Written Answers. - Northern Ireland Issues.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

18 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the agreement in relation to the establishment of a Northern Ireland Executive and cross-Border bodies concluded on 18 December 1998. [1055/99]

John Bruton

Question:

19 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meeting in Dublin with the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyuoaka. [1056/99]

John Bruton

Question:

20 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the recent meeting in Dublin between senior officials of his Department and Mr. Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin. [1207/99]

John Bruton

Question:

21 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the plans, if any, he has to visit Northern Ireland. [1209/99]

John Bruton

Question:

22 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the conversations he has had since 17 December 1998 with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Blair. [1211/99]

John Bruton

Question:

23 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his assessment of the current state of progress in implementing the British-Irish Agreement in Northern Ireland. [1212/99]

John Bruton

Question:

24 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on his contacts with the political parties in Northern Ireland since 17 December 1998. [1213/99]

John Bruton

Question:

25 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meeting in Dublin with Mr. Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin. [1360/99]

John Bruton

Question:

26 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meeting in Dublin with Mr. Seán Neeson of the Alliance Party. [1361/99]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

27 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach his views on whether the relationship between Sinn Féin and the IRA is such that it would be appropriate to regard the IRA as parties to the British-Irish Agreement. [1633/99]

John Bruton

Question:

28 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the items he will discuss with the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Mr. David Trimble, when he meets him in Dublin on 30 January 1999. [1727/99]

John Bruton

Question:

29 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the plans, if any, he has to visit the United States of America for St. Patrick's Day in 1999; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1729/99]

John Bruton

Question:

30 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the plans, if any, he has to hold a meeting of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in 1999; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1731/99]

John Bruton

Question:

31 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the legislative changes, if any, he will bring before Dáil Éireann arising from the British-Irish Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1733/99]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

32 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with Mr. Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1801/99]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

33 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the leader of the Alliance Party; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1802/99]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

34 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach when his next scheduled meeting with the British Prime Minister will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1803/99]

Joe Higgins

Question:

35 Mr. Higgins (Dublin West) asked the Taoiseach if he will report on discussions on the peace process with the parties in Northern Ireland. [1873/99]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

36 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach his views on the question of according Oireachtas representation to citizens in the Six Counties; and the work or study, if any, he has commissioned in his Department on the matter. [1901/99]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

37 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the discussions or meetings he has had since the beginning of 1999 in relation to the implementation of the British-Irish Agreement in so far as measures in this jurisdiction are concerned. [1902/99]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

38 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his contacts with the British Prime Minister since the adjournment of Dáil Eireann in December 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1903/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 to 38, inclusive, together.

On 18 December, following negotiations and consultations involving Assembly parties and, as appropriate, the Irish and British Governments, the First and Deputy First Ministers reported that agreement had been reached on the departmental structures and on North-South Co-operation. The ten new Departments and corresponding ministerial offices which will be responsible for the work of the current six Northern Ireland Departments will be: Agriculture and Rural Development; Environment; Regional Development; Social Development; Education; Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment; Enterprise, Trade and Investment; Culture, Arts and Leisure; Health, Social Services and Public Safety; and Finance and Personnel. In addition, the office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister will have an economic policy unit and special responsibility for equality.
In relation to North-South co-operation, six areas were identified as suitable for the establishment of implementation bodies. These were inland waterways; food safety; trade and business development; special EU programmes; language; and aquaculture and marine matters.
An additional six areas were identified as suitable for co-operation through existing bodies: health; transport; agriculture; education; environment and tourism. A publicly-owned limited company is to be established in relation to the latter.
On 18 January, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister submitted their joint report to the Assembly. I look forward to the final report which will be submitted to the Assembly for 15 February and which will facilitate the enactment in the UK, by the target date of 10 March, of the legislation enabling the formal transfer of legislative powers. Our own timetable will proceed broadly in parallel and the objective of both Governments is to have all the Agreement institutions go live shortly thereafter.
I have continued to meet and liaise with the parties and others on Northern Ireland before and after Christmas. Over the past weeks I have met with the Deputy First Minister, Mr. Seamus Mallon; Mr. Sean Neeson, leader of the Alliance Party; and Mr. Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin. I have also been in regular contact with Prime Minister Blair and I will meet First Minister David Trimble at the end of this month. I do not propose to report in detail on each meeting or telephone conversation that I have had. However, I will say that recent discussions have, of course, focused on progressing the implementation of the British-Irish Agreement in all its aspects. The question of further meetings with Prime Minister Blair is being kept under review.
We all know that difficult issues remain to be dealt with. All of the parties to the talks are aware of their obligations and we expect them all to deliver. We must, all of us, be willing to take those vital steps forward together, in the coming weeks, in order to get over the current impasse. We must ensure that the implementation process is credible, that progress is made and that a political vacuum is not allowed to develop. This process is about bringing an end to a conflict that has dogged this country and its people for too long. It is about delivering good, democratic, accountable governance in Northern Ireland and real practical benefits to the people, North and South, and the sooner we are able to do this, the better.
For our part, the Government are pressing on with the work of preparing for the establishment of the North-South Ministerial Council and the implementation bodies. Officials from the relevant Government Departments, together with officials from my Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs, are engaged in an intensive programme of work with their Northern counterparts to ensure that the North-South institutions will be ready at the same time as the other institutions, as required by the British-Irish Agreement and the appropriate legislation will be introduced as soon as possible.
The Secretary General of the Commonwealth paid a courtesty visit to me on 10 December, in Government Buildings, during which we had a friendly exchange on a number of issues.
I propose to visit Northern Ireland again in early February. I will undertake a number of functions, including attending a reception in Newry, in response to an invitation from Newry and Mourne District Council
I look forward to visiting the United States for St. Patrick's Day again this year. The programme for this visit is in preparation.
On the issue of further meetings of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, I would make the point that this is not a matter for me, or the Government but for the Chairperson and all the participating parties and would refer the Deputy to my replies to previous questions on 8 December and 6 October.
With regard to the question of according Oireachtas representation to the citizens in the Six Counties, I wrote to the Chairman of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution on 11 April, following the conclusion of the British-Irish Agreement. I suggested that the committee might consider how people living in Northern Ireland might play a more active part in national political life, to the extent that they so desire and in a spirit consistent with the principles underlying the peace settlement.
I understand that the committee subsequently invited written submissions from the main political parties in Northern Ireland and it received the latest submittion on 7 December. The committee intends to invite interested parties and individuals to make oral submissions in February.
The committee published a Progress Report on the Presidency last November. It is now examining the provisions in relation to the national Parliament and it will report thereon as soon as possible.