Written answers

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Northern Ireland

Photo of Pa DalyPa Daly (Kerry, Sinn Fein)
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411. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the recent representations that he has made to the British government with regards to the implementation of New Decade, New Approach. [22008/22]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) agreement reached in January 2020 was a significant shared achievement in restoring the power-sharing institutions of the Good Friday Agreement to operation. As we have set out in the Programme for Government, we will work to ensure that the agreement is implemented in full.

I have remained in regular contact with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to discuss progress with respect to the implementation of the NDNA, including most recently as part of recent British Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) that took place at the end of March. The next BIIGC is scheduled to take place in June.

For our part, the Government published a series of commitments, at the time of NDNA, focused on working with the Executive through the North South Ministerial Council to deliver projects that benefit people across the island, including greater connectivity between North and South; investing in the North West region and in border communities; supporting the Irish language in Northern Ireland; and supporting reconciliation as an integral part of the Peace Process. Although Covid 19 has been the understandable focus in the time since the NDNA was reached, nevertheless progress has been made to implement those important commitments.

The package of language and identity legislation agreed in New Decade New Approach was detailed and balanced and should be implemented without delay – as should all the commitments in NDNA. This would have been better done in the Assembly as intended but there is no reason for further delay or deadlock over the positive measures agreed in support of linguistic diversity and cultural expression in Northern Ireland. It should be advanced on the basis of the legislative provisions negotiated, agreed and published at the time of NDNA. I look forward to seeing progress on this legislation in Westminster as soon as possible, as committed to by the Secretary of State.

As part of the NDNA, it was also agreed that there would be regular review meetings involving the two Governments at Ministerial level and the parties to monitor progress on its implementation, and the delivery of commitments by each Government. On 11 January 2021, I participated in the first Implementation Review Meeting alongside the First Minister, deputy First Minister, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and party leaders in Northern Ireland. It is regrettable that a second review meeting has not been able to take place to date; however, it is hoped that a second review meeting can take place in the period ahead.

Of course, Assembly Elections have just taken place and the formation of an Executive is now the important focus for the parties, and we will continue to work in full support of the institutions. The full implementation of the NDNA is a key priority for the Government in the period ahead, and we will work with a new Executive and the British Government to this end. The agreement reached in NDNA will also shape our approach to getting the institutions up and running. We will also work to ensure a resumption of full and regular meetings of the North South Ministerial Council as part of these efforts.

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