Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Ceisteanna (27, 28, 29, 30)

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

27. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Taoiseach the position regarding the priorities of the shared island unit of his Department. [13098/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Neale Richmond

Ceist:

28. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Taoiseach the status of the activities of the shared island unit of his Department. [13099/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Ceist:

29. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Taoiseach the priorities of the shared island unit specifically in relation to new initiatives regarding north-south schemes. [13249/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

30. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the work of the Britain and Northern Ireland division of his Department. [13101/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 to 30, inclusive, together.

The Britain and Northern Ireland Division supports my work and the work of the Government in relation to ongoing implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, and all aspects of North-South and British-Irish relations

The Division supports my participation in the North South Ministerial Council and the British Irish Council as key institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and also supports my role in broader political engagement in Northern Ireland and in all-island co-operation. This includes supporting my engagement with the Prime Minister of the UK and with the heads of the devolved administrations.

The Division also supports the work of the Cabinet Committee on Brexit and Northern Ireland, as required.

There are five staff in the Britain and Northern Ireland Division, headed by an Assistant Secretary General who is also responsible for the Shared Island unit, which was established in my Department in September last year.

The Shared Island unit currently has four members of staff with further appointments planned. The unit is tasked with driving and coordinating implementation of the Shared Island initiative as a whole of Government priority.

On 22 October, I set out the Government’s vision and priorities on Shared Island in an online event at Dublin Castle. In Budget 2021, the Government announced the Shared Island Fund, with €500m being made available out to 2025, ring-fenced for Shared Island projects. This provides significant, new capital funding for strategic investment in collaborative North/South projects that will support the commitments and objectives of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Government will work in partnership with the Northern Ireland Executive and with the British Government to progress existing and new cross-border investment projects. The Government’s priorities for such investment are set out in the Programme for Government.

Progressing cross-border investment projects was a key focus of our discussions at the North South Ministerial Council Plenary on 18 December, and in December, over €6m in funding from the Shared Island Fund was approved by the Government to launch the delivery of Phase 2 of the Ulster Canal.

As part of the Shared Island initiative, the unit is progressing a comprehensive research programme, working with the National Economic and Social Council, ESRI and other partners, with research outputs being published through 2021 and in subsequent years. 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 of this work.

I have also launched the Shared Island Dialogue series to foster constructive and inclusive civic dialogue on a shared future on the island. So far, three dialogues have been held:

- I addressed a Dialogue with young people on 26 November, on the theme of “New Generations and New Voices on the Good Friday Agreement;

- On 5 February, the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications participated in a Dialogue on climate and environment on the island; and,

- On 25 March, a Dialogue on civil society engagement on the island was held, with participation by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The Dialogue series will continue through this year, including a focus on Health, Education and Economy, and on civic provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

Finally, on local authority engagement, I warmly welcome the increased focus and ambition for cross-border cooperation at local authority and regional levels, including through the Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor launch on 24 March, the framework of regional priorities of the Irish Central Border Area Network also launched on 24 March, and the North West Regional Development Group’s recently agreed statement of updated regional priorities.

I and a number of Government Ministers have engaged directly with these important cross-border initiatives in recent weeks to affirm the Government’s support for their work and readiness to collaborate with them, taking account of overall regional development strategies and the commitments and objectives on the Shared Island initiative that are set out in the Programme for Government.

The Shared Island unit in my Department, is actively engaging with Local Authorities and the cross-border Local Authority forums in follow up.

Questions Nos. 31 to 34, inclusive, resubmitted.