Cross-border body mothballed due to Stormont crisis
A "FAILURE of political leadership in the north" is robbing the region of a key cross-border forum as Brexit looms, the leader of Fianna Fáil has said.
Micheál Martin was speaking after it was revealed that the North South Parliamentary Association has not met for ten months.
A response from Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to a Dáil written question from Mr Martin said the cross-border body, which links members of the Oireachtas with their counterparts in the Stormont assembly, had not been convened since December 2 last year, when it met in Belfast.
The 48-member association was conceived as part of strand two of the Good Friday Agreement but did not hold its inaugural meeting until 2012.
"At present, the North-South Inter-Parliamentary Association is unable to meet and this will remain the case until the Northern Ireland Assembly is fully reconvened," the minister said.
"I am continuing to work with the secretary of state for Northern Ireland and each of the political parties to support an agreement as soon as possible, on the formation of a new power-sharing executive within the mandate of the current assembly."
Mr Coveney said the Fine Gael government was determined to get the institutions working "fully and effectively".
Mr Martin said he was disappointed to learn that the cross-border body had not met.
"The fact that the north south inter-parliamentary body hasn't met at all for almost 10 months is further evidence of the north-south agenda being undermined by the ongoing failure of political leadership in the north," he said.
"This body should be playing a central role in exploring and advancing issues of concern, around Brexit in particular – instead, it has been mothballed and is doing nothing."
SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said that in the absence of the North-South Ministerial Council, which also has not met since last year, it was critical that every cross-border mechanism "is put to full use to protect the people of this island from Brexit".
"The North South Inter-Parliamentary Association, the British Irish Parliamentary Association and the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) have a significant role to play bringing parties together across these islands," she said.