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Foreign Affairs | Support for the Northern Ireland peace process

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he continues to support the Northern Ireland peace process notwithstanding efforts by others to damage the structure; if it is recognised that an international agreement must be adhered to; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

As co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Government is firmly committed to working  with the British government and with the parties in Northern Ireland in support of the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent implementing agreements. The gains of the peace process have been exceptional and it is our responsibility both to safeguard them, and to build upon them into the future.

In recent weeks and months, there have undoubtedly been a number of issues that have been very challenging.

The UK Government published legislation yesterday to replace the Human Rights Act. It will take time review it in detail and consider its proposed provisions, along with other relevant Government Departments. The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK domestic law was a critical part of the Good Friday Agreement. The rights protections afforded by the ECHR and the Human Rights Act have been essential in creating confidence in Northern Ireland’s political, policing and judicial structures over the past 24 years.

We are very concerned by any potential diminution of human rights protection in Northern Ireland that might arise from this, which may impact upon the crucial trust in the Agreement and the protections that it extends to citizens in Northern Ireland. We have underlined that concern to the British Government in the context of the review established in 2020 to examine the framework of the Human Rights Act, including at the most recent meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference. We will continue to engage with the British Government to ensure that the rights and protections as guaranteed by the Good Friday Agreement are fully maintained into the future.

The system of government at Stormont is at the centre of the Good Friday Agreement and it is paramount that the institutions of power-sharing are restored. It is for the parties now, and those representatives that have been elected by the people, to come together to get the Assembly up and running, the NI Executive established and the NSMC fully operational again, and the Irish Government will continue to work to support these vital goals. I have remained and continue to remain in regular contact with the parties in Northern Ireland following the Assembly elections, and have also been in contact with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. 

It is vital that nothing is done to undermine political stability in Northern Ireland, and that we work collectively in support of all the institutions of the Agreement.

The UK Government’s decision to table legislation to unilaterally dis-apply elements of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland is disappointing and deeply concerning. The Protocol was designed and agreed by the UK and the EU to protect the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions and to mitigate the inevitable disruption arising for the island of Ireland from Brexit.

The Protocol fully recognises the constitutional position of Northern Ireland and the principle of consent as set out in the Good Friday Agreement. It protects North South cooperation and the all-island economy, the gains of the peace process which benefit communities North and South, and ensures ‘no diminution of rights, safeguards, or equality of opportunity’ as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.  
The fundamental purpose of the Protocol is to protect the Good Friday Agreement. Arguing that the Protocol and the Good Friday Agreement are incompatible is disingenuous and irresponsible. Taken together, they are a powerful expression of what negotiation and partnership can achieve.

A constructive and solution-focussed approach is needed from all concerned, and the Government has communicated that message clearly and strongly to the UK Government.

It is also a matter of real concern that the British government has chosen to introduce legislation on the legacy of the past, unilaterally, moving away from the process agreed in the Stormont House Agreement. We have profound concerns both on the substance of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill and the process of its introduction, and are deeply conscious that it has been strongly opposed by victims, by the Northern Ireland parties, and by civil society groups. There are also serious questions with regard to the Bill’s compliance with international human rights obligations.

The Government has communicated our concerns and continues to engage with the UK Government and others on this most sensitive issue as a matter of urgency.

The Government will continue to do all in its power to work together with the British Government and the parties in Northern Ireland to work for lasting peace, deeper reconciliation and a prosperous future for all the people of Northern Ireland.


Foreign Affairs

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