February 20, 2006

Chairman’s letter to the Irish Times

North/South CO-OPERATION

In a letter to the Editor of the Irish Times 20 February 2006

Madam, – Your Editorial of February 14th asserts that North/South co-operation in Ireland has been “relatively stagnant” since the Belfast Agreement was suspended – “aside from the six stand-alone institutions set up in certain sectors”.

This may be true of inter-governmental co-operation, but it is certainly not true of the hundreds of non-governmental initiatives which continue, often with the help of EU funding, to build practical co-operation for mutual benefit across the Irish Border.

Prominent among these is the Centre for Cross Border Studies, based in Armagh. The energy and innovation in this sector can be gauged from a snapshot of the centre’s activities over the past 12 months:
Studying public services for migrant workers on both sides of the Border; organising exchanges between primary schoolchildren for joint environmental studies and between trainee teachers for cross-Border teaching practice; organising conferences on cross-Border waste management, multiculturalism in education, science and citizenship, and information provision; running training courses for civil servants from both jurisdictions on North/South co-operation; setting up the Forum for Sustainable Communities to link housing and community development specialists from North and South; bringing the nine universities together for joint projects on development co-operation, technology transfer and business-university collaboration; preparing a new research journal, the Journal of Cross Border Studies in Ireland, to be launched next month; and compiling the first comprehensive publicly accessible database of cross-Border and North/South information, Border Ireland, which will be launched by the Minister of Finance, Mr Cowen, also next month.

This is very far from a picture of stagnation. Under the frozen political surface, there is still a ferment of activity aimed at bringing reconciliation through practical co-operation between the ordinary people of the two parts of this island. – Yours, etc,

CHRIS GIBSON, Chairman, Centre for Cross Border Studies, Abbey Street, Armagh.

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