Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Ukrainian Conflict

Questions (10)

Seán Crowe

Question:

10. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the temporary truce in Ukraine; if he has discussed the situation with his European counterparts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28187/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

At the outset, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the signature of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area on the margins of the European Council last Friday. I am convinced that the Agreement will give an impetus for political and economic reforms, bringing about modernisation, strengthening of the rule of law and economic growth.

Against the backdrop of an extremely serious security situation in eastern Ukraine where government forces have been clashing with pro-Russian separatists, President Poroshenko declared a unilateral seven-day ceasefire on 20 June, subsequently extended to 30 June. The ceasefire was announced alongside a 15-point peace plan which envisages action in a number of areas, including de-escalating the security situation, addressing the humanitarian situation and pursuing political reform. The plan offers an amnesty to separatists who disarm voluntarily as well as corridors to allow Russian and Ukrainian ‘mercenaries’ to return to Russia. It also envisages changes to the Ukrainian constitution to enable the devolution of more power to the regions, as well as greater protection for Russian-language rights.

On 23 June, following talks facilitated by the OSCE, pro-separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine announced that they would adhere to a ceasefire. Although the OSCE reported that the security situation in eastern Ukraine improved following the announcement of the ceasefire, we remain very concerned about continued activity by armed separatists in the region which, tragically, has led to further casualties. The Ukrainian authorities have reported that the ceasefire had been violated 108 times and led to the deaths of 28 Ukrainian soldiers with 70 injured.

Ireland regrets all loss of life in the conflict and calls for urgent progress towards a peaceful solution to the crisis. It is also of the utmost importance that trilateral talks between Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE achieve tangible results soon, to prevent further loss of life.

Ukraine was discussed at the EU Foreign Affairs Council last week, which the Tánaiste attended. Ministers were briefed on the current situation by the new Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Pavel Klimkin, who presented the peace plan and called for our support. In its conclusions, the Council welcomed the peace plan as a major chance for de-escalation and commended President Poroshenko’s determined actions towards peace and stability in Ukraine since his inauguration. Ministers also called on the Russian Federation to support the peace plan and adopt effective measures to stop the continued flow of illegal fighters, arms and equipment over the border into Ukraine. The Council conclusions also reaffirmed the EU’s strong condemnation of the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol.

Ukraine was also discussed at the European Council last Friday when President Poroshenko met with EU leaders. The HOSG subsequently called for several steps to be taken by Monday of this week, including agreement on a verification mechanism, monitored by the OSCE, for the ceasefire and for effective control of the border. After that, the European Council will assess the situation and reconvene if required to take what decisions may be necessary. For his part, President Poroshenko indicated that he would be prepared to further extend the ceasefire if there was compliance with the conditions set by the European Council. Regrettably, in the absence of such compliance over the weekend, President Poroshenko announced the resumption of military operations against the separatists yesterday. He made clear that he was willing to reinstate the ceasefire if it became clear that all sides were ready to carry out all aspects of the peace plan.

Good Friday Agreement

Questions (11)

Seamus Kirk

Question:

11. Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the action that needs to be undertaken in order to implement all outstanding aspects of the Good Friday Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28249/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

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. Their key elements include devolution based on power-sharing; agreement on sovereignty; human rights; parity of esteem; and support for the rule of law. These principles have rightly been at the centre of the Government’s approach to politics in Northern Ireland.

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. This is a vital and challenging responsibility which concerns us all. I continue to underline the urgent importance of fully realising the agreements with our partners in the British Government and with colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive.

Progress in implementing the Agreements has benefited all of the people of this island. However, there is still work to be done regarding some outstanding elements of the Agreements. These include the introduction of an Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland, the establishment of a North/South Consultative Forum and the implementation of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. These measures have the potential to significantly enrich the cultural and political life of citizens across this island.

The Government will continue to take every opportunity to advance progress on the outstanding elements of the Agreements.

Human Rights Issues

Questions (12)

Joe Higgins

Question:

12. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the increase in State security and the workers and human rights abuses that accompany many international sporting events such as the World Cup. [28240/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Large sporting events such as the World Cup have enormous potential to benefit widely the societies in which they take place and this has increasingly become a consideration for host countries, as the positive experience of the 2012 London Olympics has shown. The Brazilian Government’s projections are that the 2014 World Cup will increase the country’s GDP by almost 10 billion Euro and that, as well as investments in the match stadiums, the World Cup has led to an acceleration of investment in roads, airports and public transportation.

While staging international sporting events may provide enormous benefits, it is important that host countries respect human rights and ensure that fundamental freedoms are upheld in preparing for and hosting the events.

Staging large sporting events also brings with it worldwide scrutiny. Audiences will tune in from around the world in their millions and the interest generated will go beyond just the games. All aspects of the country will be scrutinised including the host nation’s human rights record.

In this regard, I am currently very concerned about the reports of abuse of workers’ rights in Qatar, a country with the highest ratio of migrants to citizens in the world. Nearly 88 per cent of the total population are foreign workers, employed largely in construction, services and domestic work. The presence of large numbers of migrant workers in the Gulf area, especially in construction, is of course a long-standing phenomenon and does not relate solely to the World Cup.

In November 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, urged the Qatari authorities to ensure that its labour laws are reformed to ensure that they adhere to international standards. I fully support Mr. Crépeau’s findings and call on the Qatari Government to continue to cooperate with his office and the UN International Labour Organisation and to implement their recommendations in order to improve the situation of migrant workers and their families in the country.

I believe it is critical that Qatar proves it is making real efforts to improve the protection of the rights of all workers, including construction workers, ahead of the FIFA World Cup scheduled for 2022. In this regard, I welcome FIFA’s promises to demand high standards in the area of workers’ rights, as well as FIFA’s request that the Qatari authorities provide a report detailing improvements that have been made in terms of labour standards since the visit of its President, Mr. Sepp Blatter, to the Emirate in November 2013.

I also would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the message delivered by Ireland during Qatar’s Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council on May 7 2014, in which we urged the Qatari authorities to undertake a thorough review of the regulatory regime for migrant workers in order to ensure that it adheres to international human rights and labour standards.

I led a trade mission to Qatar at the beginning of June and took the opportunity to privately raise with Qatari Government Ministers concerns regarding Human Rights particularly in relation to reports of violations of the rights of migrant workers and the denial of the right to the freedom of movement. While the conversations were confidential, Qatari Ministers confirmed that they were aware of the issues related to the Kafala system of sponsorship and noted that they are working on legislation which would, among other things, address the “exit visa” system. The Kafala system requires all unskilled labourers to have an in-country sponsor, usually their employer, who is responsible for their visa and legal status. It has been criticised as many employers take away passports and abuse their workers with little risk of legal repercussions.

The human rights situation in the Russian Federation came under the spotlight in the lead-up to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in February 2014. The rights of migrant workers, as well as LGBTI rights and freedom of the press, were a particular focus of attention, and this is to be welcomed.

The EU was aware of reports that migrant workers were employed during preparations for the Games and I can confirm that the rights of such workers and ethnic minorities in the Russian Federation were discussed at the EU’s structured human rights consultations with Russia which took place on 28 November 2013.

The Deputy will be aware that the decisions to award games to countries are not made by national governments but by Sports governing bodies – FIFA as the governing association of soccer in the case of the World Cup and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the case of the Olympic games.

It has recently been reported that in apparent response to recent controversy over the rights of workers in Qatar, senior officials at FIFA, are considering a human rights criterion for choosing future host countries. I would very much welcome this in the awarding of such events.

Good Friday Agreement

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.

Military Aircraft Landings

Questions (14)

Clare Daly

Question:

14. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has sought assurances that US military advisers en route to Iraq will not be landing at Shannon Airport. [28265/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Permission for US military aircraft to land at Shannon Airport is subject to the condition that the aircraft are unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives, do not engage in intelligence gathering, and that the flights in question do not form any part of military exercises or operation. These conditions continue to apply.

Furthermore, under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order 1973, the carriage of weapons through Shannon Airport on commercial aircraft is prohibited unless an exemption has been obtained in advance from my colleague, the Minister for Transport. The carriage of the personal weapons of US military personnel on board chartered aircraft in transit through Shannon Airport is subject to the issuance of such an exemption in respect to each individual flight.

I have therefore not sought specific assurances from the US that military advisers travelling to Iraq will not be landing at Shannon Airport.

Egyptian Conflict

Questions (15)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

15. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the action he is taking regarding the State repression in Egypt of journalists, political activists and protestors including mass arrests, imprisonment and mass passing of death sentences; if he will summon the Egyptian Ambassador in Ireland to a meeting to convey the Irish Government's concern and in particular concern about the ongoing detention of an Irish citizen (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28266/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

In my address to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade last week I condemned the severe sentences imposed by a court in Cairo on 23 June on a number of Al Jazeera journalists for essentially doing no more than their job.

I share the widespread international concern over this verdict, which amounts to the criminalisation of the legitimate activities of a free press. This verdict represents an unacceptable restriction on freedom of expression and fundamentally undermines the credibility of the Egyptian judicial system.

There has been widespread international criticism of the verdict in this latest case, including by UNSG Ban, who warned that they could undermine Egypt’s stability. The UN Human Right Commissioner, Navi Pillay, expressed her shock and alarm at the verdicts which she pointed out were rife with procedural irregularities and in breach of international human rights law.

The issue was also discussed briefly at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg which I attended on 23 June. High Representative Ashton issued a statement after the meeting on behalf of the EU expressing the concern of the Council about the verdicts as well as about the death sentences imposed against more than 180 people following the recent well-publicised trial in Minya, Upper Egypt.

The Government has been active in conveying its concerns generally over the current trends in relation to observance of human rights in Egypt. I have made clear in reply to earlier questions in this House my strong concerns over the recent mass sentencing of individuals to the death penalty in two trials in Minya, Upper Egypt. These concerns have been conveyed directly to the Egyptian authorities, most recently by senior officials in my Department at a meeting with the Egyptian Embassy earlier this week which also relayed my concerns over the recent Al Jazeera verdicts as well as the continued detention of Ibrahim Halawa. Our Embassy in Cairo has also regularly raised these and other human rights issues with the Egyptian authorities . High Representative Ashton also met with the then Egyptian Foreign Minister, Nabil Fahmy, last March to convey the EU’s strong concerns about the conduct of the Minya trials.

Ireland also co-sponsored a cross-regional statement on the human rights situation in Egypt at the UN Human Rights Council in March. The need for the Egyptian authorities to start vindicating the human rights provisions contained in Egypt’s new constitution will continue to be clearly communicated in our ongoing contacts with the Egyptian authorities, both here and through our Embassy in Cairo.

In relation to the case of Ibrahim Halawa, I answered a parliamentary question last week setting out in detail each of the interventions which Ireland has made, at both Ministerial and diplomatic level, to represent our deep concerns over his detention and continued imprisonment, as well as the lack of clarity surrounding the charges he is facing. We have repeatedly stressed to the Egyptian authorities that due process must be afforded to Mr. Halawa, and that they must ensure that his basic human right to a fair trial is upheld. As I indicate above, further representations have been made since then. We regard his well-being and the upholding of his rights as a matter of extreme gravity and will continue to make clear our position to the Egyptian authorities at every opportunity.

Undocumented Irish in the USA

Questions (16)

Denis Naughten

Question:

16. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on his recent visit to the US to progress the issue of the undocumented Irish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28064/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I visited Washington D.C. over the period 17-19 June for various meetings in relation to U.S. immigration reform, which remains a key Government priority. My programme included separate discussions with Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Congressman Paul Ryan, Senator Pat Leahy, members of the Congressional Friends of Ireland Group, House Judiciary Committee Member Congressman Mark Amodei, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Congressman Xavier Becerra and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Ms. Cecilia Munoz. I also met with Irish-American community leaders, including from the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform, Irish Apostolate USA and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, with whom the Government has worked closely on our shared U.S. immigration reform agenda.

Each of my meetings proved very useful, offering different insights and analyses into the prospects for when progress towards legislation that would provide relief for currently undocumented Irish migrants and also a facility for additional future legal migration between Ireland and the U.S. There was widespread consensus that an already complex political landscape had become even more complicated by the electoral defeat earlier in the month of the Republican House Majority Leader. The general sense which I received from interlocutors was that further time would be needed to assess the full implications of this development for ongoing immigration reform efforts, particularly from the perspective of the upcoming Congressional mid-term elections. I found it encouraging that proponents of immigration reform in Congress appear determined to persist with their efforts and they hope that further progress may yet prove possible this year.

As my visit took place, Mr. Kevin McCarthy was elected as the new Republican House Majority Leader. Through our Embassy in Washington and also directly, the Government looks forward to working further with Mr. McCarthy, House Speaker John Boehner and other key Congressional figures on both sides of the political aisle, and with the U.S. Administration, with a view to advancing Ireland’s immigration reform-related objectives.

Since my return from Washington, I understand that there has been a further sharpening of the political engagement in the U.S. Congress in relation to the situation of unaccompanied migrant children who are seeking to enter the United States via its southern border. This may now impact negatively on the prospects for wider immigration reform progress being achieved over the immediate period ahead. It would clearly be disappointing if this proves to be the case. Nevertheless, as I noted earlier, we will continue our intensive efforts to persuade members of Congress to seize every opportunity to make immigration reform a reality.

Iraqi Conflict

Questions (17)

Joe Higgins

Question:

17. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his position on the political and military situation in Iraq. [28242/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I refer the Deputy to my earlier reply to Question no. 9 concerning Iraq, which was as follows: “The dramatically deteriorating situation in Iraq is a matter of very serious concern, both for the Iraqi people and for the international community as a whole. The Al- Qaeda linked islamist militia known as ISIS, with allied Sunni groupings, have captured large parts of northern and western Iraq, including the major city of Mosul. It is also targeting key installations such as the country’s largest oil refinery.

The Government has previously warned of failings and inattention on the part of the current Iraqi Government in actively promoting reconciliation with the minority Sunni community. These concerns have now been shown to be wholly justified. The ISIS advance has been concentrated in Sunni-dominated areas and has only been possible because disaffected local Sunni forces, many of whom had earlier fought Al-Qaeda during the US-led surge in 2006, decided to joined forces with them.

The Tánaiste discussed the crisis in Iraq with EU colleagues at the Foreign Affairs Council on 23 June. The Council agreed Conclusions condemning the recent attacks by ISIS, and reports of horrific atrocities. The Council emphasised that a security solution alone cannot resolve the current crisis, but must be combined with a sustainable political solution through outreach by the Iraqi Government to local communities and Iraqi society as a whole. Following the elections on 30 April, the Council also called on Iraq’s political leaders to negotiate as soon as possible the formation of a government representative of all Iraqi society. Similar messages were also set out in the Joint Declaration of EU and Arab League Foreign Ministers meeting in Athens on 11 June, which I attended.

The Foreign Affairs Council on 23 June also expressed its serious concern at the humanitarian situation amid a further massive civilian displacement of some 500,000 people arising from the current emergency. The EU has increased its humanitarian assistance to Iraq to a total of €12 million this year. Ireland, for its part, is sending an airlift, worth €220,000, to be distributed by GOAL, which recently also received €200,000 to support their emergency response in northern Iraq. A further allocation of €75,000 to another Irish Aid NGO partner, Christian Aid Ireland, brings the Government’s total humanitarian assistance to Iraq in 2014 to €655,000.”

Undocumented Irish in the USA

Questions (18)

Denis Naughten

Question:

18. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the progress made to date on resolving the issue of the undocumented Irish in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28063/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I visited Washington D.C. over the period 17-19 June for various meetings in relation to U.S. immigration reform, which remains a key Government priority. My programme included separate discussions with Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Congressman Paul Ryan, Senator Pat Leahy, members of the Congressional Friends of Ireland Group, House Judiciary Committee Member Congressman Mark Amodei, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Congressman Xavier Becerra and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Ms. Cecilia Munoz. I also met with Irish-American community leaders, including from the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform, Irish Apostolate USA and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, with whom the Government has worked closely on our shared U.S. immigration reform agenda.

Each of my meetings proved very useful, offering different insights and analyses into the prospects for when progress towards legislation that would provide relief for currently undocumented Irish migrants and also a facility for additional future legal migration between Ireland and the U.S. There was widespread consensus that an already complex political landscape had become even more complicated by the electoral defeat earlier in the month of the Republican House Majority Leader. The general sense which I received from interlocutors was that further time would be needed to assess the full implications of this development for ongoing immigration reform efforts, particularly from the perspective of the upcoming Congressional mid-term elections. I found it encouraging that proponents of immigration reform in Congress appear determined to persist with their efforts and they hope that further progress may yet prove possible this year.

As my visit took place, Mr. Kevin McCarthy was elected as the new Republican House Majority Leader. Through our Embassy in Washington and also directly, the Government looks forward to working further with Mr. McCarthy, House Speaker John Boehner and other key Congressional figures on both sides of the political aisle, and with the U.S. Administration, with a view to advancing Ireland’s immigration reform-related objectives.

Since my return from Washington, I understand that there has been a further sharpening of the political engagement in the U.S. Congress in relation to the situation of unaccompanied migrant children who are seeking to enter the United States via its southern border. This may now impact negatively on the prospects for wider immigration reform progress being achieved over the immediate period ahead. It would clearly be disappointing if this proves to be the case. Nevertheless, as I noted earlier, we will continue our intensive efforts to persuade members of Congress to seize every opportunity to make immigration reform a reality.

Egyptian Conflict

Questions (19)

Brendan Smith

Question:

19. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the contact he has had with the Egyptian authorities to protest at the seven-year jail terms handed down in the case of the three Al-Jazeera journalists recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28225/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

In my address to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade last week I condemned the severe sentences imposed by a court in Cairo on 23 June on a number of Al Jazeera journalists for essentially doing no more than their job.

I share the widespread international concern over this verdict, which amounts to the criminalisation of the legitimate activities of a free press. This verdict represents an unacceptable restriction on freedom of expression and fundamentally undermines the credibility of the Egyptian judicial system.

There has been widespread international criticism of the verdict in this latest case, including by UNSG Ban, who warned that they could undermine Egypt’s stability. The UN Human Right Commissioner, Navi Pillay, expressed her shock and alarm at the verdicts which she pointed out were rife with procedural irregularities and in breach of international human rights law.

The issue was also discussed briefly at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg which I attended on 23 June. High Representative Ashton issued a statement after the meeting on behalf of all EU member states expressing the concern of the Council about the verdicts as well as about the death sentences imposed against more than 180 people following the recent well-publicised trial in Minya, Upper Egypt.

Egypt’s new constitution provides guarantees for the fundamental rights of its people which the Egyptian courts, regrettably, do not appear to have fully recognized in a number of recent verdicts. This is deeply worrying to those of us who wish to support Egypt and the Egyptian people in their ongoing difficult transition to democracy. It is a message which continues to be clearly communicated in our ongoing contacts with the Egyptian authorities, both here and through our Embassy in Cairo, most recently by senior officials in my Department at a meeting with the Egyptian Embassy earlier this week which also relayed my concerns over the recent Al Jazeera verdicts as well as the continued detention of Ibrahim Halawa.

Good Friday Agreement

Questions (20)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

20. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if at the next meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council he will discuss the working of the Good Friday Agreement, with particular reference to measures yet to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28245/14]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Strand Two of the Good Friday Agreement provided for the establishment of the North/South Ministerial Council and the North/South Implementation Bodies. It also provided that consideration be given to a North/South Consultative Forum and a North/South parliamentary forum.With the establishment in 2012 of the North/South Inter-Parliamentary Association, which is in effect the North/South parliamentary forum envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement, the only institution that remains outstanding is the North/South Consultative Forum.

The Government continues to support the establishment of the Consultative Forum, including by raising the issue at North/South Ministerial Council Plenary meetings and will do so again at the Plenary meeting on 4 July.

The forthcoming Plenary meeting of the Council offers an opportunity for substantive discussions with our Northern Ireland colleagues on the progress made since the last Plenary in November 2013 across the various sectors and by the Implementation Bodies. We will also discuss shared interests such as economic growth, addressing unemployment, regional development, increasing trade and business activity and EU matters including the proposed new PEACE and INTERREG programmes. I also hope that we will be able to review the progress made on identifying and developing priorities for new and further North/South co-operation.