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Foreign Affairs | Improving the peace process in Northern Ireland to broaden and deepen the principles of the Good Friday Agreement

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he continues to promote the concept of power sharing and the continuation of working at and improving the peace process in Northern Ireland in a way that  clearly demonstrates the economic and social benefits of a broadening and deepening of the principles of the Good Friday Agreement; and he will make a statement on the matter.

– Bernard J. Durkan T.D.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 21 March, 2023.


The full and effective operation of all of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement is a key priority for this Government, across all three Strands – the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland; the North South Ministerial Council and the Cross Border Bodies; and the East-West institutions.  The Agreement is designed so that these institutions support and reinforce one another.

As a co-Guarantor of the Agreement, together with the British Government, we have a particular responsibility to see these institutions operate as effectively as possible and delivering to the collective benefit of all of our citizens.
The people of Northern Ireland are entitled to a functioning Assembly and Executive.  Their vote in last May’s Assembly elections must be respected, so that the political leadership required if the urgent issues facing communities and families are to be addressed.  These include improving access to healthcare, educational attainment and other core service delivery issues.

The last several weeks has seen positive momentum which must now be harnessed. It is understandable that Assembly parties will require time to study the Windsor Framework but this can be done in parallel to delay getting the institutions up and running.

I remain in regular contact with political representatives in Northern Ireland, reiterating the urgent need  for a functioning Assembly and Executive.

The absence of a functioning Executive also has knock-on affects on the operation of Strand Two of the Agreement.I am deeply concerned that the work of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) has been severely disrupted in recent years. In the absence of regular NSMC meetings, the two Administrations on the island are not having the important conversations that we should be having to address shared challenges and opportunities. It is vital that the Council is allowed to continue its work as soon as possible.

I am in regular contact with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, with restoration of the institutions a core focus of our discussions.  I have also reiterated the importance of the principles of consent and of parity of esteem, and the enduring need for close cooperation between the two governments on any matters which might touch upon the delicate balances that underpin the Good Friday Agreement.

The Secretary of State and I also met at the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, under Strand Three of the Agreement, in Dublin earlier this year. In all of our contacts, we discussed the importance that both governments attach to the full functioning of the institutions provided for under the Good Friday Agreement. I will meet the Secretary of State a number of times in the weeks ahead.  We remain in close and regular contact.

I would like to emphasise the importance of the East-West strand as a locus for practical cooperation, including as focal point for practical cooperation between the various jurisdictions of these islands. The British-Irish Council addresses such issues as climate, energy and broader sustainability concerns. The most recent Council summit took place in Blackpool on 11 November 2022, where I met with the UK Prime Minister Sunak. The 39th BIC summit is due to be hosted in Jersey later this year. These regular engagements are very positive and I look forward to our administrations continuing this important work.

I would like to assure the Dáil that this Government will continue to work with our Northern Ireland and UK counterparts across all three strands of the Agreement.

I am also conscious that inter-parliamentary links are strong, and that many members of this house met with their Northern Ireland and UK counterparts at the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly extraordinary plenary to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. On behalf of the Government, I would like to commend you for your important contribution to building East-West and North-South relations.

Working together, the Government of Ireland, the British Government, and the Northern Ireland parties can help to build a peaceful, prosperous, and stable Northern Ireland, and to strengthen ties right across these islands. Part of this includes the continued development of a closely integrated all-island economy, which is one of the key dividends of the peace process and remains a priority.

Building on the stability provided for by the Windsor Framework, the Government will continue to work to create an enabling environment for businesses, North and South, to grow cross-border trade and further unlock the potential of the all-island economy.

The Government will continue to work closely on a North-South and an East-West basis in support of the devolved power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland and the full implementation of all of the Strands of the Good Friday Agreement and as well as subsequent agreements.

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