Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Ceisteanna (97)

Brendan Howlin


97. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he or his officials have met political leaders from Northern Ireland regarding the Northern Ireland Assembly. [51617/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I met with Sinn Féin along with the Tánaiste on Tuesday, 26th November in Leinster House. Our discussions focussed on the political situation in Northern Ireland and on a time frame for post-election talks. I emphasised the Government’s full commitment to all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement. I believe that there is a real potential window of opportunity very shortly to reach agreement between the parties on the restoration of the Good Friday Agreement Institutions.

As I reported to the House on 27 November, I last met DUP leader Arlene Foster at the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies in Enniskillen on Sunday, 10 November, when we both participated in the laying of wreaths at the cenotaph and attended a remembrance service in St. Macartin's Cathedral.

I spoke to SDLP leader Colum Eastwood by phone on 9th December 2019, when we discussed Brexit, the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive and the influence of Irish MPs in Westminster. I also recently met with Claire Hanna of the SDLP in Government Buildings.

In November, I wrote to the new UUP Leader Steve Aiken to congratulate him on his appointment as party leader.

I have not been in contact with the Alliance Party in recent weeks, although I spoke by phone with Naomi Long Alliance Party leader, on 8 October.

The Tánaiste is in regular contact with all the Northern Party Leaders and keeps me fully briefed on developments. There are also ongoing contacts at official level.

The Tánaiste and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland have confirmed that the two Governments are ready to take talks in Northern Ireland forward again immediately following the UK general election.

We believe finding final agreement on the issues outstanding in these talks can be done in a short period of time. A substantial talks process has already taken place during the period 2017 through 2019. Notwithstanding this, a successful outcome in the weeks ahead will require political will and leadership by the parties.

The Government will continue to do everything in its power, in accordance with its responsibilities as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to secure the restoration and effective operation of all of its institutions.