New National Development Plan must be all-Ireland
Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD today questioned the Minister for Finance Brian Cowen on the new measures in relation to increased all-Ireland cooperation which will be included in the National Development Plan (NDP) 2007-1013 currently being prepared. Deputy Ó Caoláin called for an integrated approach to development and a definitive break with the 'back-to back' approach which has characterised development on the island since partition.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, recently stated that all government departments have been told to incorporate the all-island dimension into their submissions for the next National Development Plan for the period between 2007 and 2013. What I would like to know is how serious an effort is being made in this regard and what level of discussion and consultation has been had with relevant departments north of the border.
"Social and economic development since partition has been characterised by a 'back-to back' approach which has resulted in poor service delivery and economic under-development particularly in the places where the artificial border has impacted on normal socio-economic development.
"The common chapter of the last NDP 2000-2006 marked a tentative step away from that 'back-to- back' approach. The all-Ireland elements in the new plan must advance and build upon the common chapter of the last NDP. Ideally what we should be looking at is a common development plan for Ireland rather than merely a common chapter.
"Given that the new NDP is set to run up until 2013 it vital that it approaches development in a way which is integrated with development north of the border. Neither the 'National Spatial Strategy' nor 'Transport 21' took such an approach.
"The new NDP must facilitate and work for the reintegration, through infrastructural and service development and delivery, of natural hinterlands which have been divided by the artificial border and must progress the objective of establishing an all-Ireland economy".
Deputy Ó Caoláin also asked Minister Cowen if the new plan would include a Derry -- Dublin strategic transport corridor, if it would include proposals for the establishment of an all-Ireland Environmental Protection Agency and what the new plan would contain in terms of enabling people in the border region to access health services at the nearest geographic location, regardless which side of the border they live on.
Deputy Ó Caoláin welcomed Minister Cowen's support for increased north -- south integration and the indication from the Minister that it would represent a substantive element of the new plan.