Micheál Martin: Shared Island Unit is the 'nuts and bolts' of the Good Friday Agreement

Micheál Martin: Shared Island Unit is the 'nuts and bolts' of the Good Friday Agreement

The Taoiseach said he is pushing the unit "very very strongly".

The Shared Island Unit is the "nuts and bolts" of the Good Friday peace accord, the Taoiseach has said.

The initiative was launched earlier this year following Micheál Martin's accession to head of Government. 

Although criticised by Sinn Féin, who pressed for planning to start for a united Ireland, Mr Martin stressed the importance of the unit for improving relations.

He said there has been progress with projects, including the Ulster Canal as well as the Sligo-Enniskillen Greenway while funding has been provided for an all-island railway network study, particularly in terms of the feasibility of high-speed connectivity between the major cities.

Another element of the unit is an all-island research hub which will involve engagement with universities through competition for research funding to delve into issues such as cyber-security.

"We're also looking at projects around climate change and biodiversity," he said. "And again, any new ideas that come forward, there is substantial funding available now as a result of the budget.

"It's €500m over the next number of years that can be ringfenced for these projects, that has never been there before."

The Taoiseach said he is pushing the unit "very very strongly".

"To me, it's the nuts and bolts of the Good Friday Agreement, of the North-South relationship," he said.

"And the Shared Island is something I am pushing very, very strongly.

"And I think ultimately it may result in easing tensions and giving people a sense of comfort in dealing with the Republic on issues of this kind and that's been my agenda and ambition in relation to it."

Meanwhile, giving his view on the often tense relations within the five-party Stormont Executive, Mr Martin said he feels the coronavirus pandemic has brought them together.

"There are tensions there between the two main parties from time to time but I think, in some respects, it has to be acknowledged that Covid did more to unite and cement the Executive maybe than people would have thought prior to Covid happening.

"That has to be acknowledged as well, that despite the difficulties and despite the tensions, the Executive has worked in very difficult circumstances in response to Covid-19.

"But we will do everything we possibly can to support what they're doing in the North, to work with our colleagues in the North in terms of facing this challenge."

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