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Co. Armagh councillor takes top cross-border role

The Irish Central Border Area Network (ICBAN) has appointed Councillor Eamon McNeill from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council as its new Chairperson and Councillor David Maxwell from Monaghan County Council as Vice-Chair, at the recent Annual General Meeting that was held online.

ICBAN was established as a network of councillors from the Ireland/Northern Ireland border area in 1995 with the aim of responding to the unique economic and social needs of the Central Border Region. The eight member Councils in the network are Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh and Omagh, Leitrim, Mid Ulster, Monaghan and Sligo.

The new Chairperson, Councillor McNeill, who is from Kilmore in County Armagh, has been a member of the Management Board since 2019 and served as Vice-Chair in his initial year.

Councillor McNeill thanked his proposers and said that it was an honour and privilege to be have been given this important role. He highlighted a key priority for the cross-border organisation in finalising and implementing a new strategy document for the cross-border area, ‘The Framework of Regional Priorities’.

This has been developed to help respond to the challenges of climate change, Brexit and the pandemic, as these impact upon the Central Border Region and its communities.

“With regard to the challenges of Brexit and the pandemic, it will be important for this cross-border organisation to ensure that the good cooperation which has been created and established over the past 25 years is not undermined or lessened by these,” said Councillor McNeill.

“What these challenges really confirm for us is that cross-border cooperation is needed more so now, than ever.”

Councillor Mc Neill added: “It will therefore be important for ICBAN to maintain and enhance linkages with member Councils, key regional stakeholders, and indeed both governments, to ensure support for the implementation of the Framework strategy and its ambitions.”

The new Chair said that he was looking forward to the year ahead and the challenges of the position, saying: “We all of course hope that 2021 will herald greater stability and enable us to attend successfully to these cross-border and regional challenges.”

In his statement, the outgoing Chairperson, Councillor Pat Treanor of Monaghan County Council congratulated the new Chair and Vice-Chair and noted that despite the pandemic, significant progress on projects has been achieved.

He referenced the continued delivery of projects in challenging times, including the literary tourism project, Spot-lit and the digital marketing project, Digi-2-Market. ‘The Border into Brexit’ report was completed with Queen’s
University Belfast in December 2019, and the Border Animator capacity-building programme completed in the summer, delivered with project partner, the International Centre for Local and Regional Development.

He concluded by saying: “The Framework of Regional Priorities presents an opportunity for this Region, where infrastructure deficits are still very much evident. New funding opportunities should be sought to address these, to the benefit of all member Council areas.”

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