Thursday, 12 February 2004

Questions (100)

Tom Hayes


89 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the report of the North-South Ministerial Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4282/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The 2002 annual report of the North-South Ministerial Council provides an interesting insight into the work of the council. It demonstrates the extent to which the programme of work under way under the aegis of the NSMC has developed and has become an integral part of the relationship between both parts of the island. It will be clear from the range of work and issues covered, that what we are talking about is practical co-operation on matters which bring obvious benefits to both North and South.

Despite difficulties in the wider political process, progress on North-South co-operation continued throughout 2002, with important work being taken forward by the North-South bodies and by Departments.

The Deputy will recall that in order to safeguard the achievements of the council, the Government legislated in November 2002 to provide that both Governments could take any decisions necessary to allow the North-South bodies to continue to carry out their important public functions during the period of suspension.

The two Governments have stated many times that the review of the agreement, which is currently underway, will not be a review of the fundamentals of the agreement, but of its operation. It will be the Government's priority in the period ahead, and against the backdrop of efforts to bring about the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland, to protect the achievements of the agreement, including the Strand II arrangements, which include the North-South Ministerial Council and the North-South bodies.

Question No. 90 answered with QuestionNo. 23.