[Sinn Fein]

13th May 2003

Sinn Fein welcomes Taoiseach's commitment to Six-County representation in Oireachtas

Sinn Fein group leader in Leinster House, Caoimhghin O Caolain, has this evening welcomed  as a ``positive step forward'' the comments made by the Taoiseach in the Dáil  today  in relation to northern representation in the Oireachtas.  In those comments  Bertie  Ahern said ``the Irish Government is in favour of the rights ofMEPs  to  attend and participate in committee debates on the EU and for Northern Ireland  elected  representatives  to  participate in debates on the Good Friday Agreeement  and  other relevant debates''.  The Taoiseach went on to say that all that was required was ``agreement in the House''.

Mr  Ahern  was  responding  to  a question from Caoimhghin O Caolain in which he asked  the  Taoiseach if he recognised ``that following the unilateral suspension of  the Assembly elections by the British Government, people in the Six Counties have no democratic forum to which to send their representatives?''  He also asked the  Taoiseach  ``what steps are being taken to pursue the recommendations of the All-Party  Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution regarding access for elected MPs in the Six Counties's constituencies to the Houses of the Oireachtas?''

This evening Deputy O Caolain said:

``The  Taoiseach's  response  today  was  a  positive step forward in relation to gaining rights for elected representatives from the Six Counties to take part in debates  in  the Houses of the Oireachtas. 

``Since the undemocratic suspension of the  Assembly  by the British Government it is now more important than ever that the Irish Government paves the way to allow Irish elected representatives access to  an  Irish  elected forum. I would call on the Taoiseach to follow through on the  commitment he made today to pursue this issue with the urgency it requires.

``Following the report of the all-party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution I believe  there  is  all-party  support to introduce the necessary mechanisms and changes  needed  to  make  this  a  reality.   I believe that all that  is really required  is  the  political  will  of  the  Taoiseach and in that I welcome the commitment  he has given me today that he will `take ownership of this matter'.''

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