue of human rights itself, without seeking to be complacent, I think that our record is as good as any other member state of the Council of Europe. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.”
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you, Dr. Hogan, for that very interesting and challenging address. I suppose it wouldn’t really matter from a unionist perspective how good the human rights tradition and laws and legal position is, but of course the last point I think is important – the Orange thing – that’s one of the ones I was thinking of. In the Orangeman’s psyche, and in fact in the psyche of many Protestants in the North, the fact that the Orange parade couldn’t take place in Dublin had significant repercussions. I was once a member of the Orange Order, and I know something of the feeling that somehow they feelthat where the Orange parades can go there’s freedom. Now you might think that’s a crazy thing – you might think it’s precisely the opposite, because they seem to force their way. But there is a sense in which they feel a minority in Ireland and that represents a central part of their tradition, and even people who don’t associate with Orangeism feel that somehow the blocking of Orange parades has other motives than it has, and it’s very very difficult to change that mindset.
“But the point I was trying to make was that no matter how much the change is in the Republic, it shouldn’t be – and I’m sure it’s not – done to try and create unity. But maybe it is done sometimes to create unity. It will not create unity in itself – it’s to do with the relationship between people – and I think the idea of “cultural rights” is moving towards that, where people can begin to feel at least that the enmity has died. I don’t think it’s possible for people down here to appreciate the feeling that I had when I first came down here – that this was really a frightening place. I’m talking about back in the 60s. That probably sounds incredible. Even though I came down first of all to find the farm from which my great-great grandfather came from – which I found – it still was a frightening place. And I think even though we move towards a situation where the South of Ireland has much more development in human rights, liberties and freedom and so on, until something is broken about the relationship between the two groups of people we’re still going to have a long way to go. In the end it must be some situation of mutual respect and tolerance which may develop in strange ways – maybe it will result in a united Ireland. I think some of the loyalists whom I know very well have lost the fear of a united Ireland, and that’s a major development. A lot of them haven’t lost it of course… But surprisingly, people who were at the front of the conflict, that I know personally, would have expressed those views – that no longer can the fear of a united Ireland be whipped out. It’s very very difficult, but I think both communities have to be generous and start to reach out. Tonight we’re talking about the South, and I’m sort of an interloper here in a sense, but I feel from the North, people have got to get out there and do it, and symbolise it. It’s not about argument, and it’s not about rejecting people’s traditions – it’s respecting people’s traditions, and finding ways of accommodating each other. The future, I think, is open. I think the hard line about a united Ireland or even a United Kingdom, is so hard that it is counterproductive. I imagine that some republicans recognise that certainly the violence was counterproductive. The reason why unionists are so upset, I think, is that actually there is a real challenge in the peace process – a real challenge for them. In fact the more conciliatory republicans become, or were to become – I feel the republicans are still hurting and are not so conciliatory as they could be – but the more conciliatory they become the more the unionists would fear. That’s my feeling.
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS (Summary only)
Q. 1. [Co. Louth resident]: “I would like to say a few words on behalf of a completely forgotten group of victims in this war, that haven’t been taken on board by the peace process …… How were the Troubles prevented from spreading south of the Border? Apart from the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the south of Ireland remained largely unscathed while Northern Ireland bled – Protestant and Catholic. .. What would have happened if Jack Lynch had sent the army into Derry, in 1969? … There was only one army going into Derry – the British Army – and in sending in the British Army it meant the British were going for a military solution… but they had to have the South of Ireland on side – that meant full exchange of information between the Special Branch and the RUC Special Branch.. . They had to have permission for their agents to … operate on the Southern side of the Border….. What these fellows did, with the help of the Special Branch, was to murder innocent Irish citizens, up near where I live, along the Louth-Armagh border. They came there to take out what they perceived as IRA godfathers. They went to the wrong houses, killed completely innocent people, but there was an inbuilt mechanism there when they discovered what they had done – they covered up these crimes, dumped the bodies along the border … The families even to this day hardly knew what happened…. but instead of apologising or helping the families they were blackguarded endlessly, even up to this day. This is how the Troubles were prevented from coming South. An awful lot is owed – while the fat cats in the South of Ireland got the brown envelopes and the big salaries, these people were in hell. … These people have been forgotten .. they paid the price for the Troubles not coming south of the border. It’s time their suffering was recognised. Some of them are in asylums, some are already dead. De Valera’s Constitution didn’t protect them. Who is going to take them on board? …
Q. 2. [Arthur O’Connor, Trim– to Dr. Hogan]: “When the Treaty was signed… what was the status of Northern Ireland at that time… … If it was a true treaty, how could De Valera and and the Irish Government … bring out a referendum in 1937 and include the North, Articles 2 and 3, if it was copperfastened? ….
Q. 3. [Nuala McGuinnes, Nobber resident]: “I’m very glad that Dr. Hogan mentioned the Orange Order . … Speaking as a Northerner who has lived in the South for 20 years… I have found over the years here a tremendous complacency and lack of knowledge about Northern Ireland .. The summer before last, Julitta kindly asked me to go to one of the grammar schools in the area to talk to the Transition Year. The views of the students were just echoing their parents and grandparents. They had an emotional attachment with the nationalist people in Northern Ireland, but they had absolutely not a clue about the unionist people. The Republic, in the year of the Millennium, missed an opportunity it will not get again, in not allowing the Orange march to continue in Dawson Street.. That was a token march – it was organised initially by the brethren in Wicklow who are Irishmen… No doubt they have an Irish passport.. no doubt they pay their income tax..
…And this gentleman I heard on the radio said he was an Irishman, his loyalty was to the Irish state, but he could not profess his identity and his religion in his own country. He spoke about the origins of the Orange Order, which like so many things gathered baggage over the years… He said it initiated from the principles of the French Revolution and it was not anti-Catholic – it was founded from the Reformation churches, where the individual conscience determines all. It was to protect the followers of the Churches of the Reformation from the Church of Rome which is not a democracy, power comes from on top.. . I read in the paper that first of all the march was going ahead, and then I read that all the business premises in Dawson St were intimidated by Sinn Fein, and I would like to ask Dr. Mansergh … why did the government not stand up and say “let them march”? …
“Another point – to Mr MacDonncha – a few years ago, the RUC officers came down to play rugby in a Dublin suburb with members of the Garda Siochana. Everyone got on very well… I put on the television that night and I was sick, sick, to see Sinn Fein with their horrible old placards complaining about the match. What was the harm?.. The RUC wanted to come back and play again, but to the best of my knowledge they never came back…
Q.4 [Liam McGlynn]. “Would it be a good idea to have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission similar to South Africa?
Answers to questions 1-4:
Dr. Martin Mansergh:
[Re victims on the border] …There is an investigation going on in the Dept. of Justice in relation to the Seamus Ludlow affair … I think your allegations particularly in relation to that case are to be taken seriously
Questioner. – I’m not referring to the Seamus Ludlow affair ……
Dr. Mansergh: “With regard to the status of Northern Ireland — that was settled in terms of international law, not really in the Treaty, it was settled in the Boundary Agreement of 1925, and that was settled in terms of legality, but the Republican side didn’t accept the legitimacy of that… Legitimacy and legality are not the same things.. Legality is something in the legal realm, whereas legitimacy is in the moral and political realm. Articles 2 and 3 – if you stand back and be objective – were challenging more the legitimacy of Northern Ireland rather than the legality.. In a sense, once the State had signed a Boundary Agreement recognised in international law, it’s not really possible to go back unilaterally on international agreements.
Re Irish Constitution – “Perhaps I could just bring in here a couple of comments made by Gerard Hogan – one good reason for not altering the Preamble to the Constitution is that it has a quite uncanny resemblance to the Preamble to the Ulster Covenant!
“Both speak of the struggles of our fathers in times of trial, and I’ve always thought if there were ever a united Ireland, one of the easiest things to do would be to amalgamate the Preamble to our Constitution and bring in the Ulster Covenant!
“With regard to De Valera anddivorce, he did leave an escape clause for the minority – the recognition of foreign divorces, and in those days maybe he was thinking mainly of the Anglo-Irish who flitted between the two countries…
Re the Orange Order and Dawson Street – “The Guards were approached, and were quite happy to police. The Taoiseach was approached – through me as it happens – and had absolutely no problem with an Orange march. However, one of the requests they made was that they could use the facilities of St. Anne’s, Dawson Street, and the Church of Ireland rector was not willing to do that. And if I could put a Church of Ireland hat on, the whole Drumcree business has been very divisive in terms of the Church of Ireland, and I think the Church of Ireland didn’t want to send the message to people in the Republic that it in some way or other identified with the Orange Order, especially as each year with Drumcree you see a big Church of Ireland spire, and you have the people protesting outside. I do honestly think – naturally we are a free democratic state, the Orangemen march in Rossnowlagh as it is, and there’s no reason in principle why they shouldn’t be subject to the public order, why they shouldn’t march in Dublin, I mean the Guards were prepared to deal with that situation.. .
“But if you’re asking away from law, I do think it would be better for all concerned if the Drumcree situation were sorted out. I’m afraid I don’t accept that the Orange Order is not anti-Catholic, you’ve only got to look at their constitution. Remember, David Trimble when he went to attend a memorial service for people in Donegal, there was a motion in one of the Orange lodges to expel him from the Orange Order for attending a service in a Catholic Church. I’ve met many people in the Orange Order, and like every other institution, be it a church, be it a State, they need to update and modernise which they haven’t done for a very long time – to modernise anachronistic parts of their Order. But I do want to say the State had no objection to the Orange Order marching, but the Church of Ireland did have an objection – they were not willing to allow St. Anne’s to be used.
Questioner – Could they not have held it in the Mansion House?
Dr. Mansergh: “That would be for the current mayor – she was actually very supportive”
Questioner – “When I referred to the Orange Order, I was talking about when they first set up, and they took the principles from the French Revolution…
Dr. Mansergh – “No it was the Glorious Revolution, not the French Revolution, which is quite different. The Orange Order was anti the French Revolution…
Brian Hayes: Re Truth Commission. “The straight answer is yes. We’ve all seen the difficulties in Yugoslavia, when that war-torn country was attempting to be put back together again. How difficult it is to face the future unless the past has been confronted, and all the hurt that has been done to people – that gentleman there expressed it and there are countless examples in the Republic and in Northern Ireland. A way forward could be seen in the following way. The Fusco case was interesting – the British Government dropped the extradition charges – there are about 40 persons from N.I. who reside here in the Republic who still have charges to their name in Northern Ireland or in other parts of the UK. I understand that in the majority of those cases that extradition warrants are not now being served for those people, so it is clear that those people will not now come before the courts. And if that is the case for paramilitaries, surely then we should look at the establishment of some kind of Commission, where loyalist and republican death squads and where the State failed in its responsibility, and all groups could be given an opportunity to come before some kind of Commission. I think we have to look into that, because the grievances felt by so many people have not been adequately addressed in this process. It’s quite clear, the one group of people who have not had their story told are the victims. I know we have a Commissioner who is doing excellent work, but I do not believe the process has dealt with the vicitms in the way it should have, and I think a Truth Commission is one way where we might make progress…
Re Orange Order – “We saw today in the streets of Dublin where the taximen demanded their right to march .. … how emotive and important this issue actually is. .. I happen to believe that the Orange Order handled last summer’s events badly – that’s my honest assessment of it. They were given an opportunity to assemble in the Mansion House, by Dublin Corporation, and were shown tremendous courage from the Labour Party Lord Mayor. I’m aware that St. Anne’s did not give them permission to assemble in their Church. But I would have liked to see it happen. I’m also aware that there was intimidation to shop owners in that area – whether it came from the group you mentioned, I have no evidence, but it happened. And as long as that kind of dual personality exists within some of those organisations that kind of intimidation will continue, vouched and cloaked in the kind of political participation that some people argue. So I very much regret that that march did not take place, but I think there was as much fault on the Orange Order as there was within Dublin Corporation at the time, because the facility was made available to them. I think the problem was insurance costs at the time, but I would like to see that happen, because it would be a good example of a modern pluralist country.
Annual Day of Reconciliation: “Finally, can I say, I’m very much in favour of a Day of Reconcilation.. . This idea came from the Irish Government last year, and it was a very novel proposal…. whereby one day of reconciliation would be established and on that day progress would be made on the decommissioning issue and the Executive would be re-established..
“But I don’t think it should be actually one day… I believe there should be an annual day of reconciliation that would be common to both Northern Ireland and the Republic … I think some day has to be established so that people can pause and stop and think of the suffering that has bedevilled this island for so long.”
Co. Louth questioner – “Should that be before or after the Truth Commission is set up?
Brian Hayes: “I think it should take place next year – as a principle I would be in favour of it…”
Micheal Mac Donncha: “On the issue of the Truth Commission, I think we do need to look at models where this has happened in other countries – various ways of getting to the bottom of what actually happened, and obviously to do it in a way which can advance what everybody is trying to achieve at the moment. I did mention the activities that happened in this State over the years – we do need to see those investigated as well, specifically where they involved incursions into the South.”
Re Orange Order march in Dawson St: “I have to refute immediately any allegation that Sinn Fein was involved in intimidation of any kind. I am very surprised to hear Deputy Hayes mention intimidation of people in Dawson Street, it’s the first time that I ever heard of it – I haven’t heard anybody in that street making that accusation. I can recall.. that one of the shop owners was interviewed in the Sunday Business Post and said quite openly that he objected to the march. To clarify Sinn Fein’s position – we did not object to the holding of an Orange march, and we do not object to the right of the Orange Order to march anywhere in the country. There are Orange marches in this jurisdiction, we do not object to that in any way… We defend the right of the Orange Order and other groups to assemble and parade. What we did object to was that, in the context of the continuing standoff in Portadown and the siege that the people of Garvaghy Road were under at that time, that the Mayor of Dublin, Mary Frehill, proposed to formally welcome the Orange Order on behalf of the people of Dublin. Our councillors objected to that. We did not object to the march. As Dr. Mansergh has said, the Church of Ireland rector in Dawson Street did not welcome the group there. So I must totally refute any notion of intimidation and I would like to see evidence that could be brought forward of it..
Now just on the Orange Order, I have my own experience – my father, his own father was from a family in which they were all members of the Orange Order, but because he didn’t join – he joined Brian’s former party, the Labour Party, and married a Catholic, he was actually ostracised by the rest of his family. Sadly the reality is that the Orange Order is a sectarian organisation – that is not in any way to deny people’s right to be part of the Orange Order, or to deny that that is a strand or tradition in Irish life, but we have to face reality. There’s no point in being starry-eyed and saying “let’s embrace this tradition, let’s embrace this organisation”, without looking at what exactly it is
Constitutional change: “ I think the changes in terms of divorce, in terms of the place of the Catholic Church in the Constitution here, were the right changes to make, they were long overdue, not only for the purpose of reconciliation, but also because of the rights of people in this jurisdiction.
“I was interested in the remarks of Roy in relation to the change in attitudes – and it’s a very slow historical process – the change in attitudes of everybody, but especially including unionists, and maybe not being so nervous as they were before in looking at different options for the constitutional future of this island. What we need to talk about is… what sort of united Ireland? … It’s not just about uniting territory, it’s not even just about uniting people…
Chair, Roy Garland – re Orange Order: “Dr. Mansergh spoke about the need to update and modernise, in regard to the Orange Order. I would totally agree. The difficulty that I would see, as a former member of the Orange Order, is that they are so much on the defensive they are not capable of changing and reforming at all. They are not a strong organisation as they are depicted, they are a weak organisation, and to my mind they’re sort of flailing out aimlessly. They really don’t have a coherent strategy. They really don’t know where they are going, they don’t know what they are about. They are a weak organisation. Once they had influence – if it was influence – with the Unionist Party. I think actually it was the other way round, but even that they’ve lost. And if you look at it from that perspective – if you can reach the Orangemen in some way, by opening up the possibilities in the Republic, I think you are freeing unionists. Because a lot of unionists, even if they are not members of the Orange Order, somehow see the way the Orange Order is treated as reflecting them, and they feel a minority on this island who are under pressure, they feel they are being squeezed out. Now I don’t agree with that, I think it’s self-defeating, but nevertheless it is a reality, and I think we all have to try and address that.
“But it’s extremely difficult, and I get frustrated and feel like saying all sorts of things to them – and I have said some things, which actually doesn’t help. And I think nationalists, particularly in the South, have the opportunity of showing to Orangemen, like in the situation of the parade, that it can take place. It’s very regrettable that it couldn’t take place, for whatever the reason, because it confirmed the worst prejudices of Orangemen and many unionists as well. There’s room there to do something about that – to open up that dialogue. We had a meeting last week in Co. Louth, with leaders of the Independent Orange Order. It was very hard stuff. I felt angry at some of what they were saying, and other people felt angry. but they needed to say it. The dialogue started with the Independent Orange Order who are more extreme, in religious terms, than the Orange Order – if I could use that word “extreme”. We’ve got to get into dialogue with each other, the most extreme groups on both sides need to face the realities and say it to each other face to face…
Q.5. [John Keaveney, Kilbride teacher] – to Brian Hayes on schools: “.. there’s a lot of things going on at primary level, and I would hate to think that policy would leave out the primary schools.. I think the Irish and British Governments should develop the Socrates programme … which would bring Scottish, Welsh, English and Irish together… .. so that more children can meet each other at a very young age. If you wait until they are 16 or 17, you’re too late to change their perceptions…
To Dr. Mansergh: “The Dept. of Foreign Affairs funds all peace groups – the Dept of Education appears to be being left out of the picture, to a certain degree… There’s a North-South committee in the Dept. of Education but nobody seems to know it exists – has that been set up as a result of the Good Friday Agreement? Could Foreign Affairs try to channel some money to education?
Q. 6. “I’d like to compliment all speakers here tonight…. I’m wondering.. I’m sort of sceptical that there’s a body of unionist opinion that will not accept us, no matter what happens down here .. I wonder, were we to embrace the British constitution, I wonder if Jeffrey Donaldson would ask us to embrace the monarchy as well?
Q.7. [Meath resident] Re Orange Order: May I remind people that in Donegal, there’s an Orange march without any trouble whatsoever every year. Surely if the people of Donegal can travel with an Orange march, surely the liberal people of Dublin can do likewise?
Q. 8. [Tom Hodgins, Drogheda Ecumenical Peace Group: “ I feel that changing our laws and proving ourselves or parading our business acumen will not of themselves bring peace to our land. I think I would be more thinking along the lines of building friendship and contact, and an overt showing that we are willing to change. Because we are all instruments of peace… I have two questions – one to Gerard – is our record so pristine in the human rights area because of our high regard for the dignity of the individual or is it because of the lack of strength of challenge? To Martin.. should the South spend more time working on our own calendar to help people on their own journey. Is it almost too taken up in responding to the situation in the North? .. Could we help people on their journey by showing the way in healing by bringing to a proper form of closure our own Civil War, to mark respect for the people who died in that period?
Q.9. [John Clancy, Meath Peace Group]: “We talked about the Truth Commission, and that seems to be broadly acceoted.. With regard to the possible apathy among people – I don’t think that apathy is there, I think we needs to fertilise it. The number of people who have come to these talks, the number that is here tonight, shows that there is interest which needs to be fostered. Can I suggest a variant of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation to help focus and develop this dialogue?
Decommissioning: “A specific question to the Sinn Fein speaker, and you are very welcome indeed. As I understand it the two independent assessors visited in the order of 30 dumps in the Republic. It defies my understanding of the issue of decommissioning that they haven’t engaged with De Chastelain.. Why has not more happened? .. The interlocutor was appointed but no conversation has taken place.. How or when does Sinn Fein reckon that this may happen before May 21st next year?
Answers to Questions 5-9
Gerard Hogan: “Our record on human rights is not pristine, certainly not.. but it is much better than it is depicted – I was seeking to put that in a comparative perspective. And it is certainly not because of any lack of challenges. The first case ever to come before the European Court of Human Rights.. was after all an Irish case… The number of constitutional challenges that are presently going on, not to speak of those that have gone on in the past, is almost overwhelming.. ..One thing is for sure it isn’t for want of the government being challenged in the courts. The Government is challenged in the courts day in and day out.
“One other thing about the Orange march.. I have no doubt whatever but that the Orangemen’s right to march is absolutely protected by the Constitution, and any attempt by this State to stop them marching would be an unconstitutional interference with their liberties. It may be unwelcome news to them, it may be a surprise to them … but they would be better protected under Mr De Valera’s Constitution than under the common law in Northern Ireland.
Micheal MacDonncha – re decommissioning: “I don’t think that information [re arms dumps] came from the arms inspectors.. I have to say I was surprised that there was a second inspection given the context. The fact that the Policing Bill had been so far removed from what the Patten Report had envisaged, and there had been very little progress on demilitarisation. I think that’s the reason why more has not happened. I believe that the commitment that the IRA made in May was sincere, they will continue with the process, but it’s part of the political difficulties, it’s part of the overall context of what decommissioning means.. that we touched on earlier….
John Clancy: “Will we see something before the deadline, May of next year?
Micheal Mac Donncha: “We’ve always said that deadlines have never been helpful.. I think the context in which progress was made was a context where everything was to be moved forward together…
John Clancy: “The guns are a political tool, are they? You seem to be linking them in with a whole lot of things…
MichealMac Donncha – “I didn’t say that that all, I’m simply recognising the reality that is there. I’m speaking for Sinn Fein. The reality is that you can bring people as far as they are willing to go – it has to happen within a context. It is fruitless to go to any organisation to seek to achieve something which you are of the view is unachievable at the time. So I would refute the notion that it’s deploying something in order to make political gain, I would totally refute that.
Brian Hayes: On the decommissioning issue – our Constitution is very clear about this matter, as to the rights of the Oireachtas solely and exclusively.. to raise an army… .. The Taoiseach was very brave in what he had to say on this matter some months ago when he clearly made the distinction between the Northern Ireland Executive and the Oireachtas, and specifically the role we have as an Oireachtas to raise an army and to maintain an army.
On schools, “the gentleman rightly said I did exclude primary education.. you are right, it needs to start at an earlier age. Also there was a commitment in the Agreement for a joint parliamentary forum .. I think it would be quite a useful thing if a civic forum were to be established in the Republic which would allow groups like yours, and there are countless others, in the peace and reconciliation business, as it were, to tap into all the arms of government and tap into the potential that is there… I think some kind of consultative forum should be established, and I think there is provision for it in the Agreement…
Dr. Mansergh: On the last point – there is provision, and the government would be keen – obviously it’s a matter for the Government and the Assembly.. At the same time, realistically, we need to get over some of the current difficulties first. I do broadly agree with what Micheal said about the context in moving things forward, whether we like it or we don’t like it, and much of the time we don’t like it. For example, David Trimble has created a linkage between appointing people to the North-South Ministerial Council and meaningful re-engagement with the de Chastelain Commission. From a Government perspective, one may dislike these linkages but the reality is you tend to move forward a few issues at a time, and that’s very often the only way you can deal with an individual difficulty.
Education: “I’ll certainly look into the question of education and peace and reconciliation funding. I would have thought that would have been covered.
Truth Commission: “We have a truth commision of a sort in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, just relating to a particular episode. There are pros and cons of that. I was interested in the idea of possibly using a revived form of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation looking at those sort of matters. I have no doubt the feelings of victims will remain very intense for a long time to come.
“Somebody raised the question .. if we adopted the British Constitution would unionists join a political structure? I happen to believe that, if for pure theoretical argument, we were prepared to go back into the United Kingdom on a Home Rule, sort of Redmondite basis, I still think you would find that Ulster Unionists would not be prepared to come in under a Dublin Parliament, even though that was a united Ireland with devolution in a unitary state of the United Kingdom. It underlines the point that beyond a certain point … there ‘s no point whatsoever in attempting to stand on our head, because you won’t necessarily get the response.
“I take the point about the Civil War but I genuinely believe that Civil War politics has been transcended at this stage. Most people can see, whatever tradition they identify with, that there was something on both sides of the argument. I remember one former Taoiseach whom I served but who also had links with the Free State side saying he often found it very difficult to make up his mind, who was right and who was wrong. I think Fianna Fail people certainly respect Michael Collins and I think probably a lot of Fine Gael people respect at least some of the achievements of de Valera, the Constitution especially, and certainly Sean Lemass.
Brian Fitzgerald: “In relation to the Forum that you referred to, yes. But I think the best forum of all is in the schools and I believe a lot more could be done in the schools. I think the teachers should encourage bringing people in – people like yourselves – I know they did for a period, there was a pilot scheme introduced, and that could be done on a far broader basis to give people a better understanding of what we are talking about. A lot of the language that is spoken on television goes over the heads of young people. They’re not interested, it’s boring. But if they listen to it in the school, for a half an hour or something like that, it may get through to them what we are about. There’s a lot of things being spoken here tonight, if they were addressed to a young audience would they listen? I don’t believe they would. That’s the reality. But they’re the people we’ve got to get if we’re going to ever build peace and reconciliation on this island – a lasting one.
Re Orange Order: “I remember when a number of us were invited to meet a group from the Orange Order, and we were sitting having a discussion. There was a guy from the Ballynafeigh lodge who used to march up and down the Ormeau Road, a young chap. And I asked him – why do you have to march if you’re offending people who feel that you shouldn’t march? Why must you march that particular route? His only answer was, and the only reason why he was insisting that he should march, was “my great-grandfather walked it., my grandfather walked it, my father walked it, and if I don’t walk it I’ll let them down.” How are we going to change that thinking? As you said, they’ve no direction and that’s the tragedy. There are many many other groups in our society who feel the very same on other issues. We’ve a lot of hard work to do but we cannot sit on our butt in the South and be complacent and be comfortable. Because the problem won’t go away – it has the unfortunate knack of coming round. And we can have difficulties here, because there are some very very courageous people in Northern Ireland who have been involved with paramilitaries on both sides, who are preventing atrocities happening both North and South, and we should all remember that . We are only a very small distance away at any one time from some nut doing something rather stupid and rather tragic like what we saw in Omagh and elsewhere.
CLOSING WORDS AND THANKS
Chair (Roy Garland): “.. Just on the last note, about the contribution of loyalists and republicans “on the ground” – it’s a very real thing. Unfortunately they don’t get a lot of thanks for it, because it’s not seen, and it’s hard work. And I know there are people on both sides .. having extreme difficulty bringing the hardliners along. Sometimes it looks like they are sort of retreating because they are trying to speak to them, but they have to speak to them. We’re almost learning in Northern Ireland to speak in that way and understand the other community. And loyalists do understand, and republicans do understand, the difficulties that the other community has. That doesn’t make it any easier. Things are extremely difficult at the moment, but, like many people, I have a confidence that somehow we’ll reach there in the end, I hope, and yet we’re on a knife edge. So I’m very grateful to all the people who have worked, from both communities, and for you down here and the people we have here on the platform, and on your behalf I would like to thank each of the speakers here tonight for giving up their time and energies for us tonight. Thank you.”
Julitta Clancy: On behalf of the Meath Peace Group, Julitta Clancy thanked the speakers and the Chairman, Roy Garland, for their time and generosity, and she thanked the audience for coming, some from great distances. She also thanked the Columban Fathers for once again facilitating the talk at Dalgan Park. Picking up some of the themes mentioned in the question and answer session, she said that the group would like to see some sort of a people’s forum in the South – “to get people talking – even on a pilot basis – but also to allow community groups to feed into this peace process”. On schools, the Meath Peace Group had considerable experience in secondary schools in Meath and Louth: “young people of 16 or 17 can do so much to change attitudes. They start with prejudices as we all do, then they listen, they argue, they challenge each other, and we have seen tremendous good coming out of those exchanges”. The group would like to see resources made available for schools and teachers who really want to do this work. “It’s no threat to anyone, it actually works extremely well”.. .”We need to build and cement this peace and we appeal to the government to consider the idea of a forum … there is provision in the Agreement for some sort of a joint forum, but I think we need to do something before that.” She said such a Forum could also take in issues relating to minority groups such as those now coming into the country.
Meath Peace Group Report. December 2000. (c) Meath Peace Group
Compiled and edited by Julitta Clancy. Taped by Anne Nolan and Oliver Ward.
APPENDIX A: BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES ON SPEAKERS
Cllr. Brian Fitzgerald (Independent). Trade unionist and full-time SIPTU official, Brian has served on Meath Co. Council for 15 years and was chair of the Council from 1999-2000. He is also a member of the North Eastern Health Board. From 1992-1997, he served as Labour Party TD for Co. Meath. During that time he held many positions in the Labour Party, and was also a member of the party’s delegation to the Forum for Peace and Reconcilation. In the period 1993-94 Brian was involved, along with Fergus Finlay, in ground-breaking talks with loyalist paramilitaries prior to their ceasefire.
Roy Garland: Belfast teacher, researcher and member of the Ulster Unionist Party, Roy writes a weekly column in the nationalist Irish News and was one of the few members of his party to address the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in 1995. In the course of research into his family’s history he made contact with many people in Louth and out of these links he founded a unique historical and reconciliation group “The Guild of Ancient Uriel” – which has met regularly in Louth since 1995 and has been involved in dialogue with a wide variety of groups and individuals from all sides of the divide in Northern Ireland. The Guild’s members come from North and South of the border and Roy is the co-chair of the Guild along with Julitta Clancy of the Meath Peace Group
Brian Hayes, TD (Fine Gael). Educated at Garbally Park, Ballinasloe, Maynooth College, and Trinity College Dublin, Brian was formerly a secondary school teacher and Fine Gael National Youth and Education Officer. He has been a member of Dublin County Council since 1995, served on Seanad Eireann from 1995-1997 and worked as secretary to the Fine Gael Group at the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. Elected to the Dail in 1997, for the constituency of Dublin South West, he first served as Spokesperson on Housing, House Prices and Urban Renewal and was recently appointed Front Bench Spokesperson on Northern Ireland. He is also Vice Chairperson to the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of Strategic Management Initiative in the Irish Civil Service
Dr. Gerard Hogan, Senior Counsel, Barrister of King’s Inns, Fellow of Trinity College Dublin and Lecturer in Law, is the author of numerous works on constitutional and administrative law and is the editor of Kelly’sIrish Constitution. Dr. Hogan served as a member of the Constitution Review Group from 1995-1996 and is currently a member of the Offences Against the State Review Group set up as a result of the Good Friday Agreement. Dr. Hogan first addressed the Meath Peace Group in September 1994 when he spoke on the subject of Articles Two and Three of the Irish Constitution
Micheal MacDonncha (Sinn Féin). Native of Dublin, he has been a member of Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle since 1990 and was Editor of An Phoblacht/Republican News from 1990 to 1996. He has served as Dail secretary to Sin Fein deputy for Cavan/Monaghan, Caoimhghin O Caolain, since 1997, and is the author of the Sinn Fein submission to the Committee to Review the Offences Against the State Acts.
Dr. Martin Mansergh (Special Advisor to the Taoiseach on Northern Ireland): Son of the Tipperary-born historian Nicholas Mansergh, he was educated in Canterbury and Christ Church, Oxford, and entered the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1974. He served as Third Secretary, First Secretary and Principal Officer in various units before resigning from the civil service in 1981 to become Head of Research, Fianna Fail. He subsequently served as Special Advisor to three taoisigh – Charles Haughey, Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern, and was co-winner (with Fr. Alec Reid and Rev. Roy Magee) of the 1994 Tipperary Peace Prize. He is the author of numerous articles on the peace process and other political and historical topics, and edited a volume of speeches of Charles Haughey The Spirit of the Nation, in 1986
APPENDIX B:Principles Underlying the Good Friday Agreement and Commitments made by the Irish Government – A Summary (Compiled by the Meath Peace Group)
Declaration of Support
In the opening chapter of the Agreement – the “Declaration of Support”, the participants (i.e. the parties and the two governments), in a “spirit of concord”, strongly commended the Agreement to the people, North and South, for their approval, and set out the key principles underlying the Agreement. These principles were reaffirmed in the British-Irish Agreement.
New beginning “We … believe that the Agreement we have negotiated offers a truly historic opportunity for a new beginning”
Legacy of “The tragedies of the past have left a deep and
suffering profoundly regrettable legacy of suffering”
Remembrance “We must never forget those who have died or been injured”
Fresh start “But we can best honour them through a fresh start”
Reconciliation “We firmly dedicate ourselves to the achievement of
Tolerance reconciliation, tolerance and mutual trust,
Mutual trust and to the protection and vindication of the
Human rights human rights of all”
Partnership “We are committed to partnership, equality and mutual
Equality respectas the basis of relationships within N.I. ,
Mutual respect between North and South, and between these islands”
Democracy “We reaffirm our total and absolute commitment to
Non-violence exclusively democratic and peaceful means of resolving differences on political issues, and our
Opposition opposition to any use or threat of force by others
to use of force for any political purpose ..”
Equality “We acknowledge the substantial differences between
of our continuing and equally legitimate, political
Reconciliation “We will endeavour to strivein every practical way towardsRapprochment reconciliation and rapprochement …”
Good faith “We pledge that we will, in good faith, work to ensure the success of each and every one of the arrangements to be established under this agreement.”
Interdependency “It is accepted that all of the institutional and constitutional arrangements … are interlocking and interdependent and that in particular the functioning of the Assembly and the North/South Council are so closely inter-related that the success of each depends on that of the other .. ”
“Legitimacy of whatever choiceis freely exercised” by a majority of the people in N. Ireland
Self-determination “It is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively… to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent freely and concurrently given, North and South. to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish”
Consentprinciple: “This right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of NI ”
Status of N. Ireland: “The present wish of a majority of the people of N.I. … is to maintain the Union”. Therefore “it would be wrong to make any change in the status of N.I. save with the consent of a majority of its people.”
Exercise of Governmental power: Government to be exercised with“rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions” and founded on the principles of
“full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights,
of freedom from discrimination for all citizens and of parity of esteem and
of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities”
Identity: Recognition of “birthright of all the people of N.I. to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British,or both”
Strand One: Democratic Institutions in Northern Ireland
Assembly: “This Agreement provides for a democratically elected Assembly ..which is inclusive in its membership, capable ofexercising executive and legislative authority, and subject to safeguards to protect the rights and interestsof all sides of the community.”
Safeguards: Allocations of key posts in proportion to party strengths; decisions to be human rights–proofed; Human Rights Commission; Bill of Rights; key decisions to be taken on cross-community basis; Equality Commission to “monitor a statutory obligation topromote equality of opportunity in specified areas and parity ofesteem between the two main communities…”
Ministers’ Pledge of Office: Pledge of good faith; commitment to non-violence and “exclusively peaceful and democratic means”; “to serve all the people of Northern Ireland equally”, “promote equality and prevent discrimination”; support “all decisions of the Executive Committee and Assembly”; comply with Ministerial Code of Conduct.
Ministers’ Code of Conduct – Propriety, impartiality, integrity, objectivity in relation to public funds, accountability, reasonableness; promotion of good community relations and equality of treatment; non-use of information gained for public gain, declaration of interests…
Strand Two: North/South
North/South Ministerial Council: To bring together those with executive responsibilities in N.I. and the Irish Government, to “develop consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland … on matters of mutual interestwithin thecompetence of the administrations, North and South”. “All Council decisions to be by agreement between the two sides”. Best endeavours “to reach agreement on the adoption of common policies”.
North/South Implementation bodies: on “all-Ireland and cross-border basis”. Considerationalso to be given to establishment of: Joint Parliamentary forum and a North/South Consultative Civic Forum
Strand Three: British-Irish Dimension
British-Irish Council: “To promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships among the peoples of these islands..”
British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference: “To promote bilateral co-operation at all levels on all matters of mutual interest within the competence of both governments” . Provision is also made for regular meetings concerned with “non-devolved Northern Ireland matters”, facilitation of co-operation in security matters, review of the workings of the agreement, and addressing areas of rights, justice, prisons and policing in N. Ireland.]
Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity
Human rights: General commitment to the “mutual respect, the civil rights and the religious liberties of everyone in the community”.
Rights specifically affirmed –
right to free political thought, freedom and expression of religion, right to pursue democratically national and political aspirations,
right to seek constitutional change by peaceful and legitimate means; right to freely choose one’s place of residence;
right to equal opportunity;
right to freedom from sectarian harassment;
right of women to full and equal political participation
Steps to be taken by British Government – Human Rights Commission, Incorporation of ECHR, Equality Commission. Bill of Rights: “to reflect the particular circumstances of N.I. ….. to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem”
Steps to be taken by the Irish Government
Setting up of Human Rights Commission; examination of question of the incorporation of the ECHR, measures to ensure “at least an equivalent level of protection of human rights as will pertain in Northern Ireland”; ratification of Framework Convention on National Minorities; employment equality and equal status legislation. Government to take steps to “further strengthen the protection of human rights in its jurisdiction”, “bring forward measures to strengthen and underpin the constitutional protection of human rights.” and ““continue to take further active steps to demonstrate its respect for the different traditions in the island of Ireland”.
Joint committee of the two Commissions envisaged “as a forum for consideration of human rights issues in the island of Ireland”. Consideration of “the possibility of establishing a charter, open to signature by all democratic parties, reflecting and endorsing agreed measures for the protection of the fundamental rights of everyone living in the island of Ireland.”
Victims of Violence
Need to “acknowledge and address the suffering of the victims of violence as a necessary element of reconciliation” is recognised. The participants promise support for the development of community based initiatives and recognise the need for services “supportive and sensitive to the needs of victims”.
Reconciliation and Mutual Understanding
Tribute paid to the work being done by many organisations to develop “reconciliation and mutual understanding and respect between and within communities and traditions, in N. Ireland and between North and South” . Such work is seen as having a “vital role in consolidating peace and political agreement” . “An essential element of the reconciliation process is the promotion of a culture of tolerance at every level of society…” Initiatives to facilitate and encourage integrated education and mixed housing.
Economic, Social and Cultural Issues
Economic growth and stability in N. Ireland: provision for a new regional development strategy “tackling the problems of a divided society and social cohesion in urban, rural and border areas”; measures for advancement of women in public life, employment equality, new Targeting Social Need initiative, combatting unemployment, and “eliminating the differential in unemployment rates between the two communities”, protection and enhancement of the environment, etc.
The importance of “respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity “ is recognised “including in N.I., the Irish language, Ulster-Scots and the languages of the various ethnic communities.” Support and promotion of the Irish language provided for..
Symbols and emblems
Acknowledgment of the “sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems for public purposes, and the need in particular in creating the new institutions to ensure that such symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division…”
“The resolution of the decommissioning issue is an indispensable part of the process of negotiation”. Progress noted in developing schemes “which can represent a workable basis for achieving the decommissioning of illegally-held arms in the possession of paramilitary groups.”
Commitment to disarmament: “All participants .. reaffirm their commitment to the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations”. Confirmation of intention to work constructively and in good faith with the Independent Commission, and to use any influence they may have, to “achieve the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms within two years following endorsement in referendums North and South of the agreement and in the context of the implementation of the overall settlement.”
“normalisation of security arrangements and practice. ”
Steps to be taken by British government include reduction of numbers and role of Armed Forces, removal of security installations, removal of emergency powers, consultation with Irish Government, consultation on firearms regulation
Steps to be taken by the Irish Government:
“The Irish Government will initiate a wide-ranging review of the Offences Against the State Acts 1939-85 with a view to both reform and dispensing with those elements no longer required as circumstances permit.”
POLICING AND JUSTICE
Future policing arrangements in N. I. – provision for the Independent Commission on Policing and the review of the criminal justice system.
The participants recognisethat policing is a “central issue in any society.” They equally recognise that “N. Ireland’s history of deep divisions has made it highly emotive, with great hurt suffered and sacrifices made by many individuals and their families, including those in the RUC….”
The Agreement provides the “opportunity for a new beginning to policing in N. Ireland with a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole.” They also believe that this Agreement offers a “unique opportunity to bring about a new political dispensation which will recognise the full and equal legitimacy and worth of the identities, senses of allegiance and ethos of all sections of the community in N. Ireland.”
“Essential that policing structures and arrangements are such that the police service is professional, effective and efficient, fair and impartial, free from partisan political control; accountable, both under the law .. and to the community it serves; representative of the society it polices, and operates within a coherent and co-operative criminal justice system, which conforms with human rights norms. ….”
Criminal Justice System
Wide-ranging review of criminal justice system to be undertaken
Aims of criminal justice system: to “deliver a fair and impartial system of justice to the community”; to “be responsive to the community’s concerns, and encouraging community involvement where appropriate”, to “have the confidence of all parts of the community” and “deliver justice efficiently and effectively”.
Release: Accelerated programme for the release of prisoners. ”Prisoners affiliated to organisations which have not established or are not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire will not benefit from the arrangements…” Review process to “provide for the advance of the release dates of qualifying prisoners while allowing account to be taken of the seriousness of the offences for which the person was convicted and the need to protect the community…”
Reintegration: “The Governments continue to recognise the importance of measures to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners into the community by providing support both prior to and after release, including assistance directed towards availing of employment opportunities, re-training and/or re-skilling and further education.”
Meath Peace Group Report. December 2000. (c) Meath Peace Group
Compiled and edited by Julitta Clancy. Taped by Anne Nolan and Oliver Ward.
Meath Peace Group Committee (all in Co. Meath): Julitta and John Clancy, Batterstown; Pauline Ryan, Navan; Anne Nolan, Slane; Fr. Michael Kane, An Tobar, Ardbraccan; Rev. John Clarke, Navan; Philomena Boylan-Stewart, Longwood; Leona Rennicks, Ardbraccan; John Keaveney, Kilbride; Olive Kelly, Lismullen
Tuesday, 27th September, 1994
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath
Gerard Hogan, B.C.L, LL.M., M.A. (Lecturer in law, Trinity College Dublin)
Cllr. Brid Rogers (SDLP constituency representative for Upper Bann)
Ken Maginnis, MP (UUP security spokesman)
John Bruton, TD (Leader of Fine Gael)
Dermot Ahern, TD (Fianna Fail, Co-Chair, British-Irish Parliamentary Body)
Chaired by John Clancy (Meath Peace Group)
Introduction and Editor’s Note: – Text of Articles 2 and 3; context and background to the talk; summary of main points from the speeches
Extracts from the speeches
1. Gerard Hogan – Legal/constitutional issues
2. Brid Rogers
3. Ken Maginnis, MP
4. John Bruton, TD
5. Dermot Ahern, TD
Introduction and Editor’s Note:
Text of Articles 2 and 3:
Article 2: ” The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas.”
Article 3: “Pending the re-integration of the national territory, and without prejudice to the right of the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution to exercise jurisdiction over the whole of that territory, the laws enacted by that Parliament shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws of Saorstat Eireann and the like extra-territorial effect.”
Context and background to Meath Peace Group symposium: Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland, 1937, have long been a source of controversy and division, with unionist politicians consistently calling for their removal or amendment, and nationalists opposing any unilateral change.
Unionist position: Many unionists see the Articles as evidence of the desire and intention of the Irish Government to “subsume them into a united Ireland without their consent” and the demand for their removal has gathered momentum following the interpretation given the Articles by the Supreme Court judgment in the McGimpsey case (1990). The Articles are also cited by unionists as a barrier to co-operation between North and South: In September, 1994, when informing his constituents of his belief that the IRA ceasefire was “for real” Mr. John Taylor, the Ulster Unionist MP for Strangford, also asserted that as long as Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution remained in place, “there could be “no real co-operation within our island”. At the UUP conference in October, 1994, the Republic’s territorial claim was described as a “serious obstacle to political progress and the normalisation of relations”. Also at that conference the delegates unanimously endorsed a motion calling on the Irish Government to demonstrate its commitment to the right of the people of Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom, “by indicating that it has no selfish, strategic or economic claims upon this part of the kingdom and by removing Articles 2 and 3 from its current Constitution.”
Nationalist position: Nationalists in Northern Ireland have always opposed the removal or unilateral amendment of the Articles, seeing them as their “birthright” and as a means of protecting their right to a sense of Irish identity and allegiance.
Despite the obvious importance of the Articles, there has been surprisingly little open and informed debate on the subject. We believe that many people in the Republic have only a vague notion as to what the Articles are about, and most of those who are aware of them see them as aspirational only. Furthermore, most people, it is suggested, are unaware of the implications of the new interpretation given the Articles by the Supreme Court in the McGimpsey case in 1990. The Meath Peace Group organised the present discussion both to inform the public as to the legal implications of the Articles and the current political thinking in the aftermath of the Downing St. Declaration, and also to give an opportunity to ordinary people to contribute to the wider debate. The talk took place a few weeks after the announcement of the IRA ceasefire, and the interest and concern of local people was shown in the large number who attended (c. 200, most coming from Meath, but with many from adjoining counties, and also a few from Northern Ireland). The talk was not fully recorded but extensive notes were taken. Some of the speakers were interviewed by local radio (LMFM).
SUMMARIES OF MAIN POINTS FROM THE SPEAKERS
While each speaker had differing views on the Articles in question, the meeting was very positive, and there were many points of agreement – these included:
• That there was no doubt that at some time the Articles would have to be changed. They were a product of the era in which they were written and therefore were outmoded in today’s circumstances.
• That there could be no going back to a pre-1969 type situation in Northern Ireland.
• That there was need for respect, tolerance and parity of esteem and that there must be compromise on all sides.
Gerard Hogan – summary of main points:
1: Articles 2 and 3 had always been seen as a political, rather than a legal right. In the McGimpsey case in 1990, the Supreme Court ruled the Articles were a “constitutional imperative” which obliged the Government to seek the re-integration of the “national territory” by peaceful means and that Article 2 constituted a “claim of legal right”, rather than a purely political right;
2. The Articles “will have to be replaced or modified”, but the task of finding a formula of words which will supplant them will not be easy. Any such formula will have to be agreed in the context of “balanced agreement“.
Brid Rogers – summary of main points:
1. For most people the Articles are symbolic and their approach is entirely emotional.
2. The debate around the Articles is but a symptom of the underlying problem, – “the failure to accommodate in a secure and durable way, the conflicting allegiance of nationalists and unionists on this island. The real challenge to all of us is to extend our energies and bend our minds to the task of finding the accommodation.”
Ken Maginnis – summary of main points:
1. Unionist fears derived from the underlying feeling of insecurity arising out of the enshrinement of the claim to the territory of N.I. in the Constitution.
2. With all the talk about moving towards greater understanding, he “didn’t believe there was any great desire to give the people of N.I. a chance to work together.”
John Bruton, TD – summary of main points:
1. The 1937 Constitution was a product of its era. We must now move “towards a new form of constitutional theory, which recognises the concept of multiple allegiances”
2. The resolutions adopted by Sinn Fein at Letterkenny showed that their thinking hadn’t changed – they still thought in terms of territorial unity. “We must break out of the thinking of the 1930s if we are ever to have peace”.
Dermot Ahern, TD – summary of main points:
1. The dilution or removal of Articles 2 and 3, rather than furthering the cause of peace, would have the opposite effect. “Had we listened to the clamour for their unilateral amendment or removal, we would not have reached the stage we are now at in the peace process.”
2. The Articles are a “powerful form of reassurance for the nationalist community in N.I. and a reminder to the citizens of the Republic of our responsibility to the people of Northern Ireland as a whole.”
Extracts from speeches:
1. Gerard Hogan (lecturer in law, TCD): Legal and Constitutional Issues
Historical background: Mr. Hogan explained that the enactment by plebiscite of the Irish Constitution in July 1937 marked the end of the Irish Free State and “a conscious repudiation” by the Irish side of those features – such as the oath of allegiance to the Crown, the right of appeal to the Privy Council and the Governor-General – of the Anglo-Irish settlement of 1921-1922 which they had found unpalatable. “These aspects of the 1921 Treaty and 1922 Constitution had been abolished one by one throughout the 1930s. This was done by ordinary legislation, since that Constitution did not require to be amended by referendum.
“The 1937 Constitution represented the culmination of this process. That Constitution was republican in character and the Crown survived only in hidden form – like a face camouflaged by foliage in a children’s puzzle – with the result that the last severing of formal links between the United Kingdom and Ireland upon the latter leaving the Commonwealth in 1949 was a simple formality.”
Articles 2 and 3: Mr. Hogan quoted the text of the Articles, observing “While these provisions may strike some as having a distinctly revanchist tone, it is only proper to observe that by Article 29 of the Constitution, Ireland accepted the generally recognised principles of international law and pledged itself to the “principle of the pacific settlement of international disputes”. Moreover, as the Irish Supreme Court was strongly to imply in the 1990 McGimpsey decision, Article 29 precluded the State from achieving the “reintegration of the national territory” in a manner which was not consistent with international law.”
Failure of Boundary Commission: “In essence, Articles 2 and 3 constituted a repudiation of the 1925 Treaty Agreement whereby the Irish Free State implicity acknowledged the present border with Northern Ireland following the collapse of the Boundary Commission. …. Articles 2 and 3must be seen as a response to the failure of the Boundary Commission’s report“.
[Editor’s Note: The Boundary Commission had been provided for by Article XII of the 1921 Treaty and its terms of reference were to determine “in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions, the boundaries between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland”.]
Political theory behind the Articles: Mr. Hogan illustrated the thinking underlying Articles 2 and 3 as summed up by the Supreme Court in 1975 when it said that the Articles reflected the political theory that:
“the Irish people living in what is now called the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland together formed the Irish Nation; that a nation has a right to unity of territory in some form… and that the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, though legally binding, was a violation of that natural right to unity which was superior to positive law.”
Despite this, Mr. Hogan pointed out that, even at that time, these provisions were controversial. The Secretary of the Department of Finance in a briefing document in April 1937, described the Articles as a “fiction” and “one which will give offence to neighbouring countries with whom we are constantly protesting our desire to live on terms of friendship. In addition, of course, “the Northern Unionist community found these provisions to be objectionable.”
1967 All-Party Committee on the Constitution: Continuing the historical outline, Mr. Hogan discussed the work of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution in 1967 which recommended a re-formulation of the provisions to make it clear that any territorial change could only come about by consent.
“No action was taken on foot of that recommendation, mainly because the issue became more sensitive with the advent of civil strife in Northern Ireland…These provisions can only be changed by way of referendum – ordinary legislation will not suffice – and genuine fears have been consistently expressed that a unilateral repeal or even modification of these clauses would be either defeated or would give extremist groups a platform.”
McGimpsey v. Ireland – Supreme Court judgment (1990): Up to 1990, the claim expressed in the Articles had always been seen as a political, rather than a legal right. In that year, however, the Supreme Court ruled in the McGimpsey case that the Articles were a “constitutional imperative” which obliged the Government to seek the re-integration of the “national territory” by peaceful means, and that Article 2 constituted a “claim of legal right”, rather than a purely political right.
The Court went on to uphold the constitutionality of the Anglo-Irish Agreement on the ground that the Agreement’s recognition that “any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland” was simply a de facto recognition of political realities and did not amount to a waiver of the Republic’s legal claim of right….“..the McGimpsey case meant that Articles 2 and 3 could not be ignored or dismissed, as the Republic’s political establishment had wished.”
Birthright and citizenship: “It is sometimes suggested that a modification of Articles 2 and 3 would deprive the northern nationalist community of its legal birthright. Whatever the political merits of this argument, it has no legal validity. The jurisdiction to award citizenship is not at all dependent on the persons concerned being resident within the State or the national territory… As far as international law is concerned, there are practically no limits on a State’s ability to extend citizenship to those persons who desire such protection.”
Replacement or modification of the Articles: It is against this legal and constitutional background that the present talks are taking place. “While it is widely acknowledged that Articles 2 and 3 will have to be replaced or modified, since – irrespective of what the Supreme Court may say – they are at odds with the spirit of understanding reflected in both the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Downing St. Declaration, the task of finding a formula of words which will supplant them will not be easy. Any such formula will have to be agreed in the context of “balanced agreement” … and must satisfy the conflicting aims and aspirations of both communities in Northern Ireland, as well as subsequently obtaining the support of a majority of the Republic’s voters following a referendum.”
2. Cllr. Brid Rogers (SDLP spokesperson on women’s issues and Constituency Representative for Upper Bann)
Brid Rodgers thanked the Meath Peace Group for holding such an important debate on what had always been a “political bone of contention” in Northern Ireland. She outlined the background to the demand from unionist polticians for the removal of the Articles, which, she said, often “stridently ignored the basic fact that an amendment to the Irish Constitution is not in the gift of any Irish Government and can only be brought about by the will of the people voting in a referendum. “
“I firmly believe that any attempt to unilaterally remove or change Articles 2 and 3 in theabsence of an overall satisfactory settlement would fail. It would certainly be opposed tooth and nail by the northern nationalists who deeply resent the purported generosity of unionist politicians who proclaim their acceptance of the right of nationalists to their aspiration to Irish unity provided of course it is expressed with due regard for unionist sensitivities and provided that nothing is done to change the status quo in Northern Ireland.”
“The failure of such a referendum would constitute a setback for those unionists who genuinely wish to see the Articles removed or modified. For those unionist politicians whose demands for the removal of Articles 2 and 3 amount to a propaganda weapon, a stick with which to beat the Irish Government and other means of increasing and exploiting the real fears and insecurities of the Protestant population, it would be a godsend, a reprieve, another excuse not to deal with the real issue, the challenge of recognising and accommodating the rights of nationalists.”
Approach of most people: Ms. Rogers stated that for most people the Articles are symbolic and their approach is entirely emotional: “for nationalists they are seen as the means of protecting their right to a sense of Irish identity and allegiance.” For unionists …they are regarded as proof positive of the desire and intention of the Irish government to subsume them into a united Ireland without their consent.”
“Any change to the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, would be vehemently opposed by unionists as it would be supported by nationalists on the same basis.”
Realities: If it were possible to take a dispassionate view of the realities, two things would become very clear:
Firstly, since the foundation of Northern Ireland, nationalists have suffered severe discrimination in all aspects of their lives. But, “the existence of Articles 2 and 3 provided them with no protection against the worst excesses of the Stormont regime.”
Secondly, the Government of Ireland Act, which is the basis on which Northern Ireland was established, “specifically for the benefit and accommodation of unionists”, “has provided them with neither security nor stability. “In other words the protection for both communities has been symbolic rather than real.”
Underlying problem: Ms. Rogers stated that, in her view, the debate around Articles 2 and 3 was but a symptom of the underlying problem, that is the “failure to accommodate in a secure and durable way, the conflicting allegiance of nationalists and unionists on this island. …The real challenge to all of us is to extend our energies and bend our minds to the task of finding the accommodation. ”
Finding the accommodation: The task of building structures which will recognise and accommodate the legitimate aspirations of nationalists and unionists on this island will be fraught with difficulty and will require imagination and courage from all political leaders, she said. It will never be accomplished by harping and dwelling on the various symptoms of our problems nor by demands that these be dealt with in piecemeal fashion. “It will only be achieved when all parties sit down together with everything on the table to work out by agreement how we live in peace together on this small piece of earth.”
Real peace: Ms. Rogers concluded: “The real peace has yet to be won and and winning of it is the challenge facing all of us. It can only be achieved by building structures within which nationalist, unionist, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter can feel comfortable, secure and unthreatened … It is clear that such structures will require, not merely changes to Articles 2 and 3, but the drawing up of an entirely new constitution – a constitution for an Agreed Ireland.”
3. Ken Maginnis (Ulster Unionist MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone and spokesperson on security)
Mr. Maginnis welcomed the invitation to talk, stating that he was “glad to see the hall filled by people with a genuine interest in the welfare of the people of Northern Ireland”. He went on to outline the problems he and other unionists had with the Articles, especially since the McGimpsey case and the Supreme Court judgment in 1990. He stated that all the fears derived from: “the underlying feeling of insecurity arising out of the enshrinement of the claim to the territory of Northern Ireland in the Constitution.”
Realities: “We cannot re-write history. Northern Ireland is a fact. It has been a separate political entity for over 70 years and will not change unless by consent, or by terrorism and armed aggression.”
Referring to the terrorism of the last 25 years, Mr. Maginnis felt that the Articles could be seen as giving justification to IRA violence. The Articles made it a “constitutional imperative” for the people of the Republic to achieve a united Ireland, he said, and he outlined some of the practical problems arising from the McGimpsey judgment, particularly in the area of extradition.
As to the past, Mr. Maginnis said that he was not going to argue about discrimination – it did occur but checks and balances have been brought in, and he believed there was little point in harking back to past practices now.
Consent: With all the talk about moving towards greater understanding, Mr. Maginnis didn’t believe there was any great desire to give the people of Northern Ireland a chance to work together. While the principle of consent was acknowledged by the Irish Government in the Downing St. Declaration, he felt it meant absolutely nothing more than a “statement of intent by Albert Reynolds and that depends on Reynold being a man of honour”.
“This quibble [about consent] is the rock on which Gerry Adams is building his case – he hasn’t agreed to the consent element in any final solution.”
Mr Maginnis doubted the permanency of the IRA ceasefire when they still held on to their huge stockpile of weapons.
Mr Maginnis questioned the sincerity of talking about consent while the Republic’s government wanted an executive role in the government of Northern Ireland. Unionists were opposed to an executive role for Dublin – they want to govern impartially with people such as the SDLP, and cooperate as much as possible with the South.
4. John Bruton, TD (leader of Fine Gael):
“We must achieve a society in which everybody living in any part of Ireland feels comfortable. Articles 2 and 3 assert that, under a Constitution adopted by the 26 counties only, we have a right to govern Northern Ireland, regardless of the wishes of the majority living in Northern Ireland. That assertion has exactly the same effect psychologically on the majority unionist community in N.I. as, in a sense, everything in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1969 had on the nationalists. It makes them [the unionists] feel that, in our eyes, they don’t count and that their views can be overriden by the assertion in our Constitution, and makes them feel foreigners in their own land. In Northern Ireland (and even prior to its foundation), people with nationalist beliefs felt that in a sense they were foreigners in their own land, that in a sense they did not really belong, they were to be tolerated. This is the reality which bred the resentment which eventually led to violence.”
Constitution a product of its era: In Mr. Bruton’s view, the 1937 Constitution was a product of its era, and the political theories of the time when it was enacted. It was based on the concept of territorial nationalism – “one-nation, one-State” – which was a neat concept but did not work in practice, as history has shown. Mr. Bruton said that we know better now and must move “towards a new form of constitutional theory, which recognises the concept of multiple allegiances“.
Two allegiances: It was possible for 2 allegiances to co-exist in one State, as evidenced in Spain and other European countries, he said. Furthermore, the nation-state “no longer calls the shots”. No State now has complete sovereignty – in this country laws can be struck down if they are contrary to EC law; in effect, the Dail is no longer sovereign, and, with regard to Northern Ireland, Westminster is no longer sovereign. “Ireland, because of Articles 2 and 3, is now the only State in Europe with a constitutional territorial claim.”
Identity: Mr. Bruton pointed out that there are two types of Irish people:
“Irish people who feel they are Irish and European”, and “Irish people who feel British, and feel allegiance to the Crown, but also feel European.”
Need for change: We must find a way of re-ordering our Constitution to allow for respect for multiple allegiances, Mr. Bruton said. We must create a constitutional order in which all people can feel comfortable. Articles 2 and 3 don’t allow that for unionists, just as the Government of Ireland Act doesn’t allow it for nationalists.
There has to be change, but the tragedy of the last 74 years has been that “the strong have always been waiting for the weak to make the first concession“. We must change the Articles, but we can’t do it in a way that would make the nationalists feel abandoned. Public debate is essential.
Downing Street Declaration : Answering Ken Maginnis, Mr. Bruton said that the Declaration was not a treaty, but it was stronger than Mr. Maginnis supposed. It did not depend on Albert Reynolds – all parties in the Dail had accepted the principles, and any future government would support them.
Cross-border dimension: All parties have accepted that the problem has 3 dimensions – “the problem does have a cross-border dimension, but there must be a cross-border solution also. There has to be a British solution also.”
IRA ceasefire: Mr. Bruton stated that part of the worry about the permanency of the IRA ceasefire stemmed from the resolutions adopted by Sinn Fein at Letterkenny. While Sinn Fein tactics may have changed, their thinking hadn’t changed – they still thought in terms of territorial unity. “If Sinn Fein accepts the rights of unionists, then they must accept their right to be British”, but they hadn’t done that if they are still talking about a “unionist veto“.
Multiple allegiances: “In the modern world we’ve got to have multiple allegiances with multiple expressions of those allegiances, where different sovereignties co-exist within the same territory, not as one sovereignty – one territory.”
“The old-fashioned notion of territorial unity is out of date. “We must break out of the thinking of the 1930s if we are ever to have peace … We must create a constitutional order in which all people can feel comfortable.”
5. Dermot Ahern, TD (Fianna Fail; Co-chair, British-Irish Parliamentary Body)
Mr. Ahern described Articles 2 and 3 as a “stabilising force”. Previous campaigns, North and South, to unilaterally delete or amend Articles 2 and 3, were profoundly misguided, he said: “Their dilution or removal, rather than furthering the cause of peace, would have the opposite effect …Had we listened to the clamour for their unilateral amendment or removal, we would not have reached the stage we are now at in the peace process. …To have unilaterally amended or removed Articles 2 and 3 would have served to alienate the nationalist community, created a vacuum which the paramilitaries would have attempted to fill, had the effect of confirming a Unionist veto, and diluted initiatives to allow the Irish Government to have a legitimate say in the affairs of Northern Ireland.”
“Articles 2 and 3 are a powerful form of reassurance for the nationalist community in Northern Ireland and a reminder to the citizens of the Republic of our responsibility to the people of Northern Ireland as a whole.”
Constitutional change: Mr. Ahern stated the Fianna Fail position which is, that in the event of an overall political settlement between both parts of the island, balanced consitutional change would be required.
Road to an enduring peace: Mr. Ahern outlined the steps on the road to an enduring peace: “beginning the work of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, reaping the benefits of the peace dividend, re-opening of border roads, building cross-border links in every possible sector” …culminating the period of intensive bridge-building with an overall constitutional settlement based on the principle of consent, involving the creation of cross-border bodies.
Internal solution: Mr. Ahern rejected the notion of a purely internal solution, but said “there must be compromise and most people agree with this. It was necessary to keep the peace process moving, he said, and he would welcome the participation of unionists in the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation.
Editor’s note: There were many questions from the floor, but unfortunately these were not recorded.
Meath Peace Group Report: October 1994.Compiled and edited by Julitta Clancy
Biographical notes on speakers:
1. Gerard Hogan: Fellow of Trinity College Dublin and Lecturer in law, TCD. Specialist in constitutional law and administrative law; author of many legal articles and publications, including the major work on Administrative Law in Ireland. His most recent publication was as co-author of the 3rd edition of Kelly’s The Irish Constitution (Butterworths 1994)
2. Brid Rogers: SDLP spokesperson on women’s issues and the Party’s constituency representative for Upper Bann constituency. Native of Gweedore Gaeltacht, living in Lurgan, Co. Armagh, since 1960. Was actively involved in Civil Rights movement. Elected to chair of SDLP in 1978 – First woman chairperson of an Irish political party. Served as member of Seanad Eireann 1983-87 (nominated by Garret Fitzgerald). Leader of SDLP group in Craigavon District Council 1984-92.
3. Ken Maginnis, MP (Fermanagh-South Tyrone), UUP spokesperson on security: Late entry into public life. In 1981 he was elected to Dungannon District Council, and in 1982 to the Northern Ireland Assembly. He was elected to Westminster in June, 1983, and has served as UUP spokesperson on Defence, Security, Employment, and Local Government. Apart from security matters, he has also taken a keen interest in environmental issues since his election to Westminster.
4. John Bruton, TD (Fine Gael, Meath; Leader of Fine Gael) Farmer. First elected to the Dail in 1969, becoming the youngest member of the 19th Dail. Served as spokesperson for Fine Gael in many areas, and has at various times in the 1980s been Minister for – Finance, Industry and Commerce, Industry and Energy, Public Service. Deputy leader of the Party 1987-1990; elected leader in November 1990. President, Irish Council of the European Movement, November 1990 to date. Member, British-Irish Parliamentary Body 1993 to date. Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, December 1989-Jan. 1991.
5. Dermot Ahern, TD (Fianna Fail, Louth): Solicitor. Elected to Dail in 1987. Since his election has been a member of several Oireachtas and Dail committees, and is currently co-chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body, since May 1993. Formerly held posts as Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach and Department of Defence, and former Government Chief Whip. Member of Louth County Council from 1979-1991 and also was a member of Louth VEC and other local authority bodies. Currently a member of Fianna Fail Review Commission and Fianna Fail National Executive.
Meath Peace Group Report: October 1994
©Meath Peace Group
Contact names 1994: Anne Nolan, Gernonstown, Slane, Co. Meath; Susan Devane, Slane, Co. Meath; Julitta Clancy, Parsonstown, Batterstown, Co. Meath;
Pauline Ryan, Navan; Philomena Boylan-Stewart, Longwood; Felicity Cuthbert, Kilcloon