Joint Communiqué: British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference
British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, 2 July 2003
1. A meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference was held at Millbank, London, on 2 July 2003.
2. 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 Jane Kennedy, MP, and the Rt. Hon John Spellar, MP, Ministers of State at the Northern Ireland Office. The Irish Government was represented by the Joint Chair, Brian Cowen, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was accompanied by Michael McDowell, TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Tom Kitt, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
General political matters
3. The Conference examined recent political developments. Both Governments stressed their ongoing commitment to the earliest possible restoration of devolved Government in Northern Ireland and to the full and effective operation of all the institutions of the Agreement. The Governments will continue their engagement with the parties in order to maintain political progress in this regard.
4. There was an exchange of views on North-South issues and on the British-Irish Council. Both Governments reiterated the importance of the all-island bodies continuing to operate on a care and maintenance basis, and the mandated work programme of the NSMC, during the period of suspension. The Conference commended the British-Irish Council on its ongoing work and noted the work in hand as part of the continuing review of its support arrangements.
The Joint Declaration
5. The Governments agreed on the need to continue efforts to ensure that all aspects of the Agreement are fully implemented. The Conference reviewed the progress made to date with the commitments contained in the Joint Declaration and underlined the need for definite timeframes in the implementation of these undertakings. Accordingly the Governments noted the timeframes for the continued implementation of a number of commitments falling under their responsibility and not dependent on acts of completion. These timeframes are set out in the attached annex, which lists a number of commitments to be delivered in the near term.
6. The Conference discussed recent developments on policing and noted the work being carried forward by the Policing Board. The Conference also discussed paramilitary activities by loyalist and republican groups. The conference also reviewed recent steps on normalisation and the prospects for further progress in the area.
Review of the BIIGC
7. The Conference noted that the two Joint Secretaries had, as mandated at the BIIGC held at Farmleigh on 18 December 2002, reviewed the workings of the BIIGC. The Conference noted that the Joint Secretaries had found that the current machinery of the BIIGC was working well and did not require significant change.
Date of next meeting
8. The Conference agreed to meet again in September.
Joint Declaration Commitments – Deliverables in the near-term
Issue Deliverable / Timeframe
1. Criminal Justice - Introduce new Justice Bill at the start of next session (November 2003)
- Launch pilot for new Public Prosecution Service in December 2003. Phased implementation of the Service over the next three years.
- Statements of ethics for criminal justice agencies to be published by end-December 2003.
- First review by Oversight Commissioner in December 2003. First oversight report to be published in January 2004.
2. Co-operation on criminal justice matters - Intergovernmental Agreement to be signed by Ministers and agreed annual Work Programme to be published in September/October 2003.
3. Reform of the inquest system - Consultation on Luce Report continues until September 2003.
- Proposals for reform published for consultation in January 2004.
- Consultation continues until March 2004.
4. Policing Matters - The British Government published for consultation in June draft secondary legislation to enable secondments between the Garda Siochana and PSNI.
- The Garda Siochana (Police Co-operation) Act was enacted on 24 June 2003 and work has commenced on the details of enabling regulations.
- On 2 July the Northern Ireland Policing Board are considering a comprehensive plan from the Chief Constable for implementation of the recommendations in the focussed review of Special Branch by HMIC and the report from Sir John Stevens.
- The Policing Board and PSNI are considering the next district command units in which recruitment to the part-time reserve will be taken forward as envisaged in the Patten Report.
- Video recording had already been put in place in two custody suites and work is in hand to install similar facilities in further custody suites.
- A draft code of practice on Policing Board reports and inquiries will be issued shortly.
- The Chief Constable will take forward a review of the police estate in consultation with the Policing Board informed by the views of local communities and DPPs.
5. Forum on Bill of Rights - Following agreement by the sub-group of the Implementation Group, including on the appropriate involvement of the Human Rights Commission, announce creation of Forum on Bill of Rights.
- Following agreement by parties on a suitable independent chair by end-September, first meeting to follow shortly after that.
6. Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Review of Powers and Resources - Conclude consultation after consulting separately with parties which made up the Executive before suspension in order to publish final response in October taking full account of views of parties and NIHRC.
Issue Deliverable / Timeframe
7. Appointments to Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission - Advertise for Commissioners at beginning of September. Appointments to be made in line with Paris Principles.
8. Incorporation of European Convention on Human Rights into Irish law - Legislation providing for incorporation of ECHR passed all stages in the Oireachtas in June 2003.
9. Review of Section 75 - Announce formation of Advisory Group on Review of Section 75, and publish terms of reference by September.
- Consult widely and complete Review by end of 2003
10. Designation of Public Bodies under Section 75 - Bring forward fifth designation Order in October to include Translink and other public bodies.
- Conclude consideration of designation of Secretary of State and BBC by end of 2003
11. Single Equality Bill - Make public proposed way forward and outline structure of consultation paper on Single Equality Bill in September.
12. Legislation on Racist and Sectarian Offences - Announce outcome of consultation on racist and sectarian offences by September; bring forward legislation in next session of Parliament.
13. Irish Language Production Fund
- Announce setting-up of Irish Language Production Fund in early July.
14. TG4 reception in Northern Ireland
- Two Governments jointly complete work in addressing outstanding barriers by end October.
15.Community Relations - Consultation on ‘A Shared Future' underway.
- Ministerial meetings with political parties and leaders of civic society to continue until end of September.
Issue Deliverable / Timeframe
16. Regeneration of areas of greatest disadvantage
Work in progress includes:
- Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy announced and work to put in place local structures for implementation underway.
- Planning work on integrated development strategies for North West, West Belfast, Greater Shankill and South Down fishing villages underway.
- Work on pilot community conventions in loyalist areas underway. Possible areas include Shankill, East Belfast, Craigavon and West of the Bann.
- North Belfast community empowerment partnerships operational from July. Aim to commence community consultation on North Belfast Action Plan in September.
- Aim to announce Urban II initiative in North Belfast in August.
17. Unemployment - Aim to publish proposals for future direction of NTSN in October.
- Arising out of Task Force on Long-Term Unemployment, targetted initiatives in West Belfast, Greater Shankill, Derry and Strabane operational in September.
- Further research underway – to include youth unemployment and work on labour market dynamics with Equality Commission.
18. Victims - Consultation with victims, reconciliation experts and the political parties on next phase of victims policy to commence in September.