Statement on suspension of govt. in Nth Ireland
Joint Statement on the suspension of devolved government in Northern Ireland
The Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, have issued a joint statement on the suspension of the Northern Ireland assembly. They said that the two governments are both 'deeply saddened' by the developments and expressed their 'sincere wish that the Northern Ireland institutions be restored as soon as possible'.
Read the statement in full below:
The two Governments are both deeply saddened by today's developments. We remain totally committed to the full implementation of the Agreement which has already brought great gains and tangible benefits to the people of Northern Ireland. It is clear, however, that devolved government cannot be made to work effectively in circumstances where there has been a breakdown of trust between those involved.
The two Governments will continue to press forward with the full implementation of all aspects of the Agreement that will be within their respective powers to implement because we firmly believe it offers the only viable future for all the people of Northern Ireland.
It is our sincere wish that the Northern Ireland institutions be restored as soon as possible. We firmly believe that it will be possible to do so, and in a way that will last without further disruption, once trust between the parties has been re-established. For that to happen, it must be clear that the transition from violence to exclusively peaceful and democratic means, which has been ongoing since the Agreement, and indeed before, is being brought to an unambiguous and definitive conclusion. It is now essential that the concerns around the commitment to exclusively democratic and non-violent means are removed. The time has come for people to clearly choose one track or the other.
In addition, it is essential that each community has confidence in the commitment of the representatives of the other to the full operation and implementation of the Agreement.
We deplore the scourges of paramilitarism and sectarianism which have led to increased tension and violence. We are determined that their destructive agenda will not succeed, and will be countered by the full rigour of the law.
We believe that an inclusive Executive, built on trust, and the related institutions, offer the only means whereby Northern Ireland can be governed in the best interests of both communities. Both Governments will be active, in consultation with the parties, in encouraging the conditions in which devolved government can be restored in advance of the scheduled elections.
In the meantime, the two Governments will work closely together, including through the British - Irish Intergovernmental Conference, in a way which reflects the principles of the Agreement and which protects and develops its achievements, including in the vital area of policing.
The Agreement remains the template for political progress, has been endorsed by the people of Ireland, North and South, and is the only sustainable basis for a fair and honourable accommodation between unionists and nationalists. We are determined that it will succeed.
Statement On Suspension By The Secretary Of State
As you know, over the past weeks and months the political process in Northern Ireland has encountered increasing difficulties. My sincere hope was that we would be able to overcome those challenges. But it is obvious that this has proved impossible in the short term.
Regrettably, therefore, I have today made an Order under the Northern Ireland Act 2000, suspending devolved government in Northern Ireland. It will come into effect at midnight tonight.
The Prime Minister and I remain totally committed to the full implementation of the Belfast Agreement. It has already brought great benefits to the people of Northern Ireland. But it has become clear that decisive action is needed in order to safeguard the progress made and tackle the remaining challenges.
The Prime Minister and Taoiseach will be issuing a joint statement today, making clear that both Governments remain totally committed to the Agreement in its entirety.
I will make a full Parliamentary statement tomorrow setting out the reasons for the action I have taken and our approach to the period of suspension.
Meantime, I would simply make these points.
Firstly, the recent difficulties in Northern Ireland stem from a loss of trust on both sides of the community. In particular it is essential that concerns about the commitment to exclusively democratic and non-violent means are removed. The time has come for people to face up to the choice between violence and democracy.
It is also essential that each community has confidence in the commitment of the other to the Agreement.
Secondly, we now need to move rapidly and decisively from the recent weeks of political uncertainty. I have no doubts that the people of Northern Ireland - who should be always the ones at the front of our minds in all that we are doing - welcome, appreciate, and deserve devolved government.
Like them, I would have much preferred devolved government continuing, with local Ministers making local decisions. But until it can be restored, I and my colleagues will dedicate ourselves to working for the good of all the people of Northern Ireland to the best of our abilities. In this context I would like to welcome Angela Smith and Ian Pearson to the Ministerial team.
Thirdly, I want to stress that this is an impasse - hopefully short lived - in one aspect of the Agreement. It isn't the whole Agreement. It isn't the whole peace process. We will continue, in co-operation with the parties and our colleagues in the Irish Government, to carry forward that process and the implementation of the Agreement.
The Policing Board is widely agreed to have been one of its finest achievements. I want their work to continue. Today I will be inviting all the existing Board members to continue providing their excellent service to the community. I sincerely hope that they will all accept reappointment.
Finally, it is our aim to find a basis on which all the institutions of the Agreement can be brought back into operation as soon as possible. This is our aim. We will make every effort to do that, along with the Irish Government and the parties. The election date scheduled for 1 May stands.
We have come an enormous distance in recent years. The peace process and the Agreement have increased prosperity, revitalised society, safeguarded rights, and - above all - saved lives. I am determined that these benefits should not be lost, but should increase. The Agreement remains a template for political process here in Northern Ireland. I hope the decision I have taken today marks a breathing space - a chance to gather strength - before that process moves forward once again.