SDLP Calls For Urgent Restoration Of North South Ministerial Council

The SDLP has called for the urgent restoration of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC), which it said is needed to advance all-island cooperation following the restoration of the Stormont government earlier this year.

Making the call, party leader, Colum Eastwood MP, raised concerns that the NSMC, an institution of the Good Friday Agreement, has not yet been convened following the restoration of power sharing but meetings of the East-West council, designed during an exclusive process between the DUP and the British Government, are proceeding with the participation of Ministers.

Colum Eastwood MP said: "It is time for the North-South Ministerial Council to resume its business. After the suspension of council meetings during the two year abeyance in devolved government, ministers across our island must recommit themselves to addressing the challenges our communities face together.

"I am concerned that the NSMC, a core institution of the Good Friday Agreement, has yet to be convened following the restoration of power sharing. The principle that ministers will work together on areas of substantial mutual interest is an important part of consent for devolved government, the operation of the council is not an optional extra - it is essential. The erosion of North-South cooperation is one of the significant failures of devolution to date, we cannot let that continue.

"It is particularly concerning that the NSMC with its statutory remit has yet to be re-established while a new 'East-West Council', designed and established as part of discussions between the DUP and the British Government which excluded nationalists and others, has already been convened and given credibility as a result of the First Minister's attendance.

"The SDLP is, and always has been, committed to maximum cooperation across these islands. That is in the substantial common interests of the people we represent. But there cannot be a hierarchy of cooperation and the North-South institutions cannot be allowed to wither further under this Executive.

"We will be writing to the First and deputy First Ministers and the Irish Government to ensure that North-South cooperation is restored, enhanced and maximised to the benefit of communities across Ireland in the weeks ahead."

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