Wednesday, 4 December 2019
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
90. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade when talks will resume between the Irish and UK Governments and the political parties in Northern Ireland on the need to have the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Executive restored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50612/19]
91. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the outcome of his most recent discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the need to have the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive in Northern Ireland restored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50613/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 91 together.
The continuing absence of the power-sharing Executive and Assembly in Northern Ireland and the North South Ministerial Council is of grave concern for the Government, as it is for the British Government.
I have engaged extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland throughout the talks process, to encourage the parties to reach an accommodation. I remain in regular and ongoing contact with Secretary of State Smith on how the two Governments can support the parties in reaching an agreement that will get all of the institutions of the Agreement up and running again.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and I have confirmed that the two Governments are ready to take talks in Northern Ireland forward again immediately following the UK general election.
The recent indications from each of the party leaders in Northern Ireland that they are also ready to engage again with urgency is welcome and important.
It is envisaged that talks will commence as soon as possible after the UK election, potentially on 16 December. This of course depends to some extent on the outcome of the election.
All five political parties have engaged constructively in the talks process over the last number of months. Progress has been made across a range of important issues. However, some key outstanding issues remain and finding final agreement on these issues will require genuine and courageous dialogue and leadership by the party leaders in Northern Ireland.
People want the devolved power-sharing institutions up and running again to represent their interests and address issues of concern in Northern Ireland at present.
In this context, the political parties - in particular the two largest parties - must live up to their responsibilities and be open to fair and workable compromises on the small number of outstanding issues, to secure the overall interests of people in Northern Ireland and to protect and operate the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement again.
The current UK legislation under which civil servants in NI are working in the absence of Ministers expires on 13 January next and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has confirmed that a duty to call an Assembly election arises if that deadline is passed.
The Governments are determined to use the time immediately ahead to work to get real power-sharing back in the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland. Ultimately the challenge is for the parties to find an agreement. This will be difficult, but the two Governments believe that this can, and must, be achieved.
The Government will continue to do everything in its power, in accordance with its responsibilities as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to secure the effective operation of all of its institutions.