Cowen: "Agreement on Policing Is Possible"
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D., has said he believes that it will be possible to reach agreement before the summer on policing in Northern Ireland. Speaking in Canberra, the Minister said that once agreement is reached "the Irish Government will play its full part in encouraging young nationalists to join" the new police force.
In his first public comments since last week's talks at Hillsborough, the Minister said that the parties had achieved greater clarity on how they need to proceed. "The pro-Agreement parties remain fully committed to seeing the project through", he said. "They want the Agreement to succeed. They want to see it implemented in full."
In an address to the National Press Club of Australia, Mr. Cowen said that "in preventing Sinn Féin Ministers from attending meetings of the North/South Ministerial Council, unionists are making decommissioning more, rather than less, difficult to achieve." But he added that republicans must acknowledge that unionist concerns about decommissioning cannot be "lightly dismissed or argued away".
Welcoming last week's IRA statement which said it intends to enter into discussions with the de Chastelain Commission, the Minister insisted that these "discussions must lead somewhere" and called for "early progress" towards an agreed way in which the IRA will initiate a process to put its arms completely and verifiably beyond use. "We need to see serious and meaningful discussions resulting in a positive report from the Commission as soon as possible," he said.
The Minister acknowledged that for republicans the presence of British military installations in places such as South Armagh continues to be "a serious irritant" and said that a creative and imaginative approach on the issue could help unlock other doors.
"A solution to all of our outstanding difficulties is realistic and achievable," he said. "It will, however, require both the parties and the Government to stretch. If we don't, it is difficult to see how we can continue to make progress. But if we do, there is no end to what we can achieve together."