The eighth plenary session of the North/South Inter-Parliamentary Association (NSIPA) was held today, 2nd December 2016, in the Senate Chamber of Parliament Buildings, Stormont.
2nd December 2016
This was the first time that representatives from the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Houses of the Oireachtas gathered for a plenary session of the Association since elections in both jurisdictions in 2016.
The new NSIPA Co-Chairs, the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Robin Newton MBE, MLA and the Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann, Mr Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD, opened the plenary by welcoming new and returning members and looking forward to the Association continuing constructive engagement on a range of issues for the benefit of the people represented by both institutions.
The eighth plenary focused on the implications of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom. The first session was a general debate in which Members exchanged views on the way ahead and discussed key pillars which the Association might concentrate on in the future. The second session examined the implications of Brexit on the agri-food sector.
Implications of Brexit: Identifying Key Pillars
Following the presentation of a report produced by the research and library officials in both institutions on the potential impact of Brexit on cross border activity, members contributed to a wide ranging debate. A variety of views were expressed on the preferred way forward following the UK referendum but there was consensus around the need to minimise the impact on the border. Members identified a number of issues which they saw as being of primary concern to resolve for the benefit of citizens north and south in particular the impact on the border region, its communities and its people, including those who live and work on different sides of the border. Other issues which the Association suggested should be returned to in the future included the implications for infrastructure projects, health service provision, education, energy, tourism and trade.
Implications of Brexit: The Agri-Food Sector
The Association warmly received presentations from two different sections of the agri-food sector, Lorraine Hall, Co-Founder and Sales and Marketing Director of Kestrel Foods Ltd, and Richard Kennedy, Deputy President of the Irish Farmers’ Association. Members agreed that the agri-food sector was vital to the economy in Ireland and Northern Ireland and that protecting its interests should be a key concern for the future. Members raised a range of factors which are of importance to the agri-food sector and the fisheries industry including:
• Currency fluctuations;
• Access to markets;
• Regulation and maintaining the standard of local produce;
• Free movement of labour;
Both the Speaker and the Ceann Comhairle welcomed the positive interaction between Association members and recognised the desire of members to use the Association as a platform for continued engagement between members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Houses of the Oireachtas on key issues as negotiations develop in the months ahead. It was agreed that the next plenary session would again concentrate on the implications of Brexit. In view of the anticipated developments within the next few months, the Joint Executive Committee agreed to meet in February 2017 to agree the Association’s approach and priority issues for discussion at the next plenary.
The ninth plenary of the North/ South Inter-Parliamentary Association will be hosted by the Houses of the Oireachtas on 18th and 19th May 2017.
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