New North, South trade body meets in Newry

 

The first meeting of the cross-Border trade and business development implementation body has taken place in Newry amid concern that the North-South dimension of the Belfast Agreement could collapse without IRA decommissioning.

Ministers from the Republic and the Executive warned yesterday that continuing development of this and other aspects of the accord was dependent on IRA movement on arms.

Dr Martin Naughton, founder and executive chairman of the Glen Dimplex group, and Mr Harold Ennis, founder of the Boxmore packaging company, were respectively appointed chairman and vice-chairman of the new body.

The acting chief executive is Mr Liam Nellis of the North's Industrial Development Board. The body will operate with a £9 million annual budget, with the Government contributing £6 million and the Executive £3 million. It is planned that the body will also have power to raise investment funding.

The Tanaiste, Ms Harney, the North's Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Sir Reg Empey, and the Minister for Higher and Further Education, Mr Sean Farren, spoke of its great potential.

But the three called for movement on arms to ensure that the new body in particular, and all the institutions established under the agreement, were allowed to develop and prosper.

Amid speculation that the institutions could be suspended if the IRA does not move on decommissioning ahead of the crucial meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council on February 12th, Sir Reg said he was "worried" about what the future might bring.

He hoped suspension would not be necessary but added: "If it is required to suspend institutions then all institutions are suspended."

He said that notwithstanding many unionist anxieties about the North-South dimension of the agreement, the Ulster Unionist Party was honouring its commitment to work the cross-Border aspects of the accord. Now it was the turn of others, including the IRA, to honour their side of the bargain.

Ms Harney said the Belfast Agreement was not an "a la carte" deal. She believed the conditions now existed for decommissioning. "It's not a question of picking out the things you like and refusing to do the things you don't like," she said. "It will only move forward on the basis of trust." She said she was not contemplating failure. "Decommissioning is clearly part and parcel of the agreement. . . We can't contemplate a situation where someone refused to honour their commitment in relation to the agreement." Mr Farren said it was for Gen John de Chastelain's decommissioning body to make the judgment on whether there was positive movement on decommissioning.

The chairs and vice-chairs of three other implementation bodies were also announced in Newry yesterday.

Food Safety Promotion Board: chairman Mr Bertie Kerr, a farmer, UUP member of Fermanagh Council and father of Mr David Trimble's chief press adviser, Mr David Kerr. Vice-chairman Prof Mike Gibney, professor of nutrition in the Department of Clinical Medicine, TCD and chairman of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

North-South Language Body: Joint chairwoman (Irish language responsibility) Ms Maighread Ui Mhairtin, principal of St Catherine's Grammar School, Armagh. Joint chairman (Ulster Scots responsibility) Lord Laird of Artigarvan, public relations consultant and visiting professor of public relations, University of Ulster.

Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission: chairman Mr Peter Savage, from Greenore, Co Louth, owner of firm of business consultants specialising in shipping, transport and industry. Vice-chairman Lord Cooke of Islandreagh, businessman and past commissioner of Irish Lights.