First Official Visit by Welsh Leadership - Cowen Welcomes The "Next Door Neighbours"
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D., has warmly welcomed the Secretary of State for Wales, Paul Murphy, and the First Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales, Rhodri Morgan, on their first official visit to Ireland since devolution. "We are literally next door neighbours", the Minister said at an official lunch today in Iveagh House. "We think of each other as kindred spirits. The narrow strip of water which we share as our common border has been crisscrossed by our peoples since time immemorial".
Minister Cowen spoke of the new impetus for closer Welsh-Irish relations with the establishment last December of the British-Irish Council in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement. The Minister added, however, that "the process is once again in a moment of difficulty and the future of the British-Irish Council is bound up with the fate of the other institutions. We are, of course, working hard with Welsh support to get all of the institutions back on track as early as possible. I want to reassure the people of Wales that we remain committed in any case to the development and strengthening of our new links".
The Government's decision to open a Consulate in Cardiff in 1998 is a practical expression of that commitment. From 1994 to 1999, 90 cooperative projects were established under the EU-funded Ireland-Wales INTERREG Maritime Programme. Major projects under the IR£97 million programme included the development of Dun Laoghaire Ferry terminal and Rosslare Harbour.
During their visit the Secretary of State and the First Secretary paid courtesy calls on the President and the Taoiseach and held fact-finding discussions with the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Bord Failte on the development of a comprehensive economic strategy for Wales, especially West Wales and the Valleys which have acquired EU Objective One status.
They will be guests of Minister Cowen at tomorrow's rugby international between Ireland and Wales. The Minister has already extended an invitation to them to the victory party afterwards.Top