Belfast Telegraph

Cross-border bodies face cutbacks

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he envisages an enhanced role for cross-border bodies to secure savings for both the Republic and Northern Ireland.

At the first North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) summit since elections on both sides of the border, Mr Kenny also said he supports a cut in the North's corporation tax.

The Taoiseach said last month's state visit by the Queen had transformed the mood while the recent elections of new administrations on the island would allow better co-operation.

"This is a period where the new assembly and the new government here have a period of stability in electoral terms in front of them, which gives us an opportunity to really get down to business in terms of the cross-border bodies and the work that they do," he said.

"And if it is required for instance, that there be changes to the cross-border bodies in terms of their effectiveness, obviously ministers and members of the executive will discuss that."

But Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson signalled cutbacks could also be part of a move to make the agencies more efficient, adding: "There are no sacred cows, we want to get more for less and that is in much of respect of cross-border bodies as any other part of our administration."

Mr Kenny, Mr Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness all agreed their meeting at Farmleigh, in Dublin's Phoenix Park, was "warm and engaging".

Striking a more relaxed tone than some previous NSMC gatherings, Mr Robinson said he was encouraged by Mr Kenny's style. The Taoiseach said all the Dublin and Stormont ministers had swapped telephone numbers.

The administrations spoke about areas of co-operation, including the A5 Dublin to Derry dual carriageway project and the A8 Belfast to Larne road upgrade which are being part-funded by the Irish taxpayer.

On the North's attempts to slash its 26% corporation tax to match the Republic's current 13.5% rate, Mr Kenny added: "We in government here (Dublin) would be very supportive of a reduction in the corporation tax rate - equivalent to our own - in Northern Ireland.

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