Northern Ireland

Business as usual for Cowen at North-South meeting

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said the Irish government will defeat a motion of no confidence put forward by the Labour Party in the Dail.

"Yesterday is passed, we have reassigned some responsibilities to existing ministers," he said.

Mr Cowan made the comments at a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council in Armagh on Friday.

He also said his government remained committed to help fund a roads project in Northern Ireland.

The meeting was hosted by the NI First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

The main topic up for discussion was the economic challenges being faced north and south of the border.

Mr Cowen said the Irish governmnet had come to Armagh to address key issues.

"We came here today as a government and have done our business, we will go back to Dublin this evening and continue to do our business and focus on working for the country," he said.

Commenting on the A5 and A8 roads project, he said: "We see this as a project of mutual benefit, opening up the north west of the country for us.

"It involves a 480m euros commitment and I am glad and proud to say that this government, despite its difficulties, has not in any way compromised that commitment."

The meeting was held in the new headquarters of the joint secretariat to the council in Armagh.

On Thursday, Mr Cowen announced that he intended to dissolve the Irish parliament and call a general election on 11 March after a plan to reshuffle his cabinet backfired.

The Fianna Fail leader is now facing renewed calls for his resignation from several members of his own party and Labour will table a motion of no confidence in the government next week.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said his party will use its private members time to debate the motion in the Dail on Tuesday before a vote on the matter on Wednesday.

Before entering the Council on Friday, the NI first minister asked Mr Cowen if he was "well". Mr Cowen replied, "very well indeed".

The North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) was established under the Good Friday Agreement.

It comprises ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish government, working together on matters of mutual interest.

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