06 April 2005

Daily Ireland

Border areas a ‘cold house’

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The Southern Border counties were a cold house for thousands of republicans who had fled the North during the Troubles, according to a landmark research report.
The new research, entitled The Emerald Curtain, was launched yesterday at a conference in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan.
The report found that about 2,000 Northern ex-prisoners and about 2,000 Southern ex-prisoners settled along the Border with their families.
Brian Harvey, one of the project’s researchers, told Daily Ireland yesterday: “They were received like many immigrants are received today — as troublemakers.
“This group continues to face difficulty in accessing employment due to both legal and illegal discrimination. Many found themselves in poverty, cut off from society.
“Our report recommends that they be targeted in the national action against poverty strategy.
“We have also found that many of the republicans’ children have experienced real problems of identity.”
Researchers Brian Harvey, Assumpta Kelly, Seán McGearty and Sonya Murray have called for additional government expenditure in areas such as health, transport, and community and social services. Several key issues were discussed at a conference after the launch of the report and had a positive response.
The researchers took the town of Clones in Co Monaghan as an example of a community affected by the division through the economic war and split with sterling.
“Clones used to be the most prosperous town in the area before partition severed it from its economic heartland of Fermanagh and the Erne Valley,” Mr Harvey said.
“Between the 1911 census and the 1952 census, Co Monaghan went from being regarded as a prosperous area to being termed ‘disadvantaged’.”
The report also looks at a range of issues, including the effects the Border had on women, and the Southern Protestant community since partition.
Speaking to Daily Ireland about the effects of the Border on women, Mr Harvey said: “With road closures along the Border, the Ulster economy was split in two, and the counties on each side of the Border became peripheral to the decision-making process and the area was left underdeveloped.
“As a consequence of this, women stayed in the home as this is a feature of underdevelopment.”
The study has also found that the Southern Protestant community has been adversely affected by the presence of the Border.
Mr Harvey said: “Some of them felt that their identity is not respected. For example, there has been no Orange Order march in Monaghan since the 1930s. I also had an opportunity to visit Orange halls in Monaghan and they have all had to have their windows barricaded up.”
The study found that there was a need for more cross-Border political co-operation.
“While politicians from the area do work together, the people living in the Border areas do not have a strong political body to represent them,” said Mr Harvey.
The report recommended the establishment of a North-South civic forum, as proposed in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and also by the draft agreement of December 2004 between the British and Irish governments, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin.

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