Cowen: "Europe Consolidates Peace in Northern Ireland"
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D., has acknowledged the "huge impact" of funding by the European Union in helping to consolidate the Northern Ireland peace process on the ground. Speaking in Dublin today at the AGM of Cooperation Ireland, the Minister said that Ireland, North and South, has been a major beneficiary of the partnership arrangements which are intrinsic to the European Union.
"Over the last decade through programmes such as INTERREG, PEACE and the International Fund for Ireland, the Union has provided over 1.2 billion euro which has been specifically targeted at cross-border co-operation, economic development and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border counties of the South," he said.
The Minister said that the Treaty of Nice, which the people in the South will be asked to support on 7 June, is all about broadening that constructive process of partnership and solidarity to candidate countries from Central and Eastern Europe who are emerging from conflict or from the stultifying grip of totalitarianism. To refuse to extend the benign partnership of the Union to these deserving countries would, not only be wrong in principle, but would also ignore the stabilising effect which membership of the Union will bring to the continent as a whole. "Rejection of the Treaty," he said, "would also do serious damage to our reputation as a pro-European Member State. A ‘Yes' vote for the Nice Treaty is saying Yes to a Union of inclusive partnership."
He added that the Government "very much regrets" that 3 of the 12 sectors of the North/South Ministerial Council have not been operating to their full potential. " The exclusion of particular Ministers from the NSMC is not compatible with an agreement whose institutions were designed to be inter-locking and interdependent and to operate on an inclusive basis," he said.
"The outstanding issues - the question of illegal arms, security normalisation and policing - have until now defied final resolution precisely because they go to the heart of the necessary trust and confidence which all sides legitimately require if we are to create an enduring dispensation of partnership on the island. I very much hope that, once these wider political difficulties have been addressed, the North/South Ministerial Council can resume its fully inclusive and comprehensive operation, as was envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement."