2 August 2001 Edition
Can governments' proposals deliver?
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, in an initial response to the proposals issued by the London and Dublin governments, said that Sinn Féin is coming to this document critically but in a constructive frame of mind.
Speaking at a p[ress conference in Belfast, Adams said: ``I am very mindful of the tragic backdrop to this morning's announcement and the anxiety and grief of many people at this difficult time.
``The Sinn Féin leadership has been consistent and clear about how we will view any package from the two governments. The governments promised at the end of the Weston Park talks to bring forward a final package for the full and early implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
``The context in which Sinn Féin will form a view of these proposals will be to put them to the test of the Good Friday Agreement.''
Matters like policing, the political institutions, demilitarisation, the arms issue, human rights, the justice system and the equality agenda, are all ``stand alone'' issues to be resolved in their own right, said Adams.
He added that the democratic rights and entitlements of nationalists and republicans cannot be conditional. ``These rights are universal rights and they benefit everyone,'' said the West Belfast MP.
``Our approach will be to engage constructively to see if what is currently proposed has the potential to finally implement the Good Friday Agreement, as promised by the two governments. That process requires the governments to provide and make public the details of what they are proposing.
``The Ard Chomhairle of Sinn Féin is to meet on Friday to examine the governments' package. We will continue to engage with both governments and all the parties to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is implemented in full.''
Implementation - the ultimate test
BY MICHAEL PIERSE
We welcome the proposals to close one sangar, one base and two observation towers but this cannot be seen as a substitute for a strategy for demilitarisation
Three years ago, the Irish people voted for the Good Friday Agreement and therefore, it is the benchmark for progress in the peace process. After the Weston Park discussions the two governments promised to bring forward a strategic plan to see the Good Friday Agreement implemented in full. Yesterday's proposals from the two governments do make some progress along the road of implementation, but fall short on a range of important matters.
We welcome the commitment to deliver the new beginning to policing, promised in the Good Friday Agreement, through the implemention of the Patten report. We will study in detail the revised implementation plan, the additional role envisaged for the Oversight Commissioner and the legislative changes promised. We will view them in the context of the Good Friday Agreement and the recommendations of the Patten report.
However, it is clear that what is required to make this new beginning a reality is amending legislation to ensure that the requirements of the Agreement in respect of accountability, community representation and freedom from partisan political control are met.
With regard to the issue of arms, the Good Friday Agreement is clear. All of the parties - including the two governments - have a collective responsibility to deal with this issue. The government proposals recognise this fact and further recognise that the resolution of any of the outstanding issues cannot be seen as a precondition for progress on any of the others.
Sinn Féin wants to see this issue resolved. It has done more than any other party to see it resolved and a lot of progress has been made. It is almost seven years since the first IRA cessation, IRA arms dumps have been inspected and the IICD have stated that the IRA are engaging in good faith. If we are to see the Agreement implemented in full, then all of the other parties and the two governments must begin to use their influence to deal with this issue also.
The democratic rights and entitlements of nationalists and republicans cannot be conditional. These are universal rights and they benefit everyone
The IRA is not waiting to hear Sinn Féin's interpretation of this document. It is a public document and it does not need Sinn Féin or for that matter any other party to interpret it or to advise the IRA on what it should do.
The Good Friday Agreement also demanded that the British government bring forward a strategic plan for the demilitarisation of society. This has not yet happened. In fact, areas like South Armagh have been remilitarised since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
The British government has to accept its responsibility for militarising the political struggle. Not only has it a huge military infrastructure but there is also a massive ongoing intelligence gathering and surveillance strategy in place. The British government needs to consider what it has done to instill confidence that it is serious about advancing the Good Friday Agreement.
We welcome the proposals to close one sangar, one base and two observation towers, but this cannot be seen as a substitute for a strategy for demilitarisation. This matter must be dealt with by the British government and not be subject to security assessments by the RUC Chief Constable, Ronnie Flanagan.
Although not addressed directly in the proposals, the stability of the political institutions is at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement. All of the parties to the Agreement recognised this and furthermore supported the fact that the institutions would be interlocking and interdependent. However, in the past three years they have only been allowed to operate, without threat of unionist disruption, for a period of five months. This is unacceptable. The UUP cannot be allowed to continue to undermine the Good Friday Agreement in this manner.
We must all be mindful of the tragic context of continued attacks and deaths carried out by loyalist death squads that has formed the backdrop to these proposals. It is obvious that the issues of policing, the political institutions, demilitarisation, the arms issue, human rights, the justice system and the equality agenda, are issues that are vital to securing peace with justice on this island. It is important that these issues are also recognised as stand alone issues, to be resolved in their own right.
Moreover, the democratic rights and entitlements of nationalists and republicans cannot be conditional. These are universal rights and they benefit everyone.
Sinn Féin will examine these proposals in detail in the coming days and at its Árd Comhairle meeting on Friday, 3 August, to see if they contain the potential to deliver the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. That will be the ultimate test for this package.
Text of governments' document
The following document, prefaced by a joint letter from Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen and British Secretary of State John Reid was jointly released by the London and Dublin governments in Belfast on Wednesday, 1 August, addressed to each of the party leaders.
Dear Party Leader,
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT
1. Following the intensive discussions at Weston Park three weeks ago, the two Governments have now agreed the elements of a package which, we believe, will help deliver the full and early implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
2. The package covers all four outstanding issues - policing, normalisation, the stability of the institutions and decommissioning. The two Governments believe that it represents a fair, balanced and justified package of proposals.
3. We are today putting to all the parties who were at Weston Park our proposals on those four areas, including a draft statement which the parties would issue, in the event that the overall package was acceptable.
4. As we said at Weston Park, while each of the issues - policing, decommissioning, normalisation and the stability of the institutions - is best addressed in its own terms rather than being seen as a pre-condition for progress on any other, the Agreement can only succeed if all parts of it are implemented together. In this context, these proposals set out the steps we would take as part of a package to secure the full implementation of the Agreement.
5. We now invite the parties to respond to these proposals by 6 August.
JOHN REID BRIAN COWEN
PROPOSALS BY THE TWO GOVERNMENTS
1. The British and Irish Governments have been working with the parties to achieve the full implementation of the Agreement reached on Good Friday 1998, which was endorsed in referendums by the people of the island of Ireland, North and South.
2. Much progress has been made. Constitutional changes to reflect fully the principles of consent and self-determination, including the amendment of Articles 2 and 3 in the Irish Constitution and of British constitutional legislation, have been brought into effect.
3. Devolved institutions in Northern Ireland have brought power and accountability closer to its people, and have demonstrated that the parties can work together effectively in the common interest. New North/South and British-Irish institutions have been created, and have begun to work for the benefit of all the people of these islands.
4. New safeguards for human rights have been introduced, North and South. Progress has been made in Northern Ireland on the equality agenda, on the normalisation of security and in pursuit of major reviews of policing and the criminal justice system. The Agreement's provisions on the accelerated release of prisoners have been largely implemented.
5. Difficulties remain, and we have striven to overcome them with the parties. As we undertook to do on 14 July at the end of our discussions at Weston Park, the British and Irish Governments now set out the steps we would take to secure the full implementation of the Agreement, recognising its complete implementation in many areas will not be easy or quick but will require a continuing and collective process of implementation.
6. As we said at Weston Park:
``The outstanding issues relate to policing, the stability of the institutions, security normalisation and decommissioning. While each of these issues is best addressed in its own terms, rather than being seen as a precondition for progress on any other, the Agreement can only succeed if all parts of it are implemented together.''
Proposals on decommissioning
7. In respect of the issue of putting arms beyond use, the two Governments repeat their view that this is an indispensable part of implementing the Good Friday Agreement. All parties to the Agreement recognise that; and that, under the Agreement, this issue must be resolved in a manner acceptable to and verified by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning in accordance with its basic mandate in law.
Proposals on policing
8. Both Governments remain committed to a new beginning in policing on the basis set out in the Good Friday Agreement. The British Government reaffirms its determination to bring about such a new beginning by implementing the Patten Report.
9. The British Government will publish a revised Implementation Plan. This will set out in greater detail the plans for implementing, among other matters, Patten's recommendations on the Full Time Reserve, the Part Time Reserve, the closure of Gough holding centre and the future structure of Special Branch. It will also set out the intention to avoid the use of Plastic Baton Rounds, except where there is a serious risk of loss of life or serious injury, while Patten's recommendation for a major research programme on alternatives is completed.
10. The Oversight Commissioner is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the changes recommended in the Patten Report. These are momentous and wide-ranging: it is important to be confident that they are delivering the new beginning intended in the Good Friday Agreement. So, in addition, the British Government will ask the Oversight Commissioner to review the new arrangements in the light of experience. The review will start in March 2002. It will be conducted on the basis of experience during the first year of the Board's operation and report by October 2002. Legislation will be introduced as soon as practicable thereafter to amend or clarify some provisions to reflect more fully the Patten recommendations. These amendments will be set out in detail in the revised Implementation Plan.
11. On this basis, the British Government will invite the parties to nominate political members to the new Policing Board and complete the process for selection of independent members, so that the Board will be established by the end of September.
12. The British Government is also establishing the Police Fund, which will assist families of officers killed by terrorist action, and the RUC GC Foundation, which will mark the sacrifices and honour the achievements of the RUC.
13. The British Government will shortly publish a full Implementation Plan for the Criminal Justice Review, together with draft legislation, with a view to passing the necessary Bill in the current session of Parliament.
Proposals on normalisation
14. As indicated in the two Governments' statement of 5 May 2000, the British Government will progressively take all the necessary steps to secure as early a return as possible to normal security arrangements in Northern Ireland. These steps depend on the continuing implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the Chief Constable's assessment of the threat at the time. Provided the threat is reduced, the British Government will carry out a progressive rolling programme reducing levels of troops and installations in Northern Ireland. Ultimately the normal state would mean the vacation, return or demolition of the great majority of army bases, the demolition and vacation of all surveillance towers, no further army presence in police stations and the use of Army helicopters for training purposes only.
15. In the event of a significant reduction in the level of threat as a result of this package being implemented, the Chief Constable will announce the following normalisation measures, to be taken as soon as logistically possible:
* demolition of the super-sangar at Newtownhamilton Police Station adjacent to the helicopter landing site;
* demolition of Magherafelt Army base;
* demolition of the observation tower on Sturgan Mountain;
* demolition of one of the observation towers on Camlough Mountain.
16. The Irish Government confirm that the Garda Siochána will work in the closest co-operation with the new police service and will join with them in taking all necessary measures to counter any remaining terrorist threat and to enable the normalisation of security arrangements.
17. In order to help create greater consensus on the parades issue and a less contentious environment in which the new police service will operate, the British Government will review the operation of the Parades Commission and the legislation under which it was established. The Government believes the Parades Commission has had four successful years of operation against a difficult background. But this review, which will take place in consultation with the parties and others with an interest including the Irish Government, will consider whether there are any changes which could promote further public confidence on all sides, respect for the rights of all and the peaceful resolution of disputes on parades. Any legislative changes would take effect after summer 2002.
18. Both Governments want the new policing arrangements now being established to focus on the future. But they also accept that certain cases from the past remain a source of grave public concern, particularly those giving rise to serious allegations of collusion by the security forces in each of our jurisdictions. Both Governments will therefore appoint a judge of international standing from outside both jurisdictions to undertake a thorough investigation of allegations of collusion in the cases, of the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, Pat Finucane, Lord Justice and Lady Gibson, Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright.
19. The investigation of each individual case will begin no later than April 2002 unless this is clearly prejudicial to a forthcoming prosecution at that time. Detailed terms of reference will be published but the appointed judge will be asked to review all the papers, interview anyone who can help, establish the facts and report with recommendations for any further action. Arrangements will be made to hear the views of the victims' families and keep them informed of progress. If the appointed judge considers that in any case this has not provided a sufficient basis on which to establish the facts, he or she can report to this effect with recommendations as to what further action should be taken. In the event that a Public Inquiry is recommended in any case, the relevant Government will implement that recommendation.
20. Both Governments also recognise that there is an issue to be addressed, with the completion of the early release scheme, about supporters of organisations now on cease-fire against whom there are outstanding prosecutions, and in some cases extradition proceedings, for offences committed before 10 April 1998. Such people would, if convicted, stand to benefit from the early release scheme. The Governments accept that it would be a natural development of the scheme for such prosecutions not to be pursued and will as soon as possible, and in any event before the end of the year, take such steps as are necessary in their jurisdictions to resolve this difficulty so that those concerned are no longer pursued.
21. Both Governments reaffirm that the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement is a collective responsibility and can only be achieved in co-operation with the parties in Northern Ireland. They will invite those parties committed to securing the full implementation of the Agreement to join both Governments in an Implementation Group.
22. This Group will meet regularly to review implementation of the commitments made. The Group could meet in a variety of formats but there will be a meeting at least every six months involving the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and representatives of the various parties.
DRAFT ALL-PARTY STATEMENT ON THE INSTITUTIONS
In the context of all these steps that are now being taken to implement the Agreement in all its aspects, the parties reaffirm their commitment to the full and stable operation of the institutions, which are the democratic core of the Agreement.
They recall that they pledged that they would, in good faith, work to ensure the success of each and every one of the arrangements to be established under the Agreement. They recall also that the balanced constitutional changes brought about by the Agreement were implemented on the basis that they accepted in the Agreement that all of the institutional and constitutional arrangements - an Assembly in Northern Ireland, a North/South Ministerial Council, implementation bodies, a British-Irish Council and a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and any amendments to British Acts of Parliament and the Constitution of Ireland - were interlocking and interdependent. Accordingly, each party, reaffirming the Pledge of Office in all its respects, undertakes to play its full part in these institutions and to enable the other parties to play their rightful parts also.
They look forward to renewed programmes of work and meetings in both the NSMC and BIC, in accordance with the Agreement, with Ministers participating fully in all meetings relevant to their responsibilities. In particular, early dates for outstanding meetings of the North/South Ministerial Council in plenary format and in sectoral format on education and health and food safety will be agreed within one month.
The parties confirm that, to enable planning and preparation to proceed, meetings and Ministerial attendance will, as far as possible and consistently with the duties and role of the First and Deputy First Minister, as outlined in the Agreement, to co-ordinate the response of the Northern Ireland administration to external relationships, be agreed six months in advance. In accordance with the Agreement, at sectoral meetings the Executive's representation will include the appropriate Minister able to take decisions in the Council on the relevant sector. Where the holder of a relevant post will not participate normally in the Council, the First and Deputy First Minister will be able to make alternative arrangements.
Should difficulties arise with the above arrangements, they will be dealt with in accordance with the review provisions of the Agreement.