Irish Republican News · May 2, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: EU chief in Belfast backs power-sharing
EU chief in Belfast backs power-sharing
barroso.jpg

The President of the European Commission Jose Barroso visited Belfast on Tuesday to announce financial aid and support for the new Six-County administration.

After a good-humoured meeting with the North’s incoming First and Deputy First Ministers, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, Mr Barroso announced plans for over one billion Euros in funds to be released to the Belfast Executive between 2007 and 2013.

And he also pledged a task force would be set up in the Commission to help finalise programming of EU funds that would enable the new power-sharing government to draw on the experience available in Brussels in promoting economic growth and employment.

“I have said that I prefer marathons, long-distance running, to sprint,” Mr Barroso said. “That is why I want to tell you that my visit is not just a commitment for one day but it is a commitment for our shared future -- the future of Northern Ireland in the European Union.”

“I want to pay tribute to the courage that you have both shown and I also want to acknowledge the role that the British and Irish Governments and all parties involved have played.”

During a light-hearted press conference, Mr Paisley told the European Commission president that they were highly privileged to have him visit the incoming administration in person.

“We have many problems in Northern Ireland but we are seeing a light and are directing our footsteps towards not just sunlight but I trust full sunshine,” he said.

The DUP leader chuckled in his first public appearance with Martin McGuinness as the joint heads in waiting of the new administration as the Sinn Féin chief negotiator quipped about the Belfast media.

Mr McGuinness described the European Commission leader’s visit as a massive stamp of approval for all the goodwill that had been generated in recent weeks.

“We are delighted that President Barroso is with us and he has made a little bit of history in that he is the first president of the European Commission to actually come into this building,” the Sinn Féin MP said.

“He does so at a time of great hope for all of our people and I think it is a hope shared by many in Europe and in far distant fields.”

© 2007 Irish Republican News