A cross-border programme aimed at stimulating the border economy and improving co-operation between the Republic and the North has benefited from EU funding to the tune of €152m over the past five years.
Irish businesses north and south of the border had a multi-million euro boost from the Interreg programme since 2011, through projects organised and run by partner organisations.
The Interreg series of five programmes dating back to 1989 are funded by the European Regional Development Fund and open to all EU member states.
There are 54 public bodies involved in 40 projects across areas such as research and development in Ireland, with €152.31m in EU funding advanced to initiatives in the border region in the past five years.
Overall responsibility falls to the Special European Union Programmes Body, a North-South body established under the Good Friday Agreement.
The figures were revealed by public expenditure and reform minister Paschal Donohoe in a Dáil reply to Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Michael McGrath.
“The objective of the Interreg IVA Programme was to support strategic cross-border co-operation for a more prosperous and sustainable region.
Eighty eight projects were funded under the programme, which covered the border region of Ireland, Northern Ireland and western Scotland and had a total budget of €256m,” Mr Donohoe said.
Mr Donohoe went on to confirm that close to 60% of that funding was allocated to North-South projects. The funding was supplemented by matched funding of €18m from the Irish Government.
Including member state contributions, Interreg funding between 2014 and 2020 will be worth €283m to the region, he said.
Mr McGrath’s query as to the amount of funding the EU has provided to North-South projects comes as increased scrutiny is placed on the border region in the aftermath of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
Government and business bodies North and South of the border have sought to forge closer ties after the decision although efforts by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to establish an all-island forum on the impact of Brexit seemed to run aground when the North’s first minister Arlene Foster said the forum was not discussed at a North-South ministerial meeting on Monday.
However, business representative bodies Chambers Ireland and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry signalled their intention to improve co-operation between their organisations on the same day.
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