10 August 2006 Edition
The Mitchel Mclaughlin Column
BY McLaughlin Mitchel
One all-Ireland negotiating body for EU
As part of the consultation process on all-Ireland issues the two governments should consider working towards a single all-Ireland Consultative & Negotiating Body on European matters. This would receive a positive hearing if London and Dublin made a joint case to Brussels to have Ireland considered as a single entity when negotiating matters relevant to the island. This could initially cover areas such as agriculture, fisheries, environment, waste management and infrastructural funding with provision for expansion as further areas are identified. It would also, of course, probably necessitate the creation of a joint body to oversee the rationalisation of regulation and legislation in both parts of the island.
The island of Ireland comprises a natural unit within Europe and because of its size, geographic location and common characteristics retains a unique identity. Unfortunately, for too long it has been plagued by artificial divisions. It is an accepted fact that the British border in Ireland has had a devastatingly negative impact on the counties along the border. Both governments claim to be committed to redressing the neglect that this region has suffered since partition. It is logical therefore that they should explore ways to redress the detrimental impact the border has on local economic and infrastructural development. The arrangement whereby Six County issues are tied to London is disadvantageous to the development of the Northern economy and to the development of legislation and regulations on many issues affecting the whole island. For instance, pollution, agriculture/aquaculture diseases, radio, TV and telecommunications do not recognise borders.
London understandably negotiates with Brussels on a 'one size fits all' basis for what it claims to be its 'national territory'. But this does not take into account the unique situation experienced in the North of Ireland. The interests of so many sectors in Ireland would clearly benefit from the capacity of a single all-Ireland Consultative & Negotiating Body acting on their behalf and forging mutually beneficial alliances with other small nations and regions.
Agriculture and Fisheries are prime examples of a sector where Ireland's collective EU contribution warrants a single policy and its effective articulation in Brussels. There are, of course, many other important issues, such as Food Safety and the importation of Genetically Modified seeds and hormone treated animals. These controversies, coupled with environmental, human and animal health concerns surrounding the incineration of waste, will certainly affect both jurisdictions.
All-Ireland co-operation should not be limited by purely political considerations. Areas of co-operation and implementation should be inspired by the benefits for all the people that could be derived eco