Province paid three times more than Republic into joint project

Michelle O'Neill's department put �243,000 into the Clones Erne East Blackwater project
Michelle O'Neill's department put �243,000 into the Clones Erne East Blackwater project

Northern Ireland contributed almost three times as much cash to a cross-border conservation project as the Republic did, despite much of the work being concentrated on the southern side of the border.

The Sinn Fein-run Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) put in about £243,000 to the Clones Erne East Blackwater project.

According to the Special EU Programmes Body, DARD’s counterpart in the Republic – the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government – put in €114,300, the equivalent of just over £81,000 by today’s exchange rate.

The vast bulk of the funding (€1.66m, equivalent to about £1.18m) came from the EU’s Interreg IVA programme.

The funding split was agreed in 2007.

The point of the scheme is to help communities “address economic development issues, attract more visitors and work together for a sustainable future”, according to the Special EU Programmes Body.

DARD said it is to improve “the rural tourism and enterprise potential of the Clones-Erne East hinterland of rural Co Fermanagh and Co Monaghan”.

This has meant developing an “amenity park” in Clones town, upgrading a playground and building new parking; improvement work to buildings and monuments in the town; and upgrading the canal stores to include a restaurant/cafe, and more.

The money was also for improving the Sliabh Beagh Way, a walking route spanning south-west Northern Ireland and Monaghan, including reinstating 10km of forest track.

Among the other purposes of the project was providing angling facilities at 11 lakes and rivers.

It came to light due to News Letter inquiries, after DARD issued a press release about the project in September. The release had not said how much money the Republic had given to the joint project.

The funding had been sought by Monaghan County Council, in conjunction with Clones Development Society, Fermanagh District Council and Clones Town Council.

Although the Stormont Executive put more money towards this project than the Dublin government, the Irish Republic has contributed funding to a number of projects which lie wholly within Northern Ireland.

Among them is the Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies (CREST) at Enniskillen’s South West College, as well as the Northern Ireland Science Park in Bay Road, Londonderry.