This from Suzanne McGonagle writing in Irish News is an interesting story:
The Irish minister for finance has told a conference in Co Down that his government could spend billions of pounds to improve Northern Ireland’s infrastructure. Brian Cowen said the completion of a high quality road network linking Dublin, Belfast and the north west by 2013 were among the government’s priorities. He also told delegates at the conference in Newcastle that other proposed cross-border projects intended to strengthen north-south cooperation included improvement to the Dublin to Belfast rail link as well as health and education.
Mr Cowen detailed how more than e100 billion in infrastructure investment is set to benefit north and south over the next decade. His keynote address was part of a two-day conference organised to discuss infrastructure in Ireland and explore the possibilities which may arise from the planned investment. Mr Cowen spoke of the economic benefits of peace and said how money saved on security expenditure could be diverted to health, education and transport.
The conference comes just three weeks after the launch of the Irish government’s National Development Plan (NDP) for the years 2007-2013. Yesterday Mr Cowen outlined how the NDP included money for projects to assist north/south cooperation in a practical way. The projects include an upgraded road link through Co Tyrone to better connect the Republic and the north west as well as improved access for tourism and other opportunities along the eastern corridor of Ireland with better links between Co Louth and Co Down.
A “significant upgrading” of higher education capacity in the north west and the border region and new schemes to assist graduates from disadvantaged areas are also among the government’s priorities. He said studies of education and health cooperation, including maximising the potential for cross-border cancer services were planned. “I firmly believe that by working together, north and south, we have the opportunity to maximise the development of the whole island,” he said. “Already we have seen the benefits of cooperation in the development of the Dublin-Belfast corridor. I want to see those benefits spreading right through Northern Ireland. The National Spatial Strategy, which will be realised through the implementation of the National Development Plan, will promote balanced regional development across the Republic. The inclusion of the Letterkenny/Derry gateway will introduce a powerful cross-border dimension to balanced regional development. The Irish government is already committed to investing heavily in projects that directly benefit Northern Ireland,” he said. “We are investing in the development of integrated all-island infrastructure, for example, roads infrastructure with the completion of the Dublin to Belfast road corridor and the upgrade of other major roads to the north.”
He also said the Irish and British governments partnership to fund the City of Derry Airport development was an example of how to “jointly deliver better quality infrastructure”.