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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