Business

How we can share in responsibility of reviving all-island economy

InterTradeIreland has assisted more than 39,000 businesses, supported the creation of 14,800 jobs and generated more than £1 billion in business development
InterTradeIreland has assisted more than 39,000 businesses, supported the creation of 14,800 jobs and generated more than £1 billion in business development InterTradeIreland has assisted more than 39,000 businesses, supported the creation of 14,800 jobs and generated more than £1 billion in business development

There is no doubt 2021 will bring stark challenges to this island in social and economic terms as we counter the continuing threats of Covid and Brexit.

While the agreed full implementation of the Irish/Northern Irish Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement is of welcome relief, it only goes some way to combatting the inevitable economic decline that Brexit will bring about.

Continuing public health restrictions across the island will be problematic for all sectors of the economy; finding a balance and addressing the economic decline will be a shared challenge for both the Northern Irish Executive and the Irish Government in the New Year.

The economies of Ireland and Northern Ireland are closely connected. Cross-border collaboration has and continues to be of great benefit for both jurisdictions, the Irish government is committed to working, through the North South Ministerial Council and InterTradeIreland, to strengthen north-south co-operation in order to promote trade and business on an all-island and cross-border basis.

InterTradeIreland is one of the six north/south implementation bodies established under the Good Friday Agreement. It helps small businesses explore new cross-border markets, develop new products and services and become investor ready.

The body marked its 20th anniversary last year. During that time, it has assisted more than 39,000 businesses, supported the creation of 14,800 jobs and has generated more than £1 billion in business development value through its programmes and initiatives. Cross border trade now stands at an all-time high.

InterTradeIreland has an important role to play in protecting north-south trade in the context of Brexit, as the body is uniquely well-positioned when it comes to understanding the needs of businesses on both sides of the border. The Dail's Enterprise, Trade and Employment department has been steadily increasing the funding for the body, and its budget allocation for 2021 is over €11 million.

The development of the all-island economy is a priority right across government in Dublin, involving working to deepen our cooperation in areas such as health and education; and investing together for the benefit of the north west and border regions.

The resumption of the North South Ministerial Council this year has provided the government and Northern Ireland Executive with the opportunity to meet formally and ensure mutually beneficial cooperation continues across a range of sectoral areas, which will strengthen the all-island economy.

One of the most important approaches that must be taken in 2021 is the formalisation of regular meetings of all the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. Paramount amongst these is the North South Ministerial Council but also the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly, the North South Inter-Parliamentary Association, the British Irish Council and the British Irish intergovernmental Council.

From an economic perspective, the more the respective ministers meet on a north/south basis as well as with the Chambers of Commerce, the trade associations and the farmers groups, the more we can share the responsibility of reviving the all-island economy.

:: Neale Richmond is a Fine Gael TD for Dublin Rathdown.