Belfast Telegraph

Tanaiste Simon Coveney meets with Bands Forum as part of Londonderry visit

Tanaiste Simon Coveney met with members of the Londonderry Bands Forum during a visit to the city on Wednesday.

Mr Coveney, who is also the Republic of Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, visited the city to address the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce President’s Lunch and meet with businesses and regional representatives in Derry and the North West region.

He also met with civil society groups in the city and visited the Museum of Free Derry.

The Tanaiste visited the Londonderry Bands Forum at their centre at Newgate Street.

He met with members of the Bands Forum and also with representatives of An Cultúrlann, who are working in partnership through the Droichead programme.

“I was delighted to visit the Londonderry Bands Forum at their centre today and to hear about their positive work. I was very interested to hear also about the fruitful partnership between the Bands Forum and An Cultúrlann in Derry, on delivering cross-community and cross-cultural activities," he said after the visit.

"The cooperation between these organisations highlights the degree to which work by community organisations in Derry can be a model for reconciliation efforts elsewhere.

“My department has supported both organisations through the Reconciliation Fund and will continue to engage with both groups to facilitate further collaboration within Northern Ireland and beyond.”

Mr Coveney also visited the Bloody Sunday Trust Museum and met with relatives of those who were killed in 1972 and the directors and staff of the Bloody Sunday Trust.

“I was glad to have the opportunity to visit the Museum of Free Derry today, which offers a fitting memorial to those who lost their lives on Bloody Sunday in 1972 and has helped to ensure that the history of that hugely difficult period is recorded and displayed in a meaningful way," the Tanaiste said.

“The Irish Government was pleased to contribute to the impressive new museum building which performs a vital role in educating and informing younger generations about this period in the history of this island.”

Speaking after attending the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce lunch Mr Coveney said he had met with businesses to help them prepare for the effects of Brexit.

“I was very pleased to address the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce today to outline the Government’s priorities and engagement to address the risks of Brexit for the island of Ireland, and also on working with the British Government and the political parties in Northern Ireland to find a way beyond the current impasse with the devolved institutions,” the Tanaiste said.

“I also met directly with a broad range of businesses and with regional representatives at the Chamber event. We discussed concerns around Brexit, the pressing need to get the devolved institutions operating again, and regional development issues in the North West.”

“We also spoke about the impact of Brexit on organisations in the North West region, and what businesses have been doing to ensure they are Brexit-ready, as well as progress on a number of regional issues. It was a really useful opportunity to update members of the Chamber on progress in the EU-UK negotiations and to outline the Government’s key priorities in that process.”

Mr Coveney said working with businesses in the North West was an important part of the Irish Government's Brexit strategy.

“I encouraged representatives at the Chamber event to stay engaged on Brexit issues, and I look forward to their continued participation in stakeholder engagement opportunities over the coming months. This forms an important part of the Government’s approach to the Brexit negotiations.”

As part of the trip Mr Coveney also met with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood alongside MLAs Mark H Durkan and Daniel McCrossan.

Foyle MLA Mr Eastwood said that he reiterated the need for the BIIC to be reconvened to “clear the decks” and challenge all parties back to a functioning Government to protect people here from Brexit.

The SDLP delegation also discussed how the Irish Government can work with the SDLP to ensure the delivery of a City Deal for Derry and Strabane.

“We had a productive, honest and positive meeting with An Tánaiste. I was very reassured by An Tánaiste’s commitment to protecting citizens here from a hard Brexit and a hard border," Mr Eastwood said.

“I did make it crystal clear in respect to the North, that in order for us to find a way forward to restore government, the BIIC must be immediately reconvened. Only then can we clear the decks and challenge parties to get back to the job of Government. It is absolutely critical that we get to that place so that politicians here can work to protect citizens across this island from Brexit.

“An Tánaiste is aware of my view, unless both Governments step in and step up - another round of secret talks between the DUP and Sinn Fein won’t work.”

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