Value Of Articles 2 And 3


Sir, - I had the pleasure of meeting Steven King at the Humbert School this year. As a Unionist, it is understandable that he should attempt to compromise further the Irish Government's position on Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution (Opinion, November 25th).

The Constitution, including of Articles 2 and 3, has done much to stabilise the political situation here since 1937. In pragmatic terms, it created a political road for republicans which diverted the majority of them from the path of violence.

The peace process also owes much to the Constitution because it permits Sinn Fein to accept the Government as the prime mover on behalf of republicanism.

The Joint Declaration by both governments finally opened the road to peace, when the British side, though reiterating the guarantee to unionism, outlined an Irish dimension, inclusive of a united Ireland.

Now, with the peace process foundering, we have the main players, Dublin and London, accepting the British claim to jurisdiction in Northern Ireland, while the Irish Government prepares the ground to jettison Articles 2 and 3 in return for nebulous crossBorder committees, something akin to a miniature, cross-Border EC. Further, Dublin now seems to advocate some type of "British Isles" alliance, already dubbed by some in official circles as a "Council of the British Isles". This organism is seen as including representatives from both parts of the country as well as from London and the new administrations in Wales and Scotland.

This is a very sinister development from an Irish viewpoint. It removes the safety-valve option of achieving unity by political means, while the State itself will be subsumed in Bertie Ahern's British Isles "umbrella group", in conjunction with Northern Ireland as a separate political entity, if not nation. Unity will be a dead letter.

The republican ideal of unity runs deep in the Irish psyche. Today's Fianna Fail-led Government should appreciate this most of all. For generations, it has maintained its political base on the concept of unity, while undoubtedly holding the fort against major republican violence. If it is about to abrogate that position now and leave moderate non-violent republicanism without a political voice, it makes increased republican violence inevitable.

Could one suggest to Steven King that there might be a better way forward than having Messrs Ahern and Blair rush their fences towards what unionism might see as a victory? Would it not be better if both governments dropped the opposing claims to jurisdiction in Northern Ireland, declaring that instead they would both use their best endeavours to create new political structures in Ireland to bring republicans and unionists together in a mutually acceptable all-Ireland solution?

Such a declaration, based on the Irish dimension enunciated by John Major in the Joint Declaration, might usefully emerge from the peace process in May next. Certainly, a development on these lines would have in it less of the seeds of violence than a one-sided abrogation of the Irish claim. Finally, it would be particularly fitting that such a declaration should issue in 1998, 200 years after the progenitors of so many present-day unionists went out to fight for a country where Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter could live together under the common name of Irishmen. - Yours, etc.,

Curzon Street, Dublin 8.