JOINT COMMUNIQUÉ - BRITISH-IRISH INTERGOVERNMENTAL CONFERENCE, IVEAGH HOUSE, DUBLIN, 2 MARCH 2005
A meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference was held at Iveagh House, Dublin on 2 March 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 Paul Murphy MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who was accompanied by the Rt Hon John Spellar MP, Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office, and Ian Pearson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office.
Review of Political Developments
The Conference discussed the murder of Robert McCartney. The two Governments were united in their admiration of the dignity and courage of the McCartney family in the face of intimidation and obstruction. The two Governments utterly deplored such criminality, for which there was no place whatsoever in a democratic society. They called on those responsible to cease immediately, and those with any information to share it with the police, so that the perpetrators can be made accountable before the courts.
The Conference reviewed political developments, including the impact of the Northern Bank robbery and the related IMC report, and the discussions that both Governments have had with the parties. It also looked ahead to the period following the local government elections and had a preliminary discussion of the options open to the two Governments in relation to political progress.
The Governments remain fully committed to the new beginning promised by the Agreement, to the early restoration of the devolved institutions on an inclusive basis in Northern Ireland, and the full operation of all of the institutions of the Agreement.
The Governments are entirely at one on the need for all paramilitary activity and all criminality to be brought to an end.
Security and Policing
Recalling the very positive meeting between the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Secretary of State at Hillsborough, the Conference discussed recent security incidents, including the Northern Bank robbery. The Conference took note of recent developments in the ongoing Garda operation against the laundering of the proceeds of crime. The two Governments reiterated that there remained no place for such activity anywhere on the island.
The Governments reviewed the prospects for the marching season, expressing the hope that a peaceful summer can be enjoyed by all the people of Northern Ireland.
The Conference welcomed the recent signing of the protocols necessary to facilitate movement of officers between An Garda Siochána and the PSNI. The Conference was encouraged by the high level of co-operation between the police forces in combatting cross border organised crime. The Conference noted that a technical obstacle to direct contact between the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Assets Recovery Agency had been removed. The Conference also noted the excellent cooperation between the two police forces and other criminal justice agencies in developing programmes to tackle domestic violence and drug abuse and commended the constructive co-operation between the two Probation Services. The Conference also welcomed the announcement of the extension of the office of the Police Oversight Commissioner for a further two years.
Victims' issues and dealing with the past
The Conference discussed the 1st March announcement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland of the appointment of a Victims and Survivors Commissioner and consultation on the future of victims' services in Northern Ireland.
The Conference noted the announcement on 16 November 2004 of the terms of reference and panel membership for each of the Inquiries into the murders of Rosemary Nelson, Billy Wright and Robert Hamill. The Irish Government reported that an inquiry into the Breen/Buchanan murders will be established under the 1921 Tribunals of Inquiry Act; and a motion to that effect will be put before the Houses of the Oireachtas shortly. The British Government reported that the legislation under which they intend to establish the Inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane continued its passage through parliament. The Irish Government requested that the Finucane Inquiry be set up in line with the Weston Park commitments. The British Government stated that it would be.
The Conference also discussed developments in relation to the Dublin/Monaghan bombings.
Equality, Human Rights and Community Relations
The Conference discussed the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, noting the progress to appoint a new Chair and Commissioners, and looked forward to the announcement of the new Commission. Both Governments reiterated their firm commitment to progressing work on equality and human rights as envisaged in the Agreement, and the Joint Declaration.
The Conference discussed a number of specific issues in the Human Rights and Equality areas, including progress on the forum on the Bill of Rights and in addressing the unemployment differential.
North/South and East/West matters
The Conference commended the ongoing work of the North/South bodies, and Ministers agreed to consider the scope for more effective cooperation to mutual benefit on North/South matters. The Conference also welcomed the continuing work of the British-Irish Council, including the recent successful Summit in Guernsey, and looked forward to its programme of meetings.
Electoral Issues and Political Donations
The Conference welcomed the passage of the recent legislation to ensure carry over of the current electoral register and noted work in hand by the British Government to look at making registration arrangements more effective. The Conference asked officials to work together on the issue of donations to political parties in Northern Ireland, to ensure that arrangements were put in place that were fair, accountable and transparent, and in line with the spirit of the Agreement. The British Government noted that it intended to bring forward legislation next year to enact these new arrangements.
The Conference was pleased that all issues relating to increasing TG4 reception had now been addressed, and the two Joint Chairs signed an Intergovernmental Agreement granting authority for TG4 to use a UK frequency to broadcast in Northern Ireland.
The Conference also discussed City of Derry Airport, illegal dumping, and nationality requirements for public service posts.
Date of next meeting
The Conference agreed to meet again during May.