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McGuinness - Criminal Justice, Equality and Irish Language implementation moves vital to progress

3 July, 2003

Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness has said that moves by the two governments to implement commitments in the Joint Declaration on Criminal Justice, equality and the Irish language represent progress on these important issues.

Referring to the outcome of yesterdays British Irish Intergovernmental Conference meeting, Mr McGuinness said:

"The most important issue facing us is the cancellation of the election and on-going suspension of the political institutions. There is widespread concern that the two governments have not set a fixed date for the cancelled elections.

"However, there has been progress on a number of key issues as a result of the commitments which Sinn Fein achieved in the recent negotiation.

"We will see movement on the issue of the Irish language and on equality matters. In addition, the entire issue of Criminal Justice has been opened up. There will be a new Bill to address some of the major flaws in the earlier legislation and this will cover the important issues of human rights and representativeness. It will also become an offence to interfere with or try to influence the prosecution service. This will have implications for cases involving agents or agencies of the state and there will be a new mechanism to deal with complaints against the prosecution service.

"All of this represents progress but much work remains to be done to ensure that the two governments deliver on their obligations under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Fein will continue to apply the Agreement as the essential benchmark in all of this." ENDS

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