11 February 2000
NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY AND EXECUTIVE SUSPENDED
The Secretary of State, Peter Mandelson MP, has now signed an Order bringing into effect, from midnight tonight, the legislation to suspend the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive.
Commenting on this Mr Mandelson said:
"This is of course a profoundly serious, indeed critical, moment. But it must not be allowed to prevent the peace process recovering and moving forward again. With good will and good sense, we can and should be able to reactivate the institutions shortly. There must be, from this moment, further discussion and negotiation to ensure that can happen.
I am now publishing the International Commission on Decommissioning report of 31 January. It will be seen from this report that General de Chastelain cannot say whether the IRA will agree to decommission; and if so, how and when.
Since that report, there have been further intensive negotiations to resolve the decommissioning impasse. Unfortunately, though there was real progress on the part of the IRA there was not enough to justify withholding suspension. There had to be real definition and clarity about the commitments given in a way which could be properly described and reported on by General de Chastelain. The progress has stopped short of that, at this moment in time.
It is deeply frustrating since: we have agreed a constitutional settlement for Northern Ireland; agreed measures for justice and equality; agreed the means of giving voice to Nationalist aspirations; and are much closer now than two weeks ago, to resolving the issue of decommissioning. But until commitments are clear, they simply cannot command confidence.
I urge everyone not to let people use this obstacle to undermine the process permanently. There is no rational basis for doing so. The blunt truth is that until the issue is resolved, the Executive and institutions cannot properly function, whether formally suspended or not. We must use the time, with the urgency and movement that has characterised the past few days, to settle the issue once and for all.
I will therefore be in contact with the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland parties next week to discuss the way forward. There will be a Review, under the terms of the Agreement. In the interests of the people of Northern Ireland all participants in the process must do everything they can to ensure that we achieve an agreed outcome as soon as possible."