Friday, October 31, 2008

UK Security Adviser arriving in Manila for dialogue on peace process

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 31, 2008) - Robert Hannigan, Security Adviser to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Head of UK Security, Intelligence and Resilience, is arriving in Manila on Monday on a two-day visit to meet with the Security Cluster of the Philippine Cabinet and leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in order to share the UK experience in the Northern Ireland peace process.

British Ambassador Peter Beckingham said: "I am delighted that Robert Hannigan, with his intimate experience of negotiating peace in Northern Ireland, is visiting Manila. Of course there are many differences between the peace discussions in Northern Ireland and Mindanao, but if the parties in Mindanao can gain insight from Robert Hannigan's work, then his visit will be valuable."

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. welcomes the visit of Robert Hannigan and said, "Dr. Hannigan's visit is very timely as the Philippine Government is shifting to a new paradigm in engaging various armed groups."

"Hannigan's visit follows discussions between UK Foreign Office Minister Meg Munn and Secretaries Romulo and Dureza in Manila in May, when they agreed it would be useful for a senior official involved in the Northern Ireland peace process to visit the Philippines. The idea of a sharing of experiences was initially brought up when President Arroyo met with Tony Blair in December 2007," Beckingham added.

Hannigan is responsible for advising the Prime Minister on security policy, intelligence matters, crisis coordination and civil contingency planning. He is also responsible for the coordination and funding of the UK intelligence agencies and for the UK National Security Strategy.

Until 2007 he was the principal adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the peace process, including negotiations with the political parties and liaison with the Irish Government and the US administration.

As Political Director General in Northern Ireland, Robert was responsible for the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) of 1998. He worked with Prime Minister Tony Blair, his Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell and successive Northern Ireland Secretaries (Peter Mandelson, John Reid, Paul Murphy, and Peter Hain) to achieve the Government's objective of establishing the power-sharing institutions envisaged in the GFA.

This involved some nine years of crises and setbacks, talks processes and summits, and elections, leading to the St Andrews' Agreement in October 2006. This in turn led to agreement between the two major Northern Ireland parties, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, to share power in a restored Assembly in May 2007. These parties are now negotiating the final part of the agreement, the devolution of policing and justice powers from Westminster to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The peace process involved the resolution of highly contentious issues, including the release of paramilitary prisoners, the reform of policing, the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons, new measures to safeguard human rights and equality, and dealing with the legacy of a violent past.

Robert's remit covered both political talks and negotiations with the representatives of republican and 'loyalist' (protestant) paramilitaries. He was also involved in public information campaigns and the monitoring of public opinion in Northern Ireland. (Oya Arriola)

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