The head of a cross-Border organisation has described the lack of knowledge and understanding between people across the UK and Ireland as “disturbing”.
Dr Anthony Soares, acting director of Centre for Cross-Border Studies (CCBS), said this lack of understanding can lead to a difficult path during times of political crisis.
Dr Soares was speaking at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Co Wicklow where he outlined details of a initiative among community groups that aims to improve cooperation between Northern Ireland, the Republic and Great Britain.
He said it was important that information exists between the islands in terms of culture, sport, faith, churches and languages.
“We have this lack of knowledge of how we understand each other, which in times of economic and political crisis, can actually lead us down a very difficult and challenging path,” he said.
“In terms of what the Assembly can do is encouraging and supporting that interaction at community level, so we can have the same kind of exchanges that you have that are absolutely vital.
“So perhaps we could institute some kind of network that reflects the work you do here … and other institutions created under the Good Friday Agreement that reflect he totality of relations between these islands.”
Alliance MLA John Blair suggested using expertise from people in various public bodies in Northern Ireland, including those from the arts and sports sector.
Dr Soares added that local government has an enormous role to play.
He added: “Local governments are really important in enabling corporation across that border for social and economic development.
“There there is more that can be done, in terms of local authorities involving close-knit communities.
“Local authorities are doing great work but they need more support.”
Labour MP Karin Smyth said that political representatives should consider building on the work of cross-border organisations.
She added: “We are not short of committees or groups or discussion forums around the north/south and east/west, but trying to find a home for them and to really exploit the great things they do is difficult.”