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Foreign Affairs | Developing improved North/South relations and engaging with the communities in Northern Ireland

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the modus operandi in relation to developing improved North/South relations with particular reference to the need to engage with the communities in Northern Ireland in a positive manner in order encourage better understanding of each other’s position; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


I maintain regular contact with stakeholders in Northern Ireland, including political parties, civic society, and the business community. I spoke with party leaders earlier this month and reiterated the importance that the Government places on the restoration of all the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

The formal means for the Government to develop North South cooperation is through the North South Ministerial Council, which was established under Strand Two of the Good Friday Agreement.

I am deeply concerned that the work of the Council has been disrupted in recent years. In the absence of regular NSMC meetings, the two Administrations on the island are not having the important conversations that we should be having to address shared challenges and opportunities. It is vital that the Council is allowed to resume its work as soon as possible. 

In 2020, I launched the Government’s Shared Island Initiative to work with all communities to build a vision for our shared future on the island. 

Over the past two years, we have taken forward this positive agenda by progressing North South infrastructure projects, bringing all communities and traditions together through the Shared Island Dialogue series, and delivering a comprehensive research programme to inform inclusive civic and political dialogue on the future of our island. 

Building on all of this progress, earlier this month I launched the Shared Island Civic Society Fund to support civic society organisations in strengthening cross-border links. This Fund responds to the idea which came through the Shared Island Dialogues that civil society organisations across the island would benefit from support to enable them to work more effectively together on a cross-border basis on issues of common interest.

In the period ahead, the Government wants to work with a new Executive to further develop cooperation and understanding on an all-island basis.

Unfortunately, ongoing disruption to the power-sharing and North South political institutions impacts what is possible in terms of North South cooperation. It is therefore crucial that the Assembly, the Executive, and the NSMC return to operation without further delay.

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