Integration across the border region is a key strand of overall All Ireland Agenda - Ó Caoláin
Delivering Sinn Féin’s All-Ireland Department seminar opening addresses at Tí Chulainn in South Armagh yesterday Sinn Féin TD and party Dáil leader Caoimhghán Ó Caoláin said it was the party’s job to turn All-Ireland aspirations into realities.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“Cuireann sé áthas orm an óráid oscailte a thabhairt don seimineár inniu. Is tábhachtach an cruinniú é seo. Léiríonn sé neart ár bpáirtí i réigiún na teorann idir comhairleoirí, Teachtaí Dála tofa do Theach Laighean agus do Westminster agus baill den Tionól, airí san áireamh. Leis an neart sin tá dualgas orainn dul chun cinn ar son an phobail sa réigiúin seo agus i dtreo aidhmeanna ár bpáirtí.
“I am very glad to give the opening address at today’s seminar. This is an important meeting. It highlights the strength of our party in the border region with councillors, TDs elected to the Dáil and Westminster, members of the Assembly and ministers in the Executive. With this political strength comes a double responsibility to deliver real and tangible progressive change for all the people we represent and to advance the aims and objectives of Irish republicanism.
“It is now fashionable to talk about All-Ireland development. Even Fianna Fáil is going All-Ireland, or so they tell us. They clearly are uncomfortable with the reality that Sinn Féin is the only political party organised throughout the 32 Counties. That said, we welcome them on board and we look forward to all political parties organising on a 32-County basis.
“Our job is to turn All-Ireland aspiration into reality. The framework is there in the Good Friday Agreement, much of which remains to be fully implemented.
“I would also draw your attention to the Programme for Government of the Fianna Fáil/PD/Green Coalition. This Programme has received very little publicity. For our purposes, however, it is important that they are held to account and the section of the Programme entitled ‘Peace and Unity’ is of special interest.
“The inclusion of ‘Unity’ in the title is positive. It commits the Government to ‘further steps forward for peace and unity in our country’. The all-island elements are welcome including “fully integrated and seamless co-operation in the areas of health, education, infrastructural development, communications, planning and other public services’.
“It is important to remind ourselves that Sinn Fein’s strategy around promoting increased integration across the border region is a key strand of our overall All Ireland Agenda.
“In 2003 SF launched our Cross Border Strategy Framework document – ‘Reintegration through Planned Integration’. It was intended to look at the issues in the region caused by the effects of partition and devise strategies to tackle these.
“Key to our strategy is the work of our councillors on the three Local Authority Cross Border Groups – ICBAN (Irish Central Border Area Network), the East Border Region and the North West Region. Our strategy on these is to encourage each to produce Integrated Area Plans (IAP’s) for their region, over and above their role in administering the EU Interreg funding.
“IAP’s would seek to inform local and regional planning, and to impact on the thinking of the statutory agencies and the two governments – to try to dismantle the current partitionist thinking in many aspects of planning.
The border corridor is a key for us, and involves looking at the wide range cross-border disparities, many of them identified in the North South Ministerial Council’s ‘Obstacles to Cross Border Mobility’ study. Having identified the issues, we are using our unique All Ireland political representation and our considerable elected strength in this region, to tackle these.
“We can also use our party structures - our party activists - to highlight the issues, and to mobilise public opinion. One example is around the demand for cancer care centres, including radiation oncology facilities, in the border region which, like the rest of the country north of a line from Dublin to Galway is disgracefully neglected in the Irish Government’s plans for delivery of cancer care centres. This provides a good illustration of a half-hearted approach to All-Ireland co-operation. Health Minister Harney has arranged for some cancer patients in County Donegal requiring radiotherapy to be treated in Belfast. This is a totally unsatisfactory approach. We need centres strategically sited in this region and which are open to patients on both sides of the Border.
“The area of cancer care is just one example in the field of healthcare. There are many others and these are replicated across all sectors. Our job is to show how the All-Ireland approach can serve everyone on this island better.
“In conclusion I wish to report briefly on another important development which has opened up for us. This past week the Dáil established a Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. I have secured membership of the Committee and I intend to use it to advance the All-Ireland agenda. The Committee is empowered to invite MPs elected in the 18 constituencies in the Six Counties to participate. I would make a particular appeal to Unionist MPs to use this opportunity to work for the mutual benefit of all our people.
“The establishment of the new Committee falls short of what we in Sinn Féin believe is necessary. Since the Good Friday Agreement nearly a decade ago we have argued strongly for a much greater level of engagement on the Agreement by the Oireachtas. We have called for representation in the Dáil for citizens in the Six Counties. We maintain this call and we do not see the new Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement as a substitute for Six-County representation in the Dáil.
“That said, the establishment of the Committee represents a step forward. The participation of MPs from the Six Counties will give the Committee an essential All-Ireland character. There is a great deal of very valuable work for the new Committee to do and it should help to spur on the Irish Government and the Executive in the Six Counties to fulfil the potential of the Good Friday Agreement.
“The Joint Committee will be judged on how it helps to deliver real improvements in people’s lives, especially for those communities worst effected by the border. We in Sinn Féin will play our part in helping to ensure its success.” CRÍOCH