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Department Of An Taoiseach | To ask the Taoiseach the extent to which he expects the Shared Island Dialogue concept to progress in the aftermath of the Assembly elections in Northern Ireland

To ask the Taoiseach the extent to which he expects the Shared Island Dialogue concept to progress in the aftermath of the Assembly elections in Northern Ireland.


A Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take questions 9 to 13 together.

Through the Government’s Shared Island initiative, we are engaging with all communities and traditions to build consensus around a shared future; and to deliver tangible benefits for the whole island, underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement.

The Government wants to see a new power-sharing Executive formed in Northern Ireland as soon as possible

– to serve the interests of all of the people of Northern Ireland, and to work in partnership with us to deliver beneficial all-island cooperation and investment for the people of this island, which is at the core of our Shared Island initiative.

The Shared Island Dialogues are also a key part of the Government’s approach. We have brought together more than 1,300 citizens and civic leaders so far – from across all communities, traditions and regions – to discuss how we work for a shared future on this island, in practical, meaningful ways.

Nine Shared Island Dialogues have been convened to date, the most recent on Tourism and Sport at the end February this year.

Excitingly, we are now in a position to move to in person events which I have no doubt will enrich the conversations and connectivity in the Dialogues.

A key focus for us this year is regional engagement. A Dialogue on Rural and Community Development is being convened by Minister Heather Humphreys this week (Friday, 20 May), taking place in Monaghan.

The Dialogue series will continue through this year – on an in-person and regional basis – and addressing both sectoral issues and wider societal concerns for the whole island.

The Dialogues are also leading to civil society-led engagement, including the All-Island Women’s Forum, and the ‘i-Community Shared Practice hub’ being rolled out by The Wheel and the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action.

A Citizens’ Assembly on a United Ireland is not planned. The Government’s focus now, and our commitment through the Shared Island initiative, is on working with all communities and political traditions, to take up the significant opportunities of deeper cooperation and connection on the island, and to build consensus on key issues for our shared future, underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement.

In our approach, the Government is taking full account of the political complexity and challenges in Northern Ireland, and is working to listen to and engage with all communities and their concerns.

I have participated in a number of events with a Shared Island focus in recent weeks, which have engaged with over 800 people, including:

– meeting with the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement;
– an address to the John and Pat Hume Foundation in Derry;
– the launch of the comprehensive report to Government by the National Economic and Social Council on Shared Island; Shared Opportunity; and,
– the launch of the latest Shared Island report by the Economic and Social Research Institute, examining education and training systems and outcomes, North and South, this report is the first study to systematically examine education systems and outcomes in the two jurisdictions, from primary through to third level.

The research explores a range of issues including educational attainment, educational inequalities in society, skills development and related labour market outcomes, North and South.

A key message I take from the report is the rationale and need to step up all-island cooperation on educational underachievement.  

This ESRI research adds significantly to the evidence and understanding we have on how our education systems serve students, families and communities on this island; how we could learn from each other North and South on education delivery and reform; and how we can do more together to enhance educational experience and outcomes for all.

I believe these need to be central concerns for how we work through the Good Friday Agreement in the time ahead.

That is why the Government will seek to work with a new Executive and the UK Government to enhance our cooperation and support on education issues in the time ahead.

This is an important part of how we can work together for a more inclusive, prosperous and shared future on this island for all communities.



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