IOL: Govts hope to restore NI devolution

Govts hope to restore NI devolution
28/11/2003 - 19:28:45

The British and Irish governments tonight confirmed they would begin efforts to try and restore devolution in Northern Ireland after hardline unionists and republicans triumphed in the Assembly election.

In a joint statement issued tonight, London and Dublin said they would contact parties over the coming days to “seek a political way forward and to secure a basis on which the Assembly can be restored and a functioning executive quickly established”.

However, they also insisted that the Good Friday Agreement remained “the only viable political framework” in Northern Ireland and they insisted it was not “open to negotiation”.

They vowed: “Working with the parties, we will do our utmost to achieve those objectives, mindful that any devolution must be stable and fully inclusive.

“In our firm view, the Good Friday Agreement remains the only viable political framework that is capable of securing the support of those communities in Northern Ireland.

“We are determined that its wide-ranging provisions will continue to be implemented.

“The Good Friday Agreement has been endorsed in referendums in both parts of the island.”

The two Governments said that with most of the election results processed, the people of Northern Ireland had spoken.

With the DUP emerging as the largest unionist party and Sinn Fein the largest nationalist party at Stormont, both Governments said they respected the mandates all sides had received.

They reminded the Provinces’ politicians that “with success comes responsibility.

“The vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland want to see devolved Government.

“The future of devolution now lies in the hands of those elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

London and Dublin said that the in coming days they would ask parties to submit their views about how the four-year review of the Good Friday Agreement should be conducted and what its agenda should be.

They said they hoped to finalise and present proposals for the review early in the New Year after receiving responses from the parties.

“This is a review of the operation of the Agreement,” they said.

“It’s fundamentals are not open to re-negotiation.”

The British and Irish Government confirmed that the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Itaoiseach Bertie Ahern would meet before Christmas to review the prospects for political progress after contacting the parties.

Blair and Ahern met in Cardiff this morning while counts continued in the Assembly election.

The joint statement concluded: “While the coming period present challenges for the process, it also represents the period of opportunity.

“We call on all parties to work constructively together and with the Government to consolidate and develop it has been made over the years.”

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