Sinn Féin leaders attend inaugural meeting of Good Friday Agreement Committee
Speaking during this afternoon's first meeting of the Good Friday Agreement Oireachtas Committee Sinn Féin TD and party Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin described the committee's work as a significant step forward in delivering the full potential of the Agreement.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
"The establishment of the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement is a very welcome and significant step forward. Its first meeting today is an historic occasion.
"I welcome those MPs from the Six Counties who are participating in the Committee today, including my Sinn Féin colleagues Pat Doherty of West Tyrone and Michelle Gildernew of Fermanagh/South Tyrone. I look forward to the day - not far distant I believe - when Unionist MPs will take their places at this Committee.
"The Oireachtas needs to have a greater level of engagement on the Agreement and on the new political dispensation on the island of Ireland. It needs to welcome elected representatives from the Six Counties here on a routine and regular basis and to enhance All-Ireland democratic dialogue.
"We are approaching the tenth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and during that decade our country has been transformed. The peace process has seen the end of armed conflict. The Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrew's Agreement have seen the establishment of an Assembly and an Executive in which power is shared between nationalists and unionists and an All-Ireland Ministerial Council.
"The All-Ireland Ministerial Council and the structures for All-Ireland co-operation should be seen as opening the way to a new era of governance on this island.
"We have seen major progress on the demilitarisation of the Six Counties with the dismantling of British military installations and the withdrawal of the British Army from the streets. A new beginning has been made in policing.
"Tá dul chun cinn déanta ach tá alán le déanamh fós. Mar shampla tá na hAontachtóirí sa Tionól ag cur i gcoinne Acht Teanga do na Sé Chontae, rud a bhí geallta i gComhaontú Naomh Aindriú. Tá cearta Ghaeilgeoirí sa Tuaisceart á shéanadh dá bharr sin. Mar sin leis an gceist seo, chomh maith le ceisteanna eile, tá gá le feachtaisí pobal. Ní féidir an próiséas seo a fhagáil i seomraí le coistí. Is leis an bpobal an bpróiséas síochána agus Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta. Is ar a son atáimíd ag obair.
"Much progress has been made but all these issues are also works in progress. Much remains to be done. The Joint Committee will be judged on how it helps to deliver real improvements in people's lives, especially for those communities worst effected by the border and the legacy of conflict. Issues which need to be advanced and which the Committee needs to address include:
· The establishment of the North-South Parliamentary Forum
· The establishment of the Consultative Civic Forum
· The framing and implementation of the All-Ireland Charter of Rights
· Accelerating cross-border co-operation and integration across all key areas of policy - notably health, physical infrastructure and job creation
· The development of the Border region
· The need for truth on collusion.
"Sinn Féin will also be advancing our proposals for a Green Paper on Irish Unity to be initiated by Government and to begin the practical planning for Irish Reunification.
"Since the Good Friday Agreement Sinn Féin has argued strongly for representation in the Dáil for citizens in the Six Counties. We maintain this call and we do not see the new Committee, welcome as it is, as a substitute for Six-County representation in the Dáil. That call and that campaign will continue." CRÍOCH