Page last updated at 14:41 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Autism centre 'is back on track'

Middletown
An all-Ireland centre for autism is back on track

An all-Ireland centre for children with autism is back on track after the Irish government ended a pause in funding.

Irish prime minister Brian Cowen said his government would return to backing the Middletown Centre of Excellence.

In May, the centre's future was in doubt, when the Dail withdrew finances citing economic pressure.

The decision was announced at a meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council, which involved Mr Cowen, and NI's First and Deputy First Ministers in Limavady.

Education departments in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic have been equally financing the Middletown project.

The centre was approved in 2002 but has only opened in a limited way.

It is understood that £6m has already been spent on the centre.

It currently carries out research and training for professionals who work within the autism field, but the eventual aim had been to take children in.

The next stage of building a residential block for assessment and therapy, and employing extra staff, was at jeopardy because of the shortage of funds.

At the meeting on Monday, plans to progress a new road project from Aughnacloy to Londonderry and on to Donegal were also agreed.

Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness and Mr Cowen also discussed the economy and ways in which the North and South could cooperate.



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