Concerns voiced over vital Brexit research after think tank funding dries up

Simon Coveney said the Centre for Cross Border Studies had an excellent track for encouraging the development of north-south cooperation. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Research into the impact of Brexit is in jeopardy because funding to a cross-border think tank has stalled due to the lack of a Stormont executive.

The Centre for Cross Border Studies received £130,000 core funding from the Executive Office last year, with money also provided by Dublin's Department of Foreign Affairs.

However, the Armagh-based centre's latest application for funding from Stormont cannot be approved due to the absence of executive ministers.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin raised the matter earlier this week with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, who said the think tank was playing an "important role" in mitigating the negative impacts of Brexit.

But its research activities are set to be curtailed unless it can bridge the funding shortfall.

The Centre for Cross Border Studies' deputy director Dr Anthony Soares said the core funding was never guaranteed but that the uncertainty resulting from the absence of an executive was "disappointing".

He said the organisation would explore other funding streams but that its options were limited.

Dr Soares said the lack of money would affect the think tank's research activities.

"The core funding situation will inevitably impact on the projects we can pursue," he said.

"At present, much of our work is around Brexit but the centre will be unable to undertake all the activities we'd like to, which unfortunately will mean it'll be difficult for us to make as much key information available at this crucial time."

Responding to questions from the Fianna Fáil leader in the Dáil, Mr Coveney said the centre had an "excellent track for encouraging the development of north-south cooperation".

The minister said his department was currently considering funding for the think tank.

Mr Martin said the shortage of funding for the Centre for Cross Border Studies was "deeply disturbing" and he called for Fine Gael to do more.

"The Centre for Cross Border Studies is stuck in the middle of ongoing failure of political leadership in Northern Ireland and political disinterest from the government in the Republic – this isn't good enough," he said.

"The centre does very important work and it needs political and financial support from both Belfast and Dublin."

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