Priority Questions

Brexit Issues

Darragh O'Brien


25. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the rights of 1.8 million persons in Northern Ireland to EU citizenship under the Good Friday Agreement will be protected in full after Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18552/17]

In light of the decision of the British people and British Government to lodge the Article 50 letter, will the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade confirm that the right of the 1.8 million people in Northern Ireland to EU citizenship under the Good Friday Agreement will be protected in full by the Irish Government in the post-Brexit Europe? Will he expand on the steps our Government is taking to ensure the fundamental rights of Irish citizens are protected in Northern Ireland and, by extension, their right to EU citizenship?

As a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Government is determined that all aspects of the Agreement will be fully respected through the process of the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union and thereafter. Our priority is to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement and the overall balance of the settlement is not in any way disturbed by the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union. All provisions of the Agreement must be respected, including the fundamental provisions on citizenship and identity.

Under Irish citizenship law, the vast majority of people born on the island of Ireland, including those born in Northern Ireland, are entitled to Irish citizenship. The Good Friday Agreement further provides that the people of Northern Ireland have the right to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, and that the right to hold both British and Irish citizenship would not in any way be affected by any future change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. It is important to state this provision is and will remain unaffected by the UK decision to leave the European Union. Persons who are citizens of Ireland, and therefore also EU citizens, will retain their right to EU citizenship after Brexit and the entitlements that flow from this under EU law.

In the forthcoming EU-UK negotiations, the Government will work to ensure that the continuing EU citizenship of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland can be sustained in a way that is consistent with their unique situation. In this regard, we should be clear that the UK Government also has a major role and responsibility in upholding the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, regardless of the United Kingdom's status within the European Union. The Government has made this point to the UK Government on a number of occasions and will continue to do so.

As part of my engagement with the Secretary of State and with each of the parties in the discussions in recent weeks, I have strongly emphasised the critical importance of forming a new Executive so that Northern Ireland's interests can be effectively represented as part of the process of the EU-UK negotiations that are about to commence. I very much hope that the necessary agreement between the parties will be reached on the formation of the Executive as soon as possible so that it can directly represent the interests of the people of Northern Ireland in these negotiations, which are of major significance.

I thank the Minister for the response. We would or should all agree that anyone born in Dungannon, Belfast or Newry is as Irish as anyone born in Swords, Malahide or Skerries and that their rights need to be protected. On foot of that, their right to EU citizenship needs to be protected. I welcome the Minister's response but I have a concern over the manner in which the British Government has approached this subject. Warm words and reassurances from the London Government really are not enough and certainly do not give solace to most people in the North considering the manner in which they have been treated so far. Will the Minister enlighten me further, following his discussions with the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. James Brokenshire, on whether the British have confirmed absolutely that the rights of Irish citizens will be extended to include the right to EU citizenship after Brexit and that anyone born in Northern Ireland after whatever agreement comes into place between Britain and the European Union will have a right to EU citizenship by extension? Under the Good Friday Agreement, they have a right to Irish citizenship.

I want to make it quite clear that all those persons who are citizens of Ireland are EU citizens and that, after Brexit, assuming that the United Kingdom leaves the European Union in two years or whatever extended period thereafter that is deemed appropriate, all of these citizens will fully retain their right to EU citizenship and all the entitlements that flow from it in accordance with EU law. In the case of Northern Ireland, this is further underpinned by the right to identify and be accepted as Irish or British, or both. This is one of the major pillars or priorities for the UK withdrawal. When we list our priorities and speak about the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, we noted that a pillar of that uniqueness is the fact that all citizens living in Northern Ireland are entitled to Irish citizenship and, therefore, EU citizenship.

I thank the Minister. We want respect for the Good Friday Agreement to form part of the Brexit agreement. The British Government will have to buy into this, as will the European Union. I seek that after 2020, for argument's sake, people born in Belfast or elsewhere in the North who rightly claim the right to Irish citizenship will be conferred automatically with EU rights and EU citizenship. Is it the case that that specific arrangement will require the agreement of the European Union and Britain as part of the Brexit discussions and whatever agreement emerges from the negotiations over the next two years? Will the Minister now confirm completely that this will be the case and that the citizenship rights underwritten by the Good Friday Agreement will be protected by the co-guarantor of the Agreement, the Irish Government?

It is too early to discuss in detail, or in terms of small print, the potential impact of the withdrawal process but I assure the House and the Deputy once again that, since the outcome of the referendum in the United Kingdom, we have been extremely clear that all the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement must be fully recognised and respected following the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union. We have been engaging extensively with all EU member states and institutions on this priority. There is a very good understanding among our EU partners of the importance of the Good Friday Agreement and, indeed, the peace process to the people of the island of Ireland. This is reflected in the inclusion of a specific reference to Ireland's priorities in the European Council draft negotiating guidelines and the Brexit resolution adopted by the European Parliament recently. The extensive and diplomatic engagement of recent months has been effective in this regard. This, of course, will continue. I would be very happy to keep the Deputy fully briefed and the House fully informed. The circumstances on the island of Ireland are most definitely unique and will need to be factored into the final negotiation detail.

Foreign Conflicts

Seán Crowe


26. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that ETA has announced that, on 8 April 2017, it will decommission its weapons; his views on whether the Spanish Government should seize this historic moment and enter into a formal peace process to deal with other outstanding issues, especially concerning prisoners; and if he will offer his Department's support to any initiative to establish a formal peace process. [18577/17]

I tabled this question after the historic decision by the Basque separatist organisation ETA to decommission all its remaining weapons. On Saturday, an international verification commission received information from Basque civil society representatives on eight weapons dumps that contained all ETA's remaining weapons. This comes six years after ETA declared an end to its armed struggle. There are still considerable and unresolved issues. To find a resolution to outstanding issues, the Spanish and French Governments need to enter formal dialogue that will lead to negotiation. Given Ireland's own successful approach, will the Minister formally raise this issue with the Spanish and French Governments?

I assure the Deputy the Government has supported and encouraged efforts aimed at securing peace and stability in the Basque country. The Government welcomed the declaration by ETA of October 2011 that the organisation had decided on "a definitive cession of its armed activity". I issued a statement last Saturday welcoming the decision of ETA to decommission its weapons.

I stated this was a significant and welcome step towards the disbandment of a terrorist organisation that has inflicted great suffering on the people in two fellow EU member states, France and Spain.

I repeat here that democracy and dialogue are the only legitimate means of resolving conflict. We must also never forget the victims of terrorism; those who have died and those for whom pain and suffering still endure.

We will, of course, continue to support peace and stability but further steps which might be taken are not primarily matters for the Irish Government. I assure the House that we will keep a close eye on the situation in the Basque region and in France and Spain, as well as on the consequences in respect of that peace process.

ETA's disarming came about through a unique collaboration between international organisation and a vast array of civil society actors, ranging from churches to trade unions. The Archbishop of Bologna, Monsignor Matteo Zuppi, and the Rev. Harold Good from the North of Ireland witnessed ETA's decommissioning. Will the Minister join me in commending them on their work and all the work of those volunteers who facilitated this process?

Unfortunately, up until now the Spanish Government has dramatically refused to recognise the international verification commission and has stated its opposition to any involvement by third-party mediators. In a bizarre twist, instead of working towards a peace process, the Spanish Government went out of its way to place obstacles in front of ETA giving up its weapons. In December, five members of Basque civil society, who were aiding the peace process and dealing with the issue of decommissioning, were arrested by French police after a request from the Spanish Government.

The Minister stated he welcomed this significant peace initiative. Does the Government see any leadership role in this peace building for the Spanish and French Governments in order to build a fair, comprehensive and irreversible peace in the Basque country and will the Minister join me in calling for an end to the repressive policy and punishment and dispersal of more than 300 Basque prisoners in jails hundreds of kilometres away from the homes?

I have already stated the Irish Government supports any development towards peace and stability. While I agree with the Deputy that there are circumstances in which the experience of our own peace process on the island of Ireland can provide insight and perspective, obviously the Deputy will agree with me that each conflict situation has its own specific characteristics and its own requirements. There is no universal or easily transferable formula to be drawn down.

I wish to assure the Deputy. Indeed, I note the statements over the weekend of my counterpart, the French Foreign Minister, as well as statements of the Spanish Government. We will, of course, continue to offer support for peace and stability but any particular further steps which might be taken are not matters primarily for the Irish Government.

I accept they are not primarily roles for the Irish Government but would the Minister agree that this initiative by ETA is a unique opportunity that must not be squandered? Does the Minister see a leadership or important interventionist role for the Irish Government in this matter? Will the Irish Government appeal to the Spanish and French Governments to demonstrate a more positive approach in their response to these developments, and as I said, for the Spanish Government to adopt a different approach to those Basque politically motivated prisoners? I again ask whether the Minister sees a positive intervention role for Ireland. Many Irish politicians have tried to lend their weight to bringing about a process and up until now, the Spanish Government has been reluctant to get involved in this initiative. On the back of the positive developments at the weekend, is there not something more the Government could be doing?

We will continue to offer any assistance that might in the circumstances be required. If the Deputy is urging the Irish Government to take an interventionist role in this, that certainly would not be the intention of the Irish Government. We will continue to support the peace process. We will continue to encourage all and any efforts aimed at securing peace and stability in the region but it is certainly not for us to pronounce on what a fellow EU government should or should not do in these circumstances. However, I acknowledge the work of those individuals who have been referenced by the Deputy.

Brexit Issues

Darragh O'Brien


27. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if consideration has been given to the need for new formal structures for dialogue to be established between the Irish and British Governments in view of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18553/17]

In light of Britain's decision to leave the European Union and the moving of the formal letter, has the Government given consideration to the need for new formal structures for dialogue to be established between Ireland and Britain and, indeed, between the Irish and British Governments? Can the Minister outline whether any discussions or preparations are in train at this early stage?

Ireland has a strong and constructive relationship with the United Kingdom and with our EU partners and we are fully committed to maintaining both in the new set of circumstances which will emerge once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

There are numerous channels for Irish-British engagement and both Governments are making extensive and effective use of them. Some of these fora were developed in the context of the Good Friday Agreement and some of them were established more recently or have evolved and developed over the years to reflect the close relationship between these islands. They all will be used to the full, not least given the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.

These channels include the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, the British-Irish Council, the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and a formal process established in 2012 involving summits between the Taoiseach and the UK Prime Minister, supported by a joint work programme managed at official level by the heads of all Departments in both Dublin and London.

At political level, there are ongoing and frequent contacts across all policy areas. In addition to regular meetings the Taoiseach and I would have with our counterparts, Government colleagues meeting their UK counterparts recently have included the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Social Protection and the Minister for Education and Skills.

In terms of our diplomatic resources, our embassy in London is and will remain our largest bilateral embassy in the world. In fact, given the UK exit from the European Union and with a view towards helping to strengthen bilateral links in a post-Brexit context, two additional diplomatic officers have been assigned to the embassy in London. We also have a consulate general in Edinburgh, for which I approved an additional diplomat in 2015, while the footprint of our trade, tourism and investment agencies in Britain is and will continue to be significant.

Regarding formal structures, the next summit of the British-Irish Council, BIC, is scheduled to take place in Northern Ireland in June of this year, with the previous meeting having taken place in Cardiff in November last. BIC meetings such as these provide Ireland with valuable opportunities to engage with devolved Administrations in the UK, while there are 12 specific work sectors being addressed at ministerial and official level all year round. The summit meetings since the UK referendum have also included specific sessions on Brexit, in doing so, reflecting a capacity for flexibility in issues being discussed at them.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

In terms of individual devolved Administrations, I point to the fact that the Irish Government has taken particular care to maintain close contacts with the Scottish and Welsh Governments, with the First Minister, Ms Sturgeon, visiting Dublin in November 2016 and the Taoiseach meeting the Welsh First Minister, Mr. Carwyn Jones, in Cardiff last month.

The formal structures also include the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, which comes within the architecture of the Good Friday Agreement and whose function is to bring together the British and Irish Governments to promote bilateral co-operation at all levels on all matters of mutual interest within the competence of both Governments.

The conference has traditionally focused on issues of mutual concern relating to Northern Ireland where its remit is non-devolved matters, that is, those which are reserved to the British Government and Westminster rather than the Northern Ireland Executive and assembly. As the scope of non-devolved matters in Northern Ireland has become quite narrow over recent years, there has been no business need for the conference to meet at political level. However, its secretariat - made up of Irish and British civil servants - continues to be an important day-to-day channel of contact between both Governments and the Irish officials assigned to the secretariat constitute the Irish Government presence in Belfast.

Parliamentary links are also vitally important and will be more crucial than ever once the UK departs from the EU. I myself will be delivering an address at the next plenary meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, to be held in Kilkenny in May 2017. This Assembly and its committees meet regularly to examine areas of shared importance across the member jurisdictions - Ireland, the UK, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and what are known as the Crown dependencies - and this includes Brexit. I am also heartened by the regular interaction between other parliamentary committees, which is to be welcomed and encouraged as the withdrawal process continues.

Overall, as Deputies can see from what I have set out, there are extensive arrangements for dialogue with Britain - including ones which offer flexibility in terms of management and policy focus. We will, of course, keep matters under review, including as the details of the UK's new relationship with the EU emerge in the period ahead.

I am quite disappointed with the Minister's response.

Our shared membership of the Union has given both countries a space to build and consolidate trust and to work in a formal way but with Britain's exit, that is at risk. That is why I and my party fundamentally believe that a new Irish-British agreement dealing with matters other than the peace settlement will be required. I do not believe that the mechanisms under the Good Friday Agreement are sufficient. It is clear that with Brexit, it is not business as usual and we cannot go on with this idea that it is. A new British-Irish agreement would be a way of strengthening the links between our countries, in particular, consolidating the links North and South.

From the Minister's answer, the sum total of our response appears to have been the appointment of two additional diplomats in London. That is simply not sufficient.

It shows a lack of vision and a lack of desire to prioritise the relationship between the two countries and consolidate the Good Friday Agreement. We need more than this. We need more than a British-Irish Council and a British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. We need a desire on the part of this Government to stand up for its citizens.

I am not quite sure what new formal institutions the Deputy wishes to see. I again make it quite clear that the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union and the negotiations that are about to commence must take full account of and show the fullest of respect to all the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement. On the basis of our intensive political and diplomatic engagement over the past year, we have received very heartening support from our EU partners in this regard and are now about to pursue these through the formal negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom. We have not been in negotiations with the United Kingdom; we have had discussions. Now we will be in a position to engage through the European Union in the context of the formal negotiations. We will not sell the Good Friday Agreement short. We will not engage in any renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement in response to the British policy of Brexit. The legal and political obligations of both the Irish and British Governments under the Good Friday Agreement remain unchanged, and this will continue-----

The Minister will have another minute to respond.

-----regardless of the status of the UK within the European Union.

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister.

The Minister is missing the point. The mechanisms in place under the Good Friday Agreement have not been utilised over the past five, six or seven years to their full potential and we need to consider adding to them. The most recent summit of the British-Irish Council was held in Cardiff in November 2016. The next one will take place in the North of Ireland in June 2017. It is too loose. We need to consider strengthening these ties post-Brexit but plan for it now. This is not part of the Brexit negotiations. It is a matter of seeking to underpin the Good Friday Agreement and moving on further from it in consideration of what is a potential reality of a future reunification of this country and this island. We cannot just stand still. This Government and the previous one have approached the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement in a very lackadaisical, laissez-faire way. Has Government given any consideration to the establishment of new formal structures for dialogue between Ireland and Britain, and the North and the South?

There are a number of parliamentary structures in which the Deputy himself is involved, for example, the North-South interparliamentary tier and the British-Irish interparliamentary group, which I understand will meet shortly in Kilkenny. I hope to have the opportunity to address that body. I acknowledge the valuable work done by the British-Irish Council, a body referred to by the Deputy, specifically the valuable work it has done over the past year providing a most positive and helpful forum for discussions on Brexit.

Two meetings in six months.

The Taoiseach is in attendance at all times. I believe the use of these bodies will now intensify as the negotiations between the UK and the European Union commence. I acknowledge the importance of the North-South Ministerial Council, which of course cannot meet-----

Which has met 26 times-----

I call the Minister, without interruption.

-----at present because of the absence of an Executive in Northern Ireland.

We have given no consideration-----

We will move on to Question No. 38.

Irish Prisoners Abroad

Paul Murphy


28. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on contacts he and his officials have had with the Egyptian authorities regarding the case of a person (details supplied); if he has raised the person's medical condition with the authorities and sought his release on these grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18698/17]

I was part, with other Deputies, of a delegation to visit Ibrahim Halawa at the start of January. His situation was not good then: he was holding up but clearly desperate. Three months have since passed, another three court adjournments have taken place and, reportedly, his health has taken a significant turn for the worse. He is reportedly in a wheelchair, has been without consciousness and is possibly suffering from a very serious skin disease being spread in the prison hospital. What actions is the Irish Government taking to ensure his health is being taken care of and that he is released as soon as possible?

I take this opportunity to express my horror at the two attacks on Coptic churches in northern Egypt on Sunday. I have spoken with the Egyptian ambassador and have conveyed through her my deepest condolences and those of the Irish Government to the victims and their families.

The consular case referred to by the Deputy continues to be an absolute priority for the Government, and very substantial resources and time are being devoted to it. The case has seen more high level political engagement, more investment of person-hours, more consultation with third parties worldwide and more consular visits and court hearing observation missions undertaken than in any other case to which the Irish Government has ever responded. This is in light of the unique circumstances of the case, in particular the fact that the citizen concerned was a minor at the time of his arrest.

The Government has repeatedly and consistently called on the Egyptian authorities to allow this citizen to return to his family and his home in Ireland. We have supported legal petitions for this man to be returned to Ireland under Egyptian Law 140, we have appealed for him to be considered for release under the Egyptian President's so-called youth amnesty scheme and we have stressed in all contacts the humanitarian dimensions of the case as grounds under which we believe he should be released. The Taoiseach, as the House is aware, has in recent days renewed the Government's appeal to the Egyptian President to release this Irish citizen and return him to Ireland without delay, stressing in particular the humanitarian dimensions of the case. This is the Government's objective, and we are working day-in, day-out to seek that outcome.

I repeated this position when I met my Egyptian counterpart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Shoukry, again last month. In recent days, I have also spoken at length with the EU High Representative, Ms Mogherini, about the case and availed of the opportunity of my meeting with the Secretary General of the Arab League, who is also a former Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, to enlist his assistance in trying to persuade the Egyptian authorities to release our citizen.

The court case in which this person is accused is now moving forward, and recent hearings have been more substantive with shorter periods between court sittings. At the most recent hearing, on 5 April, 11 more witnesses were called and cross-examined and gave evidence. This is important because the Egyptian authorities have consistently said that President el-Sisi and his Government cannot intervene in a case that is before the courts and that the President will only intervene when the trial has ended.

It is also noteworthy that at that most recent hearing the lawyers representing our Irish citizen made a request for his release on health grounds and the presiding judge undertook to examine the matter. The same judge has previously ordered on a number of occasions that there should be medical evaluations of this man's health. The next hearing of the case is scheduled to take place on 26 April. Officials from the Irish Embassy will again be in court to observe proceedings, as they have been at every hearing of the case to date.

For my part, I will continue to work urgently at political level to maintain pressure on the Egyptian Government to release our citizen and allow him to return to his home and his family at the earliest opportunity.

I join the Minister in condemning the terrorist attacks on the Coptic churches in Egypt.

It is not surprising that more hours have gone into this case than others because Mr. Halawa has been in prison for three and a half years. The latest technical file produced for the Egyptian court would seem to confirm the fact that there is no evidence against him of anything other than protesting. The problem is that nothing that has been done so far, including the parliamentary delegation of which I was a part, has worked in releasing our citizen home. What more does the Government intend to do? Was the European External Action Service in attendance at the most recent court case? If not, why not? Are there countries that continue to block the attendance of the EEAS, and is the Government making particular efforts to discuss with those Governments the withdrawal of any such block?

The other issue is that it is all very well for el-Sisi to tell us that he will not release Mr. Halawa until the court case is over, but the court case can go on indefinitely and each court appearance that passes seems to have a bad impact on Ibrahim's spirit, understandably, because the case just seems to stretch indefinitely into the future.

I assure the Deputy that the Government continues to pursue every constructive avenue to achieve the citizen's return to Ireland and we will continue to bring our influence to bear on his behalf through all appropriate channels. I have spoken to a number of my EU colleagues on this issue and, as I said in my initial reply, on the previous occasion, which was last week, I spoke directly to EU High Representative Mogherini on the matter.

This case continues to receive the attention of the Government at the highest level, having regard to the fact that the Taoiseach has again been in direct contact with President el-Sisi of Egypt about the case, as indeed he has on numerous occasions. He met the Egyptian President face to face twice to discuss the case and he has spoken to him by telephone on a number of occasions. He has also has communicated with him in writing on several occasions. In all of those contacts, the Taoiseach has underlined our concerns about the continuing detention of this young man who has been in prison for three and a half years without having been convicted of any offence and who is part of a group trial that has been adjourned on many occasions. Our key focus continues to be acting in the best interests of the citizen. We are working to have him released by the Egyptian authorities and we look forward to that happening.

All of those things have been done, yet Ibrahim remains in prison and his condition is worsening. That is first and foremost what the question is about. I appreciate the fact that a doctor was sent to examine him but then we have to use the evidence of the visit to put extra pressure on the Egyptian authorities and, if possible, to use the evidence in the court case to say that he should be released. We must demand that there is EEAS presence at the next court case and we must also demand, loudly, that he is released. There is no chance of Ibrahim getting a fair trial with 493 other defendants and so the only avenue is to exert every possible political pressure on the Egyptian authorities, which means leveraging EU authority and weight, because it is clear that Irish weight on its own is not sufficient. Is the Minister willing to meet again with the Halawa family to discuss other possible options to increase the pressure on the Egyptian authorities?

There are a number of direct channels between my Department and the Halawa family and also the lawyers and other interested parties that will be pursued. I am, however, very concerned at persistent reports that the citizen in question is not taking food and may be pursuing a hunger strike. I stress that such a course of action should not be pursued as it will only be damaging to his well-being, health and cause. He should look after his health by eating properly and co-operating with medical tests and investigations that are from time to time arranged on his behalf. Reports about his health are a matter of the utmost concern for both my Government colleagues and me. In the light of those concerns we took the unprecedented step last month of making arrangements for an Irish doctor to be nominated by the Chief Medical Officer to visit him in prison to make an assessment of his health and the matter is the subject of ongoing attention.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings

Maureen O'Sullivan


29. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the status of efforts being made in persuading the British Government to comply with the three all-party motions passed by Dáil Éireann regarding the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; his views on whether the delay of more than 40 years is unacceptable; and if there are implications due to Brexit negotiations. [18357/17]

My question relates to the outstanding issues from the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, namely, the three all-party motions that were passed by the Dáil at various stages and the fact that the families of the victims will have been waiting 43 years next month, and if the Brexit negotiations are seen as a positive or negative in moving things forward.

Dealing with long-outstanding issues relating to the legacy of the conflict in Northern Ireland is of primary importance to me, as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, as it is to the Government. A Programme for a Partnership Government highlights this priority, with specific reference to implementation of the all-party Dáil motions relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, as outlined by Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan. The all-party motion on the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings adopted in this House on 25 May last year has, like those adopted in 2008 and 2011, been conveyed to the British Government. The motions call on the British Government to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents relating to those bombings.

The Government is committed to actively pursuing the implementation of the all-party Dáil motions, and has consistently raised the issue with the British Government. The Taoiseach has raised the matter with Prime Minister May, including at their meeting in Dublin on 30 January, emphasising the Government's continued support for the Dáil motions. I have also raised the matter on a number of occasions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire. In our discussions, I have advised him that the Dáil motions represent the consensus political view in Ireland that an independent, international judicial review of all the relevant documents is required to establish the full facts of the atrocities that occurred in Dublin and Monaghan. I have also underlined to the Secretary of State that the absence of a response from the British Government is of deep concern to the Government and the House. I emphasised the urgent need for a response from the British Government. The Secretary of State acknowledged the importance the Government and the Dáil attach to these cases and indicated that the British Government is open to considering how it could respond in a way which would adequately address the motions and be consistent with its obligations. The Government is actively pursuing this matter with the British Government, urging it to provide a satisfactory response to the motions that have been adopted by this House.

We have had quite a few exchanges on the matter and on each occasion the Minister has told me that dealing with the legacy of the past is a major priority and that both he and the Taoiseach have raised the matter with the British Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, stressing its importance. In December, the Taoiseach assured us that he would pursue all possible avenues. As the Minister indicated, the three motions were conveyed to the British Government but nothing has been progressed in terms of the Irish request for an independent, international review of all the relevant documentation. The Barron report went a certain distance, as did the McEntee report, despite the absence of all the documentation. The reasons for the latter are, first, that the British Government did not co-operate in handing over documents - it is still not co-operating - and, second, no Irish Government has pursued this matter with the full vigour required. How close is the Minister to finding a formula that would allow the undisclosed documents to be made available to an international judge or similar person?

I share the Deputy's concerns. It is a matter of regret to me that we have not made greater progress on this long-outstanding issue. I assure the Deputy that officials of the respective Governments are exploring possible ways forward that would be mutually acceptable. Exploratory discussions are under way and we will continue to actively engage with the British Government in order to seek a satisfactory response.

There have been a number of appalling cases from the Troubles in respect of which truth and justice have been secured only after decade-long campaigns by victims, families, survivors, civil society and Government. The Dublin-Monaghan campaign is now one of the longest such campaigns and that must make us all the more determined to continue to pursue the full truth, however long it takes. I assure Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan and the House that we are fully committed to doing that, as reflected in the programme for Government and our consistent action and engagement on the issue.

It is difficult to accept that the British Government is still considering ways that "would adequately address the motions and be consistent with its obligations", which is the official jargon. My question is what about its obligations to the truth and justice for the victims and their families. Advising and being concerned have not brought the Justice for the Forgotten group any closer to justice. If the British Parliament had passed three motions calling on the Irish Government to release certain documents, I do not know whether the British Parliament would be waiting 43 years for their release. I ask that between now and 17 May the necessary vigour that is required for an international judge to be appointed be applied or even for the process to begin to suggest names that might be acceptable to both Governments and Justice for the Forgotten.

I have to acknowledge the group, Justice for the Forgotten, because they would have been forgotten but for their persistent efforts.

I acknowledge what the Deputy has said and share her view regarding the victims' groups and in particular Justice for the Forgotten. I have had an opportunity to meet with representatives of that group on a number of occasions.

I will continue to engage in discussions in Belfast with the Secretary of State and the political parties to ensure we can achieve progress, not only on this case but also in regard to a number of other cases. We need to achieve progress on them in order that the new institutions can be established in Northern Ireland in such a way as to meet the needs of victims and survivors. They can also support the broader societal need for healing and reconciliation.

The Deputy mentioned the anniversary on 17 May and I assure her I will raise the issue once again with the Secretary of State in advance of the forthcoming anniversary. I will have an opportunity to report to the House, including Deputy O'Sullivan, on the progress on this issue, which I accept is long overdue.