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Statement by Minister Coveney on Northern Ireland

Ireland, Minister Simon Coveney, Northern Ireland Peace Process, Press Releases, Ireland, Great Britain, 2017

Statement by Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade, Simon Coveney T.D., on Northern Ireland

“Today, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has stated that, because there is no Executive and Assembly operating at present, he is taking the necessary steps that would enable a Budget Bill for Northern Ireland to be introduced at Westminster after the November recess.

This would represent a significant step in the budgetary process for Northern Ireland this year, which should have been considered and decided upon by the power-sharing Executive and the Assembly.

I acknowledge that this step would be taken by Secretary of State with the utmost reluctance and at the latest possible juncture in accordance with the British Government's responsibility to ensure good governance in Northern Ireland.

Both Governments share the view that it is regrettable and deeply concerning that, eight months after the last Assembly election, a power-sharing Executive is not in place to make the necessary decisions, including on budgetary issues, for Northern Ireland

The devolved power-sharing institutions are the heart of the Good Friday Agreement, and vital for the direction of public services in Northern Ireland and for the Peace Process as a whole.

It is important today to clearly affirm that the Good Friday Agreement remains the indispensable framework for relationships within Northern Ireland, on the island of Ireland and between the UK and Ireland.

In the event that the devolved institutions cannot function, it is the responsibility of the British and Irish Governments to ensure that the North/South and East-West institutions of the Agreement can continue to operate effectively and in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the Agreement. 

However, the non-functioning of the devolved institutions is not something which the Irish Government wants to contemplate. I would therefore urge both parties to continue to strive for the necessary agreement to allow the devolved institutions of the Agreement to operate again. 

The Irish Government, working with the British Government, has spared no effort in supporting and facilitating these talks over many months but the issue at the heart of this is the relationship between the parties. In the first instance this requires a resolution between the DUP and Sinn Féin after which engagement with the other parties entitled to a place on the Executive will be needed.

The issues under discussion - particularly those on language and culture - go to the heart of the divisions in society here in Northern Ireland and so agreement on them was always going to be very challenging. 

However, I have always believed that it is possible to reach an honourable compromise which reflects the core principles of the Agreement - partnership, equality and mutual respect. Over the past number of weeks there have been sincere efforts to stretch for that and measurable progress in finding an agreed outcome has been made, but we are not there yet. 

Together with the Secretary of State and the parties in Northern Ireland, I will continue to pursue that honourable compromise in accordance with my role as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process.”

ENDS