Media Release, 5 July 1995

British Conservative Party Group to address Peace Forum

The British Conservative Party's Bow Group will speak at this week's meeting of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation on the subject of "British and Conservative Party Approaches to the current Peace Process". During its afternoon session, the Forum will conduct a review its work to date and plan its programme for the Autumn.

The Bow Group

The Bow Group describes itself as "the oldest - and one of the most influential - of Conservative Think Tanks". The Bow Group's members are all Conservative Party supporters and include more than 100 MPs and several Cabinet Ministers. It exists to develop policy, publish research and stimulate debate within the Conservative Party.

In March 1994, the Bow Group organised a Conference of the theme "Northern Ireland: the road to peace". The Bow Group will be represented at the Forum by six of its members, Constantine Partasides, James Ross, Owen Hillis, Mary MacLeod, David Bannerman and Brendan Simms.

The presentation by the Bow Group commences at 11 am and will be followed by questions and comments from Forum delegations.

Forum looks back over its first 8 months and plans future work programme

As this is the Forum's second last meeting before the Summer break, it affords an opportunity to reflect on the Forum's work to date, on its role within the wider peace process and on its future programme following the resumption of its meetings in September.

By way of background on the Forum's first 8 months, it is worth recalling that, since its inaugural session on 28 October 1995, the Forum has met on 30 occasions under the Chairmanship of Judge Catherine McGuinness, and has debated a wide variety of issues connected with the current peace process. These include: the nature of the problem and the principles for a solution; the economic consequences of peace; the principle of equal treatment for the two main traditions in Northern Ireland; policing; justice and human rights questions; North-South co-operation; and obstacles in the South to reconciliation. Furthermore, it has allowed for a detailed examination of the Framework Document under a number of key headings, i.e. constitutional, North-South, British-Irish links and internal political structures in Northern Ireland.

A series of public hearings of the Forum has enabled a wide variety of interests - including the Protestant Churches, business organisations, farming bodies, the tourism industry, youth groups, victims of violence, groups representing the interests of prisoners, and the voluntary and community sectors - to have an input into the Forum's work of fostering peace and reconciliation in Ireland.

The Forum has already published a book, Paths to a Political Settlement in Ireland, containing Party papers on the nature of the problem. It has commissioned various pieces of follow-up work, including on the economic benefits of peace, on communal and human rights, and on obstacles in the South to reconciliation. Work in these areas is nearing completion and results are due to appear in the next week or so. Efforts are under way in the drawing up of a set of agreed realities and principles which, it is hoped, can could form a basis for a wider dialogue embracing also the unionist parties. They have not yet accepted the invitation to attend the Forum which, however, has made every effort to take account of unionist concerns and objectives.

The Forum's review of its work programme will begin at 2.15 pm with Delegation statements and ensuing debate.

Economic Consequences of Peace

The formal presentation by the Forum's economic consultants of their report on the social and economic consequences of peace and economic reconstruction will now take place on Thursday, 13 July at 5.30 pm.

Obstacles in the South to Reconciliation

The Forum's Sub-Group on Obstacles in the South to Reconciliation will meet on Friday in private session to draw up its interim report to the Forum. This report is expected to deal with such topics as constitutional questions (e.g. the Constitution's religious and historical references, and its provisions on education and the position of the Irish language), symbols (the flag and the anthem) and anti-discrimination legislation. The Sub-Group's report will be discussed by the Forum Plenary on Friday, 14 July.

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