Cross-border co-operation announced
Cross-border co-operation announced

The Dublin and London governments are to act on a pledge to establish an all-Ireland autism centre of excellence in a border village.

Campaigners have been fighting for the centre since 2002 when then assembly education minister Martin McGuinness backed the ambitious scheme.

Funded by the two governments, the centre will be based in Middletown, Co Armagh. It will offer specialist care to people with autism from across the 32 counties.

A suitable site was bought in the County Armagh town last year, which gave a boost to the campaign to force ministers on both sides of the Border to press ahead with the planned centre.

It is intended that the centre will put in place a learning support service, educational assessment service, a training and advisory service, and an autism research and information service.

News that the training and advisory service should begin by the end of this year has been welcomed by those involved in autism support work.

Sinn Fein education spokesman Michael Ferguson was one of those who campaigned for the centre.

He said: “This is very welcome news. The centre is expected to deliver a multidisciplinary service, including support, research, assessment and training, and information to back up local education provision.

“Those living and working hard to support the range of needs associated with autism will also welcome this news.

“The training and advisory service, which is the first to become operational, is expected to be followed by an educational assessment service and it is also crucial that these efforts are reinforced by the academic and training institutions.

“I will be meeting with the minister for education Angela Smith to discuss the detail of this breakthrough in the near future. This is news that will be a relief to the families’ relatives and autism spectrum support groups.”


Meanwhile, the two governments have set a deadline to combat the problem of inadvertent mobile phone roaming in border areas.

Telecommunications regulators on both sides of the border have been asked to prepare a report outlining a better deal for consumers by the end of March.

Mobiile phone users in the border area are routinely linked to “foreign” networks transmitting from across the border, leading to the imposition of outlandish roaming fees for making and receiving local calls.

It is hoped a further survey by regulators will lead to progress on network coverage and tariffs by the spring.

Dublin officials urged companies to introduce special tariffs ahead of regulation on the matter.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News