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Ministers from north and south set to have talks

By Noel McAdam

Cross-border progress on transport was today set to shift up a gear at the first sectoral meeting under the North-South Ministerial Council since devolution was restored.

Two Stormont Executive Ministers, one DUP and one Sinn Fein, will go to Enniskillen to meet their Dublin government counterparts along with officials from both jurisdictions.

But the two-hour session - the first sectoral meeting under the auspices of the Council in almost five years - will take place behind closed doors.

Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy, and Environment Minister Arlene Foster were welcoming the Republic's Minister for Communications, Marine and natural Resources, Noel Dempsey.

Issues which will be discussed include major road projects, restoration of bridges at the border, the Dublin-Belfast Rail Link, community based rural transport, and road safety.

It comes after the Council was revived when First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness attended its first meeting in five years with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in July in Armagh.

Today's meeting could hear more detail about the Irish government's investment aimed at boosting a number of major infrastructure projects in Northern Ireland, including restoration of part of the Ulster Canal.

Dublin is forking out the full capital cost of refurbishment of the section of the Canal from Clones to Upper Lough Erne, which the Northern Ireland Executive will then pay to maintain.

On transport, the Republic is providing a total of £400m which will also help provide dual carriageways, including the A8 from Belfast to Larne and the Omagh to Donegal road.

The main Council is expected to meet again, probably in November, in Dundalk.

Belfast Telegraph


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