Wednesday, 2 February 2005
Northern Ireland Issues: Motion.
Joe O'Toole (Independent)
I had never seen it happen before. It reflects a maturity that is important. In terms of what Senator Maurice Hayes has said, perhaps it will show us the way forward.
I would like to consider where we are going for the next couple of years. Most analysts believe that not much will happen politically in that time. We need to examine the vacuum that has developed and determine where points of commonality exist. Such points mainly relate to the Good Friday Agreement, etc. I would like to think that, over the next couple of years, we will invest the same effort, time, energy and financial commitment in community and economic issues which relate to the two islands. Such investment is necessary if we are to show another aspect of what we can do together.
I would like us to deepen community links at cross-Border level. We have tended to forget that the Good Friday Agreement envisaged that such links should be developed between east and west. I would like to examine the structures available to us to do that, such as the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body, which is anathema to one or two groups. It is only a talking shop, but talking shops are important. I would also like to look at other things — perhaps we should resurrect bodies like Anglo-Irish Encounter. A focussed solution should be put together so that we can see what we can base around this. I would like a centre to be established for the east-west aspect of this matter. It may be acceptable to all parties, North and South, if a body were based in Scotland along the lines of Anglo-Irish Encounter or the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body. The body should not only involve politicians in the centre, but should also involve community interests so that it can focus on specific economic, social and community issues. I refer to issues that mean something to the community, such as infrastructure and economic corridors, rather than issues which cause people to yawn. I could develop this idea at length. We need to examine what the two islands have in common. I refer to both parts of this island.