Dáil Éireann - Volume 434 - 07 October, 1993

Written Answers. - Opsahl Commission Report.

22. Mr. Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recommendations of the Opsahl report in regard to integrated education and integrated housing in Northern Ireland.

29. Mr. M. McDowell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if Ireland is willing to contribute to the establishment of a Commission to continue the work of the Opsahl Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

52. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recommendations of the Opsahl report in regard to integrated education and integrated housing in Northern Ireland.

61. Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recommendations of the Opsahl report in regard to integrated education and integrated housing in Northern Ireland.

68. Mr. McGahon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recommendations of the Opsahl report in regard to integrated education and integrated housing in Northern Ireland.

[548] 69. Mr. Bradford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recommendations of the Opsahl report in regard to integrated education and integrated housing in Northern Ireland.

84. Mr. Boylan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recommendations of the Opsahl report in regard to integrated education and integrated housing in Northern Ireland.

93. Mrs. T. Ahearn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recommendations of the Opsahl report in regard to integrated education and integrated housing in Northern Ireland.

100. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received a copy of the report of the Opsahl Commission on Northern Ireland; if so, if he will outline his response to the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): I propose to take Questions Nos. 22, 29, 52, 61, 68, 69, 84, 93 and 100 together.

Following the publication last June of the Opsahl Commission report, I welcomed the report as “the culmination of a very worth-while endeavour to provide a vehicle through which people in Northern Ireland and beyond could express their views on possible ways forward”. I gave a fuller response during a debate in Seanad Éireann on 13 July, when I saluted the achievements of the Commission and paid particular attention to a number of its findings. I responded further to the report in the course of a recent address to the British-Irish Association.

While the ideas in the report undoubtedly deserve careful study, and a continuation of the exercise in some form would be valuable in itself, the proposal for the establishment of a commission to continue the work of the Opsahl Commission [549] raises a number of difficult issues. The task of devising and taking forward policy in relation to Northern Ireland is, I believe, properly one for Government. As regards the report's recommendations in relation to integrated education and integrated housing in Northern Ireland, the Government considers that these provide a valuable basis for further discussion. In relation to all such matters the wishes of the individual are, of course, of fundamental importance. For example, it seems that at present a majority of parents in Northern Ireland wish to send their children to schools with a particular religious ethos and it is obviously important that they should continue to be able to do so. However, there is also clearly a growing interest in integrated education and the Government believes that this should be facilitated wherever possible. The question of housing is also a complex and sensitive matter and it is clearly essential that any changes in this area should take place only on a voluntary basis.