The North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) was established as part of the Good Friday Agreement to foster mutually beneficial cooperation in agreed areas on an all-Island basis. My colleagues in Government and I meet regularly with our counterparts in the Northern Ireland Executive in the various NSMC formats to review progress in all areas of North South co-operation. While there has been valuable progress in cooperation through the NSMC, I believe there is scope for broadening the existing work programmes and for additional areas of co-operation. The St Andrews Agreement provided for a review of the existing North South Implementation Bodies and to examine the case for additional bodies and areas of co-operation. Term of Reference One of the Review which was to examine the bodies in terms of efficiency and value for money has essentially been completed.
The Second and Third Terms of Reference of the Review look to the future of North South co-operation, including the case for additional bodies and areas of co-operation within the North South Ministerial Council. Work on those Terms of Reference, while ongoing, has not progressed as rapidly as I would have wished. I discussed the matter with the First and Deputy First Minister 29 April and we agreed that work would be pursued with a view to progress on these Terms of the Review at the forthcoming NSMC plenary meeting in July.
The Government is firmly committed to developing cross border cooperation in every possible respect. In addition to being a vehicle for reconciliation and better understanding on the island, it is also a mechanism for ensuring a more efficient delivery of services and a more coordinated approach to job creation and recovery, North and South.