focus on supports for the border region, particularly in relation to the impact that Brexit will have on the area.

Deputy Smyth was speaking at a meeting of the Oireachtas Rural and Community Development Committee earlier this week.  The meeting heard from representatives from the Centre for Cross Border Studies.

Deputy Smyth commented, “Having grown up and lived in a border county all of my life, I have an acute understanding of the complex needs of communities in this region.  There are towns and villages, north and south of the border, which have been badly scarred by sectarian violence, but which through the work of the various cross-border and cross-community agencies are now thriving.

“The work of these bodies cannot be underestimated and a huge debt of gratitude is owed to the European Union, which part funded much of their work, through peace funding and Interreg funding.  The region is barely recognisable from the place that I grew up in.

“Despite all of the initiatives, incentives and great work which has been undertaken over the past 20 years, we are now facing an extremely testing time.  Brexit will not be good for any community, business or industry, and the paralysis of the Stormont assembly is unforgiveable at a time of such uncertainty.  The government here is grappling with a series of national crises and put simply, there is no one flying the flag for the border region.

“There is a massive gap in services – we need to see more investment in infrastructure and connectivity – in road, rail and broadband projects.  Unless serious progress is made on these key issues, the border region will continue to lag behind economically and socially.

“Communities on both sides of the border do not want to see a return to times past, but without a focussed effort on supports and investment, that is exactly what will happen.  I will be continuing to press the government here to wake up to the threats facing border areas and to start listening to and investing in those communities”.