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MS 7 - Ottawa Conference & Revised Anglo-Irish Agreement

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Mr. Speaker,

I rise today to update the House of Commons on the Ottawa Conference and to present a revised version of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

I would first like to thank the Canadian people, Prime Minister Mulroney and Secretary of State for External Relations Joe Clark for hosting the Ottawa Conference. Their warm welcome and tremendous support throughout the entire process has been invaluable. I would also like to thank our American allies for their continued support and assistance throughout these negotiations. It is clear that Britain and the Republic of Ireland have very strong relationships throughout the global community and the entire world is hopeful that this agreement will be a step towards a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. Above all I want to thank the Irish Foreign Minister and Taoiseach for their willingness to put aside differences and work with us to forge a new path towards peace.

The originally proposed Anglo-Irish Agreement was very well intentioned and was an important step in the negotiating process. Yet all of us – this government, the Irish government, and the communities in Northern Ireland all saw the agreement is falling short. It did not contain the necessary security assurances we required. It lacked meaningful channels to combat terrorism and the spread of extremism. It also became a tool of division within the very communities we were trying to bring together. Through good faith negotiating, consensus building and yes at times very difficult and challenging discussions we have achieve a breakthrough that we sincerely hope and believe will serve as a springboard for long term progress.

The events of the last several weeks have made clear that to achieve a lasting peace that can endure the trials and tribulations of a tumultuous political and social environment any agreement must be grounded in security. Cooperation on security and counterterrorism between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland is critical to achieving the peace and prosperity we desire for all residents of Northern Ireland. Our cooperation in the fight against extremism is also critical to the safety of the people in the Republic and in mainland Britain as the tentacles of terrorism can spread far and wide. This government was right to demand further security assurances and the government of the Republic of Ireland was right to see these requests as legitimate and agree to unprecedented cooperation in the fight against terrorism and extremism.

This revised agreement makes substantial steps towards securing our safety and in fighting terrorism. Ireland and the United Kingdom will now cooperate by statute to prevent the flow of weapons, financing and material support for paramilitary organizations across the Ulster border and from abroad. We will cooperate to prevent recruitment in extremist groups. We will cooperate by sharing intelligence and resources to stop paramilitary activity before it occurs and bring those who do participate in illegal activities to justice. We will further cooperate to ease the extradition process so that criminals cannot commit crimes on one side of the border and hide from justice on the other. We will work together to uphold the rule of law and send a clear signal to criminals and terrorists that we will find you, we will stop you and we will hold you accountable.

The Republic of Ireland made clear its position that residents of Northern Ireland should be welcomed to participate in the functions of the Dáil Éireann. There is already established precedent for residents of Northern Ireland to be appointed to the Seanad Éireann. This government believes it is important to use every opportunity possible to promote legitimate debate, inclusive discourse and the sharing of opinions and perspectives to promote cross community engagement in Northern Ireland. These powerful but important discussions take place frequently in this Parliament and we think it fair and right that similar discussions should occur in the Oireachtas. For that reason we have agreed to recognize and assist with the process of seeing residents of Northern Ireland serve as TDs in the Dáil. All candidates and all parties, provided they are not members of a proscribed organization, shall be welcome to stand to represent their communities. Unionists, Republicans, Catholics, Protestants, those who wish to serve and those who will practice Abstentionism will all be welcomed to participate in this process and share their views and those of their neighbors. The Dáil shall continue to have no authority in the administration of Northern Ireland and will pass no legislation with any authority over Northern Ireland. The Irish government through the revised Anglo-Irish Agreement recognizes the current status quo of the United Kingdom’s administration over the 6 counties of Ulster and its place as a constituent part of the United Kingdom until such time as a majority of residents of Northern Ireland may seek a change in that status.

We recognize that the future of Northern Ireland must be determined by its residents. All communities must have confidence their governance is by consent and their institutions act in their best interests. All of us further recognize the importance of democratic participation and the legitimacy of popular elections as a reflection of the will of the people of Northern Ireland. In 1973 a referendum was held on the future of Northern Ireland and the participants in that referendum voted overwhelmingly to remain part of the United Kingdom. This is a once in a generation question that must be asked and answered as part of the ongoing commitment to peace and legitimate governance. That is why every twenty years, beginning in 1993, a similar referendum will be held which will allow the residents of Northern Ireland to renew their continued relationship with the United Kingdom or choose a new path. With a turnout requirement of 35%, no single community will have the ability to block a referendum by withholding their consent. Rather all of Northern Ireland, all communities, will be encouraged to participate to have their voices heard and their votes counted.

I am pleased to announce this agreement has the full support of the United States which has generously renewed its commitment for financial assistance as part of this peace process. They have further agreed to review their contributions as the peace process continued for potential further investments. Their partnership in support of the peace process should be welcomed gratefully by all.

Mr. Speaker,

There is no perfect deal. There is no magic wand we can wave which will end violence forever and see us all around the same dining room table. I sincerely wish there was. While there may be no perfect deal we can be certain that this revised Anglo-Irish Agreement is a substantially better one. It gives each community skin in the game as they say – support for their prosperity, assurances for their security, recognition of their right to democratic participation and the ability for all residents of Northern Ireland to have their voices heard on both sides of the border. It cements cooperation between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom while recognizing the status quo and the ability of the people of Northern Ireland to choose their own destiny.

I am pleased to present this agreement to the House for debate and in short order will be introducing legislation to facilitate its implementation.



Addendum to the Anglo-Irish Agreement:

The Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom shall pass legislation which shall be effective no later than the effective date of the revised treaty which shall:

A.      Require the sharing of police and security service intelligence and cooperation of security resources in the matters of:

(1) Preventing: cross Ulster border paramilitary operations, organized crime, the transfer of financial or material resources and weapons for paramilitary organizations, evasion from lawful arrest or detention efforts of suspected paramilitary members, recruiting of members into paramilitary organizations and other areas that may be further agreed upon by their respective governments.

(2)    Preventing the flow of weapons, financial and material resources or recruitment materials for paramilitary organizations from countries outside of the Republic of Ireland and United Kingdom.

(3)    Enhanced cooperation in the investigation and resolution of criminal complaints and the extradition of alleged or convicted criminals related to paramilitary activities, including but not limited to where the alleged offenses occurred along the Ulster border or the alleged offender fled across the border to avoid apprehension.

B.       Facilitate the voluntary participation of residents of Northern Ireland in elections to the Dáil Éireann:

(1)    The United Kingdom shall not prohibit any citizen of the United Kingdom residing in the Ulster counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone from standing for or being elected to the Dáil Éireann provided that individual is not a member of a proscribed organization.

(2)    The United Kingdom shall assist with the secure distribution and collection of Dáil Éireann postal ballots until such time as the security situation in Ulster may permit other means of balloting.

(3)    Nothing in this legislation shall be interpreted to mean the Dáil Éireann or the Republic of Ireland have any administrative, executive or legislative authority within six counties of Ulster.

(4)    The Republic of Ireland shall facilitate the printing and counting of all ballots for “constituencies of the Dáil Éireann designated for the representation of the residents of the 6 counties of Ulster”.

(5)    The Republic of Ireland shall pass no prohibition on the candidacy or election of Unionists or Abstentionist candidates from the 6 counties of Ulster in the Dáil Éireann.

B.      Provide for a referendum on the status of Northern Ireland’s legal status as a constituent country within the United Kingdom.

(1)    The United Kingdom shall conduct a referendum on Northern Ireland’s legal status as a constituent country within United Kingdom no later than the end of 1993 and every twenty years following.

(2)    The referendum shall poll legal residents of Northern Ireland aged 18 or older at the time of the referendum.

(3)   The referendum question shall be “Do you want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom?” with the response options of “Remain part of the United Kingdom” and “Join with the Republic of Ireland”

(4)    Administrative costs for the referendum shall be shared by the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

(5)    No referendum changing the legal status of the 6 counties of Northern Ireland shall be considered valid unless 35% of the residents of Northern Ireland participate in the referendum poll and a majority of participants vote for a change in the legal status.


Rt Hon William Carlisle MP PC

Deputy Prime Minister

Foreign Secretary

Member of Parliament for Devizes (1964)

Conservative Party

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Enoch Powell: grabs mace and walks off

Mr Speaker, Bernard Weatherill: Order! I name the Honourable Member as Enoch Powell and expel him from the day's sitting, Sergeant at Arms retrieve and replace the mace.

Sergeant at Arms: takes the mace off of Enoch Powell and replaces it, escorts Mr Powell from the Chamber

Rest of the Northern Irish Unionists: walk out as well


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Mr. Speaker,

It is with some astonishment that I rise before the House today to speak on this announcement. Astonishment, perhaps, is not even strong enough a word. Bewilderment is more like it.

We believe – quite sincerely – that Northern Irish affairs demand responsibility and a willingness to put country above party. We have tried our best to remain true to this sense of responsibility, and we will not shirk this duty today either. That an agreement has been reached after weeks of uncertainty and violence is indeed good news, as is the fact that some advancement has been reached on the critical issue of counterterrorism. Recent events, which have shaken us to our very core while failing to undermine our collective resolve as a nation, showcase the need for such cross-border cooperation, and securing further progress in ending the scourge of terrorism and violence can indeed only be a good thing.

This is indeed, without question, the key achievement of this agreement. What is regrettable about it, Mr. Speaker, is that it could have been achieved through far more responsible means. There was no need for this kind of brinkmanship on behalf of the government, and one can only hope that the implementation of these measures will involve a different, far more constructive attitude.

Furthermore, pleased as we are to see a deal, Mr. Speaker, we have been stunned by its contents, particularly when put in light of this whole regrettable saga. The moment after being elevated as Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Gentleman from Beverley made it clear that he did not like the Anglo-Irish agreement painstakingly negotiated by his predecessor. He argued, quite forcefully, on matters of sovereignty as his chief argument behind it, and in this he was followed by a quite complicit Cabinet led by the Deputy Prime Minister. They made a big show of it, hosting the member for South Down in Downing Street, shamelessly waving the Union Jack to try and silence any critics of their cavalier approach to peace in Northern Ireland.

They gambled, Mr. Speaker. Dangerously and recklessly so, without regard for the consequences, and motivated by concerns by, which the looks of this agreement, were either misguided or easy to abandon. Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic, and the whole of Britain was subjected to intolerable uncertainty because the Government felt the earlier agreement gave too much away. And they decided to end this uncertainty with an agreement that does indeed make progress in counterterrorism, while showing all the tough talk on sovereignty to be absurdly hollow. For all the talk on the preservation of sovereignty, we will see Irish TDs elected in Northern Ireland, the very sort of concession that, only a few days ago, the Prime Minister would have vociferously denounced as dangerously close to surrender.

The second chief argument, Mr. Speaker, addressed the nature of consent, with rhetoric aimed at the need for all communities to consent to the agreement, while condemning the previous agreement on that basis. This was a crucial test imposed by the Deputy Prime Minister, repeated at every opportunity. And now we have an agreement vociferously and bitterly denounced from one side of the matter, and all the government can do is shrug its shoulders and parrot the line that they hope this will change in the future. If this is not hypocrisy, Mr. Speaker, I do not know what it is. Had it come from any other government, this would have been enough for the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to denounce it in harsh, irresponsible language. And we are now asked to simply ignore the fact that they’ve failed their own test.

It becomes difficult to avoid the conclusion, Mr. Speaker, that the government realized the depth of the mess caused by their irresponsible approach at the start of this crisis, and sought a way out of said crisis at any cost. In which case, it becomes even more difficult not to ask the question of why, if this was to be the end goal, did the government behave so outrageously. I believe Parliament deserves an answer. What’s more to the point, I believe the people of Northern Ireland, however supportive or distrustful of the agreement, deserve an answer as well. They deserve to know why the government gambled with their future for what appears to be political purposes, only to suddenly reverse and adopt positions which are blatantly contradictory with their earlier rhetoric.

I’m sure other members will point out the other parts of the agreement that, at the very least, raise an eyebrow. They include, for example, the regular scheduling of border polls based on what appears to be arbitrary criteria. And they also include the turnout requirement, which is far from a guarantee that boycott – the consequences of which would be severe – will not successfully take place. Rather, it seems like the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister signed in a hurry to make the issue go away and, by the looks of it, take credit for the whole affair. This deal may well become one for Northern Ireland as it is implemented in the future. But that the Prime Minister has found a way out of the mess he himself created is in no way a personal triumph. Quite the opposite.

The Alliance parties, Mr. Speaker, will not shirk their duty. We will vote for the agreement, and we will do our utmost to make it work for the sake of the people of Northern Ireland. We consider it paramount that any such deal be made a success, which we already tried to do with its previous iteration. But we will reserve the right as parliamentarians to express our opinions about the government´s performance and responsibilities through this whole affair, which we feel have been deplorable. We can only hope that, in the future, this government and this Prime Minister will think twice before tearing up agreements because he doesn’t like them. Not only to spare themselves further personal humiliation, but far more important: to never again put the word of Great Britain into question.

Edward Winter MP - Social Democratic Party

Leader of the SDP (1986 - Present) / MP for Portsmouth South (1984 - Present)

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Mr. Speaker,

Where do we even start?

I echo the Honourable Gentleman's for Portsmouth South's bewilderment. The Foreign Secretary likes to present the House with stories that go little in the way of accurately mirroring reality. So let me paint the House of the situation that got us here and outline why it's nothing short of bizarre that we're here. 

Mr. Speaker, the Foreign Secretary came to this House only months ago to tell the House that the Anglo-Irish Agreement had to be revised. He told us that the UK did not deratify the deal, but lets be frank Mr. Speaker his conversation with the Irish Foreign Minister spooked the Irish Foreign Minister so much that the Irish Foreign Minister resigned, the Irish government collapsed and as a consequence so did the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The Foreign Secretary's incompetent handling of the situation was so poor that it allowed American aid to Northern Ireland to hang in the balance and threatened crucial counterterrorism channels we had with the Republic of Ireland.

Worse yet, Mr. Speaker, it fuelled nationalist sentiment and allowed a new government to enter, a government which was able to force the Foreign Secretary's hand to concede huge swathes of the union, of the wishes of the Northern Irish people and of Britain's national interest. This was only able to happen because the Foreign Secretary trashed his international reputation and his country's standing in the world. This led the Foreign Secretary to have to choose between the country's national interest or his own interest. He made that choice very clear for the country to see. Seeing the stony silence from the government backbenches as he is laughed at while he tries to spin this deal as a massive victory doesn't make me resent the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Speaker, it makes me pity him. 

In allowing the Anglo-Irish Agreement to fall apart without a backup plan, the Foreign Secretary exposed that he was incompetent. But in presenting this deal to the House today he has exposed that he is incapable. 

Mr. Speaker, it feels almost like a waste of time to debunk the myths peddled knowingly or unknowingly by the government in the House today. They are utterly transparent.

We can start with perhaps the most laughable: the Foreign Secretary's claim the government can call it a job well they as they achieved their primary objective of building additional counterterrorism structures is the most laughable. 

In his first statement to the House, the Foreign Secretary conveniently neglects that his primary reason for trashing the agreement was, and I quote, because "... the response to the Anglo-Irish Agreement from both Unionist and Republican communities has been mixed at best and openly hostile at worst and it became abundantly clear that the current agreement would not achieve the goals of substantially furthering the peace process." It may shock the House to know that in his initial statement the Foreign Secretary did not mention counterterrorism once, and didn't until the Opposition had brought it up. Nevermind primary objective, Mr. Speaker, structures on counterterrorism were barely an afterthought, and yet the Foreign Secretary wants us to fall for his rushed rearrangement of the goalposts. 

So that's the first principle the Foreign Secretary reneged on to keep his Ministerial salary, because there is no other explanation as to why the Foreign Secretary is unable to highlight what made the former deal so unforgivable and yet should be ignored with his own deal. 

Mr. Speaker, while we're on the subject of reneging on your own principles I'll remind the House that the Home Secretary told the media:

"Without any firm commitment from paramilitaries to lay down arms; without any firm commitment from the Irish government to rescind a constitutional claim to territorial control over Northern Ireland; and without the trust and faith of both communities, there is simply no hope for this agreement to succeed. And by the way [...] the unionist parties were not included in the talks that led to this agreement being forged.”

Mr. Speaker, lets take a second to ignore my 'screeching' and measure if this deal is a success by the standards the government set. It's clear to everyone in this House that by every single standard they set, their deal has failed. 

There is no commitment from paramilitaries to lay down arms.

Far from a commitment from the Irish government to rescind a constitutional claim to territorial control over Northern Ireland, the government has made British taxpayers fund the Irish Dail's One Ireland Act, allowing British taxpayers to fund Irish elections which include Northern Ireland within its scope. 

Far from trust of both communities, we have seen an unprecedented cry of opposition from Unionist communities against this deal. And no sign that Unionist parties were included in the forging of a new deal, judging from the Member for South Down's reaction. 

The country will not be buying the Foreign Secretary's triumphalist rhetoric. Because lets be honest, even the Conservative Party don't buy it. The game is up.

Mr. Speaker, Labour's position is simple. We need a sustainable pathway to peace which takes all of Northern Ireland's communities and it should be the people of Northern Ireland who have sovereignty over their future. 

Even if you support a united Ireland, if you believe in democracy and peace you should believe this is a path that is forged with the consent of the Irish people. The initial agreement was flawed in taking a top down approach, and after criticising that the Foreign Secretary has taken this approach to a whole new extreme.

The government has allowed the Republic of Ireland to run elections which include Northern Irish constituencies - without the consent of the Northern Irish people. The government has mandated that every two decades the Irish people be forced to partake in a border poll - without the consent of the Northern Irish people. The government has mandated that if 35% of people turn out, the results of a border poll will be accepted. That means a unionist boycott could lead to Northern Ireland's cessation from the union without the true consent of the people of Northern Ireland and without the support of all of Northern Ireland's communities.

I respect colleagues in the House who are committed to dialogue with the Irish government as the only step forwards to peace, who are committed to strengthening channels of cooperation on counterterrorism to keep the British people safe and who are committed to the resumption of aid to Northern Ireland. However, it is also fair for one to ask if this is worth turning our backs completely on the people of Northern Ireland's sovereignty. 

I respect the need for compromise if we are to move forwards. However, this deal is not a compromise: it is the text the Foreign Secretary has chosen to stand by so that he can avoid writing a resignation letter instead. This takes us on a path that isn't just unsustainable. It takes us on a path that is dangerous, Mr. Speaker, and colleagues today will be asking why they should support a deal that doesn't even win on the government's terms, let alone anyone else's. 

Ruth Murphy.

Labour Member of Parliament for Liverpool Walton (1974-).

Opposition Whip (1982-).

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