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Shared Island unit & ESRI joint research programme publishes first papers examining economic and social opportunities from increased cooperation on a Shared Island

Four projects in 2021 will examine areas of the services economy, enterprise, health and education-

-Research findings to be published later this year-


The first scoping papers from the joint research programme between the Department of the Taoiseach’s Shared Island unit and the Economic Social and Research Institute have been published.


The four papers are part of a research programme on The Economic and Social Opportunities from Increased Cooperation on the Shared Island.


The research topics for 2021 under the programme span areas of the services economy, enterprise, health and education on the island and full reports are to be published later this year. These research outputs which will add to the understanding of current and potential linkages across the island of Ireland in a range of economic, social and environmental areas. 


Speaking following the publication of the scoping papers, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said, 


“Research and innovation is central to economic and societal progress. I have always been a strong champion for comprehensive and well-resourced research programmes. Research to deepen understanding of the island is a core part of the Shared Island initiative. This collaboration with the ESRI will produce research outputs, across a range of areas this year, which will contribute to the conversation about how we can work together across this island, taking up the full potential  of the Good Friday Agreement.


“As we recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and work through the consequences of Brexit, the research being undertaken in this programme with the ESRI will provide substantive analysis and evidence, which will inform the Government’s approach in developing our Shared Island initiative.”


Director of the Economic and Social Research Institute Professor Alan Barrett added, 


“There are many reasons for the SIU and the ESRI to be undertaking this research programme but let me mention just two. First, we live on an island where we have two systems to deliver social services such as health and education. This creates a great opportunity to learn about what works best for our citizens. Indeed, it’s a standard approach to research in countries where systems might differ due to local autonomy. 


“Second, there are many opportunities for increased collaboration and connection across the island which can yield benefits for all. We want to learn more about those connections so that they can be expanded.  There has been a lack of comparative research in the past and this joint research programme will have value in providing new insights for policy.”


Chair of the joint research programme Anne Barrington concluded, 


“Increased cooperation on the island is most effectively pursued through inclusive engagement and consensus-building with all stakeholders - an exercise that is greatly assisted with robust data and evidence, and rigorous, non-partisan analysis on needs, opportunities, benefits and costs. 


“In support of these objectives, the joint research programme between the ESRI and the Shared Island unit in the Department of the Taoiseach will produce research outputs that add to understanding of current and potential linkages across the island of Ireland in a range of economic, social and environmental domains. The research programme in 2021 is examining key aspects of health, education and enterprise, as well as trade in services on the island”.






Note to Editor: 

This report brings together scoping papers for each research project being conducted under the programme this year. These scoping papers set out the focus for this research work; key questions, issues and knowledge gaps; the policy context, North and South; and the research design and methods. The scoping papers are intended to support understanding of and engagement with the joint research programme as it proceeds.  For more information on the research programme go to 


Cross-Border Trade in Services 

This project will focus on building understanding of the structure and composition of cross-border trade in services on the island of Ireland. It focuses specifically on services which make up a substantial share of economic activity but have been less thoroughly investigated than goods trade, largely due to data limitations. The aim of the project is to build a profile of services trade that may help identify potential for future growth and cross-border synergies. 


Primary Care – Ireland and Northern Ireland 

This project aims to: (1) compare the primary care systems of Ireland and Northern Ireland along a number of domains including eligibility, structure, workforce, financing and expenditure, (2) quantify a range of primary care metrics in both jurisdictions including out-of-pocket expenditure, visiting rates, unmet healthcare needs and uptake of preventive services, (3) examine how differences in primary care systems in Ireland and Northern Ireland might impact on other parts of the system including the hospital sector and (4) draw out implications for policy.


A North-South Comparison of Education and Training Systems 

This project will: (1) compare the patterns of educational participation and attainment in the two jurisdictions and examine if patterns of educational inequality (by gender and social background) differ (2) compare the levels of skills among the population from primary education to adult life (3) examine what aspects of the education/training system factors shape any differences found in skills and qualifications and (4) assess what lessons can be learned for the future.


Enhancing the Attractiveness of the Island of Ireland to High-Value Foreign Direct Investment 

This research will identify and quantify the importance of a range of location-specific factors and policies underlying the attractiveness of Ireland and Northern Ireland to FDI in high-value sectors such as aerospace, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, and software.  On the basis of this evidence, the analysis will examine possible scenarios for enhancing the attractiveness of the two jurisdictions on the island to high-value FDI in response to a range of policy choices available to the Government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive. Taken together, the results of this research will contribute to identify opportunities for greater co-operation and policy co-ordination on the island of Ireland and a potential all-island offering for FDI in key high-value sectors.