Monthly Archives: November 2017

Speech: Senator Daly asks what the Government are doing to address the concerns of the past and of the future with the Good Friday Agreement

This committee’s brief is the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Last year at the committee I asked if there was any chance somebody could give us an update on what was left to be implemented. One would imagine that the committee that has been given this role would have an outline of what needs to be implemented. For the Fresh Start agreement and the Stormont House Agreement – as the Minister referred to in his address – there is a comprehensive document compiled for Member every six months, line by line on what needs to be done. We have been in communication with the Minister and his predecessor to get a similar document for the members of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. We got a four page document from the Department in regard to what remains to be implemented of the Good Friday Agreement. It is marked “confidential”. When one compares it to the documents compiled for the Fresh Start agreement or the Stormont House Agreement, it is not comprehensive enough. We had members of the Northern Ireland select committee from Westminster here. They asked us what is left to be implemented and we could not possibly tell them that this was all we have. I ask the Minister to give a commitment to the committee in this regard, especially with the 20th anniversary of the agreement coming up. Somebody is going to ask about what is left to be implemented but we do not have a comprehensive analysis that would enable us to answer that. I believe it should be done annually.

With regard to the Border, there is a lesson to be learned from where we are at this critical juncture – with the heads of Government meeting coming up – as to whether Ireland will allow the issues to proceed. The Irish Boundary Commission was set up as part of the treaty negotiations in 1921 to move it out of the political arena and to solve the immediate problem that Britain had. The lesson learned in that instance was if it is not solved when it needs to be solved it will never be solved. If we allow the negotiations to proceed to the trade element the Border issue will get lost in that and we will have a very bad border.

Amazingly enough, Members of Parliament, MPs, from the Westminster foreign affairs committee who were here last week told us they will keep the status quoand have zero tariffs. I had to tell them that if it is zero tariffs for us, it is zero tariffs for everybody and the rules of the World Trade Organization mean that Argentinian beef will be brought into Belfast at zero tariff and brought across the Border. That was news to them. That shows how much they know about our concerns and the issues around the Border.

On a recent “Spotlight” programme, the Taoiseach spoke about this issue and I addressed it in the Seanad when the Minister was there to discuss the North. The Taoiseach said he would not like us to get to a point where we are challenging and changing the constitutional position here on Northern Ireland on a 50% plus one basis. Mark Durkan, the former MP, said the Social Democratic and Labour Party, SDLP, would not have signed up to the Good Friday Agreement unless it was based on the democratic principle of 50% plus one. We know the people in the city of Derry had to march to get the right to vote, the same as any other person’s right. In my report, which the Minister spoke about, I quoted High Court judge, Mr. Justice Richard Humphreys, who said:

…the really fundamental reason, apart from legal considerations, why a minority or a dual consent could never act to prevent the reunification of the island of Ireland if a majority so wished, is that there is no corresponding provision at present permitting the nationalist and republican ‘minority’ to prevent Northern Ireland from remaining part of the United Kingdom. The test for a United Ireland could not in logic be different from the test for a United Kingdom.

While the Taoiseach said that 70% of people in Northern Ireland voted in favour of the Good Friday Agreement, in the unionist community it was only 56%. Dr. Wilson, in his address to us, said there are three main fears: unionist identity in a united Ireland; the issue of retribution against former members of the security forces, bearing in mind there are 300 unsolved murders involving former members of the security forces; and the issue of land ownership and if the return of land given during the Plantations of 1641 would be sought. I know the Minister finds that amazing and I find it amazing, but it is a concern. What is the Department doing to address the concerns of the unionist community?

We are asked why we are talking about a united Ireland. We talk about it because it is an issue. Brexit has brought it up, but ignoring it does not solve the problem. The lesson of Brexit is simple. A government does not hold a referendum and then tell everybody what the future looks like. We should be telling people if there is a referendum in five, ten, 15 or 20 years’ time this is what the future of Ireland would look like, this is how identities would be protected, how land ownership would look and that everyone’s land ownership title would be the same the day after as it was the day before.

The Minister’s posters said “Uniting Ireland” and in exactly six minutes’ time the Department will have been asked to respond to a letter about the case Raymond McCord is taking against the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the issue of how a referendum would be triggered. The legal team gave the Minister until 3 p.m. today to respond and if he does not respond, it will go to the High Court to seek clarity on whether he will be a party to this case. The Secretary of State alone can decide how a referendum would be triggered. The former Attorney General, Mr. Brady, pointed out in 2007 that the State has a constitutional obligation to achieve a united Ireland. It is not an aim or an objective. It is an obligation. What are the State and the Department doing to try to achieve that aim in the way we all want it to be, which is peaceful, prosperous and through engagement and negotiation while addressing all the concerns of the past and, more importantly, those of the future?

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Irish Diaspora Issues need to be reviewed

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Department Circular and SI on Councilors Conditions

LG 07-2017 – Expenses and allowances of elected members

S.I. No. 494 of 2017

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Senator Daly questions what is being done to protect the Good Friday agreement

When I joined the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, I suggested it carry out a detailed analysis on what is yet to be implemented in the Good Friday Agreement. One would think that would be common sense. Instead, we received a press release from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We sought a line-by-line and issue-by-issue analysis, equivalent to the Fresh Start Stormont House agreement. I ask that, as a courtesy to the joint committee, the Minister ask the Department to provide the committee with an actual line-by-line analysis of what needs to be done. We do not wish to force that request to a motion.

The two recent elections in Northern Ireland have had a radical effect on the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process. The DUP vote was only 1,000 ahead of Sinn Féin, which had a dramatic effect on unionism.

I have a letter to the Attorney General from the solicitors for Raymond McCord, inviting the Government to be a party to a case in the High Court in Belfast in November. He is a unionist whose son was murdered by the UVF. The member of the UVF who ordered his murder was a paid informant of the RUC.

Mr. McCord is taking this case not because he wants to see a united Ireland – he does not – but because he wants to stop both sides using the issue for their own electoral gain. The case is seeking clarity from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland as to how the Secretary of State would determine whether a referendum on unity would be called under Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution.

The Government is invited to participate in the case, thereby fulfilling the constitutional obligations outlined by a former Attorney General, the late Rory Brady. Is the Government going to be a party to the case? The Office of the Chief State Solicitor has responded acknowledging the letter and initiative, but has not given a determination.

The UK elections, which were disastrously called by Theresa May, resulted in Northern Ireland being further polarised and the Tory Government relying on the DUP to stay in power and to survive. As a result, the Good Friday Agreement has been held hostage and direct rule cannot, unfortunately, be far away. If this continues, and given that Brexit is around the corner, the future for Northern Ireland is neither clear nor bright.

If the UK does not sign up to a single market or customs union, the only way Northern Ireland and the Border can remain open to people and goods is following a referendum, as allowed for under the Good Friday Agreement, which will allow the people of Northern Ireland to remain in the EU.

I happened to be in the Horse and Jockey in Tipperary during the Minister’s election campaign when Fine Gael voters voted. I glad to hear that the Minister won the majority of their support. I saw his poster which stated “Simon Coveney: Uniting Ireland”. I heard him speak about the issue on the radio. I have not heard him speak about it since. I know it is not a slogan.

The Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement appointed me to compile a report on what needs to be done by the State in order to secure what was voted on by the people of Ireland, namely, the amendment to Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution and how to achieve that aim. The report was unanimously adopted by all members of the committee.

Other than the New Ireland Forum 33 years ago, I could not find any other report or analysis from any Department or the Oireachtas on achieving the main aim of the State. In the report I quoted Mr. Justice Richard Humphreys and his book, Countdown to Unity: Debating Irish Reunification, in which he discussed the political establishment not wanting to touch the issue of a united Ireland. He outlined the logic to this quite clearly. He said the reason they want a perpetual state of the status quo is because of the fear of a return to violence.

That is a legitimate concern. It is why I asked President Obama’s senior policy adviser on the National Security Council, Michael Ortiz, who is an expert on countering violent extremism, to write a report for our committee on what needs to be done in order to ensure that there no outbreak of violence in the run-up to a referendum. He said it is quite simple. We have to provide jobs and educational opportunities to the most disadvantaged areas in Northern Ireland. That is why the committee recommended the establishment of a task force in respect of that issue.

Of the ten poorest regions in Northern Europe, nine are in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland is one of them. The United Nations human development index ranks the Republic sixth in the world in terms of health, education and income. The Oireachtas Library and Research Service ranked Northern Ireland 44th on the same scale.

Dr. Kurt Hubner, of British Columbia University, in an analysis for the report I compiled said there would be a benefit to the whole island economy of €35.6 billion in the first eight years after reunification. Since the report was published and launched by the committee, I have met unionist politicians, religious leaders and senior paramilitaries members in the loyalist community. Many believe that there will be a referendum within the next ten years. They have concerns about that, as one can imagine.

As a result of the draft report, I was contacted by a senior member of the Ulster defence Regiment, UDR. Once upon a time it was the largest regiment in the British Army. I asked him to make a submission to the report, which he did.It has concerns about land ownership and whether people would be asked to return the land given during the Plantations in retribution for former members of the security forces who had been involved in collusion, about which the Minister spoke. It is also concerned about how the British identity would be protected and respected after reunification. These are legitimate and heartfelt concerns held by those communities and there is an obligation on the State to address them with generosity and a realistic solution. That is why one of the key recommendations made in the report I compiled is the establishment of a New Ireland Forum 2 to address all of these concerns and set out a vision for Ireland for the next 100 years to accommodate all people on the island. If the Minister truly believes in reunifying Ireland, as the slogan on his poster states, I hope he will establish New Ireland Forum 2. I hope he will put in place the policies needed to reunify the people of Ireland in peace and prosperity. He will be told by many in his party and the Government to keep the status quoand not to go near the main aim of achieving the State’s objective as outlined in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. I hope he will ignore those who do not want to see change and wish the status quoto continue. I hope he will listen instead to the advice of the person voted by the people as Irishman of the 20th century, T. K. Whitaker, who in November 1968, on the eve of the Troubles, gave advice to another Cork man, Mr. Jack Lynch, in a note:

We were, therefore, left with only one choice, a policy of seeking unity in Ireland between Irishmen. Of its nature this is a long-term policy, requiring patience, understanding and forbearance, and resolute resistance to emotionalism and opportunism. It is not the less patriotic for that.

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