Other Questions. - Northern Ireland Issues.

Emmet Stagg


9 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made to date regarding implementing the matters agreed at the Weston Park talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3761/02]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 5 on Northern Ireland.

I will be brief, to save time and so that we can move on to other questions. What is the current situation as regards the implementation of paragraphs 18 and 19 of the Weston Park agreement, which relate to the appointment of a judge to deal with the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen, Superintendent Bob Buchanan, Pat Finucane, Lord Justice and Lady Gibson, Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright? Paragraph 19 of the agreement states that "the investigation of each individual case will begin no later than April 2002". Is such a date still a realistic deadline? Has the Minister encouraged Sinn Féin representatives during his contacts with them to change their view on the policing authority?

The Secretary of State and I have discussed on several occasions the appointment of a judge of international standing to undertake an investigation into the cases of Patrick Finucane, Rosemary Nelson and others, as promised at Weston Park. Irish officials are working to take the matter forward as quickly as possible. I am mindful that we stated at Weston Park that the investigation should begin no later than April 2002, but while various names have been mentioned as possible leaders of the investigation, the Governments have not yet agreed on someone who is both available and willing to take up such a position. Candidates have to possess a certain level of experience and must have the trust and confidence of the families. It is important that they have expertise in the field of human rights. It has not been easy to locate, identify or get the agreement of an eminent judicial international personage to act as an overseer. The decision taken on this matter at Weston Park was a highly important one and both Governments are highly committed to it. I am mindful that we hope to have the investigation up and running within two months and efforts will continue to that end.

As regards the Deputy's question on Sinn Féin, he will appreciate that it is the considered view of the Government that it would be best if all parties eligible for membership of the policing board took up their membership so that we can ensure that the new beginning envisaged by Patten will become a reality for everyone in the community.

Have many members of the Garda Síochána applied to join the Police Service of Northern Ireland? Have many people from the North applied to join the Garda? Is there any reason these applicants may not have been successful, for example difficulties with training or problems of compatibility? Does the Minister agree it would be good to develop two-way traffic of that nature?

Police reform in Northern Ireland involves greater co-operation and increased confidence in both sections of the community. The wishes of both sides would be best fulfilled if progress could be made on the provisions in the new policing arrangements for cross-Border assistance. Departments in both jurisdictions have conducted detailed work to ensure that difficulties, for example in terms of entitlements, are adequately addressed. We need to make sure there are no blockages to mobility in appropriate circumstances. It was unfortunate that problems arose in relation to two positions which came up on the policing authority, but sufficient work has been done in the interim to ensure that the issue of prior training is addressed in the event of successful applications.