East Derry more concerned about fate of cross-border bodies than anywhere in the North

Professor Peter Shirlow.
Professor Peter Shirlow.

People from East Derry are more concerned about cross-border bodies like the Loughs Agency and the Special European Union Programmes Body (SEUPB) than anywhere else in the North, according to Professor Peter Shirlow, the Director of the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool.

Professor Shirlow made the revelation at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday, when he told MPs it wasn’t necessarily an “orange/green” issue.

He was providing evidence to a NIAC inquiry into the ‘Future of the Land Border with the Republic of Ireland’ in an imagined post-Brexit world.

He said: “Although this Committee has noted that the power‑sharing elements that comprise the core of the agreement would not be affected, of course we understand in Northern Ireland that a lot of that is based upon perception; it is not based upon the reality.”

Professor Shirlow said that a survey at the University of Liverpool, after the Westminster election of 2015, showed that people in East Derry, who live near the border, care about cross-border bodies, whereas people who live in places like North Down care less.

“Just to give you an illustration of what we found in our survey, those who support cross‑border bodies were three times higher than the shared respondents who stated they did not support cross-border bodies,” he said.

“Support was very closely linked to location to the border, so North Down, for example, had the lowest level of people who were interested in the border, and the highest level of people who were concerned about cross-border bodies was East Londonderry,” he explained.

Professor Shirlow said that richer people and those who had completed third level educations were also more likely to be concerned about cross-border bodies.

“This is not necessarily an orange/green issue; it is an issue that is very closely tied to education and your place within the labour market. “The higher up the labour market and the higher educated you are, the more you support cross-border bodies,” he said.

Supporters of the ‘peace process’ were also more likely to support cross-border bodies.

“Some 95 per cent of those who supported power‑sharing strongly supported cross‑border bodies and 90 per cent of those who supported the PSNI supported cross-border bodies. Some 80 per cent of those who believe there is a lasting peace in Northern Ireland supported cross-border bodies, and this can continue,” he added.