Last week, during questions to the Minister for Employment and Learning, TUV leader Jim Allister uncovered that in the 2012-13 academic year Northern Ireland tax payers provided free education for students from the Republic attending our further education colleges at a cost of £7,120,887.
No effort is ever made to recoup any of this money from the Republic.
In 2012 TUV uncovered that Northern Ireland was spending £4,289,500 a year to educate students from the Republic attending our universities.
There is a further net loss to Northern Ireland of three quarters of a million per annum due to pupils from the Republic being educated in our schools.
In 2012 TUV leader Jim Allister pressed Minister Poots on the annual cost of providing health services to patients from the Republic in a series of written questions and on the floor of the Assembly.
The Minister’s response, which seemed to amount to don’t know, don’t care, was less than encouraging.
I was therefore encouraged, and not a little surprised given in previous apparent indifference on the issue, when Mr Poots told the DUP conference in November “A key element is inappropriate access to health care by those not resident in Northern Ireland- those from the Irish Republic or further afield. A new service is being put in place, funded by HSCB, to develop expertise and to actively work with Trusts on dealing with this issue.”
I will watch will interest to see if anything is done in relation to this issue. Two years after TUV drew it to the Minister’s attention it’s about time.
While some like to claim that cross border co-operation is merely for our mutual benefit the reality is that there is a serious cost to the Northern Ireland taxpayer.
It’s time the Republic paid for the services its citizens avail of.