Priority Questions.

Emigrant Welfare.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

1 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, following the United States mid-term elections, his Department has made renewed contact with the relevant authorities in the US to support the Kennedy and McCain immigration reform proposals; the position with regard to these proposals; the steps being taken by his Department to bolster the chances of these proposals coming into effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39720/06]

The welfare of the undocumented Irish in the United States is an issue of the highest priority for the Government. I continue to raise our concerns in all my dealings with key figures in the US Administration and Legislature, including during a wide-ranging discussion which I had recently with the new US Ambassador.

In the period since the mid-term elections, I have written to a number of senior US legislators to congratulate them on the outcome of the elections. In doing so, I have taken the opportunity to emphasise again the Government's deep interest in the issue of the undocumented. Our ambassador in Washington is also active in highlighting our concerns in his ongoing contacts with the incoming congressional leadership. The consulates are also active on this issue at state level.

I travelled to New York after the elections, where I discussed the prospects for immigration reform with a range of contacts there. I met again with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, ILIR, an organisation that is most effective in promoting awareness within the US of the Irish dimension to the undocumented issue. This was the third in a series of meetings that I have had with the ILIR since September and it provided a valuable opportunity to review the position following the elections.

I look forward to a further intensification of the Government's efforts on behalf of the undocumented in the period ahead, in particular with key members of the incoming Congress. Overall, my initial assessment is that the recent elections have given a boost to the prospects for reform, though the issue of comprehensive immigration reform remains difficult and divisive both in Congress and in the United States generally.

In view of this, I greatly appreciate the firm commitment to a comprehensive and sympathetic solution that Senator Kennedy, Senator McCain and others continue to promote. Although the existing legislative proposals will lapse with the outgoing Congress, we can anticipate renewed examination of this important issue in 2007. In particular, I welcome the intention of Senators Kennedy and McCain to bring forward proposals in the incoming Congress that will reflect the approach they have long promoted. The recent reiteration by President Bush of his commitment to comprehensive reform is a further positive contribution to the debate.

The Government's efforts on behalf of our undocumented citizens in the United States will continue to be accorded the highest priority in the critical period ahead.

The outcome of the US mid-term elections has been heartening. The indications from the Democrats that they are in favour of immigration reform show there is hope at last on this matter. I am glad the Minister raised this issue at an early stage in the changeover of power. With the Democrats now in the driving seat, does the Minister envisage real progress on this matter? Does he expect the Democrat Party to give it top priority?

Has the Minister ever broached the subject of a visa exchange programme between the US and Ireland, similar to the one that operates between the US and Chile and the US and Australia? This would not only give Irish people access to the US labour market but would also give American citizens the opportunity to work here.

Following the election there is undoubtedly a different landscape. A number of the members of both the Democrat Party and the Republican Party who are favourably disposed to immigration reform have been re-elected, some with sizeable majorities. A number of congressmen who were on the other side of the argument and promoted strict border controls suffered in the election. There is a feeling, given the different political landscape, that there will be a better opportunity for reform in the coming months. That is one of the reasons I travelled to the US, including New York recently. I hoped to assess the situation, particularly from Niall O'Dowd and Grant Lally of the ILIR and a number of their officers. I was also anxious to hear from other people who have been involved with this issue.

However, there are some members of the Democrat Party who would not necessarily favour immigration reform. There are a number of reasons for this, not least the issue of labour supply and trade union issues. These have a strong influence in the Democrat Party policy mix. If we can conduct a little preparation work between now and Christmas, which is, in effect, the lame duck session, I hope we will be able to renew the lobbying campaign with some vigour. We discussed how that could be promoted with the ILIR, as well as how that organisation envisages the next few months. I am hopeful there will be substantial progress in that respect in the first half of next year.

With regard to bilateral arrangements, we are examining all the options. However, our primary responsibility and priority is dealing with the undocumented issue once and for all and in a way that will be relatively easy for the people concerned. There are a number of other suggestions regarding bilateral arrangements which might not necessarily assist the undocumented and might make matters even more difficult for them. Our first priority, which is based on the advice we receive from people such as Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator John McCain, is a comprehensive reform package. We will continue to lobby for that.

Foreign Conflicts.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

2 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Ireland proposes to take further initiatives at national or European level to address the tragic and deteriorating situation in Darfur which has led to loss of life, dispossession and violence against the person on a scale that constitutes genocide; if Ireland, as proposed to him at the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, will organise and facilitate an international peace conference at Foreign Minister level of all parties in the region as a preparatory step for a meeting to agree an accord for peace at heads of state level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39723/06]

The crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan continues to be a matter of the gravest concern for the Government. While there have been some limited signs of progress on the political front, the security and humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.

On 16 November 2006 in Addis Ababa, the UN Secretary General and the chairperson of the Commission of the African Union co-chaired a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and of a number of African states, including Sudan. The EU was represented by its special representative for Sudan. The meeting considered three areas: the need to re-energise the peace process, the establishment of a strengthened ceasefire and the way forward for peacekeeping in Darfur.

It was agreed that the UN and the African Union should within 15 days organise a meeting between the signatories and the non-signatories of the May 2006 Darfur peace agreement, with a view to reaching agreement before the end of 2006 on the amendments to this peace agreement which would enable the non-signatories to adhere to it. Former OAU Secretary General, Dr. Salim Salim, who chaired the Abuja peace negotiations, will lead this process.

The meeting also called on all parties to the conflict in Darfur to commit immediately to a cessation of hostilities to facilitate the continuation of the political process. The Government of Sudan was strongly urged to work with the non-signatories of the Darfur peace agreement on ceasefire related issues. Due to the regional dimensions of the conflict, Chad and Sudan were urged to stop hostilities along their common border in Darfur and respect previous peace commitments.

Taking account of the UN Secretary General's proposals for a phased approach towards a strengthened peacekeeping operation in Darfur, the meeting agreed on the expansion of the UN's provision of personnel, aviation and logistical support to AMIS, the African Union's ceasefire monitoring mission in Darfur. More significantly, agreement in principle was reached on the deployment of a hybrid AU-UN force in Darfur, capable of contributing to the restoration of security, the protection of civilians, ensuring full humanitarian access and implementing the security aspects of the Darfur peace agreement. However, important issues remain to be resolved, including the size of the force and its command, control and reporting arrangements.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

I welcome these developments, especially the agreement in principle on a hybrid UN-AU force. However, early acceptance by Sudan on the outstanding issues is essential. Sudan is to give its considered response at the next meeting of the African Union's Peace and Security Council on 29 November.

The UN and the AU are currently trying to reactivate the Darfur political process and are, in my view, best placed to do so, as distinct from an individual country initiative, however well intentioned. Ireland strongly supports their efforts. In pursuit of this, and given Egypt's major regional role and its significant weight in both the African Union and the Arab League, I wrote to the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs on 17 November to urge his Government to bring every possible influence to bear on the Sudanese President to deliver on the Addis Ababa agreement.

I very much thank the Minister for his reply. I welcome the fact we will have an opportunity to discuss a motion on Darfur early next week in plenary session.

Is the Minister concerned that what is taking place in Darfur is a test of the United Nations commitment to the concept of humanitarian protection? Put more bluntly, is it not an abuse of sovereignty to prevent the United Nations from intervening more appropriately?

Is the Minister concerned at the figures given what is needed to resource the current mission? The international response falls very much short of the $350 million in aid that was deemed necessary. Also, there is a serious shortage in logistical capacity. Frankly, there are more troops, police, aircraft and other transport required if the African Union is to make an impact. This is at the core of the issue and it is with reluctance I say it, but my question mentions dispossession and violence against the person. It seems that most of the criteria for defining genocide are met by what is happening in Sudan. Perhaps the most important issue of all, which I should like the Minister to respond to, perhaps next week, is Sudan's reluctance to attend anything other than a Heads of State meeting. Should there be a meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers, as I indicated at the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, which would serve as the first phase of the United Kingdom proposal for a Heads of State meeting dealing comprehensively with the region?

What was the first issue?

The first issue was about the concept of humanitarian protection, which the UN is seeking to advance.

On many occasions, particularly at GAERT meetings, I have said that in the context of the UN reform issue this is the first opportunity we have to put into practice the principle of responsibility to protect. Ireland and a number of other countries such as Denmark have said at the start of the current phase of difficulties in Sudan that if the sanctions are not sufficient to put pressure on the Sudanese Government, we will have to move to plan B. Plan B is the upward escalation of sanctions, but when to intervene is the key issue. The fact is some progress has been made and it is not a simple matter. Having visited Sudan in July, I know it is not a simple issue of just sending in a UN force. I see that clearly, and when I left Sudan I believed strongly that the situation we have now arrived at would occur, namely, that there is agreement by the Sudanese Government to envisage a much larger UN hybrid mission than the present AMIS initiative. I saw the AMIS mission in July and it was clear it was too small for Darfur, which is similar in size to France. That is why Ireland and other EU countries contributed at a subsequent pledging meeting as regards beefing up the existing AMIS contingent. It is a difficult situation in which, thankfully, Mr. Kofi Annan and the UN have been very actively involved in conjunction with the African Union. I am somewhat hopeful this issue can move positively in the near future.

Is the Minister concerned at the enormous gap in the estimates for those who have been killed in the last two years? Some international bodies have given a figure of 50,000 to 60,000, but the most authoritative recent report suggests it is as high as 400,000.

I do not know whether this is a question, but it is hard to put one's finger on the actual number of people killed. However, there is no doubt it runs into hundreds of thousands.

Military Neutrality.

John Gormley

Ceist:

3 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, the Government will reconsider its decision to allow the US military to use Shannon Airport; his views on whether the war in Iraq has destabilised the country and been counterproductive and that the coalition forces should set a deadline for withdrawal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39807/06]

The Government has no plans to reconsider the long-standing policy of successive Governments to extend landing and overflight facilities to US military aircraft. The policy was endorsed by the House, following an extensive debate, on 20 March 2003. US military aircraft have been landing in and overflying Ireland for more than 50 years. I recall the Taoiseach's statement to the Dáil on 20 March 2003, that "the withdrawal of such facilities at this time could not but be seen, by any objective observer, as a radical and far-reaching change in our foreign policy".

The reality is that the international forces serving in Iraq are operating at the explicit request of the Iraqi Government and under UN mandate. The presence of the multinational force was authorised initially by the UN Security Council under Resolution 1511 of October 2003, which urged member states to contribute assistance under the UN mandate. That mandate has since been renewed twice. All three of these resolutions were adopted unanimously by the Security Council, including Muslim and Arab states. The current mandate expires at the end of December. The Iraqi Government has asked the Security Council to further extend it, and this will be considered by the Council in the coming weeks.

The Government shares the widespread concern at the extremely difficult situation in Iraq. Developments have been dominated by the continuing deterioration in the security situation, and in particular the terrible consequences of the spiralling cycle of sectarian violence. There is currently no sign that the insurgency and the inter-communal violence across the country are being brought under control. It is clear they are effectively blocking the political and reconstruction efforts of Iraq's first fully sovereign and democratic government and parliament. The worst violence has been between Shia and Sunni groups in Baghdad and central Iraq, but there has also been an increase in violence in the south of the country. The Kurdish area in the north has largely been unaffected by the violence, although there are dangerous signs of ethnic tensions in the disputed city of Kirkuk.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

As Deputies will be aware, there is a major policy debate under way regionally and internationally on how the terrible violence in Iraq can be ended and stability and prosperity established. It is clear there are no easy solutions. The question of the withdrawal of international forces naturally arises as one option. We look forward to the day when Iraq can provide for its own security needs. I have no doubt this is also the firm objective of Iraq's political leaders, and indeed of the countries providing troops to the multinational force. Until now the Iraqi Government has made it very clear that it believes it still needs this support, and that an early withdrawal could lead to a further deterioration in the political and security situation across the country.

There is an onus on the international community as a whole, whatever the differences over the invasion of Iraq in 2003, to work together to do what is possible to help provide a better future for the Iraqi people. A secure and peaceful Iraq can be assured through the maintenance of its territorial integrity, the development of shared political and other institutions, and strong links with all the countries of the neighbouring region.

The Minister started by trotting out the usual rubbish about this being long-standing policy. It is not a long-standing policy. I remind him that in the Horgan case, Mr. John Rogers, SC, made it very clear that between 1945 and 1991 successive Irish Governments imposed very strict limitations on the use of Irish territory, even in peacetime. It allowed US troops transit on Irish territory only if they were unarmed, not engaged in war and not even engaged in military operations. I remind the Minister that a document from the security policy section of his Department, dated 16 December 2002, revealed that what was occurring at Shannon was not, in fact, normal, but rather "entirely exceptional". The text noted quite explicitly that on an exceptional basis a decision was taken to provide landing and refuelling facilities, pursuant to the State's obligation under a UN Security Council resolution. That is what it says, so for the Minister to say this is normal practice is nonsense. The fact is the Minister continues to kow-tow to George W. Bush. He and others who have supported the war in Iraq have been proven completely wrong. As I said in the question, the war has proven to be entirely counterproductive.

The Minister mentioned various UN resolutions. When he reads Resolution 1546, which refers to meeting the needs of the Iraqi people for security and stability, humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, will he agree that what exists is not stability? I should like the Minister to look at the facts on the ground, where 100,000 Iraqis are leaving each month, where the US central command in a classified briefing paper in mid-October said the situation was close to chaos, which the CIA confirmed, and where successive opinion polls in Iraq show that the US troops should get out if there is to be stability. Why does the Minister completely ignore all the facts and continue with a policy which the Irish people opposes? Some 100,000 people came out on the streets of Dublin to say they did not want this war.

They do not want the Government to hand over our airports to the US for a war that is entirely counterproductive and which has sown the seeds for further terrorism. Does the Minister agree the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld presents an opportunity to reassess this failed policy?

It is somewhat ironic that Deputy Gormley, when discussing Question No. 2, was advocating the sending of UN-mandated forces to Darfur to stop a conflict in that region considering that he is now suggesting that we oppose a UN-mandated presence in Iraq.

It is not working.

Leaving aside the sharp differences of opinion on whether the invasion of Iraq should have taken place, the fact of the matter is——

The Government supported it.

No, we did not. In 2003, the Dáil voted in favour of participating in the granting of access to Shannon Airport. Under the resolutions, which have been passed unanimously——

By Government majority.

Deputy Allen may intervene but I am not sure where the Labour Party, Green Party and Fine Gael stand on this matter. Fine Gael said quite clearly that troops should continue to use Shannon Airport. Deputy Rabbitte of the Labour Party said at a recent conference that he did not envisage troops not using the airport, although this was contrary to a remark made by Deputy Broughan.

This is a Green Party question.

We know where the Green Party stands but the reality is that all three parties are on different wavelengths.

Not at all.

It is easy to believe that sitting where they are sitting. If they are ever on this side of the House——

We will be.

Will they? If so, it will be very interesting to see what they will do about Shannon Airport.

Will Deputy Sargent be coming with Deputy Gormley?

The Government is adhering to a UN mandate, which has been extended unanimously until the end of this year and which the Iraqi Government has asked to be renewed. Is Deputy Gormley suggesting that the international forces, including US troops, be removed from Iraq, thus making circumstances in that country worse than they are today?

The Government should set a deadline.

Acting Chairman

The time for the question has expired.

On a point of order, the Minister did not answer my question on the so-called long-standing agreement.

It is a long-standing agreement.

There is no long-standing agreement.

Acting Chairman

That is not a point of order.

I have outlined my reason. There is no long-standing agreement.

Shannon has been used for 50 years during many world conflicts.

That is complete rubbish and I have outlined why.

The Deputy should check his history.

Foreign Conflicts.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

4 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has expressed to the Israeli Government his condemnation of the recent death of civilians in the Gaza Strip following Israeli military activity; if he has raised the continuing demolition of houses in east Jerusalem with his Israeli counterpart; if he has discussed with his European counterparts the latest statement from Hamas, in which both recognition of Israel and the two-state solution in the Middle East are rejected; if he has communicated the concern of the Irish Government regarding this statement to the Palestinian National Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39721/06]

The Government is deeply concerned by the situation in the occupied territories, and especially by the toll of death and destruction in Gaza. We have conveyed our position clearly and consistently in direct contacts with the relevant parties, including the Israeli Government. We have been to the fore in the formulation of EU policy positions on the issues involved and have played a prominent role at UN level. We will continue to do so actively.

Deputies will be aware that I condemned unreservedly the killing of 18 civilians in the shelling of Beit Hanoun by the Israeli Defence Forces on 8 November. I also condemned the killing of an Israeli woman in rocket attacks on Sderot on 15 November. The Government has continued to call for an immediate end to all violence, including the Israeli military operation in Gaza and the firing of rockets on Israel from Palestinian territory.

The General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels on 13 November strongly deplored the Israeli military action in Gaza and the unacceptable military operation in Beit Hanoun. On 17 November, an emergency special session of the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution, which was introduced by the Palestinian delegation, calling on Israel to cease immediately military operations that endanger the Palestinian civilian population and to withdraw its forces from within the Gaza Strip to the positions they occupied prior to 28 June. The resolution also calls on the Palestinian Authority to take immediate and sustained action to bring an end to violence, including the firing of rockets into Israeli territory. Following intensive co-ordination within the EU, Ireland and all other EU member states voted in favour of the resolution.

The continuing violence and the serious humanitarian situation in Gaza underline the urgent need to revive a credible peace process in the Middle East. We strongly support the efforts of President Abbas to negotiate the formation of a Palestinian national unity government with Hamas and the other Palestinian groupings, and our representative in Ramallah has conveyed this to him directly. Given the context, it is not surprising that these negotiations have proved difficult and that agreement has not yet been reached. In recent weeks there has been some evidence of differences of emphasis and approach in a number of statements by spokesmen for Hamas.

I have stated on many occasions that if agreement can be reached on a Government committed to a two-state solution and based clearly on an end to violence, Ireland will argue strongly for a generous and creative political response from the EU and the international community.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

The EU has stated that a Government with a platform reflecting the Quartet principles and allowing for early engagement would be a partner for the international community in re-launching the peace process.

The Government and our EU colleagues continue to impress on the Israeli Government the urgent need to end all practices in the occupied territories which threaten to undermine the viability of a two-state solution and which are in contravention of international law. These include the continuing expansion of settlements, the construction of the separation barrier on occupied land and the practice of the demolition of Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem. The EU also continues to make it clear that it will recognise no changes to the pre-1967 borders other than those negotiated between the parties as part of a final status agreement.

Does the Minister really believe the Israeli Government gives a damn what the Irish Government or European Union believe? It totally ignores calls for a reasonable approach in addressing the issues concerning Gaza. If the Irish Government or European Union has any intention of taking effective action regarding the events in Gaza and south Hebron, it should bear this in mind. I saw where a health centre and school had been levelled. The cave people, whose ancestors have been living in the region for 2,000 years, have had their caves destroyed. Instead of heeding a request for tolerance by a delegation from the Irish Parliament——

They made arrests.

——the Israeli authorities levelled one of the community centres two days later and arrested a number of people we had met.

Does the Minister agree that Hamas's recent rejection of the two-state approach is unhelpful and totally contrary to what the European Union believes? Does he agree that, without some tolerance on the part of Hamas, there is no hope of peaceful coexistence between Israel and a sovereign Palestinian state?

We should not give up hope. While I accept that some of the utterances by Hamas on the two-state solution have been unhelpful, it must be acknowledged that it is the international community, and not just the European Union, that advocates such a solution. The involvement of the Union has been upscaled recently and it is interesting to note that, over the past year, it has increased its aid allocation to Palestine by 30%. There has been a 40% increase in the allocation of the Irish Government. Although there has been a ramping up in aid, we fully accept the humanitarian situation in the region is dire. However, a solution will only be reached if a viable Government is formed and that is one reason the European Union has been trying its level best to assist Hamas and President Abbas in putting together a national unity Government. We believed we were close to doing so in recent days and weeks but, unfortunately, the process is taking somewhat longer. Until the parties involved acknowledge the two-state solution as the only viable way in which the people can live side by side, the region will continue to be subject to flux.

The European Union has launched a number of initiatives. A recent one spearheaded by three countries, including Spain, contains a number of positive features we believe could be taken on board. The French were involved to some extent. However, the conflict ultimately must be dealt with in the context of the international community, under the guise of the Quartet, pushing the two-state solution. It is a question of encouraging the people I hope will be going into government in Palestine to recognise what are regarded in this House as democratic norms, including adherence to non-violence. They must recognise that Israel is a democratic country. It is understandable that one may have difficulties with the attitude of the Israelis in view of what has happened but we must be conscious that it is not a one-sided issue.

Did the Minister approach the Israeli ambassador to express our condemnation of the recent acts of barbarism by the sovereign Israeli Government?

My views in that regard have been put on record on a number of occasions. The Deputy will be aware that we called in the Israeli ambassador to state very clearly our grave concern at what happened during the recent conflict in Lebanon.

I meant Gaza.

There is of course constant contact with the Israeli Embassy in Dublin regarding all those issues, as there is with the Palestinian representative.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

5 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is confident that the St. Andrews timetable will deliver functioning political institutions by March 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39806/06]

The St. Andrews Agreement underpins the Good Friday Agreement, setting out a clear way forward for all parties to commit themselves to the full operation of stable power-sharing government in Northern Ireland and to full support for the policing board. It sets out the practical changes proposed to the operation of the institutions. It also sets out specific commitments in areas such as human rights and equality, arrangements for a financial package and a timetable for implementation.

Consistent with that schedule, the British Government has brought forward draft legislation to make the necessary provisions to allow devolved government to be restored in March 2007. That legislation yesterday completed its passage through the Westminster Parliament.

The legislation provides for a transitional assembly to meet from 24 November to allow the parties to prepare for restoration of the devolved institutions. It includes amendments to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to implement, on restoration, the practical changes to the operation of the institutions agreed at St. Andrews.

It also provides for the electoral endorsement of the St. Andrews Agreement by way of elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 7 March 2007. The British Government has made clear, however, that an election will only take place if the parties are working constructively towards participation in a power-sharing executive by 26 March next year. The legislation explicitly makes provision for the Northern Ireland Assembly to be dissolved at any time before 25 March 2007 if it is considered that there is no reasonable prospect of establishing a power-sharing government. In those circumstances, the governments would move immediately to implement new British-Irish partnership arrangements.

The St. Andrews timetable also envisages regular meetings of the new programme for government committee to enable the parties to agree priorities for the new executive. I was encouraged that the committee met for the first time earlier this week and that it has now begun to address some of the most pressing practical issues that will face the restored executive. We expect those preparations to intensify from tomorrow, once the transitional assembly gets down to business, and we will be working with the parties in the incoming executive over the coming months to assist them in their preparations.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

The Government firmly believes that the St. Andrews Agreement, implemented in good faith, will clear the way for the restoration of the devolved institutions of the Good Friday Agreement on 26 March next year. The process will of course continue to require careful management over the coming weeks and months to bring it to a successful completion. All parties will have to play their part in ensuring that the timetable is met. For its part, the Government will continue to work in close partnership with the British Government, as well as with the parties, to secure our over-riding priority, the restoration of power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland and full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Is the Minister aware that, we hope, between 10.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. tomorrow, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams will nominate Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister of the Six Counties Assembly? Does he agree that it is important for the DUP to put forward its nominee, Ian Paisley, for the position of First Minister in line with proposals outlined at St. Andrews and that it is the minimum required by the peace process? Does he also share Sinn Féin's hope that the DUP will come on board the Good Friday Agreement and play a full role in the shared future that it has with the rest of us on the island? Is the Minister aware of the difficulties faced by republicans in sharing power with the DUP, given its violent, sectarian, paramilitary past and anti-republican, anti-Nationalist and anti-equality agenda for nearly four decades? In the event that the DUP once again fails to sign up to share power with Nationalists and republicans on the basis of the agreement, will the two governments move ahead in implementing joint partnership arrangements thereunder? Will he commit himself to standing by the Good Friday Agreement, making it clear that further stalling is unacceptable?

There is greater need than ever for leadership on both sides regarding this issue, and we hope that we will see that tomorrow and in the coming weeks. If we fall at any hurdle, we will move to the situation indicated, namely, plan B. However, that is not the preferred option of either Government. We want devolved government to be restored to Northern Ireland.

Leadership is required on the part of the DUP to show that it is quite prepared to share power with Nationalists under the arrangements laid down in the Good Friday Agreement. Equally, movement is needed on the part of the Deputy's party on policing. We have heard it stated time and time again that it is prepared to move on policing, and now we would like to see the colour of its money in that respect. We would like to see Sinn Féin propose an Ard-Fheis to discuss the issue, one hopes moving positively towards acceptance of policing. That sooner that it happens, the better.

The two Governments have always believed, from the time of their move regarding the culmination of discussions in St. Andrews, that 24 November would be a significant date. On the one hand, it would show clearly that the DUP is willing to sit in government with Nationalists on a power-sharing basis under the Good Friday Agreement. Second, it would show that the Deputy's party was prepared to move on the policing issue.