The (Irish) government has already made clear our fear at the consequences which may follow from yet another failed British government initiative. With the announcement of voting in the autumn for the proposed Northern Ireland Assembly, our apprehension grows greater.
This institution is to be in and for Northern Ireland alone, and its intended role is to restore a devolved executive in and for Northern Ireland alone. Few deputies I believe will not see such a concept as retrograde and insufficient, and few in this House will likewise fail to deplore the retreat by the present British government from the commitment to prescribed power-sharing in Northern Ireland. This commitment has been a constant in the policy of various British governments since 1973.
Instead, the evolution of affairs within the new assembly is to be left to the free play of the political parties. Everybody knows which political tradition will dominate in such a situation, and we hear already that dominant Unionist interest declare its attitude - an attitude which has not varied over 60 years and which, not surprisingly, is marked by contemptuous rejection of the present British plan.
I regret the present line of policy of British ministers, but despite this we are determined to use and to pursue the development of the institutional framework established by the two governments. It is still there and in fact has been functioning normally in recent months. It offers the hope of avoiding disaster and a clear way forward. It remains our conviction that a joint approach offers the only hope of ultimately resolving the situation in Northern Ireland.
Where interests are so healthily interlinked, relations do not come to a halt. In the fields of political, economic, and security cooperation this government is determined to play its full part in bringing peace, stability, and reconciliation to our people, and we expect the British government to do the same. We cannot accept a selective or inconsistent approach to mutual cooperation.
I would therefore ask all the members of the House to support the government's efforts to further develop the agreed Anglo-Irish institutions as we press for a joint initiative which will directly tackle the problem of Northern Ireland.
Indeed this problem affects not just the people of Ireland and Britain but it has had repercussions across the Atlantic and is deplored by many as a continuing threat to the stability of the Western community of nations. In office we have sought to maximize the potential of the American dimension in moving toward a solution of the difficulties in Northern Ireland.
In our contacts with other governments too, particularly among our European partners, there is increasing understanding of our policies on Northern Ireland and in particular a ready support for a joint Anglo-Irish approach to the problem. This growing conviction in other countries that an Anglo-Irish context is the appropriate one for resolving the problem is a rational and encouraging development.