I have previously put on the record of the Dáil that I support the establishment of a Civic Forum which would provide for a broad range of voices on community relations and stimulate informed public debate in relation to key societal challenges. On my regular visits to Northern Ireland, I continue the practice of engaging with civil society representatives. In my ongoing contacts with the Secretary of State, I take the opportunity to discuss full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, including the establishment of a Civic Forum. With the Northern Ireland Executive, including in the context of the North South Ministerial Council, the Government has continued to support the re-establishment of the Civic Forum as a valuable and, as yet, unimplemented provision of the Good Friday Agreement.
I welcome the consultations which Richard Haass, Independent Chair of the Panel of Parties, and Meghan O’Sullivan, Independent Vice-Chair of the Panel of Parties, undertook with community groups and with representatives of wider civil society in order to ensure that their views and perspectives were considered in the context of the recent political talks. I believe that this consultation enriched their work, in particular in relation to the proposals on contending with the Past. The Government is of the view that a strong and resilient civic society can play an important role in providing positive and constructive challenge to the political process and in building a more reconciled and prosperous Northern Ireland.