Statement by the Tánaiste on recent developments in Northern Ireland27 February 2014
The loss suffered by the families of the four British soldiers killed in the Hyde Park bomb of 20 July 1982 have been painfully recalled this week. My thoughts are with the families of Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright, Lieutenant Anthony Daly, Trooper Simon Tipper and Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young and with the families of those injured.
I spoke with the Secretary of State this afternoon and welcomed Prime Minister Cameron’s statement today on arrangements aimed at determining whether any other letters were sent in error. Given the importance and sensitivity of the scheme, it is essential that it is managed carefully and to the highest standards.
The Irish government has always taken very seriously the need to deal sensitively with the legacy of the past. This informs our support for the ongoing political talks in Northern Ireland.
The need also to deal with prisoner issues was recognised in the negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement which committed both governments to provide for the accelerated release of prisoners affiliated to organisations supportive of the peace process. Both governments subsequently initiated steps to address the issue of those subject to outstanding prosecutions or extradition proceedings who would have been released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement had they been convicted and imprisoned.
They also agreed that that it “would be a natural development of the scheme for such prosecutions not to be pursued”
These steps were not taken lightly. But they were taken in the conviction that they are in the wider interests of the peace process and they remain an essential element in delivering and maintaining peace today.
The issues raised this week underline the importance of safeguarding the progress made by the party leaders and moving now to agree on comprehensive and effective arrangements for dealing with the past and for addressing the needs of victims, as envisaged in the Haass proposals.
We can never forget the terrible events that occurred during the Troubles and we must pay heed to the ongoing suffering of surviving victims of the Troubles in Ireland and in Britain, some of whom will not and should not be expected to forgive. Nevertheless, we cannot allow the past to destroy the peace and stability of the present and the prospect of a better future for generations to come. That is the most immediate and pressing challenge for the political leadership in Northern Ireland.
27 February 2014