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Joint Communiqué of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIC), Lancaster House, London, 20 May 2003
Text: British and Irish Governments ... Page compiled: Martin Melaugh
Joint Communiqué of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIC),
Lancaster House, London, 20 May 2003
1. A meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference was held at Lancaster House, London, 20 May 2003.
2. The British Government was represented by the Joint Chair, the Rt Hon Paul Murphy, MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who was accompanied by Jane Kennedy, MP, Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office and Des Browne, MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office. The Irish Government was represented by the Joint Chair, Brian Cowen, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was accompanied by Michael McDowell, TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Tom Kitt, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
General political matters
3. The Conference examined recent political developments including the circumstances leading to the postponement of the Assembly elections. Both Governments stressed their ongoing commitment to the principle of devolved Government in Northern Ireland and the full and effective operation of the institutions of the Agreement. The Governments will continue their engagement with the parties in order to maintain political progress in this regard.
4. The Governments agreed on the need to continue efforts to ensure that all aspects of the Agreement are fully implemented. In particular both Governments reiterated their determination to progress implementation of the Joint Declaration in the coming months. The Governments acknowledged the importance of an effective dynamic in this respect and the need for regular meetings at both a political and official level to take matters forward.
5. There was an exchange of views on North-South issues and the British-Irish Council. Both Governments noted the importance of the all-Ireland bodies continuing to operate on a care and maintenance basis during the period of suspension and also noted the proposal, as outlined in the Joint Declaration, to consider establishing a dedicated secretariat for the British-Irish Council, subject to the Agreement of its members. There was also a preliminary discussion on the four year review of the Agreement which, under the terms of the Agreement, is due to take place before the end of December 2003.
6. On policing matters the Governments discussed the implementation of the Joint Declaration proposals in this area as well as progress on the new PSNI College. The Irish Government provided an update on progress of the legislation in the Oireachtas for secondments and lateral entry between An Garda Siochana and the PSNI.
Agreement on monitoring and compliance
7. The Conference discussed plans for an agreement on monitoring and compliance, including the establishment of an independent monitoring body, and will have further discussions on this matter in the coming weeks.
8. The Conference discussed criminal justice matters including the contents of the proposed Justice Bill, publication of the revised Implementation Plan, arrangements for enhanced co-operation on criminal justice and the inquest system in Northern Ireland.
9. The Irish Government raised recent allegations of collusion and intelligence activities involving the security forces in Northern Ireland and expressed its serious concern at reports in this regard. The Conference also discussed paramilitary activities by loyalist and republican groups. The Irish Government welcomed the decision to demolish two observation towers at Clohogue and Tievecrum and both Governments underlined their commitment to making further progress on normalisation in the context of the Joint Declaration.
Rights, equality, identity and community
10. Discussion reflected the Governments' determination to make substantial progress on the implementation of the Joint Declaration in these areas in the coming months.
11. The Conference considered human rights and equality issues, as well as Irish language broadcasting in Northern Ireland, the use of symbols and emblems, nationality regulations in the public service and measures for combating sectarianism.
12. Matters also discussed under the equality heading included proposals for the regeneration of areas of greatest social need and significant community division; and proposals for further research and action on the unemployment differential in Northern Ireland.
Date of next meeting
13. The Conference agreed to meet again in the coming weeks.