Hopes for executive meeting on Rathlin

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MEMBERS of the new Stormont executive may give consideration to holding a future meeting on Rathlin Island, it has emerged.

The disclosure comes following representations by DUP MP Ian Paisley Jnr calling for ministers to visit the province’s largest inhabited island and conduct one of their regular weekly summits off the north Antrim coast.

The executive normally meets regularly within the confines of Stormont Castle.

Following correspondence between Mr Paisley and the first and deputy first ministers, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness confirmed the location of executive meetings is “kept under review” and declined to rule out the possibility of ministers taking the ferry to the picturesque island, inhabited by less than 100 people.

Speaking to the News Letter, Mr Paisley said he was “very pleased” with the response, intimating that Rathlin would at least be put on a consideration list.

“It shows there is an interest in ensuring that Rathlin Island isn’t forgotten and that the needs of the island folk are recognised,” the North Antrim MP said.

“The best way in my view to do that is through more promotional activity and to show that the assembly and ministers at Stormont care about it.”

Mr Paisley said he had already discussed the issue with the island’s community association.

“To say they were enthusiastic would be an understatement.

“They were absolutely thrilled by the fact that the assembly would take such an interest in the island. I think it would be a very positive thing for the islanders but importantly it would also be positive for the rest of Northern Ireland.”

In reply to Mr Paisley’s request, a letter – signed on behalf of Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness – said: “The current executive recognises the challenges of island life and has been committed to developing the Rathlin community and to increasing the involvement of islanders in developing policies and projects to improve conditions through the Rathlin Island Policy and Action Plan.

“We are pleased to note that efforts to progress the plan are ongoing and islanders have signalled that they are broadly content with developments.”

It added: “Arrangements for executive meetings, including potential venues, are kept under review and do not preclude meetings outside Belfast. While there are no specific plans for meetings at other locations at this time, this is something to which the incoming executive may wish to give further consideration.”