Calls for Dublin to Belfast one-hour rail link
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan intends to seek money for a ‘rapid rail link’ between Dublin and Belfast as part of the Brexit negotiations. He added that a special fund may also be needed to help improve our ports as the country looks to diversify trading partners. “I’d like to be able to see rail users travel from Dublin to Belfast in an hour. That will take capital expenditure and these are issues upon which I feel consideration should be given in the context of the negotiations,” he said.
Currently a direct train from Connolly Station to Belfast Central takes around two hours and 10 minutes. Maintaining strong connections between the North and South would guarantee Ireland’s ability to increase trade with EU countries outside of Britain. “I see a need to diversify. That will mean our airports and ports will be hugely important to us in that endeavour. I’m thinking in particular our access points to the continent and the French ports,” he said.
Mr Flanagan said that 40% of food exports from Ireland currently go the UK, while over 50% of goods coming through Warrenpoint Port in Co Down are destined for the Republic. “The maintenance of the open Border is essential to all of this. That’s where the Good Friday Agreement and the honouring of the agreement in terms of movement of people and trading of services is important.”
The minister also warned the delay in establishing a power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland was hampering the Government’s negotiation position in Europe. Talks between parties in the North have been ongoing since the snap election on March 2, but there is growing concern that another election may be called or there will be a return to direct rule.
“There is an urgency and I’m calling on the DUP and Sinn Féin to engage in the necessary level of compromise that will allow them surmount these challenges,” he said. Mr Flanagan said people “want their decision-makers working. The clock is ticking on Brexit. There needs to be a Northern Ireland voice and that voice can only be from the elected representatives,” he said.
He said he intends to call a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council to discuss strategy ahead of the formal beginning of Brexit talks in Europe, but this is not possible without a new Stormont Executive taking office. “The delay in forming a power-sharing Executive under the Good Friday Agreement is adding to the uncertainty in Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland as to our preparations for Brexit,” said Mr Flanagan.