My colleague from Derry dealt with the economic aspects at a macro level. I want to reach down closer to the ground and talk about the impact on communities and individuals in their daily lives. As we have heard, the Border corridor suffered more than any other part of Ireland and Northern Ireland during the long political conflict which left us with a weaker economy and infrastructure, skills deficits, higher unemployment, etc. During the Troubles Border communities suffered daily disturbances in their way of life. We do not want to go back to having Border checkpoints and all of what they entailed. The peace process and the Good Friday Agreement enabled us to address these issues. It is essential that all strands of the Agreement be maintained and protected post-Brexit.
I want to touch on the impact in a number of key sectoral areas, including EU funding, health care, education and tourism. In the past 20 years, going back to the 1990s, EU funding has enabled us to modernise along the Border corridor. Some €3.5 billion has been allocated to Northern Ireland by the European Union to be made available in the period 2014 to 2020.
CAP payments account for 70% of this sum and I do not need to tell the committee how important they are in Northern Ireland. Programmes with a cross-Border element largely fall under the INTERREG and PEACE programmes - currently INTERREG VA and PEACE IV - and make up just under €500 million which will be available up to 2020. The INTERREG programme focuses very much on economic development, whereas the PEACE programme which followed the Good Friday Agreement deals with community reconciliation and social inclusion programmes which also extend to the very large numbers of new migrants. Integrating them successfully is also part of the PEACE programme.
Cross-Border co-operation has never been easy. I have been involved in it since the early 1990s, ahead of the Good Friday Agreement. It was not easy then and it is still not easy. Without the INTERREG and PEACE programmes, it is unthinkable that we could have sustained interest and engagement in this very important work. The PEACE programme is an integral part of the peace process. The handout contains pictures of only some of the very many projects which have received funding. They are some of the more recent ones. On the infrastructure side, the Northern Ireland science park is a hugely important project. I was responsible on the Southern side for the Newry-Dundalk road project. Prior to being open ten years ago, crossing the Border from Dundalk to Newry, as I did very often, was difficult. Given the condition of the road, checkpoints and the security situation, I could have left my office an hour previously and still have been worrying about whether I would make it on time for a meeting in Newry. I can now cover the distance in ten or 15 minutes.
On the economic development side in my county, the Highlanes Gallery is located in Drogheda. It is a contemporary art gallery which houses our municipal collection. It is twinned with the McWilliam Gallery in Banbridge. It was a cross-Border arts partnership funded under the INTERREG programme to the tune of several million. The Bright Room is another important economic programme in Dundalk which would never have gone ahead without the funding that was available under the INTERREG programme. More recently, we have had biodiversity and greenway projects. Next week we will be turning the sod for the next phase of the greenway from Carlingford to Newry. We have already extended it to Omeath and are now continuing on to Newry. In a very short space of time one will be able to travel on a greenway or a canal pathway from Carlingford to Lough Neagh. This is a project which would have been unthinkable without cross-Border funding and co-operation from local authorities and communities. There have been energy projects, while the Peace Bridge in Derry is an iconic structure and a hugely important link for communities on both sides of the lough.
When the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, Ireland will lose the Ireland-Northern Ireland-Scotland INTERREG programme, the Ireland-Wales INTERREG programme and the PEACE programme, all of which receive at least part of their funding from the European Union. The Northern Ireland Border councils will also lose EU money allocated by the Northern Ireland Executive for economic and rural development and tourism programmes. The opportunity to access the plethora of EU funds available under the Horizon 2020, Atlantic area, INTERREG Europe and northern periphery programmes, etc., will be lost. Some of these programmes are of huge importance to the third level sector, in particular, in which so much vital research in key areas takes place on a day-to-day basis. Opportunities for universities to gain from links with universities all over Europe will also be lost.
On health care, access across the Border has become critical. The radiotherapy centre in Altnagelvin Hospital is of great importance to people in County Donegal. It will be remembered from arguments on radio and television that prior to there being cross-Border co-operation, their alternative was to travel to Galway. Altnagelvin Hospital is only up the road for them. The emergency department in Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry serves a huge part of north Louth, with the alternative being the hospital in Drogheda which would simply not be able to cope with the extra work. It covers an area stretching across counties Cavan and Monaghan, in addition to County Louth. Children from Northern Ireland travel to Dublin for pædiatric care and heart surgery, while numerous patients from Northern Ireland are treated in the Republic. Likewise, patients from the Republic travel to the North. It depends on the medical service sought. The CAWT is another project funded under the INTERREG programme which facilitates cross-Border health service links, but it is under threat.
It has been difficult for a lot of these projects to survive in the interim between each INTERREG programme; there have been gaps of one to four years, but at least we knew there would be programmes. If these programmes are removed, the future will look very bleak. There are 124 consultants at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry and regular attendances by 642 patients, particularly in the area of nephrology, as well as ENT day cases. There are huge numbers of outpatients accessing specialties, particularly obstetrics and orthopaedics. A total of 708 patients from the Republic were treated in the Daisy Hill Hospital emergency department in one year between 2016 and 2017. The Western Trust has contracts with the hospital in Letterkenny to provide oral surgery and cardiology services. There is also the north-west cancer centre. The figures are included in the handout and they are huge.
Mr. Kelpie has touched on the numbers who cross the Border for all kinds of reason, including to attend higher education courses. South West College, North West College and Southern Regional College in Northern Ireland, as well as the institutes of technology in Sligo and Letterkenny, all have an important cross-Border dimension and many students travel in both directions. Lecturers come from both sides. In my office in Louth County Council there are staff members who live in Belfast and Dublin. Those who live in the North, of whom there are many, are very worried about travel times and reciprocal tax arrangements and what the future will hold for them post-Brexit. The handout sets out the example of higher fees for Northern Ireland students. What will happen here? Will there be an impact on numbers in the Republic? EU students will be much less likely to travel to Northern Ireland post-Brexit.
Tourism is still very much a fledgling industry in Border areas because of our peripherality. We have been building the industry in recent years. There are 3.3 million visitors, one third of whom are concentrated in two western areas which include Donegal, Fermanagh and Omagh. Tourism is a key economic driver on the whole island. In County Louth tourism is the industry with the greatest potential for economic development. However, freedom of movement is critical. Tourists will not be as anxious to travel to a Border area or cross the Border when they are unsure about what will happen or how long the journey will take. They are very uncertain about where exactly the Border is. Very often they do not know whether County Louth is in the Republic or Northern Ireland. We do not want to go back to the difficulty we experienced in the past. There are tourist attractions which straddle the Border, including the very important UNESCO geopark between counties Cavan and Fermanagh which includes the Marble Arch caves.
While that is a very important project which received substantial EU funding, what is to happen in the future as that project develops? The Southern part of it will still be eligible for EU funding but what about Northern Ireland?
Access to the region is largely through ports and airports on the other side of the Border. Many people who travel to Northern Ireland will access Ireland through Dublin Port or Dublin Airport. What is going to happen there? Reaching down further, right down onto the ground, some of those present will have seen the reaction from some Border communities to the prospect of Brexit. These communities face the threat of their whole way of life changing yet again. They have worked seamlessly across the Border for many years. Even people like me sometimes do not know where the Border is. One travels over and back and one is never exactly sure. When travelling to somewhere like Cavan or Monaghan I could cross the Border several times. We are still recovering from many decades of political turmoil. Families and relatives live on both sides of the Border. Farms are literally divided by the Border, as are businesses. There can be a church in Northern Ireland and a graveyard in the Republic. Journeys often involve multiple Border crossings. What about shopping and socialising? I could give the example of a number of my staff members, who are young women from Louth who met young fellows from Northern Ireland at discos in Dundalk. Some of them are now living in the Republic and some are living in south Armagh or other parts of Northern Ireland. It is an invisible Border for us. This impact will not be felt anywhere else in Ireland. The Border is part of us. It is part of who we are and is part of our lives every day.
Another impact could be the loss of PEACE funding. We depend on that to foster cross-community co-operation. It is only those of us who have lived and worked in the region over the decades who can see the impact PEACE money has had on cross-Border co-operation. I have been working in Louth for 40 years and I have spent the last 25 years of that doing a lot of cross-Border work. I held Ms Arthur's job with East Border Region before her. Only we can see the opportunities it has offered communities on both sides of the Border to come closer together, to work together, to have more social inclusion, to break down barriers and to address the negative impacts. We have seen that. We know how important it is. We also know, despite the fact that we are on the fourth programme, the amount of work that still needs to be done, and the importance of the continuation of that programme and its funding.
Do not bring me problems, only solutions. The solution is that those programmes must continue. The PEACE programme, to which I have just referred, which fosters cross-community and cross-Border integration and co-operation must continue. INTERREG has allowed economic development to help us to try to catch up on many years of falling behind the rest of the island during the Troubles. That must continue. We need the political will of Dublin, Stormont, London and Brussels to make the financial commitment required to continue the work of those programmes.
I apologise for mentioning the Good Friday Agreement again but all three strands of it must be protected. The power-sharing assembly and Executive, the Irish dimension to the governing arrangements for Northern Ireland and the east-west institutions, namely, the British-Irish Council and the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, have all played an incalculable role in bringing us forward over the last number of years and they must continue.
There is a lot more work to be done. Regarding the common travel area, we have touched over and over again on people travelling over the Border and back. I have also mentioned things like tourism. The free movement of people is essential to maintain the way of life for those who live in the Border region. It is essential for access to cross-Border education and health. It is particularly important for residents in my county, and the other Border counties in the Republic of Ireland, who did not vote to leave the EU, who did not have a vote on Brexit and who now face being affected by it.
I wish to mention the national planning framework and the memorandum of understanding between my own council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. At our last steering meeting a couple of weeks ago, the project team from the national planning framework was in attendance. It emphasised that this is not about spatial planning. The national planning framework is about a vision for what Ireland will look like as we move towards 2020, 2040 and into the future. It is very important that the issues we have raised today and the difficulties and solutions we have mentioned throughout our address are recognised in that national planning framework and that they are built into it as it moves ahead. We request that cognisance is taken of all of those issues in the formulation of the national planning framework.