24 DFómh 2019, 09.30

The Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement is calling for a cross- border investment fund to replace EU funding post Brexit, in a new report published today.

The Cross-Border Cooperation: Challenges and Opportunities report examines the impact of Brexit on border communities and makes findings and recommendations to counter negative effects.

The importance of bringing infrastructure in border regions up to standard, and urgently fulfilling commitments made – like the A5 to N2 upgrade – have never been more important, according to the Committee of TDs and Senators.

Chair of the Joint Committee, Sean Crowe TD said uncertainty of what Brexit will be, and its potential impact, make any assessment of challenges very difficult.

Deputy Crowe said: “It is recognised that the EU, from the outset, has played an important role in supporting and nurturing the peace process. Common membership of the EU is referenced throughout the Good Friday Agreement. EU financial support has been indispensable and transformative, particularly in the area of peace building and reconciliation.”

“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 peace process. The importance of maintaining these programmes was emphasised. In the event that these programmes cannot be maintained, establishing comprehensive successor programmes is essential.”

Deputy Crowe said the Committee recommends comprehensive upgrading of infrastructure, both transport and broadband, to assist connectivity in the region.

“In that context the Committee recommends that both governments formally recommit to the long planned A5-N2 Dublin to Derry dualling project, highlighting its priority nature and repledging what was originally agreed,” Deputy Crowe added.

The report follows written submissions to the Committee and hearings with three cross-border local authorities organisations; Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN) Eastern Border Region (EBR), North West Strategic Growth Partnership (NWSGP).

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 Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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.

 

Key findings of the report include:

  • Commitments to cross-border co-operation embedded in the Good Friday agreement remain a priority.
  • Links at departmental and local government level and within social network and projects be protected and nurtured.

Deputy Crowe said a consistent message throughout hearings is that avoidance of a hard border is a top priority for those people who would be most affected by such a border.

 

Deputy Crowe said: “The report underlines the crucial importance of maintaining an open, free flowing border allowing for the continued development of the all island economy in all respects. Infrastructural needs, agribusiness, cross border businesses and industries, including the retail sector, as well as SMEs, all stand to be adversely affected by Brexit and therefore a tailored solution based on geography, relationships, politics and people remains the goal.”

The Committee endorses 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.

For further details on the report, a full on-line copy will be available here at noon today.  

Note:
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.

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Committee membership

Teachtaí

Fianna Fáil

Seán Crowe - Cathaoirleach

Sinn Féin

Fine Gael

Labour Party

Fianna Fáil

Seanadóirí

Independent

Fine Gael

Fianna Fáil