Northern Ireland leaders and former foes First Minister Ian Paisley and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness have hailed a new “open door” relationship with Europe in their historic first joint visit to EU headquarters in Brussels.
Paisley noted the EU’s generosity towards Northern Ireland, 2.5 billion euros over the last 20 years and 1.1 billion euros promised from now until 2013. He said: “I deeply appreciate the good work that has been done already and the task force that is set up. The Commission is encouraging us. The doors in Europe are open!”
Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso last year set up a special European Commission task force on Northern Ireland which is due to report for the first time next month on the best use of EU help, especially in research and development, farming and private investment.
The two visitors also raised their wish for a referendum on the EU’s Lisbon reform treaty. The Republic of Ireland is to have one but not Britain… or Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.