Applied Research

One of ICLRD’s primary activities is applied research into the social, economic and environmental dimensions of spatial planning, reconciliation and community regeneration and inter-regional and cross-border co-operation. Through collaboration among universities, local government and community groups, the ICLRD’s applied research activities specifically address the spatial manifestations of community conflict, promote employment opportunities and encourage communities to take a proactive role in creating a stable society.

With the core funding received from the International Fund for Ireland (IFI), and the Irish Governments’ Department of Education, and Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government, ICLRD is currently undertaking the following Core Research Programmes:

Developing a Strategic Alliance between Newry and Mourne District Council and the Louth Local Authorities

This report was commissioned by Newry and Mourne District Council and the County Louth local authorities to develop a strategic alliance aimed at building on existing areas of cooperation; providing an enabling framework to more effectively promote the region for inward investment; and opening up further opportunities for the sharing of services and joint management of key resources. The report considers a variety of legal instruments to facilitate cross-border cooperation which can assist other local authorities in developing joint initiatives. Since 2008, ICLRD has worked closely with InterTradeIreland and local authorities in the Newry and Mourne District Council and County Louth to develop projects and models for cross-border cooperation through ICLRD’s applied research, executive training and technical assistance.

Research Team: John Driscoll, ICLRD, Andrew McClelland, University of Ulster

The Delineation of Functional Territories Across the Island of Ireland

functional-territories-coverThe International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) is delighted to announce the publication of its study, Delineating Functional Territories Across The Island of Ireland: An Initial Scoping. Funded by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), this research has been carried out by a multi-disciplinary team within ICLRD.  The report can be downloaded from here.

The report comes out of a 10-month research programme (August 2009 to June 2010). The need for this work, especially on an inter-jurisdictional basis, was identified in the research undertaken for the InterTradeIreland/ICLRD spatial strategies report in 2006. As part of that research programme, the publication of pioneering maps illustrating travel to work distances and patterns, on an all-island basis, generated considerable interest amongst both policy-makers and practitioners, North and South. Subsequently, in 2007 and 2008 the ICLRD, together with the Regional Studies Association (Irish Branch), held a series of seminars and a conference on spatial indicators, which included early research on identifying urban clusters on an all-island basis.

This latest report represents Phase I of this project; with Phase II now underway. The focus of this initial phase was to explore the various possibilities of mapping functional territories, and to produce a set of outputs based on datasets that were available to the research team. The report illustrates the contribution that dynamic spatial analysis of urban functions can make in the profiling of the relational status, performance and potential of urban centres across the island, and includes maps of natural catchments, travel-to-work catchments, origin-destination data, gravity models and urban functional specialisations. It highlights the utility and potential of the evidence that can be harnessed to support effective spatial and economic planning by:

1. Identifying urban areas as the basis for policy, particularly in relation to options for appropriate degrees of monocentric and polycentric urban development strategies, and
2. Demonstrating the scope for rigorous analysis of urban functions, and their impacts across official boundaries and different scales.

Finally, this account of the urban systems on the island of Ireland is the initial step required to provide the basis for a more detailed, and integrated, description of the urban economy of the island as a whole. Phase II of the study, scheduled for completion by Spring 2011, will map functional territories relating to a number of priority sectors in the urban centres of Sligo and Enniskillen. It will identify the significant spatial linkages between these centres and surrounding urban centres, and search for opportunities for shared service delivery. Of equal importance, it will seek to resolve the problems identified in Phase I around the compatibility of data sources in the different jurisdictions.

Research Team: Justin Gleeson, Declan Curran, Brendan Bartley, Proinnsias Breathnach, Des McCafferty and Aine Rickard.

Report on Impact of Proposed Government and Planning Reforms on Inter-Jurisdictional Planning


The International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) is delighted to announce the publication of their latest study, All Change But Any Alignment? The Impact of the Proposed Governance and Planning Reforms Across the Island of Ireland on Inter-Jurisdictional Planning. Published at the end of June 2010, this report considers the implications of the proposed governance and spatial planning reforms in both jurisdictions on future collaboration. The report can be downloaded from here.

This report comes out of a 12-month research programme on the proposed reform of local government in Northern Ireland as part of the wider process of the Review of Public Administration (RPA), and the planning and governance reforms proposed for the Republic of Ireland under the Planning and Development Bill 2009 and the Green Paper on Local Government Reform. The research has been carried out by a multi-disciplinary team within ICLRD and has been funded under our CroSPlaN Initiative, an INTERREG IVA funded-project which is being administered by the SEUPB.

This report captures many of the features, opportunities and challenges associated with the reform of governance and planning systems. It notes that scope exists for greater engagement on spatial planning issues either side of the border; and that the extent to which this can happen is dependent on the nature and form of governance structures and systems in place. It traces the history of the proposed reforms in both jurisdictions from their point of origin to their current state of play. The report concludes that planning policy in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland must recognise, and indeed embrace, the movement of people, goods and services across the Irish border so as to ensure the vitality of the island’s economy and, in the current climate, drive forward an efficiency agency; and that change in both jurisdictions is necessary to make this happen more fluidly. Sounding a note of caution, however, it warns that the achievement of economies of scale should not be the only reason used to ‘sell’ any reform process.

Small Connected Towns

This 18-month research programme, focusing on the inter-relationships between cross-border towns and villages in the Irish Border region, culminated with the launch of the book Fostering Mutual Benefits in Cross-Border Areas: The Challenges and Opportunities in Connecting Irish Border Towns and Villages, in Blacklion, County Cavan on the 21 November 2008. The research considers the relationship and connectivity that exist between five cross-border settlement groupings and identifies and examines the challenges facing, and opportunities within, these ‘micro-regions’. The Border towns and villages included in the study were: Lifford-Strabane; Kiltyclogher-Cashel/Scribbagh-Garrison-Rossinver; Blacklion-Belcoo-Glenfarne; Clones-Rosslea-Newtownbutler-Lisnaskea; and Castleblayney-Crossmaglen.

Research Team: Caroline Creamer, Neale Blair, Brendan O’Keeffe, Chris van Egeraat and John Driscoll

Newry Dundalk Study

The Newry-Dundalk Twin City Region: Supporting the Implementation of Cross-Border Collaborative Frameworks report was completed in January 2009 and launched on February 27th in cooperation with Louth County Council, the Newry Mourne District Council, Dundalk Town Council and InterTradeIreland. 2009. The Report was launched by Conor Murphy, MP MLA, Minister for Regional Development in Northern Ireland, and John Gormley, TD, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government of the Republic, at a special event at the Carrickdale Hotel, Ravensdale, Dundalk, Co Louth.

ICLRD undertook this research initiative with the three aforementioned Councils and a Steering Committee chaired by InterTradeIreland to identify (a) potential projects that can bring long-term benefits to the Twin City Region of Newry-Dundalk and (b) models of cooperation to assist in their implementation.

Research Team: Alastair Adair, Jim Berry, John Driscoll, Chris Van Egeraat, Justin Gleeson, Erick Guerra, Stanley McGreal, Christopher Ryan, and Francois Vigier

Sustainable Communities

This ICLRD research study is developing case studies on six different communities to better understand the linkages between mixed income/integrated developments and emerging policy agendas for promoting sustainable communities. The six sites include:

  • Republic of Ireland: Cranmore Estate, Sligo; Mahon Estate, Cork; and Adamstown, Dublin
  • Northern Ireland: Carran Cresent, Enniskillen; Spring Farm Estate, Antrim; and Gobnascale/Irish Street Area, Derry/Londonderry.

The research team is currently writing up of over 100 interviews and reworking a comprehensive literature review to include up-to-date information relating to the downturn in the housing market and key policy issues relating to the research topic. The study will be launched at the annual Conference of the Isles in the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle, County Down on 7-8 May 2009.

Research Team: Paddy Gray, Erick Guerra, John Driscoll, Brendan Bartley, Michaela Keenan, and Ursula Mcanulty

Rural Restructuring: Local Sustainable Solutions to the Rural Challenge

Undertaken by the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) with funding by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), the research details the need for a focused approach to rural development that harnesses local assets and potentiality through joined up collaboration. It advocates for a ‘micro-region’ concept in rural development that moves from a strictly area-based approach within a single jurisdiction to an inter-locality model that (a) can operate across county or district administrative areas and the Border region and (b) recognises that micro-regions are part of, and contribute to, their wider region. The research centres on the experiences of three rural communities across the island:

  • Emyvale-Truagh-Aughnacloy (North Monaghan / South Tyrone border)
  • Draperstown (Magherafelt District)
  • Duhallow (Northwest Cork / East Kerry).

In addition to the report, a Working Paper Series details the activities on initiatives in rural enterprise in the three communities.

The report was launched by Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle Gildernew MP MLA in association with Andy Pollak, Director, Centre for Cross Border Studies in June 2009.

Research Team: Caroline Creamer, Neale Blair, Brendan O’Keeffe, Karen Keaveney and John Driscoll

Rural Restructuring Conference 2009

Assessing Accessibility of Services and Infrastructure

The All-Island Research Observatory (AIRO) and ICLRD are collaborating with the Strategic Investment Board (SIB) in Northern Ireland to develop a methodology of identifying a baseline inventory of service infrastructure in Northern Ireland. This pilot project will produce a series of accessibility maps for specific services within Northern Ireland using Geographical Information System (GIS). The research team is also collecting data to extend the analysis on a cross-border basis where compatible data exists.

SIB is also interested in a possible extension of the work to identify functional areas; this work can be tied into the new ICLRD research on delineating functional territories.

Research Team: Justin Gleeson, Rob Kitchin and Helen Caughey