Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement

Shared Island Unit: Department of the Taoiseach

Ms Aingeal O?Donoghue:

I am not sure how quickly I need to answer this. The shared island dialogue is an ongoing series of seven dialogues, rather than a one-off dialogue. Each one of the seven dialogues is extremely carefully prepared to make sure that we have good, substantive and relevant themes, that the panels are interesting and that the participation is diverse. We also look at the outcomes. As we look to the next phase of the dialogues, we are planning to prepare and produce a report on the first year of dialogues and then draw recommendations and proposals from that for the next phase. It is an ongoing, dynamic and very substantive programme of work.

On access, particularly as we move into the in-person phase, depending on the Covid restrictions, the political involvement would become a much easier dynamic if we were all in a room together. It is not at all that the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement or any of its members is being excluded or anything like that; it is just that we have different avenues at the moment for conversations with different people. As the Deputy and the Chair have said, we see the need to bring those different strands closer together. I would be happy to continue that discussion.

I am familiar with the all-island cancer research proposal. Indeed, a number of proposals like that made us think about creating the North-South research programme to create an actual strategic context for all of this and to make sure we were not just addressing one or two particular proposals but were also driving further collaboration. I would have to come back with a reply on the technicalities of what the Deputy means by research infrastructure. My assumption is that some of that would be built into the proposals because there are three levels of funding under the research programme: individual researcher-to-researcher collaboration, sectoral collaboration between different hubs, say, in particular areas, and full institutional collaboration. The programme is being run by the HEA. We can come back on the research infrastructure on what is already encompassed.