16 December 1999 Edition
Articles Two & Three
Now that Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution have been changed, it is worth formally recording the positive influence which the pro-Articles 2 and 3 lobby had on the process. But, firstly, let us be clear that many of us in that lobby were never opposed to any change in the Articles - there is always more than one way of saying the same thing. In fact, I produced two republican redrafts in my books Sovereign People or Crown Subjects? and Britain and Ireland - Sovereignty and Nationality, respectively.
However, when the `anti' lobby really got going just over a quarter of a century ago, the demand of some was for deletion of the Articles. That has not happened. Alternatively, they tried to reword the Articles in various ways which would have removed from them their national democratic content. Let us consider the new situation in that light.
Article 2 now efefctively holds that there is an Irish nation co-extensive with the island of Ireland, even if there are those on the island who either say they are not part of the nation or do not want to be so politically.
Article 1 (and this is important) remains unaltered and says: ``The irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right to choose its own form of government...''
Article 3 gives up the claim by the Oireachtas and Irish Government to a right of jurisdiction over the Six Counties. (Ironically, the orthodox republican stance never recognised such a right of a `Free State' parliament and administration.) The Article then goes on to envisage a united Ireland arising from consent of a majority of the people ``in both jurisdictions''. In fact, the latter is compatible with the principle that the valid cnstituency for determining the political future of Ireland is the island, while acknowledging the reality that the people are spread across two jurisdictions. It would have been different if the phrase was ``in each jurisdiction'', which was in earlier drafts leaked to the media, but altered in later ones.
The new Article 29.7.1 of course refers to the Good Friday Document, which does effectively adopt the `each jurisdiction' approach, but this says that ``The State may consent to be bound by'' the Document; it does not entrench it in the Constitution or prevent the State from withdrawing from it, in part or whole, if need be.
In summary, Articles 1 to 3, as they now stand, assert that there is an Irish nation extending throughout the 32 counties with a right to sovereignty and, notwithstanding Article 29.7.1, can be construed as stating that the people of Ireland are entitled to establish a united Ireland by decision of a majority thereof. If, in practice, that can be attained along with northern majority consent, well and good, but at least a principle has thus been upheld in the face of the six-county gerrymander. (Incidentally, the Preamble to the Constitution also still refers to the aim of seeing ``the unity of our country restored''.)
I believe that, when current papers of State and of various individuals are opened up in decades to come, it will be seen that what I have just described would not have been the case had it not been for the pro-Articles 2 and 3 lobby. At the end of the day, and in all the circumstances prevailing, I would suggest that lobby discharged its duty to its country with reasonable success.
And, incidentally, when some commentators said after the referendum on the Good Friday Document that the people had recognised partition, they are clearly unaware that there are those who voted `yes' and had not insofar as the question did not allow for different responses to proposals for all-Ireland bodies, on the one hand, and the `each jurisdiction' approach alluded to in the new Article 29, on the other.
Daltún Ó Ceallaigh
On 1 December, Mr Andrews signed the documents to make Ireland a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP), including the appointment of an Ambassador to this nuclear armed military alliance. He said that Ireland would not join NATO, but since he told the Irish people, if Fianna Fáil was elected, Ireland would not join the PfP, he can hardly expect anyone believes him.
Joining PfP is only a step towards the destruction of Irish neutrality, joining NATO and the transformation of the EU into a federal nuclear armed superstate, a new European Empire.
The French and English, 43 years after Suez, are now proposing to set up a 50,000 to 60,000-strong Expeditionary Army, which is to be approved by the EU summit in Helsinki on 10 December. Like PfP membership, this is another step in the formation of the European Army.
The Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) led the campaign against the PfP but the elite, as expected, refused a have a referendum. We will continue to campaign against the formation of this new Empire. Since the U.S. has just agreed to increase its military expenditure while the European state spends half of what the U.S. spends as a proportion of their GNP, the Irish people can expect pressure to spend more money on defence. Why, one wonders, if the Irish Peace process seeks to take the gun out of Irish politics, are we taking part in a European Process to increase the number of weapons in international politics.
PANA supports an independent Irish foreign policy, Irish neutrality and the United Nations and opposes the creation of a European Empire. We would ask the media in the light of the Helsinki proposal to give us coverage so we can put our case to the people.
Peace and Neutrality Alliance,
I am writing to express my concern over two recent articles presented in An Phoblacht.
An article on the ``healing plant'', St John's Wort, drew my attention only days after an article on male suicide. I felt the latter article was not particularly balanced and did not really attempt a serious considersation of the causes of suicide among young people.
A sense of hopelessness and isolation coupled with a feeling of powerlessness to change current realities and circumstances form part of the basis of this phenomenon. There are also very particular individual criteria involved in each case of suicide.
It is painful because what what we see as manageable others just don't. It has become a cultural phenomenon for managing unmanageable realities. This is heartbreaking and not to be taken lightly.
Presenting St John's Wort as a panacea for all our ills will not help people who need serious counselling and possible medication for depression. As a sufferer of post natal depression, it is possible for me to speak from experience. I tried St John's Wort before taking any other form of medication. It provided short-lived relief from the realities of my depression. Ultimately, its benefits turned out to be an illusion in my case.
Serious depression needs serious investigation and treatment. To self-prescribe drugs/herbal remedies in situations that possibly require medical intervention causes me to commend the idea of St John's Wort being available on prescription only. This would necessitate a more thorough investigation of a person's mental state.
The cost of the remedy is prohibitive now, whereas a medical card holder could receive the product on prescription free of charge if approved.
St John's Wort is not a cure for all depression. Depression can lead to suicide. Let us consider all the options to help people who are affected and leave political considerations aside.
Recently I was asked to help a researcher of a spectacular IRA operation which occurred some time in 1915. As I could not find any source for the information myself, I am appealing to readers with any information on the operation to forward them to me at the below address.
The details we have are that in 1915 (exact date unknown) a special operation was organised using most of the available IRA Volunteers in Belfast. Between 3am and 5am, they raided the Harland and Wolff shipyard, specifically the dock where the cruiser HMS Glorious was being built. They removed all the Lee Enfield or the Lee Metford rifles which were stored either on magazine racks in a passageway or in a locked arms magazine in the Glorious.
The IRA Volunteers moved the weapons into the nearby Markets and the Short Strand areas as initial drop off points. The weapons were later dispersed around the city.
The Glorious left Belfast in late 1915. As it would take nine months to fit it out, the operation could have happened at any stage that year.
Aengus O Snodaigh,
58 Parnell Square,