Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

EU chief Barroso to meet Protestant, Catholic power-sharing leaders in Belfast

EU chief Barroso to meet Protestant, Catholic power-sharing leaders in Belfast

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso arrived Tuesday in Northern Ireland to meet the Protestant and Catholic leaders of the power-sharing government about to be formed in Belfast.
Barroso was expected to hold a joint news conference with Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein deputy leader Martin McGuinness _ two longtime enemies who, until now, have never made a joint public appearance.
Paisley, who represents the British Protestant majority, and McGuinness, who represents the Irish Catholic minority, have agreed to lead a 12-member, four-party administration starting May 8. The breakthrough became possible March 26, when Paisley abandoned his decades-old boycott on cooperation with Sinn Fein following that party's landmark decision to begin working with the Northern Ireland police force.
First, Barroso met Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, the British Cabinet minister who will hand control of the province's government departments to local hands, and Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern.
Ahern said he wanted the European Union to support Irish efforts to persuade Britain to cut the tax rate for businesses operating in Northern Ireland. The Irish say this will promote foreign investment in the north and encourage its eventual unification with the Irish Republic, the stated goal of the Catholic side of the argument.
Britain has resisted arguments to lower Northern Ireland's rate closer to 12.5 percent, the rate prevailing in the Irish Republic, because this would discriminate against other regions of the United Kingdom. Currently, Northern Ireland is subject to the U.K.-wide rate of 28 percent.
Barroso declined to comment. Previously, the European Union has called for Ireland to raise its rate nearer to European corporate-tax levels, arguing that Ireland was poaching investment by U.S. multinationals that otherwise would locate elsewhere in Europe.
Power-sharing was the central goal of Northern Ireland's Good Friday peace accord of 1998, but a previous coalition collapsed in 2002 amid chronic arguments between Protestants and the IRA-linked Sinn Fein about the future of the outlawed Irish Republican Army. The IRA ended those arguments in 2005 by disarming and formally renounced its right to overthrow Northern Ireland by force.
Barroso traveled to Northern Ireland following an EU-U.S. summit Monday in Washington alongside U.S. President George W. Bush.
The European Union has been the major international donor to peace-promoting projects in Northern Ireland since the late 1980s. Since 1995 its special "peace and reconciliation" fund has given more than euro1 billion (US$1.3 billion) to community projects in Northern Ireland and in Republic of Ireland counties that border the British territory.


Updated : 2021-04-21 18:05 GMT+08:00