Irish unity firmly on political agenda
Sinn Féin spokesperson on all-Ireland development, West Tyrone MLA Barry McElduff, speaking from the Annual Institute for British Studies Conference, at UCD in Dublin today said that Irish unity is firmly on political agenda within the minds of Civil Servants, Government Departments, economists, bankers, politicians and academics alike. Opening today's conference An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern stated that the period of icy silence, which prevailed during the last three decades in relation to matters of all-Ireland Cooperation, is no longer viable.
Speaking the debate on Implementing the Agreement: The North - South Bodies Five Years on, Mr McElduff said:
"The level of acceptance that Irish Reunification is fast approaching, in the words of Dr Peter Smyth, Northern Secretary of the North South Ministerial Council, brings with it no real ideological difficulty for the Unionist population vis-à-vis Areas of Co-operation on an all-Ireland basis.
The all-Ireland agenda is an integral part of our shared future and further evidence that with the need for and realisation of Integrated Area and Strategic Planning, on health, education, economics, transport, energy, telecommunications, community development, environment, tourism and commerce, the Border renders itself useless."
There were major contributions from An Taoiseach, the Joint Secretaries of the NSMC, Tim O'Connor and Dr Peter Smyth, Chief Executives of the Implementation Bodies, including Pat Colgan of SEUPB, Niall Gibbons of Tourism Ireland, Derick Anderson of the FCILC.
With almost 700 staff, based in 17 locations, 72 Directors and some £100m invested in the Strand Two provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Fein want to see the full realisation of the potential and capacity for creating social cohesion, redressing the history of neglect by successive British Administrations in essential services by expanding the role and remit of North - South Bodies and Areas of Cooperation.
Mr McElduff headed a team of Party representatives, which included County Councillors from the 26 Counties. The West Tyrone MLA highlighted that the issue of regional disparity remains a huge stumbling block to developing the role and remit of the Implementation Bodies. The fact that the continued suspension of Northern Political Institutions has set the all-Ireland Bodies in limbo or 'care and maintenance' mode is not what was envisaged when the Agreement came into being.
"The Border impacts in a hugely negative way on the day-to-day lives of those communities who live on, near or at the Border itself. The issue of back-to-back planning in the areas of health, infrastructure, education, energy and environmental concerns is the only way to move forward. I welcome the moves by the energy regulators to develop an all-Ireland Energy Provider, the Dublin Government have a major role in delivering the political goodwill to meet at the crucial Ministerial level to drive all-Ireland Areas of Co-operation forward to provide, deliver and implement the needs of people in the Border region. One such case is the location of a Regional Cancer Unit to ease the trauma of cancer patients in the North West.
"The Taoiseach must do more to show Northern Nationalists and Republicans that our rights as Irish citizens must be represented and that we have a crucial role in the shaping not a 32 County Free State, but to build an Ireland that allows a rights based society to develop. Sinn Fein is committed to building and defending the rights of all our people. The goal of an Ireland of Equals is longer a far off dream but a living reality." ENDS