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Speech by Peter Hain on North - South co-operation, Dublin, (2 February 2006)

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Text: British Government ... Page compiled: Martin Melaugh [3 Feb 2006]

Extracts from a Speech by Peter Hain, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, on North - South co-operation, to the Chamber of Commerce, Dublin, (2 February 2006)


"People from across the spectrum of political opinion in Northern Ireland should realise that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain from increased North - South co-operation, where such co-operation is in our mutual interest. This is, in a very real sense, a case when it is possible for Northern Ireland to have the best of both worlds benefiting by being part of a strong UK economy by maximising the trading opportunities within the island of Ireland. In saying that I am not making any kind of political or constitutional point. It is just common sense.

Just as North South co-operation is common sense in relation to the economy, so it is in relation to secondment of police officers, child protection and health. Shaun Woodward and Mary Harney have reached an agreement on cancer treatment that will involve the provision, in Northern Ireland, of radiotherapy services to some patients from Donegal. While we are still working on some of the finer details, the bottom line is that this initiative will utilise spare capacity at the new Belfast Cancer Centre. It makes a great deal of sense and I hope that we will see the first Donegal patient receiving treatment in Belfast later this year.

An increasing number of Northern companies are already operating on an all-island basis and finding it worth their while, in business terms, to do so. Examples are found in virtually all sectors of the economy, but particularly in food and drink, the media, banking, retail and in the industrial sector.

The more that business people on both sides of the border can exploit the enormous opportunities available, the better off we shall be.

The Taoiseach led a trade mission to India last month, and I was delighted that he included representatives from the Northern Ireland business community in it. Northern companies signed major contracts, at least one joint venture was signed off and other deals are in the offing. I am planning a similar Northern Ireland trade mission to India later this year and will be inviting participation from the South.

I want a joined up inward investment strategy because very often the real competition is not between North and South, but between the island of Ireland and places like Eastern Europe.

I have also agreed with Dermot Ahern to carry out an economic audit, North and South, and I expect that this will demonstrate other areas in which the historic lack of effective co-operation has hindered both economies and where there is scope to make more progress. This is a win/win situation for both North and South.

Both Governments are fully committed to getting the necessary legislation in place later this year to allow the creation of a single wholesale energy market for the island of Ireland and where we already have companies from one jurisdiction operating successfully in the other.

There are two imperatives here. One is the security of supply problem. Global warming is a reality and it is vital that the island of Ireland becomes a world leader in renewable energy. Second, there is great potential for job creation flowing from the new technologies.

I will shortly be announcing how I propose that Northern Ireland leads the way with details of a new £59 million Environment and Renewable Energy funding package.

The Fund is also expected to leverage around £300 million of additional private sector investment in renewables which will accelerate the use of solar energy, photovoltaic panels, wave and tidal power, geothermal heat pumps, wind turbines and biomass. I want public sector buildings and social housing to lead the way. Significant support will be available to encourage energy from waste. We will also see the world’s first development centre for marine current turbines at Strangford Lough become fully operational in the Autumn. The package will encourage innovation, the development of new skills and create new job opportunities, particularly in rural communities and build on our diversity of energy supply.

The island of Ireland, with its long coastline and plentiful supply of wind is, of course, well placed to take advantage of offshore winds and tidal power technology and become a world centre for renewable energy excellence.

While the politics of Northern Ireland are of course, vital, it is equally important that they be underpinned by sound economic policies. The endgame is always most difficult."


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