Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern T.D., stresses enormous benefits of EU membership
Giving the keynote address at a conference this on 'Delivering an All Ireland economy, the Minister stressed the enormous benefits which Ireland as a whole has gained form our EU membership.
The Minister said:
"As an all-island economy we face the challenges of globalisation together.
Those challenges facing our workers, our environment and competitiveness today –right across this island - are global. Against these global issues - climate change, rising energy costs, trans-national crime and global economic downturns - our capacity to defend prosperity is greatly increased in the context of European Union and increased further still with the Reform Treaty in place.
The Union has stood by us here on this island through the darkest times.
European leaders and institutions played a key role – in public and
behind the scenes – in encouraging moves towards peace and a shared
future based on equality and fairness.
The public face of the EU in Northern Ireland and the border counties has been the EU PEACE Programmes. These were designed to bring reconciliation to divided communities and to tackle segregation and division.
Since 1995, the EU has overseen PEACE Programmes with a value of more than €1.65 billion. The latest PEACE III Programme will provide an additional €333 million over the period 2007-2013.
On top of €256 million for territorial cooperation (EU inter-regional programmes embracing Ireland North & South and Scotland) over the same period, this is an enormous contribution to peace and justice on the island of Ireland.
EU funding has helped to alleviate some of the worst social disadvantage in Northern Ireland and the border counties, while at the same time enhancing relations between communities of different backgrounds.
The EU has also been a major contributor to the International Fund for Ireland since it was set up following the Anglo-Irish Agreement in the mid-1980’s. Through the International Fund, the EU has promoted economic growth on the island and encouraged contact, dialogue and reconciliation between nationalists and unionists throughout Ireland.
This upcoming vote on the Reform Treaty matters. For border Counties like mine. For the all-island economy. To build all-island prosperity.”