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European Union can help bring about Irish unity- Bairbre de Brún

20 October, 2006

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has participated in a major one day conference at the European Parliament to discuss how the EU can assist in ending partition and assist in the process of Irish unity.

The conference brought together academics, MEPs and an all Ireland delegation of Sinn Féin activists and elected representatives from local councils, the Assembly, Udarás na Gaeltachta and Leinster House to discuss the politics of reunification.

Speaking from Brussels:

"The conference brought together a wide range of people from various backgrounds to discuss how the EU can assist in the process of Irish reunification in the time ahead and to look at some lessons from other countries in Europe. We had contributions from German academics and Cypriot MEPs on their experiences of unification and prospects for unity respectively.

"From an Irish perspective it is clear that the partition of Ireland has been a complete and abject failure and we are still living with the negative impact of partition: institutional discrimination and inequality, disadvantage and economic stagnation in the North of Ireland. As a demonstration of its stated objectives of peace, reconciliation and the removal of borders, the EU has a responsibility to assist the process of Irish reunification.

"The single greatest impediment to coherent economic development in Ireland is partition. EU programmes and policies should encourage all-Ireland development. The Community Support Framework, the National Reform Programme and the Common Agricultural Policy, should be among the fields in which divided (and sometimes contradictory) policies and strategies are replaced by a coherent all-Ireland approach.

"Peace III provides communities at home with a significant opportunity to continue important work across a wide range of areas including tackling discrimination, promoting social inclusion, addressing the legacy of discrimination, building good community relations and promoting national reconciliation. It also provides important opportunities for community empowerment, promotion of Irish language development, assistance for victims and survivors of the conflict and reintegration of former political prisoners into family and community life.

"In addition, structural funds provide many opportunities for genuine, cross border, all Ireland development to tackle the infrastructural deficit which continues to exist along Ireland's 12 border counties. Equally, if used properly by the Irish and British governments, they could go some way to addressing the negative social and economic legacy of partition.

"There are a number of other steps which the EU can take in order to encourage greater integration and to ensure the successful conclusion of the Peace Process, including:

As the peace process moves forward, exempting state aid to support reunification from EU competition regulations (as was the case with German unification).

Recognising the Cross-border Corridor Groups as a good model of partnership and encouraging the British and Irish governments to give such partnerships a more strategic role in the allocation and distribution of funds.

Supporting the development of all-Ireland public sector and civil society institutions.

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