Ireland/Northern Ireland Cross-border Cooperation Observatory (INICCO)

Between February 2009 and March 2012 the Centre undertook five major new research, development, training and information projects supported by the EU cross-border programme INTERREG IVA. These have been packaged under the collective title: the Ireland-Northern Ireland Cross-Border Cooperation Observatory (INICCO). The five constituent projects were as follows:

1. BORDER PEOPLE CROSS-BORDER MOBILITY INFORMATION WEBSITE (PHASE TWO)

This is the second phase (2009-2012) of the Border People (www.borderpeople.info) information website, being developed in a continuing partnership with the North/South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat. This project is led by the Centre for Cross Border Studies’ IT manager, Joe Shiels, and information officer, Annmarie O’Kane.

The website provides citizens information for people crossing the border to live, work, study or retire. It provides information on cross-border taxation, social security, job seeking, qualifications, health, education, housing, banking and telecommunications. In 2011 the website received a monthly average of 6,880 unique visitors, 7,531 visits and 15,836 page views.

During 2011 two Border People User Group meetings were organised in Monaghan and Letterkenny in collaboration with the IBEC-CBI Joint Business Council under the title ‘Developing your Cross-Border Business.’ At a seminar in Dublin in November 2010, the international lawyer and expert on EU mobility issues (and the Irish representative on the European Network on Free Movement within the EU), John Handoll, said:

In my practice and research into free movement issues, the Border People website has become an essential tool. More importantly, its clear and user-friendly design allows citizens on both sides of the border to access up-to-date information on key topics. It has evolved over time in response to citizens’ needs and has become a first port of call for those seeking to understand their rights.

Phase Two has allowed for a much more systematic dissemination and marketing of information and public feedback on cross-border mobility issues, assisted by an active and enlarged User Group drawn from a range of citizens advice, employment advice, local authority, business and community organisations. Performance is being reviewed against agreed targets for information content, along with regular statistical website reports to evaluate demand and usage. A regular survey tests whether the interests of users are being matched and how well the various website features are working. 92% of users in a 2010 survey said that they  ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement that Border People is ‘an important and valuable resource’ for people living and working in the Irish border region.

Phase Three of Border People was submitted as part of the INICCO Phase 2 INTERREG funding application in May 2012 for the period 2013-2015. It will include a programme of training and capacity building to prepare the existing citizens advice bodies, Citizens Advice NI and the Citizens Information Board (RoI), to integrate the Border People service into their mainstream provision after 2015; and research into patterns and issues of mobility across the Irish border.

The Steering Group for this project is drawn from the North South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat, the Centre for Cross Border Studies, the Department of Finance and Personnel (NI), the Department of Social and Family Affairs (RoI), Citizens Advice Northern Ireland, Citizens Information Board (RoI), and the Eures Cross-border Partnership. User group meetings on specific topics of concern to cross-border workers and other interested people are organised every six months at a location in the border region.

2. THE CROSS-BORDER SPATIAL PLANNING AND TRAINING NETWORK (CroSPlaN)

This network, organised by the Centre’s sister organisation, the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD), brings together an  alliance  (CroSPLaN) of planners, economic development officers, local authority officials, councillors, and community and business interests on both sides of the border to promote more systematic learning and exchange in planning.

CroSPlaN’s  three year (2009-2012) programme consists of the following:

  • Six applied research projects. These have been on the inter-jurisdictional planning implications of the NI Review of Public Administration and on tri-national planning in the Basel region of Switzerland, Germany and France (Year 1); river basin management and spatial planning in Connecticut (USA) and the Elbe basin (Germany), and in Ireland’s cross-border region (Year 2); and shared services in Scotland, Spain, Canada and New York State, and examples drawing mainly on the Irish cross-border region (Year 3).
  • One executive training programme per year for cross-border region local councillors, council officials and business leaders. The first course, in the Louth-Newry and Mourne region, ran from November 2009 to May 2010; the second, in the North West, ran from October 2010 to March 2011; the third, in the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN) region, ran from October to December 2011.
  • One technical workshop per year
  • One annual conference

During this time ICLRD have also used the CroSPlaN programme to produce – with partners such as the the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) and the All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO) at NUI Maynooth – a significant number of other innovative outputs, including an all-island Accessibility Mapping Tool; an all-island Housing Monitoring Tool; and all-island Deprivation Index; and an all-island Spatial Monitoring Framework.

The Steering Group for CroSPlaN brings together planners, planning academics, cross-border cooperation specialists and cross-border local authority network representatives from the Planning Service (NI), the Border Region Authority (RoI), Leitrim County Council, the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) at NUI Maynooth, University of Ulster, the Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN), the Centre for Cross Border Studies and the ICLRD.

Further information is available from the ICLRD’s website at www.iclrd.org

3. EXPLORING THE POTENTIAL FOR CROSS-BORDER HOSPITAL SERVICES IN THE BORDER REGION

This project led to the publication of two reports on how cross-border hospital services might help to provide  mutual benefits for the people of the Irish order region.

The first of these, carried out by CCBS Deputy Director Ruth Taillon, was published in October 2010 under the title Exploring the Potential for Cross-Border Hospital Services in the Irish Border Region: The role of community involvement in planning hospital services.

This report featured feedback from 11 focus groups in the border region and a range of patients and medical professionals. Case studies of service users and campaigning community groups in three areas were undertaken: cancer care in the North-West; cystic fibrosis in the two jurisdictions; and the campaign for a hospital in Omagh. Among the recommendations were that Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) concepts in hospital planning should be properly implemented; service users from both jurisdictions should be involved in the planning of new services at Altnagelvin (Derry/Londonderry) and Enniskillen hospitals; and service users should have full information about their entitlement to services in the other jurisdiction.

The second report was Unlocking the Potential of Cross-border Hospital Planning on the Island of Ireland: A Prototype Modelling Framework, by Shane McQuillan and Vanya Sargent of the Dublin consultancy firm Horwath Bastow Charleton. This report was launched in Belfast on 15 December 2011 (at a North South Research Forum meeting) by Tom Daly, Director General of Cooperation and Working Together (CAWT) and Dean Sullivan, Director of Planning and Performance at the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

The report concluded that while there are significant barriers to the development of cross-border acute healthcare, these can be ‘worked around’ where it makes sense for  improved patient services to do so. The study analysed five sample clinical service areas where there is potential for cross-border collaboration: orthopaedic surgery, ENT surgery, paediatric cardiac surgery, cystic fibrosis and acute mental health services. It also produced a prototype modelling framework for cross-border acute healthcare services, incorporating both qualitative and quantitative factors, to help plan the development of such services. The report also noted that the new South West Acute hospital in Enniskillen offered a ‘significant opportunity’ for cross-border service provision.

The report was published in the same week as the Compton Review into health and social care in Northern Ireland, which suggested a number of cross-border initiatives, including specialist paediatric services to be provided to Northern patients by Southern hospitals, and patients from the South, particularly along the border, being treated for some cancers in Northern hospitals.

Both these reports are available on  the Centre’s website (www.crossborder.ie).

The Steering Group for this project brought together health and cross-border cooperation specialists together from the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, the Health Research Board (RoI), the Health Service Executive (RoI)(observer), Cooperation and Working Together (CAWT), the Irish Patients Association, the Patient Client Council (NI), the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs (observer), the Centre for Cross Border Studies and the University of Warwick.

4. REVIVING THE BORDER REGION ECONOMY IN A NEW ERA OF PEACE AND DEVOLVED GOVERNMENT

The final report of this research project – Cross-Border Economic Renewal: Re-thinking Regional Policy in Ireland – was launched on 30 March 2012. The aim of its package of four closely inter-related studies is to find ways of understanding and increasing the accessibility, size, transparency, competitiveness and profitability of Irish border region markets in a context where peace and normality have finally arrived in Northern Ireland and the Irish Border Region, but have been followed by a deep economic recession. This overall project – in which the Centre is partnered by InterTradeIreland – was carried out by Dr John Bradley, formerly a research professor at the Economic and Research Institute in Dublin and Professor Michael Best of the Universities of Massachusetts (Lowell) and Cambridge, an international authority on industrial development strategies and regional innovation systems. They also collaborated – for comparative purposes – with experts from the Polish (Lower Silesia) and German (Saxony and Brandenburg) border regions.

The focus of this project was on the specific economy of the peripheral and disadvantaged region straddling the Irish border. In particular, it examined the productive aspects of that region, i.e. the characteristics and performance of the set of businesses that operate in the border counties – whether they behaved differently to other, non-border counties that otherwise shared many similar characteristics; and to what extent was the presence of the now peaceful border a help or hindrance to their activities.

The project was carried out in three stages:

  1. The researchers first examined the ‘island’ context of the border region economy, since this determines much of what happens in the region. They looked at its peripherality within the British Isles and on the island of Ireland and its uniqueness as a peripheral region with the added burden of a ‘border-related policy fault line.’
  2. They then moved on to identifying and describing the structure and characteristics of the border region economy from an ‘outside’ perspective, using official, published data sources.They examined the nature of its consumer markets, its production activities and its tourism product.
  3. The final and most innovative stage was an attempt to communicate with and learn from local policy makers and actors (including local manufacturers) in the border region and to try to see the border economy from an ‘inside’ perspective. This included a series of detailed investigations of a range of specific enterprises in the region, in manufacturing and services. There was a concluding examination of the positive and/or negative roles played by the border as a policy barrier with the aim of understanding how this region might be reincorporated into the mainstream of island economic and business life (and how its political, administrative and business leaders might implement policies that address its exceptional challenges).

At an ‘emerging findings’ conference in Cavan on 17-18 November 2011, a number of prominent economists and industrialists from Ireland, Scotland and Germany addressed these issues The closing address was given by Padraic White, Chair of the Louth Economic Forum and formerly Managing Director of IDA Ireland, who proposed the formation of a ‘Strategic Development Plan for the Border Zone’ with support from elected mayors and council chairs and county managers and district council chief executives on both sides of the border.

In May 2012, the Centre submitted a proposal for a follow-up research project into the potential of a Strategic Development Plan for the Border Zone, as outlined by Padraic White, as part of its INICCO Phase 2 application package to the 2013-2015 INTERREG IVA programme.

The Steering Group for this project brings together economists, industrial promotion practitioners and cross-border cooperation specialists from InterTradeIreland, the Department of Enterprise,Trade and Investment (NI), Invest Northern Ireland, Forfás (RoI), the Economic and Social Research Institute (RoI), the Centre for Cross Border Studies and University of Ulster.

6. IMPACT ASSESSMENT TOOLKIT FOR CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION IN IRELAND

As part of the integrative work of a cross-border observatory, the Centre has devised and developed an Impact Assessment Toolkit (IAT) for practical, mutually beneficial cross-border cooperation in Ireland. This highly innovative toolkit – the first of its kind in the European Union – is designed to guide policy-makers and EU funders (and to be of particular assistance to the Special EU Programmes Body in Ireland) in thinking through the impact assessment process, assisting them in designing better quality cross-border programmes and projects. Impact assessment has been used particularly in the health and environmental sectors in Ireland, North and South, and widely in the European Union, but not until now in cross-border cooperation.

While the toolkit has been developed specifically for use in Northern Ireland and the Irish border counties, it is intended that the methodology it uses can be adapted to other cross-border regions in Europe. The toolkit breaks new ground in that it offers an integrated process that takes into account social, economic and environmental impacts (the three EU ‘pillars’ of sustainable development), plus a fourth ‘cooperation’ pillar that will identify and capture impacts specific to cross-border cooperation in Ireland.

In the past EU-funded cross-border programme and project promoters have often found it difficult to demonstrate impact: i.e. the changes that have taken place as a result of the activities undertaken. The Impact Assessment Toolkit for Cross-Border Cooperation can help to define and clarify the extent to which a programme or project is likely to contribute to the desired changes. Many problems of Northern Ireland and the Irish border region do not respect jurisdictional boundaries. The toolkit will help to determine whether a cross-border approach is the appropriate level of intervention and, if so, to identify the ‘added value’ of such cooperation.

For example: Will a cross-border approach be more efficient and/or effective than a single jurisdiction approach? Are the proposed activities expected to have a greater overall impact – socially, economically or environmentally – if undertaken on a cross-border basis than separately within each jurisdiction? Or, by addressing problems of the cross-border territory through a collaborative approach, will additional impacts result specifically from the cooperation process? For example, will new relationships be built between people or organisations that would not have developed otherwise? Will the cross-border activities lead to new ways of working or more intensive collaboration that would not have been the case if they had been carried out separately?

The toolkit was launched at a conference in Cavan on 27-28 October  by Dr José Antonio Ruiz de Casas of DG Regional Policy (DG REGIO) in Brussels. There has been an extraordinarily positive reaction to the toolkit, and Ruth Taillon has made presentations on it to a wide range of EU, public and community organisations. Among these have been the EU’s territorial cooperation programmes training agency INTERACT (separate presentations in Valencia, Brussels and Rome); the Northern Ireland ESF Programme ‘Innovation and Mainstreaming Working Group’; the NI Regional European Forum (staff of key organisations involved in EU programmes); the Community Relations Council NI Evaluation Advisory Panel and the Community Workers Coop. The Toolkit is now available on the SEUPB, INTERACT and CCBS websites.

Most significantly, the  SEUPB completely redesigned its INTERREG IVA application form for the January 2012 public sector collaboration ‘call’ to incorporate the toolkit’s methodology (using the same questions as those outlined in the toolkit). Ruth addressed SEUPB workshops in Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland for applicants to this round of the INTERREG IVA programme. The new Victims and Survivors Service for Northern Ireland has also been planned using the toolkit’s methodology.

A first pilot training course in IAT took on 17-18 January with six projects (ConneXions, Cavan County Council, Proteus, Blackwater Partnership, Community Workers Coop and Women into Public Life). A second training course was held in March specifically for EU programme implementation bodies. The Scottish National Contact Point for INTERREG, Cooperation and Working Together/HSE and Proteus have all expressed interest in the training course.

Further training and mentoring, using the toolkit, are key elements in the INICCO Phase 2 funding application which was submitted by the Centre and ICLRD in May 2012. This application also contains complementary evaluation and budget toolkits. There are also plans for the Transfronter Euro-Institut Network (TEIN) of cross-border training institutes and university departments in nine European border regions to work together to adapt the toolkit for other border regions.

This project was implemented by a team comprising Centre for Cross Border Studies Deputy Director Ruth Taillon; Director of the Euro-Institute in Kehl, Germany, Dr Joachim Beck, an advisor to the European Commission on cross-border cooperation and impact assessment; and, as research assistant, Sebastian Rihm, formerly a postgraduate student at the Universities of Kehl and Ludwigsburg, who came to Armagh for six months in 2010-11 to work on the project as an intern, and now works for the Euro-Institut.

The project Steering Group is drawn from the Special EU Programmes Body, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), Cooperation Ireland, INCORE International Conflict Research Institute (University of Ulster), Pobal, Institute of Public Health in Ireland, Northern Ireland Commission for Victims and Survivors, International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) and the Centre for Cross Border Studies.

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