The Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement this morning issued a report on ‘Communities and Cross-Border Cooperation: Challenges and Opportunities’.
The report examines the impact of Brexit on border communities, including Louth, and makes findings and recommendations to counter the detrimental impact of Brexit.
Specifically, the Committee listened to evidence from organisations which operate along the border area from the East Border Region – covering Louth; through the Mid and Central Ulster area, covered by ICBAN; and the North West region.
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams ,whose party colleague Teachta Sean Crowe is the Chair of the Joint Committee, said:
“Whatever the outcome of the current Brexit debacle, the fact is that whether it’s a soft Brexit or hard Brexit, the implications are serious for the island of Ireland and in particularly for the border region.
“The Committee heard of the serious concerns around the future of EU funding beyond 2020, particularly the PEACE and INTERREG programmes which have contributed so much to the border region and the peace process.
“The report recommends that these programmes be maintained. However in the event that this is not possible the Committee calls for the creation of comprehensive successor programmes is essential.
“The Committee heard how communities along the border, both north and south, are lagging economically since 2016 in stark contrast to strong economic growth and employment in other parts of the island, north and south.”
Key recommendations of the report include:
· Development of an island-wide territorial cohesion policy, which would include a Cross-Border Infrastructure and Investment Plan/Fund, to replace any loss of common INTERREG and Peace funds.
· Promotion of the three border regions as areas of national importance.
· Comprehensive upgrading of infrastructure, both transport and broadband, to assist connectivity in the region.
· Both governments formally recommit to the long-planned A5-N2 Dublin to Derry dualling project.
· If the National Broadband Plan cannot be advanced further to deliver in its current format, that an alternative solution is quickly realised for these border areas.
· Promoting the border region as alternatives to the Dublin area for Foreign Direct Investment.
· A Regional Employment Strategy which would form the basis for enterprise and employment creation by all stakeholders.
Teachta Adams continued:
“In the context of Brexit the reported emphasised the importance of maintaining an open, free flowing border allowing for the continued development of the all island economy.
“The Committee also endorsed the role of local authorities along the border in developing a bottom-up needs-based strategy for the Border Corridor to offset the challenges and identify any opportunities associated with Brexit.”
Note To Editor:
The eight council members of the ICBAN partnership are: Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo and Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon, Fermanagh and Omagh and Mid Ulster.
East Border Region is a local authority led cross border network comprising of six local authorities; Newry, Mourne & Down District Council, Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council and Ards and North Down Borough Council in Northern Ireland and Louth, Monaghan and Meath County Councils.
The North West Strategic Growth Partnership is a unique partnership that brings together senior Government officials from all Government departments in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to meet with Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council to deliver on strategic priorities aimed at bringing real and positive change for the North West City Region.