LONDON — Dublin's parliament, the D'ail, has begun debating constitutional reforms which could ease tensions between the two parts of Ireland. British government ministers hope it will help create the basis for an eventual settlement of the troubles in Northern Ireland. The left-wing Workers' party introduced a motion Tuesday to drop clauses from the Irish Republic's written Constitution asserting the Dublin government's legal sovereignty over Northern Ireland.
The move has the broad support of the official opposition Fine Gael party, and some members of Prime Minister Charles Haughey's Fianna F'ail government are said to be sympathetic, say opposition members of Parliament.
The D'ail will decide next week whether consider the proposal in detail.
Under the Irish Republic's Constitution the national territory is said to consist of the entire island of Ireland. This provision, which was reinforced by an Irish Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, is an obstacle to attempts currently being made by the British government to produce a peace formula to bring to an end to 20 years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
The Irish Republican Army interprets the Constitution as a justification for its attempts to achieve Irish unity by terrorist means. Protestants in Northern Ireland say the sovereignty claim is a Roman Catholic provocation and an obstacle to serious negotiations.
Prionnsias DeRossa, leader of the Workers' Party, said the Constitution should be changed to emphasize that unity can be achieved only by the consent of all Irish people, including a majority of voters in Northern Ireland.
``There is a new liberal mood afoot in Ireland,'' Mr. DeRossa says. ``There is a feeling that nationalism is no longer a question of legal prerogatives but needs to be buttressed by the will of the people.''
Peter Brooke, Britain's Northern Ireland secretary, is preparing a new bid to bring together the province's two religious communities for talks aimed at ending the violence. Constitutional reform has moved to the top of the Dublin agenda due to the election last month of Mary Robinson as president of the Irish republic.