The North/South Inter-Parliamentary Association (NSIPA) which comprises of representatives from all the main political parties of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Houses of the Oireachtas, today held its fourth Plenary in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings, Stormont.
The meeting was jointly chaired by the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr William Hay, MLA and the Ceann Comhairle, Mr Seán Barrett, TD. The Association heard from a number of keynote speakers on the subjects of European Issues and Substance Misuse.
The first session was addressed by Ms Barbara Nolan, the Head of the European Commission representation in Ireland and Ms Colette Fitzgerald, the Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland. Their presentation set the context of the EU’s future work programme including the impact of political changes in 2014 with the election of a new European Parliament. The session considered the European Union’s emergence from financial and economic crisis, including the European Semester, the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and the Youth Guarantee and a range of other major issues such as the Common Agricultural Policy, Horizon 2020 and the breadth of EU funding programmes.
The presentation ended by looking at the different ways both jurisdictions can engage with and influence European policy. Ahead of the European elections, Members had a debate across a wide range of European issues and agreed the importance of influencing European policies and accessing available European funds to maximise the benefits to their constituencies.
The second session on Substance Misuse commenced with an address by Mr Alex Bunting from the Forum for Action against Substance Abuse (FASA) in Belfast. Mr Bunting spoke of the impact of substance misuse in a Northern Ireland context, providing information on the prevalence of drug use and the associated social implications. He also emphasised that Northern Ireland was facing growing difficulties in relation to the abuse of prescription medication. The Association was then addressed by Ms Marie Byrne from Aisling Group International who spoke of the issues facing individuals from the south of Ireland in relation to the effects from drugs and alcohol misuse. Ms Byrne set out her views in relation to the social and personal impact of drug abuse both at a national and international level and spoke of alternative approaches operating within other countries in addressing the problems associated with substance misuse.
The Association concurred that this was an important social matter which urgently requires action from both Administrations in addressing the problems faced by so many.
The Joint Chairs and Members of the Association conveyed their gratitude to the keynote speakers for their valuable contribution to the plenary session. It was agreed that the fifth Plenary of the Association would take place in the Oireachtas on Friday, 3 October 2014.