Irish funding for NI ‘not intended as any kind of political statement’

An 800 million euro-plus (£683 million) funding package from the Irish Government is “not intended as a political statement”, a minister has insisted.

Irish Minister for Finance Michael McGrath was speaking as he visited Belfast following the major funding announcement by his Government.

The bulk of the funding is earmarked for the proposed upgrade of the A5 road, while there are also allocations for the rebuilding of Casement Park and for cross-border Narrow Water Bridge.

Stormont Assembly
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson welcomed the funding (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr McGrath visited Parliament Buildings at Stormont on Tuesday, as well as the City Life Centre on the peace line between the predominantly Catholic/Nationalist Falls Road and predominantly Protestant/Unionist Shankill Road.

During his visit to Stormont he had his first meeting with the new Stormont Finance Minister Caoimhe Archibald.

Speaking to media, Mr McGrath said he was there to “demonstrate the commitment of the Irish Government to working in co operation in areas of common interest”.

“There are so many areas where we can co operate and I look forward to developing a working relationship with you,” he said.

Cross-border projects
Stormont Finance Minister Caoimhe Archibald and Irish Minister of Finance Michael McGrath spoke to media in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont (Rebecca Black/PA)

Mr McGrath added that he hopes everyone in Northern Ireland “will welcome this investment by the Irish Government”, insisting it is not a political statement.

“My experience as a minister and as a member of parliament in the Republic is people want to see things get done,” he said.

“They want projects to be delivered, and if you take the A5 for example, I don’t believe it is in question that the benefits of that project proceeding transcend politics, transcend borders, will result in improved road safety, will save lives and will enhance the development of the economy both north and south.

“I think it will be welcomed generally and it’s not intended as any kind of political statement. It is a demonstration of our support and our practical support and our financial support to get projects done that benefit everyone on the island, in particular the people of Northern Ireland.”

Ms Archibald described “a great day”, adding that as finance minister she will be “grabbing on to with both hands” the funding from the Irish Government.

“Certainly we’ve had our issues with the Treasury and the financial package, and that’s something that I’ll continue to work with them on in terms of achieving further clarity and obviously keen to address the underfunding – but for today I am really focused on the funding package that has been announced and that really positive news story that that presents,” she said.

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