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Sunday 19 November 2017

North and South unite in seeking value for money

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

CROSS-BORDER bodies such as Tourism Ireland are to have their funding cut, Enda Kenny signalled yesterday.

The Taoiseach was backed up strongly by the North's First Minister Peter Robinson, who said there were "no sacred cows" because savings needed to be made in budgets on both sides of the Border.

After yesterday's meeting at Farmleigh House in Dublin, Mr Kenny said there would be close contact between Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and the North's Finance Minister Sammy Wilson on making savings in cross-border activities.

"(There is) a seriousness about where savings can be made in regard to some cross-border activities in the sharing of services and Minister Howlin has agreed with his opposite number that this would be taken further," he said.

Mr Kenny gave the example of Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry, a shared facility due to open in 2016, which will reduce costs in both governments' health budgets by providing a single radiotherapy treatment unit for people in both Donegal and Derry.

The Irish Government has contributed around €21m to the project.

Efficiencies

But the focus of the cutbacks is expected to fall particularly on the six cross-border bodies which were set up under the Good Friday Agreement.

The largest are Tourism Ireland and the Waterways Ireland body, which is responsible for the island's boating routes.

Mr Robinson said the Northern Executive and the Irish Government were in exactly the same position -- they both had to look for efficiencies.

"There are no sacred cows. We want more for less and that is as much in respect of cross-border bodies as in any part of our administration," he said.

It was the first meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council since Mr Kenny's Government took office in March.

The Taoiseach told his ministers to swap numbers with their counterparts in the Northern Executive, a move which was welcomed by Mr Robinson.

"I liked the idea of if there are problems, not having to wait until there is a formal meeting, but that we can contact minister to minister to deal with these issues," he said.

Mr Kenny said he was "fully supportive" of the North's move to reduce its rate of corporation tax from 26pc to closer to the Republic's 12.5pc. The British government and the EU have yet to give the go-ahead for the rate cut.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness welcomed the announcement by Mr Kenny that another €11m had been provided by the Irish Government towards two road projects in the North, including the €928m A5 motorway from Derry to Aughnacloy on the Monaghan-Tyrone border.

"The A5 is a golden opportunity to provide a road from the North's second city through to Dublin," he said.

Irish Independent

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