Island women want `unified voice' within EU


Women from the western seaboard are among islanders from six European states who have called for an international federation. This would provide a unified voice for islanders within the European Union, they state.

The proposal was made at a recent conference on Inis Oirr, Arainn, which was hosted by Comdhail Oileain na hEireann, the Irish Islands Federation, and was attended by delegates from Denmark, France, Sweden, Finland and Scotland.

The conference marked the conclusion of the EU New Opportunities for Women (NOW) programme which was administered on these islands by Comdhail.

The future of island communities in a European context, co-operation in joint ventures such as marketing, cultural tourism, lobbying for improved services and EU funding for programmes to replace NOW and to continue LEADER initiatives were among the themes of the conference.

It was felt that a European Small Islands Federation would develop and build on such links and would allow for the sort of "bottom-up approach" which Brussels appears to favour.

In a separate development, the Minister of State for Arts, Heritage, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, Mr Eamon O Cuiv, has welcomed confirmation that islanders are to enjoy an exception to the new Community Employment Scheme regulations. Under the regulations, under-25s will no longer be accepted on CES schemes.

However, the Tanaiste, Ms Harney, has agreed to make an exception for islanders.

It means islanders over 21 will be accepted on the schemes. Mr O Cuiv said he was delighted that "special recognition is being given to the difficulties faced by islanders".