Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Questions (13)

Brendan Smith

Question:

13. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the discussions, if any, he has had with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State or with members of the Northern Ireland Executive in relation to outstanding aspects of the Good Friday Agreement which need to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28227/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Progress in implementing the Good Friday Agreement has benefited all of the people of this island. However, there is still work to be done regarding some outstanding elements of the Agreements.Since the restoration of the devolved Institutions on 8 May 2007, the question of an Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive and, in particular, the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Ms. Carál Ní Chuilín MLA. I will continue to press in my discussions with the Northern Ireland Executive and with the British Government the urgent need to address this issue and to legislate for an Irish Language Act.

I remain convinced that the establishment of a North/South Consultative Forum, comprising representatives of civil society on the island, would contribute to the constructive discussion of key societal challenges. The Government has continued to express support for such a body, including at the November 2013 plenary meeting of the North South Ministerial Council. The Government will do so again in the context of the North South Ministerial Council Plenary meeting taking place in Dublin this Friday. On my regular visits to Northern Ireland, I continue the practice of engaging with civil society representatives.

A Bill of Rights drawn up by agreement between the main parties of the Assembly could formally specify the rights underpinning a reconciled society in Northern Ireland. I continue to urge all the parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly to engage in constructive discussion with a view to reaching agreement on the substance of a Bill of Rights. I, and my officials, will continue to engage with our counterparts in the British Government and in the Northern Ireland Executive on this matter.

As I said in reply to an earlier question today, the principles and values of the Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent St. Andrew’s Agreement are essential to peace and reconciliation in Ireland and across these islands. The continued shared responsibility of the two governments is to guarantee these principles and to support the implementation of both Agreements. The Irish Government is determined to realise their full potential.