Joint Communiqué British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference
Joint Communiqué British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference Millbank, London 12 December 2006
A meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference was held at Millbank, London
The British Government was represented by the Joint Chair, the Rt. Hon Peter Hain MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who was accompanied by Paul Goggins MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office. The Irish Government was represented by the Joint Chair, Dermot Ahern TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The Conference reviewed progress towards implementation of the St. Andrews Agreement and welcomed the fact that all parties were engaging in the Transitional Assembly on the necessary preparatory work for restoration of the devolved institutions.
The two Governments stressed that a real opportunity now exists for the political parties to address together the outstanding issues within the timeframe set out at St. Andrewscommit to inclusive power-sharing institutions and to support for, and devolution of, policing and the criminal justice system.
The Governments urged all political leaders to seize this opportunity to bring the political process in Northern Ireland, calling on politicians and community leaders to take all necessary measures to foster good community relations in Northern Ireland and reiterating their own commitment in that regard.
The two Governments reiterated their determination to make every effort in the weeks ahead to work constructively with the parties on the issues which need to be resolved before devolved government can be restored to Northern Ireland
Justice and Security Issues
The Conference reviewed the current security situation. The two Governments welcomed the continuing evidence of the commitment of the IRA leadership to exclusively peaceful means. The Conference condemned violent activities undertaken by those opposed to the peace process and stressed that these individuals and organisations will continue to be actively pursued by the relevant agencies in both jurisdictions.
The Irish Government raised its serious concerns in relation to the findings of the recent reports of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Barron Inquiry and stressed the need for these to be addressed. The British Government undertook to examine the points raised and to revert at the earliest opportunity. The Conference recognised the need to secure closure in these troubling cases. The Conference also underlined its commitment to encouraging the important work currently being undertaken by the Historical Enquiries Team and the Police Ombudsman in looking at past cases arising from the conflict in Northern Ireland
The two Governments discussed a range of issues in relation to policing. The Conference welcomed the 18th Report of the Oversight Commissioner which noted continuing progress in implementing the recommendations of the Patten Report. The Conference also welcomed the progress made to date towards the achievement of a fully representative Police Service.
The excellent co-operation between the PSNI and An Garda Síochána was welcomed. Both Governments reiterated their determination that all the relevant agencies in both jurisdictions will continue to work closely together to combat organised crime.
The Conference welcomed the signing on 27 November of a new Memorandum of Understanding to ensure that information on sex offenders who plan to travel between the UKcountry-regionIrelandis shared between the relevant police forces on both islands.
The Conference noted the announcement by the British Government of an open competition for appointment to the vacant post on the Northern Ireland Parades Commission. The British Government updated the Conference in relation to the review of parading aimed at developing an agreed longer term strategic approach to this issue, taking into account the views of all the main stakeholders.
The British Government reported on progress made in relation to normalisation. The issue of the small number of border roads which remain closed was discussed. The Irish Government reiterated its interest in seeing these roads re-opened and its commitment to play its part in this regard.
Human Rights and Equality Issues
The Conference noted the consultation process undertaken by the British Government in relation to the establishment of a Forum on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland The Conference looked forward to the inaugural meeting of the Forum which is to take place shortly.
The Conference welcomed the recent introduction of draft legislation providing for new powers for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
The Conference recalled the commitment of the British Government to bring forward legislation before the end of this year to reform entry requirements to ensure access for EU nationals to posts in the Civil Service. The British Government reported on progress in this regard.
As regards the Irish language, the British Government confirmed that a consultation paper on legislation would be published shortly.
North/South and East/West Matters
The Conference discussed positive progress on North/South co-operation across a broad range of issues and commended the ongoing work of the North/South Bodies.
Both Governments welcomed the considerable progress that has been made towards creating a Single Wholesale Electricity Market on the island, with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two Governments, the introduction of the draft legislation in the Oireachtas and the beginning of public consultation in the North. The Conference looked forward to both Governments taking the further steps necessary to ensure that the potential benefits of a competitive market will be delivered to customers and businesses throughout the island.
The two Governments noted ongoing work towards the completion of a joint report on North/South co-operation on social inclusion and highlighted the potential to work together in alleviating social exclusion, poverty and deprivation to help create a more inclusive society on the islandIreland. They looked forward to discussing the joint report at the next BIIGC.
The Conference warmly welcomed the work being carried out in relation to the restoration and re-opening of the stretch of the Ulster Canal from Lough Erne to Clones, including the proposals put forward by the Irish Government. It tasked officials with taking forward further work on the proposals and looked forward to a progress report at its next meeting.
In the context of further co-operation in trade promotion, the Conference welcomed a Memorandum of Understanding between Bord Bia and Invest Northern Ireland (INI) signed on 28 November 2006 which provides for structured co-operation in international food promotion and marketing as well as co-operation on developing the specialty food sector on an all-island basis.
The Conference noted the ongoing positive work of the British-Irish Council and in particular the Ministerial meeting on Misuse of Drugs which took place in Belfast
Date of next meeting
It was agreed that the Conference would meet again in the New Year.Top