HC Deb 29 October 1992 vol 212 cc1123-4
7. Mr. John D. Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he requested the Government of the Republic of Ireland to agree changes to articles 2 and 3 of the southern Irish constitution.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

The Government's view on articles 2 and 3 is well known to the Irish Government and to the House. do not wish to break the agreed confidentiality of the talks process. I can, however, refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Rev. Martin Smyth) on Friday 3 July.

Mr. Taylor

Does the Secretary of State recognise that most independent observers agree that articles 2 and 3 represent one of the main obstacles to real co-operation within the island of Ireland? Is he not surprised that even at this late stage, the Dublin Government have failed to make any positive contribution to removing an obstacle which could, if it were removed, have brought about better co-operation?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

Anybody who follows the published accounts and commentaries on the talks process will have seen that considerable importance is attached to the subject that the right hon. Gentleman raises. However, I am going to resist his invitation to comment on the position of the Irish Government or, indeed, on the position of anyone else in the talks process. It is far better that we should use the short time available to negotiate privately and quietly in the way that is happening at the moment instead of making comments in public. Therefore, I am afraid that I must conclude my reply on that note.

Rev. William McCrea

Does the Secretary of State agree that the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland desire to remain part of the United Kingdom? Therefore, for good neighbourly relationships between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic, it is essential to remove the offending articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution. Have the Dublin authorities shown willingness to have them removed and indicated that accordingly?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

The hon. Gentleman will recall that some considerable time ago the Taoiseach made it clear that articles 2 and 3 were on the table, along with any other constitutional matter, in the talks process. Accordingly, I am glad about that, as was my predecessor. The hon. Gentleman can be quite satisfied that full advantage is being taken in the talks of the ability to discuss all matters of constitutional issue including the one that concerns the hon. Gentleman now.

Mr. Mallon

Possibly the Secretary of State should confirm that, over a long period, four Cabinet Ministers from the Government of the Republic of Ireland were sitting in the talks with himself and the rest of us trying to get agreement to help solve the problem. While we were doing that, other people were sitting out sniping in the wings, and one of the most prominent snipers was the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor), who tabled this question.

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