Joint Communiqué of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, Dublin 19 October 2005
British-Irish Intergovernmental Conferenc
Iveagh House, Dublin
19 October 2005
A meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference was held at Iveagh House, Dublin, on 19 October 2005.
The Irish Government was represented by the Joint Chair, Dermot Ahern TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was accompanied by Michael McDowell TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The British Government was represented by the Joint Chair the Rt. Hon Peter Hain MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who was accompanied by David Hanson MP, Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office, and Shaun Woodward MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office.
Review of political developments
The Conference reviewed recent political developments and reaffirmed its belief that the restoration of devolved Government on an inclusive basis is in the best interest of all communities in Northern Ireland. To enable this to happen, however, further efforts are required to restore trust and confidence in the political process.
The Conference welcomed the recent confirmation by the IICD that IRA weapons had been fully and verifiably decommissioned as a significant contribution to restoring confidence.
The Conference also noted the seventh report of the IMC, published today. While noting that the IMC could only make a limited assessment of the effect of the IRA statement of 28 July, the Conference welcomed its findings that the initial signs are encouraging. The Conference looked forward to the IMC reporting more fully in its next report in January 2006.
The two Governments underlined their determination to work with the political parties to continue to restore confidence and to rebuild political momentum in the meantime. To this end Peter Hain and Dermot Ahern will contact the parties in Northern Ireland with a view to working closely with them to make early progress.
The conference reviewed the current security situation and took stock of events over the summer.
Both Governments strongly condemned all sectarian crime and intimidation, expressed support for those directly affected, and called on political leaders to use their influence in the community to bring this violence to an end. The Conference commended the actions of the PSNI in dealing with public order incidents during the marching season.
The Conference also deplored the violence resulting from the loyalist feud.
The Conference welcomed the progress made to date in implementing the programme of normalisation and looked forward to further progress.
Both Governments stressed the need for enhanced engagement with representatives of the Loyalist community. The British Government outlined how a new Delivery Team, reporting to David Hanson, and led by Nigel Hamilton, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, would bring together all the associated Government activities to ensure greater connectivity. The Delivery Team will build on the findings of the 2004 Task Force on the impact of current government policies and will ensure a coordinated response and effective outcomes. The Irish Government underlined its willingness to respond positively and openly to those within the loyalist Community seeking genuine efforts at transformation.
The Conference welcomed the fact that the vast majority of parades had passed off peacefully, and wholly condemned the violence and rioting that had taken place on a limited number of occasions. It called on all those with influence, on all sides, to continue to work to ensure a peaceful resolution to the parades issue, in particular, the Whiterock parade. The Conference expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Parades Commission in managing contentious parades and in easing parades-related tensions, both this summer and throughout its term of office.
The Conference reiterated the continued commitment of the two Governments to fully implementing the Patten Report. The Conference welcomed the continuing progress in implementation, as verified by the independent Oversight Commissioner in his most recent report.
The Conference also noted the decision of the British Government to roll-over the current membership of the Policing Board until 31 March 2006, at which point a new Board will take up duty. The new Board will be constituted so as to maintain its cross-community and representative character. The Conference agreed that a sustained effort was required by all parties in the intervening period to build consensus on policing and to secure support for the police from the entire community.
The Conference welcomed the first mutual personnel exchange between the PSNI and an Garda Síochana, and looked forward to further such exchanges.
Equality and Human Rights
The Conference reiterated its commitment to tackling inequality and disadvantage on the basis of objective need. In that context it reviewed progress on the commitment in the Good Friday Agreement to tackle the differential in unemployment rates between the two communities. It also looked forward to the publication of a study on changing patterns of inequalities in the Northern Ireland labour market.
Both Governments recognised that poverty knows no boundaries and that there are very real problems of poverty, social disadvantage and exclusion in both communities. They looked forward to the publication of the British Government’s strategic priorities for tackling poverty and social exclusion in Northern Ireland.
The Conference also discussed Human Rights Issues, in particular the consultation by the British Government on the additional powers it will grant to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in response to the NIHRC’s review of its powers. It also discussed progress on the establishment of a forum on the Bill of Rights.
The Conference noted that the political parties had been consulted on proposed new arrangements for donations to political parties in Northern Ireland. The British Government noted the short time frame in which this legislation would have to be enacted.
North/South and East/West Matters
The Conference commended the on-going work of the North/South bodies, and of the British-Irish Council.
The Conference welcomed the decision by Ministers that Waterways Ireland should prepare a summary report, drawing to the greatest extent possible on work done previously, on the feasibility of restoring stretches of the Ulster Canal at either end of the canal system.
The Conference welcomed the recent meeting of Ministers with representatives of all mobile phone operators to discuss greater co-operation on mobile telecoms issues and in particular to address the issue of inadvertent mobile roaming charges between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The Conference welcomed the agreement between the British and Irish Governments on a joint contribution to the report on the EU’s Lisbon strategy.
The Conference reiterated its commitment to a single wholesale electricity market by July 2007 and confirmed that every effort will be made to facilitate the introduction of the necessary legislation in both jurisdictions.
The Conference welcomed the agreement by the two Governments on the extension of the all-island free travel scheme for travel throughout the island, while noting that there are operational and resource issues to be addressed.
The Conference underlined the significant potential for effective cooperation for mutual benefit on strategic issues such as infrastructure development and spatial planning. The Conference noted the ongoing work in this area and looked forward to a more detailed discussion at its next meeting.
The Conference expressed its support for Rally Ireland’s bid to bring a round of the World Rally Championship to Ireland in 2007. The two Governments noted that such an event would present an unrivalled and unique opportunity for international promotion from which the tourism industry would derive particular benefit.
The Conference welcomed on-going close co-operation between the two Governments and between the relevant authorities, North and South, in relation to public health emergency planning, particularly in the context of current concerns about the spread of avian flu, and the threat of pandemic influenza.
The Conference noted the ongoing work of the British-Irish Council, including the programme of meetings across the Council’s key work sectors. It noted that the next Summit meeting, on the Environment, is expected to take place in London in the first half of 2006.
IFI/EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation
The Conference took note of the achievements of the International Fund for Ireland and the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation and recorded the continued strong support of both Governments for the important work of both in the period ahead.
Date of next meeting
It was agreed that the Conference would meet again in early January.Top