Thursday, 12 December 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
37. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the recent initiatives, if any, the Government has taken regarding North-South economic co-operation, both in connection with the Presidency and otherwise; and whether he has addressed or proposes to address this topic during Ireland's Presidency of the EU. [21735/96]
The International Fund for Ireland was established by the Irish and British Governments in 1986 with the aim of promoting economic and social advance in Northern Ireland and the Border counties and encouraging contact, dialogue and reconciliation between all communities throughout Ireland. The fund has received contributions from the European Union, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The Fund has already provided a total of £300 million overall.
The Programme for Peace and Reconciliation, established by the European Union in 1995, is aimed at Northern Ireland and the Border counties. It involves a total EU expenditure of  approximately £240 million over three years. At least 20 per cent of this funding will be available for the six Border counties (IR£48 million). Funding over a further two year period will be subject to a review of the situation by the Commission.
The Joint Ireland-Northern Ireland INTERREG Programme, established under the Structural Funds, has approved EU funding for the Border counties for the six years 1994-99 of approximately IR£72 million. The allocation to Northern Ireland was STG£53 million. In addition to the EU funding, the Government is committed to the provision of matching funding. The total amount of public funding available, therefore, to the Border counties under this programme exceeds £100 million.
I might also mention that the EU Community Support Framework for Ireland, 1994-99 includes a commitment to maximise the opportunity for beneficial co-operation with Northern Ireland. The scope for intensifying this co-operation will be addressed in the mid-term review of the CSF which is under way and which is due for completion in the first half of 1997.
In addition, the US Government has supported the peace process through measures to develop trade and investment between the United States and the region. President Clinton held the White House Conference on Trade and Investment in May 1995. The US Department of Commerce held a further economic conference in Pittsburgh in October. Both conferences were successful in helping to encourage business partnerships between US and Irish companies.
The range of activities I have outlined — most of which involve substantial EU funding — indicates that the Government has consistently supported initiatives aimed at actively promoting North-South economic co-operation, consolidating the peace process, and promoting economic regeneration of the Border counties. I can assure the Deputy that these initiatives will be continued and be vigorously promoted by the Government to ensure that the maximum possible benefit is realised.
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