Political North-South co-operation has not improved, study shows

Survey finds 69% of respondents do not feel there is enough information on protocol

 A pedestrian walks past a billboard in west Belfast. File photograph: Paul Faith / AFP

A pedestrian walks past a billboard in west Belfast. File photograph: Paul Faith / AFP


Political North-South co-operation has not improved, the latest report from the Centre for Cross Border Studies shows.

A survey of adults completed by the centre last month found that 36 per cent said the conditions for political cross-border collaboration had deteriorated since the previous quarter.

The Centre for Cross Border Studies is an independent charitable institution that “fosters and promotes co-operation on a North-South and East-West basis” and was founded in 1999.

Its latest report contains data collected via a survey of 61 self-selected respondents between September 17th and 30th. Of the respondents, 38 per cent were based in the Republic and 53 per cent based in Northern Ireland with 10 per cent having a presence on both sides of the border.

When asked whether they believe that the political, social, regulatory, and material contexts for cross-border collaboration have changed over the last quarter, 54 per cent said the political context for cross-border co-operation has stayed more or less the same, with 36 per cent saying it has deteriorated and only 5 per cent saying it has improved.

When asked to expand on their experiences of the impact of Brexit and the Northern Ireland protocol on the political context for collaboration, respondents primarily pointed to “politicking” having a negative impact on conditions for collaboration and inhibiting the ability for co-operation.

One of the respondents said: “It is a frustrating game play for party political gain for the most part - while the work at Government level between the two governments continues but while the context hasn’t changed its impact is waning as people find their own solutions to real-time issues and move on.”

Another respondent wrote: “There isn’t a political drive for more collaborative dialogue and certainly our main political parties do not lead by example. It appears that the onus (and presence) is on Civil Society to facilitate dialogue.”

However, some respondents reported increased co-operation and engagement from political parties.

“The majority of political parties seem open to collaboration, however that doesn’t often reach media headlines which often skews public perception,” a respondent said.

When asked about their knowledge of the Northern Ireland protocol, 69 per cent of respondents reported that they do not feel there is enough information on the protocol available to those involved in cross-border (North-South and/or East-West) co-operation activities compared to 15 per cent who feel that there is.

However, 16 per cent said they feel “very informed” about the protocol and 61 per cent feel somewhat informed, with the press and social media being one of the primary sources of information.

Dr Anthony Soares, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies, said he was “increasingly concerned” that there has been no improvement in the political conditions for North-South co-operation since the centre’s previous findings in July.

“Whilst it is expected that co-operation may dwindle occasionally, it is alarming that co-operation has stagnated during a period when we need it most. Co-operation across these islands is the only solution to the problems we face,” Dr Soares said.

“I believe we can improve the political conditions for co-operation across these islands, but this can only be done through honest and respectful dialogue between all parties to deal with the sensitivities surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol.”