Durkan calls for stronger links

Foyle MP Mark Durkan.
Foyle MP Mark Durkan.
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Foyle MP Mark Durkan has called for closer co-operation between the British and Irish governments on a range of issues.

He made the call during a House of Commons debate on the work of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.

Mr Durkan praised the work of the body. “I would like to pay tribute to those who first established the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. It should be remembered that all of them have made a huge contribution to changing the nature of relationships and attitudes between and within these islands, and they reinforced a dynamic that spurred the peace process in many positive ways.

“It should also be remembered that when John Hume first argued that there were three sets of relationships at the heart of our problem – those within Northern Ireland, within Ireland and between Ireland and Britain – which he said all needed to be accommodated and reflected in the solution – that was contested. It is now accepted by everybody, and those three sets of relationships are the three strands at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.

The former SDLP leader said the group should focus on a number of key issues. “The issue of communications is one of the areas that should have been addressed more heavily at a British-Irish level. We are left with the situation in Ireland where we have two, rival digital platforms. In border constituencies, people have to buy one device if they want to get their Saorview digital TV and another if they want to get Freeview. That is nonsense and it has been a failure. The issue could have been addressed only at the British-Irish level, not at the north-south level.

“The marine environment is also one of the areas we should look at, as that is one thing that all eight administrations in these islands and their territories actually share. The different jurisdictions have made moves towards various marine legislation and have made different moves on marine management organisations. Surely we need to ensure that we have a coherent framework for marine management, where the regimes are at least compatible and comparable,” he said.

Mr Durkan also said closer co-operation could help stop people trafficking. “Human trafficking is also a huge issue in the eyes of many people in Westminster, and it has been discussed in different devolved Assemblies and in the Oireachtas.

“ This issue needs to be examined at the British-Irish level, because we need to deal not only with the international trafficking into our common travel area, but with the internal trafficking both within the different jurisdictions in these islands and between them.”