“Co-operation between North, South and Britain is of mutual benefit”

Dail Debate On Northern Ireland – 5th February 2014 – Deputy Dan Neville

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this important debate.  The people on this island, North and South, as well as those in Britain, must move on, learn to understand one another and get to know each other better.   We must enhance our knowledge of the common work we must do in order to deliver services to our people.  We can learn much from each other’s experiences.  We can also learn from one another’s mistakes in terms of implementing policy.

This morning the Taoiseach acknowledged the work of members of both Houses of the Oireachtas and the Northern Ireland Assembly.  He also paid tribute to the members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and the North-South Inter-Parliamentary Association which continue to further British-Irish and North-South relations.

I am a member of the North-South Inter-Parliamentary Association, which consists of 50 parliamentarians from the main political parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Houses of the Oireachtas.  The inaugural meeting of this body, which alternates between Leinster House and Stormont Castle, took place in the Seanad Chamber on 12 October 2012.  Meetings are chaired jointly by the Ceann Comhairle, Deputy Seán Barrett and the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr. William Hay, MLA.  I wish to pay tribute to all of the members of the association and to the commend them on the quality of the debates in which they have engaged on important social issues.  The association has invited experts from both North and South to outline their experiences, knowledge and research on important social, cultural and economic issues affecting our people.

Many of the issues discussed by the association are not strictly political but have an enormous bearing on the daily lives of people, both North and South.  There was a very interesting meeting on co-operation in child protection.  The tragic experience of child abuse, North and South, is known to us all and mutual co-operation in that area was discussed at length.  The plan for the restoration of the Ulster Canal was discussed at length.  We also discussed positive mental health strategies and there was a separate session on suicide, during which we learned that there is different but complementary research being conducted in Northern Ireland and the Republic.  It is important that we share that research and share the experiences of suicide prevention programmes on both sides of the Border.  In that context, the Irish Association of Suicidology, a 32-county organisation, held its annual conference in Derry last October.  There were contributions from various Northern bodies dealing with psychological and counselling services and the conference was hugely successful.  The North-South Inter-Parliamentary Association has also discussed type 2 diabetes and caring for an aged society.  We also discussed the emergency ambulance services and GP out-of-hours services and potential areas of co-operation in that regard.  We also discussed energy security.  The association has discussed a very broad range of issues to date and the quality of the debate has been consistently high.

We need a more prosperous Northern Ireland and southern Ireland and co-operation will lead to more success.  The promotion of Ireland abroad as an island has great potential.