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Ireland (Tripartite Conference)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th December 1973.

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Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley 12:00 am, 10th December 1973

Mr. Speaker, I will with permission, make a statement about the tripartite conference at Sunningdale between the British and Irish Governments and the parties involved in the Northern Ireland Executive. The House will know that the conference was brought to a successful conclusion and that an agreed communiqué was issued last night. Copies of it have been made available in the Vote Office and it will be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The House will not wish me to repeat the details which are recorded in the communiqué. The outcome of the conference has shown that the existence of apparently incompatible political aspirations has not prevented Her Majesty's Government, the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive-designate from working together for the benefit of both parts of Ireland.

The communiqué sets out for the first time parallel declarations by the British and Irish Governments that the status of Northern Ireland cannot be changed until a majority of the people of Northern Ireland so desire. These declarations will be incorporated in a formal agreement which will be registered at the United Nations.

The conference agreed on the establishment of a Council of Ireland which will have both executive and harmonising functions and a consultative rôle. The Council will have equal representation from both North and South with safeguards for the British Government's interests and will act on the basis of unanimity. There will also be a consultative assembly, with equal representation from the Dail and the Northern Ireland Assembly. The communiqué also sets out fresh proposals for dealing with politically motivated violence throughout Ireland.

The way is now open for the appointment of the Northern Ireland Executive, and, subject to the approval of Parliament, for the devolution of powers to the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly. The necessary legislation and legislative instruments will be brought before Parliament later this week.

It was agreed that a formal conference should be held early in the New Year, in which the British and Irish Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive can meet together to consider reports on the studies which are being commissioned and to sign the agreement reached.

The agreement has immense significance for the future of Ireland. The fact that such an agreement has been reached is due to the constructive and realistic attitude taken in the talks both by the Irish Government and by those parties in Northern Ireland who will MOW come together in a Northern Ireland Executive. It now remains for us all to implement the agreement for the benefit of the people of Ireland as a whole.