Thursday, October 26, 2006

A major blueprint for an all Ireland economy has been launched by the Irish and British governments


It identifies concrete initiatives to strengthen North/South economic co-operation.

These include further collaboration in R and D, including maximising access to EU funds, a new targeted approach to enterprise training and to identifying labour market needs on an all-island basis, plus "joined-up planning" in delivery of key infrastructure.

The blueprint takes the form of a study, which also envisages that trade missions and overseas offices of both Enterprise Ireland and Invest NI being made available to companies across the island.

It was not immediately apparent whether the measures suggested have any connection with the so called "Plan B" that British and Irish officials are known to have been preparing for N Ireland.

The possibility of such a plan, involving closer North-South co-operation, has for some time been held over the head of the DUP as a threat of what might happen if currently proposed devolution arrangements are not implemented.

However, there was no hint from either government today that the steps proposed by the study are only for that eventuality.

Indeed, in a statement on the study, the Northern Ireland Office said the two governments, along with key stakeholders, would now jointly develop a detailed programme of work in each of the areas identified, as well as seeking further opportunities for co-operation in the education and health sectors.

The study sets out a rationale for what it sees as beneficial all-island economic activity.

It focuses on increasing co-operation in infrastructure, science, technology and innovation, trade and investment promotion, labour market and skills and enterprise and business development.

Its key theme is that co-ordinated policies can and will deliver benefits to citizens and businesses North and South.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern welcomed the study.

"It makes clear the strong economic imperative driving North/South co-operation," he said.

"To be globally competitive we must exploit the opportunities of all-island collaboration. To make the knowledge economy a reality in Ireland North and South, the opportunities of cross-border co-operation in R&D should be eagerly grasped.

"In the area of infrastructure, more joined up planning and delivery will give better outcomes for people throughout the island. A coherent transport infrastructure is vital for the balanced regional development of this island and to support the development of areas which have historically enjoyed less economic success including the border counties and the North West."

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said the study represented a new level of North South economic co-operation.

"Along with the fresh initiatives which will be progressed on a collaborative basis, the study importantly sets out a compelling vision of a strong competitive and socially inclusive island economy with island wide clusters whose strength and development is not impaired by the existence of a political border.

"This must be our aim if we are to compete on the world stage and deliver sustained economic benefits for everyone.

"I look forward to further development and implementation of the goals and actions contained in the Study both in the weeks to come and as part of the agenda of the restored institutions."

Study to recommend North-South economic links

Blueprint for all-Ireland economy unveiled


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