The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Paul Murphy MP, co-chaired a meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference at Farmleigh on 7 July this year. The then Minister, Deputy Cowen, was accompanied at the meeting by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, and the then Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Tom Kitt. The Secretary of State was accompanied by Mr. John Spellar MP and Mr. Ian Pearson MP, Ministers of State at the Northern Ireland Office. Copies of the communiqué of this meeting have been placed in the Dáil Library.
The conference on 7 July reviewed political developments including the discussions on 25 June in Lancaster House. The imperative of seeing an end to all forms of paramilitary activity and of restoring a stable and inclusive partnership government in Northern Ireland was reasserted and the conference looked forward to the intensive talks in September. As the House will be aware, these talks subsequently took place at Leeds Castle on 16-18 September. The conference reviewed the various commitments made in the Joint Declaration, which are not conditional on acts by others, and agreed to continue to monitor and advance their implementation. Progress was welcomed on a number of individual commitments in the areas of human rights, equality and criminal justice.
Security and policing issues were also reviewed. The continuation of a peaceful and orderly marching season was encouraged and those involved in seeking to defuse tensions arising from contentious parades were commended. The conference also discussed cross-Border security co-operation, and ongoing North-South and east-west issues within the framework of the Good Friday Agreement.
Regarding the Cory reports, both Governments agreed that it was important to continue to move forward to establish the inquiries that have been announced following Judge Cory's report and discussed progress in their respective jurisdictions. The Irish Government reiterated its view that the British Government should establish as soon as possible a public inquiry into the Pat Finucane case, as recommended by Judge Cory. On 23 September the British Government announced steps to enable the establishment of an inquiry which will be based on new legislation to be introduced at Westminster.
On the broader issue of dealing with the past, the conference agreed that any approach would need to have widespread acceptance across all sections of the community in Northern Ireland, and to respect the views of victims.
In addition, the Government raised concerns in relation to the impact of the requirement to register annually on the rate of registration by eligible voters in Northern Ireland, particularly among marginalised and socially disadvantaged groups. The British Irish Intergovernmental Conference will meet again this autumn.