Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Questions (154, 158)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

154. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reporting mechanism that exists to provide reports to the Irish and British Governments on the implementation of the Good Friday and St. Andrew's Agreements; if the Governments receive a written report from the devolved institutions on progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31480/13]

View answer

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

158. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide a list of the provisions of the Good Friday and St. Andrew's Agreements which have not been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31495/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 154 and 158 together.

There is no formal requirement on the devolved institutions to report to the Irish and British Governments on the implementation of the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements.

Some provisions of the Good Friday and St. Andrews agreements such as a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, an Irish Language Act and an examination of the future of North South economic cooperation have not yet been implemented but nevertheless there has been good progress on the implementation of the Agreements in recent years.

The North South Inter-Parliamentary Association – as provided for in the Agreement - met for the second time in Plenary at Stormont last month. The Association provides a forum for regular and formal discussions between Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas on issues of mutual interest and concern. The Association will meet twice yearly on a rotational basis.

Another important commitment under the Good Friday Agreement was realised in October 2012 with Digital Switchover on the island of Ireland on 24 October 2012, when TG4 and Radio na Gaeltachta became available in Northern Ireland.

A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland which takes account of the separate and specific context of Northern Ireland is an important outstanding provision of the Good Friday Agreement. I believe that all parties in the Oireachtas share my frustration at the lack of progress on a Bill of Rights and I continue to engage actively with the British government and the Northern Ireland Executive on this issue. Some of the contentious issues around parades, flags and identities have at their heart rights issues and a Bill of Rights is the key to dissolving the obstacles to progress on these issues.

Recent events have recalled the positive role that civil society continues to play in Northern Ireland and points to the valuable role that could be played by the Civic Forum envisaged by the Agreement and I will continue to encourage its development.

The first Term of Reference of the St Andrews Agreement Review which called for an examination of the efficiency and value for money of Implementation Bodies has essentially been completed. The Second and Third Terms of Reference of the Review look to the future of North South co-operation. This has not progressed as rapidly as I would have wished and was a subject of discussion when I met with the First and Deputy First Minister on 29 April. I hope that we will be in a position to make substantial progress at the next North South Ministerial (NSMC) Plenary meeting on 5 July.

While the North South Consultative Forum is still outstanding, it continues to be raised at NSMC Plenary meetings and will be considered further with our Northern colleagues.

The Government will continue to encourage progress on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement, particularly during my ongoing schedule of close contact with the Secretary of State, and with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.