Tuesday, 11 June 2019
Northern Ireland: Statements
Paul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
I thank colleagues for their contributions. There was positive engagement across the House in this timely discussion on Northern Ireland. There was a shared commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and to supporting peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. That common concern and agreed foundation for all of our engagement on Northern Ireland is hugely important. In that context, this debate will continue to inform the approach of the Government. The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste will continue to work with their counterparts in the British Government and do everything possible to ensure the ongoing process in Stormont has every chance of succeeding in the period immediately ahead.
As I noted in my earlier contribution, the Tánaiste is in Stormont again today, as he has been on numerous days over the past number of weeks, working with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, to encourage the political parties to reach honourable compromises on the issues that need to be resolved and to get the devolved institutions up and running and delivering again for the people of Northern Ireland, as well as the North-South Ministerial Council to deliver on North-South co-operation as mentioned by all Members.
The Government's commitment to achieving this is absolute and while three key issues remain to be addressed in the ongoing talks, we believe that a resolution between the parties is possible and must be achieved. This cannot be a drawn-out process. The demand for a local representative power-sharing devolved government in Northern Ireland is more pressing now than it has ever been previously. Decisions need to be taken by the new Executive and the issues that need to be dealt with by the Assembly are many, varied and urgent. There will never be a perfect time for an agreement on the issues in the current process. They will not be any easier in the future than now and could well be more difficult.
Members referred to the complexities of the issues that need to be addressed. The current talks are a genuine opportunity to get all of the institutions of the agreement working once again. I believe this opportunity must be taken. The Government has always supported and worked for the full implementation of the commitments of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements. We will continue to offer that support. That is the basis on which the peace process moves forward with the task of reconciliation for all people on this island.
Similarly, the legacy of the Troubles must be addressed in a way that can meet the legitimate needs of victims through the establishment of the comprehensive framework provided for under the Stormont House Agreement in 2014. The current system is not working for victims and families nor is it supporting the broader societal reconciliation in Northern Ireland. The Government will keep working with the British Government to get the Stormont House framework established without any further delay. We see that as a vital part of the peace process.
For the days immediately ahead, the Tánaiste and the Secretary of State will remain intensively engaged on behalf of the two Governments in the talks at Stormont to encourage the party leaders to move towards a final agreement and to get the devolved power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland and the North-South Ministerial Council operating again. This will not be easy but the two Governments are committed and believe that this can and must be achieved.
Many issues were raised by Members from all sides of the House. One of the biggest issues we are facing is Brexit. We cannot allow Brexit to get in the way of ensuring we get the Northern Ireland Assembly up and running again. There was widespread support for that from all Members who contributed.
I thank the Members for their contributions, which I welcome. I will bring their concerns to the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.