€8.96 million of EU PEACE IV funding has been offered for a new shared space project that will reach across Lifford and Strabane. Called ‘Riverine,’ the project will create thirty acres of new cross-border community park space and infrastructure, designed to help bring people together.
One of the most obvious effects of the conflict or troubles is the high level of social segregation which still exists right across the region. Many people only feel comfortable living and mixing within their own communities. While there is no doubt the conflict or troubles has had an impact on the Lifford and Strabane area in terms of social segregation, the PEACE IV funded ‘Riverine’ project, led by Donegal County Council, has the potential to positively encourage communities from different religions, cultures and social backgrounds to form positive friendships and get involved in inclusive integration.
The ‘Riverine’ project will encompass a number of unique elements all designed to encourage greater levels of positive cross-community contact. These elements will include: a pavilion building (for various cultural and heritage events); outdoor wetland and park space (for recreation and environmental education activities); a family fun space (comprising of a toddler and junior adventure play area); cross-border pathways and greenways (to accommodate leisure and recreation activities); and a newly constructed pedestrian footbridge (that will symbolically connect the space across the River Foyle).
Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.
Welcoming the project Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), which manages the PEACE IV Programme, said: “This is one of a number of shared space projects that are currently being funded under the PEACE IV Programme. Each project is designed to help people understand that they have much more in common than that which keeps them apart. This is one of the core goals of the programme as it helps people to overcome some of the prejudices that they may hold of the ‘other’ community.
“By creating a shared space which citizens can enjoy together, irrespective of their background, the project will help them to gain a better understanding of what life is like for someone of a different religion or culture, and in so doing will help to create a more cohesive society,” she continued.
After its construction, the project will deliver upon a number of different programming activities to maximise its usage from both the local Protestant and Catholic communities, on both sides of the border. This activity will include a community heritage engagement programme, a culture and peace activity trail, a creative arts programme and a shared space connections project. The ‘Riverine’ project also represents a strong working partnership between Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council. Both will be involved in its construction, delivery and maintenance going forward.
Outlining the importance of the project Michael Ring T.D. the Minister for Rural and Community Development, said: “I want to congratulate both Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council on their achievements, I am pleased to see the two councils working together for the benefit of the wider community in creating thirty acres of new community park space, incorporating indoor and outdoor recreational features. The awarding of this PEACE IV funding is a major boost for the area and is a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in the application process. I am delighted that my Department is an Accountable Department for this funding and we will work with all parties to ensure delivery of this essential shared space.”
Highlighting the impact that the project will make Tracy Meharg, Permanent Secretary for the Department for Communities said: “The Riverine project provides a great opportunity to further our ambitions for a shared, welcoming and confident society that respects diversity. I am pleased that the communities of the Strabane and Lifford areas are to benefit from this investment in creating a space that will be shared and open to all. I am confident it will be a resource to be enjoyed for generations to come”.
Representing the Lead Partner Cllr. Nicholas Crossan, Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council said: “This is an iconic project with the potential to create a unique and transformational cross-border shared space that will see communities in Lifford, Strabane and the wider hinterlands coming together to deliver a project that will not only capture their imagination and inspire action but will act as a symbol of peace and reconciliation for generations to come.
“The Riverine project is a multifaceted development and will deliver a unique blend of shared indoor and outdoor space linked by a cross-border pedestrian and cycle bridge enhancing the physical connection between these border communities. Leading the delivery of this iconic project, that has the potential to transform and profoundly impact the lives of the people living in these border communities, demonstrates the Councils commitment to driving forward the shared vision for prosperous, healthy and inclusive communities.”
Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Mayor Cllr Michaela Boyle said the announcement was transformational for the cross-border area with the potential to enhance the profile of Strabane and Lifford as an attractive cross-border shared space for everyone to enjoy. She commented: “The Riverine project is a real catalyst for transformation in terms of its potential as a regionally significant and iconic destination to connect it with major planned regional cross-border greenway infrastructure and the potential it has to impact positively on the landscape in Strabane and Lifford.
“This multi-million pound, cross-border project will see the development of an iconic and regionally significant, shared space parkland facility that will bridge the east and west banks of the River Foyle between the towns of Strabane and Lifford. Not only will it provide us much needed community facilities and shared green space but it will further strengthen our existing close cross-border links and enhance the relationship between the two towns and their hinterlands.”