Written answers

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

International Agreements

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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19. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has had recent discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland regarding the need to implement in full the Stormont House Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56352/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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It has been the consistent position of the Government that the Stormont House Agreement provides a balanced and comprehensive framework to address the legacy of the Troubles. It was agreed by both Governments and the political parties after intensive negotiations, and it should be implemented – for the families and victims who have waited for too long.

We have taken every opportunity in our regular engagements with the British Government at all levels to set out this position.

As agreed at the BIIGC on 24 June, the Government joined the British Government and the Northern Irish parties in a process of engagement of these issues, with discussions beginning in July. The intention is to find an agreed way forward that will allow implementing legislation to be introduced in both the UK and Ireland.

As we have consistently stated, a statute of limitations as proposed by the UK Government in their Command Paper is not something the Government can support. It is important to say that there has been a clear message from victims groups throughout this process that this cannot be the way forward. It has also been strongly and publicly opposed by all the parties.

It would also go against the conclusions of the UK Government’s own extensive public consultation in Northern Ireland on legacy legislation in 2019. There would be very serious questions as to whether such an approach would be consistent with the obligations of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is itself a key element of the Good Friday Agreement. We believe it would face well-founded legal challenges, causing further years of uncertainly and pain for families.

We have consistently said that we are ready to engage with concerns or issues to do with the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement but any such changes must be discussed and agreed by the parties and both Governments. It is vital that any approach is collective if it is to work, and crucially, that it meets both the needs of victims and our shared international human rights obligations.

It is crucial now to come back to the table at the level of political leaders to discuss next steps and find a way forward, with the two governments and the parties, that meets the needs of victims, and is based on the principles of justice, reconciliation and the rule of law. We have a responsibility to seek an agreed approach, for those families who have waited for too long.

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