The first cross-border community conference, aimed at sharing ideas on how to make communities across Ireland safer, took place in Dundalk, County Louth on Thursday 17 November 2022. The ‘Beyond Borders Conference’ brought together over 300 representatives from the public, local government, policing, business, charity, and community sectors to explore safety challenges faced across the island of Ireland, to share ideas on how these can most effectively be addressed.
The conference was organised in partnership with Newry, Mourne and Down Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), Longford, Waterford and Dublin North Inner City Community Safety Partnerships and Drogheda Implementation Board.
Speakers at the event included Helen McEntee TD, Minister for Justice; Chief Superintendent Muir Clark, Police Service of Northern Ireland; Chief Superintendent Alan McGovern, An Garda Síochána and Paula Hilman, Assistant Commissioner, An Garda Síochána.
Recognising the importance of local Community Safety Partnerships, the core theme of the conference, encouraged the development of cross-border partnerships and collaborations to move ‘Beyond Borders’ to achieve meaningful results at a social level.
A Good Practice Day hosted by Newry, Mourne and Down PCSP prior to the conference brought together over 100 representatives from the RoI Community Safety Partnerships and provided a forum for initial discussions about the potential for collaborative working on a range of projects.
Examples of good practice in local community safety programmes were also profiled at the conference including the Kid’s Court initiative which has been developed by Newry, Mourne and Down PCSP. This initiative involves motorists apprehended for speeding outside a Primary School being given the choice of accepting a fine and penalty points or facing a ‘Kids’ Court’ panel of P7 pupils to explain why they have broken the 30mph speed limit as they passed the school. This has proven to be a hugely impactful scheme which encourages motorists to reflect on their driving patterns and behaviours.
The success of the PCSP’s RAPID (Remove All Prescription and Illegal Drugs) Bin initiative, which promotes and facilitates the safe and discreet disposal of prescription or illegal drugs was also highlighted. With over 150,000 potentially harmful items collected over a three-year period, it continues to make a significant impact across the Council district.
As well as learning about successful safety projects from across Ireland, delegates also heard from Dave Shea, Scottish Community Safety Network who detailed Scotland’s approach to building safer communities.
Well-known podcasters The Two Norries from Cork also spoke about their experience of tackling social and health issues – from addiction and drug use to crime and recovery.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Michael Savage said, “Collaborative working and shared learning is vitally important in tackling crime across both jurisdictions. Events such as this conference provide a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the work of our Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (PCSP) and Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs); to share learning and allow us to build and maintain the relationships which are critical to this work, as we strive to make our communities as safe as possible.”
Speaking at the event, Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, commented, “This conference represents another example of the excellent cross-border work being done. This event will further strengthen the links between communities and community groups across the island. The opportunity to share ideas and build on each other’s experiences is so valuable and will help us to protect our communities. I look forward to continued collaboration on community safety in the future.”
It is hoped that the networking opportunities provided by the conference will lead to mutually beneficial cross-border relationships, nurtured by a shared desire to enhance community safety across the island of Ireland.