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Research: Martin Melaugh
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Devolved Government in Northern Ireland
Secretary Assembly Executive Departments Committees North- South British- Irish Conference Civic Forum

Programme for Government

6. DEVELOPING NORTH/SOUTH, EAST/WEST AND
    INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

6.1

Introduction

In the Agreement, unique structures were established within the Island of Ireland, within the United Kingdom, and East/West to provide a new basis for relationships.

6.2

North/South

We will take forward co-operation through the North/South Ministerial Council, and in particular through the Areas for Co-operation and the North/South implementation bodies agreed on the 18 December 1998.

This administration together with the Irish Government will be seeking to realise the full potential for enhanced co-operation.

As part of the implementation of the Programme for Government the Executive will consider tabling relevant sections in the North South Ministerial Council. A similar approach will be adopted for the British Irish Council and the Joint Ministerial Committee.

The North/South Ministerial Council brings together ministers from Northern Ireland and the Irish Government, under the authority of the NI Assembly and Oireachtas, on a regular basis, to develop consultation, co-operation and action on an all-island and cross-border basis on matters of mutual interest. The Council established a work programme in six specific Areas for Co-operation. These are Tourism, Agriculture, Environment, Transport, Education and Health, and include a North/South tourism marketing company.

In addition, six all-island Bodies, established by international agreement between the British and Irish Governments, came into being on 2 December 1999, and will implement the policies agreed by the ministers in the North/South Ministerial Council. The new bodies are: Waterways Ireland; the Food Safety Promotion Board; the Trade and Business Development Body; the Special EU Programmes Body; the North/South Language Body; and the Foyle, Carlingford & Irish Lights Commission.

The existing work programmes of the implementation bodies and areas of co-operation have been transcribed into the actions and targets of this Programme for Government under the first four of the five priorities. They are not therefore reproduced in this overview chapter. Wherever they appear in this document, these actions are those agreed either on 18 December 1998 or in subsequent meetings of the North South Ministerial Council and the Implementation Bodies. The Executive will focus on delivering tangible actions for mutual benefit on an all-island and cross-border basis.

Actions

Some of the practical actions that we see developing in the short term include:

  • a cross-cutting study on barriers to mobility and living/working North/South will be completed in 2000/01 and appropriate action considered;
  • in 2000/01, consideration of proposals and of appropriate action on enhancing competitiveness of the two economies on the island; and
  • in 2001, completion of a study of an independent North/South consultative forum. Such a forum if established would comprise representatives of civil society and serve to widen links at the level of people in both parts of the Island.

North/South co-operation and European Funding

North/South co-operation is particularly important as regards European Structural Funds Plans. A Common Chapter in the Structural Funds programmes North and South will help to build new and develop existing plans for co-operation on an all-island and a cross border basis. The Common Chapter will help to take forward not only the agreed co?operation areas including the Special EU programmes but also identifies other areas such as Energy, Communications and Electronic Commerce and Human Resource Development. The INTERREG Community initiative specifically promotes cross border development and there are important North/South dimensions to LEADER and PEACE. The PEACE II Programme and all of the Community initiatives, including URBAN, together with the Common Chapter, will be taken forward by the Special EU Programmes body, working with the lead departments North and South.

Actions

Key actions in relation to European Union Funds include:

  • the development of the strategic framework for co-operation set out in the Common Chapter;
  • the development, through the EU Special Programmes Body, of a co-ordinated approach to the Community Initiatives to deliver mutual benefit. This would involve spending of at least 100m over 2000-2006 in Northern Ireland;
  • the minimum provision of 400 meuro (some 240m) over 2000-2006, in the Community Support Frameworks (CSFs) North and South, for North/South co-operation in joint fulfilment of the Common Chapter and to optimise the level of accompanying investment. Of this, 100 meuro (or some 60m) would be spent in the North. This objective will be monitored by the EU Special Programmes body;
  • within the 400 meuro for North/South co-operation in the Community Support Frameworks, ensure that at least 15% of the Peace Programme is used to promote cross border reconciliation and to exploit the growing opportunities for cross border development. Areas will include business and culture, infrastructure, co-operation between public bodies and community reconciliation, particularly women, the young and the socially excluded.

6.3

Co-operation within the United Kingdom

Under the Memorandum of Understanding and supplementary agreements between the UK Government, Scottish Ministers, the Cabinet for the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Executive, a Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC), which comprises representatives of the above administrations, has been established. The committee's role is to consider non-devolved matters that impinge on devolved responsibilities and vice-versa. It can also consider devolved matters where all parties agree that there is mutual benefit to sharing information. Sub-committees have already been established on:

  • the knowledge economy;
  • poverty;
  • and health.

The Joint Ministerial Committee will also keep under review arrangements for liaison between the UK Government and the devolved administrations and consider disputes between the administrations.

The Executive will also play a role in other United Kingdom Committees as these evolve. These include the MINECOR Committee to co-ordinate the presentation of public policy towards Europe, the Sports Cabinet, the Creative Industries Task Force, the Drugs Task Force and the Agriculture Ministers Committee.

In the coming year we will take forward work in the JMCs and in other UK committees on issues including health, poverty and the knowledge economy.

6.4

East/West

The British-Irish Council has been established under the Agreement to promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships among the people of these islands. It includes representatives of the UK Government, the Irish Government, the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Assembly and the administrations in the Isle of Man and Channel Islands as well as the Northern Ireland Executive.

The British Irish Inter-Governmental Conference has been established to bring together the British and Irish Governments and, where relevant, Executive Ministers to promote bilateral co-operation at all levels on all matters of mutual interest within the competency of both governments, including non-devolved Northern Ireland matters.

Actions:

In the coming year we will:

  • co-operate with other administrations particularly by playing an active role in the British Irish Council and the BIIGC;
  • explore the more widespread availability of Irish language television channels in Northern Ireland;
  • lead work in the British Irish Council on Transport and participate in the work on Social Inclusion, Environment, Drugs and other topics;
  • in the BIIGC, continue to pursue the fuel tax issue and other matters of importance to Northern Ireland; and
  • ensure coherence between developments in these bodies and our Programme for Government.

6.5

Europe

Our focus will be on developing effective links in the European institutions, and throughout Europe to further the interests of Northern Ireland.

The Executive Committee values the good relationship it has established with the European Institutions and acknowledges the unique level of support it has received especially through the Peace Reconciliation Fund.

The Executive will develop this relationship in particular by establishing an office in Brussels in the coming months. This will assist Ministers and their departments in ensuring that Northern Ireland's interests are represented as European policy is agreed.

We will develop strategies as appropriate in key areas such as Structural Funds, agriculture, competition, the internal market, environment and the Single Currency. Further we will seek to ensure that our interests in European Union issues are effectively represented in Whitehall, Brussels and Strasbourg.

We will organise a regular forum involving all major Northern Ireland organisations involved in EU issues together with the NI MEPs, members of the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, to review priorities and examine how we can co-operate to present the Northern Ireland case.

Further, other opportunities within Europe, to build links and to exchange information on policies with other regions, will be sought. For example, in 2001/02 we will implement the new EQUAL Initiative in Northern Ireland. Through this Community initiative, transnational partners will be able to test innovative ways of promoting employment for disadvantaged individuals and groups.

We will also seek to help build and develop knowledge, expertise and experience of European issues across all relevant sectors of the economy and society, so as to build the capacity to deal with the challenge of being part of the European Union.

6.6

North America

The Executive recognises the considerable help it receives from the Washington administration and the recent strong flows of investment from North America. We will take steps to better co-ordinate our activities and to establish the stronger image and identity associated with successful Devolution.

In 2001 we will consider how we might strengthen and reorganise the structure and working of the NI Bureau in Washington to better serve the Executive, and how we can use it and other organisations in North America to raise the profile and image of Northern Ireland. In this work we will consider how a programme of visits and exchanges between Northern Ireland and North America might be best used to build links.

6.7

International image of Northern Ireland

Our history has left the international image of Northern Ireland generally tarnished, although there is a growing awareness of the positive aspects of our society. It will be important that a consistent strategy is developed by a range of public and other organisations to help change perceptions world-wide.

In this work, the organisations promoting tourism, (including the North/South tourism marketing company) inward investment, and the region generally all have important roles to play. Likewise the development of tourism and promotional activities within Northern Ireland, including sporting and cultural events, and the promotional work carried out by the local councils, have important roles to play. The Executive Information Service also has a key communications role to play. There are also many organisations outside Northern Ireland which support our efforts. A high priority is the development of an agreed strategy on how we can co-operate to improve our international image.

Actions

We will take forward the following actions:

  • implement a strategy for securing a programme of high profile international sporting and cultural events to Northern Ireland, attracting 2 world class events and 4-6 major international events annually;
  • increase the proportion of funding by the private sector for these events;
  • by December 2001, develop a marketing strategy to promote awareness of our cultural treasures and recreational facilities; and
  • by March 2002, to work with the other stakeholders in developing a programme to support Northern Ireland's bid for 2008 European City of Culture.

The departments with the main involvement are:

While the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister has lead responsibility in this area, all departments are involved.



Contents     Preface     Consultation
Chapter 1     Chapter 2     Chapter 3     Chapter 4     Chapter 5     Chapter 6     Chapter 7
Annex A     Annex B     Annex C

 


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