Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (104)

Gay Mitchell

Question:

237 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the recent visit of the Democratic Unionist Party to Dublin; the matters discussed with the DUP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25218/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

On 30 September, together with the Taoiseach, I met a DUP delegation at Government Buildings. The delegation was headed by the leader of the party, Dr. Ian Paisley. This meeting was the first with the DUP leadership to be held in Dublin and it provided a welcome opportunity to discuss further the outstanding issues from the Leeds Castle talks.

As we outlined in the joint statement after those talks, both Governments believe the issues relating to the ending of paramilitary activity and decommissioning can be resolved. However, consensus was not achieved at Leeds Castle regarding possible changes to the operation of the institutions in Strands One, Two and Three. These issues have been the subject of discussions with and between the parties in recent weeks.

The meeting with the DUP at Government Buildings was focused on these outstanding issues. The Taoiseach briefed the DUP delegation on the on-going efforts to bring the necessary clarity and certainty to the question of ending paramilitary activity and capability. In addition, the Government emphasised that any changes to the political institutions must respect the fundamental power-sharing nature of the Good Friday Agreement.

We also stressed to the DUP the importance of seizing the impetus of the Leeds Castle talks and of securing early progress on all of the outstanding issues. The Government is committed to achieving a comprehensive agreement for Northern Ireland that will bring about the early restoration of the political institutions. In order to do so, we will continue to liaise closely with the British Government and the parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly, including the DUP.