The Taoiseach and I visited Belfast on 3 November for a series of meetings with political parties. We met the deputy First Minister, Mr. Martin McGuinness, MLA; the Sinn Féin President, Deputy Gerry Adams, the SDLP leader, Mr. Colum Eastwood, MLA, and colleagues; the UUP leader, Mr. Mike Nesbitt, MLA, and colleagues, and Alliance Party MLAs, Mr. David Ford and Dr. Stephen Farry. The Taoiseach also met the First Minister, Ms Arlene Foster, MLA, in Dublin on 15 November.
Each of these meetings was an important opportunity to speak directly with political leaders in Northern Ireland as part of the Government's continuing engagement with the Executive and other parties, with a view to working together to prepare for and manage the shared, all-island impacts of the United Kingdom's decision to leave the and those of the European Union. We emphasised the Government's commitment to playing its full role, as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, in support of continued peace, prosperity and deeper reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
We also discussed what special arrangements might be required to take account of the unique situation of Northern Ireland in the upcoming negotiations within the European Union on the departure of the United Kingdom from the Union.
As the Deputy outlined, the UK departure from the Union was also a major focus of the North-South Ministerial Council, NSMC, plenary meeting last Friday. The Government and Northern Ireland Executive agreed to continue to work closely together to optimise North-South planning in the phases preceding and following the UK withdrawal from the European Union. In terms of taking forward the necessary work, the NSMC agreed that the Government and the Northern Ireland Executive will be guided by some common principles. It also agreed that this work would be taken forward through continuing bilateral discussions within the NSMC at sectoral level, as well as through a high-level working group comprising senior officials from the Government and from the Northern Ireland Executive.
In addition to our discussions on Brexit, we also reviewed progress on the implementation of the Fresh Start agreement, commitments on cross-Border infrastructure projects and on the cross-Border partnership arrangements, developed by Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council. I am pleased that my Department has played a leading role in that regard by contributing €2.5 million to the North West Development Fund.