Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Northern Ireland Assembly

Monday 10 December 2001


Assembly Business

Assembly: Suspension of Standing Orders

British-Irish Council: Plenary Meeting

North/South Ministerial Council: Plenary Meeting

North/South Ministerial Council: Education

Game Preservation (Amendment) Bill: Further Consideration Stage

Programme for Government

Oral Answers to Questions

Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister

Department for Regional Development

Department of the Environment

Programme for Government


The Assembly met at 10.30 am (Mr Speaker in the Chair).

Members observed two minutes’ silence.

Assembly Business


Mr Speaker:

I have received notification from the First Minister, the Rt Hon David Trimble MP, that he will be absent from the Assembly today.

The First Minister and the Deputy First Minister advised me, in a letter dated 3 December 2001, that they have jointly agreed that the Deputy First Minister will deal with a number of items of Assembly business that fall to the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. When making statements on plenary meetings of the North/South Ministerial Council and the British- Irish Council, the Deputy First Minister is, of course, speaking on behalf of all Ministers who attended those meetings. When answering questions to the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, he is undertaking the responsibilities of them both.


Assembly: Suspension of Standing Orders

Mr Speaker:

I remind Members that a suspension of Standing Orders requires cross-community support.

Resolved (with cross-community support):

That this Assembly suspends Standing Order 10(2) and Standing Order 10(6) for Monday 10 December 2001 — [The Deputy First Minister.]


British-Irish Council: Plenary Meeting

Mr Speaker:

I have received notice from the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister that they wish to make a statement on the British-Irish Council plenary meeting that was held on 30 November 2001 in Dublin.

The Deputy First Minister (Mr Durkan):

I wish to make a statement on the second summit meeting of the British-Irish Council. All the Northern Irish Ministers who attended the meeting have approved this report, and it is made on their behalf.

The First Minister and I, together with the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, represented the Northern Ireland Executive. Representatives of the British and Irish Governments, the Scottish Executive, the National Assembly for Wales, the Isle of Man Government and the states of Jersey and Guernsey also attended.

The main focus of the meeting was the issue of drug misuse and the development of further co-operation in that area. The Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety explained the steps being taken by the Northern Ireland Executive. In particular, the British- Irish Council agreed elements of a framework for future co-operation which will focus on the two key areas of demand reduction, incorporating prevention and treatment, and supply reduction, incorporating law enforcement. This future co-operation will include the further development of information exchanges and joint actions.

Among the areas covered by enhanced information exchange will be co-operation on models of best practice, research, data pilot programmes and rehabilitation and reintegration strategies. The Council also noted the importance of information technology in enhancing information exchange and agreed to further examination of possibilities in that area.

It was agreed that specific joint actions could include joint awareness campaigns — for example, highlighting the risk of heroin use and targeting young people who use so-called recreational drugs. An agreement to develop joint training initiatives could also include exchange programmes for those members of the British-Irish Council who are engaged in drug-related work.

The importance of targeting the assets of criminals engaged in drug trafficking was widely acknowledged. In this context, the background to the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) in Ireland and its success in targeting the assets of drug barons was regarded as significant. To advance work in the agreed areas the Council established a group of senior officials with a mandate to prepare recommendations for future co-operation. Those will be reviewed by a ministerial meeting on drugs, and progress will be reported to a future British-Irish Council summit.

An update was provided on work being undertaken in sectoral areas by the relevant lead Administrations.

At the British-Irish Council environment sector meeting in London in October 2000, Ministers agreed that many environmental issues of mutual interest could be taken forward, with added value for all participants through closer co-operation.

From the range of topics discussed, it was agreed that several priority work areas would be taken forward with individual member Administrations in the lead. Consequently, the Irish Government and the Isle of Man are taking the lead in preparing a paper on radioactive waste from Sellafield. That will be discussed at a future meeting of the environment sector. I drew the Council’s attention to concerns raised by Members of this Assembly and stressed the importance of a full exchange of information on the issue.

The UK Government have taken the lead in examining issues of climate change. The climate change group has met twice and has agreed to extend the climate change scenarios of the forthcoming UK Climate Impacts Programme 2002 to cover all the British-Irish Council Administrations.

The Scottish Executive look forward to hosting the next British-Irish Council environment sector meeting in Edinburgh next spring. That will include a discussion, initiated and led by the Scottish Executive, on the difficulties and challenges of finding more sustainable ways of dealing with generated waste.

The Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales provided an update on the Council’s work on social inclusion. Recognising that there are strong commonalities across the British-Irish Council areas, proposals included a community conference to promote sharing of good practice on particular aspects of social inclusion. The British-Irish Council web site will shortly launch a section on social inclusion. That will promote community networking and will engage with communities on the British-Irish Council’s programme of work on social inclusion.

A report has already been made to the Assembly on the inaugural transport sector meeting, held in Belfast on 19 December 2000 under the joint chairmanship of the First Minister and the then Deputy First Minister.

At that meeting there was a wide-ranging debate on the discussion paper prepared by the Northern Ireland Executive, and agreement was reached on the need for an integrated and sustainable approach to transport issues that would take account of the relevant economic, social and environmental issues.

In addition, a range of key issues were identified that will inform future work. They included the problems of peripherality, road safety, regional air links, transport in rural areas, exchanges of information, experiences in areas such as public-private partnerships and links between transport and land-use planning. Existing and future strategies for dealing with integrated transport issues and policies were also noted.

The Council decided that the Northern Ireland Executive would convene an early meeting of senior officials to examine an agreed menu of options and prepare detailed recommendations for work in several initial priority areas. Recommendations will then be submitted to a further meeting for approval.

In November 2000, Jersey chaired a wide-ranging discussion on the knowledge economy, and several further useful discussions have been held since. A key issue that has been identified is the problem of a lack of information technology skills among significant groups of people, especially in remoter areas. The digital divide is seen as a central problem which acts as a barrier to a range of strategies to increase social inclusion. Jersey is establishing a project to map and analyse member Administrations’ initiatives to improve access to the Internet and to ensure that the bulk of the population can readily acquire computing skills. To take that work forward, Jersey will host a major conference for decision makers, Bridging the Digital Divide, in April 2002.

In consultation with other member Administrations, Jersey, along with the British-Irish Council’s secretariat, has taken the lead in designing the Council’s web site. In the first instance, the aim is to create a public showcase for the work of the British-Irish Council that will be launched in spring 2002.

The Council agreed that Guernsey will do work on tourism while the Isle of Man will take the lead in health, with a focus on the application of telemedicine. The Council also heard proposals to improve the workings of the British-Irish Council and agreed that each member Administration and the Council will consider them further.

The Council agreed that Jersey will host the next summit in April 2002 and that the meeting will focus on the knowledge economy. Scotland and Wales will host a summit in September 2002, and Northern Ireland will host one early in 2003. A copy of the communiqué issued following the meeting has been placed in the Assembly Library.

Mr McClarty:

Does the Deputy First Minister agree that there should be more activity in the British-Irish Council than has been the case to date?

The Deputy First Minister:

The Executive and I agree that there needs to be much more activity in the British-Irish Council. That was only the second summit meeting. Owing to political difficulties, we were unable to hold summit meetings earlier, and we have been unable to follow through on the sectoral meetings in the way that was planned. The meeting on 30 November was businesslike, and people discussed drugs issues. Many of the member Administrations found the meeting worthwhile and a useful model for ongoing work in the British-Irish Council. That proves that the Council can work in an organic and effective way that helps and reflects the interests of the member Administrations.

Mr McMenamin:

What consideration was given to the operation and success of the Criminal Assets Bureau in the South in freezing and seizing the assets of drug barons? Has consideration been given to introducing similar legal powers in the United Kingdom?

10.45 am

The Deputy First Minister:

As I said, the importance of targeting the assets of criminals engaged in drug trafficking was widely acknowledged. The Irish Government took the opportunity to explain the background to the establishment and operation of the Criminal Assets Bureau in Ireland. The bureau has had significant success in targeting the assets of drug barons. Many of the Administrations had questions on this, and useful ideas were exchanged.

The successful operation of the bureau was taken into account when the Proceeds of Crime Bill was being drawn up at Westminster. However, the exchanges at the meeting helped to air other issues that may be considered by UK Administrations in the future.

Mr McLaughlin:

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. The Deputy First Minister has pointed to the benefits to everyone of exchanging information. I welcome the reference to Sellafield, although I note the absence of any information on the response of the British Government. I am certain that the other Assemblies and Parliaments that were represented at the meeting expressed widespread concerns.

References to information technology and the knowledge economy are recurring themes, and that is to be welcomed. Will the Deputy First Minister comment on the importance to the economy of extending broadband technology throughout the region and say whether this was recognised in the discussions? This area of the economy is led by the private sector, and that approach is inadequate because the area west of the River Bann will lag behind areas around the Greater Belfast conurbation.

The Deputy First Minister:

I was happy to reflect the fact that all parties in the Assembly had expressed concerns about Sellafield. Concerns were also expressed by people on both sides of the border of this island. The British Government seemed to acknowledge those concerns, but it is not the first time that they have done so. The concerns were substantiated further by the court case. I hope that we will receive better information and that we will be more directly in the loop on these issues in the future. The British-Irish Council will address the issue again in the environment sectoral meeting, so we will be involved as a participating Administration.

The importance of the knowledge economy is emphasised in the Programme for Government. It is of huge importance to the region, because it is where the path to competitiveness lies. It is important that the matter be addressed by the British-Irish Council, and the Administration in Jersey are doing useful work on drawing together proposals from the other Administrations.

Mr McCarthy:

I welcome the fact that the Deputy First Minister has drawn attention to the Sellafield problem. However, both authorities on this island have expressed enormous concern, and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has provided a scant response, determined to press on with further development there. If Mr Blair is not prepared to deal with this potential time bomb and sitting target, is it worth having a British-Irish Council?

The Deputy First Minister:

Yes. The fact that we were able to address an issue such as drugs in the useful and practical way that we did demonstrates the value of the British-Irish Council. Its value will be underscored by the useful work that will flow from it.

The same also applies in other sectors. The issue of Sellafield is a vexed one. However, the British-Irish Council gives the various Administrations who share these islands an avenue through which to deal with such issues. Without the British-Irish Council, what forum would the Administrations have to raise those issues? What sectoral format would exist to allow them to take the lead in examining the issue of radioactive waste from Sellafield? The value of the British-Irish Council is that it provides a forum in which concerns can be raised, and in which the British Government can offer reassurance if they so wish.

Rev Robert Coulter:

Does the Minister agree that benefits can accrue to Northern Ireland from work in the sectors being pursued by the British-Irish Council, particularly in the area of tourism?

The Deputy First Minister:

All member Administrations of the British-Irish Council recognise the value of the different sectors on which we seek to focus in this early programme of work. Guernsey will take the lead on the tourism issue. We know how important tourism is for us and that we can make up ground in that area. We have usefully addressed that issue on a North/South basis, mainly through the setting up of Tourism Ireland Ltd. It has worked directly with other tourism authorities in these islands and has examined the implications for tourism of the events of 11 September, not least the issue of air links. That is a matter that the Administrations who share these islands should address together.

Mr A Doherty:

Mr Mitchel McLaughlin’s question on Sellafield covered many of the issues that I wished to raise. From what he heard at the meeting, is the Deputy First Minister satisfied that the UK Government will give that matter the serious attention that it deserves, and that they will base future actions on the well-being of their people and others, rather than on purely commercial interests?

The Deputy First Minister:

I would like to give the Member the assurance that he seeks. However, it would be rash and premature for me to do so. The British- Irish Council will deal with that matter again. The Irish Government and the Isle of Man Administration are taking the lead in addressing the issue, but other Administrations will also be involved. The British Government will play a key part, and we must wait and see what develops, just as Members will watch with interest the developments arising from the recent court cases.

Dr Birnie:

I thank the Deputy First Minister for his report on a welcome second plenary meeting of the British-Irish Council. The Minister referred to the Jersey Administration working alongside the British-Irish Council secretariat to construct a web site — again, that is welcome. Does he believe that the size of the secretariat is adequate, given that, when I was last apprised of its size, it comprised one employee in Whitehall and a part-time employee in Dublin? Do the Minister and the Executive feel that the secretariat is large enough to carry out the work outlined this morning?

The Deputy First Minister:

The arrangements for the secretariat are as provided for in the Good Friday Agreement, and responsibility for it falls to the British and Irish Governments. Given that due to circumstances, not many meetings have taken place, the size of the secretariat and the question of how active its role has been have not mattered very much.

The British-Irish Council meeting did hear some proposals to further consider the operation of the secretariat, and it has been agreed that officials will look at the issue, and that papers will issue in due course. The matter will then be subject to full consideration by the relevant member Administrations, as well as by the Council itself.

Mr ONeill:

The Minister referred to the knowledge economy, and I want to explore that topic further with him. Can he say what work is being prepared in Northern Ireland, and by which Departments, on the key issue of bridging the digital divide?

The Deputy First Minister:

Much work aimed at bridging the digital divide is already under way in Departments here. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has established 19 access points across the region for farmers. The Department for Employment and Learning has created 32 learndirect centres throughout the region, aimed at providing citizens with the skills needed to access the digital world. That Department has also implemented the Electronic Libraries for Northern Ireland project, through which libraries will become information hubs for their communities.

A number of other initiatives will be included in a policy statement on bridging the digital divide. The Central Information and Technology Unit in our own Department will bring that forward for public consultation in 2002. It will aim first to scope the problem and, secondly, to draw together the many current and planned initiatives, as well as proposing a way forward.

Mr Hussey:

On the issue of transport, the Deputy First Minister mentioned the transfer of information and experiences in public-private partnerships. Of course, in the South, as he will be well aware, such partnerships were an option of choice, whereas here in Northern Ireland they may be an option of necessity. He also said that existing and future strategies for dealing with integrated transport issues and policy were noted. Are we talking here about the inclusion of public-private partnerships within such strategies?

The Deputy First Minister:

The Member has raised several points. Obviously, in looking at transport issues overall, the Council will want to look, not just at transport arrangements in the islands and between the different areas, but also at experience in each administrative area on more localised or regional transport issues. Clearly, the use of public-private partnerships in relation to key transport infrastructure is going to be a relevant area for exchange of information and best practice, and that will follow through. Obviously there are different approaches in the different Administrations, but that adds to the benefit and value of the British-Irish Council as a forum where we can look at the different practices and establish what is best practice for different types of projects, according to their scale or significance.

Regarding other transport issues and integrated strategies, it is again going to be a case of looking at different approaches in different areas. Further work is needed on that. The Northern Ireland Administration have agreed to take the lead on transport. However, it could well be that, as we get into discrete areas of transport, other Administrations will take the lead in looking at particular issues or aspects, such as we have seen in relation to the environment. We have seen other Administrations take the lead on specific issues that have emerged in that sector. We are looking forward to further development in the transport sector.

Mr A Maginness:

The importance of targeting the assets of criminals involved in the drug trade and drug trafficking was widely acknowledged at the meeting.

What proposals are there for future co-operation? In particular, what protocols are to be developed to cover co- operation between the Criminal Assets Recovery Agency (CARA) and the Criminal Assets Bureau in Dublin?

The Minister mentioned a ministerial meeting on drugs. When will that meeting take place?

11.00 am

The Deputy First Minister:

Further developments will be the subject of consideration by officials and, subsequently, by Ministers. I hope that the work will be developed during the spring.

Many member Administrations expressed particular interest in the operation of the Criminal Assets Bureau and referred to issues that might arise if they were to follow a similar course. Given the movement of the assets of drug barons between different administrative territories, we must co-ordinate and exchange information that could help to target those assets. However, that will be the subject of further work, and it would be wrong for me to anticipate what might emerge and when.

Mr Gibson:

The statement included reference to social inclusion and the launch of a new web site in 2002. A meeting held in the Maiden City at the weekend addressed the problem of the alienation of the Unionist community, particularly in west Tyrone. What benefits will those Unionist people, who have suffered so much, gain from such a web site?

The Deputy First Minister:

The web site will be a British-Irish Council web site. Any web site that exchanges information between community groups working throughout these islands should be of interest. Obviously, it will be for each group to identify what is of most interest to it. The web site will also serve as a platform on which community groups can set out issues of concern as well as giving details of actions that have been of benefit to them and others.

The web site is being developed in the context of the British-Irish Council’s work on social inclusion, and that work is led by the Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales. They propose to hold a community conference, drawing together people from all the administrative areas, which shows that the approach taken will be as responsive and inclusive as possible.


North/South Ministerial Council: Plenary Meeting

Mr Speaker:

I have received notice from the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister of their wish to make a statement on the North/South Ministerial Council plenary meeting on 30 November 2001 in Dublin.

The Deputy First Minister (Mr Durkan):

With permission, Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Ministers who attended, I will make a statement on the third plenary meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council, held on 30 November 2001 in Dublin Castle. The nine Ministers whose names have been notified to the Assembly participated in the meeting.

The Council agreed that the first annual report on its activities from December 1999 to 31 December 2000 should be published. It also received a report on the work of the various sectoral councils since January and noted the progress made in implementing the work programme set out in December 1999 at the first plenary meeting. Several Ministers described the work being taken forward in the sectors for which they had responsibility. It was clear that good progress was being made.

The report includes a range of practical initiatives, such as the launch of the equity network programme by InterTradeIreland. That was designed to promote the availability of venture capital to businesses in the North and South and to develop awareness of the potential of private equity investment to foster growth in private enterprises, particularly in the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector. Another initiative is work in the health sector to consider the report of the acute hospitals review group in view of its suggestion of the potential to develop existing cross-border arrangements for the benefit of patients.

A third initiative involves work done in the agriculture sector to limit the spread of foot-and-mouth disease on the island of Ireland. That is now to be reinforced by an official steering group that will develop a strategy for the control of animal movements on the island, drawing on work done in both jurisdictions. That group will consider the means of prevention, containment and eradication of future epizootic disease outbreaks on the island. There is also work to develop a joint market development programme for recycled materials and goods to encourage and support the expansion of waste recycling on an all-island basis.

These are only four examples drawn from a much wider range of measures designed to secure mutual benefit for all. The Council looks forward to continuing progress being made in all areas of its remit.

Approval was given to a schedule of council meetings to take place over the coming months. That includes plans to hold a first meeting in the next few weeks in institutional format, involving the First Minister, myself, and Brian Cowen, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The Council noted a progress report on the work undertaken by a working group established to take forward a study on the establishment of an independent North/ South consultative forum. The Council agreed that this issue should be addressed at the forthcoming meeting in institutional format. A further progress report will be made at the next plenary.

The Council agreed to publish the report on a study on the obstacles to cross-border mobility on the island of Ireland. The two Administrations agreed that views would not be offered on the conclusions at this stage, pending publication and a process of consultation to give interested organisations, including Government Departments and individuals, the opportunity to present their views on the recommendations and their implementation.

The steering group will remain in place to manage the consultation exercise. It will then present to the next plenary meeting a paper summarising, evaluating and costing the recommendations, and reaching conclusions relating to implementation proposals where appropriate. The Council also agreed that the steering group should ensure that in considering proposals, care should be taken to avoid both creating barriers to east-west mobility and creating unjustified advantage for cross- border workers beyond that available in the respective jurisdictions.

The Council agreed an opinion on the budgets for the North/South bodies for the period 2002 to 04. It is envisaged that £54·37 million/92·07 million euro will be spent by the six bodies in 2002. The respective contributions from each Administration will be £40·01 million/67·74 million euro from the Irish Government and £14·37 million/24·33 million euro from the devolved Administration.

On competitiveness, the Council received a report commissioned by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, working in conjunction with InterTradeIreland.

The report covered a broad spectrum of work in a range of administrative functions, and the Council requested that the relevant Government Departments and agencies pursue the competitiveness agenda to achieve mutual economic benefit in the areas for which they are responsible.

There was a useful exchange of information on key priorities in the Irish Government’s Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, the National Development Plan and specific sections of the Administration’s draft Programme for Government. The Council noted the position taken on each and welcomed the opportunity to discuss each document.

There was a useful exchange of views between Ministers from the North and the South on the impact of the 11 September attacks in the United States. They discussed the economic impact of those horrific events, particularly their effect on tourism in both parts of the island. The Council noted that the tourism agencies on the island of Ireland are developing proposals to reduce the impact on the tourism industry. Emergency and contingency planning were discussed, and the need for continued cross-border co-operation on health issues, and for structures in each jurisdiction to plan for major incidents, was highlighted.

The Council agreed that its next plenary meeting would be held in Northern Ireland in May 2002. A copy of the communiqué issued after the meeting has been placed in the Assembly Library.

Mr B Bell:

Can the Minister assure the Assembly that when addressing issues of North/South mobility, no action will be taken that would disadvantage people in Northern Ireland who wish to move between here and Great Britain?

The Deputy First Minister:

The Council agreed that given that the steering group is carrying out a study of obstacles to mobility and that a consultation exercise is still to take place, care should be taken to ensure that the work does not result in any new barriers to east-west mobility. That is understood. There is also a need to ensure that nothing arises that would allow anyone to believe that they have been placed at an undue disadvantage in relation to others in their jurisdiction.

Many North/South mobility issues apply equally to those moving from east to west. Some who move between east and west, between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, also seek to move between North and South. Useful work can be done that is not detrimental to anyone, and which contributes to the wider benefits for those moving between east and west.

Ms Hanna:

How can the proposals on cross-border arrangements that are contained in the acute hospitals review group report be implemented, following their consideration by the North/South Ministerial Council?

The Deputy First Minister:

Cross-border work has already been carried out. The Hayes Report, and many of the responses to it, have identified such co-operation as a relevant issue. Cross-border work has included that between health boards in the border area under the Co- operation and Working Together (CAWT) programme.

Given that the review of acute hospital services is under consultation and that proposals are still to emerge, it would be wrong to specify what might happen on a cross-border level. At present, no more can be settled in regard to that issue than in relation to any other aspect of the acute hospitals review that arises in one jurisdiction. We are using the facilities of the North/South Ministerial Council to enhance co-operation and co- ordination to address those issues in a meaningful way. Therefore the cross-border issues will not be disregarded in the development of the review of acute hospital services.

11.15 am

Mr Gibson:

The Deputy First Minister mentioned the impact of 11 September attacks and their effect on the tourist industry. The South of Ireland has lost IR£2 million. However, Bord Fáilte Éireann has initiated an effort to help the domestic market. Does the Deputy First Minister intend to encourage his Departments to initiate an effort in Northern Ireland so that the tourism industry can be stimulated between now and 31 March 2002?

The Deputy First Minister:

Tourism Ireland Ltd, which is a limited company operating on a North/South basis, is taking the lead in the marketing campaign for tourism on the whole island. It has been active, and not only since 11 September, in dealing with issues that have arisen from the global economic downturn.

The North/South Ministerial Council heard exchanges of views on tourism issues from relevant Ministers, not only on global marketing but on the need to stimulate more tourist activity in markets closer to home. We anticipate positive developments, based on undertakings made at the meeting.

Mrs Nelis:

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. The Deputy First Minister will have noted that the Department for Employment and Learning’s November 2001 ‘Labour Market Bulletin’ identifies more than 9,000 workers who commute cross-border from the North to the South. Will the consultation process take account of the unfair situation in which those workers who live in the North and work in the South pay tax in both jurisdictions, which sometimes amounts to IR£2,000 per year?

The Deputy First Minister:

There will be a full consultation process, and the document will be made available to the public. Anyone with an interest can follow the process and make submissions accordingly. The steering group that carried out the study will stay in place so that no loss of focus or interest in the consultation stage will occur. The consultation exercise should be amenable to anyone with direct experience of the issues. It should be remembered that the exercise was set up as a Northern Administration initiative, and the Southern Administration then agreed to participate through the North/South Ministerial Council. We want to follow it through so that those obstacles to mobility are dealt with in a sensible and sensitive way.

Mr McCarthy:

Would the Deputy First Minister consider it useful for mechanisms to be put in place to give the Assembly Committees an opportunity to have an input into, and to review in greater detail, decisions reached at North/South Ministerial Council meetings?

The Deputy First Minister:

All decisions made by the North/South Ministerial Council are by agreement. First, both Administrations must agree that proposals will be agreed by the North/South Ministerial Council. Any issues that arise in North/South Ministerial Council meetings or at the British-Irish Council are within the work programme of the respective Northern Ireland Departments, and the relevant departmental Committees are free to put forward their views.

Many of the issues addressed at the North/South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council were views expressed by departmental Committees. The views represented by Ministers and Departments are views that have been aired in the Assembly and in Committees. As I have already said, in the British-Irish Council I made reference to views expressed in the Assembly. On other issues people can refer to views expressed at Committees. I do not see any underlying problem to the Member’s question.


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