Thursday, 5 February 2004

Ceisteanna (117)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

117 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport further to the 2002 annual report by the North-South Ministerial Council, the progress to date on the seven areas under discussion in the transport sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3504/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Transport)

Transport is one of the six agreed areas of co-operation under the NSMC. At the council's inaugural meeting in December 1999 it was agreed that transport co-operation would focus primarily on road and rail safety and strategic transport planning.

In December 2000 the first meeting of the NSMC on the transport sector took place. Ministers reviewed existing co-operation on transport issues and discussed the matters identified for enhanced co-operation by the December 1999 inaugural NSMC meeting. A further transport sector meeting took place in 2002 prior to the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly in October of that year. That meeting focused on road safety issues. As the relevant Northern Ireland Minister was unavailable, it was not possible to hold meetings at ministerial level about other aspects of co-operation in the transport sector.

At present the two Governments are working with the Northern Irish political parties to bring about the conditions that will allow the restoration of devolved Government in Northern Ireland. Notwithstanding the fact that the NSMC cannot meet at present, co-operation and contact with the Northern authorities has continued on a practical level in the transport sector. I met Ms Angela Smith, MP and Minister at the Northern Ireland office, on 11 February 2003. Meetings have also taken place at senior official level between my Department and the Departments for Regional Development and for the Environment in Northern Ireland. The meetings focused on cross-Border road and rail developments, road and rail safety issues, the road haulage sector and the future development of Derry Airport.

The Exchequer continues to provide financial support under EU rules for the current air services between Derry and Dublin operated by the Scottish carrier Loganair.