19 August 2005

Border areas in need of a cash boost

Belfast Telegraph

By Michael McHugh
19 August 2005

The IRA's order to dump arms should prompt an end to the economic neglect of border areas, public representatives have said.

Large parts of the border region have been starved of outside investment due to security fears and a lack of proper infrastructure - but now the head of an influential cross-border lobby group says it is time for change.

The Irish Cross Border Area Network (ICBAN) promotes development and co-operation between ten cross-border counties from Donegal to Armagh and former chairman, Fergus McQuillan from Fermanagh, believes last month's IRA statement could prove the catalyst for much-needed investment in roads, public transport and other services.

He was echoing recent calls by the Bishop of Clogher, Dr Joseph Duffy, for an end to economic cross-border neglect after commitments made in the IRA statement.

"It is now time for people to focus on this issue of economic deprivation in the border areas and how we can bring about change," Mr McQuillan said.

"There are issues about public transport, how people travel to Derry or Belfast for health services or other amenities, the whole situation about provision for rural areas.

"We don't have the road structure here and they took away the railway line so we are under-provided for."

Mr McQuillan, who sits on Fermanagh District Council, said the tourist potential of the region had been neglected in the past but added now is the chance to exploit the area's many attractions. Councils west of the Bann have been lobbying central government about the state of the roads for some time and believe that they are discouraging investors.

The Government is dualling the link between Dungannon and Ballygawley and using 2+1 schemes to enable traffic to proceed more smoothly on other routes. Fermanagh public representatives are also alarmed at proposals which could see the local council amalgamated with other local authorities, arguing that this would dilute local representation.

A recent study by the Combat Poverty Agency in the Republic found the poverty rate in Donegal to be three times higher than Dublin.

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