Need to restore political institutions in Northern Ireland – Brendan Smith TD

stormont

I have been continuously highlighting through Parliamentary Questions and in other Debates in Dáil Éireann the urgent need to have the political institutions restored in Northern Ireland.

It is totally unacceptable that the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive have not been functioning for almost 2 years.  The electorate in Northern Ireland elected the Members to the Assembly and there is a grave onus on them to have the Assembly and Executive working on behalf of all the people.

At a critical time in the history of these islands Northern Ireland should have their voice heard through a working Executive.

Below are replies from the Foreign Affairs Minister to the most recent Parliamentary Questions I tabled on this very important issue –

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For Oral Answer on : 20/11/2018
Question Number(s): 106  Question Reference(s): 48072/18
Department: Foreign Affairs and Trade
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.

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QUESTION

REPLY

Question No. 106
Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the outcome of the most recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the political parties in Northern Ireland in relation to the need to have the Assembly and Executive restored; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Brendan Smith.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 20th November, 2018.
Ref No: 48072/18

REPLY

Since the Northern Ireland Assembly elections of March 2017, the Irish and British Governments, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, have worked tirelessly to support and facilitate the parties in their efforts to form a new power-sharing Executive.

Unfortunately, to date, it has not proved possible to reach an agreement on the formation of an Executive, despite intensive engagement.  The absence of the Executive also means that the North South Ministerial Council cannot meet.

I am currently engaging with Secretary of State Bradley on how both Governments can most effectively secure the full operation of all of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. I met with Secretary of State Bradley in Dublin on 17 September, in Belfast on 8 October, and most recently in Dublin on Friday 2 November at the British Irish Inter-Governmental Conference. I spoke further with the Secretary of State by telephone on Monday 12 November.

Both Governments are continuing to engage with all of the political parties to seek a way forward to get the Institutions up and running again. All parties have re-affirmed their commitment to operating the devolved institutions and have provided views on their key concerns and issues.

In the period ahead, I believe a new political process is required to get beyond the current impasse and secure the necessary agreement between the parties on operating the devolved institutions again.

I do not underestimate the way to go in achieving that, but I firmly believe that a resolution is possible and that the calls from across all sections of the community in Northern Ireland for the devolved institutions to operate will be heeded.

The Government is acutely conscious of the challenges that the UK exit from the European Union has presented for the political process in Northern Ireland and the totality of relationships addressed by the Good Friday Agreement. The Government has worked intensively with the Commission Task Force and all of our EU partners in the Article 50 process with the UK to secure the draft Withdrawal Agreement which was agreed between the EU and UK negotiators and published on 14 November, and which is now being considered by EU Member States and the UK. The Taoiseach has confirmed that the Withdrawal Agreement will protect the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the Peace Process and avoid a hard border on the island.

The Taoiseach and I in our engagement with the British Government and the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland have consistently underlined that, regardless of the challenges of the UK exit from the Union, there remains a pressing need to secure the operation of the devolved power-sharing institutions of the Agreement, which are at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement.

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

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For Oral Answer on : 20/11/2018
Question Number(s): 112 Question Reference(s): 48073/18
Department: Foreign Affairs and Trade
Asked by:  Brendan Smith T.D.
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QUESTION

REPLY

Question No. 112

Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas 

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the issues discussed at the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Brendan Smith.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 20th November, 2018.
Ref No: 48073/18 

REPLY

A meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) took place in Dublin on 2 November.  The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan TD, and I represented the Government.  The UK Government was represented by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, David Lidington MP, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley MP

Set up under the Good Friday Agreement, the Conference brings together the Irish and UK Governments to promote bilateral co-operation at all levels on all matters of mutual interest within the competence of both Governments.  Following on from the BIIGC in London on 25 July, the meeting on 2 November provided the opportunity to continue our discussions on legacy issues, security co-operation, East-West matters, and political stability in Northern Ireland.

At the meeting, we reaffirmed our commitment to implementing the framework established in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement to comprehensively address the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past, taking account of the UK Government’s public consultation on establishing the legacy institutions.

On security co-operation, both Governments recalled the commitments made in the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement to ending paramilitarism and welcomed the first report of the Independent Reporting Commission (IRC) established under that Agreement. In considering the findings and recommendations contained in the report, the Conference noted in particular the IRC’s view that the full operation of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement is essential to ending paramilitarism and achieving community transformation.

The Conference discussed a joint paper by Irish and British officials which outlined a number of possible models to maintain and strengthen the high level of bilateral co-operation between Ireland and the UK after it leaves the European Union.  Both Governments agreed that these new structures for systemic bilateral co-operation should demonstrate the strength and depth of the relationship, provide opportunities for ministers and officials to continue to engage with each other, and provide an overall architecture for cooperation that is both meaningful and sustainable in the future.

As announced following the Conference, this model would include top level summits involving Heads of Government and senior ministers and would alternate between locations in Ireland and the UK.  These summits would be supported by close bilateral work by ministers.  Officials on both sides have been asked to turn these ideas into a detailed practical plan of work with a view to presenting a fully worked through proposal for future East-West cooperation for consideration at the next meeting of the Conference.

The Conference provided both Governments the opportunity to reaffirm our strong support for the Good Friday and subsequent Agreements.  It was recognised that the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement have been essential for the progress made in Northern Ireland over the past two decades and that they remain the indispensable framework for the political process in Northern Ireland.  Both Governments reiterated their shared commitment to securing the operation of the devolved power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly and the consequent resumption of meetings of the North-South Ministerial Council at the earliest opportunity.

It was agreed that the BIIGC would reconvene in Spring 2019.