Dáil Éireann - Volume 434 - 07 October, 1993

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Northern Ireland Talks.

1. Mrs. Owen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the arrangements, if any, that have been made for a meeting between Mr. John Hume and himself in the immediate future.

[489] 54. Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received any recent information pertaining to the Anglo-Irish peace process; if he intends to take any initiatives on foot of any such information; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 54 together.

The Taoiseach and I had a meeting with John Hume earlier today. For the information of the House, I will read the joint statement the Taoiseach and I issued after that meeting:

The Taoiseach, Mr. Albert Reynolds, TD, and the Tánaiste, Mr. Dick Spring, TD, this morning met the leader of the SDLP, Mr. John Hume, who briefed them on the position reached to date in his discussions with the leader of Sinn Féin, Mr. Gerry Adams.

The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste took the opportunity to express their deep appreciation of the work done by John Hume over the years in the cause of peace.

The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste believe that the highest political priority must be given to establishing a basis for a just and lasting peace and a permanent cessation of all violence. They will accordingly evaluate carefully the position conveyed to them, and consult with the Government, with a view to ensuring that it can make a very important contribution towards building a consensus for peace. It would be their intention to take full account of it, and decide how best to continue their efforts in their discussions with the British Government for the achievement of the objective of peace on this island.

By definition, this work will require much patient work and preparation. The Government will not be elaborating in further detail for the moment. A period of reflection, assessment and discussion is now necessary, and the Government believes that in [490] the interests of peace the need for confidentiality should be respected.

The ultimate goal of all parties committed to a peaceful approach must be to reach a lasting political settlement, which can only be achieved on the basis of the widest political dialogue and participation, with the consent of the people living in Ireland, both North and South.

Proinsias De Rossa: On a point of order, did the Minister for Foreign Affairs intend to take Question No. 5, which also refers to the meeting with John Hume with Question No. 1?

An Ceann Comhairle: Seemingly not, Deputy.

Proinsias De Rossa: Why not?

An Ceann Comhairle: I would prefer if there were no interruptions at this juncture by reason of the very precious time available to us.

Mrs. Owen: I thank the Minister for his reply. Unfortunately, it does not clarify for Members what exactly took place at the meeting. I should like him to elaborate further on what took place at the meeting, the nature of the document, if any, given to the Government, the length of the document and whether that document contained specific proposals or a summary of the discussions which have taken place over the past number of months. On the basis of the meeting with John Hume, does the Minister expect a cessation of all violence shortly? Having regard to the sense of isolation felt by the Unionist community and the threat posed to them by these discussions with the Irish Government, can the Minister assure the House that the Government will take these fears into account before it proceeds further along the road with John Hume and Gerry Adams, taking into account the primary objective of bringing about an end to violence and a resumption of the talks between the constitutional parties in the North?

[491] Mr. Spring: Obviously it is the objective of the Government — and, I assume, every party in this House — to bring an end to the violence in the North and re-establish the talks between the constitutional parties. As I said clearly, it is not my intention to elaborate on the nature or content of the discussion which took place between the Taoiseach, John Hume and me. A period of reflection is necessary. I ask Members to understand this position. The meeting took place only this morning. John Hume has been working for many years to establish peace on this island and to bring an end to the conflict which has ravaged Northern Ireland for the past 25 years. Both the Taoiseach and I are very conscious of the fears which exist among both communities in Northern Ireland. I appeal to the House not to take any action or make any statement which would heighten the fears which already exist among both communities. I reiterate that we need a period of reflection, assessment and discussion. Obviously the Taoiseach and I wish to consult our Government colleagues on the outcome of the discussion.

Mrs. Owen: Can the Minister say when the Hume-Adams talks, which have been adjourned, so to speak, will be concluded? I am aware that Gerry Adams will give a press conference at 3 p.m. today. Is the Minister fearful that information given at this press conference may differ from the information he has given to the House today? Does he have any idea what Gerry Adams will say at that press conference?

Mr. Spring: I have no information on the discussions between Mr. Adams and Mr. Hume and I have no idea of what might be said at the press conference which the Deputy has informed me will take place this afternoon.

Mrs. Owen: Was anything said at this morning's meeting which would give hope that a peace process is on offer?

Mr. Spring: I concur with the points made by the Taoiseach in this House [492] yesterday and at the talks this morning — any constructive opportunity, which will help establish a peace process on this island, must be taken up. I believe the work done by John Hume can play a very meaningful part in that process.