Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
The economies of Ireland and Northern Ireland are closely connected. Cross-border collaboration has and continues to be of great benefit for both jurisdictions, and the Government is committed to working, through the North South Ministerial Council and InterTradeIreland, to strengthen North-South co-operation and to promote trade and business on an all-island and cross-border basis.
ITI is one of the six North/South Implementation Bodies established under the Good Friday Agreement. The body is jointly funded by my Department and its Northern Ireland counterpart, the Department for the Economy. ITI’s objective is to support businesses, through innovation and trade initiatives, to take advantage of North South co-operative opportunities, driving competitiveness, jobs and growth. ITI helps small businesses explore new cross-border markets, develop new products and services and become investor ready.
ITI marked its 20th anniversary last year. During that time, the body has assisted over 39,000 businesses, supported the creation of 14,800 jobs and has generated more than £1bn/€1.2billion in business development value through its programmes and initiatives. Cross border trade now stands at an all-time high. We are now facing new challenges and a different trading landscape, but the promotion and development of cross border trade will continue to be a priority in the period ahead.
ITI has an important role to play in protecting North-South trade in the context of Brexit, as the body is uniquely well-positioned when it comes to understanding the needs of businesses on both sides of the border. We are determined to ensure that ITI is equipped with the funding it requires to continue this important work. My Department has been steadily increasing the funding for ITI over recent years, and their budget allocation for 2021 is over €11million. This will enable the body to assist SMEs as they adjust to the new trading landscape following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
The development of the all-island economy is a priority right across Government. One of the aims of the new shared island unit, established in the Department of the Taoiseach, is further developing our shared island economy. This involves working to deepen our cooperation in areas such as health and education; and investing together for the benefit of the North West and border regions. As part of Budget 2021, the Government announced the Shared Island Fund, with €500m to be made available over the next 5 years to 2025, ring-fenced for Shared Island projects.
The resumption of the North South Ministerial Council this year has provided the Government and the Northern Ireland Executive with the opportunity to meet formally and ensure mutually beneficial cooperation continues across a range of sectoral areas, which will strengthen the all-island economy.