EU gives £8m to fund park crossing Northern Ireland border

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
The River Foyle, which marks the border between Ireland on the right and Northern Ireland on the left. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/ Reuters

The European Union has announced that it will provide almost €9m (£7.98m) in funding for a 30-acre park that will cross the Northern Ireland border.

The Riverine project, which is designed to increase cross-border understanding, will stretch from Strabane, a town in west Tyrone, to Lifford, a town in the neighbouring county of Donegal.

The money comes from a €270m pot of funding that was created by the EU in 2014 to support peace and reconciliation projects in both Northern Ireland and the counties in Ireland that sit along the seamless border.

Some €9m will also be provided by Ireland’s rural and community development department, and Northern Ireland’s communities department.

Gina McIntyre, from the EU body that awards the funding, noted that the project would create a “shared space which citizens can enjoy together, irrespective of their background.”

The money will be used to build a pavilion building, outdoor wetland and park space, cross-border pathways, and a pedestrian footbridge that will span the River Foyle.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Michaela Boyle said that the project could be a “real catalyst for transformation” and said that it would “further strengthen” cross-border links.

The Northern Ireland border, which currently has no visible infrastructure, has come into sharp focus in the Brexit debate.

The UK has been forced to delay its departure from the European Union as a result of disagreements about the backstop that is designed to prevent the occurence of a hard border.

Both Ireland and the European Union fear that the emergence of a hard border would disrupt the peace and stability seen on the island of Ireland since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Before the signing of the agreement, clashes between paramilitary loyalists and republicans — known simply as the Troubles — took the lives of around 3,600 people.

The EU’s “Peace” programme, where the funding for the Riverine project comes from, was created in 1994 as a “positive response” to paramilitary ceasefires in Northern Ireland.

“Whilst significant progress has been made since then, there remains a need to improve cross-community relations and where possible further integrate divided communities,” the website for the project notes.