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18-12-1998 Designation of 10 Northern Ireland Departments


I warmly welcome this morning's agreement on areas for North/South co-operation and implementation and on the designation of 10 Northern Ireland Departments. It is a highly significant and encouraging step forward in the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. It shows once again that, with sufficient perseverance and commitment, and with a willingness to seek accommodation and to resolve difference, progress can be made and obstacles overcome. The people of Ireland, North and South, expect no less of their political representatives.

Along with the Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, I want to sincerely acknowledge the great efforts to reach agreement made by David Trimble and Seamus Mallon as First Minister and Deputy First Minister designate - with Seamus working right up to the eve of a major operation - and by the other Northern Ireland parties, in particular Sinn Fein. Prime Minister Blair, together with his colleagues and their officials, played an indispensable facilitation role. We also very much appreciate the continuing and vital role played by President Clinton.

The North/South aspects of the Good Friday Agreement are of particular importance to the Government. We believe that the agreed implementation Bodies will play an importance role in the island's economic, social and cultural development. We look forward to future co-operation through the North/South Ministerial Council in relation to all the other specified matters, and across the whole range of issues of common interest. There remains substantial scope for the further development by agreement of co-operation, including through the establishment of additional Implementation Bodies.

There is a significant amount of detailed legislative and other work to be done to put in place the arrangements agreed this morning which must now be tackled as a matter of the greatest urgency. Immediately after the Christmas break we must redouble our efforts to bring about the speedy establishment of each of the institutions provided for in the Agreement, and to advance the implementation of all its other provisions. There are still major issues to be addressed. But I believe this morning that real satisfaction can be drawn from the good progress we have made together through dialogue.