Cross-border body facing funding gap amid Stormont uncertainty

Stormont
Stormont

A research centre promoting cross-border cooperation across Ireland is lacking core funding because of the political instability at Stormont.

The cashflow limbo comes as uncertainty over the future of power-sharing and the triggering of negotiations on the UK leaving the EU increases demand for the Centre for Cross Border Studies' (CCBS) work, a report said.

The firm has integrated hospital planning, tourism, agriculture and renewable energy across Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Its report warned: "While the centre has submitted an application for continued core funding to The Executive Office, at time of writing, there is no certainty about the 2017 budget or indeed, when or whether there will be ministers in post to consider our application.

"This is a worrying situation for the centre, particularly as the challenging political uncertainty has increased demands on our existing resources significantly over the past year and our policy analysis, advocacy and practical support for cross-border cooperation will be increasingly relevant."

Funding worth around £130,000 from Stormont is in the balance, even though money from the Republic's Department of Education and Skills has been approved.

The CCBS is an independent company based in Armagh and founded in 1999 by Queens University Belfast and Dublin City University.

An important additional source of funding is the income derived from the secretariat services provided to two important cross-border networks, Universities Ireland and the Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South (SCoTENS).

The future of many such networks is under debate as critics fear a hard Brexit if the UK leaves Europe without a deal.

The permanent secretary of Stormont's Department of Finance, David Sterling, has taken the public purse strings until an Executive is formed or the UK government intervenes.

While there is a limit on how much he can spend, 75% of last year's budget total for the first four months and 95% thereafter, significant cuts to public services would only be required if the political crisis stretches beyond Christmas.

The UK government has indicated it will step in, at least to legislate for a budget, even if local politicians fail to establish a new administration.