The North/South Inter-Parliamentary Association which comprises of representatives from all the main political parties of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Houses of the Oireachtas, today held its third Plenary in the Seanad Chamber in Leinster House. The meeting was jointly chaired by the Ceann Comhairle, Mr Seán Barrett, TD and the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr William Hay, MLA. The Association heard from a number of keynote speakers on the subjects of Emergency (Ambulance) Services; GP Out of Hours Services; and Energy Security.
The first session was introduced by Tom Daly, Director General of Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT), a cross border partnership of the health service organisations in the border region of Northern Ireland and Ireland which work together to provide practical solutions to the health and social care needs of local populations on both sides of the border. Bernie McCrory, Chief Officer of CAWT outlined current project activity in delivering European Union funded cross border health and social care projects and services. The Association heard of a number of specific projects that are experiencing success such as cross border major medical emergency planning.
The morning session continued with an address by Edel O’Doherty, Deputy Chief Officer of CAWT who advised of the pilot GP Out of Hours Service introduced to address the fact that a significant number of people live closer to a GP Our of Hours Service in the opposite jurisdiction to where they live.
The morning session concluded with a presentation by Liam McIvor, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, accompanied by Martin Dunne Director HSE National Ambulance Service, who outlined current cooperation between the Northern Ireland and HSE ambulance services and future opportunities to enhance the sharing of services along the border region.
The Association paid tribute to the work and efforts of CAWT and relevant stakeholders and commended it as a great example of how cross border cooperation can deliver real and longstanding benefits to citizens both sides of the border.
The afternoon session commenced with an address by Dr Brian Motherway, Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy Authority (SEAI) on Energy Security. Dr Motherway spoke of Ireland’s dependency on imported energy and the resultant exposure to fuel supply cuts and price volatility. He also emphasised the opportunity for the island of Ireland to be a leader in future renewables such as offshore wind, wave and tidal.
Dr Peter Brennan, Managing Director of EPS Consulting, highlighted that transport accounts for over a third of final energy consumption and that this demand is expected to increase significantly in the coming years. Dr Brennan spoke of the substantial potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the deployment of electric vehicles on the island.
The concluding afternoon session was delivered by Robin McCormick, General Manager, System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI) Ltd. Mr McCormick set out his views on generation adequacy and the need for the development of a north/south interconnector to improve security of supply.
The Association agreed that more work is required to reduce the dependence on imported energy and to harness the economic opportunity of the renewable energy sector for creating new jobs, protecting existing jobs and improving social well-being for all citizens on the island of Ireland.
The Joint Chairs and Members of the Association conveyed their gratitude to the keynote speakers for their valuable contribution to the debate at today’s plenary session. It was agreed that the fourth Plenary of the Association would take place in the Stormont on Friday, 4 April 2014.