Written Answers. - Intergovernmental Conferences.

Liz McManus


36 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 5 March 1998; the steps, if any, the two Governments are taking to ensure that the onset of the marching season in Northern Ireland does not lead to communal conflict; if he will elaborate on proposals to enhance transparency in the workings of the Anglo-Irish Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8152/98]

I refer the Deputy to the following Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference joint communique which sets out the outcome of the meeting in Dublin on 5 March. It is not the practice to give details of the confidential proceedings of these Intergovernmental Conference meetings.

In relation to the marching season, I refer the Deputy to my detailed reply to Question No. 56 of today's date.

Both Governments agreed to consider ways to enhance the transparency of the workings of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and in particular to address any misunderstandings of the work of the Intergovernmental Conference and the Anglo-Irish Secretariat in Belfast.

Joint Statement Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference Dublin, 5 March 1998

1. A meeting of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference was held in Dublin on 5 March 1998.

2. The Irish Government was represented by the Joint Chair, Mr. David Andrews TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was accompanied by Mr. John O'Donoghue TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, by Ms Liz O'Donnell TD, Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs, and by Mr. Martin Cullen TD, Minister of State, Department of Finance. The British Government was represented by the Joint Chair, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Marjorie Mowlam MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who was accompanied by Mr. Adam Ingram JP, MP, Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office.

Political Matters

3. The Conference reviewed recent developments in the multi-party Talks. They welcomed the general desire among the Talks participants to reach agreement in the negotiations before Easter, with a view to presenting an agreement for approval by referendum in the respective jurisdictions during May. The two Governments accordingly invited all the Talks participants, including Sinn Féin on their return to the Talks process, to join with them in the intensive work needed to achieve this objective. Highlighting the historic opportunity available for a lasting and inclusive political settlement, they called on all delegations to build on the common ground identified so far and to work for accommodation and convergence on the outstanding issues.
Security Situation
4. The Conference reviewed the current security situation with the Chief Constable of the RUC and the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. They condemned unreservedly the murders which had taken place since the last meeting of the Conference, including those of Philip Allen and Damian Trainor earlier in the week, as well as other recent acts of terrorist violence, including the bomb outrages in Portadown and Moira.
5. The two Governments also paid tribute both to the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána and the Chief Constable of the RUC for recent successes, including arrests and major finds of weaponry and explosives on both sides of the Border, and noted with satisfaction the continuing excellent co-operation between the security forces in both jurisdictions.
Confidence Issues
6. The Conference discussed the steps being taken by the security forces in response to the current terrorist threat.
7. The Conference considered the prospects for this year's marching season. It noted the powers now conferred on the Parades Commission on foot of the Public Processions etc. (Northern Ireland) Act as well as recent changes in the membership of the Commission. It agreed on the importance of the Commission being in a position to command the support of both communities. It recognised the need for the Commission to be seen to be fair and impartial and the potential, on this basis, for the Commission to make a significant contribution to the resolution of differences during this year's marching season.
8. The Conference discussed a number of prison issues, including sensitive individual cases of current interest, and further prisoner transfers. They noted that the British Government had now received the Narey report, which they intended to publish.
9. They also discussed the progress of the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill and noted the recent publication of two major consultation documents of relevance to the policing debate which is an essential part of the talks process. They also considered a number of cases bearing on public confidence in the administration of justice.
10. The Conference welcomed the British Government's recent decision to set up a new Tribunal of Inquiry into the events of "Bloody Sunday". The British Government will keep the Irish Government briefed on developments.
Fair Employment
11. The Conference discussed the issue of fair employment, which is of major importance to the rights and equality agenda in the talks process, in the context of the response which the British Government will publish shortly to the recommendations made by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights in its Review of Fair Employment.
North-South Economic and Social Co-operation
12. The Conference welcomed the extent of North-South co-operation under the respective European Structural Funds Programmes, including the INTERREG and Peace and Reconciliation Programmes. The Conference also welcomed the extension of the latter programme into 1998. Recognising the importance of continued North-South co-operation in the context of future programmes, both Governments renewed their commitment to increasing the level of co-operation where this was to the mutual advantage of both parts of the island. They also underlined the economic value of North-South co-operation in the development of industry, trade and marketing, infrastructure networks, rural development and other areas.
Other Matters
13. The Conference agreed on the importance of steps to promote the Irish language and discussed a number of options which the British Government is actively considering.
14. The Conference discussed plans for an early extension of RTE transmission throughout Northern Ireland.
15. On fisheries, the Conference noted that the operation of the Hague Preference in relation to Northern Ireland was currently under discussion throughout the Secretariat.
16. The Conference also discussed the Springvale Project and noted that a decision would be made in the near future.
17. The Conference agreed on the desirability of steps to enhance transparency in the workings of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.