Dáil Éireann - Volume 491 - 28 May, 1998

Written Answers. - British-Irish Agreement.

58. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the time schedule for matters associated with the Good Friday Agreement following the successful referendum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12546/98]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews): As I replied in a priority question earlier today on this matter, the endorsement of the British-Irish Agreement by the people of Ireland marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of this island. It offers a future based on the acceptance of diversity and on the principles of mutual respect, equality, and partnership.

[1062] The fact that the Agreement won the backing of 85 per cent of those voting on the island, including large majorities North and South, indicates a widespread willingness on the part of the Irish people to set aside the bitter legacies of the past and to seek to resolve their differences on political issues by democratic and exclusively peaceful means.

The massive “yes” vote in the South, and the extraordinary turnout and strong support for the Agreement from both sides of the community in the North, showed just how deeply people desire lasting peace and political agreement. It is now incumbent on all those who opposed the Agreement to respect the democratic verdict of the people, and to work effectively the institutions which derive from it.

Now that the referenda have taken place, the priority is to move ahead with the implementation of the Agreement. This must be carried forward in a balanced and comprehensive manner. The Agreement is a package, and must be implemented in its totality.

A significant stage in the implementation process will be the holding of elections to the new 108 seat Northern Ireland Assembly on 25 June. Following these elections, the Assembly, the North-South Council and the British-Irish Council will be established in transitional form, pending the formal entry into force of the British-Irish Agreement. This we expect will take place in early 1999.

In the intervening period, the shadow Assembly will meet to organise itself, including to resolve its standing orders and working practices, to elect the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and to allocate up to ten ministerial posts.

Representatives of the Northern Ireland transitional Administration and the Government, operating in the shadow North-South Ministerial Council, will meet to undertake a work programme to identify and agree by 31 October at least six areas in which implementation bodies are to be established, and at least six areas where cooperation will take place separately through existing bodies. It will then fall to the two Governments to complete all necessary legislative and other arrangements to enable the implementation bodies to be established on the entry into force of the Agreement.

For our part, the Government has established an interdepartmental steering group of senior officials, chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs, to co-ordinate and actively move forward the implementation of all aspects of the Agreement.

59. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the new institutions that are to be established with regard to the British-Irish Agreement; the membership of these institutions and their terms of reference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12547/98]

[1063] Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews): The principal institutions in the British-Irish Agreement are a new Northern Ireland Assembly, a North-South Ministerial Council including Implementation Bodies, a British-Irish Council and a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

Membership of the 108 seat Assembly will be determined by election which is scheduled to be held on 25 June. The composition of all institutions and their terms of reference are set out in the British-Irish Agreement, a copy of which has been deposited in the Oireachtas Library.