Opening Remarks by Minister Cowen at the launch of the Package of Proposals to the Parties
The package of proposals we are putting to the parties today comes at the end of what has been a long, difficult and at times frustrating negotiation for everybody. We have shared a common goal - the full implementation of the Agreement - but we have had very real differences to overcome. All of the parties have worked extremely hard and I would like to pay tribute to the committed role they have played.
We set out to find an agreed basis on which to address the four outstanding issues. We have made real progress. However, there is now an urgent need to bring this work to a satisfactory conclusion. At Weston Park, following our intensive discussions, the Governments promised the parties that we would draw up a final package and present it to them for their consideration. Today's package is the result of our collective endeavour. It represents the Governments' shared view of the best way forward. It is the right package. It is fair and balanced and, if acceptable to the parties, it can help us to deliver the full and early implementation of the Agreement.
I strongly urge the parties to consider it carefully and to reflect before giving us their response. They should not be rushed to judgement. While the package contains much that will be welcomed by the parties, I accept that each will have difficulties with aspects of what we propose. But taken as a whole, I hope that they will see that it has the potential to deliver what each of them needs.
We should not underestimate the seriousness of our situation. We need to keep the democratic process moving forward. The absence of direction and certainty is already being played out on the streets. The continuing stalemate can only play into the hands of those who would seek to wreck all that we have worked so hard together to achieve.
Recent years have brought the people greater peace and prosperity than they have known for a generation. This would simply not have been possible without this Agreement and without the immense progress that has been made in its implementation to date and the commitment that has been given to it by everybody. As we said at Weston Park, it would be tragic if, collectively, we were to fail to build on these achievements.
I therefore strongly urge the parties to give our proposals a positive response.