Ritchie: ‘Further and deeper north-south cooperation needed’

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Monday, April 9th, 2012
SDLP Intergovernmental Affairs spokesperson Margaret Ritchie has said she is not convinced enough is being done in terms of north-south cooperation on key socio-economic areas. The South Down MP was speaking after meeting with Finance Minister Sammy Wilson to discuss how much investment in cross-border cooperation was being made. She said: “Although the Finance Minister has intimated that he is disposed towards the Stormont and Dublin governments working together, and although the Irish Minister of Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin, has assured me that officials in Dublin are working full-time on this issue, I am not heartened by the amount of progress made.” She continued, “I am glad to hear from Minister Wilson that work is being done on looking at north-south cooperation in terms of some schools that would benefit from a through-flow of pupils from both sides of the border. However, more work is needed to see how we can develop a sustainable all-island approach to areas of common interest, including infrastructure, education, skills, economic development, agri-food and telecommunications.” “The Department of Finance in Dublin wrote to the Department of Finance and Personnel in Belfast in 2010 advising on how to make efficiency savings which would benefit the whole island’s economy, but exactly two years later, I have not been convinced that enough advice is being given by Minister Wilson to civil servants and departments as to how to enact this and his own advice on the topic.” Ms Ritchie concluded saying, “Internal work on expanding cross-border cooperation is to be highly commended, but it is not enough without tangible, external action. I look forward to continuing to press for greater cooperation and playing my part in furthering the SDLP’s tireless agenda for positive change in working for the good of the whole island of Ireland.”
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