Dáil Éireann - Volume 517 - 05 April, 2000
Written Answers. - Northern Ireland Issues.
Mr. Quinn Mr. Quinn
18. Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he will consider the re-activation of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation to help fill the political vacuum created by the suspension of the institutions in Northern Ireland and with a view to finalising outstanding reports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6811/00]
Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton
19. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach when the independent North-South consultative forum envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement will be established; if it is possible to establish it in the absence of the Northern Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7995/00]
Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton
20. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the plans, if any, he has to reconvene the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8772/00]
Mr. Quinn Mr. Quinn
21. Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach the discussions he has had with the British Government regarding the establishment of the independent consultative forum to be appointed by the two Administrations provided for in paragraph 19 of Strand Two of the Good Friday Agreement; if it is intended to proceed with the forum; if so, the form it will take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8832/00]
Mr. Sargent Mr. Sargent
22. Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach the plans, if any, he has to reconvene the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. [9931/00]
The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 to 22, inclusive, together.
In replies to previous questions over the past two years or so on the possibility of convening further meetings of the forum, I have indicated that while this is a matter for the chairperson of the forum and the parties participating in it, the Government would be open to one or more such meetings if this seemed likely to advance progress in the political and peace processes and if support for this course of action was the predominant tendency among the participants in the forum. I also indicated that, since the last meeting of the forum on 5 December 1997, the predominant tendency on the part of the forum participants was to concentrate their time and energy on, first, the negotiation and, subsequently, the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. As I indicated in my reply to questions previously, the latter remains the focus of the Government's policy and efforts. In that context, I envisage that there will be further round table meetings of the pro-Agreement parties such as took place earlier in the current process of intensive consultations.
However, I arranged with the chairperson of the forum for soundings with parties participating in the forum as to their views on an early meeting.  At the moment the strongly preponderant view is that it would not be opportune to hold a meeting at this time.
If there were to be a change of opinion in favour of such meetings, this could provide a context in which consideration could be given, perhaps by the co-ordinating committee of the forum, to finalising outstanding reports of the forum. The draft reports involved were comments of the forum on two consultancy reports which were published in 1995 and a draft report of the forum's Sub-Committee on Obstacles in the South to reconciliation. It may be doubtful as to what would be the value now of finalising comments on studies published almost five years ago. The draft report of the obstacles sub-committee is in a different category as it represented the primary follow-up on the undertaking given by my predecessor, former Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, in paragraph 6 of the Downing Street Declaration of 15 December 1993. However, while the preparation of the sub-committee's report was well advanced at the time, early in 1996, when forum meetings were deferred, a great deal of water has flowed under the bridge in the meantime in regard to the matters dealt with in the draft report. Thus, if the broad issue were to be taken up again, it might not be a matter of finalising a report but rather of very substantial reconsideration of the issues and extensive redrafting of the draft report.
There have also been calls, in the context of current efforts to overcome obstacles to the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, to take forward establishment of the Civic Forum in Northern Ireland and the possible independent North-South consultative forum as envisaged in the Agreement. The relevant provisions of the latter involve roles for the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland and for the Northern Ireland Administration. However, if it were felt to be helpful in the absence of other institutions, the Government would be open to proceed with some form of civic consultation arrangements.
In previous replies I have said that, in the context of implementation of the Agreement proceeding successfully, the Government would envisage that the role played by the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation would be discharged by the joint parliamentary forum and North-South consultative forum envisaged in paragraphs 18 and 19 of Strand Two of the Agreement.
Dáil Éireann 517 Written Answers. Northern Ireland Issues.