I am aware of the strong historical and cultural links between Ireland and the island of Montserrat.
In 1997, a major volcanic eruption affected the British Territory of Montserrat causing the evacuation of the population to neighbouring islands, or to the safer northern part of the island. Due to the existing damage and the ongoing threat of further eruptions, the southern part of the island has been declared unfit for habitation, which has forced more than half of the population to leave the island owing to a lack of housing.
The British Government has funded a substantial development effort in Montserrat. Apart from the basic needs of housing and sanitation, advances have been made in restoring health and educational services. Efforts to rehabilitate the island are aimed primarily at the restoration of the country's economic infrastructure. Redevelopment has focused on the northern third of the island, which is at negligible risk from the volcano.
As Montserrat is a British territory, the UK Department of International Development has taken a lead role in the provision of assistance to Montserrat and has provided funding of some £220 million for both development assistance and budgetary support since 1997. The population of the island now stands at approximately 5,000.
In 2001, a Montserrat delegation including the Chief Minister of Montserrat, Mr. David S. Brandt, visited Ireland and met with officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, the National Software Directorate and the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland. The focus of the Montserrat authorities was on rebuilding the tourism sector to reinvigorate the economy and to create greater employment opportunities.
In 2001, over €190,000 was allocated from Irish Aid to the authorities in Montserrat for assistance in the development of a National Tourism Strategy Document for the island. This support is an expression of the strong historical links that Ireland has with Montserrat. Since then, confidence has been restored in this sector. A particularly notable development has been the opening of a new airport in 2005 at Montserrat's new capital, Little Bay. This marks an important milestone in the economic regeneration of the island.