Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Ceisteanna (89)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

89. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if legacy issues have been discussed as part of the negotiations in relation to the need to have the Assembly and Executive restored in Northern Ireland. [52767/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

I have engaged extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and with the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland to seek a way forward on implementation of the Stormont House Agreement legacy framework, and will continue to do so in the period ahead.

At the meetings of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and in our regular bilateral meetings, I have strongly emphasised to the Secretary of State the urgency of definitively moving ahead to a legislative phase to get the Stormont House bodies established.  

There were extensive discussions on how to move forward with the establishment of Stormont House legacy framework in the multi-party talks, which the two Governments convened in March 2017, and important progress was made.  

In 2018, the UK Government conducted a public consultation on draft UK legislation to establish the Stormont House institutions.  

In May 2019, the Government welcomed the publication of the summary of responses to the UK Government consultation on addressing the legacy of the Troubles through the framework provided for under the Stormont House Agreement.  

The main message from the vast majority of the 17,000 people and organisations who responded is that the current system needs to be reformed and that legacy issues need to be dealt with in a way that contributes to reconciliation and a better future. Importantly also, there was broad support for doing this by implementing the Stormont House Agreement legacy framework.  

Necessary implementing legislation is being advanced in this jurisdiction. In June, the Minister for Justice and Equality introduced the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Bill 2019, which was approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas and signed into law in July.  

This legislation enhances the co-operation that is being provided to ongoing Coroners’ Inquests in Northern Ireland into historical deaths and it underpins the Government’s commitment to supporting and implementing the framework of measures set out in the Stormont House Agreement.  

Legislation will also be required to establish the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) in both jurisdictions and the Government is advancing drafting of the ICIR Bill.  

Legacy issues have not been extensively discussed in the multi-party talks that were convened by the two Governments in May, which have focused on the core issues on which an agreement is needed between the parties to get the Executive and Assembly operating again.  

However, both Governments have acknowledged the outstanding commitments under the Stormont House Agreement for comprehensively dealing with the past and the urgent need to progress, in UK and Irish legislation and by a new Executive, as appropriate. 

Following the UK general election, it is essential that there is now a definitive step forward by the new UK Government to get the legacy framework that was agreed in 2014 established in UK legislation, and up and running for victims and survivors, without any further delay.  

The Government remains firmly committed to the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement legacy framework. We will continue to work proactively to support its full implementation, without further delay, in order to provide victims’ families with a way to access whatever truth and justice that is possible in their cases and as a very necessary step in achieving a fully reconciled society.