My Unsung Cooperation Heroes of 2009

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] Cross-border cooperation in Ireland is not exactly trendy. Much of it involves the painstaking building of trust and relationships, often as a pre-requisite to working on practical joint projects. Almost by definition, such mundane, ‘under the radar’ work rarely gets a mention in the media. It’s probably just as well, since …

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Civil Servants and EU Officials are Peacebuilders too

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] On 13th December 1999 a long line of black Mercedes snaked across the border into Armagh for the first meeting of the new North/South Ministerial Council set up by the Good Friday Agreement the previous year to oversee the new cross-border ‘Strand Two’ institutions established by that Agreement. There to meet …

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The man with the cross-border knowledge in his head

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] Gary McIntyre is a solicitor who works as an advice worker with Citizens Advice Northern Ireland in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh. For the past six years he has been employed by Borderwise, a cross-border partnership between Citizens Advice NI and the Citizens Information Board (Republic of Ireland) which was set up with …

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Time to bring in the French to run the Enterprise?

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] I make no apologies for returning to one of my pet subjects: the woeful state of the Belfast-Dublin rail service. We all know what happened on 20 August when the viaduct carrying the line across the Malahide estuary collapsed, narrowly avoiding a major disaster. We know something of what preceded that: …

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Less Irish unity, more Irish cooperation, please

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] I think it would be fair to say that something like 90% of people in the Republic of Ireland never think about Northern Ireland these days, other than, very occasionally, as a place to go to do some cut-price shopping. The North doesn’t even enter their consciousness. A striking example of …

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Turning Orange marches into a tourist event

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] This is the Orange marching season. It is a traditionally a time of heightened inter-community tensions in Northern Ireland, when tens of thousands of Catholics and middle-class Protestants flee the province in order to avoid the ‘Twelfth’ and its accompanying displays of sectarian triumphalism. In the late-1990s the Portadown Orangemen’s insistence …

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Knitting the island’s relationships back together again

I’ve been thinking about knitting recently. It seems a good image for what those of us in the Centre for Cross Border Studies, Cooperation Ireland and other North-South ‘reconciliation’ bodies are trying to do: knitting damaged relationships between people and communities on this island back together again. Knitting is an activity usually done by women: it is slow, painstaking, meticulous, unglamorous and utterly unthreatening. When done well it produces articles of great beauty, which are at the same time useful, …

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WANTED – Idealistic person to work for £45,000 per year

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] It didn’t come home to me how appallingly uncompetitive the Republic of Ireland has become until the Centre for Cross Border Studies interviewed candidates for the job of Deputy Director (Research) last month. Several youngish residents of the Republic working as middle-ranking officials and researchers with state bodies and earning in …

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An unsung hero of cooperation from East Belfast

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] George Newell is a community worker in a deprived area of East Belfast. He is also well-known in Drogheda, Monaghan and Donegal for the large numbers of working class Belfast Protestants he has brought across the border to experience life in the once feared and hated Irish Republic. He never appears …

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The express train which has lost its momentum

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] For the past 10 years I have been travelling on the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise express up to four times every week. It is with genuine relief at the end of a hard week of cross-border cooperation that I collapse onto the homebound train from Newry to Dublin with a cup of tea …

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Better phones, better insurance, bad banks

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] Nine years ago I wrote an article1 for the Irish Times recounting my travails, having moved from Dublin to Armagh to work for the Centre for Cross Border Studies, when I tried to open a cross-border bank account, buy a mobile phone which I could also use to ring Southern numbers, …

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A cross-border priest helping to heal a divided people

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] Rev. Sean Nolan, parish priest of Errigal-Truagh in north Monaghan, is another of those tireless and unsung heroes of cross-border cooperation and reconciliation we rarely hear about. Like his unionist friend Billy Tate1, he was toiling in this often stony field long before it became fashionable or fundable. Errigal-Truagh has three …

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Cross-border shopping can be the new patriotism

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] There has been a lot said and written about cross-border shopping and patriotism in the weeks running up to Christmas. As a person with a passing interest in both subjects (the latter mainly on the terraces at Lansdowne Road), I wonder if I might add my two ha’apence. Irish Finance Minister …

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Island of Ireland economy still a viable option

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] The economies on this island are now in dire straits, in common with every other economy in Europe and North America. The governments in London and Dublin are struggling to cope with the short-term management of the worst international financial crisis in nearly 80 years. There is little or no time …

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Does the border matter in a time of recession?

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] One just can’t avoid the economy these days. By now it is old news that at the end of September and in early October the world was on the edge of a financial precipice not seen since the Wall Street Crash in 1929. The government of the Republic, whose banks and …

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Statistics which show how similar we are

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] Why do governments so often choose to release some of their most interesting publications in the ‘dog days’ of the summer holidays? At the end of July the two Statistics Offices in Belfast and Cork quietly published the fourth edition of their compilation Ireland, North and South: A Statistical Profile1. Inevitably …

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Do we already have a kind of United Ireland/United Kingdom?

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] This ‘Note’ will contain personal opinions which some strong traditional unionists and nationalists may take exception to – although I believe many ordinary thinking Northern Irish and Irish people will find them uncontroversial. So I should begin with a disclaimer: on this occasion these are my own ideas and do not …

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Cross-community gaelic games take to the road

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] Billy Tate is one of the unsung heroes of cross-border and cross-community cooperation in Northern Ireland. This Ulster Unionist Party member and former soldier in the Royal Artillery is the principal of Belvoir Park Primary School, on the edge of an overwhelmingly Protestant working class housing estate in south-east Belfast. After …

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Cross-border cooperators say ‘YES’ to Europe

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] So the people of the Republic of Ireland have voted ‘No’ to the Lisbon Treaty. They listened to the siren voices of right wing mavericks like Declan Ganley and Coir (Youth Defence under another name) and left wing mavericks like Sinn Fein and Joe Higgins rather than to the 95% of …

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Having fun and tackling racism in the border region

[This is taken from A Note from the Next Door Neighbours, the monthly e-bulletin of Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh and Dublin] I attended a lovely event in Monaghan town this month. It was the last ‘showcase’ presentation of the Immigration Emigration Racism and Sectarianism (IERS) Schools Project, which is funded by the EU Peace Programme and managed by the Centre for Cross Border Studies. This project brought eight primary and four secondary …

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