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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 October 2006, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Unionists against joint economy
Health care is one area targeted for investment
Health care is one area targeted for investment
Northern Ireland's two unionist parties have warned the British and Irish governments against going down the route of an all-island economy.

The two governments have announced a major cross-border initiative on economic co-operation.

Since the St Andrews Agreement this month, there has been speculation they have been drawing up a multi-million pound package of investment.

Both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have welcomed the plans.

The initiative would see a major investment for infrastructure, healthcare and energy links.

It follows speculation that the Republic plans to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on infrastructure projects in Northern Ireland.

The governments believe "joined-up planning" will deliver better value for money and aid regional development.

Upgrading

Specific projects are not mentioned, but it has been reported that the Irish government is planning to contribute up to 700m to a major spending package in Northern Ireland.

This may include upgrading the Londonderry to Aughnacloy Road, helping to provide radiotherapy facilities at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry and co-funding the construction of the new north-south electricity interconnector.

All of these projects would have benefits for residents in the Republic, as well those in the north.

At St Andrews, the prime minister and taoiseach told the parties that both governments would ensure that a new Stormont executive would be given the capacity to provide quality public service and make long-term capital investments.

The initiative was welcomed by SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell who said unionists should "have nothing to fear from the announcement".

"This puts the flesh on the bones of our north-south agenda, which we have been running with for some time," he said.

"It is absolutely nonsensical that there should be an economic boom in Dublin and 100 miles away in Belfast there is economic stagnation."

However, both the Democratic Unionists and the Ulster Unionists have warned against any move which would see Northern Ireland's economy dominated by the Republic's.

Gregory Campbell
Gregory Campbell said the DUP would not accept an all-Ireland economy

DUP East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said: "What we will be saying to Dublin is that if your understanding of this arrangement is that this money is designed to build up an all-Ireland economy we are not going there."

"But what we will do is work with you in developing the concept of two adjoining countries who want to build up the structures of both countries."

Ulster Unionist deputy leader Danny Kennedy said the cross-border plan was an attempt to transform Northern Ireland into an economic colony of the Irish Republic.

"While some of the infrastructure proposals have merit, we would reject the proposal as a whole as it runs against the very ideal of a vibrant, confident Northern Ireland within the union," he added.




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