NSMC: Upcoming Agenda

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — The Executive Office – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 27th September 2021.

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Photo of Declan Kearney Declan Kearney Sinn Féin 2:15 pm, 27th September 2021

Mo bhuíochas leis an Chomhalta as ucht an cheist a chur. I agree that the North/South bodies are an integral part of the three-stranded approach to the Good Friday Agreement, as are all the political institutions. They are interlocking and interdependent. One cannot have one without the other. As the Member knows, the North/South all-island cooperation bodies are a fundamental part of the political architecture, they are the bedrock of peace and the political process. I am due to attend sectoral meetings as an accompanying Minister on 14 and 15 October. I expect those meetings to go ahead.

Any DUP boycott of those bodies would be a serious matter. That party should reflect carefully on the implications of such a decision, as the requirement to attend ministerial council meetings is embedded in the ministerial code. Reckless threats to pull down the Assembly and/or the Executive and boycott NSMC meetings place an immediate risk on €1 billion of EU PEACE PLUS funding, which is waiting to be signed off by the Executive and NSMC. That is about supporting jobs, communities and major projects. For the DUP to undermine the required all-island response to the crisis for party and electoral reasons would do a huge disservice to the people whom that party represents and to all the people of the island. To do that while we are still in the middle of a global health crisis, dealing with a disease that does not respect any border or boundary, is beyond belief.

Any threat to disengage from the NSMC is race-to-the-bottom politics. We need greater North/South and east-west cooperation at this time, not less. We need to build greater resilience and strengthen our power-sharing institutions. At this time, we all, collectively, need to double down and commit to delivering a progressive and pluralist —