I propose to take Questions Nos. 32, 33 and 35 together.
It is clear that this is the moment to finally secure an agreement that will restore the Executive, the Assembly and the North-South Ministerial Council to operation. The Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister, Mr. Johnson, spoke on Friday and agreed that achieving this is the top priority for both Governments. If the Executive is not in place by 13 January, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Julian Smith, has stated there will be an Assembly election. Nobody sees this as a desirable outcome. If, however, an agreement cannot be found by then, the people will deserve their say.
I met the Secretary of State in Belfast on Monday and met him again yesterday. We believe that an agreement can be found and done in a matter of days - if the parties are ready to come together and do it. The talks process initiated by the two Governments last May saw real engagement by all the parties, and good progress was made, including on progressing the implementation of outstanding commitments from previous agreements. We do not believe there is any appetite among the people or parties of Northern Ireland for this process to be extended now. What is needed are direct leader-to-leader discussions, political will and political courage. All the parties have shown in the past that they are capable of showing that leadership in the interests of all the people in Northern Ireland.
The statements the party leaders made last week following the general election results, indicating that they recognise that people in Northern Ireland want to see them operating power-sharing institutions and that they need to reach an agreement to get back to doing so, were very welcome and important. The Secretary of State and I have already met the parties separately this week and we will bring them together this afternoon in a round-table format to seek to confirm there is a shared determination to find agreement in the short window available to us. The two Governments, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, will continue to do everything we can to support the parties in this.
I hope the Deputies, all of whom are experienced Teachtaí Dála, will understand that it would probably not be helpful for me to go into the details of what is yet to be finalised or the compromises being discussed. It would probably have a negative impact if I were to start talking about that publicly. What I can say is that the bilateral engagements I have had with the parties and the Secretary of State this week have been good. There are a number of outstanding issues requiring compromises and help from the Governments for the parties to find consensus. I believe we can do this and that now is the time for the parties to come together to re-establish an Executive and a functioning Assembly in order to allow Northern Ireland to make decisions for itself again in so many areas and, from our perspective, to allow the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement to function again for the betterment of the population of this island, both North and South.