Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to

Northern Ireland Peace Process: Statements.

Wednesday, 28 February 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 462 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 137 Next Page Last Page

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton I thank the House for affording me the opportunity to make this statement. I also wish to express my thanks to all those who made it possible — The Tánaiste, who has been working with tenacity and effectiveness on the twin track initiative which commenced last November, the members of the Cabinet sub-committee on Northern Ireland, the Minister for Social Welfare, the Minister for Justice, the Attorney General and all our officials. Today's agreement would not have been possible without the agreement of 28 November which commenced the twin track initiative, established a firm aim of launching all-party talks and gave us the immensely valuable and cogently written Mitchell report.

The agreement reached in London today between Prime Minister Major and myself provides an historic opening for peace and reconciliation. It provides, for the first time, a fixed date for all-party negotiations where all the parties in Northern Ireland, Nationalist and republican, Unionist and loyalist, get around the table with the two Governments and negotiate a way out of the difficulties that have divided us and brought us into conflict for generations.

There is, therefore, now no vestige of argument for the continuation of IRA violence, just as there has never been any moral or political justification for it. I call on the IRA to accept the will of the people of both of these islands, as so clearly expressed in recent days, to end the bombings and the shootings once and for all.

Today's agreement gives everyone a chance to resolve their political differences by political means. We have an opportunity, in the intensive period of consultations which the Tánaiste will be starting on Monday, to receive an input from all Northern Ireland political parties as to how they think an elective process should work; how negotiations should be conducted; whether there is advantage in a referendum to win popular endorsement for what we are doing, and so on.

I call on the Unionist parties to respond generously to this process. For our part we offer them generosity, in a way in which it has perhaps never been previously offered. There can be no agreement without them. Any agreement to come into effect must be approved in referendum by a majority [895] in Northern Ireland. The majority community in Northern Ireland has the least to fear, and potentially the most to gain, from all-party negotiations. The Unionist community should not allow any artifical obstacle or sophisticated argument to stand in the way of its full hearted involvement in determining its own future.

This Government's primary objective since taking office has been to achieve a comprehensive political agreement which would allow the peoples of these islands to live and work together in peace and harmony. We have been working intensively, in close co-operation with the British Government, to this end. We have worked, willingly and with due acknowledgement, on the achievements of our predecessors in Government.

In the period up to 9 February, when the IRA revoked its cessation of violence, a great deal of progress had been made. The two Governments had for the first time ever provided, in the Joint Framework Document, an outline of what a comprehensive political agreement might involve, in order to give impetus, focus and direction to all-party negotiations. We had also come a long way to making these negotiations a reality.

Last November, the two Governments agreed a joint firm aim of launching all-party negotiations by the end of this month. We also put in place a process — the twin track process — to achieve this end. It involved the beginning of intensive preparatory talks between the two Governments and the political parties to prepare the ground for negotiations. It also involved, in parallel, the setting up of an international body, chaired by Senator George Mitchell, to provide an independent assessment of the decommissioning issue. That body completed its work last month within the time frame allotted and its report, containing a number of principles and recommendations, dealt [896] in a very balanced way with the complexities surrounding the decommissioning issue.

Very considerable progress was also made in the discussions in the political track, involving an unprecedented degree of contact between the two Governments, separately and together, and the political parties in Northern Ireland. With a view to concluding the preparations for negotiations, the Irish Government has on 7 February made a proposal for proximity talks, which we were pursuing with the British Government with, we believed, a real prospect of success. In short, it seemed at that time as if all-party negotiations were within a hand's grasp.

The IRA's resumption of violence on 9 February, with all its terrible consequences in terms of loss of life and grevious injury and suffering, some permanent, was a major blow to our hopes for real progress towards a political settlement. However, the two Governments continued to work towards our shared objective of all-party negotiations. We recognised that we had a duty to act in the interests of all those — the vast majority of the peoples of these islands — who put their trust and confidence in us and who look to us for political leadership. The place of political progress can never be dictated by those who, against all morality and logic, seek to set the political agenda by violence.

The priority of the Government in the past two weeks has been the restoration of the IRA ceasefire and the establishment of a specific date for all-party negotiations on a settlement. We have regarded the latter objective as desirable and necessary in its own right, and also as helpful to the reinstatement of peace.

The joint communiqué which Prime Minister Major and I agreed in Downing Street today represents a further milestone in this ongoing work and provides, as I have already said, an historic opening for the peace and reconciliation we all seek.

[897] First, it reaffirms the commitment of the two Governments to work for a lasting peace and comprehensive settlement based on the principles set out in the Downing Street Declaration and the Joint Framework Document. Second, it underlines the fundamental priority we attach to securing the earliest possible inclusive negotiations to address all the relevant relationships and issues in an interlocking three-stranded process. Third, it confirms that such negotiations should include all relevant parties which establish a commitment to exclusively peaceful methods and have shown that they abide by the democratic process. There are no other qualifications for participation. Fourth, it confirms that an elective process would have to be broadly acceptable and lead immediately and without further pre-conditions to the convening of all-party negotiations with a comprehensive agenda.

The communiqué agreed between the British Prime Minister and myself is designed to move the entire peace process forward decisively. It creates a priceless opportunity to recapture the peace and anchor it politically.

For Sinn Féin and the IRA, this is a moment in time which may not be available to them again soon — if ever. All that has to happen, for Sinn Féin to become a full participant in the negotiations, is a restoration of the IRA ceasefire of August 1994. I know that every Member of this House will join in the demand that the IRA should make Sinn Féin's political participation possible and that they should make that decision now.

I say to them openly and frankly: “Do not close this space for hope. Build on the opportunity inherent in it. Take the next vital step in building a lasting peaceful settlement by restoring the ceasefire of August 1994. That will then enable the two Governments to resume full ministerial dialogue with Sinn Féin and make possible that party's full engagement in the process of negotiations.”

In paragraph 6 of the communiqué, [898] the Irish and British Governments have committed themselves irrevocably to the commencement of all-party negotiations on 10 June. It is made equally clear in paragraph 12 that, even in the absence of the cessation of violence, both Governments will continue to work in partnership with those parties exclusively committed to peaceful methods to secure a comprehensive negotiated settlement and start negotiations with them on 10 June.

The intensive consultations and elective process, now provided for, will be undertaken in the period between now and 10 June. Inclusive negotiations will then be convened to address comprehensively the agreed agenda in an interlocking three-stranded process.

During the ten day period beginning on Monday next, the two Governments will conduct intensive multilateral consultations with the relevant Northern Ireland parties. The purpose of these consultations will be first, to reach widespread agreement on proposals for a broadly acceptable elective process leading directly and without preconditions to the commencement of all-party negotiations on 10 June. While this is a matter primarily for the parties in Northern Ireland to determine by agreement with the British Government, the Irish Government would support a proposal of that kind which, to our satisfaction, met the three tests set out in the Mitchell report.

The test of broad acceptability requires political acceptance. The test of an appropriate mandate demands that it offers a direct and speedy route, without preconditions, to all-party negotiations. The test of being within the three stranded structure requires that the integrity of the three core relationships as set out in both the Joint Declaration and Joint Framework Document must be respected. In this morning's communiqué, full and appropriate account has been taken of these three conditions in paragraph 7 where it is stated that:

The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach agreed that an elective process [899] would have to be broadly acceptable and lead immediately and without further preconditions to the convening of all-party negotiations with a comprehensive agenda.

The second purpose of the intensive consultations with the parties which will commence on Monday next is to reach widespread agreement on the basis, participation, structure, format and agenda of substantive all-party negotiations. On the basis for negotiations, it is made clear in paragraph 4 that neither violence nor the threat of violence would be allowed to influence the course of negotiations or preparations for them. Furthermore, in paragraph 6, the Prime Minister and I reaffirmed our commitment to work for a lasting peace and comprehensive settlement on the basis of the fundamental principles shared by our two Governments and set out in the Downing Street Declaration and Joint Framework Document.

Regarding participation in all-party negotiations, both Governments are agreed in paragraph 5 that Sinn Féin participation is dependent only on a restoration of the IRA ceasefire. I regard it as being in all our interests that parties close to the loyalist paramilitaries, which have shown such discipline and courage in recent weeks, should be able to join with us in these negotiations.

On the question of how talks will be structured, much work remains to be done. While the practical considerations of this remain to be agreed, there is much to build upon. The lessons of the 1991-92 talks and the issues identified in the Joint Framework Document offer signposts for the way forward. The structure for negotiations must be within the three-stranded framework where all the key relationships are accorded equal integrity.

The format for negotiations is a matter on which each party will, undoubtedly, have its own view. The overriding objective should be viability in order [900] that the prospects for reaching a comprehensive agreement would be maximised within the shortest period possible.

On the question of the agenda for all-party negotiations, the British Prime Minister and I agree that it should be comprehensive. In that regard, the issues identified in the Joint Framework Document will be able to provide the necessary focus and direction for deliberations in this area, without being exclusive.

The third purpose of the intensive multilateral consultations with the Northern Ireland parties relates to the question of the holding of parallel referendums, in Northern Ireland and this jurisdiction. The objective of such referendums would be “to mandate support for a process to create lasting stability, based on the repudiation of violence for any political purpose”. Mr. John Hume first proposed this as a means of solidly underpinning the search for, and outcome of, political negotiations by purely peaceful and democratic means. The idea has much to commend it because the people of Ireland, North and South, would, in effect, be asked to say that the invocation of violence can have no place in the resolution of differences on this island. These can only be resolved by peaceful and democratic methods, where violence or its threat will have no part.

The British Prime Minister and I are confident that the consultations on all these matters, which will begin on Monday next, will offer a fair and acceptable basis for the launch of all-party negotiations which will go ahead on 10 June. The Governments will review the outcome in just over a fortnight's time and decisions will then be made to guarantee that the all-party negotiations will begin on time.

It is clear that the timespan just outlined for the intensive consultations with the Northern Ireland parties is very short. A determined and committed effort is required of everyone involved to ensure the maximum progress is achieved.

[901] There has been an emphasis in comment in Westminster and elsewhere on the problem of decommissioning. I understand this, but let us not forget that addressing the decommissioning of arms is one of the best means of building confidence and trust. We are putting in place a process in which decommissioning will become possible, as it is already desirable in every other sense. It is through the confidence and trust that can only be built by political dialogue that we will make decommissioning practically achievable. That is a challenge for everybody. An important part of making that challenge a credible one is the clear recognition in the communiqué that confidence building also requires that the parties have reassurance that a meaningful and inclusive process of negotiations is genuinely being offered to address the legitimate concerns of their traditions and the need for new political arrangements with which all can identify.

That important point should be reflected upon in Northern Ireland and the neighbouring jurisdiction. These two processes complement one another: a process of meaningful negotiation complements and reinforces a process of taking arms out of politics just as a process of taking arms out of politics complements and reinforces a process of meaningful negotiation. That is the complementarity established so clearly in paragraph 12 of the communiqué agreed today.

It is important that people debating this issue should recognise that what we need to achieve is a positive complementarity between these two factors, where the process of decommissioning reinforces the process of negotiation in a serious way and where the process of serious negotiation also helps in dealing with the decommissioning problem.

It is the intention of the British Prime Minister and myself that all our contacts and meetings will act as further steps on the road to the commencement of all-party talks on 10 June. This morning's communiqué represents an historic opening. Never before have we had the [902] possibility of sitting down together to discuss all the issues that divide us. No one participant will determine the agenda, the format or the conditions for participation. In the end, the peace that belongs to all the people of Ireland must be underpinned by political agreement. After many twists and turns, we have created a hill on the road to agreement. The journey down the rest of the road starts now.

In today's communiqué the two Governments have created a political means and a firm guarantee whereby the overwhelming wish of the Irish people, expressed in the cry for peace last Sunday in towns, villages and cities of this land, North and South, can be given practical political expression. The role of political life is to provide a channel and a means whereby people's aspirations can be given reality. This communiqué gives reality to the heartfelt aspirations and demands of the Irish people, North and South, Unionist and Nationalist, for peace and reconciliation.

I express my thanks to all involved on behalf of the Government in this exercise. I also express my thanks and appreciation to the British Government, and to the British Prime Minister, John Major, for the courage and decisiveness that he has shown in dealing with this matter.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern My party, Fianna Fáil, warmly welcomes the definite political progress that has finally been achieved by the two Governments, 18 months to the day after the original ceasefire. I welcome the fact that a firm date has been set for convening all-party negotiations. While an elective process would have to be broadly acceptable, the important thing is that it will lead immediately and without further pre-conditions to the convening of all-party negotiations with a comprehensive agenda.

I particularly welcome the fact that the two Governments are finally reverting to the understanding on which the original ceasefire was based that [903] Fianna Fáil in Government helped to bring about. This is the understanding first set out in paragraph 10 of the Downing Street Declaration, in which the only precondition for participation in dialogue and negotiations with other parties is a permanent end to violence. We on this side of the House and many others have been saying for more than a year that the basis for a move to all-party negotiations had already been provided by the sustained ceasefires. The two Governments have now vindicated that point of view.

The setting of a date for all-party talks does represent a breakthrough. For a long time both Governments, but particularly the British Government, argued that there was no point in doing this unless the unionist parties had agreed in advance to attend. The alternative view, which has not prevailed, was that those who were obstructing or boycotting the start of negotiations should be clearly identified. It is now clear that the people, whatever their political persuasion, will not thank the parties who refuse to take part in peace negotiations unless their unrealistic pre-conditions are fulfilled.

I accept parties do have serious and genuine concerns about the existence of large arsenals, which will only be heightened by recent events. These concerns will need to be addressed in a serious manner at the start of all-party negotiations, and this is what we have always advocated. The Mitchell principles and recommendations about confidence-building measures come from a neutral source, and have a lot of validity. I believe they will prove the best and least contentious way of dealing with many issues. Additional issues, like the principle of consent should be dealt with in the course of negotiations.

I welcome the renewed commitment of both Governments to a lasting peace and comprehensive settlement on the basis of the fundamental principles in the Downing Street Declaration and the Framework Document. We are [904] delighted that the Framework Document after a year's absence has finally re-emerged. This is something we have strongly argued for.

While I note that in paragraph six the two Governments affirm the fundamental priority they attach to securing the earliest possible inclusive negotiations to address comprehensively all the relevant relationships and issues in an inter-locking three-stranded process, I am puzzled that in paragraph nine only the Taoiseach requires to be satisfied that the nature of an elective process has to be within the three-stranded structure. I would like clarification on this as adherence to the three strands is vital throughout the process.

I am glad there is an immediate move to unilateral consultations on proximity talks to settle the form and agenda of negotiations over a 10-day period. Some intensive brainstorming is clearly needed. We remain frankly sceptical about the necessity of an elective process and we see a lot of problems in it, particularly once the heat of a campaign is generated. We do not have a strong view on the nature of the elective process, recognising that there are sincere and legitimate views on both sides. I have had the opportunity to listen to the parties on both sides of this argument.

We hope that the two Governments and all political parties will work together to ensure the success of the process that has been outlined by the Taoiseach, and that the failure to honour the firm aim of starting negotiations by the end of February contained in the 28 November communiqué will not be repeated. The timetable must be strictly adhered to. Good faith will be vital on all sides. I would urge that the IRA ceasefire be reinstated forthwith, and I expect that it will be, so that Sinn Féin can immediately play a full part in all political talks and negotiations on an equal footing, and have direct access to both Governments at the highest level.

I would ask the IRA to give a full and unequivocal commitment at least equivalent to the definitive statement made on 31 August 1994 that restores the [905] integrity of the peace process, and that it do so without reservations. My party will then do its utmost to ensure that Sinn Féin are treated fairly and in a non-discriminatory manner in relation to their participation in future talks and negotiations.

I hope that all political parties in this island will be imbued with a deep sense of responsibility towards the people of Ireland, North and South. Their welfare, and in some cases even their lives, are at stake. The people have expressed their will in an unmistakeable manner that there must be a peaceful accommodation of political differences. The voice of the people will have done more than anything to restore peace. There is no place for further violence, and there must be negotiations leading to a peace settlement.

What has been agreed today by the two Governments should have been done long ago. It is never wrong to carry out one's public commitments. It is a great pity that it has appeared to take a major crisis and a breakdown in the peace process to inject a real sense of urgency into political progress, because that can send all the wrong messages. I deeply regret that the response that should have been given to peace has only followed now after recent events. That only encourages a dangerous cynicism about democracy. It is an indictment of the way in which the peace process was mishandled over a long period, particularly by the British Government, from the aftermath of the Framework Document to the publication of the Mitchell report, major initiatives, both of which were effectively cast aside.

Nevertheless, I am glad that the two Governments together are at last in a position to give the peace process the momentum it always needed. The original progress made in the peace process came about because the British Government in the final analysis was willing to listen to the Irish Government, which had a greater understanding of the psychology of the situation. The problem arose when they stopped listening to us. [906] Throughout the last year, I and my colleagues have argued inside and outside this House, the Forum and elsewhere what needed to be done. I hope and believe that lasting lessons will have been learned on all sides. We all have to examine our consciences, with the determination that the mistakes of the past year will not be repeated. I do not intend to say anything today that might provide the slightest justification for a continuation of violence.

Notwithstanding today's developments, the IRA ceasefire should have held in all circumstances, as originally promised. As the main democratic republican party, committed to the ultimate goal of an Irish unity achieved in peace by agreement, we are confident of the Irish people's ability to move forward and, if necessary, fight their political battles by exclusively political and democratic means, however long it takes and no matter what obstacles are placed in the way by others. There are no short cuts. Our national destiny has evolved over centuries, but this coming generation faces uniquely favourable circumstances for a major national advance on all fronts, provided those chances are not marred by violence.

I have no doubt the IRA acted out of frustration at what it saw as the provocation, prevarication and arrogance of its opponents in the British Government and the Unionist parties. The IRA was never defeated, and no one should have made the mistake of treating it as if it had been. The British Government should have taken realistic advice on the decommissioning issue from this House. As against that, the Irish Government, Fianna Fáil, other parties in this House and in the Forum and Irish-Americans did their best in good faith, even if some critical mistakes were made, to sustain confidence in the ceasefire. Solemn and unqualified commitments had been made by the IRA and Sinn Féin leaders. We did not deserve to be let down. What the IRA did on 9 February and subsequently was extremely dangerous and we are fortunate that other paramilitary organisations, loyalists and [907] republican socialist, exercised a commendable restraint, which could not necessarily be counted on again. I praise them for doing so and if they stick to that position the whole of Ireland will not forget it in future.

The breakdown of the ceasefire was damaging to Sinn Féin and to the credibility and trustworthiness of the republican movement. I nevertheless believe that, even if it is a little slow to begin with, trust can be restored, if the right response is given swiftly now and is sustained long-term into the future. I am sure everyone committed to the peace process will be greatly relieved if the nightmare of the last three weeks is over.

I am sure the IRA will recognise that a breakthrough has been achieved, even if it should have happened earlier, but it would make a huge mistake if it were ever again to resume its campaign. As the peace forum stated it its report, and the British Government in its clarification of May 1994, no political party has a veto. In today's climate, the people throughout the island are demanding peace and the political accommodation that will underpin it. The IRA is deeply mistaken, if it believes that it or any other organisation can continue to exercise a veto on political progress. That may have been the position for 25 years, but we are moving into a new era when all vetoes coming from any one party or organisation will be broken. We saw this with the Ulster Unionist Party only the other night. Progress towards a political settlement has started, however slow it may be, and will not be halted by paramilitary violence; if anything the opposite will be the case.

Members of the republican movement need to transform all their energies into politics. They showed in the last 18 months that they were well able to hold their own. Democratic politics is often a slow, wearisome business, with few immediate rewards. Yet at other times it can also be exciting, exhilarating [908] and fast moving. We have all experienced both the highs and the lows of politics.

The paramilitary organisations in the North must accept, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, that “their warfare is accomplished”. They must face the logic of that in the course of negotiations, both in terms of their organisations and in regard to the safe, verifiable and mutual disposal of their weapons, as part of the wider demilitarisation of Northern society. The six Mitchell principles and the recommendation of a phased start to decommissioning during negotiations will need to be addressed when those negotiations start. My party has shown in the past few years that it is prepared to do everything reasonable to assist in this democratic transformation to bring everyone in from the cold in an inclusive manner. However, like other parties in this House we will have nothing to do with any attempts to maintain a twin-track strategy of armalite and ballot box or to keep open the option of a future resort to violence. Far from strengthening the hand of Sinn Féin at talks, such tactics would in practice have the very opposite effect of completely marginalising it.

No one should mistake the nature of the current position. Everyone was deeply shocked by the breakdown of the ceasefire. In chastened mood, we have all made great efforts, in some cases greater than before, to create the conditions which can restore peace. It would be a serious misreading of the current position to believe that future concessions or breakthroughs can be achieved by further violence. It would be an equally serious misreading of the position, if the ceasefire were restored, for either the British Government or the Unionist parties to once again up their demands or reinstate preconditions that helped lead to the present disaster. Statesmanship and a more enlightened spirit of generosity and magnanimity must now take over on all sides from petty rancour and vindictiveness.

Nowhere is this more important than in the area of prisoners. If the ceasefire [909] is reinstated for good, a more enlightened approach must be adopted by the British Government. It is not Unionist opinion that is the problem, but right-wing Tory prejudice. If the peace holds, the British Government should commit itself to the accelerated release of all prisoners, except those convicted recently of the most serious offences. Paddy Kelly, who is suffering from an advanced state of cancer, the proper treatment of which was callously delayed by the Home Secretary, should be released on parole on humanitarian grounds as a gesture of good faith by the British Government or at the very least transferred close to his family in Portlaoise. I impress on the Government the importance of the prisoner issue. There are also prisoners' issues to be attended to in this jurisdiction.

We are open to the idea of an all-Ireland referendum, provided the question is meaningful. After the experience of the last two weeks, it may be helpful to have an authoritative statement on the matter by the people of Ireland for the first time since 1918.

There is disagreement about the form of an electoral process. There is no reference in the communiqué to an electoral body. We have heard the case put forward by parties on both sides of the argument and it is a matter in the first instance for them to resolve. I note the Government will decide on the basis of what is most acceptable, but if the parties cannot agree on the form of elections, there would be a case for them going straight into negotiations without elections. We are still not convinced of the merits of an election, particularly when parties get into the heat of a campaign. But we accept that the points of view of different parties must be accommodated. However, it is important that the peace process is not diverted into a debating forum which would avoid serious negotiations. This was the danger presented by the recent Unionist document. All I ask is that the commitments made by the two Governments in the communiqué are kept, particularly [910] the date for the convening of negotiations, and that the negotiations planned really are negotiations, not assembly or committee-type debates.

I compliment the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and their respective teams on their contribution. I am also glad that on Monday the British Prime Minister was again able to demonstrate his independence. My party has concentrated on keeping channels open and making the arguments in public so that the people know what is going on and what is really at issue.

I hope the peace process is back on the rails very shortly. I look forward to the restoration of the IRA ceasefire. Let us all turn our faces firmly towards a peaceful, democratically agreed future in Ireland, in which justice, partnership, equality and the principle of consent are all part of a new political dispensation.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney Zoom on Mary Harney I, too, warmly welcome the communiqué issued by the two Governments. It offers a fair, balanced and sensitive formula for reviving the peace process. I commend, in particular, the efforts of the Taoiseach in the past few weeks. He did not lose his nerve but painstakingly sought to build the political process with a view to restoring the IRA ceasefire.

I also commend the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, all the officials involved and other members of the Government. It is only correct that we do this. It is fair to say most Members held their nerve in the past few weeks. Calm and reasoned contributions were made and people were supportive. This is as it should be and I hope it will continue. Despite the anguish and heartbreak triggered by the Canary Wharf bombing, the communiqué issued today is a beacon of hope and optimism in the political landscape.

I pay bribute to the O'Brien family from Gorey who have showed enormous courage, honesty and true patriotism in their unequivocal denunciation of the IRA, of whom their son was a member, and full apology to the victims of [911] the London bombing. Even though they must have been torn asunder between the anguish of their son's death and the realisation of the awful atrocity in which he was embroiled, they were unequivocal in the attitude they adopted. They sent a singular and clear message to the British public that there is no support in Ireland for political violence. Given the way they handled their tragedy, they have made an enormous contribution to the political process and, hopefully, to the revival of the peace process.

It is fair to acknowledge the leaders of the smaller loyalist parties, the PUP and the UDP. Even though it must have been difficult for them, they used their influence to ensure there was no retaliation after the ending of the IRA ceasefire. Their efforts and courage have saved some families from going through what the O'Brien family and many other families have gone through in the past three weeks.

Since 9 February there has been much anguish and heart searching and, as the communiqué says, the people took the process over, it is the people's process. However, I also found a certain ambiguity in the attitude adopted by the public. While they were clear that the IRA was responsible for the bombings they were equally inclined to blame the British Government for its reluctance to move the process forward and for the failure to grasp the opportunity presented, particularly by the Mitchell Commission report. There was also an acknowledgement of the failure of certain Unionist politicians to seize the opportunity presented over the past 18 months. I hope we all learn lessons from what has happened. Democratic politicians and, in particular, sovereign governments must never be seen to reward those who engage in violence. We must make politics work and learn lessons from what has happened in recent weeks.

Ordinary people displayed their outrage, sought to take the process in hand and do something about it, whether by [912] wearing a white ribbon, making telephone calls to radio programmes, writing letters to newspapers or their extraordinary response to the marches last weekend. People were genuinely determined not to let this opportunity pass but rather to seize it and to be seen to do something about it. We must respond generously to this action. It is clear from the communiqué that the Governments have set the chart for the way forward, they have spelled out the route we have to follow. We must be generous and enter the proximity talks which will start next Monday and continue until 13 March in a spirit of openness and mutual understanding, willingness to do business with those with whom we disagree and a desire to make politics work. If people are not prepared to approach the process in that spirit then the future is bleak and it will take much longer than it might otherwise take to achieve a political settlement.

We have to grasp the opportunity to create in Northern Ireland a society to which Nationalist and Unionist can give allegiance. By its existence, Northern Ireland recognises the legitimacy of Unionism, whether it is in the flags and emblems, The British administration at Stormont or the parliamentary representation at Westminster. Northern Ireland has to become a society which equally recognise the aspirations and identity of the Nationalist community. We must not forget this and it is a huge challenge for the Unionist community to recognise and appreciate this. Nobody wants to live in a society where more than 40 per cent of the people are completely alienated. Unionism and Nationalism are not compatible but it is possible to create structures and institutions where they both can be accommodated and to which each person, regardless of his identity, can give his allegiance.

That is the challenge facing all of us and over the next while I would like to see concentration on the way forward, the path to a political settlement. I would like us all to concentrate our minds on how we can achieve that [913] settlement and the elements of it. The first element is there can be no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland unless a majority of the people there wish it. That position is endorsed in the Anglo-Irish Agreement and supported by every Nationalist party on this island except Sinn Féin. Equally, there can be no internal settlement. The North-South dimension is the right of Nationalists for their legitimacy and identity to be recognised. This, too, must be one of the ground rules of the settlement.

The communiqué sets the date of 10 June for all-party talks. Given that we now have the date sought for so long by so many, the door is open for Sinn Féin to come back into the political process. There can be no more excuses and no more ifs and buts. We have spent too much time over the past 18 months arguing about words and seeking clarification on decommissioning, permanency and self-determination and setting preconditions. Arguments about words get us nowhere and we must move away from this approach. Sinn Féin must now move to use its influence to ensure the IRA restores the ceasefire. It must also go further and commit itself to using only democratic political principles as a way of achieving its political ends and renounce violence. If the shadow of a gun or the echo of semtex hangs over the talks they will not be very meaningful or effective, and Sinn Féin must also know that. In the context of all-party talks, we must create trust and mutual understanding and seek to create confidence building measures without wasting any more time.

I was disappointed this evening to hear Martin McGuinness say there had to be more clarification. Last Sunday he said that if a guaranteed date for the start of all-party talks was announced by the Government he would return to the IRA to secure a ceasefire. He must return to the IRA and seek to have the ceasefire restored given that there is now a clear commitment to a precise date and not just a timetable. He and his party will be judged on what they do [914] in the next few days, not the next few months. The steps taken in the next few days will show the bona fides of everybody and opportunities may be missed if people do not act quickly. History will be very cruel to those who turn down the opportunity now being presented. Sinn Féin is being given a second opportunity to come into the political process on the same basis as everyone else. I hope it does not fail to grasp this opportunity because if it does, it will be its fault alone, it will have put itself outside the democratic political process by adopting an ambivalent attitude to violence and choosing not to use its influence over the Provisional IRA.

I want to be as helpful as possible but there is a confusing element in the communiqué. On the 6 o'clock news this evening one broadcaster said the door was now open for all-party talks on 10 June without any preconditions while the other broadcaster said Sinn Féin could come into the process if the IRA ceasefire was restored. Those two statements are somewhat incompatible. Paragraph 5 of the communiqué states:

Both Governments are agreed that the resumption of ministerial dialogue with Sinn Féin and their participation in negotiations requires the restoration of the ceasefire.

I know we have to read the entire document but paragraph 7 states:

The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach agreed that an elective process would have to be broadly acceptable and lead immediately and without further preconditions to the convening of all party negotiations with a comprehensive agenda.

I know what is meant by that statement but it is somewhat confusing. Perhaps the Minister for Social Welfare will clarify it. I assume I am reading the document correctly when I say that without a restoration of the ceasefire, Sinn Féin will not be involved in either ministerial dialogue or in talks on 10 June. I hope I am correct in assuming this.

[915] I also believe that in addition to Sinn Féin seeking to have the IRA ceasefire restored, we need to see an endorsement of the six Mitchell principles. We also need to see a commitment on decommissioning. That is essential, whether it is to come now or at the top of the political agenda on the first day of the talks. Only after decommissioning will we have meaningful dialogue and real negotiations which can lead to a political settlement.

I acknowledge the reference to the three strand process in the communiqué; that is important from the Nationalist perspective. We have to see each strand in terms of the other strands. Each strand gets its strength and shape from reference to the other strands and they cannot be separated. Although it will be a matter for the British Government to decide on the nature of the elective process, it would be very foolish and counterproductive for the British and Irish Governments not to be at one after the proximity talks on the electoral process to be chosen.

Deputy Ahern said, and I agree with him, that it might well be that we do not need an elective process. I have great reservations about the damage that elections can do to this process. Northern Ireland is the one place in the world where there is no floating vote, where things do not change. In the context of elections people can become more polarised. Extreme positions are adopted as parties look over their shoulder at the more extreme elements in their community. I am worried about the potential of talks coming so quickly after elections of that kind. It is difficult for democratic politicians to ever condemn the idea of elections but elections can have a damaging effect in the context of the Northern Ireland peace process, and we must all recognise that. On the agenda from next Monday to 13 March must be the possibility that we do not need elections; that idea should be explored by the Governments.

I have mixed views about the idea of a referendum or referenda. As well as [916] the waste of time and money involved, I do not believe that meaningless referenda can have anything but damaging consequences. Unless we can put meaningful concepts to the public we would be very foolish to engage in any referendum campaign. I found it quite disturbing over recent days to see those who were allied to the IRA and refused to condemn the atrocities in London in recent weeks wearing the white ribbons crossed with green, holding their placards and engaging in the peace demonstration. What would be the result of all parties, including Sinn Féin, wrapping themselves around a meaningless referendum campaign? We need to be careful.

The peace process belongs to the ordinary people and they will not let it slip; they are determined about that. They want us to use our imagination, skills and experience to bring about a political settlement because we will have sustainable peace only when we have a fair political settlement and it is important to recognise that. Political vacuums are always filled by the men of violence. I appeal to everybody to approach the process that will begin next Monday with open minds and generous hearts. They should not do anything that might in any way damage the process and delay the possibility of finding a real political settlement in Northern Ireland.

We want to achieve a transformed society in Northern Ireland where citizens from both communities are equally regarded in the laws and, I hope, in a constitution for Northern Ireland, which my party supports. There has to be parity of esteem and equality of treatment. Enormous opportunities will come to all citizens of Northern Ireland when we achieve that settlement but there are also huge opportunities for the people in the South and in Britain.

If there are any lessons to be learned from the opinion poll in this morning's issue of The Irish Times and The Guardian, it is that people want peace. They are also prepared to accept anything [917] that will guarantee a fair political settlement. They are prepared to compromise and to be generous and, if we can respond to that spirit among the public — it might take time — we are back on the road. The process is back on the rails and I hope everybody grasps the opportunity they have been given because they might not get another such opportunity to be fully involved in the political process in the future.

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa): Information on Prionsias De Rossa Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa The agreement arrived at today by the two Governments has the potential to restore fully the momentum of the peace process. This potential will be fully realised with the co-operation of all parties and politicians.

We all share a solemn obligation to ensure that the process advances to a successful conclusion. The peace process cannot advance in an atmosphere of recriminations, threats, and ultimatums. Party posturing must give way to all party co-operation towards a common goal of a peaceful and democratic accommodation. We should be guided by the powerful demonstrations for peace which took place in all parts of this island last Sunday. We should be guided by the quiet dignity of the O'Brien family of Gorey who buried their son today.

The IRA in particular should take note of the public mood. There is no mood for violence, there is no mood for bombs in London or anywhere else. This mood is confirmed in an opinion poll published today which shows that 89 per cent of people in the Republic, 80 per cent in Northern Ireland, and 81 per cent in Britain think that partition is not worth taking or sacrificing life for. Furthermore, the majority opinion favours an immediate resumption of the IRA ceasefire and the decommissioning of IRA arms either before or during talks.

The day of the patriot game is drawing to an end; people want to express the love of one's country in more positive ways. The overall message of the poll is that the people of these islands [918] want peace without reservations. It is up to us as politicians, together with our counterparts in Britain and Northern Ireland, to secure the peace they want. Likewise, it is up to the IRA to remove their veto on peace.

What has happened today is that the politicians have saved the peace process from the gunmen. This is the result of a continuity in the approach of the two Governments that predates the ceasefires and survived the recent bombings by the IRA. Progress is being made in spite of the obstacles created by the bombs.

I reject any suggestion that bombs injected urgency into our efforts to reach today's agreement. The bombs injected crisis into the process. They destroyed lives and trust. To concede the point that the bombs injected urgency into our efforts is to concede the validity that violence is useful or has a political value. It is to encourage more young men like Ed O'Brien to go down the road of planting bombs. I urge everybody to be cautious about the words they use in articulating the view that in some way the bombs of the past weeks had anything other than a damaging effect on the peace process. It was the politicians who held the peace during the worst years of the violence in Northern Ireland. It should be remembered that it was the democratic politicians, both Nationalist and Unionist, who, because they stood by democratic principles ensured that there was not a complete descent into violence over the past 25 years. Politics was put under great strain and at times it seemed that a complete collapse of society in Northern Ireland was imminent. Thankfully, the forces of democracy — represented not just by the political parties but by the various voluntary groups of civil society — prevented this happening.

These forces are now called on again to secure a peaceful and democratic future. The primary responsibility rests with the political parties to grasp the opportunity contained in today's agreement. A significant breakthrough has been made in fixing a date for all party [919] talks. The parties in Northern Ireland are being asked to design an appropriate elective process in intensive multilateral consultations scheduled to begin next Monday and to end by Wednesday, 13 March. With or without a ceasefire, the process is being renewed. The journedy towards agreement has been resumed.

To deal with the points raised by Deputy Harney as to whether there is ambiguity in the communiqué with regard to access by Sinn Féin to all-party negotiations and the consultative process on the question of the ceasefire, there is no doubt whatsoever in the minds of the Irish or British Governments but that Sinn Féin cannot enter negotiations unless there is a ceasefire.

Sinn Féin has an obligation to its supporters to play a full part in the process. There are no preconditions that do not apply to everyone else — an absolute commitment to peaceful methods to secure a comprehensive negotiated settlement. It is essentially a matter for the IRA to make Sinn Féin's full participation in the process of negotiations possible by reinstating its ceasefire permanently and without equivocation.

I trust that those in Sinn Féin who I know favour the political path will now assert themselves so that they can extract themselves from the cul-de-sac into which the IRA has driven them. They should be aware that the IRA's resumption of violence has severely damaged Sinn Féin's credibility as a democratic political party. That will not be easily restored but it can be if they make the right choice now. The first minimum step towards that end is a restoration of the ceasefire. We all hope they will make the choice for democratic politics. It is a choice that will be universally welcomed.

The Taoiseach and the Prime Minister have jointly stated their hope that all parties with an electoral mandate will be able to participate in all-party negotiations. Confidence measures will naturally be necessary. Among these is the need for all participants to make clear [920] at the beginning of the negotiations their total and absolute commitment to the principles of democracy and non-violence set out in the report of the International Body on Decommissioning. Its proposals on decommissioning also need to be addressed. This obviously is of paramount importance for Sinn Féin, the UDP and the PUP.

In is appropriate on an occasion such as this to pay tribute to the political leaders of loyalism who ensured that the universal loyalist ceasefire has been maintained. This has been a true test of leadership and they have come through it strenghtened. But for them, there could have been a full-scale resumption of violence which would have been extremely difficult to stem.

We are not yet, of course, out of the woods as far as violence is concerned and nothing can be taken for granted. If political violence continues, all democratic parties must stand together with a view to achieving sufficient consensus on the important issues we have to address. The key to progress is a democratic consensus that transcends the division between Nationalist and Unionist, between North and South, between British and Irish.

Let us be clear. There is no war between Britain and Ireland. There is no war between the Republic and Northern Ireland. The cause of division in Northern Ireland is the conflicting national allegiances of the two main communities there.

This Government, like its predecessors, has put an enormous effort into the work of laying the foundations for a democratic accommodation that will underpin a durable settlement. We worked with others in this endeavour and, in good faith, accepted Sinn Féin's declarations of peaceful and democratic intent. Our hopes and trust were — like those of all parties in this House — betrayed by the London bombs. However, we were not prepared to deny the hopes of the people of this island, and so we persevered to arrive at this moment of opportunity.

[921] The opportunity now exists for all parties to play a constructive part in reaching an agreement. Engaging in honest dialogue is not an act of surrender, as President Clinton said on his visit, it is an act of strength and common sense.

Common sense tells us that flexibility is required if all parties are to succeed in our common endeavour. Realistically no party is going to get everything it wants, and the sooner all parties reconcile themselves to this reality of politics the more likely we are to reach agreement.

Unfortunately, there have been some parties more comfortable with posturing than with politics. Obduracy has been more attractive than the challenge of serious political engagement and argument. Both the politics of grievance and the politics of siege are less demanding that the politics of accommodation, less demanding certainly and most definitely less rewarding for society.

This is the nature of the challenge at this crucial stage of the peace process. Real courage is called for, the courage to leave the past behind and take a new approach to the future. A new approach is necessary when we consider that Northern Ireland has been living through the most protracted conflict in modern Irish history. This has left a mark on society that an 18 month ceasefire could not erase. Trust has to be established and the hurt and anger acknowledged.

Today's agreement charts a clear way forward. A date for all party negotiations has been set. An elective process is to be designed by the parties themselves. It is open to Sinn Féin to play a full part in the process once the IRA ceasefire is restored. With goodwill on all sides, the needs of peace and democracy can surely be met.

Let us be under no illusion. We are embarked on a long and difficult journey. There are no short cuts. Key issues such as consent and self-determination will have to be addressed and, as the experience of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation shows, these will require [922] protracted negotiations if they are to be satisfactorily resolved. Such issues will have to be addressed with an open mind. Whatever views parties hold should be open to compromise. The Irish people cannot forever be imprisoned by history. The people themselves are no longer prepared to accept the shackles of the past. They have modest ambitions that are rooted in the here and now. They have indicated clearly their preference for peace and a democratic settlement. They want to live in peace with their neighbours. They will not lightly forgive those who would stand in their way.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): Information on Nora Owen Zoom on Nora Owen Last Sunday the people of this country, old and young, signalled massively their demand for peace on this island. We will all have our memories of Sunday's march. I remember walking with the 3,500 people in my constituency and the moment of silence we shared. The image I will treasure is that of a small child, proudly carrying his banner with the simple message, “Give us back our Peace”.

The importance of today's announcement is that it provides the clearest possible road map to all-party negotiations and to peace. We will start the negotiations on 10 June. We want our peace given back to us now.

The joint communiqué agreed by the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister today represents a critically important milestone in the developing peace process. It has moved that process forward decisively and has set us on a course that will lead to all-party negotiations on 10 June. It presents all parties with a challenge but equally offers all parties an opportunity. It is open to all to play their part in achieving a lasting political settlement which will mean the end of violence once and for all.

The outcome of today's summit offers the clearest possible demonstration of the continuing commitment of both governments to proceed together in their efforts to achieve a lasting peace and a comprehensive settlement to the [923] Northern Ireland question. It is, in particular, a tribute to the personal commitment of the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister to the task of securing such a settlement. I can say that with great sincerity, having been close to the commitment of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and others who have worked so closely with the Taoiseach. It also reflects their joint determination not to be deflected from that task by recent tragic and totally unjustifiable events and not to allow violence or the threat of violence to influence the convening or the course of negotiations.

Those events, the ending of the PIRA cessation of violence on 9 February and the senseless bomb attack in Canary Wharf that night and later acts of terrorism, put in jeopardy the progress achieved since the historic opportunity opened up by the agreement on the Downing Street Declaration in 1993 and the events of August and October 1994. Those events equally put at risk the gains made in the period since the launch of the twin-track process as a result of the joint communiqué agreed by the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister on 28 November last. Much progress had been made in the twin-track process both as a result of the work of the international body, which reported in January and of the intensive efforts of the Government in the preparatory talks aimed at the launch of all-party negotiations.

It would have been possible for either Government, in the aftermath of those events, to have surrendered to the counsel of despair. Neither Government was prepared to do so because it would have played into the hands of those who see violence as the ultimate answer to the very complex issues underlying the Northern problem — issues which are intrinsically political and incapable of resolution by violent means. Neither Government will ever bow to the bomb and the bullet. It is our duty as a democratic Government to protect the people of this State from terrorism. We will never fail in our commitment to do so. [924] We would also have represented a betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of the vast majority of the people of these islands who want a future of peace and stability if we had not persisted with our efforts to find peace despite the recent acts of terror in London.

Both Governments continued with the difficult, but critical, task of seeking a way forward based on democratic principles and in keeping with the twin-track process. The Taoiseach and the Prime Minister have continued to be involved closely with those efforts. They reaffirmed those principles of democracy and non-violence today and have moved the process forward. More than that, they have charted a course which brings the prospects of a comprehensive political settlement significantly closer.

The course they have set involves three key stages which will pave the way to the convening of all-party negotiations on 10 June. That date is now fixed. The three stages involved in the weeks ahead are directed to it. The date for all-party negotiations is not, however, otherwise dependent on those stages. It will not, therefore, be possible for any group or party to delay the convening of all-party negotiations on 10 June by seeking to block progress at earlier stages.

The first of these stages will be a process of intensive multilateral consultations with the relevant Northern Ireland parties, beginning next Monday and continuing over a period of ten days. Those consultations will have the objective of reaching widespread agreement on: proposals for a broadly acceptable elective process leading directly and without preconditions to all-party negotiations; the basis, participation, structure, format and agenda of those negotiations; and will consider holding a referendum in Northern Ireland to mandate support for a process to create lasting stability, based on the repudiation of violence for any political purpose, with provision for a parallel referendum here.

The second stage in this process will be when the two Governments meet [925] again immediately after the conclusion of the multilateral consultations to review their outcome. Following that review, the British Government will bring forward legislation on the elective process based on a judgment on what seems most broadly acceptable. Decisions will be taken at that stage on the other matters which are the subject of multilateral consultations including the issue of parallel referendums, North and South, and any necessary legislative measures will also be brought forward for this purpose.

The third and final stage of that process, following whatever elective process is decided upon, will be the convening of all-party negotiations on 10 June. Those negotiations will be open to all parties which establish a commitment to exclusively peaceful methods and which have shown that they abide by the democratic process.

The joint communiqué makes clear that the all-party negotiations will address comprehensively the relevant relationships and issues in an inter-locking three-stranded process. The Governments have already set out their thinking in that regard in the Framework Document agreed last February. That framework deals comprehensively with the requirements of the three distinct relationships which need to be part of any settlement — the relationship between the two communities in Northern Ireland, the relationship between both parts of the island of Ireland, and the relationship between the two sovereign Governments.

The process launched by today's joint communiqué creates a new opportunity and new basis for moving the peace process forward. The Taoiseach and the Prime Minister have made clear their hope that all parties with an electoral mandate will be able to participate in all-party negotiations. They have called upon Sinn Féin and the IRA to make Sinn Féin's participation in such negotiations possible.

It is now a matter for the IRA to decide whether Sinn Féin should participate in the process of negotiation which [926] Sinn Féin has so long sought. It is equally up to the IRA whether it wishes to create the conditions in which a resumption of ministerial dialogue with Sinn Féin will be possible. These are questions which only they can address. Sinn Féin has a critical role in bringing the case for restoration of the ceasefire to the IRA. We urge it to do so now. A positive result, in the form of a renewed cessation guarantees Sinn Féin, without further preconditions, passage to dialogue with Ministers, to the consultative process and to all party negotiations.

By taking that step it will respond to the heartfelt wish of the great majority of people on this island, most eloquently demonstrated last Sunday.

The reality is that any decision other than one to restore the ceasefire will mean that Sinn Féin will have to be excluded from all-party negotiations directed at a comprehensive political settlement. The Governments do not want this result. We want to see Sinn Féin participate fully in all stages of the process from this point. The Governments have signalled their determination to work in partnership with those parties exclusively committed to peaceful methods to secure a comprehensive negotiated settlement in the absence of the cessation of violence for which they both look.

The joint communiqué clearly, therefore, presents a challenge to Sinn Féin to which I hope they will respond because it offers Sinn Féin a place in the process of seeking a political settlement. That place is available to it and it knows the steps that are now needed if it is to take that place.

The joint communiqué equally presents a challenge to the other political parties in Northern Ireland. The task being asked of them is to engage with both Governments in finding agreement on a range of issues necessary to the all-party negotiations but on which — to date — agreement has not been reached. Some of them have sought an electoral process. We are now saying that the question of an elective process and its nature is primarily a matter for [927] the parties in Northern Ireland to determine, but that the Irish Government would support any proposal of that kind which is broadly acceptable to those parties, has an appropriate mandate and is within the three-stranded structure.

It is obviously desirable that the most widespread possible agreement is reached on the matters which will now be the subject of intensive multilateral consultations in the coming two weeks in accordance with paragraph 10 of the joint communiqué. The process of multilateral consultations is directed to that objective by providing a means by which agreement can best be reached. The two Governments will, as is made clear in the joint communiqué, work with the parties to ensure that this process of consultation will lead to a fair and acceptable basis for the early launch of substantive all-party negotiations.

The timetable set down for this purpose is deliberately demanding. I am confident from my experience of the earlier stages of the preparatory talks process that this will not hinder the task of securing widespread agreement on the matters at issue, provided that the parties approach the multilateral consultations with the commitment they deserve. This is not a time for those parties to step back but to engage with both Governments in the task ahead.

The joint communiqué also proposes that, as a confidence building measure, participants in all party negotiations would need to make clear at the beginning of those discussions their total and absolute commitments to the principles of democracy and non-violence set out in the report of the international body. That report found widespread acceptance and approval and I would therefore expect that no party should have difficulty in addressing the principles it sets down in a positive fashion.

The joint communiqué also recognises that participants in the all-party negotiations would also need to address the international body's proposals on decommissioning. That is consistent with the international body's report [928] which recommended that decommissioning should receive a high priority in all-party negotiations. The whole issue of arms decommissioning has proved to be one of the major impediments to progress up to now for reasons that I do not need to rehearse this evening. It is manifestly right that it is an issue best left to the parties for discussion as part of the comprehensive all-party negotiations agenda.

That is what the international body recommended and the communiqué allows. We expect it to be addressed seriously, but we emphasise that there is no question of a one item agenda. There is no prospect of longer-term peace and stability in Northern Ireland unless all of the issues that underlie the problem are seriously addressed. The communiqué recognises this when it states that all parties require reassurance that a meaningful and inclusive process of negotiation is genuinely being offered to address the legitimate concerns of their traditions and the need for new political arrangements with which all can identify.

The joint communiqué provides, as I have said, an historic opportunity for us to make progress in the peace process. That opportunity demands a response from all sides. It requires peace if we are to create the conditions for fully inclusive negotiations aimed at a political settlement and the environment in which they can prosper. It requires openness by all parties to the legitimate concerns and aspirations of other parties. Our hope now must be that all parties will grasp this opportunity and approach it in the spirit it deserves.

I wish to refer to an issue raised by the Leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Bertie Ahern. The application for the transfer of Patrick Kelly, to whom the Deputy referred, has been returned to the British Home Office for consideration. Approval has been given by the Department of Justice and it is now a matter for the Home Office to approve the transfer. I hope, in the spirit of today's events, that transfer will be agreed.

[929] I am proud to be associated with the effort to return to the child I saw last Sunday the peace that all of us are looking for.

Debate Adjourned.

Last Updated: 11/05/2015 12:34:36 First Page Previous Page Page of 137 Next Page Last Page