I propose to take Questions Nos. 1, 8, 11, 19, 21, 23, 28, 29, 32, 34, 36, 37, 39, 40, 46, 47 and 49 together.
As Deputies will be aware, the ground rules oblige participants to maintain confidentiality on all aspects of the negotiations except where they may, from time to time, agree to publicity. It would not, therefore, be appropriate for me to describe in detail the progress of the negotiations. As regards briefing Opposition parties during the negotiations, I refer Deputies to my reply of 30 May to a previous question on this matter, and I would again invite the relevant spokespersons to discuss the matter with me. I am available to discuss this at any time with the Opposition spokespersons.
I can, however, inform the House that discussion to date has centred on the adoption of agreed procedural rules. While the Government would have hoped that the negotiations could have proceeded more rapidly to matters of substance, nonetheless it is perhaps understandable that the early stages of negotiations involving so many parties, with such different viewpoints, would make relatively slow headway. I am hopeful that agreement on the rules of procedure will soon be reached and that it will be possible to move into the substantive negotiations which we all wish to see without undue delay.
On 6 June, the two Governments invited a group consisting of Senator George Mitchell, General John de Chastelain and Mr. Harri Holkeri to play a role in chairing various aspects of the negotiations which require independent chairmanship. They invited the chairman of the group, Senator Mitchell, to chair the plenary sessions of the negotiations, and also invited General de Chastelain to chair the Strand II negotiations and the business committee, and Mr. Holkeri to act as alternate chairman in any of the chairmanship roles. On Wednesday, 12 June the Opening Plenary formally appointed Senator Mitchell, General de Chastelain and Mr. Holkeri to these chairmanships. I, and other members of the Government negotiating team — like each of the other negotiating teams — have, of course, been in intensive and ongoing contact with Senator Mitchell and his colleagues since the negotiations began. We are very fortunate to have secured the services of three such distinguished personalities, whose skills and dedication have already been amply demonstrated.
Following the formal opening of the negotiations on 10 June by the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister, the Government has been represented at political level by a team drawn from myself, the Minister for Justice, the Minister for Social Welfare, the Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Minister of State, Deputy Coveney and the Attorney General. This allows us the flexibility to be represented in a variety of formations, depending on the subject matter and the particular stage reached in discussion. A list setting out the details of attendance on particular days is being circulated in the Official Report. Officials have also been present throughout.
The ground rules establish the basic parameters for the Strand II negotiations. They will cover relationships within the island of Ireland and will involve the British and Irish Governments and the political parties participating in the negotiations. As I indicated earlier, formal meetings in Strand II will be chaired by General de Chastelain. Negotiations will take place on the basis of an agreed agenda and in appropriate formations as agreed by the participants. On 6 June the two Governments put forward a draft agenda for Strand II, but this has yet to be considered by the other participants in the negotiations. The ground rules also state that Strand II negotiations will take place in Belfast, Dublin and London, at times agreed by the business committee. No precise arrangements have yet been made.
As regards the venues for the other elements of the negotiations, meetings in Strand I will take place at Castle Buildings, Belfast; the two Governments will determine where Strand III meetings will take place; and the business committee shall determine the venue of its meetings.
As I stated when last answering questions in this House, on 30 May: "the Government's approach will be based on the Framework Document. While it is intended as an aid to negotiations and not as a rigid blueprint to be imposed, both Governments have stated that it sets out a realistic, balanced and achievable framework for agreement". The Taoiseach reiterated the commitment of the Government to the Framework Document in his address at the opening of the negotiations on 10 June. Ultimately, of course, it is for the participants themselves to determine the outcome of the negotiations.
As regards treatment of the decommissioning issue, the two Governments maintain their joint commitment, originally stated in the communiqué of 28 February, that as one of a number of confidence-building measures all participants would need to address, at the beginning of the discussions, the International Body's proposals on decommissioning. In the documents, published on 6 June, the two Governments also confirmed their commitment to all aspects of the report of the International Body, including our support for the compromise approach to decommissioning set out in paragraphs 34 and 35. Both Governments agree with the International Body that this approach provides the opportunity to move forward, and that it is on the basis of working constructively to implement this and all other aspects of the report that the negotiations should be advanced. We confirmed we would work with all the participants to implement all aspects of the report.
The question of how to deal with decommissioning in the negotiations has not yet been agreed, and indeed has not so far been the subject of serious discussion in the negotiations. The conditions for participation in the negotiations remain as set out in the ground rules. All political parties with an electoral mandate deriving from the 30 May elections in Northern Ireland which establish a commitment to exclusively peaceful methods and have shown that they abide by the democratic process are entitled to be involved. Sinn Féin's participation in the negotiations, and the resumption of ministerial dialogue with them, requires the unequivocal restoration of the ceasefire of August 1994.
I continue to urge the Sinn Féin leadership to immediately seek such a restoration. That is the only basis on which the 15 per cent of the Northern Ireland electorate which voted for them — after they had campaigned on the slogan "Vote for Peace"— can be directly represented at the negotiations. The Government wants to see this happen as soon as possible.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the recent IRA atrocities in Adare, Manchester and Osnabruck, which I once again condemn in the strongest possible terms, with the discovery by the Garda of the Clonaslee bomb factory, have added greatly to the anger and doubts of the public about the intentions of the republican movement. It will be for the republican movement to find ways of overcoming these extra obstacles and of demonstrating the credibility of any future statement that the ceasefire has been restored.
The Government continues to be open to communication with Sinn Féin at official level. In the period leading up to 10 June, we used official channels to convey to Sinn Féin our conviction that the arrangements being put in place for the negotiations were fair and balanced, and our determination to ensure that the negotiations would be serious and comprehensive. While we will continue to keep channels of communication open as appropriate, I must make clear the view of the Government that the restoration of the IRA ceasefire is not a matter for negotiation, but rather a matter where the most urgent action is required by the leaders of the republican movement themselves.
I repeat the assurances given by the Government to the House that all possible action will be taken to prevent further IRA outrages, and the resources of the State fully deployed in pursuing the perpetrators of crime, from whatever quarter they come.
Ministerial Attendance At Multi-Party Negotiations
Week 1 (10-12 June)
Tánaiste (10-12 June)
Minister for Justice (10-12 June)
Minister for Social Welfare (10-12 June)
Minister for Equality and Law Reform (10-11 June)
Attorney General (10-11 June)
Week 2 (17-19 June)
Tánaiste (19 June)
Minister for Justice (19 June)
Minister for Social Welfare (19 June)
Minister for Equality and Law Reform (19 June)
Minister of State Coveney (19 June)
Attorney General (17-19 June)
Week 3 (24-27 June)
Minister for Equality and Law Reform (24-25 June)
Minister of State Coveney (24-27 June)
Attorney General (24-25 June)
Week 4 (1-4 July)
Minister of State Coveney (1-4 July).