JOINT COMMUNIQUÉ, BRITISH-IRISH INTERGOVERNMENTAL CONFERENCE
A meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference was held at Farmleigh, Dublin on 7 July 2004.
The Irish Government was represented by the Joint Chair, Brian Cowen T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was accompanied by Michael McDowell T.D., Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Tom Kitt, T.D, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs. 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.
General Political Matters
The Conference reviewed political developments, including recent discussions between the Prime Minister, Taoiseach and the political parties on 25 June at Lancaster House. The Governments are entirely at one on the need to see an end now to all forms of paramilitary activity; and the imperative of restoring as soon as possible a stable and inclusive partnership government in Northern Ireland.
The Conference emphasised the importance of securing a commitment from all parties to a fundamental accommodation on the key outstanding issues, identified in the Governments’ joint statement of 25 June. It looked forward to the intensive engagement which will take place with the Taoiseach, the Prime Minister and the parties in September.
Review of Joint Declaration Commitments
The Conference reviewed the commitments made in the Joint Declaration, which are not conditional on acts by others. As agreed at the Conference meeting of July 2003, the Governments are committed to taking these forward as quickly as possible.
The Conference welcomed progress since its last meeting, including in particular:
· The publication of a consultation document on the Single Equality Bill on 22 June;
· The forthcoming debate on the fourth designation Order, incorporating NITHC Translink’s parent company, under the Equality Duty of the Northern Ireland Act. The Order will come into force in this session of Parliament;
· The recruitment process which is currently underway for a Chief Commissioner and Commissioners in the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. The Conference particularly welcomed the presence of an independent human rights expert, in addition to an independent assessor on the recruitment panel.
The Conference also looked forward to the imminent publication of the second Report by Lord Clyde, the Oversight Commissioner for the Criminal Justice Review.
The Conference agreed to continue to monitor and advance the implementation of the commitments contained in the Joint Declaration.
Security and Policing
Both Governments welcomed the continuation of an orderly and peaceful marching season and commended all those involved in seeking to defuse tensions arising from contentious parades. Both Governments emphasised that meaningful and sustained dialogue at a local level between the concerned parties represents the only way in which progress can continue to be made in resolving tensions surrounding contentious parades.
In relation to the Cory reports, both Governments agreed that it was important to continue to move forward quickly to establish the inquiries that have been announced following Judge Cory’s report and discussed progress in their respective jurisdictions. The Irish Government reiterated its view that the British Government should establish as soon as possible a public inquiry into the Pat Finucane case, as recommended by Judge Cory.
The Conference discussed cross-border security co-operation, including patrolling in border areas. It also took stock of progress on continued co-operation on employment checks on those seeking to work with young or vulnerable people and co-operation in combating social security fraud and illegal land-fill activities.
Dealing with the Past
The Conference discussed the issue of dealing with the past in Northern Ireland and agreed that any approach would need to command widespread acceptance across all sections of the community in Northern Ireland, and would need to respect the views of victims.
North/South and East West Matters
The Conference discussed a number of North/South issues, in particular the Middletown Centre of Excellence for the Education of Children with Autism and the Launch of the draft All-Ireland Energy Market Development Framework. The ongoing work of the British-Irish Council was commended and the publication of its first report, which provided an encouraging account of the breadth of activity taking place within the East West framework, was welcomed.
The Conference acknowledged the success of the Electoral Fraud (NI) Act in addressing problems with fraud. However the Irish Government raised concerns in relation to the impact of the requirement to register annually on the rate of registration by eligible voters, particularly among marginalised and socially disadvantaged groups.
Date of Next Meeting
The Conference agreed to meet again in the early autumn. Top