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Another milestone agreement moving Northern Ireland towards a better future – Minister Flanagan

Another milestone agreement moving Northern Ireland towards a better future – Minister Flanagan

Speaking from Stormont today (Tuesday) where agreement was reached in the Northern Ireland Talks, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan TD, stated:

“Last Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of the signing of Anglo-Irish Agreement. It is therefore apt that only two days later we can welcome another milestone agreement that moves Northern Ireland towards a better, more stable future, building on the foundations laid by the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

The last ten weeks have seen intensive work involving the five Northern Ireland Executive parties and the Irish and British Governments. It was a difficult and challenging process and involved hundreds of hours of meetings. However, through the immense efforts of the parties and the two Governments, I am very pleased that we have succeeded in reaching a positive outcome.

Today marks the second agreement in the space of 12 months. Building on the Stormont House Agreement of last December, today’s agreement is another significant step in normalising politics and society in Northern Ireland, consolidating the hard won peace on this island.

The Agreement is a credible roadmap for the implementation of many aspects of the Stormont House Agreement and tackling the continuing impact of paramilitarism. It underpins all our efforts to bring greater reconciliation and economic prosperity to the people of Northern Ireland and communities right across our island.

It agrees a plan for ending paramilitarism and tackling organised crime. Significantly the parties make a firm commitment to achieving a society free of paramilitarism, to working for the disbandment of all paramilitary organisations and their structures and to challenging paramilitary attempts to control communities. A strategy to achieve this will be put in place and an international body will be established to report on the achievement of progress towards ending continuing paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland.

The Irish and British Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive have also committed to reinforce our efforts to tackle organised crime associated with the legacy of paramilitarism. A Joint Agency Task Force will be established to identify strategic priorities for combatting cross-border organised crime and to oversee operational co-ordination. This will be supported by additional resources. A tri-lateral cross-border Ministerial meeting will be convened between the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, and her counterparts in the British Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to agree new measures to further enhance law enforcement cooperation.

Of equal importance is finding a way forward on the establishment of the new comprehensive institutional framework for dealing with the legacy of the past as agreed in last December’s Stormont House Agreement.

Good progress was made on agreeing many of the details necessary for the establishment of these institutions. Regrettably, it did not prove possible to find an agreement at this stage on the appropriate balance between the onward disclosure needs of families and national security arrangements. However, building on the substantial progress made in the talks, the two Governments will reflect further on the remaining open issues and on how they can be advanced. The needs of victims and survivors will remain central to our work. We are determined to achieve the establishment of these institutions so that we can in a fundamental way deal with the past, foster reconciliation and build a society for future generations that is free from hurt and suspicion.

“This agreement is also about financial stability and reform. Pursuing economic prosperity and job creation is critical to building a peaceful society in Northern Ireland. Despite our challenging public finances, the Irish Government has made a commitment to providing funding for important infrastructure projects, such as the A5 road, as well as for investment in the North West Region. This is not only important for economic development in Northern Ireland but also for building an all island economy that creates jobs and prosperity for all our citizens.”

Concluding, Minister Flanagan said:

“The agreement today is the result of ten weeks of very hard work and a huge commitment on the part of the two governments and the Northern Ireland parties. As co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Government is determined to fulfil its responsibilities to all the people of this island and it was in this spirit that we approached this important task. With the support of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister Fitzgerald, Minister of State Sherlock and I, were honoured to play our part in reaching this agreement. Devolved government in Northern Ireland is now placed on a more sustainable footing; this, together with the firm commitment to working for the ending paramilitarism, will help build the peaceful, reconciled, prosperous Northern Ireland its people deserve.  

I wish to thank Senator Hart, and through him convey our appreciation to Secretary Kerry, Vice President Biden and President Obama, for the valued role the US administration played in bringing about this success. I also wish to convey my deep appreciation to Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers MP, for her commitment and determination. This agreement is yet another example of the real benefits of the strong partnership between our two governments, the seeds of which were sown by the Anglo-Irish Agreement 30 years ago.”