Remarks by Minister fo State Kitt at the Australian National University Centre (Part II)
Following the elections in Northern Ireland last November, the two Governments encouraged the parties to find a way to secure the re-establishment of devolved government and a functioning Assembly as quickly as possible. At the same time, we also put in place arrangements for the scheduled review of the operation of the Agreement. Parties subsequently submitted their views to the Governments, and discussions on the operation of the Agreement to date are currently underway.
As one of the Ministers directly involved in the current discussions, I want to make it clear that the review is not in any sense a renegotiation of the Agreement. The fundamental principles underlying it remain steadfast.
These Principles include a commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means and the rejection of violence or the threat of violence. We are determined that there will never again be a return to the tragedies of the past.
Other fundamentals of the Agreement include respect for human rights and equality of opportunity, and the promotion of inclusive, cross-community government, as well as the need for a new beginning to policing, which I mentioned earlier, reform of the criminal justice system and the normalisation of security arrangements on the ground.
The Irish Government firmly believes that these principles, taken together as a balanced whole, represent the best opportunity to secure lasting peace and prosperity. The full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement remains the goal of the Irish and British Governments and we will continue to make every effort to achieve this.
The Agreement is the historic result of many long hours, weeks and indeed years of complex and often difficult negotiations. It includes the elements essential to securing a better future, while respecting the differences of each tradition and the diversity of cultures on the island of Ireland.
In short, the Good Friday Agreement remains the template for securing sustainable peace in Northern Ireland. If there had been a better way we would have found it.
Despite the successes of the last six years, however, we have also run into some difficulties, and we are now redoubling our efforts to resolve the outstanding issues so that the Agreement can function at its best, as we intended.
I am glad to have this opportunity to speak to you at this very interesting time in the history of the process. Whatever the origins of the problems, all now share responsibility for ensuring that every effort is made to resolve them and move forward. Above all, all sides must focus on rebuilding the trust and confidence needed to ensure that the momentum for change we have built in recent years can continue apace.
The Irish Government’s goals are clear. We want to fully implement the Agreement and to see it deliver its promise of a stable, inclusive and peaceful society. We want an immediate and definitive end to paramilitarism, no matter what its cause or origin. We want to see devolved Government restored, operating on an inclusive basis and working for the benefit of all the people.
We want full and open dialogue with and between unionists and nationalists. In this context we welcome the recent engagement between the Irish Government and the Democratic Unionist Party which is currently the dominant political force within unionism. We want to broaden and deepen that engagement in the best interests of all of the people on the island.
Outside of the immediate political context, both Governments also have responsibilities to ensure, as far as possible, that the non-devolution aspects of the Agreement including equality, human rights and the mandated reforms of the policing service and the criminal justice system continue to be implemented in a vibrant and pro-active manner for the benefit of the whole community in Northern Ireland.
Viable and sustainable partnership in Northern Ireland needs to be constructed within a framework of equality and mutual respect.
As the Taoiseach said recently, there can be no half-way house between violence and democracy, nor can there be any comfortable resting place between exclusion and partnership.
For the republican movement – and, indeed, for the loyalist paramilitaries - that means bringing closure for once and for all to paramilitarism. It also means absolute commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
For unionism it means irrevocably signing up to total partnership based on the inclusion of all parties whose electoral mandate gives them a right of participation.
We believe that the resolution of these apparently simple, yet politically fraught, issues will be the key to a new era of progress which will result in a win-win situation for all. We have already had an exciting glimpse of what can be achieved and know the breadth of the great possibilities that can come about when we all work together in the spirit of co-operation and friendship to overcome challenges.
We believe we can meet the challenges, and I am happy to assure you that the Irish Government intends to continue until we succeed. The support and encouragement of our friends here in Australia is much appreciated as we continue with this vital work.
Thank you Top