Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement

Business of Joint Committee

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I will continue with the rest of the meeting. We are under instruction to finish by 4 p.m.

We have to finish meetings in two hours and have a maximum of one meeting per week. I hope we will fill the agenda every week in that we will have something constructive to say. I take Senator Craughwell's point about engaging with civic unionism and other people who might be happy to come before us or to join us online.

The next question is our work programme, which I think was an issue. Would Senator Currie like to make a contribution? I wish to make it very clear that we have to stop at 4 p.m. Whoever is speaking-----

Emer Currie (Fine Gael)
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I will be quick.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Senator. I was not addressing the remark specifically to her.

Emer Currie (Fine Gael)
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The new work plan that was circulated had removed the title "Reconciliation, Legacy Issues and Dealing with the Past". I just felt it important that it should be there as a header point, given the changes that were published in March from the secretary of state regarding legacy and where we are with the report from the Northern Ireland affairs committee. In general, dealing with reconciliation to me is a very important top-line issue, and there were quite a lot of suggestions underneath that.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I agree.

Emer Currie (Fine Gael)
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I am not suggesting that anything else that is in there should be taken away, but it should be in there as a header point.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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That is hugely important. I think we will all agree on that.

Ms Gildernew wanted to raise an issue. We were talking outside about how we have some gaps in our timeline. If she wants to leave it, she can communicate with us later on, but if she has somebody she would like to-----

Ms Michelle Gildernew:

I appreciate that. I think the Chairman has identified that next week's meeting might not be filled at this stage. Senator Craughwell had indicated that we had not heard from people in the unionist community. I had asked Claire Sugden to come down last year to appear before the committee and talk to us. I was hoping to get Sylvia Hermon down at that stage as well, but that was not possible. As for the work that the committee wants to bring forward, among the best engagements we have had, the one with loyalist women was excellent.

We also had a session with loyalist ex-prisoners and another with nationalist and republican ex-prisoners. Maybe the committee could arrange to bring people in to talk about those issues for next week, although it is short notice.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I have no issue with anyone communicating with the clerk of the committee to put that on the agenda.

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent)
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We might also include Mr. Rob Williamson of the REACH Project, which is based on the Newtownards Road in Belfast. I asked for him at the last committee meeting. He is a unionist and a very middle-of-the-road sort of guy. It would be very good to hear his views.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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We will work on that. I note also that the meeting on 25 November has been fixed with the Northern Ireland Assembly's Committee for the Executive Office on the impact of Brexit on North-South relationships, as detailed in Article 11 of the Northern Ireland protocol. That will be a very important meeting.

The joint committee adjourned at 3.51 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Thursday, 19 November 2020.