Expectation that four NI parties in peace process talks ‘will deliver’ – Donohoe
Threat to prison staff at Maghaberry must be lifted for inmates’ conditions to be dealt with
Minister of State for European Affairs Paschal Donohoe: “There is an expectation now that they will deliver.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
There is an expectation the four Northern Ireland parties involved in discussions on the peace process “will deliver”, the Dáil has heard.
Minister of State for European Affairs Paschal Donohoe said Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore had recently met the North’s First and Deputy First Ministers and leaders of the SDLP and the Alliance Party, all of whom confirmed their commitment to reaching a deal.
“There is an expectation now that they will deliver,” he said.
Mr Donohoe also expressed his disappointment that the Ulster Unionist Party had withdrawn from the talks.
He was responding to Fianna Fáil foreign affairs spokesman Brendan Smith, who called for greater urgency in the talks after two deadlines were missed.
Mr Smith said “we missed the end-of-year deadline” of the Haass-O’Sullivan negotiations.
“St Patrick’s week should have been another milestone to try to reach conclusions. We are now into the European and local elections phase. After the end of May we will be into the parading season.”
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said none of these times was conducive to making progress on some contentious political issues. “It is time for both governments to take a more hands-on approach to these very important issues.”
Mr Donohoe insisted priority was being given to the successful conclusion of the talks because of the “very difficult and dangerous backdrop”.
The Minister said that since 2009 dissident and terrorist groups were responsible for five deaths – two British army personnel, two PSNI officers and a member of the Northern Ireland Prison Service. These groups posed a very dangerous ongoing threat.
Mr Donohoe said the threat to staff and prison officers at Maghaberry prison had to be lifted, which would “create the environment within which other and further issues can be dealt with”.
Independent TD Mick Wallace warned that “treating prisoners badly” aided more extreme elements and was “giving oxygen to dissident IRA groups”. He highlighted the case of prisoners Paul and Shane Duffy who were released “only on condition that they did not live with their families or even in the same county”.
Mr Wallace said if the authorities wanted a prisoner to be rehabilitated he should be allowed to live with his wife and children. “We are not showing any sympathy for any mad republican notions,” but “a more fair-minded and rational approach would be very positive and would help move things forward”.