6 Jul 2017, 16.28

The North of Ireland should be given special status after Brexit to allow both jurisdictions in Ireland to operate under the same European Union rules, according to a report from the Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural & Gaeltacht.

The report follows a visit by a delegation from the Committee to Athboy, Co Meath and Bailieborough, Co Cavan as part of its hearings on ‘The future of community, social and economic development and co-operation in border counties’ and ‘What it takes to sustain a viable rural community’.

The Joint Committee agreed to send a delegation to meet with representatives from the towns of Athboy, County Meath and Castlepollard County Westmeath at a meeting in Athboy and to meet with representatives from the towns of Bailieborough, County Cavan and Carrickmacross, County Monaghan at a meeting in Bailieborough.

Among the report’s recommendations in relation to the future of community, social and economic development and co-operation in borders areas, which the meeting in Bailieborough identified were:

•    To maintain intact the current access to markets across Ireland;

•    To secure certain protections for border communities on both sides of the border against the imposition of a hard border through the middle of these communities;

•    To obtain a special status for the North of Ireland to allow both jurisdictions in Ireland to operate under the same European Union rules;

•    To proactively take advantage of any potential opportunities that arise as a result of the British exit from the European Union;

•    To encourage cross-county co-operation, to pool resources and to promote specialisation on a regional level;

•    To develop a cross-border tourism product;

Among the specific needs in small towns and rural and border areas which the meetings in Athboy and Bailieborough identified were:

•    To tackle ongoing depopulation trends;

•    To invest in transport infrastructure, to open up ease of ingress and egress to and from these communities and to provide greater mobility within these communities;

•    To improve the quality of broadband provided and the quality of the mobile telephone service available;

•    To protect the interests of local industries such as farming, food-processing and tourism and to ensure that they are not negatively impinged upon by other industries;

•    To incentivise young people’s involvement in farming and other rural-based industries, including the provision of succession-planning strategies;

•    To encourage rural businesses to set up online shops and to encourage people who shopped online to support these local rural businesses;

•    To develop outreach programmes and build links between rural areas and third level institutions;

•    To tackle the excessive costs faced by local voluntary groups – for example, the cost of insurance;

•    To encourage greater consultation between Government Departments and agencies and rural communities;

•    To utilise all State-owned vacant and derelict buildings to the benefit of local communities;

•    To simplify administrative procedures and reduce red tape in the application processes for the various schemes;

•    To scrutinise and revise administrative boundaries that are obsolete and no longer relevant;

•    To provide adequate services to children and adults with special needs;

•    To ensure that access to services that are not provided directly in rural areas is facilitated for people living in rural areas;

•    To address the issue of fly-tipping and to reverse the prohibition on local authorities naming and shaming people who have been convicted of fly-tipping;

Cathaoirleach of the Committee Peadar Tóibín said: “The Committee agreed, as part of its hearings on ‘What it takes to sustain a viable rural community’ and ‘The future of community, social and economic development and co-operation in border counties’, to send a delegation to engage with representative groups and individuals in four rural areas that would be representative of rural areas around the country and the border region.

“We were delighted to have this opportunity to engage with local and border communities in County Cavan, County Meath, County Monaghan and County Westmeath; both in terms of what is happening in these communities themselves and as communities that are representative of rural and border communities across Ireland.

“The meetings provided the Committee with a practical and hands-on aspect to its two projects and facilitated us in including evidence gathered on the ground. The delegation found the open and frank discussion we engaged in most helpful in formulating our ideas and in bringing back the information gathered to the Joint Committee and this will help inform our final reports.”  

Read the report here.

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