Ministers agree deal to kick-start peace process

The Irish and British governments today agreed to press forward with the implementation of all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement which lie within their power to deliver.

The Irish and British governments today agreed to press forward with the implementation of all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement which lie within their power to deliver.

Following three and a half hours of talks in London, Northern Ireland secretary Paul Murphy and Foreign Minister Brian Cowen announced that a mechanism would be put in place to implement those parts of the agreement not dependent on other parties’ “acts of completion” – code for paramilitary disarmament.

The elements of the agreement which remain to be fulfilled were set out in the recent joint declaration by Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern.

Mr Cowen raised the Irish Government’s concern about recent revelations involving the alleged IRA informer code-named Stakeknife, warning that anonymous briefings on the agent’s supposed activities threatened to “destabilise” the political process.

He gave no indication of who he thought was feeding information about Stakeknife to the press, but warned they were acting with “great irresponsibility”.

Mr Cowen said: “Those responsible for putting these allegations into the public domain have at the very least acted with great irresponsibility.

“We are also concerned about briefings apparently coming from anonymous sources which have the effect and perhaps the intention of destabilising the political process.”

Both ministers stressed the need to maintain momentum in the political process and said they would soon meet the Northern Ireland parties to discuss how it could be driven forward.

And Mr Cowen stressed the importance the Irish government laid on meeting the autumn target for elections in Northern Ireland, without which he warned confidence in the process could falter.

Speaking after the Inter Governmental Conference at Lancaster House, Mr Murphy said: “The two governments will, from today, institute a mechanism by which the joint declaration and the monitoring body will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

“There is the closest co-operation between the British and Irish governments and we are at one in ensuring that this peace process moves forward.

“There has to be momentum in the peace process. We have had a disappointing and difficult number of weeks that we are determined to get behind us and move forward.

“The people of Northern Ireland and the whole of the island of Ireland wants the Good Friday Agreement to work and the process to succeed.”

Mr Cowen added: “We undertook today an extensive audit of the joint declaration and agreed that those elements not explicitly linked to acts of completion by others should be taken forward in a proactive way.

“It is essential that the public understand that the two governments are determined that politics will continue to be the driving force of the this process.”

Stressing the importance of holding the elections initially scheduled for May 29 by this autumn, Mr Cowen said: “The view of the Irish Government is that that target should be met and elections held in the autumn.

“In the absence of confidence that elections will be held in a reasonable time frame, it will be difficult to drive the process forward with the required political momentum.”

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