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Strategy Framework Document: Reunification through Planned Integration: Sinn Féin's All Ireland Agenda

15 October, 2003


  • An Introduction: Social, Economic and Spatial Inequality – A Question of Human Rights
  • The Rationale: Developing Integrated Area Plans for the Border Corridor
  • The Policy Context: Matching Areas of Need with Relevant Funding Priorities
  • The Pooling of Sovereignty: Promoting a Cross-Border Multi-Agency Approach for the Development of Integrated Area Plans
  • The Need for Training: Understanding and Promoting Sustainable Integration
  • Participation and the Stakeholder Process: Ensuring those who experience Poverty and Social Exclusion participate in the development process
  • Conclusion: Developing ‘a Community’ to Eliminate Deprivation and Promote Reintegration
  • Appendix 1: An Explanatory Framework for Addressing Attitudinal and Systemic Constraints

An Introduction: Social, Economic and Spatial Inequality – A Question of Human Rights

“…we declare that the nations sovereignty extends not only to all the men and women of the nation, but to all its material possessions, the Nations soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth producing processes within the Nation and with him we affirm that all right to private property must be subordinate to the public right and welfare.” (Democratic Programme of the First Dáil 1919)

This affirmation has yet to be realised.

The material resources of the nation have not only been amputated and stunted by partition; but remain unfairly distributed, with the right to private property and enterprise superseding public right and welfare.

Nowhere is this more evident than within operational commitments of regional and spatial development strategies North and South.

Within these strategies it is the market place that determines the allocation of resources. The very same forces that create wealth create poverty and inequality.

Wealth creation on this island is concentrated within the largest cities, more specifically Dublin and Belfast. Development and growth using this model is reliant on the radial expansion (often uncontrolled) of the metropolis and will always be accompanied by impoverishment of the periphery – as can be seen in the historic neglect and stagnation of the Border Corridor.

The discrimination that has underpinned regional development in Ireland is compounded and stimulated by the existence of the border.

Social, economic and spatial deprivation brought about by the dislocating resonance of the border impacts detrimentally on the life chances of the people who live adjacent to it. In individual and communal terms this represents a denial of human rights.

Therefore strategies that seek to redress social, economic and spatial inequality along the Border Corridor must recognise this relationship and work from that premise. Integrated Area Plans that promote integration and participation on the basis of equality puts the needs of the people before private capital.

The Rationale: Developing Integrated Area Plans for the Border Corridor
The Proclamation of the Republic declares

“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all it citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious to differences fostered by an alien government” (Proclamation of the Republic, 1916)

This principle has yet to be realised.

The communities within those counties along the Border are interdependent and suffer from similar types of social, economic, and spatial deprivation.

It must be recognised at the outset that insular regional development will not work.

Republicans have always insisted that Partition and by extension the existence of the Border has distorted the political, social and economic life of the people of Ireland. However the functional reality of the Border is that it impedes development and impacts detrimentally on the quality of life of those communities and businesses sited adjacent to it.

The Border is an artificial construct and has been independently acknowledged as an impediment to the social and economic development in that geographical area.(1)

Life in the Border Corridor is defined by low wage culture, high unemployment, low educational attainment, the debilitating duality of services and service providers, poor roads, inadequate transport systems, insufficient energy supply and ICT (broadband) networking, and undeveloped environmental opportunities. In fact 68 per cent of the wealth created in the 6 Counties and the 26 Counties in 1998, was located in the Belfast and Dublin areas.(2)

The diffusion of wealth, economic opportunity, administrative control and social development is clearly influenced by spatial regionalism that is blatantly discriminatory and represents a denial of human rights.

In this regard - it is of paramount importance that the strategies we put in place seek to tackle and eliminate these historical imbalances.

The promotion of self-contained regional development is at variance with the commitments within ‘the Common Chapter’ and the rationale, measures and priorities of the European Unions INTERREG III fund.

Only co-ordinated integration that creates common systems, mechanisms of delivery for services and programme work will deliver the balanced development needed for the people that live within the Border Corridor. As such the most appropriate frameworks for regional development are Integrated Area Plans.

Integrated Area Plans should be developed in each of the three border corridor zones (North West, Central and Eastern) and should take account of the interdependent relationships between the social, economic, environmental and the spatial in a dynamic and mutually reinforcing way.

The developmental logic that informs the Integrated Area Plans is based on the premise that it is simply not good enough to promote a purely economic driven process at the expense of a social or spatial initiative to the detriment of the environment. All of these essential considerations are interlinked and cannot be divorced one from another – and so the regional development framework must be an integrated one.

In terms of geographical remit ‘Integration’ as a regional development concept must be considered in relation to all counties within the corridor area given the shared experience of deprivation between the communities that live adjacent to the border.

The Integrated Area Plans are best informed and needs orientated if all the stakeholders (the social partners and target constituencies) are involved at all stages of development on the basis of equality – this is the fundamental premise of real participation. There is a need for change in the development of the border corridor that is both integrative and participative. The foundation stones for the realisation of both these imperatives have already been laid in specific policy commitments and relevant funding conditions.

The Policy Context: Matching Areas of Need with Relevant Funding Priorities
Within a regional policy context both spatial strategies recognise the need to develop the border corridor on a collective basis. Also in the 6 counties and the 26 counties the respective development plans explicitly state the centrality of participative and needs based - community regeneration and social inclusion initiatives.(3)

Both strategies share a ‘Common Chapter’ that highlights the fact that within the context of North South Co-operation it is recognised that the areas immediately adjacent to the border are some of the most disadvantaged areas of the North and South.(4)

The ‘Common Chapter’ makes very specific time bound commitments in relation to cross-border co-operation and integration of services and infrastructure in the following areas:

  • Energy
  • Communications and Electronic Commerce
  • Human Resource Development
  • Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Tourism
  • Transport
  • Environment
  • Education
  • Health

This list should not be considered exhaustive as there are many more areas of informal co-operation.

The ‘Common Chapter’ also states that the primary fund for addressing this and other issues of ‘Cross-Border Co-operation’ will be the EU Community Initiative Programme – INTERREG III.(5)The Governments, in the 6 counties and 26 counties, gave a clear commitment to use INTERREG III to promote ‘a framework for an integrated approach to common problems, which should create opportunities for genuine and practical benefits.’ (6) The geographical remit of INTERREG includes those counties that interface with the border or are considered to be in a border area, such as county Sligo. INTERREG as an independent fund - views the existence of the border as an impediment to social and economic development.(7) INTERREG states that:

“The Rationale for the INTERREG Programme is, ultimately, that the eligible area suffer disadvantage as a result of the existence of the border. In particular, it has been noted that the border areas of both jurisdictions remain relatively disadvantaged and are still characterised by relatively high unemployment, low incomes, an over-dependence on agriculture, a low level of industrial activity and an over-dependence on declining manufacturing activity […]

In general, borders can constrain economic activity by limiting market areas, preventing optimal allocation of resources and preventing competition. The N.Ireland/Ireland Border has certainly thus affected economic relationships in the past. [the border] remains a social and psychological barrier which is an impediment to the exchange of ideas and information and a barrier to effective co-operation and the development of effective local policies/strategies.[…]

The economic weaknesses of the Border area are characteristic of rural areas outside the dynamic growth centres on the island…Moreover, the existence of the border is an obstacle to the remediation of economic problems.” (8)

The prime directives of INTERREG are to facilitate the creation of intensive systemic integration (social, economic and spatial) along transnational border regions within the EU.(9)

The border in Ireland is considered transnational and therefore eligible for all three strands of the INTERREG fund. Only networks, projects and systems that are fully integrative can be funded under INTERREG.

Many types of initiatives that promote social, economic and spatial development on an integrative basis within the border corridor can be funded under the priorities of INTERREG III (A, B & C).

The socio-economic conditions, relevant policy contexts and associated funds exist to facilitate the development of Integrated Area plans for the Border Corridor.

How then can we make sure that the various departments within the local structures of Governance buy into participation on the basis of equality and integration given their hierarchical methods of working?

If the integrated area plans are to be participative and premised on intense integration then local government and other stakeholders are going to have to become comfortable with working in a cross border ‘power-sharing’ environment.

The Pooling of Sovereignty: Promoting a Cross-Border Multi-Agency Approach for the Development of Integrated Area Plans
Because of the inter-jurisdictional complexity of deprivation along the border, regional and local government councils and departments cannot work in isolation from each other or the social partners and so the strategic response in developing and implementing Integrated area plans need to be cross-border and multi-agency.

In this regard the Cross-Border Multi-Agency approach will require a ‘pooling of sovereignty’ on issues of departmental remit locally and regionally (North South) in order to comprehensively address the requisite levels of social, economic and spatial integration - fulfilling the strategic aims of the Integrated Area Plans for the border corridor.

In practical terms this means dynamic inter-sectoral and inter-departmental co-operation between:

  • Local and Regional authorities/government departments,
  • Local and Regional authorities/government on a cross-border basis,
  • Local and Regional authorities/government and other stakeholders including the community and voluntary sector,
  • Dedicated cross-border agencies such as, the INTERREG III partnerships and other Implementing Bodies (IB’s) and SEUPB, (10)
  • The three Cross-Border Corridor Groups and attending secretariats.

While it should be recognised that the development d reps and social partners.

Sinn Féin fully recognises the systemic impediments for the comprehensive implementation of INTERREG and we will work with others to ensure social, economic and spatial impacts of this fund are maximised.

However, the Cross-Border Corridor Groups are strategically positioned to play a pivotal role in the process of tackling deprivation. Their powers and relationships with the social partners, government departments, local council and all-Ireland bodies can ‘potentially’ transform the scope of integrated development, delivery and decision making for the benefit of all the communities living adjacent to the border

The Cross-Border Corridor Groups should build on the co-operative relationships developed through the INTERREG IIIa partnerships – fostering sectoral and spatial integration, facilitating balanced regionalism and economic enterprises that have progressive social impacts.

Participative association for the integrated development of the region is the best way forward.
The developmental capacity and skills of the Cross-Border Corridor Groups should be supplemented and enhanced. The creation of an EU exchange programme on balanced integration and social-inclusion to allow the members to network, learn and impart best practice with contemporaries in other EU border groups should be developed.

The Cross-Border Corridor Groups and the social partners need to be given an even more strategic role in the criteria for setting, ring fencing, allocation and distribution of EU and Central funds. Decentralising the process and locating decision-making to promote balanced integration at the heart of a participative democratic framework along the border corridor.

The Need for Training: Understanding and Promoting Sustainable Integration
Securing the commitment to the idea of developing Integrated Area Plans for the border corridor from Local Government and the various Government departments is critical to ensure the initiative gets off the ground at the outset. The development process for the Integrated Area Plans, as previously indicated, should be participative involving all the stakeholders.

The difficulties that this type of process will have for Local Government civil servants and council workers especially at a department head or management level, in order for it to be overcome, should not be underestimated.

It should not be assumed by the community and voluntary sector or by Sinn Féin that inclusive participation (on the basis of Equality) will be an easy concept and working methodology for Council and Government Officials to grasp and feel comfortable with.

Neither should it be assumed that Council Officials or the other pillars of social partnership would have an advanced working knowledge of the principles and functional objectives of Cross-Border Integration.

Both regions have highly centralised government, in spite of the attempts at developing social partnership approaches. The very nature of Local Government in both the 6 and 26 Counties (especially under periods of direct rule in the north) is one of hierarchical structures with delineated remits that have little scope or experience of inter-departmentalism never mind the potential of cross-border participative processes to promote systemic integration.

The stylised and rigid local and regional government frameworks are not the fault of those who labour within them but the responsibility of elected politicians in positions of executive power.

Those involved in the drafting and implementation of the integrated area plans must be given the support and training needed to fulfil their operational requirements and mandates as integral stakeholders in the development process.

The training should focus on the need to address attitudinal problems and systemic constraints/impediments developing responsive and flexible working methodologies that will allow them to work in concert with the community and voluntary sector (urban/rural), business and others on the basis of equality. In a development process defined by – the identification of real needs, inclusive participation, intensive integration (social, economic and spatial).(11)

In relation to long term capacity building and creating a sustainable culture of participation and need for integration – ‘laying all your eggs in one basket’ will not suffice.

Local authority/government departments frequently send one staff member to training workshops with the intention of using this person as a conduit for training needs for the whole department/organisation. While this approach is better than nothing it is by no means satisfactory and can facilitate a capacity crisis should the person leave their post for another job.

Training schemes need to involve participants from a broader catchment including heads of department. Training needs to include ongoing support and continuing skills development. The impact of skills acquisition on work methodology and outputs should be monitored and steps taken to adjust training programmes to ensure more effective results.(12)

Participation and the Stakeholder Process: Ensuring those who experience Poverty and Social Exclusion participate in the development process
Opportunities for participation for the poor and socially excluded in the policy development process that will affect them are few and far between. In relation to the ethical advancement and practical implementation of Integrated Area Plans for the border corridor those sections of our community that are living in poverty and/or socially marginalised must be directly and sensitively consulted.

Building an inclusive community for reunification also means ensuring that the voices of the most marginalised are heard and acted upon.

Sinn Féin believes that those in poverty and the groups that advocate on their behalf are better placed than anybody to vitally contribute to the reconstructive shaping of support services that address their needs within the context of anti-poverty and social inclusion strategy for the border corridor.

In many instances communities living in poverty can be experienced in negotiating services and explaining physical (infrastructural), financial, and social constraints. However, they may not have extensive familiarity with participatory processes; either through lack of knowledge or lack of practical opportunity. This lack of opportunity to participate is no longer acceptable from a human rights perspective as well as from a practical policy development perspective.

Poverty and deprivation represent first and foremost a fundamental denial of human rights. The needs of the poor and socially excluded must be assessed.

Actual Needs Identification is critical to the development of Integrated Area Plans that will have tangible benefits for the poor and socially excluded living within the border corridor.

Commitments to processes that are participative and needs based to tackle poverty and social exclusion have been openly affirmed within the regional development strategies of the 6 counties and 26 counties.(13) Participatory Needs Assessments will involve direct engagement between target constituencies, and service providers to discern actual and not perceived need and could be defined by the following criteria:(14)

  • Mapping the Characteristics of Poverty and Social Exclusion along the Border Corridor
  • Identifying the Specific Needs and Priorities in Local Neighbourhoods and Localities (urban/rural)
  • Identifying the Specific Needs of Vulnerable and Marginalised Groups
  • Mapping the Connections between Gender Inequality and Poverty (Urban and Rural) and Identifying Needs
  • Mapping and Assessing the Impact of Spatial Deprivation within the Border Corridor.

Who are the participants - the Stakeholders?
In order to facilitate Participatory Needs Assessments, which will become the backbone of the primary data collated, we must first identify the ‘stakeholders’.(15) This can be done simply by pulling together a focus group that includes regional and local strategic development partnerships as well as regional anti-poverty groups and representatives of the three Cross-Border Corridor Groups. The identification of a comprehensive profile of stakeholders is an essential first step for the development of Integrated Area Plans that meet the actual needs of a broad range of groups adversely affected by poverty and social exclusion.

For example key stakeholders include the following:(16)

  • Constituencies experiencing poverty and social exclusion: the homeless, small farmers, older people (urban/rural), women (urban/rural), single parents, people with disabilities, ex-POW’s, unemployed, people suffering from mental illness, ethnic minorities, asylum seekers and refugee’s etc.
  • Local Government/Authorities
  • Political Reps
  • Trade Unions
  • Other Social Partners (employers and farming and fishing groups)
  • Policy Makers
  • Anti-Poverty Groups (regional and local)
  • Local Strategic Partnerships
  • Community Development Partnerships
  • Community Groups
  • Schools
  • Health Boards
  • Education Boards
  • Housing Associations/Authorities/Executive
  • Other Statutory and non-Statutory Organisations

After identification of the 'stakeholders' who will be engaged in participatory bodies, the development process needs to move onto the establishment of Participative Fora. This process can be managed through a range of stakeholder seminars that can be constructed within an agreed time frame and should be held on a sectoral (target constituency) and collective basis.

In the first instance the stakeholder seminars can be used to introduce and mainstream the idea of promoting anti-poverty and social inclusion initiatives as part of a wider process balanced integration and regeneration along the border corridor.

The stakeholder seminars could then agree key definitions, principles, aims and objectives and terms of reference for research to develop a coherent data profile on social, economic and spatial deprivation within the border corridor. Developing these features is crucial to facilitate mutually beneficial working relationships between the stakeholders.

The stakeholder seminars should be seen as a useful vehicle to access primary data and promote constructive working relationships. Building awareness of the extent of poverty, and developing a common analysis that ascertains why poverty levels in the Border regions are so high, and how disadvantage has come about, is integral to the process of developing Integrated Area Plans that will tackle real need.

The composition of the stakeholder groups should act as a central point of contact – helping to indicate what relevant studies have been already carried out in this field (local, municipal, regional). Because the geographical area is cross-border there will be dissonance and lack of uniformity in some areas of information provision. This incongruence should be seen as an opportunity to fill the gaps in the data profile.

The data collated in this regard should be both quantitative and qualitative developing a more holistic picture of the material conditions and quality of life consequences of social, economic and spatial injustice. Data collation using these considerations helps to not only highlight the extent of social, economic and spatial deprivation but also links in shared experiences and by extension the interdependent features of peripheralisation. This can help fill the gaps between the two different systems of measuring poverty based on the premise that poverty is a human experience not merely a mathematical calculation.

Ultimately the seminars can be used as a mechanism to develop more substantial and enduring spaces for participation on integrated policy development and implementation along the border corridor.(17)

As part ‘Creating Community for Reintegration’ and promoting an ‘Ireland of Equals’ Sinn Féin wants to see the development of co-operative platforms that will emancipate the poor and socially excluded on the basis of equality – pushing the ‘stakeholder’ seminar process to its developmental conclusion by creating permanent co-operative platforms for social and economic development and integration along the border corridor promotes that imperative.

Conclusion: Developing ‘a Community’ to Eliminate Deprivation and Promote Reintegration
Sinn Féin is committed to the elimination of poverty and deprivation on the island of Ireland. We feel that a meaningful approach to eliminating poverty will, by necessity, have to adopt a human rights based approach and draw all sectors of Irish society closer together. In a very real sense, there is an unbreakable link between the eradication of poverty and inequality and the full self-determination and democratisation in our society.

It is of critical importance that social partners recognise the infrastructural debility created by the border and engage in a broad campaign for rational approaches to integrated cross-border development and planning. In terms of balanced regional development on a 32 county basis - if the geographical areas that incorporate the border corridor are socially, economically and spatially interdependent – so too are the adjoining regions that interface with the border corridor.

The development of the Integrated Area Plans for the border corridor can facilitate the construction of a framework that is multi-agency and seeks to break patterns of regional peripherality from the ground up – interfacing more prosperous areas (Eastern Seaboard) with less prosperous areas (Border Corridor, West and South West) in a balanced and mutually beneficial developmental framework for the island as a whole.

Ultimately, the generation of the Integrated Area Plans will require partnership and inclusive participation. This process will necessitate dialogue with the requisite stakeholders in a process of sustained engagement – this strategy document is part of that engagement. We all have a responsibility to ensure that the long term patterns of regional discrimination experienced by the communities living in the border area is eradicated – this can only be achieved through the pragmatic integration of social, economic and spatial networks
Given the comparable and interdependent nature of deprivation within the border corridor we believe that this strategy document presents a logic for integrated regional development that everyone irrespective of social or political grouping can invest in.

(1) INTERREG III, Programme 2000-2006, Ireland/Northern Ireland Operational Programme, pp.53-54
(2) Indicative Area Plan for the North West, Community Worker Co-operative/North West Community Network, 1999, p. 6
(3)See ‘National’ Development Plan 2000-2006, promoting social inclusion, chapter 10, p.188 and the Northern Ireland Structural Funds Plan, 2000-2006, Chapter 7, Priorities 2,3 and 5
(4) ‘National’ Development Plan 2000-2006, ‘the Common Chapter’ (9.20), p. 180
(5) Ibid, p.180
(6) Ibid.
(7) INTERREG III Programme 2000-2006, Ireland/Northern Ireland Operational Programme, SWOT Analysis, pp. 53-54
(8) INTERREG III Programme 2000-2006, Ireland/Northern Ireland Operational Programme, SWOT Analysis, pp. 53-54
(9) See INTERREG IIIB, North West Europe, Programme Complement, pp. 13-15
(10) As outlined in the ‘Common Chapter’ the SEUPB will act as the overall management authority for INTERREG III and also be responsible for the monitoring and promoting the implementation of the “Common Chapter”, see ‘National’ Development Plan 2000-2006, ‘the Common Chapter’, (9.52, 9.53) p. 186
(11) See Appendix 1 An Explanatory Framework for Addressing Attitudinal, Systemic Constraints, adopted from Janelle Plummers, Municipalities and Community Participation: A Source Book for Capacity Building, p. 116, 1999, Earthscan Publications Ltd
(12) Capacity building training programmes to help create and sustain integration can be funded through INTERREG III – development officers within the Border Corridor Groups would be best placed to identify the most appropriate measure.
(13) Northern Ireland Structural Funds Plan 2000 –2006, pp. 52-53 and ‘National’ Development Plan 2000-2006, p. 196
(14) See Janelle Plummers Municipalities and Community Participation: A Source Book for Capacity Building, pp. 29-31, 1999, Earthscan Publications Ltd
(15) See Community Worker Co-operatives Developing Methodologies and Strategies to Combat Social Exclusion, p. 41, 2000.
(16) The above mentioned list is not exhaustive.
(17) These spaces could be developed into co-operative platforms within a two-tier system based on a mutually negotiated separation of power and jurisdictions with one tier acting as strategic collective (umbrella/regional) while the second tier would be more sectoral (thematic/cross-border) and grassroots.  Both tiers should operate on the basis of equality not authority.

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