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Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention Report
- Appendix 2 Proposals in Principle



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Text: Northern Ireland Office (NIO) ... Page Compiled: Brendan Lynn

NORTHERN IRELAND CONSTITUTIONAL
CONVENTION

REPORT

Together with the Proceedings of the Convention
and other Appendices


APPENDIX 3

PROPOSALS IN PRINCIPLE FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF
NORTHERN IRELAND

Tabled 23 September 1975 pursuant to the Resolution of the Convention
dated 17 September 1975

 

UNITED ULSTER UNIONIST COALITION

Statement of Principles

The U.U.U.C. takes note that the majority of the people of Northern Ireland have repeatedly and recently proved through the ballot-box that they desire the status of Northern Ireland, as an integral part of the United Kingdom, not to be altered. It is on that basis that the U.U.U.C. makes its recommendations as follows:

CONSTITUTIONAL BASIS FOR NORTHERN IRELAND GOVERNMENT

1. A. Northern Irelandís Status

Northern Ireland is, and will remain, an integral part of the United Kingdom.

B. Representation at Westminster

Northern Ireland ought to be represented in the United Kingdom Parliament on a basis and scale similar to that used to determine the representation of comparable parts of the United Kingdom.

The number of such representatives as well as the boundaries of the constituencies should be determined by judicial commission.

C. Devolved Government in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland shall be administered by an assembly and executive empowered to legislate and govern. That assembly shall be the Northern Ireland Parliament.

D. Queenís Representative

Legislation affecting devolved matters shall be enacted by the Queen in the Northern Ireland Parliament and Her Majesty would be represented in Northern Ireland by a Governor, or by a non-political person appointed by Her Majesty, to perform such constitutional and ceremonial duties as She is not able to perform in person.

E. Northern Ireland Privy Council

There should be a Northern Ireland Privy Council. As at Westminster Privy Council status should be offered to leading members of major opposition parties, so as to facilitate the interchange of information between members of the Government and members of the various opposition parties.

FORM OF NORTHERN IRELAND LEGISLATURE

2. A. A Unicameral Parliament

The Northern Ireland Parliament shall be unicameral.

B. Parliamentary Term

The term of that Parliament shall not exceed five years.

C. Size of Parliament, Number of Constituencies and Franchise

(i) The Northern Ireland Parliament shall consist of not less than 78 members and not more than 100 members.

(ii) There seems to be no reason for any special form of franchise for Northern Ireland different from that in use elsewhere in the United Kingdom. However consideration could be given to ways whereby representation could be given to significant but scattered minorities.

FUNCTIONS TO BE DEVOLVED TO NORTHERN IRELAND

3. A. Powers to the Northern Ireland Parliament

The powers of the Northern Ireland Parliament shall be based on those granted by the Government of Ireland Act 1920 i.e. to include:

Agriculture
Education
Health and Social Services
Environment, Housing and Local Government
Trade, Industry and Employment
Law and order, including all aspects of internal security.

B. Secretary of State for the Devolved Regions

The post of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland should lapse and those services in Northern Ireland not administered by the devolved administration should be administered by a Secretary of State for the devolved regions.

SELECTION OF NORTHERN IRELAND GOVERNMENT

4. A. The Formntion of the Executive

The formation of the executive and the incidents of government should be based on thc practices and precedents of the Westminster Parliament.

B. Northern Ireland Executive

The Northern Ireland Executive shall consist of a Cabinet of not more than eight Ministers including the Prime Minister, supported by such junior Ministers as are considered necessary.

C. Leader of the Opposition

The Speaker of the House should recognise the leader of Her Majestyís opposition. It should be firmly established that the Leader of the opposition would have a clear right of access to the Prime Minister of the day.

D. Oath of Allegiance

The holding of Office in Government and other major appointments should be subject to an oath of allegiance which should aver loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen and bind the taker to uphold and defend the constitution of Northern Ireland as herein established.

COMMITTEES

5. A. Parliamentary Backbeneh Committees

(i) In order to make parliament and opposition more effective there should be a committee system in Parliament covering each department of government.

(ii) The committees would consist of 8 or 10 members drawn equally from government and opposition supporters with the normal parliamentary committee voting rights. The Chairman of each committee would be provided with an office and suitable staff. Chairmen and deputy Chairmen would receive appropriate remuneration and the other committee members would receive attendance fees.

(iii) Each Committee would undertake for its department the work normally done by the Public Accounts, Consolidated Bills and Subordinate Legislation Committees. In addition the Committees would be empowered to serutinise all the activities of their departments. In order to undertake this task they would be able, subject to suitable safeguards, to send for persons (including Ministers) and papers, conduct public hearings and adjourn from place to place.

(iv) Each Committee would also be involved in the process of legislation relating to its department.

B. Parliamentary Committee

There shall be a Rules Committee. This Committee would undertake the work of the Privileges and Services Committees and in addition would be obliged to fix a timetable, within reasonable minima and maxima, for the legislative business of Committees.

C. Research Facilities

The staff and resources of the Parliamentary Library should be expanded to create a research division, ultimately under the control of the Speaker, to handle the research needs of the Committees, as well as the inquiries of members of the House.

6. FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH WESTMINSTER

Northern Ireland shall receive from the National Exchequer an annual allocation indexed to the rate of inflation and proportional to the Provinceís share of United Kingdom resources; and the Northern Ireland Parliament shall be empowered to determine its local economic and financial priorities.

Northern Irelandís tax contribution to the United Kingdom Exchequer shall be adjusted in accordance with prevailing economic circumstances and the special needs of the Province. This arrangement shall not preclude the right to levy certain local taxes.

7. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC PRIORITIES

A. Local Government

When a Northern Ireland Parliament is established, that Parliament should forthwith examine the relationship between it and Local Government to ensure that local services are in so far as possible, administered on the responsibility of local elected representatives.

B. Social and Economic Responsibility

The Northern Ireland Government in consultation with Westminster and local government will have to provide social and economic programmes for the benefit of the Province as a whole.

Details thereof cannot be the task of a Constitutional Convention.

8. HUMAN RIGHTS - PROTECTION OF THE CITIZEN

A. Bill of Constitutional Rights

There should be enacted a Bill of Constitutional Rights whereby the existence and the powers of the Northern Ireland Parliament would be entrenched and Westminster legislation could not be passed affecting either, without the prior consent of the Parliament and people of Northern Ireland.

B. Bill of Rights

(i) In the event of devolution elsewhere in the United Kingdom we would recommend that a comprehensive United Kingdom Bill of Rights be enacted which would provide for the Constitutional issues referred to above together with making provision for the basic rights and duties of citizens.

(ii) In the event of the United Kingdom Parliament being unwilling to enact such a United Kingdom Bill of Rights and Duties, the Northern Ireland Parliament should undertake to enact for Northern Ireland a comprehensive Bill of Rights and Duties.

9. EXTERNAL RELATIONSHIPS

A. It shall be the responsibility of Her Majestyís Government in consultation with the Government of Northern Ireland to ensure that the interests of Northern Ireland are adequately represented in international affairs.

B.Any imposed institutionalised association or other constitutional relationship with the Irish Republic is rejected.

C. The serious security problem which has largely stemmed from the policy pursued by successive Governments of the Irish Republic can best be remedied by an extradition treaty.

D. Economic problems common to Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic may be tackled by both governments on schemes of mutual benefit.

10. INTERIM ARRANGEMENTS AFTER THE CONVENTION REPORTS

The present system of direct rule should end as soon as possible. The Convention should continue in being as a representative forum of the people until the new administration is formed and tender advice to the Secretary of State.

22 September 1975

 


SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC AND LABOUR PARTY

I. TERMS OF REFERENCE OF THE CONVENTlON: As the S.D.L.P. understands it the task of this Convention is to work out, within certain parameters laid down by Parliament what provision for the Government of Northern Ireland is likely to command the most widespread acceptance throughout the community.

These parameters are set out in paragraphs 44 to 49 of the White Paper of July, 1974. The overriding parameter, according to the Secretary of State, is powersharing in Government. In his statement to the British Parliament proposing the Constitutional Convention for Northern Ireland he stated: "There is an overriding need that both communities in Northern Ireland must participate in Government by a sharing of power" (Hansard. 4 July, 1974.Column 611).

We understand this sentiment to command the support of the Leaders of all of the three major political parties at Westminster. Indeed, the Secretary of State said, referring to the White Paper: "What we have sought to put down are the parameters of the situation which those elected should consider when submitting a scheme to this House" (Hansard, 4 July, 1974, Column 616).

The Secretary of State went further when, referring to paragraph 45 of the White Paper, he said: "We have firmly set out the parameters there. To be fair to the Leader of the Opposition these parameters arose from legislation and White Papers of his administration. We do not depart from them, they are important and must be taken into account-especially by peopie who aspire to be citiiens of the United Kingdom" (Hansard, 4 July, 1974, Column 620).

We take these to be the terms of reference of this Convention.

II. The Leaders of the Loyalist Coalition were unable to accept our interpretation of the terms of reference of the Convention, or else they rejected those terms of reference. As a result of this disagreement as to the terms of reference of the Convention no fruitful dialogue, within the parameters laid down by the Secretary of State, has yet taken place between the members of the Convention.

III. THE BASIS OF S.D.L.P. POLICY. The S.D.L.P. accepts that the Northern Ireland problem originated in the early seventeenth century and in the divisions arising from the events of that period. The result has been a cycle of violence and counter-violence which has left deep division between the two traditions in Northern Ireland.

The past approach of each tradition, based on pursuit of victory for its point of view, has always resulted in conflict, death and destruction and in a deepening of bitterness and division. If we are ever to break out of the vicious cycle we need a new approach; not one which has ulterior ultimate objectives but one which, while respecting and recognising the aspirations and culture of each tradition, allows for the freely agreed evolution of both institutions and attitudes which, in the end, will produce the normal political society based on egalitarian principles that we all want to see.

In our view only the path of partnership will lead to it. The prejudices, the bitterness, hatred and fears can only be eradicated by both traditions working together and demonstrating their joint concern for all the people. Partnership is the cornerstone of the S.D.L.P. approach to a solution and this necessarily means-for reasons which will be indicated later-partnership between the two traditions in Northern Ireland and partnership between both parts of Ireland.

IV. THE BRITISH DIMENSION. The S.D.L.P. accepts that the majority of people in Northern Ireland at present have declared that they wish Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. The S.D.L.P. considers that this wish should be respected. Every person in Northern Ireland should be made fully to understand that the S.D.L.P. does not wish to force him into a United Ireland against his will.

But membership of the United Kingdom has its duties as well as it rights. It implies accepting the will of Parliament and the rights of all other citizens of the United Kingdom including those of the minority in Northern Ireland.

The S.D.L.P. is also conscious of the financial and economic advantages which Northern Ireland presently derives from its membership of the United Kingdom. At the same time the S.D.L.P. believes that Northern Ireland has many problems peculiar to itself which are best tackled by a local administration in Northern Ireland. The S.D.L.P., therefore, favours a local legislature in Northern Ireland exercising devolved powers. These powers should be as extensive as the powers of the Assembly under the 1973 Act and should include the additional power of control of the Police. There should also be provision whereby the legislative powers of the new Northern Ireland Assembly could be increased by Order of Council should a very substantial majority of the members of the Assembly request it.

V. THE NEED FOR POWERSHARING IN GOVERNMENT IN NORTHERN IRELAND.

On 27 August, 1975, during private inter-party talks between Leaders of the S.D.L.P. and Leaders of the Loyalist Coalition, the S.D.L.P. handed over a Document setting out the principles on which its policy is based, namely:

    1. Maximum devolved power to Northern Ireland Assembly and Government. All sections of community represented at Government level.

    2. Institutions freely agreed between North and South.

    Responsibilities:

    a. Development of agreed matters of common concern in socio-economic field.

    b. Standing agreement on security between North and South to be activated when State of Emergency is declared in either part. Small NorthSouth Security Council to implement and oversee the agreement and to operate only during state of emergency.

    3. Policing powers to be devolved to the new administration.

    4. Support for the new institutions to be fully given by all sections in Northern Ireland expressed through a referendum.

    5. Request to South to give full support to institutions by means of referendum of the people.

(This Document-"Outline S.D.L.P. Position" - is reproduced in Annex C).

The S.D.L.P. believes that the task of the modern politician in Northern Ireland is to lead the people of Northern Ireland away from the traditional politics of conflict and confrontation towards a new polities of consensus and co-operation. The trouble with the traditional Westminster model of Government and Opposition was that, when applied to the situation prevailing in Northern Ireland, it tended to institutionalise the traditional divisions of Northern Irelandís society. For instance the swing of the pendulum, which is such a feature of the British Parliamentary system, never applied in Northern Ireland. Neither did a tradition of empiricism which ensures that the system is constantly adapted to meet the changing needs of society. For fifty years one Party was permanently in power and the other Party permanently excluded. The present necessity is to bridge the traditional political sectarian divide in Northern Ireland and this makes powersharing in Government essential.

Indeed paragraph 45 sub-paragraph (a) of the White Paper of July, 1974, reads as follows: "History has caused division within the Northern Ireland community. Events of the past few years have amply demonstrated that no part of that community can, let alone should, be compelled into accepting the otherís view. Events have also shown that a consensus can be obtained on the basis of serving the interests of the whole community. There must be some form of powersharing and partnership because no political system will survive, or be supported, unless there is widespread acceptance of it within the community. There must be participation by the whole community."

Paragraph 49 of the same White Paper is as follows - "Local institutions in Northern Ireland cannot be established on a basis unacceptable to broad sections of opinion there; equally they cannot be established on a basis unacceptable to the United Kingdom as a whole or to Parliament as representing it. Any system which results in the permanent exclusion from any real and substantial influence in public affairs of a whole section of the community is inherently unstable and will be unacceptable to Her Majestyís Government."

The Loyalist case, based on the Westminster model, was set down in writing, given to the S.D.L.P. negotiators in private talks, on 26 August, 1975, and is reproduced in Annex A to this report. The S.D.L.P. criticism of the U.U.U.C. policy position was set down in writing and given to the U.U.U.C. negotiators on 27 August. 1975, and is reproduced in Annex B.

VI. THE BASIS OF THE LOYALIST OBJECTION TO POWERSHARING. It is important to enquire what is or can be the logical basis for the Ioyaiist objection to powersharing. According to the Press Release issued by the U.U.U.C. after the meeting on 8 September the U.U.U.C. would not in any circumstances share power with "Republicans". But it was widely reported in the Press and not denied by the U.U.U.C. that the actual term of the motion was to the effect that the U.U.U.C. would not in any circumstances share power with the ĎS.D.L.P.". A number of questions naturally arise if one is to find out the true basis for the Loyalist objection to powersharing -

(a) Is it because the S.D.L.P. advocates or condones violence? No, the S.D.L.P. totally rejects violence as a means of achieving political ends. It has taken an unequivocal stand against all paramilitary organisations in Northern Iic]and from the I.R.A. to the U.V.F. These paramilitary organisations are, in the opinion of the S.D.L.P., the bane of Northern Ireland society.

On the other hand, Leaders of the Loyalist Coalition have been, to say the least, equivocal in their attitude towards the Protestant paramilitary organisations. The U.U.U.C. Convention Party contains, as members of the Convention, many known or admitted members of paramilitary organisations. Indeed, a striking feature of the Convention has been that many Leaders of paramilitary organisations which have admitted responsibility for foul murders (including sectarian assassinations) have come openly to meetings of the Convention at Stormont to confer with Leaders of the Loyalist Coalition.

The irony of this situation was particularly obvious on Thursday 11 September (the day on which the Loyalists introduced their motion criticising the Secretary of State for want of an effective security policy). While the Loyalists made speeches quite rightly denouncing appalling atrocities committed against the Protestant community the Protestant paramilitary were present in the House. Law clearly meant "Loyalist" law. The forces of the State were to be used to protect "Loyalist" lives and enforce the will of the majority against the minority. This concept of the State is basic to the Northern Ireland problem. It has helped to create that problem; it will never solve it.

One of the problems of the modern politician in Northern Ireland is to replace the concept of the "Loyalist" State by a concept of the State which cherishes all its citizens equally and to which all owe a common loyalty.

(b) Is it because one cannot have in Government politicians who might wish peacefully to alter the nature of the State or of society? NO. Many members of the Loyalist Coalition favour a negotiated independence for Northern Ireland. But there has been no suggestion that because of this aspiration to change the status of Northern Ireland they should be excluded from the powersharing administration. Neither has it been suggested that those who wish peacefully for the establishment of a united states of Europe should be excluded from Government. Indeed to exclude from Government people who wish to work peacefully within the Constitution to attain a political end is to court the kind of disaster which has befallen Northern Ireland.

The matter can be put further. It is well known that some members of the Loyalist Coalition contemplate, in certain circumstances, a U.D.I. Yet even this, with its implications of altering the status of Northern Ireland by force, does not exclude them, apparently, from being eligible to participate in Government.

(c) Is it because powersharing is a departure from the British model? NO. This is the real significance of the resolution passed by the Loyalist Coalition on 8 September when they decided that they would not share power with the S.D.L.P. even in those situations of emergency where British Parliamentary practice traditionally allows or encourages the formation of a National Coalition.

It is significant that the Loyalist document of 26 August, 1975 (see Annex A), was not a casual document. It was a document produced after the private talks had continued for some time The idea of the Loyalists putting down their position in writing was to ensure that there should be no misunderstanding as to the progress of the talks. Yet two days after handing over this document as being U.U.U.C. policy two negotiators who handed the document over voted that it was not U.U.U.C. policy. It can hardly have been because they did not believe that a crisis existed in Northern Ireland. Because simultaneously one of these negotiators went on television advocating that because of the grave security situation, the Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic - some three hundred and sixty miles long - should be mined.

We have dwelt so long on this aspect of the matter because we think it important to understand why men of integrity and good will should behave irrationally. In politics we think it not unusual for men to erect elaborate intellectual structures to conceal their prejudices from themselves and from others. We have no doubt that the Loyalist admiration for the Westminster model of Government is sincerely held. In fact when it appears that that model would indicate an All-Party Government in circumstances such as the present, the Loyalists shy away from it. This shows that the Loyalist objection to powersharing is not based on powersharing being a departure from the Westminster model. It is based on something much deeper in Northern Ireland society. This is why the talks broke down on the issue of powersharing. it also illustrates that powersharing is the crunch issue in Northern Ireland politics. The matter to be decided is whether Northern Ireland is to be governed by a Protestant ascendancy regime or whether it is to become a modern society, the Government of which will cherish all the citizens equally.

VII. THE IRISH DIMENSION: Because the U.U.U.C. and the S.D.L.P. differed as to the terms of reference of the Convention no fruitful or constructive discussions have taken place within the parameters indicated by the Secretary of State. However, the second of the five principles set out in Annex C is the necessity for an institutionalised Irish Dimension, because, in the opinion of the S.D.L.P., the present crisis in Northern Ireland cannot be solved without such an Institution.

Geographically Northern Ireland is part of the island of Ireland. It shares a border with the Republic of Ireland. This Border is three hundred and sixty miles long and it passes in places through mountainous territory where the local population on both sides of the border resent the partition of Ireland which they consider to be an affront to their national aspirations and inconvenient to their everyday living. Many more of the minority in Northern Ireland regard themselves, not as a minority in Northern Ireland, but as part of the majority of the inhabitants of the people of Ireland whose will to national unity has been frustrated as a result of partition. Similarly any disaster suffered by the minority in Northern Ireland will inevitably send shock waves through the entire Irish community South of the border. For this reason I.R.A. violence cannot be confined to Northern Ireland. It necessarily has a All-Ireland Dimension.

The policy of the S.D.L.P. is to establish partnership institutions in Northern Ireland in order to provide a stable and civilised system of Government. To confer the necessary authority on the new system a number of things are necessary.

One is an All-Ireland institution, freely agreed between North and South which will have the authority to pursue and punish any one who exerciscs violence against the agreed institutions, North or South, or against any section of the people who live in the island of Ireland. In Annex C the S.D.L.P. refers to a standing agreement on security, between North and South, to be activated when a state of emergency is declared in either part. The exact form of the security arrangement is open to discussion. The principle involved is of vital importance.

The S.D.L.P. feels that it is essential that an institution be provided with the authority to channel the energies of the people of Northern Ireland and of the Republic into common economic, social and cultural endeavour where the exercise of it is non-controversial and of obvious advantage to people living in Ireland, North and South.

The S.D.L.P. accordingly recommends that Section 12 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 (which deals with relations with the Republic of Ireland) should be continued the new constitutional settlement and that there should be added to it a power in the Northern Assembly, by a substantial majority, to have transferred to any agreed All-Ireland authority certain functions which may, for the time being, be reserved to Westminster.

VIII. POLICE SERVICE. Any system of administration worthy of the name must have control of its Police Service.

It would be idle here to repeat the history which lost the R.U.C. its authority in many minority areas in Northern Ireland. These matters have been documented by Government Commissions.

Prior to 1968 the R.U.C. drew over 12% of strength from minority population. This has now fallen to 4%.

It is a fact of life in Northern Ireland that at present the R.U.C. does not enjoy the confidence of the minority community. In some areas this is shown by physical rejection, but everywhere manifested by lack of trust. Fundamental political changes of the kind outlined this Report are first required.

What are required are institutions of Government including policing with which the whole commmunity can identify. Here as everywhere one conies back to the question of authority. mere are many forms of Police structure in Western Europe, many of them acceptable. What distinguishes a successful Police Service, apart from its professionalism, is that it is defending institutions of Government which the mass of the people accept and are prepared to support.

The first fundamental step, therefore, in making the Northern Ireland Police Service acceptable throughout Northern Ireland is to restore to the institutions of Government in Northern Ireland the authority which springs from consent. Once this is done the rest of the task will be easier.

The S.D.L.P., however, makes certain suggestions which it thinks would be helpful:

(1) To establish a new image;

(2) To civilianise the service;

(3) To make the service more professional;

(4) To help communication with the public.

IX. HUMAN RIGHTS. The European Convention on Human Rights should be made part of the domestic law of Northern Ireland and in addition Part III of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, which outlaws religious and political discrimination, should be retained. In this way the Courts will gradually be able to assess standards of fairness for the whole Northern Ireland community which will gradually eliminate tensions and strengthen the authority of all institutions of Government in Northern Ireland.

X. THE EUROPEAN DIMENSION. The European Convention on Human Rights is important not only because of its intrinsic value but also because it may anticipate the future destiny of the European people. In the context of Europe the old sectarian feud in Northern Ireland, and between Irish Nationalism and British Rule in these islands may be accommodated in a larger loyalty. It would be tragic if people in Northern Ireland and of all Ireland were to tear their respective societies apart in pursuit of political objectives which, not many years from now, may seem to have been irrelevant.

XI. AUTHORITY/LEGITIMACY/CONSENT. The proposals contained in this Report are inter-dependent and all of them are designed to protect the interests of all the citizens in Northern Ireland and to give authority to new institutions of Government there; such authority necessarily springs from the consent of the people. Possibly one of the mistakes made at Sunningdale was that it was an Agreement between Governments only. Perhaps the crisis in Northern Ireland runs too deep to leave its solution to Governments alone. The S.D.L.P., therefore, proposes that any new institution of Government proposed for Northern Ireland should be presented for approval by all the people of Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland White Paper of October 1972 stated (at paragraph 78) that "It is therefore clearly desirable that any new arrangement for Northern Ireland should, whilst meeting the wishes of Northern Ireland and Great Britain, be, so far as possible, acceptable to and accepted by the Republic of Ireland . . ."

The S.D.L.P. accepts that the problem involved goes deeper than even that quotation allows. The problem is the problem of the legitimacy of all Institutions of Government in Ireland

North and South. A person born outside Ireland might not easily understand the significance of this problem but we feel that it is one of vital importance to all the people of Northern Ireland and indeed of all Ireland.

The S.D.L.P. therefore believes that if institutions of Government acceptable to the majority sad minority traditions in Northern Ireland can be devised that the Oireachtas should be requested to offer the people of the Republic an opportunity to endorse the new institutions in a Referendum in the Republic. In this way the authority of all the people of Ireland could hi thrown behind the institutions of Government North and South. For the first time the people of Ireland would be united on how they wished Ireland to be governed-North and South.

The policy outlined in this report offers, in the opinion of the S.D.L.P., the best hope of peace and justice for all the people of Northern Ireland.

 

NOTE. There are three Annexes to this Report. Annex A is the document dated the 26 August, 1975, and headed "U.U.U.C. Policy Position". Annex B is the document dated the 27 August, 1975, and headed "Comments of the S.D.L.P. on the U.U.U.C. Policy Document dated the 26 Augttst, 1975". Annex C is the document containing the five principles of S.D.L.P. Policy and headed "Outline of S.D.L.P. Position".

23 September 1975

 

ANNEX A

U.U.U.C. Policy Position 26 August 1975

1. The U.U.U.C. emphatically rejects any system of executive government that is in essence an imposed or compulsory coalition of political parties or elected representatives. Furthermore the U.U.U.C. would oppose any such system of government no matter how it is arrived at.

2. The U.U.U.C. believes that it is fundamental to democratic government

(a) that it is elected to carry out policies submitted to the electorate and to fulfil commitments of an ideological nature and of a general political intent;

(b) the electorate must always be in a position to both endorse and reject;

(c) government must always be united on policy and general intent and the executive be collectively responsible for all decisions;

(d) the Prime Minister or head of government must always be in a position to hire or fire subject only to his ability to maintain a majority in Parliament;

(e) the government is ultimately answerable to the people but in its legislative proposals and day-to-day administration it is vital that the government be effectively answerable to Parliament;

(f) accountability in any meaningful and responsible sense depends on powerful parliamentary opposition;

(g) it is desirable that all sections of the people identify with the institutions of the State but not at the price of giving any section a guaranteed position in government; and

(h) the parliamentary system should seek in every practical way to safeguard minority interests and that such interests should be meaningfully represented and call into account any action that might be deemed unfair or unjust to them.

3. The U.U.U.C. believe that the British Parliamentary system provides not only for effective government but for effective and powerful opposition. It is capable of further development to strengthen the position of opposition generally and more particularly, minority parties. The United Kingdom Parliament has developed the role and position of the leader of the Opposition and has lately sought to aid the effectiveness of all political parties in Parliament. U.U.U.C. proposals for powerful scrutiny and investigatory Parliamentary Committees would significantly strengthen Parliament in its relationship with government, particularly increasing the power of the Opposition. The watchdog powers of such Committees would in addition be an important safeguard for minority interests.

4. It is envisaged that there would be a Committee covering each important department of government. It is proposed that each Committee would have equal representation from Government and Opposition supporters. The value of the Committee depends to a large extent on their effectiveness. The demands on Members of Parliament would be very heavy It is considered necessary that the Chairman should give virtually his full time to the job and he would have to be provided with an office and suitable staff. The Chairmanís remuneration would need to be on a Ministerial scale, whilst members of Committee would receive additional remuneration by way of attendance fees.

5. The powers of the Committee to scrutiny would be extensive either through sending for persons or papers. The Committee would be able to conduct enquiries and public hearings on appropriate matters. Legislation would have its first reading in the Committee when the principle of the Bill could be challenged. A public hearing procedure could be adopted. The second reading would be on the floor of the House with a Committee Stage bringing it back to the Committee. The Committee would have access to appropriate expertise and research.

6. The Chairmanship of the Committees is a critical factor. The U.U.U.C. believe that the role of the Opposition entitles opposition parties to a favoured position in the selection of Chairmen. The U.U.U.C. believes that in certain sensitive areas Opposition parties have a special claim to the Chairmanship. The position of the Chairman vis-à-vis the government and the exchange of information might be helped by a Privy Council status.

7. Law and Order will be a function of critical importance particularly in times of Emergency. Special Powers to deal with an emergency would be dependent on the Declaration of a State of Emergency. A special Committee would exist for such a situation, both in respect of the declaration and acts of government following the declaration.

The Chairmanship of such a Committee would be for an Opposition member.

Coalition Government:

8. The U.U.U.C. believes that a multi-party government can come into existence in three ways:

(i) By agreement between Parties before an election and obtains approval from the electorate.

(ii) Where the largest Party in Parliament has not an overall majority and needs to obtain it by agreement with another Party. At best this can only be a short term government.

(iii) Where an emergency or crisis situation exists and parties by agreemcnt come together in the national interest for the duration of the crisis.

 

ANNEX B

Comments of the S.D.L.P. on the U.U.U.C. Policy Document dated 26 August 1975.

1. The S.D.L.P. does not see the relevance of points 1, 2 and 3 in the U.U.U.C. document to the matters on which this Convention is asked to report to Parliament. As the S.D.L.P. understands it, the task of this Convention is to work out, within certain parameters laid down by Parliament, what provision for the government of Northern Ireland is likely to command the most widespread acceptance throughout the community here.

These parameters are set out in Paragraphs 44-49 of the White Paper of July 1974. The over-riding parameter, according to the Secretary of State, is power-sharing in government. In his statement in the British Parliament proposing the Constitutional Convention for Northern reland he stated:

"There is an over-riding need that both communities in Northern Ireland must participate in government by a sharing of power". (Hansard, 4 July 1974, col. 611).

This sentiment commands the support of the leaden of all political parties at Westminster. Indeed, the Secretary of State said, referring to the White Paper:

"What we have sought to put down are the parameters of the situation which those who are elected should consider when submitting a scheme to this House". (Hansard, 4 July 1975, col. 616).
.

The Secretary of State went further when, referring to paragraph 45 of the White Paper, he said:

"We have firmly set out the parameters there. To be fair to the Leader of the Opposition these parameters arose from the legislation and the White Papers of his administration. We do not depart from them; they are important and must be taken into account- especially by people who aspire to be citizens of the United Kingdom".

These we take to be the terms of reference for this Convention.

2. Apart from the foregoing it appears to us that the U.U.U.C. policy document misses three significant aspects of the British tradition and Parliamentary system. These are-

(a) the Swing of the Pendulum, which means that the Opposition of today can expect to be Government of tomorrow.

(b) a tradition of empiricism which ensures that the system is constantly adapted to meet the changing needs of society.

(c) a tradition of compromise which means that the political parties attempt constantly to find political accommodations.

3. The Swing of the Pendulum never applied in Northern Ireland which meant that one party was permanently in power and the other permanently excluded. This is specifically recognised in Paragraph 45, sub-paragraph (a) of the White Paper which reads as follows:

"History has caused divisions within the Northern Ireland community. Events of the past few years have amply demonstrated that no part of that community can, let alone should, be coerced into accepting the otherís view. Events have also shown that a consensus can be obtained on the basis of serving the interests of the whole community There must be some form of power-sharing and partnership because no political system will survive or be supported, unless there is widespread acceptance of it within the community. There must be participation by the whole community".

The S.D.L.P. accepts the principles set out in the passage quoted. The task is to apply the traditional empiricism and capacity for compromise of British politics to the unique problem presented by Northern Ireland.

4. In so far as the traditional Westminster model of Her Majestyís Government and Her Majestyís Opposition is to be applied to Northern Ireland it must be modified to suit the peculiar needs of the people of Northern Ireland and to bridge the traditional political and sectarian divide. The Westminster model applied to the Northern Ireland situation tended to institutionalise the divisions in Northern Ireland society.

The principle of power-sharing applied to the present situation in Northern Ireland requires that all parties with significant representation in the Northern Ireland Parliament will share in government. This means that the Opposition to government will not manifest itself in the way in which it has manifested itself in the past. This does not mean, however, that parliamentary control of the administration will be less effective than in the past. If the leaders of all political parties are in the power-sharing executive the individual back-benchers of all parties will necessarily become more independent and, in time, more critical of the administration. Moreover, that criticism will tend to be directed to the merits or demerits of particular administrative decisions and to be related to the facts that gave rise to that decision, rather than to the political complexion of the party in power or in opposition. In this way parliamentary control of the administration may become more effective and respected. There may be a problem about how to keep back-benchers informed about the intricacies of administrative decisions in order to ensure that their criticism is constructive and effective. In this context the committee system suggested by the U.U.U.C. at points no. 4, 5, 6 and 7 may have an important role to play.

5. The absence of a formal opposition of the traditional type is not a valid objection to power-sharing. Where all parties are intended to share in power it is a necessary consequence. To oppose power-sharing therefore because it may alter or even eliminate the traditional role of the parliamentary opposition is to reject the concept of power-sharing itself.

The formation of a power-sharing executive, however, need not necessarily involve the elimination of the opposition. One party may prefer not to join the executive. Alternatively, with the passage of time, a political party may arise which considers the administration too progressive or too conservative. Such a party might come, in time, to fill the role traditionally allotted to the opposition under the British system. But such a party would arise from the social and economic problems of N.I. and it would have the prospect, in time, of forming a Government. It would therefore be entirely different from the kind of permanent opposition which has existed in N.I. in the past and which has merely reflected the views of a polilitical and religious minority permanently excluded from power. If such a development were to take place the conditions which have created the present problem would no longer exist. The S.D.L.P. regards power-sharing as essential for the purpose of bridging the political and sectarian divide in N.I. society. If, however, this division were healed and a healthy community established, the conditions which now make power-sharing essential would no longer exist. This is one of the reasons why the positive proposals being put forward by the S.D.L.P. are for a limited period only.

6. As previously indicated, the S.D.L.P. considers the points made at paragraphs 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the U.U.U.C. policy document positive and constructive. It thinks that they warrant further investigation. We would like to make clear, however, that the committee system described in the U.U.U.C. document is an aspect of parliamentary control of the administration S has nothing to do with the sharing of power in the executive itself.

7. The S.D.L.P. is interested in the comments made in the U.U.U.C. policy document at point number 8 under the heading "Coalition Government" and would be grateful if this aspect of the document could be expanded. In particular, the S.D.L.P. is interested in the reference to an "emergency or crisis situation", and would welcome more information as to U.U.U.C. thinking on this point. Ihe S.D.L.P. is very conscious of the emergency and crisis which exists in N.I. at the present time and is open to all suggestions as to how this might be surmounted in the interests of all the people of N.I.

8. The S.D.L.P. is putting forward its own positive proposals in a separate document.

Belfast

27 August 1975

 

ANNEX C

OUTLINE S.D.L.P. POSITION

1. Maximum devolved power to Northern Ireland Assembly and Government. All sections of community represented at Government level.

2. Institutions freely agreed between North and South.

Responsibilities

A. Development of agreed matters of common concern in socio-economic field.

B. Standing agreement on security between North and South to be activated when State of Emergency is declared in either part. Small North/South Security Council to implement and oversee the agreement and to operate only during state of emergency.

3. Policing powers to be devolved to the new administration.

4. Support for the new institutions to be fully given by all sections in Northern Ireland expressed through a referendum.

5. Request to South to give full support to institutions by means of referendum of the people.

 


ALLIANCE PARTY OF NORTHERN IRELAND

1. The Alliance Party supports the concept of an elected regional parliament for Northern Ireland and a regional administration accountable to that parliament.

2. In a province which has a history of tragic divisions, the method of election of the parliament and the way in which a regional administration is formed, must be fair and be seen to be fair both to majority and to minority or minorities. The previous constitutional arrangements under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act, 1973, failed because they did not satisfy both these criteria.

3. We believe that a unicameral parliament of 78 members elected by Single Transferable Vote based on present Westminster Constituencies is fair and is seen by most of the people of Northern Ireland to be fair. We believe that it would have a very wide degree of acceptability.

4. The simplest and one of the most effective methods of forming an administration is for a majority party or grouping after an election to form a government with an agreed legislative programme. Unfortunately, in the Northern Ireland situation because of a divided community and a history of party politics coinciding with community divisions, this type of arrangement for the formation of an administration cannot achieve the minority support for institutions of regional government which is essential to its success. If, however, the present community divisions were to be broken down, either wholly or substantially, then a majority type government could succeed and could achieve general support.

5. Until community divisions are substantially broken down and a much greater degree of common identity is achieved, a system of government involving both majority and minority in policy-making and administration in a regional government is the only way of achieving overwhelming community support for the institutions of the state, and commitment to defend tbNe institutions. We do not see this as a permanent feature of regional government, but as an essential interim step until greater community cohesion has been established.

6. We therefore take the view that for a period of time to be determined by Westminster and dependent upon the breakdown of community division and mistrust in the Province, the system of local administration should be based on departmental committees of the parliament. The Chairmen of committees should be determined by a proportional system which would reflect different party strengths. The committee membership should then be elected by the same method. The Chairman of each Committee, subject to the assistance and advice of his committee, would discharge the administrative responsibilities of his particular department and introduce legislation on the advice of his committee. Each Chairman would be answerable to parliament and would not be subject to collective responsibility. A General Purposes Committee consisting of all departmental chairman would be set up to recommend to the parliament the allocation of resources.

7. The Alliance Party would be prepared to give serious consideration to a system of administration where a majority grouping formed a government provided that it was agreed that a coalition government be formed at times of emergency and that the present situation constitutes such an emergency. Although we do not believe that this system is ideal, we consider that it could form the basis of an agreed structure of government. Further discussion of this proposal could, in our view, provide an approach which we might be able to accept and which, if operated with goodwill, could achieve general acceptance from both sections of the community.

8. A regional parliament satisfying the criteria in paragraph 2 should have legislative competence in all internal social and economic matters, in internal policing, in criminal legislation, prisons and the lower courts, subject to the overall sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament.

9. Westminster should retain all legislative powers in respect of every other matter including the defence of the realm, the franchise and elections.

10. A Northern Ireland administration should be financed on the basis of the present parity principle and a block grant negotiated annually with Westminster for other services.

11. There should be a Bill of Rights based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights forming part of any new Northern Ireland Constitution and enforceable by the Courts.

12. We recognise the need for practical co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on many issues which are of common concern to both parts of this island, not least in the field of security. We think a formal institution such as a Council of Ireland is unnecessary in attempting to achieve such co-operation.

13. If the criteria set out in paragraph 2 are not satisfied, then we must oppose the restoration of any regional legislature to Northern Ireland. The only alternative, unsatisfactory as it undoubtedly is, would be a continued period of Direct Rule from Westminster.

19 September 1975

 


UNIONIST PARTY OF NORTHERN IRELAND

1. Constitutional Basis for Northern Ireland Government

Strong regional government within the United Kingdom incorporating the principle of agreed coalition truly representative of the whole Ulster community. All the members of this government must accept Northern Irelandís constitutional position within the United Kingdom and support all the institutions of government in Northern Ireland.

Direct recognition of the Crown.

We believe that is is necessary for Her Majesty to create an Office which will stand between the Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Government.

2. Form of Northern Ireland Legislature

The legislature should be unicameral with approximately 78 members elected by proportional representation.

Additionally, there should be a second chamber to which representative bodies such as for example District Councils, the Farmersí Union, ICTU, CBI and community and tenantsí associations should nominate members and which should discuss and review all legislation.

3. Selection of Chief Minister and Heads of Departments

The Chief Minister should be whoever has the confidence of a majority in the chamber. Departmental heads should be selected by him under a procedure to uphold the principle in paragraph 1.

4. Committees

These should consist of elected representatives in proportion to party strengths in the chamber. They should scrutinise all legislation, and have the power to sponsor legislation but, all legislation must be approved by the chamber.

5. Functions to be Devolved to Northern Ireland

All the functions devolved under the 1920 Act.

6. Financial Relationships with Westminster

Agreement with Westminster that, as part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland must at all times have the same level of social services as the rest of the kingdom. Additionally, an agreement that, whilst unemployment is higher than the national average, Northern Ireland should have stronger financial inducements both to maintain investment and to attract new investment. These inducements should be within the control of the Northern Ireland legislature. There should not be a block system of allocating funds.

7. Social and Economic Priorities

Soccially to maintain all United Kingdom benefits.

Economically to bring employment in Northern Ireland at least up to United Kingdom standards.

8. Human Rights - Protection of the Citizen

It should be the responsibility of the Northern Ireland legislature to deal with all legislation in this field.

9. External Relationships

Agreement between the sovereign powers in London and in Dublin that there shall always be open co-operation between the R.U.C. and the Gardai with the aim of having comprehensive law enforcement throughout the island.

Likewise agreement that Ministers in Belfast and in Dublin will co-operate on economic matters.

There is no requirement for any statutory body on these affairs.

There should be a treaty between the sovereign governments in London and in Dublin recognising the boundaries of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.

10. Interim Arrangements after the Convention Reports

Pending the establishment of a Northern Ireland legislature the elected members in the Convention should be treated by Government in all respects as Members of Parliament to deal with constituency matters.

11. AddItional Proposals

Northern Ireland should have additional representatives at Westminster to give equality with other parts of the United Kingdom. From among those M.P.s there should he at least one to attend at the European Parliament.

To deal with E.E.C. affairs there should be Northern Ireland officials on all British negotiating teams at Brussels.

 


NORTHERN IRELAND LABOUR PARTY

1. FOREWORD

The Northern Ireland Labour Party offers to the constitutional discussions of the Convention a policy which is realistic and which is both non-sectarian and radical; it is a policy which points the way to an Ulster society based on peace with justice.

Central to this policy is non-sectarian support for the link with Britain. Without such a unifying factor a lasting solution to the Ulster crisis is impossible. Continued British citizenship will guarantee civil and religious liberty to both communities and will provide a framework of constitutional certainty inside which an agreed Ulster becomes possible.

Northern Ireland Labourís policy on power and responsibility sharing is equally realistic. We have pioneered and continue to seek partnership at alt levels of government. But we believe that lasting and effective partnership must be voluntary. What is required (and must sought) is co-operation freely agreed between the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities.

With such genuine agreement Ulster can be united.

We must recognise also the need to look beyond the frontiers of Northern Ireland and to develop good relations with our neighbours. But, here again, we stress the need for realism; there is a price to be paid for North/South co-operation. In particular, the Irish Republic must not lay claim to the territory of the North and must acknowledge the right of the Ulster people to determine their own destiny. Equally, the North will recognise the value of co-operation, between equals, with the South.

Such parity of esteem is essential for progress, but once it is established Irish people should find no difficulty in working out agreed forms of contact, beneficial to both parts of the island.

Above all, it is the aim of the Northern Ireland Labour Party to remove the sectarian base on which Ulster politics rests. At this stage of our development we recognise that some form of coalition government between sectarian groupings will be required, if government is to gain the support and respect of Northern Irelandís religious communities. But we must also be prepared to look beyond sectarian structures and seek to change them. As democratic socialists, it the fundamental aim of N.l.L.P. to create a society where social and economic issues will cut across the sectarian divide and where religious affiliations will cease to have party political significance.

2. BACKGROUND TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL DISCUSSIONS IN THE CONVENTION

Under the terms of the Northern Ireland Act, 1974 the Convention is required to reach an agreement "likely to command the most widespread acceptance throughout the community". Coming from a Westminster Parliament which is deeply committed to the value of an unwritten Constitution this was a formidable demand; the suggestion that the task could be completed in six months was dangerously optimistic. In fact, Convention members have been required to work within a time-scale of reference unrelated to the magnitude of the Ulster crisis.

So inevitably, the Convention has run into difficulties because the members have been asked to solve all the constitutional difficulties at once. It has been impossible to distinguish between immediate and long-term problems. It has become a case of all or nothing at all.

But the immediate problem has been there for all to see: it concerns the security and reconstruction programme which is needed to get the Province going again. As for the long-term objective, it is about the complete restructuring of government and deals with subjects who by their very nature are divisive and unlikely to yield to instant diplomacy.

Because of this problem of time-scale we must be prepared to think of several initiatives, separate but inter-related; each dealing with a set of specific problems but all contributing to an ultimate solution. This proposal therefore deals with three stratagems:

A. an overall restructuring of government for the Province;

B. a short-term bridging operation to rally community support for an immediate initiative;

C. an approach to deal with a situation in which the continuation of Direct Rule might prove necessary.

3. CONSTITUIONAL ARRANGEMENTS

A. A Stable Democratic Constitution

Provided the principles on which a Constitution is based are generally acceptable throughout the community no great problem should arise on matters of mere detail. But principles are important and in the Northern Ireland situation doubly so.

A stable democratic constitution for the Province must reflect the determination of the majority to remain within the United Kingdom and must, at the same time, enable all sections of the people of the Province to play a full and meaningful role in the direction of public affairs and to share fully in the responsibility for the security and government of the Province.

It should be our aim to break down the sectarian political divisions between the two communities; to create a system of government to which all sections can give allegiance; to take the question of Northern Irelandís existence as a part of the United Kingdom out of day-to-day political debate, and thus to make possible the emergence of new lines of political division based on social and economic issues.

In the short-term, progress towards the realisation of this objective can best be made by persuading the traditional political leaders of the two communities to agree voluntarily to accept the constitutional integrity of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom and to share responsibility for the administration of the Province. In the longer term, progress is dependent on the emergence of new political attitudes and parties which (like the N.I.L.P.) are based on social and economic interests and not merely on constitutional confrontation.

Thus there is a short-term and long-term aim in constitutional rebuilding. At one level we require structures which will encourage inter-party co-operation within the present confines of political thinking, but, at the same time, we must avoid developments which would institutionalise sectarian power-sharing and place obstacles in the way of the emergence of new and healthier lines of political demarcation in the future.

The Form of Devolved Government

Northern Ireland needs a regional Parliament having powers broadly similar to the former Northern Ireland Parliament, including powers over internal policing. The Province would also have continued representation at Westminster, but the problem of under-representation in that Parliament requires urgent attention. It is generally agreed that we require about twenty members in the House of Commons; we should also be given adequate representation in the House of Lords.

Parliament or Assembly

A Provincial Parliament of 100 members should be established. This Parliament should be elected by the "List System" of proportional representation.

The "List System"

The "List System" means treating the whole province as one constituency. The various political parties nominate lists of candidates and the number of candidates elected from each party list is determined by the total number of votes received by each party. For instance, in an election to an Assembly of 100 members, a party receiving 20% of the votes would have 20 of its candidates elected and a party receiving 60% of the votes would have 60 of its candidates elected. And a party receiving as little as 1 % of the votes would be entitled to 1 seat in Parliament.

The "List System" has four main advantages for Northern Ireland over the traditional "first past the post" voting system and over our present system of Proportional Representation.

(1) It will make it easier for minority groups within and without the traditional power blocs to win representation in the Assembly. All political groups enjoying any significant measure of popular support will be able to elect at least one M.P. This will ensure the election of a legislature which will be more representative of the various strands of thought within our community than was the old Stormont Parliament or the suspended Northern Ireland Assembly.

(2) The "List System" will offer the whole range of para-military organisations a realistic opportunity to "go political" - an opportunity to abandon the gun and the bomb for the ballot box. Any organisation which neglected such an opportunity to advance its cause through the democratic political process would stand totally exposed as an enemy of democracy. Never again would such an organisation be able to claim democratic political motives.

(3) Like other systems of P.R., the "List System" avoids the danger of "vote splitting" - the danger of "letting the other side in" by voting for a candidate who is not nominated by one of the two traditional blocs. It therefore allows for the development of democratic political debate and conflict within each community. Right wing and left wing unionist candidates can confront each other in elections without running the risk of letting a nationalist in, and the same thing can happen on the nationalist side. Such a development will help to normalise and stabilise political life in Northern Ireland. The emergence of Left/Right political conflict within each community will help to integrate the two communities. It will help promote the cause of a United Ulster and clear the way for straightforward Labour/Tory politics in future.

(4) By ensuring the election of a widely representative Assembly, the "List System" will weaken the traditional power blocs. More than any other system it will be a safeguard against the danger of permanent one party rule or (just as bad) the prospect of long term rule by a semi-permanent coalition of the traditional political parties.

Departmental Committees

A new Parliament for Northern Ireland must order its affairs in such a way as to promote the maximum degree of participation in decision making by all sections of elected opinion. Those who participate must, of course, be prepared to give their loyalty to the institutions and state of Northern Ireland.

The N.I.L.P. believes that this objective can best be realised by the creation of a system of Departmental Committees to supervise and control the work of the various Ministries of Government. Parties represented in the new Parliament would be represented in proportion to their electoral strength.

Cabinet or Executive

The Chairmen of the various Departmental Committees would collectively constitute the Executive or Cabinet and would be responsible for the overall direction of government policy and for co-ordinating the work of the Committees. Some parties and politicians might wish to exclude themselves from power and responsibility sharing at Cabinet level. They have a perfect right to do so. The composition of the Cabinet itself would undoubtedly be open to a great degree of bargaining between the political groupings in proportion to their strength in the House (there are many lessons to be learned from the Dutch system). However, given the introduction of the List System" and given recognition of the central fact of political life in Northern Ireland that any Executive to be successful must be able to attract the support and respect of the majority of both communities in Northern Ireland, it should be perfectly possible to arrive at an agreed government based on the principle of voluntary partnership.

An alternative method for the selection of Prime Minister and Cabinet

Some interest has been expressed throughout the Province in a system of direct election for the Prime Minister and election of an Executive on the basis of proportional representation There is merit in the idea and it merits exploration.

B. An Immediate Initiative - Voluntary Coalition in a Crisis Government

It is widely recognised that the Convention cannot develop a definitive Constitution within the short time envisaged by Westminster. Yet it is equally widely recognised that Ulster needs desperately a regional government that will make it known to those who seek to overthrow the State by force that they can never win, because they face regional police and security forces representing the united will and determination of the people of Northern Ireland.

Similarly, Ulster is surrounded by a growing volume of economic problems which threaten the social fabric of our society. As on the security front, so we must combine (on an imaginative programme of social and economic reconstruction and expansion) if we are to ensure our future.

It is for these reasons that we must create a community government to see us through the immediate crisis. Such a government to command support would have to be partnership in composition, sharing responsibility right down the line. There is widespread support for such a proposal -such support should, if necessary, be tested by referendum.

And while the new administration got on with the task of pulling the Province together. a Commission on the Constitution, based on elected members to the Convention, would carry on with the inevitably slower task of working out a detailed Constitution.

C. Continuation of Direct Rule

And what if local interests fail to agree any form of regional government in the near future - what about the power vacuum which some fear in the absence of regional government?

There need be no vacuum; we have at hand the greatly underestimated constitutional interest of Direct Rule.

So far (largely because it has been viewed as a very temporary measure) government and opposition at Westminster have failed to see the opportunities inherent in Direct Rule- though, notwithstanding its Cinderella existence, the system has worked well within the limits imposed upon it. In fact, in many ways it can be argued that the Direct Rule administration is the least communally divisive system of government which the Province has had since the 1920 Act. Indeed, were it not for the overshadowing effect of the terrorist campaign, the social and economic achievements and the non-sectarian stance of the Direct Rule administration would be enough to persuade a great many North Irish people to continue with Westminster legislation rather than risk a return to local regime.

But should a further period of Direct Rule prove necessary, the Government must this time be prepared to regard the operation as something more than a makeshift device. It must be prepared to develop the constitutional instrument imaginatively and, above all, seek to use it as a step towards the community government on which a future regional administration should be based.

We ought particularly to think in terms of a "grafting-on" operation which would involve local leaders in the Direct Rule administration. Such local appointments an on inter-party basis and working alongside Westminster appointees would be a novel experience for Northern Ireland and would pave the way for the reactivation of a local administration.

Inter-party co-operation in a Direct Rule administration would also provide an opportunity to test out patterns of government on which future community government might be based. (Provision would have to be made to ensure responsibility to Parliament of locally appointed members of a Direct Rule administration: the British Constitution is flexible enough to meet this requirement).

Meanwhile, the assurance of Direct Rule in a dynamic form would encourage the Convention (it should continue to operate) to proceed with its search for agreement at a pace appropriate to its agenda. And there is no reason to believe that local politicians would wish to register a permanent stalemate in Ulster politics, which would exclude them for ever from the regional power game.

Council of State

In any ease, and particularly if Direct Rule is to continue, a Council of State made up of representative local persons should be set up to advise the Secretary of State and his Ministers. Such a Council would keep the Northern Ireland Office in touch with the community and would enable the administration to be more sensitive to local opinion.

4. CITIZENSí RIGHTS AND A BILL OF RIGHTS

The Northern Ireland Labour Party believes that ideally there should be uniform legislation throughout the United Kingdom on all matters of citizensí rights and civil liberties. This is an essential badge of common citizenship. Moreover, the retention of powers in this field by the Westminster government will reassure all minorities that they have nothing to fear from the restoration of self-government. This should encourage all political minorities to abandon defensive attitudes and to play a full and confident part in public affairs.

However, it must be recognised that the real crisis in government in Northern Ireland is not technical - it is one of community confidence. Once a framework of trust between the communities has been established politicians will find it easier to negotiate and agree. At the earliest possible moment we should seek out the fears which make real negotiation difficult and seek to meet them in a Charter of Rights, backed by Westminster, which will give confidence that no erosion of fundamental liberties will ever take place once regional government is re-established in Northern Ireland.

Without such confidence between the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities no real progress is possible; once it is achieved, a United Ulster is in sight.

23 September, 1975.

 


ULSTER DOMINION GROUP

The Ulster Dominion Group submits to the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention that Ulster shall become a self-governing British dominion with the Queen as monarch and a Governor General resident in the country.

It submits that it shall be a full member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

It submits that the Ulster Parliament shall be modelled as closely as possible on the Parliament at Westminster and shall have the same jurisdiction, procedures, customs and usages and shall be bicameral.

The Ulster Dominion Group concedes that the regions of the United Kingdom must first draw apart for a time in order to come together more effectively in a federation. It submits that there should be an arrangement to enable the Ulster government to liaise closely with the mainland government, or governments, until a federation of the United Kingdom is achieved.

It submits that there must be an equitable division of common United Kingdom assets and responsibilities so that Ulster receives its rightful share of the heritage to which our people have contributed so manfully by their labour and ingenuity during peace and by their lives and sacrifices during war.

These assets and responsibilities would include national art, library and other treasures; overseas territories (where local populations have no wish or possibility of autonomy); the armed services, including ships, aircraft and military equipment; the National Debt; and the multitude of common United Kingdom services, properties and monies ranging from British Airways to the stipend of the Poet Laureate.

The Ulster Dominion Group submits that legislation to establish the Dominion of Ulster should respect the Government of Ireland Act 1920. When an earlier London Government tore up that Act in order to destroy the Parliament of Northern Ireland, it deprived subsequent administrations of public acceptance of their constitutional legitimacy. The new dominion must not have bequeathed to it the same appalling handicap.

The Ulster Dominion Group submits that the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention shall be dissolved following the presentation of its report to the Government at Westminster.

23 September, 1975

 


 

Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention
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