Independent Commission on Information Retrieval in the Stormont House Agreement

Today I wrote to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney on the matter of Irish government commitments in relation to the Stormont House Agreement.

Full Letter:

Dear Minister Coveney,

I am writing to you today regarding the Stormont House Agreement, the provisions contained therein, and the lack of progress made in many areas – primarily around legacy.

Last week I, alongside yourself, took part in a debate surrounding ‘New Decade, New Approach’(NDNA), a year on since the signing of the agreement. I spoke on the need to properly fund that document monetarily speaking to ensure its success and indeed the success of the powersharing institutions in the North and the Peace Process more generally.

In the NDNA agreement there is a section ‘Annex B: Irish Government Commitments’ in which it commits to ‘introducing necessary implementing legislation in the Oireachtas, to deal with the legacy of the Troubles and support reconciliation’, with specific reference to the Stormont House Agreement.

Perhaps the main legacy issue in that document allowed for the establishment of the ‘Independent Commission on Information Retrieval’ (ICIR) which was to provide for truth recovery for victims on the two islands. This requires legislation to be passed in both London and Dublin – yet in the seven years since the agreement no such legislation has been forthcoming. Indeed, my own enquires made through the official parliamentary channels have been met with general replies of being ‘engaged extensively’ with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State and of ‘ongoing talks’. However, again, there has been no concrete commitment to a timeframe for the publication of legislation. If there are particular issues overcome perhaps you could provide an update relating on these.

I was heartened to hear you speak on this topic during the aforementioned Oireachtas debate. I will quote just a section of your speech;

“When the New Decade, New Approach agreement was reached last year, the Irish and British Governments separately reaffirmed our commitment to the Stormont House Agreement…The provisions of the Stormont House Agreement were not easily agreed, but they were agreed collectively. It is our responsibility now to see it implemented and not allow wounds to be reopened or pain to be passed on to a new generation.”

It is now the time to see action and the implementation that you spoke of. I am calling for you to make an announcement on when we will see the publication of this legislation. By working with Minister McEntee to draw up this legislation I believe it would send a strong message to how seriously the Irish government views this matter. We cannot force the British government to draw up its own legislation concurrently, but we must hold ourselves to the same standards in respect to legacy and justice as we do London.

Is mise le meas,
Patrick Costello TD – Dublin South-Central