Wednesday, 2 February 2005
Northern Ireland Issues: Motion.
Joe O'Toole (Independent)
Yes. The economic corridor between both islands also comes to mind. Where should it be? We are saying it should be at Belfast, Dublin and the south-east of the island. There should be full and free access on both sides. How do we do that? If we put together a body like the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body or Anglo-Irish Encounter, we should ensure that there is a regulated and processed fringe around it, where people with expertise in the relevant areas can be of assistance. It would be useful for experts in the energy area, for example, to examine the energy needs of both islands and to put in place a system for selling, buying, swapping and working together. We need to talk to experts, business interests and trade union interests. We should not allow anybody to say what has been said previously. We can present people with a problem and ask them for a solution. If people cannot make a proposal, they can stay still. We need to examine what we can invest in this process, what can work and what governments will buy into. That is necessary in the interests of the community.
I am worried that the political vacuum will bring to a head the extraordinary growth in sectarianism on this island, which has concerned me in recent years. Until recently, the media seemed to think that the fact that there were no killings somehow meant that there was no sectarianism. In fact, sectarianism has blossomed in many communities. The criminality we have discussed in other contexts has been the fruit of all that. We need to find honest brokers who are accepted by communities on all sides to work at community level. We need to invest as much in peace as we have invested in the political process for peace. That is hard work — it will not attract headlights or headlines. We need to engage in such work to improve life on both islands. A great deal of expertise could be harnessed, focussed, developed and utilised to bring solutions to the common problems of both islands. That would involve working together in a co-operative way which would grow from the political process and create a new political process when elections on both islands are out of the way. I have mentioned some of the issues we could examine.