Thursday, 12 February 2004

Questions (13, 14)

Paul McGrath

Question:

10 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent meeting of the Government and the Democratic Unionist Party in London; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4307/04]

View answer

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

52 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the matters discussed and conclusions reached at his meeting with a delegation from the Democratic Unionist Party in London on 29 January 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4200/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 52 together.

On 29 January, the Taoiseach, accompanied by myself, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, and Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, met with a DUP delegation, led by Dr. Ian Paisley at the Embassy of Ireland in London. Dr. Paisley was accompanied by fellow MPs Peter Robinson, Nigel Dodds, Iris Robinson, Gregory Campbell and Jeffrey Donaldson.

The meeting, which was the first contact between the DUP and the Government since the agreement was signed, was constructive and positive in tone. While these discussions were of an exploratory nature, we saw this as a very valuable opportunity to open a sustained dialogue with the DUP. We are keen to develop and maintain good relations with the party based on mutual respect.

During the meeting, both sides discussed their broad approaches to the review of the agreement, which was subsequently convened on 3 February 2004. We said that we looked forward to engagement with DUP in the review and, as with all the other parties involved, would listen carefully and respectfully to their detailed proposals. We made it clear that both Governments were of the view the review should focus on the operation of the agreement, not its fundamentals. During the discussion, the DUP members emphasised that they would engage constructively and proactively in the review. They also restated their well known views in regard to the linkage between participation in Government and definitive closure of all paramilitary activity. In addition, they confirmed that, while they saw no role for the Irish Government in regard to Strand 1 matters, they were willing to have dialogue with us in regard issues pertaining to Strands 2 and 3.

Together with the Secretary of State, I had a further opportunity to meet a DUP delegation, led by Dr. Paisley, earlier this week in Belfast. This trilateral meeting took place in the context of the current review process and was focused on Strands 2 and 3 and other aspects of the agreement. Due to schedule constraints, the meeting was relatively brief. However a further trilateral meeting has been scheduled with the DUP for 24 February.

As the Taoiseach has already stated, we look forward to broadening and deepening our contacts with the DUP in the period immediately ahead.