Written Answers. - Northern Ireland Issues.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

112 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his priorities for the North-South Ministerial Council in Armagh on 28 June 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15093/02]

I am looking forward to engaging with my Northern colleagues at the North-South Ministerial Council plenary session in Armagh tomorrow. This will be the fourth plenary meeting since the North-South institutions were established in December 1999 and the second one to take place in Northern Ireland. In addition to meeting in plenary format, the council has met almost 60 times at ministerial level to take forward an extensive programme of co-operation in a wide range of agreed areas for mutual benefit.

As part of the Government's overriding priority of securing peace on this island through the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the consolidation of its institutions, my priority is to ensure that the North-South Ministerial Council delivers to the maximum on its potential, both in terms of mutually beneficial practical co-operation and, more broadly, in contributing to the development of a spirit of friendship and co-operation between North and South. I have been pleased to witness the positive and constructive engagement between Ministers within the council. Our work in the council, along with the activities of the six all-island implementation bodies and Tourism Ireland Limited, represents a clear and practical example of the positive working of the Agreement.
With regard to the specific agenda for tomorrow's meeting and without wishing to prejudge our deliberations, I am particularly looking forward to having the opportunity to discuss issues such as how the council might best give effect to the Agreement's provisions that we consider the European Union dimension of North-South co-operation and the potential for expanding co-operation within the scope of the North-South Ministerial Council. The council will further progress work on obstacles to cross-Border mobility and will discuss the working group's recommendations on the establishment of an independent North-South consultative forum. A copy of the joint communiqué of the plenary meeting will be lodged with the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Question No. 113 answered with Question No. 46.
Question No. 114 answered with Question No. 75.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

115 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs in regard to the commitment given in An Agreed Programme for Government, the specific proposals the Government has for the formation of the North-South Parliamentary Body envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15096/02]

The Government is committed to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, the consolidation of its institutions and the development of a spirit of friendship and co-operation between North and South. Paragraph 18 of Strand Two of the Agreement provides for "the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Oireachtas to consider developing a joint parliamentary forum, bringing together equal numbers from both institutions for discussion of matters of mutual interest and concern". While consideration of the establishment of a joint parliamentary forum is primarily a matter for the two Legislatures to take forward, the Government would encourage and support such a development. I hope to discuss this issue with our Northern ministerial colleagues at the plenary meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council in Armagh tomorrow. As the Deputy will be aware, the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution's recent progress report strongly endorsed the establishment of such a forum. In response to this endorsement, the Taoiseach stated that the Government fully shares this view and wishes to see early progress in that regard.