Written Answers. - Northern Ireland Issues.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

57 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress which has been made to date with regard to the establishment of a North-South independent consultative forum, proposed in the Good Friday Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14828/02]

The Good Friday Agreement provided that consideration be given to the establishment of an independent consultative forum appointed by the two administrations, North and South, and representative of civil society on the island. The Government also gave a commitment to work for the early establishment of this forum under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness.

At the second plenary meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council, held in Dublin on 26 September 2000, the Council agreed that a joint North-South working group, comprising officials of both Administrations, be tasked with studying the establishment of the Forum and reporting to the next Plenary. A report on the work of the joint North-South working group was made to the third plenary meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council, which met in Dublin on 30 November 2001.

The matter was further discussed at the North-South Ministerial Council's first meeting in institutional format, held in Belfast on 17 December 2001, when it was agreed that the forum should be based on a formal interaction between structures representative of civil society in both parts of the island. The working group was charged with consulting with the Northern Ireland Civic Forum and the social partners participating in the central review mechanism of the PPF, with a view to formulating proposals for a possible structure for the forum. This consultation has now taken place, and the working group's report will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council on 28 June.