Dáil Éireann - Volume 344 - 06 July, 1983

Estimates, 1983. - Vote 45: Foreign Affairs.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. P. Barry): I move:

That a sum not exceeding £14,322,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1983, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and of certain services administered by that Office, including certain grants-in-aid.

I propose, a Cheann Comhairle, with your permission to debate the Estimates for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation together.

The sum of £14,322,000 is required to meet the cost of running my Department in 1983. It includes the salaries of staff at headquarters and at 39 missions and offices around the world. In all, my Department have about 800 people working in all grades at home and abroad. Of our 39 offices abroad, 31 are staffed by three diplomatic officers or less. Most of our embassies are, therefore, quite small. The average cost to the Vote for Foreign Affairs of a typical small embassy is about £150,000 a year.

The proposed Vote also includes travelling [1911] expenses and communications services, which in my Department are understandably high. A sum is provided for the repatriation and maintenance of Irish citizens who get into difficulties abroad. There is a provision for the cultural and information services which are an important part of the work of my Department. A sum is also provided for the furtherance of North-South and Anglo-Irish Co-operation and also for cross-Border studies. A small provision is included for contributions to bodies in Ireland which exist for the furtherance of international relations.

The gross Estimate for my Department is £18,972,000 but receipts from passports, consular fees, sales of information booklets and films, repayment of repatriation and maintenance advances, recoupment by the EEC of certain travelling expenses and some other miscellaneous receipts are expected to defray £4,650,000, leaving a net Estimate required of £14,322,000. This figure represents 0.25 per cent of the total Estimates for the public service.

I am glad to have this opportunity of addressing the House on the external policy of the Government. I hope that it may be possible later in the year to have a more lengthy debate on this increasingly important subject. It is important that we come to an agreement about that when the Dáil resumes after the summer recess. A debate of one hour and a half on this important Department is not sufficient. I hope to have at least a one-day debate on Foreign Affairs in the autumn.

My task as Foreign Minister is to defend and promote abroad the interests of Ireland and its people and to that end I need the support of all sides of this House. In Ireland we have a particular need for our traditional domestic concensus on external policy. Our small size limits our influence on other countries: without broad agreement here at home on foreign policy, our ability to shape our external environment would be very slight indeed. Serious divisions on foreign policy would be particularly damaging to Ireland.

We are a country whose continued [1912] existence as a member of the developed world depends on external trade, to a greater extent than in the case of any of our neighbours. In 1983, for example, more than half of our gross domestic product, 55 per cent, came from exports. Moreover, our further development depends not only on trade, but on a continuing inward flow of foreign investment, so that the productive potential of our people will not be frustrated by lack of capital.

The efforts of our diplomatic missions overseas are increasingly directed to the promotion of exports and the attraction of foreign investment. Diplomatic offices have a special role in relation to trade and investment in those areas of the world such as Eastern Europe and the Middle East where either State-to-State dealings are the rule or where the presence of a diplomatic mission is essential for doing business.

Wherever they are located, our diplomatic missions provide a network through which the capabilities of Irish firms and organisations can be made known. My Department work closely with other Departments, with Córas Tráchtála, the IDA and other semi-State bodies and with firms and individuals to help ensure that the total Irish external economic effort is successful.

As I have mentioned, many countries in the Middle East and all in Eastern Europe conduct trade more or less exclusively through State organisations. A State-to-State bilateral co-operation agreement is virtually a precondition for the satisfactory development of trade with such countries. In recent years my Department have negotiated such inter-governmental agreements or similar arrangements with the Soviet Union, Poland, Iraq and Libya. These provide for the establishment of joint commissions which meet annually to review progress and to examine ways in which co-operation can be improved.

The general international political environment is of great importance to us. It is self-evident that in today's world not only our national prosperity but our survival as a national depends on peace, on peace in the world in general, but above [1913] all, in Europe and the surrounding area. Equally, it is evident that in Europe today peace depends on a stable equilibrium of forces between the two military alliances on our continent, or, to be more precise, on a mutual perception by the leaders of those two alliances that such a stable equilibrium exists. A climate of minimal trust, predictability and understanding between the Soviet Union and the United States is, therefore, of fundamental importance to us all.

Perhaps the best index of the state of health of the relationship between the two superpowers is their ability to discuss in meaningful and practical terms the control and reduction of armaments and particularly of nuclear weapons. It is difficult in present circumstances to see the emergence of any early alternative to the present armed equilibrium. What one can hope for is that the apparently inexorable growth in the size of overall forces will be halted and indeed reversed. If this is to be achieved it is obvious that the means must be found for clear and adequate verification at each stage of the disarmament process that agreed reductions have been carried out.

Even if progress in disarmament is dishearteningly slow, and if at times one is left with the impression that what is occurring is regression rather than progress, it is crucial that the effort should continue. Ireland, therefore, attaches great importance to the two major sets of arms control negotiations now taking place at Geneva between the Soviet Union and the United States on strategic or intercontinental nuclear forces (START) and on intermediate nuclear forces (INF). All the states of Europe, whether allied in military alliances or, like ourselves, outside all such alliances, have a vital stake in the success of these negotiations.

In this connection no one should be in any doubt that this Government will maintain our military neutrality and will take no action which would be incompatible with it. There is language in the recently-signed Solemn Declaration on European Union which envisages the “co-ordination of the positions of member [1914] states on the political and economic aspects of security”.

It is important that it be clearly understood what is involved here. The discussions on the political and economic aspects of security which take place with our partners in the Ten are conducted within the framework of European political co-operation, in which no decision can be taken other than unanimously. We have, therefore, in effect a veto at all stages of the discussion and on any conclusions arrived at. As the Taoiseach explained to the House after the recent European Council, what is essentially involved is an attempt to arrive at a common approach among the Ten on security-related matters which are discussed or negotiated in fora in which all ten member states participate — for instance, disarmament and arms control deliberations at the United Nations or the negotiations at the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). There is no question of any discussion of operational military questions.

Our policy of military neutrality is, like all other aspects of our foreign policy, all the stronger because it is shared by an overwhelming majority in this House. I am sorry that doubts have been expressed recently about the Government's commitment to that policy. Neutrality is a subject which touches on the fundamental questions of peace and war. It is, therefore, natural that it should arouse deep concern. It relates also to areas of great complexity in the external world, and it is not surprising that periodically, a reassertion and clarification of basic concepts becomes necessary.

I do not believe that this House would advocate neutralism or neutrality independently of the reasons for that neutrality. I should like to try to state as simply as possible what I conceive to be, and to have been from the beginning of this State's existence, the essence of its policy of military neutrality.

There is no mystery about it. We are talking about the field of national security, that is, of physical safety for our people in time of war. We look at the world around us and we ask ourselves [1915] whether joining a military alliance would increase our security, would reduce it, or would leave it unchanged. We find ourselves closer to the members of one alliance than to those of the other, both in ideological terms and in terms of economic and political links. We find, as I said earlier, that in present conditions the balance between the two alliances is an essential element of world peace and, therefore, of our security. We find no reason to believe that our membership or non-membership of the Atlantic Alliance makes, or will make in the foreseeable future, any crucial difference to the overall security of the region in which we live. We do find, however, that non-membership enables us to play a modest but constructive diplomatic role as a neutral country.

Looking at the world as it is, I see no sign in the foreseeable future of any change in conditions which would require us in the interests of our people's safety or national security to re-examine that policy.

A responsible foreign policy must be pursued within a framework of respect for international law and morality. The oppression of human beings, whether individually or as nations, and the failure or refusal to grant them those things, whether food, freedom or hope for the future, to which they have a basic right, must claim the attention of those responsible for the external policy of any state, That claim is independent of the geographical location, race or religion of the oppressed or deprived and of the identity of any oppressor. This Government will not shrink from identifying and from seeking to help redress instances of deprivation or abuse of human rights, whether these occur in Afghanistan, in South Africa, in Central America or elsewhere.

There are elementary human rights — the right to the basic necessities of life, to food, shelter and clothing — which are still denied to many millions of people, often as much because of force of circumstances and history as of any selfishness or bad will on the part of their fellows. Fortunately, this is one area in which we [1916] as a country can make a positive and practical contribution, and we have in recent years become increasingly involved in the international efforts aimed at promoting the development of the Third World.

We shall continue to work through the international organisations of which we are members for the development of new policies which reflect the needs and wishes of all countries and which provide a greater measure of equity and justice in the distribution of economic resources.

On the bilateral level we shall continue the programme of aid to developing countries which we have built up over the last decade and which gives expression to our determination to contribute to the development of the Third World, however limited our contribution may be in absolute terms. The Minister of State at my Department, who has a special responsibility for our Overseas Development Assistance, will deal in more detail with this area of policy later in the debate.

The mutual economic and political interests which bind us to other countries and regions naturally tend to be deeper, more far reaching and more complex the nearer those countries or regions are to our own. Our nearest neighbour is Great Britain, to which we are bound by uniquely close ties of people, language, history and culture, and with whom we share the tragic problems of the Northern part of our country. Not least among the benefits which a solution to those problems would bring is a final resolution of the last vestiges of the ages-old Anglo-Irish quarrel and a definitive understanding between two peoples who have lived for so long in such close intimacy, but always with some shadow, greater or lesser, of mutual misunderstanding and unease. I shall return to this subject later.

There is no doubt that the quality of our ties with the United States of America places that country in the first rank of our overseas friends. America is home from home for many of our people and to many of the people of that country Ireland is also a home from home. We can be thankful that there are few, if any, bilateral problems of any magnitude [1917] between our two countries. This was clear from the discussions which we had with Vice-President Bush, whom we had the pleasure of welcoming to our country earlier this week. Whatever difficulties in the trade field there are between the US and the EEC can be overcome by open and frank negotiations between friends.

Over ten years ago we bound ourselves by the strong institutional links of the European Economic Community to our European neighbours, inspired with the ideal of political and economic union between countries which shared a common cultural heritage and a multitude of common political and economic interests. We foresaw a deepening of the union between our peoples and foresaw as the fruit of that union a greater mutual understanding and knowledge among the countries of Western Europe and some levelling of the differences in economic development between them.

The reality, however, is that in the past ten years there has been no significant bridging of the gap between the central regions of the Community and the less prosperous areas, such as Ireland. I can only express disappointment at this lack of development, despite — and let us be fair here — the considerable advantages that have come to us from Community membership. That said, however, I believe that the agreement at Stuttgart for a very specific and urgent set of negotiations on the prime economic questions facing the Community at the moment gives a basis of hope for the future.

Over the coming six months we shall be involved in the most intense and far-reaching negotiations that any Irish Government have faced since our accession. The issues at stake in these negotiations, which concern the very nature of the Community as we know it and its future direction, have major implications for us. Successive Governments over the last three years have, of course, had to face similarly tough situations. The difference on this occasion, however, is that the Community is fast running out of financial resources and that in consequence that European achievement of which I spoke some weeks ago to the European Association of Journalists is [1918] today in danger. That danger threatens the basic structures of the Community and its policies, prominent among them the Common Agricultural Policy. We should all be fully aware of these realities.

In recent years the Community has been stumbling from one crisis to another. We need in Europe to take quickly the necessary decisions to recreate a sense of direction and a new momentum in the Community. We must in particular come to an early agreement on the provision of new financial resources for the Community so as to ensure the maintenance of existing policies and the development of new ones, which is the only way to make the Community once again relevant and responsive to its peoples. I shall ensure that we play a full, forceful and positive part at all stages of the forthcoming negotiations, as we have already done in the preparation of their terms of reference. Here again the tradition of consensus on external policy is of vital importance — our hand as negotiators is immeasurably strengthened by our partners' knowledge that there is a consensus among the political parties here on the basic interests which we defend.

The search for common positions in matters of foreign policy within the framework of European Political Co-operation (EPC) has recently become more wide-ranging and intense. This is a welcome development, but in my view the various aspects of European progress are indivisible. It will be the Government's endeavour to ensure that European integration proceeds in a balanced way, the political integration and co-ordination are paralleled by a convergence of the economies of the member states. This economic convergence can be assisted by the co-ordination of the economic policies of the various Community countries, as well as through the Community's Regional and Social Funds. But we are an agricultural country and there is no question but that in our case convergence can have little meaning unless it is associated with continued effective operation of the Common Agricultural Policy within the basic principles laid down by the Treaties.

[1919] Looking beyond Western Europe, which includes — apart from Spain and Portugal, soon to become part of our EEC family — several neutral states with whom our relations are warm and mutually beneficial, we come to the other half of our tragically divided continent: Eastern Europe and the USSR. These countries, too, share in our common cultural heritage of European civilization and it is a tragedy that human contact between the two halves of our continent has been reduced by political and ideological differences to a level far below what the bonds between our peoples would in normal circumstances bring about.

Historical faults on both sides have contributed to the present level of tension in East-West relations within Europe. On the one hand there was perhaps less than sufficient understanding in the West of the Soviet Revolution in its early years and occasionally of certain aspects of the Soviet Union's sensitivities in relation to its security in more recent times. On the other hand the Soviet Union cannot but be aware of the deep mistrust and even fear which are generated in Western countries by the combination of massive military power with a doctrine of the inevitability of conflict between social systems and of the ultimate triumph everywhere of the Soviet model of society. I believe that the Soviet Union could only benefit from a loosening of the constraints on human contacts between East and West. I do not believe that greater human contact would damage the national security of the USSR and I look forward to the day when the cultural unity of Europe, which has continued in spite of all barriers, will again be permitted a full self-expression.

These thoughts are particularly apposite as we look at the situation of Poland, a country with which we in Ireland have so much in common in the shape of Christian and European heritage. I cannot believe that it is beyond the powers of any of the authorities concerned to devise a modus vivendi for Poland which will reconcile the Christian and European vocation of that great country with the [1920] essentials of the socialist system and with the security interests of the Soviet Union.

Outside of Europe, North America and those countries which are historically and ethnically offshoots of Europe, no part of the world is closer to us in terms of geography or of political and trading links than those countries which together make up the Arab nation. It would be foolish to attempt to deny that part of the importance to us of that region derives from its vast reserves of oil, but the links between the Arab world and Europe are older and deeper than any forged by a 20th century oil crisis. Our diplomatic efforts, through European Political Co-operation and at the UN, have in recent times of necessity focussed upon the urgent question of the rights of the Palestinian people. Along with our partners in the Ten, we accept the right of that people to self-determination with all that that implies.

The creation of a Palestinian homeland, a state — the precise model is a matter for negotiation and for the Palestinians themselves — is an essential element of a solution that would be just and lasting.

The other central principle on which Ireland and the Ten operate is the right of the State of Israel to a secure and peaceful existence behind borders recognised by its Arab neighbours. But Israel's rights do not extend to the implantation of settler colonies in the West Bank and Gaza. These are a major and growing obstacle to peace efforts.

In the immediate future progress depends on the success of the efforts to have all foreign forces removed from Lebanon and to restore to that long-suffering country its independence and territorial integrity. The recent signing, with considerable assistance from the US, of a troop withdrawal agreement between Israel and Lebanon is a step in that direction. I hope that it will be followed by others.

Ireland has had close links with Africa, through missionary endeavour and otherwise, for many years. The situation in Southern Africa at present gives rise to great concern.

South Africa's continued intransigence [1921] has blocked progress in efforts to bring about a negotiated independence settlement for Namibia in accordance with the United Nations Plan. I hope that, as a result of the efforts of the UN Secretary-General, agreement on arrangements for a ceasefire and the emplacement of the United Nations Transition Assistance Group will be achieved. The Government remain willing to provide a contingent of gardaí for service with the group, as well as military observers and support personnel, if requested by the Secretary-General.

In South Africa itself there are no signs of any serious efforts by the Government to dismantle the odious system of apartheid. As a result there is increasing frustration and anger on the part of the black majority and, if the pressures for change are not heeded, an explosive political situation seems inevitable. Moreover, South Africa's destabilising activities in neighbouring states may well cause a major conflict on a wider scale with unforeseeable consequences for all concerned.

The Government will continue to work at the United Nations, for the adoption of further mandatory sanctions against South Africa, such as an oil embargo, a ban on new direct investment and a strengthening of the arms embargo. We will also continue to urge, in the framework of European Political Co-operation, that the European Community should use its economic weight to persuade South Africa to abandon apartheid.

The United Nations, on whose Security Council Ireland has just completed a two-year term, has always had a special place in Irish foreign policy. This is because of its universal membership and its role in settling disputes between nations and in helping to create an international atmosphere which reduces the likelihood of such disputes arising. The Government support the present efforts of the UN Secretary General to revitalize the United Nations. I was very glad to have the opportunity to discuss these efforts with Sr. Perez de Cuellar when he visited Ireland last April. Participation in UN peacekeeping forces is one of the [1922] chief ways in which we in Ireland give practical expression to our commitment to international peace and security. Our main involvement in UN peacekeeping at the moment is in UNIFIL. In the present period of uncertainty we are following closely the developments affecting the future of that force.

I have spoken of the tradition of consensus in our foreign policy and of the need, which is indeed growing, for a united front by the parties in Dáil Éireann in the external world. I will do what I can to sustain and promote this Irish solidarity. This Government will not seek ephemeral political credit from the promotion of the Irish interest abroad. I look forward to hearing in this short debate and later, both inside the outside the Dáil, the contributions of all sides, and I will take them seriously into account in devising a common Irish approach to our international problems. In this one domain let us adopt as our guiding principle an old Irish saying: “Ar scáth a chéile 'sea mhaireann na daoine”. In no area of policy is this standard more vital than in Anglo-Irish relations.

The three main parties in Dáil Éireann together with the SDLP are now participating vigorously in the New Ireland Forum. None of us should anticipate the results of the deliberations of the Forum other than to hope that they will indeed achieve our common objective, which is the promotion of peace and stability in our island. Policy on Northern Ireland and on Anglo-Irish relations should not be a matter of competition or dispute between parties in this House. I hope that a major benefit of the Forum will be to reinforce that principle in practice and I would like to use this occasion to express appreciation of the attitude taken by the other parties in the Forum to its work so far. The task ahead of the Forum is enormous but the challenge which faces us all is far greater. The price of failure could be, as the Taoiseach has said, “to make a bad and dangerous situation worse; it is a price that would be calculated in human lives and in ever deeper misery and despair”. On the other hand the prize of success, the fruit of successfully confronting the reality of Northern [1923] Ireland, would be to construct for the first time the basis for a real dialogue on this island.

The work of the Forum is of fundamental importance. It cannot however delay the work of developing Anglo-Irish relations and reconciling the Irish traditions. The Government are actively engaged in galvanising the Anglo-Irish process at several levels, including preparation for the Anglo-Irish Summit later this year. Our objects is indeed to ensure that both Governments and both sides of the community in Northern Ireland will be in a position to give full and reflective consideration to the results of the New Ireland Forum in due course.

My Department are engaged more intensively, I believe, than at any time before in expanding our range of contacts in Northern Ireland. Since becoming Minister I myself have visited the North and I intend to continue to visit regularly. We are working to ensure that the British Government and British politicians on all sides realise the dangers which lie in inaction, neglect and an excessive timidity of approach. We are also engaged, both in the United States and in the other capitals of the European Community, in sustained attempts to reinforce an awareness of the seriousness of the situation we all face on this island.

The area of foreign policy and, most of all, of Anglo-Irish policy is not the place for partisan politics. The difference between politics and diplomacy was once defined as that between winning the argument and winning the result. It is the common effort of all parties here in Dáil Éireann which will ensure that we win the result, to the advantage of all our people.

Mr. G. Collins: I would like to congratulate the Minister on his appointment and to wish him every success. He will be glad to know that I do not propose to oppose this Estimate. If I did, and if it were carried, there would be a lot of disappointed people in many parts of the world who might not receive their just entitlements at the end of the month. I [1924] am delighted that we are having the opportunity to have this debate because since the Minister has been in office from 14 December last, seven months, we did not have an opportunity to have any parliamentary questions dealing with the Department of Foreign Affairs. That is regrettable. I apologise for not being here to put down some questions.

I am very glad of the Minister's suggestion that perhaps during the next session we will have a limited debate, for whatever time can be agreed and whatever time the Minister thinks fit, on the work of the Department of Foreign Affairs. That is very important because there are a number of aspects we would like to talk about. I know from my party, and I am sure the Minister and others know from their parties, that there are quite a number of Deputies who would like to participate in this debate, who would have a lot to offer, but who are disappointed this evening because they will not have the opportunity since we have only very little time at our disposal.

I welcome having regular debates on the Department of Foreign Affairs. Two weeks ago when the Minister of State, Deputy J. O'Keeffe, was here deputising for the Minister he made the same suggestion. I hope there will be agreement all round in relation to that because we would all benefit from it and, more importantly, the people we represent would also benefit from it.

I would like to place on record my very great respect, admiration and appreciation of the people involved in the Minister's Department and the people involved in the diplomatic service. There is no doubt in my mind, and I am sure in the minds of all of us present, that those who represent us abroad are doing a magnificent job. It would be very unfair of us if we singled out one or two people for mention but it would also be very wrong if we did not, because some people abroad representing Ireland at all levels carry a far greater load than others and at times they have a more difficult role to fulfil.

I do not believe anybody in the diplomatic service would take me to task if I mentioned the very great service being [1925] rendered to the nation by Ambassador Noel Dorr at the United Nations, particularly during the two-year period of our membership of the Security Council. The man did an excellent job and we are all very proud of him. He was an extremely well thought of member of the Security Council and he was very highly regarded. Last September, when I had the privilege of being at the United Nations as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I was amazed at the number of ambassadors from different countries who congratulated me — as if I were responsible for it — on the wonderful performance given consistently by our ambassador in the Security Council on the many issues which came before them, always at very short notice. I wish him every success. I would like to mention two other ambassadors. The danger is that one can fall into this trap so that when one names one person one has to name perhaps a second one and perhaps a third one.

Mr. P. Barry: The Deputy is a brave man.

Mr. G. Collins: It is easier for me than the Minister because he has responsibility and I have not. In fairness to those who put in tremendous effort on behalf of Ireland and the Irish people I feel that our Ambassador to the European Economic Community has probably one of the hardest jobs any ambassador has in the service. I want to place on record my appreciation of the very great performance given consistently by the present Ambassador and by his predecessor in Brussels in dealing with EEC matters. I wish him every success because it is vital for us as a nation that we be represented by top-class people. There is a wonderful back-up team in the service in Brussels. It is one of our largest missions, with a staff of possibly 90 there. They are doing a great job.

I would, finally, like to mention our Ambassador in London, Mr. Eamon Kennedy, who is doing a tremendous job during a very difficult period. He has given a very creditable performance in a very difficult situation during a period when our relations with our nearest [1926] neighbour have not been as smooth as we would like them to be. I had better draw the line there or, as the Minister says, I might get myself into very deep water and I would not like to do that.

We have a very elaborate foreign service. I ask this question without any reflection on the Minister or anybody in the service. Are we making the best use of our resources? If I were longer in my job as Minister for Foreign Affairs perhaps I would have asked that question. It does not do any harm to ask if we are making the best use of our resources, if we are involved in areas we should be and if we have stronger and greater links between the diplomatic staff in our embassies and the representatives of other State agencies in the particular countries, particularly in the United States. I am thinking of State agencies such as the Industrial Development Authority, Córas Tráchtála, the tourist board and others which play an exceptionally important role and the success of whose efforts we all enjoy through the community at large. I feel there is room for improvement there. I have no doubt the Minister will look at this.

I hope the Minister will not think that it is my intention to score a political point off him, but I know that times are rough, money is scarce and during a recession and particularly during a time of cutbacks, the foreign service is probably not regarded as it should be by the Minister's colleagues at discussions when there is talk about savings. The Minister has a very grave responsibility, to prevent other Departments taking some of what he has, because what he has is so very necessary.

The decision was made by a former Government to close our office in Teheran. I will give the Minister every help to ensure that offices such as those in Teheran are maintained. It was much more difficult for me after the change in Government in March last year to get a Government to rescind a decision made by a previous Government to reopen that office, so perhaps I have a vested interest there.

Europe has had a major share of our investment in diplomatic manpower and [1927] it is time to stand back and appraise the situation. There are five or six areas which merit input: the European Economic Community, Anglo-Irish relations, our relations with North America and the rest of the developed world, our relations with Eastern Europe and the Arab nations, our relations with the developing world and our role with the United Nations. There is a danger that, like all diplomatic services, they are insufficiently rooted in the views and interests of the home base. The right balance must be struck between defending and promoting Irish views and interests internationally and matching them with the preoccupations of other countries.

Last year when we were in office we were very firm on the question of nuclear disarmament. We made a number of forthright statements on this. I would be happier if the Taoiseach were more positive in taking a stand on the nuclear arms race. I would have welcomed news that the Taoiseach had had discussions on this with Vice-President Bush. I only know that when I saw Vice-President Bush being questioned on this issue, the question of missiles had not been raised and he said that he guessed the Taoiseach understood their position. I would like to think that it would be an important matter to have raised. I have not seen any statement from the Taoiseach on this question or on any issues that were discussed with Vice-President Bush but perhaps we will have one before long.

I suppose, like all Foreign Ministers and ex-Foreign Ministers, I have had the experience of attending meetings with heads of State. It is always interesting to return to one's own Parliament and hear statements on those meetings by the Taoiseach of the day and by leaders of the other parties. I do not share the optimism expressed by the Taoiseach following the Stuttgart meeting and I cannot see any grounds for his enthusiasm. There was no evidence of the British Prime Minister having changed her spots or that she will cease to obstruct the proper development of the European Community. The use of the word “summit” [1928] in the sense of a conference between two or more heads of Government is something that has come since World War II. I was never very good at climbing mountains but for mountaineers the summit has always been the peak of their achievement, something that they were proud to achieve with physical effort and much sweat. Perhaps for our world leaders today there is a sense of achievement not because of the results of their deliberations but because they have managed to get together at all.

In the past month we have had two summits, one at Williamsburg in the US and one at Stuttgart and both have been described by the media as a qualified success. They have been an unqualified disaster for this country, for our economy and for agriculture. At Williamsburg the leading industrial nations of the world met with President Reagan to try to resolve the current recession, to help cut unemployment and reduce interest rates. Mr. Gaston Thorn was there as President of the Commission representing smaller countries of the Community including Ireland. These world leaders achieved nothing that would help this country. Mr. Reagan merely promised to look at ways to reduce interest rates and cut the American deficit. Both things have upset the money markets and weakened the Irish púnt in international trade. Because we lack our own raw materials our manufacturing industry depends on our importing the basics. A weak Irish púnt means that we have to pay more. Our inflation rate adds to the cost of production and we are pricing ourselves out of the market. This does not take into account the rising cost of diesel, petrol and electricity — the motive power of our industry. Far more serious for agriculture was Mr. Reagan's refusal to stop the export of surplus American farm produce at heavily subsidised prices to what have been the traditional Community markets. This attitude is from an administration which constantly complains about the rebates granted by the Community to our exporters to help them to meet world prices. If this summit was a qualified success, I fail to see why.

At Stuttgart we were represented by [1929] the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. This was described as the most important summit of them all, designed to find ways of avoiding the apparent imminent bankruptcy of the EEC. Mrs. Thatcher, the British Prime Minister, flushed with her success in the general election, was there too and she held up all progress until she got what she calls “her money”. That phrase was first used in Dublin Castle about four years ago when we last held the Presidency of the Community and has been used ever since. In the event Mrs. Thatcher received 540 million Irish púnts but she still has to clear the hurdle of the European Parliament. If that assembly refuses to sanction this refund she will not get it. The trouble is that in that event she will insist even more strongly that the agricultural policy should be reformed so that there will have to be less money and she will be more strongly opposed to any plan to increase the Community's resources.

Is it really her money? I fail to see that it is. If member states had to make a contribution to the budget in accordance with their GNP, as used to be the case, then Mrs. Thatcher might have a right to claim that the money is her Government's. What the British Government transfers to the Community is actually the Community's resources, a common customs tariff on imports from third countries, levies on agriculture and the first 1 per cent of any VAT rate imposed — all of which Britain agreed to transfer since she signed the Accession Treaty with Ireland and Denmark. If Mrs. Thatcher wants to reduce her contribution to the Community all she has to do is increase her trade with the Community, the largest free trade area in the world, instead of giving preference to imports from her one time commonwealth to the detriment of her Community partners, including Ireland. What this rebate means is that other member states have to make up the £540 million. It is encouraging to hear the Taoiseach say that Ireland's share of the extra payments should be abated, but it is no more than that. In return for this at this summit meeting Mrs. Thatcher proposed that the Council of Ministers should decide on [1930] what measures should be introduced to improve Community finances and offer guidelines. These guidelines include an indication of agricultural policy in order to see what savings can be made in the Agricultural Fund. One must put the best face on things. The Taoiseach should tell the Dáil under pressure from us that these guidelines have been softened. I am afraid that there is no indication whatsoever that farmers will be able to get increases in line with inflation, except that limitations in spending and the introduction of a super levy in milk production have been deleted. Nothing was said about the existing levy which for so long has been a millstone around the necks of our dairy farmers. Rather than increase the VAT contributions, the summit wants the resources to be increased by savings. If not from the CAP, from where are these savings to be made? I suppose they are to be made from the Regional Fund, which is far too small to help resolve disparities between the richer and poorer regions of the Community. Are they to be from the Social Fund which helps finance programmes to alleviate unemployment, gives grants for training, to help the disabled and to help school leavers? Does it mean that Community policies which are already in the pipeline are to be put on the long finger because there will be no funds there to finance them? The Taoiseach told us — I hope I am quoting him correctly — that that does not mean that any proposals were to be excluded. We should not forget that other member states have as much right to exercise their veto as Ireland has. We will have a very difficult job to protect our interests and we should be aware of this and ready for it. A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, have I a time restriction?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The debate is to finish at 10.30 p.m.

Mr. G. Collins: I will keep it as short as I can. I would like the Minister to have a chance to reply.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Do not forget that the Minister of State wants to say a few words.

[1931] An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Minister of State has to come in and Deputy Taylor has indicated that he wishes to speak.

Mr. G. Collins: The recent visit of the Pope to Poland shows the tremendous vitality and resilience of the Polish people even under the most adverse circumstances. Our duty is to give every form of moral support to the Polish people without interfering in their internal affairs or inciting them to actions not in their interest.

There have been signs in recent weeks that the Russians may be seeking a genuine formula which would enable them to withdraw from Afghanistan. Every encouragement should be given to such a decision in an unprovocative manner. The withdrawal of the Soviet Army from Afghanistan would make an important contribution to the survival of detente. I believe it is three years last Christmas Eve that the invasion of Afghanistan took place. I know from experience of the Foreign Ministers' meetings that there was a certain reluctance to continue to mention Afghanistan in the communiques after meetings because we felt that we were talking about it continually, but we must continue talking about it and we must encourage the occupation forces there and those responsible for them to move out.

The Minister dealt with the Middle East in his brief and I agree wholeheartedly with everything he said. We all long for peace in the Middle East and for the right of people there to live in peace and harmony, firstly in their own countries and secondly with neighbouring countries. We welcome every effort to get all foreign troops out of the Lebanon and we would like to see the rights of the Palestinians honoured and respected. We wish to see the rights of the Israelis respected also.

On the question of Central America, we are very unhappy about the situation there. The conflicts in EI Salvador and Nicaragua show no sign of easing and genuine freedom may not be on offer [1932] from either side. The US, the most powerful state in the region, are increasingly involved. There is a special onus and responsibility to encourage an end to the civil wars there and to the slaughter of civilians and assist in the building up of acceptable political structures. Human rights considerations must enter into the balance along with Realpolitik.

The debt problems of the developing world still present great difficulties. Western governments and banking systems must continue to find solutions which do not place unbearable burdens on certain developing countries which keep alive international trade.

A new escalation of the nuclear arms race appears imminent. Here Ireland has a duty to speak out. We accept the fact that the Warsaw Pact forces facing Europe should be reduced but we are not convinced that the siting of new missiles in Europe will make any positive contribution to security, rather the opposite. Responsible international statesmen such as ex-Chancellor Schmidt have now said that they do not regard the deployment of a new generation of missiles in Europe as necessary. We believe that such deployment will only aggravate Soviet intentions but at the same time peace groups should have the same freedom to demonstrate against the nuclear arms race in eastern Europe as they have in western Europe. I deplore the harassment of peace groups by state authorities in both parts of Europe and they are not breaking the law. The peace groups must be realistic and they should ensure that their demands are not directed exclusively at western governments but that they make the same demands on the Soviet Union and their allies as they do on the NATO alliance. Subject to that qualification, we support their aims. It would be difficult to find a state in western Europe that devotes less to military spending and has a smaller arms industry than Ireland.

Neutral countries are often spoken of with contempt, but they have the crucial and honourable role of preserving some balance and sanity in a dangerous world. That is why I resented the remarks of the British Defence Secretary, Mr. Heseltine, [1933] when he brushed aside Ireland's neutrality. I would like to know from the Minister whether he made it clear to the British Government that he rejected the views of Mr. Heseltine and if he received any apology. The British Government certainly would not dare to make such statements about Swedish or Swiss neutrality. Why then should we have to put up with such impertinence? The Vice-President of the US, Mr. Bush, spoke in much more positive terms about Ireland as a friendly neutral country and he declined pointedly to endorse Mr. Heseltine's offensive remarks.

People often point out alleged inconsistencies and the alleged lack of credibility of our policy on neutrality, but they fail to point out that a similar debate about defence is going on in every democratic country. Is there any such thing as a fully consistent and credible defence policy in the nuclear age? People will recall in the recent British general election the perceptive and logical criticism made by Mr. Enoch Powell about the British independent nuclear deterrent. A very similar debate is now going on in France about the strategic and nuclear force which is being described as providing the illusory security of a new Maginot Line. It is difficult to think of a subject which has caused more continuous debate in the US over the past few years. The insufficiency of our neutrality in a nuclear world is a fact, but it is an insufficiency common to all defence policies including NATO ones and it is no argument for abandoning our policy of neutrality.

With regard to overseas development co-operation, overseas development assistance is important as a measure of our solidarity with the people in the developing world. Like most of our wealthier partners, we must admit honestly that we do not do half enough and one of the problems in winning support for overseas aid is the feeling that it is only a drop in the ocean and also that it is hard in many instances to bring home to people its effectiveness. The Minister, the Minister of State and the Government are to be commended for providing an extra £3 million for overseas aid. I [1934] hope that they will take the trouble and find the energy to explain to the people, perhaps by visual means or with the help of RTE, what Ireland can do to help out as it is doing at present. One must always pay tribute to the sterling work of voluntary organisations and thank them for what they are doing. Injustice, poverty and gross inequality should be combated wherever they are found, but we must be careful not to equate them with one particular social or political system.

There is not the slightest evidence that the sum of human happiness is any greater in Mozambique or Angola than in Nigeria or Zaire, that Viet Nam or Cambodia are happier places under communist rule than they were under the previous regimes or that Cuba is any happier than many of its Latin American neighbours. Disregard for human rights and the exploitation of labour and foreign domination are evils that occur just as readily under communist regimes as under capitalist ones. We must support the work of the relief agencies not only morally and financially but also at political level.

I now refer to aspects of our relations with Britain which we have not had an opportunity to raise until now. We are concerned at the repeated incursions into Irish territorial waters by British naval vessels in Carlingford Lough and the harassment of Irish boats. Following one such incident last summer we stepped up our patrols in the area and I should like to know what representations have been made to the British to prevent the recurrence of such incidents and to make it clear that we resent such intrusions. There are a number of security issues which must be raised at an early stage with the British authorities and these are issues which, while they are unresolved, do nothing to contribute to a better atmosphere in the North.

I might mention briefly the use of plastic bullets in the North. This is unacceptable and the matter should now be actively taken up with the British Government. There are statistics to show that the scale of deaths and injuries arising from their use since 1972 has been horrific. Since that year 14 people have [1935] been killed by either rubber or plastic bullets, quite a high percentage of whom were children between the ages of ten and 15. There have been hundreds of injuries including blindness and brain damage. A report published in the British Journal of Surgeons in 1975 based on the examination of 90 Belfast victims of rubber bullets between 1970 and 1972 listed one death, two cases of total blindness, seven cases of blindness in one eye, five cases of severe loss of vision and four cases of facial disfigurement. If the former Home Secretary, Mr. Whitelaw, could say categorically in the House of Commons that he was of the opinion that plastic or rubber bullets should not be used in mainland Britain there is equally good reason for not using them in mainland Ireland. This is a point which should be brought home by the Minister when meeting British Government Ministers.

We are glad to be participating in the Forum for a New Ireland, which is an all-party initiative. It is important that I should say this because I feel slightly tempted at times when I hear people describe it as their initiative to talk publicly on it and that would not be helpful. It is an all-party initiative and the work it does will be useful to any Irish Government in the future in identifying more closely the problems and the most appropriate solutions. I was not at Question Time today but I heard that the Taoiseach did not feel it was right or proper to avail of the opportunity to discuss the establishment or workings of the Forum with the British Prime Minister during their recent meeting in Stuttgart. That is a pity. I had also hoped that he would have sought positive comment on Northern Ireland from the American Vice-President, Mr. Bush.

During his speech the Minister stated:

My task as Foreign Minister is to defend and promote abroad the interests of Ireland and its people; to that end I need the support of all sides of this House. In Ireland, we have a particular need for our traditional domestic consensus on external policy. Our small size limits our influence on other [1936] countries: without broad agreement here at home on foreign policy, our ability to shape our external environment would be very slight indeed.

The Minister repeats that theme later in his speech. As far as my party are concerned, we would want to feel that we could discuss policies freely and openly at home within this Chamber and the other House and any other forum. We would want our views known, aired and understood. When the Minister is abroad representing us in his official capacity he need have no fear that I would do anything to embarrass him or the Government. I know the predicament in which a Foreign Minister can find himself because I have experience of such a predicament. I remember an occasion when the then Leader of the Opposition, Deputy FitzGerald, appeared on British television and did not help us during a very difficult time. I will certainly help the Minister to the best of my ability. It is natural that we should have open and frank discussion on various matters and I cannot give a blank cheque as far as agreement is concerned. However, I cannot see any great obstacles and I am sure we could reach agreement by consensus. If he travels abroad representing Ireland, the Minister need not fear that I will say or do anything publicly or privately that will make it more difficult for him.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. J. O'Keeffe): I wish to speak about the area for which I have particular responsibility, namely, Development Co-operation.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has spoken of our foreign policy objectives which, broadly speaking, are to seek peace and justice in the world and to protect the interests of Ireland and Irish people abroad. However, we cannot speak of those objectives or of the strategies we adopt to achieve them without referring to developing countries which are playing an increasingly prominent role in world affairs. The prominence of this role is in direct proportion to the extent of the problems facing developing countries. Deputies will already be familiar [1937] with the grim litany of afflictions facing the three-quarters of the world's population who live in the Third World: tens of millions are dying of starvation each year, hundreds of millions more are living in poverty, there is widespread illiteracy, disease and unemployment. The international recession and the oil price increases have also affected developing countries severely, to the point where in some cases the prospects for future development are now worse than they were some years ago.

We cannot ignore these problems. Even if they did not affect us at all, we would still have a humanitarian obligation to help those countries and peoples who are immeasurably less well off than ourselves. We must not forget that despite the many problems facing us here in Ireland, and they are undoubtedly severe, we are the twenty-fifth richest country of over 160 in the world and we cannot close our eyes to deprivation in other countries.

We are affected by underdevelopment in other countries and we have a strong interest in greater development in the Third World. Economically, we have much to gain from higher living standards in developing countries which would provide greater markets for the goods we produce. As a country whose economy is very dependent on exports this is of great importance to us. On a more general level, we have an interest in the maintenance of a stable international system in which relations between States are conducted in an orderly and peaceful manner. To the extent that underdevelopment in the Third World threatens that stability, it is a danger to our political and economic wellbeing.

Our links with developing countries, both political and economic, are, therefore, a crucial element in our external relations, and the attitudes and policies we adopt towards these countries are an integral and important part of our overall foreign policy.

Our relations towards developing countries are conducted, broadly speaking, on three levels. On a political level, we have contacts with them bilaterally, and through our membership of the EEC [1938] and at the United Nations. In the latter framework in particular, we make clear our views on the many international questions such as human rights and disarmament which are so closely linked to the problems of underdevelopment.

On an economic level, we play an active part in the international efforts, generally known as the North-South Dialogue, which are seeking to devise new approaches to the economic problems facing developed and developing countries. One of the principal fora in which the North-South Dialogue is being conducted is the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) which concluded in Belgrade last Sunday and which I addressed a few weeks ago on behalf of this country.

It is difficult at this stage to give a definitive assessment of the outcome of this conference. In terms of concrete results, it must be said that the conference did not live up to the expectations which many people had of it. Although a wide measure of agreement was reached on the final resolutions, the substantive progress which had been hoped for by many of the developing countries did not materialise. In my speech to the conference I stressed the theme of interdependence and I expressed the hope that all of the countries attending the conference would not fail to seize the opportunity which it afforded to recognise this interdependence and to treat each other as partners in a common endeavour. We understood then, of course, as we do now, that, at a time of prolonged international recession, it is inevitably much more difficult for developed countries to agree to the economic concessions demanded by the developing countries which, in the short term, would place increasing pressures on living standards in the developed world. However, the logic of interdependence is that, in the long term, development in the Third World is as much in our interest as it is in theirs. The longer we postpone the necessary decisions to tackle the problems of underdevelopment, the more complex and intractable those problems become, and the more difficult it [1939] becomes to find and implement the appropriate solutions.

I believe nevertheless, that at the UNCTAD Conference in Belgrade, we saw for the first time signs of a new appreciation among developed countries of the extent of interdependence between North and South and of the importance of ensuring that world economic recovery is accompanied by effective action to stimulate development in the Third World.

In particular, the adoption by consensus of the Resolution on International Monetary Issues suggests that a new perception of the role of international economic institutions in the development process may be emerging. This would be a very positive development and would help to strengthen the capacity of these institutions to respond to the particular problems of developing countries in a way which could only benefit the international economic system as a whole.

There was also a concensus at Belgrade on the need to speed up action to deal with the problems of the least developed countries. The conference adopted by concensus a resolution which urges donor countries to attain 0.15 per cent of their GNP as ODA or to double their ODA to the least developed countries by 1985 or as soon as possible thereafter. Ireland's ODA to the least developed countries at present is about 0.09 per cent of GNP and three of the four countries in which our bilateral aid programme is concentrated are classified as least developed. However, in view of the renewed recognition given to their needs at UNCTAD VI, they must in coming years be an even more important objective for our aid than they are at present.

This brings me to the third level of our relations with developing countries which is the direct contribution we make to their development through our official development assistance. The total provision for ODA this year is £30.076 million which represents an increase of £5.475 million or 22 per cent over the expenditure in 1982. As a percentage of GNP, our ODA this year is estimated at 0.23 which compares with a figure of 0.21 for [1940] last year. A total of £19.425 million will be paid in the form of multilateral aid through the international organisations active in development. This includes our contribution to the European Community's programme of aid to developing countries. The balance of £10.651 million will be disbursed under the Government's programme of bilateral assistance to developing countries.

Although the increase in ODA this year is substantial, we have not succeeded, regrettably, in achieving the full 0.05 per cent of GNP increase which we had hoped for. This is because of the severe pressures on public finances in all areas of which Deputies on all sides of the House are well aware. The difficulties we face in increasing ODA by the amount we would wish, because of our domestic economic problems, underline the negative impact which the international recession has had on development in the Third World.

We must not become so preoccupied with our own problems that we lose sight of our obligations to the people of the Third World and of our special interest in their development which I outlined éarlier. We must continue to increase ODA and to make progress towards the UN target. I have already referred to the target for the least-developed countries which we are already on the way towards achieving. Of course, progress towards this sub-target can only take place in the context of our overall progress towards the 0.7 per cent UN target for GNP.

We realise, of course, that our aid to developing countries can make no more than a modest contribution to solving the overall problems which they face. But achieving the UN target would clearly indicate solidarity with the people of the Third World and our firm commitment to help them. It would also increase the influence which we can bring to bear on other developed countries to increase their aid and to adopt the sort of economic policies which will facilitate greater development in the Third World.

I turn now to the details of our ODA expenditure under the Vote for International Co-operation in 1983. As Deputies will be aware, the moneys which [1941] make up our ODA are derived mainly from three sources; the Central Fund, the Vote for Agriculture and the Vote for International Co-operation. Subheads B to H of the latter Vote are concerned with Development Co-operation. For 1983 these subheads amount to £15.7 million.

The multilateral development agencies have faced serious financial difficulties in recent years. I have tried to take account of these difficulties in subhead B of the Vote for International Co-operation by providing for £1.650 million in this subhead, which is an increase of £470,000 on the provision for 1982. These UN agencies to which contributions are entirely voluntary, notably the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), active in the Middle East, have been particularly affected. The needs of the world's children and of its displaced populations require no elaboration and I feel that the allocation for 1983 will permit our voluntary contributions to these agencies to be maintained in real terms. The development of human resources is becoming an increasingly important element of co-operation for development as is the priority to be given to the strengthening of the administrative capacity of developing countries. The principal UN source of funds for this type of technical assistance is the UNDP. The Government will try to maintain in real terms the present level of their voluntary contributions to that body bearing in mind requests for assistance from the other agencies I have mentioned.

Through our programme of bilateral assistance we can make a direct and identifiably Irish contribution to the development of several of the poorer countries of the world. Our Bilateral Aid Programme, which this year has been allocated £8.411 million as compared with expenditure of £7.1 million in 1982 — is, for reasons of effectiveness and better planning, concentrated in four African countries, three of which — Lesotho, Tanzania and the Sudan — are classified among the least-developed countries, [1942] while the fourth, Zambia is only slightly above that category and has many serious economic problems, with many of its people living in great poverty.

The programmes of assistance and co-operation which have been set up and developed over the last few years have now reached a stage where they can be said to be having a substantial impact on either a national or regional level, especially in Lesotho and Tanzania.

However, our bilateral aid is not exclusively confined to these four countries. By assisting and drawing on the tremendous resources of the voluntary agencies — the main ones being Gorta, Trocaire, Concern and the various missionary bodies — our bilateral aid can be channelled to many other countries also.

In fact, in 1982 our bilateral aid programme was able to assist a wide variety of development projects, large and small, in more than 30 developing countries. Through the scheme for the co-financing of projects with the voluntary agencies, just over £1 million was spent from the Bilateral Aid Fund in 1982 on more than 100 projects, most of them small, village-level schemes meeting basic needs such as health care, education and clean water. It is proposed to increase the amount of funds allocated to this type of aid this year by 25 per cent.

An important complement to this financial and technical assistance is provided by the Irish personnel, mainly volunteers, whose overseas assignments are assisted by the Agency for Personal Service Overseas (APSO), which this year will be allocated £1.6 million by way of a grant-in-aid. Last year APSO was able to fund or assist the assignments of 324 persons in nearly 50 developing countries; many of these assignments were sponsored also by the voluntary agencies, while a number were also co-sponsored under United Nations auspices. The substantial increase, 33⅓ per cent, in the agency's Grant-in-Aid this year should enable it to assist an expanded programme of overseas assignments, thus enabling many willing and talented Irish persons to make a contribution to development in the Third World.

The bilateral aid programme is now [1943] firmly established as a vehicle by which the knowhow and experience possessed by Ireland — things we may take for granted — can be used to make a very important impact on problems in Third World countries. This provides not only the help that is often desperately needed by the poorer countries but also a showcase for the talents, skills and experience of Irish experts and institutions, private firms and semi-State bodies. To mention just a few of the many examples, Irish personnel from Bord na Móna are enabling the people of two small land-locked countries of central Africa, Burundi and Rwanda, to develop valuable but hitherto almost untapped resources of peat, while in one of these countries, Rwanda, Irish expertise is helping them to develop papyrus as an energy source; in Peru, an Irish food-processing expert working with the International Potato Centre is spearheading research into new simple low-cost forms of processing which could be of immense economic and nutritional value to peasant producers in many countries. In Lesotho, Irish training has enabled students to graduate for the first time ever in that country in medical laboratory science and in accountancy, while in Zambia expert help from Irish Cement Ltd. has turned around an inefficient, loss-making cement plant into an enterprise not only meeting national supply needs but even generating a small surplus for export.

The main bodies involved with, and experienced in, assistance to the developing countries are represented on the Advisory Council on Development Co-operation, which has as its mandate to provide advice to the Government, through the Minister for Foreign Affairs, on all aspects of our development co-operation programme. After the initial three-year period during which the council established itself and set about defining the areas it wished to study, the council has this year been given a new, more sharply focused mandate.

We must, of course, bear in mind that our ODA programme is now a substantial element of Government expenditure requiring increased scrutiny by both the [1944] Oireachtas and the general public. I welcome, therefore, the imminent re-establishmen of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Co-operation with Developing Countries. I believe that, in addition to affording Members an opportunity to scrutinise expenditure on ODA, it will provide them with a forum in which to discuss our policies and programmes and to offer valuable advice to the Government. I look forward to working with this committee and I can assure the House that I will give it every possible co-operation and assistance.

I would also refer Deputies to Programme 46 dealing with ODA in the publication Comprehensive Public Expenditure Programmes, which sets out in detail the range and complexity of the activities which now go to make up that programme.

Looking at our ODA programme as a whole, I believe that it is an effective and worthwhile contribution to the development of the Third World. I know that Deputies on all sides of the House will share my desire to increase that effectiveness and to increase our contribution in this area.

I therefore urge them to join with the Government in developing a new approach to development co-operation which transcends traditional party divides and ensures that our involvement in this area will continue to grow irrespective of whatever domestic difficulties we may face here in Ireland. I believe that our commitments to development and justice for all nations and peoples demands no less a response from us.

Mr. Wilson: I will be very brief. I should like to refer first to the Forum for a New Ireland and to the big deficiency in it, that is, that we do not have at the table representatives of the Unionist community in the North of Ireland. It is difficult to keep telling ourselves the big real absence from the negotiating table, but we must keep doing it. One would think that the UK Government, if they so wished, could exercise moral pressure on the Unionist grouping to ask them to participate. This does not mean that they would be bringing any moral pressure to [1945] bear on them to change their views, but at least they could contribute their well known views to the general discussion.

I am glad that the Minister and our spokesman, Deputy G. Collins, referred to some aspects of Anglo-Irish relations and relations with the United States. I regret that the period for this debate is so short but the Minister did promise a limited debate later on.

With regard to the meeting at Williamsburg, I do not think it was good enough to ignore the suggestion by the French President that the participants at the high powered economic conference should direct themselves to finding some kind of substitute for the Bretton Woods Agreement which served the economies of the western world so well for so long but which has now dissolved or broken up. At least his suggestion should have been considered. Admittedly since 1973, since the big hike in oil prices, the preconditions do not exist for the Bretton Woods type of arrangement in which Keynes played such a large part. But that does not mean that it should not be considered. It is defeatism not even to consider it. It is an indication that the powers that wield such huge economic power are thinking that this kind of economic situation will persist for ever — the problems that were created by the piling up of petro-dollars, the huge hike in oil prices and the general confusion with regard to the value of currencies that ensued.

I should like to endorse the remarks of Deputy G. Collins with regard to Afghanistan. There is a tendency to sweep things under the carpet if we do not like them, if it is inconvenient, if it offends. I would totally agree with him that the plight of the Afghans should not be forgotten, rather should it be highlighted on every occasion.

In passing I would appeal to the Minister to do something about passports for people who find themselves in certain need.

I should like to refer to what the Minister said with regard to our dependence on external trade. Even today we find that protectionism is rearing its ugly head. President Reagan of the United States made an announcement with [1946] regard to trading in steel. We have here Irish Steel Limited. They are in some difficulty, and indeed our people must subsidise them very heavily.

Mr. P. Barry: They are also in Cork.

Mr. Wilson: They are in Cork, of course. If the protectionism, which was a feature of the depressed era of the thirties, starts now to make advances, as it may very well do if President Reagan follows that road, it will not help other economies and will affect us here as it will the rest of western Europe. Most of the noises being made are very hostile to what has been said. The European nations are about to complain to GATT about what has happened.

I am glad also that Deputy G. Collins referred to the faux pas of Mr. Heseltine when he was in the North and that he has urged the Minister to see to it that he does not get away with it. Smart Alecry like that is not befitting a Minister of a Government supposed to be friendly.

In the year in which Frank Aiken died, a man who dedicated himself for so long to establishing some kind of rationale in the nuclear field, our total dedication to peace and to the corollary, the control of nuclear weapons, should continue. To be more parochial the incidents in Carlingford Lough and the use of plastic bullets, which is very near to home as far as I am concerned, are subjects of minor importance, I suppose, on the large stage that has been constructed by the Minister in his speech. But they are of importance to us here and should command the Minister's attention as well.

An Ceann Comhairle: I shall have to bring the debate to a conclusion in three minutes time.

Mr. Wilson: I will finish now. I know that the debate becomes kind of nugatory when one is rushing from one subject to another.

I cannot see in the bullish mood that exists in the United Kingdom, the British Government bringing their energies to bear on the problem, which is a serious one for us in this part of the country and [1947] for our fellow countrymen in the Six Counties. The scandalously militaristic tone of newspaper articles and even of British Government announcements since the Falklands War would indicate to me that that bullish kind of mood will continue and that there is very little joy for us in that policy.

I intended to talk about regional policy and social policy but, as you say, A Cheann Comhairle, the time has expired.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. P. Barry): I want to apologise to the Deputies who have not had an opportunity of contributing to this debate. I know there were many on all sides of the House who wanted to. I promise that I will, as a matter of urgency, endeavour to get the Whips to agree to some timetable for a debate on foreign affairs on the resumption of the Dáil.

I want to correct one matter for the record, and to make a very brief reference to two others. Deputy G. Collins, when speaking, said that the Taoiseach had said today in the House that he had not spoken about the New Ireland Forum to Mrs. Thatcher at Stuttgart. The Taoiseach was asked had he brought up the matter of the Forum with Mrs. Thatcher when he met her in Stuttgart. He replied that it was not the practice to break the confidentiality of these meetings and did not intend to do so. He did not answer “yes” or “no” to the question.

Mr. G. Collins: Mrs. Thatcher said “No” in the House of Commons.

Mr. P. Barry: Well, the Taoiseach gave his reply here today and that is on the record of the House. I just want to underline it.

With regard to the incursion into our waters, of course we do protest when we can establish the facts. Evidently, Deputy Wilson did not realise that within hours of the British Minister of Defence making his remarks we had lodged protests with the British in London. We did not expect an apology but we wanted to get our [1948] views across to them strongly in that regard.

I should like to thank Deputy Collins for his remarks about the officials in the Department and I share his sentiments. I will have a lot of pleasure in conveying to the three officials he mentioned the complimentary remarks he mentioned tonight.

Vote put and agreed to.