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Paisley and Ahern to bow out at Boyne battle site?

One of the last official acts of the departing Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and First Minister Ian Paisley may be to formally open the historic Battle of the Boyne site in Co Louth.

The Protestant King William III defeated the Catholic King James II at the location in 1690 - a hugely symbolic event celebrated every year in dozens of Orange Order parades across Northern Ireland.

A £19.7m restoration project, featuring a visitor centre, is due to be opened at the site on the banks of the River Boyne in coming weeks.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said: "I think it would be fitting that the formal opening of the Boyne site should be conducted by the Taoiseach and the First Minister. With both men stepping down shortly, it would be an evocative landscape to bid farewell and close this chapter of their careers."

The Taoiseach caused a sensation last week when he announced he will step down on May 6 while Mr Paisley is also leaving office next month.

Last year the two leaders met at the Boyne site where Mr Paisley presented the Taoiseach with an antique musket rifle used by one of King James's troops at the 1690 battle.

The pair also planted a walnut sapling together taken from an ancient fallen tree on the local Oldbridge estate.

In 2006, the Taoiseach had presented Mr Paisley and his wife Eileen with a bowl hewn from the same tree for their 50th wedding anniversary at the talks leading up to the St Andrews' Agreement.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Ahern also said yesterday that the all-island economy is key to future growth on both sides of the border.

"Cross-border cooperation is a vital ingredient in the transition from peace to prosperity on this island.

"Co-operation on infrastructure is a major priority.

"We are investing £457.5m in a cross-border roads programme.

"This will be the largest and most ambitious cross-border project ever undertaken on this island."

The Foreign Affairs Minister claimed the transformation of the political landscape following the Good Friday Agreement and the establishment of the power-sharing Executive had allowed border counties to step out from behind the shadow of economic stagnation and take their place in the driving seat of the national economy.

Belfast Telegraph

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