Transcript of Press Conference with Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, following the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, (27 June 2005)
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Transcript of Press Conference with Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, and Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), following the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, 10 Downing Street, London, (27 June 2005)
PRIME MINISTER: (Tony Blair)
... We are immensely grateful for the Olympic weather we are having and can I first of all say a word of welcome, not just to the Taoiseach but to his colleagues and the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference has taken place and there has been a very good discussion of the key issues. Obviously the current situation in Northern Ireland, issues to do with the North-South relationship, the progress on policing, the progress on Human Rights and Equality, and as we found from the report back from the Ministers, I think there is a very close degree of co-operation and good working on both sides. Obviously what both of us want to see is a changed situation in Northern Ireland now, so that we can get the peace process moving forward again on the basis of an inclusive government. That depends of course on a complete and total end to violence in all forms, and that is what we are working for. We will just have to carry on trying to bring that about, and there is not a great deal more I can add to what I said this morning on that.
But I think the one thing that has been of benefit in the last few months is that the parameters on what needs to be done are very, very clear. There is not much doubt that the basic and essential deal at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement remains, and that is a total and complete commitment to peace and democracy, in return for a sharing of power in the government of Northern Ireland. And that remains the case and we have just got to hope that people fulfil our obligations in order to get there. So that is what it is all about and again I would like to thank the Taoiseach and his colleagues for coming here today.
TAIOSEACH: (Bertie Ahern)
Thank you very much, Prime Minister, and thank you for having us here today for the meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and I think this was one of the parts of the Agreement that is very useful because it allows us to deal together as two governments driving forward the agenda and obviously we remain absolutely rock solid in our determination to implement all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement and this forum allows us to go through it. I am not going to go through the communiqué. It covers all of the issues we have discussed. Just again to agree with the Prime Minister that the key issue for us is that we can get full implementation of the agreement and that hopefully sooner rather than later we get to a position that all of the aspects that we have pointed out that we require to see from the Republican movement are delivered so it allows us to build a trust and confidence that has suffered so much over the last six months and then allows us to move forward. If we can do that I think we can get ourselves very much back on track and make a lot of good progress.
Also just to mention there has been very good co-operation and co-ordination on North-South matters in recent times. I want to welcome that. I think our Ministers working together, engaging on the issues that are important to people on the whole island are hugely helpful, and they are areas of issues of health and education and issues on research and development, electricity. All things that don't harm anybody and help everybody and they are the kind of issues that we very much like to be engaged in and I think this process today allows us to go into that, and I just hope that over the months ahead that we can get ourselves back very much on track and continue to build on the issues that we had an opportunity of discussing today.
Prime Minister, Taoiseach, if the IRA's words and deeds are satisfactory to the two governments, how long do you envisage it would take before the institutions are up and running again?
PRIME MINISTER: (Tony Blair)
The simple answer is we cannot be sure, as soon as possible. But you see whether the institutions can get up and running, and we want to see this happen as soon as possible, but whether it can happen depends critically on the credibility of what is done. If the IRA make their move, and make it in a credible way, and follow it through in action and in deed, then of course it becomes easier to establish the confidence within the Unionist community that they should get back into a power-sharing agreement. So I don't think it is very important us trying to pluck figures out of the air at the moment on time. I mean obviously I want to see the Executive back up and running again as soon as possible, but it does depend, and I hope people realise this, critically on the credibility of what is done and it has to be, particularly after the events of earlier in this year, and is something that people can recognise and say well it is clear, they have given up the violence for good.
Are you expecting to see something decisive, convincing from the IRA in the next few weeks?
PRIME MINISTER: (Tony Blair)
I am hoping that we will see something convincing and satisfactory as soon as possible. Obviously I cannot make that decision for them, but I hope it happens as soon as possible. We need it to happen.
TAOISEACH: (Bertie Ahern)
That is clearly the position. If we can get to a situation that the questions that we have posed for a long time now and that we have jointly explained times out of number, then it allows us to move ahead with all of the work that we have done over the last two years with the Joint Declaration and the document of 18 December last, and the issue for months now has been trust and confidence and being able to build that up again, and clearly in the coming weeks, or whenever it is, if we get a clear and decisive statement about the IRA's intentions, then that allows us to positively move forward, if it is a statement that carries the necessary credibility to allow us to change the agenda.
Prime Minister and Taoiseach, we have been in a guessing game about quite when this IRA statement is coming for a while. Do you get the impression that the slightly difficult start that we have seen to the Marching Season has delayed things so far as this initiative is concerned?
PRIME MINISTER:(Tony Blair)
I don't think so, but I think that the problems of the Marching Season underline the necessity of making progress and it would be tragic if after all this time it started to roll back, and I hope people behave responsibly during the Marching Season and recognise that everyone has got a responsibility to make sure that happens, and then for the rest of it, it is just very, very simple indeed. The IRA need to make a clear statement, it needs to be followed up with clear action, and if there is a clear statement, followed up by clear action, there should be a clear response from Unionism. I think that encapsulates the whole of this deal. And then of course it becomes a lot easier to deal with many of the other issues that trouble Northern Ireland.
Do you think .....
Well, hopefully we can get through the Marching Season. It is a difficulty every year and really I would just like to acknowledge the enormous efforts that are being put in by people on the ground, people from both communities, people in the Security Forces, officials that have been working and we in the Irish Government everything we can do to help to make a positive contribution to that is important. A bad Marching Season leaves its own effects for a long time as we have both unfortunately experienced that for many years, while a good Marching Season has the opposite dynamic and this year we desperately need a very good Marching Season, so I would just like to acknowledge what people are doing and have been doing for the last number of weeks on marches and hope that we can get safely over the next few weeks.
Prime Minister, Taoiseach, are you both in agreement that you don't require the disbandment per se of the IRA, and secondly how would you characterise your own relationship working together given recent speculation?
PRIME MINISTER:(Tony Blair)
Well, onthe latter point, look there is a different position on the Common Agricultural Policy for very obvious reasons and the Taoiseach is, as you might expect and rightly so, is a very strong advocate of the Irish national interest. I have got to protect the British national interest. So there have been different positions on the CAP, but it is a relationship that has stood the test of time over the past few years and has worked extremely well and will continue to do so. And the interpreter's box here is for the Iraqi Prime Minister. I hasten to say that. I was a bit alarmed when I saw that actually when I came in.
On the first point which is to do with the form of disbandment. Look let us be very clear,otherwise you get into verbal battles which are not what is important. What is important is that the Republican movement pursues its aim by exclusively democratic and peaceful means, and that means an end to all violence and all preparations for violence. And therefore that means an organisation like the IRA moving into a different way of working, a different frame, a different modus operandi where it is no longer posing a threat of violence, or violence itself in the community in Northern Ireland. Now I think that is pretty clear and what language you use to describe how that happens is I think far less important than the blunt fact that you have got to have an end to violence in word and in deed.
And I think at the end of the day people will see very clearly whether we have achieved that or not and that is what matters. That violence and all the associated activities are over, then people will be immensely happy. And on the second part of your question I just want to wish the Prime Minister well for the Presidency ahead and for the G8 Meeting. I have had recent experience of it and regarding the CAP there are just a few million between us, but we will sort that out some other time.
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