This country’s attitudes to Northern Ireland have moved on in the most encouraging way. The Leader [of the Seanad, Mary O’Rourke] stated that the Taoiseach’s great flexibility and the fact that he does not carry any baggage are assets. I endorse that view. We can sit back and criticise the Taoiseach for many things. However, on the issue of Northern Ireland he has a permanent place in the history of Ireland.
The reality is that whatever the setbacks, the situation improves by the day and the great tolerance the relative sides have of each other has improved immensely.
Having stated that, I wish to make some comments on the current situation. It is all very well to be euphoric about the progress made, and we see it in the atmosphere of this House. However, I would be loath to see an army of a military dimension being substituted by an army of criminals. I do not state that in any sensationalist way. Both Governments have tended to underestimate the extent of the criminality, for obvious political reasons. We saw the reports coming through on the sensational raids which took place over the past few days. I would like to see an estimate of the extent of this particularly evil empire we just discovered. I do not believe it happened overnight. The IRA has run these rackets for many years.
While the IRA has given up its arms, it seems to have handed over a legacy of criminality, which is yielding an extraordinary amount of money to an organisation which will perpetuate it. I am worried that the Government is not pursuing this with the vigour we should expect. I am worried because I suspect that, unbeknown to us, things are going on behind the scenes that may lead to a certain tolerance of criminality so that the people involved may be brought further down the road towards a political solution. That is a real danger.
Some obvious recent cases point towards the apparent existence — I will say no more than that — of money laundering in various forums in Ireland. It seems that we know that the criminal empire is massive but the paucity of arrests after all these raids is striking. We know that hotels, pubs and cash businesses throughout the island are run by these subversives but the high-profile cases and charges one might expect have not happened. One wonders whether for political reasons, for what both Governments consider to be the greater good, these people are not pursued with the vigour that one might expect for such wrongdoers.
It may well be that organs of the State are pursuing organisations involved in this criminality but it may also be the case that the individuals involved in this criminality are, for some reason, not pursued with the necessary vigour.