The Queen's Speech: Fresh measures swept in to deal with Ulster conflic t

Queen's Speech: Northern Ireland
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The Government's plans for Northern Ireland as outlined in the Queen's speech had a decided element of the new broom, promising movement on a range of fronts including the contentious issue of loyalist marching.

But although the marching season is now upon Northern Ireland, the proposed legislation will not be ready until next year. This means arrangements for this year's 3,000-plus parades will continue to be the primary responsibility of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Mo Mowlam, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, appealed to both Unionists and nationalists to do all they could to avoid a recurrence of what she described as last year's "appalling events". She added: "History will not easily forgive anyone who seeks to bring about such a repetition. I am convinced that the best way of making progress is through dialogue leading to accommodation and agreement at local level. I urge all who are working to achieve accommodation to redouble their efforts."

Ms Mowlam's appeal reflected the widespread apprehension that the marching season could once again bring confrontation to the streets. Although strenuous efforts to reach agreement have been made, there is no guarantee that events such as July's Drumcree march will not once again flare into trouble.

The other mentions of Northern Ireland laid considerably more emphasis on the Anglo-Irish relationship than was the case during the last two years of the Major administration. Official sources said the government was committed to both the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, and to the framework documents published jointly by London and Dublin in February 1995.

This will displease the major Unionist parties, which denounced the framework documents as being far too "green" and have declared they will not use them as a basis for negotiation. Multi-party talks are to resume in Belfast on 3 June, when Unionists can be expected to attempt to prevent the documents being placed on the agenda. A series of reforms are promised in areas such as provisions for human rights. Northern Ireland's main anti-terrorist legislation is to be overhauled, while there is a commitment to reforms in policing.

Policing in general is to have a programme of reform aimed at increasing public confidence in the RUC, with a review of how appointments are made to the Northern Ireland Police Authority.

The promised incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law will, it is said, have important implications for Northern Ireland, the Government believing that specific rights protections are needed to deal with its unique problems.