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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


Ireland / Northern Ireland (IE, UK)

Border Type

“peace keeping border”

Which entities constitute the CB region:

The “Cross Border Territory”

The “Cross Border Territory” (as defined in the Impact Assessment Toolkit for Cross-Border Cooperation), comprises all of Northern Ireland and the six Border Counties of Ireland. This corresponds with  “The Border Region”, i.e. the eligible area for the EU INTERREG and PEACE Programmes that  includes the counties of Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo in Ireland and covers the same boundaries as the Border Regional Authority, one of eight Authorities established under the Local Government Act 1991 (The Irish Regions Office, The term border areas refers to those areas adjacent to the border in both Northern Ireland and Ireland.

The Centre for Cross Border Studies

The Centre for Cross Border Studies ( researches and develops cooperation between Ireland and Northern Ireland in education, training, health, ICT, the economy, public administration, planning, the environment, citizens information, impact assessment and other practical areas. Founded in 1999, it is a product of the Northern  Irish peace process institutionalised in the 1998 Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. Its head office is in Armagh, 10 miles from the border in Northern Ireland, with a sub-office in Dublin.

It also provides management, training and ICT support services to cross-border networks and organisations in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and develops and manages cross-border information websites.

CCBS is largely financed by grants from the EU INTERREG IVA programme through the EU Special Programmes Body in Belfast and the Irish Department of Education and Skills in Dublin. It raises a significant proportion of its income through selling its research and consultancy services to government and other agencies. The Centre’s activities are completely dedicated to cross-border cooperation.

Among its aims are to identify gaps in cross-border information, research and mutual learning in Ireland and Northern Ireland; provide sources of comprehensive and  accurate information about cross-border cooperation in Ireland; publish research on opportunities for and obstacles to cross-border cooperation in all fields of society and the economy; host events at which research findings can be disseminated and policy formation in cross-border cooperation can be developed; present the findings of such research and development projects to the European Commission and the governments in Dublin and Belfast; and  provide management and training support for cross-border organisations and programmes which have a strong education, research and development dimension.

Basic data of the border region

Population Area (Km2)
Northern Ireland
County Antrim 616,000 2,844
County Armagh 159,085 1,254
County Derry/Londonderry 233,550 2,074
County Down 492,840 2,448
County Fermanagh 57,527 1,691
County Tyrone 166,516 3,155
1,725,518 13,466
Border Counties of Ireland
County Cavan 72,874 1,931
County Donegal 160,927 4,841
County Leitrim 31,778 1,588
County Louth 122,808 826
County Monaghan 60,495 1,294
County Sligo 65,270 1,837
514,152 12,317
Total Cross-Border Territory 2,239,670 25,783

The Cross Border Territory is largely rural in nature, is situated on the periphery of Europe and has areas of low population density. In 2011, the population of Northern Ireland is approximately 1.8 million people and the population of the Border Region of Ireland was 467,327. (The population of the Irish State (“the Republic”) is approximately 4.6million people.The first language of the majority of people on both sides of the border is English.

The border areas in Northern Ireland and Ireland share a number of common features with other peripheral borders across the European Union where the problems of development are most accentuated and compounded by political isolation. The creation of the border, which cut off towns and markets from their natural hinterlands, and the promotion of subsequent economic isolationist policies contributed towards the economic decline of border areas. Problems of development, however, the high level of militarisation of the border during the conflict, the presence of security barriers and resulting road closures have had a long-term damaging impact. In this regard, the border can also be seen to represent an interface between communities. Research has highlighted that the border can be seen both as a major contributory factor in the conflict and as a manifestation of the conflict itself. The research highlights that the border permeates the conflict and the relationship with Ireland is the ingredient which largely determines how the two communities in Northern Ireland relate to each other.[1]

Impact of the Conflict

The Operational Programme for the EU Peace III Programme discusses the impact of the conflict and the border on the social, cultural and economic connections among communities.

“Such impacts were immediately visible whenever there was a high-profile act of violence near to the border. Cross-border visiting, shopping and travel, for instance, was extremely sensitive to violence, dropping sharply after such incidents and gradually rebuilding thereafter. Survey evidence conducted by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) shows that many of the sensitivities to crossing the border still remain. The survey highlights that almost two thirds (61%) of both the Northern Ireland and the Border Region population do cross the border, with Catholics being more likely than Protestants, in both regions, to do so. In regard to reasons for crossing the border, survey results also show that, in Northern Ireland, over three fifths (62%) of the population cross the border for short breaks or holidays but the comparable figure in the Border Region is only 8%.

“This is also supported by other research on residents in a border town in Ireland which found that while for most people, travelling, shopping and socialising North of the border was presented as ‘not an issue’, very few people admitted to actually crossing the border.  This shows that the tendency to cross the border has not increased and that the impact of the conflict on cross-border activity will be felt for many years.

“Despite this, the research also shows that substantial agreement on the positive aspects of increased exchange and co-operation across the border does exist and all interviewees outlined that this is hugely beneficial to the area in terms of both community relations and economic rewards.

“The border areas in Northern Ireland and Ireland also contain communities which have been affected by the conflict through isolation or marginalisation resulting from the severing of social and economic links. To support this, research shows that the border is still seen as symbolic of the difference and divisions that remain in modern Ireland and still creates a feeling of isolation for minority communities in the North and South.

“In addition, while people displaced from Northern Ireland due to the conflict have located in Ireland, other parts of the UK and beyond, many displaced persons are concentrated in the Border Region. While there were too few statistical sources to make a strong estimate of displacement, recent research suggests that of the 22,000 people born in Northern Ireland and living in the Border Region, approximately 11,000 were displaced persons, mainly concentrated in Monaghan, Louth and Donegal.30 While relocation generally brought feelings of greater security, many of these displaced persons have experienced problems of identity, trauma and isolation.”[2]

Cross Border Mobility Issues

Currency and tax differentials have always had an impact on cross border trade with individual consumers crossing the border in one or other direction as the cost of petrol or other goods fluctuates to the advantage of border region traders in one or other jurisdiction. The extent of cross border shopping by residents of the Republic in the period 2008 – 2009 however, increased significantly, with an estimated 250,000 households in the Republic are regularly doing their grocery shopping in the North, up 25 per cent since the end of 2008. Likewise, there was a 30 per cent rise off-licence sales in the North, much of it attributable to cross-Border alcohol shopping. It has been estimated that cross-border shopping cost the Republic’s economy over €810 million in 2009, compared to €640 million last year and €393 million in 2007.[3] The impact of this trend on the Southern economy was of such concern that in December 2008, the Irish Finance Minister was urging the population to “shop at home” in order to protect the State’s capacity to fund its health and education obligations. [4] By June of 2010, however, cross-border shopping had once again declined significantly, due to substantial price cuts by retailers on this side of the border, the 20% reduction in the Irish rate of excise on spirits and the 6% increase in the value of sterling against the euro in the year to date. An increase in the UK VAT rate in June 2010 also acted as a disincentive to cross border shopping.  [5] By August 2010, InterTradeIreland announced that cross-border shopping “has slowed to a trickle and is now worth just 1.4% of retail spending nationally.”[6]

A consultation exercise on the obstacles to cross-border mobility on the island of Ireland was initiated by the NSMC in 2002, following publication of a study. The Council decided that recommendations in the areas of Education and Working, Health, and Pensions should be considered by relevant Government Departments who would bring forward detailed implementation proposals. Working Groups on the transfer of pensions on a cross-border basis and on cross-border banking issues were established and other recommendations in the report were referred for further examination by officials from the two administrations. For example the relevant departments met to discuss access to welfare benefits for cross-border workers. In response to recommendations on the difficulty of accessing information on issues related to North/South mobility, the Council agreed to establish a Website, providing comprehensive and easily accessible information.  The Border People website, in partnership with the Centre for Cross Border Studies was subsequently established with assistance from the EU Interreg IVA programme. The website has developed work on the transfer of pensions on a cross-border basis, cross-border banking issues and other problems faced by people living, working or studying on different sides of the border.

The Changing Context:  Impact of the Global Economic Crisis

In October 2006, the British and Irish Governments agreed an agenda for strengthening all-island economic co-operation. The Comprehensive Study on the All-Island Economy[7] sets out the high level goals and initiatives for taking forward co-operation. The worsening economic environment and the pressures on public finances in each jurisdiction have, however, have also had a considerable impact on the resources available and the climate in which cross border co-operation is taking place. While on the one hand, the 2010 NSMC plenary heard that the Finance Ministers had met to discuss common fiscal challenges and preparation for economic recovery. There are ongoing discussions between the two Finance Ministers to identify potential cost savings through co-operation and sharing. The NSMC discussed the “significant level of co-operation underway to promote innovation to underpin economic growth and create employment.“

On the other hand, the uncertainties about the depth and direction of public expenditure cutbacks in both jurisdictions and the pressures and uncertainties about public sector jobs have had a negative impact on the capacity of the two administrations to progress even agreed cross border initiatives. There would appear to be a reluctance to champion increased cross border co-operation even in the context that the “potential cost savings through co-operation and sharing” have been recognised by the two governments. At time of writing, it remains unclear what cross border projects will be delayed or cancelled because of lack of available finances.

The Irish Government’s National Spatial Strategy recognises that ”Gateways, hubs, other towns, villages and rural areas all have complementary roles within that structure in achieving the aim of balanced regional development.” The Strategy identifies  the factors critical to the border region’s full participation in balanced regional development , that include the strengthened roles and contribution of Letterkenny/Derry, Sligo and Dundalk, as new gateways to drive development through enhanced critical mass, accessibility and capacity for development.  As County Towns and towns with over 5,000 population, Sligo, Letterkenny and Dundalk as gateways will be supported by Monaghan and Cavan as hubs. Monaghan will build on its strategic location between Dublin and Derry (Northern Ireland), and its links to Armagh (Northern Ireland ) and its capacity for growth. Cavan occupies a strategic location on a national road leading on to Enniskillen (Northern Ireland), with the town itself also supporting an extensive hinterland. Other county towns, like Carrick-on-Shannon, perform regionally strategic residential, employment, administrative and other service functions. Fostering and developing these roles will be important to complement the functions of gateways and hubs. Drogheda “has much potential for development” given its scale, established enterprise base, communications and business and other links with the Greater Dublin Area.  In more western parts of the border, there are a number of towns with populations of between 1,500 and 5,000; running from north of Sligo to Letterkenny and beyond, including Bundoran, Ballyshannon, Donegal, Ballybofey, Buncrana and Carndonagh. In more eastern parts of the border region, towns such as Castleblaney, Carrickmacross and Ardee can promote themselves more effectively in the context of the strength of Dundalk and Monaghan. Cootehill and Baileborough perform important retailing, service and employment functions for local hinterlands.

The Regional Development Strategy for Northern Ireland recognise the importance of working on an All-Ireland basis to ensure better integration of services and more efficient planning in terms of roads infrastructure, economic activity and the use of public services and facilities, which are  “particular benefits to be secured in neglected border communities.” The Strategy therefore emphasises the importance of co-ordinated planning along the border corridor from Donegal / Derry to Newry / Dundalk as a means of reversing decline, avoiding duplication of services and building sustainable communities. The Strategy is a long-term plan for the North. It recognises the important role which Belfast plays in generating  regional prosperity and that Derry is the focus for economic growth in the North West region. The Metropolitan area centred on Belfast is identified as the driver for regional economic growth and the regional focus for administration, commerce, specialised services and cultural amenities. The Belfast Metropolitan Urban Area (BMUA) is at the centre of the regional transport network and the major gateway for national and international trade. The capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast with a population of 268,000 which has been in decline. Over 50% of those who work in Belfast live outside it. Derry is recognised as having a significant role “as capital of an expanding North West”. The North West is defined as Derry, Strabane and Limavady, along with the greater part of County Donegal. Derry or Londonderry (pop. 85,000) is the second-biggest city in Northern Irelandand the fourth-biggest city on the island of Ireland. Derry City is the core settlement and is a key cross-border and international gateway providing access by road, rail, and sea to the North West.  Sub-Regional Centres which provide a range of services to the surrounding areas are Enniskillen, Omagh, Coleraine, Ballymena, Cookstown, Craigavon, Newry, Downpatrick and Newtownards. The Strategy promotes cooperation and clustering of towns, including a cross-border cluster between Newry  and Dundalk.

The SWOT analysis below is taken from the INTERREG IVA Operational Programme for 2007-2013, although it must be stressed that since the economic crisis commenced in 2008, this picture is less positive.

Strengths Weaknesses
  • Sustained population growth in Northern Ireland and the Border Region since the early 1990s
  • Increasing productivity in Northern Ireland and the Border Region
  • Strong growth in employment in Northern Ireland and the Border Region and declining unemployment. Both areas
  • are now below the EU15 average for unemployment levels
  • 100% broadband availability in Northern Ireland
  • High quality natural landscapes and environment in Northern Ireland and the Border Region and endowment of natural resources
  • A strong natural renewable energy resource
  • Relatively high levels of enterprise and entrepreneurship in Ireland
  • Strong cultural linkages between Northern Ireland and the Border Region
  • Productivity (as measured by GVA per employee) is below EU15 or national levels in both Northern Ireland and the Border Region
  • Narrow economic base given continuing dependence on agriculture and traditional manufacturing industries. Relatively small private sector in Northern Ireland and overdependence on the public sector
  • Long-term unemployment has been a persistent problem in Northern Ireland and the Border Region and remains higher pared to the national averages (UK and Ireland)
  • Lower levels of the population in Northern Ireland and the Border Region trained to third level education compared to the national averages (UK and Ireland)
  • Levels of enterprise and entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland and Scotland are below the UK average
  • Lack of programme business networking between Northern Ireland and Ireland
  • Lower broadband penetration in Northern Ireland and Ireland compared to the UK and EU15
  • Lack of adequate broadband infrastructure in the Border Region of Ireland
  • Low utilisation of renewable energy and recycling in Northern Ireland and Ireland compared to EU 25 and EU15
  • Distortion of networks and movement due to land and maritime borders which has impacted on economic and social linkages, e.g. limited transport and infrastructure and restricted operation of the labour market
  • Different policy approaches have made it difficult to address the common problems of Border Regions
  • Peripheral location of the region, particularly Donegal,
  • and associated problems of remoteness and accessibility
  • Areas of low population density and scattered island communities which impact on efficient service delivery
  • Underdeveloped regional scientific research system in the Border Region of Ireland.
Opportunities Threats
  • Continued strong economic growth in Ireland and sustained growth in the UK
  • Increasing numbers of students attending third level education and growth in female participation rate in the labour market in the Border Region
  • Developing tourism economy in Northern Ireland and potential to build on the strengths of tourism in the Border Region
  • Sharing best practice and creating synergies on a programme basis
  • Development of the unique natural assets and natural resources of the region to support sustainable development, including the promotion of renewable energies
  • Building on programme linkages, capacity and skills resource base established under INTERREG Programmes and potential to work together to address common economic, social and environmental problems
  • Stability arising from continued developments in the peace process encouraging economic development (e.g. attracting inward investment) and improved cross-community and programme linkages
  • Increased competition from low cost producers in Eastern Europe and the Far East
  • Future employment in the EU will be concentrated on knowledge intensive sectors in which the economy of the eligible area is relatively weak
  • Continued macro-economic stability of UK and Irish economies cannot be taken for granted; Inflation in Ireland, for example, leading to growing competitive pressures from other regions/Member States
  • Continuing ‘brain drain’ from Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland
  • Increasingly competitive tourism market
  • Lack of political stability
  • Perceived barriers to programme working such as currency and tax
  • Exploitation of natural resources and assets leading to unsustainable development
  • The potential for climate change to impact negatively on patterns of economic activity and the natural environment

Governance / institutionalisation of cross border co-operation within the region:

Degree of co-operation:

The ‘Good Friday’ or ‘Belfast Agreement’, was signed on 10 April 1998.The Agreement restored devolved government to Northern Ireland on an inclusive power-sharing basis and was subsequently endorsed by voters in Ireland, North and South, in referendums in May 1998. ‘Strand 2’ of the Agreement deals with North-South arrangements and provides for the creation of a North-South Ministerial Council and North-South Implementation Bodies.

Areas of Co-operation

In each of the six Areas of Co-operation common policies and approaches are agreed in the North South Ministerial Council but implemented separately in each jurisdiction. Each of the six Areas of Co-operation

  • Agriculture: Common Agricultural Policy issues, Animal and Plant Health Policy and Research and Rural Development.
  • Education: Education for children with special needs, educational under-achievement, teacher qualifications and school, youth and teacher exchanges.
  • Environment: Environmental protection, pollution, water quality management and waste management in a cross-border context
  • Health: Accident and emergency planning, co-operation on high technology equipment, cancer research and health promotion.
  • Tourism: The promotion of the island of Ireland overseas as a tourist destination via the establishment of a new company, known as Tourism Ireland.
  • Transport: Co-operation on strategic transport planning including road and rail infrastructure and public transport services and road and rail safety

North South Implementation Bodies

Each of the six North South Bodies, operates on an all-island basis. While having a clear operational remit, all operate under the overall policy direction of the North South Ministerial Council, with clear accountability lines back to the Council and to the Oireachtas and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Bodies and a summary of their main functions are set out as follows:

  • Waterways Ireland: Responsibility for the management, maintenance, development and restoration of specified inland navigable waterways principally for recreational purposes.
  • Food Safety Promotion Board: The promotion of food safety research into food safety, communication of food alerts, surveillance of food borne disease, promotion of scientific co-operation and laboratory linkages, and development of cost-effective facilities for specialised laboratory testing.
  • Trade and Business Development Body (InterTradeIreland): The promotion of trade and business on an all-island and cross-border basis and the enhancement of the global competitiveness of the all-island economy to the mutual benefit of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  • Special European Union Programmes Body: Managerial and oversight functions in relation to EU programmes including PEACE III and INTERREG IVA.
  • The Language Body/An Foras Teanga/North-South Body o Leid (consisting of two agencies ie. Foras na Gaeilge and Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch): Foras na Gaeilge is responsible for the promotion of the Irish Language throughout the island and Tha Boord o Ulster-Scotch is responsible for promoting the study, conservation, development, and use of the Ulster-Scots as a living language: to encourage and develop the full range of its attendant culture;and to promote an understanding of the history of the Ulster-Scots.
  • Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission (consisting of two Agencies ie. The Loughs Agency and Lights Agency): The Loughs Agency has responsibility for the promotion and development of Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough for commercial and recreational purposes in respect of marine , fishery and aquaculture matters. It was intended that the Lights Agency, when established, would replace the Commissioners of Irish Lights as the General Lighthouse Authority for Ireland. However, given the complexities that have arisen in terms of pursuing such a transfer of functions, the matter is under review at present.

The North South Bodies are jointly funded by the two Administrations, North and South and staffed by a combination of civil servants and directly recruited staff. The functions of three of the Bodies, InterTradeIreland, the North South Language Body and the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission, are exercised by Boards of Management appointed by the NSMC. The Food Safety Promotion Board has an Advisory Board, also appointed by the NSMC, and the functions of the Body are exercised by the Chief Executive. The remaining two Bodies, Waterways Ireland and the Special European Union Programmes Body, do not have Boards, and the functions of the Body are exercised by the Chief Executive.

North South Consultative Forum

At its Plenary in June 2002, the North South Ministerial Council agreed an outline structure for a North/South Consultative Forum allowing for a twice yearly conference alternating between north and south, comprising representatives of civil society, north and south. The Irish Government has in the meantime facilitated three consultative conferences with the participation of social partners and other civil society groups from across the island. However, the North South Conssultative Forum has not yet been established.

North South Parliamentary Forum

Agreement to establish a North South Parliamentary Forum is a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Oireachtas respectively. Both the Oireachtas and the Northern Assembly have established working groups to progress discussions on the establishment of a North South Parliamentary Forum and a joint meeting of the Working Groups was held in June 2010 to discuss a joint Conference proposed for early October; meanwhile officials from both Legislatures will continue to meet.

PEACE III Local Authority-led Clusters

The PEACE III Programme focuses on two strategic objectives: Priority 1: Reconciling Communities; and  Priority 2: Contributing to a Shared Society. Under Priority 1, Reconciling Communities, there are two themes: Theme 1.1 – Building Positive Relations at the Local Level and Theme 1.2 – Acknowledging and Dealing with the Past. Theme 1.1 Building Positive Relations at the Local Level aims ‘to challenge attitudes towards sectarianism and racism and support conflict resolution and mediation at the local community level.  The Priority also aims to establish meaningful cross-community and cross-border initiatives that will improve trust and tolerance, and reduce levels of sectarianism and racism’. Local Councils in Northern Ireland have formed themselves into eight clusters and play a much more strategic part in the delivery of PEACE III. The six County Councils in the Border Region of Ireland have the same role. Working in partnership with communities, they have developed local Peace and Reconciliation Action Plans. Each of these action plans is required to include some cross-border activities.

Cross-Border Networks

There are three cross-border networks joining local authorities in the two jurisdictions to work on common agendas for economic and social development. They also work with other partners to deliver programmes of action. The cross-border networks are funded mainly under the INTERREG programme.

Northern Ireland partners Republic of Ireland partners
The Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN) Armagh City & District Council
Cookstown District Council
Dungannon & South Tyrone Borough Council
Fermanagh District Council
Omagh District Council
Cavan County CouncilDonegal County Council
Leitrim County Council
Monaghan County Council
Sligo County Council
North West Region Cross Border Group. Derry City Council
Limavady Borough Council
Strabane District Council
Magherafelt District Council
Donegal County Council
East Border Region  Newry and Mourne  District Council
Down District Council
Banbridge District Council
Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council
Ards Borough Council
North Down Borough Council
Louth  County Council
Monaghan County Council
Meath County Council

Newry-Dundalk Memorandum of Understanding

In March 2011, Louth local authorities and Newry and Mourne District Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding that commits the authorities to strengthen and promote the social, cultural and economic links within their combined local authority districts. The agreement represents an “entirely new form of regional governance above and beyond traditional local and central government structures” and establishes new precedents for other regions in Ireland and Europe. By signing up to the agreement, the local authorities which include Newry and Mourne District Council, and Louth local authorities incorporating Dundalk, Ardee and Drogheda town councils agree to strengthening existing co-operation and further development of activities under a number of themes including: emergency planning; renewable energy and green technology; tourism and recreation; sustainable economic growth; and job creation.  Furthermore the authorities will commit to develop joint policies and actions in areas of mutual interest to increase efficiency and delivery of services and will work together towards improving cross border co-operation.  The alliance will be driven by a joint committee of elected members from the region, supported by a joint senior management team comprising of Chief Executive, County Manager, and the Directors of the participating authorities.  An advisory forum will also be created which will incorporate representatives from local industry, commerce, and the voluntary sector throughout the region. CCBS’s sister organisation, International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD), which has worked closely with these councils as part of its CrosPlan project (one of the projects funded through CCBS’s INICCO project) played a key role in conceiving and enabling this co-operation.

Main Developers and drivers of cross border co-operation:

There are two key public policy ‘drivers’ for cross border co-operation programmes on the island of Ireland: the European Union’s Territorial Cohesion Policy  and the imperative for cross border co-operation that is contained in the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.The Common Chapter (in the National Development Plan NDP for Ireland and the Structural Funds Plan for Northern Ireland) put in place a framework for increased co-operation between both economies and across all sectors over the Structural Funds programming period 2000-2006. It identified that for the island of Ireland, cross-border co-operation has three key dimensions:

  • co-operation along the Border Corridor and between Northern Ireland and the Border Counties of Ireland;
  • co-operation North-South within the island of Ireland; and
  • co-operation East-West between the island of Ireland and Great Britain, Europe and internationally.

The NI Executive and Assembly, and with them the meetings of the North South Ministerial Council, were suspended between 2002 and 2006. There was not, therefore, an agreed Common Chapter for the 2007-2013 period. The National Development Plan for the Republic does contain an extensive chapter on “All-Island Co-operation”. The Plan includes a comprehensive statement of future Government policy on North/South cooperation, stressing however, that this policy statement is “of course subject to discussion and agreement with the Northern Ireland authorities.” However, the NI Assembly’s Programme for Government contains only a single paragraph on  “Linkages: North/South and East/West”. The Programme documents for the European Structural Funds programmes do all contain positive statements about North South Co-operation.

The “All-Island Co-operation” chapter of the National Development Plan 2007-2013 sets out in detail a range of existing and planned North/South projects that have been agreed with the current Northern Ireland administration and are being implemented. The document notes that significant developments in North/South co-operation have been effected at the level of local authorities, non-governmental organisations, the voluntary, community and business sectors and by central government. It says that the employer, trade union and social partner organisations, North and South, have also made an important contribution to the formulation of policy on developing North/South and East West co-operation.

It sets out proposals for Irish Government investment in North/South projects and initiatives that the Irish Government wishes to agree and implement these with the British Government and a restored Northern Ireland Executive in the period 2007-2013. Key Areas for Co-operation identified are:  Infrastructure provision and spatial planning; Science, technology and innovation; Trade, tourism and investment; Human capital; Enterprise promotion; The provision of public services (health and education); Environment; Agriculture and fisheries; Sport, culture and heritage; and Social inclusion.

Much of the considerable cross-border cooperation involving local government and civil society organisations takes place within the framework and with funding from the European Territorial Cooperation programmes (INTERREG and PEACE) that have contributed approximately €10 billion to the regional economy since 1994.  One of the six cross-border implementation bodies established under the Agreement is the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), which is the Managing Authority and JTS for INTERREG and PEACE.

The IBEC-CBI Joint Business Council is the voice of business on the island of Ireland working in collaboration with its member companies and strategic partners to sustain and develop trade and economic co-operation on the island of Ireland.   The most recent strategic review for the period 2007-2013 identified a new mission and role for the JBC: Providing a single business voice for the island of Ireland in policy formulation; Providing a challenge function to public sector policy, including Government and state agencies, where there is an all island dimension of interest to both business communities; Providing a high level all island business network and acting as a bridge to greater mutual understanding and as a means of increasing North South business flows; Providing strategic leadership around global business and competitiveness issues from an all island perspective; Deepening the JBC remit beyond the east coast corridor and also building on JBC work to date on strengthening the East-West dimension; Facilitating mutual understanding and development of partnerships between SME’s north and south. This project is part-financed by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund through the INTERREG IVA Cross-border Programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Congress is the largest civil society organisation on the island of Ireland, representing and campaigning on behalf of some 832,000 working people. There are currently 55 unions affiliated to Congress, north and south of the border. While the Irish Congress of Trade Unions represents trade union members in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland, the Northern Ireland Office is responsible for all issues affecting nearly 250,000 members in 36 unions in Northern Ireland. There is on-going co-operation between the Northern Office and Congress Head Office, particularly on issues relating to peace work i.e , anti-sectarianism or intimidation campaigns, and, in more recent time on issues developing North-South Economic Co-operation.

The Irish Council of Churches

The fourteen member churches are currently: The Antiochian Orthodox Church, The Church of Ireland, The Greek Orthodox Church in Britain and Ireland, The LifeLink Network of Churches, The Lutheran Church in Ireland, The Methodist Church in Ireland, The Moravian Church (Irish District), The Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, The Religious Society of Friends, The Rock of Ages Cherubim and Seraphim Church, The Romanian Orthodox Church in Ireland, The Russian Orthodox Church in Ireland, The Salvation Army (Ireland Division). Its mandate covers the whole island and continues to reflect the All-Ireland focus of most of its member churches.

International Fund for Ireland

The International Fund for Ireland was established as an independent international organisation by the British and Irish Governments in 1986. With contributions from the United States of America, the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the total resources committed to the Fund to date amount to £628m / €753m, funding over 5,800 projects across the island of Ireland.  The Fund focuses its efforts in Northern Ireland and the southern border counties of Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo. The Board of the Fund is appointed jointly by the British and Irish Governments. It is assisted by an Advisory Committee comprised of senior officials appointed by the two Governments. The administration of the Fund is provided by a Secretariat, headed by Joint Directors General based in Belfast and Dublin. A range of bodies including government departments act as managing agents for the Fund. In addition, the Fund has engaged the services of a team of Development Officers, located across the southern border counties, who act as local contact points for the Fund and assist prospective applicants to identify and develop proposals. They also monitor the ongoing operation of projects, providing assistance as necessary.

In 2006 the Fund’s five-year strategy, Sharing this Space, was launched as a final phase of activity to promote peace-building and reconciliation in Ireland.

Cooperation Ireland

Co-operation Ireland is the leading peace-building charity on the island of Ireland. Its mission is to ‘advance mutual understanding and respect by promoting practical co-operation between the people of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland‘. Programmes involve linking groups in the following areas and sectors: Schools and universities; Youth and community groups; Local authorities; Media; Local and central government; Businesses and business networking/training organisations

Institute of Public Health in Ireland

The Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) promotes cooperation for public health on the island of Ireland. IPH has three key areas of work: 1) Strengthening public health intelligence, which has included:  dissemination of health intelligence through Ireland and Northern Ireland’s Population Health Observatory (INIsPHO); analysis of causes of death across Ireland over a 10 year period from 1989-1998. 2) Building public health capacity, which has included:  promotion of healthier public policy through the use of Health Impact Assessment (HIA);  development of an all-Ireland leadership programme that has trained and developed a network of leaders to work collaboratively to tackle health inequalities. 3) Policy and programme development, and evaluation, which has included:  supporting the implementation of a range of policies aimed at tackling health inequalities; establishment of a Public Health Policy Centre that develops policy papers which analyse health inequality issues and presents recommendations for action; supporting the development of cross-agency partnerships working to improving health and tackle health inequalities and development of a partnerships evaluation tool (PET) to support this work; membership of key research and advisory groups working to combat health inequalities. The Institute is also involved in a number of ventures including a new all-Ireland initiative to provide a mechanism for greater collaboration among researchers on ageing. The Centre for Ageing Research Development in Ireland (CARDI) is hosted by the Institute.  The Institute is funded by the Department of Health and Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) in Northern Ireland and the Department of Health and Children (DOHC) in Ireland.

Cross border project funding characteristics:

The majority of cross-border cooperation (including some cooperation between government departments north and south, is funded under the EU Structural Funds, and in particular, through the ETCs (to which the two governments contribute 25%). Northern Ireland, an Objective 1 region in transition in 2000-2006, does not qualify under the Convergence Objective but receives funding under the Competitiveness and Employment, and Co-operation Objectives for the 2007-2013 programming period. Similarly, Ireland receives funding under the Competitiveness and Employment, and Co-operation Objectives with the Border, Midlands and Western Region, qualifying for funding as a “phasing in” region. PEACE[8]and INTERREG Programmes are both funded under the European Territorial Co-operation objective and cross border co-operation is integral to both their rationale and implementation.  

EU Structural Fund Programmes in Northern Ireland and Ireland, 2007-2013

   Programme    Structural Fund Objective EU Funding Allocation € million(allowing for indexation)   Funding Instrument

Northern Ireland

Competitiveness Regional Competitivenessand Employment


Employment Regional Competitivenessand Employment




Regional Programme South & Eastern Regional Competitivenessand Employment


Regional ProgrammeBMW Regional Competitivenessand Employment


Employment Regional Competitivenessand Employment



Northern Ireland and the Border Region

Programme for Peace and ReconciliationIreland–Northern Ireland European TerritorialCo-operation


Territorial Co-operation,Northern Ireland, the Border Region and West Coast of Scotland European TerritorialCo-operation



Thematic focus:

Universities Ireland

The nine universities on the island of Ireland established Universities Ireland in 2003, a new ‘umbrella’ body to promote co-operation and collaboration among universities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and to enhance their reputations internationally. Its designated work areas include: Research projects to improve North-South inter-university co-operation, e.g. on the harmonisation of regulations ; Conferences on matters of common interest to universities on the island, e.g. e-learning; Work on ‘branding’ the Irish universities abroad, and improving the island of Ireland’s profile in the international student recruitment market; Development of university-industry links, technology and research transfer on an ‘island of Ireland’ basis; and Staff development and training issues. Universities Ireland is funded by an annual levy paid by the nine universities, and by grants from the Department of Education and Science in Dublin, the Department for Employment and Learning in Belfast and InterTradeIreland. The Council of Universities Ireland consists of the nine university presidents, with representatives from the Department of Education and Science, the Department for Employment and Learning and InterTradeIreland present as observers. The secretariat of the body is provided by the Centre for Cross Border Studies.


SCoTENS brings together 38 colleges of education, university education departments, teaching councils, curriculum councils, education trade unions and education centres on the island of Ireland with a responsibility for and interest in teacher education. It has been involved in supporting a wide range of research, conference and exchange projects since it was founded in 2003.  Over 50 research projects have been seed-funded during that time: including on Special Educational Needs, continuing professional development, English as an Additional Language, the inclusion of newcomer and ethnic minority children, citizenship education, educational research, ICT and digital video in education, young children’s identities, social justice education, developing reflective skills, art and science education, physical education, autism, archiving education documents, religious education, Irish medium education, maths education, literacy and peer mentoring. SCoTENS also sponsors the North/South Student Teacher Exchange project, now in its sixth year, which brings student teachers from Dublin and Limerick to do a key part of their assessed teaching practice in Belfast schools, and Belfast student teachers to do the same in Dublin and Limerick. The SCoTENS secretariat is provided by the Centre for Cross Border Studies.

Major Projects in the cross border region:

Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT)

Cooperation And Working Together (CAWT) is a partnership between the Health and Social Care Services in Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland, which facilitates cross border collaborative working in health and social care. CAWT’s mission is to improve the health and well being of the border populations, by working across boundaries and jurisdictions. CAWT provides a forum for senior managers from the two health services to come together on a range of common issues relevant to their service areas via cross border sub groups. In addition to their main roles and responsibilities within their respective organisations, each member commits time and expertise to cross border activity. These sub groups plan practical activities including research, feasibility studies, needs assessment and pilot initiatives to improve cross border services. The sub groups have initiated and developed over forty cross border projects to date, many of which have been successful in attracting European Union funding via the INTERREG IIIA and PEACE II programmes. CAWT’s primary programme of work is to deliver the European Union INTERREG IVA Priority 2, Theme 1, “Putting patients, clients and their families first” on behalf of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland and the Department of Health and Children, Republic of Ireland. The projects have been categorised into five strategic themes; Acute Hospital Services, Primary, Community and Continuing Care (PCCC), Mental Health, Population Health and Disability.

Strategic Transport Planning

Transport is one of the six Areas of Cooperation under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council. The Irish Government is committed to making available a contribution of £400m/€580m to help fund major roads programmes providing dual carriageway standard on routes within Northern Ireland serving the North West Gateway and on the eastern seaboard corridor from Belfast to Larne. The A8 road project from Belfast to Larne will be taken forward by the Northern Ireland Executive and its agencies. The A5 route serving the North West Gateway will be taken forward in line with funding and accountability, planning, management and delivery arrangements agreed between the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. The management structure for the A5 project comprises a Cross Border Steering Group, Technical Group and dedicated Roads Service Project Team. The Irish Government provided €9 million in 2009 for the A5 road project in Northern Ireland.[9]

A number of other strategic cross border transport projects are in progress or have been delivered including an upgrading of the Dublin to Belfast road link; restoration of cross border bridges (many of which were made impassable during the conflict); and shared financing of the City of Derry Airport.

Current challenges for co-operation

A major constraint on cross-border cooperation is the lack of political will on the part of Unionist politicians in the Northern Ireland (i.e. those from political parties that support the continued political union with the United Kingdom) to proactively engage in cross-border cooperation beyond that which is clearly required by the 1998 Agreement. This has been compounded by continuing  confusion about and delays in the implementation of the Review of Public Administration in Northern Ireland that has prevented the streamlining of local authorities and other public bodies.As noted above, the deepening recession and the related public expenditure cuts and pressures on civil servants have created a climate in which cross-border cooperation is perceived as an expendable luxury, rather than part of the solution to common problems and decreasing resources.

While there are different barriers to cooperation in specific thematic areas, a common problem is the lack of comparable data and information exchange.

Future cross border co-operation

It is unlikely that there will be a Peace IV programme, but an INTERREG programme of a similar size to the 2007-2013 programme is expected. It is not yet clear what the new programme will prioritise. Co-operation at governmental level will continue under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council., although austerity measures suggest that it is unlikely that there will be significant major projects funded from either the Irish national budget or by the Northern Ireland Executive. Some civil society initiatives and cooperation among local authorities will continue with INTERREG funding.

[1] Brusset, E., Buchanan-Smith, M., Hainsworth, M. and McGearty, S. Peacebuilding and Reconciliation Across the Border: Evaluation of the Peace and Reconciliation Impact of the Cross Border Measures 5.3 and 5.4 of the Peace II Programme 2000-2006, Cross Border Consortium, 2007.

[2] EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation 2007 – 2013 – PEACE III. Northern Ireland and theBorder Region of Ireland Operational Programme.

[3]“ 25% jump in cross-Border shopping – survey,”  Irish Times, 26 October, 2009.

[4] “Pricewatch”, Irish Times, 3 December 2008.

[5] “UK VAT rise ‘further nail in coffin of cross-border shopping”, Irish Examiner, 22 June 2010.

[6] “Southern shoppers no longer flock north,” Belfast Telegraph, 6 August 2010.

[7] Comprehensive Study on the All-Island Economy

[8] EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation 2007 – 2013 – PEACE III. Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland Operational Programme.

[9] Department of Transport Annual Report 2009, Dublin.