Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (136, 137, 138, 139, 140)

Neale Richmond

Question:

136. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Taoiseach the number of public engagements that have been held to date under the shared island unit of his Department. [37760/20]

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Neale Richmond

Question:

137. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Taoiseach the extent to which he has engaged with political parties in Northern Ireland in relation to the shared island unit of his Department. [37761/20]

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Neale Richmond

Question:

138. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Taoiseach the staffing breakdown of his Department's shared island unit. [37762/20]

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Neale Richmond

Question:

139. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Taoiseach the extent to which he has engaged with the Northern Ireland Executive in relation to his Department's shared island unit. [37763/20]

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Neale Richmond

Question:

140. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Taoiseach the extent to which he has engaged with the Prime Minister of the UK in relation to his Department's shared island unit. [37764/20]

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Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 to 140, inclusive, together.

The Programme for Government sets out the Government’s commitments on a Shared Island and to working with all communities and traditions on the island to build consensus around a shared future, underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement.

On 22 October, I set out the Government’s vision and priorities on Shared Island in an online event at Dublin Castle. Over 800 people participated online, comprising a broad range of civil society, community, sectoral, and political representatives, across the island of Ireland and in Britain.

I engage regularly with the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland, and they are appraised of the Government’s Shared Island initiative. The Government is working in partnership with the Executive through the North South Ministerial Council, including to progress key cross-border investment projects, which are part of our Shared Island commitments in the Programme for Government.

I have had constructive engagement with British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on the Government’s Shared Island objectives and commitments, and have made it clear that we are happy also to engage on an East-West basis as we take this work forward.

In Budget 2021, the Government announced the Shared Island Fund, with a planned €500m to be made available out to 2025, ring-fenced for Shared Island projects. The Shared Island Fund provides significant new, multiannual capital funding for investment on a strategic basis in collaborative North/South projects that will support the commitments and objectives of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Shared Island unit in my Department is led by an Assistant Secretary and four staff are now assigned. Operationally, the unit is focusing its work in three areas: commissioning research, fostering dialogue, and building a Shared Island agenda, including delivery of the commitments in the Programme for Government.

Strengthening social, economic and political links on the island and the promotion of all-island approaches to the strategic challenges facing Ireland, North and South are key objectives for this work.

On 22 October, I launched the Shared Island Dialogue series to foster constructive and inclusive civic dialogue on all aspects of a shared future on the island. The series starts on Thursday, 26 November, with a Dialogue on ‘New Generations and New Voices on the Good Friday Agreement’.

The Dialogue series will focus on important issues for people on the island in the years ahead, such as the environment, health, education and economy, and on key civic concerns that are addressed in the Good Friday Agreement, including identity and equality.

The Dialogue series will actively seek as broad a range of perspective and experience as possible, and the inclusion of voices that have been traditionally under-represented in the Peace Process, including women, young people, and new communities on the island.